Wizard Corun Dum’man awakens suddenly from a sound sleep, and sits bolt upright. It is the middle of the night, three days after most of the party rode to the port city of Lyttel. Corun realizes he has been awoken by a Sending spell, from his mentor, Alfred :
FORGOT I HAD THIS SPELL. BRING SOME SALTPETER AND QUICKSILVER. DON’T TRUST DWARF STOCK. TOO CLEAN. NO NEED FOR REPLY. ALSO. POWDERED SILVER. LOTS.
Corun sighs; this seems like something that could have waited until morning.
In Lyttel, the rest of the group has learned nothing of other traveling parties from North Point. Armst, Magnus, Kulich, Øskur Røgnvaldurarsøn, Yorgenson Uberson, and Eberk visit weapon shops but the going rate for selling equipment is one-quarter the purchase value. At that price it simply isn’t worth trading their surplus gear. The party finds an inn and stays the night. Leaving next morning, the party rides three uneventful days, toward King’s Cross. There is a main road connecting the two cities and it is well-used. Small villages and crossroads mark every few miles of this causeway.
King’s Cross is a sight unrivalled by any before it. Where Tannis seemed big and Lyttel felt huge, the main city of the House of Davis is massive beyond compare. Tall towers and strongholds spear the sky, behind a high thick stone wall. House of Davis banners fly from its high points; watchmen in uniform pace atop battlements. The city is a major fortification, more like a mountain carved down to a fortress shape than one built up from wood, brick, and stone.
A settlement surrounds King’s Cross, spreading off into the plains. Half is orderly districts of houses and stone buildings, the rest tents and ramshackle huts. As the party enters this periphery, they snoop the marketplaces and trader tents but see little to interest them.
The entrance to King’s Cross is heavily fortified; iron gates and portcullis drawn back, armed guards inspecting all who enter. A sleepy, extremely bored sentry glances over the party and takes disinterested note of House of Davis patches worn by Øskur and friends. He asks well-worn questions about the party’s place of origin, purpose for visiting King’s Cross, and duration of stay. Eberk manages answers that keep the sentry awake for a few more minutes. The guard waves them through.
A moment later, a hand falls on Eberk’s shoulder. The surprised Dwarf turns to find himself confronted by the gate captain, a stern looking man in full House colors. This officer was watching the party intently as they answered the sentry. He has questions of his own.
In precise fashion, the gate captain asks Eberk where he is from; then for how long he has been here out of the north; and who of the House of Davis this party met when they arrived in the former kingdom lands of Kohn. Eberk stammers his way through the interrogation. The party requires an INT check but manages to remember Lieutenant Richard’s name, as the officer who inducted them by informal contract into Davissian service.
Øskur Røgnvaldurarsøn spares Eberk any more fumbling about his words. The Druidbarian steps up, introduces himself to the gate captain, and succinctly summarizes the party’s place or origin, reason for travel, source of affiliation with this territory’s House, and intentions at King’s Cross.
HAROLD (NPC) ‘s attitude changes. The senior officer accepts the story and explains the confrontation – the city must be protected from infiltration by imposters. Harold is duty-bound to verify all marked faction men. Snapping orders at the drowsy soldier, Harold rouses the sentry to a frightened hustle. The underling will lead the party to a knowledgeable authority who can answer their questions about others from North Point.
Leaving their mounts at a faction stable, Magnus and his team are led down the bustling streets to a towering wooden stronghold, braced with thick beams. Inside, they find a temple, one radiant with light streaming through windows of actual stained glass. The sunlight illuminates paintings and tapestries, and antiquities of shining gold and silver. This is a temple of Pelor, Kulich’s deity. The Cleric is filled with awe and reverence, anointing himself with somatic gestures on passing holy symbols and on reading etched scriptures along the walls. The others take in the vaulted ceilings and luxurious decoration with quiet wonder.
The anxious guard leads the humbled party to an antechamber. Here, a priest kneels before an altar, his back to them, silent in meditative prayer. There are a few awkward minutes where no-one is sure whether to speak and be noticed, or wait to be acknowledged. Armst and Yorgenson shrug at each other. Kulich is frozen in place, not daring to interrupt, hoping his friends do not embarrass him.
Finally, the guard unnecessarily clears his throat. The priest stands to face his visitors. In a placid, confident voice he introduces himself as JAN (NPC), High Priest of this sanctuary, and bids welcome. The High Priest looks over the group – pausing on Kulich a moment and nodding, making a somatic gesture with his hand. Kulich returns it, with a slight bow.
The sentry explains the party’s purpose. The High Priest motions aside, and the guard leaves. Jan asks their plight. One after another, the group makes a mess of relating their tale. Kulich is too nervous to speak. Once again it is Øskur Røgnvaldurarsøn to the rescue. The High Priest is well-informed by the Druidbarian’s story.
Jan would be pleased to assist Kulich and his friends. The best option is to Scry a specific person in each of the missing crews from North Point. Jan is able to cast the spell once today, and needs only a name and that person’s description. There are three groups to choose from: one party hiked due south from North Point; one boat left North Point and sailed the coastline; and another boat sailed across the strait and down through Gibbon waters. Magnus names KARL (NPC), a fisherman known at the docks back home. Karl was among the sailors coming down the coast.
The High Priest would have an hour in private to perform the spell. Cautiously optimistic, the party leaves to find the King’s Cross market district. It is mid-day and the vendors are swarmed with buyers. Used gear sells here for one-third of purchase value; it likely won’t get better elsewhere. Magnus and Yorgenson Uberson haggle prices for their loot. The Fighter unloads seven +4 STR composite shortbows and a masterwork axe, for 1,675-gp. The Druid moves seven masterwork battleaxes and a short-sword, for a sack of 800-gp. While browsing, Yorgenson notices a +2 Frying-pan. Were Goa Finnbjorn here, this is exactly what the food-obsessed Halfling would covet. Magnus locates a gem shop and converts his payday into 50-gp value stones. Each party member receives three gems as their cut of the profit.
The hour is up. The party returns to the temple. The High Priest welcomes back Kulich’s associates, but with unfortunate news for them. He Scry’d Karl and saw the man lying dead on a beach. There were seven other bodies around him, his crewmates, also slashed to death. No boat was visible. If the party would return in the morning, Jan will prepare three Scrying spells to locate the two remaining travel groups. The group gives names and descriptions of men from each team, then bids the High Priest good afternoon.
The only one with an interest outside of food and drink is the Druidbarian. Perturbed by the ill-fit of his owlbear helm, Øskur finds a craftsman and pays a 50-gp gem to have the skull adjusted. It will be ready for pick-up in the morning. After dinner, Øskur, Yorgenson Uberson, and Magnus leave the walled city to camp in the sprawl. Kulich, Eberk, and Armst choose to stay the night at an inn called “The Full Cup”. Dwarf Eberk is pleased to find the price a tenth of what was gouged from him at Tannis.
In the morning, the party returns to the sanctuary of Pelor. They are early; Jan is still engaged in Scrying. Kulich happily fills the time explaining the stories illustrated on the various tapestries and paintings decorating the corridors. Armst and the others almost miss Elroy Wick’s yarns.
The High Priest calls them in to his private chamber. He has cast all three Scrying spells. The first was centered on an acquaintance of Yorgenson Uberson’s, in the party that traveled overland. Jan offers condolences; the Scrying spell showed the High Priest a cooking pot over a fire, evidently at the camp of Ettins. He saw no humans but their grim fate is clear. On a positive note, Jan’s attempt to Scry Corun’s cousin’s friend in the boat that sailed across to Gibbon waters, was blocked. When he tried again, that Scrying attempt was also resisted by the spell’s target. Undeniably, that man is alive, though no other information is gained.
The news was not as good as hoped. But Jan’s efforts at least gave the group answers about two of the parties, and some hope regarding the third. Kulich expresses his gratitude to Jan for the High Priest’s help.
Before leaving King’s Cross, Magnus finds Harold to request a map of the territory north of Davis lands. The gate captain cannot allow original, detailed maps to leave the city. But he provides a reasonable hand-drawn facsimile that marks notable land features and settlements, and indicates the two routes by which the Orc armies invaded.
The long ride from King’s Cross to Tannis brings the group back to Corun Dum’man and Elroy Wick just as the Wizard’s last day of meticulous arcane studies ends. Taking dinner at their usual tavern, both sides relate the events of the past nine days. Magnus gives Corun and Elroy their gem share of the sale of the bows, and Corun gives three 50-gp gems to all party members from his trust. Druid Uberson pays each man 70-gp, windfall from the battleaxes.
The next day, the party readies for their scouting mission. They buy ten days’ worth of rations. Prices have returned to normal now that the Davissian battalion is gone. Corun Dum’man creates a scroll of Rope Trick. Øskur Røgnvaldurarsøn outfits Laddie in the Druidbarian’s cold-weather gear. It is early June and a warm summer is here.
Following Magnus and his map, the party rides for a day, re-entering the forest and bearing due north. The camp overnight is peaceful. The Orc threat seems to have passed.
On the afternoon of the second day, the group is riding in staggered single file. Magnus up front; Armst behind and to the right; Yorgenson Uberson and Corun Dum’man next. Then follows Kulich, still elated by the sanctuary of Pelor and having met Jan. Behind him, Elroy Wick, Øskur Røgnvaldurarsøn, and as rearguard, alert Dwarf Fighter Eberk.
A Spot check. Wizard Corun (with a Natural 1 rolled for Spot for a total check of 6) is not aware of the forest around him, or of its trees or the shade of their canopy above. Magnus (Spot = 26) has a feeling he cannot shake, but sees no reason for it. Øskur turns an ear (Listen = 27) but catches only bird song.
Half an hour later, the Druidbarian has a sensation like Magnus had. The leaves rustle in an unusual fashion (Listen = 31) and Øskur notices (Spot = 26) some branches of the forest canopy tremble. He orders the procession to halt. Attention focused on the treetops. The party Spots no threat.
Something has been following them. Bursting down through the branches with a startling crash, a Large dragon-winged creature lands heavily in the underbrush beside Armst and Corun. It is a Chimera; five feet high, ten feet long including its tail, the hindquarters of a goat and the front of a lion. Three heads; one a horned goat, the second a mane-less lion, the third a black dragon.
Perhaps sensing a Magical beast about, Corun Dum’man (with a Natural 20 rolled for Initiative for a total of 24) is ready to fight. Magnus (with a Natural 1 rolled for Initiative for a total of 3) will let everyone else react first.
The Chimera attacks. The lion-head bites Armst, one claw rakes the Warmage, the other claw slashes Armst’s horse. The goat-head gores the same horse. The dragon-head recoils and spews Acid Breath. Armst, Magnus, and Magnus’s mount succeed on the Reflex save and take half-damage. The Warmage’s horse is caught full-force and crashes to the earth, taking Armst with it. The Warmage falls comatose from the damage.
All except Magnus immediately dismount. Corun casts Mage Armor on himself. Øskur Røgnvaldurarsøn boosts himself with Bull’s Strength. Elroy Wick generates a somewhat enjoyable (Perform : Sing = 17) tune but really wouldn’t ask the 1d10 silver it is worth, though he does augment with Inspire Courage and Inspirational Boost. Yorgenson Uberson Summons Nature’s Ally to help out next round. Kulich decides to face the beast with Protection From Evil on his side. Armst bleeds on the ground. Magnus pulls his Heavy Pick and spurs his mount to carry him to a flanking position behind the Chimera.
The Chimera takes immediate notice of the Fighter on horseback. The lion-head and both claws savage Magnus; the goat-head butts his horse and drops it, though Magnus is able to leap clear and avoid injury. The black dragon head snakes about menacingly, but does not attack.
Corun Dum’man blasts the Chimera’s body with a Scorching Ray. Øskur Røgnvaldurarsøn casts Bite of the Wererat on himself – the Druidbarian gains an impressive boost to Dexterity, a modest bump to Constitution, and a bite attack as he sneezes and morphs a ratlike snout, a tail, and grey fur on his body. The Chimera deals damage on an Attack of Opportunity when the Ratbarian charges in.
Elroy Wick draws “Homestead Avenger” and weaves in close, missing with a stab. Yorgenson hits the lion-head, and his Summoned black bear Ally appears behind the Chimera, connecting twice with its claws but missing on its bite. Kulich won’t try to fight this creature – instead, he runs to the fallen Warmage and revives his friend with a Cure Moderate Wounds spell. Armst crawls away from the fight to drink a Potion of Cure Light Wounds. Eberk gleefully hauls out his axe and charges into the fray. Magnus lands a hit from his position at the flank.
The Chimera evidently dislikes animals; the lion- and goat-heads and a powerful claw connect against the Summoned black bear, dismissing the creature. The dragon-head spits another cone of acid, dealing Kulich and Yorgenson full damage as the Cleric and Druid fail their Reflex saves.
The party has positioned itself to almost perfectly encircle the Chimera maelstrom. The Wizard puts Resistance on the Bard; Elroy hits with a slash. The Ratbarian goes into a Rage, missing in melee but sinking his nasty sharp pointy teeth into one of the Chimera’s necks for considerable damage. Eberk and Yorgenson both swing wide of the flailing heads. Magnus receives healing from Kulich’s Cure Moderate Wounds. Armst stands up and tries to smack the dragon-head with a Flaming Sphere, which the head evades.
The Chimera picks its targets. Eberk is bitten by the lion-head and battered by heavy claws, though the dragon-head fails to latch its fangs into the Fighter. The goat-head rams Yorgenson Uberson, reducing the Druid to exactly zero and leaving him teetering on the edge of consciousness.
One might think the Chimera had a fourth head – Wizard Corun draws his wand of Lesser Orb of Sound and fires it into melee, expecting to hit the Large enemy but instead thumping the not-so-Large Dwarf, Eberk. Øskur chops deep into the lion’s head with his greataxe, missing on his bite attack. Kulich bestows a Cure Light Wounds on Magnus while Wick cuts empty air and Yorgenson remains immobile. Magnus would have attacked had Armst not killed the Chimera with a timely and fitting Melf’s Acid Arrow.
The creature is dead. Magnus pours a Potion of Cure Light Wounds into his horse, reviving the mount. Armst’s ride is dead. The spell effect on the Ratbarian ends and Laddie has his normal human friend back. Øskur casts a full-strength Cure Light Wounds on himself. Elroy Wick brings his song to a close, then casts Cure Moderate Wounds on Armst to completely heal the Warmage.
Corun Dum’man attempts to recall information about Chimera with Knowledge : Arcana, almost failing if not for Elroy Wick’s Immediate Assistance. Among the textbook of information about this kind of Magical Beast, the Wizard knows it will have a lair somewhere. Unfortunately, as a flying creature, that lair may not be anywhere near here.
(end of the session)