Last night we picked up right where session 2 ended in our Iron Principalities game, with the players bracing themselves for an oncoming swarm of the cursed Knights of the Maimed King, an order of fallen paladins exterminated for their crimes three hundred years ago, bound to the site of their demise and the sinister half-life of undeath.
Kholark Sunderstone, Half-Orc Barbarian 1
Dormammu, Half-Elf Warlock 1
Zerin of Birdsall, Half-Elf Paladin 1
Mivahl Shimov, Human Fighter 1
Cor, Rock Gnome Wizard 1 (NPC'd for this session)
Lasair Lightfoot, Wood Elf Rogue 1
Sylvus Treeshroud, Wood Elf Druid 1
As the six Knights closed ranks on the adventurers' position, the battle swung wildly; Kholark, Mivahl and Zerin all came within a hairsbreadth of death under the hacking swords and gnarled claws of the ravenous undead, which seemed almost impossible to fell. Finally, Cor dropped a Thunderwave spell, knocking the Knights back and allowing the party to make a fighting retreat. The Knights of the Maimed King did not pursue past the walls of the Groaning Keep.
Zerin and Dormammu rode out to meet the rider, open hands held aloft to signify peace and parlay. The rider stopped and removed his helmet, revealing the scarred, red-skinned face of a hobgoblin warrior. "You are not a merchant caravan," he observed gruffly.
Zerin explained to the hobgoblin that they were cartographers, hired to map the hazards of the Maw, and that while the local rulers didn't like or trust each other, the group had conned all three of them into paying for the expedition. At this, the hobgoblin burst out laughing.
"You make the princes fight...with gold? Yes? Fight with gold instead of steel. Very funny! Wait until I tell Great Khan, princes fight with gold!"
After a little bit of further discussion, they learn the hobgoblin's name is Erdo, and he warns them to be careful - the giant scorpions of the Maw had an explosive breeding season last year, and now roam
the waste in unusually high numbers. He offers to bring them before the Great Khan himself to repeat their tale of making the princes "fight with gold," if they will return to this spot in six days. Dormammu readily agrees. Calculating travel, if they drop off the naming ceremony gift at Craghold Keep and turn right around and head back, they can arrive just in time for their meeting with Borgai the Great, Khan of Khans, ruler of all the Hobgoblins.
Zerin gives Erdo a gold piece in friendship, and Erdo gives him a Zuleck - a rectangular iron coin used by the hobgoblins - in return. They salute, and ride off in opposite directions.
The next day, mid-morning, the group are ambushed by a trio of Ogres; hoping to repeat their diplomatic approach from the day before, this plan swiftly fell apart as Mivahl and one of the horses were impaled on heavy, ogrish javelins. Dormammu sent one of the ogres running with a casting of Discordant Whispers, as the party laid into the other two. The ogres barely knew what hit them before they were spilling their life's blood on the ground. Looting the bodies, they found a large copper-plated belt, set with bits of quartz and fool's gold, apparently of ogrish manufacture (like a big, cheap, badly made Wrestlemania belt), which Mivahl promptly claimed.
As they exited the Maw the next day (so it is now the 20th of Sowmont) and entered the grasslands south of the desert, towards evening they noticed the plume of smoke from a cookfire; approaching, they found a ramshackle cabin, light pouring from its windows, next to an odd shrine; a crude stone carving of a huge, beefy human male with a giant beard, standing next to a bear that was likewise bearded.
The door of the cabin opened, and a shirtless dwarf (his shirtlessness not immediately apparent due to the density of his chest and back hair) emerged, bellowing welcomes and blessings "in the name of Bormo."
Once the mugs of Anoroc's homebrew whiskey were passed around, Mivahl got into a drinking contest with Jaroslav, which he promptly lost, earning him a hearty thump of approval on the chest from Anoroc. When asked about Lord Vesper and Craghold Keep, Anoroc responded...emphatically, spitting on the floor with a bellow of "That, to Vesper!" followed by squatting down and farting on the spit puddle, followed by "And that, too, to Vesper!"
Anoroc explained that all the drinks in Craghold were watered down. Worse, Vesper was a demon cultist, and a very "unmanly" one at that, "if he worshiped Bormo like a real man, he wouldn't need to summon a demon to ah, how you say, put babies in his wife. Bormo make sure you have many fat babies." Anoroc had heard rumors that Vesper, his wife, and various hangers-on at court participated in monthly wine-soaked orgies of sex and black magic, and could confirm that all dogs and wolves went berserk in the vicinity of Craghold.
When asked if he had any idea how they might infiltrate the Keep to look for evidence, Anoroc considered and then said, "Craghold Keep attached to small town. Find tavern called 'Whore's Arse' - is always open. Castle bailiff, half-orc named Borut, drink there. You drink with him, he take you to Vesper. But seriously, fuck that guy. Fuck Vesper."
[DM's Note: Borgai, Bormo, Borut. I really need to make sure I don't do that again.]
That night, Mivahl converted to Bormoism, and in the morning, Anoroc saw them off with a huge breakfast of bacon and whiskey, a small keg of whiskey, and a powerful blessing of Bormo: "May your beards stay full and righteous; may your pecs never sag; may your back hair never thin; may you always hold your drink; all this, may Bormo provide."