Friday, February 27, 2015

Westmist Session #90 - Bears, Birds and Bodies

Pickets had detected the Bear barbarians moving through the forest and towards the vulnerable Ram tribe. While Tzarn the High Ram organized his men to guard the main body, the party (Kern, Bjorn, Erijay, Jasper, Lomar and Guy) prepared to receive the attack at the head of the column. There seemed to be some time before their attackers emerged from the thick forest, so Bjorn began the process of summoning the air elemental with his censor. Meanwhile, Lomar called down the blessing of Salue on those about to fight, and also took the opportunity to cast animal growth on one of the barbarian ram-riders nearby, thereby increasing the size of the already giant ram to gargantuan proportions. Everyone else spread out to prepare for what may come.  After several minutes, a skirmish line of Bear barbarians approached the edge of the wood. There they halted and loosed a volley of spears, one of which dinged Kern in the side of the head. Jasper and Guy responded with bolts and spears, taking out two of the skirmishers. Erijay tossed a fireball at one end of the line, crisping half the remaining attackers and setting the forest alight. Then followed a charge by the giant-giant ram and the rest of the party to finish off the last few.
The party proceeded to loot the bodies while Kern stood guard in case there were more attackers. The sounds of battle could still be heard to the rear, but suddenly a much closer bellowing sound was heard coming from the north. Kern turned to see three large black bears, two sporting barbarian riders, followed by a small group of tribesmen on foot, charging down on the party. Calling everyone out of the forest, Kern turned invisible with his cloak and slipped forward to make a surprise attack. Meanwhile, everyone else emerged from the smoking forest to engage the new foes. Erijay cast a slow spell on the bears and riders, Jasper and Guy flicked more bolts and spears, and Lomar sent the giant-giant ram and rider into combat. A flurry of spells and stabbing ensued, but the bear riders held their ground. At least until Bjorn finished summoning the elemental, which he promptly dropped into the midst of the bear riders. That, coupled with a few magic missiles, back stabbings and other shenanigans was enough to clear the field and for looting to proceed again.

The sounds of battle died behind them as well, and when the party met with the High Ram later in the day, he reported some losses to the tribe's warriors, but otherwise all went well. Tzarn was anxious, however, to put their enemies behind them and cross the Great River. He was therefore not interested in Kern's plan to turn the tribe around to go looking for the "Hanging Tree", about which the party had learned from an old journal in the wyvern hoard looted some time earlier. "The Hanging Tree" is a massive fir tree in the Forest of the Bear, where  the Bear Tribe barbarians disposed of  and display the bodies of those who trespass their territory. The diary described the branches of the tree hanging with numerous human and humanoid corpses, many still  dressed and equip as in life and with obvious wealth. Kern insisted to the party that such a treasure so near by could not be ignored, and in the end they agreed. Tzarn meanwhile agreed to take the tribe across the river and await the party no more than 4 days before moving on and turning his tribe loose on civilized lands.

With little time to spare, the party moved deeper into the dark, wintry forest. They found their path led them back along the route taken by the attacking barbarians, at least until the falling snow hid the tracks. However, the two day march was uneventful, and in the afternoon of the second day they approached their goal. Ahead could be seen a massive fir tree breaking through the forest cover. Around the top flew several dozen dark shapes, ravens as far as could be seen.  Kern slipped forward invisibly to scout, and found  a large clearing below the tree. Above he could see the bodies hanging, but nothing else seemed to be present. He called the rest of the party forward, and they gathered below the fir and tried to figure out the best way to get all the loot. In the end, Guy was given Erijay's potion of flying, and the henchman sent up the tree to cut down the bodies for the rest of the party to loot once they hit the ground. This seemed to work at first, until someone noticed the ravens were descending, circling the tree and approaching the party. Guy tried to get above them, hoping to smash a few to the ground with falling bodies, but he was intercepted on the way and had to fight for his life. The rest of the birds fell on the rest of the party. Jasper immediately shouted "close your eyes!", and whipped out the preserved medusa head to turn the flying things to stone. Alas, the head not being fresh, it did no such thing this time. The ravens descended and began to peck at everyone's eye's and heads. Casting blindly, Bjorn loosed some magic missiles, Erijay a blast from her wand of cold,  and Lomar called down a curse on the flock. To the distress of them all, no birds fell in this onslaught. However, another blast from the wand, a web to pin one lot of ravens to the tree, and a few bolts from Jasper and Kern took down about half the birds. The rest flew back up the tree and out of range, leaving the party alone. Who proceeded (after some first aid and healing of course), to get on with the "cut down corpse and loot" process. In this they were successful, gathering a fine collection of coin, gems and jewelry, as well as a few possible magical items (a mace, potion and a huge tome). Kern also collected the desiccated remains of one body, obviously a lady of some importance based on the cornet and signet ring she wore. The merchant figured someone might pay handsomely for the remains, assuming he could figure out who she was and from whence she came.
With evening falling, the party restrained Lomar form igniting the giant tree and quickly headed back east, to put as much distance between them and the tree before they made camp for the night.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Westmist Session # 89 - Winter Wandering with Barbarians

... they are surprised to see that two brains they assumed were floating in the tank were actually lurking behind it. And they had sharp beaks and nearly a dozen razor tipped tentacles. The pair of weird creatures levitated overhead , and descended down on Erijay and Kern. Kern, lacerated and impaled by a mass of tentacles, found himself lifted off the floor as the thing started to carry him out of the room.  Erijay loosed a charge from her wand of cold, while Bjorn fired a trio of magic missiles. Khoog lashed out with his axe and Kern was able to winkle a dagger out of his boot and stab into the brain-creature carrying him. The two creatures still foughton, and the second now struck Erijay, paralyzing her and lifting her to be carried off. Bjorn saved the day by webbing Kern and one brain-creature in the entrance to the lab, and then using another trio of magic missiles to drop both to the floor in a spray of cerebral fluid and ichor.

Once everyone was recovered, they turned their attention back to the tank. Behind it Kern found a large metal plate (10'x5'), steel on one side and silver on the other. After a quick gp-equivalent calculation, he decided it was not worth trying to drag out of the dungeon. Back to the tank, he tried to figure out how to get the three remaining brains safely out of the pits of the Gann, thinking they might be useful in the Cerebral Shield. In the end, he simply plopped them in a sack and carried the dripping mess to the snowy and blustery surface.

Once there, Erijay and Kern were getting ready to trek back to Westmist. But Khoog would not allow that. He had been sent to make sure Kern returned to the tribe for his wedding to Wazara, the chiefs' twice widowed sister. And to lead the tribe across the wintry wastes of the Untamed Lands to their new promised lands around Westmist. Oh right, that little detail ...

Back to the tribes main encampment they went, and after a few days of preparation and exchange of wedding gifts between the bride and groom, the day of the celebration came. After the traditional slaughter of the wedding ram and consumption of the raw heart by the bridal couple, Kern was surprised to discover he had to wrestle his new bride to determine who would be head of the household. Stripping to their skivvies and lathering up with lanolin, the two met in a circle of drunken, hooting barbarians. Kern was somewhat perturbed to see his new wife was much more muscular and stronger than he had anticipated. At a signal from Tzarn the High Ram, the match began. Time and time again, Kern grasped Wazara, only have her throw off the hold. A couple of times, she likewise had the merchant down and almost pinned. In the end, however, Kern prevailed, pinning Wazara and gaining title as head of the household.

With the matrimonial wrestling match complete, the rest of the tribesman began setting up matches and making bets. One large brute by the name Toruga of the Double Straight Horn, challenged Bjorn to a match. The magic user accepted, but in just 10sec found himself pinned and poorer by 100gp. Erijay choose not to participate, but instead used the time to ask some of the drunken tribesmen about Kerns' new bride. Apparently she had been married off by Tzarn twice before to important allies, each of whom mysteriously died after they were no longer of use to the High Ram. Humm ...

The celebration raged on for another day, but then it became time to prepare the tribe for the trek through the winter snows. Tzarn summoned his new brother-in-law and demanded Kern provide a plan for getting the tribe safely through the winter snows, and past both the Tribe of the Bear to the north and the Tribe of the Wolf to the south. Kern mumbled something about Mr. Windy, and powerful magic and so on. Nothing very convincing, but with Tzarn nursing a raging hangover, it was enough for the chief. It took a few days, but soon the whole tribe had assembled: 150 warriors, 120 old and infirm, and nursing mothers, 130 children, and 7000 sheep. Piling their worldly good on sledges pulled by giant rams, the tribe set off, with Kern and a hand picked scouting group of tribesmen in the lead. Erijay and Bjorn hung back with the main body, keeping close to Tzarn the High Ram.

The slow trek trough the foothills and onto the plains was uneventful, but that all changed when the tribe stopped to rest at midday on the fourth day out. Kern was still ahead scouting, and Erijay and Bjorn were standing outside the High Rams tent when the witchdoctor Koza approached, accompanied with Khoog and a dozen barbarians. They all looked edgy, and Koza demanded the elf step aside so they could enter the tent and consult with Tzarn. Erijay tried to delay, and Bjorn quickly cast invisibility, and started to summon the air elemental just in case. Koza was impatient, however, and with a gesture from him, a half dozen of the barbarians grappled and, after a brief struggle, pinned the elf maid. Koza, Khoog and the others then pushed into the tent, and soon the muffled sounds of fighting could be heard through the thick felt. Bjorn ceased his summoning, and rushed invisibly inside, while Eirjay began to scream for help from those loyal to the chief. Inside, Bjorn could see Tzarn surrounded by enemies, battered and bleeding. Laying dead on the floor were the High Rams bodyguards, as well as one of the attackers.  Bjorn cast a web spell, entrapping Khoog and most of the barbarians. The witchdoctor turned, cast a spell, and suddenly the three dead tribesmen rose to their feet as zombies and turned to attack the mage. That was all the break Tzarn needed, and he lowered his head and rammed into the witchdoctor with his ceremonial horns.   While Bjorn fought the zombies, the chief struck Koza twice more with his horns, and the witchdoctors' battered and crushed body fell dead to the floor. The chief then walked over to the webbed rebels, and cooly drove a spear through each head, leaving only Khoog. Under questioning, Bjorn and Erijay now learned that Khoog was a grandson of the previous chief, said chief having been usurped by Tzarn. Koza had recruited him to join the witchdoctor in taking out Tzarn and ending this foolish plan to move east to Westmist. The old entrails-reader could see no good coming of such a move. Questioning complete, Tzarn finished Khoog off with his spear.

The tribe was shaken by these events, but Tzarn now put much trust in the party, and the trek continued. More days of cold travel ensued, with little to break the monotony until the eighth day. Late in the afternoon, Kern and his scouts observed a cloud of snow to the south, obviously being kicked up by a large group of something approaching. As the tribe pulled back into a compact, defensible group, Kern, Erijay and Bjorn went out to confront whatever it was. After some time, they could see a figure on horseback leading a group of men or similar creatures. As they got closer, they could see the rider was dressed in heavy black robes decorated with skulls, and his stead was a skeletal horse. The rest of the creatures were battered hobgoblin and human zombies, obviously the dead of last seasons hobgoblin invasion. The rider (Xoltac) halted, and presumptuously demanded they party provide 'recruits' for his army or he would turn them loose on the party and tribe. The party demurred, and when the conversation began to get heated, they ended it with a quick fireball and a series of magic missiles  and crossbow bolts. Once the ashes cooled, Kern looted a purse of coins and gems from Xoltecs' crisp body, as well as a weird staff made of fused human bone and a suit of black lacquered plate mail.
Moving on, another week found the tribe on the banks of the Great River. Kern scouted ahead hopping to find the magical Starbridge spanning the river, but to no avail. He returned to the main body, and it was decided to get to work building rafts using trees from the surrounding forest. They had just started to organize the tribes labour, however, when from the woods came a loud roar and out poured a hoard or Bear Tribe barbarians ...