Thursday, February 29, 2024

Three Worlds #3

photo by Stefan Thüngen

When they had rested from their travels, our heroes decided to explore the cave known as the Salt Cauldron Tunnel across the canyon, on the belief that it too may contain a chamber of magic which will give them more clues on the nature of the cave which they had explored.

And so Arwin, Kargen, and Mala (see PC profiles here) undertook the journey across the stone bridge across the River of Hiad and up the slot canyon known as the Laughing Devil Trail (for the eerie sound the wind made when it blew through the canyon). It was close to sunset when they arrived at the end of the canyon and at the foot of the path which led to the cave, but wary of spending a night out in the open, the party elected to continue on.

The path led to the entrance of the cave, and when Mala entered it he was attacked by a black mountain lion which had made the place its lair. Arwin slew the lion with a bolt from his crossbow, but Mala was much weakened from the attack.

Exploring the first chamber of the cave, they found two paths leading from it: one led downwards to the east, while another, some ten feet from the ground, was a tunnel which, from the salt left on the ground, was the tunnel which led to the salt lake which the orcs of old harvested salt from.

Despite their weariness, our heroes decided to press on. They entered the narrow tunnel, which was so narrow that they had to crawl on fours. For more than an hour they crawled upwards, until their lantern went out and they had to carry on in pitch darkness, until at last they could see the light of the moon at the end of the tunnel. Them making themselves as comfortable as they could in the confines of the tunnel, they laid down to sleep.

The next morning our heroes awoke and exited the tunnel. They found themselves looking down at a round valley some three miles across. At the floor of the valley was a salt lake a mile long and half a mile wide. A trail led from the tunnel to the shore of the salt lake, which was covered by a crust of rock salt.

Our heroes walked to the floor of the valley and explored the salt lake, but except for some signs of salt harvesting from a long time ago, they found little of interest. The resolved to return to the fort, but unwilling to endure the crawl through the tunnel again, they planned to climb over the mountain on the far side of the valley instead.

When they reached the foot of the mountain at the far side of the valley, they noticed a cave opening some 20 feet from the floor of the valley. Mala once more entered the cave to reconnoiter, and to his surprise found the "manticore" asleep inside!

Mala made his way out of the cave silently, and together the trio hatched plan to smoke the manticore out of its lair by setting their bedrolls on fire, setting a rope across the mouth of the cave to entangle it when it fled out, and Arwin would shoot it with his crossbow.

The party put their plan into action, but when Mala attempted to set the bedrolls alight the striking of the flint woke the manticore. As the bedrolls caught fire the manticore let out a roar and charged through the flames, knocking Mala down as it sped towards the cave opening. Arwin let fly his bolt but missed. The manticore ran into the rope stretched across the opening of the cave, one end of which was anchored by a grappling hook to the side of the mountain, and the other end held by Kargen; the force of impact ripped the grappling hook off the rocks, and threw Kargen to the ground.

The manticore took to the sky, while our heroes retreated inside the cave, expecting the manticore to turn and attack, but it flew eastwards over the mountain and disappeared from their view.

Wounded and low on supplies, our heroes had little choice but to continue their journey back, and in the evening they arrived at the fort hungry and tired. Based on their testimony, Captain Mossak decided to move Jorrus from the pit in the courtyard and placed him under guard in the dormitory instead.

During the time they were gone another caravan had arrived at Fort Davelmag, escorted by four Plains Orcs. Despite the news of recent events, the merchant nevertheless decided to set off the next day as planned. This proved to be disastrous as the four orcs would return the evening after with news that the manticore attacked their encampment at night, slew the merchant and their mules, and they had to flee with nothing but their weapons and the clothes on their backs.

Captain Mossak then despatched a few guards, our heroes, and the orcs to return to the campsite to investigate. There they found the bodies of the mules and the merchants eaten by coyotes, and the food, furs, and tools looted, leaving behind the silver and iron ingots which the merchant carried. The orcs declared that they would bring the body of the merchant back to his family, taking the silver for their labour.

The next morning the orcs and the guards set off for the fort, while our heroes, accompanied by Gad, followed the trail of the looters, which led down to the canyon floor, across the river (which there ran as shallow rapids), and up the opposite slope of the canyon. The trail led to a spur of the mountain which was raised above the surrounding like a promontory. At the end of the promontory was a high tower, which our heroes could not determine if it was natural or man-made.

Arwin tried to make his way to the tower long the steep-sided spur, but he found that orcs had built a low wall of stones across it, and when he got near they shot arrows at him.

With the orcs unwilling to communicate, our heroes decided to split up, with Gad and Mala staying near the tower to keep an eye on the orcs, while the rest returned to the fort.

Prepping and Running the Game

Despite having sufficient time and heads-up to prepare for this session, I made an error in describing the map, missed out a fork, which led the players to choose the courses of action which they did.

It is not an unrecoverable mistake, as I can simply put the room down the other passage which they did not explore, but it did lead back to the discussion of Blorb Principles about which I had a discussion with my friend Steve the week before.

My mistake had kind of accelerated the development of the plot of the campaign, but it being organic, I am happy to live with the consequences. I am quite curious to see how my players will deal with the situation which they have found.

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