Cairnholm ep.8 – Hold the Line

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I’m back in the DM chair for this weeks session and Dib has returned to playing his character with his reward of a shiny Mechanika collapsible rilfe, with bipod, scope, and accuracy rune.

The letter in O’Hare’s hands is from none other than Captain Maxwell Finn, an old war buddy. It turns out that part of his company, the 7th and 3rd Platoons, has been dispatched to hold a section of the front line near Fellig and Finn doesn’t think it will be enough men. He asks that O’Hare and his mercenary company meets them in 10 days to help hold the line.

The gang spends the week fixing up their two new, but badly damaged ‘jacks and Zee gets some runecrafting done on O’Hare’s new mechanika trencher sword. At the end of the week, the group boards a train and heads northwest. As the train makes it’s way through the countryside the men and women inside start to feel a chill creep through the thin metal walls. Sure enough, on the third day of the journey, snow begins to fall and they can see the wind howling outside.

They arrive in Fellig in the middle of a blizzard and can see barely 20 metres ahead of them. A young trencher named Alistair salutes O’Hare on the platform and asks that he and his team accompany him to the forward position outside of town. Before they head out however Alexis buys herself a heavy scarf to keep out the cold.

The cart that Private Alistair loads them into is worn, but carries them and Zee’s ‘jack easily down the main street and north out into the countryside. After a while some of the party members spot a tall iron structure through the fog ahead. At that moment Alistair steers the cart off the road to the west.

Rounding a small hill they spot the trenchworks and disembark. Heading down into the trench the mercenaries can see that the men are in bad shape. As the walk along O’Hare gives out words of encouragement to the men and upon seeing his rank the word moves quickly. It seems that the reputation of Captain O’Hare has preceded him and that the men are boosted by his presence. Alexis fires up her warcaster armour, knowing full well the inspirational effect it will have on the men, and moves between them, using her gun knowledge to get their gear in top condition. Zee spots a few structural weaknesses in the trench wall itself and directs Pal in a reconstruction effort. Pal summons his mastery over earth to lift large rocks from behind the trench and embed them into the sagging walls, shoring up the defence. Meanwhile, Dib scouts out into the fog of no-mans land and spots a couple of dead winterguard. Ridding them of their ammunition and axes he booby-traps their stocks of grenades before returning. He hands the axes out as souvenirs to the troops. As the others make their way down the trench to the command post Llalrii moves silently along the ridge behind them. The flurries of snow and biting wind are nothing but a comfort to the Nyss.

In the command tent they find Lieutenant Gabrial Stiles, who once served under O’Hare, and a gunmage examining a map table. Stiles salutes O’Hare and greets them all warmly before showing them the maps. He tells them that the position they hold here is shaky. They had only been given two platoons to hold the position, which would usually be fine if it wasn’t for the fact that a large column of Khadoran reinforcements were scheduled to arrive in a few days. The large structure that the party had seen coming in was in fact a vital supply bridge. O’Hare interrupted to ask where Finn was and Stiles looked crest-fallen. He’d left a day ago to infiltrate the Khadoran forward base, a re-purposed farmhouse and had been captured. The trenchers were doing all they could to hold against the waves of winterguard coming from the farmhouse and couldn’t spare anyone to either rescue Finn or destroy the bridge.

At that moment a trencher ran in, hurriedly saluted and reported that winterguard had once more been sighted out in the field.

O’Hare wastes no time. He tells Dib and Llalrii to come with him to the farmhouse, while Zee, Alexis and Pal blow the bridge. Stiles turns to the gunmage and introduces him as Piero. He will accompany the infiltration team and lead them to the farmhouse. Then Stiles tells Alexis to look for Charles, a trencher commando, who is carrying the charges that are to be set on the bridge. With that, the teams split up.

The infiltration team creeps out into the thick fog, thankful that at least it had stopped snowing. Llalrii, feeling at home in the ice, scouts ahead while the others pick their way carefully forward. Ranging ahead the Nyss comes upon a lone winterguard who has become lost in the snow. Silently drawing his claymore Llalrii sneaks up on the man and ends him quickly. O’Hare, Dib and Piero catch up just as Llalrii is wiping the blood from his sword. They look down, surprised, at the fresh corpse before carrying on to the farmhouse

Back in the trench the Demolition team moves past lines of aiming trenchers to find Charles with the charges. The silence is broken as one of Dib’s booby-trapped corpses explodes. Trenchers all down the line open fire on the encroaching winterguard and Alexis decides to give her new Quad-iron a test run. She spots three Khadoran’s running forward in a group and lets out three shots. Each one strikes true and the three enemies fall dead into the snow. Charles gives her an approving nod and says,”Looks like you’ve cut us a path to the bridge.”

The farmhouse is an old building. The western half is stone while the eastern half, clearly a later addition, is wood. A large barn sits with it’s doors open and Khadoran voices can be heard from inside. Both O’Hare and Dib understand the language and hear a series of insults to inferior Cygnaran engineering. Dib and Piero take up firing positions on a hill overlooking the large back yard while Llalrii and O’Hare stack up on opposite sides of the barn door. Inside they see three winterguard, their blunderbusses discarded, taking turns to throw axes into a Grenadier warjack. The Grenadier lies chained to the back wall of the barn. O’Hare signals to Llalrii to make a break for the blunderbusses, hoping to keep the men unarmed, as he tosses a smoke grenade at their feet.

Llalrii dashes in and makes it back out to the yard with the guns as the axe wielding winterguard rush out behind him. O’Hare fires a shot into the smoke and sees one of them stumble as they break out into the open. Dib and Piero fire on the first one to emerge and he goes down quickly. Dumping the guns in the snow Llalrii turns back and draws his claymore only to see the still concealed O’Hare drop the last two winterguard with two well placed shots.

Cries can be heard coming from the farm house and the four patrolling guards appear out of the fog. Dib lauches a rifle grenade at one pair which bounces off one of their heads before exploding, killing them instantly. The other group are similarly thinned out by the covering fire of Piero and O’Hare leaving a solitary Winterguard for Llalrii to dispatch with his claymore. As they are fighting a lifeless Khadoran body comes flying out one of the farm house’s windows. O’Hare rushes over to see what’s happening inside only to be met by Captain Maxwell Finn, who leaps through the broken window with a Winterguard’s axe in his hand. He raises it for a moment, as if to strike, before realising who stands before him. He drops the axe, smiles and says, “Barney! It’s about time you got here.”

Finally arriving at the bridge, the demo team spots a small sandbag wall with two winterguard standing behind it. They seem rather relaxed at their post and one of them is puffing on a cigar. Alexis tries to use the element of surprise to her advantage and once more levels her Quad-iron pistol  at the enemy. However this time her shot misses and she has to resort to her off-hand Repeater, which also misses. The two soldiers hear the shots and duck down behind the wall, one of them makes a kicking motion and a previously hidden soldier jumps up only to make a break for the bridge.

Pal runs up to join Alexis’ advance and throws a flurry of rocks at the fleeing man with his magic. They streak through the air and crash into the man’s shoulder but he catches himself falling and continues to run. Zee makes his way forward as well and with a command pushes his ‘jack to its limit, sending it sprinting forward to spray one of the winterguard with its gun. Peeking over the barrier he catches the blast front on and goes down hard. The demo team rushes the barricade and finishes off the last defender but Zee hears a familiar sound coming from across the bridge. He tells the team to hurry and set the charges as there is an enemy warjack headed their way.

Charles and Zee both get to work on the charges but the trencher is having some trouble. Zee sets the first charge on the right side of the bridge and makes his way out towards the middle to set his second. By this point he can see the hulking Khadoran ‘jack through the fog and it is bearing down on them fast. Charles is still stuck so Zee dashes across the bridge to set the other forward charge. As the Khadoran ‘jack comes into view, and reveals itself to be a Juggernaut, Zee races back to where Charles is struggling and unceremoniously shoves him out of the way. With the Juggernaut now running towards them and already halfway down the bridge Zee sets the final charge and tells the others to blow the bridge. From the relative safety of the sandbag barricade Charles hits the plunger.

At the farmhouse O’Hare and Finn greet each other like old friends and O’Hare mockingly asks how Finn managed to get caught. As they walk back into the barn he points to the Grenadier jack and says that it had followed him on the mission and given away their position. Dib and Piero join the others in the barn as they fire up the ‘jack’s boiler and get it ready to go. O’Hare muses aloud that they had not yet run into any officers at this command post and his wariness is soon rewarded.

As they move back towards the door they can see a sizeable platoon of Winterguard entering the yard. In their midst they can see a tall Umbrean with a pointed goatee wearing a tall fur hat and velvety red greatcoat. The mercenaries waste no time planning and launch into the oblivious Khadorans. Another rifle grenade from Dib takes one out while showering their leader in shrapnel. Having commandeered two of their blunderbusses Llalrii strides out of the barn with one in each hand and fires a pair of wild blasts. Winterguard dive to get out of the way but one of them is caught squarely and is sent flying back into the snow.

An icy bolt streaks past O’Hare’s head from the Officer and recognising him as a Greylord he moves to engage with his trencher sword. Finn and the Grenadier join O’hare in his melee while Piero, Dib and Llalrii mop up the last few Winterguard. It doesn’t take long before the Graylord is overwhelmed and killed. Always the opportunist, Dib claims the man’s hat, coat and black-bladed sabre, which is unnaturally cold to the touch.

An explosion flings Zee off the bridge and he lands heavily on the sandbag wall. The juggernaut is much closer however and is momentarily lost in the flame. Soon it reappears with much of it’s hull scorched and continues across the now collapsing bridge. In the hopes of delaying the Juggernaut Alexis fires a spell off to slow the ‘jack’s machinery while Pal pummels it with a torrent of earth. Soon the second set of charges blows and the ‘jack is again engulfed in flame. This time the collapsing of the bridge catches up to the ‘jack, who has been slowed to a crawl, and it slips from the bridge.

At the last second it manages to grab hold of one of the side girders with it’s open hand and in an attempt to climb back up it swings it’s ice axe around, imbedding it in the remaining portion of the bridge. As it’s gears groan with the weight Zee approaches and fires his corrosive scattergun into the ‘jack’s hand. The acid begins to eat through the wrist and soon it snaps completely sending the Juggernaut tumbling end over end into the ravine below. The only sign that it was ever there is the huge axe dug into the ground.

Both the infiltration team and the demolition team find their way back to the trencher position without any trouble. Lieutenant Stiles thanks them for their much-needed aid but is regrettably unable to offer much in the way of reward. Piero however, having found some enemy intel in the farmhouse, reassures O’Hare that the Cygnaran army will also be most grateful and that he would try and get a reward sent to them in Cairnholm. Captain Maxwell Finn also gives up his unruly Grenadier, assuring O’Hare that he will make a fine warjack and simply needs a stern guiding hand.

So ends our eighth session in the Iron Kingdoms and as always I finished up the session by asking the players what they wanted to see happen next. Having acquired a number of warjacks over the last few sessions (now owning 4 in total) they requested to be placed in a scenario where they could bring their full force to bear. It’ll be interesting for me to write something up that will be a challenge for 6 players and 4 ‘jacks but I have a plan in mind.

A devious, devilish, destructive plan…

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