Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Beyond the Westwall: Session 3 (6/26/13)

We had a more-than-packed house for session 3, as we were joined by a blast from the past! Our fellow gamer Wes has made his triumphant return to Wednesday night RPG action at All Things Fun! So, he took control of Gerard the fighter, bringing the current party total to five (including Pam's thief Vela, Bill's halfling Bogo, Josh's cleric Jarith, and Mark's elf Umitsu).
The party gathered again in the common room of the Wailing Banshee inn (including a shaken Umitsu, fresh from her psychic battle against...a tiny tentacled brain). Not long after they came together, a young boy ran in from the street, screaming about a "monster." The party investigated and saw a white figure shambling through the frozen mud of the street. Upon closer investigation, they saw that it wasn't a monster but rather a frost-covered young man. The group quickly ushered the young man into the Wailing Banshee, where they wrapped him in a blanket and gave him warm wine to drink.

The young man turned out to be Thomas, one of the three people who had been missing for nearly two weeks. As the party tried to communicate with him, Thomas slipped in and out of a catatonic stupor, and occasionally whispered the words "white watch." When he had moments of lucidity, the youth tried to relate the tale of where he had been for the previous days. All he could remember was going to sleep one night, and then waking up to find himself wandering in a snow-shrouded forest. Then, he remembered being "taken" by a strange force, after which he had only memories of darkness and terror until waking up just outside of town.

The group pondered what Thomas had told them, and surmised that he might have been lured by some sort of dark magic into the Lanisdown Forest, not far to the north of Westguard. The also considered paying a visit to Martha, the elderly woman who had also disappeared and then reappeared in town. Martha was reportedly still in a coma-like state.

Vela the thief considered asking Westguard's very small network of rogues for information. While the town is not large enough to support a true thieve's guild, there is a mysterious "crime lord" that has gathered a loose confederation of thieves and muscle, most of whom have "day jobs" in the small community. Vela is, thus far, not a member of this network. She made contact with someone, but when she was told that the price of information would be a "favor" that could be requested of her at any time, she decided to pass on the offer.

The group then decided to try and track down a sage, with the hope that they could learn more about where Thomas was held. They remembered once again the rumors of an ancient Bright Empire torture dungeon somewhere in the area, and wondered if there was a connection. However, the Lord Protector of Westguard, Tormund, is very hostile toward sages. He considers them troublesome sources of information that propagate rumors concerning ruins that contain lost treasure. Thus, many "adventurous fools" have met their demise when they've gone out into the countryside to seek riches. And, in general, Tormund believes that an educated population is prone to disobedience. So, as the leader of a frontier town surrounded by harsh wilderness, the last thing Tormund needs is dissidents questioning his method of rule.

Because of the Lord Protector's stance on sages, the handful in Westguard are secretive and hard to find. There is only one, a sage named Anton, who open advertises his services. Suffice to say that he is an object of harassment by Tormund's men. The group experienced this first-hand when they made their way to Anton's shop in the town's market square. As they knocked on the door to the sage's shop, they noticed two town guards watching them from across the square. Finally, Anton called through the barred door, telling the group to go away. Then, the guards confronted the party and told them to be on their way.

On their way back to the Wailing Banshee, the group heard an urgent whisper from a nearby alley. It was Anton, who had decided to follow them in secret and ask them what they wanted from him. The party discovered quickly that the sage was more than a bit pompous. When they told him of the sketchy details from Thomas, he mocked them. It was only when they mentioned the Bright Empire tomb and the mysterious cylinder they had found that Anton agreed to speak with them further at the long as they also agreed to buy him dinner.

While the rest of the group plied the arrogant sage with food and drink in an attempt to get information out of him, Vela and the fighter Gerard decided to sneak back to Anton's shop and break in, so that they could dig through whatever scrolls and tomes he might possess. Vela tried to unlock a window at the rear of the shop, but only succeeded to break the glass. The thief decided to go ahead with her mission and crawled through the window into Anton's bedchamber. But before she could do much searching, she heard a deep voice call out from beyond the bedroom door. She quickly crawled out of the window before someone entered the room. Vela and Gerard caught a glimpse of a huge figure enter the room and investigate briefly.

Gerard decided to go to the front door and knock, in order to distract whoever was inside the shop so that Vela could continue her investigations. This is how the fighter came face to face with Robar, Anton's brother. The sage's massive sibling towered over Gerard, and the two soon began a very confused conversation (Gerard has an Intelligence of 8, and player Wes decided he was a bit slow on the uptake most of the time).

In the meantime, Vela climbed back into the back bedroom and continued her search. All her efforts yielded was the fact that the majority of the books in Anton's bedroom discussed either the bizarre, decadent, and sometimes perverse exploits of ancient emperors or the properties of various fungi, especially mushrooms. She decided to chance sneaking into the main part of the shop, and was chagrined to discover that Anton did not have a very extensive collection of tomes. She signaled to Gerard that it was time to leave. The fighter gratefully broke off his repartee with the dim-witted Robar, and the pair made haste back to the inn.

Meanwhile, the rest of the group was having no real luck in dealing with Anton. In fact, the sage was about to leave the inn in a huff when the party mentioned that Thomas had muttered the words "white watch." Anton spun back to the group and began to relate the legend of a lost Bright Empire outpost called White Watch. It was supposed to be somewhere north of Lanisdown Forest, in the foothills of the Westwall. Anton himself had made the journey to that location, but had not been able to find the ruins of the outpost. After relating this information, the sage expressed doubt that the group could succeed in finding White Watch and left the inn. The party, of course, thought differently. They resolved to leave the next morning.

The following day, the party was traveling north through the forest. The Lanisdown Forest had long ago been "tamed," and is home to small outposts of loggers who supply timber to Westguard. However, the group came across a scene of carnage in the woods. The found bloodstains in the snow, and saw hastily abandoned saws and other tools. As they investigated, the party heard loud, inhuman shouts echoing through the still forest. Bogo the halfling used his wilderness stealth to investigate, and saw three ettins stomping through the forest toward his friends. He rushed back to warn them, and the party decided to set an ambush.

The party set up a crude trap involving rope and two long two-man saws, took positions along the road, and waited. Soon, they saw the ettins stride into view. Each of the two-headed giants was wearing the skin of a human tied around their necks, the boneless flesh flapping against their chests like grisly aprons. Lucky for the adventurers, the first ettin didn't notice their trap. The creature fell directly onto the saw blades, which tore into its belly. The second ettin stared in disbelief at its brother writhed in agony and blood spread out across the icy dirt road. The third ettin, however, was more wary than the others, and prepared to do battle.

At this point, we ran out of time for the night and had to end the session. The battle with the ettins continues in the next session...

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