Location: Star's End Monastery
Date: Winter, 1332 Avard
For two nights in a row, nightmares plagued the vicaress of the Star's End: Fire, a grim kobold, and a man with many piercings in his face. The vicaress took to prayers and meditation, sought to change the outcome through the use of shadows and darkness, but always the outcome was the same. The monastery would burn, it's books would be taken, and all the monks would die. If the kobold and the man with piercings made it to the monastery, no one would live.
The vicaress told her monks to take every book they could carry, and go to the construction site and the catacombs. She did not see death, there. They would not have time to save all the books, but they could save some. The monks that made it to the construction site would enlist the help of the dwarves and orcs working there, and though it would cost them secrecy and perhaps souls, even more books might survive.
The monks were not warriors. Though the vicaress was a priestess of the Goddess of Darkness, she was no assassin. The shadar she commanded – creatures of pure darkness – were not evil. They were protectors for the monastery and its relics and secrets. There was another option, however.
The Procurators had recently acquired a second goliath, nearly eight feet tall and twenty stone in weight. The first goliath rode a minotaur lizard that could eat men alive. The second rode a great white wolf so large that it could shoulder aside bulls. The two goliaths were not alone, among the available Procurators. There was a dwarven rune priestess whose boar was armored with steel, and behind the dwarf rode a gnome whose arcane powers were considerable. There was also the half-orc thug whose stealth was a surprise, despite his bulk. And lastly, there was an ariel, an elf with wings, whose power to restore will and vitality were formidable, and near whom was always found an elder gray wolf who protected her.
For the vicaress, there was only the one option to end the coming fire storm: send the Procurators. They would either die, slowing the kobold and the man with piercings long enough to save more books – or they would succeed, and kill them. The future was full of flames, but for the Procurators, it was time to steal lives.
The goliaths rode forward, eager for battle, armed with two rings and an amulet given them by the vicaress. The dwarf rode forward, eager to protect the books. The orc rode forward, ready to kill anyone that hurt his friends. The gnome and the ariel rode forward because they loved knowledge – and anyone who would burn books would, themselves, have to burn.
Through snow and white-covered forest lands they rode, over hills and through quiet valleys. They rode hard, the boar leading the way and shoveling aside snow with ease. They slept lightly. They warned the farmhold they passed, that of Patricus' people. Patricus' eldest noted that coyotes had been heard in the distant woods. Kobold riders often rode coyotes.
The Procurators rode forward, but the ariel flew. With her as their guide, they found over a dozen coyote-mounted kobolds riding as skirmishers for half a dozen moving trees. Though it was winter and the trees had lost their leaves, there was a difference still in a living tree with no clothing, and a dead tree that would never bud again. The moving trees were undead. A necromancer with a face full of piercings rode an enormous tree some fifteen feet wide, a throne of dead wood his saddle.
With the ariel's insight, the team set up an ambush. Using the forest and estimated travel times as their guide, they dug staked pits, hit caltrops in the snow, then used arcane and divine tricks to cover up their passage through the snow. They carefully emplaced themselves for maximum damage against their foe.
There was no mistaking the advance of the trees. Their movement shook the ground, and snow fell free from boughs throughout the woods. The kobolds stayed within fifty feet of the trees, for that was where their leader stayed. There was a kobold that seemed different from the rest; less skittish, more menacing. He rode a wolf that growled at the coyotes when they came near.
The first coyote-mounted kobold fell into a pit trap on the flank. The team waited until a second kobold went down in the middle. Just as the necromancer and the kobold leader began to suspect something was untowards, the team struck. The 3500lb minotaur lizard dropped out of a large tree and ran into the midst of the kobolds, striking hard at the primary tree, shaking it so hard that it tippled and then fell, throwing the necromancer from his throne.
The rest of the team formed up immediately behind a row of hidden spikes and pits, and braced for the onslaught as several trees advanced to attack them. The newer goliath had a shield as large as a man, fending off deadly tree branches and kobold arrows alike. The power of the gods flowed out of the dwarf and the ariel, while arcane bolts of acid splashed out from the gnome.
The goliath mounted on the minotaur lizard chased the necromancer, hoping to end the fight quickly. Battle and chaos ensued as the kobold leader tried to keep the fire on the main fight, while the trees were split between attacking the minotaur rider and attacking the impenetrable shield.
Suddenly, the kobold went down, killed by a shadar that had been summoned by one of the vicaress' rings. The trees began to burn from arcane sorcery. The necromancer was killed by concentrated fire, falling to his death. And then he did what necromancers did, he returned from the dead. Cold and necrotic powers engulfed Procurator after Procurator, wounding them deeply in their souls, even as trees tried to bash them in and the remaining kobolds fled in terror from the wrath of rune priest and sorceror and priestess with wings.
And then it was over. Fires engulfed several of the trees as the necromancer fell one last time. The undead trees quickly caught fire, still moving feebly as the necromancer's soul was severed from its body. A rain of fiery branches fell into the snow, hissing for a moment before going out.
DM's Notes: That was a helluva fight. Lo-Kan came close to getting toasted, as did his mount Maul, and Yurok came within a hairsbreadth of death. The game ran a bit long into the evening, even though it was only about five rounds worth of combat – maybe 30 seconds in real time. Good battles are like that. It was a good long slug fest against undead treants (undead treants!!) with hundreds of hit points doing tens of damage per turn. Ethana and Allie and Kragma in a defensive line is almost unbeatable. Kragma went total defense with an AC of 30, and on an opportunity attack grappled an opponent! It was awesome! Sommer couldn't seem to roll for crap with Nyssa, but more than made up for it with Aden the Boar's attacks. Lots of good fun had by all! Except maybe Saige, who was getting tired and couldn't wait an hour between turns. For six characters plus mounts that were combat multipliers, that was a lot of damage and a lot of damage soaking. I think most any other party would have lost people before fleeing. That necromancer had a right to sit in his tree throne like an omnipotent god – right up until he died. I think Kragma wound up with the amulet of undead protection, and one of them still has a functional ring of shadar summoning, though I don't remember who.
Reference: Campaign IX
Excellent recap, Joe. And what a fun battle guys! Role playing as Lo-Kan was never better. After his first fight with the Procurators, in which he felt that he embarrassed himself with his poor attack rolls against a dwarf and a tricky mage, he was in near-perfect form for his reintroduction to the team. After slinking off in embarrassment after the last battle to go off and hone his skills out in the wilderness, towns, and Outland tournaments, Lo-Kan came back fierce, confident, and ready to fight. However, playing Lo-Kan this time was not all about the fighting. When he met Kragma he was so excited to see another Goliath, and the role play took an interesting turn. We found out that Lo-Kan isn't really dumb at all, but that he cannot speak the common tounge well. His first language is Dwarven, and he was excited to speak it again and prove to others that he has intellect, wisdom, cunning, and that he can sing well in his deep, thunderous voice. Everything from the physical challenge against Kragma to the swapping of war stories to the sharing of religious beliefs heartened Lo-Kan, who had not seen anyone of his kind in what seemed like years. This must have given him some extra juice, because he kicked some serious butt later on in the night.
In the battle, Lo-Kan sprung from the trees atop Maul who rode down the largest of the treants, knocking the tree and necromancer to the ground. Lo-Kan hates mages of nearly all types (other than healers) because they are so wily and tricky, never fighting fair, in his opinion. So when he saw the necromancer fall to the ground, Lo-Kan didn't bother to charge back through the kobold ranks to his allies as he had originally planned. Instead he seized the opportunity to take down the Mage when he was vulnerable. I am so proud of Lo-Kan. He exhibited bravery and unrelenting tenacity in his fight against the necromancer and the 15-ft-wide trees. He and Maul literally climbed the enemy and withstood countless opportunity attacks in order to destroy their foe. It felt like Lo-Kan had a mind of his own and I was just telling his story. I'm sure part of the reason why he and Maul risked their lives the way they did is 1) because that is the nature of the true Iron Wolf Warriors of his Cavalry, and 2) because he wanted there to be no doubt about his battle prowess and fearlessness in the face of danger after the last encounter he had with the Procurators at the catacombs.
Funny, I was thinking to myself, “He's doing it! Lo-Kan's doing it! Look at him go!” And when the battle had tipped in the Procurators' favor I started thinking, “at the very least, Lo-Kan and the others need a level up for this one.” Lo and behold, Joe, the DM (in his infinite wisdom) must have heard my telepathic cries, because we all leveled-up after the fight. Lo-Kan received no items, books, weapons, or enchanted objects in the battle. But what he did get was far better: vindication, pride and satisfaction in victory, and a fast friend and battle buddy in Kragma. What could be better than that?
Joe (DM): Thanks for reminding me, Sam. The rest of the guys'll have to take it to Level 4 for the next session. That means I need to nerf the encounters coming up, too.
None to date.