Jojo has just turned 10! So from this session onwards, I’ll note that she’s now a 10yo, which according to her, is way, way more advanced than a 9yo.
Lexi, Elven Rogue (played by Jojo, 10yo)
Sharpblade, Skeleton (Human) Fighter (played by Evan, 7yo)
The next morning, a crowd of excited townsfolk gather around the charred remains of the choker in front of Fastidus’s house. The old wizard is still shut in his basement, so Lexi and Sharpblade are next to the corpse, soaking up the praise from the gathered townsfolk.
A little while later, a group of city guards turn up, and the captain eyes both Lexi and Sharpblade. “Are you two the ones who killed this creature? Good work! I’m sure there’s a reward for doing so. Come with me to the Town hall, and I’ll see that you both claim it.”
The promise of free gold is enough to encourage the adventurers to follow the city guard captain to the Sandpoint town hall, which acts as a court-house during certain times of the day. By this time, there is already a line of people outside, all waiting to see the appointed magistrate for the day. “Today, you see that the magistrate is none other than Sour Bill the fat wizard! He sits behind a large oak desk in the hall, and listens to each complaint or request that people bring to him.”
Soon, the adventurers themselves are presented to Sour Bill, and the fat wizard speaks in his slow, somber tone. “Well done to the two of you. There is no doubt that this is the creature that has prowled around these past couple of nights looking for a magic-user victim. The council of Sandpoint is glad to present you both 500 gold each for your efforts.”
“Ka-ching!” says Jojo as they both write down their new gold.
The adventurers thank Sour Bill, and are about to leave when there is a commotion in the line of people behind them. Lexi and Sharpblade turn to see a very angry elven woman pushing past the line to see Sour Bill. I tell the kids that this is Shalelu, the Elven Huntress, and aside from looking angry, she also looks like she hasn’t bathed for at least a few weeks.
|Finally, Shalelu turns up|
Sour Bill blinks slowly at her before answering, “Huntress Shalelu, I apologise for not being able to fulfill your request, but the council of Sandpoint has decided that sending men to help you rescue wild pigs is, um.. not of such importance at this time.”
Shalelu fumes. “Whole droves of forest pigs are being captured by goblins! I’ve already explained that this is not normal for goblins! They don’t even kill them for food - they are being herded off somewhere! We have to stop them!”
Sour Bill shakes his head. “Until you can provide the council some proof that this is indeed a matter that threatens the safety of Sandpoint, I’m afraid we’ll have to deny your request to send men off to some wild… pig chase.”
Some people chuckle in the audience. Shalelu throws her hands in the air, and stomps out of the town hall. Intrigued by all this, the adventurers follow the elven huntress who goes straight to the Rusty Dragon Inn. She goes in, and calls for everyone’s attention. “Adventurers of Sandpoint! I need urgent help to stop goblins from capturing wild pigs in the forest! Will anyone help me?”
Everyone in the tavern stares at the elven huntress, until someone on a nearby table lifts a pork chop that he’s eating. “Shalelu, we hunt pigs, and they hunt pigs. No crime in that.” He belches loudly.
“Ewww!” go the kids. I ask them if they want to speak to Shalelu, and Jojo opts to talk to her. She approaches Shalelu, and asks rather shyly. “Shalelu? Do you know where I can find an animal companion?”
Shalelu turns and looks at the elven ranger-rogue. I get Jojo to roll a Diplomacy check, and it comes up favourably. “Shalelu softens a bit when she sees that you are an elf like her, and a ranger as well. She says to you, ‘Little sister. Finding an animal companion is a special thing. But when it happens, you will just know that this animal is the one for you.’”
“That’s what Trax said too,” points out Evan, recalling that Jojo had asked a similar question to the halfling when they last saw him with his pet ferret.
“Do you have an animal companion?” asks Jojo.
The elven huntress smiles. “I’ve had several. And they were all very special to me. In fact, I’ve got one right now.”
“Really? What is it?”
Shalelu gets an idea. “Little sister, why don’t you help me in my task to rescue the wild pigs, and I’ll tell you about my animal companion.”
With my kids, I’ve always found curiosity a bigger incentive than anything else, so soon, Shalelu is leading Lexi out of the city, and into the forest. Evan says that he wants Sharpblade to follow them discreetly, but after several attempts of clumsily running around and hiding behind trees, Shalelu finally asks Lexi why her friend who is following them acting so weird.
“Um, Shalelu, can you tell me what your animal companion is now?” asks Jojo.
The elven huntress smiles. “I can tell you that he’s watching us right now.” Both the adventurers look around uneasily, but they spot nothing.
“It’s some kind of cat,” guesses Evan, looking at me closely to see if I’d give it away. I shrug and tell them that Shalelu is leading them off the road, and onto a hidden path. In fact, the elven huntress seems to know this whole area like the back of her hand, and they cover an amazing distance over the land in a very short time. At one point, she leads them over a fast-flowing river by going through the hollow of a dead tree trunk which had fallen across the river like a bridge.
By the end of the day, they reach the bottom of a ridge which would have taken them days to get to if they’d followed the road. The elven huntress climbs the ridge to the top, as quickly as a cat. Lexi follows along, while Sharpblade makes several attempts before he finally drags himself over the top lip of the ridge.
“Shalelu tells you both to keep low, and crawls through the bushes. You both follow suit, and soon, you all come to a very large grassy clearing in the middle of the forest. The moon is rising in the sky, and in the moonlight, you can see almost a hundred wild pigs milling about in the clearing! Shalelu has brought you both quite close, and just about 10 feet away, you see a mother pig with her litter of squealing baby piglets! Roaming about, looking quite fierce, are wild boars with their tusks. None of the pigs have noticed you three.”
Shalelu quietly explains that there were larger droves of pigs than this, but those were recently captured by goblins. This is the last large group in the area, and she reckons that the goblins will hit this one next.
Lexi turns to the huntress. “Okay. But when are you going to tell us what your animal companion is!?”
The elven huntress responds with her mysterious smile. “I can tell you what his name is. It’s…” And here, I draw a blank, so I poll the kids for a good name. After a few options, Jojo suggests, “What about ‘Binda’? That’s an aboriginal word for ‘deep water’. I learnt it from school.”
Why didn’t I learn cool stuff like this in school? I nod approvingly. “That’s perfect! Binda is the name of Shalelu’s animal companion.”
The adventurers watch the pigs for some time. The moon is quite bright tonight, and they can see the entire clearing from where they are. I tell the kids to roll some Perception checks, and then say, “You both notice nothing, but Shalelu draws your attention to some movement in the bushes on the other side of the clearing. She tells you to sneak around one side while she goes round the other side.”
I get Jojo to do a Stealth check, and she rolls a natural 20. “As you get closer, you can hear a goblin voice. You sneak up so quietly that you are in the bushes right behind the goblin who is speaking! He seems to be giving instructions to a group of about 8 more goblins, all holding nets and sticks.”
The goblin (who looks like the leader here) snarls frustratedly. “Nonono-NO! FIRST, we wait for signal from other group! THEN we run out and catch pigs!” Some of the other goblins still look rather confused.
Jojo thinks a bit before saying, “I’m behind the goblin, right? I’m going to reach out, and yank him into the bushes!”
I look at her, rather amused. “You want to do that while he’s talking to the whole bunch of other goblins? I suppose that would be rather unnerving for them to see their leader yanked out of sight from right in front of them.” I order her to do an attack roll (to grab the goblin which I considered Flat footed for this turn), and a Strength roll to see if she successfully yanks the goblin back. Jojo rolls a hit with the attack roll, but botches the Strength check. “You grab the goblin by the ankle, and yank hard! However, the creature is much heavier than you expect, and you only succeed in tripping him. He falls face first on the ground!”
The goblins in front laugh at the sight of their leader falling flat on his face, while the other goblins behind call out in confusion, “Hey! Where he go!?”
It’s Evan’s turn. “I’m going to jump out of the bushes and blast the goblins with my Magic Missles!” So Sharpblade springs out of the bushes, and lands on top of the goblin leader lying on the ground. “Jarvis, Activate Magic Missles!” he orders, and his armour blasts three surprised goblins before they can even react.
The goblins scream in anger and confusion (some of them wailing, “ARGH! He turned into BIG, UGLY SKELETON!”) and on their round, they charge towards the skeleton who is still standing on top of the squirming goblin leader. Sharpblade takes off into the bushes with the goblins hot on his heels, most of them trampling over their leader in their haste.
Lexi remains hidden until the whole group passes before following them. “Dad, do we have to fight these goblins? I just came along to find out what Shalelu’s animal companion is, you know.”
“You’ll find out soon enough,” I assure her. “Meanwhile, I think your brother is in trouble.”
Sharpblade breaks out into the clearing and the goblins follow suit. The wild pigs snort in surprise, and the whole group scatters before the charging skeleton. The pigs stampede away from Sharpblade, right in the direction of another group of goblins charging out of the trees. Obviously the ‘other group’ that the goblin leader was referring to.
“You notice that this other group of goblins is led by a larger creature. You think it might be an orc.” I tell them. “They come charging out waving their sticks and hollering, and are surprised to see that the pigs are already panicked and running - straight towards them! They turn and run back into the trees, yelling in fright!”
Evan is more interested in getting away from his little group of bloodthirsty pursuers. “I’m going to jump and grab a tree branch and pull myself up into a tree!” I get him to do an Acrobatics roll, which he succeeds in admirably. So Sharpblade swings himself up a tree, and looks down at the group of goblins circling the tree like a pack of ravenous wolves. “Jojo, help me! Remember what happened last time I fought goblins!? They knocked me out!”
Jojo thinks a bit, and shakes her head disinterestedly. “Nah, you can handle it yourself.”
“I already told Dad that I’m just interested in seeing Shalelu’s animal companion. Where is she anyway?” As if in response, Lexi spots a slender arm reach down from a tree branch above where the second group of goblins are fleeing under, and yank a startled goblin up into the leaves. “Hmm.. she’s good.”
I decide to lean in a bit. “Well, Jojo, you did take up that Goblinoid racial enemy trait when you multi-classed into a Ranger. That gives you a +2 bonus when fighting goblins. You might as well use it.”
Jojo snorts irritatedly. “Uh! Fine! I’ll help Evan!”
The goblins are attempting to climb up the tree, and are taken off guard when a very annoyed-looking elf marches up out from nowhere and impales one of them with her rapier.
“Woo hoo!” whoops Sharpblade as he draws his axe and jumps down to join in the fight. Evan rolls a hit, and after his damage roll, I remind him that he has a Cleave ability which means that he can hit another goblin right next to the first one. Evan gladly takes the free attack, and cleaves into a second goblin, decapitating it with his axe.
In a very short span of time, the adventurers whittle the group of eight goblins down to two who are no match for Lexi’s precise rapier strikes and Sharpblade’s cleaving axe. The two goblins turn and flee across the open clearing.
“Just then, something swoops down from above! You see a huge hawk, about the size of a double bed, fly down and grab the two fleeing goblins with its talons, and then take off into the night sky with a shrill cry!”
Shalelu appears out of nowhere beside Lexi and Sharpblade who are standing in awe of the magnificent bird of prey. “THAT's Binda,” she states, making them both jump.
“Gah! Don’t sneak up on me like that!” says Lexi.
The elven huntress laughs, and shows them something in her hand. It looks like a sharp, pointed rock pendant that is suspended on a bit of twine. “I found this on the orc. The pigs did most of the work, so there wasn’t much left of him. It’s a talisman that orc shamen enchant with their crude magic and give to their warriors. It’s a bit like a compass, but this always points to a specific location.” Shalelu smiles. “Wait till the Sandpoint council sees this! If orcs are helping the goblins catch pigs, then something big is definitely brewing! And I bet if we follow where this talisman is pointing to, we’ll find where they’re bringing these pigs to and rescue them!”
And as if to emphasize her point, the huntress reaches down, scoops up a baby piglet hidden in the tall grass, and deposits it into a delighted Lexi’s arms.
The collective noun for a group of pigs is a ‘drove of pigs’, not a herd. I must have typed 'herd' at least half a dozen times before I looked that up.
In case you were wondering, Sharpblade carries both a warhammer and an axe. He mostly uses his warhammer, but occasionally pulls out his axe like in this session. I threw in an orc in the encounter just in case Sharpblade needed a challenge, but it was fun enough battling goblins that I deemed it unnecessary to drag it out with the orc.
And yes, when it comes to ‘co-operating’, the kids act like this in real life.
Plot hooks: Where are the orcs and goblins bringing these pigs to?