The party, with their four armies, had traveled far enough south that their scouts were able to report back on the position of Hargulka’s forces: up against a nearby cliff, several encampments were made showing a large grouping of trolls, somewhere around a hundred fifty of them. A short distance away from the trolls were camped an army of lizardfolk, close to fifty in all. The scouts reported of some kind of entrance into the cliff a distance up the rock face, with a narrow ledge pathway leading up to it, and a tall watchtower jutting out of the top of the cliff.
With their foreknowledge, the group decided upon a plan of attack: mobilize just before dawn, when the Lizardfolk would be sluggish from the early morning chill, and attack at the first sign of light when their armies would have no sight disadvantage compared to their opponents. Sentries posted at Hargulka’s stronghold only had minimal warning to give their forces as they caught glimpse of the PC’s advance units, and soon the camp was a bustle of activity as the monsters were roused and began to organize themselves! When the party’s own unit of undead breached the clearing, they gazed upon the hastily assembling ranks of Trolls, and saw on the ledge above a large specimen of the species, a golden crown resting atop his head– the Troll king himself, Hargulka! From his perch he shouted down upon the gathered beings: “The ascension of the monster kingdom begins this morning! Forward into battle!”
The trolls charged, organized into two groups; the larger of the groups made for the Seventh Lodovkan Platoon, seeking to tear apart the well-trained soldiering unit; the smaller group dedicated itself to fighting the White Wolf rangers, while the Lizardfolk clashed against the undead and their masters. The party’s armies retaliated in kind, some of them getting off a volley of arrows before the armies met, and the battle was on!
Though it only lasted about an hour, it was still quite the impressive battle. Heavy losses were suffered on both sides, but in the end it was the kingdom of Tolemac who came out on top! The Seventh Lodovkan Platoon and the White Wolves were, tragically, dismantled in the course of victory, though not before managing to take apart the largest army of trolls. The Sootscale Kobolds, held in reserve in the back for the majority of the battle (under Noruas’ suggestion after Gavriil expressed his concerns that an army with a single hit point might get hopelessly slaughtered), were able to cut down all survivors of the smaller Troll force as they scattered and fled, their morale shot to pieces by the arrows of the White Wolves. Finally, the Trollsmashers, the PC’s personal undead army, were able to put down the last of the Lizardfolk, ending the mass conflict in their favor.
Even with the terrible casualties taken, there was a glimmer of hope: both General Azazael and Swordlady Jamandi Aldori were able to escape death amidst their forces, and thus the possibility of long lasting harm to the kingdom was avoided. As the PC’s gathered themselves together, they reviewed the situation. Davik Azazael was given charge of organizing the cleanup of the battlefield, and the party made their way up the narrow cliff path towards the interior of Hargulka’s stronghold, ready to put an end to the troll’s machinations.
As the group moved up, they found that the entrance to the cliff interior was actually part of a stone-crafted room, with arrow-slits offering only a small glimpse into the darkened room beyond. An open doorway, the remains of what used to be a stone door, offered the only route inside to a darkened chamber. With Eneko’s mind-linking Teamwork feat active, Gavriil embraced his new favorite tactic– turning invisible! Moving inside, he was able to relay valuable information to the rest of the party; two Trolls and two large, ugly Trollhounds were stationed on either side of the doorway, preparing to pounce upon any unwitting heroes!
Forewarned is forearmed, and thus the group was able to enter in safely, surprising the trolls by firing through the arrow slits and into the monsters’ backsides, and the group made quick work of their foes. During the fight, Tyr, Elysia’s wolven companion, nearly got smashed by a boulder that rolled itself down a nearby flight of steps into their midst, but thankfully was able to avoid the rock and leap to safety. Noruas quickly moved up the stairs to check out where the boulder came from, while the rest of the party moved down a second set of stairs further into the building, where they found more trolls and hounds. With Noruas declaring their back relatively safe for the moment, she rejoined the group as they decided to head into a nearby storeroom, the back wall of which had been long ago torn down to reveal an entrance into a rock passage. Traveling through the passage they encountered more hounds, and when they got to a split in the path they were able to get a brief glimpse of a gathering of trolls in the chamber to their right. Though it was difficult, Noruas was able to pinpoint the location of one of them and fired into it, provoking grunts and growls and howls, though the trolls did naught but retreat.
As the party started through the chokepoint towards the retreating trolls, they were met with an odd sight: A faintly glowing red dot coming from far back in the dark cave, moving towards them…expanding….and suddenly exploding on top of them in a massive fireball! It seemed they had found a much more formidable foe!
Players, do not read!
Here, have some stats for the various assembled armies!
Of course, half of the PC’s armies are now defunct, but that shouldn’t trouble them overly long– they just eliminated the greatest threat to their kingdom, it may be some time before another cause for large armies arises. I decided to organize the remaining trolls into the two sized armies I did for a number of reasons, but the greatest was that with the party only bringing four armies to bear, I didn’t feel it was a good idea to have six armies of enemies engaged against them. With such small armies while their destruction was almost guaranteed within one to two rounds, they’d also likely get off a few good blows, and possibly eliminate all the PC forces even as they were destroyed. Even though the Medium army of trolls could hit hard and had a ton of HP, I felt reasonably confidant that they would be taken out before they could deal a death blow to more than one army– and indeed I was correct, as they were the main focus of a Ranged round and then set upon by the party’s greatest army, destroyed at the end of the first Melee phase.
The loss of two armies of course was nothing to sneer at, but I was very thankful that the commanders were not killed in the fight– if the worst had happened, it was possible up to three of the kingdom’s NPC leaders could have lost their lives and sent the kingdom into chaos! This didn’t happen, so all worked out in the end though.
The crawl through Hargulka’s lair is well underway at this point– I changed around the encounters a little bit to bring it up to the challenge level the party is playing at, and so far so good. I expect next session will see the end of the troll king, and the revelation that his agents had set a massive Owlbear loose upon Elbat Dnuor! I fully believe that Rivers Run Red will come to a close in the next two sessions– and then I expect we’ll keep quite a bit of downtime before starting up the next adventure, the Varnhold Vanishing. With the party interested in setting up close diplomatic ties to Varnhold, I want to foster that for a bit before they go off the grid– as well, I want to think up of some kind of contact that would be suitable for Hannis Drelev to have with the PC’s kingdom. Due to the backstories of both Eneko and Elysia, neither of them enjoy particularly close relations with House Surtova, with Eneko often treating NPC’s in accordance with their beliefs as to who has the rightful rule on the Rostland throne. I was able to use this suspicion of his to frame the PC’s opinions of their neighbors to the right and left– Drelev supports the Surtovas, while Varn was more neutral in flavor. Because of this the party has been predisposed to trust Varnhold more than those of Fort Drelev, and I expect this to continue throughout the next two books.
And….that’s about all I’ve got! Probably no new kingdom turns next session as the party takes care of Hargulka and then the giant owlbear, and I’m looking to slip in a reference to our big bad evil girl from the troll– so we’ll see how it goes!