After messing around with the Wood Elves, with varying degrees of success, the players continued their journey southwards down the River Reik.
The players and characters were;
Ed – Thorgrim – Dwarf Scholar
Amy – Llewellyn – Wood Elf Wardancer
Andy – Thorn – Wood Elf Wizard
James – Deem – Dwarf Warrior
Alan – Yvette – Human Ranger
They stopped off briefly at Kemperbad, doing a little trading along the way. James went on a one-dwarf quest to find someone who could make him a stone door for his cabin on the boat (the result of the ‘pee in the bed’ incident earlier) but while he was unsuccessful, he was very much aware someone or someones were following him. In the midst of a tight crowd, he felt a pinch about his head, but his assailant disappeared before he could react (Initiative 15 has its price). He quickly realised someone had stolen a lock of hair.
A little later, James was approached by a man addressing him as Kastor (the name of the dwarf James had taken the identity of), demanding that James pay the Inner Circle (whatever that was) what he owed. At this point, James was a little mystified as to what was going on, but was convinced it could not be good.
Still, the party had work to do – they were following a lead that suggested an evil wizard called Etelka Hertzen was up to no good further south in Grissenwald. It took them a week more to get there (bypassing Castle Wittgenstein on the way, after hearing lots of stories about Bad Things happening there), but they finally reached the small mining settlement. Their first port of call was the tavern (obviously) but while asking around about Etelka, a couple of drunk dwarfs wandered in and started insulting the elves (‘Oi! Wing Nut!’). James and Ed did not see any issues with this, but the elves started taking exception but had the presence of mind to get the watch involved rather than starting a fight.
They discovered that the dwarfs had been raiding farms and burning them, and that Etelka was a very nice noblewoman who had not been seen recently, but had a house a few miles away, next to an abandoned mine. Thus informed, the players set off, completely ignoring the dwarf shanty town outside Grissenwald and any possible leads that lay there.
Still, that meant they also missed out on a bucket load of XP!
Marching through the woods on their way to Etelka’s home, the players came across burned out farms and, upon rooting around in the ruins, discovered a few arrows they thought to be of goblin manufacture. Hmm…
The next farm was intact but they came under a hail of arrow fire as they approached. Alan managed to convince the family cowering inside that they were not there to pillage, though he could not persuade them that Ed and James were not about to attack.
As the sun began to dip towards the horizon, they came out of the woods and found a two storey tower next to a mine – Etelka’s home, they presumed. Under the cover of daylight (yeah, I know), they decided to infiltrate the tower, and ran straight into a small tribe of goblins and their pet wolves.
It was a major battle.
They burst into the main hall and managed to nobble most of the wolves and sleeping goblins there before meeting solid resistance. Goblin spearmen blocked the stairs running upwards, holding the players firm while archers around the balcony let fly with their arrows.
Andy tried to break the deadlock by unleashing a mighty fireball at the archers, but managed to get nothing more than a faint fizz of light (as it turned out, he had misread the fireball spell and not added its base Strength – after this point his fireballs got a little more mighty, but it would not be the last time something like this happened…).
It fell to Amy and, eager to try out her new Wardancer skills for real, she bounded up the stairs with a shriek that paralysed the goblin spearmen with fear, leapt over their heads, and started hacking them apart from behind. James followed up behind while Alan kept the heads of the archers down with his own return fire.
A number of things happened then.
Andy tried to make himself as small as possible, as a few of the goblin arrows had come a little too close for comfort. Amy was keening away, tearing apart goblins while James just hoped there might be a few left for him. Ed, on the other hand…
Well, Ed had seen the chance to use a blunderbuss he had purchased from Kemperbad. The trouble is, he did not actually know anything about using a blunderbuss. He promptly rolled a misfire, rolled on the table to see what happened, and got 00.
The resulting explosion wrecked the blunderbuss (which was what annoyed Ed most about this incident) and dealt a fair bit of damage to him, Alan and Andy, who were not best happy with the result.
Meanwhile, upstairs the goblin spearmen had been dealt with and Amy and James prepared to attack the archers who were still plugging away at the players below them. At that point, a new goblin appeared – one wearing a dress and tiara. He gestured at Amy, mumbled some gobbledegook, then looked perplexed when nothing happened (he was trying to cast a spell, but knew as much about magic as Ed did about gunpowder). As Amy stalked towards him, swords drawn and dripping with goblin blood, he tried to bargain with her, saying everything was a mistake, nothing was his fault, and if she just let him go, they would say no more about it.
Amy stabbed him, then finished off the archers.
As the dust settled, the players did a quick inventory of the tower. Andy quickly identified that the shield the goblin ‘shaman’ had been carrying was magical, and then decided to keep that knowledge (and the shield) to himself. They discovered some hostages; a farmer, his wife and Etelka’s halfling cook, who had been having some real issues about the goblins taking over at his mistress’ invitation. The halfling told the players that Etelka was not there and had gone up ‘Norn’s River to get some bare pills.’
That clue went straight over their heads, and no one even thought to look at the map to see if there was a Norn’s River (there wasn’t, but there was a Narn River, which led straight to the Barren Hills – do you see? They didn’t).
Fortunately, in the study they did find a letter written to Etelka from one Istak Graksk Tzeentch (I swear to all that is holy, they actually missed the significance of his last name), outlining an expedition to the Barren Hills.
So, they had a target for their next adventure.
There was just time for one final argument. Andy had found a room containing a stuffed bear and a stuffed crocodile. He wanted to take them both (or, failing that, just the bear) back to the boat so he could… well, actually he was not too clear about just why he wanted these stuffed animals, other than they might make his cabin look good.
However, the other players had found a huge chest full of coins which, needing two to carry, were far more interested in taking back with them. Andy begged James to help him carry the bear. James said no. Andy suggested he pull the stuffing out of the bear and fill it with the coins. The whole party said no. Andy asked if anyone knew how to take the wheels off the mining cart outside and attach them to the bear so he could wheel it back to the boat. No one answered.
They spent the night in the tower and, at first light, departed for Grissenwald and their boat.
The bear and the crocodile remained behind.