Rise of the Runelords

Session 12: A History Lesson

Chapter Three: The Hook Mountain Massacre

 
City of Korvosa, study hall of Castle Korvosa

A beautiful, young woman enters the room, her three servants stumbling behind carrying her books. It is mid afternoon, which means another long hour of studies before her. As she scans racks and racks of books lining the walls, their bindings nearly bursting apart thanks to all the history of the city within them, she is reminded of just how much knowledge she has yet to absorb. Wondering who amongst her endless line of teachers will be schooling her today, Lady Ileosa Nektar is surprised to see her future husband, King Eodfrid Arabasti standing next to Neolandus Kalepopolis, seneschal of the castle. With no other people in the room, that could only mean one thing; her education on how to be a proper queen would begin.

Eodfrid: My love, please dismiss your servants. Your books will not be needed today. I know you have endured much to become my wife. Today I give thee a break from why writings. However, thy mind must be open to what is to come in today’s lesson.

Ileosa: Dearest King, you are everything my heart has ever desired. To be by your side for the rest of our days is my very wish. I understand the trials and am ready to continue them. I know, in order to gain the loving peoples hearts, I must gain their respect. And the only way to do so, is to show that I am truly one of them.

Eodfrid: It warms my soul to hear your words, for I know them to be true. What you see in my aging body, I know not. But I am grateful, for you have granted me a gift I thought lost when I first wife died a century before your birth: love. I digress however. Now is not the time for pleasantries, but rather a time for your lesson today. And to give such, I leave that unto my trusted advisor Seneschal Neolandus. I shall leave thee two alone.

Neolandus: Good day my liege. And to you my future queen, I bid you my fondest good tidings. I know we have yet to speak much, as my duties are greater in number than even the books you see around you, I'm afraid I must get to the point. What I am going to recount to you today is a story.

Ileosa: You mean one where a handsome bard jumps to the aid of a fair maiden being held prisoner by vicious goblins?

Neolandus: Not quite my dear. This story is one of truth, though one that you will not find in any of your current history books. Tis only a partial tale of one much greater than time will allow me to recount. There is a goal to me telling you this story, so listen carefully and absorb each and every word.

Fort Rannick was a bastion of defense on the frontier of Magnimar. Their legendary Black Arrow guardsman were the elite of the elite. Yet for some reason, they were beset by infighting. And as black arrows turned upon black arrows, the front door of the fort was smashed down by an ogre barbarian, with a battalion of its kind behind it.

In short order, the keep was in their grasp. Led by a beautiful lamia, they were determined to hold the fort against all odds. Even when a powerful band of adventurers attempted to sneak in, the ogres leader and one of her barbarian lovers repelled them. The band escaped, leaving one of their numbers behind. And as they planned their next move in a secret tunnel, above them, a signal horn was sounded. A blast that reverberated throughout the keep walls, and announced to all that an invasion was afoot.

The adventurers called themselves the Swords in the Wind. Their leader, a warblade named Tirion, hailed from lands far beyond. His home was the world, and his goal was one thing and one thing only, to do good where good was needed to be done. The second of their number was Vala the healer of Sarenrae. Though Sandpoint was her new home, her old home was a place in another lifetime, literally. Brought back to youth by her goddess, she had dedicated her new life to her new companions. The third was a new member of the band named Jakar. A ranger by trade, and in reality the only known Black Arrow survivor of the massacre of Rannick. Last of their number was a fiendish rogue named Libra. No one knows where he came from, but his name, even today is synonymous with betrayal.

They were discussing the reward that Tirion had neglected to mention for taking back the keep. Libra said he intended to use the money to bring back Shalelu, a former Sword in the Wind member who had fallen in battle. At mention of the name, Jakar perked up. He said that his former lover’s daughter was named Shalelu, and that it was likely the same person.

It was decided that the four would regroup north of the keep. Their journey brought them to where a beach was supposedly located. When they arrived though, they noticed that none existed and that the water level was very high. The weather did not make their situation any less grave as rain began pouring down in buckets.

As Vala healed their wounds, Libra remarked how much magic it took to mend all of Tirion's wounds, compared to his own. What the smart-ass halfling should have realized is that a warblade is trained to take a lot of punishment before dropping. The same sword blow that would fell a normal man, is not enough to drop a warblade. As they waited for Vala to regain her spells, they debated on how the keep could have fallen in the first place. With Tirion's vast knowledge, he recounted all that he had heard about lamias. It was established that such a creature could have easily infiltrated single handedly the keep by either charming the personnel, or changing herself into one and assassinating them one by one.

The course of action was finally reached. With Jakar staying behind, the remaining three would fly to the keep and teleport in an upper tower. There they could scour the place room by room, slaying anyone in their path. As they magicked into tower however, their ears heard voices on the other side of the only door in the room; those of many ogres and the lamia.

The Swords in the Wind were not known for being silent in their battles. Tirion smashed open the door and used a stance he called Insightful to hurt the first ogre in line. The room itself was a meeting hall that currently had five ogres, the lamia, and her charmed thrall Vale: the companion the Swords had left behind. With no room to get around Tirion, or perhaps because he secretly hated his companion, Libra blew a magical horn that sent a cone of sonic energy ripping through the room. Tirion took the force right in the back, but so too did four of the ogres. Vala meanwhile cast a protective bubble that impeded those who wished to attack with melee strikes. Although this encompassed her allies, she knew that their willpower was strong enough to overcome it.

The ogres were fast to get themselves organized; indeed it was as though they were waiting for the Swords to arrive. Our roguish hero was faster however, sending a dagger into the ogre in front of Tirion. Barely standing, it stepped aside, making room for a barbarian ogre with a metal jaw and devilish hook. Its friends all encouraged him on, pointing out weak points in Tirion's defense. Steel jaw took his friends advice and sent that hook right into the warblade's ribs with the force of a storm giant. There was magic in that weapon that sent an aftershock of pain as the weapon was enchanted to be the bane of humankind. With quickness that bellied its huge form, the ogre brought the hook down again upon Tirion a second time.

Wounded horribly, Tirion was able to get in a glancing blow upon steel jaw. The pain from the hook wounds was excruciating, yet he knew twould not last long. He was blocking the doorway for a reason, so that no ogres could get into the room, thereby preventing anyone from hitting Vala. For she was his lifeline. And she did not disappoint as she sent healing energies into the warblade to mend his wounds. The lamia meanwhile was to far away to bring her rapier to bear, yet she had her own magics. However, her attempt to bring Tirion down with a laughter spell failed. Libra missed with his next dagger toss, given his friend was unintentionally acting as a shield for the barbarian, but was able to hit it with a simple stone from his sling.

Metal jaw continued listening to his friend’s advice, but this time Tirion was ready and barely parried both blows aside. This gave Vala the chance to heal the remainder of his wounds. After another glancing blow by Tirion, Libra began shouting at the lamia to gloat on her plans, and why she wanted them all dead. All that she would reveal was her name; Lucrecia. She also made it apparent that, her goal was to get through Tirion as fast as she could so that she would finally slay the halfling. It seemed the rogue had been the one that had dealt the killing blow upon her sister and family vengeance reigned in this lamia family. In order to facilitate that, the used a mind spell to suggest to Tirion to flee, thus opening the way to Libra. Luckily the warblade resisted, but took another hook slice while he was being distracted by the spell. Yet again Vala healed those wounds.

The Swords in the Wind began suggesting battle strategies amongst themselves. As the ogres were now defending Steeljaw, Tirion adopted the same technique, and shouted to Libra to continue throwing those sling stones. Libra responded with a rock strike that hit the ogre right in the middle of the forehead. It started to swoon, nearly falling unconscious. It was a barbarian though and it shook the hit off faster than anyone could have predicted. Enraged at nearly being feld by a stone, Steeljaw swung past the defending Tirion to try to get to Libra. Its powerful blow though struck nothing but the stone floor, but put the rogue in a bit of a panic. Libra sent two more rocks skipping off its chest, but despite the wounds, it was as though he couldn't even feel pain anymore.

Lucrecia sent another suggestion at Tirion to flee, and this time his will was broken. The warblade fled up a flight of stairs behind, leaving a wide open path to Libra. Steeljaw smiled, and with two chops, sent Libra in a fit of pain and anger as he took exception to the monster actually striking him. Vala quickly used a protection from evil spell on Tirion to temporarily remove the enchantment. In the blink of an eye, he raced back down into the fight, only to see his halfling friend receive two massive hook slashes across the face. He didn't have time to lament his friends passing, as he sent an insightful strike upon Steeljaw. Vala meanwhile was faced with a near impossible decision; use her magic to calm the barbarian, or save Libra who was in fact barely holding onto life. She chose the former. Yet her godly magic was unable to get through the wall of rage.

Lucrecia meanwhile was content to use her magic to heal her ogre loyalists. From her vantage point, she could see her lieutenant fighting with someone, but didn't know who it was. An opening suddenly presented itself and she saw the halfling whom she wanted slain, lying in a pool of blood. Thinking him dead, she was shocked to see a draconic healers hand reach out and heal many of his wounds. Cursing in her own guttural tongue, she screamed at Steeljaw to slay the halfling.

Libra's eyes opened for only a second. In that time he saw Tirion standing before him, Vala beside him, and a large hook reaching past his warblade friend to slice into flesh. Again the rogue fell. Seeing this, Lucrecia commanded her ogres to make sure he was dead. Lamenting his fallen friend, this time for good he hoped, Tirion summoned all his skill and sent a mighty chop that caught Steeljaw right beneath his steel jaw. Still the barbarian stood, but the warblade quickly moved into position to stop it from entering any further into the room.

As it was, Vala saw her fallen friend was barely hanging on to life. She knew that her other friend would be needing her magic soon, and so moved in between Libra and Tirion, while sending a wave of magic to mend Libra's wounds. Rising on rickety legs, he continued sending his sling stones flying. Although he got one lucky hit in, the rest were deflected by the ogre brethren around Steeljaw as they, seeing Tirion back in the mix, started helping defend their leader.

After already exhausting her mind spells, Lucrecia resorted to scorching rays from her wand. Tirion seemed to absorb some of the damage and continued to swing time and time again at Steeljaw. It was a race to see what would happen first, whether Vala would run out of mending spells, or Steeljaw would hurt Tirion enough that no healing spell on earth would be able to fix the warblade. Libra eventually got in a lucky hit with his dagger that pierced Steeljaw's lung. It staggered on one knee and Lucrecia raced up to heal a few of its wounds. Yet it was not nearly enough as Tirion slashed open its other lung, finally bringing it down to the ground.

Through it all, Steeljaw's fellow ogres had been in awe at their master’s prowess in battle, and the power of the ogre hook. Seeing its own chance to shine, one such ogre took up the fallen hook and charged at Tirion, only to be cut down with a single swing by the warblade mighty sword. All the while Vala was there to mend her friend’s wounds like she usually was. Eventually, the magic in Tirion's protective crystal gave out, and the full sting of the scorching rays sent by Lucrecia started burning in.

Another ogre decided to pick up the fallen hook and got in a good slice on Tirion. Libra meanwhile seemed to find his stride and began sending stinging stones slapping soundly against its forehead and chest. The little man though was simply not in a position to truly strike any vital areas as was his specialty. His participation in the battle was almost inconsequential as it was his mighty companion who was the meat and grind of the Swords in the Wind party. As if on cue, Tirion downed the current hook-wielding ogre, leaving only one other to take up its power.

Then things began to turn for the worse for the heroes as a magic-wielding ogre walked into the room and, at Lucrecia's command, cast a booming shout spell that hurt both Libra and Tirion, but also acted as a warning horn for the keep. Meanwhile, Lucrecia and her only other current ogre continued to harass Tirion with flame and hook. While the forces of good fought with sword and stone.

The lamia commanded her mage to begin harassing Libra, and it did by sending bombardment after bombardment of magic missiles into the halfling, forcing Vala to eventually direct her near exhausted supply of healing on him. In his rage to get at the mage, Libra tossed his dagger with all his might at the current hook wielder, sending it to the precipice of death. The mage sent it over the edge as he lightening bolted it and both Tirion and Libra. The warblade only partially dodged it aside, but the small halfling was able to duck the magic completely.

Despite everyone’s injuries, it seemed like the way was clear to finally get to Lucrecia. That was until another barbarian ogre walked into the room to bar the way. Smiling it charged at Tirion, who in turn created a whirlwind of death to meet it. In his desire to end the fight, he forgot in that moment where his friend Vala was. His swing was true upon the ogre. Yet it was but a glimmering moment of victory, as the scream behind him was all that he heard. And one that would forever haunt him.

Looking behind, he saw what he had inadvertently done. Vala was staring ahead in blank shock, her entrails clutched in her hands as though she had reached out to stop them from fallen to the ground in an instinctual manner.

A cry of pain from Libra, as he was hit by more magic missiles, brought Tirion back to the action at hand. Before him was another ogre barbarian after all, though one whose skill seemed less apparent than the previous one. Yet again, it was a battle between ogre and warblade, with the mage, Dorella, sending a lighting bolt in to hit both.

Vala meanwhile was out of the fight for the moment. She watched as Libra sent a pitiful healing magic from one of his many wands to stop Tirion from dropping. She herself took the time that was direly needed to mend the gaping wound in her belly. On the verge of unconsciousness, she steadied her breathing for one great call to her god to take away her hurt. And in that prayer, it seemed as though Sarenrae both blessed her and mocked her. For indeed, healing magic flooded into her body; while before her, Lucrecia stood, having gone through a dimension door to get there.

Seeing their friend in dire straights, both Tirion and Libra abandoned the ogre to defend against the lamia. In her time away from the battle, she had cast several defensive spells upon her that made it almost impossible to strike her lith form. After a few lucky hits, it was apparent that the day was lost. More ogres were heard approaching, and Vala had but one remaining spell left. Touching her two friends, she dimension doored themselves out of the keep, and the three ran as fast as their legs could take them to where Jakar awaited.

A third plan was hatched, much like the first, to invade the keep. Vala healed everyone’s wounds, and Libra used his hat of disguise to pose as Vala, making for a confusing target. As they magicked into the keep though, it was apparent that it had been abandoned. Nothing of value was left, making it clear that it had been a well organized retreat. They found their charmed friend Vale, dead by a slit to the throat.

Given the retreat had been recent; Jakar was able to follow their tracks, particularly given the heavy rain. After only a few hours of following the ogres, they were forced to stop, and back-track fast. Very fast! For before them a wall of water was heading towards them. It was a veritable tsunami, and by their estimation, it was headed towards the down of Turtleback Ferry. It would be a race to warn them in time. But that my dear is a lesson for another time.

Ileosa: My words dear seneschal! It's almost unbelievable that such a battle truly happened. You hear bardic tales of such things, yet always with great exaggerations thrown in, and always with the heroes on the winning side.

Neolandus: Indeed my dear, yet my telling you of this event was not only to entertain you. It was a history lesson, one of many which you will need to hear and understand if you are to be queen of Korvosa. So tell me my dear, what did you learn?

Ileosa: Hmmm, well there are many things to take from this tale on both sides. First of all, one must find the weak link of an army and get to it before it can be brought to bear. Dimension door can be used to bring several people through. Thus, if I had been Lucrecia, I would have brought my barbarian companion with me using that spell into the room where the three adventurers were and had my barbarian friend destroy the healer. The other ogres were already in the other room blocking any exit, so they would have harassed the warblade. I would then have gone after the halfling as I had some unknown hatred towards him, leaving the warblade the last to die.

Looking at the adventurer’s side of things, since this was their second time attacking the keep, I would not have gone with a different plan of attack. They should have gone with a more shadowed entry. Perhaps sending in the rogue and have him slit a few throats. Even if I had gone with their plan, once I saw that the odds were greater than they were the first time I had attacked, then I would have abandoned everything then and there. For how can I succeed against odds I failed to succeed against when those odds were lessened before?

Other possibilities would have been to conscript Turtleback Ferry people into the group. All in all, there was no strategy for battle in the Swords tactics. And to win, one must have a sound plan, especially when one is against insurmountable odds.

Neolandus: Well done my dear. It is important to see a problem from all sides. This group of adventures, though only semi-famous, had their movements well documented. Their failures and victories will be taught to you to prepare you for things to come.

Ileosa: What do you mean "Things to come?"

Neolandus: (sigh) I'm afraid I've already said to much, but do not worry, you and all of Korvosa will be more than prepared.

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