Session #5: June 9th, 1:15 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Before the session began, Adam invited anyone who was interested to don the GM’s mantle once the current story arc was resolved. He stressed that he would be equally willing to continue running the campaign or switch to being a player, but he at least wanted us to have the opportunity to try our hands at GMing. Andy proposed that we cycle through GMs after each story arc, which the rest of the group considered to be a suitable compromise, and I volunteered to assume the role of GM after the current story arc was resolved and our new party member joined.
After a brief recap of the events of the previous session, the four intrepid adventurers set out from Fort Horizon at dawn. They traversed a path through the Sun’s Cradle to reach Cragwatch, arriving at the main gate of the fortress after a few hours of uneventful marching. The gates hung open on rotting hinges, allowing the party to take cover behind a rocky outcropping and see two gnolls and a hyena standing guard by a well in the courtyard. The path and the gate were both framed by steep walls of rock, making a frontal approach the most feasible option, so Ezzy, Peter, and Himani opened fire on the gnolls. Much to Himani’s chagrin, her bow came unstrung, but Albricht threw some dried meat that distracted the hyena long enough for Ezzy to sink an arrow into its rump. Peter and Albricht closed in on the gates, and Albricht finished off the hyena with a well-placed slash. As the gnolls stepped forward to engage them, two more gnolls came charging out of the fortress. Peter and Himani both tumbled into position to flank the gnolls at the gates, and Peter wounded one of them. He received a wound of his own from a spear wielder who attacked him from behind, and promptly tumbled into position to receive healing from Ezzy. After some more acrobatic shifting, shooting, and swordplay, Albricht slew a second gnoll, and Peter skewered one that attacked Ezzy. The last gnoll tried to flee after a miserably failed attempt to stab Himani, but got sliced to pieces when it turned its back on the party.
Himani and Peter searched the gnolls’ corpses while Ezzy healed Albricht’s and her wounds. They had nothing of value that could easily be carried, so the rogues dragged the corpses into a corner to be looted on the way out. They then peered into the fortress’s main hallway and were horrified to see that it was strewn with impaled and dismembered human corpses in various states of decay. Such savagery turned the party’s stomachs, but did not dissuade the rogues from exploring one of the two doors on the left side of the hallway. They had a job to do, and they had no intention of leaving it unfinished.
The next obstacles they encountered were four more gnolls, one of which was waiting to ambush Himani and Peter as they peered into the fortress’s sleeping quarters. The rogues tumbled away from their enemies and fell back to the front doors of the fortress, drawing two gnolls after them as the other two pounded on the doors at the far end of the hallway. Peter and Albricht formed a defensive line to trap the gnolls in the hallway while Himani and Ezzy provided ranged support. Himani’s long knives made quick work of one gnoll, but two more gnolls, a hyena, and an axe-wielding gnoll chieftain soon emerged from the far chamber. They flooded into the hallway and closed on the party as Himani disemboweled two gnolls who attempted to bull rush their way past Albricht and Peter, and one of their wounded brethren slipped and impaled himself on his spear. The last two gnolls and the chieftain withdrew down the hallway with Albricht hot on their heels, and Peter seized the opportunity to strike down the hyena while its back was turned. He then fell back to retrieve his bow (which he had dropped by the main gate) while Albricht cut down a wounded gnoll and Himani and Ezzy opened fire as the chieftain advanced on them. Albricht and Peter hurried over to help the women, and after a great deal of stabbing, slashing, and narrowly avoiding being hit by a desperate whirlwind attack, Himani landed the finishing blow on the chieftain. Albricht cut the last gnoll’s legs out from under him, and Ezzy put him out of his misery with an arrow through the spine.
With another combat concluded, the party braved the nauseating stench in the hallway to explore the throne room and sleeping quarters. Himani searched the dead gnolls and found a key around the chieftain’s neck, which she entrusted to Peter for safekeeping. A few minutes of exploration revealed a door in the sleeping quarters, which led to a storage room where water was pooling on the floor. Peter was the first to enter the room and was attacked by a giant lizard, which poisoned him with its bite. He leapt on top of a crate to strike at the lizard more effectively and allow Albricht to move into position to attack it while Ezzy channeled energy to heal the party. Himani tried to tumble into a flanking position, but was blocked by the lizard’s lashing tail and felt the sting of its poisonous fangs. The three melee fighters surrounded and hacked away at the lizard, and Ezzy ended the fight by putting an arrow through its brain. She called for a rest break after exhausting her healing spells, so Peter and Himani watched the door to the storage room while Ezzy and Albricht drifted off into a reverie atop the crates. Much to the rogues’ relief, both of their bodies fought off the poison while they waited.
Once Ezzy and Albricht were well-rested, they finished healing the wounded and explored the fortress’s mess hall, which was laden with plates of unidentifiable meat. The last door was locked, but the chieftain’s key opened it. Albricht, never one for subtlety, opted to kick the door open…and awoke a sleeping dire wolf that was chained to a post in the middle of the room when he did. The wolf greedily gobbled up some of the meat from the mess hall, but the party didn’t want to risk getting gobbled up by the beast when they tried to slip past it and decided to pick it off from the doorway. Peter, Himani, and Ezzy unleashed arrows on the wolf, and Peter sprained his wrist when his bow misfired. The wolf snapped its chain and charged Albricht, who moved to block the door and make the wolf’s head an easier target. Peter drew his rapier and lunged forward to attack the beast, but left himself dazed when he misjudged the angle of his thrust and slammed into the wall. The wolf bit him savagely, but Ezzy was quick to heal her dazed companion and shove him out of harm’s way. Another vicious bite from the wolf left Albricht unconscious and dying, but Ezzy healed him while Peter continued to pressure the beast with his blade. It returned the favor by leaving him unconscious and dying with a second bite, but Ezzy tended to him while Albricht hacked off one of the beast’s forelimbs and Himani dealt it a mighty blow. Soon, the dire wolf lay still, and the party pushed its carcass aside to explore the room.
A door set in the corner attracted the party’s attention. They heard footsteps behind them as they approached it, and turned to find M and three of his thugs blocking the entrance to the room. Though he commended the party for dispatching the gnolls, he said there was still some “cleaning up” to be done before he could lay claim to the fortress. His thugs drew steel and looked on the party with murder in their eyes.
The session ended on a cliffhanger, and June 16th was set as a date for the next session.