[The story so far]
[I know, I've left out two session reports which have some really important plot and some cool gaming, but I had to write this session while it was fresh in my head from earlier this evening and couldn't wait to share!]
Session 14 - Something beginning with "r"
Waking with the castle, our heroes find that a determined mood has overtaken the place since their return and the burial of their two fallen comrades, Rubeus and Henri. Men are armed, messengers on swift horses clatter in and out of the courtyard, and baskets of rubble are being filled along the battlements. Over a score of horses are being readied (it seems like all the horses in the small castle) alongside the stable block. Granted a short audience with Guisarme FitzHeron, they discover that he has been summoned to Corcelle with sufficient men for his rank to protect it - Alaric the high priest was calling in the oathsworn presence of all the local nobles. Was it an uprising? War? Either way, he had to go, but he agreed to take letters from them to Alaric and also their banker, Bertolac.
This left no horses for the adventurers, but they waited until he'd gone and then bribed the stablemaster to loan them a two-horse cart. They had to be in Corcelle in time before the eight days until the Spring festival arrived and whatever the cultists in the barrows had planned...
Off they rode, Jean at the reigns as per the final condition of the stable-master ("It'll be you what gets the skin off your back if'n you don't bring them back, nuthin' to do with me, right?") and spouting really bad poetry as he tried to ease his way into the group [new character for the player of Rubeus Mangold who died so stupidly last time - and he really did start making up dreadful poetry about Jean's would-be-girlfriend, Annette. Brilliant!]. The first half-day of an expected three and a half day journey passed without incident, winding their way along the road Eastwards towards Corcelle. A mixture of scrubby pastureland, thin woodland, and the occasional forested rocky outcrop all proved uneventful, as did the night.
The next morning dawned clear and fine with everyone in a positive mindset about reaching Corcelle in time to pass on the information in person, gather any reward, save the world, that kind of thing. And then... Well, it started innocuously enough, as these things do. Grat was idly considering summoning some sylphids to stuff Jean's mouth with grass from the roadside to put an end to his poetry when the horses spooked slightly. Grat looked up and saw a hawk of some sort. Wait... a wisp of low cloud moved across the front of it but it hadn't looked that far up. Then it came through the cloud and got bigger. And bigger. And bigger - oh, by the seven hells, it's a flipping roc!
[Wow. At this point I felt really bad because the random encounter table could easily have just sprung a tpk on us. I didn't fudge the roll, but briefly considered fudging the result - the campaign was really warming up. Then I thought... let's see what happens; if they survive, odds are they'll level up. Still, I won't deny a burst of nervous laughter which really put the wind up the players!]
Grabbing the reins to try and get the freaked out horses under control, Nori shouted at Gowmac and Jean "You shoot, I'll drive!" and spurred them on towards the patch of dense woodland a couple of miles ahead along the road, cursing the open ground all around them.
The roc swooped for its first attack and tore one horse clean from its reins, flipping the cart as he did so and sending all the group sprawling across the road and leaving the other horse half mad with terror, thrashing out with its hooves as it spasmed wildly with what looked like a broken back. Nori put it out of its misery and they huddled behind the upturned cart trying to work out what to do. It was too far for them to run to the trees, the wizards had no combat spells ready, nobody had a spear, and only two of them had missile weapons.
As they bickered they saw the roc drop the first horse from a great height into the pasture land alongside the road and wheel round for another attack. Gowmac and Jean shot furiously at the swooping creature, winging it slightly and causing it to break off its attack. It came round again with the same result - would they win out by holding tight? Aurelius tried to deter the roc by setting light to the ruined cart but it took a while to start smoking and by now the bird was diving again, dodging the arrows and smashing into the cart with its claws, rending it apart and showering planks of wood all around, injuring a couple of the doomed-feeling adventurers.
"By Alathea!" roared Dumnorix, "You shall not be our fate, bird!" and stepped out bravely (foolishly?) in front of the others, smouldering shards of wood and a dead horse lying all around him. Around his head he started to whirl a grappling hook on a long rope as he chanted a psalm to the goddess of the rising sun. The roc dived for him, shrieking its expected victory, claws outstretched in front of it. The archers tried another shot, but failed to make much impact. Not so Dumnorix!
|Sorry, best picture I could find - it was a pretty damn heroic move|
He, too, strode out and started to whirl the lantern as the enraged roc returned to the attack. If he could hit it the oil would smash all over the bird, sending it up in flames and driving it off for good. Well, that was the plan. Sadly, it wasn't to be. Nomos missed, but the roc didn't and it eviscerated the poor fellow as it hit him. Now on the ground with its prey, the roc paused only to tear off Nomos' head before pecking viciously at the others - who proved spectacularly unable to hit it effectively.
Gowmac was the next to fall, shredded by the cruel beak but buying time for Aurelius to belabour one wing. He was sent flying but unhurt as all of them now piled in, knowing they were all dead unless they gave it everything they had. [Cue poor dice rolling. Seriously. Not good] Then it was Grat who had the roc's beak punch right through his chest and out the far side. As the roc shook his corpse off, however, Dumnorix stepped in and cracked the creature to the sie of the head, badly injuring it.
Seeking less determined prey, the roc finally took to its wings and flew off to the North-West, listing slightly to one side and leaving the three men to give thanks for their survival and mourn their dead comrades...
Post game: whew, random tables keep GMs on their toes as well! I swung between cursing the encounter table and thinking how awesome their response and roleplaying was. "You shoot, I'll drive!" made me laugh, I was sorry to see three characters die, and the grappling hook plan was so ludicrously heroic it made me want to be part of the adventuring party so I could be doing it too. Ah, roleplaying, why did I resist you for so long?!