Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Time of the Tarrasque #15: Give Me a Clear Charge Line

Our heroes include:

  • Edel Naergon, high elf bard (archivist) 3.
  • Fatou, human wizard (evoker) 2/cleric of Yaziel 1; and Nochaesh, owl familiar.
  • Jumari Boneface, half-orc inquisitor of the Lost Egg 3.
  • ZhaZha, half-orc cavalier (order of the dragon) 3; and Zafira, camel mount.

Last time, our heroes parted ways with the newly reincarnated Jubair, then found Fatou's brother Balban waiting for her at the Temple of the Moon with a letter from their father. After the siblings spent some time catching up, Fatou went to report to her mullah, Jenana Nasrud.

After Fatou finished telling the mullah about her adventure in Spine Hollow, Jubair's death and return, and the news from her family, Jenana was sympathetic to Fatou's strained relationship with her father. She supported Fatou choosing her own path, but also knew how important family ties were.

Since Fatou's last departure from Zahallan, Jenana had led a small group to investigate the death cult shrine that the younger woman and her companions had discovered while traveling with Lucan Midorichal's caravan. They had purified the site to the best of their ability, and the mullah had broached the subject with the imam of the Temple of the Sun to determine what else to do about the site. The mullah's research had yielded more information about the half-orc folk hero Gorza. He was murdered by a legendary assassin, Ras Radaz. This death cultist had eventually been found and slain by a group of Javanian priests, but many of Gorza's signature possessions (such as his black axe and horned armor) had never been recovered.

Fatou shared her party's plan to learn more about the region around the Stairs, so that they could locate the rest of the Ghost Fist orcs. The mullah agreed that the best source of information would be the Burburan Oasis, because that town lies on the same caravan route that goes up the Shalash Escarpment at the Stairs, so they would be the first to hear news of any threats there.

Jenana referred Fatou to the temple's archivist to learn more about the history and religion of giants, so the young wizard gathered her friends and paid that scholar a visit. Mansur, a halfling priest, was intrigued by the stone disk they had found on the dead desert giant's body, and provided a brief lesson on giantish history and religion. An ancient giant civilization once flourished in this part of the world (the continents of Hemut and Iath), but little remained of it by the time humans or halflings ever arrived here. As giantkind grew more diverse, many of them turned away from the balanced worship of all four elemental gods, and only honored the patron of their own subrace. As some giants grew corrupt and evil, so did their religious practices. Many now worship only evil aspects of their subrace's favored god. However, the elemental gods themselves, as worshiped by the earliest giants, were neither good nor evil, but forces of nature. When humans arrived in the Bronze Sea region, found the old giant temples, and began recreating that religion, they followed those older beliefs. If any giants alive today still worship all four gods, as the stone disk suggests, it would be the first time that Mansur had heard of such a thing--and he would dearly love to learn whatever the party is able to discover on the subject!

The young heroes then parted ways briefly, as Fatou visited with the scribe Ashraf, and Edel visited the bowyer Naladella to commission a more accurate [masterwork] bow.

The party then spent the next couple of days preparing for their journey north to the Burburan Oasis, buying tents, rations, and other necessary gear for a desert trek. They agreed to take a detour to visit ZhaZha's people at Gorza's Well, because she wanted to inform people there about the shrine depicting their hero's downfall, and ask around for any additional information that might help her party's quest against the death cult. (Those needs outweighed her concerns about how her friends might be received by the secretive half-orc village. Jumari bought a disguise kit to help make herself less outlandish looking.)

Fatou and Edel decided to split the cost of a camel so that they could keep pace with ZhaZha's steed in the desert, so the cavalier took them to see Kaggath, a half-orc camel trader she knew. ZhaZha then began giving them lessons on how to properly care for the animals.

The party followed the northern caravan route for a couple days before veering away towards Gorza's Well. A day or so later, they encountered a patrol coming from roughly the direction they were heading, with a body slung over one of their camels. These were soldiers from Fort Malakir, just outside Zahallan. They had discovered and killed several hobgoblins, but lost one of their own, and warned that there were almost certainly more in the area. Fatou identified herself as a cleric and offered water and healing to the injured men. They accepted gratefully, and their captain, Nashwan, asked the adventurers' names so he could report their assistance to his commander. The two groups then parted ways.

Shortly after dawn the next day, the party noticed a large number of circling vultures somewhat west of their intended route. Wary about encountering another "Featherclaw," they went in that direction to investigate. What they found was the site of a recent battle, with the corpses of many orcs and hobgoblins--at least a dozen of each--scattered about.

ZhaZha skewers a hobgoblin.
Fatou spotted a figure crouching over one body, and alerted the others. It appeared to be a hobgoblin with no armor. She also spotted movement behind some rocks further away. The hobgoblin heard the party approach, so hurriedly donned a bulging backpack and hid behind a nearby rock. Jumari cast expeditious retreat and rushed forward to get behind the looter, who she could now see was female. In Orcish, she growled, "You could surrender now." ZhaZha rode up, struck the hobgoblin with her lance, and demanded in Common that she surrender. The goblinoid woman spat, "Filthy orcs," as she took a defensive stance, then bellowed, "MALGRIM!"

Jumari struck her down, then went closer to the second moving figure, who turned out to be a male hobgoblin wearing a breastplate and a tattered cloak decorated with flame patterns. He clutched a talisman of a flaming sword while casting a spell, and his greatsword ignited in flames. [This was a sun metal spell, from Ultimate Combat.] ZhaZha moved closer and Fatou plinked him with a force bolt. Edel heard hoofbeats approaching and warned his friends: "Rider!"

The hobgoblin priest moved to engage Jumari, keeping her between him and the mounted cavalier. She struck him as he closed with her, but he returned the favor with interest. [He rolled a crit, but thanks to her inquisitor's judgment, she ignored the extra fire damage.] Fatou channeled energy to heal Jumari from a distance, while Edel began orating about how to fight hobgoblins. [This was the naturalist ability from his recently-changed archivist archetype.] ZhaZha flanked the priest and took him out, leaving his sword sizzling in the sand.

A second hobgoblin woman, wearing red robes, appeared and attempted to use a burning gaze spell on ZhaZha, who resisted. Fatou tried to magic missile the enemy wizard, but her spell had no effect due to the woman's brooch of shielding. Her owl familiar swooped down to harass the hobgoblin, and actually managed to inflict a minor wound while avoiding taking one herself. ZhaZha moved in and finished off the wizard.

About that time, the party could see an armored hobgoblin rushing toward them on a massive horse. ZhaZha moved to ready a charge of her own, and challenged the rider. Edel shot the rider, and narrowly dodged a blow from the rider's sword. Fatou failed to affect either the rider or horse with a sleep spell, so closed and delivered a shocking grasp. Jumari engaged the rider, and hit with her falchion, but ZhaZha's lance glanced off the other rider's shield.

An enlarged Jumari pursues the fleeing horse.
The horseman [Malgrim, the leader who the first hobgoblin had hollered for] sensed that the half-orc cavalier was the most dangerous foe he faced, so focused his and his horse's attention on her. The horse struck ZhaZha's camel hard with both hooves, knocking it out, and ZhaZha went sprawling in the sand. Jumari struck him, rendering him unconscious, but he remained in his military saddle rather than falling. ZhaZha picked herself up, and soon realized that this brutish horse was too hostile for anyone but its master to control. The horse kicked at Jumari as it moved away from its foes, but the half-orc sliced it with her sword. Fatou finished casting enlarge person on Jumari, then magic missile on the hobgoblin, hoping to kill him if the horse got away. However, the inquisitor charged and killed the horse with her giant-sized weapon.

The party then beheaded the hobgoblins to make sure they were dead, and looted the bodies, while Fatou distributed some healing (including reviving ZhaZha's camel). They then moved away from the battlefield some distance, and made camp to wait out the hot part of the day before continuing on towards Gorza's Well.

Hobgoblins: ironskin monk, fire wizard, cleric of Heladon

We handled the finding of loot over email after the session. Some of the hobgoblins carried wound paste (Advanced Race Guide), which can stabilize a dying creature, and is used by that race to keep conquered foes alive for use as slaves. Other interesting items included a campfire bead, the brooch of shielding mentioned above, and a spellbook with a couple of spells above Fatou's current ability to cast. 

The priest's unholy symbol was also of interest, as it showed that these goblinoids worshiped Heladon, the evil aspect of the fire goddess Lutoran, for which Mansur's lecture gave them some helpful context. Heladon is popular with hobgoblins and fire giants, who once allied to create the evil Empire of Rizagarn in the Dragonspine Mountains. The nation known as the Shield was founded in Virtanen's Crusade, which successfully shattered Rizagarn 50 years ago.

Malgrim, hobgoblin fell rider cavalier

Appendix: Previous Sessions

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