Session 1: May 13, 2011
The Battle of Pyrgoslofos (Castle Hill)
János Gaál, LE male Smyrian 2nd Level Wizard [Alan]
János is the son of József, a wizard of Smyrsis Province. Third of five children, he possessed Talent enough that his father taught him the ways of wizardry, but had little enough intellect to understand the deeper mysteries. Unhappy at the rate of his learning, and believing that his father did not trust him (with good reason), of a day János absconded from his father’s tower with his father’s wand and a scroll, and lit out for the further lands, where he would seek his own wealth and power, out from under his father’s thumb. Since then he has encountered nomads, werewolves, orcs, bugbears, hobgoblins, and once, from a distance, spotted a small roc. Having discovered in some ancient tomes references to the wealth of magic once at the beck and call of the lords of Selisengard, he made his way there by long and circuitous rout, choosing to bypass the wagon trails that pass far too close to the Missing Memory Marshes. Instead, taking on the guise of a wandering pilgrim, he followed the Western Road all the way to Millo Fortress, thence to Ezrahaddon, and then north to Saimon, this last leg of the journey purchasing a place in a grain caravan, riding on one of the great wains of grain headed north…
Telemakhos son of Theon, LN male Common Viridian 3rd level Fighter [Evan]
Telemakhos is the son of Theon, last scion of a disowned cadet branch of a minor noble house. His father was a wandering mercenary adventurer, much of his fame earned through the might of the last family heirloom, Kobosefetes, “Slicer,” an ancient vorpal blade. Raised among the mercenary followers, Telemakhos never knew his mother, who had died in childbirth. Raised on looted beef and plundered wine, Telemakhos grew tall and strong, with a great barrel chest (Str 18, Con 17). His father was slain in defense of a castle when he was 16; he inherited from him his blade, his armor, and his wandering ways. Since them he’s been wandering, serving as a guard here, a full-on mercenary there, and now and again doing a bit of adventuring in old ruins. He’s had unpleasant run-ins with dwarves, hill giants, giant scorpions, cavemen, oozes, giant rats, pirates, nomads, ogres, harpies, and dissension among the ranks of an adventuring party. Sometimes he wins a great treasure, other times he’s fortunate to get out of a debacle with his blade and the armor on his back, most of the time he’s been glad just to have enough in his purse to afford some decent wine and a wanton wench. Such is the life of a wandering mercenary adventurer who worships at the altar of the Lady of Luck, Nephtlys. Most recently he was hired as a guard for a grain caravan between Ezrahaddon and Saimon…
The caravan was passing through the verge of the western plain that spilled east of the Saffrin Groves, a half-day out from the pissant “town” of Smaragdipoli (an up-jumped village, at best), when without warning, battle cries and screams of hatred erupted on both sides! Down over the rolling hills to the west sped a large party of horse nomads from the Berserker Wilds, blue-skinned Shardan savages wearing war paint waving their lances. Out of the tall grasses to the east a pack of maddened red-cap gnomes, barbarians from the Bestial Barrens riding war-lizards, bellowed and leapt at the guards and oxen.
János hopped off the back of the wagon and whipped a dart from beneath his robes; it spun straight and fast into the right eye of the lead gnome, knocking him cleanly off his steed, though his two companions kept running straight for him. On the other side of the caravan Telemakhos drew his blade, which sang from its scabbard ready to drink rich blood. One nomad, a stripling, screamed in fury as he tumbled past on his steed into the milling oxen tied to the wagons; the lance of the other glanced off the breastplate of the old Viridian panoply, and for his effort the young warrior earned a split skull and fell from his horse, dead ere he hit the ground.
He turned as the warrior that ran past him returned, swinging his lance wide; he, too, felt the bite of ancient Viridian steel and fell to the ground, spattering his life-blood across the tall grass. János was in greater peril, as the other two ran up and slashed with their short scimitars; one tore through the thick robes and scored a nasty red cut across his chest. He swung his iron-shod staff and stove the gnome’s blood-red cap and skull clean down to his shoulders. A snarl crossed the last gnome’s file-toothed carved grin, but ere he could act, the wizard grasped his staff in one hand and with the other reached out and cast a bolt of power straight into his face… his eyes went wide, as did the flash of his scimitar, and for the first time in his life, the red-cap gnome knew fear.
Looking up and down the line, Telemakhos was pleased to see that his fellow guards had dealt with the rabble professionally; in a glance at his opponents, he could see that these were merely stripling warriors, from the lack of full paint, not even blooded, and so though born to saddle and lance, no match for more than two dozen hard-bitten experienced mercenaries. Cursing sulfurously, he nudged his horse on toward one of the savages, an older warrior who was engaged with a nearby guard; he rued the day he lost his last warhorse in a game of knucklebones, as the simple hackney he rode, though sturdy enough, had no fire for battle.
Blood mad and spitting in fear, the last of the gnomes leapt toward János with a scream; he died with a whimper as a bolt of pure magic burst his belly wide, and fell to the ground with a plop, like an overripe melon. Likewise, the stripling warrior jabbed furiously with his lance at the gore-spattered Viridian; his lance tip slid harmlessly away, glancing off the plate, and he ended his life hewn in twain, together with his shield and lamellar leather breastplate.
The battle was over as suddenly as it began. All told, 32 Shardans and 15 gnome lay dead, with merely three dead and a handful of wounded on the part of the caravan. Per their contract, the guards were allowed to “keep what they killed,” and after they tended to their wounded and dead, and made sure that all the dead enemies were, in fact, dead, through the simple expedience of stabbing each in the gut with a spear, they looted the bodies as only professionals can. But a poor bit of looting it was, for each youth and gnome had but a pittance of silver and a sprinkling of gold, as well as mediocre weaponry; only the older, more experienced warrior slain by Telemakhos had any real treasure, a handful of gold sequins riveted to his leather shirt. János took from the lead gnome a small cape of giant weasel fur. The few plains horses that had not run off were simply added to the caravan’s remuda.
János ended up getting the best of all, perhaps, for after he’d finished bandaging his wound, he’d discovered much to his surprise that one of the war lizards, obviously carnivorous, had decided to stick around and was nibbling on the entrails of the gnome whose belly had burst at the wizard’s magic words and passes. Grinning with devilish glee, he took out a ring he had been saving toward such a possible prize, a ring he had prized from the finger of the dead hedge wizard who knew not its value. Placing it on his finger he twisted it three times, then spoke the magic charm at the toothy beast; the lizard’s eyes glittered for a moment, then it turned its bloody maw toward the wizard and nuzzled up against him like an affectionate cat. “Excellent…” thought the wizard…
Leaving the bodies where they lay to rot by the side of the track, the caravan continued on to the north, though with scouts posted further to the van, sides, and rear. On the further end of the long, warm, Spring afternoon, the vanguard came riding back, reporting a great pillar of smoke rising from beyond the hills several miles away, about where the caravan planned to spend the night at Pyrgoslofos, a small village the local Aelphen called Castle Hill. Sergios, the Maldevarian-Viridian half-breed bastard captain of the guard, shook his head sadly and cursed, for he had worried about just such an occurrence. He gathered together a few of his better scouts and deadlier warriors, including Telemakhos; together with János, who invited himself and the lizard along (with the promise that the lizard would well behave itself), they headed out through the tall grasses west of the track.
Slowly, carefully, and quietly in the gathering twilight, the small party of scouts made their way over the hills and through the shallow valleys, across scrub-dappled plains. They passed carefully over the last ridge, sliding forward on their bellies, lest their silhouettes be made out across the dusky horizon. They made their way toward the southernmost of the last small hills before the stream, where on the other side of a wide, shallow ford stood the village of Castle Hill. The steeper northern hill, they could see in the dwindling light, was covered with ancient ruins of a castle, little more now than the foundation stones and piles of ancient weathered rubble, after which the village had been named.
Or rather, the former village or so all gathered, as they peered out from the cover of the tall grass and brush atop the small hill. For the village below burned, sending out billowing gouts of flame and smoke. From here they could hear the screams of the living villagers, being tortured and raped by the raiders. Pulling out his spyglass, Sergios carefully counted the remaining raiders, and cursed. It was worse than he had thought, by far, for it was not mere coincidence that the caravan had been attacked simultaneously by the Shardan savages and gnome barbarians; they were cooperating in the village, as well, a nigh-unheard of occurrence, as neither peoples was apt toward alliance with any others, let alone across racial boundaries! He counted all told more than 30 raiders, with as many as two dozen men and women staked down in the midst of the village green, amidst burning buildings. “Of course,” he muttered sadly with a sigh, “This had to happen on my last ride, as I intend to retire when we reach Saimon…”
Such numbers of warriors were not nearly enough to have taken out the village militia, let alone the lord and his soldiers who had been stationed at the small tower above the ford… so obviously, the bulk of the raiding party had moved on elsewhere. And most of the villagers were missing, for Sergios counted only two score or slightly more bodies in the streets. These last stragglers were simply hanging about enjoying the torture and rapine of the remaining villagers. Mostly youths, from what they could tell, though two of the Shardans were sub-chiefs, or blooded warriors at least, for they wore stolen Tharbrian hauberks of mail, and one wore a Tharbrian scimitar at his belt. Sergios sent his two best scouts to check out the area around the village on the other side. Meanwhile, he discussed possible actions with his remaining guards.
They basically had three choices; they could attack, hold up in the encircled wagon train and hope the raiders pass them by; or head back to Ezrahaddon. After some discussion, it was decided that they should attack, as going forward was the best of the three options, as none liked just waiting things out, and they were two days out from Saimon and four out from Ezrahaddon. Plus, the warriors all seemed young and inexperienced, and no nomad born had ever learned the methods of defensive battle in an urban setting, let alone one in which they had burned all the buildings of any use! The scouts returned at that point, and reported that all appeared as it seemed, though in addition to two guards of each race at the entries to the village on either side of the track, they also noted that there were wandering guards posted to either side of the village on the other side of the stream.
After ascertaining that János had no enchantments capable of causing the guards to fall asleep, or being useful in other ways, Sergios decided to split up the guards and make an assault several hours after nightfall; 25 guards would attack across the ford, while five, plus János and Telemakhos, would swing around to the other side of the village and attack from the rear once the melee had begun…
Fortunately, the small party made it across the stream with no difficulty; similarly, either the wandering guard had wandered away or passed out from imbibing looted wine, as they found no sight of him on the other side of the stream. They made their way stealthily through the verge of the tall grasses on the edge of the planted gardens, and hid in a small copse of trees on the other side of the village. It was not long before they heard war cries, whoops, and screams of pain and anger across the small vale. The four guards at the entry to the village looked at each other briefly, then the two Shardans ran with great war-cries and one of the gnomes sped away with a scream into the village. The last remaining guard gnome didn’t even have a chance to notice the warriors, covered in black soot, rush from the copse, as one of the guards placed an arrow directly between his eyes. He fell with a thud.
The attackers raced through the village streets, slick with the blood of villagers, weaving through the piled dead and fallen and burned buildings. Telemakhos cursed as he slipped and slid in a pool of blood, and the others sped on without him. They closed in on the rear of the mass of shouting, whooping savage warriors, who milled about on the other end of the village at the ford, fighting and foot with the attacking caravan guards. Caught off their plains steeds, the nomads and gnomes alike wielding unwieldy lances afoot and slicing drunkenly with scimitars, the raiders were still giving as well as they got, and were holding the ford.
Then the second group of caravan guards crashed unexpectedly into their rear, and all hell broke loose!
János closed with a Shardan, and smacked him upside the head with his staff; his lizard friend leapt on the back of another and ripped one big claw down and through his spine, felling him in an instant. Another Shardan turned to face the pair; as the first turned, he again was drubbed by the wizard’s staff. The other guards tore into the massed nomads and gnomes with spear and sword. Blood flowed, and screams of joy turned to screams of terror. The rear wall of the savage warriors fell beneath the professional blades of the men-at-arms, and Telemakhos, finally caught up with the rest, leapt joyfully into the hole rent in the line… and came face to face with the tall, mailed leader of the Shardans!
They traded blows, saber to long sword! A long slash of the saber found a hole in the mercenary’s armor big enough to draw blood and a curse; the mercenary’s blade crashed down through the mail hauberk, shattering bone and slicing muscle. Further back, the lizard leapt from the back of his victim to strike at another Shardan; his great claw caught in the leather coat of his victim, and down he went, face in the mud, a writhing, hissing pile of flesh and fangs tangled in beaded leather straps. János finished off his opponent with a last thrust to the gut, and he went down with a whoosh and a thud.
The Shardan stripling stood above the lizard, ready to gut it with his lance; a crackling burst of magic struck him square in the face, his eyes burst out their sockets, and smoke curled forth from his ears. Down he went. With a sneer across his purplish lips, the Shardan leader drew back his saber to strike again, which was all the opportunity Telemakhos and Kobosefetes needed; snicker-snack went the ancient blade, and the Shardan leader’s head went galumphing away though the remaining nomads. They gave a great cry of terror, and fled in all directions, as the mercenaries slaughtered all in their path up from the ford. One crossed under Telemakhos’ blade; it fell as without thought, and the warrior fell, split shoulder to sternum. Another passed by János, and was well thumped for his foolishness, though all he earned was a goose egg, rather than death. All told, three Shardans fled from the battle alive, while the last three gnomes stood; naked as the day they were born save for their red caps, drenched in the blood of their tortured victims and their companions, at the center of the circling mercenaries.
Thinking to perhaps question the gnomes, Telemakhos offered them mercy, but they simply spat blood (some their own, perhaps some their victims) into his face. A flash of magic from János, and one fell dead; the central gnome, with the tallest, finest blood-drenched cap, rushed Telemakhos. Their blades flashed once, twice; Telemakhos was unscathed, and the leader of the gnomes lay dead. The other mercenaries closed on the last warrior, and left little more than a red ruin of flesh and bone.
And the Battle of Pyrgoslofos was ended.
The mercenaries, always practical and self-interested, first checked to make sure that the remaining Shardans were truly fled, and then tended to their own wounds. Only then did they check after the folk of Castle Hill. They found 22 men and women staked down in the green, mostly grievously wounded in body, if not in mind, from the horrors visited on them by the raiders. They discovered another 52, all wounded, many poorly used and abused, locked away in the village hall and temple… built of solid stone, neither burned well, so the nomads used them to hold their victims.
All were merely peasants or serfs; they related how the previous day a small band of warriors had come raiding the further cottages, and the lord and his soldiers bravely and foolishly rode forth to meet the “small band of savages,” never expecting and having no sign of the much larger force laying in wait, no less than three hundred Shardans and scores of blood-mad barbarian gnomes! They were slaughtered to a man, and then this morning the force rode in and slaughtered the disorganized and leaderless militia. Most of the villagers, more than six score, had been taken away by the main force of savages and gnomes; those that remained were the uglier women and older men, left for the rear-guard to toy with as they wished…
The mercenaries breathed a collective sigh of relief when they were told the nomad force had lit out for the plains to the west, rather than deeper into farming country to the north. Several headed back to the wagons to bring them thither, as even a burnt-out village was better protection than none at all! Meanwhile, Telemakhos and János gathered together their loot. Telemakhos made out quite well; the hauberk of the leader was worth a pretty penny on its own, and the saber he had wielded was a Tharbrian blade of expert make, but the real value lay in the purses filled with gems. Three of these he found, one on each leader, the third on the youth he slew as he fled. Altogether ten gems, including three cabochon-cut green nephrites! The Shardan leader, too, wore a fine gold medallion, which János averred was enchanted; he warned Telemakhos against wearing it until he had a chance to determine the nature of the enchantment, which he promised he would do when they reached Saimon (for a nominal fee, of course).
János, for his part, only netted a handful of gold and silver. Of course, once the caravan reached their destination, they would each be able to pull a few horses from the remuda, which grew by another 20 of the hardy plains ponies.
And there the session ended…