Sunday, April 28, 2013

Savage Midnight: The Crown of Shadow Actual Play Volume 2

Volume 1

The session resumed right after the last one left off, with Thorin and Merwan escaping Redwinde in a hurry, trying to avoid the undead villagers. As they were traveling along, Orcish voices and footsteps caught their attention and the heroes spotted a small patrol moving up the trail. Merwan and Thorin held off, with Thorin going to his hatchets and asking Merwan if they could take the patrol...and Merwan honestly offering that he doubted it. The orcs began speaking to someone small, that the heroes couldn't see...a gnome that glibly deflected the orcs away from the trail with his silver tongue. When the orcs departed, Merwan and Thorin saw that it was, in fact, their former companion Wendell Gale!

Wendell was happy to see Thorin and Merwan, and asked them if the others were off gathering supplies...which Thorin glumly denied. Wendell shook his head solemnly in response. Merwan said that they were trying to reach Redwinde and from there, Baden's Bluff. Wendell said that it would be clear sailing from Swiftwater, due to his family connections.

The trio found themselves walking near the shores of the Ardune, a black, inland sea that is said to have been the location where Izrador fell from the heavens. Merwan explained to Thorin that legend says that his dark taint has corrupted the creatures in the sea. Wendell Gale mentioned that river eels in the Ardune grow so large that they can bite through the hulls of ships. Thorin was thoroughly creeped out by this.

As the group arrived at Swiftwater, Wendell took them straight to Tuk's Tradehouse, where they were greeted by festive gnome partying. Tuk, the loud and goofy owner of the establishment, greeted them from the bar as they entered. As the trio made their way near Tuk, Merwan said they needed a place to Tuk immediately pulled them to the back room, where his clownish demeanor vanished.

Inside the back room, Tuk asks Wendell how long it's been since he's been back to the river...and glumly has to tell Wendell that orcs have savagely attacked and slaughtered gnomes of the Gale family, killing and enslaving them because of rumors that the Gales had been aiding Elven spies. Wendell was rocked by this and Tuk told the group that he would hide them...but that they were not to say another word to him about their mission. He led them out of the Tradehouse and into a shed...where he revealed a trap door and led them underground. The storage room opened into a grain bin, which opened into a sprawling wine cellar that house three halfling slaves: Podrick, Kimball and Fergus. Though they all looked beaten and malnourished, Fergus looked the worst, missing an eye. He explained that the leader of a goblin work crew took his he took the goblin's. The slaves were in hiding, waiting to slip out to the plains and join up with a nomadic halfling tribe.

The food and drink and revelry above eventually proved too much for Thorin, and he went upstairs and joined in the fun, partying with the gnomes. After hours of lighthearted fun, a gnome burst into the tradehouse and announced that "company" was coming. Thorin tried to run for the back door but was too slow, so Fergus pulled him behind the bar. Thorin and Fergus sat, cramped under the bar, listening to the goblins act like they ran the place. Tuk asked Jaerik, leader of the goblins, what happened to his eye, and Thorin caught the reference to Fergus and his attack. After a few hours of listening to the goblins do whatever they wanted, Thorin nearly got pushed to the breaking point when he heard Jaerik announce that he was calling it an early night he wanted Tuk to get his daughter from the he and his "boys" could have a good night. Once the goblins were gone, Thorin exploded into a rage and asked Tuk where they took his daughter. This led to a tense standoff between the two as Tuk refused to give him any information, informing him that "this is the way things are". Thorin finally took off into the streets of Swiftwater, but failed to find the goblins' trail. (Bad Tracking roll. If he had decided to get Merwan first, there's a really good chance this would have turned into a two on twelve fight.)

Tuk later brought Captain Horace of the High Cloud Trading Family to meet with the group, and Horace said that he would take them to Erenhead and beyond...his sister had married into the Gale family and he felt honorbound to take the group on into the Sea of Pelluria and on to Baden's Bluff. He told the group to meet him in two days, just before dawn, and they would depart. Wendell told Thorin and Merwan that he wanted to stay see this through. His family had been ruined, so he felt that he must. Fergus also said that he wanted to contribute in any way that he could. Thorin asked if he was sure, noting how dangerous the path was, but Fergus said that he had lived a life of captivity, and that wounding his goblin slavemaster had placed a horrible mark on him, so Thorin and Merwan agreed.

The night before departure, Thorin had another dream, in which he was running in the open plains. The Witch Queen's voice warned him that "The Hunter Is Coming" and a large wolf tackled him to the ground! As Thorin sat up on his bedroll, he heard the sounds of growling in the shadows. Two of Tuk's dogs were stalking Thorin! They lunged in to attack as he readied his hatchets, biting into him as he yelled out to his allies! Thorin moved quickly, however, hacking the two dogs down. Wendell had just awoken in time to see Thorin hack the dogs down and two ethereal, demonic forms hover over Thorin, sneering, before vanishing.

The group were quite dismayed at this revelation, that something had somehow possessed Tuk's dogs and attacked Thorin. The group decided to head for Horace early. Horace explained to them that whenever they reached checkpoints, the group would have to head to The Hole, a crawlspace inside the ships. They would also have to hide anything enchanted in a "dead zone" created by Horace. The first checkpoint wasn't a problem...but when they reached Erenhead, the group was forced to hide in the Hole for an entire day and a half, with their sweat mixing with their waste. It took impressive willpower to not snap and run from The Hole due to hunger and exhaustion, but the group held. (I gave Fergus a bonus due to his slave upbringing and Thorin had to benny his roll in order to avoid retreating. Merwan did fine.)

Once they hit open sea, Thorin righted himself quickly to avoid motion sickness. Horace spotted "The Mouth of Pelluria" nearby, a vast whirlwind in the Sea of Pelluria that humans call "The Maw", which moves through the sea and drags down ships indiscriminately. The ship cut free from it, and back towards Baden's Bluff. The call came out, once more, and the group departed to The Hole...because the ship was being boarded. The group listened in silence as orcs paraded around on the boat, along with a human inspector. The group heard an argument between a gnome and the inspector...and the gnome was viciously cut down by an orc. The orcs bellowed loudly and threatened to tear the ship apart, but Thorin and his allies held fast and Horace defused the situation. After the group went back above deck, Horace explained that THIS is the reality of the gnomes' war against The Shadow.

When the group arrived at Baden's Bluff, Horace told them to seek aid at Ail's Quayhouse, and to tell Ail that they were members of his crew. As they ventured into the city, rain began pouring down on them. Even Thorin, not the most perceptive of beings, spotted the hulking giant of a man following them, openly brandishing a large, two-handed sword. Though the rain was battering down on his bald head, he seemed unbothered by it. Thorin had noticed that Merwan had affected a sinister air as well and was brandishing his bow openly.

Thorin was so busy watching the giant behind him that he bumped into an orc and nearly dropped his hatchet. The orc snarled at Thorin, who hunched over to avoid his stares, but Merwan stood between them and explained that his "uncle" has "bad eyes" and is "twisted by disease". The orc recoiled and moved on.

Moments later, the group heard the orc arguing with someone behind them, and turned to find that he was ordering the giant man to relinquish his weapon. Multiple orcs had begun to surround him! Thorin told Merwan "You've been itchin' to shoot somebody"...and these poor, heroic travelers who have had to hold their tongues - and their weapons - for several days now refused to hold any longer...with Thorin charging the orcs and Merwan firing an arrow past him. Wendell mostly went for cover as the giant was swarmed by orcs but took their best blows, and Merwan fired a point blank arrow into the face of one orc.

Fergus distracted an orc from the rooftops, leaving an opening for Thorin to take out a pair of orcs. Once the fighting was done, and it was done quickly, and the group immediately scattered before the authorities could get involved.

They regrouped at Ail's Quayhouse, where Merwan introduced Thorin to Wallace of the House Dale, a Dornish warrior whose hatred of the Shadow overrides his common sense. As the group drank their ale and began to plan their next move, Wendell spotted something on the bottom of Thorin's mug and they examined the markings closely...realizing they were looking at a map...of the Baden's Bluff sewers! The group headed into the sewers and followed the tunnels until they emptied out onto the western shores for the Pellurian Sea...and an elf that looked disgusted to be there.

The promised aid from the Witch Queen had arrived.

NOTES: Midnight is a "low profile" kind of setting and I was seriously pushing Tommy's buttons tonight. If he had made that Tracking roll after the Tradehouse incident, things probably would have gotten very ugly, very quickly. We probably have one more session left of the Crown of Shadows (and it won't be next week, as I have a comic book convention to attend), and then we'll be taking a Savage Midnight hiatus, but we're both sure we wanna come back to it. We're just having too much fun.

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