The Heroes’ tale begins ! Follow Stu Stonewhisperer, Ulzu Linbin and Anastasia the Great Bear in their adventures trying to help the world fight the giants. Check out the adventure’s index here.
Session 1 – The tragedy of Nightstone
Once more there were we, having the usual drink at the usual place. We always sit at the same table, order the same things and stay for the same amount of time. And there I was, humming a heroes’ song, my hands, thick and strong as all dwarves’, caressing a rhythm on an old leather drum on my hip. The smell of ale and farmers’ sweat filled the place with that homely atmosphere of the local tavern.
Waterdeep has never been a great thing. It just happened to be where we were working right then. It’s kind of odd how many times the townsfolk needed help with wild wolves attacking stock or the classic mischievous goblin wrecking everything in its path. I guess we had it easy around there. Plus, being friends and fighting beside the most popular warrior around had its benefits. But I was running tired of this mercenary stuff. I was born to be a professional smuggler and the only thing on my mind right then was how to steal the amazing horse the goods’ merchant was riding this morning when he arrived, apparently he was staying a night or two and then would be going his way. Unfortunately, my partners did not share those kinds of ambitions. Knowing no one would back me up in my plan, I proceeded to change the subject at our table.
“So, have we got any news?” – I asked, as I stopped with the drum. “Any more goblins to kill?” – I added sarcastically.
“We could go to Nightstone again, Lady Velrosa might need our help once more” -said Ulzu. He always was a nice little fella. What I liked most about this particular hobbit is how luck had its way of turning to his side all the time. Clearly, we had lived to tell many battles thanks to this brave tiny warrior.
“Let’s move out, no time to waste” –in contrast to Ulzu’s weak and thin voice, Anastasia´s was that kind of voice you need for a battle cry. She was the strongest woman I knew, stronger than most men even, and she was the hero of Waterdeep. She once saved a whole lot of farmers from burning alive single-handedly, and since then she was basically who you turned to for any serious business around. Like I said, it did have its benefits.
So we were on route to Nightstone once again. Hoping to get as well paid as last time we worked for this Lady. Nobles… they really don’t grasp the real value of gold.
The road was quiet and calm, we had no problem getting to the well-known village of Nightstone. But since the minute we got there, I knew this wasn’t going to be the same old goblin thing.
The drawbridge was down, welcoming anybody, and there was no one taking guard. Not on the ramparts, nor at the base of the portcullis. The three of us started to walk slower, trying to analyze everything before doing anything stupid. We got closer to have a better look and drew our weapons, ready for anything. Right at the drawbridge, we could see the main keep of the village was destroyed, as if someone had attacked it with siege weapons. There were giant rocks near it, some of them were part of the same structure that collapsed, but some others clearly weren’t. The whole left tower of the fort was gone, and if there had been any people on the top floor when all this happened they had probably died. And from our side, you could hear bell tolls from the other side of the walls.
Once inside, we noticed that the bell at the top of the church was the one chiming, the weird thing was that it simply would not stop, and it didn’t take long to drive us impatient and persuade us to go check the place. However, it also called our attention to see the village completely empty, there was not a single soul in sight, and so far we had not seen any sign of fights, blood or violence. So the church was the way to go, as we had the hope of finding someone sounding the bell as a sign of help, or at least that’s what we had hoped for. It figured the culprits were a pair of goblins with nothing to do but wreck things. We took care of them and proceeded to check every building individually to see if there were more of them.
It took about an hour or two but we killed nearly a dozen of goblins and a couple of wargs. We found them scattered all over the place so not having to face the lot of them together was the key to success. I’ve always said battles are won with brains, not strains. Having taken the time to see all the place closely we saw that not only the keep had been damaged. You could only see half the inn for a giant rock had crushed the other half. Some houses had disappeared under the huge boulders and some crops had had the misfortune of having multiple elephant sized rocks roll on straight lines over them, leaving paths of mashed vegetables. Plus, the goblins invaded most of the structures and they made very clear they were there. However, there were a few places intact, from the attack as well as the vermin.
I stopped beside one of those rocks and compared its height to mine. I didn’t say a word to my mates nor I stayed standing there for long, for the sight of a rock twice my size landing on my head wasn’t pleasing at all. The rock had left a path behind it. One of those worms of dirt with soon to be spoiled food on the ground led to the center of the town. The road stopped in an abrupt crater in the center of many crops. One would’ve thought that crater was the hole left by one of those giant boulders like the rest around town, but when I got closer, I noticed the hole and the path left by the rock were not connected, they just appeared to be from the angle I was walking from. So I started to ask myself the nature of that hole. There were no prints of creatures so big who could’ve moved around throwing rocks and picking them again from the ground.
Anastasia came closer to analyze the place with her half-elf eyes and said: “This is no hole left by a rock that fell here, this is a hole left by a rock that was here, and now it’s not.” – She stopped looking and the crater and called Ulzu who was about 20 meters away. Once together she explained: “This town is known by its name because of the rock that lied here. This was the Nightstone. A black giant rock with magical runes inscribed all around it. This poor people have all lost their identity, we have to help them, this outrage can’t go unpunished!” – She was very upset, and I knew why. These lands were her life, everybody knew who she was around here and she wasn’t going to let this happen, we were going to get to the bottom of this.
We saved the inn and the keep for last. The first one was alright if it hadn’t been for its buried half. And we actually found a survivor, Kella Darkhope, a woman who said she was a monk. She seemed a little dazzled and tired so she followed us to the main keep. We proceeded to look for any survivors or more people hiding. When we got to what would have been the main hall, we saw four guards around a body. It was a lady’s body laying on a dining table, the four men in armor had grim and sour faces. We were told that was Lady Velrosa Nanda, the leader of Nightstone, she had perished when the keep collapsed. After covering her mutilated body and placing it somewhere more appropriate the guards told us what had happened.
The night before we arrived, the town had giants hovering on a flying castle throw rocks at them from the sky. That is how I would put it in a few words. They had no chance to defend themselves and all they could do was try to find some refuge or hope not to get hit by the death rain, and pray for it to end. The guards explained that most of the villagers fled to a cave, north of the traveling road, and that the absence of people probably explained the presence of goblins. We decided, and by that I mean Anastasia and me, that it was best to look for any other survivors and organize a scout party to go get the people who fled.
We gathered at the spot of the missing Nightstone. There were four of us considering Kella Darkhope, seven guards (two of them injured), and a half dozen of farmers. Ulzu suggested to send a pair of guards and villagers get the rest of the people while we tended the injured and made camp in case something happened. So we stayed. The other guards told us the cave is about an hour from here, so we thought everybody would be back by sunset. By nightfall, we were still waiting for them. It was already dark and there was no moon. We thought best to sleep and get some rest rather than roaming in the dark looking for people in a cave.
A big surprise greeted us at sunrise, as we proceeded to have breakfast and part for the missing villagers, we were interrupted by shouts outside the gate, someone was demanding entrance. Eight armored men mounted on tough brown and black horses were outside. Kella Darkhope knew these men and she told us they were here to help, so we lowered the drawbridge for them. Once inside, the soldiers stayed sit and their leader stood in the middle of everybody. We didn’t even have our armors on, nor had we taken a bite. So with such ease, they all surrounded us and their leader spoke: “My name is Xolkin Alassandar, we heard about the Nightstone tragedy, we have come to take the town, in name of the Zentharim, surrender, and leave or fight, and die.” – This lad had no doubts in what he was saying, his plate armor spoke for itself shining with the morning sun, blinding our chances of victory, they had horses and we were not ready to fight. In that moment, Kella Darkhope walked towards the Zentharim, said something to the leader and stood beside them, staring at us with a mocking evil grin. That blasted woman was one of them all along. So we were outnumbered now, we had to talk it out. I stepped in and convinced the Zentharim to let us finish our food and grab our gear, there was no need to fight after the giant’s attack, and our intention was to find the villagers in the cave. They accepted. As we were leaving they hadn’t made camp yet, but their horses were at the stable. They were on foot, but some of them had bows and they would not let their guard down. It wasn’t the time for foolish thinking and hero crap.
As much as Anastasia wanted to tear off that guy’s chin with her bare hands, we knew we had to leave, regroup with the rest of the town, go back to Waterdeep and get some backup. We all left, including the guards and the farmers. We were already thinking on going right to the cave, but right outside the gate, we noticed a bunch of orcs some two hundred feet away. They were jumping to the moat, and taking advantage of part of the wall with a big whole, one by one they were getting into the town. They also saw us, hesitated for a second, but our farmers ran back inside the gate, so the orcs didn’t stop jumping to the water. We counted about twenty orcs.
We knew they had seen us, and if the Zentharim were taken down, the orcs would look for us and… Anastasia was already going back, she knew we had to fight the orcs along the Zentharim so we could live. Plus, she wasn’t going to let those farmers die. Four of the guards with us wanted to fight for their home too, they didn’t want it ravaged by orcs, Nightstone had had enough.
Back inside, we had just finished shouting about the orcs to Xolkin when some of them started to arrive. They were wielding big axes, a few of them had bows, they had an orc shaman with a lizard skull for a helmet, and their leader, the biggest and strongest of them, yelled a battle cry at his comrades. They all charged while some more orcs still approached the battlefield.
It was clear for the Zentharim too that we had to join forces if we were to come out of this alive. Xolkin shouted some orders and three of his men stayed back to shoot arrows. Two of our guards did that as well. We stayed between two buildings to reduce the number of enemies in front.
Anastasia, Xolkin and the six men held the front while Ulzu and me worked with the five men behind. Kella formed part of the artillery too.
The blodshed began. Xolkin was surrounded by his men, they did have their loyalty. Axes and swords clashed in a storm of bloody iron blows. Orcs were savage, fearless beasts branding their weapons like demons, shouting and intimidating their opponents. Their leader stayed back shouting orders, commanding the horde. While more orcs got to the fight.
The first head flew away courtesy of Anastasia, a swing of her great axe was enough to cut off the head of an orc with no brains to fight well. Xolkin had two swords, and he knew well how to wield them. He had no problem dispatching his first adversary. He was swift, quick as a hare. The Zentharim didn’t have their leader’s skill, one of them fell on the first rush. The other three Zentharim did their best to hold the line and cover Xolkin.
I had to do my part, Anastasia the Great Bear couldn’t do this alone. Tales and songs have some hidden magic, I have a knack for convincing people we’ll win. I cried: “Anastasia! This is your land! Show them what you’re made of!” – Great warriors need a motivation boost to keep their minds on the fight, and she did just that. Sometimes it seemed like she had lost it, screaming and panting heavily, I thought any minute we would be her targets too.
Ulzu handled the battle from a different perspective. In other words, he concentrated more on us than the enemies. He was a follower of Tymora, the Goddess of Trickery. He was good with probabilities so he covered my dwarven ass with some magical holy prayer. It actually worked as an invisible probability shield saved my arm from amputation. At least that’s how I’ve always seen it. Kella started to shoot bolts and our archers helped with the first orcs in line. We still counted about two dozen orcs.
The orcs were not intimidated by the death of a few of them. They still outnumbered us. They shot arrows, swinged their axes, one of our guards fell. The leader took a step forward, trying to break our line. The shaman shouted some orc crap, moving his hands in strange magical ways, like I said… orc crap.
An arrow got me, but I stood my ground. No dwarf would be beaten with a single arrow. The Great Bear fought like a tireless animal, severing body parts and cutting orcs in half, she could handle five or six enemies at a time and still hold them off. Ulzu tended to the wounded. He had some sort of divine powers. He helped one of the Zentharim who was hurt, the other guard had died. Xolkin made use of his two swords to feint his foe while his men got two more orcs. They were trying to push back their enemies. We had the skill but they had the numbers, we were still outnumbered almost two to one.
I knew we had to get rid of their leader. I had to let that orc chieftain know he would not win this battle just as I made the opposite clear for the Great Bear. So I looked at that piece of cur and with a whispered verse, I made him believe that that was going to be the last battle of his wretched life. He seemed puzzled as he looked around and took a few steps back just before turning his back on us and move away from the fray of battle in a cowardly manner. I had done it! Some of his orcs thought he was fleeing and they hesitated for a second. That split second was the end for half a dozen of them, Anastasia was finishing her fifth adversary by the time Xolkin thrusted both his swords in two different orcs, killing the two of them. Our artillery, followed by Ulzu’s sacred fire, took this chance to shoot the shaman, who had no way of avoiding the arrows and died.
By this point the battle was now pretty even, we had killed the half of them. The orc leader came back to his senses and knew I had been the one responsible for his humiliating behavior. He pointed at me, shouted an order with an orc roar and he charged in a straight line to me. Anastasia noticed and was ready to step in his way, she dodged the first blow, then the two of them fought as savage boars, ignoring their wounds, concentrating in nothing but their desire to kill each other. If it had not been for her, I would’ve had to live with the fact of having no right arm, or left leg. I was no match for that orc. But I couldn’t let the Great Bear get flanked, she had enough on her hands with the chieftain so I stood beside her, and with a swing of my hammer I hit one orc who staggered back for a second and then came back at me with fury while another tried to snatch my hammer from my hands. I wasn’t able to block the attack and got hit right on the shoulder, I thought my arm was about to come off and fell to the ground, breathless.
Ulzu came quickly to my rescue, dodging two attacks in order to get to me, I guess being that small helps in these kind of situations. With a swift but powerful prayer, he brought my vigor back, I felt my wound seal close thanks to the warmth of holy magic. Ulzu and two soldiers covered me while I got on my feet again. The Zentharim lost one more man but got to kill two more orcs. Our archers did their best to help Anastasia, shooting at the rest of the orcs while she kept the leader busy. I didn’t think even Xolkin could’ve been able to fight that orc, despite his ambidexterity. Kella shot one orc right between the eyes. At the same time one of the Nightstone guards was cut nearly in half.
Another orc tried to get Anastasia but Ulzu and I got to him first. A few more arrows flied and another pair of orcs died. A guard of ours felt brave enough to help the Great Bear fight the orc leader and ended up with no head. The three Zentharim left and their leader killed another foe. We were tired and losing men too, and just as I was about to think of a way to escape, I heard the most satisfying sound in the world. The victory growl as warrior cries for the final blow in a battle. All decent fighters know what the final blow will be and they let the world know it. The Great Bear Anastasia growled with all her lungs while she swinged her axe down, the orc tried to parry the attack but the strength of the blow was such that his arms bent inwards, allowing the edge of the axe to disfigure his face. Blood splashed everywhere. With another swing, her foe now blinded, she finished off her opponent.
The moment the leader fell, the rest of the orcs cried in anguish, they knew it was over. A pair of them still felt fearless enough to fight and got one of the Zentharim, but then died, the others started to flee. Anastasia went running after one of them and killed it, our archers did their job and it wasn’t hard for us to get them and secure the place once more.
When the battle was finally over, the Zentharim were hurt and they had lost four men. We had lost two of the guards from the village and were also exhausted. There wasn’t much to be said, we had already agreed on leaving the place and the Zentharim stayed. Our plan was still to regroup at Waterdeep with the rest of the townsfolk and organize the retaking of Nightstone.
As I said before, this was clearly not the usual goblin gig. What didn’t make sense was the reason for the giants to become hostile that way. We were going to be able to gather some information once we got back to Waterdeep. I guess the life of a hero always starts with a basic goblin pest problem, which turns out to be the beginning of an epic journey.
My name is Stu Stonewhisperer, and I shall write the songs and tales that will change the world.