After, the harrowing events surrounding their failed exploration of Xul-Jarak, the survivors rested in Ratikhill for a little over a month. As Ratik’s armies mustered about the city in preparation for moving east to confronting the orcs, the heroes pondered their options…
During this time, Belivar decided to leave the party because he was worried that his enemies would once again catch up with him and that his friends would suffer horribly at their hands. Oreal Nanther, meanwhile, had decided he must return to Xul-Jarak to recover the remains of his fallen companions. Although keen to go north to Tumbledown, Hemgor volunteered to accompany him. Klara and Krorz however refused – they saw another expedition to Xul-Jarak as pure folly. Adoven also felt his destiny lay elsewhere and so the three decided to ride with Ratik’s army and help throw back the orcish horde.
So it was that Hemgor and Oreal cast about for new companions to accompany them. Oreal called upon his old friend, Tzaran, a druid hailing from the south who happened to be in Ratik with his ape companion. Several warriors also joined the group: Brabk One Eye (a human paladin) and Zatag of Johnsport – a one-time friend of Krorz – joining up in hopes of slaughtering orcs. Rounding out the group was Vilimzair Aralivar (a half-elven sorcerer) and Alkk a rather young, naive (and probably doomed) cleric.
With the party’s ranks sufficiently swelled, the group left Ratikhill on the 21st of Harvester. Their plan was to swing to the south and hopefully dodge the massing orcs now reported to have moved from Xul-Jarak into the very fringes of the Loftwood.
One of the guiding principles of the Borderland of Adventure campaign is that the PCs can do pretty much what they want. As the GM, I provide them with a range of adventuring options and they pick what they want to do. In this instance, it led to the party splitting with one half heading off to Xul-Jarak while the others want to fight in Ratik’s army. That’s cool as it gives me the opportunities to explore two strands of the same story.
For the next few weeks we’ll be exploring Xul-Jarak, but once the heroes are done there we’ll switch our attentions to the other half of the group and discover how they fair fighting against the orcs. This also means that each players gets to build a secondary character and that no one has to do something they don’t think their character would really do – a bugbear of many campaigns.
Of all the characters, the only one not to return (at least not in the foreseeable future) is Belivar. It had become very apparent to me and the players that summoners are somewhat over-powered in comparison to the normal classes from the core book. Repeatedly in play I would knock down and almost kill the fighters in the group, but fail to even damage the summoner! If I added in a foe capable of challenging Belivar (capable of actually hitting his high 20s, low 30s AC) I would worry that half the rest of the party would become collateral damage. That’s no fun for anyone and so when Belivar’s player decided to retire him, I was happy to facilitate his request.
Back to the Action
After resting for a month or so, the newly formed group struck out from Ratikhill into the rocky hills separating the Loftwood from the Rakers. Several days of uneventful travel were punctuated only by occasional encounters with refugees moving north. The party reached the western fringes of the Loftwood without further incident and began their journey through that cold, gloomy place.
Much of the journey in the forest was also without incident. It became rapidly obvious that the orcs had scoured the wood for all available food sources and signs of their presence were everywhere. A small hunting party of orcs was encountered and annihilated, but it was around this time the PCs realised they did not have enough food for the round trip. With this realisation, the party’s speed slowed to a crawl as they hunted and foraged for food. While all party members still carried several days of rations they preferred to save such readily available food for the return journey (in case they had to move quickly).
This slower advance meant they spent more time in the woods and so several encounters with its denizens resulted. All – an owlbear and an ettercap leading a small pack of hunting spiders – were slain.
After almost two weeks of travel, the party eventually reached Xul-Jarak. As dusk was creeping under the forest’s boughs, Tzaran transformed into an eagle and flew high overhead. he saw only a few orcs on the battlements and no wyvern in the courtyard. A general air of inactivity hung over the fortress and he returned to his comrades satisfied the vast majority of the orcs in and around the fortress had marched to war.
The party rested overnight and planned their assault.
The next morning, they moved up to the fortress and scaled the black rock upon which it stood. They reached, the base of the wall safely, but armour banging against the rock summoned a sentry. Stunned to see intruders at Xul-Jarak’s wall he opened his mouth to shout a warning but was shot several times by the party’s archers. Before he could effectively alert the complex, he was dead and the party continued their cautious, almost stealthy, approach.
They reached the courtyard without further alarm and using a small door to their left gained access to the battlements. There they were finally spotted and Oreal engaged in a lively archery duel with another sentry. Wounded, the sentry fled shouting for help. As the party advanced to the rear of the place, they could hear the sounds of approaching warriors. Quickly, they formed a shield wall and waited for the orcs to appear…
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