Chapter 6: Out of the Frying Pan and into the Fire
The GM surveyed the diminished party. “So I’ve got Thorin, Kili, Fili, Balin, and Dori. This is the smallest party yet.”
Mike Nyugen shrugged. “The other guys figured you were done with combat.”
The GM sighed. “Fine. Well, you’d better hope I don’t roll high on the random encounter table.”
“We didn’t think of that,” Juan said. “You did almost get us killed by stone giants.”
“Don’t worry about that,” Terrence said dismissively. “Hey, where’s Martin?”
The GM shrugged. “I’m not going to tell you that. You’ll have to figure that out ourselves.”
“Oh, well, great, he must have gotten himself killed. Damn it, Mike, why didn’t you hang onto him?”
“Oh, yeah, right, like that was so easy,” Mike shot back. “The goblins had a surprise round and I have a terrible reflex save. There was no room to maneuver and you almost took my damn head off!”
“Hey, everyone critically fails once in a while,” Terrence retorted.
“Yeah, but you have a vorpal sword!”
“It’s only vorpal for goblins!”
“I only lived because I actually made my reflex save!”
“Who’s on watch right now?” the GM interrupted. “I mean, I’m sure you guys aren’t standing around in goblin territory without someone keeping an eye out, right?”
The players took the hint.
“Balin’s on watch,” Juan offered.
“Okay, make a perception check.”
Juan rolled his die. “23.”
“Okay, you don’t see anything out of place.”
“Well, I’m going to doubly pay attention now.”
“The point is,” Terrence continued irritably, “is that we’ve lost the halfling and we have to figure out if we’re going to go back to the goblin tunnels and try to find him or just forget about him.”
“Gandalf strongly objects to leaving Bilbo behind,” the GM said.
“Yeah, well, it was his idea to bring that useless thief with us. Maybe he should go back and find out if he’s dead or not. Stupid thief can’t even sneak up on a bunch of [expletive] trolls.”
Suddenly the library doors opened and Martin walked in. “‘The thief is right here!’ Bilbo declares to the group.”
“Wait, what?” Terrence stammered.
“Bilbo pops out from behind a tree,” the GM said. “He seems fine although his clothes are torn.”
“Theater majors,” Fred and George sighed in unison.
“But I got a 23 on my perception check,” Juan protested. “How the hell did he get past me?”
Martin took a seat at the table. “Maybe I’m a better thief than you guys thought.”
“No, something’s up here,” Terrence said. “What happened when you got lost? And keep it short, okay?”
Martin frowned and gave a short version of what happened and omitted the part about finding the ring. But by the end of that short explanation, the other players looked more impressed.
“Well, if you did manage to sneak back up the goblin tunnels like that, maybe you are a better thief than we thought,” Juan said.
“We’ll see,” Terrence replied. “But everyone’s here, so shouldn’t get moving? We are still in goblin territory.”
“Gandalf absolutely agrees with you,” the GM said.
“Alright, then we get going.”
The party started to move as quickly as they could down the mountain.
The GM rolled his die. “Rockslide. Everyone make a reflex save.”
The players grumbled and did so.
“Well, at least that will make it harder for the goblins to track us,” Juan said. “What’s in front of us? Any place to hide?”
“Well, not really. You’re still pretty high up on the mountain. There are pine trees, so I guess you could climb those if you had to.”
“Dwarves don’t climb,” Terrence said stubbornly.
“Halflings sure can’t,” Martin said, looking at his character sheet.
“Let’s keep running and hope we’ve lost them and can find a secure place to camp.”
The GM rolled his die again. He frowned and checked his notes. Then he rolled the die again.
“This is not good, is it?” Martin said.
“Yeah, no,” Mike agreed.
“Are you going to kill us?” Terrence asked.
“I’m not trying to,” the GM answered, still pouring through his notes. “Okay, look, I never do this, but Terrence, you roll a D100.”
“I don’t want to kill you guys, but my dice do. Roll low.”
Terrence pulled out two ten-sided dice. “Okay, usually red is high, but since I want to roll low, I’ll make the blue one high.” He dropped the two dice on the table so hard that the red one rolled out of his sight and in front of Martin. “And there we go. The blue is a zero. No problem.”
“Um,” Martin said, “the red is a zero too.”
“Seriously?” he exclaimed.
Mike glanced over at it. “Yeah, that’s a zero. You rolled a hundred, dude.”
“Okay, well, I gave you guys a chance,” the GM said. “You start to hear wolves howling in the distance. What do you do?”
Everyone looked at Terrence.
“Keep running, I guess. Does Gandalf have any bright ideas?”
“‘Those are the howls of the dire-wolves,’ he says. ‘They are bigger and more intelligent than other wolves. Sometimes they even ally themselves with goblins.’”
“This just keeps getting better and better,” Juan sighed.
“And the howling is getting closer,” the GM added.
“Well, damn it, I guess it’s up the trees anyway,” Terrence said.
“Okay, give me some climb checks.”
They grumbled and rolled their dice.
“I think Bilbo failed,” Martin said.
“Whoever’s closest to the halfling get him up the tree,” Terrence ordered.
The GM rolled a die. “That would be Dori.”
“Oh man, do I always have to save this guy?” Mike replied.
“Hey, you’re the one who dropped Bilbo in the goblin tunnels,” Martin retorted.
“Guys, just get in the damn trees,” Terrence sighed.
Eventually the whole party did manage to climb into the pine trees.
“Okay, almost as soon as everyone is up, the area is filled with dire-wolves. They’re the size of small ponies, and it doesn’t take long until they find you in the trees. They bark and threaten you, but they can’t climb, so they just set guards by the trees. A huge, old dire-wolf calls a meeting to attention.”
“Does anyone have speak with animals?” Fred asked. “You know, like the wizard?”
The GM rolled his eyes. “Yes, Gandalf can understand what they’re saying. Apparently they were supposed to meet up with the goblins tonight and go on a raid.”
“Man, what are the odds we’d end up here right at that time?” George mused.
“Hey, I let Terrence roll the die,” the GM said. “I tried.”
“Does anyone have any weapons or anything?” Terrence snapped. “Anything ranged at all?”
“We could throw some pine cones,” Mike answered sourly. “You know the goblins took everything.”
“What about the wizard?” Juan asked.
The GM rolled his eyes again. “Gandalf doesn’t have a lot spells left, but I’ll see what I can do.” He checked his notes. “Well, I’ve got some fire spells left.”
“We’re in trees,” Terrence retorted. “That’s going to get us killed! Don’t you have any magic missiles?”
“I told you, Gandalf is low on spells, and he’s a specialist in fire magic anyway. Do you want him to try to scare the dire-wolves off or not?”
“Fine,” he grumbled.
The GM had Gandalf cast a few fire spells and sure enough, the dire-wolves caught on fire and were running around in an enraged madness. “Okay, Terrence, you roll a D100 for me again.”
“Oh, no, not me. Who’s the luckiest?”
The players discussed this amongst themselves.
“Okay, we’ll split the difference,” Fred said. “I’ll roll the low die and George will roll the high die. That should do.” The twins each rolled one ten-sided die. “Oh, man, that’s a nine.”
“And I rolled a nine too,” George said. “Ninety-nine.”
The GM consulted his notes. “I swear I’m not trying to kill you guys.”
“What just happened?” Terrence asked.
“I mean, I’m really not.”
“JR, what just happened?”
“Remember Gandalf told you the goblins were supposed to meet the dire-wolves tonight? Well, they got over the death of their leader and finally made it to the meet up.”
Terrence slapped his hand against his forehead and muttered a string of swearing.
“Yeah, so after the goblins finish laughing at the dire-wolves, they put them out and set your trees on fire. I swear I’m not trying to kill you. The dice are.”
“Yeah, well, that isn’t going to save us, is it?” Juan retorted.
“The goblins are taunting you.”
“Thanks. Just pour salt in the wound,” Mike sighed.
The GM checked his notes again. “Okay, I need another D100 roll.”
“Oh, [expletive],” Terrence said. “How could we get more screwed?”
“Martin, you roll.”
“Okay,” he replied. He dutifully rolled a pair of ten-sided dice.
“We’re so dead,” Mike sighed. “It doesn’t matter which was called high because he just rolled a hundred.”
“You know, I really wish I could roll like this when we’re in a fight,” Martin said.
“Maybe you will in the next campaign,” Terrence replied acidly.
“Okay, guys, as Gandalf is getting ready to jump down and use a really nasty spell, he’s suddenly grabbed by a giant eagle and carried away. Other eagles follow and grab the rest of you with their talons. Do any of you try to evade?”
“Um, no, I guess,” Terrence said. “I mean, if they want to kill us, there’s not a lot we can do here.”
“Martin, Bilbo needs to make a reflex save.”
“Oh, man, I hope my luck holds out.” He rolled the die. “Alright, a 25!”
“Great. The eagles didn’t see you but you manage to grab a hold of Dori’s legs before he’s carried off.”
“And here I am carrying the halfling again,” Mike sighed.
“The eagles fly away with you and eventually drop you on the side of the cliff. There are a lot of other eagles. Gandalf is talking with one of them and eventually he joins you. ‘Don’t worry, these are allies. I was talking with the Eagle King. They’ve been keeping an eye on the goblins and dire-wolves in this area and happened to see the raiding party and the fire. The King owes me a favor, so we’re going to spend the night here and they’ll drop us off in the morning.’”
“Can they take us all the way to the Lonely Mountain?” Juan asked.
“Gandalf glares at Balin. ‘They are not my pets. They do not come at my beck and call. They will get us outside of goblin territory, but go no further.’”
“Oh, fine. It’s just we lost all our ponies and stuff.”
“‘We’ll worry about that later,’ he says. So you all get to spend in the night in the eyries. The eagles even bring up some meat to roast up.”
“Well, that was a fun string of coincidences,” Terrence said.
“And a nice deus ex machina,” Martin added. “Not quite chariots from the sky, but pretty close.”
“Hey, I had to do something. Anyway, you’re all alive and you’re getting fed. Do you want your XP or what?”
The group clamored for their experience points.