Having learned that the Death’s Shadow Cult intends to attack Rovert’s Tower and then the Vale after the assassination attempt on Ellizari, the Vale and West Hill March agree to join their forces to attempt to crush the cult before this attack. Verdis’ sage (Rehati) informs him that two planets important to dragon-worshipping astrology are going to be in conjunction like they haven’t been in hundreds of years (Draksdelthss, home of “the Pure Dragon” as well as red and gold dragons and symbol of balance between creation and destruction and Restia, home of black, green, and adamantite dragons and symbol of death and rebirth, transition and redirection). This conjunction will be on the 21st, the winter solstice, the shortest day in the year and an important day to black dragon worshippers. Now sure the attack would come on this night, the West Hill March and the Tooth of Ellizari positioned their forces in the northern portions of Rovert’s demesne on the 20th, ready to defend the West Hill March, come to the tower’s aide, or cut off the cult’s retreat as needed. The Vale forces gather at Rovert’s Tower and the workman’s village on the cliff above it:
- Verdis (HuS): Level 15 Human Fighter (Level 2/3 Keeps, Governor of the Vale)
- Verdis’ Prickly Bois: A standard unit of 6 figures of 10 human fighters each with 1 sergeant per figure
- Teran’s Foe Hunters: An elite unit of 2 figures of 10 human hunters each with 1 sergeant per figure
- Pogromii’s Folly and Pogromi’s Shame: A skirmisher unit of 2 figures of 10 kobolds each with 1 sergeant per figure
- Teran: Level 9 Human Ranger
- Rovert (TrS): Level 20 Human Necromancer (Level 4 Tower)
- 45 various undead including mostly ogre maulers and skeletons but also giants, dragons, wraiths, and some other outliers
- Drej: Level 5 Psuedodragon Familiar
- Conan (MiM): Level 13 Elf Vampire Magic-user
- Skarr: Level 6 Hawk Familiar
- Ragnvaldr (TrS): Level 11 Human Fighter
- Neville: Level 5 Toad Familiar
- Uglubjorn: Tamed Owlbear
- Stephen (EnS): Level 11 Human Thief
- Animus: Level 3 Hawk Companion
- Rowan (MiM): Level 8 Elf Magic-user
- Mark (JaH): Level 6 Halfling Thief
- Warren (MiM): Level 2 Dwarf Fighter
- Polly (MiM): Level 2 Dwarf Brawler
By evening on the 20th, Rovert’s and Conan’s scouting finally finds some of the entrances to into the hills occupied by the cult and during they night, they find that the tunnels open into a valley in the hills where they seem to have prepared a massive giant to raise with the conjunction on the 21st.
On the 21st in the morning, Conan and Skarr observe the cult emerging from their caves with over 300 mostly kobold soldiers and around 400 undead with some particularly large ones. Stephen uses Rovert’s scrying mirror to track these forces (though the mirror isn’t well suited to this effort) while Conan and Skarr keep a broad view, reporting regularly. Drej makes trips to and from the tower communicating information closer to the tower.
Seeing the cult forces moving out through the woods, they relay the information to the Tooth of Ellizari and convince him to move his force (nearly 600 kobolds, over half of which are mobs of peasant levies. They have few commander types and are disorderly in comparison to the cult (who are disorderly compared to Verdis’ well-marshalled forces).
When their overwatch informs them that a group of skirmishers watching the flank and rear of the cult force is in the path of the West Hill March, they inform the Tooth, but not with enough warning for him to pull back his right-flank vanguard (a mob of peasants). The mob engages the skirmishers and when they flee the mob pursues in an undisciplined rabble. While the Tooth chases them with his core forces (including his guard, some regular military, and another mob), Verdis leads his units north into the woods to reinforce them before they are overwhelmed. Meanwhile, Rovert struggles to use his mirrors to inform the West Hill March’s far-flung skirmishers of where they must go to join the battle (they require a reflective surface, but he eventually, knowing the commander’s names, manages to get their attention in shields and swords).
On their way north, Verdis and company (his soldiers, Ragnvaldr, Rowan, Mark, Polly, and Warren) encounter the cult’s advance scouts. The skirmishers badly wound a score of Prickly Bois before they, Verdis, and the others close to melee range and quickly crush them all. Rowan heals the fallen Prickly Bois and they rejoin the force. They hear from Stephen and Conan that the core of the cult force has wheeled back to engage the West Hill March. The chasing mob is quickly wiped out, but the Tooth is able engage with the bulk of his force and their skirmishers are quickly closing.
Faced with the option of rushing to aide the West Hill March or cutting off the nearer cult forces that have not yet wheeled back and continue south. Assured that the West Hill March is a match for the enemy before them even after heavy losses (the skirmishers flanking the enemy should tip the scale, Verdis goes to intercept the 40 kobolds and 200 undead separated from the main force. They find them, but are spotted first and the enemy brings the undead around to attack ahead of them.
They have with them magical arrows encharged by Rovert that are about to expire, so they loose them in a volley of devastating explosions that completely wipe out the undead as they try to close. They hear the kobold force flee and give chase, using the undead dragon Rovert sent with them to slow them down. Led by Verdis’ they overtake and slay the force before it can escape into the Clinging Woods. As they begin to loot the fallen, they realize that they all wear the amulets that will bring them back as undead at sunset.
At the same time, Rovert learns that the Tooth of Ellizari has been severely wounded by a cult sniper targeting officers and he is hiding beck from the front. Conan finds this sniper and slays him, allowing the tooth to rejoin the battle which is going well. While they realize they should return to the scouting group they crushed and remove their amulets, Verdis urgently wants to join the main battle before those they have slain also rise. He sends Ragnvaldr, Mark, Polly, and Warren to go remove the amulets or slay the undead if need be and take the rest northward.
While Verdis and his forces march to engage in the battle between the cult and the West Hill March, Conan reports a great giant humanoid and a 450-foot dragon swiftly approaching from the hills, where they have caused a levy force that got separated to retreat back toward the West Hill March. Hearing this report, Rovert mounts an undead dragon and flies out to pick up Ragnvaldr and Verdis to confront the giant and dragon.
While Teran leads Verdis’ forces to join with the West Hill March forces (who have won the battle with heavy losses and are in the process of eliminating the undead who have risen from them) the Rovert, Ragnvaldr, and Verdis fly to get in the path of the giant. Conan is already their, observing. He finds that the giant has platforms built near each knee and each shoulder and inside the skull where necromancers living and undead sustain the creature. As they arrive, Rovert encharges an arrow for each platform and as the giant nears, Ragnvaldr and Verdis open fire, mostly wounding the necromancers there with massive fireballs, though Verdis kills one on a shoulder. When the giant is nearer, Ragnvaldr begins to strike it with his mighty divine blows (and the incredible strength he supposes to have been granted by a potion of delusion he drank) and Conan fires off a mighty fireball that finishes the two necromancers at the knees.
Rovert has no intention of allowing the dragon to engage on its own terms and manages (against all odds) to target it at great distance with a wrath spell, forcing it engage. Rovert narrowly escape’s the dragon’s breath by use of his time stopping pocket watch and he and Verdis engage the dragon, Verdis using his stronghold power to deal significant damage and Rovert his magic likewise. While Verdis dodges the dragon’s claws, its tail smashes Rovert to the ground quite painfully as it sweeps away brush and trees but is teleported away by Rovert’s rebuffing robe.
Meanwhile, Conan flies up into the skull of the giant where he transforms back into his elf form unseen by the Voice of Vaschalli inside. His volley of death beams brings the Voice down immediately and the giant starts to crumble as he changes back.
On the ground, the Vaschalli breathes another cone of death and Verdis is too close and not quick enough to dodge. He dies, desiccated death energy that also washes over Ragnvaldr but at greater range. Ragnvaldr rushes the dragon in rage at Verdis’ fall and is going toe to toe with the dragon while Rovert expends the last of his spell points. At this point, Vaschalli has fought off the wrath enough and been wounded enough to flee. Ragnvaldr gets another hit in, Rovert sprays the dragon with acid from Edelnai, and Conan gets a volley of spells off, but it isn’t quite enough to slay the dragon (which has 3.6 of its 670 HP remaining).
Ragnvaldr has time to loose an arrow and medium and long range as the dragon retreats. He misses at medium range! Still his long range shot has a 74% chance of hitting, and it does, easily rolling enough damage to drop the dragon from the sky. Ragnvaldr starts to carry Verdis’ body back toward the Vale and is soon met by the Prickly Bois who in despair construct a pall to carry him back to the Vale. The West Hill March proceeds on toward the cult caves, where they intend to subject the kobold citizenry to Ellizari’s rule (de ja vu, but maybe you can tell me where this has happened before?) Conan goes with them as Rovert’s agent to find any records and knowledge the cult might have for him.
(Unfortunately, I failed to capture the various stages of the battle map, this one shows the state of things when they engaged the dragon (D) and the giant (G), Vale forces are in green and March forces in red. The March suffered heavy losses.)
As they exit Rovert’s demesne into Wraecliff’s, they see Verdis’ dwarven unit (the Hammer of the Lord) approaching. The Prickly Bois announce the death of their lord and the governor of the Vale. Upon hearing this news, Matthias of the Seventy emerges from the force and approaches. He exclaims that this must be why he was called back from his mission among the gnomes and with magic and piety casts a spell on Verdis, raising him, though he remains horribly scarred all over his body.
While Verdis must return to the Vale to recover, Teran and Matthias go with the bulk of his force to countermand the West Hill March forces in subjugating the kobolds of the cult and preach the word among them, as well as to make sure that they get their fair share of the loot.
Level up abounded. Verdis and Ragnvaldr each leveled up twice. Rovert, Conan, Rowan, and Polly also leveled up.
Rick Stump’s mass combat rules worked well, kept things flowing quickly. I was a little disappointed that I didn’t manage to get Stephen in the final fight where his rifle and Steak Strike would have been invaluable for sniping off necromancers. They weren’t intended to fight the dragon and I’m astonished they pulled it off, though Verdis’ death alone was lucky. The preparation for this will be on Locals.