Campaign of the Month: July 2012

Guardians of the Frontier

Day 126, 'To catch a Cult'

Day 126, 'To catch a Cult'

The party heads out at dawn.
After 6 days of travel the edge of the tortured lands is reached without incident.

A foreboding terrain, across and scattered over the steppe giant stone pillars, like teeth, smoothed by the wind jut out from the landscape. Patches of dry yellow short grass ruffle over the hills in the cold and biting gale. The dusty orange of the hills, mountains, and overall plain is pocketed and peppered with jagged barren trees, small copses of tangled briar-like shrubbery, and dirty gray and blanched slate stone illustrating the obvious hardship and adversity inherent in the arid rocky expanse.

Using Dagnoe as a wide circling scout, the party follows the river south.
Just before high sun (noon) on the second day of entry into the lands, Dagnoe reports what looks to be a scene of an attack.
The group decide to investigate.

There are no signs of survivors or any bodies for that matter. From the remnants left behind the victims appear to have been a merchant caravan. There are 2 smashed wagons, but no cargo. Various patches of blood indicate multiple woundings occurred and at least 4-10 individuals met their end. Tracks show the merchants were headed up from the south and that they were accompanied by at least 20 mounted on horseback.
Ambushers, at least 30 (most likely more), appear to have been gnolls and mounted as well, on either wargs or dire wolves. They took what seems to be 2 surviving wagons and 15 horses south.

The entire scene is roughly a week old and very odd. Almost everything has been retrieved/carried away save for a few broken arrows (sharpened shafts, no arrow heads), bits of torn cloth, and various smashed wooden crates.

Follow the Gnoll trail south? continue scouting the river? or something else? Walking speed of a horse is about 20 miles per day (2 hexes).
MAP

Along the route, Farouk keeps and eye out for useful desert plants (herbalism)

“Well we aint out here for the fresh air… I say we follow the gnoll trail. They left a pretty heavy one… heck even I can see it.”

“I think that 1 or 2 of ya, horses included should be made invisible from this point forward, we dont want to let them know our true strength, any volunteers?”

Farouk offers to armor up the horses as well as renewing everyone’s tattoos along the way… every little bit helps.

“Hey Mal, you considered making Dag invisible?”

OOC-DM what are you thoughts on extradimensional items and the rope trick spell?

DM EDIT: I let it slip once before when Kistol brought his bag of holding inside the rope trick but going forward, any extradimensional item placed inside an extradimensional space/item will cause a rift to open (everything within 10’ radius is sucked into the Astral plane) which will also cause an explosion (4d10 hit points damage to anyone within 20’ radius).

Rudi casts detect magic and pokes through the wreckage of the wagons, looking for any ledgers, other documents, symbols or markings in the debris.

While studying anything he finds, he nods and agrees with every suggestion of what to do next, not really hearing unless brought to attention on the subject, “Yes, yes, that sounds good. I’ll follow you.”

DM EDIT: Rudi detects no magic in the ‘wreckage’. He finds some symbols on the smashed crates indicating they were from the merchant house in Phlan as well as some scraps of brittle, weather beaten parchment that looked to be torn from a inventory manifest. Looks like the wagons were a shipment of dry goods, preserved foodstuffs, and possibly some weapons.

Maltron muses to himself that they are on the trail of the Charnelists, but at the expense of the merchants in the caravan. “This looks like the typical method of operation for the Charnelists that Marcetheus warned us about. Heading south is our best bet for finding this Death Cult. Perhaps the gnolls are working as mercenaries for the cult. There are too many variables at this point to jump to conclusions. If the gnolls aren’t in the cult, either way, there may be some survivors from the caravan that will be most happy to see us.”

“Farouk, I think making Dagnoe invisible is a great idea.”

Maltron sits to meditate and adjust his spells while the others search the battle scene.

Trist tells Farouk, “Same deal on the tattoos ok. @ Everyone – If we are scouting for the gnolls we need to make sure our water is topped off. I can scout ahead but I won’t take my horse. She’s too noisy so I’d tie her to the wagon. I’d like that invisibility too if you can spare it. It’s up to Wren if she want to go too. We can make animal noises softly to kind of let each other know where we are maybe.”

Trist will go through the crate that were smashed in case the missed something buried. Trist studies the tracks to see if she can make out exactly what kind of tracks are there. There should be human, gnoll, horse and wagon tracks but just checks to see if there are any others or if any of those are out of the ordinary.

Trist grabs a quick snack before any spells and points out to the crew,“We are 8 days from town now. We need to start foraging and hunting to boost our stores of rations. Chasing the gnolls south any number of days just adds to being further from town. I have 10 days ration left eating 8 on the way out here. 8 back leave 2 left to chase the gnolls unless we start adding more to our food stores or cutting back to 1/2 rations, we’ll run out. If you prepared better than I then you’re better off. Or maybe you guys can hunt while we scout so we don’t break our invisibility.”

OOC – Trist takes off 8 days of rations. 6 to get to the rough terrain and 2 inside the terrain. Unless I counted wrong.

DM EDIT: You’ve counted right. When the party camps for the evening, I’ll roll for hunting party results assuming Wren and Trist will go off and hunt for food while the rest of the group sets camp. This will supplement the food supplies so the party can save rations for days when game is not available. Also, I’ll assume Klemb will begin to create water when supply runs short. I’ll let people know when food and water situations get dire.

Klembsy adds to the discussion: “Perhaps it is wise to consider the river, too. Gnolls also need water. Unless they have a source of water in the south, they need this river. On the other hand, I do not want to divide the group. If most think it’s better south, then I’ll follow. But, the truth is, Trist has a point about rations. How many do we have?”.

Klembsy will ask Trist to scout a bit north, not too far from the broken wagons, in case the gnolls have left any signs and later covered them. He will accompany her without his horse and his mule, if she wants.
Trist agrees with Klembsy to take a look north as they move off unless the others object. Trist will scan the area for tracks or ways they might avoid leaving tracks or false tracks. They don’t go too far. She tells Klembsy, “The gnolls would have to have either scouts and a way to communicate back to its pack or have fore knowledge of a caravan coming through here or both would they not? It is probable that they know we are here if that is correct. I’d think we need to be ready with a battle plan to deal with 30-40+ gnolls and as a group we should know what the others plan to do in such a battle. This will maximize our effectiveness. We must protect our casters and not be separated.” Trist brings this up to the group and anything she finds on her scouting trip with Klembsy.

Farouk agrees… plans to deal with a bunch of gnolls, “I got just the thing! Francis, gimme that fancy cloak you picked up… the one with all the pockets.. Mal I need you to add the Rope Trick to your repertoire!”

Farouk enchants the cloak with "Deep Pockets and then bundles it into a tight ball about the size of a volleyball. “This should last quite a while…”

Mal, we are gonna do something your mama told ya ta never do!"

“If we can lure a large numbers of the gnolls into one spot…we can spring a trap. That enchanted cloak will be launched into a low lying rope trick window triggering an extradimensional detonation (4d10 20’r + getting sucked into the astral). That should soften them up quite a bit.”
Francis chews jerky, drinks brandy, and spits on the ground.

Of course sister, I am certain Frey & Freya will bless our hunt and Im always up for a challenge she smiles and chuckles at Trist Plus if we hunt we dont have to cook she winks at Trist and nods in the direction of the others. In a more serious tone We can scout ahead some while we are out hunting too, there could be many dangers well concealed in this unfriendly terrain, so please be careful.
“Farouk, my friend, your mind is …distorted. Be careful with those plane things!”, exclaims Klembsy hearing Farouk’s idea.Rudi’s head raises from his notebook and he looks at Farouk, blinks then grins, “Ha! In theory, that should work. Though we don’t know the effects it would have on the other dimensions in question, the resulting interactions should definitely ‘soften them up’ as you say. A very creative exploitation of spell interactions, Mr. DeVille, er, Ms. Smith!” Rudi scribbles in his notebook.

Farouk raises an eyebrow and Klems,

“What? I just don’t want to be dog food! 30-40 Gnolls and who knows what else… You know in a dog eat dog world… you gotta do what you gotta do. Nothing personal of course.”

“As far as what happens to the other side…hmmm good question. Might be a good way to put a hurtin on an astral traveler…at some point may have to give that a try”

Alvyra agrees, “Yes, we should go south. This was no regular gnoll ambush. A hunting party of 30-40? They would have left their own dead and then feasted, eating all dead and captured until sated, keeping the healthiest survivors only to preserve them as fresh meat for a later date. Even if by some miracle this caravan was unable to kill any gnolls, there should be gnawed bones all over the place. Taking the wagons is also strange. They really don’t understand about horses and harnesses. They wouldn’t know how to drive a hitched wagon. Yes, we must go south. There may be living who need our aid… and unliving who need to be purged.”

“Plan? Yes we need a plan. I will charge forth, valiantly, and engage the most fearsome of the enemy. The rest of you will use magic and missiles to take care of the rest. While the safety of all concerns me, Rudilaan, you are my special charge. I advise you to stay well back and clear of any gnolls. Try not to get separated from the rest. I can protect you best by drawing the enemy away from you toward me. My armor is stout, and my blade is true. They will have difficulty in harming me, while I relentlessly bring justice and mercy upon them.”
As the Paladin rants on about her glorious self Wren leans in with an annoyed smile and whispers to Trist Can I just shoot her once?? Just one arrow I promise not to leave a permanent injury, just a flesh wound! nudging Trist with her arm as she chuckles as she begins some random “busy” work……Rudilaan looks up from a book at the sound of his name, “Hm? Oh, yes. I’ll do my best, Alvyra. Although, I’ve never seen a gnoll before. Do you think we could capture one? I’d love to talk to it.” He ponders the potential for battle, “I’ve never been in combat before. It’s sounds exciting, actually. Maltron, should we be engaged by the gnolls, will you show me where to be? Wizards usually stay out of the hand to hand fighting, yes? I have a few spells that might be useful. I memorized some just in case. And I have these. Would they be good to use?” He displays his wand of Magic Missiles and wand of wonder carefully.

Mid-day, Day 134
Maltron casts invisibility on Dagnoe.
Trist, Wren, and Klembsy scout north a bit then head back down south, while the rest of the party heads south following the raiding party tracks.

The scouting trio find nothing but a brace of rabbits before meeting back up with the rest of the group just after camp is set for the night.

In the morning, the scouting trio head off while the rest of the party breaks camp.

Day 135
The scouting trio spots a lone zombie slowly and apparently aimlessly, shambling along. Wren easily drops it from a distance before it spots them and the body is searched. It’s human, male, perhaps 8-12 months undead, dressed in tatters, and was once possibly a merchant or adventurer.

Day 136
Prepping camp for the evening, Alvyra makes out a distant rider silhouetted on the east horizon. Quickly alerting the rest of the group, when she turns back the rider is gone.

Day 137
Mid-day, the party meets up with the scouting trio who point out a separation in the tracks. It appears the wagons fork off east while a good majority of the mounted riders continue south. The area is fairly rocky and as a result the rangers are not able to get a definitive number but can state that it appears the gnoll party, more or less, split evenly.

Head South? East? Other suggestions?
MAP

Rudi sketches the zombie when the rest of the party comes upon it, drawing it and making notes on different portions of decay, trauma and clothing.

Rudi throws in his opinion of direction, “I’m more interested in the wagons and why the people were kept alive as Alvyra said. My hypothesis is, if the Charnelists have them, they will be used in ritual by the death cult to create undead for various uses or to summon any number of creatures or entities. My guess is the main force was no longer needed once the caravan guards were neutralized and the rest went off south for whatever reason. Um, another point to be made, they may be expecting us if that lone rider was some sort of rear scout. Do they do that? Gnolls or anybody? Have a rear scout?”

Francis ponders the information at hand. He nods while looking off into the distance and in no particular direction when Rudi speaks. This ‘rear scout’ intrigues Francis, he ponders him some more while drinking some brandy from his skin. Francis mutters, “Undead.” and makes a ‘hmmph’ sound.

Francis walks up to Rudi as he is writing things down and snatches the parchments from his hands. In an non threatening, but very gruff and manner of fact he says, “The lines on this map are all wrong, your perspective is sophomoric, and artistic style is insulting to bards all across the continent!” As they travel, Francis will show him the basic points of charting, map making, and notation. “If you’re going to follow this group, and if you’re going to document our travels, you’ll do it right!”
Farouk speaking up about the scout… “You know… hes just gonna tell all his boys where we are… I say we take the wheel off of this wagon to make it look like we broke down, and wait for them to come and get us, we will be ready for em of course. If those are gnolls…or undead for that matter we can expect them in the middle of the night. They come at night…mostly.”

Trist tells Wren, “Thank Freya we don’t have to wash clean up since we are hunting or food. You called it right sis. I like your thinking.”

Trist snickers with Wren and says quietly, “By Freya don’t get me started. I bet whatever she’s wearing under that armor, it’s so far up her backside she waddles as she walks. Remember though she’s on our side and a damn good fighter. They didn’t make her sheriff for her good looks. Well I’m guessing that anyways.” Trist elbows Wren easily.

Trist gathers everyone around the map and says, "This doesn’t seem right. If we go east there are nothing but rocky hills and mountains. Why would they take a wagon into that? I’m all for following the wagon but to me it looks like a trap…..unless they have some way easier to travel or maneuver in that terrain or they are skirting the hills north then west. My guess is that if we follow the wagon we will head back north/west and possibly cross the river. We might be tracking for a while.

I’m ready when the rest of you are.

Trist will always take the time to pray with Finna and work with her on her training. Trist says to Finna, “Thank you sister for helping me. You have done so much for me. I hope to prove a worthy sister.”

When they reach the remains of the zombie, Finna spits in disgust. “How could they use the wonderful gift of magic that Freya helped bring into this word for such a disturbing use?” he moves her horse over to Francis and motions for the skin at his side. She takes a long pull and hands it back, thanking him. She stops her horse, dismounts and prays over the body (Cast Bless). “May you find peace in the next world.” When they stop for the night, she will pray to recover the spell.

As they discuss which trail to follow, Finna hears something that makes her pause for a moment. “Wait a moment, an ambush? I can understand something being set up near the river since most traders would use that as a landmark to traverse these inhospitable lands. But, we left the normal trail to follow this. I believe it was suggested that the attack near the river was a week old. It would be foolhardy to say that whoever is out here knows we were coming.”

“Yes, you did see someone to the east late yesterday afternoon, that may be the rear scout for the group that went east from here. I would ask us to think why they would split things up. We know the death cult is working out in this area. They would want subjects to do their vile magics upon. If these supposed gnolls are doing the hard work for the death cult, do you really think they want to have them bunk up with them, wherever that may be? I wouldn’t think so.”

“So, could it be that the southern tracks may lead to where the gnolls live and the eastern tracks head to where the death cult is or where they.. pick up any merchandise? The fact a rider was seen to the east suggests that group is closer than the southern one. Since the wagons went that way as well, that would suggest there are less mounted opposition in that direction. I would suggest going east unless others feel that the southern group is worth more in our pursuit.”

Farouk anticipating something very soon changes up a few spells and asks for a hand loading a boulder into the cart…

“Hey can someone gimme a hand with that big rock over there? What for? Dontcha worry you’ll thank me for it later…Trust me, its better to have a rock when you need one than not.”

Farouk seeks out a boulder about 400’lbs that that covers an area roughly the size and shape of his body, and loads it into the wagon… he then ties a length of rope around it.

“That will do!” Farouk smile his million gp smile ka ching!"

Rudi’s pointed ears flush red with a flood of anger as the navigator snatches the papers from his hands. Rage starts to build and the young wizard glares up at Francis. There’s always a bully somewhere. Isn’t there?

“I always do things right!” Rudi’s hand edges toward the wand of Magic Missiles at his sleeve, but then Francis begins to teach him and show him new things. Not a bully, then. Just gruff, but well intentioned. Rudi relaxes and starts to pay attention and participate in the lesson. He defends and explains his artistic choices (artistic prof) but offers to alter it as needed.

“If we do as Farouk says and set up the ruse of a broken down wagon, won’t that put us at a disadvantage if we need to move quickly. Also, I think, Mr. Deville, if we are to work as a group, any plans should be explained to the group so that we are not left in the dark. What is it you propose to do with such a large stone?”

Rudi memorizes Burning Hands since they might be seeing some action!

“Well there are lots of things you can do with a big stone!” Farouk taps Rudi on his noggin, “Use your imagination kiddo.”

“Hmm let me think, you can throw it, hide behind it, squish someone with it…OR…all 3 at the same time.”

Farouk decides to entertain Rudi’s wagon wheel, “Its called a bluff. You know what that is right? It gives the the bad guys a reason to throw their chips in the pot.”

“In reality, we don’t need this wagon. Its not filled with supplies, or anything useful other than this rock. We have plenty of horses. The plan is to give the enemy a false confidence and to draw them closer into a game of our choosing.”

“When not playing with friends, deal from the bottom of the deck kiddo…deal from the bottom.”
With no sarcasm, Rudi thinks for a moment and speaks, “Ah, you misunderstand. I wasn’t asking what one could do with a stone. I asked what you planned to do with it. A subtle distinction, so I can see you missed it.”arouk only smiles, “My boy, if I need to, im gonna use that rock to win.”Francis mutters under his breath, “A rock, let’s hope they don’t have any paper.”

Klembsy decides to throw his opinion at the discussion. “Although I am worried about the lone rider Alvyra spotted earlier, the decision which direction to follow is most imminent now”, he says. “To be honest, myself I am divided. Although in those maze-like situations, experience says to always take a right turn (which for us is south), I am leaning towards Finna’s comments and suggestion as she described it and would eventually choose to propose following the tracks to the east. On the other hand, seeing the dilemma in almost everyone’s face, I’ll try to call for a little divine help”.
Klembsy informs Rudi first and then casts Barkskin on him, asking him how it feels. He then prays to ask for Augury and then casts Augury with the question: “Will our group do well if we take the eastern junction of the paths here?”.

DM EDIT: A voice responds, echoing inside Klembsy’s mind. ‘Evil saturates these lands like maggots rotting a corpse. Tis better to feast upon the heart or the head?’

Wren listens to each of her comrades suggestions including the choice to stay and see if the enemy comes to us. During a pause “Here are my thoughts” her look very serious. It seems we have 2 decisions to make. One to stay here for the night and see if we can lure some of our enemy to us and two which way to travel when we decide to move. Should we decide to camp here for the evening, then the ruse of just broken down travelers will set us up as perfect victims for an “ambush” and the rocks use can add the element of belief to our ruse and what its used for later seems unimportant. When we decide to move there seems no reason to not travel both directions. A small team of 2 or 3 moving quickly & quietly could easily track the mounted gnolls to determine if they are just heading back to the lair. We knew the wagons were going to have to either divert course or have another means of travel through those mountains and it seems they diverted east, but those rocks are no easy travel with wheeled wagons so they will be slow. If the small party leaves at twilight they can follow the trail south and catch up to them quickly to get an idea of what they are doing. If the bulk of the team sets out at mornings light east to follow the wagons I believe the small party could catch up to the larger by midday. This way we have more information than we have now. It will be easier to make future decisions the more knowledge we have.Of course any divine revelations received would be most welcomed
Rudilaan willingly experiments with Barkskin and relays it’s effects to Klembsy as well as making detailed notes on the sensations, effectiveness and duration in his journal, Barkskin: The Effects on the Wearer. He will respectfully decline further castings as his Armor spell provides much the same benefits for a longer duration. Rudi is fine with either traveling east now or waiting the night with the “broken” wagon.

“Hey Mal, think you can get Dag to get us a birds eye from up there… might give us some idea how we should proceed.”

DM EDIT: While the group discusses plans and preps, Dagnoe does some circling/scouting of the area. He doesn’t spot anything of note within the vicinity.
Trist ask Farouk, "Can we refresh the tattoos? This might be a good time to do that. Lets scout this area out a bit to see if we can get in a position on Higher ground overlooking the wagon. Trist asks Mal, Rudi and Farouk, is it possible to make an illusion of us camping so we can hide in the rocks on higher ground to ambush them? Would that be effective in this situation? Are there ways to place things to explode near the illusion to cause area damage to improve our odds? Maybe Francis can put a ring of fire around a big group of them like in the tavern. Now on to the bigger question. What do we hope to gain from this encounter? Capture? Any survivors will return and tell the other we are here. Well, actually that mounted rider porbably already did that. Our goal is the get the ring leader right? Trist paces a bit as she talks to the others.

“Tattoos? No problem… An illusion of a camp…” Farouk raises an eyebrow…“No problem, its something I already had in mind”

“Explosions…No problem” Farouk looks over at Francis, “If the sailor would be willing to give up that otherwise worthless robe, we can probably put something together.”

“As far as what we gain, If we take prisoners, maybe alot. If not… then not so much. But im sure something can be gleaned.”

“I would recommend a couple of things… the horses be some distance from where the explosion, and that everyone go invisible.”

“Depending on the size of the war party that shows up we may just opt to challenge them outright and save our big explosion. We will just have to wait and see.”

Trist looks to Mal and says, “Do we lay a trap or move on and expect an ambush?”

Should we move east and get closer to the river? Will that help us if we lay a trap or get ambushed closer to it? I think we need a birds eye view going east but I am ok whether we stay for a trap or move east and expect an ambush."

Trist thanks Farouk for the renewed tattoos. +1 to hit, +1 AC, +1 Poison – OOC updated character sheet with date.

OOC – Trist assumes they have supplemented rations with hunting so she does not subtract any rations?

DM EDIT: not as of yet. Over the past few days the scouting party was able to hunt another 6 rabbits as well as an antelope.
Finna gives Wren a worried look. “I’m not one for splitting our party if the enemy is close. The last time we did that, we dealt with two very powerful enemies and did not accomplish our objective. Let’s not do that again if we can help it.” She turns to the rest of the group. “Besides, do we know if there are any enemies close by that we need to be ready for? Whoever lives in this area has the advantage of knowing how to live off the land, we don’t. The horses they took would have to cared for for a short time, unless they planned to eat them anyway. If so, wouldn’t they take them to the rest of the tribe or the cult? We should keep moving to the east and find that rider and the rest of his group. Somehow, it would seem a little too convenient that our wagon ‘broke down’ in the same area that the two groups split up. At the least, we make a decision and move in one direction then have our ‘accident’.”Farouk agrees, splitting up the party is probably a bad idea and would prefer to keep everyone close by… Short range scouts 1-2 members ok but more than that not so much.. short range meaning no more than 1hr from the group.Group’s heading to the east then? As a whole continuing same tactic of Wren, Klembsy, and Trist scouting ahead a few miles?

Day 138
As dwindling twilight melts into night and the group, finding a suitable location to camp, begins the evening prep, Francis spots a humanoid figure in the distance.
It appears to be alone and hunched over in a lumbering gait, heading towards the party from the north. It’s moving at a good pace, alternating between upright and all fours.
It looks to be dressed in a ragged and tattered tunic and appears to be carrying no weapons. The party has ample time to prepare strategy as the humanoid will not reach their location for at least 5 rounds.
MAP

Farouk casts Levitate on his rock and then carries it to a safe location, using it as portable cover to hide behind, awaiting what may come next,

“Hey guys its kinda strange there is only one, can someone with fancy eyes take a look see. Hopefully this guy isnt just out to distract us from some one trying to sneak in the back door.”

Trist says,“The individual on horse back look to be in trouble. They’ll be here in 5 min. Let’s spread out to see how this goes. Then unless we have reason to change our course we go east. Wait that’s not a horse and rider it’s look different. Could that be a gnoll?”

Trist finds some cover nearby and gets her bow and a mw arrow knocked.
Klembsy takes up a position at the southern side of the group, trying to find an elevated place in order to keep an eye south. He prepares his scimitar for immediate unsheathing, if needed, and gets rid of everything that may hinder his fighting or his spellcasting. He also picks three appropriate-sized stones and keeps them at hand.Ah…Now we may get an answer or two to what is going on around here. Finna takes a couple of deep breaths to get her blood pumping. She calls out, trying to keep her voice from carrying, “If the approaching creature won’t stop to chat with us, let’s try to capture it and not kill it.” Pulling her enchanted cowl up on her head, she moves 15’-25’ feet to the party’s west and slightly north to find a spot that allows her to keep an eye to the north and not be readily seen. She scans around as she moves to make sure that the party is not in for any surprises.Wren heads for high ground, making sure that the camp is visible and hoping to keep view of the moving figure as well. As she watches the approaching figure it occurs to her There pace is steady and it seems as if they are making a b-line to us. Would a single enemy be so bold? In this terrain, high ground has the advantage. Where could others hide and yet continue to advance without being seen? looking at the rest of the team We do not look weak, one lone assailant could not delude themselves enough to see us as a good target and a zombie would not move with such purpose. This does not feel right she settles in and waits……Farouk has a thought, “You know if this is just a single gnoll, he could have alot of information, I think we should take him alive if possible. We need more information”Farouk has a thought, “You know if this is just a single gnoll, he could have alot of information, I think we should take him alive if possible. We need more information”

Rudi has a sudden moment of panick and fumbles with his pouch of sling bullets, “Oh! A possible enemy! Let me see here, I, I have this sling on my staff. I can, I can FIRE one at it! Oh, dear!” He drops the bullets on the ground, then drops his staff and crouches to pick up the bullets, all the awhile looking up nervously to see if the figure is closer. He gets the bullets picked up save on which he loads in his staff sling, letting it dangle while he spins around looking for a place to position himself. He moves and crouches behind several inadequate places and then stands next to the wagon. He pulls his wand of magic missiles and stands with sling and wand in either hand, leaning his head comically toward the wagon, as if for cover, he loudly whispers, “FRANCIS ALVYRA! Is this a good place to be?!”

Edit: I forgot Rudi is Alvyra’s charge. :)

Trist tells everyone, “Things do not always seem as they appear. Check your surroundings carefully.”

Round 1 Trist says to everyone, Alvyra please protect Rudi, I will protect Farouk, Finna please protect Mal and Francis will protect Klembsy. Trist will move to Farouk’s position and assist him. Wren please join with Finna or Klembsy group. This should be our standard defensive stance from now on. If you want to protect someone else do so quickly. Set up in an arc East, SE, Sw, W 15 yards apart in pairs with the wagon near the center. I welcome any input to this course of action, but be quick."
OOC – This give each pair a healer to some degree. Alvyra LoH for Rudi or self, Trist CLW for Farouk or self minimal but some, Finna Cures for Mal (Wren), Klembsy Cure for Francis (Wren).

Round 2 Trist checks her surroundings for hiding spots fake landscape and the like that might conceal things. Alertness kicked up.

Round 3 Trist considers the possibility that this is an illusion/mirage of some sort and attempts to disbelieve that it is real.

OOC Rnd 4-5 These are still available for repositioning, change of partners if not already done or other actions.

OOC – I am assuming these things happen over 5 rnds.
Trist I appreciate your preparedness, but my specialty is best if I not in close proximity to melee. I can take a high point and defend each of you from that position. Wren scouts out a high point with some natural cover, where she can see all the team positions if possible. “If I could have some means of communicating to those on the ground that might be most helpful she address to know one in particular but looks at the Wizards, Trist and Finna.Trist tells Wren, “Very well sister, but know you are on your own for healing until one of us can reach you should you need it. Everyone else, don’t line up directly across from each other so you won’t accidentally fire at each other. If you want to use the wagon as cover then make the arc curve midpoint start there and fan left and right evenly, as much as possible with cover restraints.”

Alvyra turns at the sound of her name being called by Rudi. She’s about to respond with something about staying back, possibly behind Farouk’s rock, or better yet, behind Farouk, but she checks herself. If he always hides, when will he ever be able to stand for himself?

She shouts her reply, “With me! Stand with me, a little behind and to my right. You’ve no shield, so this will allow me to cover your flank while you can still attack over my shoulder.” I’m assuming Rudi is right-handed.

She stands in full view, in the center of the path, placing herself in the fore while the others all scramble for cover. Somebody has to greet this loping beast. What will it think if it finds our camp seemingly deserted?

When she thinks it’s in earshot, she belts out, “I am Alvyra, Paladin of Tyr, Sheriff of Frontier, Bringer of Justice and Mercy, Slayer of Evil-Doers! I stand with Rudilaan Ellonias Callementi, Academician of the Arcane Arts of Transmutation. Who be you? Friend or foe!?”

She stands at the ready. Shield up, hand on hilt, but Red remains sheathed.
Alvyra adds softly to Rudi, “If it lunges for you, do not run. Rather, circle. Keep me between you and it.”Francis shakes his head at all this commotion, and walks over to where the Paladin stands, like he’s in the park, left hand adjusting his manhood and right hand holding his Brandy skin. “So, how are you doing?” He looks off into the distance of the figure, and then looks back at the party. “Alvyra,” he says with a nod, “why do you think Farouk wants this coat so badly? If he wanted a coat he could have bought any number of articles of clothing back at Frontier.” He inhales and then exhales while stretching his neck around from one side to the other. “Let’s do this, all this preparation is making me sleepy.” Francis looks at the figure and says, “What do you want?”

Maltron isn’t worried about a single humanoid, but he scans the surrounding area for a larger group.

He commands Dagnoe to fly up and scout the area in an enlarging spiral sweep, telling him to return at the sight of archers or magic users.

“Allow the creature to approach. I see no danger here yet. If it appears more dangerous as it closes, I will cast Hold Person on it. Then we can question it. This could be an ostracized gnoll that can give us information. The gnolls working with the cult could be under the influence of a demon, much as the orcs we fought were.”
Rudi follows Alvyra’s instructions and moves accordingly with a “feet together, step” move.

Trist says to everyone, “I’d rather be prepared for the worst than minimally prepared and it be the worst case situation. Lone or not we don’t know what else might be involved. At least we get used to being prepared for encounters on a regular routine. Later on it will be habit to get into a defensive posture.”

@ Farouk, “I’ll cover you as much as possible. The more you let me know what you’re planning the better I can help protect you.”

Trist bow is ready, arrow nocked but not drawn.

Farouk explains to Trist, “Well you see this big ole rock here? Pretty good cover wouldn’t you say? Now since its been magicked up its easy handle, I can carry it like a baby, but it’s still a rock. Portable cover, a boulder of a tower shield. “

Farouk then points at his boots of speed, “And with these fancy boots I’m pretty quick. Now lets put those two together….A huge rock, and me…I think that would make one helluva boulder shield bash. Probably plow right through darn near anything, including a pack of gnolls.”

“All you need for you to do my dear is make sure that anyone I knock down stays down and keep those runts off my flank when i Make a pass..”

In game terms… hes going to smash into the enemy ranks, using the rock as both cover and a sick battering ram moving at 24”

Alvyra nods back at the good-looking seadog. She’s still mad at him for singeing her with that wand, but it sounds like he didn’t mean it, was ensorceled by that naga-thing. She could forgive him for that, paladins are able to see beyond such petty things, especially when they’re so good-looking… besides, he’s here beside her, not like everybody else trying so hard to hide behind one another. It’s just one creature, how tough could it be?

“Your coat? Don’t know. It won’t fit him. He probably wants to bewitch it. I took the tattoos, so I guess that means I trust him. What’s the worst that could happen?”

Farouk casts Levitate on his rock and then, eventually, pushes it to a nearby location, lowers it a bit and then takes cover behind it.
Okay, so this is a neat trick/idea and I like it but I have a few caveats. The rock being 400+lbs and Farouk having a max press of 115 means it’ll take him a few rounds of pushing to get it up to a character max movement (with boots, Farouk’s is 24). The rock is magically floating, but it’s not magically weightless. So I’ll treat it like a really heavy object on stable, omnidirectional wheels. Pushed or pulled, how fast it gets ‘rolling’, stopped, or maneuvered is determined by the character’s strength. I’ll allow 5 rounds is enough time for what Farouk is currently trying to accomplish.

Klembsy takes up a position on the southern side of the group. Hand on his scimitar, he also quickly gathers up three marble-sized stones and keeps them at hand.

Finna takes a couple of deep breaths to get her blood pumping. She calls out, trying to keep her voice from carrying, “If the approaching creature won’t stop to chat with us, let’s try to capture it and not kill it.” Pulling her enchanted cowl up on her head, she moves to the party’s west and slightly north and finds a spot behind a bit of scrub brush.

Wren heads for high ground several yards away, making sure that the camp is visible and keeping the moving figure in line of sight.

Rudi, fumbling, moves as instructed into position behind Alvyra who stands defiantly at ready in the forefront, shield up and hand on hilt. Francis casually strolls up to her side. She belts out, “I am Alvyra, Paladin of Tyr, Sheriff of Frontier, Bringer of Justice and Mercy, Slayer of Evil-Doers! I stand with Rudilaan Ellonias Callementi, Academician of the Arcane Arts of Transmutation. Who be you? Friend or foe!?” The navigator follows up with a more blunt inquiry. “What do you want?”

Maltron calm, collected, using his familiar raven, scans the surrounding area for a larger group but spots nothing.

Trist bow at ready, arrow nocked, shouts out instruction and scans the landscape. She is unable to spot any illusions or camouflaged areas.

The creature gallops up approaching at a relatively fast pace, disappearing from view dropping down under a hill and then coming up, reveals it’s most likely undead, specifically a ghoul. But, strangely, clad in a ragged tunic it also has what appears to be ‘mittens’ on it’s hands.

The Ghoul doesn’t respond to Alvyra’s or Francis’ inquiries. As it barrels in the paladin realizes intent and quickly reacts, drawing her blade and batting the creature aside with the flat of the katana.
It tumbles aside under the strike but quickly recovers.

Francis draws steel, Trist draws back, Wren fires first.
The Elf’s arrow pierces the undead fiends calf just under the knee, ‘stapling’ it to a nearby stump.

The ghoul, pinned, claws at the arrow with it’s ‘gloved’ hands.
Shrieking, hissing, and drooling in pure rage, frustration, and anger, the party has 2ish rounds before it will free itself to engage in melee.
Between scrambling at it’s pinned leg and hissing and sputtering hate at the party, the undead appears feral in it’s desire for flesh.

Alvyra is not pleased. It’s bad enough being required to take prisoners, but undead prisoners!? Still, she’s been reprimanded too many times for excessive force, though what exactly that means when it comes to a ghoul is beyond her.

With a sigh, she sheathes Red and tosses one end of her silk rope to Rudi. “Hold it tight. I’m going to run around it in circles, loop its legs first and then work up, trying to snag the arms.”

To Francis, “I would be much obliged if you could be ready with some reasonable force in case it gets loose before I can tie it up.”
Francis, with his cutlass in hand nods to the Paladin while the Ghoul hisses before him. He considers a few moves to subdue the fiend, but punching it in the face or freezing it doesn’t seem to be the best options right now. He thinks to himself, ‘This woman loves to just jump to action, I wonder how badly she messes this rope up, and why she thought it best for her to use rope instead of a trained sailor.’ But he shrugs it off, in a let’s watch and see how this develops manner.Alvyra has Rope Use and DEX 17. She’s been practicing for the past 3 months. Of course she would think she could handle this anyway.rancis said that in his head, she’s a Paladin, he’s a Pirate, he’d think it regardless.

Trist is disgusted at the sight of the undead. Thinking back to her religious training she ask Finna and Klembsy, " Sister and friend Klembsy, if the dead from the caravan massacre were not properly buried is it possible some of them became zombies and others into this? Maybe this is an isolated issue? What can we expect to get from this abomination?"

Trist will help out the other where needed. Any religious acts she will directly participate in if capable or she will continue to keep an eye on their surroundings.
Hehe, Mittens Farouk thinks, “I think this one was somebodys muzzled pet. Dunno what it good it is for other than waiting for its owner to show up and claim it. Then again I Have heard of necromancer peeking through they eyes of their pets… Kill it unless its got something to say…”

Rudi’s fear and nervousness seem to fall away as he sees the beast pinned. He holds the rope Alvyra gives him, but almost as an after thought, he stares at the ghoul, studying it as best he can from where he is until it is secured. Once secured, Rudi walks close, probably too close, and takes out his tablet to examine and sketch, paying particular attention to the “mittens” it wears. He looks in his haversack for a book on ghouls or the undead to see why it would have the mittens on, “Very interesting. I think I have a book on these somewhere. I believe you’re correct on both counts, Farouk. It would make sense for the Charnelists to use such a creature in their service. It seems an inadequate number to defeat this party, though. Why send only one, if not to spy and gain information? If we don’t kill it, we should definitely blind it.”

ooc – did Rudi ever find any info on neutralizing/weakening either golems or the skull?

DM EDIT: Looking through a manual of undead, Rudi is able to determine that a ghoul’s strike inflicts paralysis. That may be one of the reasons for the ‘mittens’. Upon closer inspection of the bound monster, it appears to be missing most of it’s teeth as well. In regards to golems, Rudi was able to identify certain weaknesses in certain types. As far as the skull goes, that’s a different story. It’s a unique item so there really isn’t much research in how to neutalize/weaken it.

Maltron wonders what this abomination is and why it is alone out here and who might have put mittens on its hands.

“The foul creature is most likely useless to us alive. Perhaps he has some information on his body, markings, documents. I suggest killing it before it tries to kill us. Unless it makes an attempt to talk, we are wasting our time on it.”
Wren will hold her position keeping an eye out for any additional movement while those on the ground handle the creature.It either can’t or won’t talk. It’s just snarling, snapping, and flinging drool in a rage.Alvyra has had enough. Exasperated at the conflicting directions, she flings the rope down, draws Red and takes out her rage on the ghoul. She shouts to Rudi, “Magick it with something! This is a good learning opportunity for you!”Trist says, “This is either a clue or a distractions. It either escaped its captor or was sent. Wren and I could probably track it back to where it came from. The question is do we go that direction or just keep following the wagon? Rotten’s got a good point. Grateful that Alvyra and Rudi are going to put it out of it’s misery she thanks Freya. This may have been a delay so the wagon could put some distance on us. If that’s the case the rider we saw communicated to someone very far away who released this as a distraction for the wagon crew. I say we need to increase our pace to catch that wagon folks.”Rudilaan snaps out of his studies and backs up, pulling his wand of magic missiles from his sleeve. He aims points at the ghoul and mutters the command word, “Alorto.” He focuses on the effects, but maintains formation with Alvyra, only firing once she is clear. He continues until the ghoul is down or until told to stop.Klembsy stops looking at the ghoul at all (it gives him a stomach-ache) and is eagerly watching around for any kind of movement or strange signs.Once the true nature of the creature has been determined, Finna feels the bile rise in her throat. Her anger begins to grow as the rest of the group examines the ghoul. “Enough! Dispatch that abomination now, Alvyra, it is too dangerous to keep around!” If no move is made to kill the ghoul, she will leave her post and head over to kill it herself. If they begin to kill the creature, she calls out. “Wren, keep a eye out behind us. We need to make sure this was not a distraction.” She will return to scanning the horizon, looking for anything else that may be heading in their direction.

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