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Those links worked great! Thank you very much! More?
I am really loving the stuff you have Sozin, but I can't seem to get to any of it. I mean I would love to print it out for use at the table, but all those images are locked down. I cant email, save as or do anything with them other than bask in their beauteous glow. Is that intentional? Are you simply taunting me with beautiful props for my game? Or can you share? Please share. Pretty please?
And while it may not be a martial arts "style" I think a style that is geared towards using the monk movement to the maximum would be great. Kind of a fantasy melding of martial arts and parkour.
Another one I would like to see is a basic boxing style like in the olden days of yore.
Dwarves - These guys need some monk love. But flying around and judo chopping really isn't their way. Maybe a martial arts style that was tied to their harmony with the earth and natural pechant for Bull's Rush and Trip resistance. Earth strike for ranged trips, ground slide for movement. Stuffs like that.
Gnomes - Blurred Fury Style - Calling on their racial inclination to use illusion magic, they could activate special powers like mirror image and prestidigitation to augment their fighting. Kind of like the weirding way from Dune.
Orcs - A straight up savage fighting style making the best use of intimidation and raw strength. Lots of condition options.
Rova 3, Oathday
New quadrant, spent the day exploring and mapping. We are once again in heavy forest.
We found a hollow under a fallen pine tree, with evidence of bones nearby, the home of some predatory animal.
Cedar noticed evidence of tusk marks on the nearby trees, and he thinks it might be Tuskgutter, the boar from the bounty board. The beast does not seem to be nearby, so we wait.
We devised a plan of attack. Judging from the bones strewn about, this animal is a carnivore, so we slaughtered a deer to use as bait. Viktor, Duo and Balthazar hid in the trees. Balian sat astride his charger, lance ready. Cedar located a proper sniping position, and I sat atop the fallen tree where the creature made its home.
We lay in wait nearly four and a half hours. I amused myself by attempting to identify all the plants and herbs in the vicinity, while Balthazar amused himself with his cups. I'm not sure what Viktor, Cedar and Balian did to pass the time.
Then, just as our spirits were beginning to fall and we tired of the heat and insects, our quarry appeared.
A marvelous pig! Nearly big as a horse, with tusks at least two feet long, and baleful little red eyes, aflame with hunger and brutishness.
Balian issued a challenge, and charged. Tuskgutter bellowed back, and returned the charge. They met with furious grunting from Tuskgutter and a scream from Balian's steed, who then collapsed, instantly dead. Balian leapt to safety as the massive boar shook and twisted, trying to rid himself of the charger's carcass.
Balian gave forth a rallying cry, and leapt into the fray. Viktor attacked from behind, blades flashing faster than the eye could see. Cedar loosed salvos of arrows with deadly precision. Duo used his mastery of the arcane arts to beleaguer our foe with magical impairments. I shot fire from my treetop vantage, then jumped down to assist the melee attack, and Balthazar blessed us with Cayden's grace, then kept a practiced eye on the rapidly diminishing level of ale in his cup.
The battle was short and violent, a testament to our growing skills fighting as a team unit.
We field-dressed Tuskgutter and gave Balian's charger a proper disposal. Being down one mount and Tuskgutter's sheer size required some creative rearranging of personnel and equipment for the trip back to Oleg's, which must needs take place tomorrow as it is already very late.
Rova 4, Fireday
Started trek back to Oleg's, with the carcass of our prize in tow.
Shortly after the noon hour, we heard a familiar fluttering, and Perlabash showed up again, demanding liquor. Cedar obliged. We seem to have finally gotten on their good side, due to our help with "the biggs" and our generosity with liquor.
From our conversation with Perlabash:
We reassured Perlabash that we would keep an eye out for Sandral, gave him more candy for Tigtinnertut, and continued our journey toward Oleg's. Laden like this we shall not arrive tonight, but on the morrow.
Rova 5, Starday
Midday arrival back at Oleg's. Improvements continue to be made
Oleg seemed impressed with the size of our boar catch. He seemed excited to have something to do -- that is, butchering the hog and making hams and bacon and head cheese. He was also relieved to finally be rid of the items "that crazy hunter" gave him as bounty for Tuskgutter.
We received a masterwork longbow and 6 magical arrows, of as-yet unidentified powers. Balian found a replacement for his fallen charger, and began the arduous training process necessary for a war steed.
Around 430 pm, a wagon train arrived. One wagon with soldiers, three wagons full of people, and several more bearing lumber, grain, seeds, tends and foodstuffs.
Garris informed us that 250 more people are on their way. He issued us our reward -- 5000 gold! -- for dealing with the Stag Lord and also gave Balian a new charter.
Be it so known that the bearers of this charter, having delivered the northern reaches of the Greenbelt from the scourge of banditry, having provided detailed maps of the lay of the land, and having done no small amount of work in the exploration of said land and the culling of hostile monsters and indigenous hazards, are hereby granted the right to rule.
The nature and laws of rule are theirs to define, and the wellbeing of this new nation is theirs to protect. In accordance for providing a stable nation to the south of central Rostland, let there be a generous stipend of funds, support, and advice provided to this fledgling nation as a token of Restov and Brevoy's goodwill, such that future relations between kingdoms might be mutually beneficial.
So witnessed under the watchful eye of the Lordship of Restov and by the authority granted by Lord Noleski Surtova, current regent of the Dragonscale Throne.
[seal of Lord Noleski Surtova]
This, of course, changes the stakes immensely. We immediately called a private meeting for all members of Expeditionary Band 33 in Oleg's bunkhouse, as it appears we are now rulers in our own right.
Much discord these first hours of deliberation! Some wanted to abdicate all authority, while others of us see opportunity. We argued for some hours, accomplishing little, when we were interrupted by Garris.
Garris offered us a reward -- weapons from Restov -- for offing Falgrim: A lance and a curved Elven blade. He also offered to help with our nationbuilding.
We argued back and forth for several more hours, and in the end have the basics of a rudimentary government system. All of us have official capacities of one kind or another, along with Akiros and Garris.
It was decided that our Capital shall be the Stag Lord's former hideout. Garris will lead the people south to start their new lives there and begin the rebuilding process on the keep. We shall head to the Temple of Erastil and see if Johd is capable and willing to help us deal with the zombies.
Rova 6, Sunday
Quick ride to the Temple of Erastil.
Johd has been busy. The vines have been removed from the elk carving, and he's begun cleaning around the fountain. The cave looks positively cozy now, filled with heat and light from braziers.
Johd was glad to see us in good health. He agreed to accompany us to the monastery/keep and inspect the grounds and assist us as he could.
He invited us to stay for dinner, which we did. During dinner, we informed him of our new charter and fledgling government. He had certain misgivings, and was not reticent to speak them, but I think that's all he will do -- speak.
We shall depart tomorrow for our new keep.
Rova 7, Moonday
A hard and tiring ride to our (as-yet unbuilt) castle. Arrival around sunset. Nothing else to do this evening but make camp.
My party did a poor job of searching the Stag Lord's fort. The missed some stuff that will be coming back to haunt them. Literally.
The did not find the Stag Lord's father. But they do plan on building on top of the site. So I'm gonna have the druid die down there and become a vengeful spirit that haunts their capitol city. Toss in some ghostly powers of a druidic nature and the new haunt rules and some fun can ensue! Huzzah!
Arodus 25, Wealday
Viktor used the password to get inside the Stag Lord's hideout, and some nervous hours ensued. The rest of our party hunkered down and hid in the surrounding hills. We hobbled our horses several hills away so they wouldn't be seen, and hopefully not found by any passing patrols. Balthazar kept the donkey close, however. I think he likes it because it doesn't make any snide remarks about his drinking. We waited, nearly motionless, on the far side of a hill as close as we dared for several hours, waiting for the signal from Viktor.
The day wore on, and the light waned. The hills became alive with the sounds of night, crickets and other insects, nightbirds and other, less identifiable, creatures. Still no signal from Viktor, and the waiting was becoming nearly intolerable. It was unlikely that our ruse had been discovered, but still possible. Of course, in the waiting, the mind wanders. What if Viktor had been discovered? What if he'd been taken prisoner, or worse? There is no benefit to such worrisome thoughts, but it tends to be unaviodable in such situations. Finally -- the signal! A flash from a lantern in one of the watchtowers!
Cedar, Balian, and myself ran toward the walls nearest the watchtower, while Balthazar rode the donkey down the path toward the main gate, affecting the air of a drunken, yet cordial, merchant, singing bawdy songs at the top of his lungs, hoping to distract any eyes in his direction while we assaulted the fort.
Viktor had thrown a rope over the side of the watchtower as a means of ingress, and it dangled over the walls of the fort. We made a mad dash for it, only to be distracted by a new horror. The ground around us began erupting, as things crawled out of it. No new impetus for speed was needed on our part, but we redoubled our efforts to reach the rope in the face of this new threat. Soon, shambling, desiccated corpses chased us. The risen zombies also ruined what chance of surprise we might have had, as it appeared that they were clawing their way from the ground all around the fort, raising a general alarm.
We nearly fought each other scrambling up the rope to get into the watchtower. Sounds of battle echoed from above. Viktor had been discovered!
Balian and I scrambled up the rope and into the watchtower, to find Viktor in combat with two of the brigands. A third lay dead at his feet, presumably one of the watch. We assumed Cedar was behind us, but he mass of zombies seemed to grow each moment. Balian and I entered the fray with Viktor against the bandits, and quickly dispatched them, but the alarm had been raised, and reinforcements were on their way. The Stag Lord himself had been roused as well, and he started using his bow in earnest, along with two archer compatriots, peppering the battlefield with arrows.
Cedar had resorted to climbing the walls to escape the zombies, and now sat atop the wall, answering the brigands' arrows with those of his own. Balthazar continued his charade, heading toward the front gate. His lewd tunes provided what would have been a humorous counterpoint, if the situation had not been so dire. Fighting to the death, while undead hordes await.
Viktor jumped down from the tower and ran to the gate, opening it so Balthazar could enter and provide some much-needed healing. The Stag Lord and his archers continued firing. I took two arrows to the chest and fell to the floor of the watchtower, unconscious.
I do not know how long I was down, but it must not have been too long. I awoke to the ministrations of Balthazar, who rallied me back into the fray.
In the moments I was down, the battlefield changed considerably. One of the watchtowers was on fire, more of the bandits were dead, one of them seemingly had defected and fought on our side, but the Stag Lord still stood, with one archer guard.
Cedar was still atop the wall, and dropped the guard. The rest of us rushed the Stag Lord, along with our new ally. I learned his name was Akiros and was previously acquainted with Viktor once the situation had cooled.
We fought the Stag Lord, who apparently had magical armaments, and we were sorely tested. Balian again rallied the crew with his tactical mastery, and Balthazar provided much-needed healing support. Cedar dropped his bow and waded into the fray, armed with a large blade, and Viktor's daggers continued to flash. I summoned a dire rat to provide an additional target, hoping to distract the Stag Lord and his deadly arrows. Akiros charged, full in the frenzy of battle.
Distracted by the betrayal of Akiros, the Stag Lord focused his attacks on his former compatriot, and our band quickly dispatched the wounded brigand leader. Akiros fell, overcome by wounds, but we stabilized him.
Post-battle, we took stock and made sure everyone's wounds were treated, at least as much as we could at this time. The battle had been tolerably hot, and our magical reserves were sorely tested. Another good tiding, the zombies failed to attack. They shambled mindlessly around the fort, but would not come too close. Nevertheless, a nervous night was spent, and not a watch was spared even though we were fatigued from battle.
Arodus 26, Oathday
Refreshed from the rigors of battle, Balthazar and I performed what healing we could to bring our party back to full strength. Balthazar also administered to Akiros, who pior to Balthazar's healing prowess, remained sorely injured.
We looted and searched the brigand's fort. Balthazar counted and catalogued our spoils, and we made sure to keep the Stag Lord's body separate from the others when we made a pyre for the fallen bandits. Proof of demise was required to collect on the reward.
During our searches, I found a secret door, leading to the pit. In the pit we found an Elf. He claimed his name was Duo, and was a prisoner of the bandits. Later, during the course of conversations, it became clear he was actually one of the bandits, and was being punished by the Stag Lord. However, Viktor knew Duo, and this was cause for a strange reunion, as they apparently were childhood friends.
We spared Duo with the same mercy we showed Akiros, though I think Balian was ready to hang him. Eventually Balian extracted an oath from Duo, and with Balian's authority, he signed our charter. We shall see if he remains reliable. Balian allowed Akiros to remain a free man after his apparent change of heart.
We learned a few things after our conversations with Akiros and Duo:
Apparently, the fort used to be a monastery to an old god named Gyronna, and remains sacred ground even though it is now abandoned of any religious duties or significance. This might be why the zombies refused to enter. They do present an effective deterrent, which is perhaps why the bandits inhabited this unhappy ruin.
The brigands captured an owlbear, and attempted to tame it, to no avail, yet continued to keep it in the cage for sport. Cedar killed it and we added it to the funerary pyre.
Akiros told us of the Stag Lord's secret cache, and we divested the slain brigands of more of their ill-gotten loot.
Balian severed the Stag Lord's head. It is our plan to present the body to the strange ghost in the river, and present the head Sergeant Garris to claim our bounty.
Too much of the day was taking with conversations and with searchings, and our spellcasters needed rest, so we chose not to depart this day.
Arodus 27, Fireday
Two days of travel over this hilly terrain to reach the river. Tiring for our mounts, but not for us. We shall arrive on the afternoon of the 28th. Feeling out of sorts because I did not get to set anything on fire today.
Arodus 28, Starday
We have arrived at the broken-down rope bridge and accompanying ruins where we had the unhappy encounter with the rude aquatic shade.
Cedar rang the gong and pushed the body of the Stag Lord into the river. Two claws emerged and grabbed the body, pulling it into the depths. Before the body and the shade disappeared forever, we caught a glimpse of the undead creature's face. Whatever previous torments it may have suffered at the hands of the Stag Lord were gone now, and it appeared to be smiling. Though this may have been wishful thinking on my part. Hopefully we are free of this undead thing's presence now. While justice may have been served, undead and their ilk are anathema to Nature.
As we turned to depart from the banks of the river and these extraordinary events, Balian caught sight of something glinting near the water's edge. A gift from the shade, perhaps? Upon investigation, the glinting was revealed to be a ranseur, most likely the same weapon this spirit attacked us with weeks earlier. Balthazar says it has magical properties.
Arodus 29, Sunday
Journeying back to Oleg's. Nothing of note today. Expect to arrive at Oleg's late tomorrow.
Arodus 30, Moonday
Arrived at Oleg's a couple hours after sunset. Work continues here, and more upgrades have been done. It seems Oleg's Post is starting to become somewhat of a thoroughfare though these parts.
The "pub" is finished, completely walled and roofed, and the interior, while still rough, is done.
More tents are in evidence outside. Some look to be more or less permanent, as there is at least one more tent in the garrison's area. Probably more troops. Garris should be happy about that. Others appear to be temporary. Perhaps traveling merchants or other visitors. A wagon is parked out front as well.
We were greeted after gaining entrance by a stable boy, who offered to care for our mounts. This is a pleasant addition; rubbing down the horses and pack animal after each journey robs one of some much-needed ale time.
The pub was packed when we arrived. All of the regulars, plus a few new faces, including a new soldier and a traveling merchant, who we correctly surmised owned the wagon parked in front. Business has definitely picked up. I hope Oleg and Svetlana are content with their new duties.
Divers party members made their rounds, making conversation and performing their administrative duties throughout the Post. A summary of results follows.
Rova 1, Toilday
Cedar once again correctly predicted a heavy rainstorm, so we remained in the relative comfort of Oleg's, and put off our trip to take Johd to the temple until the weather clears.
We sold our spoils to Oleg's and divided the gold. I am not sure what I shall do with this slowly-growing stash, as there seems little to spend it on out here, and most of the necessary upkeep is spent from the party kitty. Especially when the reward from Restov arrives, we shall need to find some safer means of securing our gold.
Garris sent an Ensign to Restov, disregarding the inclement weather and sending the poor soldier out into the wind and rain. Garris says our reward should arrive back at the fort on the 4th or the 5th.
Johd says he will remain by himself at the temple after we take him there, and will meet us on the morrow ready to go. He says if it is Aristil's will, more will join him later.
Rova 2, Wealday
Traveled to the temple of Eristil. Arrived shortly after noon.
The verdure is not quite as thick as it was when we left last time we were here, but it is still in profusion and remains bright and sunny.
Johd went to work immediately, setting up an altar and cleaning out the cave.
We bid him farewell and traveled toward more unexplored terrain.
Rova 3, Oathday
New quadrant, spent the day exploring and mapping. We are once again in heavy forest.
We found a hollow under a fallen pine tree, with evidence of bones nearby, the home of some predatory animal.
Cedar noticed evidence of tusk marks on the nearby trees, and he thinks it might be Tuskgutter, the boar from the bounty board. The beast does not seem to be nearby, so we wait.
Arodus 19, Oathday
Viktor headed into the tunnels under the huge sycamore, and soon we heard the sounds of battle. I attempted to assist, but quarters were too cramped in these tunnels and both of us crawled back out. We did determine that it is a nest of mites, vicious and cruel creatures. We attempted to smoke them out by dropping burning litter down the hole, but this was unsuccessful. Their warren under the tree must be extensive.
While it was decided the mites should be removed to provide safer passage through this area, we also had more pressing concerns to deal with -- the Stag Lord -- so we pressed on, with the intent of heading back to Oleg's to resupply before heading back to the bandit fort. Bokken's is on our route as well, so we shall stop by and purchase some potions also.
Arodus 20, Fireday
On our way back to Oleg's we passed Bakkan's hut around midday. Purchased some cure light potions from him, and convinced him to make us some alchemist's fire. Rest of return journey to Oleg's uneventful.
Our efforts, or those of the garrison, perhaps both, are truly making a difference at Oleg's. A booth is now affixed near the gate to the post, holding a tax collector. He accosted us when we desired entry, but then let us through unopposed when we revealed our charter. Good thing, too. Viktor looked like he wanted to stuff the gnome in a sack and toss him in a river.
Apparently we are civilized enough now to boast a tax collector. It is at least debatable whether or not this is progress.
Anyway, other things are changing at Oleg's as well. The outside dining area has been roofed, so all the tables are inside. This will make meals much more pleasant, considering the caprices of the weather out here. The soldiers are jokingly calling this "the pub" now, as they have also fitted casks into cleverly designed holes in the wall, ready to dispense their liquid blandishments.
Balian has returned from whatever tasks stole him away, this will be happy reinforcement for our numbers. He's also been busy while waiting for us here at the post. Makeshift lists have been built, and he has spent the last few days sparring and jousting with the guards.
We spoke with Gariss about the Stag Lord and the layout of the bandit fortress.
Cedar warned of a nasty incoming storm, so we decided to remain at Oleg's for the day until the inclemency passed.
Arodus 21, Starday
First order of business, return to the bandit fort and take care of the Stag Lord and his minions, and claim our reward.
Decided to swing by Bakkan's first, since it is on the way, and he was either away or indisposed as his shack was locked up. Out front, however, were the pots of alchemist's fire we requested, with a note to leave 45 gold under a rock, which we did. This alchemist's fire is terribly interesting to me, but I and not entirely trustworthy of Bakkan's workmanship, so I shall let the others use them first.
Balthazar mentioned he had a nightmare about the undead with the ranseur demanding the body of the Stag Lord, but seemed to suffer no ill effects as Cedar had previously. What sorcery is this, that can affect divers members of our party from such distances? These lands tell of some ill will, where too many things disappear when they die instead of leaving a proper corpse or remaining in some fashion to still torment the living. Perhaps a good fire would fix some of this.
Arodus 22, Sunday
Nothing of note. Traveling to the Stag Lord hideout.
Arodus 23, Moonday
FORGED IN THE FIRES OF EXTINCTION
Arodus 24, Toilday
Nothing of note. Traveling to the Stag Lord hideout.
Arodus 12, Oathday
We decided to head to Bakkan's to drop of the meager supply of fangberries we found. Bakkan continued to be unpleasant as ever. We limited our time with him and pressed on toward unmapped territory. We did, however, purchase two cure light potions from us for the exorbitant amount of 45 gold each, including a "discount" he gave us for the fangberries. He says if we bring him seven to ten clumps of fangberries he will give us a 25% discount.
We headed directly to unexpored areas, and spent the day exploring and mapping. Nothing of note save a river in the southern section of this quadrant.
Arodus 13, Fireday
We followed this river we have discovered south into more unexplored terrain, which has become quite hilly. This slows our progress and tires our mounts easily. Our mounts must be rested more frequently. This terrain also makes it difficult to judge distances accurately.
Around 10 in the morning, we discovered a cave. The entrance of this cave was not large, but it appears to be quite deep, at least deeper than the fifty feet or so daylight penetrates.
Viktor scouted in, then returned moments later for a light source. I gave him a sun rod, and am now out of these devices. Viktor went back into the darkness, and was not gone long once again. He reported four trolls living in the cave. Luckily for us they were asleep at the time. Four of those beasts at once would be a fearsome test of our battle prowess
We took careful note of the cave's location, hoping to dispatch these monsters when we are better prepared.
The river we have been following for the past couple days is huge. It is easily 300 feet across, and probably at least 60 feet deep, moving a truly staggering amount of water every day. It would be a godsend of a trade and travel route, if not for some unfortunate waterfalls which make it unnavigable. The waterfalls are a sight to behold, however. Easily 50 feet tall, the water sprays across the waterfalls in a splash of whiteness and if the sun is right, you can see rainbows glinting through the mist. The water crashes into the pools at the bottoms of the falls with a thunderous roar, stirring up rapids for hundreds of feet below. Our guess is this mighty waterway is the Shrike River.
We've been looking for a place to ford so we might complete the exploration of this sector, but have had little luck so far.
Early afternoon. We've found what might have been an old rope bridge across the river. It is in tatters now and is not serviceable. On the far side there is a dilapidated building, and in the water somewhat downstream is a pile of rubble. On our side, a weatherbeaten and forlorn sign reads, "Nettle's Crossing - Ring bell for Service." But it is not next to a bell, it is next to a gong.
Cedar rang the gong, more out of whimsy I expect than any real attempt at service. However, shortly thereafter, we saw some sort of creature walking toward us across the water from the rubble pile. As it came closer, we saw it was a rotted, bloody corpse, carrying a ranseur.
We did battle, not wanting to abide this undead thing's continued existence. The battle was short and we were easily victorious, but during the battle the creature did something to Cedar. The creature and the ranseur dissipated and disappeared into the water after we killed it. What is it with things out here in these lands not leaving proper corpses behind?
I attempted to swim to the rubble pile, but my skills were no match for this mighty river and I had to turn back.
Cedar and Viktor crossed the remains of the rope bridge, using the remnants of the rope to pull themselves through the water and find purchase against the current.
The ruins on the opposite bank were not only fallen into disrepair, but also appeared burned upon inspection. Cedar discovered a severed arm in a hole. The hand was still clutching a stag amulet. We added it to the others in our collection.
Arodus 14, Starday
While the remains of the rope bridge made it at least relatively easy for us to cross at this point, there was simply no way to get our mounts across here, so we decided to head on and follow the river, seeking a horse-friendly ford or crossing.
Spent the rest of the day following the river.
We did find a ford, but it is on the Thorn river here where it forms a tributary of the Shrike, and will not allow us passage to where we wish to go, so these zones remain incompletely mapped and explored.
Arodus 15, Sunday
Cedar appeared tired and distraught at breakfast this morning. He said he'd been having terrible dreams, being killed over and over by the undead creature from the river we dispatched earlier. Cedar told us the phantom kept telling him to bring the corpse of the Stag Lord in these dreams.
We pushed on, still seeking a ford across the Shrike.
Discovered a lake near the border of our charter authority and a palisade on a nearby hill. We hid among the hills and attempted to spy on this fortification. It is rather small as far as forts go, but does have three watchtowers, all of which are manned. There is no way to tell how many might be inside.
After some debate, Viktor decided to approach the fort so we might gain intelligence. He talked to the guardsman, and his bluff must have worked, for he was led inside.
He was gone for a very long time, long enough to make us all unquiet.
Viktor eventually emerged from the fort and returned to us. He reported there were at least 11 men in the fort. They had an owlbear in captivity, and this happens to be the Stag Lord's base. He has the password to get inside again, but it changes at the end of the week. Balthazar and I exchanged looks during Viktor's reports. I think we were both of the mind that Viktor is holding back, but we didn't press the issue.
Four against eleven with the advantage of fortifications, plus Cedar's exhausted condition from lack of rest made of unlikely odds, so we decided to leave the fort alone for now and headed off toward a new zone.
Arodus 16, Moonday
Sleep eludes Cedar again. He reported more nightmares and is in even worse shape today than before. Perhaps it is selfish of me, but this focus on Cedar allows me time to more easily hide my own torment as it comes and goes. Today is particularly bad, so I ride hunched over or turned away from the party and say little.
Explored more hilly terrain.
Only item of note is a large thicket of fangberries. The name is apt. They are quite dangerous to pick, even for the deft, with their four-inch long spines. One wrong move and you are pierced by a half-dozen thorns. Nevertheless, we managed to pick nine good clumps of fangberries without to much difficulty.
Arodus 17, Toilday
Cedar is still tormented by the nightmares. How can something dead still torment us so? Perhaps we didn't kill it after all...
New zone to explore. More hills and spent most of the day following the Thorn river.
We discovered a gulch, approximately 20 feet deep, that the river winds its way through. A rickety bridge spans this obstacle, but the bridge does not look quite safe. We did not attempt to bring our horses across here.
We explored the rest of the zone and camped near the ford.
Arodus 18, Wealday
Cedar finally slept for once, untormented by dreams and nightmares, and awoke refreshed.
We explored the other side of the river. Upon our return, Cedar decided to check out the bridge across the gulch which we had avoided before. Balthazar warned him to be careful, but Cedar insisted the bridge was weight-bearing and started to jump up and down to prove his point.
The bridge collapsed and fell into the river, taking Cedar with it. Viktor and I followed along the gulch, hoping to throw Cedar a rope if necessary, but the current was strong and he was swept away, banging into the sides of the gully and the rocks in the river.
Viktor finally managed to throw him a rope, and we pulled him to safety.
After this misadventure, we pressed on to another quadrant.
Arodus 19, Oathday
More hills. Our mounts complain, and we rest them often. Progress is slow.
A landmark: a huge sycamore, easily 100 feet tall. It appears old and near death, but nevertheless still towers over the terrain and is visible for miles.
We poured some of the water from the pool at the temple of Erastil on the roots, but there was no apparent effect.
Viktor discovered a tunnel going down through the roots into the earth, and decided to explore.
Erastus 15, Fireday
Balian was called away, back to Brevoy. Balthazar was suffering so much from being deep in his cups the night before such that no amount of rousing or cajoling could get him out of bed. So we have been reduced to three for today.
Unbeknownst to us at the time, we had left a substantial reward sum back on the plains. According to the bounty board, there is a reward for the Tatzlworm.
Our first order of business then, was to retrieve the worm head so we could claim the reward. The worm was where we left it, and we arrived without incident. Days in the heat and the appetites of scavengers and insects made this an unpleasant task. Unable to properly deal with the decaying Tatzlworm head at this time, we wrapped it in canvas and set it on the pack mule, then made sure she brought up the rear of our party.
A bounty had also been posted for dealing with a local kobold problem, but days of rain washed away any tracks of the kobold party we previously encountered, and while we kept our eyes peeled, we detected no signs of kobold presence.
It continues to be quite hot, but for once we do not have to travel in pouring rain. No matter, our new oiled cloaks we acquired from Oleg shall be put to proper use soon enough.
We traveled the rest of the day toward unexplored and unmapped zones, and made camp near the frontier.
At camp, we took the opportunity to boil the decaying flesh from the Taztlworm head, a process which took some hours, but resulted in a lighter and much less odorous burden.
Every Fireday I insist on tending our campfire, but I do not think my companions have noticed this pattern yet.
Erastus 16, Starday
Headed into the unexplored zones. Another hot, dry day. No rain for two days in a row now.
Our forested surroundings shield us from the sun's rays, but also block much of any cooling breeze that might dart by.
Spent the day mapping and exploring, making our way through the forest via the many game trails that crisscross the area.
Some time after we had paused for a short lunch, Cedar halted us, saying he had heard something up ahead. Viktor scouted the area, and indicated a group of five bandits were heading toward us. We hastily set up an ambush. When the bandits came into view, we realized at least two of them were part of the band that ambushed us some days prior. Only fitting to get the drop on them now.
We defeated the bandits, but I received some serious wounds in the process. Nothing my cure spells couldn't handle, but without Balthazar, this exhausted our supply of healing spells for the day. Most of the blood on me wasn't mine, but I still had some difficulty convincing my companions I was fine and ready to go post fight. Cedar collected the trophies for the bounty on the bandits.
Later that afternoon, we discovered a large tangle of brambles surrounding a clearing in the forest. We had to cut our way through the brambles to reach the clearing. It used to be a temple or holy site of some kind. A megalithic circle of stones, including some dolmens, all designed to direct attention to a huge boulder, carved with an elk. Stairs led down into the rock, and a large stone pool lay before the stairs. The entire place was run down and abandoned, with some of the large circle stones fallen on their sides, and moss and ivy starting to claim many of them. The pool was obviously stagnant, and exuded a strange and unpleasant smell.
We were unable to investigate any further. Even though the builders had abandoned the location long ago, it was not uninhabited. Coming from the stairs in the boulder and what must be a cave or rooms below were some terrible roars and growls, sounding like a bear, but due to the quality of the growl, it must be wounded or mad or rabid. Something is obviously wrong here.
We decided to retreat and return when our numbers are not depleted and gave the bear a wide berth.
At camp, we made sure our notes and maps were up to date and turned in.
Erastus 17, Sunday
New zone to explore and map.
During our travels we discovered the source of the Thorn river. It is a relatively small spring, but with a very large flow considering its size, and it bubbles out of the ground at a great rate.
More forested area. We discovered a dead trapped man under a deadfall. It looks like he fell victim to his own trap. We found no identifying marks or materials, and left him where he lay.
We didn't think much of this next incident at the time, but upon later reflection we realized it was when our troubles started. We were simply walking around and exploring, when Viktor suddenly tripped on a small rock about the size of a man's handspan lying in the middle of the trail. No traps or snares or anything else unusual were detected, and we gave Viktor a good ribbing and continued on. I picked up the rock and put it in my saddlebags.
Starting later that afternoon and throughout the evening, we were followed by circling vultures. Very strange behavior for the large birds, constantly following and circling for hours. Cedar shot one, and managed to score a hit. This scattered the other vultures, and finding the landing spot of the wounded bird was easy. An inspection of the vulture showed nothing unusual, so we killed it, cleaned it, and made it our evening meal. A change from rations now and then is nice, but stringy vulture meat has little to recommend it.
As a joke during my watch, I took the tripping rock out of my saddlebags and put it next to Viktor as he slept, but my attempt at humor was ruined by what happened next.
That evening, during Cedar's watch, the surrounding plants began to move and attempted to grab him. This caused no small disconcert among us, and we started to have some suspicions at this point. We might be stalked by some fey creatures.
Hoping a goodwill gift might cease the tricks being played upon us, or at least keep them from becoming malicious, given the capriciousness of the fey, we left some shiny copper coins and one of the fancy bottles of liquor for the as-yet-unseen fey. We had little else to offer, and all our diplomatic overtures so far all resulted in them still unwilling to show themselves.
We were able to sleep for the rest of the evening, but upon arising the next morning, discovered that all our weapons were gone. Or rather, Cedar and Viktor's weapons were gone, as I tend to use whatever is handy nearby. Some minor searching revealed them all tied up high in a tree. They were relatively easy to retrieve. Our gift bottle of liquor was also empty, so in an attempt to win over our hidden tormentors, we left another bottle before heading to the next zone.
Erastus 18, Moonday
More forest. We've been following the river for a couple days now, which provides convenient relief from the heat.
However, our unseen followers are not done with their tricks. The game trail we are following heads across an overlook by the river, and while we cross it, the ground gives way. Cedar and Viktor make it across, but discover the rest of the trail by the overlook is covered in some sort of grease, making for treacherous footing. I am not so lucky during the crossing, and fall into the river. It is an easy swim to the river bank, but now I must contend with wet clothing.
We continued our explorations, but the harassment by the hidden fey continued as well, and the incidents got worse and more frequent. I won't list them all, because as the day went on, the harassment became nearly constant, but some of the more notable incidents included:
Something obviously large and unfriendly moving through the brush, heading toward us, but then turning out to be nothing.
An angry "bear" doing the same thing, but upon arrival at our location ending up being nothing but a squirrel.
Squirrels occasionally throwing nuts at us as we pass, then turning into groups doing the same thing, then what appears to be an army of the rodents pelting us with a hailstorm of nuts.
By now we're all a little on edge and uneasy. Our tormenters have not yet shown themselves, and refuse all diplomatic overtures.
Cedar's sharp eyes spy a bottle high up in a tree -- one of our liquor bottles, tied and hanging near what appear to be some nests of some sort. He decided to climb up and investigate.
As he did so, I noticed two small creatures dart away. One appeared to be a small, multicolored dragon and the other gave the impression of a very small woman riding a large beetle. It might be a Grigg, but I am unsure.
We get a short respite from their tricks, but then discover a rope hanging from a tree. We think it's a trap of some kind, but need to find out if it is magical or mundane. Manipulation of the rope with a stick did nothing, and we could see no snares or anything else nearby, but when Cedar grabbed it, he just disappeared. He went shooting up over the branch then vanished.
I have some passing familiarity with spellcraft, and I guess this is some sort of "rope trick" spell, and that Cedar has been shuttled off to some extradimensional space. Viktor is not reassured by this.
We made camp at this spot and decided to wait, hoping for the spell to end on its own. It did. Halfway through the night, Cedar fell out of the sky and landed in the camp.
No sleep for any of us any more this evening. Our tormenters have decided to let us have it this night. Dancing lights, ephemeral music, sparks, animal sounds and other distractions of all sorts surround us tonight without surcease.
After some hours of this treatment, in a fit of exasperation, Cedar grabbed two of the remaining bottles of liquor and opened them both. He began drinking one, and offered the other to our unseen agitators. With all the racket and tricks going on around us, Viktor and I decided to join Cedar and make a party of it. If you can't sleep, you might as well be drunk.
Erastus 19, Toilday
Today is terrible, but then, we after last night's escapades, knew it would be. Headache, puffy eyes, dry tongue and exhaustion are our companions today, and devoted companions they are!
We headed directly for Oleg's, a full day trip.
Upon arrival, we discovered that Balthazar had gone on a supply run to Restov, and would not be arriving again for some few days, so we are still without our cleric.
New items have been posted on the bounty board. It appears the Stag Lord is not a legend after all.
We claimed the reward for the bandits and the Tatzlworm.
Treval Norwigger gave us some information about the Grigga and informed us the other creature was most likely a fairy dragon, a very rare species. If it accosts us again, it will find itself even rarer. Treval indicated that fey creatures are not common in these parts, and the species we encountered are even rarer still.
Johd was quite interested in the temple we found in the clearing, but no amount of convincing or cajoling would get him to accompany us back there to tackle the bear problem. He did, however, promise us free healing services and whatever other assistance he might provide if we defeat it and let him dedicate the site to Aristil.
Hungover and exhausted, we bid our good nights and retired for the evening.
Erastus 20, Wealday
Rest and recuperation at Oleg's.
Erastus 21, Oathday
Embarked again on our exploratory duties. We have entered a region of vast plains. Visibility is for miles around, a welcome change from the lack thereof in the forests. Few trees are in evidence on this flat ground, but every now and then we cross areas of gently rolling hills, none large enough for our mounts to break a sweat whilst crossing. Mostly our travels take us across flat grasslands.
Most of the prarie grasses are small, but now and then we cross patches of some of the taller species, some of which even reach our knees while we're mounted. Little Bluestem, Prairie Dropseed, Porcupine Grass, Sideoats, Needlegrass, and Bromegrass are much in evidence. Our mounts enjoy this terrain, and sometimes require coaxing away from a particularly tasty patch of prairie grass.
Wildflowers are in profusion as well, many more species than I know by sight, but I did recognize Bellflower, Milk-vetch, Hoary Gromwell, Scarlet Toothcup, Indigo Fleabane, Black Locust, Hollyhock, Blue Sage, Bitter Sneezeweed, Violet Thistle, Narrow-leaf Rabbit-tobacco, and several types of aster, morning glory, verbena, primrose and goldenrod.
I have flattened some examples of some of the rare and unfamiliar plants here in these journal pages. Perhaps they might be of some medicinal or apothecary use once we return to our charges.
The plains make for easier travel than through the forest, and we map and explore this zone in good time.
Erastus 22, Fireday
Much the same as yesterday. More endless plains.
I keep looking for signs of my family's dwelling, as I am convinced it is more likely to be on the plains rather than in the forest, but that was all so long ago, I don't know I'd even recognize it anymore. Burned-out remains would be all that's left, if those are even still standing, and I'm not even sure I'm in the proper section of the Stolen Lands anyway. I spent some time this Fireday staring into our campfire with what little memories remain.
Erastus 23, 24, 25
More plains, making much progress with the mapping and exploring. All very hot. Had to start taking turns with my endure elements spell to make travel more bearable. Terrible thunderstorm on the 24th, but with he huge visibility out here, we had ample warning of its arrival.
Erastus 26, Toilday
More exploring. Two items of note out here on the plains:
A large patch of blackberry bushes. We collected some for us, as fresh fruit will be a welcome addition to our meals. Also, we are hoping we might be able to bribe the fey with this sweet food if we encounter them again. Treval told us they like sweets.
An ancient cairn, circle of stones pattern. Long disused, and no identifying marks or indication of who might have built it.
Erastus 27, Wealday
More heat, at the horizon the earth and sky meet in a shimmer of heat waves. At the end of our day we arrived at more forest, and camped along the edge.
Erastus 28, Oathday
Back in the forest. Birds are everywhere, flitting from tree to tree and singing their songs, but there is a strange lack of smaller wildlife. It is disconcerting. Forest like this should have a profusion of life.
During our explorations, I stepped into a well-hidden bear trap. The damned thing nearly ruined my leg, and almost killed me. Viktor and Cedar pried it off, and used a healing potion on me, as I was in no condition to cast my healing spells. No normal hunter marks were in evidence and great pains were taken to hide this trap, so whomever set it doesn't care if he catches people or animals.
We continued to search the area, now being much more careful. We found dozens of traps. Too many, almost as if a hunter or trapper went crazy in the area. None were marked according to convention. We found twelve more of the big bear traps and scores of deadfalls, snares and smaller traps.
Even with our cautiousness, Cedar had a close call with another devilishly-hidden trap.
Erastus 29, Fireday
Spent the day setting off traps and cutting snares. This section of forest is a deathtrap, and whomever set all these was truly insane. It's bad enought that we have all picked up sticks and poke and prod the ground before we step. Viktor had a close call with another trap, even with the precautions we are taking. We have set up markers in the trees warning others who may pass of the hidden dangers, as we are sure we did not disarm them all.
We see no signs of a camp or other habitation, so we have no clues as to whom might have set all these traps.
Erastus 30, Starday
More rain. Quick travel through previously explored territory to reach unexplored zones on our map.
Rain turning into a downpour, worsening even still at night. Our oiled cloaks are finally earning their keep.
I had first watch at camp that evening, and saw a light moving through the trees. With the darkness and the downpour, it was impossible to identify. I awoke Viktor who decided to chase it and attempt to find out what it was.
Viktor left, following the strange light. After some minutes, he did not return and I awoke Cedar and told him of the situation. We attempted to track Viktor, a poor task in the dark and wet. After three hours of searching, we gave up and returned to camp. We had found no sign of Viktor, but also no signs of a struggle either. We would continue the search in daylight.
Some time later, Viktor walked back into camp, wet and bedraggled, with a large black wolf with silver streaks in its fur following him. A disconcerting situation, to be sure, but the wolf did not appear to be malevolent -- yet.
Viktor had a strange tale to tell upon his return. According to him, the light turned out to be a glowing blue person, whom he followed. The glowing person suddenly vanished, and at the spot where the person disappeared, Viktor said he discovered a large patch of mushrooms. Shortly thereafter, the wolf appeared and followed him.
Attempts to communicate with this creature were unsuccessful. The wolf also did not seem to put our mounts and mule on edge, to make a strange situation even more unusual. Cedar built a small lean-to for it, to keep the rain off, and it seemed appreciative of this. It did not eat anything we offered it.
Further conversation with Viktor revealed he thought he was gone only for fifteen or twenty minutes, but he'd been gone for over three hours. He did not believe us at first about the missing time, but this was proven with dawn's soon arrival.
Arodus 1, Sunday
With morning's arrival, the storm faded. Our wolf guest is still in the camp, standing at the food of Viktor's bedroll when we awaken. Disconcerting to say the least, but I guess waking up to the smell of wet dog is at least a change from waking up to the smell of wet horses.
We decide to investigate this mushroom patch Viktor claims he saw, but we were unable to locate it.
Spent the rest of the day mapping and exploring, with the wolf following Viktor all day.
Another storm again tonight. We set up the lean-to again for the wolf, and once again it refused to eat.
During Viktor's or Cedar's watch, the wolf got up and left camp. I was asleep at the time. They followed it, and related to me later that it just disappeared. At first, it was fairly easy to track, leaving behind normal wolf prints in the mud, but then the tracks became fainter and fainter and finally just disappeared, leaving no trace of this extraordinary creature.
We must talk to Johd and Treval when we return to Oleg's, to see if they can shed any light on this strange circumstance.
Erastus 12, Toilday
We struck camp and left the cave very early, almost before the morning birds began singing their praises to the dawn.
Our terrain changed soon. The scrub quickly became a thick deciduous forest. Oaks were much in display, with Red Oak, Black Oak and White Oak reaching heights of what must be over 100 feet, towering over their smaller Pin Oak cousins. Hickory, Silver Maple, Dogwood, Yellow Poplar, Redbud and Elm trees were interspersed with the mighty oak, forming a dense canopy over us when we entered the forest proper.
Even in the noonday sun, the light is somewhat dimmed by this verdant profusion.
Fighting for what little leftover light the massive trees don't take are many varieties of smaller trees and shrubs, and below them, a carpet of flowering and herbaceous plants and various mosses, ferns and fungi. I recognize some of the herbs, but my knowledge is limited and does not extend to very many of their usages.
Wildlife is abundant as well. Even with my compatriots making the racket they do as we travel, I've seen all sorts of animals. Rabbits and hares, squirrels and raccoons, foxes and beavers, opossum and skunk, owls and badgers, a species of wild pig I am unfamiliar with, at least three species of deer, birds by the score including pheasant and ptarmigan, and I think I may have spied a lynx keeping watch on a rock, but it vanished so quickly I could not positively identify it. There are wolves and bears here, as evidenced by tracks and spoor, but they have the sense to stay hidden from man. Near dusk, bats nearly fill the sky, feasting on the forest insects.
All this wildlife has created many game trails, making travel relatively easy. Of course they meander, but we generally end up going in the direction we choose. On rare occasions we have had to hack our way through some dense foliage. At least it is good to know that if our rations spoil or we tire of them, sustenance should be relatively easy to come by.
The interminable rain continues, a constant drizzle that soddens our vestments and our spirits. It is miserable weather for this task of exploration. Sometimes finding a dry spot to update the map is a troublesome task.
This seemingly serene and lush landscape also hides dangers. Our troupe had barely begun our explorations this day, when we were attacked.
A startled cry brought us around to find Balian leaping from his near-mortally wounded horse. He had been attacked from behind by a Tatzil worm, a strange snake-like creature with vestigial limbs distantly related to dragonkind.
I warned them of a possibe breath attack, and battle ensued. The creature attempted to grapple Balian, but he struggled free from its grasp. Luckily, this creature was relatively stupid, and once surprise was no longer its ally, we defeated it quickly. Balian beheaded the creature, and insisted on bringing the head with him after Balthazar conducted healing ministrations on the wounded steed. Gozreh knows what he wants to do with the thing.
At our lunch camp, he spiked the head and set it up as a totem. Not the most appetizing thing to stare at during a meal, but who's to disway the young from their zeal for victory?
After lunch, we continued our explorations. Later in the day, we discovered a river, probably the Thorn River. It appears to be narrow, but is supposed to be quite deep, and all sorts of brambles and nettles line its banks.
As we followed the river, we were being followed ourselves. Cedar arrived and hailed us, our wayward ranger. He had been tracking us for the past few days. Should not have been a hard task, as we had not been obscuring our campsites or our tracks. It will be a relief to have someone else in the party capable of tracking and survival. You never know what might happen out here. Plus I'm getting tired of reminding Balthazar to look for poison ivy before he s~*~s in the woods. I think I'll pass this task on to Cedar.
We followed the river for many miles, and eventually it widened out into a bed of shallows, rocky beds of small waterfalls. North of this, a small stream intersected, and a heavily-traveled game trail follows the stream. Judging by the tracks, this "game" trail had been frequented by mounted men, and quite a few of them. This appeared to be a watering hole, perhaps in use by the bandits we seek.
We didn't want to blunder into a bandit ambush, so Viktor sneaked off to do some scouting while we waited near the confluence of the stream and the river. A short time thereafter, a thunderous boom echoed through the trees, jarring the teeth and uncomfortable to the ear, even at this distance. Fearing for our comrade, we dashed down the trail after him. This proved unwise.
We passed a dilapidated cart by the trail as we galloped by, and ran right into an ambuscade.
The bandits had archers hidden in the trees along the path, and in some cleverly constructed platforms affixed to the sides of trees. They raked us with arrows, taking advantage of our bewilderment, and hitting many of us.
Balthazar was busy from the start, furiously casting healing spells, and I had to use the small heal I know right at the beginning of the battle as well.
As we tried to spy Viktor as well as the hidden archers, their leader, Kressel, ran from concealment and attacked as well, axes flashing.
The hail of arrows and the dervish-like axes of Kressel proved almost too much for us. One by one, we fell to the ground, wounded and dying. I was one of the casualties, and slumped to the ground, sorely wounded and expecting to die.
I was roused some time later, only minutes, as I found out, to see Viktor grinning down at me. He looked much worse for the wear, but a more welcome sight I never did see. We shall not die this day!
Cedar explained what happened. He had felled some of the archers from their hidden perches, and then proceeded to attack Kressel. She felled Balian, Viktor, and myself. Luckily both of them had landed some good blows before collapsing, and Balian's horse, along with Cedar's horse continued the assault, riderless. The pummeling the horses gave her and a final arrow to the chest from Cedar proved sufficient for Kressel, and when the brigands saw their leader fall, they ran away even though they had the advantage of numbers. Cedar was the only of our party still standing. It is a poor battle that the cowardice of your enemies saves you rather than your own prowess, but then again, any battle you can walk away from is a good one.
Cedar used our healing potions to revive us. He also told us that Balthazar had run off, either in fear of his life or of certain defeat. We were in no condition to follow immediately. I hoped he would make it to safety. He thinks about ale more than he thinks about survival, and I don't think he was paying all that much attention to directions.
We spent some time recouperating there on the field of battle, then searched the bodies and discovered the nearby bandit camp, which we made use of for the evening, and used their cache of liquor to make the evening more pleasant.
Erastus 13, Wealday
We rested the entire day at the bandit camp, recovering our strength. With Kressel out of the picture, we didn't think we were taking much of a risk.
We thought about tracking Balthazar, but decided recouperation was of a higher priority. We were in pretty bad shape after the fight with the bandits.
We did inventory the bandit camp and looted the place before we left, taking everything we had room for.
Erastus 14, Oathday
Repaired to Oleg's, by the most direct route we could. While we wanted to return as quickly as we could, it would be foolish to push ourselves until we were in better condition. Fortune smiles upon us this time, and the journey back is uneventful.
Something might be amiss at Oleg's. We can see smoke rising from the general area, but in good fortune this proves to be a large campground out in front, not a bandit attack on the post. Judging by the looks of it, a military camp.
Our hunch proves correct. A garrison from Brevoy has arrived. They are here to provide security and protection, and it appears that they may be attempting to repair the fortifications and the armaments, as one of the catapults is missing. Sergeant Garris commands a squad of five soldiers.
We made our way into the post proper, and were happy to discover Balthazar. He was deep in his cups and appeared maudlin and distraught. I wanted to knock his head, but I only knock his ale cup with mine, and tell him It's harder than that to kill me as I sit down beside him.
He is overjoyed (or at least pretends to be) to see us alive and hale again, and we spend the rest of the evening swapping tales amongst ourselves and with the newcomers at the post.
I gave the Moon Radishes to Viktor to give to Svetlana. I hope they solve her "problem."
Sergeant Garris introduced himself, and we asked him about the stag necklaces we had been finding on some of the bandits. Garris did not know much, but called one Treval over, another newcomer who appeared to be some sort of traveling storyteller. At Garris's behest, Treval mentioned a "Staglord," a bandit that might or might not be related to the stag amulets we have been finding. Nobody knows who this Staglord is, and it appears he may be as much myth and legend as reality.
Another newcomer was a priest of Aristil, a certain Johd Kavken. Johd appeared interested in our explorations, and asked us to keep an eye out for abandoned temples and shrines to Aristil. He feels his god has led him here, to do this work.
Oleg is gruff and businesslike as usual, but seems pleased we were able to dispatch Kressel. We had to inform him that none of the bandits we encountered so far had Svetlana's ring, however. He indicated that he could have some oiled cloaks ready before our next decampment. Staying dry will make this work much more pleasant. We shall see if his handiwork is sufficient to the rainy season, arriving soon.
Also new to the post is a bounty board on a guest house wall. In the short time we have been gone, it has been filled with jobs and miscellanea. It appears we might be able to stay busy while were performing the duties of our charter, and also have some opportunities for profit as well.
The rigors of the recent battle and the ale of tonight are making for one exhausted druid. I shall retire early this evening.
Journal of Markus Straka Drakos
An account of events transpiring in the area known as the Stolen Lands, more specifically a section known as the Greenbelt, in the year 4708, under commission and charter of the Swordlords of Restov, via the authority of the Regent of the Dragonscale throne, our Lord Noleski Surtova.
Expeditionary band 33, chartered on Calistril 24, 4708
Members of our diverse band:
Viktor, a rogue
Let us begin:
Erastus 1, Fireday
My companions appeared, at first blush, to be a capable bunch, but we'll see. The king's chartermasters seemed proficient at creating competent expeditionary groups. We don't appear to have too many weaknesses as a group. It would be nice to have a weaponmaster along, but I'm sure Viktor and Balian will prove to be capable fighters if necessary. We have yet to be tested, however.
Before we departed, the chartermaster mentioned a ranger who will be joining us at a later date. Apparently he has been delayed, the reason not disclosed to us. Another familiar with the wilds will be welcome. These guys would wander in circles and get eaten by bears in the first three hours without some guidance. Balthazar can't even tie a knot. Ah well, I guess that is why I am along, personal reasons aside.
We talked of inconsequential things to pass the time on the journey to Oleg's. Or rather, my companions talked, and I mostly listened. I tend to be laconic; I hope my companions do not think the less of me for this. Actions speak louder than words anyway, and everyone shall prove their mettle soon enough, myself included.
Oleg's Trading Post is, well, a dump. The watchtower roofs need patching, and it is immediately obvious that the catapults sumounting them have not worked in years, possibly decades. The outer walls are sufficiently high, but look at certain places as if they might simply be kicked in. The front gate is stout enough -- at least Oleg keeps that in a state of repair. The buildings on the inside need some repair work and fresh paint, but at least they appear to be weatherproof.
Regardless of the state of his post, Oleg and his wife, Svetlana, seem to be nice enough. They graciously bid us welcome and prepared meals and beds for us.
During our evening meal, Oleg asked us what we planned on doing about the bandits. This caused some confusion, and an immediate denial on our part that we were going to do anything about any alleged bandits.
At this, Oleg threw down his hat and stamped off, muttering and cursing to high heaven. Svetlana remained silent, but appeared to be distressed.
After Oleg's tirade and abrupt departure, we discussed our options.
Balian wanted to stamp out banditry from the get go. Viktor and Balthazar were against unnecessarily putting ourselves in danger. Initially, I agreed with this assessment but upon further reflection changed my mind for a couple reasons. Oleg's would likely be our base camp for the forseeable future, and it makes little sense to knowingly leave your home in danger of attack. Straining our relationship with Oleg would also probably make an already unpleasant job more unpalatable. Closer examination of our charter also revealed a proscription against banditry and a behest to eliminate it if possible. Failing this might reduce or negate any chances of a reward once our mission is complete.
During our discussion, Balthazar wrestled with his conscience, and finally decided leaving Oleg and his wife undefended was contrary to Cayden Cailean's wishes. At this point, it was three against one, overriding Viktor's objections.
We told Oleg we would assist him in repulsing the bandits.
He seemed much relieved. The bandits raided the camp on or near first of every month, so we wouldn't have long to wait, as they were due to arrive in the morning.
We devised a plan for dealing with the brigands, then retired for the evening. The bunks were much too small for my large frame, so I slept on the roof of the bunkhouse. I must make other arrangements once the rainy season arrives.
[rough sketch of Oleg's outpost]
Erastus 2, Starday
We took our positions, and sure enough, the bandits approached. Four of them, three highwaymen and a cloaked leader, just as Oleg had described. Problem was, they didn't act like bandits, and even attempted to pay for their breakfast. This sowed confusion in our ranks -- was Oleg duping us to rid himself of an unwanted competitor? indeed, had he told us the truth? -- in all but Balian.
Balian called out the brigands for their previous crimes and attacked. Battle was engaged, and Viktor assisted from his hiding spot in the stables, and I shut the front gate to trap them before joining the fray. Balian was quite enthusiastic about dispatching the alleged bandits; I tend to think Viktor and myself attacked more to protect our erstwhile companion. Regardless of our personal reasons, the battle was joined.
One of the highwaymen managed to escape out of the gate while it was closing, but he had a grievous side wound and probably wouldn't get far. Even if he did, tracking him would be easy, as he was losing a lot of blood, so I gave him little thought and charged.
We felled the two remaining highwaymen with little trouble, but their cloaked leader proved troublesome. He managed to seriously wound Balian with his bow, but the ministrations of Balthazar proved invaluable. I had doubts about Balthazar. Thus far, his devotion to ale and wine seemed to surmount his devotion to Cayden Cailean, but he proved quite calm and capable during the rigors of battle, providing needed support and healing. I suppose that happens when your god likes liquor.
Viktor and I emerged from the fracas unscathed. Balian received several wounds and things might have gone poorly for him without Balthazar around. Our cavalier is young and impetuous and will probably get himself killed before this whole thing is over. I will keep at least one healing spell in my daily repertoir as an emergency measure.
Temorary confusion was sown by a meddlesome wizard who happened to be traveling by while the fight was raging. He mistakenly thought we were the bandits attacking the camp and attempted to cast sleep spells on us. I dissuaded him from this endeavor by shooting fire at the hole in the fence he was using for visibility. The misunderstanding was cleared up quickly after this, and the wizard helpfully also put out the fire on the fence, however tempting it is to burn this slum to the ground.
Afterward, the wizard conducted whatever business he needed to with Oleg, and set off again, while we took care of more mundane things. Rogue and I buried the highwaymen. Oleg did not appreciate my joke when I asked him if he wanted to save them for sausage. Stodgy old bugger. Even Viktor looked at me funny. Not surprising, though, I have yet to meet a rogue qith a sense of humor. While we were burying the bandits, Balian tracked down the remaining brigand who attempted escape. Balian returned shortly with the bandit in tow.
Interrogating the brigand provided little information of use, and he was summarily executed by Balian per our charter. Oleg insisted on desecrating the body by hanging it from the outpost walls and setting the head on a pike. Different rules apply out here in the frontier, I guess. Nature is much more clean. The strong survive, and the weak get eaten. Easy. You don't see wild animals putting heads on pikes to make a statement.
Oleg was grateful for the assistance with the bandits and offered us food and lodging free of charge.
Not wanting to waste any time, we gathered our items and prepared to set out. We now had four more horses, since the brigands had arrived mounted, and being deceased, would no longer be needing them. This meant all of us could be mounted, not just Balian. However, I don't think Balthazar cared much about ease of travel, but was thinking of how much more wine this would allow him to bring along.
Leaving Oleg's trading post
The journey was long, hot, dry, and dusty. We crossed miles and miles of gently rolling plains. As the sun rose in the sky, so did the heat, and our journey suffered. Our ipetuous Balian suffered the most, and by the time we reached the edge of the woods around noon, he was nearly unconscious from heatstroke. Everyone struggled with the effects of the heat, but he had it the worst. We paused for refreshment and recovery, both for us and our mounts.
A bit of exploring a few miles into the woods revealed some long-disused ruins with two still-standing walls and a functional well. We sheltered there overnight against inclement weather. It was a windy and damp and miserable evening. At least it cooled off a bit.
Erastus 3, Sunday
Rode back to Oleg's, through another terrible rainstorm, even worse than the one last night. Three hours of whipping wind and blinding rain. This slowed our progress considerably.
We arrived at Oleg's around 8 pm. Svetlana provided dinner. Further conversation with Oleg added little to our knowledge of the area. He reinforced his opinion that the bandits operate out of the woods to the west, and every so often a crazy old hermit by the name of Bakkan stops by. Oleg pretends Bakkan is an alchemist, and dabbles in potions.
Oleg took aside Balthazar, and had a private conversation with him. Balthazar appeared flustered by the content of this conversation, and after consuming vast quantities of ale, later revealed to us that Oleg told him the bandits had stolen Svetlana's wedding band, and he would like us to return it, if possible.
Svetlana also took me aside after dinner, and inquired about a matter of some delicacy. While she did not forbid me from speaking about it with my companions, I had the feeling she wished to be discreet and thus I did not mention it. I did give the party a description of a certain herb, and asked them to bring it to my attention if any of them noticed a plant meeting this description.
Erastus 4, Moonday
As our maps our mostly bare, we decided to traverse the nearby countryside in a wide circle around Oleg's Trading Post, to dispose our deficiency in knowledge of the local terrain. Once we are done mapping the immediate vicinity, we shall begin venturing farther.
We headed southwest from Oleg's, and soon entered a thick forest of the deciduous type. Oaks and elms were much in profusion. Spent the day exploring and mapping. Found a campsite by a small stream.
Erastus 5, Toilday
While journeying toward the next zone, Balthazar halted the party, indicating to us that he had head something. He thought it sounded like pigs, and was excited at the thought of fresh bacon. He looks like he's missed but few opportunities for bacon of they arise.
I failed to notice these sounds. I must be more observant in the future.
Viktor scouted ahead. He returned shortly and indicated he found a party of four kobolds. They had gorged themselves on a local plant, and were quite drowsy. Viktor mentioned this plant might be the one I was seeking. I asked him to sneak back into the camp and retrieve a handful. He agreed to this and left once again. He returned once again, with not just a handful, but an entire basket of the Moon Radishes. It appeared he used his daggers, but denied having any trouble when asked.
Viktor wanted to know why I wanted the Moon Radishes. I indicated they were for Svetlana and not for me. He peppered me with questions and seemed somewhat distrustful after I told him they were for her and she offered a reward for them. I'm sure if Svetlana had wanted Victor's help, she would have asked him instead of me. It doesn't matter. I suppose I can let Viktor return the Moon Radishes in my stead and collect the reward. I doubt Svetlana has anything I want anyway.
[rough sketch of a moon radish]
Erastus 6, Wealday
Discovered a large bone yard in the middle of the grasslands. This was somewhat unusual, so we stopped to investigate. Dozens and dozens of bleached white bones covered an area of several square yards. Closer inspection revealed that most of them were animal bones, but some human bones were also present. All had evidence of teeth and gnaw marks.
The source of the bones was soon revealed. Without warning, a large spider jumped out of a hidden burrow and attacked us, striking Balthazar while he was unawares. Balthazar was grievously poisoned, but we managed to defeat this foe in short order. We gave what succor we could to Balthazar. Poison ministrations are currently beyond our capabilities, and we must simply wait for nature to take its course while he heals. The poison is strong, and saps Balthazar's strength, but does not appear to be immediately deadly. He will be sick for a few days, but there is naught we can do.
[poor drawing of a large spider]
Finished mapping the zone, and headed toward the next.
Erastus 7, Oathday
Note: this is just a precursor, the rainy season is yet to be upon us. We must see if Oleg can procure some oiled skins or parkas. They will be necessary soon. Foolish of us not to think of this before.
We're out of ale, and Balthazar seems to want us to share in his suffering by constantly complaining about how wretched he feels.
We soldiered on, and mapped another plains quadrant.
Early afternoon, we came upon a wattle and mud hut, encircled by a small fence. Turns out to be the home of Bakkan, the crazy old alchemist hermit. Conversation with him was unproductive, and we had not the tender to purchase his alchemical services, so we left.
[several attempts at drawing Bakkan, each one crossed out with more vigor than the previous]
Erastus 8, Fireday
More endless plains. We can scry mountains in the far distance. We shall not venture into them, as that territory is out of the bounds of our charter.
Explored and mapped this plains quadrant. Nothing of note.
Erastus 9, Starday
Balthazar seems to be fully recovered. Never lets us forget we're out of ale, however.
Erastus 10, Sunday
The only item of note is a solitary lightning-struck tree standing at the summit of a large hill. There are no other trees for miles. It almost looks as if it might be the claws of some long-buried giant scrabbling toward the surface, protruding from the earth.
[drawing of a tree, looks nothing at all like the one on the hill]
Erastus 11, Moonday
Camped at the base of some small cliffs. Upon waking, Balian showed us a cave entrance in the cliffs he uncovered during his watch.
After a short path into the rock, we discovered a large underground room, approximately twenty feet by thirty feet. One cave wall glinted dimly in the lantern light. Victor seemed to be excited with the find, but was less than forthcoming about what it was. I have my suspicions. There was some debate on whether or not to include this discovery on the map. Regardless, I include it here.
[Notes on landmarks and distances to the exact cave location]
Cold Napalm wrote:
1st Level Stats: Str 14 (5), Dex 13 (3), Con 14 (5), Int 15 (7), Wis 10, Cha 10
Human +2 to Strength (16)
4th Level +1 to Int (16)
Transmuter +2 to Dexterity
Belt of Physical Might +2 Strength, +2 Constitution
Final Stats: Str 18, Dex 15, Con 16, Int 16, Wis 10, Cha 10
I went a different way than I am seeing here. Not sure if it is good or bad. Let me know if this does not seem actually viable.
ELDRITCH KNIGHT CR 6
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