Banner Marches

Session #9
So...their gelatinous cubes are trapped

The plan was perfect: the party would disguise themselves to sneak thru the kobold Underdark market. In a matter of minutes the party transformed themselves into: A hobgoblin astride a worg. A succubus. A drow. A little troll. A masked gladiator. And the paladin became an orcish blackguard. They were bounty hunters employed by the dragon, come to pit their captive gladiator in the kobolds’ arena. Crusher – their recent trophy kobold captive – was on a solo adventure with Raphael, the party bard, sneaking through as a duo to minimize the party’s presence. Alas, a bard would have come in handy.

Ardell dropped into “orc-speak” with the first kobold they encountered, going into detail on their fabricated bounty hunter story, only to be censored by Lily the “succubus” who reminded him astutely as all eyes were on the party that: “Less is more.”

Trolls, lizardmen, kuo-toa, duergar, and hobgoblins wended their way alongside the countless kobolds, through dirty dingy market stalls. There was scarcely any light in most of the market, making Zolar’s “darklight” ritual all the more helpful. Making their way thru the market, the PCs noted a captive dwarf being led to what was presumably the arena. Ak-Ak-Ak son of Ak-Ak attempted to sell them superior trap components, but the party brusquely passed him by. So far, their cover story seemed to be working. Kirito white-knuckled his restraints, chaffing at the indignity of playing “gladiator slave”, and imagined painting the room red with kobolds. Or was it green?

The party dealt with a pushy kobold merchant dealing in dire weasels who alluded to their fancy magic items being illegal in the market. Several party members theorized this was due to the presence of a red dragon, whose greed for such things is legendary. Tristan, intrigued by the merchant’s claims, instructed one of the dire weasels to “fetch kobold.” The dire weasel made a top-notch effort to fulfill on the command, and Tristan was sold, purchasing three of the weasels. Sadly, only the one he’d named “Pramatie” was long for this world. One would be dissolved in a gelatinous cube, the other eaten by Vitejie indulging in his worg nature.

Shortly thereafter, Miri spotted her old tribesman Vao’es who’d been enslaved and forced to make arrows for the kobolds…however, in her troll disguise Miri was unrecognized. She and Zolar brokered a trade for the “slave” in exchange for a glowing green gem. Ardell sold their cover by lying to Vao’es that he was now their captive…and went on to enumerate the rights and privileges he would enjoy in their custody that the kobolds did not afford him. Once again Lily grimaced – it would appear that when paladins lied, they did it kindly.

It was at this point that a she-hobgoblin approached Ardell and questioned him about his armor, to which Ardell readily replied “I killed a paladin and took his armor. Best day of my life.” After revealing that she had done the same, the she-hobgoblin revealed a holy symbol of the Knights of the Chalic – Ardell’s own holy order! On a closer look, he saw the she-hobgoblin had human eyes! Under the pretense of conducting a backroom deal, the party was ushered into a side chamber by the “she-hobgoblin” who revealed herself to be Sister Clarice, a knight hospitaler like Ardell. Sister Clarice tended Ardell’s wounds and gave the party a healing potion (replacing the one stolen from Lily’s pouch by kobold pickpockets), then explained her mission was to uncover evidence that Lord Napina of Harker’s Ferry had cut a deal with the kobolds: he would supply a steady stream of slaves if the kobolds stopped their raids. It would seem the PCs had prematurely placed Lord Napina back in power after the incident with the trolls…

“What, you mean this?” asked Zolar nonchalantly, pulling out a ledger the party had looted from the kobold temple. It was exactly what Sister Clarice had been looking for, and in exchange for turning it over to Clarice, the PCs asked that she take to the surface Vao’es, who had been happily reunited with Miri but was in no condition to fight kobolds let alone a dragon, and the two corpses of Kirito’s former adventuring companions. Before departing, Vao’es revealed to Miri that their tribal totem had been carried by kobolds to the lair of the elder red dragon Infyrana. Bidding the party farewell, Sister Clarice/the “she-hobgoblin” clasped hands with Ardell, then disappeared into the market.

Lily and Tristan had separated from the party for a moment, overhearing some kuo-toa mention the “gifts of the queen”, and did a little trading on the side. Between Lily’s enticing wiles, and Tristan’s overpowering gaze, the kobold scavengers turned over a pair of luxurious spark slippers for a sack of worthless gems…which seemed strangely valuable at the time!

It seemed the party was in the clear after leaving the market. But soon kobold drummers were spotted ushering the entourage of Harlichak, Chief of Clan Gnarled Fang. Peering closely, the PCs noticed bits of floating metal ahead of the drummers. Suspicious of a trap, the party sent one of the dire weasels ahead, and sure enough the weasel twitched as it was engulfed by a gelatinous cube which killed it in seconds. Thinking to simply avoid the procession, the PCs tried backing into a minor passage only to find another gelatinous cube being pushed forward by kobold musicians. Zolar dived through a side door and would have fallen into a pit trap with a gelatinous cube were it not for a quick spell of floating. Retreating back to the secret room where they’d met Sister Claric, the party regrouped.

That’s when the kobold commandos arrived with a kobold wyrmpriest. Kirito, in his mask, saw the wyrmpriest glare at him and (in Draconic) say “that’s him!” Just then Kirito shut the door and pressed his back into it as several javelins thudded against the other side. Kirito breathed a sigh of relief, but it was fleeting as the kobolds soon began smoking the party out…by lightning the door (and Kirito’s back) on fire. Realizing that their cover hand’t been blown and that these kobolds were only enforcing market rules which the PCs had unwittingly broken, the party wisely kept their cool and focused on taking out the commandos and gelatinous cubes with minimum collateral damage. Miri expertly slaughtered the kobold commandos, while Ardell talked down the wyrmpriest with a surprisingly good bluff. “He’s finally catching on,” Lily muttered under her breath.

Zolar calmly stepped in front of Chief Harlichak’s procession, noticing the captured elven slave in the rear, and lifted his orb. The gelatinous cube at the front was knocked back, engulfing the chief…however Chief Harlichak’s potions of growth were consumed by the cube in the process, causing the cube to double in size and engulf the entire kobold procession – including the elven captive!

On the other front, Lily and Tristan made short work of another gelatinous cube, pushing it back into some kobolds. When Lily blasted the cube to oblivion, two small metal spheres suspended in it fell to the ground and cracked open, pouring out alchemical gases which reacted and formed a cloud of sparks and flame. Thankfully, only kobolds were nearby at the time. “So…their gelatinous cubes are trapped,” Lily informed the rest of the party. Zolar was flabbergasted… Only kobolds would be so devious.

Kirito, realizing the elven captive was indeed Giliana Brightbough, his former adventuring companion, pulled out a healing potion and leapt into the gelatinous cube, administering the potion and helping Giliana escape (Zolar’s mage hand helped as well)…only now he was stuck in the cube! Impressed at the heroic (if sticky) display of their companion, Zolar and Lily warned Kirito to get clear of the trapped cube. Again with a little mage hand help, Kirito ejected himself from the slimy cube as twin blasts of thunder and lightning erupted from the spellcasters’ hands, frying the cube and triggering the trap. In a Hollywood-esque moment, a slime-covered Kirito and Giliana leaped clear of the exploding gelatinous cube.

After exchanging bitter greetings with Giliana, it became clear that the elf had suffered much and intended to leave the “cursed” Mountain as quickly as possible. Incredulous that the party intended to confront the elder red dragon Infyrana, Giliana concluded Kirito had finally found a group of adventurers as crazy as himself. Giving her some supplies and a spare magic sword, Kirito wished her good fortune and advised her to look out for Sister Clarice/the “she-hobgoblin” on her way to the surface.

Resuming their disguises, the party headed toward the kobold’s arena. What awaited them there? What had become of Miri’s missing monkey? And where were Raphael and Crusher?

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Session #8
Kobold cleanup.

Having successfully rescued Miri and Zolar, our band of adventurers sought vengeance against Clan Blood. Zolar was in no mood for argument and he walked through the temple blasting down each door that he came to.

Raphael and Ardell rushed after Chief Galatak, determined to catch him. Raphael was quicker down the hall and triggered another of the stone pillar traps. Ardell rushed to Raphael’s rescue, kicking with all of his might, but this trap was a bit different. The stone and walls were covered in flammable oil and Ardell’s kick of plate armor upon stone served only to ignite the oil.

Raphael, smelling smoke and knowing intuitively that a stone oven was not the best place for a bard, threw his strength into the stone and toppled the trap dousing some of the fire in the meantime. Tristan lagged behind to deal with some of the kobolds that Zolar’s door blasting had unveiled.

As Lily passed through the fire laden corridor, she surrounded herself with frigid ice. This was more than the oil fueled fire could withstand and Lily’s passage quickly doused what remained of the fire.

Ardell charged forward, drawing his sword against the kobolds that stood in the way. With each slash of his righteous blade, the party was bolstered and their wounds began to heal.

Methodically, the party laid waste to the kobolds. As they closed in upon Chief Galatak, Miri charged through the doorway of his guarded room only to have it slam shut behind her. The door was magically sealed and Miri was alone when Galatak summoned a fire elemental to finish the job. Caught between a band of kobolds on one side and the fire elemental on the other, Miri began to seethe with anger. As her rage boiled over, she knocked the elemental to the ground and stared down Galatak.

Lily began to shift her essence to earth and with no more than a gesture passed through the stone walls around the arcane lock. A welcome sight to Miri, Lily met the fire elemental with cool eyes before bringing her frost magic to bear. Miri and Lily dispatched the elemental with ease and turned to face the other adversaries.

Zolar was also raging as he found the kobold wizard was infringing upon his mage hand patent. The two mage hands arose from the casters and they struggled with the kobold’s staff, firing off random (and luckily inaccurate) shots in different directions. While the back and forth was nearly an even match, Zolar’s will won out and he snatched the staff from the kobold wizard. Ever the gracious winner, Zolar rapped the staff on the kobold wizard’s head twice while smiling and stating “I got your staff, I got your staff.”

Meanwhile Tristan’s worg Vitejie had been ambushed by stealthy kobolds and, combined with the other attacks he had sustained throughout the dungeon, was now bleeding out. He yelped as the hits rained upon him in the narrow corridor, setting his fur on fire, and he squeezed himself tighter as he tried to back away. Tristan, hearing his friend’s cries, came rushing to the Vitejie’s defense. Tristan launched himself into Vitejie’s saddle, activating its magic, and issued a divine challenge to the kobolds attacking Vitejie, killing the first outright and devouring its life essence. As the kobolds backed away to gain a better tactical advantage, Tristan administered potions to Vitejie, curing his wounds.

Seeing the true threat, and knowing what divine wrath would befall them should they attack Vitejie again, the kobolds focused their attention on Tristan. As they began to bleed him, Tristan’s eyes glazed red and he let his inner vampire lose. His wounds began to heal on their own and one by one he drained the blood of each of the kobolds that had attacked Vitejie. The last stood shaken and turned to run, but Vitejie’s powerful jaws snapped the kobold in two.

As the other kobolds also began to break ranks, Kirito cut down those that tried to flee. As one kobold ran past Kirito lobbed his head clean off, leaving it to land at the feet of the remaining creatures. What little resolve they had remaining broke as Kirito fixed his attention on them.

On one of the corpses Tristan found a letter written in draconic and prepared with a paralyzing runes spell. As he read the words out loud and reached the out of place word “rune” a puzzled look came over his face and his limbs froze. The party looked on in shock but before they could react Tristan’s superior will and years of iron discipline overcame the spell affecting his body and he finished reading the scroll. He discussed the scroll with Zolar as if nothing had happened.

Having rescued Crusher from his captors, Raphael engaged once more in their banter. They quickly picked up where they left off and Crusher told the party of merchant bazaar used by traders of the Underdark. Zolar cast a ritual to bolster the weaker of the party, using life essence from those who had been so far unharmed and then Tristan and Zolar set about preparing their disguises.

Raphael decided that it would be much easier if he and Crusher were to infiltrate the bazaar on their own, separate from the rest of the party. I believe his exact words were “If a party of exactly the size of those now running rampant through the mountain show up with no one having seen them before, I don’t think it’s going to matter how much like hobgoblins we look. Better if Crusher and I separate and see what we can find out on our own. I’ll go as a drow emissary. You’ll vouch for me, right Crusher?”

Tristan, freshly fed, let his lower fangs grow over his upper lip and pulled out his disguise kit, applying the necessary changes to appear as a hobgoblin. He mounted Vitejie thinking of the irony of how the worg would help Tristan pass for the creature that he had rescued Vitejie from, and the party set out toward the market.

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Session #6
Why trap a door when you can trap a bridge?

It was a massive chamber, with a ceiling some 40 feet high, stalactites casting long shadows in the party’s torch light. This was as far as Kirito’s ill-fated expedition had penetrated into Dragon Mountain. There were stories of these kobolds, Clan Humanbane, who had raided human settlements in the mountains for decades under the leadership of an albino kobold called Crusher. One day, so the story goes, Crusher was kidnapped and tortured by a party of adventurers, however he escaped and now harbors a burning hatred for humankind.

Despite being on guard, the PCs (now reunited after their sphere of annihilation mishap) were caught in an ambush by kobold slingers who targeted the thunderstone poison orbs affixed to the hanging corpses. Between Zolar and Lily’s thundering and freezing magic, they made short work of the slingers. Fanning out, the PCs found a wooden bridge (after Zolar was nearly decapitated by a set of steel jaws), and came up with a clever plan to bypass any traps: Zolar would cast thunderwave on the paladin Ardell and slide him across the bridge so that his full body weight couldn’t trigger any potential traps on the bridge. It worked splendidly, until Ardell realized he was standing in a puddle of oil on the other side. A shout of “Bree-Yark!” echoed from the shadows and dozens of kobolds began attacking the party, starting with a volley of flaming sling shots at the oil puddle. Later, Raphael would run across the bridge, leading to several alchemical flasks built into the bridge breaking and the entire bridge going up in flames.

A furious battle ensued on three fronts: (1) the mass of kobolds and slingers, who Miri, Zolar, Raphael, Ardell, Tristan, and Lily faced courageously, (2) kobolds riding giant bats and wielding slings who attacked Miri and Zolar, trying to haul them away or drop hornet’s nests on them, and (3) a band of kobold kidnappers equipped with paralyzing poison which attacked Kirito as he took the long way around. After a bunch of fighting, the albino chief Crusher appeared on the rooftop of an old dwarven building and his scraggly voice echoed throughout the chamber: “The one called Kirito bring to me. The rest kill. Summon the gorgon!” With that, Crusher kicked the corpse of one of Kirito’s former adventuring companions to the ground with a burning arrow tacking a note to the chest.

A loud charging sound came from deeper in the Bell-Chasm District, and a gorgon charged Raphael, knocking him backward, but Raphael rallied with Ardell and Miri to make short work of the gorgon. Meanwhile, Lily unleashed arcane fury on Crusher, turning him into a bat then back into a kobold, before Crusher bitterly slinked away into the darkness, calling his clan to retreat.

Two side quests of happened around this time: Kirito came upon a blackened rune-engraved dwarven skull which seemed to be watching him in a supernaturally unnerving way. Miri summoned shades of her tribe, one of whom advised her that the messenger Vao’es was on a lower level held captive but alive.

The PCs had won the day…for now. But the bells had been rung, alerting all kobolds in the vicinity to the presence of intruders in the Mountain.

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Session #5
When in doubt, create a sphere of annihilation!

The party was surrounded  by corpses of kobolds clad in black wool, and echoing sounds of kobold squeak-barking came from deeper in the Mountain. As the PCs secured their entry passage in the old dwarven fighting chambers, Tristan Capri studied a massive stone block barring one of the paths…he and Raphael examinend an adventurer’s hand crushed beneath grasping a scroll [handout]. Zolar wondered aloud at the fossilized starfish and other marine life in the upper strata of the block. More weirdness would follow…as would the traps. Throwing caution to the wind, Lily phased thru the block, tapping into her arcane senses to notice two kobold guards on the other side, as well as two trapped stone deadfalls. Surprised by the sorceress’ head popping out of the stone block, the kobolds didn’t have time to react before Lily snuck back thru to warn the party. Squeaks of “wizard! wizard!” soon followed.

After exploring some empty rooms, all of them trapped (among the highlights was a reverse bear claw trap almost decapitating Tristan), and looting the kobold supplies within, the PCs decided to find an alternate route. Heading west, they snuck up on a room of commoner kobolds (in which Ardell was impaled by a scything blade trap) who Ardell managed to pacify and Raphael proceeded to lock in the room. At this point, the party had thrown caution to the wind and was nonchalantly opening doors just to see what would happen and what they’d find.

Taking the lead like any good wizard should, Zolar followed a strange set of “demon-donkey” hoofprints slightly imbedded in the stone…and walked straight into an ambush by a lone kobold sniper who fled. Coming to a massive stone door, which Kirito recognized from his previous venture as leading to the Bell-Chasm District, with hefty dwarven knockers. Raphael pushed the doors open…and the party came face to face with three hanging corpses wrapped in poisonous green orbs like Christmas tree lights: they were the skeleton of Zolar’s past incarnation, a dwarven adventurer, and Taern (the farm boy who had accompanied Kirito). Adamant that the bodies be taken down, Kirito barely had a chance to take cover as Zolar cast mage hand to grab the journal…the results were bad. Next Zolar attempted to mage hand (yes, it’s a verb!) one of the orbs…the results were disastrous. Dropping a series of orbs, Zolar unleashed a blast of thunder as the translucent thunderstone broke…and then was engulfed in poison gas which nearly killed him. Thanks to Ardell’s healing and his own fortitude, Zolar emerged alive but not amused.

Backtracking, the PCs decided another route was in order. After Tristan disarmed a trapdoor hatch (by triggering it and getting covered in poison centipedes), Raphael did a ballsy leap into the narrow tunnels above crushing a kobold. After jamming the door shut as he was becoming known for doing, Raphael rejoined the party below to find the trading shots with kobold snipers. The handful of kobolds posed no real threat, but their poisoned arrows were starting to wear the party down…

Zolar again was not amused when he discovered a room of dwarven ale with a kobold propaganda poster that read: “Kill the wizard first!” Things took a dramatic turn when Zolar grasped a door handle and found his hand stuck by sovereign glue. Soon thereafter a lone unarmed kobold approached the party pitifully carrying a bag of “tribute from chief Garunaak, who doesn’t want to see anymore kobolds killed.” Rightfully suspicious, the party ordered the kobold to open the sack and show them (it appeared to be a bag of holding), then convinced him to find some universal solvent for Zolar’s hand. Ardell bravely reached inside the bag and was promptly devoured! At that moment 12 heretofore invisible kobolds surprised the party and attempted to bring down Zolar. Not to be outsmarted, Zolar activated a reactive teleport …meaning Miri took the brunt of the attack, but Miri remained standing. And she was raging. Garunaak’s ambush had begun.

Miri, Kirito, Lily, and Tristan devastated the kobolds and slaughtered Garunaak and dispersed the kobolds. Zolar fought himself out of being cornered by kobold with a swift thunderwave spell. Meanwhile, Ardell was being crushed to death by the devouring bag with only his faith to sustain him. In a desperate bid to save the paladin, Raphael and Zolar planned to drop the bag of devouring with mage hand into Raphael’s bag of holding. The was a massive explosion (which the party wisely had taken cover from), which triggered the two stone deadfalls, separating the rest of the party from Zolar and Ardell.

The party had just created a sphere of annihilation. :-) Unable to will the sphere to move, Zolar skirted around it with Ardell, losing a bit of their life essence in the process, but escaping alive. Meanwhile the rest of the party dealt with a pitch fire started by kobolds by leaping (or flying) thru the flames and killing the kobold arsonists.

Backtracking yet again, the party reunited in the Bell-Chasm District to see what the Mountain held in store for them there…

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Session #4
They're kobolds, what's to fear?

A fierce thunderstorm wracked the mountain town of Harker’s Ferry, making travel impossible. The PCs gathered provisions, spoke with locals, cared for their horses, and prepared for the expedition ahead of them. They also learned that 13 dwarves had bought up most of the healing potions before setting out for Dragon Mountain a week ago.

Zolar awoke abruptly after a dream sending from a Vistani Raunie (seer) named Valiora, and soon thereafter a messenger boy followed, with a note calling them to an old barn. Raphael likewise had learned of the only potions-trader in town – a Vistani “witch”. The PCs went to the old burn on the outskirts of town, which rattled from the pummeling winds and pelting rain. Inside the Vistani woman warned them of an impending threat – the first peril they would face – as well as the arrival of two people chosen by Fate. 8 fortune-telling cards were laid out on a table, each representing one of the PCs and an odd one that “did not belong” representing the first peril. After studying the cards, the PCs selected “The Crows” as the odd card out. Just then the sound of a horse-drawn carriage came from outside and there was a sharp rapping at the barn door.

Tristan Capri – a legend in his own right – and his alluring mysterious companion Lily met the rest of the PCs, explaining that they were servants of a god…and that Fate had brought them to seek out Dragon Mountain. What exactly their quest was they remained circumspect about, but they had found a riderless Nic’Epona stallion on the road. The horse was afraid and its saddle bag was stuck with arrows with black fletching – an examination by Zolar revealed the black fletching was from a hybrid bird-beast and that the arrows were enchanted with a darkness spell but it had been expended. Miri recognized the stallion as a messenger horse and deciphered the “messenger braided cords” found with it, addressed to her fellow tribesman named Vao’es: “Kobolds have stolen our tribe’s sacred totem. Track them down to their lair and report back to the elders. Do not fight them or attempt to recover the totem alone.” After getting acquainted, the PCs joined up with Tristan and Lily because there was safety in numbers after all.

Once the storm died down, the PCs spent 2 days traveling up to Dragon Mountain, forced to leave Tristan and Lily’s carriage and the carts behind before ascending a narrow trail. Miri astutely noted that the main trail was avalanche prone. She and Zolar scouted out a safer route, narrowly avoiding a massive boulder trap sprung by kobolds. After establishing ropes up, the party approached the old dwarven gate into Dragon Mountain, making short work of the four kobolds manning ballistae from two towers carved into the mountainside. Raphael wisely cut the ballistae string. They decided to enter Dragon Mountain’s second level via a trap door in one of the ballistae towers.

Dragon Mountain was pitch black inside and smelled of wet dog and faint traces of other odors. As soon as the party got their bearings, they heard whispering kobolds planning an ambush with “gas”. Raphael warned the rest of te party about what he’d learned from the miners – there was a gold/silver lookalike metal that was caustic to the touch and released poison vapors if lit on fire. Raphael opened the nearest door, unleashing a spray of goo that smelled of almonds, sweat, and urine on the rest of the party (except him and Ardell who ducked behind his shield). When a hissing barrel came rolling down the passage, the PCs bolted thru the open door. Detecting the ambush before it was sprung, the PCs fought off a large group of 14 or more kobolds, noticing that the kobold archers fired poisoned arrows and used black fletching like the kind they found earlier. Oddly, whenever Lily or Zolar killed a kobold with a spell, the kobolds squeaked “wizard! wizard!” Zolar wisely used the counterweight stone levers to reveal a smaller secondary ambush and then sabotaged the counterweight so that the portcullis was stuck open.

The kobolds posed no real threat to the seasoned party….

Added a timeline of your adventures: Timeline

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Session #3
Slaying trolls for the greater good

As the party clashed with trolls at Harker’s Ferry gatehouse, they were determined to blitzkrieg the keep and take down the trolls with as few casualties as possible. When it became clear the guards – who were under the terrified thrall of the trolls – were lowering the portcullis, Zolar launched a spell attack which pinned a troll and its worg under the portcullis, then followed it up with a wall of fire. The rest of the party just had to clean up the mess. It was at this time that Kirito dealt so much damage to a troll that I invoked the “Chunky Salsa” rule: “if a troll is reduced to the consistency of chunky salsa then its regeneration does not function.”

After the fight the PCs noticed Lady Napina’s corpse in a crow cage, but they also found a living man named Kirnwedigan who boasted he was “the greatest swordsman in the kingdom”. Raphael grudgingly healed the man and saw that he was equipped with…torches. Raphael also had stern words with the guards after the fight, learning the exact numbers of Venduul’s court.

Kirito and an invisible Zolar scouted ahead, witnessing a disturbing scene of several peasants being forced to hold the decapitated heads of dissenters against Venduul’s rule. The reeve Tamor was able to spare further suffering by bluffing the trolls that he knew who the PCs were and knew their secret weakness. Fooled, some trolls took Tamor before lord Venduul. Meanwhile, 10 trolls menaced the peasants in the courtyard. Kirito and Zolar reported back to the group and a plan was formulated.

The party charged in, and Zolar unleashed a spell called “Visions of Avarice” which created an illusion of gold that most of the trolls fell for. Raphael really sold the gold illusion with great roleplaying, spontaneously starting a skill challenge to exploit the greedy trolls’ delusions. Between Kirito, Miri, and Ardell laying waste to the trolls, and Zolar and Raphael’s trick, the trolls turned on each other. With the aid of their new NPC henchman Kirnwedigan, the PCs burned the trolls dead.

Entering Venduul’s throne room, the PCs didn’t mince words – they were determined to dethrone Venduul and make him pay for his crimes. A large deep pit had been excavated by the trolls in the center of the keep. This came in handy when Zolar pushed three trolls down it. In fact, Zolar’s sleep spell dramatically altered the battle, allowing the other PCs to focus on mopping the floor with the trolls. Miri and Kirito in particular, backed up by Raphael’s leadership, laid waste to trolls galore. Miri made “Chunky Salsa” out of the troll witch. Venduul eventually capitulated, astounded that the PCs had killed his “Red God”, which apparently was the dragon Kaldwarag. The PCs thought about using a sausage grinder to kill him, but the rescued Lord Gregor Napina declared it would be a waste of a good sausage grinder. Instead, the PCs trapped Venduul in a crow cage and lit a bonfire underneath him.

Here’s what they learned from Venduul before the troll lord was burned alive: (1) The twelve kobold clans are governed by King Kurakan. (2) An elf named Giliana Brightbough was taken captive by kobolds of clan “Scrags”; this was one of Kirito’s old party members he thought died.

Upstanding citizens that they are, the party took only the treasure from the trolls that didn’t belong to the villagers. Lord Gregor Napina, who they rescued, offered them bountiful supplies and hirelings typical of a small mountain village. Thanks to Raphael’s negotiations, Lord Napina also dug up some old adventurer’s notes about Dragon Mountain for the party (those will be a handout at next session).

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Session #2
The heroes are victorious, en route to Dragon Mountain

Raphael was dead. Zolar and Miri were bleeding out. Only a bloodied Kirito and Ardell were still standing against the red dragon’s onslaught. The dragon had bitten and flung them, clawed them to shreds, breathed on them, created a lava hazard, and in a particularly devious move flew up to 50 feet and let itself fall on to the PCs. They had depleted nearly all their resources and things were looking dire. However, Ardell still had a few “lay on hands” remaining and was able to bring the unconscious party members back into the fight. This proved to be the edge the PCs needed so that when the severely wounded dragon tried to flee they were able to bring it down. Kirito dealt the killing stroke in the air.

Everyone on the ground watched with amazement as the fighter climbed off the dragon’s corpse and pulled his swords out of its scaly hide. Hive fives went around the table, and after the party tended to the wounded, a dragon evisceration promptly followed. “What does a dragon heart do?” “Can I save it’s eyes in case I can make an orb later?” “Is dragon meat edible?”

A dragon steak cook out followed :)

After being summoned before the royal court and weighing their options, the party chose to accept the king’s offer to claim all the dragon’s treasure in Dragon Mountain – apparently the red dragon’s former lair – with the crown taking a 5% tax. They also hoped to gain some insight in Dragon Mountain as to what prompted the dragon’s attack. Kirito has a personal quest to recover the bodies of his former adventuring party. The king provided them with riding horses, pack mules, a wagon, supplies and rations (supplemented by dragon steaks). Once Zolar raised their fallen companion (on the King’s generous dime), they set forth with the recovering Raphael in the wagon. They resisted the urge to gag Raphael and write shameful things on his forehead with evercoal…..

Crossing the Misty Downs they came across peasants in a land dispute. After the great wizard Fastilbras’ tower was sacked by the dragon, the town of Inverness – which the wizard had governed – had fallen into chaos. Monsters once kept by the wizard ran amok and there was no law. Refugees fled to the countryside and had come into conflict with a stodgy old farmer. Ardell, the party’s paladin, found an equitable solution that got them to put aside their differences and work together, with the peasants working for the farmer to earn their keep. Chatting with some of the peasants the PCs expressed their intention to seek out Dragon Mountain. Several peasants made a holy sign over themselves to ward off the dead, implying it was a doomed venture. One peasant warned them that Harker’s Ferry, the village nearest to the mountain, was overrun by trolls.

At night, while the party camped in the Misty Downs, several of them who stood watch heard ghostly women singing on a distant mist-shrouded hill….but there was no random encounter like they were expecting.

Stopping in Harker’s Ferry to either get an inn or learn more about the trolls, the party concealed their weapons when they saw that trolls indeed controlled the village and keep. Tattered banners of a dragon’s claw and a burning flame hung around the village. Crow cages with rotting corpses confirmed the party’s sinking suspicions that the village was utterly oppressed. Ardell gathered intelligence from the village priest, learning that the war troll leader Venduul had 24 trolls at his command and a witch (who’d stolen all the priest’s ritual components), the villagers were terrified and malnourished, and 30 men-at-arms loyal to Lord Napina -the rightful ruler of Harker’s Ferry – had been forced to serve Venduul but that if the party opposed the war troll they might sway the men-at-arms to fight alongside them.

The party prepared to connive their way into the keep, but the hot-headed Kirito intimidated his way past the human reeve at the gate and promptly picked a fight with the troll guards. I believe his precise words were: “I’ve got your tribute right here. I draw my swords.” We ended the session with those immortal words: ROLL FOR INITIATIVE.

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Session #1
A red dragon attacks, heroes assemble

It has been several years since adventurers defeated the tyrant in a civil war and put his bastard son Arslein on the throne at the legendary castle Tir Uldeir. Now, on the morning of the king’s 18th birthday, Tir Uldeir is filled to the brink with visitors from across the kingdom and beyond. It is the end of autumn, a crisp breeze filling the castle’s russet banners and everyone scrambling to prepare…

Miri, a barbarian, was one of those adventurers. For the past several years she’d been living among her people and her horse had grown happy and fat. Miri had ventured forth to offer her good tidings to the young king on behalf of her people. Stopping to fill her waterskins, she found her horse had wandered off. Walking thru the gates of Tir Uldier, Miri looked for her horse in the common stables but couldn’t find her there. Checking with the royal stablemaster, who recognized her as a great hero, Miri then searched the royal stables. Dappled gray mares, black stallions, roan geldings munched happily on apples and oatcakes. Now it made sense – Miri’s horse had wandered into the royal stables for a snack! However, her horse was one of the magical Nic’Epona, and possessed the ability to change the color of her hide. Miri devised a quick trick with an oatcake, and was able to “out” her horse thru temptation. A trumpet blared announcing the king’s birthday celebration was about to begin. Patting her horse, Miri went ouside…

Meanwhile, Zolar, deva wizard, was reborn on a hilltop not far from Tir Uldeir in an autumnal breeze and sudden burst of lightning. “Ah, a new life!” Exclaimed Zolar, examining his hands and taking in his surroundings.
Soon, an out-of-breath aging priest approached, “Thank Bahamut, it worked! I was able to predict your rebirth thru the stars! I am so old I didn’t know if I’d live to see it…”
Zolar was quite naked, but unphased chatted with the priest. “Not as old as I, good priest. Ah, where am I?”
“You are in the Banner Marches, deva, on the eve of King Arslein’s birthday! The seven stars align in the night sky! It is a most auspicious time. However, since my predictions were accurate, that means your evil counterpart – a rakshasa – has also been reborn.”
“The fiend must be stopped!” Declared Zolar, his eyes flashing. “Now, do you have some pants I can borrow before setting off to greet the king…?”

Raphael, a wandering half-elven duelist, had come to the king’s birthday for a very different reason. First of all, as a bard, being at the center of important events was a dramatic necessity. Secondly, the best duels with the most boarish nobles were to be had, and if there was one thing that Raphael enjoyed, it was making an ass out of an ass. Kicking his most recently defeated opponent in the rear, Raphael shouted a taunt after the humilitated man. Satisfied that the racist comments the man had uttered were now addressed honorably, Raphael sheathed his blade. A trumpet blare, and Raphael headed over to the festivities…

Kirito, a swordsman of some renown, didn’t think this or that about the king. He had come to atone for leading a party of inexperienced adventurers to their death in Dragon Mountain (and perhaps find new allies to help recover their bodies and take on a dragon). Kirito was looking for Roderic, a “redcoat” (one of the King’s soldiers), whose son died on that fateful expedition. Asking a guardsman, Kirito was given a surprised look, “Oh, you mean the Knight-Commander? He’s out in front of the garrison getting the troops armor polished, of course.” Heaving a sigh, Kirito went to meet the Knight-Commander, who was shocked that Kirito had the audacity to show his face but received the token of his son with a pained expression. Inventing trumped up charges, Knight-Commander Roderic attempted to have Kirito arrested, and he would have done so, were it not for the timely intervention of a paladin…

Ardell, a paladin belonging to the Knights of the Chalice, had come to pay his respects and pledge his blade to the king on his birthday of majority. Since the king was now 18, he could make his own decisions without the Prince Regent or Council of Lords. Thus far, the young king seemed to be wise and favored equality, regardless of social class or race. As Ardell mused about the merits of a wise king, he overhead what was happening with Kirito and intervened, “My dear guards, as this man is clearly no danger to any of us and there is no legitimate charge, and as I am vested by the power of the gods to seek justice, let me see that he meets whatever just reward the gods wish of him.” Well, the guards certainly weren’t going to argue with a paladin! Kirito gave a humble thanks to Ardell, when both turned to hear the trumpet blare…

“Let it be known that King Arslein, grandson of King Arath, inheritor of the Lauxum line of kings, celebrates today his 18th birthday. As his majority year, the king…” and so on went the royal herald. As was customary, every single person who’d gathered at Tir Uldeir presented gifts to the king. Prince Tuirean, leader of the cavaliers called the Knights of the Crown, presented a customized suit of full plate armor, to which there was much applause. Princess Merisende, a bard with rumors floating about her, presented four trained hippogriffs…well, mostly trained…and there was considerable applause. Then the emissary of Suleistarn, an aggressive magocracy to the northeast, presented the Green Orb of Dragonkind, and everyone was stunned. “This is to honor the long tradition the kings of the Banner Marches have kept in quelling the evil of dragons, since the days of High King Arnrohd. For you, your Majesty.”

Several advisors nervously exchanged looks, but the gifting ceremony continued, and then the PCs were next in line… Ardell, Kirito, and Miri pledged their blades (or flails, as the case may be) in service of the king, and there was applause. Zolar presented a bottle of wine from the court of Bahamut himself, and there were “Oohs” and “Ahs.” Raphael offered the king an insult composed for his greatest rival; after thinking for a moment the king said the mage Fastilbras had been a thorn in his side for many years, and Raphael composed an insult so scathing mothers covered their childrens’ ears.

Just then, a teleportation circle – buried somewhere under the flagstone of the central courtyard – flared to life, and a slightly singed mage apprentice tumbled thru, his pointed hat trailing smoke. The king’s guard quickly circled the young mage with their blades pointed at him. “Please, don’t kill me. I am Veris, apprentice to the great wizard Fastilbras of Inverness.”

The king groaned, “The ‘great’ part is debatable. Why do you disrupt my birthday, Veris, mage apprentice? And how did you get here?”

“Please, my master has been…has been…A red dragon attacked my master’s tower in Inverness without warning, we had no time to organize our defenses. My master opened this secret teleportation circle, from the days when troll slaves built Tir Uldeir. He ordered me to come thru and warn you of the dragon…But please, maybe we can save him, maybe we can go back thru-"

Right then, a gout of flame burst between the cracks in the flagstone. Veris collapsed in emotional anguish, as it was clear the great mage Fastilbras was no more.

Zolar stepped forward, explaining he was a wizard and he had an idea, but he would need the guards to clear some of the flagstones so he could see the teleportation circle clearly. The king granted permission, and once the flagstones were clear, Zolar peered thru the active portal and for a moment he could see the dragon perched on a ruined tower studying the teleportation circle: A great red beast with eyes like twin balefires, claws like vorpal blades, and a wreathe of flame all around it. “I, Kaldwarag, will destroy you wizard, and all in Tir Uldeir!” With that the dragon inhaled as if to breathe fire.

Quite alarmed, Zolar cast a spectral ram at the teleportation circle, causing it to collapse into a cellar beneath the courtyard, deactivating the portal.

Several people began to panic as word spread thru the stunned crowd of the dragon attack on Inverness, but Ardell was able to stem the panic with tempered words. The king called the PCs over to, asking if they were ready to prove the allegiance they’d just sworn, and imbuing them with the temporary powers of reeves to help organize the defenses of Tir Uldeir. Best estimates were the dragon was coming in a few hours…

The plan was to evacuate as many innocents out of Tir Uldeir as possible, with a fighting force of men-at-arm, crossbowmen, cavaliers, and the PCs left behind to face the dragon. Princess Merisende helped with the evacuation, while Prince Tuirean commanded the cavaliers. Ardell took charge of a unit of men-at-arms and a unit of crossbowmen. Smooth-talking Raphael acquired a long chain – the chapel’s bell tower chain actually – which he gave to Miri to “do something barbarian-like with.” He also convinced the Knight-Commander to establish fire breaks and a controlled burn to create a smokescreen to force the dragon within range of their ballistae and crossbows. Kirito helped organize a bucket brigade to wet the thatch rooves, and later manned one of the ballistae while some men under Ardell’s command manned the other. Zolar cast several defensive rituals and spells. A few of the PCs also took a quick lesson in how to ride hippogriffs from Princess Merisende, as those would come in handy against a flying dragon. The horses and hippogriffs were getting on edge, and bursts of red and yellow fires were visible on the eastern horizon. They waited…

First a wave of refugees fleeing from neighboring villages, and it also became clear the dragon had strategically started a forest fire to drive large numbers of refugees to toward Tir Uldeir. When the dragon came into view – a roiling red form amidst a dark cloud of cinder – Knight-Commander Roderic wanted to fire the ballistae as soon as possible, but Kirito wisely convinced him to hold until the dragon came in range. Tensing their grips on their weapons, the PCs watched the dragon pick up a giant bale of hay, ignite it, then hurl it at the main gate in an explosion of fire which killed a dozen men-at-arms. The dragon roared in Common, “Submit to me or bear witness to the destruction of your homes and death of your kinsmen. Give me the king and the orb, and I shall spare your puny lives as my subjects. Resist and die by the fire of Kaldwarag!”

Kirito narrowed his eyes, gauging the distance, then nodded to Ardell, and they unleashed a volley of ballistae bolts which the dragon dodged. Down at the gate, a villager was urging his pony on, and Raphael noticed the cart the pony was drawing had a glowing ember pulsing in the back. He yelled at the villager to stop, and was intimidating enough to convince the villager and his family to abandon the cart. Soon thereafter, the cart exploded in flames.

Miri and Zolar grapsed the reigns of their hippogriffs and launched into the sky, flying toward the oncoming red dragon. After a vicious aerial skirmish, Miri managed to bind the dragon with the bell tower chain. Hurtling down toward the castle’s main gate, unable to fly, the dragon roared in defiance. Raphael instructed everyone to get clear and leapt off the ramparts along with Kirito. The dragon hit the main gate with such force that it collapsed entirely, pinning the Knight-Commander below. A wave of debris and ash poured through Tir Uldeir.

As the PCs gathered in the courtyard, through the clearing smoke they could make out the red dragon climbing out of the ruins, perched on the shattered gatehouse, surveying the defenders with burning eyes. This fight was only just beginning…

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