Tuesday, 22 October 2013

The Tale of Lonelywood - Icewind Dale campaign

I have been remiss in posting the final player write-up of our Wednesday night adventures in Icewind Dale. This chapter covers about two sessions of play and wrap up what was a very enjoyable mini campaign.

The Tale of Lonelywood

The region of Icewind dale where you can find Lonelywood.
Look north of the Spine of the World. The land of Icewind Dale lies west of the Reghed Glacier and east of the Sea of Moving Ice. Cold and snow covered even in the midst of summer, it is a harsh land.

Move in closer.

The Ten Towns are gathered around the skirts of Kelvin’s Cairn. Look to the northernmost town. Lonelywood, sheltered from the bitterly cold northern winds by the pine forest that shares its name. Established but recently in the years of men, it is the northernmost outpost of “civilisation”. The barbarians who used to freely call this land theirs were in an uneasy alliance. An alliance some would like to break …

Four heroes had rescued a handful of gnomes from their invaded burrow Klinderstone, killing the ogres and priestess of the Ice Maiden Auril in the process.
  • Jon, a human (Luskan) warrior.
  • Leif, a halfling fighter.
  • Power Aide, a human priest.
  • Sprite Zero, a gnome mage.

Events in town

With the spoils of their victory, and a reward from the grateful survivors, the heroes had declared “drinks are on us!” The town was slowly recovering from the resulting extended celebration.

Quin, the halfling priest of Waukeen, approached the heroes.  He was worried about the closure of the only road out of Lonelywood. Bremen’s Run headed south, along the eastern shore of the Mael Dualdon, to Termalaine. There had been caravans or travellers from that direction in the last few weeks. And the few who had tried going south had been ambushed by barbarians of the bear and wolf tribe.  Their valuables had been taken, and they had been ordered to return to Lonelywood. No one had been killed to his knowledge though.

Quin was concerned the barbarians wished a return to war, to try and retake their ancestral lands.  The recent troubles from a year ago were still fresh in many people’s minds.  It rankled with some that the barbarians had been given the town of Bremen.  But none were prepared to take up arms against the barbarians.

From what Quin had gathered, they had set up camp around an old mead hall. There were two tribes present, bear and wolf. Reports varied wildly, but it appeared there were at least ten warriors of each tribe.

Quin was also worried about what the mayor was doing. Like many of the townsfolk, he did not really like the major.  He believed the man made himself rich by sustaining a monopoly on trade, and did not have the town’s best interests at heart.  A few days earlier a man with an eye patch came to Lonelywood.  The major claimed he was an ambassador sent to talk to the barbarians, but to Quin he looked too much like a hardened warrior; an assassin. He had left two days earlier.  Beyond that the mayor seemed to be doing nothing. He had locked himself in his house, set his mercenaries as guards, and wasn’t seeing anyone. Leif and Power Aide started throwing around some of their typical ideas. Force the mayor to help by kidnapping his daughter. Set fire to things. Jon was disgusted. Quin was shocked.

The heroes agreed to go and look, and talk to the barbarians to ascertain their motives.  When Quin was asked he agreed to join them, agreeing that someone representing the townsfolk should be present. 

On a boat

Jon suggested taking a boat, that way if there was immediate trouble they could simply row away from it. Young Jed’s boat was duly made ready, and in an icy rain they set off.  It rapidly became obvious that most of those on board had never steppe doff dry land before. Quin, Power Aide, Sprite Zero and Leif all became seasick. Jon however was happy. Fortunately it wasn’t that far down the shore. The Lonely Wood slowly thinned out until there was nothing but small windswept bushes and the occasional boulder to break the wind.

The boat was beached when they saw the mead hall, a vague blur through the rain.  Jed stayed with the boat as they stepped onto shore.  Moving away from the lake, details became apparent.  There was a palisade around the mead hall, and several large tents within the walls.  Thin trails of smoke rose from many, to be whisked away by the wind.
Barbarian Camp

Barbarian Camp

A huge dead tree stood just outside the walls of the palisade.  Crows braved the weather to sit in its upper branches and occasionally flutter down to something on the side of the tree.

Jon raised his voice and hailed the camp. Armed guards appeared immediately. The five were polite, and spoke firmly. They wished to talk. To discuss the bear and wolf tribes’ actions and see what could be done. Agnar, a member of the wolf tribe, led the guards.  He named their leader Tormund Giant Bane. Tormund was from the bear tribe.  His tribe, the wolf, were there because their leader, Hjollander, wanted to assist Tormund.

Agnar deliberately took them past the old dead tree.  A body was crucified there. It was largely unrecognisable after the crows had worked at it for a few days, but its eye patch was visible.

They passed into the palisade.  Eight large tents were visible.  They were taken to the mead hall, where they were required to leave all weapons at the door.  An ancient custom, they were told, forbade any wearing weapons in the presence of their leader except his personal guard.

Inside the hall there were obviously three groups present.  The bear tribe sat along one bench, the wolf another.  And a third bench was centred around an older man, later identified as the tribal priest Beorning, a follower of Tempus.  A large bear stood behind the bear tribe.
Tormund - leader of the bear tribe

Negotiations

Tormund was initially hostile. The heroes did nothing to threaten him at first, merely reiterated that they had come from Lonelywood to talk.  To find out why he was attacking travellers and what he wanted. This got an immediate response. Tormund spoke, passionately if wildly about reclaiming the ancestral lands of his people.  When asked why he did not say so, why he chose to attack, he used an analogy of why would you reason with a swarm of insects. He agreed to talk the next day, and offered hospitality that night.

Tormund also brought up the dead man on the tree outside. He claimed the man had tried to assassinate him.  And threatened them with the same fate if they tried as well.  Jon got offended at being called an assassin, but restrained himself from starting a fight.  He did lock eyes with Tormund and angrily ask was Tormund accusing him.  Tormund dropped his gaze first.

Jon offered to tell a story, accompanied by images after the initial platters of food had been devoured.  He narrated, and Sprite Zero created the illusions.  It was well received, and the feasting continued.  Quin, suffering from the boat voyage and starting to shiver from chills retired to a tent to sleep.
Hjollander - leader of the wolf tribe
Hjollander was observed talking to Tormund’s daughter Gyda.  She was a strong, handsome young woman, and he was obviously smitten with her.  But equally obviously he had no skill in talking to women, and she was largely ignoring him.  It was painful to watch
Gyda can hold her own on the battlefield
But they had learnt of a potential way of manipulating the situation.  If they could get Gyda to notice and appreciate Hjollander, they would have an ally.  Leif befriended Gyda’s handmaiden, a slighter girl. Where Gyda looked like she would be comfortable on a battlefield, the handmaiden looked comfortable holding a needle and thread.  Leif learnt that Gyda enjoyed poetry and well-made jewellery.

Jon continued drinking, to the point where he got into a wrestling match with the bear when it tried to take food off his plate. He lost, but it didn’t claw at him, merely pushed him to the ground.

A series of odd requests

Hours later, after all had retired for the night, the heroes were woken.  A group of barbarians entered the hall, led by a man they had not seen before.  Floki offered them a way to save Lonelywood.  He stated that Beorning, the priest of Tempus, was not well liked.  He followed a foreign god, not worshipping the spirit of bear or wolf as would be appropriate.  And he spent a lot of time in the Ten Towns. In short, he was not trusted.  And there had been several assassination attempts on Tormund. Floki wanted the group to stand up and state that they knew of Beorning. That they had heard of him or seen him, and knew him to be behind at least one of the attempts.  Then, after Tormund removed Beorning, he would be in debt to the heroes.  A debt they could call upon to save Lonelywood.

After Floki left they talked it over.  Jon stated he would not do it.  Not only did he not trust that Floki might have been setting them up, he wouldn’t be part of getting a man killed by lying like that.  But he wouldn’t stop the others from doing so if they wanted to. Leif and the others considered it. They were still considering the next morning. So they had a conversation with Agnar.  

It was obvious by then that Agnar wasn’t personally interested in Tormund’s grand plan of rekindling a war to reclaim any ancestral lands.  The situation became a bit clearer when they asked about one of Tormund’s tattoos, shared by Floki and all his personal guard.  It was of a man wreathed in flames.  Agnar described it as a tattoo symbolic of those who followed the tenets of the barbarian war leader who had ignited the war a year earlier. They asked him about Floki and Beorning. They learnt Floki was Tormund’s right-hand.  It was he whom Tormund turned to, to get things done, especially potentially unpalatable things.  Conversely, Agnar seemed to have a lot of respect for Beorning.  The priest had leapt into battle on many occasions, saving individuals with weapon and spell.

This didn’t help clear up anything.  So Jon outright told Agnar of Floki’s offer, and asked what it might mean.  Agnar shrugged and replied politics. Tormund might put on a face of loyalty to his priest, but in reality he did not like anyone who could challenge his authority.

Agnar then asked the heroes for a favour.  His leader Hjollander had come up with a plan to impress Gyda.  He wanted the heroes to kidnap her, so he could then stage a rescue.  Jon laughed out loud and refused immediately.  They sent Agnar back to try and tell Hjollander, politely, the plan was stupid.

Leif did reveal some of what the handmaiden had mentioned, saying that Gyda liked poetry.  Hjollander, flustered, asked the heroes to create some.  They did.  It was awful.  Hjollander took it anyway.

Then the time came for council.  Hjollander had a black eye and Gyda was studiously ignoring him.

The council did not last long.  Tormund was adamant the lands were his by right, and that everyone else should leave.  Or he would kill them all.  He only wavered from that position when he decided to allow the villagers of Lonelywood to leave. They would have but two days to pack, and then he expected to see them trudge past his hall as they returned to the towns further south. He ended the council abruptly, ordered the heroes to leave.

Jed had departed some time the previous day, so they started to walk north.  Only an hour or so out of the camp they saw ten men blocking their path, led by Floki. Tormund’s lackey shook his head at them.  If only they had taken his offer, they might have saved their town.  Jon still did not trust Floki.  Why would Tormund have made such an offer?  He might not have wanted Beorning around, but he obviously wanted the settlers of the Ten Towns gone.

Guest rights, what guest rights?

Floki gave no good answer.  He then observed that if the people of Lonelywood didn’t get warning that they had to leave, then they would definitely be killed. Jon lost his temper. Tormund had given them hospitality, and allowed them to leave with a message. To then send killers after them was a gross breach of honour.
Jon attacked. Sprite Zero sent in his two ferrets, one real, one less so. Battle was joined.

And to Floki’s surprise, it was very one-sided.  Within minutes all of his men were killed, and he had been captured, subdued by Leif violently driving his axe hilt into his groin.  None of the heroes had died, although several bore wounds.  Power Aide and Quin fixed them up.

They tied Floki up, and Leif kicked him in the groin again when he wouldn’t cooperate. Jon swung a casual backhand at Leif, who ducked.  Jon demanded there be no torture.  Leif did not understand.  Jon had cut down several of the attackers without mercy.  Jon saw combat, where one was fighting for one’s life, in a very different light to treating a prisoner.  Leif did not.  Jon asked Quin to heal Floki so he could walk back to Lonelywood.  Leif ordered Quin not to.  Jon ordered him to.  Quin started the spell.  Leif tried to disrupt the spell being cast, but Jon blocked him.  However, Power Aide stepped in and broke the spell, saying they needed to save their spells for themselves.  Even though by starting it Quin had already committed the magical energy, so by breaking it he had lost the spell anyway. Quin threw up his hands and walked away. Jon managed to hold his temper, but stalked off in in disgust. They dragged Floki to his feet, tied him up, and forced him to walk back to Lonelywood as a prisoner.

Town meeting

When they got back Quin called a town meeting and presented the situation.  The townsfolk refused to leave, and looked to the heroes.  The major in particular used his charisma to highlight the heroes.  After all, they had killed a group of ogres, how hard could a bunch of barbarians be?  He managed to gloss over the fact the ogres had been largely asleep.  And laughed at the idea the barbarians were more intelligent and could plan. He did say he would take a boat and get help. With his wife and daughter.  And some of the more valuable items from his house. 

Moderately disgusted, the heroes contemplated several methods for punishing the coward.  In the end they went for asking their drow thief companion Szordlin to lighten the mayor’s boat of anything he thought reasonable. Szordlin had a private word with Power Aide after this.  He offered to kill the man, thus guaranteeing he couldn’t escape and keeping all his valuables in town.  Power Aide agreed.

Plans within plans

The planning started. Jon had some idea of challenging Tormund, of calling out his dishonourable behaviour, with Floki supporting him by admitting that Tormund had broken the laws of hospitality.  Floki initially refused to help in any way.  Until they started casually talking about returning his head, unattached to the rest of him. At which time he decided there may be more important things than his loyalty.
The others were less convinced this would work.  So the fortification of the town began, and their defensive strategy.

Szordlin and Emeric the half-elf bowyer were the primary scouts.  Several of the trappers were to back them up, and to set up a lot of snares and a few deadfalls. The trappers task was simply to bring back news of the barbarians’ movements. Szordlin and Emeric were to lure some of the barbarians into the various traps.

Several other ideas were discussed:
  • The wind, rain and climate ruled out using fire as an option.
  • Jon hoped to be able to sow discontent between the wolf and bear tribes.  The wolf clan appeared to be already uncertain of their support.  He planned on calling out Tormund and accusing him of dishonour and lying.
  • Quin offered to cast a spell on the scouts so they were highly resistant to the cold.  That way they could scout unencumbered by bulky fur cloaks, dive into the lake or hide in a snow drift, and so forth.  The spell would last for a long time.
  • The trappers offered to head out and set up snares, deadfalls and other traps within the forest.  Several of them would remain at the edge of the forest.  When the barbarians were seen, they would return at speed.  Others, including Szordlin, would try and lure some of the barbarians into the traps.
  • Sprite Zero asked for a spell of flight from Kiernan.  He would fly out after the scouts return.  He would fly at treetop level, and use the “change self” spell from the scroll to make himself as bird-like as possible.  He proposed attacking the barbarians with the following illusions.
    The first to be an illusion of an undead Floki, his cut throat wide open.  He would point ominously at Tormund, and then attack the barbarians near him.  If the illusion seems to be getting disbelieved, or was being struck too often, it would flickers with a pale blue light, shrink to a mote of light, and whisks away.The second to be a repeat of the first, but from a different direction so it attacked barbarians who hadn’t seen the first one.The third an illusion of Tormund.  It would appear near the bear, then step into sight and attack the bear.  Once the bear was enraged, the illusion would manoeuvre the bear towards Tormund, and then suddenly dive out of sight.  Leaving the enraged bear facing the real Tormund.
  • Jon drew on his naval background and looked at the boats.  He suggested choosing two boats, reinforcing one side of each so it was too thick for arrows to penetrate, and putting 10 or 20 of the militia out in the lake.  When the barbarians arrived, the defenders would sound horns/light fire/whatever.  Or maybe be alerted by a returning Sprite Zero.  The boats would land behind their forces, snipe from behind.  If the barbarians tried to charge them, they would dash back to the boats and cast off, releasing arrows from the cover of the shielded side.
  • Jon even suggested an initial ambush from the boats south of the forest, but they realised they probably wouldn’t have the time.
  • Kiernan admitted to having a fireball spell.  It would obviously work best if the enemy could be guided into an enclosed area.  Given the size of the town, sprawled along the edge of the lake, building a palisade was infeasible.  So they decided to cut down a lot of the tree to form barricades.  Archers could snipe from the forward barricades, then retreat.  Giving away some of the defences, but luring the barbarians into pathways that had been set up by the ways the fallen trees.  Hit them with the fireball when enough get bunched up.  Given that they couldn’t predict exactly where and how the barbarians would attach, there would have to be several potential trap points.  The fireball was to be used against the bear tribe.  If the wolf tribe were in range, Kiernan was to use a different spell, one which would put a lot of them to sleep.
  • Kiernan also had a spell to create a large mass of spider web.  He proposed doing so amongst the standing and/or fallen trees.  They have no real purpose except to make the barbarians more nervous, and add to the funnelling effect described above.
  • Power Aide had ten pints of oil he offered to the cause.  They could by thrown into the area of the fireball, either before or after the spell was used.  Or simply spread at a few certain points where the invaders would be directed, then set off with flaming arrows.
  • The trappers could create more snares and maybe even a deadfall or two in the outer edges of the felled trees, to be set off by pulling on ropes laid under the snow.

A mage to turn the tide

Kiernan had only reluctantly admitted to the heroes he was a mage. He had fled the mage’s order from the cities to the south many years earlier, and didn’t want to be tracked down.  He wanted to keep a low profile.  So the heroes planned to utilise his abilities in such a way that his spells can be cast out of sight of the rest of the townsfolk, to keep his secret.  The webs could be ascribed to Sprite Zero. The spells of flight, sleep and fireball they would put down to potions or scrolls. To cast the fireball or sleep spells, they planned on getting Kiernan into a house overlooking an ambush point.  By himself.  He would cast the spell, and then exit the rear of the building, hopefully all unseen.

The townsfolk threw themselves into work.  Even the children wanted to help in the battle.  Only the older children were asked to participate, as runners to deliver messages.  The women and children also wanted to stitch together a banner for Lonely Wood.  A single green pine tree on a field of white was the image chosen.
Even after the sun set, the preparations continued, so that at any point in time about a third were awake, the rest sleeping.

Murder most foul

Early in the evening there was a commotion from the mayor’s house.  Jon got the people organised in case it was an early attack.  Then they followed Power Aide to the house.  The mayor’s daughter was distraught, being consoled by the mercenaries then Quin.  In the house, the mayor’s wife lay at the foot of the stairs in a pool of blood.  It looked as if she had fallen and struck her head.  Upstairs the mayor’s body was slumped on the chamber pot.  Blood oozed from a hole in his foot.  Quin looked at the body and diagnosed poison.  The hole made by the quarrel was found near an upstairs table.  And there was no sign the wife’s head had struck anything where her body lay. It appeared to all there except Power Aide there was an assassin in Lonelywood. People were told to move around in groups, families were moved in with their neighbours. 

Sabotage

A few hours later Jon and Power Aide were woken again. Leif, unaware of the mayor’s death, had secretly carried out his own plan to keep the man here.  He had sunk all the boats.  Jon and Quin of course assumed it was the same enemy agent.  But with no way of identifying who it was, the only option they had was to get someone who knew their letters to list all the people in town, and then cross off any who could be vouched for in either incident. Fortunately, the boats had only been capsized or sabotaged with a minor hole.  At least were repaired by morning.

An hour after sunrise the heroes and Quin had gathered in the mayor’s house again.  Quin cast a spell to recall the mayor’s spirit.  His spirit lingered only for a short time.  Long enough for Quin to ask two questions.  To the first, they learnt that it was Szordlin who had killed him with a poisoned quarrel.  To the second, the one-eyed assassin had been sent by a coalition of councillors in Targos.  A coalition led by someone he called “the young crow”.

Szordlin was no longer in Lonelywood by then.  He was out with the scouts and trappers.  They agreed to not let the rest of the townsfolk know.  But since they could not trust Szordlin – he was either working for the barbarians or “simply” a murderer – they had to say something.  Sprite Zero suggested that the word should be passed to watch any scout that returned and bring them directly to the leaders, in case they were an enemy concealed behind an illusion.

During the day they talked to Floki.  He was asked what he thought Tormund would do.  When and how he would attack.  Floki mentioned the story they had told him.  How they had defeated the ogres when most were asleep.  Tormund had paid attention.  It was possible he would seek to use the hero’s tactics against them.  Or he might just turn up in the afternoon.

The day passed.  The defences grew stronger.  By nightfall it appeared Floki was right.  Tormund had not attacked during the day. It was just after midnight when the undead rose silently from the water of the lake and slipped into town. The fire of the damned burnt inside them, and their eyes glowed a hellish red. They were the bodies of those slain by the heroes two days earlier. And they headed unerringly towards the one who had slain them. They moved like animals, scuttling on all fours, but with the minds and bodies of men.
Draugr - returned from the dead

Draugr- the frozen dead!

Four burst through the door of the inn, where Jon was sleeping in the common room, with other townsfolk.  Two crawled up the side of the building and entered Power Aide’s room.  Another two tried the same approach with Leif.  The paranoid halfling had secured his window though, so they scratched at the shutters in vain. The last one climbed into Sprite Zero’s room.

They had a moments warning.  A patrolling guard saw the undead moments before they burst in, and raised an alarm.  In the ground floor Jon drew his sword as the townsfolk scuttled back from the horrors.  He yelled to them to grab spears and fence the monsters in.  While he cut at the ones closest to him.

Upstairs, Sprite Zero’s ferret simply knocked the undead back out the window.  It fell to the ground below and its spine snapped.  Sparks flew and flames flickered as the fire within it consumed it.  Leif waited until those the two trying to get into his room had torn down enough of the shutter to try and wriggle in.  When it was partway in, he stepped forward and nearly decapitated it.  It too began to burn from inside.

Power Aide fared less well.  He woke none too quickly, and his first thought was to grab his mace.  He swung, and an undead arm blocked his attack.  Hands twisted into claws tore at him, and he staggered back in pain.  They moaned in anticipation, and the red glow coming from their open mouths revealed their true nature.  Grasping the symbol of his god, he called upon the power of his dark deity.  The two zombies halted, their former loyalty lost.  Subservient to his will, they turned upon each other when he ordered them to do so.  As flames and sparks flickered, he ordered them to throw themselves out the window and finish the fight outside.

Leif had killed the second undead the same way as the first. And downstairs, with a dozen spearmen stabbing at the monsters to keep them in place, or even pin them to the wall, all four had been dispatched. All nine were destroyed. Power Aide was the only one to have taken any serious injuries. Quin healed him.

It felt like only moments later they were woken again. The scouts had returned. The enemy was on the way. Szordlin and Emeric returned. The trapper’s snares had slowed the barbarians, and some had even fallen to one of the deadfalls.
Kiernan and Sprite Zero disappeared for a while. Kiernan returned, nodded to Jon and Quin. Sprite Zero was airborne, and heading off to inflict his own brand of chaos.

Illusions frustrate the horde

He returned half an hour later, flushed with success.  The illusion of Floki had reduced the barbarians’ morale, already lowered by the traps they had encountered.  It had injured several of the barbarians as well.  The illusion of Tormund had worked exactly as planned.  The bear had become enraged, tried to attack the illusion.  It had then been turned to face the real Tormund.  He had tried to calm it down.  It had torn at him.  So he and his loyal followers had cut it down.  Beorning had been forced to use several of his healing spells to restore Tormund.

Now out of spells, Sprite Zero stayed with the women and children as a last line of defence should all else fall.

Jon climbed onto a wagon and addressed the townsfolk, the mercenaries and the other heroes.  He had not planned a speech, but nevertheless managed to inspire them.  With high morale, they turned to the defences.  And waited.

The bear tribe approached along the road, from the south-east.  Beorning led a contingent of warriors along the shore from the south, passing the timber mill. And Hjollander attacked from the east, out of the trees towards the Whistling Gallows Inn.

For an hour the barbarians tried to break through the defences of Lonelywood. The first time they thought they had succeeded, they were met with a fireball.  So they suddenly became a lot more cautious after that.  Hjollander and Tormund fought at the front of their forces, inspiring their followers.  Beorning attempted the same.  However, he had to deal with the archers from the boats attacking his flank.  And then he had to be dragged back to safety by his followers when his arm was broken in the melee.

Duels in the thick of things

Jon, Power Aide, Leif, Quin and Kiernan led the defenders.  Jon took himself to the eastern front.  He called out challenge to Hjollander.  The leader of the wolf tribe accepted.  They traded words first, compliments of true warriors to each other. Jon tried to tell Hjollander of Tormund’s dishonour, but the wolf had sworn to follow the bear.  Hjollander would not take his men and depart.  So they fought. It was short and brutal.  It ended with Hjollander on the ground, but not dead. Jon had turned his sword to strike with the flat of the blade, knocking Hjollander out. Agnar and his warriors dragged their leader away.

With both Hjollander’s forces and Beorning’s taking a more defensive stance, the heroes all gathered to defend the road.  Jon got a clear shot at Tormund with his crossbow, but only managed a glancing blow.

Both Power Aide and Jon took serious wounds fighting in the forefront all the time. They each took a magical healing potion.  One they had found in Klinderstone, the other had been provided by Quin.

The horde breaks

As the sky started to lighten, Tormund assessed his position.  He had lost his two secondary leaders.  His warriors morale was shaken by the traps in the forest, by the vision of Floki, by the fireball, and by the stout-hearted resistance of the “soft” townsfolk.  He called for a retreat.

When Jon and Quin realised, they pressed forward to attack.  The barbarians did not rout, but tried to disengage defensively.  In this the men in the boats were their biggest problem.  They would appear, launch a flight of arrows at the backs of the barbarians, then return to their boats to head further down the coast.

During the retreat, a squad of townsfolk caught up the barbarian group carrying Hjollander.  Agnar turned to hold them back, but was swarmed under.  Before he could be killed, Jon interceded.  He called the townsfolk off, and told Agnar to see to his leader, and to do everything he could to break the alliance between the wolf and the bear.

On another front, Power Aide stepped through the trees to come face to face with a woman warrior in a helm.  He called out a challenge, and she accepted.  It was Gyda.  Power Aide bore several wounds from the battle since he had taken the healing potion, but Gyda was limping from a spear wound to the leg.  They fought. Power Aide utilised his last spell, blinding Gyda with a brilliant light in her eyes. Even blinded she fought on cannily, until Power Aide’s mace smashed through her defences.  He crushed the side of her head.  She died instantly.

A final showdown

Tormund and Jon finally came face to face on the road.  The bear tribe’s leader, enraged beyond endurance by the outcome of the attack, screamed a challenge. Jon accepted. The battle and the retreat stopped, as the warriors and townsfolk watched.  The two traded insults as they circled, struck and parried.  Then Jon stepped in with a low attack, just as Tormund went for a whistling blow at Jon’s head. The black-bladed sword struck Tormund’s leg, shearing through muscle and sinew, shattering the bone.  Tormund’s blow faltered, the axe twisting in the air so that it struck a glancing blow to Jon’s head.  Enough to render him instantly unconscious.

The watchers surged forward, to drag their heroes to safety.  Quin called for a halt to their attack, and the barbarians retreated back to their hall. Their war chest remained behind.  Inside was a considerable amount of coin, and a few miscellaneous items of value.

The townsfolk returned to Lonelywood, elated to be alive.  They had been outnumbered, and the enemy stronger and more skilled.  But they had prevailed, with very few casualties.  And the bear tribe had been badly hurt, up to half their warrior killed or crippled. There were some dead though, and many injured.  The celebrations did not really begin until well into the afternoon.

The group begins to fracture

During the morning, Jon spoke to Quin and the other heroes.  Certain people’s behaviour concerned him.  Szodlin in particular.  The drow had apparently fought well in the battle, so it seemed he was not a spy for the barbarians.  But he had killed the mayor and his wife.  Jon suggested banishment.  Quin and the others agreed.  Szodlin was upset, apparently more with Power Aide that with Jon.  He left angrily.

Jon expressed his suspicion that Power Aide had somehow been involved, but there was no proof.  He also brought up Power Aide’s disturbing tendencies to threaten people with fire, and his apparent callous disregard for others.  This was largely based on several comments made during the preparation for the battle.  Power Aide had thought of plans requiring sacrificing a small number of the townsfolk for tactical advantage.

Jon would have seen Power Aide banished as well.  But Quin came to the priest’s defence.  Power Aide, along with Leif, Sprite Zero and Jon, were seen by the town as heroes.  They would not want their heroes besmirched. Jon backed down. Reluctantly.

Celebration

That evening the mead and ale flowed again.  If the barbarians had returned, they would have found no significant opposition to their attack this time.

Leif woke the next morning with the two gnome women from Klinderstone – Oakleaf and Sarsha - in his bed.  It was only because they remembered as little of the previous night as he that he managed to run away from their demands for marriage.

Jon woke when someone gently kicked him in the ribs.  He was stark naked and freezing, and lying in the temple of Waukeen.  Quin, standing over him, was not impressed.  Jon could not remember why he was there.  He knew Quin had made him annoyed, but couldn’t remember what it was.  Something to do with agreeing with Power Aide?  But the priest was a friend, so it made no sense.

Power Aide was pleased with the change in Jon’s demeanour.  He had drunk with the others for quite a while.  Then an idea had occurred to him.  He had returned to the mayor’s house and taken some of the smaller, more valuable items there. With these spoils of murder, he had prayed hard to his god.  And his god answered.  Jon, and to a lesser extent the others, forgot many of Power Aide’s more evil behaviours.  But his god gave him notice.  In return for this favour, there would come a time when a service would be demanded.

Epilogue

Life in Lonelywood returned to normal over the next few days.  The wolf tribe made cautious contact.  They had severed their alliance with the bear tribe. Tormund had survived, but his leg had been lost.  He and his tribe had gone back to Caer Conig, one of the Ten Towns where the barbarian presence was strong. Beorning had not gone with him.  Instead, he had resumed his wandering, intending to visit the other barbarian tribes and the Ten Towns as he saw fit.
Beorning held no grudge.  The townsfolk had fought valiantly, and as a priest of the god of war that sat well with him.

Tormund of course nursed a deep hatred, for Lonelywood, and for the heroes who had stood against him.

Quin re-established trade with the Ten Towns.  And as the days passed several new arrivals came into town.  The tale of the battle had reached them, and several enterprising families chose to come and live on the frontier.

Leif sent word to his many siblings, cousins and bastard children that he was now lord of a vast and fertile demesne, and that they can all come and live under his protection.  In return for some very minor labour, barely worth mentioning.  In other words, cleaning out Klinderstone, making it habitable for halflings and potentially even building a keep around it.  Planning on being big (metaphorically speaking) and important, he arranged for a stout warhorse to be delivered and trained.  How else could he ride about and look down on all the yokels?

No one knew where the Mayor's stash was.  Quin insisted that the valuables that could be gathered from the Mayor’s house were given to his daughter.  After the cost of a massive party was deducted first.  The Mayor's daughter left Lonelywood
Quin, Leif and Jon all agreed that some of the other potential threats in the area needed investigating if Lonelywood and Klinderstone were to grow.  The Temple of All Consumption, the Tower of Lum the Mad and the Fane of Auril were all mentioned …

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