Runequest - Adventures in Prax

Dec 12
Episode 5: The Gubrana Rescue

Coming down out of the Eirithan Hills, the views in all directions were incredible. To their left, the impressive Mount Yiskoz soared up into the sky, its slopes reputedly haunted by spirits and other strange denizens, while beyond lay the impressive Valley of Cradles. This river valley ran north to south, cutting a massive scar through the harsh lands of Prax, its fertile surrounds in direct contrast to the arid steppes the characters had travelled across over the last 16 days. Far on the horizon great sandstone plateaus rose in steps, marking the other side of the river valley where it ascended to the legendary inhospitable Wastes.

In the foothills below lay the oasis town of Horn Gate, one of the busiest settlements in Prax outside of Pavis. Surrounded by a circular wall that seemed to glow and shimmer in the late sun, this busy market town was the largest settlement in the duke’s domain. Currently garrisoned by Sable Riders loyal to the Lunar Empire, it was also home to a temple of Chalana Arroy that included a high priestess, three other priests, and numerous inititates.

As they approached the town they were greeted by sable nomads who at first challenged them as rebels, but Raus angrily put them straight, and the group was led apologetically to the Lunar barracks where they sank gratefully onto bunks and slept soundly.

The town of Horn Gate was definitely a frontier place, however they didn't have much time to explore it. Raus was eager to be home and they set off early in the morning. Before leaving, both Karnak and Rhodrin visited the Chalana Arroy temple and hospice to make a donation and say a few prayers, as did the duke (it is sensible to keep on the good side of your local healers.)

After continuing over the semi-arid plains for a further day the group descended into the gorge known as Weiss Cut. This marked where the winter floods joined the Vilinar River and over the millennia had cut a great gorge that descended to the River of Cradles itself. Even as a tributary to the river valley, Weiss Cut was large enough to be a notable river valley of its own in some parts of the world. After a few hours they reached the run down hamlet of Weiss, home to a range of outcasts, misfits, and a few oasis people, all barely surviving off subsistence farming.

It was late afternoon by the time the fort came into sight, but long before then the incredible scenery of the River of Cradles valley began to open before them: many miles wide, the valley bottom was filled with marshland and primordial mangrove forests. The fort itself was perched on a rocky bluff, and next to it a picket fence outlined where the town would one day be built. Nearby fields and vegetable patches had been planted, to add to the fort's rations.

However, even before they arrived they could see a column of smoke rising to the south, and a group of people hurrying from the fort to meet them. Led by an older man, they entered into a hurried conversation with the duke and Daine, the mercenary commander then turning to them. He explained that the farmsteads that dotted the riverbank both up and downriver used a series of beacons to call for aid in times of need, and the column of smoke they could see was one such beacon. While they had hoped to have the bondsmen settle in for a few days before scouting the land, this was an emergency that they had to answer. While Brakiri was needed at the fort with the other nomads, Rile, Karnak, Rhodrin and Strum would head downriver to determine the cause of the distress signal, and to deal with the situation as best they could. Taking a lunar soldier from the fort with them who had a little knowledge of the region, they mounted up on zebras and set off downriver.

They travelled for several miles downriver, passing several fortified steads as they went, each with a column of smoke rising from a small bonfire burning in front of the house. Eventually they reached the final column of smoke and the source of the distress call. Ahead lay a log cabin, seemingly deserted although several animal corpses lay in the surrounding fields. The characters scoured the area for potential threats, then cautiously approached the cabin. Strum was getting very agitated, the taint of chaos thick in the air, but seeing no sign of life, Rile called out to the cabin, and saw a small child’s face appear briefly at one window before disappearing again. While Karnak slipped around the back of the house, the others entered the front and found a women lying weeping on the floor, two small girls in her arms. After calming her down, she said her name was Shayla Gubrana, and told of how the stead had been raided by a band of broos of all shapes and sizes, led by a large bloated one covered with tattoos. The broos had siezed her oldest daughter and youngest son before escaping to the south. When her husband and oldest boy returned from the fields, they had immediately set off in pursuit even though she begged them not to, and now she feared she had lost them all.

They instructed the lunar soldier to escort them woman and her children to a neighbouring stead, and then set off in pursuit. However, suspicious about the lingering sense of chaos felt by the storm bull Strum, Karnak decided to return to the cabin, and trailed the family to the neighbouring stead to ensure nothing was amiss. Fortunately everything seemed as it should be so he quickly turned and rode back to join his companions.

The broos had made no attempt to hide their trail, which turned west through the woods after a couple of hundred yards and headed towards the escarpment. Soon they were climbing up a steep slope and out of the valley, heading south along the top of the cliff, before the trail headed back down into the valley again. As they descended, they noticed two weasel headed broos on a ledge at the foot of a small cliff adjacent to the slope, while in the valley floor could be seen the body of a single human. The broos were distracted by something further along the ledge, so Rile managed to manoeuvre himself above them with a large rock in hand, while Strum and Rhodrin prepared missile weapons. Karnak attempted to sneak down the slope behind them, but slipped on the loose scree and started to slide down the slope. The broos looked up startled, but before they could flee the characters let loose with their missiles, crippling both with some very accurate firing. While Karnak finished them off, Rhodrin checked the body of the human and found him to be alive but seriously wounded. After administering healing to the man, he discovered that he was Tros Gubrana, the husband of Shayla, while hiding in a natural chimney further down the ledge, and the source of the broos distraction, was his eldest son Gidet, alive but extremely shaken.

After calming him down, Gidet was put in charge of guarding the zebras while the party continued on foot. Now the trail was much harder to follow, as the broos had made taken great pains to conceal it from this point. It took them several hours to find it, which would ultimately prove fatal for the missing boy – he was found torn to shreds some distance up the trail, his broken body lying face down in the dirt. Tros cursed greatly, but would grieve later…right now, his daughter might still be alive, so they pushed on through the gloom.

The tracks of the broos once again climbed up to the top of the escarpment, and then followed in a wide loop before returning to the clifftop to the north. Ahead of them the party could see the flicker of fire, and in the darkness make out the entrance to a cave – they then spotted a second cave much closer, and Karnak with his enhanced vision could make out the shape of a small broo similar to those they had dispatched earlier. From this cave could be heard the sounds of one or more creatures, while outside the bigger cave to the north they could just about make out two broo sentries.

The party knew that if they could dispatch the one sentry in the southern cave they could then plan a co-ordinated attack on the main broo group, so Karnak attempted to sneak up and hit it. Unfortunately the damage done was not enough to silence the weasel-headed creature, and it let out a gurgling cry before Karnak managed to kill it. This was enough to alert the sentries to the north, and the sound of chittering was followed by the appearance of several other strange looking broos sporting rat, dog and even pig heads. A creature that looked suspiciously like a cockatrice took to the air, while two much larger broos could be seen in the cave mouth augmenting themselves with spells.

The battle was swift and brutal. The area outside the broos lair was split into two separate areas by a large rocky outcrop, so while Karnak and Strum fought down one side, Rile and Tros teamed up down the other, with Rhodrin giving crucial support with his crossbow. Strum was in a berserk fury, and was very nearly put down several times, but luckily for him the broos blows did not land with as much force as they might, and he survived, bleeding from several wounds. One of the large broos charged out of the cave and hurled itself at Karnak, biting down on his shield with its huge teeth while slashing at him with a sword, but he managed to fend it off while he and Strum took it down. Meanwhile on the other side of the outcrop Tros had been floored by a large rock dropped by the flying broo, and Rile found himself dangerously outnumbered by two large pig headed broos, but with help from some deadly crossbow fire from Rhodrin managed to take them down.

Meanwhile the remaining large broo in the cave, who looked like a cross between a broo and a cliff toad and who was probably a shaman judging by the floating skull at his side, had been casting spells at the party, demoralising Rile and dispelling the Bladesharp from Strum’s axe. He now summoned a spirit that appeared as a roiling black form above his head, a skeletal face appearing from within the void. It hurtled towards Rhodrin, and after several attempts managed to covertly possess him, only to discover that the Lhankor Mhy sage had integrated a rune of harmony, making him immune to its effects!

Seeing the battle going against his band, the shaman Toadface decided enough was enough, picked up his goat companion and leapt up the side of the cliff and away out into the plains of Prax. His flying companion dropped its last rock and followed, dodging a final crossbow bolt from Rhodrin as it fled into the night.

At the back of the north cave the party found the kidnapped girl, completely traumatised but still alive – she had however been ravaged, and needed urgent help from the temple of Chalana Arroy. With Tros still badly hurt and most of the others still sporting one or more wounds, they gently helped the poor girl out of the cave and headed back to the waiting zebras, before beginning the long journey back to the fort.

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