Saturday night was Newcastle branch’s National Plot Mission, our contribution to the beginning of the plotline that will run towards Summerfest – the war in Llaminusia against the Tholonese undead.
Our story begins on a ship at sea, on the wave-road from Newcroft to a fjord port of Llaminusia …
On a ship on the sea, a number of Newcroft heroes are travelling in convoy with the men gathered from the county of Berwickshire – elves, dwarves and fighting men – heading to a port up a tidal estuary on the Llaminusian coast. Aboard the ship was Captain-General Catherine Brack-on-Hill, Skarim Mataki the Kharachian mercenary, the two mercenary brothers Christo and Ronan Eadronhart, Primate Douglas Davidson of Rolbor, the alchemist Ethan Fairbrass, the elven mage Lirrion and Rowan Tait, the newly minted apprentice scout from the borderlands.
Things seemed to be going according to plan (minus the occasional bouts of sea sickness) until, with the coastline in sight with a freshening breeze, the ship carrying the Newcroft adventurers was split in two down the central axis of the boat and in a gout of cold sea spray, the adventurers went overboard (can you see where this is going?)
Separated, cast upon the shore in shivering heaps, the adventurers find themselves unprepared for the harsh reality of Llaminusia. They are alone. They are separated from the command characters and the scout (who’d spent time in the cabin with charts and maps and listening to the ship’s captain talk on possible drop points along the coast and the objective itself). There was no way to tell how long they’d been unconscious. There was no way to tell how many others survived. And it was cold …
The scout came to to find one of the mercenary brothers, named Christo, shaking her roughly and pounding on her back to bring up the sea water she had undoubtedly swallowed. Laying behind the dune, away from the surf, Rowan took a moment to get her bearings. The stars were out and she reckoned that they had only been unconscious for a short while. Taking their bearings, they begin to set out for a local fort Rowan knew of, hoping to find somewhere to hole up and get warm and wait to see if the others were alive. As they worked their way along the sea shore, heading towards the fort, the pair encountered wave upon wave of shuffling zombies – men with an x marked upon their foreheads. There were many dragging footprints heading along the beach with few returning and Rowan and Christo hoped that they would find their comrades soon.
As they climbed the hill up into the mouth of the estuary, working their way to the stern wall of the fort, the smell of death hung in the air. Bodies lay unburied and around the fort door was the smell of gore and blood. The door into the fort was locked and so, suffering a little from their cold dip in the sea (a weakness effect meaning that armour was useless until they’d dried out and warmed up), Rowan and Christo turned to keep watch on the path which they had climbed up. They were attacked by a number of shambling zombies who were put down quickly and then, with a shuffling crash of breaking twigs and undergrowth, a white robed priest appeared behind them. Approaching the newcomer warily, keeping eyes to the rear, the pair learned that this newcomer was a Vleyborian Supplicant priest who had been in Llaminusia a week, learning their customs and trying to bring comfort to the orphans and wounded in the campaign against the undead horde. This seemed unlikely to the pair, but they listened to the cheery priest, who they came to know as Lucius Aquarius Rhade, whilst fending off the growing numbers of undead shuffling towards them. And when the path was filled with huge numbers of undead, Rowan’s sharp hearing heard a strange keening whistle, followed by a click. The door to the fort had opened and they hurried inside.
The corridor was strewn with bodies and gore, with a small box and a light lying discarded on the ground. Locking the door behind them, the trio were unwilling to touch the box, so Lucius popped the items in a bag and they stepped outside into the cool evening air. There was nothing moving out in the darkness, no sign of life apart from the occasional zombie hammering on the locked door.
Then came the sound of voices, which Rowan challenged from behind the safety of the locked door before opening it to the rest of the party, hurrying them inside. But in their haste to get out of the cold, they forgot to lock the door and another scuffle occurred to push back the shambling undead and lock the door behind them. A fire was started, the box examined and a gift of bandages and alchemy from Dr Blackstaff was handed out to the party and Rowan was tasked with examining a map. There was another scuffle with a hardy creature and the decision was made to head to the next fort on the map.
Hurrying down to the fjord, the party encountered a number of ogre-like creatures that seemed interested in the movement of undead within the region, as well as a fight with some dwarf-looking creatures that appeared to mock the party. These creatures were dealt with after a lengthy fight that had the party strung out along the river and once down, Ethan investigated an ice encrusted corpse that looked like some form of ice troll. Normal weapons did very little to damage the icy skin but a blunted mace to the chest broke it into large chunks, spewing thick dark blood over the party. Rowan, the scout, was most pleased with it – taking the mace off the General to clobber the corpse because no one else seemed willing to take the chance. Passing a bridge, the party were stopped by an elf who appeared to have information on what lay ahead, whilst the Vleyborian priest was accosted by Llaminusians offering hospitality.
Eventually, when the party was huddled round the fire drying out their clothes and gear and sipping warm mead (mmm warm mead), information was shared and another map was given to Rowan. Through the translation of the Primate of Rolbor, Rowan confirmed particular symbols and warnings, learnt of the existence of weapon caches (which proved almost impossible to find) and was given advice on the route to take. This allowed her to advice the General as a scout and then the party were off, quickly assuming a marching order behind Skarim and the pair of brothers, with the scout behind their shields to advise on the path ahead and the rest bringing up the rear in whatever order they thought was best.
The group went off road down to the river and climbed up the bank to avoid a sinister figure in black and whilst they fended off a few undead attacks, they came to the bridge and the second fort – with a HUGE giant creature with blue skin and fur carrying a large mace and guarding the broken down door.
The party fought this thing back and forth, hammering it with different weapons and members being knocked back by it’s strength or frozen by some magic. Taking a chance, Rowan ran past it to examine what was going on within the fort, to find three Llaminusians behind bars who immediately cried to help. Unable to break the lock by herself, she ran to get help and watched as several members of the party were knocked down or frozen to be carried off as prizes. Soon there were only two left – Rowan and Lirrion the elven mage, who split up, hoping to avoid it’s attention. But Rowan was grabbed by the creature and dragged towards the fort. The Primate of Rolbor managed to bar the entrance with a prayer of shield and somehow the party managed the kill the creature – a Jotun or Frost Giant, earning Christo the title of Giant-killer.
The scout was sent to investigate the shuffling shapes across the river, returning to report what appeared to be a systematic search for something, with zombies digging every couple of steps. Unable to see any sign of a controller and unwilling to go closer without backup, Rowan returned to the party and made her report.
At this point, the decision was made to go and attempt to lure one of these shamblers away from the rest, to use a spell to commune with undead to get information out of it. A number of the party went to pick a likely target, with the rest ready to charge after them should things go south. Lucius was on watch, with Rowan crouching at the bridge keeping an eye on him, but the assistance of those on the other side of the river was not required as the first group returned with a struggling zombie which they dragged into the fort and proceeded to interrogate, much to the Vleyborian’s obvious distress. Rowan, on watch over the bridge in case anything odd happened should the shamblers notice one of their number missing, overhears an argument between Skarim and Lucius and decides to keep out of the way.
The zombie was found to have no information of value to the adventurers and was laid to rest and Rowan decided to take another look at those mysterious tracks with Ethan, hoping to come across a hidden llaminusian weapon cache marked upon the map. After accepting a whistle from the General just in case and guessing a rough interval for them to wait until they should begin to worry, Rowan and Ethan begin to creep along the path by the river.
They come across a spear and a sword propped against a wall, indicating someone is around and continue on, pausing at any sign of movement up ahead. As they approach a small bridge, they begin to think they can see things along the path and begin to plan their next step until they realise a figure is standing behind them, listening in. He seems friendly enough and Rowan questions him as to what he was doing, but as she begins to dig deeper as to his motives, a strange sense of friendship comes over her and she watches in horror as Ethan hands over his weapons to the stranger, only to be struck down. Lifting the whistle slowly to her lips, she gives the two-blast signal for help and watches as the creature’s pleasant face turns into a frown as he strikes her across the chest, knocking her to the ground.
Luckily for the pair, the waiting adventurers heeded the call of the whistle and reached their injured comrades quickly, though not before the vampire bites both of them and infects them with vampirism. Roused and dosed with Rolborian holy water (Vleyborian is better, but we had none), the pair are informed that they have until a month has passed to kill the creature and be cleansed or else they become wanderers of the night and vampires themselves.
On the party goes and as they wait for Rowan and the Primate to try and find the weapon cache, they realise a man is standing across the river, watching them. Lingering too long, they spark his attention and after some questions yelled across at the two groups, a spell is cast on Ethan, turning him against his friends in a fit of beserker rage. After wounding several of his comrades, he is knocked unconscious and left there as the others lick their wounds and take stock. They cannot leave him here, but attempting to awaken him only returns him to his beserker rage and it seems best to knock him out again. As the party try to think up a solution, they are attacked by a number of shambling undead and the cocky vampire from before who pronounces that Rowan, or rather “the little one” was delicious …
It all kicked off, the mercenaries going down, leaving Rowan, the Primate, Lucius and Lirrion all alone in the dark. The Primate conducts a ritual of foretell future – basically a “save point” if this was a game on a console which allows the players to see how NOT to do things and try again once by denying that future – and we prepared for battle.
Rowan has a boon based on her past (a re-done version of my Summerfest boon), which means she can call “no effect” on an obey spell, but must attack the caster if she can see them. As the vampire attempted to make her kill her friends, this kicked off and yelling blue murder in her Lirronese accent, she threw herself at the vampire to the horror of the remaining party members. She was felled before she could reach him and as the party dwindled even further, the Primate loudly denied that future and quickly made sure Rowan had an alchemical potion called a “firm resolve” in her to negate the effects of the obey that was coming her way. With her temper under control, the party managed to keep the creatures back, until the Primate woke the sleeping Berserker – who promptly ploughed through the rear ranks and wounded most of the party (including me, who got a resounding whack to the face. After a brief first aid interval, we got up and continued, though I gracefully lay down off the path having been “knocked out”). Somehow we managed to kill a good number of the creatures (except the vampire, who got back up and decided to take the General away for some evil deed). In a rush against time, the party was gotten back on their feet using alchemy and the limited physicians skills at the party disposal, and we came to terms with the General’s absence.
Command fell to Douglas Davidson, the Primate of Rolbor, who sought guidance for his God and returned with a determined look in his eye. We had a chance, a slim chance, of retrieving the General if we were quick – speed was of the essence, so we took off at a run – hunting down the beasts that took away our General.
I have never run from encounter to encounter before, nor have I had to be the scout, so I was running along hoping that I wasn’t missing obvious things in the absence of a ref to guide us. We stumbled across an Ithronian Scout with words of warning for the General, who assisted us in our hunt, and we raced up a hill to see a dark cloaked figure casting a circle around the General’s prone form.
Dealing with the few zombies that came towards us, the party launched itself at the caster to distract him from his ritual and Rowan took it upon herself to drag the General out of the circle under the impression that it would mean the caster would have to start again because his evil work had been disturbed. She was knocked to the ground by another wound to the body by some creature and the vampire returned with much annoyance. But Ethan got him down and Lirrion plunged a stake through his heart and he exploded into dust. Ethan and Rowan were saved from the horror of becoming vampires, though drinking holy water for the next few days would just make sure there were no ill effects.
The party gathered themselves, repelled several waves of undead creatures and pushed on, having found a silver stake in a box nearby. They were wounded, supplies were low and they were beginning to run out of options. They had no clue what was about to come their way.
They encountered the ogre-creatures from before who gave them a few days to find out what the undead were after and after a scuffle with undead in which Skarim was wounded in both legs (Kharachians supposedly don’t like healing, so Rowan knocked him out with Lucius’s staff to let those with healing arts get to work), the party ran on. There was a feeling of desperation to their steps, hurrying towards the port town to hopefully meet the rest of the ships from Newcroft. Another scout brought troubling news of an undead army coming their way, with about 30 minutes before they would begin an attack on a village that, if defended, would create a bottle neck and give extra time for those in the port to finish their preparations. But in the state we were in, we would not be able to hold back the expected numbers. We would try to evacuate the village. Then we would go.
But convincing the Llaminusians to evacuate did not go as planned and instead, after taking stock and steeling ourselves for a siege, the party prepared to hold one entrance of the village to allow the Llaminusians to defend the other. We kept watch over the river and prayed the undead would not come.
But, they came.
Waves of shamblers, undead Jotun that took enchanted weapons to bring to their knees – the party crumbled then stood again, stretched thin and beginning to panic. Shields were warped, becoming unusable and our supply of magic to make enchanted and blessed weapons ran thin. The alchemy began to run out, the higher ranked characters were digging into pouches that had not been needed for years. We lost hope.
As Llaminusians died, their armour and weapons were passed back to us and a blacksmith began to offer armour repairs and a healer tried to keep us on our feet. A scroll appeared from the Jarl’s secret stash. The players took on two more Jotun and tossed them in the river.
The Llaminusian defence broke as Rowan was sent under orders not to engage the enemy and she backed away from a reaching zombie to scramble back to the party. We were about to be overrun.
The decision was made to retreat to the port. We had done our duty.
Just then, a sinister figure in a dark cloak appeared, the Vampire Lord we had heard so much about. But we were done for. We fled back across the bridge and hurried to the port.
Upon our arrival, it was clear the defenders were under prepared and we began the evacuation, the adventurers taking their posts in their last duty. As the undead crested the hastily erected defences and began to rampage through the town, the adventurers leapt aboard the last ship out of the dock, with 70% of the population with them. They watched as the undead swarmed behind them.
They had lost the port. They had no more news of the undead’s activities in the pit.
But they had the ships.
And they were still alive.
Next came the painful task of totting up healing used and trying to flog what little loot we had. The next few days were a mixture of sea sickness and drinking of holy water for Rowan and Ethan.
And after the shift of how this “war” was going that the rest of the country seemed to be having, tales of great deeds and noble sacrifice spreading amongst the heralds and local notice boards, the adventurers of Newcroft would have to learn to live with their defeat.
And out of character, I love playing my Border Scout. I got my advance yesterday at the end of the month and now I am Woodsman Tait, member of the Scout’s Guild of Newcroft. And I’m off to buy alchemy, bandages and a whistle …