Over the Sea and Far Away

The road to Heckfire is paved with good intentions
Did I do that ?

Early in the morning we decide to depart the gnomish village.   After some discussions, it's clear to everyone that we're eager to investigate the happenings in and around the eastern end of the lake.   There are numerous concerns about the unknown elements and the dangers brewing beneat the waves.

We do decide to try to help with the events in Blawtro, and particularly we want to help Traven with his poison issue.   We decide to send in some of our 'less well known' friends in to discuss with Traven and to try to cure his poisoning.

The situation in Blawtro is terrible and this is quickly evident as we arrive in town.   The keep has been closed by the colonial guard and the town is bloated by transported from all over the southern colonies who have fled or departed the nearby camps and mines.

The find their way to Travens bunker, escorted by a very busy Orik.   He has been trying to handle Travens affairs, but things are extremely busy and things are on the edge of blowing up in town.   There are lines of people leaving Blawtro, or at least lines of richer people leaving Blawtro.   The more modest people of Blawtro and most of the transported are stuck in town.

Morwen manages to assuage some of the disease which Traven has but they decide to hold off on removing the poison.   The poison itself is a highly addictive substance that may be more of an issue in withdrawal than it is in his system.   Traven asks the party to help keep a lid on Blawtro and he asks that we come offer what help we can.   He tells us of the flying creatures hunting in the woods, the giant wolf creatures and the trees that come alove.   Most of the colonial guard was slaughtered in the woods a few weeks back and the town is basically unprepared or defended from the dangers in the woods.

Morwen and Varris return to the party and manage to convince us to come take a look at the town.  We hike up towards town seeing manage of the refugees on the street and as we get close the thunder in the storm associated with the great hunt starts in earnest.    As we travel under a pass without trace spell we manage to get right up next to town and we see horses flying in the air with riders on their back.  The riders have huge long spears that they are harassing people with, swooping down and killing them.   It's a slaughter.

Merrick pulls out a few cold iron arrows and some cold iron daggers from his pack and he hands them out amongst the party members.   He hands some of them to everyone and then, as we're deciding if we should hit these things or not he utters the words "Well you should use your judgement" afterwhich Shade lets loose with an arrow, striking the mounted fey with a longbow shot.

The fey dives towards us on his mount and treats for us to duel him in honorable combat.   He is nearly immediately hit with a 'shrink' (reverse enlarge), an entangle and this really hurts his ability to hurt us with his charge.   Somehow we manage to keep him down and in a bloody, quick and vicious piece of combat we manage to beat this superior foe.  Heroically doing everything we can against this extremely dangerous, extremely powerful creature.  It's a great victory and then we slowly realize,,,, oh yeah,,,, all his friends are here too and we just killed their ally……….

 

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Meetings and unexpected Excursions
Meetings & Missions

In the early days of the morning a pair of elder sea elves arrived into the village, in the negotiations that followed the elves and the leadership of Sanctuary come to an agreement on giving the elves a place to recuperate on land, provision of some basic supplies and help for them from the town.   The elves agree to pay a significant amount of silver to Sanctuary per month (DM edit: 500) and they also agree to help build out some of the in water defenses to prevent the hatchling or its minions to attack the town.

Most of the party spends the time in break helping with the town, building out the town and supporting their building, farming and defense.    After around a month we receive word and a visit from Dunwick who in an angry flurry presents an emergency letter.   The letter is a well sealed item, with the wax and the seal of Traven, the elderly fellow who we worked with for a long time in Blawtro.

We convene a meeting once everyone has returned back to the camp and we review the letter.  The letter lets us know that (DM Edit: Hanrik Kosk), the crime lord of Blawtro is apparently preparing to leave town and that he's moving all of his important materials out of Blawtro.   We get details of a specific shipment out of town and that there will be a boat leaving Port Tanner to go to Port Greyscale carrying some significant materials.

We quickly decided to move and after some very quick prep we take off by boat up towards the Port, setting in after an uneventful trip along the coast.   For the next day or so we look for appropriate places to set an ambush.  We consider ambushing along a tree line, at the waters fjord and finally, heading back up the road towards Blawtro a bit we find an ideal spot on a downhill which allows us to prepare a box ambush upon their cart.

We fell some trees to prepare rolling log traps and lay out a log across the road.  We then take up ambush locations and we wait, and we wait, and we wait for about a day and a half when finally we're told that the cart is coming up.

Loria takes up a position in the trees to the west ,  Morwen , Arnik and Merrick take up positions on either side of the road with logs ready to roll down on the convoy.  Wrenaldo and Shade take a position in front of the convoy with the plans to keep them busy once our ambush is sprung.   The combat starts with a rolled log, a silence spell on the cart and an entangle spell designed to cover up the start of the ambush.

The fight moves quickly as most of them are quickly dispatched, including the man driving the cart.   Loria keeps the huge barbarian busy kiting him with bowshots and stealth and he chases her in a blind rage.  The fight is short and bloody.   We take in the survivors as prisoners.

Merrick questions one of the prisoners, Merrick recognized him to be one of Kosks main retainers and one who was very intimate with his business.   The questioning is quick and intensive and we are informed that Kosk has been poisoning Traven for a while now, is planning on departing Blawtro very soon.  In addition Kosk is planning on burning down Traven's place on his way out and finally Kosk has owned Travens serving girl for a while and he's been poisoning him slowly for years.    Merrick drives a bargain and sadly, the two other living thugs didn't have the resources or character to remain alive and they were dispatched.  The party made a deal to get 5000 silver and some potions in return for letting him walk.

We take the cart, the chest and the other supplies towards Port Tanner.   We ditch the cart along the side of the road with the oxen, and we go into port tanner shortly to get our bribe.   We get our bribe at what could only be described as a smugglers den and we say goodbye to Kosks' retainer, him having plans to head to Greyscale, round up what remains of Kosks network and take off back to the empire.   Merrick isn't sure about hte deal but the money is great and he seems fairly convinced that this guy is mostly done with the colonies and just wants to get the hell out and start a new organization elsewhere.

We take the boat south with the chest and find our way to the gnomish village.  We approach via a river that we had never taken before and on this river we notice that the forest is starting to feel more wild.   It would seem that the barrier between the fey and the realm are very thin in these woods and several of us seem to be both at ease and nervous about this.

We make our way to the Mistfell.  But on the way we stop at the fork in the road and send for Traven to meet us at the fork.  We let him know about the dangers he's facing.  

We see that there is some magic lock on the chest and based on the we think that the gnomes might be our only chance to find a wizard with the skills and ability to unlock the check.  We are escorted into town and down into the house of a very ancient gnome, perhaps he's a bit senile but he's clearly a wizard of some skill.  He welcomes us and escorts us into a cavern.  We open up our boat, and show him the chest.   He seems intensely interested in the boat, the chest and all of our divine magic as well as anything from outside of the forest.   We are nothing if not friendly with him and in the end we bargain to have him open the chest, in return we'll share some hobgoblin drugs with him and give him the lock once it's been opened.     He opens the chest and we find a huge pile of silver inside.

We go and get extremely stoned in the parlor, his daughter , a magic user of some renown dotes on him and provides us with food and drink.  We have a very fun and enjoyable night and wake up in the morning, ready to depart town once more.

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Who knows what lies in the Depths of Lake Ebonheart
Aquatic Adventures and a Whole new World

   

Departing the quiet isle we drop off our paid passengers up in Port Tanner and after an extremely briefly supply stop we take off, making our way south towards the town of Sanctuary.  It's smooth sailing when we eventually see a flock of birds circling in the distance, as if picking at something in the water.  We turn to investigate and we come upon a blue skinned elf body which we pull onto the boat.   We start to take off with the wind when we see some figures swimming towards the boat at an extremely quick clip.

We make good time but they are catching up and eventually we seem fairly certain that the one humanoid is being chased by the others and we make the executive decision to save the lead creature from its pursuers.   We fish an elf or as they call themselves "Ali Zor Toss" and as we start to take off again, we are beset upon by the creatures which had been in pursuit.

These are indeed the same vicious undead we saw before and as they try to get onto the ship we pummel them with various spells , cantrips and protections.   At one point one of the creatures takes a rip out of shade who manages to maintain his composure but we manage to shoot the creatures apart with magical energy and the larger creatures sinks down into the depths, allowing its prey to escape its' chase. 

With things somewhat more calm, we help the exhausted elf and Morwen speaks elven with them.  The discussion allows us to  find out why they're here.   Typically they live in the ocean but would only come to a lake like this in extreme emergency.   We try to find out who they're dealing with what those things we fought were, what they want for help.   How they can help us, what they're chasing. They express interest in speaking with some representatives in Sanctuary who might be able to provide them solace from time to time and they offer to be able to help with 'things'.   A meeting is struck for 10 days after we arrive, out on the point near the community and we agree to speak more then.

We complete out trip down south, bring the new people to town, things seem to be ok   There are numours activities which people wish to take care of when we arrive.  Merrick takes atik and Arnik up to tasslefort, and strikes a deal to gets Atik trained as a water cleric

Wrenaldo makes a deal with the raven queen at a shrine in the woods (trained)

Loria manages to hook up with some rangers in the area to learn more of their ways.

We have a meeting planned shortly after Merrick arrives back in town with the water elves where we could / should / may find out more.

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Lake Ebonheart
Sailing and searching - who knew you'd find things in a D&D world********************

After an uneventful trip overland back through the tamer woods of the Southern Ebonheart we traversed a path towards our base of operations in Sanctuary.   We're mostly steering clear of the settlements of the Colony at the moment, particularly Southfort.   There seems to be a few factions there which might consider us to be undesirables.   Merrick and Morwen do make their way briefly into town to deal with Nana Ogg.   We settle in with her and trade some of the underdark drugs and herbs we obtained for money, as well as use of her training materials for Arnik.    Deals struck and done we make our way out of town, Merrick stopping by the temple on the way out to thank them for their recent political help, the way a priest of Mael would thank them of course.

We arrive as a group back in Sanctuary after being picked up by the boat.   Oh yes, for those who might not have been reading from the beginning we managed to procure a folding boat which has proven to be an extremely handy magical item.  The town is doing well and after a meeting with Odkirk, Tal and Shade amongst others who have been in the village we are much better appraised of their current situation.   They have built most of a palisade around the village, built the village and they have a number of crops planted.  The town is working hard but appears to be making a go of it.   

We stay for a few days, doing some minor things to help but the plan all along was to make our way to the islands up the lake and towards the ruin which we were told existed on an island in the Ebonheart.  Our plan is to chart out the northern islands of the lake and to explore for ruins and knowledge on those ruins.

We set and follow the shipping lanes on the west side of the lake and we make our way out to the islands.  After several days of circumnavigation we find an island that's completely devoid of any life and has a dangerous looking, ancient spire on it.   We are creeped out and decide to look for a less dangerous looking ruin to go after.   As we're driving away we're beset upon by a trader ship with balista that seems intent on boarding , being pirates or doing something we really don't want them to do.    Not wanting to cause trouble, as a group we duck over to the extremely scary island, hide our boat and ourselves in the forest until they've passed on and then we take off in our ship the other way.    We settle in for the northern island which seem much more quiet.   Oddly though, we find ourselves at a small, poorly maintained village at the southern end of a larger island that appears to be inhabited.   We sneak up to the village and make ourselves known.

We find an extremely odd village that is living at a subsitance level that appears to populated by idealist nobility and intellectuals from back in the Empire as well as a number of transported (who seem to be doing all of the work).   They are in fairly bad shape, poor repair of items, not much food but they seems resolute on making a go of it on the island.  Or at least some of them do.

We speak to them at length about the island and find out there is a nasty swamp along the western side of the island where people dont return from but beyond that the island seems to be fairly safe, well safe for being in the colonies at least.   We eventually enter into negotiations and put a tough but fair deal past them to get supplies from Port Tanner to help support the community and its on going success.

Travelling to Port Tanner is amusing as we settle upon a 300 silver profit for the venture and 2 days work.   We bring the supplies back to the village, let them pay and then, seeing that there are some people with useful skills here that could be of use to Sanctuary we open up the floor to individuals there who might be of use to come down to Sanctuary.  We want to support their community /of course/ but clearly they cant have people with negative attitudes dragging them down.  So, in order to support the community we broker transport for several of the workers and the artists to get off of the island and to somewhere ,,,,, anywhere else?  

Merrick charges an arm and a leg to two people who are annoying artists and drops them off in Port Tanner, a redneck leatherworking town.  But hey, they only paid to get transport to a town.  We then bring several transported and a few or the more useful people from the colony down to Santuary where we speak with Odkirk and Tal and come to a level of agreement that we should or can be able to encorporate them into the growing but still small town.

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I don't Gnome if this is the right thing to do, but boy is it profitable!
He gave what back to who??!??! For Free?!?!?!

The party makes its' way back through the woods, along paths that we know back towards Cliffhaven and we let ourselves be known as they come into the general vacinity of town.    The gnomes soon find us and escort us down to see Grimalkin who seems both happy and a bit suprised to see us arrive.   Merrin relates to him what we learned about the valley, the effects of what we saw as the corruption and a blow by blow accounting of what we saw, found and noticed in the Valley. 

Grimalkin shares some knowledge about the Fey, the creatures called Hags and redcaps and seems to be additionally concerned with what we saw in the sky with the wild hunt.   Oh yes, before we had entered the valley, we saw what our gnomish guide referred to as 'the wild hunt' being played out in the sky, we avoided detection by use of magic but it seemed to be exceptionally worrysome to our ranger guide.

The party shows Grimalkin the set of gnomish plate armor which we found in the Hags lair and he identifies it and sighs when he sees it.  He told us that "It belonged to a gnomish Paladin named "forgetname" that went to explore the swamp.   We had feared the worst when he didn't return and he seemed troubled by this."   The plate mail was exceptionally nice and well made and we decided to return it to the gnomes,,,,,,, for free.   This act, or investment in the future as Merrick chose to convince himself bought favor and trust with the leadership of the gnomish community and we were then given a proper feast and treated with a level of trust and respect.  We traded with them while we waited to move on and managed to sell of several items which would be difficult to move in the colony.

The gnomes of Cliffhaven have excellent skills with gemcutting, woodworking and forging but they let us know that they have limited access to metals and leathers and expressed interest in trading.   They also made it very clear to us that their survival was tied to their ability to remain hidden and based on our willingness to stand by our word to Stump and our respect for their fallen Paladin they were willing or able to share some things with us.  They told us of the goblin markets but really didn't say that much else on the subject other than make a vague offer to show us where they were.

Grimalkin also let us know about several of the ruins in the area during our discussions.  He highlighted us to the ones that lie along the mountains to the south as well as what he knew about the standing stones ot the north east.   The evening ended with us well fed, rested and thinking about grandious plans to explore ruins and venture south.

When morning came the party was approached about the prospect of taking the underway to another gnomish village and providing escort to a gnome making that journey with his family.   Not having heard any of this, we were intrigued and while some of us had heard about the underground tunnels we had no idea that they existed here.   

At the appointed and agreed upon hour we met with the migrating gnome and saw him activate some form of gnomish guiding magic at a stump in the ground.  The tree base opened and we made our way into a set of underground tunnels.  The gnomish magic illuminated our path along an underground riverbank that leads between the two villages.   Travelling underground was safe and quick with a guide and the magic to help us.

As we approached the other gnomish village and a fork in the road we became aware of something lurking at the fork ahead.  We scouted what was ahead of us and the gnome nervously let us know that it looked like there were some hobgoblins camped out at the fork.  After a quick discussion it was decided that would try to approach them without hostility and the gnome called out to them in an odd language, after a start they responded and informed him to come to their camp.   Merrin and he went to their camp and saw a collection of four hobgoblins hunched around a fire.   They offered tea in welcome and distrust.

Merrin tried speaking to them in dwarven and their leader suprisedly was able to converse in that tongue.   They spoke at pretty good length and had a lengthy bargaining session.   The Hobgoblins are evidently very strong, danger loving, nearly psychotic traders who love to trade in rare and dangerous things.   Merrin was able to spark a good deal with them and purchase drugs and spices from them as well as a few minor magical items.   The gnome seemed impressed with the exchange and we continued on up to the new gnomish village where we drpped off our new friends and took rest for the day before heading back to Ebonheart Lake and the town of sanctuary to gather ourselves and our bearings.

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"La Swampe" Part Deux
Swamp Thing, You Make my Heart Sing

The evening passed slowly and come the early morning the brave adventurers were feeling little bit more rested.   Having mended our wounds and pride the night before in camp we were awoken when our camp watch detected something on the periphery of the camp.  Eyes of creatures started staring in from the edges of the darkness, hinting at creatures of the night looking to have a tasty snack.   The party scrambled to its feet and light spilled from the clearing lighting up the night as Merrick popped up a light cantrip.   We were unable to see anything specific in the woods.

Wrenaldo opens up his senses in a brilliant move and comes to understand that there if a fey creature, not that far away from us obscured.   Moving and closing quickly on the startled Fey, Wrenaldo smacks them out of their invisibility and the Hag becomes visible to the party.  Leaping on this opportunity a Fairie Fire spell is cast and then the Hag is blistered in her back with a guiding bolt from Merrick.   In the flash of an eye, the hag went from being startled to dead, this clearly was a good omen for the day ahead.

Slogging back into the swamp, using the same techniques as the day before we find our way back to the clearing where we had been attacked the day before finding it pretty much undisturbed.    We make our way cautiously around the water, plotting a path to avoid the shore where the undead 'ambush preditor humanoid thing' is waiting to try to kill anything that gets into its line of sight.   We use some clever minor illusions to get the creature to come out of the water at a place of our choosing and after some well timed saves and applied damage the creature falls to the ground dead.    Relived to have that thing out of our lives we settle in to try to find the spider.

The entire glade is centered around a mound that seems to have 3 or four entrances and we make our way to one of those and make our way carefully down into the darkness.   Upon reaching the first large room we see a chamber with what appears to be a well, an altar and in the distant corner there is a wolf like beast.  We have a spirited battle for the room and are jolted into action again when we are also attacked by some vicious slime that seems to be living down in the well.   The halls is quiet and much to our nervous chagrin there are a number of tunnels branching off.

We explore the tunnels further and eventually find our way to a fairly large treasure room where we are engaged in combat with more of the wolf creatures but we are able to dispatch them.   Oh my! We have found a treasure trove.   The room is full of interesting trade goods, some very impressive gnomish armor and some other items of significance and note.  We pack up as many of them as we can, fairly certain that we have managed to clear out the source of the decay in the swamp or at the very least willing to go claim a measure of success to the Gnomes who sent us here. 

As night fall hits, we camp back at our same camp up in the woods where we had found the hag the night before and enjoy our first restful nights sleep in some time.

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Stinky Swamps and What to do with them
Who knew forest gnomes knew anything about the woods ?

Sneaking out from the gnome village, watched by our ranger guide we made our way out along a mountain ridge towards the troubled area.   Our guide pointed out the mining colony of the humans to the north and eventually we made our way to the far side of the valley.

Settling into camp, we decided to take a markedly slow approach to digging into the mysteries of the swamp.  We camped above the swamp with our ranger guide and we quizzed him as to what terrors the gnomes had heard were found in the swamp itself.   He let us know of numerous large creatures which inhabited the woods and walked us through what they knew of the place.  Granted they didn't know too much but they definitely knew of large snakes, giant spiders & toads as well as wolves and jungle cats all of which seemed warped by something in nature.

Making our way to the swamp we started to cast ritual magic to detect where the animals were in the swamp and almost followed a 'radar' like approach to finding out where the  major issues would like.  We located giant snakes, spiders and toads as we made our way through the swamp itself.  We noticed that there were several parts of the woods where there was odd and warped fungus growing between the trees and in those areas the corruption of the woods seemed extremely prominent.   

The first one of these we came upon was very thickly grown over and we could see some form of an old altar up there, we decided to press on but the next time maybe we didn't make as strong a decision or choice.

We came upon a clearing where we knew a giant spider was hiding.   We got into the clearing and were greeted with a view of some still brackish water, a man made bridge and a mound that appeared to have some form of caves going into it. 

From out of the bushes a large dog like creature burst on us and we engaged in a heated battle.   The battle was pretty vicious with spells flying and distractions abound,  unfortunately in D&D distractions tend to = bad and we were set upon by some form of an undead putrefied creature who made its way out of the brackish water.   The wolf fell and the party was nearly overcome  by the undead creature.   With several people down and unconscious, we managed to fight the creature back and bead a retreat back to a camp on the other side of the swamp.

Licking their wounds, hurt and demoralized the party decided to return back to the swamp the next day, more prepared with what would be ahead.

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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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