Swords Into Ploughshares
Yet again the party is faced with more agricultural issues, making their lives resemble an episode of the Archers, only with a bit less cake and a lot more gore.
Having tracked down the missing grain convoy to the outskirts of the great Winterbole Forest our heroes soon discover that it has not been hijacked at all, but is simply being deliberately delayed by its owners so the starving population of Hammerfast will be prepared to pay an extortionate price for cargo when it finally does arrive.
Standing in front of them with a smug grin on his face is Vongan Amroth, son of the powerful Fallcrest-based landowner Amros Kamroth, and at his side the tiefling Amara Azaer of House Azaer, the powerful Fallcrest-based trading organisation. Both very powerful, very influential people. Powerful, influential and probably not the sort you want to make enemies out of. Oh yes, and wealthy. That makes it powerful, influential and wealthy; extremely wealthy. All this, and both clutching the documents of ownership, meaning they can do whatever they want with the grain, since it is theirs to do anything they want with.
So all in all, an almost labyrinthine ethical dilemma for the heroes who cannot dismiss from their minds the sights of those sunken-cheeked Dwarven children back in Hammerfast, living off fried dung and boiled worms.
Needless to say, aware of their moral and legal responsibilities, the party take a short while to reason with grain’s rightful owners, with Glaudr doing his best attempt as reasonable oration before deciding that there was really very little point considering that Thorn had learned some new spells she was dying to try out, Mordzan and Madran were already notching arrows and could not even spell ethical dilemma, Makaria could spell it but could not be bothered, Bodin was his usual grumpy self and Benedict was already preparing his latest prayer of justification to Bahamut.
And so, true to form, the grey shaded morality of the situation was turned into something a little more black and white – a welter of swords and arcane power – including the first use of the card of Fate from the Deck of Many Things – that soon had the grain’s rightful owners lying dead in a heap, with the few surviving mercenaries that survived being allowed to leave, as long as they promised to keep quiet about what had gone on. To have slaughtered them was too much for Benedict (but only just).
Searching the bodies the party find a little loot and something more sinister, a medallion hanging from Amroth’s neck bearing the circular symbol of a red dragon devouring its own tail. The Religious experts can’t fully identify it, although its evil nature is clear.
It is soon apparent that the heroes are not the only thieves in the forest, as they find themselves surrounded by the notorious Wolfrunner bandits, led by the rather witty and world weary Sylish Kreed, who offers the party various deals over the selling of the grain in order to avoid bloodshed – a pretty forlorn hope all things considered, and yet again the forest glade is turned into a bloodbath.
This time the fight is more in the balance, as Kreed reveals his lycanthropic nature while his well organised allies launch a coordinated assault on the party – with wolves and dire wolves, a tiefling mage and a detachment of longbowmen.
Thorn almost falls under a savage assault by wolves before a fireball buys her some time, Mordzan at last meets his match as the longbowmen pick him off from his sniper’s hideaway in the branches, dispelling the mist he had cast over the battlefield, then, at the battle’s crisis point, Sylish Kreed himself spots Madran isolated from his allies and charges in with his greatsword, whirling the giant blade around as if it was as light as a twig. Before Madran has a chance to do anything Kreed launches the blade at him four times, each swing with enough force to decapitate a dragon, and misses with each one. An attack of such stultifying incompetence even Kreed is lost for words.
The crisis over, the heroes gain the upper hand as the Wolfrunners disappear into the forest, with Kreed calling on the assistance of some frosty allies to cover his escape in the shape of a pair of tumbling spheres of ice shards, but which are not enough to prevent Glaudr sneaking around and finishing off the leader with a well timed combination of dark sorcery.
Exhausted by all the influential and powerful enemies they have been racking up, the party decide to take an extended rest in the glade, warmed by the fire of the burning bodies of their foes (or getting rid of the evidence, as a less charitable interpretation might suggest), assuming there could not possibly be any dangers left to overcome.
How wrong they were, as they find out the cold allies Kreed had called on were more numerous and powerful than at first imagined, as their camp is attacked by more ice balls controlled by a evil looking witch with a personality as close to absolute zero as you could get.
Just about managing to fend off this latest attack the party finally decide to flee the forest, arming themselves with flaming staves in case they are attacked again.
But this time the forest seems almost keen to be rid of chaos that accompanies our heroes as they escape, exhausted, leading the wagons to the gates of Hammerfast, armed with grain and a cock and bull story about how they found the powerful, wealthy and influential Fallcrestians dead already at the hands of the likely to want revenge Wolfrunners.
Perhaps their lives aren’t quite as Archers-like after all.