Tag: Winchesters

Battle Among the Hill Ruins

This tale follows from the events of Tracks on a Moonless Night.


Image by Iwona Olczyk from Pixabay

Background

Sir Garrett of House Winchester and his retinue have been in the region around Blackwater Lake for months now, searching for Sir Garrett’s lost ancestral estate, named Falconridge, which once lay somewhere near the shores of the lake. After several adventures and misadventures, the Winchester party is now split into several groups.  Several members of the retinue are down south in the bustling city of Yarrvik, while others remain at Blackwater Keep or the nearby village of Lakesend. One remained near the ruined Temple of Pholtus, which the party recently explored. The rest of the Winchesters and their new unlikely allies, about two-dozen pilgrims of Pholtus, were to advance on the abandoned temple in force.  The Winchesters were to serve as an advanced guard that would lie in wait, hoping to flank the evil forces that would certainly attack the pilgrims of Pholtus, who formed the main body.  However, this plan derailed when dozens of strange, robed men ambushed the Winchesters in their forest camp at night, dragging off Master Gimlet and an allied man-at-arms named Brother Marcel.

After the battle, the Winchesters regrouped. Garrett sent three of his companions with all the horses toward the temple, where they hoped to meet up with the pilgrims. Meanwhile, Garrett, Alinachka, Brother Rolf, Ragnar, and Brother Carloman spent an hour plowing through the forest at night, following the enemy’s tracks and searching for their missing comrades. A small band of dark-robed figures ambushed this small group at a steep ravine, killing Brother Carloman and wounding several others. Several cultists slipped away during the fighting. Frustrated, the Winchesters continue the pursuit.

From the DM

I waffled on whether or not to lead the PCs to one of the villains’ lairs, where conversions are typically done. I decided that this would push them too far off course so instead I allowed the party to catch up to the captors and to rescue their companions. If the party is astute, they’ll realize that the fast-moving villains had ample time to escape. Just what did they do to the captives, and why did they allow the captives to be rescued? Next session, the PCs may be in for a surprise. Read more

Tracks on a Moonless Night

It’s been a while since we heard from the Winchesters. We now return you to another thrilling adventure in Northumbria!


Background

Sir Garrett of House Winchester and his retinue have been in the region around Blackwater Lake for months now, searching for Sir Garrett’s lost ancestral estate, named Falconridge, which once lay somewhere near the shores of the lake. After several adventures and misadventures, the Winchester party is now split into several groups. Cousin Modrak, Maggie, and Myles the Minstrel have taken ship southwards to the bustling city of Yarrvik, where they will meet with Myles’ rather wealthy merchant family, perhaps to cement a business relationship between his family and House Winchester. Meanwhile, Brother Lambert remained at the shrine of St. Cuthbert in Blackwater Keep to serve the curate of that shrine, Father Godfrey. In his spare time, he continued to browse through the small library there, looking for any old records on Falconridge. Master Magnus remained in the village, lodging at the Welcome Wench Inn and gathering any rumors that he could find on Falconridge. Yeoman Guilliman remained with him to keep the old man safe. The young elfin warrior-mage, Talvion Cormallen, was in the forest near the ruined Temple of Pholtus, which the party recently explored. Tal was waiting for the Winchesters’ impending return, keeping an eye on the temple complex and noting any enemy movements thereabouts. The Winchesters were confident that his elfin stealth would enable him to avoid detection and capture. The rest of the Winchesters and their new unlikely allies, about two-dozen pilgrims of Pholtus, were to advance on the abandoned temple in force. The Winchesters, after reuniting with Talvion, would serve as the advanced guard that would lie in wait, hoping to flank the evil forces that would certainly attack the pilgrims of Pholtus, who formed the main body.

From the DM

This encounter grew from the fact that I, as DM, was not fully prepared for the group to explore the temple further. Scrambling for time, I thought of a fun way to slow their progress—one that they would not mind. The previous session had been largely housekeeping so I thought to get started this time with combat. I also used the opportunity to introduce the PCs to the evil cult that has been operating behind the scenes. Thus far, they had only run into the goblyn hordes, controlled by the cult. To make the most of an otherwise routine trip, I also threw in a new NPC group that I wanted to introduce. That would allow them to role-play, and it would also eat time. Read more

Compendium of the Land Surrounding Blackwater Lake — Table of Contents

 

An Introduction, and Of the Barony of Blackwater

Of Blackwater Keep, and the Inhabitants Therein

Of Lakesend Village, and its Commerce

The Blackwater, its Denizens, and the Lands Surrounding

Various Peoples of Northumbria, and the Cultures

Of Elves

Of Frangians

Of Zeelanders

Of Varangians

The States and Rulers in the Western Lands


In addition to the materials in the above Gazetteer, here are some further notes and systems useful for adventuring in Northumbria:

Languages of Northumbria

The Moons of Northumbria

Rules for an Exorcism Ritual

 


Dungeon Master Michael Garcia runs two games in Northumbria. These are a few adventures featuring the Winchester family:

Screams in Store

Battle on the Beach

Brigands Rock

 

Here are some tales of the Beckett family:

Ants in the Darkness

Treasure Identification

Terror in the Tower, Part 1

Treasure Division (Still to come!)

Terror in the Tower, Part 2

The Investigation Falters

Terror in the Tower, Part 3

Trial by Combat

The Battle of Heinrich’s Horn


The Editor would like to extend his warmest thanks to Michael for sharing his setting and these play reports. We hope that many more are forthcoming! If you’re enjoying the adventures, please let us know in the comments sections!

Blackwater Lake

This document is another piece of the Compendium of Lands Surrounding Blackwater Lake, compiled for Lord Beckett by Talvion Tulossa of Clan Cormallen. The Compendium is thus far incomplete, for the Becketts arrived at Blackwater before a full survey could be performed.


BLACKWATER LAKE

Nestled between several ranges of hills, Blackwater Lake is a narrow body of water that stretches for about 30 miles from north to south. The cold, deep waters of the lake, though only a few miles wide, allow for easy transportation of valuable goods. The lake drains northward and forms the source of the Blackrun River, which flows northward about 100 miles to the ruined capital of the old Northern Realm of the Varangians. Just south of Blackwater Lake are the headwaters to the Blackwater River, which flows southward for roughly 250 miles and leads to the chief Frangian city in Northumbria, the port of Yarrvik.

Lying directly between these two great waterways is the tiny hamlet of Lakesend. Realizing long ago that the site was perfectly suited to control the waterways, royal agents established a keep at the southern tip of the lake, not far from the hamlet.

Blackwater Gobalds

Legends say that a clan of gnomes left the forests around Blackwater Lake centuries ago, and its members have survived as waterborne scavengers ever since. Known to lake region residents as gobalds, they supposedly organize themselves into egalitarian communes in the form of armored warships. Each such “turtle ship” is a large, sail-powered, slow-moving vehicle with multiple decks, auxiliary oars, and armor plating. The ship is large by human standards, making it downright spacious for the three-foot-tall gobalds. This ship provides them with shelter, transportation, and defense—all in one.

Based on all accounts, gobalds are essentially pirates, but their small stature places limits on their ventures. They do not attack large or well-manned ships, choosing instead to prey on small craft or lone travelers. They ply the waters of the lake almost exclusively at night, for their night vision allows them to travel undetected, to avoid confrontations, and to ambush small craft. Gobalds do not limit themselves to the water, but they are never far from their turtle ship. Often, they will dock their ship and venture a mile or so inland, organized into small raiding parties, looking to ambush lone hunters, trappers, miners, pilgrims, and other travelers. Though they will not exclusively do so, they prefer to ambush at night, as their night vision makes their night attacks just as effective as those in the daylight, while enemies suffer significant disadvantages in battle.

In their depredations, they seldom aim to kill, for their main interest is plunder. Whether they get their loot on land or sea, they aim to sell it at bargain prices to the scattered residents around the lake. They are competent leatherworkers and blacksmiths, able to repair tools, basic armor, and basic weapons—at least enough for sale. According to guards that have patrolled the lake for years, the gobalds have also developed a symbiotic relationship with the many human pirates that operate in these waters, purchasing excess weapons, armor, and equipment that the pirates do not want for half its standard value. In return, they are often exempt from pirate hostility, the pirates seeing them as useful ‘fences’. Gobalds usually sell their wares for standard rates, and since rates for most goods in the lake region are inflated to three times the standard rates, many communities deal with the gobalds despite an inherent disapproval of their methods.

A band of travelling gnomes shared with me that gobalds live almost entirely on various forms of mushrooms that grow all about the lake. In some places, they have hidden mushroom patches in the forest, which they harvest every few weeks. They drink mainly water, and even stagnant water does not seem to bother them or make them sick. Gobalds are reportedly highly resistant to magic and poison.

Gobalds dress in rough-spun, gray-green monastic-style robes, over which they have leather bandoliers. Though all work for the enrichment of the commune, they effectively embrace personal poverty, which explains their meager dress. Quite often, their clothing is dirty and musty-smelling. Though they bathe often enough, their preference for the interiors of their dark and gloomy ships, as well as their habit of nighttime travel, means that their clothing is often fouled by mold. Yet, they seem to have developed immunity to both its smell and its effects. In fact, gobalds are known for their hardy health, despite their foul food and dank living conditions. When in a natural setting, such as woods or hills, gobalds move very quietly and blend into vegetation so well that they are nearly invisible.

Gobalds try to avoid open battle, but their ambushes do carry a degree of risk so they sometimes wear light leather armor beneath their robes. As for weapons, they favor light crossbows, javelins, and half-spears, but their primary weapon is a paralytic substance that they obtain from a rare mushroom and then concentrate. They put this substance on all of their weapons, and they presumably carry an ample supply of antidotes. It takes only one minute to take effect and then renders a human victim helpless for several minutes. This is usually long enough for the gobalds to rob or to capture the victim.

Gobalds can largely speak the language of the forest gnomes, though their own language has significant variations. They also speak Frangian, albeit with a choppy dialect that makes it almost incomprehensible. Hand signals greatly aid communication. Their speech is fast and choppy.

Gobalds seem to have lost their ancestors’ inherent mining skills, but instead they have developed inherent navigation and mariner skills. They never seem to become lost, and they seem undeterred by fog or darkness. As for seafaring skills, they can sense coming storms. Ironically, at such times they rarely dock, but rather take to the open waters of the lake, perhaps because the turtle ships are incredibly well built and buoyant. Though one may pitch and roll, it will seldom take damage at while on the lake, whereas pounding waves may smash to bit any ship near the shore.

Little is known about gobald society. Rumors indicate that most females and children dwell in underground lairs near the lake. Upon reaching adulthood, male gobalds take up service in the turtle ship. There is a legend that female shamans oversee gobald society, and that males hold all other positions of importance.

Rumors Related to the Lake

  1. Blackwater Lake is bottomless. Its waters run down deep into the earth, far below the sight of mortal man.
  2. A giant sea monster dwells in the depths of the lake. Over two-dozen witnesses have seen it at one time or another. Most describe it as a pale serpent, longer than a carrack. There the agreement between their descriptions ends. Some mention worm-like tentacles, dripping with slime, and others mention six or more heads with black beady eyes.
  3. A giant dragon—pale as a grave worm—dwells in a burrow near the lake’s edge.
  4. Barbarian legends say that a meteor strike formed this lake centuries ago. Its impact left a giant scar on the land that later filled with water. Over time, the meteor’s energies somehow changed the waters, giving them their distinctive black hue.
  5. The lake’s waters bring strange powers when enough are imbibed.
  6. The lake’s waters are poisonous.
  7. The vile goblyns that swarm the mountainsides of Northumbria have their origins in black underground waters. They are not natural creatures. They do not breed or eat or sleep. Instead, they spawn from black subterranean waters at the will of their dark god, Maglubiyet. Blackwater Lake is a rare spot where those dark subterranean waters touch the surface.
  8. Blackwater Lake contains a strange blackish metal that is worth many times its weight in gold. It is so hard that no normal fire can smelt it. It must be cold-wrought, requiring weeks to craft a single blade. Smiths must use special techniques to give such a blade an edge, but it will punch through normal iron with relative ease.
  9. The strange blackish metal found in Blackwater Lake is somehow deadly against unnatural creatures such as demons, restless spirits, and werewolves.

Points of Interest

Smaller Bodies of Water

Long Pond

Streams descending from Settlers Mountain gather in this narrow basin about a league in length. From there the water runs past Lakesend on its way to form the headwaters of the mighty Blackwater River. During heavy rains and the spring thaw, the water rises high enough to overspill its banks just upstream of the village. The overflow cascades down to the Narrows below the Keep. Occasionally the river threatens to divert entirely to this secondary channel, but the Baron pays to have the main bed dredged in order to preserve the income from tolls on the East Bridge.

Martin’s Cove

The Narrows

This narrow body of water is the extreme southern tip of Blackwater Lake, extending in a crescent from the site of Blackwater Keep southward to the Blackmoor. The waters of the Narrows are shallow, so merchants do not send large ships to dock at the Keep, instead sending smaller boats to unload cargo.

Rockteeth Cove

Silvercrest Cove

Steffan’s Spring

Stillwater Pond

Whitehart Lake

Caves and Caverns

Drucker’s Den

The Pens

Hills, Peaks and Passes

Baldface Peak

Baldwin’s Bluff

Belford’s Ridge

Black Bear Mountain

Boulder Hill

In 604 FR, Duke Leopold of Ostmark arrived in the lake region with 1000 well-armed men and countless mercenaries to drive out the goblyns. They crushed an army at Boulder Hill, though the noble Duke died of his wounds. This defeat set the goblyns back, but it was the last effort made by men. Just a few years after the battle, goblyn numbers began swelling once again.

Brigands Rock

Burke’s Hill

Craig’s Peak

Falcons Eyrie

Foster’s Ridge

Hammond’s Hill

Hanover’s Hill

Hickory Mountain

The Horns

Lonewolf Mountain

Rumor has it that a werewolf haunts this rugged mountain. At the very least, a large black wolf is often sighted prowling by itself in the forests here or baying at the moon on the mountaintop. A few dozen settlers live independently in small wooden huts on the sides of this mountain. Baronial tax collectors have had little luck getting taxes or fealty from these settlers. Most are woodsmen and hunters.

Luthor’s Leap

Mount Melias

Mount Smestad

Parisi Point

Legend says, long before the naming of the lands, a star fell from the skies and sheared off the north face of the mount now known as Parisi Point. The event created a crater at the base of the hill that filled with water and since has been known as Moon Lake. The lake’s waters are rumored to be poisonous, and periodically its heated waters bubble to super-heated levels and release noxious gases that keep the area entrenched in a sickening fog. The lowland areas between the lake and mount have become wetlands, and the small swamp is always filled with mist and fog that tends to disorient travelers through the area. People often become lost when passing through, and many have disappeared entirely, with growing rumors of a magic fog, creature, or mystical forces blamed for the disappearances.

Another feature of lore is a suspected vein of an unknown metal that was exposed, or introduced, to the landscape in the sheared face of the hill. The substance, again according to legend, has been used in the magical conjuring and religious rites of the ancient peoples of the area. It is unknown what methods were used to explore the area, or locate and collect the material. Many have searched for the ore only to end in failure and folly.

An Aquilonian lord, a ranger by the name of Gregorius Parisius, took up residence in the area and became intrigued by the rumors. Despite decades of searching, growing a consuming obsession, and witnessing strange happenings, Gregor didn’t locate a vein, but he was able to find a small amount of some strange ore. He used the metal to forge a small axe that is reportedly indestructible and holds magical properties that helped the ranger defeat and drive back the goblyns in the realm.

The method and means used to forge the axe blade, along with Gregor and the axe itself, have been long-lost in history. It is rumored that Gregor disappeared on or around Parisi Point, in search of more ore, possibly overrun by the goblyns he fought hard to drive away. Others claim the axe possessed the ranger and granted him an extended life, and that it is he that ambushes passers-by, hoping to keep them from his find. Several bits of terrain surrounding the hill have taken the name of this mostly unknown figure, including Parisi Point for the hill, Gregor’s Grotto to the poisoned lake and its surrounds, and Gregor’s Swamp for the surrounding wetlands.

The swamp is also known as the Walking Wood, as it propensity to disorient travelers has led some to say the trees move to change and obscure trails. Some have even said there are dangerous plants and flora that poison or attack infiltrators. Other claim to have witnessed—or been attacked by—goblyns when passing through the region.

Pilgrims’ Mountain

Over three decades ago, clerics of St. Cuthbert erected a small shrine on the top of this rocky peak, but a small earthquake caused it to collapse, and it has never been rebuilt.

Runestone Peak

An ancient black monolith, made from some unknown stone and carved with indecipherable runes, sits atop this lofty peak, one of the highest in the region. Travelers weave many strange tales about the monolith and the peak on which it sits. Some tales tell of diabolic gatherings, human sacrifices, and witches’ covens.

Russel’s Pass

Saint’s Peak

Settlers Mountain

Traders Pass

William’s Pass

Wyverns Peak

Islands

Berel’s Island

Carlon’s Prize

This small island received its name in 506 FR, after a Frangian expedition crushed the Cruthni Picts. The leader of the expedition, Count Carlon, had many enemies in the provincial court at Yarrvik, and rather than receiving a large swath of territory as a reward, he received only this tiny island.

Eric’s Island

Hunters’ Island

This small island features a safe haven of the Huntsmen. They maintain a sizable lodge there.

Sanctuary Rock

About this large rocky island near the center of the lake swirl strange currents that defy all explanation. Swimming in these strong and unpredictable currents has proven deadly on several occasions. A very rich merchant named Jehan of St.-Martin donated a large sum of coin to build several structures on the island, including a large hospital, for he had a young sister that required special care. A small but dedicated staff attends to the unfortunates here.

The island’s geography makes access extremely difficult. Aside from the strange currents, only one area is suitable for mooring, and only during a specific part of the day, when the weather is fair. The inmates never leave so there is seldom a problem. These factors led the Baron to construct a special prison there for a few noble prisoners that he spared from the axe but dared not release. The island also features a lighthouse to warn off passing ships.

A small, select Baronial garrison patrols the island constantly to keep out the curious and to keep in the condemned. All guardsmen answer to the caretaker of the Island, who attends to prisoners and lunatics alike. The guardsmen, almost all of who have committed some serious crime and received a life sentence, live well on Sanctuary Rock and have no desire to leave.

Rushes Island

Wycliffe Island

DRY DOCK FACILITY

The Guild maintains a small dry-dock facility on a sandy shore of the island. This facility is adjacent to a rather placid, deepwater bay. The facility consists of a stone wall surrounding a stone building or two, as well as a number of wooden outbuildings.
Something, believed to be a force of goblyns, recently overran this facility and slew almost all of the staff. We found their charred remains in a pit.

BATTLE RIDGE

CEMETERY RIDGE

CHAPEL HILL

This grassy hill sits on the southern edge of the island, overlooking the lake. At its crest is Wycliffe Chapel.

GALLOWS HILL

TOWER OF MANATHANMOCH

As it has for untold centuries, a towering column of giant basalt seems to protrude from the sides of the limestone cliffs on Wycliffe Island. Measured from its base, it rises over 1100 feet, though its rises only about 800’ above the surface of the lake. Called Manathanmoch’s Tower, the eerie structure obtained its current name from a bloodthirsty Pictish king, who ruled this island and terrorized the denizens of the lake region some three hundred years ago. It is largely believed that he lived in this strange and formidable tower, its size and grandeur reflecting his power, and its dark and foreboding architecture reflecting the fear he engendered. After his unexplained disappearance, his fierce Cruthni clansmen dominated the region for decades more, using their primitive longships to raid and plunder surrounding settlements. The only known scroll that mentions Cruthni civilization, the incomplete Chronicle of Painted Kings, written by an anonymous Varangian sage, recalls that the Cruthni fell from power because of some mysterious disaster that suddenly befell them. It is clear that not all perished, for years later, when Frangian knights first explored the lake region, they clashed repeatedly with Cruthni warriors. Yet those Picts, easily swept aside, were but shadows of their former kinsmen.

WYCLIFFE CHAPEL

This multi-denominational chapel, built in a neo-Frangian style, features buttresses, flying buttresses, and large stained-glass windows with pointed arches. Inside are four separate chapels, dedicated respectively to Pholtus of the Blinding Light, Celestian the Far Wanderer, Saint Cuthbert, and Boccob the Uncaring. There are also two separate crypts for notable servants of the Blackwater family, while a third crypt is reserved for members of the family. A force of goblyns recently overran this facility, desecrating some of the chapels.

Landings and Moorings

Belcastro’s Landing

Trappers Landing

Man-Made Structures

Ash Hollow Camp

Fort Angus

Horik’s Tower

The Moat House

Pine Ridge Camp

Shrine to Celestian

Shrine to Fhalanghan

Temple of Pholtus

Zeelander Trading Post

Peninsulas

Beacon Point

Watchtower Point

White Birch Point

Widow’s Point

Swamps

The Blackmoor

Stillwater Swamp

 

Brigands Rock

We return to the Winchester Family’s adventures in Northumbria!

Editor’s note: According to a map that has come into our hands recently, it seems that Miles the Minstrel, who originally related this tale to us, mangled the story a bit, calling the hill where these events occurred ‘Bandits Rock.’ The correct name of the hill is ‘Brigands Rock.’ We have amended the tale appropriately, but it remains filed under its original title so as not to break the links.


Background:

Sir Garrett of House Winchester and his retinue are in the small village of Lakesend at the southern tip of Blackwater Lake.  Having recently explored Wycliffe Island twice, they fought a number of desperate battles against creatures that they called goblyns, but these looked little like the creatures of myth that they were expecting. The nearby keep, under the command of Lord Balin Blackwater, is preparing for a massive goblyn assault, though the enemy army keeps vanishing in the rugged hills. For the moment, the Winchester retinue has decided to rest and refit for a number of days, and some members are also training. Ninth Moon is ending, with autumn hard on its heels. At the end of our last session, the companions were outside the Welcome Wench Inn at night, talking cheerfully when someone spotted what seemed like a human silhouette, peering at them from behind a copse of trees.

From the DM:

This was the session that almost wasn’t. Everyone has probably had a time when half the group is missing and you have to decide whether or not to play. We eventually decided to play, and it was a good time. The three players are strong role-players, which helped. Yet, I knew we needed some action (the last two sessions had been pretty cerebral). The players threw me a curve ball by deciding to investigate an area that I had not yet fleshed out. I had to come up with something quickly. We were glad to have played for another reason too. Two of our players were moving out west for college so this would be our last session with them until they return. I had to come up with a satisfying way for their characters to leave. Read more

Battle on the Beach

Editor’s note: Gamemaster Michael Garcia runs two groups in the same Northumbria campaign on different nights. The Editor has no idea how he keeps things straight in his head. This narrative returns to the Winchester family, last seen in “Screams in Store.”


Background:

Sir Garrett of House Winchester and his retinue were on Wycliffe Island in the middle of Blackwater Lake.  Having come to the island at the behest of the local Guild to investigate a dry dock facility, they had found it overrun and burned, most of its personnel dead.  Having already rescued four surviving guildsmen from a pack of wild worgs, the retinue began tracking a band of robber knights in an attempt to save a fifth surviving guildsman, named Marcel of St.-Martin.  With the four guildsmen guiding them, the retinue was racing through the forest, atop the rocky plateau that runs the length of the island.  Their hope was to reach the western ridge, descend the steep slope, and find the robber knights’ boat before they could leave the island with their hostage.

Bone-tired, Sir Garrett and his retinue knew that they had little fight left, yet Sir Garrett would not abandon the captive to an uncertain fate, nor allow the robber knights to go unpunished.  The group pushed on, though they knew that they were racing against the sunset.  It had been overcast for much of the day, and gray clouds still covered the sky like a leaden sheet.  Even under the canopy of trees, though, the retinue could tell that the sun was setting.  Everything was beginning to take on shades of gray.

In its hasty flight, the retinue had already stumbled upon a band of goblyns which gave chase.  In a running battle, the retinue fought off the leading element.  The party, while continuing to barrel through the forest, had then spotted the robber knights in the distance across a ravine. The knights had not seen them.  Rounding a bend in the rocky terrain, they ran into another element of the goblyn war band and fought them off in another desperate, running battle.  The retinue had just come to the western ridge, where the rocky slopes begin their descent to the beach, far below.  The many trees obscured their sight so they could not spot the robber knights again.  Hearing wolves and goblyn horns behind them, the group began a hasty descent, while trying not to tumble headlong some eight hundred feet down the slope.

From the DM:

Another session that almost ended in a TPK, this one was not due to player foolishness. Each PC played his role well, but the group had very few hit points left. The encounter did give the group a bitter foe for future sessions.

Cast of Characters:

Sir Garrett of Winchester: Paladin, Head of House Winchester
Lady Alinachka: Magic user, Garrett’s widowed sister-in-law
Brother Rolf: Cleric of St. Cuthbert, Garrett’s younger brother
Cousin Modrak: Thief, Garrett’s distant cousin
Odo: Fighter, Garrett’s friend, ward of the Winchester family
Maggie: Fighter, Odo’s sister, ward of the Winchester family
Master Magnus: Illusionist, Garrett’s butler/steward
Yeoman Guilliman: Ranger, longtime-servant of the family
Master Gimlet: Fighter, dwarven friend to Sir Garrett
Hugh the Porter: NPC, hireling to the party
Miles the Minstrel: NPC, bard who is seeking stories to tell

Narrative:

Despite a few slips and frightful slides, Sir Garrett and his retinue made the descent safely.  Cousin Modrak reached the bottom first, as he was lightly clad and relatively unharmed.  Upon reaching level ground, he noticed that the thick forest began to thin as it neared the sea.  A stretch of rocky ground, about 50 feet in length and littered with smaller trees, lay between the foot of the slope and the pebble beach.  Moving forward to the end of the tree line, cautiously but quickly, he spotted the beach, measuring only about 30 feet between the trees and the lake.  Small waves of black water gently washed over the rocks and some gray driftwood.  To his left, Modrak heard voices, though he saw nothing from where he sat crouched behind a tree.  Creeping to his left, moving parallel to the shoreline, he soon spotted a large object of curious shape.  He realized it to be a small boat, perhaps 30 feet long, covered with a pile of tree branches.  The voices came from a short distance beyond it.

Signaling up to the rest of the group, which had almost reached the bottom of the slope, Modrak pushed through the low vegetation, trying to stay out of sight.  The lapping sound of the waves helped to mask his movements, but the thinning trees hindered his ability to hide.  He made for the boat.  There was no one there, and it seemed intact. Seeing a gap in the pile of cut branches that covered the craft, Modrak slid his bow and quiver inside and then pulled himself over the side.  Meanwhile, Yeoman Guilliman had seen Modrak’s signal and broke to the left, staying inside a belt of wide, silver maple trees.  From his vantage point, he spotted the quarry.  A second boat, maybe 30 yards to the left of the first, lay uncovered on the pebbles at the edge of the surf.  About a dozen men in various forms of armor, bearing mainly longbows, halberds, and spears, surrounded the craft.  A few looked to be readying it for sailing.  Two of the men wore full plate harnesses.  His mind raced:  They have two boats.  At that moment, five of the other men-at-arms began to walk away from the rest, moving slowly to the right, toward Modrak and the concealed boat, bantering to each other about something.  The cool wind off the lake, carrying a strong odor of humidity with it, made their comments inaudible.  Looking up the slope at his companions, Guilliman whistled sharply and gesticulated rapidly before grasping his axe.

Hearing the whistle and stumbling down the rocky slope, Master Gimlet muttered under his breath, “Great.  We run, then we fight, then we run while fighting, then we fight while running, then we stumble down a hill, now we fight some more.  What’s next, swimming?”  Maggie, Odo, and Sir Garrett, already crouching behind the concealed boat, silently slid their swords from their scabbards.  A second group came straight down the slope, finding themselves to the right of the concealed boat and somewhat out of harm’s way.  In this group, Brother Rolf, Hugh Redoak, and Miles the minstrel helped along the four, wounded guildsmen, Lady Alinachka, and the exhausted Master Magnus.  Hearing voices drawing nearer, this group ducked into a shoulder high thicket of butterfly weed, bristling with small orange blossoms.

Four of the five armed men reached the edge of the concealed boat, oblivious to any danger, but the fifth, carrying a spear, stopped abruptly and looked up to his right. Yeoman Guilliman cursed under his breath, seeing that they had only seconds.  As he jumped to his feet and charged down the slope, all hell broke loose.

From behind the boat, sprang Sir Garrett, Odo, Maggie, and Master Gimlet.  With a single deadly stroke, each crushed or cut the life from one of the four men-at-arms.  Two crumpled almost soundlessly, gurgling as blood erupted into their throats, but two others screamed as they fell, mortally wounded.  The spearman in the rear turned and bolted immediately.  Sir Garrett led a charge across the pebble beach, shouting, “To the boats!”  Emerging suddenly from the thicket of butterfly weed, some twenty yards behind, Brother Rolf also charged headlong to support his older brother, flail raised high.  Meanwhile, bow in hand and arrow already nocked, Modrak stood upright in the bow of the concealed boat, knocking aside many tree branches.  He proceeded to loose a steady stream of arrows toward the robber knights’ other boat.  Charging down the slope on a diagonal, knocking aside branches and trampling the underbrush, came Yeoman Guilliman, battleaxe raised high.

The sudden flurry of activity, along with shouts, screams, and the staccato clanking of armor, produced an instant reaction among the robber knights.  One man in full harness barked orders and grabbed for his longsword, though the blustery wind off the water drowned out most of his words.  A taller man in a plate harness casually let his battleaxe fall to the pebbles at his feet, opened a pouch on his belt, and drank from a small vial.  He then picked his great helm off the ground and placed it on his head.  Meanwhile, half of the men-at-arms, mainly archers, jumped aboard the small boat and pushed it into the lapping surf, grabbing for oars once inside.  The other half, mainly spearmen and halberdiers, lowered their weapons to stop the charge that bore down on them.

The clash was sudden and violent.  Yeoman Guilliman, rushing down toward the beach on an angle, bypassed the waiting spear points and thundered right into the knee-high surf.  In one graceful move, he swept aside a man’s longbow with his battleaxe and threw himself over the side of the boat, landing on his side with a thud and causing a host of screams from those inside the boat.  Following right behind him was Maggie, who leaped into the boat with surprising agility, landing squarely on top of a surprised man-at-arms.  Both lost their footing and toppled to the algae-lined floor of the boat.  As for Sir Garrett, Master Gimlet, and Odo, they smashed into the waiting line of spearmen, driving through them and scattering them.  Their victory evaporated immediately, for a knight in plate harness, wielding a longsword and heater shield, unleashed a violent series of attacks against both Odo and Master Gimlet.  The other taller knight squared off with Sir Garrett, and the two made numerous passes at each other.  The tall knight’s battleaxe bit deeply into Sir Garrett’s shield, sending splinters of wood flying and slicing off part of the leather edging.  The Lord of House Winchester returned the blow with fury, not once, but twice.  Yet, twice did the tall knight deflect the blow.  Just to Sir Garrett’s right, Odo and Gimlet were reeling under the attacks of the shorter knight. However, Brother Rolf finally arrived at a full charge, throwing himself into the mix and pushing the knight back onto his heels.  Screams, shouts, and grunts mingled with the splashing surf, clashing steel, and the loud rustle of the wind off the water.

Some thirty yards down the beach, Hugh Redoak led the other non-combatants in uncovering the concealed boat.  From all sides, branches flew off the weather-beaten, algae-stained boat.  Modrak continued to loose arrows from its bow, until the others yelled for him to get off.  He leaped down with agility and continued to let arrows fly.  Two archers in the distant boat already had his goose-feather shafts protruding from their torsos.  With the branches finally cleared off, Hugh and the others began pushing the boat toward the shore.  They were about 20 yards away when they heard a horrible sound from the rocky slopes above.  A triple blast of a throaty signal horn carried on the wind above the beach.  Hugh and the others looked up in despair to see a wave of goblyns descending the dark slope like an avalanche coming through the trees.  There had to be dozens of them, if not scores.  Mingled with the rustling of the bushes was an odd clicking or scuttling noise, almost like that made by insects.  Master Magnus, exhausted and ready to faint, found a new source of strength—fear.  He screamed, “Push!  The whole damn lot of you!  Get this thing in the water!”  Crude arrows with wicked, blackened, iron heads began to pepper the area around the boat.  Four shafts sank into the bow, some skipped off the pebbles by Hugh’s feet, one pierced Alinachka’s leather backpack, and another two struck a pair of guildsmen.

Inside the robber knights’ lead boat, Maggie tried to get to her feet, surrounded by shouting enemies.  Two men rained blows on her, but she blocked them all with the forte of her longsword.  Unfortunately, she lost her footing and again dropped to the floor of the boat.  At the bow, Yeoman Guilliman went for the captive guildsman, who was trussed up with ropes behind his back.  A longbowman stepped directly into his path with an arrow nocked at pointblank range.  Without thinking, the ranger instinctively dropped to a knee as the man let the arrow fly.  Like a lightning bolt, the shaft whistled past his scalp and sank into the shoulder of a spearman in the rear of the boat.  Without hesitation, Guilliman threw his weight against the surprised archer, hurling him over the side and into the surf.  Maggie got to her feet again, only to have a halberdier try to hurl her from the boat.  She dropped to her knees and covered up as best she could, and instead of throwing her overboard, the halberdier almost went head over heels.  Only by wrapping his left arm around her neck did her stay in the boat.  They continued to grapple.  Unable to throw Maggie from the boat, the frustrated halberdier settled for smashing her head against the rail.  With the coppery taste of blood filling her mouth, Maggie hauled back and punched him in the neck with her mailed fist.  Coughing and gurgling, his hands shot to his throat, releasing her.  With all of her strength, she continued to punch.

The robber knights fought with disturbing poise.  Sir Garrett and the taller knight were locked up, elbow to elbow, with their weapons above their heads.  Seeing the goblyns streaming down the slopes, Sir Garrett made one logical plea to his adversary, “We have to get off this beach now, or we shall all surely die!”  Unmoved, the taller knight gave Lord Winchester only a look of disgust before trying again to brain him.  Garrett then saw his opening.  Drawing back with all of his strength, he feinted and then delivered a terrible stroke to his enemy’s great helm.  The sword struck with tremendous force, cutting deep into the temple of the helm and twisting it on the man’s head.  Lord Winchester was certain that his enemy would crumple, for never had he hit an opponent harder or more cleanly.  To his horror, the tall knight merely jerked his neck, causing the helm to spin back into place.  He was unmoved and seemingly unfazed.  That clarified things for the Winchester knight.  He shouted to his companions, “Get out of here! Get to the other boat! Move! This is fruitless!”

Sensing that they had momentum, both robber knights pushed forward to finish their enemies.  The shorter knight seemed to attack Odo, Brother Rolf, and Gimlet at once.  Though they almost surrounded him, they fell back under the weight of his attack.  He saw only a blur of dark fur out of the corner of his eye before a large growling hulk leaped upon him and brought him violently to the ground.  Alinachka had unleashed Booj, who seemed twice his normal size as he tore at the knight’s throat.  The knight’s aventail fell aside as he landed, and the hound ripped and tore the flesh beneath it.  The man flailed, writhed, and groaned, as crimson splattered and stained the pebble beach.  Lord Winchester, still yelling for his companions to withdraw, did his best to tie up the taller knight.

Hugh and the non-combatants, using their last ounces of strength, managed to get their boat to the waterline, but it seemed that they were too late.  Hugh was shot twice, and both arrows protruded grotesquely from his back.  Magnus fell face-first into the boat.  Two guildsmen managed to get in and were fumbling with the oars, but another two were shot a second time by goblyn arrows.  One tumbled face-first into the surf.  Miles the minstrel, of all people, wide-eyed and manic, grabbed the downed guildsman by the tunic and lifted him like a sack of turnips over the side of the boat.  A goblyn arrow then sliced his arm, leaving a red gash.  Alinachka, her gray robe drenched from the surf and heavy, threw herself into the boat and fumbled for an oar.  It was then that the first goblyns reached the boat.  Hugh swung an oar in a wild arc, striking the foul creature in the temple and knocking it loose.  He struck another as he screamed, “Row!  For the love of St. Cuthbert, row!”

On the robber knights’ boat, time seemed to slow for Guilliman.  He was exhausted and growing weary. He knew that unconsciousness was not far off.  Though only feet from the captive guildsman, he now had three men-at-arms closing on him.  He also heard Lord Garrett yelling for everyone to withdraw.  His mind raced.  If I get the captive, everything changes. Yet, I cannot get him out of the boat and untied before they hit me at least once.  One hit and I am dead.  If he is still tied, he drowns.  I can do no good here.  At that moment, his eyes gazed down the beach and spotted a horde of goblyns closing on the other boat, containing his friends.  A primal anger swelled in him.  A fraction of a second later, Maggie also realized that the situation was lost, and she threw herself overboard before an angry halberdier could cut her throat with his drawn dagger.  Yeoman Guilliman then leaped into the knee-high surf, scrambling back toward his friends.  A longbowman grabbed for his bow to finish the badly wounded ranger, but his companion screamed at him, “Row, you fool.  He’s dead anyway!”

Sir Garrett saw his friends falling back.  He waited for a few seconds, blocking another deadly blow of the knight’s battleaxe, until he saw Maggie’s head pop up out of the surf.  She too was on her way towards the other boat.  Lord Winchester then withdrew, cursing under his breath.  The tall knight, clad in black, lowered his axe for a second and glanced at the now-motionless body of his fellow knight.  The surf began to lap at the fallen man’s legs, but the large pool of crimson around his head remained.  His neck looked like entrails at a butcher shop.  For a second, Sir Garrett groaned and thought:  Where is Booj?  However, he spotted the hound in the surf, headed towards the boat containing Alinachka.  He then noted that they were still in dire trouble.

Hugh Redoak upended another of the foul creatures that had climbed over the side of the boat.  Two more arrows now protruded from Alinachka’s leather backpack, making a total of three.  The stern of the small craft was riddled with arrow shafts.  Modrak screamed in distress as three goblyns, up to their waists in the surf, latched on to the rear of the boat and were trying to pull it back to shore.  Then Yeoman Guilliman arrived, swinging his battleaxe with wild abandon.  He cleaved one from head to hip, sending a geyser of black ichor into the air.  The smell of raw sewage wafted over him and made him gag, but he battered another creature with the haft of his axe, smashing out its pointed teeth and causing it to slip beneath the waves.  He turned to the third, only to see a scimitar descending towards his face.  He knew that he could never block or move in time.  The blow never landed.  Instead, a goose-feather shaft seemed to sprout from the creature’s neck, and it toppled backwards into the dark surf.  Modrak, bow in hand once again, shouted, “Get in!  Get in!”  Now on his knees in the back of the boat, Hugh hung his right arm over the stern and grabbed the bloodied ranger.  With difficulty, he hauled him over the rail.

In the dying light, it became difficult see to see any detail.  The whole lake area—water, surf, shore, and forest—seemed to be a blurred mosaic of gray.  Moreover, a light haze or mist seemed to settle on the water.  Alinachka, largely unharmed, directed the rowers to veer left, parallel to the shore.  As arrows continued to whistle overhead, her companions finally saw three figures through the gloom.  The sight caused shouts of distress from everyone.  Sir Garrett was waist-deep in his plate harness, wading out to the boat.  Floating face down was Odo, who had three arrows embedded in his chain hauberk.  Just reaching his side was Master Gimlet, whose head was barely above water.  Then the companions in the boat saw a fourth figure.  Brother Rolf appeared behind the dwarf, lifting him up and into the boat.  Arrows ricocheting off Lord Winchester’s harness sounded like raindrops pelting a window.  Together, the two Winchester brothers lifted Odo’s motionless form into the boat.  At that point, Maggie reached the front of the boat and climbed in with great difficulty.  Brother Rolf fell into the boat with all the grace of an anvil, but he immediately went to work, tending to Odo.  Lord Winchester, up to his chest in the black water and now unable to see the trees on the shore or the robber knights’ boat, counted heads.  Only when he saw everyone did he throw his longsword and shield into the boat and allow himself to be hauled in.

The arrows continued for another minute or two, but they grew less frequent.  Everyone was breathing hard, and many were coughing up water and phlegm.  Brother Rolf, exhausted, continued to tend to Odo, who finally coughed up a tankard-full of lake water.  Maggie was spitting blood, and Guilliman finally collapsed.  Magnus, though his eyes were alert, lacked the strength to sit up.  Miles, the minstrel, still wide-eyed and manic, was paddling strenuously with his oar.  Hugh, arrows still protruding from his hauberk, had to yell for him to stop, as all others had stopped rowing once the boat seemed far enough away from the shore, and Miles’ paddling was just sending the boat in circles.  In the gloom, the retinue could not see the robber knights’ boat, but faint hints of splashing water in the distance did give away its general direction.  Modrak was the first to speak, “Cousin, if we are to overtake them, we need to start rowing now, but it think it safe to say that we are less than combat effective.”  As if to punctuate the statement, Odo vomited in the back of the boat.  Gazing off into the gloom, Master Gimlet said matter-of-factly, “I saw this day going differently.”

Screams in Store

BACKGROUND:

Sir Garrett and his retinue have traveled through the northern wilderness called Northumbria, seeking the Winchester family estate that was lost a few generations earlier. After a brief stop at the tiny village of Lakesend and nearby Blackwater Keep, Sir Garrett offered his services to Lord Blackwater. Blackwater Keep was preparing for a goblyn siege so the garrison could not spare any men when the local guildsmen needed aid. It seems that they just lost all contact with the staff of their dry dock facility, located on a large island in Blackwater Lake. The PCs rowed to Wycliffe Island, crossed the island on foot, and finally came to the dry dock facility, which seemed abandoned. After some searching, they found many charred corpses and many tiny tracks of some kind. The PCs had never faced goblyns before, and their knowledge was limited to rumors (such as you might find in the Monster Manual). While looking around the dry dock compound, the PC thief slipped into one of the warehouse to investigate. The rest then heard screams from that direction. The following session began with everyone running toward the warehouse door. Read more