[The story so far]
Session 08 - Gnollololololol
Fired with purpose and the growing realisation that, if Aractheon was real and the apocrypha were accurate, the world really could be ended if they and the other parties failed to return with sufficient information to allow Alaric to prevent this apocalypse, the party rode West at speed. Once through the nearly empty streets of Corcelle as dawn broke, they continued past villages and inns that were increasingly widely spaced. The road was good, however, and they must have covered twenty miles before making camp for the night.
They quickly agreed the order of taking watch, one at a time, and settled down to sleep around the fire. The first watch passed peacefully, but during the second watch (Aurelius'), the whinnying of their horses only gave them a moment's notice before a gang of hooded men brandishing weapons burst snarling into the circle of firelight and hurled themselves at each of the adventurers. Roused suddenly from slumber, they fumbled for their weapons, utterly taken off guard. Aurelius fell to a sword blow [reduced to 0HP with the first strike!], and Grat was similarly sent sprawling [down to 1HP - I was getting nervous about character deaths at this point]. Dumnorix, Nomos and Raison held their attackers at bay, however, and it turned out the assailants had missed the diminutive halfling Gowmac in their rush. He quickly grabbed his crossbow and scuttled, unseen, beyond the reach of the firelight.
Never one to leave an insult unavenged, Grat pulled out the scroll he'd been given by Anselm and cast Alathea's Blaze at two of the now clearly hairy and bestially-faced attackers. Reading aloud he scrumpled the scroll into a ball and cast it out towards them; with a whoosh like tearing cotton, a gout of magical flame too bright to look at enveloped them both. One was practically incinerated, the other fled yelping into the darkness, his fur ablaze. Muttering a prayer to Alathea, Dumnorix grasped his polehammer grimly; Raison called an elvish curse; Nomos grunted and dropped into a fighting stance; out in the shadows Gowmac calmly loaded his crossbow.
Surprise lost, battle was about to be joined in earnest...
Thrilled at the success of his magic, Grat summoned some sylphids (minor air spirits) and had them dump fiercely glowing embers from the fire onto one of the two beasts attacking Nomos and setting it ablaze. Unsurprisingly it, too, fled into the darkness but his comrade took a chunk out of the warrior. After several clashes of blade on blade, Raison managed to slice open the throat of his foe in a cinematic spray of the red stuff. Gowmac proved to be almost as bad a shot as Nomos was a swordsman and poor Dumnorix first managed to break the head off his polehammer and then was cut down in his surprise [a critical failure, followed by being reduced from 6 to 0 HP in one strike from a shortsword!]. Raison tried to shoot one of the two who'd put Dumnorix out of the fight but snapped his bowstring [the next of several rolls of 1 that the party made...]. Cursing, he redrew his sword and readied his Shield spell as the erstwhile target of his bow advanced upon him, snarling from his hyena-like face. The other turned on the fleeing Grat but was shot down with the first successful bolt from the halfling's crossbow.
Nomos suddenly found himself in real trouble as he missed with a vertical strike intend to cleave his opponent in twain, only to embed it deep in the ground [yes, another 1 on a to-hit roll]. The beast saw his opportunity and stamped on the longsword's blade, snapping it, before cutting deep into Nomos' side [rolling natural 20 to-hit in return!]. Bounding out of the darkness, Gowmac hacked into the swordbreaker's thigh before finishing him off as he lay haemorrhaging on the floor.
Gowmac then started to loot the bodies while Grat dashed to Dumnorix' side to see if he could help his fallen comrade. Nomos, however, fished an iron spike from his pack and charged over to the last beast who was trading blows with Raison - the sudden change in momentum hadn't yet struck the last attacker who didn't realise he was now alone. A strong blow from Raison knocked the creature sprawling and Nomos leaped upon him to despatch him with the spike... but missed and ended up pinning himself to the ground through his own sleeve! [yet another natural 1 - starting to worry about that green d20]. Raison suffered no such mishap and, in a heartbeat, all was still and the party had survived. He (Raison) then stooped to sniff and then touch a spot of the beasts' blood to his tongue - a heavy, rancid taste, like fox. But no sense of magic, so thankfully he decided they weren't were-creatures and the party's injuries should heal without further implications.
Healing potions were duly drunk, bodies looted, and corpses piled to be burned. As they watched together through the rest of the night, amid the stench of singed fur, a disant memory stirred in Aurelius' mind. An old bestiary had talked of man-like beasts that roamed the wild places in packs; gnolls. But to encounter them only a day's hard ride from a city like Corcelle was very strange...
The session was full of laughter, but the biggest came when Nomos tried to jump on a fallen gnoll's back and finish him off with an iron spike. I said the fateful words "Anything but a one." Needless to say...
A break for half term, but we'll be back in Averaigne in a couple of weeks.