Aeron and the Wrekin Border

Into the Barrow Downs Session #3
Bugbears sir, thousands of them…

Settling down for the night, the Blades arranged a watch, hobbled the horses in one of the barrow chambers and cleared out the beetle carcasses while blocking up various sources of entrance and egress. Their careful preparations paid off. During the third watch, the Nightblade’s keen elven ears detected the muffled sound of beetle carcasses and incomprehensible language on the other side of the barrow’s entrance stone. He woke the Corsair, seeking to allow the spell casters as much rest time as possible. Listening more carefully, the aware members of the Blades prepared a counter-ambush.
When all was ready the Nightblade pushed out the stone covering the barrow entrance on top of two bugbears. In the night-time gloom another eight or nine of the beastmen were visible. With a strange, raspy battle cry and mention of eight pieces the Corsair leapt at the nearest bugbear that wasn’t resting under a couple of hundredweight of stone. The Nightblade swiftly despatched the trapped bugbears and before most of the rest of the Ashen Blades were ready, the bugbears morale broke and they fled back up the vale. Keen eyed, the Nightblade noted that they appeared to be heading to a higher roughly shaped cave or barrow entrance further up the side of the valley.
After some preparation, some astute scouting by the Nightblade and hench-thief and a carefully laid plan the Ashen Blades undertook a counter-attack on the bugbear’s lair. A half dozen of the creatures were guarding the lair entrance but failed to spot the Nightblade until it was too late and all the Blade’s with missile weapons had taken at least a shot. The party then formed a shield wall with the Spellsword and Corsair in the front rank, the Bladedancer, hench-thief and Nightblade in the second. The warriors and Bladedancer stabbed at combatant bugbears, while the Thief and Nightblade took shots at targets of opportunity. The combat was hard fought but the Ashen Blades definitely had the advantage. In the end, the bugbear champion stepped into the fray and sent a minion back into the lair to summon reinforcements. It was at this point that the most memorable of all combat actions occurred. After seventeen campaign sessions and an estimated forty or fifty combat encounters the Nightblade passed an Acrobatics roll, slipped between the legs of the bugbear champion and delivered a crippling surprise backstab. There was cheering, there was applauding, there was a realisation that the shiny sword was in fact a magical sword. Congratulations were short-lived because it was painfully obvious that more bugbears were coming and the Blades best warriors were sorely wounded and nearly exhausted. Plans were set and the Blades prepared.
It wasn’t long before the rest of the bugbear warband arrived with their remaining champions and chieftain. The fighting now became even more brutal, but two Sleep spells and some deft blade work resulted in two bugbears, a champion and the chieftain surrendering after eight of their compatriots had been permanently put to sleep with extreme prejudice (and a serrated two handed sword). Offering all their wealth and some information about the remaining barrow, the Blades extracted promises of future service, although the bugbears refused to enter the last barrow with its living metal men and numerous ghosts…

Into the Barrow Downs Session #2
Is that a blood filled giant leech on your leg, or are you just pleased to see me?

The Downs above Deerbye are closer to bad-lands and moorland than the rolling hills of North Aeron. Consequently, although the horses were brought on the expedition, much of the time the beasts had to be led rather than ridden to avoid the risk of laming. A likely local had pointed out that he knew a small valley where at least one decent sized Barrow was. Hired as both guide and horse-handler he led the Ashen Blades north.
Just as camp was being set up, two men came upon the group unawares. Threatening and seeking a couple of horses, the brigands had made a shocking miscalculation. One was quickly smashed into the ground by the Anti-Paladin’s wicked morning star, while the other succumbed to the Spellsword’s Choking Grip. Released from the Grip the brigand surrendered and was offered a spot in the Blades as a damage prevention operative (read “meat shield”), which he took. The Blades discovered that he and his erstwhile colleague were from a larger group but a “disagreement” had led them to leave the other brigands.
The next morning, the Blades discovered the oasis that the guide had promised. A stream ran down of the hills and created a pool in the floor of the valley which was perhaps sixty or seventy yards across and some one hundred and fifty yards deep. In the contoured sides of the vale were at least three visible cave or barrow entrances. While the rest of the Blades provisioned the horse-holder and gave instructions to head back along the track a couple of miles for safety, the Anti-Paladin chose to investigate the pool.
Starting with an effort to discern through divine revelation whether or not there was any benevolence in the pool, before graduating to splashing and throwing rocks in the water, the Anti-Paladin achieved little except to disturb four giant leeches. One of the leeches was quickly pin cushioned by the rest of the Blades while the Anti-Paladin and his trusty dog fought off the rest. It rapidly became apparent that the Anti-Paladin had bitten off more than he could chew and the rest of the group joined the fray. The Corsair, Anti-Paladin and Dranet the hench-warrior were all attacked or had blood drained, and the Anti-Paladin was so grievously afflicted that he needed divine healing from the Bladedancer not once but twice. The leeches were eventually destroyed, but the Blades resources were seriously depleted. Nearly an hour spent dredging the pool with rope and grapple produced nothing except pondweed and detritus, much to the disappointment of both he Corsair and Nightblade.
The Blades then opted to investigate the nearest cave opening, both to seek possible treasure and also ensure a secure campsite for overnight. The opening did turn out to be a Barrow entrance, but the first three chambers proved to be suspiciously empty and seemingly unused. A brief encounter with some stirges that had come through the barrow entrance put the Blades more on their guard.
The last chamber however proved to be full of dungeon vermin in the form of nine giant bombardier beetle, each three feet long with vicious, piercing mandibles. A Sleep spell quickly cast three of the creatures into an arcane slumber. Forming a fighting line in the doorway, the Spellsword, Corsair, Nightblade and Bladedancer fought off the pests. The Corsair was especially unlucky. Not only was he sprayed with the caustic toxins of these bugs, but he was bitten several times. Finishing off the beetles revealed that this chamber had several dozen of the bone figurines sold as wraith charms in Deerbye and a beautifully crafted and unblemished sword.
At this point, the Ashen Blades recalled their horse-holder/guide and, securing the barrow entrance, settled down for the night.

Into the Barrow Downs Session #1
Those damned ogre’s again!

After accumulating whatever equipment they could from Furnok of Ferd at very reasonable, almost Guild, prices the party set off. Once more camping on the edge of the Wyre Forest, a careful watch was kept for ogres and pegasi. True to form, as they travelled into the forest the next morning, they came across a gang of ogres finishing off a small group of bandits.
The encounter could have quickly turned into a slaughter. The ogres had already killed four of the bandits and despatched a fifth as the party arrived. The sixth bandit got lucky and ran off into the deep undergrowth. The rest of the ogres rumbled towards the Ashen Blades, but were brought to heel by a judicious casting of Stinking Cloud. One ogre was then put to Sleep, while the others were dealt with over several minutes while coughing, spluttering and spewing their guts up. Apart from a brief incident where the foolhardy Bladedancer entered the Stinking Cloud to fight in hand-to-hand before she too succumbed to the vile and noxious vapours, there was little damage to the party. The sleeping ogre when revived proved to be recalcitrant in the manner of previous encounters proclaiming that no true mortal harm could befall anyone while Granite protects. Again, the Anti-Paladin harangued the party over tracking down what must obviously be an ogre lair somewhere near, but the party were keen not to spend the night in the forest and made for the Castellan’s Keep.
At the Keep, some more provisioning was undertaken and some rumours were picked up. The previous party heading for the Barrow Downs had not returned through the Keep and a lone raving lunatic had arrived screaming about death and loss. His wretched carcass was sleeping rough by the Thrassian’s pit. The garrison were taking bets on when he would fall in and be massacred. Taking what they could buy, the Ashen Blades then headed out to Deerbye, a short trip north east cross the plain.
Deerbye is, frankly, a dump. Most people are followers of the Auld Faith and eke out pitiable livelihoods in whatever farming or crafts they can pursue. Asking around, it was discovered that there is a fairly brisk trade of adventuring groups passing through to the Barrow Downs, but most guides, through either fear or ineptitude, couldn’t locate a pristine Barrow for love nor money.
While yet more provisioning and some rumour mongering were going on, the Anti-Paladin and Corsair managed to get into a bar brawl with a barman and some of his patrons. The fight was not going so well for the Anti-Paladin until the Corsair intervened. The Corsair’s blow felled an assailant, breaking his jaw and knocking out several teeth. Before any sort of hue and cry could be raised, the miscreant Anti-Paladin and Corsair beat a hasty retreat back to the rest of the Blades.
Bedding down overnight in another inn, our intrepid band set out next morning seeking adventure.

Castellan’s Keep Session #3
A very expensive fixer-upper…

The party delivered the Castellan’s demands to the Deva Legion command in Hommlet. After nearly a day they were tasked with returning once more through the Wyre Forest to the Keep. This time they would deliver the Legatus’ acquiescence to the Castellan’s commands and return to Hommlet with an itinerary.
In the event the trip was largely uneventful. Travelling by newly acquired legion horses, they made it to the Wyre Forest, where again some ogres were encountered. This time only two of the creatures were carefully observing the party. A parley was short and reasonably diplomatic with the ogres declining to join the party, entreating the party instead with the simple platitude that “Granite protects”. Having delivered the message and got the information the Legatus needed, the Ashen Blades force marched their way back to Hommlet and avoided any encounters.
The next few days were spent in talks with Legion functionaries, establishing the latest rumours, arranging for the Ruined Moathouse to be restored to its former glory (an expensive proposition) and deciding what to do next. The newly joined Anti-Paladin thought that Chainspire Fortress should be scouted, but the rest of the party felt that the coming war could make things dangerous along the banks of the Dee. Instead they opted to follow a rumour picked up in the Tavern at the Castellan’s Keep. An expedition to the Barrow Downs near Deerbye was underway!

Castellan's Keep Session #2
By god, that's a lot of teeth

One final night time encounter with Giant Bats was quickly dispatched. While the rest of the party were murdering innocents flying mammals, the Bladedancer made a new friend, by charming one of the creatures. Christened “Charmy” the beast wasn’t much use as the bladedancer couldn’t actually communicate with it. However, it did follow the party from the edge of the Wyre Forest to the Castellan’s Keep and was spotted roosting in one of the trees in the Outer Bailey.
On the approach to the keep itself, two old acquaintances were encountered leading a mule with a strange package across its back. Only a couple of the party recognised the former owners of the Hommlet Mercantile, but the remaining gnolls recognised the SoB’s that had gone through the warband like a dose of salts. The encounter quickly degenerated and the ensuing combat aroused the interest of the beastmen guards (a mix of orc heavy infantry and goblin beast riders) as well as the captain of the guard. After the melee, where judicious use of Choking Grip disabled the enemy fighter, several of the party were badly injured and the bard had been mortally wounded and lost a hand. The bodies of the miscreants, as well as that of Lareth the Beautiful (for it was he strapped to the back of the mule), were dumped unceremoniously into the moat.
Once inside the party fulfilled their legal obligations, having been fined for committing an affray on the grounds of the Keep, and then sought an audience with the Castellan himself. The discussion was somewhat one-sided as only the Castellan knew the details of the message sent from Hommlet, but eventually a two-part deal was struck. In exchange for Chainspire Fortress, the Castellan would render all the aid he could. However, the spellsword had suggested that together, the party and the Castellan could rule South Cheshire as father and son. In order to seal this bargain the bard would fight the Keep’s tame pit-slave. In exchange for converting to the worship of Asmodeus, all his mortal injuries would be healed and by proving himself a worthy fighter the Castellan would judge the deal to take everything for themselves as a worthwhile one.
Through the night, an awful lot of plotting and planning took place in an effort to forestall the fight, ensure a massive advantage for the bard, or just kill the pit-slave. The pit-slave proved to be a Thrassian gladiator from the old days of the Tropilium Empire. In the end, the spellsword cast and maintained Choking Grip for as long as he could before the party was discovered. Pretending to be drunk and simply baiting and taunting the lizardmen, the party got away with their subterfuge.
In the morning, a company of orcs made a makeshift arena with their shields and under the watchful eye of the Castellan, his closest advisers and a couple of dozen arbalest-armed guards, the contest began. It turned out to be massively one sided. Even with the reduction from the Choking Grip, the pit-slave’s talents for maiming and killing were immense. The bard’s net and thrown spear both missed and, even in close, the fight was a foregone conclusion. Raking the bard’s chest four times with vicious claws, the gladiator bit through the bard’s spine and left him paralysed and bleeding to death in the dirt of the Keep’s courtyard.
As the party left to complete their diplomatic mission and return the Castellan’s decision to the hobgoblins at Hommlet, they are joined by a fresh-faced and idealistic paladin of Asmodeus, the Chaotic patron of Tyranny and Power.

Castellan's Keep Session #1
Ooh, look at all the trees...

The new world order, where Hobgoblin centurions are the vested authority has been accepted as nothing out of the ordinary. Minor changes in Hommlet have meant that properties are available at rock bottom prices and the Druidic followers of the Delamere Sect aren’t too concerned. Hobgoblins are more tolerant than the Church of Law. War is coming though.
Our heroes seek the Centurion for the promise of work and are offered a selection of missions.

  • Carrying a message to the Castellan’s Keep
  • Recovering the druid, Jaroo Ashstaff, from the agents of Law escorting him to St Elwy
  • Clearing the local area of Chaotic humanoids, particularly gnolls and bugbears
    Our heroes opt to act as legion messengers and go to the Castellan’s Keep on the other side of the Wyre Forest.
    In exchange, the party is offered a deed to the home and lands of the previous captain of the militia and 750 gp.
    They discover that Furnok of Ferd is now the purveyor of general adventuring equipment as the previous owners left the village mysteriously over a week before. They stock up and pick up a few rumours while Furnok picks up some info from Alex Dai. They then make a brief visit to the moathouse dungeon to collect their gnoll followers only to discover two mysterious characters have raided the dungeon, killing six(!) gnolls while recoveirng the body of Lareth the beautiful. This only seems to concern the party in terms of the paucity of available gnolls to act as meat shields!
    Setting off, the party heads to the Wyre Forest, camping just under the eaves of the forest on the first night. During the midnight hour a raiding party of ogres attempt to come upon the camp unawares, but their spoor is picked up by one of the gnolls. Waking the rest of the party a plan comes quickly to fruition. A Stinking Cloud spell and a Darkness spell trap several of the ogres in the woods suffering the nauseating effects of the cloud. Meanwhile the rest of the party deal with the four or five remaining ogres who attempt to attack the camp. A Sleep spell evens the odds even more in the party’s favour and the ogre’s morale fails. One last ogre is cut down while attempting to retreat, while the ramiang ogres wander off coughing and spluttering. Although an attempt at pursuit is made,the trail is quickly lost.
    The party interrogates the ogre after it recovers from the sleep spell, seeking the lair or camp of the ogres who fled. The ogre resists while repeating a mantra, “Granite protects”. Eventually, with arrows, castration and flaying the ogre succumbs to the pain and offers a deal. The spellsword refuses and slits the ogre’s throat.
    Moving on through the forest, the party come across a small herd of pegasi. Some debate amongst the party about chaotic sacrifice, collection of monster parts and whether or not they will just fly away leads to some disagreement about what to do. In the end, the bard throws a grappling hook, hoping to entangle and capture one of the pegasi. The rest of the party then join in. The fight is brief and some injuries are taken by the party, including the demise of one of the gnolls which is kicked deftly in the chest and trampled. Easily the party collects three stone of feathers and moves on to make camp.
Village of Hommlet Session #11
Under New Management

The sudden death of Lareth the Beautiful, resulted in some surprise all round. The remaining cultists of the Elemental Eye, became surly and the party became XP hungry. The fanatical nature of the cultists came through and they refused the party’s offer of employment. The cultists formed up ready to make a last glorious stand as holy warriors of the so-called Elemental Evil State.
It was a last glorious stand, heroes and gnolls worked together to massacre the cultists and it was a matter of seconds before all the cultists were lying dead. Only the bard suffered in the ensuing fight. A lucky crossbow bolt caused a mortal wound leaving the bard scarred and in need of some rest.
The party rested up in the dungeon, making the most of Lareth’s comfortable quarters. Three days later the bard, bladedancer and pirate reconnoitred the village. Things were VERY different.
The hobgoblins had attacked days previously and Sir Terence Franks and his company of knights arrived a day late. The fighting had been evenly balanced but the third day proved to be telling. As the scouting heroes watched, Sir Terence’s forces were caught in a delayed pincer and both the knights and the village miltia took terrible casualties. By the time the party returned to the village, a week after they left, things were dramatically different. Two of the buildings were ruined, the village elder’s house deliberately levelled. The elder himself and the captain of the militia (Elmo’s dad) were crucified on posts. The wizard’s tower was open to the elements and the Inn of the Welcome Wench was now the headquarters of the 2nd Cohort of the 9th Legion.
Under the new world order, the players had to get chits to stay in the village! The nightblade took responsibility for the party’s actions and they billeted themselves in Elmo’s family farmhouse. What brief investigations the heroes could carry out revealed that everyone in the tower had died some hideous and horrific death on the first night, all followers of Law had been expelled from the village and the remaining priests of Law had been sacrificed to Mars Victrix. Sir Terence had escaped however.
Tomorrow may bring adventure… or WAR!

Village of Hommlet Session #10
Worshipping Elemental Evil is sooo yesterday

Our heroes panicked a little when their fighter ally was charmed into the fold of the Temple of Elemental Evil. He wandered up the corridor towards the high priest claiming that all was wonderful and his friends should join him. The Evil High Priest introduced himself as Lareth the Beautiful and offered the party a place in the glorious revolution that would be brought about as Elemental Evil rose once more.
The party respectfully declined. They then formulated a plan to smoke the chaotic cultists out and put it into operation. It took nearly an hour to fill the corridor to the extent that the cultists had to take action. Sending six crossbowmen into the corridor they started peppering the party with bolts. A brief skirmish led to the party’s Elven Spellsword losing the pinkie finger from his right hand. An expeditious retreat was called with the Elven Nightblade moaning all the way back to Hommlet about how impossible the challenge of the dungeons below the moat house was.
A brief rest and recuperation, brought about an interesting job offer in town. The captured druid would be transferred to St Elwy before the hobgoblins can attack, volunteers were sought and the party stepped up to the challenge. Quickly making a deal with the druid, the party offered him freedom in exchange for a one time opportunity to strike against Elemental Evil. The druid accepted.
Fighting their way back in to the inner sanctum of the cult, the party took the cultists military leader by surprise and despatched him swiftly. In a room off the sanctum, the party could hear the murmured prayers to the Void of the evil high priest. The nightblade sneaked in desperately trying to deliver a telling blow, but in the end the druid earned his freedom by using Finger of Death and instantly killing Lareth.
Much treasure and experience remains to be doled out, and it didn’t seem much of a challenge in the end, did it?

Village of Hommlet Session #9
So that's what roleplaying feels like... let's just kill stuff

The intrepid party returned to the village of Hommlet. The fighter needed healing and the corsair needed a stiff drink after nearly drowning. Usefully, a fortnight has passed in the blink of an eye and the Bladedancer (you remember the Bladedancer, don’t you), has recovered from her serious eye wound. Now sporting an idiosyncratic half mask to cover her disfigurement, she has been watching goings on in the village.

Our anti-heroes spotted some mysterious mounted figures watching the village from a nearby slope before being noticed themselves, but the party were spotted in turn and the two watchers simply withdrew.

In the village, a heated debate was raging in the Meeting Hall. A druid of the Auld Faith had been discovered in a nearby grove. He has been conspiring with the hobgoblins of Deva and the Druidic Sect of Delamere to subvert the good people of Hommlet and lead them astray from the path of Law. Under Canon law, he was put to the question and revealed that hobgoblin forces were already on the way. The village council then sent to the Duke in Rixham for aid and he has promised a company of knights and the King’s Justice to help deter or defeat the hobgoblins and to escort the druid into Church custody at St Elwy.

Our heroes put a spanner in the works by dramatically tossing the severed head of a bugbear down the aisle towards the hall’s head table. Declaring that bandits and hobgoblins were not the village’s only problem the party offered to clear out the nearby sinkhole of chaos in return for a small fee. The fee was eventually agreed and the party went off to the Inn of the Welcome Wench to be feted as the heroes they most certainly are #irony.

At the Inn the players were approached by Furnok of Ferd. Furnok, it turns out, is not just some itinerant gambler fleecing customers passing through the village, but is in fact some sort of capo in the local Thieves’ Guild. He makes the party an offer they cannot refuse when recruiting Alex Dai, and later makes them an offer they do refuse to eliminate Lord Burne from any forthcoming altercation. The timescales, and more importantly the risks, are insurmountable and the party regrettably turn down a reward of several thousand gold pieces.

In the end our brave band return to the cellars beneath the moat house, recover the gnoll war party who were mauled by some controlled undead in an overnight encounter, and head to the only part of the dungeon complex they have not yet reconnoitred. After a brief encounter with a solitary bugbear, who ran off desperately trying to raise the alarum, the party came to the entrance to the unknown part of the dungeon. Behind the door was…

Some prepared cultist warriors, forming a small shield wall with crossbow back up. A skirmish ensues where the withering fire of the party and a couple of reckless charges deal with the obstruction. However, an out of sight warrior escaped up the passage to prepare the cultist’s defences. Using a cunning disguise, (GM note: remember to check if corsair caught anything nasty from smearing cultist blood on his hands and face), the corsair checked beyond the second dogleg in the corridor only to discover practically a battalion of cultists preparing to receive the party. The corsair relayed this back to the party. Alex Dai and the corsair set up as look outs on each corner, which gave the heroes the chance they needed to spot the EHP and some minions coming down the corridor. Spells were cast, arrows were fired and long story short, the EHP took a couple of hits, one of the minions was peppered with arrows and the fighter was charmed into the service of the Cult of Elemental Evil.

Dun, dun daaa! Tune in next time adventure fiends. Same ACKS time, same ACKS channel for the further adventure of the army of Chaotic Incompetency.

Village of Hommlet Session #8
"I think we've got crabs"

We left the intrepid party counting arrows and polearms in the cellar of the moathouse. After a brief discussion about taking out the “Master” or searching the rest of the dungeons, it was decided to search the rest of the dungeons.

The adventurers returned to the gnoll lair and headed down a flight of stairs they had dicovered earlier. At the bottom of the stairs was a deep pool with a ledge. The pool was of indeterminate depth and the ledge was about five feet wide and five feet down. After some more deliberation, the corsair took some rope and a grapnel and threw it in measuring of the fathoms as he did so (who would have thought that the seafaring proficiency would come in useful in a dungeon). He estimated 50 or so feet before the rope snagged on something. The something proved to be capable of pulling back. A little jostling back and forth and more and more of the party grabbed the rope (the corsair, the fighter hench-NPC and three gnolls in the end). The tug of war continued for a few rounds when the creature of the deep suddenly yanked pulling everyone of their feet and into the water! Swimming throws were made, the hench-fighter started drowning, a gnoll started drowning and the other characters desperately tried to make it to the edge. The drowning gnoll stopped drowning very suddenly as the two halves of him floated to the surface in a cloud of blood. Panic ensued, especially when the hench-fihter came face to face with the giant crab at the bottom of the pool. The fighting was short as the crab was in it’s element and the fighter was drowning. The bard and the corsair both started stripping off to attempt a rescue, which became a body recovery when the crab crushed the fighter in his mail armour.

At this point it became ridiculous, gnolls entered the water, everybody was trying to rescue everybody else. While trying to get the fighter out the corsair was pushed under and started to drown, gnolls started to drown. The lifeguards (gnolls) sent in to save the gnolls and corsair started to drown. In the end, the rope and grapnel were used to fish out all the drowning charcters although it was a close run thing for the corsair who spent nearly a minute underwater.

As the characters surfaced the crab pursued and quickly finished off one of the gnolls. The good news was that the crab was close enough tot he surface to be susceptible to ranged weapons and spears. The poor creature succumbed to a flask of military oil thrown into its mouth, closely followed by a lit torch. That said cooked crab was a welcome change from raw bugbear.

It then became stupidly ridiculous. Spotting treasure amongst the various skeletal remains the bard re-entered the water. He successfully gathered up some loose coins, some jewellery, a sword and a bone tube, then failed a swimming throw as he surfaced, panicked and dropped all the treasure. It was left to the corsair to do the treasure recovery which he eventually did, alhtough he then needed rescued yet again.

A two hour session on one encounter with a single 3HD monster. Oh the shame of it…


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