Our gallant band Elysia, Alurax, Alagon, Olaf and Cafaror (Zanurax was in Alurax’s pocket – somewhere nice and warm to sleep – and Ferros was slightly charred around the edges and not moving much) emerged from the watchtower to find the scattered bodies of the dead lying where they had fallen. It was night-time now and in the flickering light of their torches, the party soon noticed something odd – there were no troll bodies to be seen and Thorgrim and his employer were also missing. A search of the area revealed two things – firstly a trail of footprints (large ones) leading off into the night and secondly some ‘leftovers’ – a boot with a foot in it and a glove that was still enclosing a hand. These and a few scraps were all that were left of the party’s companions.
A more detailed search also uncovered a medallion that had belonged to Thorgrim (it still had bits of beard attached to the chain) and a metal key that had probably hung around the neck of the dead dwarf’s employer. Olaf recognised the medallion as a clan emblem; he said that as a fellow dwarf, he would have to take it back to the clan homeland to let the other clan members know that Thorgrim was dead.
Reluctant to linger long in a place that could not be secured and with three trolls possibly lurking nearby, the party decided to head off through the night, making for a more defensible resting place. They had no spells left and their cleric was dead.
About a couple of hours later, they saw the shape of the rocky outcrop where they had killed the ogres and decided to use this as a stopping place. They tethered the horses and while the rest of the party tried to get some rest, Alurax volunteered to take first watch. An hour or so after that, the horses started to become skittish and Alurax thought he heard something approaching through the darkness. He swiftly alerted the rest of the party who hurried down to join him. Sure enough, their suspicions were proved correct when three troll-like shapes could be seen by the light of the party’s torches. They swiftly constructed a barrier of burning oil and wood and shot some arrows towards the approaching danger.
Ha! They'll never cross that!
The trolls moved in but seemed reluctant to cross the burning barrier. The party opened fire with everything they had on the first troll and managed to bring him down, then switched targets, killing the second troll soon afterwards. The third one sloped off into the darkness, expecting his friends to join him as soon as they had regenerated their damage but the party was wise to this phenomenon by now and dragged the bodies into the fire, pouring more oil over them to hasten their demise. Cafaror was not too pleased that he was unable to claim his customary trophies but Elysia pointed out that it was likely a new troll would grow from any body parts he claimed, so he decided against it.
The next morning, wary of more monster attacks, the party decided to ride at top speed for the river and the Moat House beyond. As they plunged through the forest, Alurax, who was leading managed to pull his horse up with inches to spare in front of a pit dug into the ground, disguised with branches and leaves.
Oh, it looks so peaceful...what could possibly be wrong with a nice ride through the forest?
As he did so, the forest erupted with an arrow storm that rattled off everybody’s armour – except Elysia, who took some injuries. She fired off Sleep spells and then dismounted to crawl into the bushes to kill the comatose attackers who turned out to be a larger band of goblins, out to avenge their fallen comrades from the previous encounter.
Unfortunately for them, the outcome was more or less the same; thirty goblins were wiped out and only Elysia was badly injured, receiving healing from the hands of Alagon. Two goblins tried to steal the silver bridle on her riding horse, Flight but were put to the sword by the doughty paladin. Two wargs attacked Alurax’s war-horse Warnado but the brave steed gave as good as he got and with the help of Olaf, Cafaror and Elysia, he finished off the wargs.
We don't want any trouble; just give us the horses and we'll be on our way
The party had little time to gather themselves (and any coins the goblins had) for in the distance they heard more goblin war horns and the howls of more wargs. They rode hard for the river, Warnado leaking blood from wolf bites but trying his best to bear his master to safety.
They crossed the river and made it to the gates of the Moat House; the goblins stopped at the eaves of the forest on the far side of the river. They did not seem to be keen on making any further hostile moves – at present.
The party headed south downriver, aiming to get back to town as soon as possible. Although they could have rested some miles north of the gates, they were keen and unwilling to wait. At the gates, however, they got a surprise – the way was barred to them and the city guards were out in force.
Halt! Who goes there?
Managing to convince the troopers that they were of peaceful intent, the party entered the town and headed straight for the Council of Elders. They were again met by heavily-armed guards who took their names and checked their teeth!
Oh, it's just you lot again...
The party entered the Council chambers; Elysia and Cafaror went to see if Elador was in and the rest of the band took the body of Ferros to the Clerics to see if his spirit could be reunited with his body.
Elador had some grim news for Elysia; once he had heard his sister’s news, he explained that the town was in a state of alert because people were disappearing without explanation. The Council was busy trying to find out what was going on and Elador was conducting research in the town archives. When Elysia and Cafaror returned to their comrades (who had left Ferros in the chapel for the vigil of the clerics) the party suspected that this had something to do with the business in which they had been mixed up before leaving on their tragically aborted hunting trip, namely the activities of the Third.
The first place they decided to go was the house used by the enigmatic vampire; the night-dark streets were eerily quiet and nobody interrupted the progress of the party on their way to the house. The doors were locked and there was no sign of life within. Zanurax attempted to pick the lock on the front door but it resisted his efforts and Elysia blasted it open with a Magic Missile.
Inside, they swiftly found the door to the cellar and hurried down the steps, then noticed that something was amiss – there was a rank smell in the room and the light of their torches fell upon a hole in the cellar wall, the brickwork roughly hacked apart and a diamond symbol daubed on the wall beside the opening. Elysia edged her way down the short tunnel that lay beyond the hole and found that it opened out onto a sewer tunnel, a narrow walkway running alongside oily and brackish water. Whatever it was that had made the entrance from the cellar was lurking down here in the dark.
Clankers & Darwinists, Illustrated - I first mentioned the Leviathan series by Scott Westerfield a while back. I just stumbled across a companion to the series *The Manual of Aeronautics* that...
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