Cast: Ranthin, Dellin, Archibald, Bronan, Rufus, and newcomer Johann the Peasant (Stephen Bloomingdale)
While Ranthin, Dellin, Archibald, and Bronan were killing beastmen in the forests (see last adventure summary), Rufus was secluded in his suite at the “Walled Tavern” in Ostermark, studying the runic arrow. After an intense week or so of trial and error, he managed to energize part of the arrow. The end of the arrow, nearest the fletching, appears somewhat less charred than before. Rufus twice narrowly avoided a grim fate while studying the arrow.
A peasant arrives in Castle Ostermark toting a sack of turnips. He seems desparate and is claiming that his farmstead in southern Ostland was attacked by monsters (beastmen). Most of the town folk think he’s mad and give him a wide berth. However, the other characters arriving back from the Beastmen encounter of the previous session run into Johann at the outer gates and have sympathy for him. They buy his turnips and then Bronan decides to conscript him into the watch, as he seems a sturdy sort…not to mention that surviving a beastmen attack while remaining (mostly) sane is a high-enough recommendation in Bronan’s book. The peasant’s name is Johann, and he reports to the watch commander for equipment and training.
The rest of the characters report to appropriate authorities about the beastmen attacking the outer farms, with the “trophy cart” available as physical evidence. Braden the Elder, Duke of Ostermark, is apparently feeling under the weather, so Braden the Younger is the one they end up reporting to. Braden the Younger tells them about an Imperial Special Commission of the Grand Inquisition that is making its way to Ostermark, and that there is concern that the characters “colorful” backgrounds is a liability. Braden the Younger suggests the characters find something to do away from the castle for the foreseeable future.
There have been reports of heightened threats along the border, and now that Ostermark is blanketed in midwinter snow, starvation of outlying villagers is a dire concern. The Captain of the Guard in Ostermark gives Bronan the task of journeying out to the far-flung garrisons and watch towers to investigate the source of the raids. He is to coordinate with local watch captains at the various garrisons and is given official orders that explains his authority and duties.
Pre-dawn the next morning, Dellin is wakened by scratching at his window. He discovers Ladies Man (the crow), and a happy reunion occurs (bird poop on the bed covers, etc.) Ladies Man has a small pack strapped to him with a missive. It warns Dellin that a Norscan Warlock is behind the troubles in the Eastern Marches and that he is likely in league with De Rochelle, who appears to be “squeezing the Empire from both sides.”
The characters gather equipment and supplies after a short rest and begin their journey to the outlying forts. They arrive at one such place a week or so later, Fort Klumpter. A lieutenant at the fort indicates that he’s sent two urgent messages to Castle Ostermark and is wondering where the reinforcements are? Watches further to the north have been besieged by an enemy, and hundreds of soldiers have been lost. Fort Klumpter’s commanding officer rode out two weeks ago with a strong force and has not returned. The party agrees to journey north to investigate, backed by an additional 50 troops from the fort. The lieutenant will rally the nearby watches to gather a larger force of a thousand troops or so, but it will take time.
Bronan, his squad, and the other characters leave almost immediately. They are followed by 50 soldiers under the command of four competent sergeants and junior lieutenant officer (“Schmukhouser The Incompetent”, he is called by the Sergeants when not in his presence.) After another day or two of arduous travel, they arrive at a hill overlooking the ruins of a watch, smoke billowing from the ruins and bodies strewn about the red-stained snow. The character make their way towards the battleground when Dellin gets a feeling of danger and Ladies’ Man takes flight. Dellin hears the sound of hooves in the surrounding woods beyond the clearing, and others notice movement as well. Bronan yells an order back at Lt. Schmukhouser, who immediately deploys in a defensive pike formation. That apparently triggers those hiding in the woods to spring their trap prematurely.
About two hundred beastmen swarm out of the woods, led by a chaos knight in bronze-looking armor. Archibald’s excellent vision makes out an insignia of De Rochelle on the knight’s shield. The “good guys” are outnumbered at least 3 to 1, but they were not taken by surprise and have the high ground. Half the beastmen charge the hill, the rest staying back to protect the chaos knight. The defenders had enough time to smartly arrange the archers and wagons, as well as the forward pikemen and men-at-arms, to repel the charge. Just as the beastmen’s wedge formation nears striking distance, Archibald unleashes a dazzling brightness, causing disarray in the enemy. The soldiers strike and route the charging beastmen, who retreat down the hill, having lost perhaps 20-30 compared to the soldiers 5-6. However, the victory is short lived, as the Chaos Knight will be more careful, and his forces still vastly outnumber the defenders.
Bronan and the other army leaders decide to make an organized retreat to the treeline, where they may be able to mount a better defense, or at least provide for a few survivors to escape and get notice back to the watch. Archibald and Rufus feel the winds of the Aethyr moving near the ruined fort and they get a sick feeling in their stomach just as bolts of lighting begin to explode around them. As the defenders get to the treeline, trees are rupturing and soldiers are being blown to bits. The enemy Warlock must be attacking from the ruined tower and must be very powerful indeed! The defenders are routed, panic sets in, and the beastmen charge for the kill.
Thus ended the session. 50 XP awarded for the initial roleplaying/story aspects in town. Rest of the XP to be deferred pending the resolution of the cliffhanger!