Episode 10: The Battle of Bloodmarch Hill, Part III

Rodrik's Killer Revealed!

With the battlefield cleared for the moment, Trunau’s heroes took a few rounds to catch their breath, and plan their next move. Just as they decided to head into Lower Trunau and light the Hopespring beacon (the fourth and final beacon), they caught sight of figures moving towards them, from beyond the smoke-filled inner gate. Suddenly, a great monitor lizard appeared through the gate, being led by a fierce-looking orc warrior. Omast Frum was the first to leap into the fray, attacking with a solid blow from his great sword. Everyone followed the brave Patrol Sargeant, and soon found out that the lizard and orc warrior were not alone—three orc shield-breakers (warriors armed with shield-disabling javelins and curved swords) were right behind them. The next found, the orc warrior—an orc-ranger/beast-tamer—threw a potion of Enlarge Animal at the lizard, doubling its size!

The battle was short but intense, with Draken caught, at one point, in the Enlarged lizard’s mouth—grappled! Luckily for him, Kingsley finished the reptile off, while Janekfan vanquished its orc-ranger master. As soon as the party finished off the last orc, Halgra of the Blackened Blades appeared behind them with an elite Trunauan team of soldiers, shouting “We have secured the Inner Quarter! Victory is ours!!” The heroes turned to see citizens coming out of their houses, cheering the Chief Defender. “Halgra! Halgra!” they shouted. Dumbfounded, Silaqui muttered, “Figures she’d take all the credit. Let’s go light the last beacon,” and led the way through the gate, into Lower Trunau. As they walked through the gate, they noticed that Trunauan guards had retaken the guard towers, and the portcullis was dropped behind them, effectively quarantining the Inner Quarter.

Upon reaching the Hopespring, the party healed themselves magically, and then found their way to the fourth beacon. Jane, with her alchemical training, was the first to notice the yellow powder sprinkled liberally over the wood and kindling in the beacon. “Stop! Don’t get any closer!” she warned, “this is explosive!” She then ordered everyone back 30 feet, set one of her arrows on fire, and shot it at the beacon. Ignited in this way, the beacon exploded in a 15-foot radius, creating a bright bonfire—but harming no-one. Just then, a team of Trunauan militia-men appeared on the scene, begging their assistance: fiery boulders were still being launched at the town, from a catapult stationed behind the Barterstones. The soldiers told them that they must help eliminate the orc bombadiers, and their siege engine, if Trunau was to be saved!

Running out the front gates and around the Barterstones, the heroes caught a flash of light in the distance, and were surprised to see a giant-sized humanoid, surrounded by four staunch Trunauan defenders: Asa, Inez Grenell, Tyari Varvatos and Kurst Grath! The flash was evidently from a magic spell being launched by Inez—“Inez? Casting a spell? I didn’t know she was anything but an alcoholic!” muttered Silaqui. The others echoed her sentiments. Seeing that they were quite far from the giant and Asa/Inez/Tyari/Kurst, and separated by legions of troops, they turned to the task at hand: Finding and destroying the catapult.

Rounding the last boulder, the party spotted the catapult. It was being manned by three orcs, while two others stood watch. The heroes, gaining Surprise, launched the first attacks: two well-aimed arrows from Jane and Silaqui took out the two guards, while two of the other orcs were injured by Toboe, Kingsley and Draken. For their part, the orcs who were operating the catapult—the bombadiers—did some hefty damage with their exploding grenades. In the end, however, the party prevailed once more, collecting six unused grenades, and four bags of flash powder, in the process. They were busy disabling the catapult when they heard Trunauan guards hailing them from atop the city walls: “Giant in the town! Giant in the town!”

Entering the town, the guards hastily explained how another giant had busted through the wall and headed to the Hopespring. As they rushed into the Lower Quarter, the party noticed that the white graffiti mark in the Barterstones had been busted into rubble. And in the Lower Quarter, the white graffiti above the Sanctuary had been busted open as well. Upon reaching the Hopespring, they saw a ten-foot tall, tusked giant standing aross Hope Pond, directly in front of a gaping hole in the stone wall where another white graffiti-sword had been painted. The giant was growling something in Giant-language as it strained against the chains on its arms, each held by a rather terrified-looking orc raider.

“It’s a cave giant,” Draken whispered to the others as they cautiously moved to the edge of the pond. Jane crouched and fired the first arrow, hitting the giant squarely in the chest, and it cried out in pain. Silaqui fired next, killing one of the giant’s orc handlers. The remaining orc shouted, “Crusher! Throw rock!” [as translated by Silaqui], and the giant threw a massive rock at Jane, missing her. Gydion moved into the water and attacked with his sling, but missed. The giant flung another massive rock at him, pegging him for a lot of damage, while Silaqui injured the remaining orc-handler with another arrow. After a few rounds of exchanged missile fire, Crusher went berserk, rushing into the pond, splashing towards the party with an angry growl. Having readied his action thoughtfully, Gydion gestured and spoke a Druidic incantation, activating a Soften Earth and Stone spell under their opponent’s feet. The cave giant found himself sinking in quicksand up to his chest, making him prone for two rounds, unable to move or attack! Seizing the advantage, the party launched a massive missile attack at the stuck giant. Finally, at the beginning of the third round, Silaqui landed a critical hit with her longbow on the beast, delivering 21 points of damage, killing it. As it fell into the pond, lifeless, its remaining orc handler—terrifying and struggling against its chains as it hopelessly tried to escape—was put out of its misery by missile fire from Draken and Jane.

Just then, Kurst rode up to them on horseback. “You did it!” he congratulated them. “Trunau is forever in your debt”. He explained that the orcs were retreating, and with Crusher defeated, the orc raid had effectively been halted. There was, however, an additional problem: just after the giant had opened the tunnel where the white graffiti mark had been, Trunauan guards had spotted two humanoids, accompanied by wolves, dash into the tunnel. He then asked them to enter the tunnel, secure whatever’s inside, and apprehend whoever’s hiding within. Meanwhile, he told them, he would appoint guards outside the tunnel entrance to ensure no-one else enters or exits it.

Silaqui’s brother Turin wandered up the road at that point, wide-eyed at the devastation around him. “What on Golarion happened here?” he asked the others. “I’ve been so busy copying spells into my spellbook in the basement of the Sanctuary, I didn’t know we were under attack!” Then, spotting Crusher, he exclaimed: “Wow, is that a cave giant?” The rest of the party explained that Trunau had been under attack for the past hour by orc raiders, and that they’d brought a few cave-giants along as back-up. They pointed to the newly-opened tunnel and told him that their magic was nearly depleted. They asked for the elven wizard’s help, and he nodded silently. “Let’s see what’s in that tunnel!”, he answered.

Steeling and healing themselves, the party crossed the pond and entered the tunnel. Their marching order was deliberate: Draken first, because of his darkvision; Turin last, to support with ranged spell attacks. The humid tunnel was laced with gossamer spiderwebs, dripping with condensation, and water could be heard down below. Exploring further, the heroes came to an intersection with a narrow tunnel heading west; a steep drop-off to the south; and a stone bridge, spanning an underground river, to the west. Silaqui and Gydion successfully checked for any signs of passage, and found tracks heading across the bridge; the party cautiously followed.

A large cavern opened up on the other side of the bridge. As soon as Draken set foot off the bridge, however, he was set upon by a small, stork-like bird with black, greasy feathers, a razor-sharp bill, and six legs! The bird missed! The dwarf, returning the attack, cut it deeply with his battle axe. Silaqui and Toboe joined Draken at the front of the line, only to be attacked by two more of the avian horrors, swooping silently down from the dripping stalactites above. During the brief battle that ensued, Toboe found himself grappled by one of the foul birds—which then twisted its abdomen around, revealing an ovipositor with which it attempted to deposit eggs into the wolf’s torso. Luckily for Toboe, the attempt failed. In the end, Draken defeated one of the birds; Silaqui killed the second; and Kingsley & Gydion cut down the third, with a Force Bolt assist from Turin.

The party moved further into the cavern and found another stone bridge, 10-feet wide, traversing another underground river. Draken, who was still in the lead, found himself immediately stuck in a strong, nearly invisible web as soon as he stepped onto the bridge—he was snared! A giant spider dropped down and attacked him, narrowly missing the dwarf with its snapping chelicerae! Draken broke free of the web (a full-round action) and found himself attacked again (again, unsuccessfully)! Meanwhile, four other spiders dropped down from the ceiling and attacked the other party members!

Aware of Silaqui’s arachnophobia, Gydion bravely stepped between her and the nearest spider, and attacked with his quarterstaff. Jane and Toboe double-teamed another spider; the wolf got bit, but managed to resist the spider’s poison. Silaqui overcame her fear and took aim at another spider, nearly killing it; her brother Turin finished it off with a Force Bolt as it attempted to escape up a wall. The next round, Jane and Toboe’s spider attempted to shoot webbing at them, but missed both times. After six founds of combat, the group dispatched the spiders, Draken killing two of them. Luckily, all of the heroes avoided being poisoned by spider venom.

They attempted to cross the bridge once more and found that there were more webs than they originally thought—the ravine seemed to be covered by them; they were strung between stalactites, and spanned the entire bridge. So, the party moved off the bridge, and Draken used Silaqui’s torch to set the strands on fire. They burned quickly and brightly, revealing an underground river, slowly flowing, 10 feet below the bridge. The party quickly crossed the bridge and once again found tracks, indicating that the half-orcs and the wolves had somehow crossed the bridge and come this way.

The heroes followed the tracks down a 10-foot-wide, natural stone corridor which opened up on one side, revealing, once again, the underground river below them. Draken heard voices, and quickly hushed the group. Approaching cautiously, he found the corridor opened up into a large, natural cavern, roughly 100 feet long by 65 feet wide. With his darkvision, the dwarf saw ledges and stairs carved into the stone walls of the wide-open, high-ceilinged cave, in the middle of which stood a 15-foot-tall spire of old bones and broken equipment—an ossuary. And, embedded in the spire, stood the skeleton of a massive, armored warrior, surrounded by the bones of his enemies, armor and broken weapons, and other trappings of battle. To his dwarven eyes, it appeared they had found a burial chamber—the burial chamber of a giant! The giant’s scarred, half-plate armor was still on its body, and his hands gripped a massive stone hammer. Beneath its helmet, a thick, round rock was embedded in one of its otherwise empty eye sockets.

Tearing his eyes away from the dramatic funerary spire, Draken spotted the source of the voices he’d heard: two half-orcs appeared to be busily searching the ledge along the southeast corner of the cave. He recognized one of them: it was Urnsul, the half-orc mercenary he’d battled in the alleyway in the Inner Quarter! Draken scanned the room again and spotted two huge, black dire wolves standing guard, close to the spire’s base. He whispered his observations to his friends, and quickly planned their attack.

Luckily their enemy had not yet noticed them! Even the dire wolves seemed taken by surprise as Silaqui jumped into the room, firing an arrow and Urnsul which hit her squarely in the shoulder. The half-orc rogue screamed in agony as Draken, Gydion, Jane and Turin filed into the room, ready for battle.

The other half-orc turned and stared at them. He was blonde, and rather gangly for a half-orc: tall and skinny. His face was tattooed with bizarre lines, and his belt held a mesh bag with glass spheres. In his hand he wielded an orc falchion, dripping with a strange black liquid. “My assassins should have finished you meddlers off, days ago!” He smiled at them. “But now, it looks like I’ll have to do it. Just like I did with Rodrik Grath. That’s right, I killed Rodrik Grath!… and now, I’m going to kill you, too!”

Draken moved to attack, but the blonde half-orc was quicker, throwing a glass sphere at Silaqui which detonated and seriously burned her. Urnsul dropped her sword and loaded her crossbow, aiming at Silaqui. Turin was next: he moved within range and then cast Scorching Ray at one of the dire wolves—hitting it and damaging it for nearly half its hit points! Toboe then rushed in to finish the job, the small white wolf contrasting strongly with his larger, black, now-scorched opponent. Jane fired upon the dire wolf that Toboe had engaged while the second wolf ran up the stairs, only to be met with Kingsley’s claws—Gydion’s lion companion had wisely readied his action as soon as battle had begun.

At the beginning of the next round, Draken cleaved the half-orc raiders with his axe as Turin came up behind him and stunned them with a Color Spray spell. Down below, Toboe landed a bite on his dire wolf opponent which tripped him, leaving him prone! Meanwhile, on the stairs, Kingsley and Gydion attacked the other dire wolf, wounding him deeply, though they both suffered painful bites from its razor-sharp teeth in return.

Stunned and blinded as they were, the two half-orcs didn’t stand a chance against Draken’s second cleave, which (assisted by an arrow from Silaqui) dropped them both. Toboe endured a dire wolf bite and then offered a bite in return, reducing his enemy to a furry, bloody pile on the floor. Next, Gydion and Kingsley vanquished the second dire wolf, which collapsed on the stairs in a pool of blood. The battle had ended!

Jane Stabilized the two half-orcs while the rest of the party searched the cavern. They found various equipment and items on the two half-orcs, including a peculiar, handwritten note from someone named Grendelsek, “Glorious Chieftain of the Twisted Hearts”, apparently asking for the war hammer and a rock of some sort.

But the most exciting treasure was to be found in the funerary spire (detailed below). The chests, vases, and other containers piled around the spire were overflowing with coins, gemstones, jewelry and other fineries, including more than a few magic items. Using a combination of Detect Magic, Read Magic, and Spellcraft skill, the heroes managed to identify nearly every magic item they found. The most notable item was the war hammer in the skeleton’s bony hands, which Turin identified as the powerful artifact known as Agrimmosh—the dwarven Hammer of unmaking—an item he’d been researching in the Sanctuary’s library. “I knew that Uskroth’s burial chamber must be nearby Trunau”, he muttered to himself. (When questioned further, he told his friends that Uskroth was the name of the ancient giant hero who had wielded Agrimmosh, and that this must be his final resting place—underneath Trunau, the entire time!).

The heroes busily examined all of the treasure, and took what they could carry—including the stone embedded in the skeleton’s eye socket, which Draken identified as a rare tourmaline geode, the nearest known deposits of which lie in the Mindspin Mountains, to the north and west of Trunau. “This must be the rock that this Grendelsek-person must be looking for. Sort of looks like a map,” said Turin, examining it.

“But why did they kill Rodrik?” Silaqui asked.
They all looked at each other.

Why, indeed?

Experience: 4,096 xp each player.

Treasure: 3 potions of Cure Light Wounds, 3 antitoxins, 1 potion of Enlarge Animal, 6 fuse grenades, 3 bags of flash powder.
On Urnsul: two alchemist’s fire, one thunderstone, one masterwork studded leather armor, one light crossbow with 10 bolts, one masterwork warhammer, one Shield Cloak .
On the blonde half-orc: two alchemist’s fire, 2 does of black adder venom, 2 does of bloodroot, blue whinnis poison, one oil of taggit poison, one tanglefoot bag, 2 thunderstones, masterwork studded leather, masterwork cold iron falchion, dagger, light crossbow with 10 bolts, Forula Alembic, Kin’s Face Tattoo [currently stuck like glue to the half-orc’s face], True Love Locket, two antitoxoins, his alchemy kit/lab, masterwork thieve’s tools, and an alchemy book.
In Uskroth’s funerary spire: magic half-plate armor (properties of which remain undiscovered), four magic arrows (properties not yet discovered), 13 adamantine crossbow bolts, a masterwork breastplate, a suit of masterwork splint mail armor, a Heavyload Belt, scrolls of Phantasmal Killer and Tongues, and a Wand of Inflict Moderate Wounds. Plus, 1750 gp worth of gold, gemstones, equipment and fineries.

Next: Interlude: Wreckage and Aftermath


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