A perfectly good plan, were it not for the presence of the Air Force. Elysia was not about to hurl herself and her party at the orc polearms and decided to make use of the third dimension. She cast Enlarge on Florin, Eristar, Rufus and Relic, then had them carry Galadeus, Alurax, Alagon and Gullhor into battle. She used Fly to carry both herself and Ferros over the enemy lines. The Air Force was then assigned the task of circling the orcs with oil bombs, creating a ring of fire that would hem them in and prevent them redeploying to take on the party. Benbo was left behind to look after the horses (again).
|Polearms, check. Archers, check. Axemen, check. 20mm anti-aircraft cannon....oh ****!|
The plan worked quite well; granted, the orcs were not expecting such a manoeuvre, but they responded orcfully to the challenge, firing a volley of arrows up at the magic user and cleric, hitting Ferros several times (I’d ruled that Elysia was carrying him in front of her; literally, a meat shield). On the flanks where Rufus and Relic were moving in on the orc spearmen, a hail of missiles shot up from the ranks, causing the pseudo-dragons some nasty damage, but fortunately not fatal. Rufus and Relic then carried out the second stage of their plan, the ring of fire, which was soon blazing away. The fire would not stop anyone determined enough to leap across it but it might deter the orcs from trying to do so in the first place.
The two fighters landed and leapt into action, Alagon’s oil strike taking out all five of the orcs targeted. Gullhor had less luck, his oil bomb going wide in a mis-throw that caused the orcs to hoot with laughter at the incompetence of elves. They were not laughing when Larsh the polar bear appeared from his figurine status, although the bear had the same luck as his master, failing to damage a single orc.
Still in the air, Galadeus had tried to load a bag with oil bombs, a flask of rum and light it at the same time. Needless to say, his dexterity was not up to the task and of the ten bombs he had, he dropped seven of them. He sent Florin into a low dive and used the phoenix’s Cause Flame ability to ignite the dropped oil.
Alurax was having similar luck; he dropped his bag of oil bombs but his attempt to extract, light and throw a torch to ignite it saw the firebrand go sailing off target. He landed and commenced his attack on the axemen before anything else went wrong.
Elysia and Ferros landed behind enemy lines. The orcs were turning to face this new threat but the orc chieftain suddenly realised that his previously secure position behind dozens of his hardy warriors was now a very dangerous place to be. His orc archers fired again at Elysia and Ferros but the doughty cleric returned fire with a shot that went straight through the throat of the luckless chieftain. Elysia cast Confusion and followed it up with a Fear spell which neutralised most if not all of the archers.
While Alagon waded in to assist Galadeus, Gullhor’s luck was turning on his flank – Larsh ripped an orc apart with each paw, whilst the elf stopped the smirks on the orcs’ faces. The spearmen were soon eliminated as a fighting force.
|I got HOW many XP?|
The next day, the party came across a merchant caravan that was heading for Sandholm. Unsure of what other threats lurked in the vicinity, they agreed to ride with the merchants to their destination.
|It's no Waterdeep|
Sandholm was hardly a city of splendours. It was a ramshackle collection of timber buildings on the edge of the Shining Plains, which could now clearly be seen as desert. The entire population was little more than a few hundred, and merchants used it as a stopping point, rather than a source of trade. Nevertheless, it had a store where the party was able to restock its supply of oil bombs (I suppose there must have been a tar pit or source of naphtha nearby – might be worth checking out later).
A chance remark from Alurax in the tavern sparked a conversation which hinted at more adventure amongst the sand dunes. A man overheard Alurax mention pyramids and told the fighter (with Ferros listening in) that legends hinted at a lost pyramid deep into the desert, stuffed with treasure but guarded by a curse. Many had voyaged out into the desert to find it but none had returned. Alurax tried to enlist the man and any of his friends to accompany the party but the man insisted on equal shares of the treasure, a deal which Elysia swiftly vetoed when she got to hear about it.
Since their quest would lead them out into the desert anyway, they decided to stock up with protective clothing (Ferros would deal with the food and drink angle of things) and the next morning they rode westwards, to the curious (and pessimistic) reaction of the townsfolk. Elysia and Ferros flew out, trying to impress the good folk of Sandholm. Whether it did or not, our party never found out.
|Your new adventure starts here|
Galadeus decided that he was not going to be cursed by passing through the gate and instead went round the pillars. He had not noticed what Alurax had seen; the sands to either side of the gate were softer than the track. The ranger tossed his rum bottle onto the sand with no effect, then took one step forward. When that produced only a minor shifting of the sand, he took another step and sank into the sand.
Alurax and Gullhor were on hand with rope and soon hauled the luckless ranger out again. They realised that stepping through the gate was really the only option. Alurax went first and nothing seemed to happen to him. The rest of the party apart from Elysia and Ferros did likewise, much to the magic user’s chagrin. The mention of a curse had clearly got her spooked. She and Ferros flew over the gate and camp was made soon afterwards, the desert being a cold place at night.
Next morning, the party pressed on westwards, the sun at their backs, the shadows long on the sand before them. The silence of the desert was oppressive and they were left with each other’s company and conversation. Evening was a welcome diversion but as the desert started to darken again, they saw that ahead of them, the trail forked. One branch went north-west, the other south-west. Nearby there was a hummock in the sand, which Alurax fired at with his bow to see if it was alive and hostile. It was neither; a fallen block on which were the words
“Here lies the road to the garden city of Pazar whilst there lies the road to Terbakar, Keeper of the Pyramid”
Unfortunately, there was no way of knowing which road was which, since the obelisk was toppled and its directional arrows were weathered away. The party decided to camp down for the night and decide in the morning which road to take.