Defending the Dales

The Road to War

As the army merges and mobilizes to aid the Elves in their efforts to stop the sinister plan of the Drow, they are harassed by spider-riding Drow knights in the forest, men being brought down by poison arrows from the darkness. The harassment continued until night fell and the army hastily erected camp spread across several hill-tops. In the night, the army was woken every few hours by various creatures, Dire Badgers, Giant Spiders, and others that were driven into the camp to stir the army from its sleep and prevent Lord Ilmeth‘s wizards from getting the rest they needed to replenish their magic. During the day as they traveled, the army stumbled into shallow pit traps filled with poison spikes that whittled away from the army’s strength and slowed their step to a pace that allowed to them to test the ground before them. Lord Ilmeth commanded that the army travel in a thinner column to reduce its foot-print in hopes to encounter fewer of the traps and reduce the area that his rangers needed to check for danger. Roving bands of archers escorted the army’s perimeter to try and thwart the harassment of the Drow archers.

On the second day, a thick fog filled the forest, obscuring everything a few meters away. One of Ilmeth’s attendant wizards, a young Sembian named Bertram Rauthingild, determined that the fog was not magical in nature and probably not a trick of their enemy’s, and though it heightened the the risk of people getting separated and lost from the army, it also made it difficult for the drow to keep up their attacks.

After marching throughout the morning, Beleg was contacted by one of the elven rangers, Milohel they were trying to aid and informed that they were needed by this evening on the field of battle. The ranger informed them of a alternative route through the forest that the drow had not had time to seed with traps and would bring them quicker to their destination. After getting directions from the elf, Beleg informed the lord of this opportunity, and Ilmeth asked him to lead the army upon this path.

Following the directions of the elven rangers, Beleg brought them to the new route, a small valley with a stream at its middle that wended its way down through the hills north of their previous path. The fog lift, allowing them to make even better time and soon the army was making much better time to its destination. But a they came close to the end of the valley, the ranger returned and notified Beleg that two small groups of drow had gotten a handful of Ogres to haul logs and stones to the tops of the ridges and had positioned themselves to hurl the huge objects down upon the army as it passed by.

Beleg and his companions volunteered to try and disable the traps or at least the drow and ogres to prevent this. They were assisted magically by the help of the Sembian, Bertram. They travelled in two groups, a stealthier first group made of the elven ranger, the ranger Beleg, the bard Alyia, and the druidess River. Following them at a distance where their poor stealth would not spoil the ambush came the wizard, Bjarngrim the Berzerker, and Xunanein hand of Elistraee.

When they had gotten close enough to view their targets, closer than they would have liked as the trees impaired the vision of anyone even a score of meters apart. But their hopes for surpise were dashed as they discovered their enemies set and waiting for them. Three huge ogre’s rushed at them through the trees while a handful of drow waited behind shields. Coolly, Beleg fired arrows into the right ogre and commanded her wolf to attack it. Beleg’s attacks were so masterful that the ogre was all but slain by that first attack. The middle ogre engaged Milohel, but River summons a Thoqqua, a large fire worm behind it and it was quickly flanked and distracted from its target. The thoqqua slammed at the ogre’s back with its burning head and terribly bashed and bruised the ogre’s flesh. The first ogre smashed at Beleg’s wolf-friend, terribly wounding it as the second turned and brought his large club down upon the thoqqua with a terrible blow. The last smash down on Milohel’s shoulder causing the elf great pain. Beleg loosed two more arrows and finished off the first ogre as Bjarngrim and Xunenein rushed to help them. But Xunen’s clumsiness and the un-even ground caused Xunen to fall to the ground. Bertram spoke some arcane words and missiles of energy flashed across the distance between the mage and the last ogre, causing furrows of burned flesh across its chest. The second ogre smashed at the thoqqua again, but as he destroyed the elemental, Beleg and Bjarngrim destroyed him with axe and arrow. The last ogre was struck by lightning called by River, and fled..placing enough trees between himself and his enemies that they could not continue to strike him.

Advancing, the discovered that the drow had also fled the field, abandoning their trap to the party. After a few heals for the elf ranger and Beleg’s wolf-friend, the party went back up the hill a ways and then crossed down through the small valley and up onto the other ridge where they
tried to sneak up on the other drow ambush. But the drow had already abandoned this plan and all that was found was a pile of rocks.

As they scrambled back down to the creek-bed, Ilmeth’s army marched down to meet them. As night fell, they following the guidance of Milohel, and crossed several more ridges to the east until they came close to the Standing Stone. The rangers crept up to the tree-line where they could see the cleared area around the Stone, but the night and the dark prevented them from seeing anything of the drow’s presence. In the distance, they could just make out the surface of the Standing Stone, it white surface gleaming in the weak moonlight. Occasionally something or some things passed between them and the stone causing it to momentarily wink out of view. Returning to Lord Ilmeth, they deliberated on what to do. Ilmeth and his magicians argued that the army and the wizards needed to get rest before they could engage the enemy, but Milohel insisted that the drow would do something this very night, because of the alignment of the planets. At the very least, they needed to coordinate their attack with the elven army, but the elves were on the other side of the field from them and two miles of night-darkened and drow-infested forest stood between them.

The party began to plan their next move.

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Bertram's Journal: Reacquaintance with Cormanthor

It has been 300 years since my ancestors introduced civilization into the great forest of Cormanthor by means of the Rauthauvyr Road yet it seems that such an accomplishment has made very little impact on the forest or its denizens at all. It is a wonder why the elves, who were consulted as to the lay of the road and then further awarded the rites to tax trade caravans using said road, didn’t see this as an opportunity to step forward into modernity and use this new found wealth to their own betterment or, at the very least, in the policing of the woods as a means of protecting their investment. Instead the woods are teaming with villainous Drow, cousins to the very elves who claim proprietorship over the land, and who now vaunt such numbers as to threaten the wellbeing of human and elf alike.

Aligning myself with his grace, Lord Ilmeth, I have embarked upon a journey to reacquaint myself with my ancestor’s deeds and to restore what order that can be brought to this primordial land. Lord Ilmeth seemed quite relieved that he would have the assistance of one of my bearing and that my relation, even though distant, to Rauthauvyr the Raven seemed to only strengthen his resolve.

Marching with the host that his grace had summoned has become quite a sobering ordeal. The persistence of the Drow and the inexperience of our commander in leading an army in the field has created certain holes in our defenses at night when the host sets up camp. The inexperienced cow herders are prone to superstition and the random attacks from a few of Cormanthor’s woodland creatures tends to set the entire camp into a panic when a few of our sentries are attacked. Such encounters, I stressed to Lord Ilmeth, only wear down the resolve of the cowherds and keeps his grace’s most powerful force, his mages, from being able to rest and replenish their arcane arsenals.

We recently encountered an elven scout by the name of Milohel, whose pricklish nature was shown with my first few questions after taking it upon myself to press what surely was on Lord Ilmeth’s own mind. My questions primarily related to the fact that as we were marching in defense of elven lands and that if Milohel and his brethren could move through the forest and through the Drow guerillas so easily then why wasn’t Lord Ilmeth receiving more aid in avoiding the traps set before him and in having ambushes set for the harassers themselves. A logical query and one that Milohel decided to take offence at, even going so far as to insinuate that the pacts that allied elven and human interests might be broken for such an observation being made aloud.

A side note here: This must also indicate the fundamental weakness of our elven allies and their inability to secure there own lands. If this is so, then once the threat of the Drow has been put down, then perhaps proprietorship of certain parts of the forest might better be served under different management. The forest contains far too many magical animals, components, and magical mysteries to be allowed to fall into nefarious hands… perhaps Lord Ilmeth would be willing to take custodianship over some of these lands?

It is during this time when I was informally thrust into the company of scouts and rangers that had been providing cover and experience in the vanguard of Lord Ilmeth’s host. As we followed Milohel’s alternate route we eventually came upon a location where Drow ambushers had managed to throw together a simple trap meant to further harass and damage Lord Ilmeth’s host.

Riding ahead with these new companions we beset one group of ambushers and during the combat I saved the life of the brash, and pricklish-natured elven ranger. We had split our group into two ranks so that we might take the ambushers unawares and as our front line clashed with the ogres Milohel was stunned and knocked to the ground by a powerful blow. At no small personal risk to myself, did I come to Milohel’s defence and engaged the ogre from slaying our elven guide as he lay upon the forest floor. Unleashing a terrible onslaught of arcane missiles into the ogre’s face, it reeled from the pain and, being momentarily stunned, opened itself to our Halfling druid’s follow up. I then stood over the prostrated form of Milohel, protecting the elf with my own body and magic until the last of the ogres fled with the unseen body of drow who had orchestrated the trap.

Another side note: I have witnessed why the nature gods do not draw paladin’s to their service. Full plate armor and primordial woodland does not inspire others with one’s competency!
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It's a Trap!!

Back on the road after the clerics had seen to the party’s damages, the scouts had returned to duty, scouring the forest before the army, looking for an opposing army of drow. Beleg and Sloane quickly noticed the abnormal behavior of the Drow, both in the huge masses of the grey elves roaming about the forest to the fact that they were dogging the army, even by day, when the drow are at their worst.

Several days of this mass of men stumbling through the forest passed, until the scouts noted that the tracks of Lord Ilmeth‘s cavalry had veered off the track onto an ancient and over-grown road leading to an old abandoned elven keep. Over-grown no more, for Ilmeth’s cavalry had rushed onto the old road and beaten the undergrowth into pulp. Sloane and Beleg, though, had found in the surrounding wood where the turn had been made, the wrecked corpses of men, horses and Duergar, as well as signs of drow being wounded or killed. A battle had happened here and Lord Ilmeth’s cavalry had been driven from the road, likely to the keep, some 4 or 5 miles beyond.

As Beleg began leading the foot soldiers onto the the ancient elven road, an arrow appear in the road before him. Everyone began crouching and looking around, but Beleg informed them that it was not a drow arrow, but from an elven ranger that he knew. Shortly, a middle-aged elf detached himself from the woods and greeted Beleg in the manner of their kind.

The new ranger spoke to Beleg of alarming events taking place at the Standing Stone, an ancient symbol of the pact between the elves of Myth Drannor and the men of the Dalelands. Hoards of drow at this moment were descending on the place and Beleg’s companion ranger was part of a small band elves that had gathered to try and deter them. But they now found themselves horribly out-numbered, and the drow had made pacts with other denizens of the underdark, like Ogres and Duergar, and others. A host they could not take was protecting what evil plan the drow now unfolded.

The ranger informed them that Ilmeth was indeed holed up in the elven keep, but only by a token force of Duergar. But the grey dwarves had the ability to turn invisible, to make themselves larger than two men, and had, through cunning and illusion, convinced Ilmeth that a much greater force had him pinned within the broken walls. The ranger spoke frankly of the fact that if they could not free Ilmeth so that his host might join the elves in driving the enemy away, unknowable fell curses might fall upon them all.

Soon the army was double-timing it through the forest, while the Rangers and Rogues scouted the Duergar army laying siege around the keep. Sloane and Beleg discovered newly turned bunkers dug into the ground all around the the ancient walls, but could not see any duergar movement around them. The bunkers all faced inward toward the keep, but a huge brutish and tusked man was driving a number of duergar to build bunkers and fortifications facing back down the road. Obviously the enemy knew there were men coming. In the distance, beyond the keep, orc drums throbbed with excitement. Withdrawing back to the army, the scouts brought the commander, a newly promoted Dalesman who had some foreign armed service experience, what knowledge they had gained of the enemies’ lines.

“We need someone to inform Lord Ilmeth that he has been held by an inferior force and must join us on the field so we can rout these bastards and get ourselves to the ”/campaign/defending-the-dales/wikis/Standing%20Stone/new" class=“create-wiki-page-link”>Standing Stone" the commander said. “Beleg, Sloan. I entrust you can handle this task while we hammer at the duergar army from the east and provide you with ample distraction.”

When the army caught sight of the duergar earthworks, they charged with a roar as Beleg and Sloane slipped silently through the forest south of them. As the two scouts passed, they noticed a number of duergar laying in ambush, but to try to warn the army at this point was futile and would cost them what hope of success their stealth had provided. They crept closer and closer. Beleg almost jumped up too early to make his way toward the keep walls, but a few well thrown stones from the rogue held him in check. They waited as the duergar ran through the forest around them, heading to support their kinsmen at the place of battle.

On the road, the men surged forward, Bjarngrim, Xunen and the Commander in the lead. A round of token duergar bolts flew at them as they ran, but they were poorly fired and harmed no one in the Dalelands charge. Bjarngrim assaulted the first of the duergar bunkers, slipping inside and laying about him so ferociously, that the last of the duergar fled from him, and leapt from his hole. Xunen was hot on Bjarngrim’s heels, when the duergar ambush fell upon the front ranks of the men, and a great toll on the Dalesmen was extracted by the cunning duerg. As they ran from the forest and fell upon the men, each duerg grew to great height, looming over the men, causing fear in the bellies of the foe. With the sounds of battle bringing still more duergar pouring out of the forest, the remainder of the men surged forth and the clash of sword, shield and hammer rang from the forest.

Xunen fell back to where River and Alyia fought near the front ranks of the battle. The small druid summoned creatures from the forest to aid them against the grey dwarves, then lay about her with her magical druid fires. Alyia sang a great courageous song to bolster the mens hearts, then drew and fired arrow after arrow about her with skill and ferocity. Xunen was hard pressed by many enemies and almost fell to the fray, but new reinforcements came and surged over his opponents, allowing him to pray for strength and healing to recover and rejoin the battle.

The melee was intense, men and duerg pitted in mad struggle. Among the men, clerics and young wizards loaned their occult strengths to the battle and spells of different colors and effects bounced back and forth amidst the melee. Evil duerg clerics dropped curses upon the men to counter the blessings of the benevolent Dale clergy. The front lines of the battle erupted into a huge mass of flames and burned the men there horribly, leaving their clothes and hair on fire as they screamed their misery and rolled on the ground. the duerg pushed forward and slew the burning men, taking advantage of the confusion the blast had sewn. The huge tusked man stepped from the forest shadows and fired streaks of light at Xunen, burning furrows across his armor. One of the younger Dale mages returned in like fashion, but the mage’s inexperience was apparent by the small meager blasts he sent back. The men on the right side of the Dale army were suddenly engulfed in green clouds, and the men there instantly were overcome with tears, cramps, loss of breath and retching. Alyia tried to harm the great spellcaster, but her arrows were cast aside by some spell before they could reach the creature’s foul heart.

Sloane finally indicated that it was now or never to Beleg and the two crouch-ran from tree to tree to bush toward the stone walls. They passed behind the giant spell-caster as he threw his great blast of fire and knelt near the edge of the wall. Sloane assessed the wall for good climbing spots. The wall was ancient and craggy and vine-ridden, an easy climb for an experienced burglar, but then her eye fell on a crack in the wall that looked like it could be more easily traveled. Crouching, she and the ranger shuffled into the keep.

Inside the wall, they were confronted by a series of arrows nocked and pointed menacingly in their direction. They quickly spilled the purpose of their mission, and Lord Ilmeth joined them while they ran over the infomation about the duergar and the drows secret plans at the Standing Stone. The cavalry was already mounted, as Ilmeth’s watchers on the walls had heard the commotion to the east and they had readied themselves to sally forth.

But even the great size of the duergar and their cunningly laid plans could not save them from the overwhelming numbers of the Daleland foot-soldiers. Then a set of battle horns rang from within the keep, and the majority of the duergar force realized they were between two greater forces of very angry men. As one, all of the duerg suddenly vanished, leaving a token force of duerg struggling along the battle line to be quickly overwhelmed. The giant mage had also disappeared.

As the horsemen poured from the ruined arch of the keep’s entrance, Sloane and Beleg climbed upon the read keep wall. To their surprise, the orc camp that they had worried would go to the aid of the duerg instead had stopped drumming and was quickly packing up their campsite. Shortly they ran deeper into the forest of Cormanthor.

As the last of the struggling duerg died under a rain of sword-tips, semi-grey-haired Lord Ilmeth drew up to gathering of footmen with a smile. Some sixty or so men had perished that day, and another 23 lay wounded beyond moving. Clerics prayed for their health and rapid recovery with the last of their strength. Frustrated, Lord Ilmeth worried that any wounded that he left behind might be set upon by the duerg as soon as the army moved on, but the urgency of the elven ranger’s need meant that he could not afford to be slowed by the wounded. Finally, he told the wounded and handful of keepers and herbalists to take what protection they could and ordered the army to march on.

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Really! Trolls?!?!

After a good night’s rest and some healing spells, the adventurers woke refreshed and happy in the inn. They broke fast and were met by the wizard they had paid to make some magical weapons for them. They still owed half the cost of the weapons, but were told by the wizard that the Town Council had paid the dues on the weapons already, and had asked if the wizard would inform the party of the Council’s wish to speak to them when they had finished their meal.

The council met the party in the town hall, and warmly greeted them as valiant warriors, especially with the return of Lord Ilmeth’s heir, but sadly, the adventurers had missed Lord Ilmeth’s cavalry that had gone in pursuit of the boy two days gone. The foot of the army and the stragglers still gathering from the dales of the south was waiting until they had sufficient forces that they could march in support of Lord Ilmeth, but all knew unless the cavalry stopped and waited for them for some days, they would never catch up, and Ilmeth would be dead or victorious when they arrived.

The council, informing the party that the army would leave soon requested that they all provide such skills as they had in support of the success of the march and any battles they would see. The party members each agreed to support the war effort, and joined the march, palladin, barbarian and druid marching at the fore, while ranger, rogue and bard used their impressive stealthiness to scout the forest ahead.

Several days of marching passed, while the scouts roamed about the mass of men in search patterns meant to discover any sign of drow presence. Little happened to be noted, until a time when Sloane and Beleg noticed a figure standing in the road ahead. After much careful observation and stealthy approach, they got close enough to the figure to notice that it was propped up unnaturally. As they moved close enough to make out the features of the figure in the dim light, they saw that it was the body of one of their fellow scouts, impaled upon a stake of wood embedded in the middle of the road. Beleg felt a sympathy for the unfortunate man and removed him from the stake and began trying to lay him under a nearby tree, when a couple of huge figures dropped from the trees and began pursuing them. “Trolls!” was all Beleg was able to yell as they tried to escape. Though Sloane slipped into the underbrush, the figures closed on Beleg quickly. One grappled the ranger in his mighty hands, and began choking the from him. Sloane, fearful for Beleg’s life tried to distracted the other, but the creature rounded upon her and snatched her up as well. The two troll shook and squeezed them like rag-dolls, until consciousness finally overcame them.

As the army approached, Bjarngrim noticed Belegs new magic bow laying in the bushed beside the road. They quickly made what search they could and found the tracks of trolls in grass leading east into the depths of the forest. Hot in pursuit, they came upon a scene where Beleg and Sloane had been tossed on the ground unconscious and a log had been placed upon their bodies. Three drow stood over them discussing something in drow. Xunanein and Bjarngrim did not even slow as they entered the scene, and rushed to the aidd of their companions. One of the drow started to make prayers and supplications to whatever malign gods they worship, and Xunen homed in on this drow to bring the might of his faith to bear. Bjorngrim first grasped the log pinning his companions and mightily threw it aside while the bard sang courage into their bones. River and Alyia began to throw ranged fire at the drow, arrows in Alyia’s case and literal fire in River’s. The two trolls that had been hiding in the trees again dropped to the ground, but by this time the drow were fairly deceased, and the entire party was able to join the battle, including the still weak Beleg and Sloane. After burning the bodies upon a suggestion made by Alyia after noting it had been done before as part of Nallsaga, 800 years gone.

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Fleeing the Drow...Again

With morning, Beleg tried to track down the horses, in hopes that they could escape faster with mounts. Unfortunately, the Drow had continued to harass the horses until they had run far away from the party, and eventually they had to give up on the pursuit. Returning to the trade road, little more than a couple of wagon ruts wending through the forest, the group made their way South in hopes that eventually they would be free of the Drow pursuit.

After many hours of walking, Alyia noticed shadows tailing them in through the woods, and hurried the party forward to catch up with Beleg and Sloane who were scouting to the front. The party scurried into the trees to look for someplace to hide, but Bjarngrim, who was terrible at stealth plunged forward to face their antagonists, followed closely by Xunanein. They managed to momentarily surprise the Drow, and a battle ensued with Bjarngrim and Xunen engaging a handful of Drow while the rest or the party peppered their enemies with arrows and spells from their hiding places. One of the Drow began a loud chant which Xunen knew was a Drow call to battle, letting any other Drow within earshot know that the prey was weak and wounded and easy prey. River summoned a huge Bat to their aid, and the creature began tearing into the Drow doing terrible wounds to them. Alyia sang battle support and gave them a boost to their courage, but then Bjarngrim was stabbed by a Drow blade, and the poisons upon it knock him unconscious. Xunen suddenly found himself assaulted by three of his opponents at once, and was almost slain before the arrows and explosive bullets of his companions finally brought his attackers down.

Only a moment of a breather were afforded to them when Drow quarrels from across the road fell among them, wounding Beleg, who fortunately had used his ranger magics to make himself resistant to the Drows’ poisons. Alyia was also brought down by a Drow quarrel and her already not insignificant wounds. River used her druidic poison heals to waken Bjarngrim as Xunen laid hands upon himself and Alyia. With their new-found health, the party plunged into the trees to engage the new threat by the guidance of Beleg’s keen eyes. Beleg’s Drow hatred drove him into a great fury, and he drew his mighty bow full and thrust a shaft completely through (crit) one of the Drows archers pinning him to a tree. That same moment, Bjarngrim charged across road and struck another of the Drow with a blow so great with his Dwarf Axe, the elf was hewn completely in two and the parts of the Drow’s body flung away (crit while using Powerstrike(?) feat). The last of the Drow archers was torched by a fire spell sent upon him River and then struck down while he tried to avoid more of River’s terrible fires.

As the last of the Drow was destroyed, Sloane found herself the target of yet more Drow quarrels from the Southwest. A rumbling spread through the forest coming from the South, and Beleg and Sloane determined that an army’s worth of riders where coming at speed upon them from the South. Rather than trying to engage another wave of the seemingly endless Drow in the forest, the larger of the party members swept up the young boy and the two halflings and ran with them through the forest to the East. When Beleg had determined they had made enough distance to possibly throw off pursuit, River laid a trackless passage upon the three walkers of the party and they fled to the Southeast in hopes of finally losing pursuit. When they could not travel any farther for exhaustion, they found a well protected gully to hide in and spent the night in rest, keeping watch two-by-two.

At dawn, the last two watchers were suddenly disturbed by a droning sound. As they tried to yell their companions awake, they were beset by huge bees as big as dogs. Not being able to reach the bees from the ground, they had to wait until the bees swooped upon them to strike. Only Beleg and Alyia with her bow and River with her sling could attack the bees. Several of the party were stung and poisoned, but their great constitutions managed to keep the poison from doing any harm, and thought he bees swooped down again and again, little damage was done to the party before all the vermin were smashed and lying on the ground.

Wearily, the party threw their traveling gear together and prepared for an unknowable amount of barriers to their escape from the Forest of Cormanthor.

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Investigating the Shipment
forgottenrealms investigating shipment

The party is hired to look into a shipment of goods for a merchant who has not heard from his shipping partner in the expected time. They must travel across the Dalelands to find the merchant in question.

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Defending the Dales
defending dales

The characters meet in the town of Essember during Battlemeet. Drow attacks. Attempts to recover the enslaved.

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