Episode four of our intrepid heroes’ adventures picks up the action shortly after the group decides not to disrupt a burial mound west of Oleg’s. Instead, we opt to continue to the southwest, exploring another hex as we travel. The first interesting occurrence of this session is when we find a dead fellow buried in a pile of logs. It’s a gristly sight as we investigate and notice that his entire lower half was crushed by what appears to be the trapper’s own trap. We are all quite grateful that night around the campfire that none of us have perished in our own traps.
Later on that night, Samba’s watch is interrupted by the sounds of loud stomping. While he can’t understand what the large creatures in the distance are saying, he is reasonably confident that these are trolls. He quietly wakes up Natalia before the noise jostles Hayley and Layanos awake. Deciding we aren’t as tough as we’d like, we run for it. The trolls start after us, engaging in a spirited chase. It seems that luck isn’t with us, as Layanos promptly runs into a beehive while we flee. The group dodges vicious beestings while trying to stay ahead of the trolls.
The chase continues to a ravine. Most of the group makes it through, but Stripes is grabbed by one of the trolls. Samba doubles back and sets off an Entangle spell that causes the nearby trees to wrap their branches around the troll. Temporarily free, Stripes bolts away and the chase continues. We continue across a river and then through brambles that even trip up the agile Hayley. Somehow, we make it through with Natalia leading the way to freedom.
After doubling back early the next day to retrieve our abandoned tents, we continue exploring to the southwest. We cannot finish mapping this area without crossing the river, but Natalia is able to gauge from her whip that the river is strong here. Not thinking too highly of our own swimming skills, we opt to instead follow the river south and try to cross later. This strategy leads us into a swampy and wet area, and we stumble upon two eroded and ruined structures. We hear a deep croaking sound from within one, and a frog man emerges before we can decide whether to retreat.
The frog man (who is actually a boggard) has a problem with a language barrier. We aren’t entirely certain of his intentions, as he keeps mentioning both “truce” and “hungry”. When he is joined by a man-sized toad, we decide that he is planning to feed us to the toad and that we need to avoid this fate. Layanos makes the executive decision to attack the boggard. The boggard goes down quickly with Hayley shanking him before he can do much to us. The toad is hard to hit with its slippery skin, but we take it down soon after.
After a short investigation of the frog man’s place, we continue our trek south and follow the river. This finally leads us to a sandy fjord leading across the river. At first, we rejoice that we can finally reach the other side. It turns out to be too good to be true, as we run into a territorial tatzylwyrm that is in no mood to negotiate. It immediately attacks and grapples Natalia. Before we can do more than pull weapons and start to fight back, its mate crawls up from the water and grapples Hayley. Not to be taken down lightly, Hayley manages to escape its grip and fights on. Stripes rips the back of the neck off the male, freeing Natalia to take the fight to the female. Hayley nails a running dive across the ledge to flank the female from the other side. With everyone else distracting and damaging the tatzlwyrm, Samba sneaks in and finishes it off with a stab from his dagger.
Once we’ve caught our breath, the group finds the tatzylwyrms’ hoard (they are dragons, after all) and we inherit some valuable swag. Among the collection is a map that identifies a few landmarks to our north that we weren’t previously aware of. Among them are a frog pond, a statue of Erastil, and the Temple of the Elk. Before leaving the area, we recall that Oleg mentioned his willingness to pay a decent price for the heads of tatylwyrms. We collect two before continuing on our way across the river and to the north.
Mapping as we go, we eventually make our way to the frog pond. In fact, we find two frog ponds that seem to interestingly form a bizarre shape with the river that could be misconstrued as male genitalia. Naturally, our characters can’t wait to investigate. Before we can enjoy the hot springs that await, however, we have to face off with two more frogs that don’t want to share their space. Stripes rips one apart after it grapples Hayley with its tongue. The other goes down shortly after, and our reward is a relaxing soak in the springs.
The next day, we map the area to the west, and the day passes uneventfully. That night proves more exciting, as Hayley hears something with many legs approaching. She wakes everyone up in time to witness a giant centipede rolling into camp. Samba takes a few of its legs off with rocks from his sling while Natalia sings encouragement to the group and Hayley shanks the big bug. Layanos offers a great deal of assistance by keeping it magically blinded so that it can’t fight everyone off. In the end, Stripes rips it in half with his tiger teeth.
We decide the next day to head for the Temple of the Elk that is marked on the map. The first day takes us closer to the area, but Layanos hears trolls again that night. Alarmingly, it sounds like there are more of them this time, and he hurriedly wakes the others. Everyone grabs their things and bolts. The next day, our tired group continues mapping the area but does not reach the Temple.
That night, a couple of mites come into view of our camp. When they see us, they take off running. We don’t want them to inform their friends of our location, so the chase is on again. This time, we are the pursuers, which makes for an interesting chase. the terrified mites scramble up a cliffside that gives everyone in our group trouble except for Stripes. While the tiger stays hot on the mites’ heels, everyone else fights through a series of thick vines to bypass the climb and keep up the chase. Stripes catches one, tackling it to the ground and ripping it to shreds. The other seems to have an extra jolt of adrenaline. It dodges an Entangle spell from Samba and a slumber spell from Layanos. Its luck finally runs out when Hayley catches up to it and stabs it to death.
The rest of the night passes as we try to catch up a bit on sleep. The next day, we see two elk in the distance. We avoid them (probably saving our bacon later) and continue onward to the Temple. The clearing here has a pool and an interesting rock face taking the shape of an elk. We don’t have long to admire the view, however, as a furious grizzly bear sees us and roars his displeasure. Samba notes that there is something seriously off about this bear, but the others consider that a bit of an understatement. Hayley and Stripes charge the crazy bear with the matted fur. Hayley hits the animal first and royally pisses him off. The bear decides that Hayley is due for one of his signature bear hugs after whacking her with both his paws and inflicting a ton of damage. Layanos catches up in time to put the bear to sleep with a well-timed spell. With the bear down for a moment, Stripes rips out the bear’s throat.
The bear changes into an extremely old man who seems to sigh with relief as his body finally disintegrates. The area seems to shine brighter, and we notice that the water suddenly is clean and heals our wounds. Investigating further, we head into the temple and find only a great deal of excrement and a slashed altar (turns out the bear had been living here a long time and wasn’t in the entertainment business). The weather has eroded the area, but it will still function as a temple once the last traces of the bear are cleaned up.
We camp out just outside the temple, but our old friends the trolls seem to have followed us. With dense vegetation to our north and south and the temple to the west, we’re trapped in a bottleneck and not able to easily escape. In desperation, Hayley and Natalia hide to the north while Layanos climbs a tree to the south. Samba and Stripes climb almost halfway up the rock face before the trolls rumble into the clearing.
They seem a bit perplexed at first, but their sense of smell starts to lead them toward the ladies. While they desperately try to stay hidden, the guys notice that the rock face Samba and Stripes are clinging to is starting to glow. While everyone tries to shift down and maybe make a run for it, a colossal stag bursts out of the rock face and takes full shape above the pool. This huge white stag appears to the avatar of Erastil himself, and he charges the trolls. The carnage is over quickly, as the stag gores the trolls with his antlers and cleanses them in holy fire for good measure. It then retreats back into the rock face and we are left blinking in shock. With no other reaction readily available to us, we return to camp.
The next day, we start to head back toward Oleg’s. It has been close to a month since we last checked in, and much has happened. It takes us two days to reach the trading post, where we find the old crew waiting for us. Svetlana cooks a delicious meal for the group while we tell Jhod about the Temple of the Elk. In response to us putting the bear to rest, he agrees to offer us lifetime spell-casting services for free. We are also able to sell some of our new stuff to Oleg. In the contentedness of newfound gold and glory and being reunited with friends, Layanos returns to his old tricks and tries to put Natalia to sleep. The gypsy is yet again too difficult to affect, and Layanos instead puts Samba to sleep beside his tiger. At least for the moment, all is well. The map is starting to take shape, we have defeated several bandits and tatylwyrms, we have survived a group of trolls (with major help from Erastil), and we haven’t all perished in the wilderness. To see if our good fortune continues, check back soon for Episode Five of Kingmaker.