One of the founders of our hobby and one of the most unsung contributors to Dungeons & Dragons, Len Lakofka has passed away at the age of 76.
Along with the many adventures, classes, spells, and rules he created, Len was also father of the Suel in Greyhawk, designer of their gods, and namesake of the Lendore Isles.
The value of his work goes without saying, but his presence will be sorely missed. The adventures of Leomund go on.
Level 9 (Needs to level up to 9th level!)
Next level = 500,000
STR 18/91 +2 to hit/+5 damage/235 wt. allowance/380 max press/ 15(3) open doors/ bend bars 35%
DEX 17 +2 reaction time/+2 missile adj/-3 defense adj
CON 19 +5 HP adj/99% system shock/100%resurrection/+1 poison save
INT 9 2 additonal languages
WIS 14 no adjustments
HP 95 (+10 bonus RAGE)
AC:-1(plate: 3, -1 PM +1,- 3 DX BONUS)
AC:-3 when in killing rage
AC:+1 after withdrawing from Killing Rage
***against one attack, deduct 2 from AC for Buckler+1***
BASE THACO: 12(+2 str, +2 missiles, +1 spc, +1 rage, -1 after rage,)
Attack per rd: 3/2
Attacks with 2-H Battleaxe or Warhammer: 2/1
Base Saving Throws: PPD-10, RSW-12, P/P-11, BW-12 Spells-13
+5 magic and poison (dwarf CON)
+1 vs. all (ring)
+2 vs. reaction saves (dex)
+1 vs. physical (armor)
+2 to saving throws against fear, charm, suggestion, illusion and other mental attack forms involving will, and +2 Wis checks (Strength Card)
Magic Item not made for warrior has 20% chance of failure
Infravision 60' in Dark
+1 to hit orcs, half-orcs, goblins, and hobgoblins
Trolls, ogres, ogre magi, titans, and giants suffer -4 to hit
Grades or Slopes 1-5 on d6
New Tunnel or Passage Construction 1-5 on d6
Detect sliding/shifting walls or rooms 1-4 on d6
Detect stonework traps, pits, and deadfalls 1-3 on d6
Detect approx. depth underground 1-3 on d6
Wt. 180 lbs.
Hair-Dyed bright red. Mohawk. Beard, same color. Braided.
Skin: Red tint in color.
Distinctive Body Marks: Blue spiral tattoos cover sides of head and face. More elaborate blue tattoos cover the rest of his body.
Patch over Left Eye. No one has ever asked him if it is just decorative or not.
Gold chain attached from left nostril and wraps around his head to connect to right ear.
3 gold circular piercings in right eyebrow
2 gold nose rings. Situated in the middle of his nose, thru his bone.
Beltpouch for potions. Carries speed, superheroism, and extra healing 2(L to R). Beltpouch carries 2 of each. Remaining potions in Thorgrim's Portable Hole, in a secure, padded iron chest.
Giant Goreblade: +2 Dwarven War Axe Giant Slayer (+3 vs. true giants and does x2 damage, as sword of Giant Slaying) (Bracelet)
Plate Mail +1, armor gets cold in presence of elves, warm in presence of orcs. Endures fire and cold (as 1st lvl priest spells) (wearing)
Stonecrusher Warhammer+2 (Bracelet)
Non-Magical gem-encrusted Goblet(3,500GP) (pouch)
Quartz with continual light (pouch)
Ring +1 Protection (r. ring finger)
Ring of Spell Turning(l. ring finger)
Year's supply of Gutshaker (at Warder's Station)
Bracelet of Charms (Holding Giant Goreblade, Stonecrusher, and the Minotaur Axe) Command word DRAS.
Chainmail and Shield*
Potion of Regeneration (acts as Ring of Regeneration for 24 hours)
* Items are in Thorgrim's portable hole
NOTES ABOUT BATTLERAGERS AND HISTORY
Battle Rager Bonuses:
Killing Rage +1 attack, +3 damage, +10 HP, -1 AC
Immune to following wizard spells:charm person, emotion,fear,friends,hypnotism,sleep,irritation,ra y of enfeeblement,scare, and geas
Immune to following cleric spells: command, charm, enthrall, cloak of bravery, remove fear, symbol
+4 saving throw bonuses to following wizard spells:blindness, tasha's uncontrollable hideous laughter, hold person, charm monster, confusion
+4 saving throw bonuses to following cleric spells: hold person, hold animal
Finger of Death kills Battle Rager instantly, if fails saving throw.
If makes save, does not suffer 2d8+1 damage until killing rage over.
While in rage, immune to KO results from Punching and Wrestling Rules.
While in rage, takes only 1/2 damage from bare-hand attacks.
Battle Rager Restrictions/Disadvantages:
Takes 5 rounds of singing to enter Killing Rage.
Oblivious to pain. DM keeps track of HP.
Must continue to fight each melee round until all opponents are killed.
After all enemies are dead, will attack teammates unless makes Wisdom check.
Can avoid Killing Rage by making Wisdom check.
First to charge into battle.
If another character does something Gotrek interpets as an attack(such as wizard casting silence spell), he must roll Intelligence check. If successful, he ignores his friend. If he fails, the friend becomes an enemy.
When in Killing Rage, he is temporarily unaffected by the following clerical spells: bless, CLW, aid, CSW, CCW, heal, regenerate, and wither. He only gains these benefits when not enraged.
The taunt spell is automatically successful and causes him to abandon his current enemy and rush to attack taunter.
Once rage is over, he loses all advantages, including the +10HP. This could cause him to die instantly, or collapse unconscious.
After rage subsides, suffers -1 penalty to hit attacks, a -3 to damage rolls, and a +1 to AC. This effect remains for the same number of rounds that he was enraged.
Other dwarves react to Battle Ragers with a -3 reaction adjustment penalty. But instead of attacking, they will withdraw.
Other races sense the latent violence in a Battle Rager and react to him with a -2 penalty, though they may not have enough common sense not to attack him.
My name is Gotrek. I am a Battle Rager. I have not the tongue for talk. But, I have a need to explain how I got where I am today.When I was a babe, my clan was attacked by giants. The entire clan was exterminated. All but myself. They say I was found with a rock in my hand, and a dead giant at my feet. I do not know if that tale is true or not. I have no recollection of such a thing. In fact, I did not hear of this until 15 years ago. And this is where my life truly began. But, I am getting ahead of myself. A neighboring clan of mountain dwarves found me, and took me in as their own. Their craft was armor and weapons, and when I turned 10, I went into apprenticeship. An apprenticeship normally lasts for 25 years. And I completed it, though it brought me no joy. Don't get me wrong. I didn't dislike it. But it wasn't my ..lifequest. It did not light that internal fire. I completed it for the clan, whom I thought my own family. Clans stick together, and help each other. It was a rival armorer that told me of my past, out of sheer jealousy. His intention was to drive me away, for though I did not love the craft, I did excel in it. And he knew, as I did, that I was the better of the the two of us. Once I heard of my past, I was driven to find out more facts. And the more facts I learned, the more I changed. But there were still a lot of unanswered questions....
In a way the rival dwarf, Gunther, won. I no longer created. No more did I put metal to heat, and hammer beauty. No, I changed. I was always proficient wielding weapons, notably the battleaxe and warhammer. But now, I wanted to master them, as I had the forge. My clan brothers began to fear me and revere me. At the same time, it seemed, if that makes any sense. I dyed my hair a bright red. I got piercings. I got tattoos. And I killed. The clan would not interact willingly with me anymore. And that suited me just fine. Talking just got in the way of my killing. And when I found out that giants had eradicated my original clan, I made the destruction of that cursed race my lifequest. Or, perhaps, deathquest would be a more apt description. Anyway, I knew it was the right decision. It was confirmed to me this, one night as I slept. Fifteen years after first discovering my past from the envious dwarf Gunther. The Dwarven God of War, Clangeddin Silverbeard, visited me. He told me I was one of his chosen few, a Battle Rager. He told me my goal of killing giants was good. Great, in fact.
But he also told me not to forget about the other evils that plagued the world:the titans, the drow, the goblins, and on and on. He then told me one more thing. In my path of self destruction, it would lead me to a great weapon. A great two handed battleaxe. Made of mithral, and laced with gold. Magically enhanced as well. It had numerous magical properties, but one in particular justified its name. Giant Goreblade. The Bane of Giants. Goreblade for short. Silverbeard told me once I found the blade, the answers to my past would be known as well. So now, I quest. And as I quest, I kill. If I die before finding Goreblade, so be it. My axe is plenty gory as it now stands, anyway.
That dream was five years ago. Ever since then, my fighting prowess has increased. During battle, I feel no pain. I kill all, with greater strength and determination than would seem possible. I am truly blessed by my God. Now, in search of answers, I must go where all dwarves hate. A city full of stinking men. I go now towards the Viscounty of Verbobonc. I heard whispers of the axe passing thru this way a little while back. I hope these humans don't piss me off. All I want to do is destroy the scum of the earth. Men, for the most part, have not made that list yet.
Gotrek’s history (learned from his uncle Urgal):
“Very respected was your father, the toughest of the Delvers. I can see his fearless in you, though you clearly have the hot temper of yer mother. Her name was Gilora, which means..."
"Fiery Protector," finishes Gotrek. "What happened to her?"
"She fell standing over you," says Urgal evenly. "Yer father had disappeared, fending off goblins in the lower mines. How they got in our halls, I'll never know. There were dozens, and ogres, and orcs besides." He shakes his head, "terrible," he mutters. "Yer father, his element was the tunnels. He was below. I promised to watch out fer ya. I failed. The last thing I saw was a huge formorian...." His voice trails off. "I thought ye dead too, along with the rest of our kin."
"The lower mines were overrun, and soon goblins poured into the forges in endless numbers. I could only assume your father died in the tunnels. With enemies from above and below, there was no longer any escape, except maybe the Glanvir River, which ran through the center of the Morbeck, the farm hall. It was a fast moving underground river, which no dwarf had ever successfully navigated, but provided an endless supply of water to the hold. Both ends were sealed with stout bars, so we destroyed the downstream barrier. The women, children, and a select few braved the river, provided with some potions from the temple, while the rest of us held off the assaulting hordes."
"I carried the standard of the Clan, and held the position at the Glanvir alongside Torbir Souldkeeper, Champion of Moradin, Yurorr Riddlemaster, Narrack Steadyhammer, and Thdris Heartwall. She was last of the Hearthguard, and she would not abandon the hold, no matter what. King Therl Oathfather, led the rest in a sortie, throwing the humanoids back in confusion and giving the women and children time to brave the river. Torbir could not stand to guard the rear, and he charged after the king. Once the women and children were gone, Narrack and Yurorr did as well, seeing no point in guarding an empty chamber. Thdris and I were last. We stood our ground."
"The battle soon came to us, and we could only assume everyone else was now dead. Thdris fought as if endowed with the powers of the gods themselves, and we held the chamber, at least for another few minutes. But we were two against many, and the outcome was never in doubt. She fell, beneath an avalanche of trolls. I planted the standard of the king along the river bank and cried the call of Clan Delgrim."
"Whur A Faeyn!" he cries, startling both Gotrek and Thogrim. "It means Wake the Iron," he says, and was the Delgrim Battle Cry for centuries. "Those were the last dwarven words spoken in Delgrim, the Hall of Eternal Steel." He looks odd for a moment, near embarrassed. "I was almost immediately knocked back into the river by a thrown boulder," he says. "Musta been one a the giants. Me arm was broke, and I plunged underwater. I thought fer sure I were dead, until I awoke in some lost cavern. I don't know how long I was under, how far I was taken, or how long I'd been unconscious. Alls I know is, I was alive, and I had this...."
When Gotrek left the party last year, he journeyed north to find his uncle, Urgal. Fighting alongside him and the Deldukr was just what the surely dwarf needed. He wanted to just fight, not wander around fixing everyone's problems. Thus, he traveled to Dyvers where he learned of the Deldukr. They had marched through Dyvers some months before, on their way to the Shield Lands. There had been rumors of war filtering down from the north, and war was what the Deldukr did best. Thus, Gotrek went north, to the Shield Lands.
He journeyed through the lands of Furyondy, eventually reaching the Shield Lands at the end of Patchwall. This was about the time the party was in Celene or in the Suss Forest. Once in the Shield Lands, he met up with his uncle and learned of the region's history as well as some current events. While the Shieldlanders spend most of their time worrying about the Horned Society, a land of vast humanoid armies to the north, across the Veng and Ritensa Rivers, their current problems lie with the Bandit Kingdoms.
The section below comes from an old dragon article, written by Gygax himself. I thought it would be cool to start Gotrek's adventure by using this history. I've added to it some, and I believe it really sets the stage well.
The events in the north central Flanaess revolve around two groups of states. In the west the action surrounds the Wolf Nomads, the Rovers of the Barrens, luz, and the Horned Society. Eastward, interesting developments allowed the Duchy of Tenh to make a strong foray into the Bandit Kingdoms. The events in the west will be dealt with first.
Wolf Nomads: Following the rise in power of the humanoid hordes of the cambion, luz, the Wegwuir avoided the area east of the Black Water, spending their aggressive energies upon the Tiger Nomads to the west and even moving south along the Sepia-Uplands to raid Perrenland. In the spring of 578, luz actually-sent an army into the north to take the poor town of Eru-Tovar, the only real city of the Wolf people, the pride of their Tarkhan. As fate would have it, the Chakyiks were themselves interested in a venture against Ekbir, so they were quite happy to conclude a treaty. This freed a horde of 20,000 Wolf Nomads to face the invaders. Tarkhan Bargru himself commanded the force, which consisted of some 2,000 armored lancers (medium cavalry), 10,000 light horsemen, 7,000 light horse-archers, and 1,000 armored crossbowmen on horseback.
This force arrived outside Eru-Tovar late in the summer, just in time to raise the siege. The army of luz retreated eastward, and then fell back along the Black Water, hoping to withdraw safely to the nearer arm of the Howling Hills where humanoid reinforcements could be picked up in considerable numbers.
The Tarkhan’s force caught the retiring army of luz along the great north bend of the Black Water. After a close pursuit lasting several days, during which the majority of the light humanoid infantry and goblin cavalry was shot to pieces by the Wegwiur horse-archers, a pitched battle was fought. As usual, the powerful figures in the opposing forces basically neutralized each other, while the troops engaged in combat of the more basic sort. Fortunately for the Wolf Nomads, luz himself was engaged elsewhere and could not intervene. The horsemen once again proved superior to the ill-disciplined masses of invading infantry, and only a few thousand survivors of luz’s ruined army made it to the relative safety of the Howling Hills. Losses by the Wegwiur totalled some 2,000 killed and about twice that number wounded. Of the invading army, some 2,000 humans and 6,000 humanoids were slain, with no prisoners taken. It is assumed that desertion accounts for the balance of the total army initially encamped before Eru-Tovar. (This action is known as the Battle of Black Water Bend and was fought in the Dozenmonth of the Squirrel on the 22nd day, CY 578, or BH 3237.)
Following this success, Bargru returned to his capital, where the garrison of some 2,000 men was busily repairing the badly damaged defenses — mainly brickwork and earth and timber which had been nearly destroyed at the time of relief. Satisfied that all was in order, the Tarkhan then sent strong parties of riders to patrol the area south of the Cold Marshes between the Black Water and the Dulsi River. One of these groups continued on as emissaries to the Rovers of the Barrens, its leader being Lekkol Noyon, the Tarkhan’s seventh son (the first child of Bargru’s third and favorite wife, the Yepita woman, Golden Dove). Lekkol’s troop of 1,000 cavalry made contact with the Yepita tribe about one month after the defeat of luz’s expedition. Lekkol subsequently took part in the raid conducted by the Red Horse and Black Horse clans of the Rovers.
Meanwhile, Bargru went with his personal guard to the lands of the Guchek, the Wild Dog people, whose territory borders the eastern portion of Lake Quag and the uppermost reaches of the Sepias. Jicta, Khan of the Guchek, had failed to appear when summoned for the stroke against the invaders at Eru-Tovar. The Tarkhan underestimated the degree of revolt by Jicta Khan, for Perrenland had subverted the Gucheck by bribes and the promise of aid if the Wild Dog Nomads would declare independence from the Tarkhan of the Wegwiur. This move by Perrenland should have been no surprise, considering the earlier incursions by the Wolf Nomads. In any event, Bargru managed to escape the trap after an ambush, but at the spring of CY 579, the Guchek remained independent and defiant.
luz: After a period of rebuilding and strengthening his domain, the Lord of Evil set his mind upon the lands to the south. Various pacts and treaties were concluded with the none-too-loved Horned Society, thus assuring no immediate trouble from the east. Groups of humanoids — gnolls and flinds, orgrillons, bugbears, and even ogres — under human leadership were sent across the Dulsi River to first occupy the nearer portion of the Vesve Forest, and then work south to harass the border of Furyondy. luz caused a fleet of 40 galleys to be built at Dorakaa in 577. With this force he hoped to wrest control of Whyestil Lake from King Belvor, thus exposing all of the northern portion of Furyondy, from the Vesve along the Crystal River to the Veng and then to the Whyestil, to easy invasion. To facilitate this move, luz joined forces with the resurgent followers of Elemental Evil, believing that such a threat on the Kingdom’s southern border would distract the Furyondians from his much more ambitious plans in the north. Unfortunately for him, this action came to naught! While his forces were being readied, luz ordered his northern contingents to capture Eru-Tovar and thus stop any possible move by the Wolf Nomads upon the upper portion of his realm while his invasion of the south was in progress. Leaving the execution of his will to trusted underlings, luz himself went far to the south to stir up trouble.
The host of luz’s northern marches came under the dual command of Lord Choldraf (14th-level cleric) and Mellard-Plict (12th-level magic-user). Between them they brought 2,000 heavy cavalry, 1,000 light horse, and about 4,000 infantry, evenly divided between heavy foot and crossbowmen. Humanoid contingents included some 3,000 goblins and xvarts, serving as scouts and raiders, 6,000 orcs and 4,000 hobgoblins as shock troops, and a vast, mixed company of norkers, knolls, flinds, ogrillons, bugbears, and ogres totalling some 5,000 to 8,000 depending upon the whims of its component members. This force gathered in the arm of the Howling Hills between the Dulsi and Blackwater, and at the beginning of summer (the Dozenmonth of Flocktime in the north country) in CY 578 marched westward. There was much quarreling during the course of the move; Lord Choldraf berated Mellard-Plict for his lack of control of the masses of humanoids which the wizard levied and commanded, while the latter scoffed at both Lord Choldraf’s own powers and at his well trained, but relatively weak, troops. When siege was laid to Eru-Tovar the following month, each commander strove to outdo the other, each wishing credit for taking the Wegwiur stronghold. This lack of co-operation enabled the defenders, numbering only about 3,400 effective troops, to withstand almost ten weeks of siege by a force totalling well over 25,000. The losses by the attackers were compounded by the rival factions often slaying their wounded cohorts if they held loyalty to the opposite commander.
When Tarkhan arrived to raise the siege, Lord Choldraf was forced to screen the withdrawal of the luzites, since the humanoids under the wizard Mellard-Plict were too undisciplined and unreliable to handle the assignment. In fact, most of the wizard’s troops had deserted, or merely decided to wander off on a raid of their own, by the time the Battle of Black Water Bend was fought. The high priest is in disgrace now, but it is likely that Choldraf will find some way to redeem himself with luz. It is reported that the wizard fled immediately upon the loss of the battle, going far south and now raising companies of bullywugs in the Vast Swamp, supposedly at the behest of Wastri, the Hopping Prophet.
The intelligence network of Furyondy discovered the plan to wrest control of Whyestil Lake from their navy, and before the luzite army stood before Eru-Tovar, King Belvor’s fleet staged a daring raid upon Dorakaa. The majority of the galleys being built were burned in the stocks, and seven of those which had been completed and outfitted were captured, while another five were sunk. Only in the Vesve Forest and along the western shore of Whyestil did the invasion plans bear any fruit. The inrush of many thousands of humanoids pushed back the companies of men, elves, and gnomes who had been slowly but surely regaining the place from the evil denizens holding it. South of the Deepstil River, save for the Sepia Uplands and the western verge, all of the Vesve fell into the hands of luz’s minions. The forces of Highfolk and Velunese contingents quickly regained the southwestern corner, but as of the year 579, most of the great forest, as well as the shore of Whyestil Lake, remained under control of humanoids and evil humans now fortifying it.
luz, Lord of Evil, hastened home to try to salvage the situation, and it was his direct intervention which enabled his forces to hold their southern gains against a valiant counteroffensive staged by the Furyondians. The walled town of Crockport now stands near the frontier, and the opponents are readying their respective forces for more fighting soon.
Horned Society: Pressure by the nobles holding the Shield Lands prevented the all-out move which the Hierarchs have long wished to make down the Ritensa River to the northern shore of the Nyr Dyv. The diabolical leaders of the Horned Society would gladly have allowed luz his hoped-for gains to their west, in order that they themselves might take Willip and overrun the Shield Lands. Instead, the Hierarchs, ignorant of luz’s plans, spent themselves in dribblets, first against Furyondy and the Shield Lands and then in defending against mounting incursions of war parties from the north. Just as their forces were about to turn southward again, reacting to the contest between luz and Furyondy, a major raid struck into the Society’s north, and the Hierarchs’ army had to turn around and move with all speed northward. Some 5,000 cavalry moved to block the further penetration of the raiders, while a formidable army of 5,000 humans, 2,000 goblins, 4,000 orcs and 7,000 hobgoblins followed. This strong show of force was assembled because several reports from survivors of raided settlements claimed that the attackers numbered 10,000 horse and included several thousand Wegwiur. Allied bandits and brigands were called upon to rendezvous with the Hierarchs’ thousands of troops at Dingaverge, a small town on the edge of the Fellreev (A4-54 on the WORLD OF GREYHAWK™ map). The cavalry arrived at Dingaverge, led by Plar Rostal, a renowned fighter (11th level) and his leman, Seenia, a renegade (sylvan) elf (fighter/m-u/thief, 6th/6th/6th). Within a sennight, several thousand bandit horsemen had gathered, and with a force of over 7,500 cavalry, Rostal began aggressive probes north and northwest to locate the enemy. Bands of kobolds and unmounted bandit troops similarly prowled the nearer reaches of the Fellreev, for Rover wardog footmen, as well as elves had also been reported.
During the Dozenmonth of Reaping, CY 578, the remainder of the Hierarchs’ army arrived at Dingaverge, spent a few days resting and regrouping, and followed after Rostal, trying to make contact by means of the 2,000 or so horsemen who had joined them at the rendezvous.
The cavalry under Plar Rostal was far away, however — in hot pursuit of a enemy, or so they supposed. Rostal’s pursuing force was drawn out on the steppes and then assaulted by a nomad horde of about equal numbers, nearly 1,000 of whom were centaurs lately joined with the Rovers nation against the enemies to the south. The Hierarchs’ cavalry were severely handled and forced to break off the action, retiring to the northwest and allowing the Rovers and their allies to slip southwards to harass the approaching infantry force. This move was screened by no more than 1,000 horsemen and a few score of centaurs, enough of a force to make Rostal believe that the entire horde he had faced was following him. This ruse worked for several days, but as soon as it was discovered, the Plar’s cavalry scattered the meager band of opponents and rode at all speed back toward where Rostal knew the following army of foot should be.
The commander of the Host of the Hierarchs was Hierarch Blontug, a much-feared half-orc of great power (cleric/fighter/assassin, 4th/9th/9th). He was wise enough not to march his footsoldier force into the vastness of the rolling plains, but instead used the western edge of the Fellreev Forest to cover the right flank of the northward-moving army. A screen of light cavalry scouts alerted the Hierarch that the enemy was approaching, and Blontug arrayed his troops along the edge of the woods so as to prevent cavalry maneuvers against it. On that first day of contact there was only light skirmishing, as the Rovers and their allies probed for weaknesses, and the Hierarch in turn attempted to discover just how powerful an enemy he faced. On the next day, kobold and bandit scouts prevented an attack from the forest coming as a complete surprise. The attacking footmen and elves were easily repulsed, while the well-trained humanoid infantry, supported by missile troops and light horse, withstood several determined charges by the other contingent of the invaders. A stand-off of several days’ duration ensued, with Blontug growing progressively more certain that his enemy was not numerous enough to be a real threat, but unable to bring them to battle because his force lacked sufficient mobility.
Then Rostal’s cavalry rejoined the main body of the Host of the Hierarchs, and on Goodmonth 26, CY 578, the force rolled forward. The whole of the cavalry swung in an arc from the left flank. Its aim was to act as the hammer to the infantry’s anvil. The movement was met by fierce rushes by the centaurs and the light horse of the Rovers, while the remainder of the nomads escaped to the northeast. A major victory was narrowly missed by the Hierarch, but his aim was accomplished. The allied force was beaten and driven off, although cavalry losses on the part of the Society were excessive, and the enemy had established itself firmly in the northern portion of the Fellreev. Before action could be commenced to remove this minor irritation, news came from Rookroost that the Zumker had been crossed in force by Duke Ehyeh, and the Tenhese were sweeping through the Bluff Hills to clear them of resistance before turning south toward the open country beyond. The normally independant and warring leaders of the Bandit Kingdoms had rapidly declared common cause against Tenh, and all the units with the Hierarchs’ army rode off, despite the threats and imprecations of Blontug.
There was great wrath in Molag when the Unnameable Hierarch learned of all that had transpired. Blontug and Rostal were sent across the Ritensa to punish the bandits for deserting the Hierarchs’ Host, and their force of about 10,000 horse and foot easily captured the lands of “General” Hok and Baron Oltagg of Wornhall. This territory abuts the Shield Lands and runs northward into the Fellreev, so there is some question as to its actual value to the Horned Society. Nevertheless, the Hierarchs now reign over it. The associated bandit leaders have renounced all dealings with the Society on this account, and their agents are said to be recruiting mercenary troops in Urnst County and from the border territory between Nyrond and the Pale. The Hierarchs, in turn, seem likely to continue eastward expansion in CY 579.
Bandit Kingdoms: The Bandit Kingdoms are a collection of petty holdings which were founded sometime around 300-350 CY. This collection of small personal territories stretches from the southern Shield Lands to the Bluff Hills and the northern verges of the Fellreev Forest, from the Rittensa River to the Artonsamay River in the east. Each little kingdom is ruled by a robber chieftain claiming a title such as Baron, Boss, Plar, General, Tyrant, Prince Despot, and even King. The territorial boundaries of the holdings of these kinglets are subject to rapid change due to sudden warfare and defeat or victory. In all there are 17 states within the confines of the area, ruled by four to six powerful lords, with the rest attempting to either become powerful rulers or simply survive. The relationship persists because no single bandit lord is strong enough to conquer the whole territory, and the combined strength of all is often required to defend against neighbouring states' retributive expeditions. So bandit and brigand band together in self interest, and no kinglet, regardless of ambition, has seriously attempted to rule the whole, for fear that threatened lords would turn to neighbouring states in spite- even at the risk of destruction by the summoned "ally." Thus the combined kinglets continue to stand more or less together. The total military strength of all territories is quite considerable due to the fact that each ruler maintains a large force with which to raid and pillage.
The usual turmoil of competing states preying upon one another and any available neighbor outside the territory sums up activity within the area until CY 578. Bandit groups made forays into Tenh, the Pale, Nyrond, County Urnst, and even the Shield Lands and portions of Furyondy. Most groups were mounted, but the usual number of river raiders and buccaneers from Redhand plied the waters. Prince Zeech’s ships and galleys actually staged a major action against the Duchy of Urnst, managing to slip in through the easternmost portion of the Cairn Hills, loot and pillage, and then escape with their gains. The western bandit lords — General Hok, Guardian of Warfields (fighter, 11th level); Oltagg, Baron of Wormhall (fighter/thief, 4th/9th); Kor, Rhelt of Abbarra (assassin, 10th level); and the Master of Freehold, Eab Huldor (magic-user, 9th level) — actively co-operated with the Hierarchs of the Horned Society. However, when the banners of Tenh crossed the Zumker River, laying waste the Barony of Groskopf, and then entered Fellands, the Combination of Free Lords summoned all members to arms to defend the east. When even the western states responded, the Hierarchs were enraged, for they needed the bandit troops to eject the nomad and Rover invaders from the Fellreev Forest and the steppes of the Opicm. In a punitive invasion, the Hierarchs’ forces seized and occupied both Warfields and Wormhall. A very tenacious defense by the Abbarrish, reinforced by the survivors from the conquered territories, and scrapings from Tangles and the Freehold, caused the halt of the Society’s penetration in the autumn of CY 578.
A truce was negotiated with the Duke of Tenh; Groskopf ceded the land between the Griff Mountains and the Zumker to Tenh, and all of the Free Lords of the Combination swore to refrain from raiding Tenh. Thus freed of immediate warfare on their east, all of the leaders turned westward to confront the Horned Society, with the express aim of recovering the lost states and taking reprisals in addition. Recruiting of mercenaries and masterless men brought the forces under command of the Combination to the following totals in the spring of CY 579:
The above estimates are likely to increase by 10% to 20% due to last-minute recruiting and enlistments. The force is most dangerous because of the unusual concentration of high-level characters and their lieutenants.
Duchy of Tenh: In CY 575, Duke Ehyeh II began an active campaign to clear the Troll fens and border area on the west bank of the Yol. Considerable numbers of fortifications were built, and this two-year effort was deemed a general success. The Theocrat of the Pale concentrated his attentions south and eastwards because of the strong show by the Tennese. In 577, the Duke began early actions to the north, working into the mountains and fortifying the southern end of Rockegg Pass, some 20 leagues above Catbut. The Duke was himself killed in fighting against the Holders, whose units of “fists” resisted with great ferocity the closing of the pass. Despite the death of their leader, the Tennese (now under a new Marshall) finished what their liege had willed, thus effectively securing the Duchy on two sides. At a convocation in Nevond Nevend during Neefest, 578, Ehyeh III was crowned Duke, and the Tennese celebrated greatly. The old Duke’s son was more warlike than his doughty father, and his early training as a fighter on the frontiers made Ehyeh III particularly anxious to secure all avenues against invasion. In the spring, the young Duke organized a force of 2,500 horse and 6,000 foot, while leaving strong garrisons at all key points. He personally led the army across the Zumker River.
Duke Ehyeh’s plan was to sweep west to the junction of the Bluff Hills and the Rakers. He then would move north into the hills, clear them in a rapid westward push, and garrison any strongholds found there. He would then swing back southeast to overrun the land between the Bluff Hills and the Zumker. Any bandit forces caught by the move would be trapped and destroyed. With this accomplished, the next move would be to bring a second force across the Zumker, just above the Artonsamay. The two would then handle expected bandit lord reaction, take Rookroost, and secure all of the territory as far west as the Fellreev. Contemplated along with these actions was an even more ambitious plan to begin the next year, which would secure all the land west of the Artonsamayas far as the Tangles.
The plan worked with precision, but as soon as the Theocrat got wind of it — and his spy system is legendary — disturbing reports began to reach the young Duke. The Prelate’s growing military strength was at Wintershriven, and the Faithful Bands were being called up. The Tennese companies originally being readied for action elsewhere were sent from Redspan on a long march to reinforce the Yol. Woodsmen were ordered to keep a close watch in the Phostwood Forest. The Duke entrusted the army in action against the bandit states to the redoubtable Marshal laba so the new threat could be under his own command. When the Combination of Free Lords sued for peace near mid-summer, the suit was welcomed, for it ceded a considerable portion of land to the Duchy, guaranteed bandit neutrality, and allowed the Tennese military forces to meet the threat now posed by the Pale. Duke Ehyeh brought a combined army of 4,000 horse and 11,000 foot across the Yol at the edge of Phostwood in Dozenmonth Ready’reat, 578 CY. This host struck east and is wintering in the Pale. The threat to Wintershriven is obvious, and events of the year 579 should prove interesting indeed. Ehyeh III (ranger, 11th level) will either be acclaimed as a military genius and savior of his nation, or else Tenh will fall under the heel of the Theocrat.
Rovers of the Barrens: The young tribesmen who matured into warriors during the last two generations avoided their old battling and hunting grounds along the Fellreev Forest and the plains of the Dulsi, for they feared the might of luz’s hordes. Instead, these nomads and woodland hunters withdrew to the steppes and other sites to the north and east. Their numbers increased, and they practiced their fighting skills against the men of the Hold of Stonefist and the savages and humanoids they met on raids into the Cold Marshes. Despite the difficulties of communication, the western tribes of the Rovers of the Barrens actually made alliances with the Wegwiur. In 566 there were a few light raids into the northeastern edge of the Fellreev. In a few years, wardog parties were reported in the forest west of Cold Run. By CY 577, a conclave of all the clans staged a great beast hunt in the central portion of their territory, with many visiting Wolf Nomads taking part in the sport.
At the great conference, the Rovers agreed to a plan to make war upon the Horned Society to attempt to regain their lost territory around the Opicm and in the Fellreev. The help of the Wolf Nomads was not promised, but the Rover tribes knew it would certainly come if possible. The Sly Fox Clan, always on good terms with the sylvan elves of the Fellreev Forest, were to harass the enemy from the woodlands, while the western clans, the Red Horse, Black Horse, and Horn Bows, rode south and made war upon the hated peoples of the Horned Society. Chada-Three-Lances (fighter, 8th level) was made War Sachem, and in the spring of 578, he led some 6,000 warriors on a campaign to accomplish the recovery of the lost lands. With the force went a party of about 900 centaur warriors. The latter had been displaced from their territory in and around the western end of the Fellreev, so they were more than eager to take part.
The warfare was at first easy; many of the enemy were slain and their villages sacked and burned. But as the Rovers moved further south, they met greater resistance. Then word of an approaching enemy body of cavalry caused the Rovers to pull back and go into council. The bulk of wardog soldiers were sent into the Fellreev to aid the Sly Foxes and their allies. Companies were also sent away with the loot and prisoners already captured, so that the remaining band would not be encumbered. With the Wolf Nomads who had recently joined, the warriors then numbered 7,000 plus some 900 centaurs. These troops savaged the cavalry from the Horned Society and sent it flying away. The Rovers feigned pursuit and instead sent about 6,000 raiders back south to finish their destruction, but before any real penetration of enemy territory could be made, a large army of footmen was located. These humans and humanoids were attacked, but they easily withstood the clan assaults despite some heavy losses. The whole attack was then called off when scouts detected enemy cavalry moving to encircle their encampment.
In a nip-and-tuck retreat, the whole force managed to escape with losses considerably less than those of their enemy. The Sly Foxes and their elven allies had been quite successful in gaining the initiative in the Fellreev. Expected countermoves failed to materialize, and now many tribes of the Gray Lynx and Wolverine clans have moved into the woodlands. (The Wolverines are a Central Woodlands clan which was driven north and was not represented at the great conference. There are seven tribes in the clan, but each has only about 100 warriors.) Scattered and disaffected tribes are likewise returning due to the minor successes gained, and it is likely that the councils of 579 will see a larger number of warriors ready and willing to take up the lance and go against the enemy. If continued cooperation between the Rovers clans and the Wolf Nomads persists, even luz could be in trouble.
This map blows up real big! You should be able to just click it to get a very large version.
In 579 a group of humanoids plagued the holds of Redhand and Reyhu. Busy fighting the Horned Society along the Veng, the army of the Shield Lands could not march to their aid. However, an army from the Bandit Kingdoms, under the charismatic leader Celdros of Zelraston, marched to their aid and destroyed the goblinoids. The Plar of Reyhu died in the fighting, along with the Baron of Redhand. Before Holmer, Earl of Walworth and Lord of the Shield Lands, could be appraised of the situation, Celdros had installed himself as Tyrant of Reyhu and Redhand.
After the Holds of Redhand and Reyhu joined the Bandit Kingdoms, there had been much consternation withing the ranks of the Knights of the Holy Shielding. Many had called for an immediate campaign to retake the lands. However, Holmer disagreed, worrying that the situation with the Horned Society was too dangerous to allow the removal eastwards of so many valuable warriors. The invasion of the Bandit Kingdoms by humanoid forces from the Horned Society changed everything. With troubles on both borders, as recent fighting in Tenh has raised further concerns in the east as well, the Bandit Kingdoms were in no position to fight in the south. Further, Baron Despar of Delcomben argued that his troops could deal with any threats, now that both the Horned Society and Bandit Kingdoms were fighting each other. His argument eventually won out, and Holmer agreed to send the army east. It was here that the Deldukr had marched, hired by the Shieldlanders for the coming campaign.
The army gathered quickly and in secret at Axeport, before marching to Alhaster. Nearly two thousand strong, with most of the Knights of the Holy Shielding, and led by Earl Holmer himself, the army quickly marched to Alhaster. The army is now preparing to march once again, on to the Trallant to complete the conquest of Redhand. It is at this point that Gotrek arrived, joining his uncle and the rest of the Deldukr.
Urgal has been summoned before Lord Holmer, and he takes Gotrek with him. They are brought to Lord Holmer's pavilion the night before the army begins its march. There, you meet with Holmer and his companion, the famous half-elf bard, Sairithel Corathens, along with Sir Bili the Stout and the priest Essej Nalahp. Sairithel is playing an ancient elven song on his lute. It is made of Roanwood, with a deep reddish stain, inlaid with intertwined vines of silver and gold, and there is an unmistakable aura of power surrounding it.
Fire crackles in the pavilion, as smoke lazily slithers upward. Gotrek stands to the right of his Uncle, Urgal. His one eye pierces through the dark and smoky room, taking in his surroundings. The music being played makes him uneasy, and he gazes in the direction of the player, as he tightens his grip on Goreblade. Sairithel Corathens is looking at him intently(or is it Goreblade?). He then smiles wryly at the Battle Rager, and nods briefly in greeting. Gotrek grunts and snorts, making his nose chains jingle loudly, disrupting the soft utterances resonating from the lute. And despite the evident warmth of the pavilion, Gotrek's armor is ice cold.
Earl Holmer discusses the campaign's start, how it has been a success beyond anything they could have hoped for. With the Bandit armies off fighting against the Horned Society forces in the north, there are few forces in the south to stop the Shield Landers. Alhaster, which had been renamed Tortage by the Tyrant Celdros, was home of a small fleet, rebuilt when the Tyrant took over. This fleet had been a major source of unease for the Shield Landers, as they were going to count on their own fleet to supply the army as it marched east. However, the Shield Lander navy was always small, and could not count on defeating the fleet at Tortage. Holmer made a deal with the County of Urnst, which would lend them their own squadrons to keep the bandit fleet blockaded as the army advanced.
The plan worked perfectly, with the army advancing so quickly that the bandit fleet could barely man half their ships and put to sea. However, the Urnst navy promptly showed up and took the ill-equipped ships in a bloodless "battle" in which they all surrendered without a fight. The town of Tortage fell, with its citizens welcoming the Shield Landers with open arms, and the city quickly was renamed Alhaster, as it had been before the coming of the Tyrant Cedros. Now Holmer has a mission, which only the Deldukr can accomplish.
The garrison of the city fled before the Shield Landers, barely making their way East before the city could be cordoned properly. The Urnst fleet is sailing back to the east, now that their task is completed. Earl Holmer would send one of his ships, The Fortunate Return along with them, propelled in earnest by the best wind mages of the Urnst fleet. It will reach the Artonsamy Delta, then cut north along a tributary to the bridge between Alhaster and Trallant. The Deldukr will then secure the bridge, holding it against any and all bandit attacks until the main army can come up. There will then be nothing to stop the Shield Landers from marching on to Trallant, securing the whole of Redhand and opening direct communications with the Urnst states. Afterwards, it will be an easy matter to sweep north and retake the hold of Reyhu as well.
"The bridge will have to be held for three days," says Holmer. "There are none better at defensive actions than dwarves."
Urgal looks at Gotrek, who nods. "We will hold the bridge for ye, Lord Holmer. Our contract has been pre-paid. Very generous of you," Urgal states.
Earl Holmer half bows. "We would not pay upfront for any mercenary company, good dwarf. Your reputation and honor precede you." He pauses, as he turns his gaze to Gotrek. "And the surprise addition of your nephew here only further waxes our confidence that the Deldukr will not fail us in this. Gotrek has made quite a name for himself, so we hear. He is truly a formidable warrior."
Sir Bili the Stout nods to Gotrek in respect. Essej Nalahp looks at the Battle Rager with a slightly concealed frown of disdain. And once again, Sairithel Corathens smiles down.
Urgal nods. "When do we depart?"
"You depart now," says Earl Holmer. "The mission will be under overall command of Bili, and Essej will be along for support." The priest of Trithereon smiles grimly, one hand on a large mace hanging at his belt, while Bili steps forth. The symbols of Heironeous shine brightly on the paladin's plate armor, which Gotrek's blacksmith's eye notes has seen many a dent repaired. Certainly this warrior is no poppinjay.
Urgal nods to both. "Fine," he says in his curt dwarven manner. "Then let us go." Looking Holmer in the eye, he adds. "The Deldukr shall hold your bridge, don't ye doubt. But don't be late either."
Holmer takes Urgal's hand in a forearm shake, "We'll be there. You just hold."
With that you take off and return to gather the Deldukr. In less than fifteen minutes they are ready to go, and even Gotrek is amazed at the quickness of their preparations. He knows only dwarves could move with such organized efficiency, and he is proud to join such a group as this.
At the docks, they find the ship, Bili and Essej already aboard the long, swift penteconter. There is little room aboard the ship for the Deldukr, so they must all file aboard and settle down in the narrow strip of decking between the oar banks. There are two wizards aboard the ship as well, and they plan to keep her sailing with good winds through the day and night. It takes only one day to make the journey, as the wizards keep the sails full throughout the night. Passing through the Artonsamay Delta, the galley passes through the various channels and turns up a small river. The men at the oars have to put their backs into it, but they push the shallow-draft galley upriver with determined grit.
Gotrek acknowledges the hard work of the men at oars. "Good work, lads!"
Gotrek is also pleased to once again meet one of the dwarves whom he first met in Highport, especially Dorain "Burning Slayer."
Dorain, "Burning Slayer"
He's an old scraggly dwarf. He wears dwarven plate armor in excellent shape, has a warhammer hanging from his belt, and carries a plain helmet in his hand. Most notable, however, is his beard, or lack of one. His face is horribly scarred, and obviously he cannot grow one due to the damage.
Another is Thymm "Black Stabber" who wields an especially long and wicked spear. The two joined Urgal when they followed the party to Markessa's fortress, and helped to defeat the drow there. In fact, it was Thrymm who saved Gotrek's life when it seemed the dark elves had him dead.
The Deldukr, Glorkal stands to the left
Gotrek spends the bulk of the trip catching up with Urgal, Dorain, and Thyrmm. He also makes it a point to know the names, weapons proficiency, and the battle reputations of the remaining members of the Deldukr. There are 50 total dwarves in the Deldukr, all battle-hardened except for the few which joined after Markessa's fortress, replacing the half-dozen which were slain battling the dark elves. You meet another dwarf, Glorkal Delnor. He is second in command.
The ship cannot reach the bridge itself, as the river turns pretty swift and starts to wind up through a deep canyon. Thus, the Deldukr are put ashore. They are about a 2 hour hike from the bridge, as far as they can tell.
"Let's go," says Bili to Urgal. He then starts walking north. Urgal calls out to the Deldukr to march, and the group of dwarves starts after the human cavalier.
"He's got no lack of courage," says Urgal to Gotrek as they follow behind him.
Bili the Stout
Gotrek turns to Urgal. "Do you normally employ scouts?"
"We don't usually strike deep behind enemy lines," he answers. "So no." The dwarves are only 50 in number, and they clearly know how to march silently, despite their heavy gear. There is scraggy brush along the river, enough to keep them from being seen at a distance. "If we run into trouble, it'll be up close," he continues. "Pity the fools who mess with this bunch in close quarters."
Gotrek laughs. "Aye, true enough!"
In a couple of hours the Deldukr reaches the bridge.
Gotrek will let Urgal and Glorkal deal with troop positioning, etc. It is their group. Gotrek goes over to talk to Sir Bili. The Deldukr man the bridge, dividing into two sections, half defending each side in a modified square formation. The bridge is nearly 20' wide, so they can fight in close ranks, 8 wide and 2 deep. That leaves 8 left over, and he delegates them to be scouts, four on each side of the river. They will head out away from the bridge a bit, to give the rest ample warning if anyone comes. Urgal leads the west group, while Glorkal leads the east group. Bili and Essej take the center, ready to assist either side as needed. Gotrek stays by Urgal.
Gotrek turns to Urgal. "Can we erect a small tower in the middle of the bridge, to give us a quicker warning of trouble?"
"The land rises to the east and west," he says quickly, surveying the area. "The scouts will move up to higher ground from where they can see anyone coming." As he says this, the dwarven scouts rush off in both directions.
Gotrrek nods, then asks Bili and Essej the nature of the humanoids they will be facing, and likely numbers.
Bili shrugs. "I do not think we shall face any humanoids, Master Dwarf. The garrison that fled Alhaster was about 200 horsemen." He looks around at the Deldukr. "They will find the dwarf ranks tough to break."
The Deldukr set out some rations and rest. About an hour later, they receive word from the western scouts that cavalry is approaching. They indeed made it to the bridge just in the nick of time!
The scouts all come back, and the eastern dwarves move to back up the western. Four ranks of dwarves now block the western side of the bridge by the time the cavalry appear. There are about 200, and they stop atop the small bluff to the west that overlooks the bridge, maybe 1/4 mile away. When the dwarves make no moves, a couple of the horsemen ride down to it. They stop about 30' away, sitting atop very tired steeds.
"Move aside, dwarves," calls one of them. "By order of Tyrant Cedros!"
"Piss off," Gotrek roars. The horses prance nervously, as the Deldukr stand, quietly resolute.
The rider sits there, dumbfounded. "What are you for?" he says. "Don't you know what's happening? The Shieldlanders have taken Tortage!"
"And," Urgal states, "what does that have to do with this bridge?" Urgal slyly winks at Gotrek, clearly itching to get into a fight, then smiles at the tired horseman. "We are in the middle of finding our dinner in this lovely river. We are not moving."
"But...dinner...?" He stammers, looking around, then at his companion. "Dinner? Did you not hear a word we said? Move aside or we'll move you!"
Urgal says a command word, "Thrung!" and the dwarf spears positioned in the front of the bridge go into defensive formation, forming their distinctive shieldwall. "Let them charge this wall of steel," he says coldly, eyes locking on the confused horseman.
"Ye may be dumb 'nuff ta charge this wall," says Thrymm, standing there with the front rank, "but I wager yer horses ain't!"
A handful of dwarves chuckle, but Urgal gives them a quick, stare and they shut up. He then smiles at them, but turns his visage back to pure business as he looks at the cavalryman. "Looks like ye be going around sonny," he says with no humor in his voice.
"We will ride over your stunted corpses!" the cavalryman replies, then turns and rides off. The other trooper who was with him, then glances back to Urgal who just stands there. His face shows none of the anger nor certainty of his commander as he then turns and follows his leader.
"I reckon that was not exactly the sort of reaction he's used to," says Bili, a slight mocking tone edging his voice.
Gotrek holds Goreblade loosely. "Essej, what kind of spells do you have at your disposal? Something to hamper their charge would be nice!"
"The powers of Trithereon are many," he replies. "If they are foolish enough to charge, perhaps a Flame Strike?"
The cavalry doesn't move, though you see there is spirited discussion amongst them. After a bit, there is a brief scuffle, and the leader who addressed you is cut down by his own troops. Afterwards, they ride off back to the west.
"So far, so good," says Gotrek. "Might as well setup some shifts, so the men can rotate eating/sleeping. Scouts still in place. Can we set up stakes in the ground, to deter any cavalry charges?"
"Good idea," says Urgal. "See?" he says to Glorkal, giving him a nudge. "I told you he'd be good to have around. Almost as smart as he is tough!"
They give orders, and a couple dozen dwarves pull out axes and go to work cutting branches and sharpening them to form some abatises.
There is no further excitement for the day, and the troops all bed down, with sentries out all night.
[DM OOC: Gotrek doesn't have a particular job, per se. Well, kill enemies, I guess that's your job! If you have ideas, you can certainly bring them up. There really isn't a way to set up a rockfall or anything. However, you have created some good defenses now on both sides of the bridge.]
About midday, the cavalry returns. This time they have a troop of infantry with them. They move back to their previous positions and watch you for a bit. Urgal brings the dwarves together, forming lines at the west end of the bridge and leaving only a few scouts to the east, which seems quite as far as they can see. After about an hour, the horseman returns, this time with another man who looks a lot meaner than the first. He repeats his demand that you leave the bridge. "Move in the name of Tyrant Celdros," he orders.
The dwarves stay silent, looking grim. Thrymm does some fancy tricks with his spear, near the western side front.
"If you won't leave," he says finally, "then you will die where you stand."
Urgal salutes the man, "And we shall tell tales of your deaths over a good ale tonight."
The man's face turns red, clearly not used to being ignored, and the two horsemen spur their mounts back to the hilltop. You can see him issue orders to the footmen, which then begin to advance. The men advance to about 100 yards distance and fire a volley of arrows. The dwarves take shelter beneath their shields, and only one hits a dwarf. He is pulled back out of the way, and Essej uses some healing on him, while the rest of the dwarves hold their position.
The archers fire a few volleys, which the dwarves avoid by forming what the Romans would call a testudo. Frustrated, the enemy commander launches his cavalry charge. However, the horses just plain stop at the edge of the abatis.
Urgal laughs. "Horses may none be too smart," he says, "but they knows 'nuff not to run into a bunch a pointy sticks!"
The dwarves laugh, and then Bili tells Urgal. "Now, while they are confused, sound the charge. Leuk-O once said, 'for an army on the defensive, the most important thing is to know when to take the offensive, and then to take it!' But first," and he nods to the priest of Treithereon, "let Essej do his thing."
Essej nods back, calling upon Trithereon. The very grasses and plants in the area beyond the abatis begin to entwine around the cavalry at the conclusion of his Entangle. Horses start panicking, throwing their riders as they struggle. He casts the spell just beyond the first few ranks of horsemen, who are now effectively trapped by the entangled ones behind them.
"Well?" says Thrymm. "We didn't get all dressed up fer nuthin'!"
Gotrek roars, "CLANGEDDIN!" as he tries to get to the forefront of the fighting.
Like a steel tide, the dwarves surge forward. They move through artfully concealed paths in the abatis, emerging on the other side where they engulf the lead cavalry. Gotrek fights his way forward, joining the slaughter as the dwarves attack. In minutes the front couple ranks of horsemen are all down, and the dwarves are into the next ranks. Essej cancels his entangle, not wanting the dwarves to get caught as well. Gotrek leads the way, singing his warsong as he wades into the struggling horsemen. As the next few ranks fall, the others turn tail and ride back up the escarpment towards the archer. It takes only a few minutes, and when it's over, about half lie dead on the field, and the dwarves return to the bridge. A few move to silence the horrid screams of dying horses, but Glorkal puts up a hand.
"I knows it be cruel," he says sadly, "but leave them be. There is little as terrifying to a warrior's spirit as the death screams of horses."
The dwarves return to their posts, grimly standing in place as the remaining men reform atop the hill to the sound of their mounts in their death throes.
Gotrek starts to check the bodies, when Urgal barks a command for the Deldukr to reform ranks. The dwarves move quickly back through the abatis and to the bridge. They don't seem the least bit interested in the bodies. Gotrek doesn't see the commander anywhere, so he shrugs and heads back to the dwarves as well. The archers fire again, with dozens of arrows landing just where Gotrek had been. Good thing he listed to Urgal!
The cavalrymen who survived dismount don't give up. They set up a cordon on their side of the bridge, up on the edge of the escarpment overlooking the bridge. However, they don't attack. Urgal is content, knowing that every delay makes their job easier.
"We could hold against this rabble all year," he says, taking a drink of water.
"Har!" Gotrek roars. "Too bad my patience won't last that long!"
Looking at the blood covering Gotrek's armor, Urgal grins. "Well, we ain't here to kill everything, but to hold this bridge. This is the only way the army moves forward, and we gotta keep it open." He looks back up the escarpment. "Sorry nephew, but I don't think this rabble is going to satisfy that urge of yours."
After a few hours, the men move forward again. This time the archers fire flaming arrows at the abatis, while cavalry charge down. The pull up short, riding along the abatis and throwing a couple of flasks of oil. The barricades ignite easily, the dry wood burning fiercely.
"Can Essej cast rock to mud in the middle ranks on the ridge?" asks Gotrek, used to mages who throw around magic like candy. "If so, it could cause a nice avalanche!"
"Good idea," says Bili. "What say you Essej?"
"If it be the will of Trithereon," he says, as he begins to pray. Suddenly there is a loud chorus of yells from atop the escarpment. The entire top just sloughs off, running down the slope towards the river. It looks like a good 50 men or so, including some horses, slide down with the mud and tumble into the river.
"So much fer the archers," says Glorkal, almost bored. "Aright you slugs," he yells. "Let's put out those fires!" He rushes out, along with a couple dozen dwarves. Dorain stays back, and when you see the burn scars on his face, you understand why. Soon the fires are out as the dwarves cut out the burning parts and toss them into the river. The abatis, though damaged, is still very much intact.
"Heh," says Urgal, slapping Gotrek on the back. "Good to see you've some sense ta go with yer steel."
"Bah!" Roars Gotrek, slapping his axe into his off hand. "Would rather have killed them with Goreblade!"
As the dwarves finish their task and reform their lines, the remaining men back off from the escarpment. Only a few stay towards the edge, keeping wary eyes on the dwarves below. Still holding defensive position. If safe enough, Gotrek will look in the river/embankment for any information. He will search bodies, and pay close attention to any of the horsemen that look like officers. A handful of men crawl out of the river on each side, and the Deldukr take them prisoner.
[Gotrek OOC: Interrogation time!]
Gotrek starts with the smartest looking one. "I will knock sense to anyone not talking," he says, his voice like breaking stone, "to expedite matters."
The men don't really put up a fight, and you learn that they are just men-at-arms. Most of the Reyhu military is fighting with Tyrant Cedros in the far NW, against the forces of the Horned Society which invaded the Bandit Kingdoms earlier. Word has been sent to Cedros about the Shieldlander invasion, but it will be weeks before he hears anything.
Bili says, "Weeks will be too late. By then Earl Holmer will have firmly retaken these two fiefs."
You further learn that the cavalry that appeared originally were fleeing from Ahlaster, and the Deldukr actually cut them off at the bridge. The infantry came down from the northern village of Balmund. They heard about the Shieldlander invasion, and were rushing south to take the bridge and hold it against the Shieldlanders, keeping them from marching on to Trallant. There were 100 men, 50 archers and 50 cavalry. They joined the 200 cavalry from Ahlaster. Most of the archers fell in the mudslide, and about 100 cavalry to the charge of the Deldukr. Their commander, Mean Natron, is a particularly brutal man, way worse than the guy who commanded the cavalry and was killed by his own troops.
"Mean Natron comes from the Frost Barbarians," says one of the captured archers, "and is very touchy about his personal honor, never turning down a challenge."
Gotrek paces back and forth in the front of the western side of the bridge. He thinks to himself. Just under two days. Then Lord Holmer will be here. Be patient. However, he keeps on looking up at the ridge, towards where he knows this Mean Natron waits. He gnashes his teeth, actually causing blood to drip from cut lips.
He suddenly stops pacing, and the grip on Goreblade gets tighter. Gotrek stands there, head bowed down. Froth from saliva dribbles down his beard. He shakes his head, his chains dancing angrily. Gotrek finds himself growling. His armor starts to expand, as his muscles and body enlarge. The armor groans ever so slightly, almost like a welcome kiss.
Gotrek rasps out, "Dras," and Goreblade, his Dwarven War Axe Giant Slayer, appears in his hands as he walks out through the abatis.
He can barely hear His Uncle Urgal say, " Gotrek! Oh...Sh....."
Gotrek roars out,"Mean Natron, you filthy whore of a giant. I am coming for you." He starts to walk up the embankment. And his pace quickens, then all goes black in his mind.
The few archers left file up and let fly, but their shots just bounce off Gotrek's armor. He repeats his challenge, and a voice from the escarpment cries, "Archers hold!" A huge bear of a man strides forth.
"Who calls my name?" he yells.
A primal roar is his only response, as Gotrek bangs his War Axe on his armor, creating a large clamoring.
Mean Natrone looks at those around him. "Who is this insane dwarf?" When nobody answers, he steps forward, waraxe in one hand and broadsword in another. "I do not know you dwarf, but if it's a clean death you seek, then you've found one."
Gotrek rushes forward. His rage is coming and he wants some blood. He hasn't killed any giant, or anyone tainted with giant blood, in over a year. In his berserk haze, he sees his parents cut down in front of him by the Giant horde...
As Gotrek roars in response, Mean Natron leaps forward with a quickness that takes Gotrek by surprise. He strikes at Gotrek's head with his axe, but deals but a glancing blow . Gotrek knows this is no dandy now!
Gotrek swings back, missing with Goreblade. Mean Natron then hits with his broadsword , as Gotrek swings again with Goreblade, again missing. Finally, Mean Natron swings again with his battleaxe, but Gotrek blocks the blow with his buckler.
[DM OOC: In one round, Gotrek took , while Mean Natron dodged Gotrek's blows with uncanny agility.]
Mean Natron smiles at Gotrek.
Gotrek takes out his potion of Speed from his combat pouch, but Mean Natron reacts even faster than before and smashes it with a quick swipe of his broadsword, glass and fluid splashing out all over Gotrek's face.
"And I thought there was more honor amongst your kind," says Mean Natron. "You challenge me to single combat, then must resort to magic potions?" He shakes his head in disappointment.
"Har! Ye be cheating yourself, twinkletoes," retorts Gotrek, his rage building now. "I was just trying to balance the field a wee bit."
Gotrek attacks, but Mean Natron circles to the right, swinging his battleaxe and hitting Gotrek . This time Gotrek gets a good return hit with Goreblade , knocking Mean Natron back a step. He swings again with his broadsword, which Gotrek blocks with his buckler, then Gotrek hits him again, this time for . Mean Natron misses with his last attack.
[DM OOC: Gotrek took , while Mean Natron took .]
Things seem to have evened up a bit, and Mean Natron grimaces and stops talking. Gotrek smiles darkly, encouraged, then presses the attack.
Gotrek is hit by Mean Natron's battleaxe for , and his buckler is shattered by the blow! Gotrek attacks him back, Goreblade landing a decent shot for . Gotrek is then hit with a broadsword for , but Gotreks strikes back, Goreblade hitting again . The force of the blow knocks Mean Natron backwards and he falls to the ground!
[DM OOC: Gotrek has taken . Mean Natron has taken .]
Gotrek rushes forward, hoping to finish his opponent. He attacks again, and Mean Natron rolls backwards coming quickly to his feet. He backs up, using his broadsword to block Gotrek's attacks.
Gotrek's first attack is blocked, while Mean Natron swings with his battle axe, attempting to disarm Gotrek. With Goreblade locked by his broadsword, he chops down with his battleaxe, knocking Goreblade from Gotrek's hands! It falls just a few feet away, but Gotrek, with one attack remaining, ignores it. He lunges forward and lands a strong headbutt to Mean Natron's groin. As the stunned warrior steps back, breathing heavily, Gotrek retrieves Goreblade.
The next round two minutes of fighting are all misses, neither able to gain advantage. Both combatants use the time to circle each other, attempting to gain the measure of the other's wounds. Both seem about equally tired. Gotrek sees about a couple dozen men have come forwards, watching the fight, along with about a dozen of the Deldukr, along with Urgal, Bili and Essej. Nobody cheers on either warrior, all staring in rapt appreciation of the furious combat taking place.
In a brief moment of respite, Mean Natron pulls back. He gives Gotrek a nod and salute. "You are a formidable warrior, dwarf," he says. "Who are you?"
Gotrek but smiles, and growls one word. "Death!" He then launches into a flurry of attacks once again.
Gotrek attacks, swinging Goreblade in a huge arc that Mean Natron is barely able to block with his broadsword. He swings back at Gotrek, who blocks again with his damaged buckler, more pieces shedding off the nearly useless shield. The two circle a bit as Gotrek attacks again, this time hitting . Natron tries to block Gotrek's second blow, but he fails.
Gotrek advances, feeling he has an edge in the fight. He smells blood, and won't let up. Gotrek attacks again, slamming Mean Natron to the ground with a vicious cut from Goreblade . The man falls backwards, stunned, and Gotrek stands above him ready to give him the final coup de grace, caught at the edge of his rage, when a voice from behind stops him.
"Hold!" says Bili. "He is beaten!"
Gotrek, giving fully in to his rage, does not hear anything but the din of battle. He delivers the death blow. Or he tries to. Just on the verge of rage, suddenly all his muscles simply freeze. He can barely hear Essej's voice, as the man casts a spell which Hold's Gotrek immobile.
"There is no need for this," Essej says, striding forth. Bili steps up, as does Urgal, and the two kinda hold Gotrek as Essej drops his spell. Essej kneels down before Mean Natron, who is still shaking away the cobwebs from Gotrek's blow, and Essej heals him of his wounds.
"Why?" he asks, glancing at Gotrek but focusing on Essej.
"Because you fought with honor," says Bili, holding onto Gotrek.
[Gotrek OOC: Why isn't Gotrek raging? I posted he went into a rage!]
[DM OOC: You can't just say "I'm raging" and have it be so. You have to start singing, and then do it for 4 rounds uninterrupted. You posting is great, and the imagery is perfect. It doesn't necessarily mean he's raging per the battlerager special rules though.]
[Gotrek OOC: Hhmmm. Ok, I guess Gotrek rolled less then 9 for hold. Now, must do Intelligence check. If fails, Essej and whoever helps him considered an enemy.]
[DM OOC: No. Gotrek wasn't raging, so none of that factors in. He was on the last turn of raging, and was held just before he slipped into it.]
Gotrek grunts, and walks away angrily. The opposing men don't know what to make of this turn of events, but the dour dwarves keep them from doing anything rash. Meanwhile, Essej kneels next to Mean Natron and calls upon Trithereon, healing the man's wounds. He sits there, incredulous at the event, and when Essej is done and backs up, Natron stands up and calls out to Gotrek.
"Ho there, dwarf," he calls.
Gotrek turns back, and Natron strides towards him. Gotrek grips Goreblade tighter, and Bili and Urgal put hands on their weapons, but everyone notices that Natron has not picked up his fallen weapons. He advances to Gotrek, standing before him and looking down at the bloody and upset dwarf.
"You are the greatest warrior I have ever fought," he says, his breath coming fast and heavy after his exertions. "The first and only to best me in single combat. I am not easily impressed, but you...you are a worthy foe." He extends his hand. "You have bested me, one of the greatest warriors of the Frutzii. I will be honored to know your name."
Gotrek frowns and then shrugs, smiling slightly and breathing heavily as well. "Me name is Gotrek Goreblade, of Clan Delgrim." He gestures towards Urgal. "And this is my Uncle Urgal. He is the commander of the Deldukr."
"The Deldukr," he says, knowingly, nodding towards Urgal. "Had I known it was them, I'd have never charged this bridge!"
Gotrek looks at Mean Natron, as he nods at the remaining forces. "So where do we stand now?"
Mean Natron shrugs, looking around. "There's no force in Reyhu that can take this bridge," he says. "Redhand has fallen, and Reyhu's next. Nothing to do about that now. We surrender."
His mouth agape for a moment, Gotrek then looks at Urgal. "Uncle? What say you?"
"You wish to surrender to me?" he says. "In that case we accept." [Sorry, couldn't resist the Princess Bride quote!]
Natron calls for his men to surrender, knowing there's no way to defeat the Deldukr. They do so, and the whole lot moves down to the bridge where the Deldukr disarms them. The Deldukr detains the captives and wait for Lord Holmer. That night, Gotrek learns Mean Natron's story.
He is one of the Suel barbarian people from the far northeast. He traveled extensively when younger, seeking the great Blades of Corusk, legendary swords of the Thillronian peoples. He had heard that Tyrant Cedros knew something of one of these blades, and sought him out last year. From Cedros he learned that one of the blades supposedly lies in the lair of a Shadow Dragon Szeverin. Tyrant Cedros sent one of his men, the half-elf Mallon, to Roookroost to seek their location, just before he himself left with the bulk of his army to aide in the fight against the Horned Society in the far west. That was months ago, just before the Shield Lander invasion. With no word from the west, Natron has been leading some of the Tyrant's troops in his absence; however, he has actually grown dissatisfied. He never wanted to get caught up in a war for somebody else and has only been waiting around in the hopes of gaining a lead on this Shadow Dragon. He plans to travel to Rookroost on the trail of Mallon and continue his search for the Blades of Corusk.
Gotrek looks at Natron. "As soon as my business and obligation with Lord Holmer has come to a pass, I will come with you, to find the Blades of Corusk. If you would have me fight by your side. I will be with you, to till the end of the line."
"In that case," he says, "I will join you in the meantime, until this war is over." He looks at Urgal who looks skeptical, but Bili gives him a nod. Essej recommends the use of a Geas (sp).
Gotrek shrugs. "No need," he says. "There be honor here that is often lacking in lesser men. His word is enough fer meself."
The remaining men are held off to the side of the bridge, kept under the watchful gaze of the Deldukr. Meanwhile, Mean Natron and Gotrek find that they both have very similar approaches to combat. Natron is a berserker from the far northwest (pretty much like a Viking). He's never met a battlerager before, and is surprised that dwarves like Gotrek exist at all amongst such organized folk.
"Hah! Organized!" laughs Gotrek. "I just be following me Uncle!"
The next day the army arrives. Lord Holmer takes stock of the situation, and the prisoners are collected by the Shieldlanders. You learn from Lord Holmer that a force was sent north, to take and hold another bridge to the north, while the main army continues its march. Without further delay, they reach Trallant on the Artonsamay River. The town quickly surrenders, and the Shieldlanders are hailed as liberators. The Deldukr is given a well-earned rest, while Lord Holmer considers the next phase of the campaign.
It seems the population was never quite as eager to break from the Shield Lands as believed. The people have been quite thoroughly oppressed by Tyrant Cedros, and they are most pleased to return to the Shield Lands. While resting in Trallant, a party from Sarresh appears, including the local mayor. They proclaim that they have come over to Lord Holmer, and pledge themselves once more to the Shield Lands. Lord Holmer greets them openly, and then sends a couple hundred men back with them to garrison the city.
Meanwhile, Prince Henry of Urnst reaches the city with a fleet of half a dozen Urnst warships. He has a meeting with Lord Holmer, and pledges to keep the city safe while the Shield Landers press inland. The goal of the next phase is to sweep the lands of Reyhu of any of Tyrant Cedros's forces and march on his castle in Helestria. Sarresh will become the new capital of Reyhu, and a force is left to garrison it as well. Prince Henry pledges 500 Urnst marines as well.
The men whom the Deldukr captured all go over to Lord Holmer, who graciously gives them back their weapons. They ask Natron, whom they no loner call Mean (to his face), to lead them. Lord Holmer agrees, if he will pledge fealty to Holmer, but he declines.
"I have had enough of pledging loyalty to other men," he says, which makes many around Lord Holmer bristle but Holmer just laughs.
"You have nothing to explain," he says, thinking of Furyondy and King Belvor who would seem Holmer pledge the same oaths of loyalty.
Natron nods and turns to Gotrek. "I owe honor to you," he says, and then also glances at Essej, "and you as well. He turns back to Lord Holmer and continues. "I pledge to follow them for the duration of this campaign, but after that I shall go my own way."
That's enough for Holmer, who then dismisses Natron as irrelevant before returning to other concerns. Bili is given command of the new cavalry forces, while the remaining footmen are left in Trallant, under the watchful eyes of Prince Henry's men.
The army then prepares to move out. Lord Holmer plans to divide his forces. He agrees that it is always risky, but the continued absence of Tyrant Cedros makes it possible. The bulk of the army will march on the Balmund road, while the Deldukr and a contingent of cavalry (not those which fought the Deldukr at the river but a group of shieldlanders) will swing to the north and take Sheerwatch. Aids lay out a great map, beautifully drawn years ago by a shieldlander cartographer, as Lord Holmer explains his plan to the assembled commanders.
"This keep marks the northern border of the Great Lands of Reyhu," explains Holmer, pointing to Sheerwatch. "It guards the border of the barren lands south of the Rift Canyon. He then indicates the town of Sarresh, along the upper Artonsamay and bordering Urnst. "The army going to Sheerwatch has to go there first, then turn back to Sheerwatch. So, the Deldukr begin their march tomorrow, overland to Sarresh then back to the northwest and on to Sheerwatch."
Urgal just nods, as Lord Holmer continues. "By the time you reach it, a second army should have taken Kellswald, while a third force, marching from Erol Otus, should have taken Morannon Keep. The armies should all successfully complete their missions within a few weeks, before converging again at the fortress of Helestria, the personal stronghold of the Tyrant himself. With all the rest of the lands swept clear of enemies, this will also position the army along the route which Tyrant Cedros will return, along the road between White Plume Mountain and the Rift Canyon."
[DM OOC: The Bandit Kingdoms map shows a place called the Plague Fields. That is the setting for something from other adventures, but not here. Rather, it is the site of Erol Otis, a fortress guarding the far western border of the southern Principality of Redhand. It lies along the Old North Aerdy Road where it crosses the Yellowflow River. It was never named previously, but on the original map for S2 White Plume Mountain, the artist Erol Otus signed his map right where this would be. So, I thought it fitting to name the place after him. Anyway, it's not really important, but I thought I'd mention it.]
The next morning the Deldukr begin their march overland to Sarresh. The people of the villages come out in droves, feeding the victorious army as it marches along, and everyone is happy to face no opposition. Well, everyone except one surly dwarf.....
It takes a few days to march to Sarresh, and there is one especially tense moment when they pass through the Black Forest. However, they are not assailed by anyone, and the army is in fact welcomed at Sarresh by the local population. Again, they are only too happy to rejoin the Shield Lands once more!
Gotrek spars with Mean. He is disappointed he did not kill anything. He finds that Mean Natron is actually not really mean at all. He's just a hardened warrior from the wild lands of the Thillronian Penninsula. He is incredibly tough though, perhaps the toughest foe Gotrek has ever fought. He can't quite drink as much as me though, thinks Gotrek.
Gotrek and Natron go to the local tavern, to see if they can get any information. All the talk is about the Shieldlanders finally retaking these two fiefs. All the common folk are quite pleased, having been under the iron rule of the Tyrant Cedros for too long. Gotrek drinks some Gutshaker, his last bit from his skin. Natron takes a little, as well, then spits it out. "Well, it ain't mead!" he laughs, sliding the mug back to Gotrek and ordering some regular ale.
Gotrek laughs as well, thinking of Hepla. "If I told ya the only human who could keep the stuff down, you'd never believe me!" he says.
After a long night of drinking, the two return to the camp of the Deldukr and fall sound asleep. It seems like only minutes before they are awakened by the busy dwarves, preparing for their next march. The rosy fingertips of dawn have barely brushed the fleeing darkness when the Deldukr march out of town.
After two days of marching, the Deldukr and a contingent of cavalry reach Sheerwatch.
The fortress rises ahead of them. It is a small, solitary hill which rises about 250' from the flatland below. Much eroded by time, the rocky heart was long ago exposed, and this knoll was carved out to form a formidable round fortress which dominates the desert badlands around it.
"Ah," says Gotrek, "Reminds me of home!"
The dwarves are about to look for secret tunnels along the base of the hill, when Natron interjects. "I've been here," he says. "There's no secret tunnels. The place is carved out of the mesa, and the sheer walls are pretty much impregnable." He looks around, then grins. "I can get us in."
"Good lad!" Gotrek pounds Natron on his back, sending the Barbarian reeling.
Natron leads the cavalry and the Deldukr up to the fortress. After climbing the winding round up to the gate, he calls out to the garrison to open up. They recognize him, and they open the gates. Everyone marches inside and are met by the garrison commander.
Since the objective are for the cavalry and the Deldukr to capture Sheerwatch, the cavalry sweep around the garrison commander and encircle any troops. Urgal gives the commander the opportunity to surrender. He promises no harm will befall them, if they comply. If they show any resistance, Natron and Gotrek, who are in the forefront, will start sweeping thru them, with pools of blood.
The commander slumps, takes out his sword, and throws it on the ground at Urgal's feet. "The fort is yours," he says sullenly. The rest of the garrison, all 250 men, are quickly taken prisoner and detained.
The fort is quite interesting. Carved from the heart of this rocky mesa, the dwarves find it rather impressive....for humans. It reminds them of home, and they all enjoy a brief respite. Urgal sends a few cavalry scouts out, as well a couple messengers south for Balmund. They will bring Earl Holmer news of the capture of Sheerwatch. Urgal plans to wait for two days, then continue the march to Helestria.
The next day, the scouts return with word of a Bandit Kingdom force to the south. It is a large force, and it is marching south towards Balmund. Urgal calls for a council of war.
"So, do we follow our previous orders and march on Helestria, or do we march south?"
"How big is the force?" asks Gotrek.
"We took Sheerwatch without any losses," says Gotrek, looking at Natron. "Do ya think the captured forces would fight for us, loyally?"
He shrugs. "I don't know. It's not like they have any loyalty to anyone, really. If you've enough coin, they'll fight. Besides, everyone must know by now that Cedros has lost."
"Would an ambush at Mercy's Bluff be feasible?," asks Gotrek, remembering the map he had seen before. Urgal smiles, seeing that his nephew is taking to the soldier's life quite well.
"Yes," says Natron. "It was there that Tyrant Cedros wiped out the rampaging orcs a few years ago, when he took over Reyhu and Redhand. He trapped them there between an army moving from the north and one from the south. The place was named Mercy's Bluff, because of the utter lack of mercy shown by Cedros and his army. Of course," says Natron, "it was just against a bunch of orcs."
Urgal and Gotrek go to the garrison commander. "We need good men to fight," says Urgal. "Natron feels you will fight for us. What do you require in exchange, besides regaining your honor? When Lord Holmer arrives, I promise you will all be pardoned if you act in his interests now. You will become free men."
The commander, Turson 8-Fingers, grins. "How about some gold? Honor doesn't buy wine or women!"
Gotrek looks at them. "If honor is not enough, then ye can stay here."
Urgal puts a hand on Gotrek's shoulder. "Easy lad," he says. "Even the Deldukr don't fight for honor. Hell! Our last job we worked alongside ORCS!" He then has all the men assembled in the courtyard before addressing them.
"I am Urgal Firebeard, Standard Bearer of the Delgrim, Commander of the Deldukr. Honor is good, but we Freeswords know that it is not for honor we fight. We fight for gold."
The men begin talking amongst themselves, a few calling out one thing or another, but Urgal just puts up a hand. "Tyrant Cedros has already lost this war. While his army fights the Dreaded Hierarchs in the west, the Shieldlander army has already secured Redhand and most of Reyhu. Your pay is probably already long overdue." Murmurs among the men give testimony to the truth, and Urgal continues. " Join us, and I will personally see that you are paid for your efforts. Enough gold to buy a years worth of wine and wenches!"
The men cheer, and they shout their acceptance. Their commander smiles, and Urgal takes his sword and hands it back to him. "Lead your men, as you have in the past." Turning around he shouts, "Return their weapons. We march south immediately."
He then lays plans to bring the garrison along, leaving half the shieldlander cavalry behind to hold the fortress. "You must learn to read men," he says to Gotrek. "Most have not the heart of a battlerager."
Gotrek grunts. "Ye don't know their hearts. They folded like paper against us. I hope ye are right. But if I see one of them step out of line and try to betray us, I will kill them." He then looks at Urgal intensely.
Urgla shrugs. "You have to understand the ways of soldiers," he says. "They generally do not fight for things like honor or duty. They fight for each other. With mercenaries like these, that is often not even the case. They fight for money."
He looks around as the men prepare to march out. The Deldukr unhappily hand over a small amount of coin to them, just enough to give them a taste of what is to come. The defeated garrison begins to act much more loyally once they get a bit of pay, and they are shocked by the gold they gain. They were ever paid only in small amounts of silver, and very infrequently.
Urgal looks back at Gotrek with a slight smile. "Still, greed is not the best way to buy loyalty, so we shall keep a close eye on them."
With everything ready, the force departs. Natron rides ahead with the cavalry, which is only 50 strong now that half are being left in Sheerwatch. They mean to scout ahead and determine where the southern force is, getting the lay of the land too. Meanwhile, the Deldukr will march along with the garrison which consists of 200 spear and 50 archers.
Also, Natron would have explained that you really can't cut off the Reyhu force heading south. The road goes through some hills, but any force could just march around you.
"However, with Earl Holmer's army due to march north, we can take this force in the rear by marching south," he says, looking at Urgal. "If we can catch them."
A hard days marching, which leaves the Reyhu men wondering what they got themselves into, finally ends with the arrival of a couple cavalry scouts. They report that they found the enemy force ahead, marching through the pass at Mercy's Bluff. They shadowed them a bit, but didn't engage, being well outnumbered. They say that you are a couple miles north of the army's camp right now. After taking a short rest, the Deldukr leads the way south. However, they shortly encounter a couple scouts from Earl Holmer's army. Riding with them is Natron himself.
"It seems the Shieldlanders are just south of the pass, and the two armies darn near marched right into each other," he says, riding up on a roan charger. "We ran into some scouts from Holmer's army," he adds, indicating the other horsemen.
The shieldlander scouts look pretty tough, as if made for the saddle and the badlands. They glance at Natron, but say nothing.
"The bandit army sits on the road athwart the pass. With their flanks secured by steep hills, they seem content to wait for the Shieldlanders to attack. Far as I can tell, they don't know we are here."
[Gotrek OOC: Great map! Ok.]
[DM OOC: While Gotrek's not in charge of the Deldukr, this is his adventure. So, I let his player come up with the battle plan.]
"We sneak forward at night," says Gotrek to Urgal, proud at his nephew as he takes charge of the coming battle. The scouts draw a rough sketch of the terrain, and Gotrek points right where the indication for the Reyhu army is. "This slight plateau to the left," he says. "The bulk of the army will go IN FRONT of that plateau, from the backside, to avoid detection. Fifteen cavalry will stay back. At dawn, the cavalry will charge down the road, hopefully sounding like 150, instead of 15. When the Reyhu army is distracted, we hit them. We will have any missile fire soldiers hidden amongst the rocks. As soon as we charge, they fire. Once engaged, Holmer can lead his army north and hit the bandits from the south. Caught between the hammer and the anvil!"
Urgal and Gotrek approach Bili, and ask him his opinion on their plan.
"Holmer has about 1000 men. 200 are Knights of the Holy Shielding [all a minimum of 5th level fighters], 250 are their retainers [more med cav] and another 500 are men-at-arms [regular infantry]. Further, he has another 50 archers. You have the Deldukr [50 dwarves average 4th level, Elite Dwarven Heavy Infantry], the 50 medium cavalry, another 100 spearmen, and 100 archers. The force between us is about 500 strong, so they are well outnumbered. They seem to be about 300 spear, 200 archers, and 50 cavalry."
He looks at Gotrek and nods. "Use all the cavalry to attack south, attract their attention, but keep the rest of your force hidden," says Bili. Take them in the rear after we close from the south. "We'll have them between the hammer and the anvil."
Gotrek looks upset for a moment as Bili steals his line, and Urgal bursts into laughter. Glorkal slaps Gotrek on the back. "Ye did nay think ya invented that line, did ya?"
Gotrek gives a mumbled "hrumph" but then laughs himself. He smiles widely, a gruesome sight, and taps the haft of Goreblade gently. "Aye. Just a bit!" He then takes up Goreblade, raising it high. "Clangeddin will raise a pint of Gutshaker in our Honor tonight!" he says loudly, and the Deldukr cheer.
[DM OOC: OK, doing a battlesystem battle is a lot of work, and it's work I don't quite get. It also is more complicated than a normal combat, what with all the different aspects. So, I'm going to just do the battle and we can call it good.]
The plan goes off without a hitch. Lord Holmer's army marches on the defenders, whose archers immediately prove their value as they fire downhill towards the attacking Shieldlanders. Then Natron's force attacks from the north, charging down the pass! As the defenders turn to deal with the charging cavalry from the north, which seems more in number than they really are, Holmer's HC charge up the hill from the south. Caught between the two forces, the Rehyu army has to split its forces, half facing each way. However, none face towards the small plateau, from which charge the Deldukr just as the battle is truly joined. The defenders almost immediately break ranks, soldiers fleeing wildly in every direction! A large group backs up to the cliff, where they are hemmed in by the Deldukr and Holmer's archer. Most of the rest are cut down by Natron's cavalry as they flee, weaponless, from the battlefield.
[DM OOC: So, I ran the battle using the online battle system Mass Combat that Tempus sent me. Here's the result:
Shieldlanders are victorious.
Bandits suffer 90% casualties; army routed. Remaining commanders captured or killed*. Surviving 10% of army escape unless somehow trapped. They were trapped against the bluffs and surrendered.
Shieldlanders suffer only 5% of loser's casualties.
Knights (200 - 8) 190 left
Retainers (250 - 10) 140 left
Men at arms (500 - 20) 480 left
archers (50 - 2) 48 left
Deldukr (50 - 2) 48 left
Natron's cav (50 - 2) 48 left
archers (100 - 4) 96 left
So, not a bad battle. The men at arms attacked, but took heavy casualties from the archers until the cavalry charged up the hill. The bandit archers broke, and the cavalry crashed into the spearmen. At about the same time the Deldukr hit the bandits from the flank, and their entire line simply collapsed. Men ran everywhere and were cut down by the shieldlander cavalry. Natron's cavalry forced a large body of enemy archers and spearmen to retreat towards the cliffs, where they were hemmed in by the Deldukr. With their commanders all dead, they surrendered en mass.]
The battle was an easy victory, and the victorious army camps for the night, ready to march on Helestria in the morning. Earl Holmer congratulates the Deldukr on a job well done, and offers the spoils of the field to the new recruits. This makes the men quite happy, as they strip the bodies of anything of value. Urgal also is given a bag of gems from the enemy leaders, which brings the Deldukr pay up to date and then some. All-in-all, everyone has a pretty good night, lacking only good food and drink which, as usual, is hard to come by on campaign.
The war now winds down quickly. With the defeat of the last army, the fortress of Helestria surrenders without a fight. The lands of Heyhu and Redhand are firmly in Shieldlander control. Lord Holmer pays the Deldukr for the most excellent work done. They even find a few dwarven replacements for those lost during the last month. Holmer plans to keep the Deldukr around, at least until news of the war in the northwest arrives. He still expects Tyrant Celdros to return, and there is no sense sending away such warriors prematurely.
Thus ends another short adventure, run for the Gotrek player who just wanted to do something. It was going to lead, maybe, into the Blades of Corusk adventure, but the original party decided to head off on the GDQ series. This was something the Gotrek player had long desired, so he decided to join them. The mage, Isilme, used her mirror to find Gotrek and tell him of the party's intentions and asked Gotrek to come along. He was torn between his feelings of a now reciprocal duty to Natron and his almost innate desire to wreak personal vengeance against any and all giantkind. Natron told him he understood, and with a farewell to him, his uncle Urgal, and the rest of the Deldukr, Gotrek left the Bandit Kingdoms, rejoining the original party for their next adventure.
Thanks. It was fun to do. Large battles are a bit difficult, so I started this off by using a small action. It developed in an interesting way, and the NPC Mean Natron (named after Natron Means!) turned out to be interesting. I was thinking to use him to lead into the Five Shall be One. That may still happen with my Riftcanyon campaign, so we'll see.
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