Castles & Crusades Diary: The Barrowmaze Campaign, Session 34.

The adventurers meet Lord Viscount Kell Ironguard in the aftermath of the Hobgoblin army invading the Duchy of Aerik. They choose a name for themselves – The Army of the Light – and enter a dangerous woodland hydra lair.

Last session the adventurers learned of Hobgoblin Centurion Ludovic Krach leading an army of hundreds to batter down the walls of Ironguard Motte while his Commander Skall Pankratius headed to the Barrowmoor in search of a stolen crown (and other items) on behalf of their King. The adventurers defeated the Commander in a big battle, but lost a divine knight of their own in the process. This game session took place just minutes after the previous adventure, and the group, low on hit points and spells, gathered themselves up, grabbed what they could, and headed back to the nearby town of Helix to bury their dead, heal, and bring in the head of Skall as proof of their success. They discovered that not only had Ironguard Motte been attacked, Helix had also been entered by a small group of Hobgoblin troops that burned the thatched roofs of townsfolk, and killed local guards and resting adventurers. The adventurers wanted to rest and heal. They took a fortnight to do so. Then after those two weeks were up they headed to Ironguard Motte to meet the ruler of the Duchy of Aerik (an area of land roughly 55 by 60 miles encompassing Irongaurd Motte, Helix, Bogtown, and the Barrowmoor). Since several of the group were entering 5th level, they were building a name for themselves in the region (in C&C 1st-4th level could be considered low level, 5-8 mid-level, and 9-12+ high level).

They arrived at the front gates of Ironguard Motte with Skall’s head on a pike, the soldiers at the gate cheered and the captain of the guard brought them in. The adventurers noticed there seemed to be two different factions in the city – those loyal to the Viscount Kell Ironguard, and those that were being taken in by the powerful personality of Thorgrímr, leader of a group of Vikings named the Vargjägare (Wolf Hunters). The adventurers had previously helped the Wolf Hunters and Thorgrímr several sessions back reclaim his family treasure in a Viking tomb in the Barrowmaze. Now, entering through the front gates of Irongaurd Motte they could see Thorgrímr – a skald – on a platform entertaining a group of several hundred in the square with stories of his heroic feats. Having helped Ironguard Motte hold off the Hobgoblins, the Wolf Hunters had politely and reluctantly been allowed to remain in town by the viscount, and Thorgrímr was making use of this time to build up a larger following.

The group was brought by the captain of the guard for an audience with Lord Viscount Kell Ironguard and he intentionally let them know he had been keeping track of them for the year (and more) that they had been adventuring in the Barrowmaze. He new they traveled in the maze with a skeletal fallen paladin name Dhekeon (the Disgraced), and that they had helped Thorgrímr retrieve his family fortune and become a player for power in the region. But the paladin in the group – along with other members – pledged their loyalty to the Viscount (Thorgrímr is chaotic and wild, whereas as Kell is lawful, and the group makeup leans towards lawful). It was worked out that the group would occasionally work on behalf of the crown, and that in turn they would get a building of their own to use as headquarters. The viscount was surprised that after a year they had not come up with a name for their adventuring company. They thought about it and came up with the The Army of the Light! The viscount could now create a sign with that name for the front of their establishment.

Lord Viscount Kell Ironguard (art from Barrowmaze Complete)

To give them their first test on behalf of the viscount, Kell mentioned that a hydra had taken residence north west of Ironguard Motte and that his men were too busy rebuilding the town/castle walls, the houses in town, and repairing weapons and armor to deal with the monster. Would the Army of the Light deal with it? Of course they would!

They recruited a Hobbit ranger friend of theirs – Conwrick Pimkin – and after purchasing horses and carts, headed into the wilderness and Conwrick tracked it down to a depressed, swampy piece of land filled with water, mud, and vines, but surrounded in a 60 ft. radius by tall, majestic trees. After working out a strategy, three members charged forward to try and catch the hydras attention, as the others flanked it on the sides and from behind. A wizard cast fog cloud from the the right flank, the bard on the left tried to fascinate a couple hydra heads, a wizard behind it launched magic missiles, and the paladin, dwarven berserker, and warrior priest in front did a full-on assault. The hydra took a “liking” to the bard that briefly had fascinated two of its seven heads and lunged in to attack but only managed small nips, but the heads in the front became quite obsessed with the dwarven berserker and darted in time and again to viciously bite him.

Eventually the Army of the Light brought the monster down and defeated it. It had possessed a poisonous bite, and from the bite the bard and berserker became physically and mentally weaker (-1 to all physical and mental attribute checks, as well as -1 to initiative) for an untold period of time. However, they did discover in its lair over a thousand gold pieces of gold and gems, and a hat of disguise that one of the gnome rogue/illusionists was quite drawn to.

As some members of the group enter mid-level, they have now acquired a name – The Army of the Light – and are now working their way into the good graces of the local authority, as well as the political intrigue of the area. They are becoming more than just adventurers delving into the Barrowmaze, they are now becoming minor authority figures in their own right. But is there enough room for all these people vying for power in the Duchy of Aerik?

Hydra art from the Dungeons & Dragons 5E Monster Manual.