The group lies in wait for the ambush in a clearing just off the road from Fallcrest to Nexa, weapons readied. peering into the darkness, they see some bandits approaching; 3 with crossbows, 4 with just maces.
As they near, the adventurers’ camp bursts into sudden action. Paladrin leaps to his feet and Fey Steps to one of the bandits, felling him with his Bolstering Strike. Jefsdorf bounds up, Charging but missing the closest enemy. Eradan neatly rights himself and looses two arrows, felling one of the mace-wielding villains, his second arrow sinking into the tree just over another’s head. Korinn unleashes her acidic Dragon’s Breath as she reaches her feet, injuring a more formidable bandit that had been hidden until the party broke cover. As all of the party leaps into action, Derek the Cleric also hops to his feet, but between the quarterstaff and his longbow on his back, he tangles his legs in them, trips, and barely makes it to his feet, immediately drawing the eyes of every enemy. as the battle begins in earnest.
ENCOUNTER 1: 4 bandit minions, 3 bandit minions with crossbows, 3 bandit melee attackers, 1 bandit crossbow user Eradan, not even pausing after his last volley, his arrows sink into the vitals of the two other melee peons and they drop to the forest floor as he hones in on the enemy already covered in Korinn’s acid. Derek, finally getting hit footing, is hit in the shoulder by a crossbow bolt from an enemy that had until then remained hidden. The bandits attack but miss the Fighter and the Paladin, and the latter retaliates, issuing Bahamut’s Challenge as his sword cuts into the second of the formidable bandit fighters. The Elven Cleric issues a powerful prayer and a Divine Glow envelopes the area around Jefsdorf, searing a flanking foe as he falls and injuring the other two while the light illuminates the world for the Dwarf. Derek then gets hit in the gut by another crossbow bolt as yet another thuds harmlessly (if startlingly) into the staff slung over his shoulder, but the Lute Master capitalizes on the Cleric’s aid and Cleaves his flanking assailants, bloodying one. Korinn then slips behind Paladrin’s Challenged foe, Sneak Attacking well enough to bloody the bandit. Eradan then looses two more of his arrows, killing his Quarry, though one of the crossbow weilders evades him. Suddenly, the crossbow expert launches a volley into the center of camp, the concussive blast rocking through Derek and Eradan, with Arek’s nervous, fearful huddling shielding him from the attack. With a sudden yell, Paladrin’s Holy Strike rends one of the crossbow bandits asunder. Derek, bloodied by the ranged assault, whispers a Healing Word in Moradin’s name as he shifts back to provide more cover for Arek, launches a Lance of Faith into the trees above the skirmish. As one of the peons starts to retreat, the two remaining melee attackers attack the Dwarf; one missing as he’s set alight with Bahamut’s mark from the Eladrin’s Divine Challenge, the other soundly thwacking the Fighter across the noggin. Still reeling, Jefsdorf gets in a solid cleave against his two opponents. Korinn sidles in behind the group to reinforce her ally, but cuts nothing but armor with her assault. Eradan’s deadly barrage of fine feathered shafts finds and fell the fleeing foe, but misses the Fighter’s bloodied target. Derek is hit by the crossbow savant and one of the melee attackers. Paladrin finishes off one of the bandits and issues his Divine Challenge to the remaining skirmisher. Trying to recover from the recent assault, the Cleric whispers a Healing Word to Moradin on his own behalf and summons a Beacon of Hope, healing the party and Weakening the remaining fighter. Jefsdorf then issues his Combat Challenge and Lunging Strikes the crossbow wielder, his mace glancing off the foe’s armor. Korinn slips past the fighter, evading the Opportunity Attack, flanking with Derek to finish the enemy off. Eradan then uses his Hunter’s Bear Trap to slow the last attacker who then looses a crossbow bolt just over Korinn’s head as he turns away. Paladrin runs after him, flailing futily with his blade, then Derek launches a Lance of Faith into the bandit’s side. Jefsdorf, to keep the menace from going for help, unleashes his Villain’s Menace assault, his Frost mace adding a burst of cold to attack, slowing his quarry again. Not to be outdone, the Rogue rushes in and her piercing strike fells the last of the ambushers.
Following the path their pursuit had begun to lead them, the party finds the bandit’s camp and combs it over. Between the corpses and the camp, they find a number of nice things: +1 Duelist Dagger (Korinn) +1 Thunderburst Crossbow (Paladrin Lootwhore – I’m just assuming that’s his last name) +1 Holy Symbol of Life (Derek the Cleric) 100 gold Gem 70 gold pieces
The party turns in for the night and sets off the next morning for Nexa, the gnome city. On the road, Arek informs them of the plan, which is to meet with Al Dusto, Gnome leader, and implore him for aid in these troubled times. The gnomes, natives of the Feywild, are not traditionally a welcoming people, but this town has been longtime allies with Fallcrest and Arek recounts that he is used to an uncommonly warm welcome from the townsfolk.
As the party continues, the road fades away as the underbrush thins and the trees become increasingly large. At one point, surrounded by truly massive trees, Arek announces that they have arrived. The puzzled looks on the escort’s faces prompts Arek to explain: the gnomes live in homes carved into the earth beneath the roots of these massive trees. As they near the center of the village, Arek seems troubled. “This is odd. There are usually gnomes moving about the town, and we havent’s seen a single soul.”
Suddenly they spy another worrying sight. Around the cluster of trees in the center of the town, including Al Dusto’s home, there is a (newly built) large wooden rampart whose top is patrolled by gnome guards. One of the apparent leaders of the guard calls down to the troupe, demanding that they leave at once.
“I have been sent from Fallcrest to speak with Al Dusto,” begins Arek.
“No one is allowed in.”
“But we have long been your al-”
“No one. Allowed. In.”
Turning to the party, Arek seems miffed and dismayed. Unable to find any obvious indication for why this rampart has been built, the group prompts the guard with that very question, recieiving a suspicious look and a “What business is it of yours?”
Unable to convince him that they could help with whatever threat is being posed, the group takes a stab in the dark, bluffing knowledge about their attackers. The Gnome looks genuinely surprised, but not at discovery, more of just befuddlement. “What attackers?” he plies, his suspicion even more fully raised now, adding as he shifts his weight to a more attack-ready pose: “I’d suggest you all leave before we have a real problem here.”
Puzzled by this turn of events, the emissary and his guards turn and leave, their attentions still directed toward the gate as they head back and begin circling around in search of another way in. They hear a cacophony of activity to the south side of the wall and make their way around, spying from a distance that the wall is under construction. While the bulk of the group remains with Arek, reassuring him that they will find a way in to deliver him and his message to Al Dusto, Eradan scouts forward to try and find a way in.
When he nears the construction, Eradan stops in the shadows and listens intently. He see that the opening is heavily guarded, but eventually overhears a pair of gnomes that seem uneasy about building the wall, not understanding why they’re doing it. The Elf opts to wait until the end of their shift and, as dusk arrives and the workforce disperses, he tracks them to their homes. Relaying his tale to the party, they knock on both doors, getting stony silence from one, but a nervouse gnome answering the other.
They explain the situation, introducing Arek, who is recognized by the fellown but it isn’t enough, as he insists he is unable to aid them. Closing the door as he retreats prompts the party to leave to regroup, but before they can make it more than a few yards, the door creaks open slightly and a nervous head pokes out, followed by a gnome woman who furtively approaches the adventurers. Introducing herself as Galowen, she seems willing to help but still hesitant. Asking her simply to explain the situation loosens her tongue slightly.
She explains first that a new leader, Girbus, has called for the wall to be erected. Further plying by the party reveals that though the tranfer of power from Al Dusto seemed legitimate, neither the current or former leader has been seen for awhile, and Galowen is plainly unconvinced of Girbus’s intentions (A strong “he’s a bastard” vibe exudes from her when discussing him). Finally, the reason for the gnomish unease is revealed by her – Girbus’s wall is isolating the Ad Nexus, the connection of the village to their home in the Feywild. It makes them all nervous to be so cut off from their link to their natural realm.
Galowen, heartened by the sincere concern of the adventurers, offers what little help she can – a ladder and her skill with magic, which, for a fee, could remove the enchantment on one item and place it on another, unenchanted, item. Currently satisfied with their equipment (Paladrin looking worried and defensive should anyone ask him to give up some of his goodies), the party graciously accepts the former (ladder) and makes camp at the town’s outskirts as they hatch their plan.
Eradan had noticed branches on his first reconnaisance close to the corner of the wall that weren’t quite load-bearing. Figuring that another tree, the one closer to the western wall, might have the necessary strength of foliage, the two stealthy Strikers head off in that direction, ladder under their arms, while the remaining group members stay behind to guard Arek and practice their skills, prayers, and incantations.
The Rogue and the Ranger reach the tree without incident, scaling it effortlessly. As two guards pass eachother the Elf sprints down the branch. As he leaps to the rampart, he turns to watch Korinn’s progress. She gets started slowly, nearly stumbling, but Eradan whispers that he had had to shift his weight when he traversed it. With that cue, Korinn nimbly moves to the branch’s end and hops to the wall. Quickly, she turns and sees another weight-bearing branch, this one extended from a tree inside the wall, and she leaps up for it, climbing to a standing position. Her weight lowers the limb to the Elf’s reach, and they head to the tree trunk before the guards return. The thief ties an expert suicide knot and the pair descend to the ground. The Dragonborn sneaks around the central tree, finding a quartet of guards at the gate and none at the tree’s door. She returns for Eradan and the two sidle back around the trunks, quickly picking the lock and getting the door shut before a suspicious patrolman spies them.
Finding themselves in a hall, the two spy one door more ornate than the rest and slink over to it, leaning their ears to the wood. They smell dinner and catch some of the diners’ conversation, identifying three participants: Girbus and two non-gnomes, Maelk and Cariel [Doug, I can’t recall the exact transcript of this conversation. If you have one and would like to post it, that would be awesome. I was too interested in what was being said to try to directly transcribe at the time]. The latter two seem somewhat brutish, and the scouts hear them get up and leave through another door before they deem it safe enough to confront Girbus. Opening the door, they tell a startled Girbus that the Fallcrest Emissary has been denied an audience, or even entrance to the town. The gnome leader quickly puts on a smile and apologizes, inviting the full party to join him for dinner and to discuss the issues at hand.
They gather at his table, noticing statues of great past gnomes arranged throughout the room, and sit for a feast that’s welcome after the rough road to Nexa.
SKILL CHALLENGE 1 Paladrin finds an opening in the conversation between Arek and Girbus and pounces, asking the gnome the reason for the wall being built. Girbus explains that he is trying to protect the Ad Nexus, because it’s link to the Feywild makes it very valuable. Eradan, his natural insight seeing a more poignant conflict of interest, veers back to the wall, asking Girbus why a group of tree-dwellers would cut down trees to build a wooden wall. Girbus, starting to get defensive, spouts some platitude about the greater good. Jefsdorf, doing his best to seem Diplomatic, manages to empty his mouth for a moment as he compliments the host on the food. His mouth does not stay empty for long. Derek presses the gnome about the wall but gets nowhere, turning back to his glass for insight. Korinn hits a sore spot, though, commenting that the wall is cutting the outlying citizens off from their Fey influence. Girbus insists that it’s all in their heads [psychosomatic, not a real problem]. Paladrin presses the issue, citing their encounter with some uneasy residents, and Girbus becomes insistent, shutting Eradan’s attempt at an insightful retort down and turning back to his food. The Fighter, leaning back to breathe after his second plateful, studies the gnome quietly and notices him furtively glancing to the periphery of the room. Derek’s keen insight catches a twitch at the corner of Girbus’ mouth, and he calls the gnome out for deflecting from the real issue, at which point Korinn drives another nail into his conversational coffin, making a solid point about the honesty and armed guards not being good bedfellows. Paladrin can tell from all the ambivalent discourse that the gnome seems to be stalling and cunningly deduces that they’ve all been poisoned. (!!!)
ENCOUNTER 2: Girbus, 4 Gnomes with picks, 2 Guard Drakes Issuing a Divine Challenge to their duplicitous host, the Paladin issues his Judgment but his blade makes a resounding whirr as he catches nothing but air. Derek the Cleric suddenly sees through the illusions in the room, spying a secret door behind Girbus and noting that the 4 statues actually conceal gnomes wielding picks. He yells this to the rest of the group as he tries to set one of the gnomes alight with Sacred Flame, failing, only to be set upon with a pick by the gnome behind him. Korinn, the illusion of the statues also being lifted from her mind, slips behind and Sneak Attacks the gnome behind Jefsdorf, cutting him badly with a Piercing Strike. Girbus disappears from the head of the table and appears in the middle of it, summoning an illusion that startles the Dwarf so badly that the Fighter stumbles back, the gnome becoming seared by the seal of Bahamut for ignoring Paladrin in the process. Girbus then summons a full-room illusion that ensnares Derek’s and Korinn’s minds, slowing them as the ground appears to oscillate violently beneath their feet. Jefsdorf, regaining his composure, shifts behind the gnome Korinn had targeted, his mace swinging forward in a Reaping Strike that makes bone give way as it connects. Eradan, the only one to have suffered the effects of the poison, stabs the gnome behind him with his Twin Strike as he focuses on this foe as his Hunter’s Quarry, finding only armor with one blow, but biting into the gnome with the other blade. Suddenly every head in the room turns to the entry door as it bursts open, welcoming two Guard Drakes into the fray. One sinks his teeth into Jefsdorf as the other lunges onto Derek the Cleric, knocking him unconscious with a bite hard across his chest. Seeing his ally fall, Paladrin Fey steps just behind Girbus, his Radiant Smite imbuing his blade with light as it cuts deep into the gnome’s side. The Rogue does a quick strike on her gnome foe again, bloodying him. Girbus then shifts away and blasts Paladrin in the face, also calling forth an illusion that makes the table appear to rear up and throw him, sending him stumbling back several feet into two crossbow bolts, both of which harmlessly embed themselves in his thick Plate armor. The Dwarf swings to attack the foes that surround him but the drake’s bite threw off his balance and he swings wide, nearly knocking Korinn’s teeth out in the process. Eradan again Strikes with his Twin swords, again only finding flesh with one. One drake bounds over to Paladrin, his teeth getting nothing but metal that suddenly turns deathly cold, tearing at the drake’s flesh as it pulls away. The other drake bites Jefsdorf in an opening on his side, bloodying the Fighter. Paladrin, Dazed from the gnome leader’s attack, shifts to Derek’s side as he regains his mental footing. Korinn Flanks their Host and performs a Sneak Attack that Bloodies him, commanding him to call off his men with an intimidating shout. The gnome orders his men to hold as he waits for an indication that the adventurers will let him go. Jefsdorf, unconcerned with the political duplicity, makes his way to Derek’s prone body. Girbus takes the opportunity to head for the door, at which point Jefsdorf spins and Grabs him before taking a deep breath, his rage at the gnome giving him a Second Wind. The gnomes then set upon the group again, striking the Dwarf and the Ranger and giving Paladrin another crossbow bolt painlessly protruding from his plate. Eradan, eager to be rid of the gnome on his back, uses his Hunter’s Bear Trap to bloody and gravely wound his quarry, taking a moment to pause and collect himself afterwards, gaining a Second Wind for the continuing battle. Paladrin Lays Hands on the fallen Elf, bringing him back to consciousness, then turns to smite a Drake, but as the drake evades him, a fine roast and a loaf that had been scattered across the table face his wrath instead. Derek slowly lifts himself to his feet, some of his wounds closing as he murmurs a Healing Word of prayer to Moradin, then envelopes most of the room in a beacon of hope, Weakening Girbus, both Drakes, and two Gnomes, breathing life back into all his allies but Eradan, and at the focal point of his beacon the light pulses in time with his Holy Symbol, scorching the drake there with Moradin’s radiance. Korinn’s Dragon’s Breath then sputters harmlessly across armor and scales before her Torturous Strike skewers the Drake beside her. The fighter fully restrains their captive, who is struggling unsuccessfully to escape, as the gnome by Eradan bleeds out from his last assault. The Ranger then frees his Bow and looses two arrows into the frey, Bloodying a Drake in the process. Immediately after, Paladrin’s Longsword flies by the drake again, sinking unsatisfyingly into the table to the sound of food rending and wood splintering. The Cleric, eager to keep his friends from falling, issues a healing word on Jefsdorf’s behalf and then shifts back, his new holy symbol emitting a Divine Glow that finishes a gnome off. Korinn shifts to flank the first Drake and guts it as it falls, when Girbus blasts Jefsdorf in the face, eliciting an attack of opportunity from the now-Dazed Dwarf who raps him on the back of the head before grabbing him again. Meanwhile, the gnome in the corner finally pierces Paladrin’s armor with a crossbow bolt. The remaining drake and gnome miss the Rogue and Fighter, then Paladrin Lays on Hands to bolster the hostage-taker, before cutting into the gnome by Korinn and mending his own minor wounds. Derek shifts back onto the table and his Sacred Flame alights on the gnome that’s become pinned down, Bloodying him and lifting the daze from the Dwarf. Korinn’s shortsword slides deftly inbetween the scales of the last drake while Jefsdorf restrains Girbus, withstanding another blast from his captive as the coward tries to break free, loosening but not losing the Fighter’s grasp as the rest of the ambushers attacks miss, fall short, or otherwise prove futile. Another shaft from Eradan’s bow finds the Drake and Derek’s Lance of Faith burns Moradin’s brand into the wall above the cornered gnome before Korinn’s Piercing Strike finally finishes the second drake. Jefsdorf is unable to fully restrain his captive, whose wriggling soon breaks himself free, but as he tries to slip out the door the Dragonborn’s sword pommel knocks him unconscious. As they round up the last two gnomes, Paladrin intervenes for Jefsdorf on one attack and both of the Defenders take an intended blow.
With the Encounter over, Arek comes out from his huddled position beneath the table, and the group now readies themselves to question the gnome leader and try to reach the bottom of this mess.