You move closer cautiously and see no movement. You come to the edge of the clearing and see the primitive ladder (horizontal boards nailed to a tree) and two small platforms on either side of the tree 18-20 feet above. The clearing is about 30' by 30' at its widest, the drop-off on the west side makes the clearing bell-shaped. Most of the area is in shadow from the setting sun. The tops of trees and the eastern edge of the clearing still catches some dapples of light.
Neither stealthy or good with a bow, Vorik hangs back by the horses while Jaestra and Vladimir scout ahead. Quietly slipping his hammer from his belt he continues to scan the woods and remains ready in case anything should go wrong.
Perception 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (1) + 1 = 2
Apparently, I have my helm on backwards.
Jaestra finds nothing on the platforms .. there is a fairly good view of both the east and west. With the last remnants of daylight, to the west, a linear break in treetops less than a mile away suggests the river veers north northwest once it hits the treeline. The trees down the nearby slope are a little more sparse and appears there may be a few paths down to the river.
I look down to Vladimir, "Pssst! Vladimir, come up here a moment would you?" Once Vladimir is up I point out the break in the tree tops and the slope. "Would you say that would be where their camp is? We were informed that we had to follow the river for an hour, does that look like it will take about an hour to get there? We have only just found the river, but would like your opinion on this. What say you?"
Vladimir climbs the ladder listens to Jaestra. "Looks like a bit of a clearing, and with all those little paths to the river, I would say there is a very good chance that is the camp we are seeking."
I nod hearing Vladimir's agreement, "So ... do you think we should carry on along the river, or take another route and take them even more by surprise? Surely they will have their sentries at the North and South looking towards the entrance the others always take, so surely if we get there in a completely different way they should be less able to defend themselves as effectively?"
"Ideally, we would come in from either of the sides, but I suspect their sentries at the North and South are in a position to be able to spot intruders from the east and west as well."
Vladimir thinks for a moment, "Perhaps our best option is for us to get in as close as we can without being seen, and strike the sentries with bows from cover. Granted, I doubt that I am even remotely close to your equal with a bow, but I do at least have one to use until such a time my blade is useful."
While waiting for the others to return, Vorik does his best to keep the horses quiet and watch for any sign of danger or bandits who might be on the prowl.
Animal Handling 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (17) + 7 = 24
Perception 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (6) + 1 = 7
"So we continue along the river until we are within arrow range, that's fine by me. Just wanted a second opinion. We should head back down and inform Sir Vorik and Mr Fetch what we have seen and discussed."
I climb back down and repeat what Vladimir and I have been discussing, once I have finished I raise a question to them both. "Do you have any idea's how we could take this place out easier and safer?"
Vorik listens carefully to what the others have discovered. His brow furrows in thought for a few seconds then he says, "How far do you estimate it is to the camp? I think we should be careful not to separate too much, or at all, in these woods." He gestures back toward the tracks found earlier, "It's clear the bandits aren't the only ones inhabiting this region, and I'd not want to stumble across an even greater threat unprepared."
He looks out into the heavily overgrown terrain, "Budgie seemed fairly clear about staying to the correct path and I'd no sense he was lying or steering us astray, so it might be wise to trust his advice."
Turning to Peregrine he says, "Didn't we keep those blue cloaks the other bandits were wearing? I'm thinking we could don those garments and that might allow us to get within bow shot so Jaestra or your magic could deal with any sentries quickly. Vladimir and I could then charge in on horse to strike at the heart of the camp."
Folding his arms across his chest and placing his hand under his chin, he continues thinking while listening to any other ideas the group my have.
"Based on the speed we have been traveling, I would guess that we are about an hour or so outside of the clearing. Now, that being said it will likely be a bit longer than that, assuming we are approaching with the intent of not being seen."
The young swordsman tilts his head to side, as if to question part of Vorik's statement, "Did he say why it was so important to stay to the path? Is the surrounding area trapped?"
"Happs, their leader gave no indication that we should stay out of the woods, Budgie just said to stay out. Strange that they didn't both say it if something was there. If we are going to don ourselves in their blue cloaks, then surely trying not to be seen would be counter-productive? If they see us, they might wonder why we are trying not to be seen and raise the alarm? If we wear them, we should be able to just walk up as close as needed and silence the nearest watch tower guard."
"True. The three of you are the ones who spoke with these bandits, I can give out suggestions, but you are the best informed about our enemy. I defer to your experience."
Turning to Jaestra, Vorik says, "Happs didn't mention anything, but then I could easily see him trying to get some kind of revenge by leading us astray even after his death." He shakes his head sadly, "Happs was a bitter and angry man."
After thinking for a few seconds he continues, "Budgie, didn't mention a specific danger, but I got the feeling that he was afraid of the wood for some reason. I doubt he would be afraid of his own traps, so my guess is that something else more dangerous than our bandit adversaries resides there."
His eyes peer in the direction of the deeper wood, "Something I'm sure we'll have to deal with sooner or later, but not until this immediate threat is put to rest."
"That does seem like the unlawful thing to do. So we carry along the river and hope that the cloaks will help us get closer than we normally could. I'm sure that the threat out there will be no match for our determination!"
I start to follow the river, making sure to keep an eye on the tracks still, while the other looks ahead for the sign of the camp or sentries.
sorry, been superbusy.
Peregrine seemed to be weighing the options. "I think you are right Vorik, the cloaks are likely the best way to go about doing it, I don't know about the rest of you, but skulking about the forest is not my forté, I'm just as likely to give us away as not. Though I must say I'm not keen on the idea of you charging in on horseback, it seems rash without knowing the camp, but you are a better judge than I of what your are capable of. I will note that we do not have the number of the bandits that left, that may be some cause for alarm on the part of the lookout. It is also possible that he may signal our "expected" return, i which case even if we do fool him or prevent him from raising an actual alarm we'll have a limited time to act. It may be if we go in seeming injured we might be able to split their number if they call for aid."
Peregrine goes to fetch the cloaks, coming back shortly.
"Another thing occurs to me, it could be in our interest to wait, let them send out a party in search of their missing payment and then take the camp and the search party separately. It might even be that if we wait whoever it is they're paying tribute to could thin their number by a man or two if they don't take well to not being paid in a timely fashion."
I look to Peregrine, "That is very well thought out Mr Fetch, the only concern I have is, what if they don't send out a scouting group? They could just double their defenses. Waiting for their men to return, so they can punish them for being late. But the idea of the other group lashing out is nice, but we have no idea if it will happen."
I start to twirl my hair around a finger as I think, "I will go with whatever everyone else thinks is a good plan though." I take one of the cloaks that have been collected and don it.
No worries about being absent, glad to have you back though.
"Anything is possible, there are dangers in trying to out think someone you've never met. The smartest and most cautious thing they could do would probably be to move their camp, but I'd wager that they've been long enough without law in this region that will probably not be the first thought that will cross their minds. I would expect bandits to be greedy enough to at least investigate and see if the goods might be easily recoverable, or wary enough to see if their disappearance might be due to something that could threaten their remaining number. It is just a guess, but if we guess right then we would expose ourselves to less risk, though if we guess wrong we may make our task more difficult."
"As I mentioned before, I will happily follow any plan that someone comes up with. If that means waiting in ambush, we should try to find somewhere that would be better for the ambush ... Somewhere we can take them out without being seen, while Sir Vorik and Mr Vladimir can confront them into close quarters. I might even be able to set up a small trap, if you are keen on waiting to ambush them?"
I look directly at Peregrine, "You are very calculated Mr Fetch, I think we will rely on that to complete our objective. I know I am thankful for it."
Vorik follows the conversation quietly for a bit then with a furrowed brow says, "Well, I'd prefer a quick surprise assault myself, but Peregrine's strategy could work to our advantage. I'm concerned that waiting could give the advantage back to the bandits, but I've no other alternatives. Having said my peace, I'll gladly accept either strategy."
"Sir Vorik, if Mr Fetch and yourself go that way, Mr Vladimir and I can go this way. We can take out the sentries before anyone notices and hopefully draw some of the bandits out to us. That would mean that yourself and Mr Vladimir would engage in close quarters combat, while Mr Fetch and myself act as your support. How does this sound to everybody?"
Vorik slips into the largest of the available cloaks and then waits for Jaestra and Vladimir to sneak up the trail a bit before leaving with Peregrine. He keeps quiet until we get nearer the bandit camp. Once within a few hundred yards he'll burst into baudy song or two while swaying a bit in the saddle.
For I'm misunderstood to a dreadful degree
This ecology needs me, and I know my place,
But I'm fighting for self determination with all of my race
But I came to this village to better my health
Which is shockingly poor despite all my wealth
But I get no assistance and no sympathy,
Just impertinent questioning shouted at me.
Yes, virgins taste better than those who are not
But my favorite snack food with peril is fraught
For my teeth will decay and my trim go to pot
Yes, virgins taste better than those who are not
Now we worms are deep thinkers, at science we shine
And our world's complicated with every new line
We must quit all the things that we've done since the flood
Like lying on gold couches that poison our blood
Well I'm really quite good almost all of the year
Only roots and cabbage are now mine out of fear
But a birthday needs sweets I'm sure you'll agree
And barbecued wench tastes like candy to me
Performance (Untrained) 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (12) + 2 = 14
I whisper back to Vladimir, "I wonder what made him choose that song though? Maybe it is personal experience? But at least he is causing a big enough distraction that we should be able to take a couple out from afar before they notice us, maybe they will think it is his singing that is killing their men!" The last statement is said with a smile on my face and I let out a quiet girlish giggle.
Once I am within eye sight of the camp, I will draw "GoldFire", notch an arrow to her string and pull it back. Once I have a good enough shot for a sentry, I will aim and loose my arrow.
Vorik and Peregrine mount up and return to the bandit trail around the woods. Within ten minutes they reach the shallow river and a path alongside it, both lead northwest into the woods.
The dirt path is a good 12 feet wide and looks well maintained. Facing the direction of your destination, the river is on your left. Stones have been placed across it here spaced well enough for both the very slow moving water to flow through, and fairly easy crossing by carriage.
But your route takes you on the dirt path beside the river.
To your right, the wedge of woods between you and the treeless east thickens, and the inclining ground more and more rugged with underbrush.
To your left, the river follows alongside the path. The far bank looks fairly level with foliage more dense .. does not appear to be disturbed or maintained as this bank does.
Jaestra and Vladimir find narrow footpaths cut into the side of the decline toward the west. The moon offers little light, but as you get closer you start to get a fair look at the river and path... the camp might be further than you thought.
In a small level natural clearing (still 90 feet from reaching river path) you smell fresh blood .. a split second later you notice the hooks and twine makeshift medium and small game hanging contraptions.
I stop, putting my arm out so I can stop Vladimir silently and point to the clearing and hooks. I then start to walk over being extra careful not to set any traps off, getting Vladimir to follow in my footsteps exactly.
Perception (For traps) : 1d20 + 12 ⇒ (8) + 12 = 20
you see no traps .. the blood is very fresh. It appears someone bled their game here within the past couple hours. (with take 10 on survival)
You seen no movement or obvious threats but you start to hear Vorik's singing approaching from the trail south southwest of you.
Edit: trail is to west .. Vorik's current position in relation to yours is south southwest
I whisper to Vladimir, "Looks like there was fresh game drained of blood here, we should move on. I can hear Sir Vorik singing again, so he must be near to their camp. We can't let him be too big a target without any back up, we can come back here later to look around more carefully."
Perception (For the next roll needed): 1d20 + 11 ⇒ (12) + 11 = 23
Much to the chagrin of the poor helpless woodland creatures Vorik continues to sing, making up for any lack of skill or talent with pure boisterous energy. Who knows, maybe I'll drive the fellows to surrender with singing alone.
Perception 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (4) + 1 = 5
Getting a bit too caught up in the act, Vorik forgets to keep an eye out for any sign of the bandits he is trying to draw out in the open.
Peregrine fell in behind Vorik, allowing himself about 20 feet space. When the large warrior burst into song, he just shook his head and sighed. As the plodded along and his eyes rolled over their surroundings he couldn't help but think the Paladin's song was full of dreadful inaccuracies.
Perception: 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (11) + 1 = 12.
As you move through the woods the singing gradually gets louder giving you a good idea of your different paces. Still a good 70-80 feet in the woods, you make out a figure near the edge of the path .. further up maybe 100 feet. By its silhouette it appears be facing the path and holding something over its shoulders like a yoke. It does not appear to have noticed you
I stop in my tracks, making sure that Vladimir also stops. Once we have stopped I will point out the man, look at the Yoke carefully and then start to slowly and quietly towards him. Where I have a good shot, I will wait to see this man's reaction to Vorik's singing.
Survival (Is this a place where many Yokes would be needed?): 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (3) + 6 = 9
Stealth : 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (10) + 7 = 17
I stop, crouch down and whisper to Vladimir, "That appears to be a hunter, but he looks as if he is trying to stay away from Sir Vorik and Mr Fetch. He is going for the camp, should we let him go or try to stop him?" If Vladimir says we should stop him, I will aim and loose my arrow. If he says wait, I will keep the string held back.
GoldFire Attack : 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (15) + 5 = 20
GoldFire Damage : 1d8 + 3 ⇒ (3) + 3 = 6
"Good question. I would hate to harm an innocent man. Are you sure he is heading for the camp? If so, I think we have little choice but to put him down."
Vladimir draws his bow and readies to loose an arrow in the direction of the hunter. "I suppose we can not be too careful. Hopefully this is right." he says waiting to fire his arrow a split second after Jaestra.
Attack:1d20 + 3 ⇒ (12) + 3 = 15
Damage:1d8 ⇒ 3
With my arrow loosed, I draw another and hold it, ready to nock it if I need to fire again.
I look to Vladimir and nod, before heading to the man who has been shot down. Trying to remain in the woods hidden still.
Stealth (if needed still) : 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (19) + 7 = 26
(Is there anything of importance on this man and can we recover our arrows? Even if they are broken, I may be able to fix them later, but what is the chance of them being usable again now?)
Seeing the man fall to the ground in the path ahead, Vorik will stop singing and tap his horse into an easy trot to cover the distance to the downed man quickly. Scanning the woods for any sign of other bandits, he'll wait there until Jaestra and Vladimir have finished their quick search and moved ahead again.
Perception 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (4) + 1 = 5
I really do need to get a better fitting helm...
Is the man dead, or merely unconscious?