Within a couple of days the group has settled into a rhythm. They are learning some basics about swordsmanship from Ursay. Gronk has them scrambling about the Talon as he teaches them the ins and outs of operating a skyship. The awkward armor of the dragon born is giving your people the most difficulty. Once again, it is fortunate that Gronk has remained with you. He is no expert, but he is very helpful getting everyone outfitted. The dragon born never bothered to forge armor for members of their crew from other races. Gronk was forced to scavenge what he could to build himself a suit. As an engineer he was considered an important part of the crew and, as such, he was allowed to wear armor. His experience at building a suit of piecemeal armor allows him to do the same for each member of your party.
Before long, you find yourself standing with a ready band of raiders. They are a motley bunch to be sure. The armor is a bit over-sized for all but Geran whose bulk is more alike to the dragon men. Geran approaches you. “Well Esmerelda, we be ready. I think these boys can handle emselves so long as they don’t go pickin fights with too many o the dragon beasties at one time.” You agree with his assessment. While they have been enthusiastic students none of them approaches the skill of a trained soldier. “I think we’ll have to pick our targets careful like,” says Geran. “Ready for a raid?” You nod and with a wave motion the group to follow. There are eleven all together. You, the guardian and Geran take the lead. Eight of the young villagers follow you through the passageway leading back to the Valley.
Give me some ideas about how you want to proceed. What do you want to try to find. What kind of route do you want to take. I’m assuming you’ll be going out at night. Feel free to describe your trip through the valley..you’ll encounter some patrols on the ground as well as a routine patrol ship cruising the valley below the cloud layer. I’ll follow up with some…well…follow up. I will take your ideas and run with them.
It occurs to me that a map of the valley would probably be helpful in this discussion.
My general thoughts on a plan would be to scout around a bit near the mountains where we’re working from. We’ll probably want to establish a second base of operations so we don’t lead enemies back to our main hideout. Somewhere to rendezvous in the event of something bad happening.
We’ll be starting out picking at the fringes of the dragonborn control. If we can find some places where there are a lot of unruly people and only a few guards, that’s where we’ll want to strike.
I’m presuming we’ll be finding more people – some will probably be of no combat use. We’ll need to set up something for them to do to help out- farming, food prep, etc. The ones that might be of combat use we’ll need to continue working with.
I’ll also want to have lots of practice getting around on the airships. When the time comes, we’ll need to be ready to capture enemy vessels. Training in the weaponry of the airships, as well as maybe some help from Gronk in learning how to disable ships and take them over. If we can get our hands on some additional vessels, we can start to build a more formidable fleet.
I’ll also want to learn how the dragonborn identify their ships to one another. Do they fly flags? Is there a way we can disguise out ship to get the drop on them?
…Map uploaded…I’m going to explore other options for Mapping but the hex maps should serve our purposes for now…Refer to the Maps tab for interactive maps and to the Maps heading on the wiki page if you want to get a look at the whole valley.
Now…on to the scouting:
After journeying west through the underground passage you emerge at the charred remains of Ursay’s cottage. The land around the cottage is heavily forested and hilly. You feel confident that you can travel safely with little chance of discovery, so long as you stick to the wooded areas.
Turning north and west, your band climbs down out of the foothills into the lowlands. There is a band of forest several miles wide running north from the cabin. Twenty miles to the north west lies the main town of Gen along the shores of the lake. Farther north, perhaps 30 miles away and hovering menacingly over the valley, floats the city of the dragon men. It is high above the valley floor. You can see lights twinkling even at this distance. If it weren’t the city of an invading army, you might consider it to be beautiful to see.
West, beyond the foot hills perhaps ten miles, lie the cultivated lands of the vale folk. You and your band make your way west in to see what has become of the farmsteads. The darkness of the vale serves you well this night. The dragon ships require light and they are easy to see drifting lazily around the valley. You have little difficulty avoiding the air born patrols.
After traveling for a few hours, you find yourself looking down from a narrow draw between two hills. You can see the river below, reflected in the firelight of one of the farmsteads. There appear to be many fires around the main buildings as well as in the fields surrounding it. It looks like an encampment of some kind. You climb down the hills and cross the two miles of grassland before reaching a wheat field. The tall grasses make perfect cover and you make your way closer to the encampment….more to follow.
After crawling through the tall wheat grass you come to the edge of the field. You are looking at ten buildings in a small circle. Seven of them are homes for the villagers, now serving as living quarters for the dragon army. The other three buildings are barns. From the smell and the bleating you can tell which two hold the sheep and other livestock. A small childlike sneeze reveals the contents of the third barn. Soldiers guard the large doors at either end of the barn. You can see both ends of the barn from your hiding place. On one end, the soldiers are not taking their duties too seriously as they are slumped against the door in slumber. On the other end the guards speak to each other in low tones.
There are watch fires set around the perimeter of the farmstead. You can see soldiers patrolling; two pairs of guards each leading a creature on a leash. The guards are on the far side of the homestead at the moment and you can’t make out what is attached to the other end of the leads.
Beyond this scene you can make out the masts of a large skyship. It’s sails are furled and, if it is not set upon the ground, it is hovering very low. From what you can see this ship appears to be about twice the length and height of The Talon. The vessel flies a standard, but you cannot make it out in the darkness.
It appears that the villagers are being allowed to operate their farms. The fruits of their labor are most likely being stockpiled on the ship to be transported to the floating city.
Geran crawls up to you through the grass…“This was Old Olly’s homestead.” Geran smacks your shoulder with the back of his hand “You know…we used to call ’im ole hammerhand on account a he broke his hand while hanging a picture for his wife.” Geran chuckles to himself as he recalls the story. Your glare silences him…“right…not the best time. Well, what now?”
My first though is to try and take over the sky ship. Do I have enough crew here to man it?
If so, we’ll make our way over there.
My thinking is that if we can snag the ship, we can use it as an attack platform and ride it in to the middle of the perimeter. We could leave a few people here to make for the barn once the attack starts to release the people trapped in there. Then we can scoop them up with the ship and scoot on out of here.
If that doesn’t seem possible based on the layout, I’ll have to come up with another plan.
From what Gronk has taught you so far, a ship can only reach it’s maximum speed and maneuverability with a full crew. The talon is a relatively small ship and as such only requires a crew of 5 plus a helmsman to run at full capacity. Though you can’t make out any details from here, you can see that this is a much larger ship, and it’s reasonable to assume you’ll need most of the crew assembled. Including yourself, Geran and the Guardian, there are eleven of you. “This lot’s green…probably not ready for a real fight yet,” says Geran. “I’ll bet my hands they can handle that ship though.”
Your people are armed with bows…and though they aren’t trained warriors, most are pretty handy when it comes to shooting. If you can get them on the ship, and get it into the air, they are likely to be able to keep the dragon men at bay.
“Mistress, I believe the Geran Unit speaks truly. We may be able to move unseen by staying out of the firelight. It may be more difficult to remain undetected by the patrolling guards. They appear to be leading some kind of watch lizard. Look!” The Guardian points to your right. You can see one of the patrols coming into view around a watch fire. Each guard holds a lead. The creatures on the end of the leashes are large and powerful looking. Their reptilian bodies are close to the ground. They are easily ten feet in length. The black skin gleams in the firelight as their heads swing side to side. You can see forked tongues flicking in and out as if they are trying to taste the very air.
…So..the plan looks feasible…with a few challenges….(grin)
Here’s some more detail on the layout:
You are lying in a field looking west towards the farmstead. Directly ahead of you are the three barns lined up end to end perhaps fifty feet apart. You are looking at the long sides of the barns with double doors on either end. Only the central barn has guards, where you assume the villagers are being held. The barns to the left and right are clearly full of livestock. Geran informs you that Old Olly Hammerhand was mainly a shepherd so it’s likely that the barns are full of sheep, though you do hear the whinny of a horse or two.
The span of ground between you and the barns is about a hundred yards. The watch fires are spaced evenly at about fifty foot intervals and lie perhaps twenty yards from the barns. You have 80 yards of open space to reach the nearest watch fire. The lizard creatures do not seem to detect you at this point as the patrol continues on past you, however, the second patrol will make its turn past you at some point. The patrols seem to be maintaining distance so that they are directly across the encampment from each other as the move. The ring of homes lies beyond the barns and the skyship is on the other side, beyond the watch fires and near the river.
I’m thinking of splitting the group a bit. Leave a few folks here with Geran to rouse the villagers from their captivity. The rest of us will make our way to the ship and try to take it over. With the distraction of the ship moving, I’m hoping that will be enough of a distraction to allow the 2nd group to get to the prisoners without much of a fight.
I’m envisioning that the ship is outside the patrol area, and that we can circle around to get at it without alerting the rest of the guards?
You whisper your plans to the group. Geran nods as you describe his role. He’s got a mischievous grin on his face. He must be enjoying this thoroughly. Perhaps that should worry you, but there’s no time to give it much thought. “I’ll get em out lass. We’ll get back to the field here and lie low til you come get us with the ship. Look for us on the far side yonder.” He points across the field, back the way you came. “If we can’t hide there for some reason, we’ll head for the hills.”
Leaving Geran and two men behind, the rest of you head to the left through the field. Since the patrolling guards are maintaining distance, you figure you have a better chance if you can move along in the space between them. You keep the nearest patrol in your sights far ahead of you, while instructing one of the group to keep an eye out to the rear in case the second patrol comes up from behind, unexpectedly.
It’s slow going as it takes you nearly a half an hour to make your way around to the other side of the village. You continue to move through the wheat stalks until you reach the ends of the fields. Crossing into the open you are glad for the utter darkness of the valley nights. You can easily maintain a safe distance from the firelight and your half-elven vision allows you to lead the band safely.
Once you reach the other side of the houses, you can see that your observations were correct. The ship lies beyond the ring of watch fires. You can see now that it hovers a few feet off the ground. Four guy lines hold it in place, though the ship does appear to drift slightly. You can make out the occasional creaking sound as the weight of the ship strains against the ropes. The sound might be soothing in other circumstances.
The ship sits with it’s bow facing you. There is a large hatchway open towards the village. A wide ramp leads up in to the bowels of the ship. You can make out stacks of crates and bales of hay and wool scattered haphazardly near the hatchway, presumably waiting to be loaded. The port side of the ship is right up to the river bank and it is in total darkness. Seeing an opportunity, you lead the band to the river. Even though the ship is beyond the watch fires, the starboard side of the ship is in dim light, and there is a lot of open space to cross to reach the hatchway.
The banks of the river are high enough to hide you from sight. Slipping into the river you make your way upstream towards the ship. The night is quiet and the river slips by lazily as you wade. You can hear the sounds of your party moving through the water and the occasional croak of a frog from the opposite bank. Suddenly another sound reaches your ears. Freezing in place you listen carefully. The sound is coming from just ahead beyond a small spit of land reaching out into the river. It sounds like water falling. A sharp cough followed by a belching sound reveals a guard standing at the rivers edge. He is relieving himself into the water. You can make him out clearly now. After a quick scratch and a few adjustments to his armor he turns back up the river bank. At that moment chaos descends on the scene!
From your right there is a shout from the village. You see a bright light flare up above the river banks. The air is filled with a loud roaring sound, shouting soldiers and….bleating sheep. The soldier on the bank reaches down to grab his weapon. He is about to make his way up the bank when arrows suddenly rain down upon him from your group. In their panic, your unseasoned warriors drew and fired. Most of the arrows stick harmlessly in the river bank, but one finds the soldiers thigh. Clutching at the arrow, he drops his weapon and falls to the ground. Realizing a shout of warning could ruin your plans, you rush up. A sword point through the throat silences the guard forever. You look back at your men with a disapproving glance but any reprimands will have to wait.
Scrambling up the bank you can now see what’s happening in the village. Rushing frantically in bright firelight are about twenty dragonborn soldiers. The two barns where the livestock were being kept are fully engulfed in flames. The fire roars like an orange and yellow monster shrieking in glee as it feeds on the barns. The entire flock of old Olly’s sheep are loose in the village and their panicked bleating adds to the din. Dragon soldiers are attempting to douse the flames while still more are trying to round up the sheep. In the confusion, there doesn’t appear to be any attention on the ship, or the prisoners. You see one of the lizard creatures burst into the clearing, a leash dragging behind it. It snaps at the sheep at the rush by. You can see the things handler running up behind trying to regain control.
You take advantage of the confusion and rush around the ship and up the gang plank. The sounds of chaos behind you soften a bit as you enter the ships hold. The guardian heads towards the ships magical engine. He has been receiving some instruction from Gronk on their operation. You lead the rest of the crew up onto the deck. Quickly your men are up in the rigging, unfurling the sails. The Guardian gives you a warning from below that he’s is lifting the ship. “Get ready, we’re moving!” you shout to your men. Then the ship begins to rise. At first you only lift a few feet, then the guy lines snap taut as the ship strains against them. For a moment all is still. The men are bracing themselves, you grip the wheel tightly. From the village the sounds of the sheep and the dragonborn soldiers are barely audible over the constant howl of the fiery monster feeding on the barns. Then the lines snap and the ship is free! Looking over your shoulder you can see the stern line was tied to a small tree that is now being dragged behind the ship.
You’ve lifted off perhaps fifty feet before you hear the shouts of alarm from below. You have turned the ship over the village and towards the fields on the opposite side. You run over to starboard railing and look down at a group of guards organizing themselves. Their military discipline is taking over and you can see their commander shouting orders and pointing up at the ship. A quick glance ahead shows you are heading towards the flaming barns. You can’t see much through the flames, but you think you catch a glance of several figures rushing through the firelight towards the wheat fields.
Suddenly an arrow whizzes past your ear. Looking down you see a group of ten dragonborn archers taking aim at the ship. They seem to be focusing on you! From your right you hear the thrum of bow strings as your men return fire. A shout of triumph echos through the crew as two of the soldiers fall. Sheep continue to rush about the scene giving the soldiers difficulty in keeping their feet. As you watch, one of the archers is knocked down and trampled by a dozen sheep fleeing from the lizard creature that seems intent on taking this opportunity for a little dinner. Your crew continues to fire as you regain the helm and steer the ship towards the wheat fields.
The ship lurches unexpectedly and you fall against the wheel. Remembering the stern line you look back over the railing. The tree has snagged on part of the building. While it wasn’t enough to stop the ship completely, it slowed you down enough for a couple of quick witted guards to grab the line and start climbing! You could try to cut the line but that would involve a climb down the stern. Your men are occupied with raining arrows on the soldiers below. Looking ahead you see the flames leaping higher into the air. With grim determination you steer the ship towards the flames. Looking back you see the tree and the stern line dragging behind with two dragon soldiers climbing steadily towards you. You can see their faces in the glow of the firelight. It’s too late when you see the look of realization. One of the soldiers drops with a scream rather than brave the flames. The other seems frozen in terror as he is pulled through a raging inferno. The heat from the fire is so intense that you have to drop to the deck, shielding your face. When you have passed through, you look back over the rail to see the soldier is gone. With another lurch, the line snaps completely when the tree snags in the burning wreckage of the barn. The ships momentum is enough to overcome the resistance and you find yourself in the cool night air above the wheat fields. Your crew have moved around you as they continue to fire on the pursuing dragon soldiers. In the light of the fire you can see a number of them lying in the grass, arrows proudly standing in their lifeless bodies. A song of praise reaches your lips and you can’t help but free the song in your heart. As before, your music seems to work a strange magic on the scene, for your men suddenly achieve a level of bowman-ship beyond their abilities. Their arrows are flying true as one by one, the dragonborn fall. Soon the pursuit is over. Behind you the flames continue to roar over the bleating of the sheep.
Once you have cleared the wheat field, you find the fleeing villagers easily. Geran waves to you when he sees you looking over the rail. Soon you have the ship near the ground and the frightened, weary people climb through the hatchway. Geran’s mischievous grin has now widened til he is positively beaming. “Well…what did you think of my distraction?” he asks as he slaps you on the shoulder.