Khargol frowns as he listens to Happs' explanation of where the Stag Lord's fortress is. "Seventy or eighty miles? That is at least three days' journey from here. Do you expect us to believe you take a week's round trip for the provisions you stole from Oleg and Svetlana? You would use enough trail rations and supplies that it would be almost worthless overall. Surely you have an intermediary camp of some sort?"
"Nor can we stray too far from this place," says Anwel, with a grateful smile at Oleg and Svetlana, "Until the Restovites arrive. Not to put too fine a point on it, Happs," he says, turning to the trussed-up bandit leader, "But trust will take a while to build." Anwel now speaks to the others. "We know the Stag Lord could spare ten or more men for his fist foray here. He probably has more. We will need allies."
"You said he 'as a fortress. What are the walls made of? How many people are there? Are there any higher-in-command's we should know of, or any who can wield magic? Any special defenses?"
Happs tries to answer the questions as they come, "Walls are made of wood just like this place ... Many people; like 30 plus ... I never stay long at the place; often times I live in the wilds since I'm not "experienced" enough to stay there ... No real magic users ... No special defenses ... "
Finishing with Jeremiah, he turns to listen to the half-orc and then responds, "I only stop by long enough to drop off what I can find then head back into the wild. I don't live there, just work from there. I live off the land many times with only "stops" like this every so often. "
The dwarf's request puzzles him, "I don't have any maps of the area since I am very familiar with it. I can not help you."
Getting frustrated with the questions, Happs says, "I have answered so much. Is this not enough? Can't you find your way there?"
"So basically we can take none of what you say at face value, hmm?" Anwel looks critically at Happs. "Figures." He turns back to Jeremiah. For some reason Anwel trusts the human with decision-making, once the issue is clearly framed. Something about him reminds Anwel of Darl.
"It seems fairly clear for a number of reasons that we have to reconnoiter. To 'explore and travel' as it were. The question is whether we should begin now or wait for the Restovites to come and take the supervision of Happs and any others who want to follow him into probation off our hands." Anwel's hair shakes loose from behind his ears, and he brushes it back again. "Our own preparedness should not be an issue." Anwel feels the subtext - that dispatching Happs and his gang took very little out of him personally, and out of the group as a whole - did not bear belaboring. Particularly not in front of Happs and his gang.
Bimbur looks impatient.
"I would like to start exploring and get to know our surroundings on the morrow. We can bind and shackle them if needed."
Bimbur addresses Oleg, "Do we have stocks, rope, or restraints for these prisoners?"
So basically we can take none of what you say at face value, hmm?
"I'm a theif and a man of the land, not a soldier or some squire in the service of the Stag Lord. Don't expect much information from me elf." Happs snaps back to Anwel. His frustration seems to be building. "Like I said, head southwest from here. Once you reach the Thorn River, continue on that south'ish. You can cross it where the the Thorn and the Shrike come together and then continue south. I don't know how else to describe it to you. If you ask nicely, I could draw you all a map, but understand that I am not cartographer..."
Svetlana and Oleg continue some simple bantering between each other until they hear mention of the patrol from Restov. "When we received word that you all would be arriving, we also received word that the patrol should be here in a couple days after you all. Feel free to stay here if you wish," offers the elderly woman, "you might even find some interesting places to visit or other people to help as well during your stay. We often times get a few visitors here during the week and they always have a story to tell. I might even have a few notes people have left lying around here."
Do we have stocks, rope, or restraints for these prisoners?
Oleg offers a simple response, "Whatever you need. You can find plenty of rope in the barn with some of the horses."
Khargol nods and returns to his feet, replacing his falchion in its harness. He releases a slow breath, looking to the others in turn. "I believe we have learned all we will learn. This 'Stag Lord', whoever he is, would not send any followers of consequence this far, for such relatively minor plunder. No offense." he says, looking to Oleg and Svetlana with a nod.
"I am of the mind that we should stay close to the fort until the Restovian patrol has come to retrieve the brigands. As Svetlana says, there is likely much we could do to assist the others who are native to this area and begin establishing a reputation for ourselves as well as honing our skills. After the patrol arrives, we go to the Stag Lord's fortress to make sure he never threatens this fort, or any other, again."
"We both know what we are and what we are doing, Happs," says Anwel lightly, not looking at the trussed-up human. "But if it makes you feel better, my point was that we have better things to do than subject you to further questioning. You wanted it over, correct? Well you have your wish."
As Khargol speaks, Anwel clasps his hands behind his back, his sleeves falling together around the knot of his fingers. It's petty, but he wishes Khargol had acknowledged that he'd made Svetlana's point about finding others in the wild before she did. "Any plan of action must be precise," he says, acid in his tone. "What does 'staying close' mean? Within the walls? Within sight of the walls? Within a day's march?
"I agree with Udoeak, we ought to be doing something, not languishing. We can venture out a day's march from the walls in each direction. Oleg and Svetlana can send up smoke signals for us - white when the Restovites arrive, black if Happs and his gang give them trouble."
Jeremiah considers Anwel's suggestion, thinking with bitter humor to himself, Your day's march or mine? However, he replies, "Indeed, I feel as restless as you all seem, now that I am finally here. Surely we could find some use for ourselves nearby."
Khargol nods in Anwel's direction, either not noticing or not responding to the dripping acid in his voice. "Smoke signals are an excellent idea. We should prepare several firepiles of each type, ready to be lit should the need arise, the location of which only Oleg and Svetlana know. There are more threats out here than these men and there should be a way for them to quickly alert us to trouble. And I assume there is a cellar or some other area where you could quickly go to escape from danger, correct?" he asks of the trading post's proprietors.
After receiving an answer, he continues,"One day's march sounds like a safe distance, Anwel. We could probably push ourselves and get back here very swiftly should the need arise. I am in agreement with your plan."
Oleg and Svetlana can send up smoke signals for us - white when the Restovites arrive, black if Happs and his gang give them trouble.
The couple look at Anwel when he finishes and in unison, both nod their head in agreement. "Good idea. I shall prepare the fire stacks today..." Oleg finishes then then turns to look at his new help, "... and maybe I'll use some of my new hires."
And so the group readies themselves to travel forth and explore the Greenbelt. Being fantastic cartographers, they have mapped out where they have been thus far on a small map and use this to plan their next trip...
Let me know the direction you would like to travel to. Obviously you are at the little building, which is Oleg's outpost. Each hex is 12 miles across
"Based on how long it took us to get here from Restov," says Anwel, with a look askance at Jeremiah, "We should be able to cross a mile of flat land in a little under an hour on foot. As such, we should not risk going much further than eleven miles from this place in any direction, at least until the Restovites arrive.
"If we want to add to this map of ours and make sure the lands about do not play host to other bandits, however," he continues, "We cannot simply walk in a straight line at our best possible speed. We will need to be careful, to note each landform and other feature we come across. It will take many days to map an area of about one hundred and twenty five square miles (read: one hex), and even longer to map anything more rugged or tangled. We can probably cut down a little on both exploration and direct travel time if Oleg can spare a horse," Anwel is becoming embarrassed at having to continually skirt around mentioning that Jeremiah is the slowest of the lot of them, but is determined to avoid bringing it up unless and until Jeremiah does so. "But not by much.
"As such, we have three options. We can make a circuit of the land southeast to northwest of this place, staying out for a fortnight or until recalled. We can survey each parcel of one hundred and twenty five square miles at a time, staying out three or more days at a time – or until recalled – and then returning here before we move on to the next parcel. Or we can explore about a third of each parcel per day – a quarter of the forest – and return here each evening." Anwel pauses to draw breath. "I think the second of these options is probably best. It will not be too taxing on our supplies, unlike the first, and unlike the second we can be sure we will not miss anything.
"Also," he adds, the thought just occurring to him, "No matter which signal goes up, we should return as soon as possible to verify its message."
For the sake of clarity, here's Anwel's plan:
1. Travel southeast from Oleg's, spend three days exploring the hex southeast of Oleg's, return to Oleg's at the end of the third day.
2. Travel south from Oleg's, spend three days exploring the hex south of Oleg's, return to Oleg's at the end of the third day.
3. Travel southwest from Oleg's, spend four days exploring the hex southwest of Oleg's, return to Oleg's at the end of the fourth day.
4. Travel northwest from Oleg's, spend three days exploring the hex northwest of Oleg's, return to Oleg's at the end of the third day.
And here it is in visual form.
Having come well-prepared for moving out into the wilderness, Jeremiah says, "I've no problem staying outside of the walls fer several nights, and I'd agree on yer choice of how to explore the areas. Just as long as we bring some to eat, in case we don't find game along the way." Jeremiah looks to Oleg and, as Anwel seems to have been polite enough to forgo mentioning his leg, puts to Oleg directly, "As Anwel said, we'd make much better time with a single horse, as I'd be slowin' down the march considerably with my leg. I'm afraid I can't offer a trade, as I don't have much t' give, but I swear I'll take fine care of it, an' bring it back hearty an' hale."
"Oleg and Svetlana also mentioned knowing some landmarks around the area as well as the possibility of notes left here from those seeking assistance of some sort." he adds, looking over to the couple.
"Can you provide us with any information that would be helpful in our explorations or how to locate those you mentioned as having a 'story to tell.'?"
Bimbur speaks up, "Yes, assistance from those that live here, excellent idea Khargol. I did not bring a mount, but have the means to purchase one. If we get everyone mounted our exploration should go faster. I know I am not the fastest walker. I want to verify Happs' story and follow the bandits backtrail enough to verify his story while mapping."
Addressing the couple, "Any allies our landmarks nearby?"
I don't think there is a S of Oleg's option. I wanted to go explore the hex SW of Oleg's and then the one SE of Oleg's. The trail from the bandits should be followed while fresh, and we can verify they came from that direction."
I don't think there is a S of Oleg's option. I wanted to [qgo explore the hex SW of Oleg's and then the one SE of Oleg's. The trail from the bandits should be followed while fresh, and we can verify they came from that direction.
Look again. North on this map is not up, but is thirty degrees to the left of up. We can travel southeast, south, southwest, or northwest and hit unexplored territory within one hex; we cannot travel due east or west without running parallel to a hex border eventually.
Anwel can swear they're doing it just to plague him. He'd mentioned their need for allies while Khargol was still badgering Happs and Svetlana was celebrating on the far side of the courtyard. But of course the half-orc, who had no problem cleaving a man near in two, got all the credit. "Why does it matter?" he asks. "If there is a fortress somewhere out in the wilds, it isn't going anywhere. And if there's a camp between here and there, chances are it is going to go move from its current location, especially if we take our time to reconnoiter the land properly and drum up support. Not that a camp of any size would be within a day's march of this place anyway.
"Or are you concerned for the souls of Happs and his gang? Because the way I see it, their behavior from here on out is more relevant to their fates, both here and in the next life, than whether they told the truth under duress."
Anwel's got the right of it. There's no sense rushing off, really, to get to the fortress. While it would be nice to take them out straightaway, it's hardly going to get up and walk away. It's much more imperative that we find where Happs and the rest came from, as they are a closer, albeit likely smaller, threat.
"Indeed, Udoeak. I believe Anwel's assessment to be accurate. Happs has told us there are around thirty people at this fortress, and the nearer we get to it, the more likely we are to be discovered, and I don't believe us in any shape to take on a man who can rouse that size force to himself."
"It is better for us to seek our fortunes where we may here, discovering what we can. While I am as eager as you, Bimbur, to rid the world of these bandits however we are able, our primary mission according to the Swordlords' charter is exploration. We should be about that business first. We will eventually reach this 'Stag Lord's' fortress, anyway, if we travel in the general direction indicated by Happs, and likely be much more equipped to deal with him if we are methodical about getting there."
|Garth the Gnome|
Garth has been quietly taking everything in. I like the idea of not running straight at StagLord. That fight went so easy but I think we got lucky.
"Let's just start southeast from here," he finally pipes up. "We came from the east and that should be relatively safe. It will give us a chance to maybe fight together again before he scamper off to take down Lord Sag or whatever his name is!"
As Anwel said, we'd make much better time with a single horse, as I'd be slowin' down the march considerably with my leg. I'm afraid I can't offer a trade, as I don't have much t' give, but I swear I'll take fine care of it, an' bring it back hearty an' hale.
Oleg does not wait for the man to finish before he says, "Do not worry. With your promise that you will take good care of them, I can offer you two horses and possibly a mule to carry your items. Take care of them and return them when you are finished." Svetlana adds, "It is the least we can do."
Can you provide us with any information that would be helpful in our explorations or how to locate those you mentioned as having a 'story to tell.'?
Svetlana stares at the clouds for a minute, thinking then says, "Well, if you head southeast of here, you will meet an eccentric fellow named Bokken. He's a potion maker and often times has something pestering him. You could stop there. Or you might just want to head southwest from here and enter the Narlmarches, which is the name of the forest. Many times we have received tales of creatures in there; some friendly and some not-so-friendly.
Oleg adds to the conversation, "These lands could keep a group of adventurers busy for ages. I've spent some time out there and always returned with a story."
Any allies or landmarks nearby?
"I'm afraid there are not many folks south of here that we can call allies. These lands are open and unclaimed; still the home to some savage beasts. Some of the hunters that pass through here speak of some crazed beast that lies in the heart of the Narlmarches. As for landmarks, unless you consider a tomb stone to be a friendly sight, I can't think of much. If I hear anything worthwhile, I will let you know."
Jeremiah thanks Oleg for his generosity, saying, "Thank you much, sir. Sarenrae bless you for your good will." He smiles wholesomely after saying this, standing up straighter unconsciously and putting his holy symbol which hangs about his chest farther forward.
Jeremiah is intrigued at the mention of the man named Bokken, and it seems as good a place to begin as any, so he suggests, "Why don't we start by goin' southeast, then, like Anwel suggested to begin?" He seems eager to get started.
"I am ready to go to the Southeast. If we can all ride, it may speed up our mapping and make it easier to get back quickly."
Bimbur speaks to Oleg, "Thank you for the horses, we will take care of them."
Bimbur will take the other horse unless someone else wants it as his speed will slow the group down.
|Garth the Gnome|
Garth's attention pops up at the talk of friendly and not-so-friendly creatures to the southwest but he's ready to travel with the rest of the group. Besides, the thought of a potion brewer could be an exciting way to start off the trip.
Making a quick round of the outpost, the gnome rounds up Goat and Dog to make sure they're both properly watered and fed before heading out.
"Thanks for everything Oleg," Garth yells out as he climbs up onto Dog's back. "Now let's get to adventuring!"
Khargol draws in a deep breath, nodding in agreement with the others. "Let us off to this 'Bokken' then. Perhaps he can offer some measure of assistance as we begin this journey together." he adds, rounding up his packhorse before joining the others once more.
"You have my thanks, Oleg, for assisting us and allowing us lodging last night. Do not hesitate to alert us should you need us to return quickly."
"I suppose it is good to have a goal," says Anwel, going to stand by the gate as Jeremiah, Bimbur, and Khargol tack their horses. He puts his hood up against the sun. "So thank you for that, Svetlana. We will let you know if we find Bokken."
To Happs and his gang Anwel offers a ghoulish grin, and the parting words "You five be good for the nice people, you hear? We will be back."
|Garth the Gnome|
Ride > 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (16) + 3 = 19
With a click of the tongue and a squeeze of the knees Dog trots away from Oleg's. Goat follows close behind and Garth smiles as he looks over at the goat. Yeah, I can tell you're happy to be out of that place after a few days.
The same goes for Dog apparently as he picks up the pace a bit and bounds along.
As the mounts are readied, you stare out into the open land. You know deep inside that it is the start of your adventure as you embark on a journey to explore the wild Stolen Lands. You have come far and are ready for this first step.
As the group makes its way out in the wilderness, you look back on the fortress, making sure that things haven't soured in short absence but all seems well. Turning back to your group there are conversations that ensue between people but are not concerned with it. You are consumed with the moment. This is your time to make your mark on history.
The party makes its way southeast into the open lands. The journey is safe and uneventful. You ponder if these lands are as dangerous as Oleg and Svetlana have said.
As the travel continues and time passes, you notice in the distance a small stack of smoke rising from a small hut. After a minute you peer closer. You see that the house is not much other than simple place for someone or some couple to call their home.
The group stops short of the building and looks around. Seems very quiet although from a random noise here or there, you can tell that there are signs of life inside.
It is obvious that Jeremiah is glad to have a horse now, though he clumsily handles it. Still, he keeps pace with the group now.
When the group nears the hut, Jeremiah tries to dismount. However, he has much trouble, getting caught halfway out of the saddle, and ends up falling on his butt. He stands up quickly, looking rather embarrassed and rubbing his rear. Without further ceremony, he moves toward the house's entrance.
Khargol stops what he feels is a safe distance from the front of the small hut, examining it with a mix of wariness and curiosity for a few moments. He acts as though he didn't notice Jeremiah's pratfall out of respect for the gentle human's injured pride. As he begins approaching the house, though, Khargol speaks up.
"Hold for a moment, Jeremiah. Let us be certain there is no threat here while we are still at enough distance to react should hostilities erupt." he says to him before cupping his hands around his mouth and shouting in a loud voice,"Hail, Bokken! Group of travelers out of Oleg's Trading Post here to see if you've wares or work available!"
|Garth the Gnome|
Garth maneuvers Dog over next to Khargol and turns an eye towards the hut. "Good call Green. Who knows what Oleg might be getting us into here."
Perception > 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (13) + 3 = 16
And at the same time, Garth keeps an eye out for anything that might be magically out of the ordinary.
Knowledge (Arcana) > 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (3) + 7 = 10
Spellcraft > 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (9) + 7 = 16
Jeremiah finds the behavior of the others odd. After all, Oleg recommended this guy, so he shouldn't be hostile right? Granted, there is the chance that something could be amiss this very moment, and the group is now in the wild Stolen Lands (it still makes Jeremiah excited just to think the name of the area), so he supposes it's better to be safe than sorry. He makes a mental note to apologize to Bokken for the way they summoned him from his own home later.
Udoeak nods his approval at Khargol's actions, having just been about to do the same. You can never be too careful. Even if there's nothing going on in there, people feel safer if you've given them warning. If they feel safer, you are safer.
"Just make sure you don't commit us to staying out here too long," says Anwel, making sure to stay in the back of the group. He's got his hands folded inside his sleeves again. "Now that we have horses, we should be able to map the lands hereabouts over the course of today and tomorrow. Then we'll need to return to the trading post."
|Garth the Gnome|
Garth slides off of Dog and looks around at the rest of the group. "Spell gnome to potion maker then?" He takes a few steps towards the hut, bends, pulls up a clump of grass and motions for Goat to follow him.
The gnome starts walking forward whistling an alien-sounding tune. Goat seems to enjoy the sound and follows along munching the grass the greenish gnome is holding.
Garth glances back over his shoulder as he gets closer to the hut. "Anyone else? Green?" he asks with an awkward smile.
Then towards the hut he calls out, "Bokken? We're friends of Oleg." He then repeats the common phrase in elvish, gnome and the lilting tone of sylvan.
The group calls out for the man inside to come out when loud sounds start to come from inside the house. The menagerie that comes from this little hut sounds like a mix of metal pounding on metal, something leaking steam, small random and rapid explosions, and a man inside making various grunts, moans, and woots. It builds in magnitude to a final crescendo with a loud "BOOOOOM!"
You jump back slightly and are startled as the door flings violently wide open right after the explosion. It crashes fiercely against the side of the hut, knocking off the door handle and nearly popping it off it's make-shift hinges. It is impossible to see inside as smoke is now billowing out from inside; a dark grey smoke so thick it is impossible to see anything behind it. From what you are able to perceive, the entire hut must now be completely filled with this smog.
A brief moment later, when it seemed to have quieted down, a fair sized male comes stumbling out of it flailing his arms widely and shouting, "Who is that? Who is there? Show yourself!" The shouts come in short rapid bursts as the man looks left and right but seems to not find anyone. His hair is completely disheveled and blown back. His entire face appears to be completely covered in black soot, clearly from whatever experiment went completely wrong including the over-sized goggles that are now blinding him. The only things in his hands are the cracked stems of near-shattered alchemist bottles.
"I know your out there! I heard you calling!"
|Garth the Gnome|
Garth laughs as Goat dashes back to the safety of Dog's flank. "I like how you make an entrance Bokken" and he steps forward with a smile. "Oleg told us you might be in need of assistance or where we might go to help clean this area up."
The hullabaloo inside the hut sends a quizzical expression across Khargol's face as he folds his arms across his chest, merely waiting for a response to the hail. He raises one of his eyebrows as the crescendo of sound begins, his expression becoming more and more alarmed as the pitch and frequency of the noise increases.
When finally the door is flung open with a loud bang against the wall of the hut, he jumps backward slightly, hand going to the hilt of his falchion before he realizes there is no danger, and he relaxes, releasing a softly held breath. Such a strange person. He folds his arms across his chest again, giving a quiet grunt at the man's disheveled appearance and attitude.
"The gnome speaks true. Your vision problem may be cleared up by removing your goggles. Or cleaning them of soot."
|Garth the Gnome|
Jeremiah lets the man take in the group without adding in anything further. This man seems like a hermit, and Jeremiah wouldn't want to overwhelm him with too many people vying for his attention at once. Instead he finds a good spot for his horse to graze.
"Oh ... Thank you." With his vision restored, he understands the problem and removes the goggles. It is clearly outlined on his face where they say from the soot outline.
"So you are Oleg's friends? Lovely." says the man in a very quick fashion. Bokken seems rather skittish and often twiches his head down to his shoulder. "You are here to help clean up these lands? Lovely... " He strokes his chin slightly cleaning the soot that resides there.
Bokken looks at Udoeak as he speaks and responds "Lovely to meet you too. As you can see, I was working on a new potion when something went wrong. All was going well; almost found the right concoction and just needed to reduce it a little..." His words slowly soften while he continues to speak making it impossible to hear yet you see his lips moving. "...it just right then BOOOM! Oh well. It must be the chiller coil. Must be. Lovely. I have no work for you now, I must clean and repair this place myself. BUT!
I am running low on Fangberries. If you find some while out adventuring, please gather them for me. Is there anything else I can help you with?"
Jeremiah says to Bimbur, looking slightly confused, "Thanks..." He's not sure what that's supposed to mean exactly, but he assumes it was supposed to be a compliment. Jeremiah looks to the dwarf as he adjusts his bow carefully and asks, in the way of small talk, "So, how did you first take up the bow? It is a skill that not many of your race practice, or so I am told."
Ah yes, the chiller coil. Rather touchy instrument, wouldn't you say?
"Very fickle. Yes. Very fickle. You must know what you are doing."
I'd be more inclined to help you if I knew anything about fangberries. I can't say they ring a bell at the moment. What, by chance, are you offering for them?
"Fangberries can be found south of here. Maybe 50 to 60 miles. Small yellow berries. Will pay 5 gold per bushel you bring. It would be lovely. Yes."