Restov. 24th of Calistril.
Though the long hard Brevoy winter has left finally the midday air still holds a chill edge, even in the bright spring sunlight. You step from the town hall, official charter clutched in your hand and look around the bustling square.
You look at your fellow party members, some you know well, some only met in the last few days. You have the feeling there is more to this than stated on your charter? You watched as several other groups were also granted charters to explore regions different from that area you have been given. Some looked like veteran adventurers, others were more mercenary in appearance.
Around you Restov bustles with life. With the end of winter the trade ships and caravans have arrived. The market is crowded with those wishing to end winters hardships and enjoy a taste of plenty again.
Looking a bit out of place in the rustic countryside, one of the travelers is a red-haired, blue-eyed woman in gray traveling cloak. Beneath the cloak she wears a coat of mail and carries a heavy shield with a brutal spike on the front - all quite out of place in contrast to her smooth, clear-complected appearance that speaks of a woman of some privilege and wealth in upbringing. Nevertheless, she seems unbothered by the long walk from Brevoy, and strangely when she crosses the landscape her feet almost seem to skate along the surface of the trails and grasslands, moving faster than any normal traveler. Looped around her right hand is a simple chain that ends in a shining silver holy symbol of Abadar, a large key-like ornament carefully kept clean and bright.
Darian stood in the market, pulling his cloak tighter around his neck and shoulders. He stood tall and had a friendly face, but his eyes betray an unspoken anxiety. On his back was a well made pack, and a shield that did not match the armor he wore or longsword at his hip.
He tucks the charter into his pack, and looks to Isabel with a sigh before turns to the others, "So, we've only met most of you in passing the last few days, so since we will be working together for who knows how long, we should likely get to know one another better. I am Darian, and this is Isabel," he says gesturing to the blonde haired woman beside him, his accent clearly a blend of Chelaxian and Varisian.
In stark contrast to the high-born red-haired woman stands another. She is a bit taller and certainly less refined. Dressed in simple functional clothing and fur lined cloak, she noticeably separates herself from her fellow charter holders as they exit they walk out into the town square.
The woman gives a whistle, shortly after a large raven lands on her shoulder. "Ingenting å gjøre med det, Muninn, vi har forpliktet oss til denne banen nå." she says to the raven. Somewhat surprisingly, the raven responds in the same language, "Jeg liker likevel ikke det. Se opp for disse fremmede."
Seemingly heeding the raven's advice, the woman nods.
Hearing the introduction of Darian and Isabel, the taller red-hair woman nods and simply says, "Freya." nodding toward the raven she says, "This is Muninn."
|Roksana 'Rok' Jedynak|
"This sweetheart is Kasper!" Says the heavily armored half-orc as she pats the neck of her horse while she rides beside the others. She leans forward casually in the saddle, clearer comfortable. Her armor is full of scratches and dents, and clearly was painted blue at one point but that has mostly worn away.
Her short black hair frames her dark reddish skin as she smiles to the rest the group. "And I'm Roksana. Been a pleasure traveling with you so far, hope it stays that way." She shifts in her seat and straightens the tabard hanging over her armor, deep blue with a snarling dog on the chest.
Darian smiles and extends his hand to each in turn, "Well met Freya. Roksana." He is uncertain of how to address a raven, but he offers Kasper a friendly rub of the neck.
"My apologies if I seem, well, ignorant at times on certain local topics or customs, but I'm not from here originally. And had a tough road to get where we are," Darian hands, casting an anxious, knowing look to Isabel. "We spent a short time traveling through the Stolen Lands on our way here from the River Kingdoms, but it was spent on the run from bandits who ambushed our river boat and killed everyone else. So our expertise is limited in field knowledge of the area."
He tightens his sword belt and his pack straps. "Unfortunately, the little coin I've managed to hang onto is not enough to buy horses. Unless you just want to ride ahead and scout, I'm afraid we will be slow in your pace down, Roksana."
Damnit, Freya. These people are your companions now. Try not to be such an ass for once... Freya thinks to herself as she Somewhat reluctantly shakes Darian's hand. "Good to meet you too." she says, sounding as if she's trying to convince herself as much as Darien.
"You and Isabel do not have mounts?" Freya asks, more out of confirmation than questioning. "I have a riding horse that I have recently purchased for this job, I suppose we could double up or switch out riders to lessen fatigue."
Hearing Rok's introduction of Casper, Freya thinks to herself, "I suppose I should give that horse a name...
"Good to meet you too, Roksansa." the red-haired Ulfen woman says in a less than convincing manner.
Jory trailed the group out of the town hall at some remove, standing on the steps and intently studying his copy of the charter as if searching for some word or clause he could not find. There didn't seem to be any provision for transport. No official stipend. No investment funding for the establishment of an outpost or base of operations in the Stolen Lands. Not even any gold for bribes, for Desna's sake! Who planned this venture?!?
"Do they expect us to walk to this trading post?" As he looked up, he noticed the group had begun to congregate in the market square, well out of ear shot. He eyed the group for a moment, sizing them up, and shrugged. I expected something rather more....organized. But they look like a sturdy bunch. Much adventuring experience, he was sure!
He approached. "Ladies and gentlemen, Jory Haltine at your service!" he said, sketching a bow.
He smiled up at the half-orc woman, made positively mountainous sitting astride....Kasper, he had heard. "I expect we'll have a most successful and profitable endeavor. My lady, do you perhaps know where they're keeping our horses? Perhaps a pony?"
At the question of where horses were being kept, Freya raises an eyebrow. "I don't believe mounts were part of the bargain."
|Roksana 'Rok' Jedynak|
"Oh, I have no idea." Roksana says to the Halfling. "Kasper is mine, he's been my companion for a number of years now, I hadn't even considered that we might be supplied horses as well." She shrugs.
"We don't mind keeping pace though. I'm not much of a scout, anyway. Infantry sure, cavalry - you bet, but scouting is definitely not my forte. I like to be loud and in the thick of things, not cowering in some bush."
Jory shakes Darian's hand with enthusiasm, nodding to his lady companion.
"Well, I must admit I was expecting a bit more out of our blessed sponsors. Some of the other companies looked quite well provisioned, in fact. But mercenaries are expensive; perhaps they ran low on funds." It was more likely some idiot committee member was skimming funds off the top, but no need to sour our new companions with the dreary facts of Restov life.
"Alas, we shall have to march into the Stolen Lands, it seems, led by our able horsewoman here. Bound to ward of these brigands they speak of, huh." He smiled and nodded at Ulfen woman with the rather imposing raven, and at the red-headed acolyte of Abadar.
|Roksana 'Rok' Jedynak|
"Well, if it will make you feel better I can walk too?" Roksana slides easily from the horse, and hits the ground already walking forward. Kasper hardly seems to notice as he pushes his head gently into Darian's hand looking for more attention.
"I guess we could buy a wagon, it won't be comfortable but you won't have to walk. Kasper can pull it. He's not a workhorse but if he can carry me around, there's no reason he can't pull a cart."
The horse snorts derisively and flicks his tail in agitation.
There is a lot of information available to you regarding Oleg's. In fact the trading post only exists because Oleg accepted a charter from Restov to rebuild an abandoned border fort into the trading post.
Oleg’s Trading Post is located at the southern edge of Rostland (and thus Brevoy). To the south, the green line of the Narlmarches looms only a few miles away. Owned and operated by Oleg Leveton and his wife Svetlana, the trading post’s remote location and inconvenient distance from a major river has prevented it from realizing significant financial success.
Oleg and Svetlana have spent the past few months rebuilding the old fort. Their customers are few and far between, consisting mostly of trappers, hunters, but the trade in furs, jerky, and the occasional magic potion are enough to keep them in business.
It seems that Oleg has been complaining about bandit activity in the area and has send several requests to Restov asking for guards to be sent to the trading post.
Darian casually continues to pat on Kasper as the group talks.
"I recall hearing a hunter talk about Oleg's while we were eating dinner the other night. Said the man's business was taking a beating from more of those bandits," he says with a sigh as he looks down the road towards their destination. "If a wagon would be faster, maybe we should invest in one," he adds before glancing to Kasper, "Sorry."
|Roksana 'Rok' Jedynak|
"I can loan you guys the money for a horse and wagon if you really want." Roksana says. "Though I doubt we'll really be able to keep the wagon with us all the time if we're charting wilderness. Not a lot of well worn paths in places like that."
She shrugs and looks to the rest. "So it's walk for a day or two and hurt your feet, or cram yourselves into a wagon while Freya and I ride the horses. Up to you, I'm comfortable either way."
"If it will get us there faster, I think the wagon is the way to go. Perhaps we can pay this Oleg to store it for us while we explore and map out the area," Darian replies. "And if we find something that needs hauling, we will already have the means and can return to Olegs and get the wagon."
"Shall we be off then?"
"A fine offer, Roksana. And as Darian says, the wagon will likely be valuable to us even if it cannot follow us in all places logic and providence reveals we must go." Jory claps his hands in excitement. "Lets get to it, I say."
"Makes little difference to me." Freya says.
|Roksana 'Rok' Jedynak|
"Alright then, so, fifty eight gold then right?" Rok asks after tracking down someone willing to sell a wagon and a mule. "Not so bad I guess. If the wagon isn't sturdy though, you'll be hearing from me again!" She laughs to show she doesn't mean it as she hands the gold over.
Once the Mule is harnessed to the cart, and her companions are climbed in she spends some time with the beast and orders it to pull the cart alongside Kasper as she rides him.
Handle Animal vs DC 10: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (19) + 3 = 22
Since the Work command says the animal will push or pull a medium or heavy load, I assume Rok can just command the mule without actually needing to drive the cart. If that's not the case, feel free to let me know.
The woman with the air of some social standing, strangely, seems content simply to walk. Her stride is deceptively long and the road always seems to give way to her steps, keeping a mile-eating pace in spite of wearing armor and bearing a hefty pack.
Rok leading the wagon on Casper works fine. The mule recognizes the voice of someone who knows what she's doing. :)
The journey is without incident, this close to Restov the patrols ensure the road is safe. As evening draws closer you see ahead the small village of Nivakta's crossing. The gates on the palisade wall are still open.
Nivakta's crossing has barely 150 people and is populated by trappers, anglers, hunters and the tradesmen who provide the services they use.
The only inn the village has is the Rivermans rest. Not luxurious by any stretch of the imagination. It has tables with benches to sit on. One end of the long room is curtained off and contains cots. The nearest the Rest has for a private room. Outside there is a small well, with attached bucket for those who hold the strange notion of cleanliness, and a small barn attached to the side of the inn for stabling animals. It's empty at the moment aside from a local youth who blinks at you with disinterest as you pull the wagon up outside.
"3 sillers to watch yer mule overnight. More'n if it bites." He says by rote.
Inside the innkeeper looks nearly as friendly as the stable boy. "A gold a night for a cot." He states. "Gets you a meal as well, but no drinks."
You can smell a mutton stew cooking, which actually smells very tasty, aside from the stew with vegetables and a chunk of bread the other choice is whatever fish or game the locals have bought in that day.
Jory seems strangely tired by the short trip, that saw him primarily dozing in the rear of the wagon. He has not been outside of Restov in years, and he scans the rustic setting with forced good cheer.
Jory nods to the innkeeper and slips him a gold piece. "Aye, water will do for me this 'eve, my good man. We make for Oleg's in the morn. What news?"
Diplomacy (gather info): 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (11) + 9 = 20
The innkeeper takes your coin without changing his expression. "Not much fresh news. Since the city pulled it's guards back the bandits have gotten bolder. Last trader back from Oleg's said there were Kobolds stirring up trouble."
He looks the party over more carefully. "If'n your headed south I'd keep a weapon ready. Nothing good down that way."
He's referring to Restov pulling as many of it's guards back as it could due to the political troubles brewing within Brevoy.
Isabel has been somewhat distracted for much of the trip, huddled deep inside her cloak and seemingly very cold based on the periodic shivering and her pale face.
Inside the inn she gets as close to the fire as possible and then looks around the room as the cold slowly seeps into her bones and restores her usual good humour. "So Mr..., may I ask why you moved out this way? The surroundings are lovely." Finally warm and excited by the smell of food Isabel exerts herself to chat with the innkeeper, intent on making him relax a little.
Diplomacy, to improve his attitude: 1d20 + 11 ⇒ (10) + 11 = 21
As she chats her gaze catches Darian's, shooting him an apologetic look for how withdrawn she'd been since getting the charter. She'd been happy staying with Great-Aunt Ledeba and losing another home, so soon after leaving Kintargo, had shaken her more than anyone apart from Darian could guess.
|Roksana 'Rok' Jedynak|
"Well it doesn't bite, so three it is." Roksana says. "And here's a gold for my horse. I brush him every morning, and if I find anything wrong with him or the mule, I'm coming back for my money."
She smiles as she says it, but her body language suggests the threat is real. When she enters the Inn behind the rest, her smile fades as she realizes everyone here seems miserable. "And here I thought I'd feel welcome in a place called the Riverman's Rest." She says low to the others after they pay for their lodging and move to eat.
"Won't say no to some food though!" Rok opts for the local fish and waits for Jory and Isabel to finish speaking with the innkeeper.
"What makes you lot interested in this charter anyway? No offense, but most of you don't look like the Brave the Wilderness type."
Seems a bit pricy for a cot... Darian thinks to himself before handing the coin over in 10 silver pieces before following the group in. He allows Isabel her space by the fire, offering her a sympathetic smile when she looks his way.
"Well," Darian says in answer to Roksana, "Isabel and I have had a rough road in life the last couple years. We have traveled halfway around the world in an effort to rid ourselves of them, but new ones seem to find their way onto our path. When we got word about these charters, well, we are hoping it will be the start of something a bit more...stable."
Happy to be on the road and out of Restov, Freya's mood lightens a bit engaging in conversation if someone else starts.
Arriving in Nivakta's Crossing, the Skald woman comments, "Reminds me a bit of my home, or least what I remember of it."
Once inside the Riverman's Rest and hearing the price, Freya hands over the silver to stable her still unnamed horse and the gold piece for the night's lodging and meal. "How much for a tankard of ale?"
Nivakta's crossing is a small insular community, not hostile but strangers are watched carefully.
While a gold for a cot is a bit pricey the meal that comes with it is actually very good. Whoever the glum innkeeper has doing the cooking is very skillful. The meat is fresh and cooked properly till tender, along with plenty of onion and garlic. The vegetables are all fresh and crisp, even the bread is made that day and is thick enough to sop up the gravy.
Ale is 4cp a tankard, and shares the quality of the food, a thick dark ale, cool and strong enough to give the drinker a little buzz.
As evening comes in the fireplace is feed more logs until it's nearly too hot, and the locals wander in. Conversation is in low voices and the looks your way are wary. Alcohol serves it's purpose as the great befriender though and after a few tankards the locals unwind and even converse with you.
It seems since the guards were called back to Restov things have become more dangerous around the crossing, even with the river as a defense, and the towers watching the bridge over it there have been increasing numbers of bandits trying their luck in the area.
This has affected the inns greatest source of income, the merchants and traders who ply the south Rostland road are choosing other, safer routes rather than passing through Nivakta's crossing. As one local confides in a low voice after several tankards. "Needs a lot more coin coming in here to get old Josef even close to smiling."
Jory shakes his head at Darian's comment. "I'm not sure any scheme of the swordlords' can lead to stability, but perhaps it stability is not what they'really after. Though if what I hear of the lands south is true, things could hardly be worse."
He turned to address Roksana. "As for myself, I'm not sure I can say I came to this task entirely willingly. But, new challenges keep the mind sharp, I say! Do any of you have experience in these lands? My lady Freya, you said it reminds you of home?"
Freya, seemingly lost in thought, takes a second to process Jory's query.
"This village does, yes. Just the size and the no nonsense attitude that this place seems to have." she responds.
"As to the so-called Stolen Lands, I've spent a bit of time in the most northern reaches but really can't tell you much more than we've already been told."
"Well that's more than some of us know!" Isabel says with a grin. "I don't think I'd ever seen this many trees in one place until a few months ago... Darian and I are city-folk born and bred. Try not to hold that against us please!"
Darian nods in agreement to Isabel, and sips on some water. His eyes tun and seem to stare off into the distance for a few moments.
He then turns to the quiet priestess carrying the spiked shield. "You've been very quiet, ma'am. Everything alright?"
Lisl also parts with one of her gold coins after a moment's thought. As the dinner table conversation picks up, she sips delicately at the soup (even with her small finger extended from her hand holding her soup spoon) she seems to be taking in the mettle of the group.
When Darian addresses her directly, she pauses for a moment, then says, "Quite well, thank you." She puts down her spoon and dabs her lips with a kerchief. "I am eager to see this remote community brought into the prosperous fold of Brevoy. Bandits and lawbreakers need to be brought to heel, for the protection of the people around them."
She looks side to side at the rude furnishings of the inn around the group and continues, "Trade is the lifeblood of any community, and I hope that stabilizing these Stolen Lands will encourage greater trade - both monetary and cultural - to flow and elevate the conditions of all the people of the south."
Jory smiles as Lisl outlines her thoughts about their mission. "Is that an Issian accent I hear? I confess I am surprised our sponsors enlisted you in this endeavor. This charter can't be seen with anything but suspicion by the northern families." He gestures pointedly at her shield. "But I don't doubt your skills were appealing to our commissioners."
"As to the joys of city life, I myself can attest to that! Restov born and raised, and it is only so rarely that I travel very far afield." He points to Roksana's heavily weathered armor. "I am heartened that we seem to have members to whom the perils of the wild are but familiar friends!"
"Yes, I am from the Issian north," says Lisl. "You have a perceptive ear. But my loyalty is first to Abadar and to the continued prosperity of our cities and our civilization. Certainly I have no intention of becoming embroiled in political turmoil between North and South!"
Darian nodded to her reply, and listens politely to her answer to Jory before asking, "So which Brevish House would you say was liege lord to your family? My apologies but Brevish nobility and their banner men is something to which I am still aclimating myself."
"Ah. My family actually resides in New Stetven, though we still have the Issian accent passed down like many of the migrants who came when the capital was moved from Port Ice. Ostensibly we are under the banner of House Surtova, but as a priestess my loyalties are not as beholden to such political divisions," says Lisl.
She lowers her gray hood and lets her tasseled red hair down, then says with a slight smile, "While this expedition may be part and parcel of the current tensions between Rostland and Issia, for my role, I am here simply as an agent of the Church and a reminder of the civilized principles that we bring with us into these wild and turbulent lands."
"Indeed, this is all tangential. My interest in politics lies only in how it prevents me from doing my job. In this case, luckily, we appear to be well beyond the reach of any political meddling...for now! Jory shrugged.
"Indeed," Darian chuckles. "Good thing this is just an exploratory mission and an attempt to police the banditry of the region. Hard to make that too political."
Going on the assumption it isn't common knowledge we are eventually going to be founding a small nation of our own. The current charter only mentions exploring, travel, and fighting banditry. Heh.
Hearing the Abadarian's proclamation, Freya off-handedly comments, "Yes, because those principles have done so much good to keep Brevoy from the brink of civil war." her tongue perhaps loosened by the ale.
Turning back to Darien she says a bit more solemnly, "And a fine mission it is. Too many good folk have been hurt or worse by the brigands of the area."
|Roksana 'Rok' Jedynak|
"Gah! You're all so stuffy!" Roksana says with a smirk. "None of you took this job out of a sense of adventure? Wanderlust? Excitement about being the first to discover who knows what among the wilderness?"
She shakes her head with a chuckle.
"Mercenary life is fun, but it's all about who you need to kill or apprehend next. In the River Kingdoms, each city-state has their own rules about how that can be done. I haven't had my fill of killing bandits and brigands, but it'll be a nice change of pace to do something a little different for once."
"That being said, I do have half a mind to ask the people around here if I can settle their banditry problem. No Inn dedicated to the river should be this solemn, or unwelcoming to newcomers."
"Is it their problem Rok?" Isabel asks, skipping straight to the nickname in a disarming show of familiarity. "I thought we were still a day or more from Oleg's? Surely if he is having the problem then its more likely that the bandits are somewhere past him? Otherwise the Swordlords would have had a lot more complaints - but you're right, we need some music!"
Assuming someone can sing/play/tap rhythmically Isabel slides out of her chair and begins to dance, a lively foot-tapping step in time with the beat, after a minute or so she practically glows, clearly enjoying herself immensely. She beckons Darian into the dance and then makes a sweeping gesture to include the whole tavern, moving from patron to patron and trying to encourage them to join in. Each one gets a short demonstration before Isabel moves on to the next.
Perform Dance: 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (15) + 9 = 24
Country dancing for all!
|Roksana 'Rok' Jedynak|
"Huh? Oh I don't know about Oleg, but haven't you heard the locals complaining about the bandits?" Rok points out a few commiserating individuals that she overheard complaining about how dangerous the road was. If she noticed the nickname, she doesn't show it.
"Sounds like the crossing itself is the dangerous place, so we should keep our eyes out. I can handle a few bandits, but if they take us by surprise then someone will get hurt, or worse, Kasper might be wounded." She frowns as she drinks her goblet of water.
As Isabel gets up to dance, Roksana smiles and holds her glass up to the woman. "Maybe you aren't so stuffy after all!"
Jory watches Isabel and the scant few revelers she could coax to join her dip and spin for some time, tapping along to the beat.
After a while, melancholy overtakes his thoughts, as he imagines the beautiful woman spinning not to dance, but to avoid the blow of some bloody bandit, murder or worse in his eyes. He thinks of Roksana, giant on her horse, charging into the fray, laying all about her with that warhammer. Of the Issian woman, Lisl, calling out to her god and setting her shield against a charge. Of Darian drawing his bow, Freya and her raven doing....whatever ravens did when threatened...he wasn't quite sure, but nothing pleasant.
What have I gotten myself into....
He gets up quietly and mutters a brief goodnight to his new companions, and wanders off to find the promised cot, wonder what Oleg's and the days to come will bring...
It turns out that breakfast is also included in the cost of your cots, simple but filling. The morning meal provided by a quiet, middle aged woman who doesn't speak much, but still seems friendlier than the innkeeper.
A thick porridge, cooked with smoked sausage and bacon mixed in, along with slabs of bread toasted on the fire and served with butter, honey or a berry preserve. Mugs of strong black tea are also provided to accompany the morning meal.
The morning is still and chilly, thought the skies have no clouds in sight and it looks like the day will be very clear. Your mounts have been feed and even groomed, looking eager to be moving again.
The woman running the inn has also baked what was left of last night stew into pasties and gives you some to serve for a cold lunch.
She looks you over noting the air of purpose you have and nods. "I'm sorry for my husbands manners." She tells you quietly. "Since the customers have fallen away he's grown more and more miserable. I hope you can get things more settled again. I wish you luck."
She watches you leave, and you can see more than a few of the villagers are also there to see you cross the Shrike and start south.