The Journey Home
Traveling west, the party gets tired of answering questions about their horde of peasants. They stock up on supplies and cut through the woods as a shortcut. However, they decide to cut through their old hometown of Irlyd to say hello to their families. Just after they enter the county, they see a fleeing peasant family. "Help us!" the peasants cry. "Bandits are attacking our village!"
The party decides to help after only a brief discussion of their legal and moral obligations. They leave the cleric and their new soldiers to guard their peasants and rush north into danger. They soon encounter a woman fleeing from a squad of cruelly laughing knights. These men have plain shields and are not wearing identifying tabards, thus effectively marking them as criminals.
The barbarian leaps on a rock and challenges the intruders while the ranger casts entangle, preventing a simple charge. The enemy begins circling around the affected area. As they charge in the druid spooks a horse and the knight fails his ride check; an embarrassment that costs the knight both his pride and his life as the druid's wolf leaps onto the man.
The barbarian finds himself surrounded by horsemen while one of their number hangs off and readies a lance. He bursts into a rage and cleaves his way through three opponents, then takes refuge behind their horses, forcing the lancer to ride around looking for an opening. However, the warhorses are trained to defend their masters, and they begin kicking the stuffing out of the barbarian.
Meanwhile the druid uses Entangle to trap the half of the knights coming from the other side of the original entangle. Several forces their way out, compelling the druid to use a third Entangle. Free space is becoming hard to find, as the bard finds himself in a sword fight with the enemy captain. He delivers the most powerful blow of his career, but it only makes his ranked foe angry. The bard decides to armor up with multiple images. Those images save the bard's life as the captain expertly flays into him. Meanwhile, several knights have won free of the Entangle, and the druid, seeing armed men in every direction, turns into a tree
Nonetheless, the fight is not going well for the knights; despite the damage they have inflicted, half of them are down while the party is still all on their feet. When the tree-shaped druid summons a swarm of poisonous spiders, the enemy captain calls for a retreat. He leaps into the empty saddle of the nearest horse and disappears into the forest with what is left of his men.
This leaves the swarm without any other targets, so it turns on the party! The barbarian, faced with a choice between pushing past the horses defending their fallen masters and running through the swarm, chooses the spiders; with a maximum damage roll they bring the barbarian down. Fortunately the ranger shrugs off the nauseating poison and grabs his compatriot, dragging him to safety as the swarm turns on two horses trapped in the Entangle. The remaining horses then flee, the swarm too horrifying for even their staunch loyalty.
After a few minutes the Entangle spells expire, allowing the party to rescue the peasant woman. She begs them to continue east to rescue her village from the raiders; meanwhile the druid's hawk alerts him to more riders coming from the south. The party discusses it but ultimately chooses to do the heroic thing. They run off to the village, despite the damage they have already suffered.
The village is a terrifying sight, with scores of bodies scattered around. However, the raiders are gone. As the party puts out fires and tends to those few wounded who managed to hide, more horsemen charge into the village, and their red-headed leader shouts, "Kill the invaders!" As lances are leveled for a charge, the peasant woman they rescued calls out, "They are our saviors, Lord Irlyd!"
Baron Irlyd is not at all happy to find his long-lost peasants standing in the middle of a destroyed village. He blames them for the damage, citing their rumored forays into the east. The bard smooths things over by offering to pay their peasant's ransom, though he deducts one for the woman they saved from the raiders. Irlyd is unsatisfied, but duty calls: with a snarl he leads his knights east, in pursuit of the retreating raiders.
The party heads off to Irlyd town, meeting up with their cleric and refugees at the gates. The guards don't want to let in a band of heavily armed ruffians; after the party agrees to surrender their weapons and armor, they are granted admittance to the town. They rent an inn and a barn for their traveling horde and treat everyone to a good meal. A few locals drop by, the bard sings, and in general a nice little party is going on. Until an attractive woman joins the fun.
The reason this woman is such a downer is that she's a dead weight. Literally, as in, she's dead. Worse, she's someone they hoped never to see again, alive or dead. This marks the return of Lady Night, the low-rank vampire that singlehandedly put them in more fear for their lives than any foe save for Count Wraythas and his ambush of knights and crossbowmen.
The bard orders garlic soup, with extra garlic, only to be told that Baron Irlyd banned garlic a few weeks ago as it was suspected to be the cause of a number of sudden and otherwise inexplicable deaths in the town. Now they know Lady Night is in cahoots with the Baron.
Unsure of what to do with this information, and unable to solve the problem then and there because they are unarmed, they endure her taunts until she takes her leave. In the morning they set out early, after counting all their peasants to make sure the Lady didn't help herself to a snack.
The last stop in Iryld is their hometown, the small village they were born and raised in. Surprisingly, almost all of them receive a cold welcome from their families. In their parent's view, they are runaways who left their families in the lurch while they went off to have adventures. Only the barbarian's father is happy to see that his boy has made good in the world. The party tries to make amends by distributing pouches of gold, which go a long way in a peasant's world. With a few sweet words from the bard, they put things right. Then it's back on the road.
When they finally struggle into their ruined keep, they face one more hurdle: the remainder of the Argossey's crew. One might excuse a certain amount of suspicion, as the party marched out with the masters of the Argossey and half its crew, only to return with a handful. But all is forgiven the instant it is discovered that the party has promoted one of the crew to the knighthood. This, after all, is the thresher in action: many must die so that a few might advance.
Their travels are not over, though. After a few days rest they pack up again, leading the Argossey crew north into Edersarr to hire a ride to their boat. The keep will have to rely on their cleric and the handful of Vignetta's bandits they recruited for defense. In Edersarr they are accosted by the Baron of the Order of the Edge, another knightly order that is also keen on restarting the war. The Baron assumes the armored barbarian is obviously the group's leader, and presses hard on him to lead a raid into Varsoulou. The barbarian, having just seen the devastation raiders leave behind, is horrified. Murdering peasants is not his idea of heroic deeds. This attitude mystifies the Baron, but as long as King Ragnar is not actively pressing for war, there is little pressure he can apply at the moment.
House Marconi turns out to be the only boat in town. They are happy to give the party and their crew a ride, for only the outrageous price of 5,000 gp. The bard disputes the level of danger involved, asserting that the party killed off the harpies known to haunt the coast. (The DM reminds the bard that he's thinking of a different harpy the party slew, and that these harpies are still alive and well, but the bard decides to stick with his story). They talk the price down to 1,000 gp. Again they put their armor and weapons into a locked chest - they do not yet have enough reputation that House Marconi will trust them quite that far. Fortunately the harpies give the boat a miss this time and the party arrives at the shore safe and sound, with House Marconi none the wiser about how they have been cheated.
The two boats make their separate ways back home; the harpies do fly by the party's longship but after one glance at the sails turn away without even trying. After all, from the harpy's memory, this boat belongs to a pair of bards.
They return home, exhausted from constant traveling. They have quite a few peasants milling around the ruined keep and the villagers from Luthorn are eager to join them and leave their cursed lake behind. The party contracts their architect to build them a village, with houses and a well. This will serve as the lure to attract more peasants. However, it costs money - 2,000 gp to be exact - and the party is finally out of cash.
They decide to put their longship to work and sail south to the Yellow Coast, where wars and rumors of wars seem to mention goblins a lot. Perhaps there will be honest work there for a mercenary band; at least, more honest than murdering helpless peasants.
This was our first remote game, with Google Hangouts for video chat and Roll20 for a map. It went really well, though I felt like the only combat took longer than usual. It should speed up as people get used to it. Roll20 has a lot of options and the amount of possible customization is daunting, but when stripped back to its bare essentials of putting some figures on a grid and rolling some dice, it works great.
Also, the party has decided to set out to a part of the world I haven't detailed exhaustively yet, which probably means at some point you can expect a new product on DriveThruRPG: Scorpus - the Yellow Coast.