Nerath Reborn

Nice Spider, Nice Spider...
Game 9:2010-09-05

After the battle against the Kruthik, the group decides to open the last door they have not yet opened on this level. A message written on the moss of the door says ‘Stay out. Really’.Aurum opens the door to discover a large cave with a large underground lake.

Fungus-coated stairs lead down into a natural cavern. Much of the chamber is filled with a stagnant pool of brackish water. A path of land rises from the foul water at the pool’s center. On this little island, bones, spilled coins, and other small objects are visible among the carpet of fungus.

However, Bark senses that they are not alone in the cave.

Ripples stir the calm water, as if something moves beneath the surface.

Asha Greyjoy moves to the side of the water, and with indications from Back, she fires a power into the water. Suddenly, from the depths, a large amorphous blob of bluish ooze attacks.

As the group battle against the Blue Slime, it releases a cloud of noxious gas which weakens those affected by it. It also launches a slime attack, which burns Urszula and her bear.

After a long fight,which drops Bark unconscious, the group manages to destroy the slime.

On the island, they find some treasure, including a shield and a message cylinder. Within the cylinder are three sheets of vellum: a map of the area indicating the location of Shadowfell Keep, a message :

“Remember, don’t wet the nodule-unless Kalarel is not receptive to the offer. Then, wet it only from a distance , and then, turn and run. Water will bring the creature out of its dormancy and it will consume anything it can reach.

The third page also contains a message:“Greeting Kalarel, I have recently learned of your activity in the area and have an offer for you. During your time in this region, if you should capture any humanoids, we are eager to buy them. We have duergar allies in Thunderspire in need of slave stock. If you are interested, send an envoy back to me. My messenger will show the way.” It is signed: “Chief Krand of the Bloodreavers.”

The group patches themselves up and proceed to head for the stairs that lead down to the next level.
The stairs descend into a large, torch-lit chamber. Two human-sized creatures stand near the entrance. Big-pointed ears stick out from under their helmets, and sharp teeth glitter in their mouths. One of the guards yells out a challenge phrase: "Shadow seeks shadow!

The group tries to bluff their way in with a counter-phrase but gets it wrong. One of the guards yells ‘Intruders!’ and they attack. Several more of the same creature appear from other doorways to attack the group. 2 head for a cage at the back of the hall, containing a large spider. The battle is long, with the group essentially staying int he entrance to defend themselves. The spider finally gets released but Urzula manages to befriend it, so he is ignored by the spider. Others, however, are not so lucky. Back falls during the battle but the group emerges victorious.

The Steeve is Strong tonight....(or the incapacity to roll above 4 to save your life)
Game 8: 2010-08-22

After some discussion, the group decides not to descend down the stairs at this time. They return to the area near the excavation site where goblins were digging for treasure and go down the stairs leading south.

The finely worked stairs and flagstones of the dungeon give way to a wide, natural cavern. The ceiling drips with dozens of stalactites, and the floor rises unevenly with loose rocks and stalagmites. The rocks and debris become thicker to the east and west, and both directions offer only narrow paths of unobstructed terrain.

As the group stands at the base of the stairs leading to the cave, Aurum decides to explore on his own, moving off around a corner.

As he does so, the sound of rats is heard and, suddenly, several giant rats converge on Aurum to attack. The group rushes to his aid, which is complicated by the many hiding places the rats have to hide. Eventually, the group manages to kill off some of the rats but require Aurum to use his breath weapon to clear them out.

Two corridors head south and the group splits up to hunt down the rats. As Gurdil heads down the east tunnel, he is attacked by a large Ochre Jelly. Again the group rushes to aid one of their own, but this time the battle is much harder. The jelly eventually splits in two, making the match even more difficult. After a long and difficult fight, the jelly is killed and the last of the rats crushed.

The group decides to rest in the defensible cave where the jelly was found. The rest is without event.

After their rest, the group heads for a long tunnel heading south. As they approach a turn in the tunnel, an open pit in the ground draws their attention. Within the pit, the remains of a goblin and of a kruthik, a giant biped insect. After searching the bodies, some gems and 2 potions are found. The group also notices smaller tunnels in the walls of the main tunnel. these smaller tunnels are far too small for them, so they continue along the main on.

As the group turns a corner, they enter a large cave which seems to be the main lair of the kruthik. They are immediately attacked by the kruthick. The group backs out of the lair but soon discover that the smaller tunnels are usuable by the kruthik and the group is soon surrounded.

The group pulls out all the stops to battle the kruthik. During the battle, Aurum is downed but is returned to battle by Gurdil. As the situation worsens, Aurum uses his fire breath to dispatch many of the kruthik young and, eventually, the group prevails.

The dead are restless...
Game 7:2010-08-07

The group decides to finish exploring the level. They enter the Crypt of Shadows, where Splug had said the way down was located. Exploring a bit brings them to runes carved into the floor. The group decides to not cross them yet and explore further. As they explore, they come upon a room filled with zombies who do not attack them.

Ashadecides to destroy them using one of her powers.

She moves into the room to cast the power at full effect but as soon as she sets foot within the room, the zombies ‘wake up’ and attack. Luckily, she still manages to cast her power, destroying most of the zombies. the group quickly finish of the remaining zombies.

Once they have cleared the room, they move south, finding a long hallway with ten sarcophagi lined up on each side of the hall. As they move forward, the sarcophagi open, letting many skeletons out, which immediately attack them.

As they fight off the skeletons, more appear from the sarcophagi. The fight is hard fought and, after many rounds, no more skeletons appear from the sarcophagi to trouble them. The group searches the room, finding a door which leads them to a tomb. It turns out to be the tomb of Sir Keegan, the last commander of the fortress. He appears to the group as a ghost, demanding to know their business in the fortress and if they are in league with the evil that lives there.

After many questions, the group manage to convince Sir Keegan that they are there to oppose the evil that haunts the halls. Satisfied that the group is on the right side, Sir Keegan gifts the group with a magical sword call Aecris.

Once Sir Keegan has returned to his rest, the group moves north to finish exploring the rest of the corridors in this area. As they move north, they come across more runes carved in the floor. Eventually, they decide to cross one as they cannot go forward without doing so. Gurdil moves forward and a flash of blue light releases a spell tied to the runes. Gurdil is affected by a fear spell and is compelled to run back southward. As they group tries to stop him, more zombies turn the corner and attack.

The group manages to destroy the zombies and Gurdil return to lend them aid as the spell wears off. The group then moves forward, finding that stairs that seem to descend down to the next level.

Out Of The Frying Pan Into The Fire
Game 6: 2010-07-04

The group decides to rest. They lock themselves in a storeroom for the night.

The next morning, the group returns to the bedroom of Balgron the Fat and open the secret door leading from his chamber. They cautiously follow the passage and open the door at the other end.

As they exit the secret passage, they hear voices to the east, which seem to come from several goblins. Since none of them speak goblin, they ask Splug to interpret. Splug informs them that the goblins are arguing about what to do with the treasure they have just found. Apparently, some want to tell Balgron and others want to steal it and run away.

The group decides that the word ‘treasure’ sounds interesting and charge into the room. Once inside, they discover a large hall with most of the floor dug out. In fact, only a few intact portions of the room’s floor remain, linked by boards. Several goblin and large quadruped lizards are in the room. The group attacks and the goblins fight back.

During a vicious battle, the goblins send the lizards forward while they use their crossbows to harry the PCs. During the battle, Gurdil goes forward to attack the goblins, leaving Splug at the back. He tries to flee, with Asha Greyjoy in hot pursuit just as the last goblin in the room falls.

Asha chases Splug all the way back to the entry hall where she is ambushed by Balgron, who was lurking in the entry hall, waiting for just such an occasion. Asha cries for help and the rest of the group rushes to her aid. While the group manages to kill Balgron, Splug took the opportunity to escape.

Even the best laid plans
Game 5: 2010-06-06

Having healed up a bit from their encounter around the entrance hall, the group now heads west then north. The group arrives at the door outside the torture chamber. They listen and hear the occupants move around.

The group decides to ‘spike’ the door to block it, to permit them to explore other parts of the dungeon. However, as the pound in the first spike, the occupants manage to bash in the door after a failed attempt.

The door is bashed open by the hobgoblin torturer. As the group fights with him, his comrades (goblin sharpshooters) harry the group. In the end, the group manages to defeat the humanoids. As they search the bodies and the rooms, they meet Splug, a goblin who is prisoner in a cell. He tells the group that he is a prisoner because his fellow goblins because he drank their beer.

The group interrogates him and he tells them that through the double doors just south of the door they just came in is Balgron the Fat, the meanest of the goblins. He also tells them of a room where the goblins are digging for treasure.

The group prepares an attack on the goblins in that location by placing a table across the door to act as a barricade. Once they open the door, the group gets assaulted by 14 goblins, some armed with javelins. While the barricade does the job of slowing down the goblins, it also provides cove for Balgron to advance. Asha Greyjoy attacks Balgron with a Execrate. Balgron shrugs off the attack quickly but, as is her habit, Asha feels the pain of her attack for long after her target, nearly resulting in her death.

Once the battle turns against Balgron, he flees, locking a door behind him. The group lose track of Balgron. Though they eventually bash in the door, Balgron is gone.

The Game is afoot!
game 4: 2010-05-16

The groups returns to Winterhaven after having defeated the kobolds.

As they approach the town, Urszula decides to stay outside the town to keep watch for anyone who might leave who would be the spy.

The rest of the group enters the town and heads for Lord Padraig’s compound. As they walk through the town they notice that the villagers are nervous and very skittish.

The small fields around the the walled heart of Winterhaven seem strangely empty. Inside the walls, the few villagers you see walking around appear nervous, pausing to give furtive glances before darting away.

As the group approaches the gates to Lord Padraig’s compound, Bark pulls IronTooth’s head from a cloth bag, still dripping with blood and covered in flies.

The guard sends his colleague to get Lord Padraig while he ‘disposes’ of the head. Meanwhile, the second guard returns and leads the group to meet Lord Padraig by a side entrance to his manse.

Seated at a table in the servant’s dining hall, Lord Padraig thanks the group for riding the village of the threat of the kobolds. He sends a servant to retrieve the 100 gp as their reward. While waiting for the servant to return, the group gives Lord Padraig the scroll they found in the kobold laird. Lord Padraig is disturbed that a spy is in Winterhaven and the mention of Orcus make him suggest that the group speak with Valthrun the Prescient who should be able to inform them about Orcus and the portal mentioned in the letter. To expedite matters, he writes a note to Valthrun explaining that the situation. He stamps his seal in the note and dismisses the group.

The group heads for Valthrun’s tower. After knocking and showing him the note, Valthrun’s concern is evident. He tells them of the history of Shadowfell Keep and how it fell when the commander went insane. He also informs them that the keep’s purpose was to guard a gate to Shadowfell and that must be the portal that is mentioned in the note. Orcus would send undead legions through the portal and the world would fall into darkness.

After discussion, Valthrun will speak to Lord Padraig on the group’s behalf about a reward. Meanwhile, the gorup begins preparation for their expedition. They go get Urzula outside the walls and gather supplies. Gurdil returns to see Thair Coalstriker to inquire about the shields left on commission.

Thair tells him that the shield sold for 6 gp to a caravan guard for the Halfmoon Trading House and that the guard expressed interest in getting more.

The group returns to the Inn and speak with many of the people there, who express that a feeling of foreboding is why everyone is nervous. A messenger arrives confirming that Lord Padraig will pay them 250gp if the successfully stop the opening of the portal.

The next morning the group heads for Shadowfell Keep. They find a set of stair obviously cleared out and kept passable. The stair descend deep into the earth. The group descends down that stair and arrive in a large room with several passages and 4 columns holding up the ceiling. As Urzula passes between the pillars, she falls into a pit trap and the rest of the group is attacked by several goblins.

During the fight, Urzula climbs out of the pt and Asha Greyjoy manages to push one of the goblins into the pit here he remains stuck until killed by Asha. However, Urzula nearly dies from a bleeding wound received from the rat swarm that was in the pit.

Let's Think This One Through!
Game 3: 2010-04-25

After having fled the kobold lair, the group camped out for the night. In the morning, they assess the situation and start to plan how to defeat the kobolds.

After much debate, the group approaches the falls from downstream. They send Urzula ahead to scout out the lair. As Urzula approaches, she does not see any kobolds near the falls. The corpses have been removes and the area looks deserted. However, as she approaches the southern entrance, a horn sounds from the trees, soon to be echoed by several others.

Urzula falls back to where the others await anxiously. The group is happy to see her, as they had heard the horn also. The group carefully hides for a few minutes but it seems that no attempt at pursuit has been made.

After more discussion, this time Urzula approaches the falls from the top to attempt to look down and spot the sentinels. As she approaches the falls from the top, she spot yet another sentinel who is not yet aware of her. She rushes him and kills to surprised kobold. Unfortunately, there is another kobold on the other shore who see witnesses the death of the first kobold.

The second sentinel sounds his horn but the noise from the falls seems to mask the sounds, for no other horn are heard. Urzula takes out her bow and manages to kill the second sentinel before the alarm is raised. Once this is done, she looks down from the top of the falls and spots the remaining sentinels below.

Returning to the rest of the group, they formulate a plan. They return to the lair. Urzula returns to the top of the falls and begins to snipe the sentinels below. The rest of the group sneaks up to the other sentinels and manages to kill all of them before the alarm is sounded.

Having disposed of all the sentinels guarding the external perimeter of the lair, the group moves to the southern entrance. Once in position, they enter the caves and surprise their defenders.

In an intense few seconds (3 rounds), the group manages to kill all the defenders before they can organize an effective defense. However, they do manage to sound the alarm. Just as the group dispatches the last defender, a harsh bleating horn heralds the appearance of a burly, battle-scarred goblin. A great tattoo depicting a skeletal ram’s head marks this goblin’s face. He wears a wolf fur cloak and a chain shirt, and he wields a battle axe in both hands. With the goblin comes 2 Dragonsshield soldiers and a wyrmpriest who come out of another tunnel on the southern side of the complex.

The goblin, known as Irontooth, charges Gurdil who stands alone in a corridor a bit farther away from the others. His only nearby ally is Bark. Meanwhile, the 2 Dragonshields and the wyrmpriest attack the rest of the group. The priest moves into position and unleashes a fiery blast of fire from his mouth, wounding all save Gurdil and Bark. Eventually, their attacks drop Aurum. Asha, spitting a curse of Execration at the priest, nearly fells himself through the echoes of the curse back at himself. While the priest rids himself of the curse quickly, Asha feels the echoes for much longer, the pain nearly undoing her.

Eventually, wracked with pain, she is knocked unconscious by the Wyrmpriest, who attacks her in retaliation for her curse. However, Urzula and Bark (who came to help the unconscious allies) manage to kill both the priest and the two Dragonshields while Gurdil holds Irontooth at bay.

In the meantime, Irontooth fights against Gurdil and BArk, using his two axes to hit both of them at the same time.

Gurdil, directing the group, manages to severely wound Irontooth (Crit on Lead the Attack power) while asking him if he “has any Irontooth left?”.

Once the fallen members are revived, the entire group attacks Irontooth, who finally falls and cries out “Kalarel and Lord Orcus, prepare my way!”.

The group quickly searches the fallen kobolds and goblin. They find some treasure, an iron key and a message scroll in a pouch on Irontooth.

The key is found to unlock a chest further inside the lair which contains some gold and a +1 dwarven chain mail.

The message scroll reads: “My spy in Winterhaven suggests we keep an eye out for visitors to the area. It probably does not matter; in just a few more days, I’ll completely open the rift. Then Winterhaven’s people will serve as food for all those Lord Orcus sends to do my bidding.”

The group collects the loot, take’s Irontooth’s head as proof of his demise and head for Winterhaven.

They are the bane of Kobolds or Kobolds are their bane?
Game 2: 2010-03-28

The day begins with breakfast. Salvana Wrafton greets the group as they arrive in the Inn’s common room. Warm oat porridge with chunks of meat from the last evening’s meal is served. All enjoy the meal save for the two shifters, one whose carnivore instincts are assault by the oats and the other who is a vegetarian who is displeased by the meat.

Once the meal is done, Gurdil enquires as to the location of the village blacksmith. Silvana laughs, pointing out the window to the building next door. Now that the players pay attention, the sound of a pounding hammer can be heard outside.

The group heads outside and walks over to the smith’s forge. As they enter the forge, they see the smith with two apprentices working on a ploughshare As the smith pounds on the ploughshare, his two apprentices try and keep the ploughshare from moving. They are, to say the least, failing.

As Gurdil tries to attract the smith’s attention, the smith snarls “Just a minute..I’m busy!”. While the group waits and examines the shop. Many pieces of ironmongery line the walls, Several weapons, a few pieces of armour and a couple shields are all visible on the walls of the smithy.

Once the smith has finished hammering, he hands the hammer to one of the apprentices :”Here! Try and set this parts straight. An mind Mertin’s fingers! He still needs them”.

He wipes his hands on his apron and introduces himself as Thair Coalstriker. “What can do for today?”

Gurdil shows him the two dragonscale shields looted from the kobolds who ambushed the group on the way to the village and enquires if he would be interested in purchasing them. After a good examination of the shields, Thair proposes to buy one and keep the other on consignment. Gurdil agrees and Thair gives him 5gp for the shield.

Thair asks where they came across such a strange shield. Gurdil recounts the ambush on the King’s Road. “Ah!” says Thair “You’ve come across the little pests have you? Getting that merchants fear to travel the road. Getting worse all the time. I fear that many merchants will stop making the trip if things continue”

Gurdil, yet again trying for some easy cash, tries to see if Thais would be ready to fund an expedition to root out the Kobolds. Thair roars in laughter. “Son, you’ve got me confused with someone else. Such a thing is the province of Lord Padraig! Speak to him, if you want a reward. You’ll get none from me for doing what needs doing. Come by in a few days and I’ll tell you if I’ve sold your shield.”

Muling over what Thair has told them, the group decides to speak with Lord Padraig. Having seen the mansion from afar, they know where the Lord’s manor is. Approaching the gate, they speak to the two guards, members of the Winterhaven regulars, who stand guard at the gate to the inner compound.

The group manages to convince the guards that they (the group) should speak to Lord Padraig. One of the guards instructs the group to wait while he informs Lord Padraig that they wish to speak with them. After a few minutes, a medium built, 40ish man approaches. The guard who waited with the group bows his head in greetings. Lord Padraig looks over the group, a somewhat bemused expression at such racial diversity.

“Greetings! My guard here tells me you wish to speak with me?”.

Gurdil, taking the lead, informs Lord Padraig of the group’s encounter with the kobolds and that they heard that he might be interested in getting rid of the kobolds.

Lord Padraig replies:” You’ve encountered the kobolds that have turned the old King’s Road and our outlying farms into their personal hunting grounds? Those beasts vex me sorely. Yet the villagers refuse to recognize the seriousness of the problem. Attacks along the road have grown more frequent over the last few months. Something’s stirring the kobolds up. I don’t suppose you would be interested in taking a commission from me? I promise you, I can pay well for your services.”

The group expresses their interest. Lord Padraig informs them that any property they find within the kobold lair, even items stolen from Winterhaven residents, is their to keep. Additionally, he will pay 100 gp for the destruction of the lair. He pulls out a map of the area and points out the location of the lair, to the south east.

Gurdil attempts to improve the deal but his lack of manners and tack (rolls a one for diplomacy) annoys Lord Padraig, who gruffly informs him that the offers stands as is.

Having secured a commission for the destruction of the kobold lair, the group heads to the town market to shop. Looking around, they spot a shop with a sign proclaiming in grand letters “Bairwin’s Grand Shoppe’.

They enter to discover a shoppe filled to the brim with many strange things along with the commonplace. Knickknacks, doo-dads and various broken items vie for room amoung backpacks, rope, iron rations and other assorted items. After browsing the many items, the group speaks to Bairwin himself, who is an older male human, stooped, skinny and who speaks with a nasal voice. They enquire about more exotic items such as potions. After looking them over, he goes to the back of the store and returns with an assortment of wands, potions and scrolls. After looking over the items, the group purchases a wand, a holy symbol of the Raven Queen and 3 potions of healing. realizes they do not have enough money to buy any of it.

They leave the shop and head out of town, heading south-east once they leave town. After travelling for a couple of hours, they are attacked by yet more kobolds. After a valiant fight where Bark is severely injured, the group manages to kill all the kobolds and loot their corpses. Among the loot, they find a necklace on the priest. On this necklace hangs a small dragon figurine carved of obsidian. On the bottom of the figure is etched the outline of a skull with ram’s horns. Both Asha and Aurum recognize the etching as an abstract representation of the demon lord of the undead, Orcus.

Once they finish collecting whatever is useful from the kobolds, they continue their journey. About an hour later, they begin to hear the sound of a waterfall. As the group sneaks in closer, the begin to see many kobolds through the trees on either side of the river below the falls.

The group decides to send Bark’s Urzula’s bear forward in an outflanking manoeuvre but Asha and Bark break cover and are spotted. As the battle begins, Bark and Aurun charges a kobold located in a circle of runes on the edge of the woods. However, many kobolds are armed with bow and they concentrate their fire on Aurum, hitting him with many arrows.

A difficult fight ensues and while the group has the upper hand, the battle is a difficult one. During the fight, a kobolds is seen to run back towards the falls and to enter into a cave behind them. Urzula attempt to follow him into the cave in the hopes of killing him before he alerts others of his kind.

Meanwhile, the rest of the group kill the remaining kobolds only to have Urzula come racing out of the cave screaming to them to retreat. The group falls back and manage to elude pursuit after a few close calls. Gurdil is nearly besides himself in rage as all the precious loot is now unreachable.

The Road to Winterhaven
Game 1: 2010-03-21

As they walk along the road, they suddenly spot small brown scaly humanoids hiding among the rocks on the side of road. As they prepare to defend themselves, the humanoids charge, revealing themselves to be kobolds (Kobolds won the initiative roll and went first).

Those kobolds that were close enough charged Aurum and Bark who were in front of the group. The other kobolds threw javelins.

Bark dispatches the closest kobold while Aurum charges forward towards other kobolds further down the road. Unfortunately, one of the kobolds shoots his sling at him and hit him with a hollow clay pot containing some sort of glue which immobilizes Aurum. After, two larger kobolds rush Aurum and begin to attack him.

With Aurum surrounded, Asha Greyjoy invokes one of her powers to help Aurum but she badly calculates the effects of the spell and, while she does kill 2 of the smaller kobolds, she wounds Aurum, who howls in dismay.

With Aurum badly wounded, the rest of the group attempts to rush forward to support him, dispatching the second kobold that had charged the group. Gurdil does what he can to lift Aurum’s spirits while heading forward himself. Aurum takes heart from the Gurdil’s words and redoubles his efforts to free himself, which he does. (Uses a healing surge and makes his save versus the gluepot’s effects).

Despite the shiftyness of the kobolds, the group eventually kills all the kobolds in hand-to-hand fighting. The last kobold, the slinger, tries to run but the group slows him and dispatches him shortly thereafter.

After assessing their situation, the group searches the kobolds for equipment, finding meager pickings indeed. Once the have rested somewhat, they head for Winterhaven again.

Just as the suns sets, they reach the gate of Winterhaven just as the guards prepare to close the gates. Exchanging friendly banter with the guards, they are informed that the nearest (and only) inn in Winterhaven is just beyond the gates. The guards ask if the Asha Greyjoy is indeed a Deva, never having seen one. The group ask a few questions of the guard such as what is the tall tower in the town. They are informed that the tower belongs to Valthrun the Prescient, a local sage.

Indeed, the Inn is the first building when entering the walls of Winterhaven. As the gates are closed behind them (a legacy of the Time of the Dark), the group enters the Wrafton’s Inn to find it nearly full and very busy. While mostly consisting of humans, several other races are present: a few dwarves, Halflings and even a rare elf sits brooding in the corner.

After a male server tells them the only table is at the back, Gurdil’s attempts to convince the waiter that he should be seated in a better spot. Nonplussed, the waiter informs him that the table is the only one available.

Once seated, the group is informed that the meal consist of Beef stew for 2 sp and that the rooms are available for 5 sp. While Urszulatalks to the locals, Gurdil again attempts to get better food or the same for cheaper and fails. ‘Them’s the prices’ says Salvana Wrafton, the Inn’s proprietor.

After the meal, the group speaks a little to the locals, the group learns that the kobolds who ambushed them are a recurring problem in the area. They are told by Salvana Wrafton that Lord Ernest Padraig, the local Lord has been trying to raise the militia to defeat them but that the local farmers who make up the militia do not see the need as it does not affect them. Lord Ernest Padraig sometimes comes to the Inn and might be interested in speaking to the group since they have fought the kobolds.

Speaking with Eilian the Old, the group also learns that the town was originally founded as a service point for a keep of paladins nearby named Shadowfell keep. The keep fell during the Time of the Dark, 100 years before.

Having supped and obtained rooms for the night, the group heads to their rooms for a well deserved rest.

The adventure begins...
The adventure begins...

As the sun begins to set in the west, the small caravan of three wagons pulled by draft horses begins to search for a safe place to set up camp. While the old King’s Road is relatively safe during the day, it is generally advised to move off the road at night and choose a more defensible location.

Tasnap, the caravan master, urges on his drivers with language that would make a sailor blush. His drivers, used to his style, simply make a rude gesture and move off the road. One of the outriders, a dwarf riding his warhorse off to the side of the caravan, looks at Tasnap with mild annoyance.

“You’re doing it wrong, Tasnap! That’s not how you get people moving. You need to be more personnal with your insults. Anyway, this road’s no good to begin with and the wagons will sink down to their axles in all this rain.”

“Yes Gurdil, you’ve already said it three times. I’ll ignore the fourth expression of your useless opinions just as I’ve ignored the first three.” Replies Tasnap, “Instead of sitting there pretending you know anything about wagons, why don’t you get your two useless companions and head up ahead. You’re the only ones with horses, you might as well make yourself useful since I’m certainly PAYING you enough!” he finishes with a large smile, laughing as if some joke.

“You can kiss my short hairy ass! ‘Don’t know anything about wagons’; my parents are merchants, I’ll have you know. BAH!” answers Gurdil gives as he turns his horse around and heads to the back of the caravan where two more riders wait. He approaches the riders, a dragonborn and a Deva, who eye him with obvious mirth.

“Still loosing verbal battles to Tasnap? You’d think you would have learned your lesson by now. We left Fallcrest several days ago and he’s gotten the best of you in every exchange” Says the deva.

Gurdil looks at the deva in annoyance “Asha, if you hadn’t volunteered us as guards for his caravan FOR FREE, he wouldn’t have half as much ammo to use against me! Free! If you and Aurum hadn’t managed to make me sign that contract to take on caravan duty for absolutely no money at all, while I was drunk; we wouldn’t be in this stupid forest!”

The dragonborn, presumably Aurum, suddenly becomes serious:” The Raven Queen does not send visions lightly, Gurdil, and both Asha and I both received the same vision of Tasnap heading into the setting sun. Surely this means we were to accompany him as he travelled west. Yet we could not charge the man to take us on when the Raven Queen herself has charged us to do so.”

Gurdil visibly deflates and “What you charge him is your business. It’s my fee that I’m worried about” He sighs “If not for that contract… Anyways, he’s asked us to take point in case the Dark are off the road or something”.

Asha grunts, “The Dark indeed! More likely good old fashion brigands, since no one has seen any part of the Dark in nearly a century. Perhaps Ingold Inglorion did defeat them”

To which Aurum replies “Great Gurdil! You set him off again. He’ll be days trying to remember past lives and who did what when and how. He’ll wrack his brain trying to remember the last Coming of the Dark and he’ll be miserable because he can’t.” He spurs his horse forward. “Let’s go check for campsites. He might as well be warm and dry while he stares into space”.

With that, the three riders pass the caravan as it turns off the road and head into the woods a few meters further.

An hour later, the three wagons are positioned in a small gully, the King’s Road still visible through the trees two hundred meters away. Tasnap goes from wagon to wagon, instructing the drivers where to tie off the horses.

Nearer the road, Aurum, Gurdil and Asha huddle around their fire, trying to get dry and warm.

“Not much we can do about the wagon tracks but, hopefully, they won’t be seen in the Dark” says Aurum.

“Fat chance of that! Most brigands have the means to see in the dark, one way or the other.” huffs Gurdil.

“Perhaps, but…” begins Asha, stopping to stare at the top of the slope behind the wagons. The merchants and guards suddenly realize that they are being watched by several figures standing among the trees. Thirty pairs of glowing green eyes peer out of the darkness, the light of the watch fires reflecting from their slitted eyes. The complete silence is broken by Gurdil’s muttered “I told ya they could see in the dark!”.

One of the figures moves from the shadows into the light if the fires and revels himself to be a male longtooth shifter. Clad in bearskin armour, he looks over the camp from the top of the hill. Spotting Tasnap, he yells “Tasnap! You old horsethief! You dare park you travelling circus on our land!”

Tasnap, looking a bit confused, stumbles forward and squints at the new comer “Cairn? Is that you?” Having moved closer, his face changes suddenly “Cairn! You old hound dog! You should be ashamed of yourself, scaring an old honest merchant like that!”

“When I find him, I’ll apologize!” replies Cairn, stepping down into the gully with Tasnap. Tasnap, turns to the rest of the caravan and says loudly: “It’s alright, everyone, they’re friendly, keep setting up the camp.”

Within half an hour, the camp is set up for the night, the new comers helping the caravan to finish setting up the camp.

Sitting at the campfire with Tasnap and Cairn, Aurum, Asha and Gurdil listen to Tasnap explain the presence of Cairn and his tribe: “They’re a hunting for nomads.” he points at Cairn “Too lazy to clean up after themselves, they just move whenever their current location becomes too fouled to live in”. Cairn howls in laughter. “More likely we move on when the likes of you comes around. Seriously though, we are moving out of the area soon. Several attacks have taken place against our pa’sh-ta’ri brethren and even your kind. Several isolated holds have been wiped out and no one knowns why. There even talk that it is the work of the Dark since that is the way thing started the last time.”

Tasnap looks troubled. He asks “Should we expect trouble?”

“I don’t think so” replies Cairn, “We’re too well armed and we’re too many. Besides, what ever is causing this, they’ve always attacked stationary targets or our tribes at their traditional winter camps. Places where they knew there would be people. Surely a caravan of 3 wagons is too small to be noticed in that way.”

“Indeed” replies Tasnap. “Still, I’ll strengthen the guards for tonight though”. He and Cairn rise and sets off to get the guard rotations organized. When he returns, he says to Gurdil, Asha and Aurum:” The three of you are first watch. Cairn’s group will take second and last. The other guards will take third.”

With that, he heads for his tent and, soon, the sound of his snoring can be heard from across the camp.

The three get up and begin their rounds. After 2 hours of walking in circuits around the camp, they wake their three shaper replacements and lie down to rest for the evening. Just as their replacements begin their rounds, a hail of arrows whistles in, striking the 3 guards several times each.

Gurdil screams the alarm but it is too late. From behind a tree, a large hobgoblin steps out and shouts as he punches the air in Gurdil’s direction. A wave of force centered around Gurdil lifts him and the two others and throws them across the camp. Gurdil smashes into a tree and rolls under some bushes, knocked out. Asha falls on top of one of the wagons roof. The lack of movement would seem to indicate he too is unconscious.

Aurum slowly rises to his feet, dazed from the force pulse when behind him appears a bugbear, who bashes his morningstar on Aurum’s hastily donned helm. Blood bursts from his face as the unstrapped helm cuts him deeply and he falls face fist into the dirt.

...time passes slowly…

The morning sun rises as the stench of burnt flesh greets Gurdil as he crawls out from the bushes where he fell. Still unsure of his footing, he staggers over to the body of Aurum who lies in a large, now congealing, pool of his own blood. Gurdil kneels next to him and turns him over.

Aurum’s face is partially covered by the helm which pitched forward when he was hit. The helm is still stuck in the large gash across his cheek bones. As Gurdil manages to remove the helm, fresh blood pours from the wound. Gurdil swears and speaks loudly: “ Get up you overgrown Lizard! Or would you rather I take off with your RavenQueen symbol and see how much I can get for it?” [Inspiring Word]. Aurum gasps loudly and awakens with a start.

“Damn! I won’t get to rob you. Somebody else beat me to it.” says Gurdil. Aurum sits up shakily. Looking around, he says “It’s probably the only reason your fingers aren’t in my purse but why hasn’t anyone stolen our very lives? We didn’t put up much of a fight last night”.

“Probably thought you already were dead. You’re certainly made a mess big enough. Come, get up!” Gurdil says as he helps Aurum to stand. They survey the camp around them. The wagons still rest at the same spot they were the night before. Much blood lies around but few bodies.

“Where is everybody?” asks Aurum. “Don’t know but I think that is Tasnap” Gurdil replies as he points to a large burnt corpse in the main firepit. “only he is big enough to look like that. Guess he won’t be winning any more arguments with me”.

Suddenly, a voice comes from above : “Probably the only way for one as dim as you to win a verbal contest against him: for him to be dead.”

From the top of the wagon, Asha rolls off and jumps to the ground, landing heavily and nearly falling. A large red-purple bruise across his face testifies to where he hit one of the crossbars on the wagon.

“Ah! I see the bandits improved your profile. Now your face matches your breath.” Says Gurdil, starting to feel better.

“Whoever ambushed us last night sure isn’t making much noise” adds Asha. “Are we alone?”

The trio proceed to search the camp. They come across the body of Cairn, back to a tree with 5 arrows in his chest. As they approach his corpse, a booming voice calls out “Halt!”.

As they turn toward the voice, two shifters, male and female, step out from behind some bushes across the camp. They both have bows in their hands with knocked arrows pointing at Gurdil, Asha and Aurum.

“Who is responsible for this? Who has done this to our pa’sh-ta’ri?” demands the female shifter, to which Asha responds “We don’t know, we were all ambushed in the night. It would seem that we are all that is left of your hunting party and our caravan.”

After careful examination of the three, the answer seems to satisfy the two shifters, who introduce themselves as Urzula (the female shifter) and Bark (the male).

Forgetting their differences, the five scour the camp site looking for other survivors. They find none. Curiously, few corpses are to be found. Of the fifteen members of the caravan, only Tasnap’s corse is found, immolated in the fire pit. Of Cairn’s hunting party, only Cairn himself remains. No other corpses are present.

“Why take some of the dead but not the contents of the wagons? “ Asks Gurdil “They’ve looted almost all the equipment, they stripped Cairn of his weapons, they even took my shield and hammer. Yet they left the salt, the wine and the iron ingots. All of which are valuable. ”

“Not to slavers” replies Asha “Notice they took all the food too? Even our rations? What little food and equipment we did find was either hidden under something or simply too common to care about. We found enough to equip ourselves but anything heavy was left behind on purpose. I suspect that any of our companions that was even remotely ‘alive’ now has a collar around his neck. They even took the horses.”

“Slavers!?” spits Aurum “What stupidity is this? Most can barely provide enough food for themselves these days, surely more mouths aren’t wanted?”

“I can’t say” replies Asha “but it is the only thing that fits. Elatar, one of my previous selves, saw the same pattern..oh, about 500 years ago in Alketch. Raiders leaving behind valuable merchandise but stealing everyone and everything that could be moved quickly. Why they would do so in a time where food is so scarce is beyond me but I can think of no other explanation”

“Well, all this is interesting but if our kin still live, we must free them!” affirms Urzula.

“ We won’t catch them on foot” replies sadly Bark “We could try and free them but any tracks have been obliterated by the rain, we are half a day behind and they have a least a few horses and we have none. Even if we do catch them, then what? Our friends here are wounded, barely armed and we are only two. We cannot do anything even if we did catch them”

“We shall get the rest of the tribe then” says Urzula.

“No”says Bark. “They are too far. Cairn sent them north a week ago when I first joined you and we began our hunting. We were supposed to meet them by the Winterbole forest. That’s several days away and with many of our warriors now slaves, your tribe cannot spare the warriors for the chase. No, my friend, it is just you and I now. Or perhaps, we are not alone?” He looks in askance at Asha, Gurdil and Aurum.

The three of them look at each other. Deva says flatly “I would save anyone from the fate of a slave. I have been one, it is a fate worst than death”.

Aurum adds “Death need not be feared, but if it means so much to you, I will help. Surely this is the reason why the Raven Queen sent us with Tasnap?”

“What?! Are you 2 out of your mind? We have a small fortune sitting here in this caravan and you want to leave it behind to go play in the woods with these 2 doggies?”

“There are no horses left to pull your wagons.” States Bark flatly, seemingly used to dwarven insults.

“But… Argh! Damnit! (long series of dwarven curses )… Allright, allright. I’m going. But only because I want my shield back!” growls Gurdil. “I had just broken it in! Do you know how much it cost me to find one that fit? And beside, I have unfinished business with that Hobgoblin. Nobody tosses a...”.

Gurdil does not finish his sentence as his companions look down at him, disapprovingly

“Then it is agreed. We will seek to free our brethren and your companions. We will need to gather more resources and then, we will find them.”says Urzula. “Winterhaven is but two days west. From there, we can regroup, rest up and acquire what we will need to help us in our quest”

The group packs what little they have and begins to walk west, toward the village of Winterhaven.


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