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Ariana, Hloomawl, Mikael, Nayla, and Nesta had cleared out the ghouls from the first part of the ruined crypt, and were ready to open the door - that had been barricaded from the outside, and behind which was something whose stench overpowered even the ghouls - leading into an inner chamber.

Hloomawl opened the door. Beyond was a gigantic agglomeration of rotten corpses, with four eyestalks and two long, wavering tentacles made of melted-together bodies. The eyestalks looked at the adventurers and approximately a quarter of the party's hit points promptly fell off.

Ariana slammed the door shut.

What followed was a quick discussion of 'how can we possibly beat that thing' along with 'we can't just pipe alchemist's fire into the room, there's evidence of something valuable but combustible' along with (in a private aside to the GM) 'wait, just what were Kromm and Peter smoking when they came up with the Eye of Death, there's no attack roll, that's just mean '. The PCs re-barricaded the door (barely managing to do so before the monster smashed its way past them), went back up to the army outside, scrounged up some healing potions and alchemist's fire, had Ariana prepare some Holy Water with a hastily-learned prayer, and set up to haul the barricades out of the way with ropes and ambush the creature when it smashed its way out.

Session4a

This met with limited success: neither the thrown holy water nor the alchemist's fire was on target, but fortunately Nayla is a deadeye archer and managed to take out one of the eyes right away. Hloomawl and Ariana tried to batter at the creature's torso but ran into difficulties after being grappled by the tentacle arms; Mikael and Nesta both slashed and shot at it to some effect, and it eventually fell because, frankly, they just plain beat it to death.

If there's an MVP for this scene it's Nayla, with 4/5 shots killing eyestalks. Hloomawl did truly significant damage to the creature's body, and Ariana, Nesta, and Mikael all did their part, but neutralizing the eyes at the rate Nayla did probably kept the adventuring party from getting much more seriously hurt than they did. Hloomawl also gets special mention for being a giant mountain of unhurtable defense: it even tried to run him over, unsuccessfully, despite being more than twice his size.

With the creature destroyed, we investigated the inner chamber. A temple sanctum, again long since ruined, defaced, and set on fire - but several fragments of books survived the ruin, and that was enough that PCs could study them to learn Dabbler perks for Religious Ritual, Thaumatology, Theology, and Occultism. Ariana picked up Religious Ritual and Theology; Nesta picked up the other two skills.

The group then decided to start trying to track down the Tzavarim refugees in the woods. This... didn't go well. Mikael's Code of Honor prevented him from simply leading us to them (since he was under orders not to), and we proved unable to track them down on our own. After a couple of days of fruitless searching (during which the Adventuring Team timeline caught up to the army team), we finally convinced Mikael to take us there after discovering the Tzavarim druids helping the army.

Negotiations with the Tzavarim elder went reasonably well: He initially wanted nothing to do with us, but the combination of our dogged persistence coupled with the threat of orc reprisals convinced him to negotiate. His initial ask was 'the entire peninsula south of the Stineyer Hills' (an unpalatable choice for the PCs from a moral and logistical perspective), and eventually settled for our promising the heartland of the woods and the southern coast as lands for the Tzavarim to settle without interference from the humans. This ensures we can raise one element of Tzavarim support mages each month from the region.

With negotiations concluded on March 27th, we shifted focus to the team in the field with the army. With two orcish garrisons remaining in the area, and the remnant of the force that had been holding Harbuck still to the north, Aisling recommended that we split the armies once again: this time with her leading a force to chase down the Harbuck garrison while Trahaern and Himmel marched on the fortress of Swartun with the bulk of our forces.

Aisling misjudged things here: she expected the fortress to be a tougher nut to crack, but it turned out to have 20 orcs guarding it. That misjudgement became an issue later. The fortress to the north sent its entire garrison out to try to beat the Resistance army there, but Greex once again proved valuable and the orcs were ambushed and slaughtered before they could make the walls.

Taking the fortress was a similarly one-sided affair: Somehow Greex managed to arrange an ambush despite the orcs playing a home game (either we snuck right up to the walls, or snuck a force in a gate pretending to be kobolds who worked there, or... something) and Trahaern's force crushed the opposition, holding the fort within an hour.

Session4c

Meanwhile Aisling's detached force went to a forced march to catch up with the Harbuck detachment before it could make the walls (though really, it might have been better to let them get there and discover their fort full of humans). She managed to push them into a surprise encounter battle (winning the recon contest by 8) and got the unpleasant surprise that even with twice as many humans as there were orcs, the orcs enjoyed a significant troop strength advantage and some pretty serious class bonuses. Fortunately, Aisling has a wide and deep bag of tricks for the battlefield: with Gifted Commander (Impetuous, Cunning, and Infantry Commander), and the right mix of troops to take advantage of it, she's got a lot of bonuses that stack well with each other. Ultimately, this came out to near-parity: the orcs' class bonuses and higher troop strength against Aisling's gifted commander bonuses and correct tactical choices.

If Aisling had realized just how weak the orcs in the fortresses were, she'd have brought a lot more troops, and could have crushed them here. As it is, the orcs were driven into retreat with ~20% casualties in exchange for only light losses among the Resistance forces. At the end of the session, the Resistance controlled Harbuck, Swartun, and Trones along with the surrounding areas. The Resistance leaders will need to make some decisions this week about where to go next, and what to do with the territory they've captured, since they have two directions they can go and they honestly probably need a much better army to defeat the orcs.

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