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Early Sessions: Fort Enstala

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Gallowglass

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Storm Season Postscript

There was one important detail I forgot to mention in my last entry. Actually, we forgot to address it in actual gameplay too, so we had to do a flashback of sorts.  One of the main reasons Erindros proposed the joint raid on the Sambari clan was to liberate thralls, and then offer them a place in the clan as cottars. Even with the former Enstalos cottars bolstering the population, the Bardori are still at just over half their former numbers before 1618. The party was able to liberate just over 100 thralls in the big raid, they were mainly composed of 3 distinct groups.

  • Sartarites - These were the biggest group, made up of former outlaws and indentures who had fallen into debt. Most of them agreed to join the Bardori clan, and Erindros was able to convince the chieftain this would be a good idea.
  • Praxians - Mostly Impala and Bison Riders. Egajia attempted to convince them they would be welcome in the clan, but I gave her a pretty hefty penalty for her roll, due to the Praxian distrust of the settled lifestyle. All of the Praxians decided to take their chances on the plains, and attempt to find their former clans. Egajia generously gave the group a portion of her loot, to help them purchase new mounts. For this I gave her a free 1% bump in reputation. 
  • ??? - The third group were mysterious to the PC's, and no one could figure out where they came from. They spoke a strange dialect of Heortling, and didn't have any identifying marks or tattoos. One of them came forward to explain that his people were purchased by the Rastorlings from the Sun Dome Temple to the west. They called themselves "Ergeshi," and claimed to worship their own gods and ancestor spirits, although none of their past owners had allowed them to worship these. Their spokesman claimed that they had kin in the Holy Country, but that they would not be welcome there, having been isolated from them for generations. Egajia was personally offended that their worship rights had been denied to them, and insisted on offering them a place with the Bardori. The Clan Ring debated whether it was a good idea to let them stay or not, as they were "weird and unsettling," but the issue was allowed to lapse, and they hung around, out of sight and out of mind. 

Sea Season 1626 - Planning an Expedition

Here were the local and major events that occurred in Sea Season -

  • Kallyr Starbrow failed in her Short Lightbringer's Quest, with serious consequences for all of Sartar. Chaos attacks were reputed to be on the rise, and the Prince's position as leader of the kingdom became much more tenuous. 
  • The Bardori had cattle and sheep stolen by their immediate neighbors in the Balkoth Tribe, the Wozer clan. 
  • Argrath White Bull has been building a new army in Pavis, and gathering more Praxian warriors to his cause. He is rumored to be planning an attack on the Lunar Empire, or their allies. 
  • Would-be heroes from many clans have gone to explore the ruins of Fort Enstala, but none have returned. 

We discussed what the PC's next course of action would be. Erindros expressed interest in planning a trade expedition, either to Pavis or the Holy Country. Egajia felt ready to attempt her shaman initiation, but was willing to wait until other business took them back into Prax. Garkar was on board with a trade mission. Between Nochet and Pavis, the group decided that going east would be a better idea. Egajia could visit her mentor, and the clan could reestablish old trading links with the their distant kin in Pavis, and among the Pol-Joni. They did some calculations, and decided it would be prudent to ask the clan for a loan for purchasing mules, trade goods, and other equipment. 

They met with the chieftain and the Inner Ring, and made their case. The Issaries representative on the Ring, Stolf Argin's Son, was the head of a Bardori bloodline which had long controlled the clan's trading interests. His family considered Erindros and close kin to be rivals, and the feeling was mutual. Stolf argued that an expedition to Pavis would be reckless and dangerous, and that the clan should instead work to reestablish regular caravans in Sartar, and expand their influence in Swenstown. Egajia is generally the party spokesperson in these situations (which is funny because she only speaks a little Heortling), and she tried to rouse the Inner Ring's excitement by pitching the journey as an adventure that would be worthy of a clan of heroes. Once again, she fumbled on her roll. Her player explained this by inadvertently putting emphasis on the dangerous aspects of the journey - "Only a clan of true heroes could face the hordes of broos, screaming nomad warriors, cannibals, whirlvishes, dust storms, etc!!!" 

The chieftain and the Ring refused to give them a single clack. They would have to fund their expedition themselves. They tried to think of a way to quickly get some disposable income. Raiding was out of the question, as most of the clan was involved in sowing the crops. Garkar pointed out that Fort Enstala was rumored to still have piles of silver hidden away somewhere. The party agreed to check out the ruins. Before they did so, another exile arrived in town from Prax. 

He Who Spits at Chaos

Our newest PC, hereafter known as HWSAC or He Who Spits, rode into town and introduced himself to the chieftain. He was boisterously welcomed and offered mead. HWSAC is a follower of Storm Bull, who had spent his exile in Prax riding with a mixed band of Sartarites, Pol-Joni, and Praxians, all Storm Bull cultists. He returned to his kin upon learning of their resettlement. He also harbored ambitions to build a shrine in honor to his god, which would double as a beer hall. He immediately pitched his idea to the chieftain, who responded with hesitancy. Being strapped for cash, and hearing of his other kinfolk going raiding in a potentially Chaos-infested ruin, he asked to join them. They welcomed him along, thinking that his skills could be useful. 

Fort Enstala

The fort was the capitol of the Enstalos Tribe from 1618 to it's recent destruction in 1625, after the Dragonrise. The chieftain, Angarr Broad-Back, was present when the fort was attacked and razed. He met with the PC's before they set off to describe it's layout. The fort itself consisted of a stone tower, with a surrounding village and temple, all encircled by a wooden palisade. He mentioned that Blackmane had allowed the Lunar garrison to evacuate their women, children, and elderly before the attack, but some had insisted on staying. The outer wall was easily breached, but the garrison held out in the tower for days. In the end, someone had lit a fire which consumed part of the structure. The remaining soldiers either fled, or burned to death. None of Blackmane's warriors were able to breach the Temple of the Seven Mothers. It was apparently guarded by a powerful spirit or demon, in addition to more warriors, and so they left it alone. 

With this information in mind, the party set off. The fort was located in the foothills of the Stormwalk Mountains, and technically lay within Togarth lands. This was a complication, as that clan might decide that any loot within the ruins might belonged rightfully to them (even though they had so far failed to take it). At Angarr's suggestion, the PC's decided they would initially go to the fort in secret, but then offer a portion of any treasure they found to the Togarth chieftain out of respect. They traveled north for a day, through the foothills, and arrived without incident.

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SEE AWFUL MAP ABOVE - Entering the ruins was simple enough, as the walls had been breached and the main gates destroyed. The former village was in shambles, with most of the longhouses partially burnt down, and overgrown with vines. Nothing of major interest was discovered. The party continued to the fortified tower. Here they found many corpses in various states of decay. Most were in a charred pile near the base. Other bodies were found that were more fresh, appearing to be slain Togarth adventurers. Most curious of all were several dusty skeletons, wearing antique hoplite armor. Erindros recalled various painted urns he had seen depicting Dara Happan soldiers from the First Age, which these seemed to resemble. 

Before investigating the tower, Egajia used Second Sight to see if she could locate any ghosts or spirits. She was not disappointed. She witnessed dozens of ghosts arrayed around the tower, some of them resembling Sartarite warriors, and others Lunar soldiers. They were locked in combat, and ignored Egajia completely. They appeared to be caught in a loop, reliving their final moments in the battle to capture the tower. The PC's decided they needed to learn more before they could help lay any of these spirits to rest. Within the tower itself, they found more of the odd armored skeletons slumped against the wall. Unlike the ones outside, these were the moving variety, and they attacked. HWSAC proved his combat prowess here, using Berserker and smashing skeletal limbs and heads with his maul. It didn't actually take very long to wipe them out, and Egajia had to use a Sleep spell to put him out of commission, before he turned on his companions. 

The party left their new Storm Bull friend asleep outside, and continued to explore the tower. Egajia used Detect Enemies to see if any other threats were inside. She felt a malevolent presence on the second floor, and so everyone attempted a stealthy approach going up. Unfortunately, they all had to climb a creaking wooden ladder going up, and everyone failed their roll. The second floor was partially collapsed, and a man watched them from the darkness. He was dressed like a local, either a hunter or else a bandit. Yet he also wore a Lunar officer's plumed helmet and cloak, and had a wild, haggard appearance. He demanded they help defend the tower from "the accursed rebels," and then began asking what regiment they were with. Egajia immediately suspected possession by a ghost or spirit. She used Second Sight to confirm this, and tried casting her Free Ghost spell to remove the possessor. The spell worked, and the man fell unconscious.

Soon after another man, who looked to be in even worse shape than the last, called down to the party from the top of the tower. He introduced himself as Bermakt, and claimed to be a hunter who was passing through the area with his companions. One of these was a woman named Yandissa, who was badly wounded at the top of the tower. The other was named Harstar, who was the man possessed by the spirit. Bermakt was otherwise very vague about which clan they came from, or why they were in the ruins in the first place They had been camped near the tower, when they were attacked by the armored skeletons and chased in. Soon after, Harstar began acting strange, and attacked the other two. They managed to climb up to the roof, where they had lain for an entire day. The party offered to heal them and give them supplies. Bermakt warned them that they had seen the skeletons come out of the Seven Mothers Temple, and that a voice had told them to leave when they tried to enter.

The PC's did a little more exploring in the tower, and then moved on to the temple. It was a rectangular structure, built of marble. The outer walls were decorated with scenes of the Red Goddess's victories, and a large red globe protruded from the top of the temple. 

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The first room contained a series of small shrines with votive images, devoted to many different Lunar deities. The party was not able to admire them long, as He Who Spits began smashing and defacing them with his maul. Immediately after that, a horrible creature materialized out of thin air. Eight feet tall, four-armed, fanged, and with skin coated in black slime, it introduced itself as the temple's guardian, a demon of the underworld who served the Red Goddess. HWSAC's Chaos sense was tingling, and without any hesitation called on Storm Bull to fill him again with the holy rage. The others stood back and cast magic while the berserker went after the demon. It drove it's claws into his stomach, and raked his arms, but then He Who Spits aimed for the head, and rolled a critical. Overcoming the demon's (very high) armor, he crushed it's head like a rotting pumpkin. The demon, now headless, turned, walked into the altar room, and disappeared. HWSAC gave chase, but it had apparently discorporated. He then set about trying to bring down the temple by smashing it's supporting pillars.

Egajia used Detect Enemies to see if the demon was still present. She found that it was, although it's presence seemed to be dispersed throughout the temple. The party was now in the main hall of worship, where there was an altar, and a silver plaque depicting the goddess. The hall was littered with the bodies Enstalos men, women, and children, in an advanced state of decay. Something had brutally killed the people who had fled to the temple for safety. 

Each adjoining chamber was a smaller shrine to each of the Seven Mothers. Egajia searched each one, using Second Sight. She eventually found the demon in incorporeal form, hiding within the altar to Queen Deezola. She bested it in spirit combat, but even this would not drive it away completely, as it continued to flee to the other shrines. The party decided they needed to loot the place before the demon could reconstitute itself. HWSAC eventually came out of his rage before the building came down. 

The party went through each room, some of which were trapped with Safe spells. In the dormitories they found an old man, and a young girl dressed as Teelo Norri. The man turned out to be a wraith, mad with grief and rage. Egajia defeated it, and trapped it within a charm she had kept as a family heirloom. The girl was a ghost, but not hostile. She told the party that she had been hiding with her parents in the temple during the attack. The junior priest had called the temple guardian to fight off the Dundealos raiders, but then lost control of it. It turned on everyone inside, killing all her kinfolk. She did not seem to be aware that she had died. Egajia again used the Free Ghost spell to give her rest. 

The vaults on the upper floor of the temple held silver, trinkets, and valuables including silk and rare books. The PC's took as much as they could carry, and made ready to leave. They noticed as they were prying off the silver plaque, that there was a passageway underneath the altar. Egajia crept down it and used various Detect spells to see if anything dangerous was there. A tunnel ran beneath the temple, into what appeared to be a large barrow. She sensed many beings ahead of her that sounded like the skeletons from before. She raced back up, and tried to block the entryway. Erindros realized that the large globe that hung above them, made of interlocking bronze plates, was suspended with ropes and wedges. He and Garkar cut the ropes, and knocked the globe free (after everyone cleared the area). It fell onto the altar, crushing it, and fully blocked the tunnel entrance. 

The heroes then ran for it, dragging their many spoils behind them. They determined to come back at some point, and permanently exorcise the place of it's remaining ghosts, and demon(s?). But for now they had what they needed. 

Behind the Scenes

I spent a lot of time planning this adventure, since it was our first dungeon experience. There were a lot of things the players ignored or avoided because they had burned through their resources fairly quickly. These include-

  • The 3-Headed Dragonsnail from the map - I included it just to give the Storm Bull player something to use his abilities on, but he used his spells really quickly on other (non-Chaotic) things, and it didn't seem fair to hit everyone with such a tough monster after that, for no story-related reason. 
  • The Priestess' quarters - The former priestess of the temple was the one who bound the demon to serve as a guardian, and she knew of various ways to control it, mostly based on impersonating the Red Goddess. Had the PC's been unable to defeat it, they could have tried some more theatrical solutions. Honestly the demon was pretty tough, he had 15 armor and 15 hp! I just didn't count on that critical hit, and he almost rolled maximum damage to the head. That's the way it goes sometimes (sigh).
  • The possessed guy also had a Seven Mothers "rosary" amulet that they could have used to repel the demon, had they examined it or tried using it. They took it off him, but forgot all about it afterwards.
  • There was also a Trickster NPC that I wrote up who would have acted as a sort of unreliable guide, but we just didn't have enough time in the evening to fit him in. 

Anyway, next time the party sets off on their big trip to Pavis. Thanks for reading!

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