- Deanda, Elf Druid/Nature's Warrior
- Kiikii, Human Conjurer/Malconvoker
- Nakor, Human Transmuter/Knight Phantom
- Jaime, Human Cleric of Iomedae
- Kraca, Dwarf Monk/Ninja
- Slavla, Half Elf Barbarian/Fighter/Frenzied Berserker
Having destroyed once and for all the foul beasts at the Graul Farm, the task of retaking Fort Rannick has fallen to our heroes. The three remaining Black Arrows stood ready to fight by their side, but what would be waiting for them in the keep beyond...
Following their victory over the Ogrekin Hillbillies, the party along with their four newest companions, fell back to Turtleback Ferry for supplies.
As they rested in Turtleback however, regaining strength and selling the treasure they'd found, Deanda happened upon an incredibly unsettling finding. As a commoner bent down to pick up a box of supplies, the druid spied a strange tattoo on the small of his back - the Sihedron Rune.
Approaching the man, the party quickly allowed their tone to become accusing as the man tried to hide the fact that he had any tattoo at all.
With a few... encouraging words from Nakor however, along with a shoulder squeeze by Slavla, the man - a hunter by the name of Tay'el - quickly told his story.
Apparently, there used to be a gambling barge which operated on Claybottom Lake which entertained many of Turtleback Ferry's male citizens.
The barge was run by a woman named Lucrecia, an elegant woman who had offered this man the tattoo as a sign of favor. Tay'el claimed that Lucrecia only offered this tattoo to the customers she preferred, and that it was used to avoid paying a cover charge to board the gambling boat.
Tay'el admitted that he had hid the tattoo initially because his wife would be furious knowing that he had gone to the gambling barge, a place called Paradise. But our heroes were much more concerned with something else. They had seen many copies of the Sihedron Rune before, and this one looked almost identical to the ones scribed onto the victims of the Sihedron Sacrifices before they were killed. The party wished to know who else had been inscribed with the tattoo, but the man said he didn't know since they were told to keep the tattoos secret.
Heading to the local chapel of Erastil, the group tried to learn what they could of the barge from Father Shreed, the town's mayor. He said that the barge had burned up in a fire a week or two ago, though no one was said to be aboard except for the barge's elegant matron - Lucrecia. The barge supposidly sunk to the bottom of Claybottom Lake, taking Lucrecia with it.
While this questioning happened, Slavla was doing some investigating of his own - though he didn't know it - as he seduced one of the waitresses at Bottoms Up. Surprisingly, the waitress had worked as a serving girl on the barge while it was in operation, and it wasn't long before the two were in a backroom, and Slavla found a similar tattoo on the girl's ankle. Several minutes later, Slavla made his way back into the common room, only to find the rest of the group seeking out the very girl he'd just seduced, as they'd heard about her working on the barge. Slavla smiled, gathered the questions they needed answered, and made his way to the back room to engage in some "pillow talk" about the girl's former place of employment.
After some private questioning the group found out that the barge was mostly staffed by unseen servants, though Lucrecia certainly ran the show. Apparently, the process of inscribing the tattoo was accompanied by a strange poem which Lucrecia would say in a foreign tongue. After Nakor recited a few lines of Thassilonian, the woman nodded, indicating that this was the language Lucrecia had used.
She was also able to point out that Lucrecia must have been incanting some kind of spell or ritual, as the weight of her words was not unlike Nakors as he cast detect magic on the tattoo. Even though the tattoo did not generate magic, it was clear that the image was part of some kind of magical ritual.
With this unsettling knowledge, the group decided that there was little they could do about the strange state of affairs in Turtleback Ferry yet. First, they had to travel to Fort Rannick. So, off the group marched - traveling for half a day before the reached the beaten and battered fort.
After watching the fort for the rest of the day, the group hatched a plan. Seeing as the new barracks build outside was foolishly crafted from wood, the group could easily set it ablaze. Then, as the burning barracks would form a distraction, they could make their way into the hidden caves through a waterfall entrance to the south-west of the fort.
When dawn came, Deanda took the form of a bird and flew to the barracks. Laying a talon upon the door, Deanda willed the wood to bend and shape itself, soon becoming a solid wall where the door had once been. To the cries from the 25 ogres within, Deanda summoned a crackle of lightning from the skies before setting ablaze the firewood beneath the structure, effectively making it look like a stray lightning bolt had set the barracks on fire.
Retreating, the group made their way to the waterfall and climbed into the inner caves.
After making their way across a rickety bridge, the group came upon a crypt within which Kraca faced off against an anguished spectre which sucked the very life out of him. Jaime, holding his holy symbol high, was able to bring about the final death of the creature, filling it with the holy power of his Goddess.
Shaken but not deterred, the group made their way down to the lower caves.
Soon, they came across a room filled with shocker lizards. These, the Black Arrows had said, were common creatures which bred in the keep's lower chambers. Finding themselves in cramped quarters with a slowly advancing swarm of lizards, the group acted quickly. Kiikii filled the chambers with thick swirling sand which burned at the lizards, while Deanda covered the walls and ceiling which the lizards clung to with hidden spikes. Through their combined efforts, the weak lizards didn't stand a chance, and quickly met their end.
Advancing further, the group found a small door which led into the jailer's den. What was a jailer's den on the map however, was hardly what they'd been expecting. The floor had been covered with silks, blankets and pillows, while the air was filled with the smell of incense. A woman who could only be described as elegant beckoned them in, introducing herself as Lucrecia.
The woman was no fool, and understood the predicament she found herself in. She made no intention of lying to the heroes and pretending to be anything that she wasn't, stating simply that she had a proposition for them. She offered them a place at her side, rather then against her.
"You're clearly capable individuals, and I just figure you'd rather work for the side in all of this that will actually be winning. Our side. Besides... Mokmurian would simply love to meet you." Most of the party seemed to be dead set against the woman's tricks, though Nakor seemed to want to see what she wanted to say.
The woman quickly noticed Kaven Windstrike, one of the Black Arrows who had traveled with them and laughed. Amused, she thanked Kaven for delaying his group of Black Arrows on their mission those many days ago so that the Fort could be taken so easily. At this, Jakardros flew into a rage and charged at his former companion. Battle was joined.
With a strange laugh, the woman's body transformed as her legs were replaced by a reptilian snake tail. Lucrecia was a Lamia Matriarch, just as Xanesha had been, and she was no less deadly. Lashing out at Nakor with her rapier and dagger, the man was nearly dropped as she drained his very wisdom away with each strike.
Kiikii summoned his fiendish ape to try and hurt the woman while the rest of the party tried their best to fell the Lamia Matriarch. Lucrecia was no simple creature however, as she lashed out with both blade and spell. She rattled the heroes with a lightning bolt, before dropping Slavla to his knees in laughter through her hideous laughter spell.
Just when the heroes thought they were getting the upper hand, Lucrecia cast shield on herself, but even the buffed up defense was not enough for Kikii's orbs of acid. Seeing her end in sight, Lucrecia through open the door behind her and took her normal shape, stepping through it. Would our heroes reach her before the woman turned and ran? Would Lucrecia get away?
Well, rather then steal their thunder, I'll just let the heroes tell you how it ended!
- - -
DM Notes: (These are player-safe, no spoilers)
What the party seemed to enjoy
- I think there was some great roleplaying that happened in Turtleback Ferry after the Sihedron Rune was discovered. The party seemed to really enjoy interrogating the various citizens in their... unique ways. What was just an information hook turned into a great set of roleplaying encounters.
- Planning the assault on Rannick worked well as the party learned more about the keep the more they planned it out, rather then just charging in.
- Proving victorious against the shocker lizards was actually a really big point of excitement at the table. The swarm was a true threat, but when the party's careful strategy worked with flying colors it was certainly a moment of celebration.
- I think everyone enjoyed my "special treasure" at the end of the session. Who needs in-game gold when you can have chocolate gold coins!!!
What I could have done better
- I had planned to stat out each of the NPC's so that a player could take on their stats. I didn't have an opportunity to do this, but since they still have all of Rannick to get through, I think I'll be able to do this for next session and I think it will work excellently.
- There was an encounter I had wanted to run between Turtleback Ferry and Fort Rannick, but skipped it due to time constraints. I wish I had been able to plan something shorter though as it seemed like an abrupt jump.
I think it's important every game to let one or two characters take the spotlight. Every session, I try to give someone a chance to shine. I try not to spread myself too thin, and try to focus on a different player or pair of players each session. All of the players have a chance to strut their stuff during each session in different ways though, even when they may not realize it.
- Slavla got to flex his muscles as always, but this session he actually got to be one of the party's spokespersons! Usually Slavla is the last person to talk for the group, but he proved key in learning a lot of information about the Sihedron Rune in Turtleback Ferry through his own special means of interrogation. I loved the way this encounter played out and I think Slavla really got to shine.
- Kiikii's skills contributed majorly to every battle that the party came across. Against the shocker lizards and Lucrecia, his spells helped to completely scale back the encounters. I feel like Kiikii always contributes in a major way but the party probably would have been in deep trouble this session if it wasn't for him, and I think they noticed that.
- Though it wasn't as big a spotlight, Deanda single-handedly took the torch to 25 ogres. It was a short encounter since it was so well-planned but through her mad druid stealth skills, she was able to turn a potentially disastrous encounter into a cakewalk.