05 August 2007

The Fight at the Farm

When last we saw our intrepid warriors, they had just woken up on on the morning of their third day out from Fort Ryker. A badly-needed night of undisturbed rest was welcome, but the PCs were shocked to discover that Corporal Telvor, one of the “red-shirts” assigned them by the Commander of the Fort, had gone missing in the night, leaving nothing but a welter of feral-looking footprints and a long streak of blood down the side of their wagon.

Breygon immediately got his “Ranger thang” on and did his damnedest to track to footprints, but lost them on the stony ground of the ridge they were following. With no further options to try to recover their vanished comrade, the Party decided to carry on to Bornhavn and try to complete their mission as quickly as possible. Private Gambrik and their passenger, the drunken sailing master Pillar Howell, grumbled a bit, but neither was prepared to go haring off into the underbrush after Telvor. There had, after all, been a LOT of footprints around the wagon.

Bornhavn was still some ways off, and the weather was worsening. The ridgeline gave way to a series of low valleys as the Stjerneflade river wound its way southwards. This protected the Party from the increasingly bitter winds, but not the rain that came with them, and by nightfall everyone was soaked and miserable. They had passed numerous abandoned settlements and farms during the day, and decided to make use of one of these as darkness finally settled in.

They made camp at an old timber farmhouse with gaping holes in the walls and a sad lack of thatch; but it had a well, and the fence around the paddock north of the homestead was still robust enough to contain their horses (see the map, above). They made a fire, dined sparingly, set a watch, and were attacked in the wee hours of the morning.

The creators of the footprints turned out to be a roving pack of ghouls. Gwen happened to be on watch when they came slavering out of the woodline, and she managed to shout a warning quickly enough to get everyone up and active, armed at least, if not necessarily armoured. Qaramyn moved into the lee of the wagon and began sniping at the oncoming horde with Magic Missiles, while Breygon got to work thinning their numbers with his bow. Alric was first into the line of fire, landing a few heavy blows before being surrounded and unceremoniously paralyzed (sometimes the extra feat and skill points we humans get aren't as useful as good old Elven resistance to paralysis). The fighter went down like a sack of wet laundry, and Gwen shifted her fire to cover him and prevent his attackers from chowing down, as they seemed about to do. Joraz had better luck, leaping into battle with his fists, and laying waste left and right. The ghouls landed a few blows, but he managed to shrug them off.

Private Gambrik spent most of the battle cowering under the table in the dilapidated farmhouse (as I recall, he rolled a 1 on his will save); but Pillar Howell rolled a 20, and with a gutful of “Dutch courage”, grabbed a table leg and did himself proud, clubbing down the two ghouls who came loping through the open back wall of the house. Qaramyn held fire for an instant, Summoning a Celestial Dog to give the ghouls something else to concentrate on. Breygon and Gwen each took down another one. Gwen held her position as the enemy closed, but Breygon dropped his bow, drew his swords, and moved into the fray.

At about this time, two of the ghouls at the back of the pack went down, and a shadowy, cloaked figure emerged from the woods, longbow in hand. Gwen spotted the new target and sent an arrow its way, scoring a near-critical hit and maximum damage – only to be greeted by a flood of Elvish cursing. By now Qaramyn was down to his last Burning Hands and was holding back, gripping his staff and trying not to attract too much undead attention. Joraz had reached Alric’s supine form and was engaging the ghouls intent on snacking on "fighter tartare". Breygon was ranger-moulinexing the front rank of undead, and the shadowy newcomer at the back had pulled out an improbably enormous sword and was laying into the rear rank of the enemy with a will. With eleven ghouls (a number which, as the party discovered later, included two ghasts) down, the remaining three fled, howling and slavering, into the woods.

The newcomer limped forward and lowered her hood. The Party was surprised to see that they had been joined by a female High Elf, a warrior-mage of considerable prowess (and considerable grumpiness when she was introduced to Gwen) called Orkarel Hax. Apparently she had been travelling to Ellohyin on the Nordvej. While she was camped out a few miles to the north the previous night, the ghoul-pack had killed her horse, leaving her without a mount. She had been tracking the pack since sunrise, slowed by being forced to do so with her saddle and saddle-bags over one shoulder, and had only caught them up just prior to their attack on the farm.

The Party thanked her effusively for her intervention, and invited her to spend the night, and travel with them to Bornhavn the following morning. Breygon, in a gesture of comradeliness (possibly brought on by the fact that Hax was extremely easy on the eyes), gave her the horse that the Party had found next to the body of the messenger they had found slain on the Nordvej a few miles North of Fort Ryker. [Oh crap – I forgot to put that part in, didn’t I?] Hax was suitably thankful, and may have been even more grateful, had she not had a Halfling arrow sticking out of her thigh. In any event, the remainder of the night was quiet. The Party assembled the ghoul corpses into a heap, and Qaramyn helpfully incinerated them with arcane fire before climbing back into his sleeping bag.

All arose the next morning, anticipating a relatively short ride, as there were only about four more leagues to go. Breygon spent most of the remainder of the trip conversing quietly with Hax in his mother’s tongue. They exchanged a lot in the way of local information and banalities, but he didn’t manage to learn too much about her background, about which she was oddly evasive.
They were still deep in conversation when, about mid-morning, the Party crested a rise and saw the town of Bornhavn laid out before them.