Fire & Blood

Dramatis Personae: Karth, Berrian, Gil (plus Gariena and Sauruki)
Source: “Temple of Eternal Flame” (Princes of the Apocalypse)

NB. This recap is brought to you by Karth (and edited by me).

Player Note: Now we were warned that this next section was above our level before we got into it … and our DM has done the odd TPK in the past. Karth in particular felt nervous as he seems to attract criticals from the DM’s dice, plus whenever there is a random chance of something bad happening, 75% of the time the dice roll the big bad orc.

After the valiant battle on the hill where the enemy was crushed and the brave heroes elected to strategically retire for some time, we decided to head back to look for allies. While we found Tasklar’s cousin, the rogue Gil, we lost our bard, who decided it was more important that he search for a cure before he turned into a werewolf. So the three of us and the two druids, Gariena and Sauruki (who seemed to be far too inexperienced), headed back to the hill. Given this was a week or so later, we were astounded to see the surrounding area blackened and burnt.

Before getting to the ruined tower, however, we heard the eerie sounds of baying hounds and over the hill came several hell hounds and their handler – one of the cultists, a genasi, whom we had fought on the hill. The battle itself went relatively well, though our druid allies were forced to retreat after some early bits. The fire-breathing hell hounds did little damage to me with my fire-resistant armor. We quickly overcame the enemy … as I stood over the genasi, someone shouted “Don’t kill her! She needs to be questioned!” I feigned temporary deafness – my anger at seeing my enemy once again surging through my veins – and I dashed her brains in before anyone could stop me.

Heading to the hill, we found the camps abandoned. The tower itself was nothing but a burned out shell. Gil put on his fancy magic slippers and walked up the wall, then threw down a rope for the rest of us. Making our way into the tower, we found a caved-in tunnel under the rubble piled up on the ground floor. I was not to be stopped so easily! We spent the next day or two hauling stones and rubble out while the elf watched.

Once the way was finally cleared, we found a tunnel descending into the darkness. We surprised ourselves by deciding to send the rogue ahead as a scout. Unused to this novelty, we spent some time discussing the mechanics of this unfamiliar task. In the end, the rogue turned himself invisible and snuck down the tunnel. A good thing he did, as first he found a guard post of hobgoblins and then, after heading down some steps, a strange room with two heavily armored warriors in it.

When Gil had returned to tell us what he had seen, we discussed options and then decided on a full frontal assault (well almost). Gil, still invisible, was to head down to the middle of the steps and wait to strike any guards that tried to escape, while I called upon the power of my dragonmark to disappear into the shadows, and with the grace of the wolf, I was still able to make it down to the guard post and strike their leader with surprise! The pathetic hobgoblins fell swiftly to our vicious attack.

Things took a turn for the worse when, midway through the battle, the armored soldiers decided to attack! Hearing Gil’s warning, I raced to his aid on the stairs … and was nearly stunned out of my wits as memories came flooding back. These soldiers with long flaming spears and fire in their hearts … they were there! They killed my people! But my rage was too great, and I did not hesitate, but brought the black blade of Tamaich to bear against them.

At this point, Berrian also decided to aid us. The soldiers were tough, and much to our surprise, they exploded in flames and twisted bits of metal when we struck their death blows!

The hall the soldiers had come from also had four big pillars that radiated intense heat. I was once again grateful for my armor. The others were more singed than I was after dashing through the room. Gil then scouted ahead again, using his bat familiar as an extra pair of eyes. Down the opposite hall, past some ancient dwarf statues, he found another guardroom occupied by ogres. Some were dressed in full plate armor! Taking one of the magical torches from the wall, we chose to leave that area alone and headed down the main wide passage leading towards an area that rang out with the sounds of the forge.

To the right, a set of stairs led up to a smoky guard room occupied by hobgoblins resting and cooking food over an open fire. To the left, a long corridor stretched away into darkness with heavy stone doors on either side. Straight ahead, a wide stone stairway led down to a huge forge and furnace area. Gil reported seeing lava flowing into the chamber! There were also fiery dwarves and giant fiery snakemen who appeared to be slaves, working away at the forges to make weapons while a huge red-skinned brute and some cultists drove them on.

Naturally, we attacked the weakest opposition first: the hobgoblins. They barely knew what hit them. Their captain had a nice wooden box with some potions in it. Some of the potions glowed like fire. The druids said they would make the drinker resistant to fire. Could come in handy for the others!

There were more rooms beyond, including one that was clearly the ogres’ room and another that opened onto a stone bridge over the river of lava, but we turned back and headed for the long hall that looked like a cell block of sorts. This turned out to be a mistake … we found two fire mages and two cult warriors who caused us a bit of trouble. One of them was able to hypnotize our druid companions, taking them out of the fight. The others used lots of fire magic on us. A little luck saved us, though, as the druids were able to break free at the last minute, and the weird swamp gnome paralyzed his attacker, allowing us to cut him down quite easily.

Definitely on our last legs, we headed off to lick our wounds and acknowledge how much tougher these creatures were than we are used to! My thirst for vengeance remains strong, however. I am hopeful that Tasklar will have found a cure so he can help us. Maybe the elf’s sister (?) will have come back from wherever she went, too. We could use her magic.


Scarlet Moon Hall

Dramatis Personae: Berrian, Karth, Tasklar
Source: “Scarlet Moon Hall” (Princes of the Apocalypse)

NB. This episode’s recap is brought to you by Karth (edited by me)!

I was sitting at the inn, nursing another beer, my scowl enough to keep the other patrons from coming closer. My contacts had said they might finally have some information for me regarding the sigil I hunted. I thought back to how my life ought have been … actually not too different, a life of battle, but with my people rather than as a wanderer, the last of my tribe. I stroked Tamaich’s blade … something to be proud of, a remnant of my ancestors. I laughed to myself. The others looked on fearfully, remembering that septon who bad decried it as a cursed weapon.

The little halfling slid next to me, showing me the familiar bowl-like symbol of the fire cult. “A wagon heading north. A merchant carrying goods stamped with the symbol you had us watch for. He mentioned Scarlet Moon Hall, several days from here. Said he was gonna sell beer to the druids gathering there for a festival.”

I tossed over a small sack of coins.

The next day, I gathered what companions I could find, the elf and the bard. It would appear the elf’s sister (?) was off on a tryst with her lover, while my buddy Gil was on a heist. Or something. Though the elf is a dandy, he is deadly with the blade, and the bard has been a faithful companion for years. They would be sufficient. No need for the others … or so I thought.

The land was dry. The weather unseasonably hot. Following the merchant’s trail, we came across a hill, on its top a great burning effigy and a ruined tower or keep. Scattered on the hillside were several small campfires. We agreed that this was not a case of running in blades bared. For once, we would try talking first. Perhaps it was the absence of the elf’s sister, but more likely the thief, that made us act sensibly.

The first group we came across seemed harmless enough: a bunch of young tree huggers having fun. Apparently some grand druid was planning a ritual the next day that would stop the damn heat. A few pleasantries and then we moved on.

The next group were a strange pair of men in red robes. More druids, of the Circle of the Scarlet Moon. The hosts of this festival. They had a bear chained next to them. I didn’t like that, for bears are my totem animal. Fortunately, I was able to hold back the red wave and, literally biting my tongue, listened as Tasklar asked them of the wagon. They said they hadn’t seen it. Strange.

Heading further up the hill, we encountered an odd pair of hunters. Rough-looking men, but men who were still willing to share their beer. My type of men.

Further around to the right, we found another group of huggers, including a short stunted one from some swamp. They were dozing by their fire. They didn’t seem to know anything about a merchant either. Had the man not made it this far?

The group furthest to the right was different: three cloaked men and two enormous wolves, almost as big as me! As we got close, I heard one of the wolves speak, muttering something in Goblin. Stepping back in shock, I realized that these weren’t wolves but worgs! And the three men were actually bugbears in disguise!

A mighty battle ensued. The bugbears couldn’t get past Berrian’s shield as he gradually wore them down, while Tasklar attempted (and failed) to mark them with guiding bolts. As for me, I had held my temper long enough. As I felt the rage build up, I jumped towards the worgs, marking one as a new fur cloak and the other as a new bedroll for the bard. My shield and my furious resilience protected me from the worgs’ sharp teeth and claws as I hacked them down.

The nearest group of druids came running to see what had caused all the noise. They were horrified to learn that the druids they had previously met at this eastern-most camp had obviously been killed by the bugbears. Yet there was no sign of them anywhere.

With our enemies defeated and looted, I quickly cut out the heart of one worg. Searing it in the flames of the bugbears’ campfire, I offered to share it with the others, but they all turned the honor down. After a quick meal, I skinned the two worgs as I thought about how my new cloak would look.

Deciding to warn the other groups that all was not as it seemed, we headed off around the hill, past the hunters, and on to a larger group led by a half-elven druid in the same red robes as the druids with the bear. She did not seem concerned about the danger. However, when questioned of the wagon, Berrian let me know that she seemed to know more than she was saying. Curious.

Pushing on to the final fire along the western slopes, we met another druid, a painted wood elf named Gariena, who was making music with a pair of faeries! She seemed more with it than the other druids. I asked if I could make music with her and proceeded to impress everyone with my playing of the Orcish war screamer (aka “bagpipes”). Tasklar joined in too, but much to everyone’s amusement, he just made an awful noise. The faeries had a lot of fun teasing him after that. Gariena warned us not to stay the night with her because she couldn’t make any promises that her companions wouldn’t prank us. Fair enough!

I was still concerned about the bear, though, and managed to convince the others to head back down the hill. Instead of sticking to the trail, though, we went straight down to the first camp of druids, warned them of the danger and suggested they leave, and then headed over to the red-robed druids.

Ignoring their protests, I began a ritual to commune with the bear. The druids didn’t like that one bit and, attacking us, revealed themselves to be fire wizards! The battle was mighty, and the camp was soon a blazing ruin, but I was protected by my magic fire-resistant armor and my bestial rage. My friends and I cut down the hateful wizards, marked with the symbol of those that had destroyed my tribe!

Unfortunately, we also had to put the enraged bear down, but hey … it was war. And the bear had been about to maul the bard to death. I made my peace with the beast’s spirit as I committed its body to the flames. After that, we convinced the remaining druids to leave, explaining that the Scarlet Moon druids were really fire cultists. Most decided to leave at once, but the gnomish swamp druid said he would help. He claimed to have seen the fire mark previously. In fact, he seemed quite angry about it.

Heading back to the red-robed half-elf and her encampment, I crept up behind one of her guards and surprised him with a loud ”boo!”. A drawn sword wasn’t exactly the reaction I had been expecting, although he had looked pretty nervous about something! Once again battle was joined. The hunters from the next camp over joined in, revealing themselves to be werewolves as they clawed and bit at Tasklar!

Gariena and her faeries came down to help us, and soon the werewolves and the fire cultists all lay dead on the ground. Worryingly, though, the bard had been bitten at least once and was beginning to feel a bit funny. He will need watching in the future, especially around the next full moon …

After clearing out the last of the “false druids”, we headed uphill to the ruined keep … where it all turned to custard. As we crested the hill, we saw two fire mages praying in front of the burning wicker giant. Rushing forward, we focused our attacks on them, killing one mage before he could react. Unfortunately, the bard’s shatter spell also broke the giant apart, which unleashed a raging creature of fire that quickly enveloped Berrian and me in flames!

Though I was only mildly hurt, Berrian was not so lucky. With crossbowmen up on the scaffolding firing down on us, the surviving fire mage hurling flames at us, and hell hounds and a fiery-haired fighter bearing down on us, we were forced to flee.

Having been forced to put aside my desire for vengeance for now, I vow to return another day and finish the job …