Sometimes as a DM, you have to make some adjustments to your plan. When I had mapped out the XP for the Fulgore Keep adventure, I had shorted the amount somewhere and in actuality, after riding out of the Keep, the group didn't have enough to go up! They were close, but just ..weren't..there.
So enter - the stirges, trolls, and ruined slaver wagon. Was a sort of lark/add-on one day thing to stretch out the adventure, but it did give them some outside combat time, Karis got to use his ability as a cavalier, and they took down 4 trolls and a pile of stirges.
And of course, allowed them go up. Nothing like a fresh level after rooting through a orc infested keep.
Write up follows:
Shortly after Double Dagger Pass, the party traveled west towards Crispani's Vale and eventually to parts homeward and Orihalcus. It is Firemonth the 5th at roughly 2:30 PM and we have traveled a bit over an hour and a half outside of Fulgore Keep when we noticed some commotion up ahead. The call and cry of carrion birds (ravens and crows) was loud, their dark winged forms soaring around the mountain passes. We crested a natural rise and beheld the battered and bloody remains of a slaver wagon.
The ponies were missing, the traces torn and broken. The wagon itself was upended on its side, the iron bars bent viciously. Bloody smears were inside the wagon, outside, and for a good half dozen yards around the attack site. But no bodies. No survivors. Nothing – Except the birds.
The party kept its distance from the wreckage while Zoltan attempted to circumvent it by trekking overland to the north – hoping to catch some orcs or the like watching the area and laying an ambush. After picking his way through the rocks for a while, he chanced upon a strange bird like creature with rusty feathers, 4 oddly clawed legs, and a long pinkish smeared beak. It trilled at him and called out once or twice. Zoltan decided...er…to get the heck out of there and went back to the party.
He described the strange birds to the group who had noticed that one or two of them had wandered back and were nearby. And then one of them dived the party and tried to "stab" its beak at group. Yep – you guessed it – stirges.
Wasn't much of a threat but its trilling attracted five more who dove at the group and began sucking blood and when they were being attacked, it attracted another 10 or so who dove at the group. One of the big highlights was Detheron using…DUN DUN DUN!!! Another druidic spell!! Call Nature's Ally 2!! YEehaaa! Way to go druid. And we were blessed with a very large wolverine. Who took out a stirge every round! (and no – as per the jokes it was not a miniature Hugh Jackman in yellow spandex either). Some of the mounts were suffering from stab wounds and some of the party were as well but within a few minutes, we drove off the last of the aerial menaces and took stock. Some light healing followed but as our resident bandaid informed us – we didn't have a lot healing at our disposal.
We were at the wreckage site now and while we were tending to our tired and somewhat stabbed ponies – the group checked out the area. The attack had occurred from outside the slaver's wagons and it took down everything here. The larder boxes had been opened with strength and claw and there were no definitive signs of anyone around.
And then we heard an approaching screaming voice.
Karis rode towards the sounds where there was a frantic human, suffering from stirge wounds and missing part of his left hand, racing over the rocks and slipping on loose shale in order to make it to the party. Behind it was a 9' tall, thin green skinned, greasy black haired monster with long clawed hands that dragged along the ground. And it was gaining. Puck and Gwyn took up positions and fired crossbow bolts – striking the creature and staggering it. But it kept coming. A second volley followed and then it was on us and Karis began hacking at it with his greatsword. Meanwhile the strange man ran behind the wagon and threatened and cajoled the kobold women to part with one of their purloined orcish belt knives.
Just as the first creature went down, a second one appeared; this one with 3/4ths of a body slung across its shoulders and shouting "FRESSSHH MEATSSS!" before storming towards us. Karis lifted one of the ballista bolts and using it as an impromptu lance, attacked the charging beast. His lance broke but his war horse mowed the enemy down and stomped on its head in the process.
The group convened in its fight at the troll, hacking and chopping, and tearing. But it was fighting back as well causing serious wounds to Smokey and Karis and forcing Detheron to call upon Frey's will to keep them alive. Even Fodder got a bad wound, the poor dog tossed aside. Just as the 2nd troll was about to die, the FIRST troll (the one that Karis had cloven it's left arm from its body – yeah, that one) began to move. It reached over and dragged its severed limb closer and Zoltan was horrified to see it reattach its arm to its body. Ewww. And damn.
Poison and crossbows took out the two trolls and the group then hacked the dead trolls into pieces. Lots of pieces. And threw the pieces all over the area. While they were doing that and Detheron was tending to the wounded, we heard from the frightened human who had come to us (and fought against the troll) about who he was and where he came from.
His name was Lars and he was a teamster for the slaver organization known as "Silken Bindings". They were fleeing the assault on Fulgore Keep as was everyone yesterday, trying to put some ground between them and whatever was assaulting the place. One of the ponies threw a shoe and split her hoof and they were holed up here while Duncan, their headman, took care of the animal. None of the other troupes were willing to stop and help and there was some talk that all the traffic had drawn the attention of the trolls. They rested during the night and woke next day, letting the stock (slaves) out and stretching their legs. Duncan was working on the pony and when he was done – called for the group to gather up and get ready to go.
Pahal (one of the slavers) was missing so they looked for him. When they found him near here, he was covered with a half dozen of those blood drinking birds. Tried to drive them off then Duncan yelled and the three slaves were shouting. Ran back and there were 4 of those trolls tearing the wagon apart and ruining the place. Duncan was torn open and they began eating his guts. Lars ran along with Milus and Bors (two other slavers) and the trolls gave chase. Lars slipped into a shallow stone cave and his friends were attacked and then when he thought he was safe enough he tried to sneak back and stumbled into 3 of those stirges who attacked him.
Lars ran and ran and a troll caught him briefly and tore two of his fingers free but he shoved his sword into the monsters throat and took off hoping to find at least one of the ponies still alive so he could mount it and escape.
Finding out he was a slaver cooled the party's interest in Lars but between his begging and Karis' opinion of right/wrong – it was decided he would go back and stand trial. And as Lars had said – there were FOUR trolls. And the party only faced two. It was time to GO!!!
We made it to Crispani's Vale and the ponies were led to the water to drink while Zoltan stayed on the ridge top and kept a weather eye out. And good thing he did as he noticed a troll sneaking down slope and through the trees towards the party. He called out a warning and Karis charged uphill, a fresh lance at the ready. Lars and Detheron were rapidly relimbering the ponies to the wagons while Gwyn was readying multiple crossbows with poisoned bolts.
Karis traded blows with the troll and took some wounds for his efforts but he did seriously hurt the beast (along with Zoltan and his new cloak!) driving it into the woods. But another one arrived (number four!) and Karis was forced to deal with it. Group began firing at the one in the trees and hurting it badly, Smokey helping out where able to. Gwyn took a few solid hits from the troll but the party took the beast down and Karis' steed smashed the other trolls sternum to bits and pierced its lungs.
It was after it had died and TRIED to get up again that the group chopped these trolls into bits and Zoltan tried to burn them with his torch where able to. The pieces scattered and ponies ready, hit points pretty much in the toilet (I think Karis had three, Smokey had 13, fodder 4, and Gwyn 14) and no healing – we left the area and made as good of a time as possible.
Around 5 that evening, while watering and feeding the animals, Detheron led the group in a ceremony honoring the fallen dead and we buried Ringo – calling on Frey and other Nordic gods to aid our departed companion on his way into the afterlife. It was a touching moment and the party got a glimpse into Detheron and his piety.
Tired and without humor, we arrived at Orihalcus at 11:30 that night where we were led through the gates. A few of the stablehands helped us unload our things at our flop house and then brought the wagon and steeds back to the stable along with Karis who was going to tend to his own animal. The kobold women weren't sure who they were and thought they were slaves or prisoners but were surprised that they were told to stay here and they were neither. The group passed out and slept until late the next day (about 11 am).
We spoke with Sheriff Phozarn who wanted to verify about the kobold women. The slaver Lars was very open and honest of his crimes (which weren't many) and his company (which WERE many) and was currently in the jails below the courthouse. Sir Walter would meet with the group at 3 that afternoon. The animals would be tended to for now.
We went to the Blue and Dancing Minepick and ate and drank, Hostir (the proprietor) happy to hear of our return. Zoltan paid extra for a scented oil bath, a bather, clothes cleaned, a haircut, and the best food/drink he could get.
We finished up our personal lists of things (very short list) we wanted to get done and then went to speak with Sir Walter where Karis gave the Orihalcan nobleman a truncated reporting of what we had done. There was some haggling and deal making that followed.
The seals would be turned over to Sir Walter and he would find out from Count Cedric what to do with them.
There food stores still at Fulgore Keep were described as well as the new larder code (666) and the party told Sir Walter not only how to get there (map) but to go get what was left soon.
The Ballistas were gifted to Orihalcus.
Lars would stand trial.
Kobold women would stay under the party's protection and Sir Walter oked it.
Three of the ponies were to be donated to the Greengrocer Coalition/Frau Gail.
Stabling fees for the other two ponies/warhorse would be added to the party's remaining bondsmanship agreement as payment for the information regarding Fulgore keep/food stores there.
Kalt is still in town. Sir Walter didn't seem happy about it.
Two bugbears have been seen skulking around – one of them most likely Arnax (has one leg).
The party paid the 10% fee to Sir Walter to cover for the adventuring guild charter.
And that was about where we left it. We went back to our home and split up our remaining money amongst ourselves and talked about what we have and what's to follow next.
Xp was handled REAL fast and the party had enough to go up (some of us JUST enough to go up – my gift to Puck and Gwyn!!).
Adventures. The party has just hit 4th level – and from here on out, there will be a larger disparity in the raising of levels. Each adventure would have to be LONGER if the party expected to go up each time so there will be some natural lulls and breaks in the action where we are at town or wherever and we will not be going up in level. Also some of the party might be going up, while others aren't.