Location: Star's End Monastery
Date: Fall, 1332 Avard
The hulking goliath Lo-Kan watched Stonda, Halkda, Koristhene, and Jariskorn secure the draconic tome and other written treasures. Lo-Kan's mount was a two ton minotaur lizard from the icy mountains, and it could climb trees with ease – at least, those that could support its massive weight. Most died.
Lo-Kan introduced himself to the Procurators, finding them an admirable group of damage dealers worth getting to know. Warily, the group agreed to lead him to the Star's End. If the goliath was honest, then he would prove an invaluable asset against other mercenary groups who were undoubtedly looking for the draconic tome. If the goliath was dishonest, they would find out on the eight hour slog back to the monastery.
Along the way back, Stonda mentally attacked a figure in the roadway beside a large wolf, thinking it an ambush or another wolf-mounted assault. The figure melted back into the woods, but trailed them, making the journey back irritating. Despite the constant threat of ambush, some of them slept in the saddle or on the wagon, while the others impatiently awaited the attack.
The attack never came, and the party made it back to the monastery without incident. After they were admitted by agitated monks, the local longtooth known as Ash presented herself to the gate. It had been Ash that Stonda had attacked, and apologies were quickly made. The longtooth tribes were descendants of the original druids that had maintained that section of the world for millennia. Ash in particular was a descendant of the Autumn Lord. The release of the Autumn Lord's spirit, coupled with the recent activities by the monastery, necessitated the appointment of an envoy from the longtooths to the monastery – partially to prevent improper looting of the druidic sites, and partially to ascertain the monastery's end goals in the region.
The agitated monks were fortifying against other mercenary attacks, but one such group had assaulted the construction site atop the ridge. The site was worked on by dwarven engineers and an orcish construction crew, but they were not armed well enough to go up against Staynair's Steel – a local mercenary group led by a mage. Word had arrived from the site that they were under attack and being forced to withdraw to the catacombs. While the dwarves and orcs could likely hold out in the catacombs for some time without casualties, the mercenaries could do considerable damage to the construction site, setting back the monastery's timeline by months.
Ash agreed to lead a team up to the site to deal with Staynair's Steel. Lo-Kan relished the opportunity to battle. Lady Stonda's attack on Ash necessitated some introduction to local diplomacy, and she opted to remain behind. Halkad was relieved by that, and joined the twin monks Koristhene and Jariskorn to go protect the construction site.
Ash told them to leave their horses, knowing a way to assault the construction site from an unexpected direction. Familiar with minotaur lizards, Ash led the climbing beast and the rest up the side of the ridge, where she and the others could attack from behind.
They caught the mercenaries completely by surprise, pressing their advantage. Ash's ability to shift into a tiny form and observe and report gave them an additional edge. When it was all said and done, the entire mercenary band had been cut down without any friendly casualties. Maul ate the mage's body, and that was that.
The dwarves and orcs, and the remaining monks, were freed from the catacombs. Some of the construction site's materials had been sabotaged, and the smoke of its fire had helped the team with its surprise of the mercs.
DM's Notes: It was wonderful to have Sommer back at the table, playing for the first time in nearly two years. She's still a bit rusty, but she'll get back into the swing of things soon enough. Sam's intro story of Lo-Kan left him in a tough position, pushing him to play three characters at once. With so many characters in play, plus animal companions, the fight was a rout. I'm left wondering if the PC generator has only one name in the books for male goliaths. Sommer and Ross and I had trouble not saying Lo-Kag all night. Luckily, Sam changed the name slightly without any prompting from us. The party's assault went well, despite a few bad rolls on both sides, and they managed to pull off the destruction of Ehlena Staynair's mercenaries without any real trouble. Ross and Paul have some wonderful dynamics with their twins, and it was good to see their characters working so well together even as they themselves worked well in the assault.
Reference: Campaign IX
Stonda and Ash got off to a rocky start. Stonda had just fought a kobold mounted on a wolf and then hit the road with precious cargo. She was jumpy, and knew that they were being followed. After two hours of being stalked she saw a figure with a wolf seemingly barring her path in the road, and she did not hesitate to push it aside in order to make way for the cart of scrolls and books. After all, she had just learned about Vedik's mercenaries and she didn't want to get ambushed. It was only when she returned to the monastery did Stonda realize that she attacked a protector of the forest. She was truly sorry for what had transpired, and with a diplomacy check, she managed to smooth things over with Ash. It was then that Stonda was called inside the monastery by the Priestess, who would show Stonda that she had much to learn of these lands. Looks like she'll be taking a temporary break from “procurating” for a while, but she will undoubtedly come out of her monastic training more learned and prepared for this realm.
Playing with Lo-Kan and Maul was tons of fun (two tons, actually ). Unfortunately, the duo was unable to land some of their most devastating strikes due to Staynair's spell-casting and Lo-Kan's poor rolls (“Lo-Kan hate tricky mages!”). Alas, he was able to land a punishing combination of blows that drained the lifeblood (acid?) from the mercenary mage. Not only this, but Maul ate her bloody, still-warm remains. Lo-Kan is a bit one-dimensional, but still a great character. Maybe one of the more insightful members of the party sensed Lo-Kan's shame at missing so many times in this battle in front of such damaging strikers. After returning to the monastery he told his companions that he and Maul would return to them after he learned more about how to fight on a terrain that is different from a traditional field of battle. He would be wiser, craftier, and better suited to their needs in this environment after hunting animals and evil things in the surrounding forest for a time. “You will see Lo-Kan and Maul again. Will be better fighter. You will see.”
Halkad, on the other hand, felt no shame. What he did feel was the thrill of killing. With his curses, he laid waste to two strong fighters. The first had been so blind as to run directly into the warlock, and all Halkad did to dispatch him was unleash a blast of hellfire in the poor mercenary's face. The other foe was stronger, and to Halkad's frustration, he lingered. The sentry did not fall after the warlock's curse, a vicious mind thrust, and a throttling by a dark mist that threatened to choke the life out of him. Halkad had had enough, and ended the poor man's life by ripping the sentry's own shadow from him. The warlock (and his PC) were so wound up by the battle that no damage was ever deducted due to the warlock's curse (would have been a total of 3d8 damage additionally). Halkad reminded himself that he (and his player/creator) must try to control his zeal or he might might make a fatal mistake. Halkad need only think about Stonda to remember himself.
Halkad is glad that Stonda is safe at the monastery. He is always happy to see her each time he returns from one of the Procurator's missions. The two are virtually inseparable when in the Monastery. Stonda fully intends to keep the promise that she made long ago never to marry, but what was marriage anyway in a land such as this? The relationship between Stonda and Halkad is more real than any of the fake marriages of Stonda's kingdom anyway. What these two have cannot be broken. They study this new world together, walk the grounds together, go to bed together, joke with each other, and share countless secrets together as they did by the waters of Quor Kamal. When eating in the monastery Stonda and Halkad speak just as much as the monks do: the monks use their fingers and the Kalashtaris use their minds. Halkad looks forward to meals with the monks because this is the best time for him to test his ability to catch stray thoughts. Halkad was amazed to learn how much conversation was actually taking place at the table! The training Stonda has been providing is showing positive results - as a Kalashtar, Halkad knows how to use this skill, but wielding it effectively is an entirely different matter. There is a difference between catching a thought and catching a relevant thought. With Halkad's level of intelligence, however, it is only a matter of time before he too masters this skill. In the meantime, Halkad is perfectly content with spending all of his time with Stonda.
And with that, of all three characters I have created, only Halkad remains in play. Yes, Stonda may be called upon for backstory and for little things while basing at the Monastery, but she has taken to her studies with the Priestess, and will not be adventuring for a while. Halkad has the basket with all my eggs in it. Can I trust him? No, but he's a damn cool character with a life and mind of his own. He's handsome (chicks dig his scar and eye patch, when he wears it), intelligent, and he's a bad boy. Plus our party needs a caster and some ranged attacks. I know he's the right man for the job. Now, where is this… this… Vedik, who dares to fight against the likes of the Water Shadow, the Procurators, and the Monks of Star's End?