The party ended up with a month of downtime between the return from Traynor’s Island and the beginning of Lady Chanteuse’s contract. Liana and Nakar spent many of those evenings carousing, but the halfling wizard was able to pick up some new spells and develop Nakar’s Most Excellent Force Missile, a low damage but high precision magical attack. Fiona, meanwhile, was able to imbue the party’s magically enchanted gear with large stores of energy, and petition her god Obad-Hai to Bless the entire party except for Arthur, who the deity decreed must rely on the protection of his own benefactor. She also spent a few days on a personal pilgrimage to a shrine out on the moors, where a druid of Obad-Hai was able to bestow a similar blessing upon the cleric in exchange for a future favor.
The elven noble woman and arcane summoner Lady Chanteuse approached the party with a dangerous mission. Her fey spirit familiar Firx had been captured in an iron flask by the dwarven wizard Zarek Ironbeard, master of a small dwarfhold on the outskirts of Fallkeep. The mission was to raid the manor and bring back the iron flask for a reward of 100 gp each; the lady was also offering a bonus of 50 gp each should the party bring her Zarek’s staff of power, but she emphasized that she was not hiring the group as assassins, and she would prefer that Zarek be left alive to endure the shame of his defeat.
The Ironbeard compound was located beneath an old Kazik mausoleum that the clan had purchased from the city some decades before. The entrance from the mausoleum to the manor proper was sealed with powerful magic, and only Zarek Ironbeard, his son Lear Ironbeard and the stronghold’s fearsome champion Thaezun Stormbellow had the power to unseal the doors. Living inside the mausoleum, Thaezun was a dwarven knight of no small reputation, most famous for supposedly defeating the red dragon Tyranthraxis in single combat. He was also well-known for riding a man-eating dire boar mount named Kortha into battle. In order for the party to gain entrance to the dwarfhold, Thaezun would have to be subdued and forced to open the way.
After observing the mausoleum for some days, the party determined that Thaezun and Kortha remained ever vigilant, always armed and prepared for battle. A rotating squad of six Ironbeard dwarf soldiers were also stationed above ground at all times. The party contacted a gnome rogue and friend of Nakar’s named Paeiro, who supplied the team with several healing potions as well as a noxious chemical substance that he “guaranteed” would foul any beast’s sense of smell. After applying the powder to a hunk of meat, Liana expertly tossed it over the outer walls the day before the planned raid and landed it right in Kortha’s food trough, causing the boar no small amount of discomfort, but Paeiro’s guarantee may have been a bit exaggerated.
After Nakar set up a series of Delayed Great Haste and Invisibility spells on Liana and Zardrae, respectively, the team prepared to move on the dwarves. Seye crept around the rear of the mausoleum and made to climb the outer wall, Fiona conjured a fire elemental and stood some distance back from the main gate alongside Arthur D’Bruin, while an invisible Nakar stood by at the ready. Liana and Zardrae then brazenly approached the gate, the swashbuckler demanding that Thaezun come out to duel her while Zardrae yelled loudly that he had a large wager on the outcome of the fight. After some back and forth between the heroes and the guards, Thaezun eventually emerged, mounted Kortha and agreed to battle, promising to feed the swashbuckler to his beloved pet.
Liana drew her sword, Zardrae ducked back around the gate entrance and Thaezun charged just as Nakar activated his delayed spells. The dwarf knight was initially surprised by Liana’s blinding speed and failed to trample her or strike her with his initial pass, was wounded in the arm in return and dropped his magical axe. An invisible Zardrae then ran alongside Kortha, slashing one of the straps holding the saddle in place and causing Thaezun to tip awkwardly. Unfortunately, as Nakar moved up past the gate entrance, a botched Stealth roll alerted the guards to unseen foes, and several of them immediately swung their halberds at Liana, slashing her badly across the back.
At this point Fiona unleashed her fire elemental on one of the Ironbeard soldiers, leaned around the corner and then tossed an Explosive Fireball into the melee, doing little damage but forcing several guards to hit the dirt. Liana harried Kortha with a series of vicious sword blows while evading the dire boar’s attempts to ram her. Seye slipped over the back wall to the grounds and began sneaking around the side of the mausoleum while preparing a Great Haste spell for himself, while an invisible Nakar tossed Stone Missiles and Sunbolts into the battle. Zardrae attempted a running slide beneath Kortha with the hopes of yanking on the loosened saddle and unseating Thaezun, but Stormbellow invoked his draconic powers and breathed out a jet of dragon flame that forced Zardrae and Liana to the ground, then directed Kortha away from the melee and dismounted before consuming a healing potion and fast drawing another axe from his belt.
Arthur stepped forward and stabbed one of the kneeling dwarf soldiers while Fiona created a Flame Jet in her hand, and the pair were able to intimidate two of their opponents into fleeing. Zardrae began stabbing more of the dwarf soldiers from behind, killing one and forcing another to dive for cover into a bush. Fiona’s fire elemental did an admirable job of holding yet another soldier at bay, its diffuse nature rendering halberd swings largely ineffective. Kortha charged Liana anew, but after consuming a strength potion the swashbuckler was able to fend off the beast while raining down devastating slashes and thrusts with her armor penetrating bastard sword.
Seye rushed forward and attacked Thaezun with a Wither Limb spell on his staff, but the hardy dwarf resisted the effect easily with a growled threat. Zardrae then brazenly charged at Thaezun with the hope of stabbing at his eyes, but was shocked when the knight seemed to sense his presence despite the Invisibility spell and parried aside his dagger thrusts. Stormbellow then retaliated with a pair of brutal axe swings to the skull, managing to slay Zardrae despite the protective blessing of Obad-Hai. As the dwarf turned back to grin menacingly at Seye, Zardrae’s dying action was to thrust his blade into the Thaezun’s skull from behind. Liana finally managed to dispatch Kortha, then ran up behind Stormbellow and delivered a pair of swings that cleanly severed his right arm and crippled his leg, sending the warrior sprawling to the dirt with a howl of rage.
Turning his head and seeing his slain pet, Thaezun let out a cry of grief that his last friend in the world was now dead, and agreed to submit to the party. Fiona healed the worst of his injuries and then offered to reattach his arm, but the knight refused, saying that his injury would forever serve as a reminder that he had been bested. Heaving himself painfully to his feet, Stormbellow cried over his beloved Kortha for a moment before hobbling inside the mausoleum. After speaking the words of power that would unseal the doors, he shed much of his armor and left the Ironbeard grounds in disgrace. The party quickly gathered up dropped weapons, looted Thaezun’s home of valuables and prepared to descend into the manor, where the session closed.
+3 cp for everyone, and MVP was Liana the Lionness for brutally dispatching Kortha and disarming Thaezun (literally!).
That was designed to be a challenging encounter – Thaezun and Kortha together were built on a lot of points. The dwarf knight in particular was fun to design – in addition to being a high ST + high HT + high HP weapon master, he had a bunch of cool dragon-themed abilities like extra DR, fire resistance and that breath attack that came online only once he suffered a certain amount of damage. Clearly he absorbed some of Tyranthraxis’ power! He also spent a good chunk on points on Blind Fighting, as Zardrae found out the hard way.
So we had our first PC death, and I thought Rob showed a lot of class taking it so well. Excited to see his next character! I’m always trying to build encounters right on that fine edge, I want the big dramatic events to be dangerous and challenging and maybe a little scary, but never unfair. From a GM’s perspective, Liana in particular is a difficult character to take into account when designing combat encounters, particularly when she has an armor penetrating sword and Great Haste on her. So I made Thaezun pretty badass and gave Kortha a gigantic reserve of HP, and even then Kortha did basically nothing aside from absorbing blows and Thaezun only got a couple of lucky shots in before going down hard haha. It just so happened Rob got some very unlucky HT rolls, otherwise that encounter wouldn’t have even been all that damaging to the group.