Having reaped our rewards of gold and freedom, we all turn to spend our new found wealth on much needed upgrades. Weapons are reforged, armor is bolstered and items of magic and wonder are purchased by all. Soon enough our pockets are lighter but our abilities more mighty.
Having spent to our content, we all decide that we’ve earned a break from the action and take a few weeks off, each of us heading in a different direction. Aella returns to the Calphiak Mountains to reconnect with family. Zazz travels back to Sandpoint to visit his sick friend. Eric visits a Temple of Torag to work at the forges. Wallace visits a new friend in town to try to find solace after his near-death experience at the hands of the Lamia Queen.
While apart, each of us undergo curious experiences. Aella notices a great number of giants heading to the East. Zazz’s friend and Munin seem to share a moment where they swap streaks of hair color; Munin earning a violet feather and Zazz’s friend developing a black streak in his hair. Wallace relies on Baroque and succeeds in both annoying and winning-over his new friend. Eric perhaps has the most curious experience of us all.
One day, at the Forges of Torag, Eric falls into a strange vision. A Master Dwarven Blacksmith announces his presence with a mighty hammering and summons Eric. Unsure of these events, Eric goes to the Dwarf and finds him to drawn to the powerful and mighty Smith. Together they spend what feels like days hammering away at the forge as the Dwarf invites Eric to learn about the ways of the hammer. Eventually, the Dwarf turns to Eric and says that it is his turn to be reforged in the might of Torag. With mighty blows, he hammers out Eric’s impurities and strengthens his resolve. Eric awakes from the vision changed. He has a mighty beard and braided hair, much like a dwarf, his armor has been strengthened by the burning coals of the forge and he finds a new and mighty hammer waiting for him. Accepting that he has been visited by an avatar of Torag himself, Eric takes up his new calling as a hammer-master.
This time away cannot last forever however, and one day we find ourselves summoned back to Magnimar by the Lord-Mayor. Leaving our friends and family, we make the journeys back to the city and reunite in the Mayor’s office.
We quickly discover that this is no social call and the Mayor asks us to investigate Fort Rannick up in the small town of Turtleback Ferry. The Fort has fallen silent and the Lord-Mayor is concerned for its safety. He tasks us with discovering what has befallen the Fort and promises payment for our efforts. Having rested and been away from the action long enough, we jump at the chance to get back into the fray and accept with little hesitation.
Immediately we head to the docks and secure transport up the river and to Turtleback Ferry. While the money is exchanging hands, the elf-archer Shalelu appears and asks to join us on our trip. It seems she has ties to someone at the Fort and wishes to check on them. We agree and get our week-long journey underway.
Luckily for us, we sail the waterway with little incident. Stiff-necks and restless horses are the biggest worries on our journey and we arrive at the town of Turtleback Ferry a week later, relieved to be on solid land once more despite the dreary drizzle.
Heading straight for the town hall, a Temple of Erastil, we find the head priest and inquire about Fort Rannick. He reveals that the Fort fell silent about three weeks ago and that a scouting party sent to investigate never returned. He can’t tell us much beyond that, only mentioning that the town relies on the Fort for its survival.
As we set out to begin our trek to the Fort, Wallace notices a man in town sporting a Sihedron Rune tattoo. The Cleric approaches the man and inquires about the marking. Initially denying it, the man comes clean when Wallace grabs him and reveals the tattoo. The man claims it was a mark allowing him entrance to a gambling ship that sunk. Unsure of how to handle this claim since none of us are especially good swimmers, we turn back to the task at hand and set off for Fort Rannick.
The trek is clam until we cross the bridge over the river. There Aella detects an animal’s cry and the five of us head to investigate. We discover a firepelt caught in a bear trap and Shalelu and Aella head to help it, attempting to calm it with their words and rations. Before we can extricate the creature however, the sound of approaching dogs and a dim-witted creature stop us. We prepare just in time for a pack of wild dogs and an Ogrekin, a half ogre – half human monstrosity, to appear. The ogre seems to be in pursuit of the firepelt but he and his canine companions turn on us when we interfere.
The battle is short but fierce. The mutts fall easily to our weapons and the now-battered Orgekin takes off back the way he came.
Turning back to the firepelt, we free it from the trap. Immediately it begins pawing at Aella as if to suggest it wants us to follow it. We oblige and head off in the direction the Ogrekin fled, the feline as our guide.
In short time, we come to a dilapidated farmstead. As we approach the buildings, two Ogrekin, one of them our foe from before, rush us from the nearby cornfield. Though they strike with mighty blows our six-to-two numbers overwhelm them and they both fall soon enough.
After looting the bodies, the firepelt leads us up the path and we find ourselves between two buildings: a farmhouse and a barn. Aella opts to tackle the house first and we all head to the front door. As we approach, its clear that this isn’t a typical farmhouse. Largely in disrepair, the doors and windows appear boarded and a smattering of bone decorations, some human, hang from the porch.
As Eric tries the front door, we’re greeted with a sharp and painful trap. Already annoyed with the house, Eric steps in the room beyond and immediately has to dodge a pit that swallows half the room. The Paladin decides that he’s done with this entrance and so we head back out and around to a side door.
From what we can tell, this entrance seems safe enough, but as Eric opens the door, two Ogrekin lying in wait strike out. He manages to enter the room, a grotesque kitchen, to do battle with one of the foes while Aella and the firepelt step in to take on the other. The rest of the party hangs out outside the house as Eric and Aella, aided by the feline, bring down the Ogrekin.
The battle frees up some room and the entire group shuffles into the house as we start to explore the foul place, searching for booby-trapped doors along the way. Eric is caught by a few of the traps and suffers some cuts and bruises for it, but we comb our way through the house, greeted by sights of severed heads, items made of bone and blood-spatter. Every room is a new and disturbing sight but the house proves to be mostly empty. The last room on the main floor changes that however.
As Eric opens the door to a filthy bedroom, three zombies lash out from the closet. Behind a curtained four-poster, a creature begins to work her magics. Pushing one of the zombies into the room, Eric gives the rest of us space to enter and start hacking the undead to pieces.
When near enough to the bed, Eric pulls back the curtain to reveal a putrid and obese spell-caster we can only describe as Mammy. She summons a spectral hand and uses it to place a curse on Aella, sapping some of her strength. She also tries to give Wallace a contagious disease but he thankfully overcomes the attempt. Zazz summons a large crocodile to contend with Mammy as we all begin to gather around the four-poster.
Much to our displeasure, she’s shrouded by mirror images and we spend precious time and swings destroying them before we’re able to get to her. However, when we finally destroy the last of the images, we unleash our full fury on the disgusting creature and eventually Aella drives her greataxe so deeply into her belly that only blood and gore remain of Mammy.
Covered in who knows what, we head upstairs to investigate and find some minor treasure in a booby-trapped chest and a room of trap-making horrors. Glad at least that the top floor is empty of foes, we begrudgingly head into the farmhouse’s basement, a veritable taxidermy nightmare. Though Aella seems some familiar-looking rabbit corpses, she pushes the sight from her mind as we explore the lowest level.
Eric runs into another Ogrekin accompanied by two large rats and does battle largely on his own due to the confines of the hallway. He suffers some blood loss for it but he, along with assistance from Wallace, Aella and Zazz eventually defeat the creatures.
Having only a set of double doors left to explore, we head through and come to a second set. Beyond this pair we find ourselves in a large room that houses a giant plant creature. Mistaking its vast size for immense power, we’re delighted to discover that it’s easily hacked to pieces as Eric and Wallace team up to take it down in short order. Finally done with this house of horrors, we loot one remaining chest where we discover three sets of gear, one with a white bow that Shalelu seems to recognize. We bring the items in hopes of finding the owners and leave the house back into the fresher air.
Wanting to leave no stone unturned, we head across the way to the barn. Three more Ogrekin wait inside and Zazz quickly drops one in a pit. Eric and Aella charge the other two and begin to battle. The beasts don’t prove to be too difficult to defeat and are quickly taken down. In typical Eric fashion, he finishes off the one in the pit by throwing himself down atop of it, the weight of his impact reducing it to a gore pancake.
A secondary room in the barn is locked and we’re forced to approach it from the two catwalks, split three and three on each side. When we enter the back room from above, we find a gigantic spider in a web waiting. In one of the cages in the room, we also spy three unconscious people. Dealing with the spider first, we hack and slash the arachnid to pieces in short order.
Now foe-free, we cut through the webbing and approach the captives. Shalelu recognizes one as the friend she’s been seeking, a member of the Black Arrows of Fort Rannick. We rouse the men and let Shalelu’s friend vouch for the others, also Black Arrows. Not wanting to stick around the unsettling farmstead anymore, we head back toward the bridge and the town.
Along the way, we ask the Black Arrows about the fate of Fort Rannick. They reveal that while they were on patrol and the Fort’s commander was away, a group of well-organized ogres struck. It was the opportune time for such an attack, inside knowledge suggesting that one of the Black Arrows turned on the fort. The three and a few others attempted to take back the fort from the ogres but failed. Eventually, they were capture by the Ogrekin as they fled the area. They also reveal that a decent amount of smoke has been seen from the Hook Mountains nearby. There is certainly evil afoot and the Fort is now in the hands of thirty-some ogres.
We travel with the men back to town where they can heal and replenish their strength. Once ready, they agree to help us take down the ogres and reclaim the fort. The next task then, is to plan an attack strategy.
For now though, dinner and rest calls and we will have to rejoin our heroes next time on Rise of the Runelords: Deliverance Part Deux. Tune in in two weeks to see if our heroes can retake Fort Rannick! Will they discover who’s organized the ogres? What does the smoke on the mountain mean? Is there anything to the giant migration east? And will Munin ever figure out why his feather turned violet? All this and more to come!