Chapter Three: River Island (1)
Your party continues its journey to return the necklace to the courier. Trekking through Trebonshire Forest, the setting remains mostly the same. Only now they have to leave the road and make their way straight through the woods, cutting their own path – at least until they find the shore of the Whitestream river.
From there on, they can follow the Whitestream to the bend with the river island in it.
The party travels along the river without any incident. They reach the river island, engage the bandit leader in battle – with one or two surprises included -, and hopefully vanquish their foe.
After that they ransack the leader’s shack. The necklace is among the loot stored there, and the party can fill their bags and return to Clearspring with victory on their minds.
Although this part of the journey is no different from the original foray into Trebonshire Forest in Chapter Two, there should not be any more random encounters here. Everything is now geared towards the encounter with the bandit leader, so distractions are unwelcome.
On the other hand, things do happen during the hours it takes the party to cross through the woods. Or, more precisely, once the party reaches the Whitestream. Throw in the following flavor text after a while of trekking along the shores:
The party might now decide to travel more cautiously and keep a look out for any such observer. None can be found, no matter how much they search the bushes and trees around them. (If a character wants to use his tracking skill, roll a check. The result is completely irrelevant, but the player doesn’t have to know that.)
If the party hits upon the idea of gazing at the water, use the following:
For your information, the tiny rapids are the answer to the party’s uneasy feeling. They appear rather natural – and amusing -, but in fact they are magical eyes that the bandit leader uses to spy on his surroundings and be warned of any travellers. (How the bandit leader can do so, you will learn a bit later.)
Just like the bandit in the “Epilogue” of Chapter Two said, the Whitestream widens to a goodly fifty yards here as its course bends towards the west. A small lake is formed by this bend. The shores roll flat into the water, with very little growth near the water. Willows grow here and there, trailing their long branches into the water, but they aren’t plentiful.
The island is roughly oval, some twenty-five yards wide and sixty long. Its southern end narrows quickly into a sandy tip that is constantly lapped by the rolling waters of the Whitestream. Its northern end is more rounded and rocky, elevated over the water by about two feet. From there the island gently slopes down to the sandy south, with one notable rock piercing up like the fin of a shark in the island’s very middle.
Bushes grow plentifully on the island, crowding down to the very waterline. Willows are arrayed about the northern side, forming a good screen of what is between them – presumably the shack where the bandit leader lives. The shrubbery lessens in density towards the southern end, until it becomes only occasional dots in the sand.
On the western side of the bend, seventeen yards separate the island from the shore at the closest point. (The distance on the eastern side is eight yards, but the party approaches from the opposite direction.) The water is clear enough that the party can see the river is very deep here, far too deep to wade through.
There are several ways how to cross the river and reach the island. The easiest would clearly be swimming (provided all the characters in the group possess that skill), but it’s very impossible to swim with all one’s equipment, especially armor and boots, of course. If the players choose to swim to the island, they’d have to leave some of their equipment and clothes behind – they should be permitted to carry only one weapon to the island.
Well, now, that seems to be a very inefficient way to reach the island. Particularly when you consider that the bandits store their loot on the island, so they must employ a different method in getting there. The obvious answer is a boat. Although there’s only seventeen yards of water to cross, it’s inevitable, and the highwaymen have indeed hidden a boat on the banks of the river to transport the goods across to the island. (The leader has his own way to leave the island.)
Of course an alternative would be a bridge or a ferry run along a rope between island and shore. A bridge would have been prohibitively expensive for the bandits – and a ferry would certainly attract unwanted attention.
So, the best way to get to the island is to use the boat stowed by the bandits. In most cases, they will have to go looking for it.
There are two exceptions: Either the party managed to press the necessary information from the bandit in the conversation at the end of Chapter Two, or they have brought the bandit along and can now force him to reveal the hiding place. (Of course this only applies if one of the bandits had been left alive.)
In order to find the boat, the characters have to go searching the shore. The boat is rather well hidden, so it will take a bit of intelligence. Have each of the players roll a percentage check for each round of the search. Add the intelligence bonus to the result of each roll.
Unless the boat is found right away, add up the cumulative bonus the characters rack up. As soon as that bonus reaches 100, the boat has been found.
The ship’s a small affair, not designed to carry more than four persons at a time. Two oars are fastened to the inside with a rope; they have to be untied to be used.
The boat is hidden in a thicket about five feet from the waterline. The characters will have to carry it to the river. Note: It takes two people of average (human) strength to carry the boat.
When the party (or the first members) reach the shore of the island, they are already welcomed by the bandit leader…
Okay, we have a number of points to examine after this piece of flavor text.
First of all, the elf in the text above is, of course, the bandit leader himself. One of the reasons he likes to keep himself separate from his band of highwaymen is his very race. Some of the bandits might not respond too well to the commands of an elf (not all of them knew just what their “boss” is). More importantly, though, the presence of an elf in command of the lawless would surely make them seem more dangerous to the authorities. They would surely have intensified their hunt for the bandits, attracting more support all around to eliminate the evil elf. (The hatred of elves is alive and strong in this area of Gushémal, perhaps more so because few real elves have ever been encountered here.)
The leader owns an elfwood sword, but it has seen better days. Now elfwood is the hardest substance on Gushémal, and no (unmagical) steel or diamond can cut its surface. What damaged this sword? Well, it’s ancient, perhaps dating back to the Eternal Forest – three thousand years ago -, and in the time since it’s been in uncounted battles. Sometimes it has been used against magical swords, often against other elfwood blades – both of those are enough to put some dents into the sword.
What it works out as is that it isn’t up to the stats listed in the Player’s Handbook, but it’s still very dangerous:
sword has an attack value of 3d10+3 (down from 4d10+3 for a regular
elfwood sword), its weight is 2 lbs. Otherwise use the stats for a
long sword, as provided in the Player’s Handbook.
Furthermore, the leader isn’t the best fighter in the world. He has solid experience with his weapon, but he certainly lacks a fighter’s experience and expertise. His stats for direct combat are:
The reason for his lack in fighting expertise is that he is also a cleric of Mannannan, the ancient God of the Sea. Having taken the service of the watery god, the leader spent long years in the temple studying, without any time for fighting practice. The leader was a good student, learned much of the magical craft of his order, and ever since being ordained as full priest has done much to improve. He has pleased his god by his work to craft and form water; a way to impress the might and power of Mannannan onto potential new followers. (Mannannan enjoys shows of force, and even though the leader may not be doing much to spread his god’s word right now, that should change at some point in the future. The display of his god-given powers alone should do much to remind people of just who Mannannan is, and that it would be good to keep this god satisfied and pacified.)
He has been given the power to create water-based bodyguards (more detailed description below), so that he has no need of human guards. As shown in the flavor text, they form in the water, then they step out onto the ground – maintaining their shape – and attack the leader’s enemies.
You may have noted that the elf gives the party ample time to realize what they are up against. Let’s just say that the bandit leader revels in his own power, and he likes to see his victims squirm before the superior onslaught of his forces destroys them. (It’s also a splendid opportunity to introduce all the elements.)