|Oleg R Leveton|
"I'm sorry, Svetlana is using Claptrap at the moment. I should have a more suitable saddle for your size if you wish to take another of the bandit's horses."
there were 2 heavy and one light .. Vorik is riding the light and plans to train the one heavy .. leaves another heavy unless I missed someone else claiming it.
"Or if you give her an hour, Svetlana should be back with Claptrap. I know you're in a hurry, but it should save you time in the long run .. could even get this wagon cleaned out for ya, if you care to use it."
There are both Peregrine and Kaylee.
I have been informed that Kaylee should be returning to us once she is better, but for now what shall we do with her? Should we take her with us, where she will be in danger and if worst comes to pass, she could die. Or do we leave her here, where she will be safe and can help Oleg out around the Trading Post? If she stays, then there should be enough horses for us all, if Vorik is willing to allow Peregrine or myself to ride the heavy horse he plans to train, for just a day or two.
"I do think it best that everyone have their own horse, even if that means we have to wait a while in order to accommodate that. It will probably take us an hour to get everything properly in order to travel anyway."
If she is intending on coming back then I suggest we take her character along with us, if we continue at the pace at which we have been going then our excursion might take some time.
|Oleg R Leveton|
Absolutely, Jaestra or Peregrine can use the second heavy horse. I was assuming they would, but thought we were still short with Kaylee still coming along. (I see she's dropped now.) In fact if it would be better to have a trained horse for the less experienced riders, I could easily switch.
Seeing that Jaestra may be a little uncomfortable on the bigger, wilder horse. Vorik, steps down from the chestnut and hands the reins over to her with a slight bow and smile. "This mare might be a bit more to your liking Jaestra. She seems to handle easily and doesn't fight much." He leans in and says in a whisper, "A bit of fruit, a smile, and a few soft words from you should have her in the palm of your hand in no time."
He then strides over the the big heavy, checks the gear and performs a similar set of 'getting acquainted' actions. Once he's feeling certain of the horses attitude, he mounts quickly and easily, ready to ride as soon as the others are set.
Animal Handling: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (17) + 7 = 24
With the reigns in hand, I smile to Vorik, "Thank-you Sir Vorik."
I reach to the table and pick up an apple, and offer it to the beautiful mare and wait to see whether she takes it. When she does, I stroke her neck and mane, then rub her forehead while whispering into her ear, "Hello, I am Jaestra. I won't hurt you."
I then mount up and stroke her neck once again, before waiting for everyone else to move out.
|Svetlana, Oleg's wife|
Svetlana returns. She and Oleg both see you off "Luck be with you. Come back safe." As you head out .. Jaestra can, at least for now, clearly see the tracks heading south toward the forest miles away. This enables a fair pace to start, and the open landscape between Oleg's and the woods allows for unguarded conversation.
DM Bloodgargler, When Solos was still running this, I performed a weather prediction check and was informed of the weather for the following 3 days (2 now including today). He said that it was going to be sunny on all of the days with no rain. Are you happy with that or are you wanting to change the weather? Either way if I could know, that would be a great help, thanks.
"Thank-you Miss Svetlana, do not fear. Mere bandits cannot beat us down, we have Law and Justice on our side."
While we are travelling along, I am keeping my eyes out for any game that can be seen. In case anyone gets hungry, but I will also be looking for any thing suspicious.
Perception : 1d20 + 11 ⇒ (15) + 11 = 26
During the journey I speak up randomly, "So do any of you have anything on you that you would protect with your life? I have "GoldFire" here and Sir Vorik has "Astridonoir". But what about yourselves, Mr Fetch, Mr Vladimir?"
Vladimir considers Jaestra's question, "While much of what I have is of high quality, I have trouble believing that I would be willing to die for any of it...perhaps the closest object would be my sword, though it does not have name, not yet at least. Perhaps someday it will become a Ducheski ancestral blade, and then it will have a name."
Continuing to ride along, Vladimir asks,"Jaestra, Vorik, what is it about your named weapons that you cherish them so? Is it some sort of familial significance, perhaps you crafted them yourselves? I am simply curious."
I look to Vladimir, "I designed "GoldFire" myself and wanted to craft her myself, but thought it best to have assistance from someone with more experience. I may be good at making bows, but this man was better as he had many years of experience behind him. I watched him craft it, assisted where I could, bought the materials and set the draw strength. He made to my specifications perfectly. For me, it is the first thing I have bought with my own money, that my parents did not destroy. Unfortunately, the man who crafted it died shortly after; natural causes of course, so not only am I protecting my cherished item, I am showing the world his work. Sorry for rambling on, does that answer your question sufficiently? Sir Vorik has a much more meaningful story behind his."
Keeping his mind partially on the path ahead and on the conversation, Vorik takes a few moments before answering Vladimir's question. "Aye, it would certainly be heartbreaking to lose this." He pats the long, iron-headed warhammer at his side. With a smile towards Jaestra he says, "You've heard part of the tale tis true, but perhaps now is a good time to share the whole story."
Turning back to Vladimir he begins, "I crafted it myself in my father's forge as my Solstice project and the task that would mark the end of my apprenticeship. Originally I had thought of crafting a much more traditional axe or the heavy sword often carried by those of us who live along the shores of Winterbreak Bay. But the events of that autumn ended up changing many things..."
Keeping his eye's focused forward it's difficult to tell if he's watching the trail or looking back over the years. "It was after the first snowfall that things began to fall apart. Several cattle were found in one of the fields outside the village. Each was hideously killed during the storm, but not by any wolf, cougar, or other natural predator."
"We became more watchful, but little happened for the next few nights. Then the third night ended with a traveling merchant found dead just a short distance outside of the village. The body, like that of the cattle was shredded and torn asunder in a horrible fashion." A slight shiver runs down Vorik's spine as he recalls the site of that dead man. "It was a hard, cruel death. Not done for food, but for pleasure or the mere hatred of life."
"We knew something more than natural was at work, but didn’t have any idea what it was. The young Sori twins swore they saw the something shambling south towards Desna's Watch early that morning. The watch is a small hill topped by a ruined tower, and its always been a source of spooky tales. Dani and some of the others set out to investigate. Being younger, I was kept from going."
"That night the others still hadn't returned, but a series of terrible, pitiful calls echoed across the hills sending a fearful chill throughout the whole village. Astrid fearing the worst slipped out of the house to find Dani. She swore me to secrecy, and even though I tried to talk her out of it, her mind was set.”
”During the night those on the watch disappeared and the village was in a near panic. My father and several of the older men were able to hold things together and rally enough of us to form a sizable raiding party to Desna's Watch. This time I wasn't staying behind. I vowed to seek out Astrid and Dani before something terrible could happen, but as is so often the case I ended up being too late."
The big man's shoulders sag a little and he lowers his head slightly to cover the emotions crossing his face. After a minute of silence he continues, "We arrived at the old tower about mid-afternoon, Snow was in the air again, and a fierce, cold wind was blowing off the lake. What we found at the top of the hill was gruesome indeed. Bits of horse and human flesh were strewn everywhere. We assumed most of the animals were from Dani's party. But there were too few bodies to account for all of the missing. We didn't have to wait long to discover where the others were.”
”A great cry billowed up from the ruins and from a hidden passage shambled a multitude of zombies followed by a foul being all in black and crimson who commanded the creatures. Evil energy roiled through the air like a snake curling around its victim. Yet, the men of the village fought bravely and without fear knowing that if they didn't stand here, their loved ones would fall prey to this creature of evil and darkness."
"I set about with my axe in hand, striking down two of the fell creatures one of whom I recognized from our own village. Then the full extent of the horror struck me. I saw Dani, or what was left of him. His right arm was missing and a great gash marred his stomach and chest. He charged right for me, his opaque, dead eyes showing no sign of recognition as he struck out with his axe."
"I managed to break out of my shock and horror just quick enough to parry the blow. And it was at that moment that Astrid appeared from the woods, her bow in hand and a look of grief, shock, and anger on her face I'll never forget."
He pauses a moment to take a quick sip of water, "Astrid was always brave and deadly with a bow. She quickly launched two arrows into the man that had been her true love and while these did not put Dani down, it staggered him enough that I could recover and deliver a solid blow, cutting his head from his body. It was as though I’d severed my own head, and while I know it was what had to be done I can still see my friends face falling away from my own blade."
"The battle raged on, and it started to go bad for our side as the necromancer used his dark magic to animate our fallen comrades. In her own rage, Astrid sent arrow after arrow towards the man, but they kept falling wide of the mark. The fiend must have been protected in some way, as I’ve never seen her miss like that ever before. But then, luck or the gods intervened as, finally, one hit. It struck him solidly in the chest causing a wild and desperate scream to tear from his throat. It was the first real sound, we'd heard him make. With surprising quickness he turned towards my fair sister and launched a flurry of magical attacks at her. In seconds she was engulfed in a swirling maelstrom of sorcerous and necromantic energy."
"I shouted and tried to intervene, but again I arrived too late to save the one I loved. I landed a blow that knocked the man aside but to my shame did not kill him. Before I could bring my axe to bear, he had recovered and nimbly danced out of reach and scampering back towards his minions and the other men of the village."
"It was then I turned and saw the burned remains of Astrid laying upon the ground. Her once long, golden hair, nothing but a smoking ruin and her flesh charred and brittle from the magical attack. I knelt down next to her and to my surprise she still clung to life. I whispered that it was Vorik and a small smile cracked her blistered lips. How she had the strength I’ll never know but she managed to slip her gold wedding bracelet into my hand and spoke her final words to me, ’Be strong little brother, follow your heart, and stand tall against the dark.’ Then she her spirit left this realm and I must admit, my heart could take no more. I broke down at wept at the loss of the two dearest people I had known.”
Tears glisten in his eyes as he pauses a moment to gather himself before continuing. ”If it hadn't been for my own fathers rage at seeing his only daughter killed in such a manner, I likely would have perished as well that day.”
”He was normally, a quiet man, mild and gentle, but I had always heard tales of his battle rage when he was younger. Now I saw it in action as it was my fathers turn to let loose a yell that echoed off of the hills. He set about with his great hammer and rallied the others and within a few minutes they had put the undead creatures back into their graves. Yet, the one who had caused all of this managed to slip away. He made it to the cover of some trees and summoned some sort of undead mount which carried him off to the south and beyond our reach.”
”I vowed then and there that one day I would find that man and send his soul into the hells where it belongs.” His knuckles turn white as he grips the reins hard, "I still hunt the devil and although many moons have passed, I've not given up that one day I'll hear that voice or recognize that scarred, bald head and finally be able to bring that evil to justice."
Calming himself with a few breaths, and resumes his story. ”We had won the day but at such a tremendous cost. My sister and best friend were both dead, as well as several others from the village. It was a long sorrowful journey back town and for certain many days of grieving for us all.”
That evening I started work on Astridonoir. It would be a hammer, like my father’s. I no longer wished to wield an axe in battle. Not after Dani. I wanted to wield a weapon that could also be used to build, and one that would be strengthened with the love and bravery of my sister.”[/b] He traces the knotwork runes and patterns along the head and shaft lightly with his finger. ”The gold in the pattern is of course, Astrid’s bracelet. The runes mean Strength, Honor, Compassion and Justice, all qualities that my sister embodied and that I strive to serve every day.”
He pauses again to wipe a few tears from the side of his face and then offers a brief half-hearted smile back to the others. ”That is my tale, and the story behind Astridonoir good friends. I hope it did not seem too long winded.”
While Vorik is telling his tale, I am fighting back tears and at the end of it I wipe them away. I move my mare over to Vorik, so we are riding side by side, place my hand on his shoulder, "I hope you do find that sorry excuse for a man and I hope that you are able to take out all of your pain and sorrow unto him. So that he knows what it feels like. You are very strong to be able to continue like that and turning you sister into a weapon to fight the very thing she died to defeat, is a feat that no normal man can achieve. I have a great deal of respect for you, Sir." I wipe away another tear before moving back to my original placing in the group.
I turn to face Vladimir, "I did say that Sir Vorik had a more meaningful story, but I had never imagined it would be so sad. I hope that both of us can help you make your weapon an ancestral weapon to be known throughout the known world and beyond."
Hearing the massive man's sorrowful tale, Vladimir sit astride Shadow's back in stunned silence before finally managing, "I...I had no idea, Vorik. Though much belated, you have my deepest sympathies for your loss."
Vladimir is quiet as he rides along for a while, whispering prayers for the lost and silently thanking the gods that his own path has not been so terrible.
You come to the northeast edge of the woods .. it appears a swath of trees have been clearcut, pushing the treeline further south. Dozens of stumps dot this area, making following the trail a little more difficult due to firmer ground and meandering tracks - as opposed to the straight shot it has been up until now.
Among the horse tracks you find small humanoid footprints all over .. more concentrated the closer you get to the woods. By the prominent ball of the foot and clawed toes of the print, you can assume they are from something feral or bestial.
The bandits' trail appears to veer left around the treeline which follows the information gleaned from Budgie.
"No, its alright. If it gets really hard to follow the tracks then we should dismount. Unless you all want to approach the camp by foot, then I'm willing to dismount now. We should all keep an eye out though, there are small human like foot-prints here too ... but something is different. They are more feral and bestial. Keep your guard up everyone."
How long have we been travelling and how much longer is there, roughly?
Perception : 1d20 + 11 ⇒ (4) + 11 = 15
Vorik accepts the kind words from the others with grace and a smile. He reaches up to gently place his own hand on Jaestra's when she touches his shoulder. He quietly says to her, "You've brought a hope and light back into my life that I had thought lost. I think Astrid would have been honored to meet you. I know I certainly am."
Turning to Vladimir he offers a bow of the head, "Your sympathies are appreciated, good sir. It's a pleasure to have you at our side as we face down these bandits."
He grows quiet as the edge of the forest approaches. At Jaestra's mention of odd tracks, he adjusts the set of his shield and makes sure he can ready his hammer in a moments notice while scanning the trees for any sign of movement or threat.
Perception 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (17) + 1 = 18
Peregrine had listened to Vorik's story silently, but very intently, though he pointedly pretended not to notice any display of emotion on the parts of his companions. Whether this was due to a sense of decorum or simply not knowing how he should react it would have been hard to say.
When they came to the edge of the woods and Jaestra had mentioned the other tracks Peregrine asked that she show him specifically what she had seen before moving on. He took a few moments to carefully examine them before allowing the party to move on.
Peregrine has most of the monster knowledge skills covered excepting Knowledge: Dungeoneering at the the same bonus, so I'll just roll once and just assume whatever makes the most sense. So he'll try to figure out what the creature is by its tracks and subsequently what he might know about it/them
Knowledge: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (6) + 8 = 14.
Peregrine glanced up at Jaestra, a slight look of annoyance flashing across his face at being bothered while he was trying to think, but letting it go he answered her questions. "I have a great liking for knowing what may lie in my path. In my profession one studies a great many things even including the occasional volume or treatise on various anatomies and ecologies and the like. Sometimes it proves useful." He returned to frowning down at the tracks. "And sometimes not," he said with a sigh.
Seeing that I have disturbed Peregrine and that he is slightly annoyed by it, I slowly step back from him hoping to not disturb him again.
I remount and walk my mare over to Vorik, "I am honoured to have met someone pure of heart, such as yourself. Astrid was good with a bow you say, I think we could have gotten on had we met."
You do no perceive any signs of threat or movement
They appear to be goblinoid tracks. Pathing, pattern, spacing etc is a mess, but of course you are no tracker. Realizing there could be many nasty things with similar prints, you have little solid information to offer.
The chaotic pattern of feral footprints reminds you of the pattern made by small nimble predators chasing smaller, more nimble prey.
I look at the tracks again, "It looks like a small creature was out hunting some prey, but the prey was faster and more nimble than it ... What the creature is or the prey is, I do not know."
"Something that small shouldn't attack us or bother us, but I won't say anything. Always be prepared for the unexpected."
Not being much of a woodsman, Vorik is sure to stay a bit behind Jaestra so as not to disturb anything that might be important while she's tracking. Otherwise he continues to keep any eye out for anything that may be a threat.
Peregrine continued to frown at the tracks a few moments longer before standing up and silently surveying the forest's edge with furrowed brow. He mounted up and said with with mild irritation, "looks vaguely goblinoid, but that's about all I can tell."
With a light nudge of his heel Peregrine urged his horse forward. "Budgie and Happs both said to follow the treeline to the river, for now at least I think our way is clear."
You continue around the treeline, turning south as you round the northeast corner of the forest. The goblinoid tracks disappear soon and the bandits' trail is quite visible again.
Light cloud cover... cool air. After a few miles you notice a different smell to earth here.. may have gotten accustomed to the sun baked clay smell around the trading post (when you weren't catching a gust of middens wind) ... regardless, the earth smells like good soil here. The land to your left grows more lush the further south you go... rolling hills and greener grass...
You move on following around the perimeter of the woods. The treeline recedes, altering the trail to more of a south-southwest direction.
After traveling another four or five hours you reach the gradual incline top of a small hillock... Up in the distance crossing your path, you see a river that leads into the woods, maybe a little more than a mile away. The south side of the hill is significantly more steep. Vorik's horse starts going along the diverging trail into the woods.
It appears some of the tracks veer into the woods at this point ... some go ahead. You notice the decline is less severe just a little ways into the woods. Several long ruts of dried mud accompany the tracks down the steep side of the hill ..
"We should go through the woods for a while. It would be safer for us and our horses, as it is less steep. But there do seem to be wagon tracks going down this slope. Which way would you all like to travel? I have voiced my opinion already, but we should make sure everyone is happy with the decision."
"Hmmm, I was once told the quickest way to something is a straight line. But I personally would rather go through the woods, even if a wagon can make it across this, we would be stuck if one of our horses were to sprain a leg. So I think we should air on the side of caution and go the way that seems safer, even if it does take us slightly longer. Does that make sense?"
You veer off the main trail into the edge of the woods. The ground declines slowly and appears to rejoin the main trail at the base of the hill.
There is another side trail to this side trail .. it is little more than than the size of a deer trail and it goes west.
There is a makeshift hitching post for horses here
Pointing to the trail into the woods, Vorik says, "It seems my horse is familiar with this trail, so I'd guess it's the one that is used most often by the bandits."
He searches the woods for any sign of the bandit camp, not wanting to stumble too close without knowing it.
Survival 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (10) + 1 = 11
Perception 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (20) + 1 = 21
Noticing the hitching post, Vorik brings his horse to a stop and says quietly "It seems like this might be a good spot to stop and scout ahead on foot. We might be getting close.
Perception : 1d20 + 11 ⇒ (6) + 11 = 17
Survival : 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (7) + 7 = 14
Also noticing the post I nod to Vorik, "I agree Sir Vorik, that would be most wise. It would be wise to pay attention to the deer trail that leads west too, we never know what could come from there."
I dismount and tie my mares reigns, to the hitching post.
What time of day is it? How long have we been riding?
"Happs and Budge both said the encampment was about an hour south from where the treeline met the river, and Happs mentioned lookouts north and south of the river."
Peregrine glanced up at the sun to orient himself and compare it with the direction the river flowed.
You have been riding for close to 11 hours. The sun is starting to drop behind the woods... Long shadows and reddish hues from the sunset.
there appears to be a small clearing 50 or 60 feet in. You see the top branches of trees just beyond suggesting there is a dropoff just past the clearing.
incidently .. Budgie said follow the river into the woods .. not south
This area of the woods is where the budding deciduous trees start to outnumber the northern evergreens. The mostly bare branches allow you to see movement and color at a fair distance through the crosshatches of limbs.
without moving too far in, you catch a glimpse of what looks like a primitive ladder and deer stand in the clearing. You smell the moist rot of last-years leaves not fully decomposed.
I turn to the others and speak quietly to them, "Can you all see that? It looks like a ladder made of old and natural materials, there is also a deer stand. All in that clearing, we should check them out, but keep our eyes and ears open. It could be a good spot for an ambush."
Stealth : 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (3) + 7 = 10
Vladimir nods as he dismounts Shadow. The swordsman then quietly commands his faithful mount to stay. As he begins to follow Jaestra, while maintaining some distance between himself and the ranger so as not to hinder her attempts at quiet movement.
Handle Animal:1d20 + 6 ⇒ (16) + 6 = 22
Stealth:1d20 + 1 ⇒ (15) + 1 = 16