Over the Sea and Far Away

A study in laying low in Tazzleford - and fortunate connections

In a quiet month, we all spent our time digging through Tazzleford, making connections but mostly working on our skills and abilities.   This was a huge piece of effort that kept us very busy and we really had very little time to deal with much else besides our training.

In our final week before departure Merrin decided to look for some helpful options that might help the refuge on the south shore of the lake.   Merrin arranged for transport for a few people to go south and help the community and we arranged to smuggle them south.   One is named Rollo, he's a bit of a nutcase but he's also a pretty good shipbuilder and a carpenter.   Merrin had a good discussion with him and in return for getting our of town he's agreed to help with the community.

In addition, we picked up a leatherworker and his young family and decided to help them duck out of town and end up with a new start and new names.   His family was in terrible debt and they were all about to get thrown into debtors prison and relegated to servitude.

We sailed south as a group and delivered thew new members to their community, talked to Odkirk and the other village leaders and they agreed with the potential benefits.    After dropping them off, visiting with Shade and seeing the progress made we took off to the hill country north of South shore to try to track down Stump, an odd little druid to whom we had made a promise of help.

We traveled up the river and we were able to see several places that had dangerous camps.  We eventually came upon some ruined docks and a path which was mostly overgrown.   We followed this path and eventually we saw a very odd tree looking over the path with 'stuff' hanging from the branches.   We decided to lay low and march quickly up the road.

Arnik became aware that we were being followed and magic was enacted to prevent things from following us.    Not ten minutes after we figured that out, we saw a few older looking humanoids wearing red caps with sharp weapons skulking up the path behind us.    They looked very similar to the creature that murdered the entire village north east of here and we decided to remain hidden.   Sometimes it's best to just avoid the fey, especially the really crazy and powerful ones.

We continued to travel south west and finally we met up with Stump.   Stump was happy to see us and helped to escort us off towards the south, throug a number of forests and paths and eventually to a hidden community of his fey forrest gnomes.    

We were told about their issues and they accepted our offer to try to clear up the problem which was just near their encampment.   We were given a few items and a guide to bring us there and after a days rest with the gnomes we broke out, and started to head up towards where we had most recently heard their nearly invisible issue resided.

 

 

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Shade in Refuge part 1
Side adventure

After receiving the letter from Morwen via Traven, Shade packs up his belongings and weapons and, with Cala in tow, heads down the road to Southfort.  He manages to get a local fisherman to take them to the beach and headland described by Morwen.  A short walk inland, and he finds the camp.

Clearly, it isn't a town yet – the group has only been there about a week, but there is an orderly circle of tents with a central wood-roofed cooking and eating area.  The nearby field has been cleared of underbrush and a makeshift pen has been built.  There are also rows of racks with fish and some kind of meat drying on them.

You are brought to the central area and introduced to Tal, a clever-looking black haired woman, and Odkirk, a bearded man with thick shoulders and a close-cropped hair.  They are both young, about Shade's age, and look weary, but happy to see you.

They expected your coming, and are very glad that you were willing to help.  A smaller tent has been set up for you and Cala and they tell you that you can get started the following morning.

Shade will get to his tent, lay things out, set Cala to cleaning up their weapons (because it needs to happen), and then go for a walk and see what's being done.

 

After that, he'll go back and talk to Tal and Odkirk and say:

* Look, I can teach people to fight, but it looks like you could use more than that. So, what do you want from me? I used to be a gravedigger — it's not pleasant work but it's necessary, and eventually you'll need a place for the Raven Queen around here. Also, I can dig a mean posthole as well, if these tents are going to turn into more permanent things.

* About teaching — I'm going to need some clear ground as well, so anybody coming is going to be clearing land too. Don't want to break ankles first time out — and I'm not sure you want people swinging sticks around where people are working. Just want you to be clear on that.

* Cala is with me. She has trouble, I won't hesitate to break out the sharps; also, if she /is/ trouble, let me know. She's young and I made myself responsible for her after bandits killed her family by doing the bandits. So that's that.

 

Work seems to be broken into several areas.

Several people are heading to the lake with nets and fishing spears.

Several people are preparing food in the central area and hauling water for what appears to be a load of laundry.

Most of the men appear to be at work preparing the cleared field for planting, and the rest of the people are putting in a large garden plot near the tents.

Odkirk and Tal are sitting at a newly-made table in the central eating area, and motion to the bench when you arrive.  They feed you and listen politely.

When you finish, Tal glances at Odkirk.  "I'm going to let you take the lead on this, Od.  I've got my own learning to do, and we desperately need to learn more about the forest and lands hereabouts, so I'll take care of that."

Odkirk nods and focuses on you.  "We can use every pair of hands, no doubt.  But all the hands in the world won't help us if trouble comes upon us and we can't defend ourselves.  We are here because our village was destroyed by Imperial troops.  Most of the trained fighters were killed during that attack. We know how to farm, how to hunt, somewhat, although we are used to dry, dusty land."

"We have all agreed.  All of us will learn to fight, at least the basics. Those who prove skilled at it will learn more.  We will not be helpless again.  If you are willing to train us, we will work hard and learn as much as we can.  We can't offer you anything other than respect and your keep at this time.  Otherwise, any help you can offer us is appreciated.  There is much work to be done, and you don't seem like a person who will take their ease between training.

"You will have 2 or 3 students each day, we have decided.  We can have them stay with you for some days, or rotate them, as you prefer.  Perhaps you can start by clearing some ground near the tents to train in?"

He glances over to your tent and Cala.  "She will be safe here.  Will she be working with you, or would you like us to find some tasks for her?"

 

Shade takes some time to think about it, before he goes on.

"That makes sense. I just want shelter and food, for now. In time, I want to learn to hunt, too." He touches his Transported tattoo. "After all, I live here now, I should know the place I live. Got someone that knows the land? That can be the payment — knowledge."

"In general, I want the students for class in the morning and afternoon for a week at a time. Everyone needs to rotate through a few times so that they can think about things before coming back again to learn more. It's not an instant thing at all."

"Also, I will set aside one day in seven for people who want to learn more. It'll be more open, and there might be some extra bruises."

"At the beginning, I will set to clearing, but let's make sure everyone knows that part of the training will be making the space right at the beginning."

"I've brought what I could, but we could use a few more blunts. If there's a woodworker I can talk to, we should get some wooden swords and spears made up. Also, if there's someone who works leather, we could get things that are more like peoples' machetes going too. That'll be practical."

"For now, Cala'll work with me. If she needs more to do, I'll let you know."

If there's nothing more, he gets up to wash his own dishes and start clearing a practice yard.

 

The first week goes relatively well.  It is soon decided that the village will be called "Refuge".  Two young men and one woman make up the first group that Shade works with.  They clear a practice area without complaint, and pitch into the training with the sort of focussed intensity that marks the truly dedicated.  

None of them are particularly skilled, but they are young, fit and hard workers.  The woman, Ershka, seems singularly driven to excel, and after the first week she is clearly the most  talented of the three.  On the final "optional" day, she and Odkirk are the only ones to show up, and she takes her bruises with a tight-lipped smile.

She asks permission to stay on through the next rotation, and Odkirk says he will defer to your opinion on it.  Odkirk himself and another woman are slated to start the training the following week.

During the course of the week, you also help out with getting fencing up for the truck garden, begin erecting wooden posts to frame in some of the tents, haul water and begin digging a ditch around the village center, with the eventual goal of putting up a palisade.

Cala proves to be surprisingly helpful.  She grew up in a farming community, and although she does grumble that she "thought I got away from all of this when my bloody village disappeared", she actually knows a fair bit about the woods in the area, to the point where she can point out poisonous or hazardous plants, and identify edibles in the surrounding woods.

Towards the end of the first week, a bearded middle-aged man in rough work clothes (picture Pat Rothfuss if he lived in the woods) emerges from the trees.  He introduces himself as Dunwick, walks a circuit of the village, muttering to himself.  He then asks to speak with Tal and Odkirk.  They invite you to sit in as well.  It appears that Tal and Odkirk consider you the "military representative" on their little Council.

Dunwick takes the cup of water offered him and begins slowly, his voice gravelly.  "The little Eldling lass, Morwen, asked me to put my head in and see how you were faring.  I keep an eye on this stretch of county, more or less.  He also said you could use some instruction in our Way," inclining his head to Tal.

"You've made a good start here.  It's a well-chosen spot.  Good earth, clean water, a protected bay.  I've done a sweep of the area, and found nothing terribly dangerous close to you, but these southern forests are a wild place.  Owlbears hunt along the fringe of the forest, and are most active just after nightfall.  There are also panthers and great spiders that hunt the forest, particularly after dark, as well as bears and enormous apes.  Those are only dangerous if you cross their path unwittingly."

"There are also areas of this forest – none too near you, that contain ancient ruins.  Those places are dangerous haunts for ancient guardians and the unquiet dead.  I wouldn't approach them, if you I were you.  Further, there are a few enclaves of the Fey, who guard their borders, and although they aren't always hostile, it's best to treat them as if they are."

"Lastly, there are several tribal groups in this forest.  The Azharak are a green-scaled people descended from the ancient dragon-kin.  Dragonborn, I think they are often called.  They have villages further to the south, where the forest starts to thin out into the grasslands, but their hunting parties range deep into the woods.  They are aggressive and fierce, but not mindlessly hostile, if approached with caution."

"There are also scattered nomadic tribes of Feyren.  Wild elves, the Colonials call them.  They wander the deeps of the forest, and they are only hostile if the encounter large-scale destruction or mindless harm to the woods.  I know some of their scouts and hunters, and I will ask one to visit you to open relations.  They are perhaps the best suited to teaching you about the surrounding forests.  My time would be better served working with young Tal here to improve her skills."

"Finally, there are a reclusive sort of reptile-folk that are rarely seen.  They appear to be able to shift their coloration to blend into the forest, and are very quiet and stealthy.  I don't know much about them, but I know they hunt with poisoned darts and prefer to keep to the high branches of the trees."

After all of that, he sits and waits expectantly.  Clearly he thinks you will have questions.

 

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A quiet sail up the coast
As quiet as a tomb...

The party left the village after several days, feeling like they'd done just about everything possible to enable them to succeed.  The rest came down to the new resident's skill and determination.

A decision was made to stay away, for a time at least, from the area where the Tall Trees Company operates.  That meant not visiting Blawtro and Southfort, though their many charms could hardly fail to draw a person back in. Tatzleford, at the north end of the lake, seemed far enough away to be able to lie low, but still close enough to keep the promise made to help Stump's people. It was hoped, also, that it was large enough to allow for some necessary training.

Morwen needed to stop partway to Southfort to speak with Dunwick, to ask him to check in on Tal and her friends.  He agreed to investigate the area around the village, and to take Tal under his wing. He also provided warnings about danger in the clearcuts on the west coast of the lake: something to be either avoided or investigated.

Arnik and Loria then stopped in Southfort, to purchase knowledge and armaments. Either news of the latest escapade hadn't reached Southfort yet, or everyone's efforts at misdirection and deception had worked: the visit to Southfort was completely uneventful.

Heading north, the weather was pleasant, the sailing easy, and the nighttime forest quiet. The ship rounded the final point before the river at Port Tanner, and came upon a large barge, wallowing in the water like a pregnant sow. Unguided, and unmanned, it drifted aimlessly. Naturally, it needed to be investigated.

No ropes, ladders, nor boats dangled from the side of the ship. Wrenaldo cast about with his new senses, and found that there were two undead creatures onboard, down near the waterline. Some doctrinal discussion between the paladin of the Raven Queen and the priest of Mael ensued about the correct way to deal with this.  Mael, Merrin opined, would appreciate the ship being sunk and placed within his realm.  The Raven Queen, however, demands that the undead be destroyed as an affront to the natural order. Merrin deferred to Wrenaldo's clear zeal for smiting, as well as the possibility of treasure or a valuable cargo that could be looted.

Morwen the squirrel clambered up and had a furtive look around.  There were signs of a battle on deck, and broken railings, but no bodies. In the centre of the ship, there were large cargo doors, and at either end there were stairs that headed below deck. A squirrel head fit nicely in a small gap in the cargo bay doors, but she didn't find any peanuts to steal. The stench of death and decay was nearly overwhelming, and she could hear sporadic shuffle-thump noises down in the hold.  A quick investigation of the stairs down revealed that most of the noise was coming from the stern of the ship. Resuming her human form, she tied a rope to a cleat, threw it down to her friends, and joined them in their boat.

Having decided to cleanse the ship, and claim any loot before sinking it, everyone climbed onto the deck. Nobody wanted to go below, so a decision was made to position the scrappier folks at the hatches, throw open the cargo doors and see what happened. Those with ranged attacks stood between the two hatches, ready to lend support where required. Wrenaldo's magical dowsing indicated that these were likely slow shambling undead types, so it was reasoned that it should be safe enough to let the enemies come.

The moment that the hatch doors thudded open, the creatures below erupted into movement.  Before anyone could say much more than "uh, oh," a creature was leaping forth from each of the hatches. Perched on the railings which surrounded the stairs on all fours, the creatures, pale as death, brought with them a rotting stench tinged with the acrid scent of acid.  Wrenaldo and his thirsty glaive were wanted blood (such as it might be in this case) and immediately levelled a vicious strike at the monster nearest to him, nearly severing its torso from its legs.  Alas for poor Wrenaldo, the not-quite-dead monster was now quite annoyed and lashed him in the ankle with its tongue, revealing dissolving flesh and seeming to make all of his other bones turn to jelly. Not letting its burning grip slacken, the monster dragged Wrenaldo below before anyone could react.

Meanwhile at the other stairway, Loria listened to her companion's head thud down the stairs and laid into her opponent.  It danced out of the way of the first sword, and caught the second in the thigh. A huge muscular tongue sailed her way in retaliation, but thankfully Loria had seen Wrenaldo's fate and ducked, only being she splattered with a few stinging drops. Arnik bravely sprinted to the stairs where Wrenaldo had disappeared and leapt over the railing into the hold of the ship, landing gracefully among the wreckage of the landing.  Wrenaldo was face down in the water, about to disappear behind a stack of barrels and crates. Incanting decisively, Arnik launched three glowing darts at the fiend, which sizzled briefly and collapsed into the water beside its prey.

Morwen launched a dagger of gleaming ice at Loria's opponent, and groaned as it didn't seem to notice that it was now impaled by a foot-long blade. The creatured did notice when the dagger embedded in its chest exploded into tiny razor-sharp fragments. It didn't have very long to notice, as most of its chest became a cloud of crystallized mist.  Morwen's celebration ended rather prematurely when she saw that Loria had taken a face full of ice shards and was lying on the deck, unmoving.

A couple of quick healing spells later, and everyone was back on their feet, but wanting off the cursed boat.  A thorough search of the boat turned up a whole bunch of tools, and a locked chest.  Subtlety cast aside, the lid was sawn off of the chest (thank you tool chest), and the (now sadly deceased) captain's most prized posessions were divvied up.

Significant effort was required to set fire to the soggy water-logged ship, but eventually it was flaming cheerfully.  The party sailed as quickly away from the latest spot of trouble as possible. Both Mael and the Raven Queen were hopefully satisfied by the holy works of their servants this day. 

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No good deed goes unnoticed
Unexperienced do-gooders abound

We found ourselves in the woods, three captives in hand, with a column of transported half-orcs.

Merrin got right to work, questioning the captives with the ease of long practice.  Matters discussed included who they were, where the destination camp is, and why there were hired goons waiting for us in the woods. Answers to the first two questions were easily obtained.  The third required a sigh, a grimace, and a slow, methodical, laying out of inquisitorial tools on Merrin's part. Answers came fairly quickly after that.

It turned out that the Tall Trees Company was put on alert by the previous logging camp's missing inhabitants, and suspicious because of the party's association with Traven. The company has, in its employ, some free transported who have attached themselves to Traven and who provide intelligence: the party was seen on several occasions.  Good drawings had been provided to the guards, and warnings were provided that trouble might occur on the road.

After a frank discussion among the party members, in their presence, about what to with the now very inconvenient captives, the guards suggested that their lives were basically over if they had to return empty-handed. Cutting their throats and dumping their corpses in the woods for animals to eat was discarded as not the right thing to do, so off everyone went deeper into the woods. Much effort was put into concealing the direction of travel of the large group.

The efforts at trail-removal seemed to be effective (or perhaps the knowledge that dozens of now-free half-orcs roamed the woods), as no retribution was encountered during the rest of the day's travel, nor at night during camp. The mood in camp that evening was quietly pleased, but sombre: the rescued folk were asking "what now?" The question of the captives weighed on everyone as well, and during another discussion about their fate Wrenaldo saw one of their heads snap up.  The ex-guard's eyes unfocussed, and he cocked an ear as if listening to something in the woods.

Wrenaldo stopped to listen and smiled in recognition.  "I think our problem is solved."  He walked over to the guards, and asked the other two if they could hear "that music," too.  The others glanced at their companion, who was absently tugging at his knots trying to stand, and listened carefully.  Their eyes lost their focus on this world.  Wrenaldo untied them, and let them start wandering off into the woods.  He cast a backwards glance at his friends and mouthed, "I'll be back soon."

After a short walk through the woods with others, they emerged into a clearing on the other side of which two solid trees stood like sentinels.  The four continued to follow the music, crossing between the trees and emerging in the place of which Wrenaldo has lately dreamt.  Green figures emerged from the woods and escorted the three into the valley below.  One stayed behind, and said quizzically "We did not expect to see you so soon.  Do you bring these three in offering?"

On being reassured that the men were not about to be sacrificed, he replied with a thoughtful "Yes."

"Wait here."

On it's return, the creature gifted Wrenaldo with an acorn.  Wrenaldo, being the noble person he is, tried to decline. It was explained that sleeping with the acorn under his pillow would simply cement a relationship between the Dryads and Wrenaldo, and that it was his choice to pursue it or not.  Wrenaldo took the acorn, thanked the creature, and returned to the party.  He chose to sleep with the acorn, and awoke with new knowledge and a new sense of purpose. He appared to have found a new path to travel: a previously unnoticed, but, once seen, welcoming track through the woods.

The next morning, the group broke their fasts and headed in the direction of the burned-out village which was discovered during the last rescue mission.  The goal was to set this group of farmers up in the fertile, hidden, valley.  Morwen, with some obvious trepidation, returned to the village and sniffed about for evidence of the obvious smell of corruption that had been present before.  She was quickly assaulted with the stench, and observed that the village was in considerably worse shape than it had been in several weeks before.  A quick decision was made to simply move on.

The mood among the larger group went from nervous to depressed as a rain squall rolled in that evening. Not much progess towards the road was made, and camp was set early. Cold and wet, many went to bed immediately after a meagre dinner.  During the next day's travel, Loria, scouting ahead, happened upon a herd of deer just short of the road.  She skillfully shot one, and got to work processing it. Once everyone else arrived, there were smiles at the prospect of 400lbs of meat to be shared around.  Camp that night was much more pleasant, and made even more so by the amazing flavours Merrin was able to coax out of the fresh kill.

Many ideas about the disposition of the half-orcs were hatched, and tried or discarded on the road to Port Tanner. Farming an unfamiliar forest with no tools or local knowledge was, understandably, unappealing. The village which had previously taken in other transported could not accommodate a group this large, nor would they be able to hide them if head-hunters came around; if they were found to be harbouring fugitives, everyone would be back in manacles. As the party didn't want to be readily associated with a large group of recently liberated transported, going into Port Tanner with everyone was a non-option.

Eventually, it was decided that the larger group would wait on the lakeshore south of Port Tanner, while supplies and tools were purchased. Then everything would be ferried to a safe place near the southern end of the lake, where a new community could be set up.

Several days of boisterous, obvious, drinking and carousing were organized so that the part would be seen to be definitely NOT be hanging around with half-orcs. Then, at significant expense, though Merrin negotiated a tremendous discount, supplies for a new village were purchased.  A great site was found along the shore of the lake, around 70 miles east of Southfort.

Soon after arrival, Tal — whom Morwen had been teaching for several weeks — was initiated into the local circle of Druids, and Morwen promised her an introduction to Dunwick, a resident druid who lives between the new village and Southfort.

And there we left off.

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Blawtro - What a fantastic town!
A bit of business, a bit of fun, a few dumb moves

We find ourselves arriving in town with the cargo of half orcs.   Things look somewhat odd perhaps.  The half orcs have fewer marks of extreme abuse and the guards all get to town alive.   We turn in the half orcs to the tall trees trading company along with Renaldo who decided to accompany the half orcs as an odd form of collateral.

We spent a few days taking care of business and tying up loose ends in town.   These involved hearing rumors of more trappers heading north towards where Stump would be, visiting completing our deal with Traven and also collecting payment from Voss for our good work in spying on Traven.   Basically, ignore the transported in the hall, that one of our friends is tied in with them and things are going fairly well.   Party members go off to get reacquainted with their contacts in Blawtro and we wait for a signal that the Half orcs are on the move.

It doesn't take too long for us to get news that the Half orcs are moving.   Our ranger decides to follow them and before she is too far out of town she is ambushed by a group of hunters who were evidently hired to ensure that no one were to free this group of half orcs.   She manages to escape and find her way back to the party who by this time has left via the other gate and is circling around to where they believe the party is.

There are a number of forest camps, cold nights and suspenseful chase scenes and as we draw this session to a close we have caught up with the half-orcs as they near their camp.   We set an ambush for them and as they round the corner one of them gets massacred by a spell, the captain gets charmed and the guards quickly surrender and start to try to consider ways they might survive.    We will handle everything else in the next session.

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The Trip to Blawtro

After equipping and supplying the half-orcs, the party sets out to escort them to Blawtro and deliver them to the Talltrees Trading Company, but with assurances that rescue will come shortly afterwards.  Loria, the parties new recruit, heads off scouting while the rest of the party travels more slowly with the main body of transported.

Camping on the first night, the group encounter a strange group of man-high lizards with extensive natural camouflage.  They sneak up on the campsite, but don't attack, although they startle Loria badly.  Morwen is able to communicate with them using Speak with Animals, and they prove to be somewhat intelligent, bargaining for food in exchange for guarding the camp at night.

The lizards also mentioned that they were on guard against the "dead tree spirits" in the vast clearcut nearby.  Luckily, no dead tree spirits appear during the night, and in the morning the group moves on.

They aren't so lucky on the second night.  Upon waking in the morning they discover that one of the half-orcs is missing.  The others don't believe that he would have left on his own, so a search begins.

After some tracking, the trail of the lost prisoner is found, heading up into the hills to the south.  Morwen, in wolf form, also encounters an odd, rancid rotting-vegetation smell in the area.  Several miles into the hills, they discover the shredded remains of the missing half-orc.  He is half-eaten and bound to a tree with tangled roots and vines.   The rotting stench is thick around the corpse.  More tracking identifies that the stench trail goes further south into the hills, but the party decides not to follow.

Everyone returns to the road after burying the remains and the group continues on to Blawtro.

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Back to Southfort
Unexpected Complications

After delivering the Transported to Port Tanner (and to the small village outside Port Tanner), the party took a ship back to Southfort, intending to return to Blawtro and collect their reward from Traven for rescuing the Transported from the logging camp.

Upon reaching Southfort, the party spread out to take care of their own affairs.  Arnik was able to gain access to the Colonial Governor's library and found a number of old Exploration and Survey books that detailed several interesting locations in the Southlands.

Merrick headed to the Temple of Mael, to inquire about any work he might do for the temple.  Luckily (perhaps) the Temple did have a job that needed to be done.  The Temple had accepted a contract to transfer a group of Transported to one of the trading companies in Blawtro.

Merrick, being of a suspicious and mercantile mind, decided to do more investigation as to the circumstances of this contract.  It turned out that the transported were a group of half-orcs, imprisoned in extremely dubious circumstances and likely very dangerous.  Being a stout soul, Merrick negotiated a very favorable rate to perform the task, and headed off to inspect the prisoners.

He found them in a fairly bad state.  Sick with fevers, filthy and with inadequate clothing and food.  They were also suspicious and hostile.  Luckily for Merrick, he had Wrenaldo with him, too.  Wrenaldo, a half-orc himself, is both charismatic and empathetic, and his brave conduct and healing magic quickly disarmed the simmering violence of the prisoners.

After purchasing blankets, clothes and supplies, and healing the sick prisoners, some discussion on the logistics of moving them was discussed.  The party decided on two courses of action.  First, hire a few more guards to assist in the event that the half-orcs turned hostile.  Second, try to get the active assistance of the half-orcs.

The first course of action was only partially successful.  Loria, an elven ranger, was hired, but other guards weren't available.  The second course was much more successful.  Tal and Odkirk, the de-facto leaders of the half-orcs, were convinced that the party meant them no harm after Wrenaldo volunteered to stay with the prisoners by posing as a prisoner himself.  That, combined with the food, medical care and clothing, turned the half-orcs fear and anger into respect and hope.

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The Woods are Alive with the Sound of Music et Al
It's better than the woods being dead with the sounds of muchings and crunchings

 

We find ourselves with enough weeks for a few weeks of travel up in the hills.   Having escaped the forest we can take our time for a little bit, try to ensure that the transported that we're /transporting/ are in a decent shape we stop our forced march and we start to travel at a more civilized pace.

The party concentrates on ensuring that we're moving safely , economizing on our food consumption and that we're looking for interesting resources which might be helpful for us going forward.   We follow the travel advice which we received from Stump pretty closely and they turn out to be very helpful and our path through the mountains ends up being fairly safe.

We find one of the transported (Harlox) who was originally from the area and he seems willing to help us with local area knowledge.   He starts helping us to actively scout the area out and starts to actively watch for the types of things that locals watch out for in these mountains.

As we travel through the mountains our scouts find a very smooth path.   They follow the path and come upon a small human village in a secluded valley.    This place looks to be a very well hidden pocket of civilization up in the mountains, there is one issue. there doesn't appear to be anyone here.   Scouting in wolf form provides more information, there is blood everywhere, there are hacked up cows and pigs in the fields but no other signs of life.    The Wolf scouts to the village itself and finds, piled in the middle of town the former inhabitants of the village with a  stlightly 'unhinged' gentleman watching over them.   When he sees the wolf he tries to hack it to bits and catch it but the wolf escapes.      Scouting back to the travelling party takes a lot of time and in that time the party comes upon the valley and the scene.   A quick scouting shows us that everything is very wrong here and we make the executive decision to turn around and cut through the bush to get out of here.  We meet up with our scouts as the decision is made and then assure us it's the right choice.   We duck up behind the valley and continue on towards the road.

The next day while we're travelling we find that we're doing really well and making good time down the road.   When we settle down for mid day we note that Harlox has gone missing.   We decide to sit for a full or proper lunch and send scouts back to find him.   

He is found within a pocket of some form, with a creature of the forest taking care of him.  He seems to be happy and perhaps enchanted by some form of magic.   He however seems lucid and has bought the Dryads argument that he should stay and keep her company.   He stays behind in the woods, which is clearly a better place than being a slave elsewhere on the continent.  The Dryad seems very impressed with the selfless nature and compassion shown to our friend Harlox and the Dryad rewards Wrenaldo with a glaive like weapon made of some dark black ironwood.   It's a pretty fearsome polearm( +1 with some fancy abilities to get past damage resistance)

By afternoon we press forward and find ourselves in the smaller farming communities near the lake.   The first of the communities we come to seems to be a fairly decent place with good farm land and a fairly isolationist (anti slaver) bent to it.    The Priest approaches the leader of the farming village and gets some directions and eventually decideds that this might be a good palce for some of his transported to get off the bus.   He figures there's gonna be some splaining to do if he shows up with too many transported and once he clears it with Threnna and / Orick he brokers an agreement for 10 of the transported to take up residence here and to augment the community here in the woods.   Everyone seems pleased with this and Merick is actually fairly generous to the group departing, giving them a donkey and a significant amount of food to help them come into the village with items in hand.

The party comes upon Port Tanner early on the next day after a safe day camping at the rivers' ford.   The town stinks, it is full of actual leather tanners and mountains of bones can be seen north of town from all of the hunted or dead animals.   The party makes its way to where Orick has them meet up with some locals and they deliver the rest of the transported.   They will be shipped to different parts of the continent and we get credit for bringing 30 of them out back out of the wilds.

We now have a day or two to rest, get our bearings and plan our next steps.   There may be lots to do in port Tanner but there are the open deals back in town and the deal with Stump that need to be addressed.   We will start our next session there, likely after some decision making off camera.

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Flight back through the Woods?
Logging Camp Rescue (Part Deux)

There is nothing better in the D&D world than an NPC with a concsience.

Traven hired the party at a fairly reasonable (expensive) rate of 300 silver or 25 silver per rescued departed which we would be able to extricate from the camp.   Now some people might consider it foolish to go into the mouths of danger and to throw yourself into the wilds but not us, no sir.   We're willing to do it as long as we're well compensated!

After doing a significant re-supply and extending Travens credit a little bit with over 900 pounds of food and two donkeys, the party took off towards the camp to the north making fairly credible time.     We decided to time our trip so that we could visit the camp during the day, when the forest 'things' would be less likely to harass us.

The first day of travel was terrible for poor Merrin, I mean who plans a path with hills that never go down?    Everyone else seemed fairly oblivious to his suffering so he soldiered on, rarely even raising his short arms to complain!   That berry spell at the end of the day was a good topper for the day however, and man that sleep was amazing.

Anyways, the party woke up on the second day right early and made its way to the edge of the old forest.   Once there they settled in for a shorter days travel and a rescue attempt to follow.  They were greeted by a bark creature named 'stump' who evidently had dealings with Morwen (Stump is one of the local forest druids).   Stump proved to be very helpful, giving us a bit of a lay of the land and giving us some local history of the woods and what might be happening out here.   We actually listened to him and then based on him mentioning that he could fly, we asked him to scout out the camp for us and let us know what to expect the next day.

He reported that there were sub humans watching the camp, likely planning to attack once they had a chance and in addition, he reported that only some 30 people of the 71 were left alive and that they had barricaded themselves in for defensive purposes.    In return for his scouting help and help finding some of the historical sites in the area we agreed to help him with the skinner troops which were harassing his people in the forest.   Stump seemed pleased with this arrangement and even showed us to avoid the north west, gave us an idea of the lay of the land including some major landmarks and places to avoid in the area.

 

<u>ONWARD TO THE CAMP</u>

Morwen scouts the camp in wolf form and rapidly find that it's only being watched by a single beast creature.   We decide to approach the camp with a single person but we need to clear out that scout first.   Morwen leads a strike force that includes everyone but Merrin around the camp and they sneak right up to the sorta human and blow him away with a vicious combination of Magic Missiles and Glaive shots to the brain.   He doesn't even get a screech off before he dies.  The strike force returns to our pack animals, guides and Merrin and we move to the next stage of the plan.

 

Merrin approaches the camp and lets them know that we were sent by Traven to get them out and //requests// to be let into the camp.    He quickly informs them to pack up quickly, quietly and to make an immediate exit from the camp.   He passes off an story that Traven had heard that there was trouble up here and sent them to rescue the departed and bring them to Port Townshen (I forget the name).   They pack up quickly once they are all across into the woods, they force march for a few hours until they are back out of the deep forest having heroically saved 31 souls from a terrible fate.

The party sets up camp, starts to work with Threnna, the remaining leader of the departed and they get them ready to make a slow, steady and careful journey towards the lake.  The departed appear to be in relatively good shape, scared but happy to be out of the camp and more than willing to work with these people who brought them out of the jaws of danger.

 

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Flight through the Woods
In which snakes and glowing eyes promote fitness

With a collection of angry-but-sick guards soon to be on their tails, the crew decided that making immediate tracks towards the welcoming arms of Blawtro would be a good idea.

Not very long after setting out, still feeling confident after their plan at the logging camp succeeded so nicely, they were walking near to the road as quickly as their party of exhausted slaves could manage.  The regularly observant party let their guard down and were surprised when, without warning and immediately in front of them, a collection of leaves and twigs swirled down from a tree to become a woman-shaped being.

"Who are they, traveling at night in my forest?  Are they prey or friends?" Glowing yellow eyes, and far too many teeth were nervously observed during her musing questions.

"Friends," she was quickly assured by the party, who didn't much like the response she gave: a slow toothy smile. Morwen stepped forward and spoke in Druidic, again saying "Friend."

"Ah, you speak the language of the trees.  Good.  I speak that much better than gabble-gabble monkey-talk."

Upon the party's insistence that they were not food, she suggested that there would be a price to pay for being in her forest, and for stealing some of her children's meat.  It turns out that she and her children had been scouting the camp, and were planning to eat its occupants.  Interestingly, she stepped back from Morwen, when she mentioned being able to smell her children.

After some dickering, where the suggested prices were either "Magic, or blood," Wrenaldo suggested that she might be interested in a bottle of perfume that he was carrying.  A price of information about the camp and its inhabitant's health, plus the bottle of perfume was agreed upon.

The party were given four hours of safety for the price paid, and ran for the edge of the forest.  The newly-rescued transported needed some support keeping the pace, but they made it to a patch of forest where a certain feeling of menace dropped away.  Camp was made for the night.

More care was taken while traveling the next morning, with time taken for scouting and harvesting nature's resources.  Care was taken to enter the city from various directions and at various times, so as not to form an association with a collection of recently returned Transported.

Everyone ended up at the Hanged Man, and chatting with Oleg.  He happened to have a line on an old friend, a trapper, who wanted some company to check out some ruins he'd found.  As part of the conversation, the mystery in the graveyard of about a week past came up.  Oleg was concerned, and intrigued: something may come of it.

The next day, a meeting with Traven was arranged. He heard of the success of the mission, and the fate of the overseer.  He also heard about the encounter with the being in the forest.

Traven was very concerned with the fate of the 70 or so transported who remained in the camp, and managed to convince the party to attempt a rescue.  He broke out his stash of magical things, and offered 300sp to make the trip.

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