The sun rises on Day Three of the party’s trek into the mountains. Elroy Wick spent the night tending to Eberk’s wounds (Heal = 23 vs. DC = 15) to help his Dwarf friend regain more health. They and Goa Finnbjorn, Øskur Røgnvaldurarsøn, Corun Dum’man, Magnus, Armst, and Yorgenson Uberson pool their knowledge of Grimlocks. Grimlocks are sightless but have a Blind-Sense ability; are raiders that take slaves and often eat humans or other humanoids; have their own language but sometimes speak Common; and are subterranean.
Yorgenson would like to stay in the shelter of this cave another full day, to rest and regain spells. Wick and Armst caution against this; their supplies are finite and they must not delay. Around ten o’clock in the morning, the party breaks camp and quits the cave for white lands under overcast grey skies.
The glacier leads them on further into the mountain range, slowly climbing as it winds between barren blue-grey slopes. Øskur’s precious ladder comes in handy countless times, to span narrow but treacherous fissures in the ice.
After four hours of hiking, the steep valley opens up. A vast ice field lies before them, a veritable frozen lake from which their glacier flows west. As if to underscore how frigid and inhospitable it is at this altitude, the close-knit clouds begin to snow.
Cold-weather gear hardly seems to keep out the chill. Druidbarian Røgnvaldurarsøn casts Endure Elements on himself, and on Elroy Wick. Druid Uberson casts the same spell on himself. Instantly the penetrating, shivering chill of the ice and wind and snow is replaced by pleasant, neutral warmth. The effect will last for the next twenty-four hours.
The group enters the ice field, pressing on against the blowing snow and fading visibility. Starting at 3pm, those party members unprotected by Endure Elements make a Fortitude Save every hour against the biting effects of the cold. Goa Finnbjorn fails the first and second Save, taking subdual damage. Corun Dum’man fails the second and third Save. For the Rogue and the Wizard, the bonus granted by their cold-weather gear was not enough.
Around 5pm the party makes a Spot check. Through the blowing snow and gathering gloom, some of the party see what might be a cave up on the hillside a couple miles ahead. They will try for it. Corun fails his Fortitude Save each of the next two hours, growing steadily weaker. Eventually the party arrives at a point below the cave. Up above they can barely see its opening.
An hour of careful climbing and pathfinding takes them to it. The cumulative effects of the cold have made the Fortitude Saves even more difficult; Goa and Armst fail the Save, and Corun falls unconscious. His friends pick him up and carry him into the cave.
The cave is less a tunnel than it is a hollow in the mountainside. Still, it will function as shelter. Øskur does a Survival check and determines the optimal placement of a campfire to effectively radiate heat. Armst sets the kindling and starts a welcome bright blaze. Behind them, outside of the hollow, the light fades and the snow grows more intense. Beside the fire, Corun is warmed up and revived. Yorgenson casts minor healing spells on Wick and Eberk.
The campfire makes a barely tolerable shelter out of this shallow, freezing cave. The party takes watches but the night is uneventful.
The morning of Day Four. The weather has cleared and the bright morning sun promises a warmer day. Øskur Røgnvaldurarsøn renews the Endure Elements spell on the Bard and gives his own casting instead to the Wizard. Yorgenson re-casts the same spell on himself. Eberk has a good idea; encouraging others to collect hand-sized rocks, party members not protected by the spell set the stones in the embers of the waning fire. Wrapped in spare blankets and tucked into their jackets, these heated stones will radiate warmth for the next couple hours.
The shelter is left as it was found. The party descends onto the ice field and continues east. They spend an hour detouring around a sizable chasm. The terrain is stark, bleak white, cut in deep blues and blacks by the depths of crevices below the ladder as they cross. The sun’s warmth is welcome but brief. Hourly between 3pm and the onset of twilight at 9pm, party members without Endure Elements feel the grip of cold. Fortitude Saves are again required. The limitless cold constantly seeks victims, but the party is more resistant this time.
Around 8pm, everyone makes a Spot check. Some see two caves far ahead on the mountain slope. One is close to the party but a good distance up a difficult slope; the other further away but lower and closer to the ice field. The party opts for the lower cave. Struggling onward, they reach this cave around 10pm, as darkness sets in.
This cave is a definite improvement over last night. Though narrow and its ceiling low, the tunnel widens into a chamber that is suitable for their needs. Armst, Goa and her dog companion Lörydyr, and Elroy Wick set to building a fire, and arranging firewood and packs to block the entrance. Yorgenson, Eberk, Magnus, and Corun take up arms and explore further down the tunnel.
Away from their camp chamber, the passageway narrows, bending and turning ahead of their torchlight. Small bones and debris litter the corners – something has been here before. The rough tunnel leads deeper into the mountain, then abruptly opens into a cavern.
How high or wide or deep the cavern, the party cannot tell; certainly it extends well past the edge of their torchlight. And it is silent, oppressively silent. The group withdraws to the tunnel. With his innate Dwarven darkvision, Eberk can sneak out into the cavern without a light source and look around.
Cautiously and quietly, or so he believes on both counts, Eberk creeps into the cavern. He has not gone very far when he notices some rock formations ahead. Coming closer, he sees that they are not natural shapes. These are stone huts, and not just one or two – Eberk has come across a small city of rocky hovels in the silent, pitch-black cavern.
Suddenly very nervous, Eberk looks around (Spot = 12) but does not see anyone. Retracing his steps with utmost care (Move Silently = 12), the Dwarf Fighter hurries back to the tunnel and his waiting friends. Quickly he tells what he found.
The Druid and Wizard are alarmed. Magnus tightens his grip on his Heavy Pick. The four make a Listen check; sounds come from the cavern. Something saw Eberk. Now it and other things approach.
The terrain in this tunnel is uneven and jagged; half-speed is the fastest the four can flee from the cavern and back towards their sheltered camp. Corun breaks the quiet and hollers ahead at Goa and the others.
As Armst and Goa look up from dinner preparations on hearing their Wizard friend, Wick takes up his crossbow and hurries to intercept. The Bard meets the explorers at a choke-point in the path – an ideal place to mount a defense. The five adventurers Listen; the pursuing creatures draw closer. The Rogue and Warmage catch up to Wick and Magnus’s group.
Grimlocks come at them out of the darkness ! Øskur Røgnvaldurarsøn and Magnus take a defensive posture and hold for the right moment. Armst casts Hail of Stone into the cluster of six Grimlocks trying to muscle through the narrows to attack the party. Corun casts Magic Weapon on Magnus’s Heavy Pick.
Elroy Wick knows a good speech is needed. He launches a rallying tirade; Inspire Courage with an Inspirational Boost added for good measure. Yorgenson Uberson and Goa Finnbjorn hang back and sling stones at the Grimlocks.
Magnus acts, landing a piercing strike against a Grimlock. The Druidbarian delivers a massive 37-point hit against a Grimlock in the front row, a one-hit kill. The eyeless, stone-skinned humanoids swing away with their crude flint axes. An attacker Critically Misses; Magnus Critically Hits for a 42-point Attack of Opportunity. On a Cleave attack the Fighter then slays another Grimlock with a 52-point Critical Hit. The first line of Grimlocks is dead on the tunnel floor.
Øskur Røgnvaldurarsøn takes a glancing slash from a Grimlock’s axe. Armst rains down another Hail of Stone. Corun Dum’man casts Light of Mercuria and radiates a golden glow. The Rogue and Druid maintain ranged attack pressure. Armst’s next Hail of Stone falls upon weakened defenders; two Grimlocks drop.
Only one Grimlock remains. If it meant to attack or retreat, none will ever know. Corun Dum’man blasts it with both the rays from Light of Mercuria, killing the last attacker.
The party Searches the Grimlock corpses; fifteen gems are recovered. The bodies are piled haphazardly in the tunnel at its narrowest point. The group pulls back to their camp.
Eberk and his friends find themselves in a tough spot. A city of Grimlocks sits a five-minute walk down the tunnel, but the extreme cold and hidden dangers of the ice field cannot be tried by night. They will have to hole up here and defend.
The first watch of the night passes without incident. No sound comes from down the tunnel, past the berm of dead Grimlocks. Near the end of the second watch, Elroy Wick thinks he hears something as he wakes Øskur Røgnvaldurarsøn for the Druidbarian’s turn on lookout. Øskur pulls on his heavy coat and peers outside. In the pale moonlight, he Spots dark shapes moving on the slope. At the same time, he and Wick hear a noise coming from down the tunnel.
Thinking fast, Røgnvaldurarsøn casts Dawn, instantly waking up the entire party. Magnus dons his scale armor as quick as he can. Corun casts Extended Shield on himself.
The Grimlocks coming down the tunnel are the immediate threat; the shapes encroaching from outside are still a minute away. Yorgenson and Goa hang back at the camp with Lörydyr; Eberk really is not in the fight any more. Magnus and Øskur hurry to the corpse wall, with Armst immediately behind and Elroy keeping a middle distance to center himself in the party. The Bard decides to try out his newly discovered singing voice (Perform : Sing = 31) to Inspire Courage and lend an Inspirational Boost.
The strike force of Grimlocks makes a sloppy go of invading. Five attack from the dark tunnel. First worn down by a Hail of Stone from Armst, one is killed in melee by Wizard Corun Dum’man. The next across the barrier is Pick’d apart by Magnus, who is not at all pleased to have been woken from sleep. Following that, both the Fighter and the Druidbarian score Attacks of Opportunity against a Grimlock stumbling over the hillock of dead comrades. This kill spurs a 51-point Cleave by Magnus against another unfortunate attacker.
The defenders fall back toward the camp to balance their defense against the barbarian Grimlocks entering from outside. Øskur Røgnvaldurarsøn is surrounded by three of the five newcomers; Corun helps him by threatening these Grimlocks on a flanking angle. Magnus and Druid Uberson each score a kill, then Magnus draws a javelin from out of nowhere, hurling it to another Grimlock’s fatal end.
Now only two assailants remain. Armst lays down a tactical Hail of Stone to weaken them. Magnus finishes one off. Sling bullets from Goa and Yorgenson go wide. A round of melee attacks lands no hits. Armst connects with a 6-point Acid Splash, setting up Øskur Røgnvaldurarsøn for the fatal strike.
The bloodbath is over. Bodies in the camp are heaved into the cave mouth to block the frigid gusts and deter future raiders; the fresh corpses in the tunnel are added to the pile. More than a dozen gems are taken off these bodies, as well as two magic wands worn as decorations on one of the Grimlocks. Corun and Armst are immediately interested in these.
(end of the session)
[Armst achieves Level 3]