Sometimes the party gets used to the DM and can start to interpret their tricks, tics, foibles, pacing...you name it. It happens, you interact with someone for a year or so, it's going to occur.
This was the 1st half of the penultimate fight (would have loved to have it been the entire night, but the party had a great time larping and experimenting with the wards for the beginning of the meeting) and the first time the party would see Tehpaguar in action. I had set up a decent (although underpowered) force against the party with the last of the dregs that Tehpaguar had at his beck and call.
One of my friends (who still should just come out and roll up a character and play!) visited this night and instead of giving him silly voices and NPC's to play, I gave him control of EVERY enemy on the board except for Tehpaguar. So it was the party against two DM's.
I'd like to think that because of the random and unknown element that Dan brought to the table, Tehpaguar's forces were more effective against the group than if it was just myself. I do strive to be fair and neutral - and do not consider myself a "killer DM" - but it was a thrill to see the group fall victim to the same "scattering" tactics that they so often perform against the enemy. Rule # 6: don't separate!
Write up follows:
It's Workmonth the 12th about 4:30 when we reconvened. We are standing around the warded demesne of Caer Dargan, near the ruined encampment the druids had arranged to the north of the great hill, and discussing what was to come when the wards came down and what our plans would be.
There was much discussion for a while until the party began questioning what ways there were to get in, at, or around the scintillating ward that surrounded the Caer. There was a furrow dug in a circle, and in that furrow was what appeared to be blocks of stone (small, about twice the size of a standard brick) each of them touching the one on either side, and each one covered with some sort of scrawled writing or runework.
And then the party began thinking of ways to get inside. Dead elves were thrown against the field. Nothing happened. Water was poured on the field, and it went through! Rocks were thrown at the field, and they bounced off. And then Detheron used his boar spear and decided to jab at the stones at the base of the furrow. A blast of electricity followed and there was a SPAK-OW! noise and when the light stopped flaring, Detheron was 15' back, smoking, his boar spear hurled MUCH further away, and our druid friend had developed a slurring speech impediment.
Ok. Don't touch the rocks. Got it.
More tests and things were done. A rock was thrown upwards and on top of the field over the keep. Arrows were fired at it. Water was poured right ON the rocks – making them hiss and bubble and steam. Karis borrowed Gwyn's pick and dug himself a hole next to the rock furrow, down about a foot or two and then threw a rock INTO the hole. It stuck in the clay like soil. Party was like, well, that's nice, but how do you know if you are UNDER the ward or not? So Karis decided to poke around under the ground and stuff and then SPAK-OW! he was on his ass, electrified, and sporting an interesting way to talk.
The group discussed the possible where-fors and why-nots of the hole while Zoltan stayed away and hoped the druid's inside weren't watching as they would be embarrassed to get their asses kicked by our interesting group of partially inept peoples.
Evian went through her spell list again and settled on some small tweaks and changes and the party had Amal and Osgar chop up the cold-fire hydras to look for "the gland that makes the fire come out – or anything that looks like it didn't belong". The two orcs had a good time separating the hydra parts into two piles and there was some experimenting – but the party had no idea what they were looking for and the hydra's internal organs were not labeled accordingly so there was no organ discovered.
About 6 PM we cleaned up the last of our meal and checked weapons and what not. Some last healing was given out and the group made their way toward the "entrance" of the Caer to wait for the ward to drop. But the ground began to quiver. Once. Then again. And again. And again.
And then a roaring challenge came from the base of the hill where the crack of timber and swaying of trees revealed a 30' tall walking elm tree. It was huge, its stride shook the ground, and it tilted its "head" back and roared up at us as it swept uphill uncannily fast. Riding on the top of it was a single tree-sprite, pointing at the party and laughing as she goaded the treant towards us.
The group drew up into a battle line with Gwyn taking front along with Karis, many of the others getting what spells and fire they had available. Torches went out and the group got ready and then just before the treant got into melee range, Gwyn held aloft Blossombane and willed the wand to work. The treant slowed and stopped, its will battering the dwarf's as he struggled to keep the massive tree at bay.
Kalarig shot the fairy riding high above, nailing her even though she had turned invisible. Oil was hurled and axes plied and fires lit and the frozen treant quivered and railed and roared and shuddered – but the will of the dwarf and the magic of the wand held it frozen. We crowded around its base and used the last of our oil to set its midsection on fire while Evian spell blasted it with her spark wand and the orcs hacked at its bottom with axes.
The fairy was slain and Gwyn was losing hit points, the pain in his hands growing as the wand consumed more and more of his life force. Just as the mighty tree was wavering, its lower portion badly burned and hacked up weakly, the good dwarf relaxed his will and the frozen treant's limbs snapped side to side punishingly. Karis was knocked on his back and bashed, while Amal and Detheron ducked low and ran, but Osgar caught the brunt of the treant's arm swing and was hurled like a broken doll out of the battle where he landed unmoving, his midsection torn open. Damn it.
Amal ran (on Detheron's orders) to help Osgar while the druid tried to back away. Karis swarmed to his feet and charged to the right to stand near Evian. Arrows were shot and slings slung, but the treant turned its crown upward and roared out again – a tremendous rippling blast that ricocheted down the hill. And one of the 35' tall oaks about half way down the hillside quivered and tore itself out of the ground – stalking up the hill to do battle with us.
Damn it. That wasn't good.
The party redoubled their efforts against the one treant, struggling to take it down before the other tree could arrive. It was a mighty application of spell, sword, and fang and swiftly the treant was toppled over and the other tree walking towards us slowed, rerooted itself, and returned to a normal oak once again.
Detheron went to Osgar who was dying, where he was stabilized the orc as much as possible. As he was breaking out the healing kit and readying to bandage the brave orc's wounds, the wards around Caer Dargan fell with the setting sun and we were facing (at 60' or so away) a number of angry looking foes at the Caer's entrance.
There were two wild elves clad in traditional druidic fetishes and three more were better armed and armored with clubs and stout shields and hide skin armor. Three treesprites were here, flitting about and grim faced. Two wolves were visible. But it was the 6' tall green haired and tattooed wild elf with the golden sickle at what seemed to be a writhing and moaning 13 year old girl's throat that captured our attention. Arrows were readied and Kalarig poisoned one of his missiles. And the wild elf, Tehpaguar said simply, "You don't know what you are doing."
The girl he was holding onto began to gibber and whimper and suddenly her clenched hand produced flame which happened to set Tehpaguar's skirt on fire right at his crotch. The knife cut upward and sliced into her chin and some blood spilled onto the ground and there was a rippling wave of energy that WHOOSHED out and swept through the forest while some sort of horrendous wail filled the air – the same thing the party heard the other nights in the forest. That was as good a signal to start a fight as any!
Zoltan blew the wolf whistle and the animals turned side and ran to the thief. The tree sprites turned invisible. Kalarig shot Tehpaguar. The group ran forward. Detheron left Osgar here to attend to the battle, hoping the orcish fighter would survive the next few minutes until he could heal him properly. Spells were hurled, arrows fired. The wolves and Fodder assaulted forward while two of the wild elf fighters defended Tehpaguar who was standing there with the girl and struggling to keep her in place.
A ball of fire 6' in diameter appeared under on the druidic wild elves and Detheron caused it to sweep across the enemy line. The wild elves cast spells on themselves to suppress the fire's damage. Party swarmed closer. Invisible fairies popped into view and fired small bolts of lightning and ice at the party before disappearing again. Kalarig took a LUCKY shot – firing through the thickening melee and past 7 intervening people to peg Tehpaguar from 120' distance. The enemy druid caused tens of thousands of swarming ants, beetles, and crawling insects to boil out of the ground and sweep towards the archer.
The following blows from the rolling ball of fire no longer affected the enemy druids who assaulted some of the wolves with enchanted clubs and strength. The party ran onward in an effort to take down Tehpaguar. More fairies fired spell bolts and the group struggled back and forth – too many enemies spread too far across the board.
And then Tehpaguar shouted to the heavens and was rewarded by a 30' tall column of flame that burst from the ground under Karis, Smokey, and two of the wolves – the flame strike horrible hurting the heroic melee fighters. Karis cried out the words to his ring and the last of the healing shot off and the half ogre fought on, hacking the nearest wild elf druid down and stalking forward to take out the next.
The druid leader called out to the sky and this time there was an implosion of air and a mighty leonine griffon appeared. The monster snapped out at one of the wolves and killed it, and then tore into Fodder and the mighty war wolf fell over. More fairies tried to ice and lightning blast the party but they were being taken down by arrow and steel one at a time. One of the wild elf fighters tackled one of the few wolves remaining that was nipping at Tehpaguar's heels and grappled with the dangerous animal. Detheron was able to heal Smokey's wounds with a well timed spell. The insect swarm washed over Zoltan in its quest and effort to get to Kalarig, causing the gypsy to curse miserably.
Amal had gotten close enough and tossed the knight his only potion of healing before leaping at Tehpaguar with axe held high. The two of them fought briefly before the druid slapped his hand against the orc's skin and caused a horrible leprous disease to appear and suck his strength and life away. The girl (Lavender) was placed on the griffon's back and Tehpaguar clambered on next, calling out to the beast in his language. The griffon began to run across the ground and flap its wings.
Karis broke off with the last wild elf he was fighting and chased after the rising griffon, leaping at the last moment to wrap his right arm and hand around the beasts' leg and his left arm scrambling to get a grip on the animal's flank. Evian charged afterwards, her wand drawn and feet pumping in an effort to get closer. Karis was dangling just off the ground with the griffon struggling to get airborne.
Tehpaguar cast some spell and the griffon suddenly swelled in size, now capable of lifting itself AND the prodigious bulk of the half ogre off the ground. Evian fired her sparking wand from below and the griffon screeched in pain. Karis lost his sword and drew a dagger, trying to stab at the griffon but his grip was compromised and he slipped down until he was hanging on by both hands at the griffon's ankle.
Tehpaguar had the griffon fly back toward the keep's wall and soar over it…just.
Karis swung himself and tried to clear the crenellated parapet but failed and slammed into it, knocking stone work away to crash into the courtyard, but still maintaining his tiring grip on the monstrous creature. The party charged forward to enter the courtyard of Caer Dargan, the last two defenders retreating into the keep itself. Detheron laid his hands on Fodder and the severely wounded war wolf was able to rise back to its shaky feet and trot along panting and exhausted. A precious cure disease was cast on Amal, halting the ravaging effect of the leprous cancer that was eating the orc alive. The group mustered what they had left and charged the keep to try to help Karis who was struggling to hold onto the thrashing griffon.
Tehpaguar cast some spell on himself, grabbed Lavender, and LEAPT from the griffon's back to soar safely across the sky and land at the keep's doorway where the two wild elf fighter's were standing with clubs ready and faces grim. The griffon looked like it was going to take Karis on a ride back into the wall, but the half-ogre chanced to drop 20' from its feet and fell to the ground below where he landed with a roll and a crunch and staggered back to his feet. At 2 hit points.
Bats are swarming at the top of the Caer's inner building and the group is doing what they could to join Karis before he has to face the druid or the wild elves or the bats or whatever might still be up Tehpaguar's sleeve alone.
We ended it here. It's about 6:40 on Workmonth the 12th and the sun has set, the sky is darkening. We are gathered and gathering just inside the courtyard of Caer Dargan at the last moments (we hope) of the long struggle against the Circle of Thorns and the druids who we have been tasked to exact the blood oath against. Great job everyone.