Hearts of Stone 14: Wyvern Riders

Near Anvil Road, 20 May 216

The party quickly loots the bodies of the fallen Glitterhaegen marines, and retires to their camp to wait for dawn. After some debate on how to track flying creatures in the dark, a combination of Soreth’s extraordinary sense of smell and Ssh’ta’s invocation of the High Druid so that he could talk to the trees allows the group to track the wyvern (for that is what it was) to a nearby farmstead.

Here, they find a group of ten wyvern mounts, watched over by a handful of orcs lazing near a lakeside gazebo. While X7-09 stealthily approaches the wyverns, Hayes openly approaches the leading orc (recognisable by his plate corselet) and challenges him to a game of cards.

“Who are you and what do you want?” asks the orc, who unusually for an orc isn’t shooting first and asking questions later.

“That’s a very good question,” answers Hayes, who as an amnesiac doesn’t know either answer. “What are you doing here?”

The orc explains that he is looking for another orc named Fangrot. Hayes offers the services of his burgeoning intelligence network, and says he did see an orc while looting a living dungeon some weeks ago. This intrigues the orc greatly, but after a short discussion of the dungeon it becomes clear they are talking about different orcs. Meanwhile Soreth moves up to another wyvern and notices there are more orcs in the farmstead; simultaneously Ssh’ta observes one of them watching him from cover and realises the party has been outflanked.

Valore invokes an icon and calls “Here boy!” to the gazebo, which uproots itself and lumbers towards her, barging aside the orc leader. Ignoring the mayhem to follow, Valore, his followers, Kowalski and others clamber into the now-mobile gazebo and help themselves to its supply of cucumber water. Zadok the priest blesses the gazebo, which becomes less dreadful and shinier.

Meanwhile, X7-09 leaps from cover onto the back of the nearest wyvern with a shout of “YEEEE HAAAA!”. The wyvern promptly bucks and throws X7-09 into a pile of rocks nearby, causing its companions to take flight and scatter over the lake.

“Is that dwarf-forged with you?” the orc asks Hayes.

“No,” says Hayes, sitting on a rock. “Look, we can talk later, you’d better sort this out.”

Balthazar Rook, who unlike X7-09 can actually ride flying mounts, charges from cover and leaps into the saddle.

“That’s my wyvern,” says the orc leader.

“It’s my wyvern now!” shouts Balthazar.

“Your funeral,” shrugs the orc, as the wyvern erupts into a blinding ball of claws, teeth and poisonous stinger. He calls sharp orders in orcish, and the other wyverns circle around, heading for the farmstead to pick up their riders.

Balthazar invokes his own icon connection, and his fox mask causes the orc and the wyvern to associate him with their most pleasant memories.

“Come with me if you want to live,” the orc leader says to Hayes. Hayes, Soreth and Balthazar are offered seats on orc-ridden wyverns and disappear into the sky, leaving the rest of the group somewhat perplexed.

GM NOTES

Episode 13 was intended to be a negotiation and roleplaying session, and turned into a bloodbath. This session was intended to be a bloodbath, and turned into a negotiating session because Hayes unwittingly pushed exactly the right buttons for the orc chieftain, who as Hayes will shortly learn is an agent of Master Throatcutter, the Orc Lord’s chief spy and assassin. We ran out of time for that conversation so it will happen between episodes 14 and 15, offline.

This session was also dogged by microphone problems, and also shortened by a lengthy discussion of a proposed rules change; the upshot of that is, we’re adopting the suggestion from Thomas Zunder about making icon relationships skills. You can already see more reliance on icon rolls in this session, but my primary motive was avoiding the need to track icon rolls across sessions, which I felt the need to do because 30-odd icon rolls every session is just not viable when each session has only one encounter on average.

The group has also discovered the story of the Dread Gazebo and requested a gazebo in this adventure. Intrigued, I complied, and you can see the outcome above.

A double-sized party and sessions half the usual duration are also making me think about adopting the quick combat rules for most fights. Still thinking about that one, because the group do seem to enjoy fights.

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