The PCs are chased through a sprawling mine by pursuing Dunner forces. Through a combination of haste, misdirection, and traps, the PCs avoid the roving search teams and make it to a mine waystation. The mine waystation door is solid steel, the PCs bar it and seal off the pursuers. However, the PCs have leaped from the frying pan into the fire, because the waystation has its own dangers.
Immediately upon securing the door, the PCs are ambushed by vicious fire ants. The fire ants spew giant gouts of fire that do massive damage. The ants are dangerous, but also fragile. During the fight, the party also hears another battle: some unseen group also fighting ants. The party quickly dispatches the ants, sustaining serious damage while doing so.
Before they can catch their breath, the party is immediately attacked by this unknown group. A large group of Dunners was also in the waystation, but like the party was ambushed by ants. The Dunners outnumber the PCs, but are seriously wounded. Taking advantage of the terrain, the party manages to funnel the Dunners into a chokepoint, neutralizing their numerical advantage. The Dunners are rapidly defeated.
For the first time since arriving at the mine entrance, the players can rest. With a moment to finally reflect on the pursuers, Graven thinks that the war between Almast and Dunn Heights as finally begun, explaining the scouts being on war footing. “They must have thought we were Almast skirmishers, that’s the only reason they would fire on sight.”
Upon searching the waystation, they find some interesting items:
- the box of quartz shards they were sent to retrieve.
- a map (on a Dunner)
- a lightning magical war pick +1 (on a Dunner)
All of the items are… odd.
The crystals are just plain quartz. They don’t glow or radiant magic like Krolby’s example. Reason unknown.
Graven, an experienced soldier, is confused. “These soldiers are from a different unit than the ones that chased us. Who are they, why were they here?” He hefts the pick, “and this… They were just carrying this powerful weapon, not wielding it. Why would soldiers have a weapon they couldn’t use? And there’s something odd about this map, too.”
The map shows the local area, and has two marked routes. One shows the path from a Dunner camp to the mine, using an alternate entrance. Worse, the other route shows the player’s route from Lamat to the mine.
Elarath examines the map. “Hey, this is the route that Jack gave us, not the route that Captain Krolby originally wrote down. And this handwriting looks familiar. Who has our map?”
Upon examination, the party confirms that both maps bear Jack’s handwriting. Obviously Jack is somehow involved, but how? Did Jack order these troops to ambush the PCs?
Bree, the most street-savvy of the bunch, theorizes “that explains the pick. It’s not a weapon, it’s a payment, something to sell for money. They were paid to do this.”
Graven replies “then it was a bribe, money on the side. Jack isn’t allied with the Dunners then, if he had to bribe them to come after us. But why is he after us?” He shrugs. “In any case, this is a one nasty, deadly weapon.” Graven holds up the pick, and it bursts into crackling life. “I think I like it.”
The party forms these theories about Jack:
- he wants the crystals
- he wants to take over the town, or something in it
- he wants control of the Wave’s Eyes
The party resolves to investigate this Jack character. Using the Dunner map as a guide they exit the waystation, looking for the alternate exit.
During the exodus, the party stumbles across a large entrance to the Fire Ant nest, and a small ant group transporting ant amber. Guarding this group is a fearsome Centurion fire ant. Unlike the smaller ants, which just spew a flammable liquid, the Centurion’s abdomen glows like an ember, and it radiants incredible heat. The Centurion is a warrior breed: large, lighting fast, and heavily armored.
Graven brandishes his pick. “I’ve got the big one, you all get the rest,” and he charges into one-on-one duel. While the rest of the party dispatches the smaller ants, Graven and the Centurion trade blows. The battle turns against Graven when the Centurion pins him with its mandibles and expels a flaming, sticky green goo all over him. Heavily wounded, on fire, and facing a still mostly-healthy Centurion, things look grim. But Graven has stalled long enough, as the rest of the ants are now dead, and the party turns as one against the Centurion. Concentrated force and timely healing allow the party to triumph.
The party finally escapes the mine. They head directly back to Jack’s stables. They approach with stealth, but in vain, as the stables are deserted. All of the horses have been let free and are milling around. Jack’s personal gear is all gone. The only hint: a handwritten note with only two words: “no offense.” The message is clear: Jack somehow knew the ambush failed, and has escaped. True to his Ranger ethos, he freed his horses, so obviously doesn’t plan to return. His motive remains unknown.
The party returns to Lamat’s Smile, and turns the crystals over to Ms. Bandy Cole, as instructed. They ask around about Jack, come up empty. Jack’s always been a loner on the edge of town, and no one really knows him at all.
The town is abuzz with rumors of the conflict, and the inn is jammed with locals. The party picks up a few key rumors:
- Almast troops are low on medics.
- The almast army is hiring armed couriers.
The party’s bad luck holds, as an Almast messenger is also waiting at the Inn. He formally notifies the party that the Almast army has commandeered the Eyes for the war effort. The PCs are now stranded in town. But the messenger also informs that PCs that they have the right to appeal to the local commander, a Corporal Burnot, in the morning.
The party heads to the docks to find Captain Krolby. Almast troops patrol the docks, preventing the Eyes from leaving. Captain Krolby is away on an errand of some kind, and the crew expects him back in the morning. They tell the party that they don’t know exactly WHY the ship has been seized (“armies don’t explain’”). The crew guesses that they want the schooner for her speed, to quickly move supplies up the coast. Also, Krolby was away when the troops arrived, and doesn’t yet know his ship has been commandeered.
The session ends with the party running low on options.
- Party Experience: 4.2E (2100 XP)
- Lighting War Pick +1 (PHB 235)
- box of quartz shards (plot item)
- 40 gp
- 100 sp
- 1 healing potion
- 120 gp of fire ant amber