A few days after the party the group of 5 dragon-slayers (Bers, Vorwulf, Grom the shaman, Persis, and Draznor) are combing the beach along the shore of the Western Ocean hunting a giant two-headed troll. The group figures they will hunt the giant two-headed troll prowling the beach and then travel as far as they can along the beach before hitting the sea cliffs then move inland to a cluster of fishing villages along the shore of a natural bay and onto the rumored ruins west of Lachmor ot the north of the city of Chago. Suddenly they catch sight of a group of Templars in full battle regalia their full plate and steel barding glinting in the morning sun at full gallop towards them.
The Templars reign in at a respectful distance while the two leading horses jaunt up to them both holy warriors remove their great helms. The first is Zavan the red whom hails them in a barely comprehensible Hyvalian accent. The other reveals himself to be Han-Morro an arrogant sneer smeared across his face. He begins talking to Zavan in derisive tones in the Hyvalian tongue never once deigning to look in their direction.
Zavan: “What are you doing out here?”
Vorwulf: “Hunting trolls.”
Zavan: “Well, beware of druids! We almost mistook you for them!” He let out a belly laugh. Han-Morro said something else that Zavan didn’t translate.
Bers was just standing there silent and content with simply scowling at him.
Zavan then said something which was unintelligible to the dragon-slayers and then he and Han-Morro turned and rejoined their group. The armored horsemen then galloped off past the dragon-slayers making sure to have their horses kick up a virtual storm of sand.
The next day they begin moving inland form the beach trying to find the first village on their planned route and wind up traveling farther inland than they realized sighting the edge of a forest that Vorwulf recognized as the northernmost end of Chago Forest. While trying to correct his mistake in navigating the party Vorwulf caught sight of a young dragon which appeared as a brown fang dragon but was black striped. While he kept an eye out after sighting it they wound up back near the beach close to where they departed it by early afternoon. This is when the dragon pounced.
It blasted at them with its fire breath catching all within the cone of flames singeing Bers and Persis badly enough for Persis to take cover by the wagon which miraculously escaped damage this time and Bers to make a recovery check. The battle almost lasted a full melee round with Bers getting in a devastating power attack and Thrall (the shaman’s protégé) dealing the deathblow. They decided to try to double time it to the first village and by dusk they made it.
Travel along the bay coast was easy and uneventful they reached the 3rd of 4 villages by sundown the next day, they checked out each and every village tavern to ‘gather info’. At the 4th village they were directed towards Lachmor lake but were told that they would have to leave the coast and travel inland to circumvent the sea cliffs traveling up the rising land then to where it suddenly drops where it meets the southern end of Strogo swamp. They were warned that trolls were about at night in the swamp spreading out from the Troll’s Marsh several more miles ot the northeast for some unknown reason. There were also ruins of an ancient stone fortress at the edge of a sea cliff reached by a narrow earthen ramp a few miles of the lake. When questioned about the giant troll they were told that the creature was known but didn’t seem to travel from the beaches which the villagers of all the villages have learned to avoid at night. It also seemed to wander the highlands where the cliffs swept up inland.
The next morning after spending the night in an outlying hut that they had rented for a small sack of gems as the village had been hostile upon their approach they first headed to the beach to find the base of the cliffs. They did find evidence of the troll further up from the beach and spent most of the day looking for a potential lair but could find nothing so they decided to continue on to the ruins. Over the next four days while circumscribing along the shore of the freshwater lake Lachmor they fought and killed a pair of swamp dragons, 8 marsh trolls where each of them scored at least a single kill, and a group of 3 more marsh trolls led by a 10 ft. tall troll armed with a mace (most of the trolls save the one with a weapon were bestial). At the end of the fourth day they set up camp on the shores of the lake ready for a well-deserved rest.
That morning they began maneuvering towards the high ground and found that they had to turn further inland than they intended towards the Strogo Swamp in order to find a slope up into the highland as they kept running into bluffs. To make things worse the land sank and was covered in tough woody bushes and rushes which blocked vision and impeded progress. They found a trail and by midday found they had barely made any progress and realized they probably had to approach the highlands directly from the north. They continued following the trail and soon found an ancient paving, probably an old road but it appeared to carry at least occasional traffic. They decided to follow it north as it was the only clear path and found it turned northeast towards Strogo Swamp. They stopped at what appeared to be an old plaza with a pitted low wall on one side and an overgrown well. It was already evening and they decided to turn back south in the morning and pulled the wagon up in order to secure it when they caught the sound of crackling branches and saw an Arborean in druid’s robes bearing a wooden staff.
Druid: “Hail there! I am Bohk of the Banded Rock who might you be?”
Vorwulf: “Dragon-slayers but we’re making our way to the ruins on the cliffs.”
Druid: “I see, I see. You wear the symbol of the Hyvalians.” He pointed a woody finger at Bers. She always wore the wooden holy symbol of the Hyvalian Theocracy given to her by the paladin Sir Chinsalis.
Vorwulf: “We came from Chago.”
Bohk the Druid: “I see.” He waved an arm signaling his compatriots whom sprang from bushes.
They found themselves surrounded by a group of guerilla fighters 3 of which appeared to be Moorvyr, ethnic Westlanders loyal to the Orthodox Druidic Order. Another of them was a Faun with the appearance of a mage with sword drawn and Vorwulf could see at least 2 archers in the bush one of them wearing a bright red tunic and cape. The remaining man had the savage appearance of a typical Westlander tribesman. The bush-fighters declared them prisoners and the dragon-slayers went on the attack. At the beginning of the battle a scraggly looking man in the soiled clothes of an Ivoran buccaneer with a rapier at his side joined the battle attacking the druid when he fell back into the bushes stopping him from casting his spells at the dragon-slayers.
It was a short but savage battle where by the end of the first round Persis, Bers’ Ferenoi protégé, was dead feathered with red fletched arrows. One of the fighters and the faun on the other side were also killed. By the end of the second round the all save Bohk and the scarlet archer were dead. Bers chased down the scarlet archer and cut her down in vengeance slaughtering her with a single blow, she hadn’t been touched once in the battle proper as she had stayed under cover.
The vagabond that had entered the battle on their behalf introduced himself as simply ‘Buck’ and presented them with the druid’s staff though he hadn’t managed to kill him he had taken his staff form him before he “got away”. He had been lost in the swamp for several days after a caravan he was a part of had been ambushed by Westlanders. He was the only survivor that he was aware of. Their destination had been Chago. They allowed him to accompany them. Buck and the shaman became fast friends. During the night during camp after they found a suitable spot after about an hour of additional wandering on Vorwulf’s watch a large black wolf wandered into camp that he recognized as Rrhga. The sentient wolf from the Wilderlands which they had hired as long with his companions in the Falmark when traveling into Hirok-Nor.
Rrhga: “I’ve been watching the camp this entire time. The druid sent me.”
Vorwulf: “So what’s going down?”
Rrhga: “Just a warning. The next time we meet we’re enemies.” With that the wolf disappeared into the dark.
By late the next day they found themselves at the foot of a wooded rise to where the ruins should lie. They traveled up the rise for about 2 hours until they came to the ruins at the end of a narrow ramping path with a shut iron gate and what appeared to be a makeshift guard shack at the bottom of the ramp with a bored looking guard leaning against it. The guard a massive man with trollish features, he was a half-troll after all, looked up at them and with a sigh donned his horned great helm with its snarling demonic facemask. He lifted up his weapon a massive iron maul onto his shoulder and held out his hand to stop them.
Gate Keeper: “Ho there! Dragon-slayers!” The group looked at each other then back at the guard.
Gate Keeper: “Password.” He sighed then started to step aside then stopped himself when they remained quiet. Bers said something a wild guess at a password which was absolutely wrong as should have been expected.
The group tensed prepared for battle as the half-troll got into a fighting stance then a loud shout came from behind the group. They saw a hill-giant cresting the rise followed by a wagon his black dragon hide armor glinting in the sun his giant bearded axe on his shoulders. On the wagon were 3 Westlander humans one wrapped almost completely in his black robes. The other two were mean looking acid-scarred and dirty faced men with bristly beards. One was armed with a black dragon hide bullwhip and the other was in the back of the open wagon polishing his flamberg wearing an open helm studded with dragon teeth. Both were wearing similar suits of black dragon hide armor. Following alongside the wagon was a dragonsaurus which looked whip-scarred and vicious with a cape of black dragon hide armor. Buck recognized the loud yell of the Hill Giant as a word in the troll tongue, very hard for non-trolls to pronounce. Our heroes watched as the other apparent dragon-slayers were granted entry. After the gates closed the guard looked back at them and started with surprise as if he had forgotten that they were there.
Gate Keeper: “Password?”
Buck tried but failed to pronounce the word then Bers attempted it and failed miserably. Buck tried to bluff their way in but it failed but he did convince the guard that they simply couldn’t pronounce the word.
Gate Keeper: “Well then, you can wait but you ain’t getting in that gate till I hear it from one o’yer mouths.”
They traveled back down to the bottom of the rise and went into the cover of the trees. The group decided to wait until nightfall then attack the gate keeper hopefully as quickly and quietly as possible and then figure something out after they get inside. The attack on the gate keeper went pretty much flawlessly even though the armor he had on was apparently magical as a glowing golden shield appeared in front of him when the fight began automatically blocking arrows and almost blocking the slayers’ melee weapon blows. The fight lasted for a single round with the gate keeper only getting in a single unsuccessful power attack against Bers with Vorwulf getting in the last blow. They tossed in a few alchemist fires into the suit after removing the helm and reduced his corpse to ashes inside of his armor. None of them was so much as scratched during in the combat. They found, however, that the gate was locked with no apparent keyhole and there was no key amongst the half-troll’s remains. The shaman was convinced it was magic of some kind the doors probably only responded to those of troll-blood. They then decided to split up leaving the wagon hidden off to the side somewhere and leave Grom, Buck, and Draznor to guard it. Now the plan was to fly over the wall as they assumed, rightly, that the gate opened into a courtyard using Bers’ Cape of Bat-Flight and the Rings of Invisibility each of the two had. They would scout it out first then return to the rest of the group maybe opening the gates from inside. For the most part their plan was successful and they found themselves in a rather large courtyard which was surrounded by a system of open walkways the lengths of which lined were with doors opening into small apartment-like rooms. The courtyard was filled with pup-tents, cooking fires and dozens of apparent vagabond dragon-slayers. There were a few hill-giants among many humans and fauns. All appeared to be Westlanders so the pair decided to turn off their rings careful to not get sighted suddenly appearing and walked among the crowd in order to glean some information about what the hell was going on. After about an hour they found out that the congregation of dragon-slayers was orchestrated by a self-proclaimed “troll-king” named Pallgak. They also gathered that depending on whom they asked that the slayers were supposed to either kill or capture a dragon, an ancient, lairing somewhere in the swamp or possibly among the “isles”. They also spotted various trolls wandering among the crowd acting as guards, most were latter generation (stupid and more bestial than their born or second or third generation trolls) the few that weren’t varied in size and were well-equipped with plate armor and weapons. They waited until a troll crier made an appearance waddling through the only double-doors in the courtyard opening to reveal a large hall behind once opened. He made the announcement that the slayers’ promised bounty, 5,000 gold talons plus any treasure that they may find, if they deliver either the Shadow Dragon of Strogo Swamp or the Great Red Dragon of the Sulfur Isle. For those going to take the red ships have already been bought for the trip and wait in the port of Chago. All groups will depart as soon as the Green Dragon Archers arrive and are briefed.
Bers: “So when are we going to kill this guy.”
Vorwulf: “Shh. Let’s turn invisible and fly up to the battlements and find a way down into the throne room and we’ll get ‘em then!”
So that’s what they did and fairly easily they found their way down into the passageway which led into the rear of the throne room. What was waiting there in front of the doors behind which they assumed Pallgak waited was a 15 ft. tall three-headed troll wearing full plate armor and wielding a massive hammer big even in for its wielder’s size. They charged it.
In the first round the giant troll had the upper hand forcing both Bers and Vorwulf to dodge his hammer and even forcing Vorwulf to make a recovery check at the end of the round. The second round started off bad with the giant troll getting a Natural 20 for its Initiative check but Bers was able to get in two power attacks and Vorwulf backed off to drink a healing potion then moved back in. The third round found Bers and Vorwulf making recovery checks in an effort to stave off at least some of the massive damage they were enduring. The pair of heroes held their own against the giant in the fourth and fifth rounds where the creature began showing some wear from their rain of blows. By the end of the sixth round Vorwulf was forced into another recovery check and both Bers’ and Vorwulf’s armor was nearly shredded and barely hanging on fortunately the troll appeared to be in bad straits gushing black stinking blood everywhere. In the seventh the troll was finally felled by a blow from Bers but not before Vorwulf was again making another recovery check. They were going to burn the corpse but they heard the clatter of guards, probably mostly trolls coming in from all sides. They were both very wounded, were out of potions and Vorwulf’s armor was gone and Bers had only a few shreds left which would be torn off with a single good hit. They quickly found the keys on the giant’s corpse and opened Pallgak’s door rushing into the darkened chamber and shutting then locking the door behind them.
To Be Continued…