[Previous chapter: Act 2 – Hermit]

Had another Saturday night session after missing two weeks. I came down sick the next week, and was somewhat recovered on Sat, but Smudge had come down with it by then, and was still recovering (complicated by allergies) the week after.

[Warning! Many spoilers ahead! See the end to skip.]

Erystelle solved the problem of keeping the noise of fighting one group of hobgoblins from attracting the others by simply casting a sleep spell. [Got just enough on the roll for all of them too.] He quickly improvised bonds for the four of them out of their gear, and then woke one up. The hobgoblin, obviously terrified for his life was not as informative as could be hoped. He got his orders from “Karg”, the ogre. He wasn’t sure where the ogre was getting his orders. Right now, they were desperately trying to find the hermit. (A little closer questioning would have gotten that he had been captured, but had escaped.) There wasn’t much more to get out of him, and there was noise of one of the other search parties approaching, so Erystelle left before things could get complicated.

Thankfully, the hobgoblins were spread out all over the place in groups, so not only was it easy to get away, it also wasn’t to hard to get back to the hermit’s place and recover the books found earlier. After that, Erystelle headed back south to Oakendale to recheck on doings there. Mid-afternoon the next day, there was a sudden clatter of hooves on the trail, and a burly-looking centaur came around the bend. He immediately challenged Erystelle, saying, “I am Turpin the centaur, ruler of the roads. None may pass without first battling me in single combat. Er, without spells that is, only weapons to be used.”

Erystelle was not happy. (Why are the loonies finding me…?) But at Turpin’s insistence, he jousted with him, neither one getting a clean hit on the first try. Erystelle, impatient with the entire deal, immediately turned for a second pass, where Erystelle got a solid hit, doing a lot of damage (charge with lance = 1d10x2 = 20!) Turpin was impressed, but insisted he was fine to continue, so Erystelle immediately charged again, and managed an other solid hit (9 x 2 = 18), which promptly felled Turpin.

Killing him not really being the plan, Erystelle checked him, and found him alive, if barely. He grudgingly shelved his plans and tried to dress Turpin’s wounds, and gave him his last healing potion. Turpin eventually came to, and Erystelle had him stay still and tried to wrap him for some warmth, while he went on to Oakendale for help. It was a measure of how badly wounded Turpin was that he did not object to this.

At Oakendale, Erystelle was glad to see that there was militia guarding all the routes into town. He visited the temple in town (which had been mentioned, but not visited on his first stop), and got some healing for his wardog Tarcil, who was still wounded from the first day, and paid for healing for Turpin. After checking with the mayor, he escorted the priests to find the centaur. He left them to help him to shelter, and continued back north.

I figured from the various people he’d talked to, that he really should know about where the destroyed human and dwarven settlements were, and located them on the map. This focused attention on the north, which probably was not wise. Anyway, Erystelle went north again, and checked up on the hermit’s cave and the hobgoblin encampment again. He noted the latter was still occupied, but only about half as many hobgoblins as previously. Continuing north, he found Granitgape, the dwarven town was actually an underground entrance (of course), but the doors had been ripped asunder, and there was a cave-in a short way in.

Turning west, he visited Scrubton, the human town, which was indeed burned to the ground. Both places showed signs of a red dragon being present again.

From there, he continued north, and as the trail came closer to the Greenflow again, Erystelle spotted a pair of stone ‘fingers’ poking up out of the forest on the far bank.

Getting to them was some work, and involved swimming the horse across the river (I figure by this point it’s small enough to be not too hard to cross). Closer examination showed that they were a pair of moss and vine-covered pillars, surrounded by thick brambles, which seemed to get thicker when he tried to cut his way into them.

After giving up on that, he headed north along the banks of the Greenflow, which eventually turned toward the west. I had to start hinting strongly that this was going nowhere fast. He turned around and re-crossed the Greenflow, eventually turning north on the trail again. This quickly left the forest and started climbing into mist-shrouded hills. Smudge got the hint again, and turned around to the south (I also had to point out that the map was scaled appropriately, and going off the north end was unlikely to lead to much…. ~_^)

At something of a loss, Erystelle headed south again, and a couple days later took a second, more westerly, route crossing a tributary of the Greenflow near where it joins the main river. Some miles further on, he came to where the trail he was following ended at another east-west trail.

And there was another classic encounter. A black knight. Black horse, black armor, you get the idea. He immediately lowered his lance and charged for Erystelle. This proved a poor choice for him, as after a couple passes, Erystelle’s lance connected for decent damage. As the fight degenerated into a sword-on-sword duel on horseback, the knight was unable to get through Erystelle’s defense (chain mail +1, ring of protection +1, shield (magical), and Dex 16 adds up to an impressively low AC), while Erystelle slowly wore him down.

As things were looking bad for our villain, hoof beats were heard coming up the trail. Not knowing what was coming, both sides nervously tried to finish off the fight, when Turpin appeared. “I say, Erystelle, a fine little fight, what!”

Well, at least he was friendly. And looking much better. With Erystelle obviously having the better of it, he watched with interest while the fight ended, and congratulated Erystelle on his victory. He expressed disappointment that he hadn’t had a chance to have a try at him. Erystelle told him, “It’s a black knight. They’re all over the place, like locusts.”

A search of the knight’s possessions came up with two lengths of rope (always handy!), two healing potions, and a rough map. [I halted things to prepare it in a hurry. I’m pretty happy with how it came out.] Erystelle was able to translate the landmarks he knew fairly easily, and decided to see just what was up with the ‘X’ marked on the map.

Turpin had apparently felt recovered enough to return to his wandering ways, and had just happened to go head west along the trail that Erystelle had just met. (One can only imagine that he’d been driving all of Oakendale to distraction.) Heading west early the next day, the pair of them encountered a tribe of pixies shortly after crossing the Greenflow.

Their leader invited them to a (small) feast, and explained that he’d heard about Erystelle’s journey, and thinks he has some information that could help. But first, they’ve been plagued by a troll that recently moved in nearby….

“Trolls, great. Fire. Turpin, can you handle torches?”

“Just watch me juggle them!”

It was still a little early, but we called it there, so I could have a chance to read up some. Smudge started feeling really tired shortly afterwards, so the timing was actually pretty good.

[End spoilerific section.]

GM’s notes: Turpin is a fun character, and I certainly couldn’t pass him up. He’s supposed to be a bit more abrasive, and prone to causing trouble than I’ve been playing him, but then, Erystelle is handling that all on his own. Smudge likened him to Armstrong at one point, and I’m going to go with that. (He’s probably about that buff with 30 HP on 4 hit dice; that’s 7.5 per die on what should be d8s…!)

I went with Dark Dungeons‘ assessment of wounding and dying, where HP loss stops a 0, where you fall unconscious, and must start making saving rolls to avoid dying until either given first aid or healed. I just ruled that Turpin wouldn’t die unless left to bleed to death. Smudge’s new dice are very friendly, with the d20 consistently rolling 18+ (though there’s also been a ‘1’; good thing I don’t care for fumble rules).

A fair amount of time passed in all the wanderings, and the events that start pressing the plot forward in absence of a lucky or inspired player are starting to hit. This is part of one of my concerns with the adventure. The initial direction is obvious, but it’s a small sandbox for the lack of direction given after the hermit.