Blood on the Rocks

From Gresünd to Stag's Charge Hill Farm

As you sit down, one of them (long blond mustache that goes below his chin on each side) looks at you with a sour expression but doesn’t say anything. The other guard (jet black hair, thick eyebrows) looks friendly as any normal person, and says, “Well, Dax, you couldn’t have picked a better time. We sure need it. We’ve been seeing a lot of action lately. So if you’re expecting to stand around and nurse a hangover on the castle walls, you can forget about that! Helhar’s a stand-up guy. Do what he says, don’t fool around, and stay on his good side, and he’ll do you right. Don’t ask for special treatment. If you’re joining tomorrow, you’re the last man on the totem pole. Don’t forget that. Where are you coming from? Never seen you before.”

“I travel a lot, and I’ve never called a single place “home” [suuuuuper dude]. I’m excited to see what this town offers."

The guard with the jet black hair and thick eyebrows scoffs and says, “Well, if it’s excitement you’re looking for, you can keep looking beyond Gresünd, my friend.” He looks at the other guard, who rolls his eyes. “But I suppose it depends what you find exciting. Anyway, you’ll see for yourself soon enough. But hey—welcome to the guard corps,” and he raises his stein to clink against yours, and so does the other guard, following his lead.

Thesdiah finishes up with the small talk, drinks, and heads back to room to lay low til morning. Then off to report for duty.

The next day you meet Helhar, who takes your 30 gp and goes over the basics—rules, guard hierarchies, procedures, checks your equipment, etc. It’s not as rigorous as a modern military organization by any means; more like a militia. You learn that there are about 80-100 men in the Gresünd guard, organized into three shifts throughout the day, and spread out across an area of roughly 20 miles, with most guards employed in the areas 1 mile from the city, followed by guards in the city itself, and then the third and smallest category being those who are stationed in the outlying areas, patrolling the hamlets and roads somewhat irregularly and in sparse numbers, acting more as armed messengers and scouts than as serious enforcers. Your first assignment is to go with two other relatively new recruits to the hamlet of Dirst to collect a tithe of pork and grain for the castle and come back the next day. It is entirely uneventful.

On the second day, however, Helhar gathers the men of the second shift together, just as you are returning from a day’s travel. Next to him is a rough-and-tumble-looking man in deerskin armor whom Helhar introduces as a ranger named Falah. Once about 30 men are gathered around the interior court of the castle, Helhar turns to Falah, who then announces:

“Hear ye, men of Gresünd! It’s troll mating season, and a pair of males have moved into the area southeast of here and are fighting over a female, on the back fields of a farm called Stag’s Charge Hill. The farmers and their slaves have stopped work and are holed up in their houses and unable to work until these trolls have moved out of the area. Unfortunately, this rivalry process will usually last several days, after which the winner will mate with the female, and build a burrow on the spot throughout the entire gestation period. This means ravaging the surrounding areas for food and building supplies—for which unguarded human settlements are perfect candidates. There is also the possibility that this will drive lesser, but still hostile, animals away from their native habitats and into other human areas. Wolves, bears, kobolds, and other pests are likely to be on the move and looking for new sources of food and shelter during this period. We need about twenty volunteers to go look into the situation. By ‘look into,’ I mean ‘drive away these trolls.’ Now I’m sure none of you have ever seen a troll.”
He looks around at the faces in the crowd in front of him, and most of the men avert their eyes, some dip their heads, though a few of the youngest ones seem to gaze proudly ahead, unabashed, though whether from courage or naïveté you aren’t sure.
“Trolls are fearsome and fearless creatures. They can be as tall as a barn, and should you be so lucky as to wound one, their wounds will usually close up again before your very eyes. The only known way to kill them for good is to burn them. [Tom to Mike: acid is not readily available here; most people in this area probably don’t know it exists, like liquid nitrogen to us today.]”
As a murmur of apprehension rises up from all around, Helhar speaks up:
“Any man who returns from this duty having driven away the trolls will receive one puncheon of mead [that’s 80 gallons] and 10 gp for his effort, plus one week of paid furlough upon his return. Who’s with me?”
Suddenly, several hands begin to shoot up; it looks like he’ll have his twenty men within a few seconds.

Ooh ooh, Mr. Kotter, pick me!

Thesdiah throws up his hand (warf!). He’s ready to take on a troll … with a shakily-wielded long sword.

You’re going to go with just a long sword?

Yeppers. Wanna lay low a bit.

Helhar says that you’ll leave (you and 19 others) tomorrow at dawn. The hamlet of Stag’s Charge Hill is a day’s travel from Gresünd, which should allow you to arrive just before sunset to make camp a safe distance away, and allow Falah (the ranger) to assess the situation from there overnight.
In the meantime, you spend an almost sleepless night in the inn, tossing and turning with strange dreams. You dream that you’ve been caught by hunters in a net in the forest and then beaten with their bare hands. You dream that you’re running through fields, but that your legs aren’t actually carrying you forward. You keep hearing the word “gum” or “crumb” or “clump” repeated in your head. In the middle of the night, you wake up feeling lonely, angry, but also mentally focused … and also ravenously thirsty and hungry in spite of having eaten and drunk as normal only a few hours before. You eat some dry rations and drink some water, but though your belly feels very full, the hunger and thirst remain. Eventually you walk downstairs where a few stray revelers are still drinking and making merry, and the mood in the room changes instantly. Two of the drunks stop singing, and their facial expressions turn to complete sobriety. One of them stands up and picks up a chair. “You slept with my Bovit, you bastard!” he shouts at his friend who, just seconds before, had been reveling with him. His friend pulls out a knife and holds it out, threateningly. You feel for a second that you, too, have been wronged by these men, and by everybody, and then you feel a sharp pain like a bolt of lightning go through your skull, and you steady yourself on a table, and then it’s all over. The drunks stand there in place, bewildered, ashamed, sweating. You feel a cold sweat yourself, and no desire to hurt anybody. Just confusion. “What the—?” says the first drunk. He puts down the chair. You stand up again. They sit back down and bury their faces into their tankards, clearly embarrassed. You feel embarrassed yourself, and for them as well.
As you walk back upstairs, you notice that you don’t feel hungry or thirsty anymore. Eventually, you manage to fall asleep, for only a few hours, before it’s time to get up again and meet with the band of volunteers at the castle. (You don’t gain any hp, if you’re wounded.)
By the way, what are your abilities?

Str 10
Dex 7
Con 11
Int 12
Wis 10
Cha 15

Thesdiah is/was down from 10 hp to 6 hp, but I’m not sure if that was from long ago.

Only two days have passed in the entire campaign, so you probably have 6hp.

Meh. 6 hp does not a real warrior make.

The following morning, somewhat groggy, you meet the company of volunteers at Castle Gresünd. They are a miscellaneous band of twenty hardy men from ages 20 to 45 in armor ranging from studded leather to splint mail, with swords, axes, maces, and about half with short bows. You head out for a day’s journey southeast of town, through rough cart paths, fields, light woods, and farmland. Falah, the ranger who is reading the expedition, decides to make camp 500 yards from the farm of Stag’s Charge Hill at dusk, to give time to scout out the current situation at the farm. He appoints two young men in light armor whom he seems to know already to go with him, while the rest of your party remains behind at the camp, waiting for his return. He says he should be back within two hours.

However, three hours pass, with no sign of any of the scouts. Several of the men are clearly getting antsy.

Thesdiah is hanging tight and waiting to see what the men do.

- don’t want to be a noncommittal douche, but Thesdiah really wants to be a nobody at this point. Trident skewering just happened.

Cool. Got it.

So after about another hour or so, during which time several voices call for going after the scouts, several others suggest waiting until daybreak, and yet others propose returning to Gresünd, one particularly charismatic individual named Lyss Enupyawl manages to sway the general opinion toward charging en masse into the farm, with the hope of surprising the trolls. They then all do this, while you stay behind a tree licking your wounds and wincing as you hear the distant muffled sounds of wailing and the tearing of soft flesh. After about an hour or so, you hear the approaching sound of a sputtering, wet organ gasping for air against the pressure of lungs flooded with saliva and blood, and turn to see a single young man crawling on the ground toward you with what remain of his legs grating away behind him in a mush of red mud and excoriated muscle. He opens his mouth as if to speak some desperate, final words to you before collapsing in the turf, but in the effort his half-unhinged jaw swings off its one remaining socket, and you watch in horror as the bottom of his mouth deflates into a formless sack of skin, and his throat gurgles forth a dollop of scarlet chyme in the place of intelligible speech, upon which he crumbles into the earth, dead.

But right before all that actually doesn’t happen, a somewhat charismatic soldier named Velt proposes a quick vote on the party’s course of action:

1) Send another 3 scouts after the first 3;
2) All approach farm, though cautiously, en masse;
3) Wait until daybreak

(I’m going to roll to see what other people vote, so I don’t know what’s going to happen either.)

Without a rousing speech or anything like that, Thez votes for approaching en masse.

And if that name you tossed out isnt an anagram, I’ll be a toothless cotton-picker. “Pussy” is staring at me from that mess of vowels and consonants.

Nice Warhammer crit description.

Ha ha—not an anagram, but just a “say-it-out-loud-agram.”

The vote comes out as follows:
Option 1 (send 3 more scouts): 6 votes (out of 17 total)
Option 2 (approach cautiously en masse): 9 votes, including Thesdiah’s
Option 3 (return to Gresünd): 2 votes
A vigorous hubbub of argument follows the taking of the votes, between the
partisans of the first option and those of the second, and eventually a general consensus is reached, whereby every man will approach the farm cautiously, though in two waves, spaced 100 yards apart from each other. You are assigned to the second wave, seeing as you are wounded. The 2 men who voted to leave are very reluctant to join in on this plan, but ultimately some of the other men manage to convince them that they would be more in danger returning by themselves, since there are wolves, bears, brown bunglers, leaflings, savages, kobolds, elm hags, orcs, hobgoblins, mosquitoes, bandits, and the chance of getting lost. So they fall in with the second wave as well.
Wave 1: led by Velt, a seasoned soldier, consisting of 8 men, all of whom have short or long bows.
Wave 2: led by Thed Meatwaster, another long-time member of the Gresünd town guard, though also reputed to be a bit of a hangnail and malingerer.
Velt and Thed Meatwaster appoint themselves—with general approval—as 1st and 2nd in command of this mission, and order that the operation begin at dawn. In the meantime, the party camps overnight, without incident.
In the morning, you all set out toward the farm. When the first wave sees no sign of obvious activity, they motion to the second wave to approach and join them, where you see the situation as depicted in the map (attached).
The party hears some cries for help from a group of humans who tell you that they are safely shut up in the chapel, and inform you that some others have been forced to take refuge in their homes, though nothing is known about their fate yet. They say that the trolls had made a wreck of an old stone silo across the stream at the edge of the settlement, and have burrowed their way into the ground, though at least one troll has been seen to emerge regularly to steal and hoard provisions from the town, including all of the livestock. Velt concludes from this that there may in fact be more than 2 or 3 trolls, given the amount of livestock taken, but nobody is sure.
Do you make any suggestions, or allow the NPCs to devise a plan on their own?

Mosquitos?! Fuck it. I’m out.

Thesdiah approaches Velt: “Let’s surround the silo with all men and any chapel-dwellers who will fight. Then torch the place and slaughter the creatures as they attempt to exit.”
Velt says, “That sounds to me like a very brave and forthright plan. But our three men who went missing last night might be among them, and we can’t risk burning them out like that.”

“Those men are as good as dead, sadly. I don’t think we can afford to take on these beasts on equal footing. It will be a massacre. Sometimes the best choice isn’t the pretty one. Fire is our best choice.”

Velt considers your proposal for a few minutes, and then comes back to you and asks if you would go to the chapel and try to convince as many able-bodied men to join your party as possible. Meanwhile, he discusses the plan of surrounding the silo and torching the dugout with the rest of the party.
What exactly do you say to the people in the chapel?

Thesdiah approaches the chapel and bangs on the door.
[I have door-banging]
“Hey, listen up! I come with many brave men to rid our woods and meadows of this troll menace. We have swords and resolve, but we need your help. Come forth and help us face these beasts. We will torch their den and smite them as they run. Thirty minutes. Meet by the well.”

You hear a man cry from behind the door, “Wait! Wait! Please don’t leave us! We have a few strong men who can help, but please wait here while we get ready.”

Tdogg ignores the request and heads for the well. On the way, he attempts to gather the others.

As you head back to the main group, you see many of the men busily engaged in gathering materials for and/or building a crude pallissade of torches around the barrow, while others stand guard with bows or crossbows, looking very nervous.
How long do you wait?

Forty five mins. If no chapel help, we oil up (if present) and torch the troll lair.

Sooooo hot!

Haha. Oil up the (to be) affected area. Not our bodies a la spartan warriors, silly.

You wait for about 10 minutes by the well, and then three men (ages 19, 28, and 45, roughly) with grain flails and machetes bolt out the front door of the chapel and run toward you, obviously very scared.

“Gammel’s coming too!” they yell to you. “He’s getting his boots on!”

You wait another minute or so, but just then you see from across the river a huge, 10-foot-tall gorilla-like monster with gray fur burst out of the barrow hole in a flash, and scoop up in its claw one of the men who are lighting the palisade of torches. A volley of arrows and crossbow bolts fires into the creature, but it seems to barely notice. Your immediate impression is that this rag-tag army is unprepared for this creature, at least in the first minute. You turn to the three men assembled at your side, and see that the two younger ones have started running back into the chapel.

Is there a way to light up a line of fire between me and the troll?

What do you mean “light up a line of fire”?

Hmmm. We don’t have a line of oil and/or torches established yet?

No. You went off to recruit some people from the chapel, and in that time they just started gathering materials and putting up a few stakes with torches on them around the barrow. You’re not standing over there; you’re at the well in the center of the farm.

Sorry. Hard to picture with all the time between our posts and no table/map action. Bear with me.

So where is the magic shield exactly? Near the well?

:)

No missile weapons. This is bad.

Thesdiah sees a grim situation unfolding and retreats to the chapel. Frontal assault looks like suicide. Blech.

He will try to gather a few men along the way.

Tobit wouldn’t be singing songs of heroism about Thesdiah at this point.

Ok. The farmers in the chapel let you in, and bar the door behind you. They lead you into the chapel basement, which is big enough to contain about 100 people, and is almost filled to capacity by people of all ages—from babies to the elderly. They look frightened, though less than bat-shit panicking.

The middle-aged man who had stood with you at the well for a minute (the one who didn’t run as soon as the monster appeared) comes in and shuts the door behind you. Suddenly, voices from the farmers all clamor together:

“What is it?”
“How does it look out there?”
“Who are you?”
“How many of you are there?”
“Did you see Bebbly?”
“What are you doing?”
“Is it outside?”
“Can we leave?”
“My baby!”
“What are you gonna do?”
“My hogs!”

How does Thesdiah feel right now? Also, roll a d20.

Oh, there’s no “along the way” … the action is over 100 ft to the south, and the chapel is about 30 ft to the east. (I’ll have to go look at the map to give you exact figures.)

Oh, my bad. So the chapel’s just about 100 ft to the East, and the barrow, where the rest of your party is feeding—er—tackling the monster is about 210 ft. Southeast, across a 10 ft. stream (attaching the map w/those positions marked).

This doesn’t look good.

Thesdiah runs back. Like to town. Not worth the money. The writing is on the wall. But he plans on hiding right outside town til he can slip in, retrieve tridents, and bolt. Better safe than at negative ten hit points.

Lemme know if he even gets out of this fray.

Yeah, so everyone’s asking you questions. Do you literally turn and run out the door?
One thing to note: the coast looked clear to get out of there and everything, but you don’t necessarily know how to get to town (no clear roads; definite roll for chance of getting lost). Do you have Direction Sense?

Also, I was serious when I asked how Thesdiah was feeling. And to roll a d20.

Elm hags do worry me, but Thesdiah might risk getting lost, if it means avoiding becoming troll-food.

Rolled a “4” on 1d20.

As the clamor of the farm people asking questions and anxiously begging information from you swells around you, you find you can barely see outside your own mind, as if your surroundings were viewed through a piece of thin cloth. Your heart is beating fast, and the blood seems to leave your skin and collect in your stomach. The more you focus inwardly on the danger and the overload of sensation, the cries from the farmers pick up in intensity—you feel and see some of them clutching at your arms and clothes, almost pulling you to the ground, and shouting into your face, “Where’s Dilba?! What are we going to do?! Are you with the king?! Kill it! Kill it! We can’t take it anymore!” Your vision goes completely dark for a moment as you hear some of the women’s cries turn to screams in the back of the crowd, and all of the babies begin to howl as if they were being stabbed. For a brief second you hear a deep, gruff voice in your head say something—something brief but incomprehensible—and then you hear a squeal like an animal makes when its paw is stepped on, and you collapse to the ground.

You awaken in that same basement, laid upon a straw pallet and surrounded by farmers leaning over you. They are no longer hysterical, but have returned to an even keel of worry and concern. When you ask how long you’ve been there and what happened, a youngish woman kneeling by your side and dousing your forehead with a rag soaked in vinegar says, “You just fainted about ten minutes ago. Like someone had clubbed you over the head suddenly. Are you alright?”

(You feel a cold sweat, but otherwise totally fine, physically.)

Oooh, Neato. This plus that night in town equals LYCANTHROPY is starting up slowly. Bring it on!

Ha ha … stab yourself with a silver weapon and see if it hurts.

“I’ll be fine. Thanks. Now give me some specifics. How many of you are here? Any of you have weapons? There is a troll up there, and it’s causing lots of trouble.”

They start a count and come back with 15 men ages 14-73; 19 women ages 14-81; and 41 children. They have some daggers, clubs, staves, grain flails, a couple of short swords, a sledgehammer, and 2 Tridents +4 Troll Slayer, but the boy who found the latter in the woods refuses to let go of them.

They say they knew about the troll, and that it already ate much of their livestock and that some of the people are missing, including some young children (4 adults, 5 children).

“Is there any other way out of here? Or anyplace that could be made to be another way out?

There are three doors on the ground floor of the chapel (North, West, and South), but nothing but dirt behind the walls of the basement of the chapel where you are currently.

Much failing.

You don’t see any immediate threats or anything, though. You were just outside ten minutes ago, 200 ft from the action.

“Here’s what I’m thinking. It’s chaos up there, and it’s obvious we don’t stand a chance against those beasts. Maybe a few of us can make a run for Gresund and return with livestock to use as bait while we clear out of this place.”

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