They needed to think about what they were going to do next. Everybody had a different idea that they wanted to follow up. From their vantage point, high on the cliff, they took the chance to look out to the distant horizons. To the north was a range of mountains, their tops capped with snow, glaciers snaking down their flank.
To the west were more rolling hills covered in forest. To the north-east were more lakes and forests and beyond them, mountains, though free of ice and snow. To the east, the Golden Hills stretched away into the haze and to the south, more peaks.
Olaf pointed to these last mountains and declared that the time had come to bid the party farewell. His quest to take the clan medallion of Thorgrim now took precedence and with that, he shouldered his axe, checked his pack and strode off.
There followed a discussion between the various remaining members of the party. Although Alurax had the bones of the Knights of the Star bundled up, with every intent of returning to town eventually to find out how to lay them to rest, his interest was drawn by the wintry vista to the north. He wanted to see if he could find frost giants, huge polar bears and the treasure that they must surely guard.
Alagon, on the other hand, wanted to follow up the rumours of the mighty Holy Avenger, the ultimate sword of paladins. He thought there would be information about this in the town archives. Similarly, Gullhar thought that was the place to locate facts about the Knights of the Star and that this was their priority, since they had made a promise to the ghosts of the Knights.
Debate was long and turned often but in the end, the party decided that they should return to town since the mountains would still be there when they had done what they needed to do in the archives. Alurax agreed to this but the call of the mountains was still strong and many a backward glance he cast until they were finally out of sight.
(DG note – I have now decided to keep a more stringent track of time in the campaign, since it can’t be summer forever and seasonal changes will affect the wilderness more than if the adventures took place in a city. I have therefore, very roughly, calculated that this session’s first day was August 2nd and I’m going to work from there.)
So, the party set off eastwards, retracing their steps as well as they were able. They skirted the southern edge of the lakelands and it was not long after they had set off that a familiar sight appeared in the sky above them. A shimmering golden creature descended and landed in front of them; Elysia recognised it at once as the Ki-Rin (the dice had ordained its appearance, almost as if they were running this adventure, not me). The noble creature hailed the party and said that it had heard of their success in the dungeon and offered its congratulations. It wanted to know if there was anything that it could do to help them. Alurax explained that they wanted to return to the town, far to the east and although the Ki-Rin could not carry them all, plus horses, it could use its magical abilities to cast a Teleport spell which would take them to the western edge of the Centaur Woods, more or less where it had found them, give or take a day. Everyone agreed to this, since they were keen to make progress and so all joined hands and touched the Ki-Rin.
The next thing they knew, they were at the eaves of the Centaur Woods, it still being the 2nd August. The Ki-Rin bade them farewell and rose gracefully into the sky again. The party watched it go and then plunged into the sylvan forests. The leafy peace of those arboreal tracts was not to last long; Gullhar caught a distant sound, something heavy and large crashing through the undergrowth. The party deployed for action and waited to see what was coming.
It turned out to be four ogres; what they had been doing in the Centaur Wood was anybody’s guess but what they were doing now was serving as target practice for the bows of Team Adventure.
The first fell to a single arrow through the eye from Alurax’s bow; the second took several more shots from the other members of the party. One went right, another left. Alagon pitched in to take on the one in the centre. It was a short but bloody battle in which none of the team took any damage and Alurax carried out a memorable stunt, swinging down from a tree, attached to a rope, trident in hand, striking down an ogre and then dropping to the ground and scrambling back to his feet to carry on the battle.
In the end the four ogres were swiftly despatched and just as quickly looted. The party pressed on again, camping in the very heart of the woods. They were not disturbed that night but the next day, Gullhar’s keen ears brought news to the party of the approach of something that rode on hooves. Everybody thought they might be about to meet the actual centaurs but instead, five white horses with horns on their foreheads rode into sight.
The unicorns stopped and watched the party, who cagily tried to initiate contact; it was only when Relic volunteered his services that the beautiful creatures were able to communicate. They had little to say, apart from warning the party about a larger party of ogres, who were heading through the forests eastwards. The party thanked the unicorns and continued on their way; some hours later, they picked up the trail of the ogres, fresh and muddy, chaos and destruction wrought amidst the trees. The team members discussed whether they should avoid the ogres or launch an attack; the latter option, championed by Alurax in the main won the day and they began to step up the pace as the afternoon lengthened into evening and the shadows grew thicker, on their way to becoming gloaming.
They were now very near the edges of the forest and ahead, they could see the first flickerings of the camp fire that the ogres had set up. The party moved into position, Elysia readying a Stinking Cloud to cast on as many as she could, whilst Alurax, Ferros and Alagon prepared to take on the brunt of the action. Zanurax, who had not done that much so far readied his bow to provide missile support, accompanied by Gullhar.
Battle was joined and to begin with, the action went well, with three ogres falling helpless to the ground in the midst of the vile and noxious gas caused by Elysia’s spell. Zanurax set to with his bow whilst the fighters and the doughty cleric moved into attack. Alagon ended up with four to fight, Alurax three and Ferros, who had chosen at the last minute to keep using his bow, found that two were headed towards him.
The battle was a lot harder this time, thanks to the increased strength of the opposition but the strong armour of the team and their good fortune with their attacks meant that their enemies were soon falling. Gullhar switched from bow to sword when it became clear that he would do more damage that way; he helped out Alagon and Alurax and the team were finally left facing a lone ogre who they surrounded and hacked to pieces. The three ogres in the Stinking Cloud were despatched by Elysia with her dagger.
Having finished off the wild raiders, the party rested up overnight just outside the eaves of the woods and in the morning, set off across the rough lands that lay between them and the distant Moat House. Using Relic for aerial reconnaissance, they were soon aware that they were heading for the same large war party of orcs that they had avoided on their journey west. This time, the hot-headed Alurax wanted to avoid avoiding them, being keen to wet his trident points in orcish blood. Wiser heads tried to prevail but he was having none of it and was soon scouting out the area of the orc camp, set up around three high bluffs. Each appeared to have at least a score of orcs atop it, with more between the bluffs and a central area where more were camped.
It was getting towards evening by the time Alurax was in position and he moved in to climb the nearest bluff. Alagon had decided to come with him, thinking that he might need some support. Gullhar and Ferros were lingering at the foot of the bluff, with Elysia and Zanurax keeping an eye on the horses. Alurax and Alagon reached the top of the bluff with little sound but this caution was soon to be thrown away as Alurax attempted to hurl an oil bomb into the midst of the orcs, only to mis-throw and have his missile land in a flare of fire on the slopes of the bluff.
This was not quite as disastrous as it might first have been thought, since quite a few of the orcs rushed over to see what was going on, giving the two heroes a chance to rush in undetected and start laying into their enemies. Despite their best efforts, they soon realised that they were horribly outnumbered and the orcs came rushing at them, determined to fight off this attack from the darkness. Soon, Ferros and Gullhar joined the fight and so began the Battle of the Three Peaks.
The orcs blew on their war horns and from other parts of the camp more orcs began to move into action. Several of the small picket groups began to circle the bluff, only to come across Elysia and Zanurax, who withdrew into the darkness in an attempt to draw off some of the opposition. With the use of magic missiles and the ever-handy Stinking Cloud, they did some considerable damage on the orcs who had come after them.
On the bluff-top itself, our heroes were fighting off orc after orc, the bodies starting to pile up. Although the orcs were finding it hard to land effective blows on their opponents, they did get lucky on several occasions and weight of numbers started to tell, with Gullhar felled three times (although brought back into action by Ferros) before the cleric was taken out and the elf followed soon after. Finally, Alagon was brought down by his orcish foes, leaving Alurax to bear the brunt of the attacks. A few even managed to get their swords and spears past his magical armour and draw blood but this was not enough and finally, the trident-wielding fighter was left alone on the bluff top, surrounded by the bodies of eighty orcs. The rest of the orc band was somewhere out in the night, wary of approaching in case they shared the fate of their fellows. Alurax descended the slope of the bluff to see what had become of Elysia and Zanurax and if he was the only one of the party left alive. The magic user and thief were still alive – and had accounted for another score of orcs - and quickly scrambled back up to drag their unconscious comrades to safety.
The party was reluctant to linger long in the area, especially if there were more orcs with vengeance on their minds. They loaded their injured comrades onto their horses and rode hard eastwards, mindful of the threat from the darkness.
As the dawn came up, they saw in the distance the old watch tower that they had cleared of trolls (twice) and where they had killed the frost giant. They figured that this was a good place to rest up since the night ride had left them with no chance to recharge their spells or health. While Alurax checked the place out to see if there were any unwelcome guests, the rest of the party crawled inside, Alagon using his paladin healing to bring Ferros back to full consciousness so that he could heal others of the party. They then took turns to keep watch and rest to recover their strength. They were going to need it since towards the end of the afternoon, a distant cloud of dust on the horizon signalled the arrival of unwelcome company. The orcs had followed them and were now closing in on the watchtower.
Alurax decided that he would not sit idly by and wait to be attacked. He moved out into the open as the orcs split into two groups, starting to circle the watch-tower. Alurax was to be disappointed because the orcs had learned from their previous encounter and kept out of trident range, firing arrow upon arrow at the eager fighter. Out of forty arrows, three actually hit him...
|One does not simply get shot with three arrows and die in this game|
The daylight was now fading and although Gullhar could see in the dark, so could the orcs and they were now starting to lay their plans to take their revenge on the Kin-Slayer and his friends.