A Knot of Thrones - The Cruel Lessons of Master Thorn - Part II

Sir Balin of Karfeld waits in his cell. He is a captured knight of the Alerion order and is personally famous for hunting followers of Asmodeus.   Harlocke recognizes Sir Balin and knows Balin was instrumental in capturing one the PCs.  Harlocke also remembers Balin is a member of the same military force that captured each of them.   This knight of the Alerion Order is Cardinal Thorn’s gift of vengeance to his new knot.

Sir Balin
The knight woke up here with food, water, his arms and armor, two days ago. He was badly wounded in the battle to capture him, but his wounds were all magically healed when he awoke. He has tried to force the door many times but has failed utterly to break the iron bands that strengthen it. He wears around his neck a sunburst of silver and sapphire -- a holy symbol of Mitra. This is of course the pendant that our villains seek.  Sir Balin is an honorable man and takes seriously his oaths. He hates Asmodean devotees passionately and refuses to deal with those individuals.  He will do all he can slay the followers of the Dark Prince.  He is exactly what he appears to be – a devout knight fanatically devoted to his god, his king and his homeland. Cardinal Thorn hopes that this unyielding nature will lead his newest knot to slaughter the knight.

Grumblejack, having had previous dealings with Sir Balin, fears for his life and for re-imprisonment.  The ogre backs away slowly and slips through the previous rooms while the party engages the Knight of Karfeld.  

Our party attempts to flank Balin however the nimble knight moves around them with ease, backing himself into a corner whilst downing Harlocke and cleaving through Shivers, also downing the monk.  Vicky attempts repeatedly to revive Harlocke but the knight continues knocking Harlocke unconscious with each re-engagement.  As Balin is distracted with pasting the mustard of mercy on the sandwich of their sinfulness, Lumond raises a pile of bones commanding it attack the knight.  Noticing Shivers and Harlocke unconscious, Vicky feigns her own show of death, stealthily charging her mace with poison.  Lumond attempts to revive the party as Balin maintains a close proximity nearly missing every attack at the poor half-orc.

With 75% of the party down, and failure imminent as Lumond fiercely protects his few remaining health points, Vicky digs deep inside summoning every ounce of strength she can muster.  She lunges at the knight with a killing blow.  

Our scoundrels revive their fallen comrades, gather their belongings, remove the head of Balin, and head top-side to present the pendant to Cardinal Thorn.

Meeting with Cardinal Adrastus Thorn

The high priest holds the trinket and pauses as if in deep contemplation. He watches the holy symbol glitter in the light. “A pretty enough thing, eh?” he muses. “This is a holy symbol of Mitra in particular the sort favored by the Knights of the Alerion.  Perhaps you already knew that.  Remember this symbol.  This is the mark of those who destroyed our faith and sought to banish all trace of the worship of our Father from these shores.  These, my friends, are your enemies."

Tossing the holy symbol back to Lumond he says "Keep it.  It may aid you in disguising yourself." He smiles. “You have done well. Escaping from Branderscar, slaughtering Sir Balin ... yes, you are worthy. Now, let us complete your training...

Cardinal has learned enough to truly train the Knot. He spends two weeks working with them, honing them into the perfect weapons. He keeps the characters carefully sequestered. Their physical needs are taken care of.   The slaves are present during the entire ordeal performing more menial tasks.  Thorn may be a paranoid monster obsessed with revenge but he is also a genius and a teacher par excellence. His lessons are focused and never wasteful. He drills them not only individually but also as a team.  After training, he summons his team but since they lack so clear a leader, he summons them all.

“Welcome, my children,” he says in a deep resonant voice that has an almost inhuman quality to it. Training is at an end. You have proven yourself worthy. Now, it is time for you to use that training and take on your first mission."

"Your mission is war, my children. You will bring war to Talingarde."

"You have two objectives.  First, you will see a shipment of munitions delivered to a bugbear chieftain named Sakkarot Fire-Axe.  He makes his camp on the northern coast of Lake Tarik beyond the Watch Wall.  With this shipment, the Fire-Axe will have resources enough to unite the barbarous humanoid tribes of the north and light the fire of war."

"Sitting on the dock as we speak is the longship Frosthamar captained by Kargeld Odenkirk.  Tomorrow when the ship is resupplied it will be your transport. The captain is a ruthless mercenary and not to be trusted.  He knows nothing of the specifics of our mission and you should keep it that way.  He knows he is smuggling cargo to the north beyond the Watch Wall. That is all he need know."

"Once the cargo is safely delivered, he will take you just south across the lake under cover of darkness and land you near the town of Aldencross. There our contract with Cattain Odenkirk will be concluded."

“It is shame how greedy he has proven. I had hoped to let the captain serve me again but it seems he is too much of a liability. Kill him. Kill his crew. Burn his ship and leave no survivors. It is crucial that no one suspects our involvement and that loose ends are taken care of. Be sure to reclaim the coin I gave him. Best not to be wasteful."

“That done, you will begin your second task. We will do more still to aid our ally the Fire-axe. The bugbears are mighty warriors but poor siege engineers. You will infiltrate the tower Balentyne, keystone of the Watch Wall, kill its commander and open the gate for Sakkarot’s horde"

“Once the shaggy monstrosities pierce the Watch Wall, the bugbears will pillage and lay waste to the townships of the north and the local garrisons will have no choice but to meet the Fire-Axe in the open field. Sakkarot is the most brilliant, gifted and murderous bugbear of his generation. I expect these battles will go poorly for the knights and yeoman of fair Talingarde."

“Do all of this and then when your task is done, break this clay seal.” He hands them a delicately carved clay seal adorned with a tangled knot of thorns surrounding the holy symbol of Asmodeus. “I will have more instructions then. Succeed and I will see you rewarded handsomely. Fail or betray me and you will pray for the comfort of Hell before I am done with you."
Clay Seal

“The mission you start upon today is a holy mission. The people of Talingarde think they have seen the last of the mighty Asmodeus. Soon enough we will remind them that there is no escaping the grasp of Hell. Let us toast our success.”

He pours one glass of deep red wine for each of the PCs and then finally pours one for himself. He raises the glass and offers toast.

“To war.”

The Frosthamar 

The Frosthamar is a single-masted knarr with a square sail. It is similar to a Viking longship but wider and with a deeper hull better suited to carrying cargo. And the Frosthamar is obviously loaded with cargo. Sitting heavy in the water, she holds twenty four tons of weaponry, arrows and shields emblazoned with a flaming axe.

The captain is a grizzled north-man with a wiry beard, pale blonde hair and countless scars. This is Kargeld Odenkirk and he is, as promised, a ruthless mercenary with little thought of anyone but himself. His crew consists of a half dozen grim sailors who speak little of the common Talirean tongue.

You will guard our boat all the way north, yes?” Kargeld asks of Lumond.  Lumond nods in response and Kargeld grunts his assent. “Then I will take you to the cursed north past hope and life.

For all Kargeld’s grimness, the Frosthamar is a fine ship, seaworthy and strong hulled. Its clinker-built hull is resilient but flexible and well suited to surviving the rough icy seas of the northern ocean. It is smartly rigged and lovingly maintained. Kargeld, it seems, loves nothing save for this ship. And if you want to immediately earn Kargeld’s undying enmity all you need do is insult her even once.

The Journey North

The first leg of the journey is placid and peaceful. Everyone has plenty of time to gain their sea-legs and get acclimated to shipboard life. The Frosthamar may be a fine ship but it is not a ship that caters to delicate sensibilities. It has no cabins and every PC must sleep under the stars with the rest of the crew. There are no garderobes or chamber pots. The crew simply relieve themselves over the railing. The rations are hardtack and small beer, though Kargeld does stop a couple of times to hunt deer along the wilder part of the coasts.

It takes half a day to sail down the Varnyn River and out into the open ocean. The Frosthamar hugs the coast and from the ship you can see countless farming communities and fishing villages go by. More than a few fishermen wave at the Frosthamar.  Kargeld is always sure to wave back. “Wouldn’t want ‘em to get suspicious, eh?” he says with a glower.

The Frosthamar is not swift so heavily-laden and averages about forty eight miles a day. It takes a week for the ship to pass along the settled coast of Talingarde passing the great city of Daveryn, the largest center of civilization along the western coast. Kargeld is quick to squash any talk of stopping there. “This is no pleasure cruise. Besides, I won’t get our cargo within a mile of a Talirean harbormaster.

The Blade of St. Martius

Close to the Watch Wall, a single small patrol ship named “The Blade of St. Martius” spots the Frosthamar and sails towards her to investigate.  Both Harlocke and Shivers see the Blade approach and alert the captain.

Kargeld grimly pairs down their options, “She’s seen us, sure as damnation. And there is no way the ‘Frosthamar’ will outrun her loaded like this. One look at our cargo and they’ll know us for exactly what we are – weapon smugglers.

The Blade of St. Martius” is smaller than the Frosthamar, a single masted fully-rigged pinnace only thirty feet long. There are thirteen men aboard the ship – a dozen sailors and the captain. They are tasked with patrolling these waters for pirates, smugglers and raiders.  Harlocke instantly recognizes the captian as Captain Edward Symbryl of the kings navy.

Blade of St. Martius
The Frosthamar and its crew look very suspicious to Captain Sambryl even from afar. They’re a loaded foreign ship headed north. Captain Sambryl is unsure what that means but very sure he wants to find out. As soon as the ship gets close enough, the Talirean sailors begin shouting “Heave to in the name of the king!” Kargeld and his men comply, slowing the ship and awaiting the approach. Captain Sambryl and four armed sailors brandishing spears extend the gang-pank an attempt of boarding the “Frosthamar” but is met mid plank by Shivers, who refuses to move.

The fight begins, and ends, quickly with Shivers pumeling sailor after sailor with Harlocke in tow, Vicky shooting her crossbow, and Lumond commanding sailors to attack their own.  The ordeal concludes with the death of Captain Sambryl and the capturing of "The Blade of St. Martius".

Captain Kargeld agrees with the groups' decision to sink "The Blade of St. Martius" but not before salvaging rations and two barrels of gunpowder from her stockpile.  Both Lumond and Harlocke notice a strange pod of dolphins watching from a distance...

GM Thoughts

And yet again we see a TPK forming as the group rushes into Sir Balin without any rest...  This fight got really close and gave me two options.  Either they get a bit of aid from a helpful GM or they fall unconscious.  The later would probably find them collected by Thorn's helper Tiadora, punished severely, and only partially trained by the Cardinal risking their advancement to level 3 and crippling their pacing through the first milestone of this campaign.  I chose the former as Sir Balin only had 4 hp left.  With that decision, Sir Balin had an exhaustion penalty placed on him during his last two attempted attacks at Lumond causing him to miss nearly.  I fear if one of those hit (I was rolling unusually well for that battle), Lumond would go down and Vicky wouldn't make her attack successfully.  Luckily, even without Lumond, Vicky used a hero point to gain enough advantage to defeat Sir Balin.  Ultimately my assistance was minimal as it only served to keep Lumond conscious, and in a distracting position, while Vicky concentrated her attack.

I was expecting the patrol ship to be a bit more of a match for the group however I am not disappointed with the result.  The party needed a win to boost their confidence from the last few battles having left their party in shambles many times over.  I think Shivers' quick-to-arms tactic (much to the player's eye-roll) gained the advantage forcing the enemy crew to fight from afar.  This gave his comrades the ability to better position themselves and go on the offensive from cover.  


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