Monday, October 6, 2014

Chapter 3: An Old Lady in Melvaunt: Part 3

In which the party takes a few days to build defenses and Bo takes his leave...

Donovan/Winona
Donovan goes to the back of the wagon and begins rummaging through the extra weapons they acquired from the kobolds. “We have bows and ammunition for roughly thirty archers, and can arm another thirty for melee—assuming we don’t break into our own stores of weapons.” He looks around, “And there are enough trees that we should be able to construct a good number of spears fairly quickly, or, you know, pointed sticks. They probably won’t fly perfectly strait, but if we make them nice and long they can help keep kobolds from charging up the hill at us…”

Winona nods, “That sounds doable. I know a few prayers that should fortify the courage of the villagers…keep them from breaking and running, and perhaps do the opposite to the kobolds.” Ryesha makes a frightened squeak and instinctively reverts to her rabbit form.

Rant shakes his head at Hrud’s question, “Ora I. Tyr bisa ngawèhaké kaelokan kuwi marang Suci Uskup, nanging kuwi Para Rasul saka iman sing ngluwihi kabisan samubarang kita grup.”

Lyra
Lyra helps Donovan collect and sort the weapons, whispering to him in Elven as they work. «If I can actually get some sleep tonight I’ll be of significantly more use. Do you mind if I borrow Finnot’s spellbook? His knowledge of creating stable dimensional pathways may be flawed, but there were some principles of enhancing the incendiary properties of an existing fire source that might be more immediately applicable against a large force.»

Frantiska/Yamtwit
Around sunset, Frantiska and Yamtwit, and their very tired mounts, ride into the small village, followed by five heavily armored soldier-priests of Helm from the garrison at Iniarv’s Tower. Frantiska scans the area, and, like the others, is considerably disappointed by the indefensibility of the village and the lack of able-bodied defenders. She guides the small group of reinforcements over to where the others are gathered by the pond. “Good evening Lyra, Mr. Leitch, Sisters,” she says as she dismounts. “What are you thoughts on…this?” she asks, sweeping a hand towards the village and nearby battlefield.

Yamtwit keeps close to Frantiska and the soldiers as they ride in, but stops suddenly when he sees the fields. “Cabbages!” he shouts excitedly. He dismounts Rast and runs towards the fields, “Marvelous!” The villager who was just closing up the gate to her gardens lets out a scream on seeing a short creature running in her direction. “Shit!” Yamtwit says, stopping in his tracks, “I have to learn to stop doing that around humans…” He glumly walks back to the others. “So…lots of kobolds on the way. Do we have a plan?”

Hrud
“«The old man has been to these dog-faces’ camp. Ask him if there are trolls, like Dawn-of-Man says.»” Hrud says to the newly returned goblin.

Yamtwit
Yamtwit turns to the old peddler, “Hey, you’ve delivered tribute to these kobs before, right? Were their trolls there? And, while we’re at it… How big is their home? Where is it at? Do they have mounts? Livestock? Piles of gold…”

Lyra
Lyra looks up from the two books, balanced one on each knee, and finishes jotting down a note in her own book. “Following through with paying the tribute was rather quickly disregarded. As you can see, the village is nigh indefensible with the resources at hand, so we plan to evacuate the village and place ourselves on the high ground. Mr. Donovan and Mr. Yamtwit have already shown to be quite adept at dealing with large forces, and I think this bit here…” Lyra taps the margin next to a passage in the spellbook with her index finger. “…would let us further combust a flaming arrow sent into the enemy ranks. We’ve bows and ammunition enough for thirty archers, and no time for training volunteers.”

Lyra carefully closes the books and places them safely aside, before rising and coming over to look at the warrior-priests. “And your appraisal of the matter, sirs? You’ve far more experience in dealing with them, I presume.” Her tone and bearing give her more than a little resemblance to her mother, but her hands are shaking as she smooths her skirt.

GM
The apparent leader of the soldiers, as indicated by the very tall blue plume on his helm, nudges his warhorse forward. “Since the fiend Greshlyrr took command of them, the kobolds have been quite the menace,” he says in a deep voice, with the calm demeanor of a soldier giving a report. “Several small villages like this one have been set upon of late. We have not managed an accurate census of their full strength, but, should all the tribes muster, Greshlyrr could easily field a force ten thousand strong. Luckily, they still operate mostly as individual tribes when it comes to matters of raiding the highways or pillaging villages.” He looks up at the battlefield, taking in the graves and the damaged houses. "I would estimate the force that caused the initial damage there as not more than a few hundred, and I doubt they did so without losses. If the band that attacked you on the road is the same tribe, which is not improbable given the proximity, then they would be at a significant disadvantage from having taken such damage earlier in the day, and I would not expect them to attack in force. Of course, the talk of “tribute” is probably the tribes collecting for their king. Were these orcs and not kobolds, I would expect the tribes to go to great lengths to procure the tribute on their own, in order to save face and not look week. With kobolds it is less sure…they have no such sense of pride, and thus are more likely to call to other tribes or even the king for reinforcements. They prefer to attack with overwhelming numbers, as that is their only way of overcoming larger foes, and thus we should expect them to come with assistance."

“They were sorely hurt in their raid on you, so I would not expect retribution for some days, but even in that time, we have little hope of further reinforcements arriving, unless we were to rally other nearby villages and farmsteads.” He points to the northern hill where the previous battle took place, “If we take that time to fortify that hilltop with wooden main-lines with trenches in front, and control the ridge, we could potentially hold a much larger force—particularly with a good-sized group of archers, backed by spears in case of a full-out charge from the attackers.”

As he discusses fortifications, you can’t help but notice that each of the five soldiers has, in addition to his own sword and crossbow, a collection of steel-tipped spears, shovel and pick, wooden stakes, and a bundle of wire mesh strapped to the back of his horse—exactly the tools for forming the kind of defensive lines he is describing.

Donovan/Winona
Donovan nods along with the soldier’s assessment. “So, we can count on having a few days to prepare, and on the kobolds coming in large numbers. If we get the other settlements involved it might be better for everyone. I can’t imagine that the kobolds would content themselves to extorting only one small village…” He looks at the heavily armored soldiers on their mail-clad horses. “If the kobolds are as cowardly as all that, and we really want to leave the village in a better state than we arrived, we should probably try for a large, decisive victory over the kobolds that come. Maybe half-fortify the hilltop, position mostly spears and slings in defensive positions there, do whatever damage we can and give the illusion of only limited resistance. When they come up the hill, that force withdraws, leading them down to where the kobolds will have their back to the pond. We place our main force on this ridge behind us—archers, casters, and our small cavalry. We draw them into this valley, incapacitate or immobilize as many as we can with spells, rain down hell with the archers…” He looks at the horses again, then at the wagon, the oxen, and the chariot, “Then crush them with an unexpected heavy charge perhaps?”

Winona raises an eyebrow, “How many other villages are around here? How many more people can we get?”

Hrud
Hrud sees Dawn-of-Man looking at the wagon. A few moments after the conversation has progressed, he asks, “«Can we armor the wagon? I can drive it.»”

Frantiska
Frantiska nods along with Donovan’s comments, “Seems like a reasonable plan. I suggest that we all get some rest…with guards posted. Tomorrow we can send out riders to recruit the other settlements, and the rest can work on fortifying the valley.” She turns to Hrud, apparently unaware of any awkwardness of the past few days, and addresses him in her approximation of his language. “Hrud, seperti apa baju besi yang ada dalam pikiran untuk gerobak? Juga, Anda memiliki kuda, Anda ingin bergabung dengan saya dalam mengumpulkan desa? Atau apakah Anda ingin tinggal di sini dan membuat persiapan sendiri?”

Hrud
Hrud puzzles over the elven woman’s words for a minute, eventually determining that she has asked if he plans to help bring others to the village. “Ora akeh wong nganggo Eraka ing wilayah iki. Aku bakal tetep lan nyiapake.” he replies, eyeing the wagon and team of oxen.

To Rant, he asks, “Bisa wong ing desa iki wis pepe kewan kulit? Aku kudu kayu, banget.”

Yamtwit
Yamtwit approaches the old man, trying to look at once menacing and business-like, “Okay gray-beard, I’ve got a few questions, seriously, and if we’re going to save your skins, we need some answers. First, you should tell us everything you know about the kobs and their demands for tribute. Second, my big friend,” he gestures towards Hrud, “wants to know if you have any tanned hides or leather that could be spared, preferably a lot of it. Lastly, if we’re going to be guarding you from ravening hordes of deadly kobolds,” he adds a bit of overly dramatic emphasis, “it would be nice if there was a bit of quid-pro-quo…at least a warm place to sleep and a bite to eat for now. We can settle on more appropriate compensation if we live…”

GM
The old man sighs. “Aye goblin,” he says in a much kinder, but still strained, voice, clearly impressed by the lengths you have already gone to to help him. “I’ll talk to the women-folk and see if we can find a place to put you all up for the night, and we should have some skins your Eraka friend can use.” He leans wearily against the side of the wagon, still favoring his damaged leg. “I’m afraid I don’t really know much about the kobolds. They have us deliver the tribute to a big rock shaped like a dragon half-way into the swamp, a good two days walk. They don’t exactly invite us in…just have us leave the goods in the rock’s ‘mouth’. There’s always some of them guarding the rock, but I’ve never seen more than five or six of them there, and no beasties either…though there are plenty of those in the swamp if you don’t watch yourself. That rock’s quite the piece of work too—spooky realistic looking carving, right down to the wear on the teeth. Scares the bejeezes out of me when I have to put the stuff in its mouth.”

Lyra
Lyra sits down on the edge of the wagon and opens the books back up. “It should be less of an imposition, since that you’ll get to keep your tribute this way.” She runs her thumb down the margin of one page, then beckons Amara over, whispering something about Susalia and pretty fireworks.

Lyra rubs the bridge of her nose, thinking. “Mr. Donovan? How much do you know about gen? Can they borrow spells from someone on this plane? I doubt Mother would appreciate having her magic borrowed, regardless. But she does know how to bring forth reasonably defensible buildings of magical construction, as well as warding spells.”

Donovan
Donovan, looking very tired at this point, sits down beside Lyra. “From what I’ve heard of the magic used by genie-binders, I believe that their spells are always fetched from extra-planar entities. More specifically, I think they are drawn most commonly from the various genie lords and nobles of the elemental planes, and not without some negotiation I believe. There are some tales of gen even fetching spells from the gods themselves, though most of those reports do not end well…”

“We could, however, attempt contact with your mother and see if she would be amenable to providing some magical assistance,” Donovan yawns, stretches, and rises, “but that seems an things best left until morning.” He lends the old peddler a shoulder, “Come on old chap, why don’t you show us to a bed…” He pauses and raises an eyebrow, "Say what is your name, Sir?

Lyra
Lyra exhales sharply, not quite a derisive snort. “Amenable to providing assistance? She’ll call it foolish nonsense and try to convince me to stay out of it. For my own good, of course.”

Frantiska
Frantiska takes her rest in the village stables alongside Thistledown. She rises early in the morning, and again re-saddles the filly for a journey, announcing that she intends to warn the surrounding villages about possible kobold reprisals and the desire to mount a concerted defense. She spends an hour rounding up others who may be interested in the ride—specifically looking for a shepherd boy or other local that might know the surrounding terrain and the location of other settlements. Once any others accompanying her are assembled, she mounts up and turns to leave. “Lyra, Mr. Donovan, I believe we’ll head west first—in order to warn any settlements that are between the swamp and here to evacuate. And also to look for signs of approaching kobolds. We’ll hopefully reach all the western farmsteads today, then either circle north, or return here for the night before heading to the east—where I hope to find villages less severely weakened than this one which might be able to provide additional troops. Do not hesitate to contact me by whatever means are at your disposal,” she looks meaningfully at Lyra, “should the kobolds appear before I have returned.”

With that said she rides off over the hills to the west.

Winona/Donovan
Winona borrows Hrud’s steppe-pony, quite without asking, citing some complicated Erakic laws of communal ownership when Rye gives her ‘that look’, and rides off with Frantiska to gather the villagers, not trusting the elven woman’s tact from their previous encounters.

Donovan stays up late into the night, studying the party’s collective spellbooks in search of something that might give them an advantage in the coming battle, and sleeps in an equally long time the next morning. When he finally wakes, he walks up to the western ridge with his notebook and pens and spends several hours sketching the surrounding terrain—making notes on contours, ditches, clusters of vegetation, placement of the buildings in the village, and other features that might be exploited to some advantage. He then takes these back to the group to begin drawing up plans.

Ryesha, after seeing Winona off, seeks out the village weavers and their stores of cloth and wool, and begins manufacturing thick padded vests with which to armor those that will be put to use as archers, as well as weaving nets and reinforced cords which could be used to lay basic traps to slow the kobold’s advance.

Lyra
Lyra stays up with Donovan discussing tactics until she starts nodding off (and waking abruptly shortly after) and asks Donovan if he thinks a sleep spell might allow her to remain asleep for the evening.

In the morning, she talks to Amara about getting some birds to scout for kobolds around the town, then Lyra goes over the notes she made the previous evening, annotating and rewriting portions about magical armors, and digs through the pile of treasure from the tower looking for any mithral while waiting for Whiskers to return.

GM
It is only a couple of miles between the village and the eastern edge of the swamp. On horseback and guided by the crossbow-toting shepherd boy you saw the day before, you manage to cover a large swath of that strip, striking several miles north and south of the main road. During the days patrols you see no sign of the kobolds themselves, but the extent of their depredations in the area is obvious—empty farmsteads, burned villages, and fields stripped clean. The boy leads you to five other settlements, all smaller, and in worse repair, than the village. The settlers require very little convincing, and, by the end of the day, another hundred people trickle into the village, driving their livestock before them and hauling carts and wagons filled with everything they could carry.

Yamtwit
Yamtwit gathers up his supplies, spends some time talking to the shepherds to convince them to round up all the nursing ewes, and begins mass-manufacturing and stockpiling sanctified ghee as a curative. He makes some complaints about sheeps milk being greatly inferior to donkey and wolf milk, but makes do.

Before resting each day, he will also unload the rest of his spell arsenal casting Ripen twice each day to increase the village’s food stores and Favor of the Goddess four times per day. He’ll direct the villagers to start transplanting ivy and creeping vines to cover their homes, which he will then use Favor of the Goddess to grow to supersize to cover all but the doors of the houses.

Lyra
After the first good night’s sleep she’s had in days, Lyra sits down with her spellbook. Despite the lingering throbbing at her temples, the disparate theories and notes coalesce into something usably meaningful for the first time since she was old enough to sit on her mother’s lap and turn pages. She confers with Donovan and Amara, and asks Amara to call forth animals to scout for Kobolds around the village, and then begin casting protective spells on the villagers, starting with Sir Loin and Mr. Brisket, then the archers. Just before dinner, she asks Amara if she can try to call forth a powerful spell to hide all of the villagers.

Hrud
As Lyra prepares to start casting magical armor, Rant approaches her, nodding back at Hrud who continues working on his modifications to the wagon. “Hrud asks if you could save an armor spell for him. He was also wondering if you’d be able to use your ‘magic door’ to pull him out of trouble should he get overwhelmed. I … think he means to go after their king, if he can.”

Frantiska
After leading in the line of refugees and resting, Frantiska, Winona, and their guide ride off towards the east the next morning, targeting as many settlements their guide knows of within half a day’s ride, camping in the field if necessary. They both remind Lyra to make contact with them should Amara’s little birds bring word of incoming kobolds.

Lyra
Lyra smiles. “The line starts in front of Amara, if he wants to cut in front of the archers. If not, I think I can prepare and cast one myself in the morning…. And yes, I should be able to open up an escape route if he becomes surrounded, although I was hoping to once again make use of it to redirect their volleys. I doubt they will bring fewer archers than they ambushed us with.”

Bo
Bo doesn’t think a large battle is the best place for a simple locksmith. He has a feeling these well-meaning humans (and elves) may be doomed. Bo inconspicuously gathers his belongings and sneaks off while everyone is attentively working defenses.

Donovan
With the plans drawn up and fairly clear, Donovan spends the next day talking to the villagers and the refugees—trying to find places for everyone to stay, giving pep talks and telling stories to keep morale up, and organizing them into teams to set up fences and dig trenches according to the Helmites’ instructions, and transplant plants according to Yamtwit’s instructions. With the aid of the Helmites’ expertise and the villagers’ strong backs, they begin laying out fences and dikes along the north-western ridge, where the main kobold force is expected to come from, 10-foot deep moats blocking ingress to the village along the road to the north and south (filling them with the decanter of endless water), and blinds along the south-eastern ridge for archers to hide behind. They transplant viney things to cover the houses as Yamtwit suggests, transplant gorse, thistles, and additional ivy plants into the north-western valley (to be enhanced with entangle during the battle), and begin collecting large, rounded stones on the ridge-lines, both throwing sized, and larger boulders that could be rolled down the hill to break lines. Donovan pitches in with setting up the fortifications as best he can, but is rather muscularly impaired relative even to the village woman and shepherd boys.

Early in the morning, he also pulls Rant and Hrud aside and asks Hrud to demonstrate basic archery skills for villagers, since Frantiska is out on patrol. If time allows later in the day, he will take an inventory of all the weapons that are available in the village (including farm implements that could be converted if necessary).

Throughout the day, Donovan will also intentionally attempt to establish psionic Contact with Hrud, Yamtwit, Winona, Ryesha, and Rant, while testing and practicing his abilities.

Lyra
To prevent yet another sleepless night and crippling migraines from interfering with defensive preparations, as well as not wanting to waste sleep spells with an offense potentially forthcoming, Lyra will attempt to browbeat Donovan into using the rod on her before she goes to bed at the end of the first full day in the village.

Donovan
“Oh! Right!” Donovan says, seeing the haggard look of someone suffering from insomnia and migraines on Lyra’s face. He quickly breaks out the rod and touches it to Lyra, feeling the familiar heat and vibration, but finding it much easier to control this time.

Frantiska
When Winona suddenly starts getting headaches on the second day, Frantiska breaks out her scroll of Improved Whispering Wind…

Back in the village, a warm breeze blows over Lyra, pushing back her hair and bringing Frantiska’s voice to her ears. “Winona seems to have the psionic sickness. Is everyone else okay? Would you like us to return?”

Lyra
Lyra sighs and rubs her temples, looking around to make sure her portion of the conversation will be unobserved. “The most alarming development is that Donovan tried using the rod on me, and my abilities seem to be growing unabated, as are my headaches. At least I am sleeping again. My own ability to intuit the use of psionics nearby is somewhat imprecise; I can’t tell who it’s coming from.”

Frantiska
Frantiska nods, though no one can see, and her reply is carried by the wind. “I’m glad some of your woes have abated. There are a few more villages nearby that we would like to visit. If you believe things are relatively stable, we’ll do that and then return early tomorrow.”

Winona
During their three-day ride, Winona, only mildly bothered by the headaches, her new tendency to always land on her feet, and the fact that her skin begins instinctively changing colors to match her surroundings, questions their young guide. “So kiddo, you any good with that bow?”

“The name’s Serhiy.”

“Alright, Sergi, you any good with that bow?”

“I’m pretty good.”

“Thanks for leading us around. You know we’re going to be fighting a whole horde of kobolds, right?”

“…”

“You might want to practice while you can…”

GM
The farms and villages east of Gildenglade are in progressively better shape and closer together, and, as such, take considerably more persuasion than those to the west. Between the three of you, though, you are able to get a sizable number to commit to aiding Gildenglade. By the time you ride back, another hundred people, mostly able-bodied men with all the weapons, armor, ammunition, and mounts they can scrounge trickle into the village behind you. All of them have seen their share of conflict, defending their homes from raiding orcs and goblins, and a few even have some experience as soldiers or caravan guards. On top of these troops you have managed to muster, two, while not agreeing to fight with you, did ride off to Melvaunt to plead for assistance on your behalf.

Image courtesy of Donovan's player...
Frantiska
Frantiska and company come riding into the village early on the third day after their initial arrival in Gildenglade. Frantiska doesn’t even bother to bring Thistledown to a full stop before swinging down off the horse and running to find Lyra. «How are you feeling?» she asks in Elvish, then mutters, «nevermind», and, ignoring anyone else that might be around to see, kisses Lyra full on the lips, a brilliant blue glow rising around them.

GM
As the kiss breaks off, Lyra’s headache, and the accompanying powers, fade as if they never were.

Lyra
Lyra blushes and stammers, not really expecting that was how her first kiss would go.

Frantiska
“So,” Frantiska says, finally stopping to catch her breath, “where are we in terms of preparing for a war?”

Hrud
Rounding the corner as he’s working on the wagon nearby, Hrud happens to catch the exchange. It takes a moment to realize that he’s staring, his jaw hanging open like a simpleton. Hoping that no one noticed, the barbarian awkwardly works back around the way he come.

Donovan/Winona
Donovan watches, simultaneously jealous and extremely turned on, as Frantiska kisses Lyra, then realizes what the non-conversation and the blue glow probably mean. Shaking his head, he turns and waves at Winona, then walks over to the priestess and the line of volunteers trickling into town behind her. “We might actually survive this…” he says, quietly once he is near the priestess.

“Not to worry Donny,” Winona smirks at Lyra and Fran’s little encounter, “a bunch of these fellows actually know which end of a sword is which, and a few can even cast a spell or two.” She pats the shoulder of the shepherd boy who was serving as their guide, “Sergi here isn’t a bad shot either….Oh,” she adds, her skin suddenly changing to the same pale green as the grassy hillside behind her, “and I have apparently become some kind of chameleon, which, judging by the headaches, is probably your guys’ fault…”

“My fault to be precise,” Donovan admits sheepishly. “I was trying to test the range on my ability to contact other minds.”

“Not to worry Donny,” Winona pats him on the back.

Donovan gestures towards the bulwarks on the hilltop and the moats to the north and south of town. “I think we’re just about done with the fortifications—though we could always use a few more days. We’ll need to get your new friends organized. I was thinking Frantiska and Lyra should take command of the ridge, with as many archers and crossbows as we can put together. Hrud and that wagon he’s putting together seems like a good thing to have at the head of a vanguard of cavalry—though I suspect we should give command of that to the Helmites. I think you’re the right person to lead whatever infantry we have left…or, with your interesting skin condition, might be well placed to lead some sort of ambush group positioned to take the enemy from behind after they come into town….”

“Sounds good…”

Once Winona is set to work organizing the militia, Donovan runs off and is not seen again for some hours…

GM
Late in the evening of the third day, a little bird returns to Amara, informing her that a band of kobolds have been spotted about five miles west of town.

Hrud
As the message arrives, Hrud is circling the wagon, pulling on the various planks, doors, and other bits of wood cobbled together around the driver’s bench and extending up the sides. Making sure the primitive leather blankets are securely fastened to the oxen, he climbs into the wagon and begins to move it into position, making sure to allow just enough space to build up a good head of steam before he crashes into the kobold force.

The barbarian tries to keep a stoic facade – it is likely that good men and women will fall to the filthy dog-faces this day – but he cannot deny the anticipation he feels. Truly, this will be a battle they will tell stories about for generations to come.

Donovan
Donovan, having reappeared after slinking off to write in his journal, begins issuing orders to the villagers with the booming voice of a professional orator. He directs them to grab their weapons and form up into units—archers and crossbowmen with Frantiska and Lyra, the Helmites and cavalry with Hrud, infantry with Winona, and the casters with him.

Lyra
As she helps herd archers into position, Lyra is going to Mindlink with her mother.

“I apologize for not getting word to you sooner, Mother. We were in the midst of fortifying the village of Gildenglade against a kobold incursion. I knew you would insist I remain uninvolved, so I have opted not to inform you until no option remained but to be involved. For that I apologize, but for what must be done to defend these people, I have no such regrets.”

Yamtwit
On receiving the word, Yamtwit runs around, casting Firebreak on the houses. “Can’t they wait until morning?!” he laments, realizing that aside from the one, he has expended his arsenal of spells for the day. “Do we have any way to slow them down significantly enough for me to catch a few hours of sleep and beg the Great Mother for an extension?”

Yamtwit quickly passes out flasks of clarified butter, whistles for Rast, mounts up, and rides over to join Hrud and the Cavalry.

GM
Your party and the villagers wait…and wait. The evening air is chilly, but the sky is clear, and you can see quite far. After several busy days of preparation, many of the villagers are showing signs of fatigue, or boredom, nodding off at their posts, leaning on bows or spears. Some four hours after the first word from the birds, as a bright gibbous moon climbs towards midnight, scouts on the north-west ridge spot the first kobolds cresting the opposite hill. A small band, only six or seven. They stop at the top of the far ridge, their incomprehensible chattering carried across the valley by the west wind. One lights a torch and another sounds a crude horn before they proceed down into the valley below.

Lyra
Lyra scans the valley and surrounding hills nervously, on guard against whomever that signal horn was meant for.

Frantiska
Frantiska looks over at Lyra. “Torches?” she whispers. “I thought kobolds could see better in the dark…and preferred to attack with surprise. Perhaps they have something else in mind.”

GM
You wait several more long minutes as the small band of kobolds traverse down into the valley, with still no sign of others. They stop, suddenly, near the bottom, staring up at the hill, as if just noticing the fences and bulwarks lining the ridge. The one drops the torch it is holding and they all turn and begin fleeing back up the hill from whence they came.

Lyra
Lyra’s eyes go wide as the kobolds turn to go warn their brethren of the village’s defenses. She takes a step away from the others, the air next to her wavering slightly from the wafting smoke of the kobold’s torch. The wash of heat on Lyra’s side of the portal feels almost pleasant against the evening chill, as the flames expand suddenly to engulf the fleeing kobolds. The valley is filled with a brief light and surprised yelps, then left with the smell of charred meat and lingering silence.

GM
Still more hours of waiting pass before one of the nervous villagers near the front line asks, “Where are the rest of them?”

Hrud
Hrud seeks out Yamtwit to ask “«How many normally attack the village?»”

Yamtwit
As the kobolds burst into flame, Yamtwit turns to Hrud, “Aku bakal luwih migunani sawise turu. Tangi kula yen gelut diwiwiti.” He then curls up on the ground next to Rast and is quickly stacking z’s.

Winona
Winona orders the villagers under her command to remain at their posts, tired as they are, and wanders over to where the archers and casters are waiting. “Lyra dearie,” she says as she approaches, “did Amara’s little birds say how many kobolds were coming? Birds can’t count can they?” She looks around for their cavalry, then realizes that is a useless proposition, which she imagines is a good thing. “Since the riders are invisible anyways would it make sense to send some of them out to scout and see whether there is a more substantial force lagging behind these ones?”

Lyra
“Say? It’s a bird.” Lyra shakes her head, then considers the question further. “In theory even a single kobold would trigger the warning, though. We should ask the villagers how the attacks typically proceeded, with the torch and the horn. We might be able to send out scouts and let people rest in shifts if there is usually a significant delay between the scouts and the main force.”

GM
The old man, Finchus, hauls himself to his feet, not without much complaining, and hobbles over. “There ain’t so much of ‘typical’. They attacked us once en masse, killed all our young men, then demanded that we give them tribute. The last five years things have been bad, but not too bad, so long as we pay-up. If we don’t pay on time, they usually come just like that, maybe ten, in the night. They blow a horn to wake us up, then torch a house at random, then leave with everything they can carry…usually our sheep. We only tried to fight back the one time after their first attack. Wasn’t too hard to kill a handful of kobos. But two days later the whole swarm of them showed up again, beat us senseless, and made off with half our girls and more than half our sheep. I figured, given what you did back on the road, and that it’s tribute time, that the army would be coming sooner rather than later. I guess they didn’t put two and two together on their failed raid on the road, so I’d guess we’ve got about two days before their boss gets angry with this lot and sends the horde for us…”

Frantiska
Frantiska shakes her head. “That, Sir, is the kind of thing it would have been useful to know some days ago…”

Donovan
Donovan sits up all night, staring at the stars and wondering where the enemy might be. When he sees Lyra and Frantiska accosting the old peddler again, he wanders over. “So, either they are not coming, or we’ve got a couple more days.” He gestures at the reinforced, fireproofed houses, moats, defensive lines, magical traps, and thong of armed and organized villagers—some unseen but implied. “We still have pressing business of our and they are only kobolds. I think we’ve done what we need to do here, and the Helmites should be more than capable of commanding the town’s defense. All in favor of getting back on the road?”

Yamtwit/Frantiska
Yamtwit, waking up with a yawn, hears the others talking and wanders over. “That was it?” He shrugs, “If it’s going to be a couple more days at least, I’m with Donovan, those statues aren’t going to sell themselves.” He turns and yells over his shoulder to the barbarian, “Hrud, Pak putih-rambute ngandika kita ngirim dhuit jaminan ing kobold perang bab, lan njaluk bali menyang kita asli misi. Sembarang pikirane?”

Frantiska looks around, her brows knit in consternation, “We’ve done a lot to prepare these people to defend themselves, but our efforts are no guarantee of their success should the entire kobold army descend on them. However, Lyra and Donovan did promise Amara’s uncle that they would convey her safely to her grandmother’s home in Melvaunt. However I may question the sincerity of the girl’s story, a promise was made, and keeping the child here is definitely at odds with the spirit of that agreement for safe conduct.” She turns to Lyra, “Lyrathwen, I would suggest that you, Mr. Donovan, and Brother Rant, at least, go on ahead to Melvaunt with the girl, in order to complete the objectives of this outing. I can remain behind with the Helmites to make sure the village remain safe…”

Lyra
Lyra is clearly unhappy at the thought of abandoning the villagers to their fate. “I … might be able to manage both. Get Amara to Melvaunt and be back in time to help defend the village, I mean. Dream travel there in the evening, and back the next, if it’s just people going. The wagon, livestock and … artwork … complicate matters.”

Donovan/Winona
“We also agreed to fetch components for Professor Aumry’s classes,” Donovan reminds them. “While he did not specify that any of the components were perishable, such is often the case, and the professor was kind enough to pay us up front and provide this wagon for our use. Reneging on our very first contract, with a pre-established financial obligation, seems like a good way to ensure that we never find work in Phlan again…”

The two Tyrran sisters are drawn by Donovan’s raised voice. “We’re not obligated, Donnie,” Winona interjects. “If Frannie wants to stay behind, we can watch over the village with her and catch up on your way back through.”

Ryesha raises an eyebrow, “You’re just don’t want to miss the fight…” she mutters quietly.

“What’s that Bunny? Oh, of course I wouldn’t want to miss the fight. But, Tyr willing,” she says half-heartedly, “it won’t come to that.”

Lyra
Lyra nods. “We did agree to such. We also did specifically inquire if Professor Aumry’s reagents were perishable, and he said that they all should be properly preserved, but may be fragile. So it may be in his best interest to rout the kobolds before attempting to bring a shipment of fragile goods back through their territory.”

Hrud
Hrud just stares at the goblin, not believing what he has just heard.

“We nyebabake alangan kanggo desa iki, saiki arep ninggalake iku?”

He looks around at the village, the meager fortifications, the rag-tag group of peasants and farmers huddled around each other uncertainly. Hrud then hears his companions talking. The words are unknown, but to his mind the intent conveyed in the tone of their voices is clear. The barbarian’s heart starts to burn in his chest. He walks over to the wagon and grabs his gear, then makes his way back to his pony.

“Yen asu-pasuryan ora teka kene, aku bakal pindhah menyang asu-pasuryan.”

Riding down from their position, he make his way over to where the kobolds crested the hill and begins to look for a trail that will lead him to their lair.