Darkest Waters

Meeting on the Frontier
A blog for your campaign

In Arkandia, as it is across most of the northern reaches of the Nomenark, winter means deep snow and bitter cold. Not so much, perhaps, as one finds in the barbarian lands even further north, but enough that traveling is nigh impossible. Without both magic and a highly skilled guide, travel is suicide. So it is that the population of towns swell in the harvest months. Trackers, hunters, wanderers, adventurers, and other less virtuous social outcasts come in from the fringes of civilization to huddle near tavern fires and fill the common rooms of hostels.

One such town sits perched on the far eastern reaches of the kingdom, the fortress town of Pirkandon. The last bastion of military strength before one finds themselves wandering the Anthalp Vast, the town is a beacon of sorts. High and sturdy walls, watch towers, and great gates that can withhold monstrous sieges. Though there are farms and homes scattered outside the walls, the town is built so that all nearby citizens can survive for a month or more within its fortifications. Almost half the town’s population is soldiery. A full half the townsfolk are farmers, hunters, and craftsmen. The remaining handful are adventurers and outcasts, perhaps some of them even hiding from criminal backgrounds. A great many Duanthians live here, on the fringes of society. This close to the Vast, any hand willing to aid in the town’s defense is welcome, even if it belongs to some exotic creature. It is in Pirkandon that our unlikely band of adventurers find themselves as winter creeps over the land. They are a disparate band, having little in common with one another or the townsfolk.

The wildling elf Alar, seemingly more at home in the deep forest or untamed wilderness than a shuttered tavern. He moves with the stealth of a rogue, and one is certain he could sneak up on the most skittish woodland creature to touch its flank. Perhaps it is this preference to walk unheard and unseen that makes the elf such a nocturnal being. For Alar noticeably avoids the townsfolk and city streets during the daylight hours. The alert observer notices that he is less than fairly treated by other elves in Pirkandon, though he looks like any other Green elf.

The human warlock, Kane Raziel, who seems alone even in the center of a crowd. Almost gloved, always isolated and brooding, he is the slowest to join their circle. When his skin shows, one sees many scars, where old cuts and long-healed breaks have left a brutal tapestry on him. His gaunt build, and these scars, speak to a life that has known few creature comforts, which probably accounts for his reserved nature.

The eladrin Ezio, cleric of Kord, who stumbled into town from the Vast as summer waned, nearly dead. He does not speak of why he was in the Vast, or how many went with him. Only one was with him when they came to Pirkandon, a Red elf who succumbed to some plant toxin shortly after arriving. It is a testament to the healing gifts of whatever Saint the cleric follows that he survived. Despite his membership in the most influential religion in Arkandia, his Eladrin race makes him an outcast.

Mikal, dressed in ragged cast-offs, who yet manages to fill a room with his presence just by entering. Skilled at music, and even more so at oration, the bard can arrange the mood of a room like a gifted composer. People are instruments to be tuned and harmonized, and the winter passes pleasantly in his company. And yet, all is not well for him. He has poor luck with money, but cannot resist a good dice game. For all his artistic gifts, he remains poor more often then not.

Despite his size and exotic appearance, the goliath Nithauk can choose to be unnoticed with the ease only a rogue could manage. His predilection for suddenly looming over people who moments before had not been aware he was present does nothing to ease the prejudice of the townsfolk. Until he fell in with the adventurers he now travels with, his only companion was even more an outcast than he. A living construct built centuries ago for a long-forgotten war.

Cuts spent decades with no purpose, no real awareness of himself or the passage of time. Led from an abandoned cellar and dusted off, put to work as a machine for menial labor. He was without ambition or motivation. A fellow laborer, the goliath rogue who talked too him instead of about him, changed all this. Now Cuts has a sense that there is more, and he pursues it. Along with Nithauk, he casts his lot in with adventurers in the border fortress town.

The last of the unlikely allies is another outcast, at least among the xenophobic townsfolk. Walking upright as a human, almost as big as a goliath, and bearing the blood of dragons in his veins, Content Not Found: pc-scir is a bogeyman to the people of Pirkandon. They recoil from his reptilian features and imposing bulk, unaware that he, like most dragonborn in Arkandia, values honor and virtue. Whatever past he is leaving, he readily joins the adventurers as they plan for the spring thaw.

Where to go. Some of them open up about their past, while some hold their own council, but there is one thing they all agree on. All of them have reason to put distance between themselves and the life they have known. A distance of leagues, and of years. They are done here. It is no longer home, whatever their reasons for feeling this way. In the grip of this awareness, and with the kind of resolve that comes from desperation, they hatch a truly insane scheme. They will cross the Anthalp Vast. Even Ezio, himself nearly killed by a simply foray into its dangers, embraces the idea. It grows from a random suggestion to an all-consuming quest, and by the spring thaw they are almost excited. When the city gates open to travelers, they fills packs with supplies and set forth for parts unknown.

Traveling the Vast
Wherein the adventurers depart.

Crossing the Vast sucked. More to follow.

Bandits on the Road
A chance encounter?

The Vast falls away behind our heroes, as they wander through new lands. After some days of walking, Alar catches sight of some figures in the distance. The group moves to investigate, and finds what seems to be a group of farmers. The four men are wearing clothing of a foreign style, and when they speak their Common is heavily accented. They carry heavy packs with bundles of farm tools and rations. They do not react as Arkandians when confronted with the fearsome Scir, odd Cuts, or alien Ezio… but they do act wary.

This act turns to hostility when archers fire into their midst. The “farmers” move as if they are going to help, only to turn on our heroes with surprise attacks. Dropping their guise as humble peasants, they turn out to be thugs and bandits. Their strategy seems to be the capture of Kane. The bandits are swiftly defeated, with their leader killed, one archer routed, and two survivors captured. The captives divulge what they know readily, intimidated by some and encouraged by others. Mikal easily sways them to speak, while looming Nithauk and scowling Scir keep them docile.

They learn that the bandit leader was not of their usual number, but a man named Jorlanis who had papers for the arrest of a fugitive. This document turns out to be a forgery. The men are petty thugs, bearing faded criminal brands. They were paid by Jorlanis in gold, to assist in capturing the “fugitive”. While the men are being interrogated, Alar buries the bodies of the slain. The possessions of the fallen are retained. Among them is an ornate longsword of antique style and superior craftsmanship. The rest of the gear is mundane: armor, swords, a net, the forged document, and some gold. And the battered old farm tools, of course.

The Haul
The bandit leader (Jorlanis) had a very nice longsword, which Nithauk is currently hanging onto.

He also had an official looking document, a semi-skilled forgery. It is a warrant for the arrest of a fugitive, but it has been doctored so Jorlanis could pick any target he wished. It would not fool a trained magistrate, but to the uneducated it looks quite convincing.

He was wearing leather armor, which was good quality and well cared for. In addition to his longsword, he had a sap, a leather pouch filled with sand and meant for knocking someone out. Finally, he had 30 gold coins, about 10 in his belt pouch and the rest hidden under his armor.

The other slain thug had a club and a weighted net. He was wearing heavy leather armor, in poor repair.

The slain archer had a longsword and a longbow with a quiver of 30 arrows. He was wearing leather armor. His gear was all in shoddy repair, though the bow has at least been cared for.

The archer and the thug had 4 gold coins and 12 silver coins, hidden under their armor.

The two captives both had long swords and leather armor, with a backup club. None of their gear is in good repair. Both also had 4 gold and 12 silver coins.

Finally, the group had an assortment of battered farm tools, like pitchforks, shovels, and rakes. They had a week’s worth of food and a few days of water for each, and bedrolls for each.

Reaching New Lands
The adventures begin anew.

With their prisoners (Brance and Flith) in tow, our heroes press on into the new lands they have found. Open plains and dense forests give way to cultivated land. To the north, a forest the prisoners refer to as Larchwood. To the south, open land and a distant hint of marshland. Behind them, the faded caravan trail, and a half week back, the Vast itself. Ahead, the road becomes ever more traveled. Farmers and hunters use it, in addition to the odd caravan here and there. A half day’s walk finds our heroes at a very old stone bridge. Brance refers to the small waterway as Cutter Brook, while Flith confirms that this bridge is where the small bandit group hides out. Alar and Ezio work their way down the bank of the brook to investigate. The water is flowing at its maximum, as it is still early spring. Six feet wide, a couple feet deep, and very cold. Alar easily vaults across the brook. Ezio investigates the near side, while Alar checks the far side.

The bridge has stood for decades, digging away at the earth and stone. What the water has not carved, demi-human hands have, and there are shallow caves on both sides of the brook. The bandits have made a lair in these caves. Alar and Ezio find filthy bedrolls, the remnants of old fires, and a few crude weapons. Ezio finds a hand keg with the remnants of a once-passable ale, now spoiled. Alar finds a battered chest. It has been struck, cut, and scraped, but remains locked. Using bits of refuse from the cave floor, the elf tries to pick the lock, but finds it resists his attempt. Eventually, he calls for assistance in moving it, and they bring the chest up onto the bridge. A few of them try their hand at opening the lock. Kane detects some enchantment on it, and even tries to defeat the lock with magic. All attempts fail.

Brance and Flith admit that the bandits stole the chest almost three years ago, and could open it. It foiled their best skill with thieving tools, and was too well made to bash open. They were nervous of its contents, and decided not to burn it. So it has sat in the corner of the hideout for some time, and they had all come to be superstitious of it. They even hid its existence from Jorlanis when the man recruited them. Their unspoken attachment to the chest was something they never questioned, simply leaving it beneath some sleeping furs in the corner of the cave.

Scir hefts the chest into his shoulder easily, and they resume their eastward march. Soon, they pass farmers on the road, and see men working the fields to both the north and south. Near sundown, they see a wide river ahead, and notice that the road turns to run parallel to it. Across the water, a deep set of ruts run almost perfectly straight north. When questioned, the bandits refer to it as the Ore Slue, and explain that wagons from the mines in the north come here to load barges with iron. The river itself is wide and swollen with spring run-off. Near town, the bandits explain, there is a ford across the Churnwash. Even a strong swimmer would be risking death to try and cross here.

They press on until night falls, making camp and setting watches. The bandits are pressed into sharing watch, and do so without complaint. They seem truly cowed, making no attempt to withhold information or escape. The night passes without incident, and by the following midday our heroes find themselves at a crossroads just south of the ford. The road runs off to the south, to a farming hamlet called Holtan. Across the ford is a bustling town, the farming and mining community of Tilburne. A large manor stands on its western edge, and a small stone temple stands to the north. Atop the temple, a banner bearing the symbol of Erathis whips about in the breeze.

Our heroes split up to gather information on this town. Ezio, Kane, Mikal, and Nithauk head for what is obviously a tavern. The signboard hanging above the door is crude, a bit of dull gray metal hammered into a soft wood. It forms the profile of a crown. They press into the dimly lit taproom, finding a table in the corner. Ezio approaches the barman, while the others sit. Kane notices Mikal watching a dice game in progress at one of the tables, and convinces the bard to step back outside. Ezio learns little from the taciturn barman, until he buys an ale, after which the man becomes talkative. He learns that the tavern is called The Silvered Crown. The old dwarf with the battle axe in the corner is named Old Grizz. The town constable is a ranger named Garyth. The town is the property of Sir Damien Catharn, who has iron mines to the north, in the Lansryde Hills. The mayor of the town is the miller Haldar. Kane uses his warlock magic to enter the tavern undetected, but then knocks over a tankard as he sits down at the wobbly table. No one seems to notice.

Meanwhile, Scir, Alar, and Cuts take the prisoner’s through town to the home of the ranger Garyth. Based on what the bandits said, the man is a stickler for the law. They find the man to be an aging but still capable ranger, and a skilled carpenter as well. His crippled leg doesn’t stop him from crafting, and his two hammerhead mastiffs help him keep an eye on things. He tells our heroes that he is indeed the constable, and takes custody of the prisoners. He’ll need a day or two to get a hearing in front of Sir Catharn, and tells Scir he’ll be needed to testify. The dragonborn agrees, and the group sets about wandering town, rejoining their companions and comparing notes. They want to have the chest and the longsword looked at, and the only mage in town turns out to be an apprentice named Jalenna. She is the miller’s daughter, and apprenticed to a wizard who lives downriver. The miller is a ruddy-faced, white-haired man of jovial disposition. He tells them Jalenna takes a room at the inn, and is betrothed to the younger son of the innkeeper. They proceed to the Baron of Mutton, only to learn that Jalenna has not been seen all day. While her room shows no sign of struggle, her bag of ritual components is under the bed.

After questioning everyone, they decide to visit the girl’s master in Samurth. They trade some manual labor on the docks for passage on a barge, finding themselves in Samurth the following evening. They stay in the only inn the small village has to offer, a flea-infested dive with awful food and watery ale. In fact, the only thing that makes the inn bearable is the trio of truly gorgeous tavern maids. The following day, they present themselves at the tower of the wizard Rathlaris. The find the man to be reclusive, diminutive, and quite old. Never the less, he is pleased to see them. Or more accurately, the chest Scir is carrying. He claims it is his, lost for three years now. Our heroes haggle with the man for a reward, and eventually turn over the chest for a pile of coin. With that settled, they question Rathlaris about Jalenna. It becomes obvious he dotes on the girl in a grandfatherly way, and is quite alarmed that she is missing. He offers them a reward to assist in looking for her, along with a letter of introduction to Kariper, a ranger who lives between Tilburne and Samurth.

As a last bit of haggling, our heroes trade the mysterious longsword to Rathlaris. They offer the blade and their services in searching for Jalenna, in return for minor enchantments for everyone in the group. The wizard agrees and bids them farewell.

The Search Commences
Our heroes set out to find the missing apprentice.

After meeting with Rathlaris, and unexpectedly delivering his lost chest of ritual components (thereby gaining a measure of his trust), our heroes proceeded to tell him Jalenna’s apparent disappearance. While reclusive and paranoid, the old wizard clearly has a soft spot for his youthful apprentice, and exhorts our heroes to take up the search for her in earnest. He offers them a small sum of gold to carry a letter to a ranger named Karipur. This ranger, he says, knows the Churnwash better than anyone. If Jalenna has been seen along the river, he will know. He further promises them a larger sum of gold if their action result in the young woman’s safe return. Scir haggled with the wizard as some length, asking that the man keep his gold and accept the old enchanted sword they’d found. Instead, the Dragonborn reasoned, the wizard could confer a minor enchantment on one item for each member of the group. At last, the wizard agreed.

Their business in Samurth concluded, our heroes bargained for a ride back up river. Moving against the mighty Churnwash is always harder, and their strong backs were most welcome to assist. As such, passage costs them nothing but some sweat and blisters. Upon reaching Karipur’s farm, they plunge into the shallows of the river, wading through icy waters to shore. The farm is large and well tended, equally divided between the raising of beasts and the tending of crops. Directed by farmhands, our heroes find Karipur near the main house, chopping firewood. After reading Rathlaris’ letter, he immediately sets about preparing to accompany teh adventurers. While they dry their gear, soaked by the river, beside his comfortable hearth, the ranger delegates the running of his farm to his foreman, and assembles a travel pack.

He does not have any news of young Jalenna, but surmises that she may have wandered into the Tanglewood along Dogtree Brook. She was often seen there, collecting herbs for her master, and could have gotten lost. The next morning, after a hearty breakfast in the bunkhouse, Karipur and our heroes set off. They take a skiff across the Churnwash and then begin hiking along the brook. Towards the evening, they abruptly come upon a gray wolf who does not take flight at seeing them. Karipur bids them hold and wait. Moments later, an Eladrin woman of feral appearance steps from the underbrush. Her hair is wild and unkempt, and her bare feet are dirty. The smells of earth, leaves, and wolves. Despite the clear fact that her only hygiene is bathing in streams, she is not unattractive. Karipur introduces our heroes to Arriane, a druid, and the source of local legends about a wild “wolf-woman”. She speaks only a little of the Common tongue, and mostly converses with Karipur in some Fey-touched gibberish none of the adventurers know (though it shares some similarities with Elven, at a root level).

Through the translation of Karipur, she tells our heroes that she has seen and heard nothing of Jalenna. However, she agrees that she and her wolves, two of whom are present, will join in searching for Jalenna if the adventurers will aid her in solving an immediate problem. It is revealed that she observed a young farm boy change into a bear the previous day. Obviously distraught and confused by the state of affairs, the young werebear had stumbled into the Thornwood. Arriane tried to approach and help, but the bear fled, perhaps in part because of the stories about a wolf-woman and her dangerous disposition. Arriane needs assistance in subduing the frightened werebear so she can teach him to resume his human form. After some discussion and debate, our heroes agree. The hour is by then late, and they all set to making camp.

A fire is built, bedrolls laid out, and watches assigned. As always, Cuts takes a hand in every watch. The construct needs no sleep. It is a matter of note, that Arriane treats the Warforged as a person, unlike everyone else they have encountered in Farandale thus far. It stands out only by its rarity. The druid eschews a bedroll, instead curling up into a pile with her two wolves to trance (traveling with Ezio, our heroes have learned that Eladrin do not actually sleep). Once or twice, Nithauk, who has been fascinated with the woman, gets too close, drawing a warning snarl from a wolf. Other than that, all is quiet. That is, until the middle of the night. Those on the middle watch are alerted when one of Arriane’s wolves begins to growl. Hearing a sound, Scir stands to investigate, only to be struck by arrows from the darkness.

The adventurers leap to arms, even as a mix of goblins rush into their clearing. The battle is fierce, and many of our heroes suffer injuries. In the end, however, they emerge victorious. Arriane and her wolves chase down those goblins who try and flee, so that none survive the fight. Alar begins committing the slain to the earth, as is his fashion, though eventually the druidess convinces them that the bodies can be left for the animals. The goblins’ possessions are searched, and some oddities noted. For one, all the goblins exude a scent of rotting fish, which is most strange. For another, their clan symbol is unknown to Karipur or Arriane, despite the two having a great deal of knowledge about Farandale’s wilderness.

The leader of their number carried a shield without the clan symbol, a splashed claw mark made with animal (one hopes) blood. The leader’s shield is not of goblin make at all, but instead an old dwarven style of shield, and of good quality. Also of note were swords carried by two of the stronger goblins. Made of a silvered alloy, and also of dwarven design, they appear to be crafted specifically to hunt lycanthropes. All of the goblins carried coin, and Nithauk notes that they coin is very different from any they have seen circulating in Farandale. Compared to the coin they were paid by Rathlaris, for example, these are of archaic design and extremely worn.

With the goblin threat eliminated, our heroes finish out the night without incident. Rising in the morning, they eat a light meal and prepare to track down the frightened werebear. Some of them still grumble that this is distracting them from finding Jalenna, while others ponder how many days the girl has now been missing. Four nights, five days, since she was discovered missing… suspicions of foul play are expressed with more certainty now, along with concerns about the girl’s welfare as the days creep by. As the mystery takes on new and ominous dimensions in their mind, they set out with Arriane. Hopefully, the werebear issue will be quickly solved.

Finances Thus Far
A quick audit of moneys spent and gained.

Session 1

On the bandits, the party found a total of 46 gold pieces, 48 silver pieces, a suit of good-quality leather armor (sized for a human male of strong built), and an ornate longsword.

The remaining goods were buried with the slain bandits on the edge of the Larchwood, including the weighted net, other poor quality armaments, and some assorted farming implements.

No funds were spent by any of the party members.

Session 2

The party was paid 200 gold pieces by Rathlaris as a reward for returning his lost chest of ritual components.

They were paid 20 gold pieces each by the wizard for carrying the letter to Karipur and participating in the search for Jalenna.

The party traded the ornate longsword found on the dead bandit Jorlanis to Rathlaris, along with any promise of a reward for the safe return of Jalenna, in return for the wizard’s promise to place an enchantment on one item for each party member.

Scir parted with a silver piece in Tilburne for two loaves of Pellara’s fine bread. Ezio paid 2 copper bits for an ale at The Silvered Crown. All the party members paid 5 silver pieces for food and lodging at the Hound and Foxtails in Samurth.

Session 3

The party spent no funds during the journey into the Tanglewood. They did find some coins on the goblins they fought and killed. A total of 20 gold coins, 190 silver coins, and 300 copper coins were scattered among the creatures. Additionally, they found an old (but very fine quality) light shield of dwarven make, along with a pair of long swords made of a silvered alloy.

Deeper into the Tanglewood
Our heroes brave the dangerous forest.

The following morning, camp is quickly broken, and our heroes set out once more. Accompanied by Karipur and Arianne, along with her two wolves, they follow the mixed tracks of bear and goblin. Around midday, they find their quarry in a clearing a little more than a bow-shot from the brook. The bear shows signs of recently healed injuries, and is gnawing at some recently slain goblins. The party rushes to surround the creature, attempting to subdue the bear. Cuts attacks first, seizing a fist full of hide in his unyielding grip. The rest of the party quickly falls in around their construct companions, throwing nets and striking with the flats of their swords.

It takes the better part of 30 seconds, but they manage to tire the bear out and subdue it. Even as they do, Mikal approaches and warns them of approaching goblins. Sure enough, a small hunting party comes moving stealthily through the forest. The party is prepared and makes short work of the attackers, killing half of them and routing the rest. One of the archers is captured and knocked unconscious. The party leaves the goblin with Mikal, who can speak the creature’s tongue. With innate glibness and bardic training, Mikal convinces the disoriented creature that he is an ally, and that the goblin should take him to its home. Despite the goblin’s obvious craftiness, the bard accompanies it and the two forge deeper into the Tanglewood.

Nithauk trails the duo stealthily, but the rest of the party is quickly left behind. The goblin, who introduces itself as Gariktuthek, leads Mikal deeper into the woods, to the point where every hundred yards of forward progress takes more than an hour of tracking back and forth to find a way ahead. The thorns and brambles are thick, and a couple times the goblin stops for no apparent reason. When pressed, he says only that some creatures in the deep forest require an entire hunting party to kill, such as the giant spiders. At length, the bard begins to realize he needs the party closer. It takes his very best persuasive skills, but he managed to convince Gariktuthek that he needs a rest and a fire for warmth. The smoky fire provides a beacon for Alar, who swiftly leads the party towards their companion.

As the adventurers approach, they make enough noise to alert Gariktuthek, and soon enough they are forced to subdue the goblin a second time. This time, Mikal drops the pretense of friendship and interrogates the goblin directly. Kane Raziel adds tremendously to intimidation of the creature by calling a spell that makes the fire roar to unnatural life. Under questioning, Mikal learns only a little more. The goblin seems to know something about Kane, either directly or indirectly. It also reveals something about “Dark Masters”. When pressed for more, the creature suddenly succumbs to massive psychic damage, dying in front of their eyes. At length, they surmise that the goblin was marked by some sort of ritual or curse to prevent it from revealing certain secrets.

With night falling fast, the group camps around the already crackling fire, staking out double watches in case the goblin was telling the truth about big nasty critters in the deep forest. During the night, Nithauk slips away quietly to scout something he saw the previous day. He finds a towering cliff which seems to mark the eastern-most end of the Thatchwork Hills. In the forest around the base of the cliff, he finds signs of some sort of humanoid he can’t definitively identify. Just tracks and fur, and beyond his knowledge. He also finds, as he climbs the granite face, signs of sentient avians called aarakocra. These reclusive and primitive peoples are rare indeed, and he vows tom come back at some point to try and find them. Satisfied with his find, he makes his way back to the rest of the party as they are breaking camp at last.

The group spent much of the morning debating their next move. Arianne is searching the Tanglewood, and is far better suited to that task than they are. She and her wolves move through the forest easily. Karipur is searching along the Churnwash for her, knowing that stretch of hills and farmland better than anyone in the region. They are left with the desire to help in the search for Jalenna, but with no clear idea where to go next. They decide to head back towards town, restocking and perhaps learning a bit more about the lands of Farandale. Consulting the map provided by Rathlaris, they estimate the farming town of Holtan is only a day and a half away. Setting out, they make it back to Dogtree Brook by nightfall.

The next day, the leave the Tanglewood behind, and trek across the low swells of the eastern Thatchwork Hills. Soon they are among the rich terraced farmland which provides Holtan its wealth, and by nightfall they can see the hamlet ahead. Rather than arrive at night, and cause a stir. They camp one more night, discussing what they have learned and seen this far. Kane is most distressed that he has been targeted by both human bandits and goblin hunters, as this were not his first sojourn into Farandale. Or indeed, anywhere beyond Arkandia. Mikal is puzzled over the cryptic and contradictory claims of the goblin. Nithauk is preoccupied by the cliff in the woods. They share a subdued meal and deliberate late into the night on their options. At dawn, they break camp and enjoy a peaceful hike into Holtan.

Return from the Wilderness
Our heroes head back into town and gather their bearings.

Holtan proves to be small and sleepy, without so much as a general store. Ezio and Cuts wander into the Patchwork Pitcher to learn what they can. Ezio spends a few copper coins and finds himself pleasantly surprise to be drinking the finest ale he’s tasted in Farandale. The tavern owner turns out to be Kymmerlie, a handsome half-elven woman of middle age. She proves to be friendly and open, but little help. Jalenna is barely known to her, other than the fact that her father is the miller in Tilburne. Nor has she heard any talk of kidnappings or fleeing young women. Despite the disappointing lack of information, Ezio enjoys the ale enough to buy a second tankard before he and Cuts rejoin the rest of the group.

It is decided that they need to head for Tilburne. The hamlet is simply too small for their provisioning needs. They are perhaps an hour along the road when they encounter an agitated group of farmers. Some are arguing, others muttering, and one is actually weeping. The farmers calm themselves somewhat as they notice the approaching adventurers, but are still clearly bothered by something. Ezio decides to ask after some details. The loudest of the group, and their erstwhile spokesman, proceeds to explain the reason for their distress. It seems that marshland on the banks of Cutter Brook is expanding and threatening the northwestern farms of Holtan. They call this marsh The New Mire, and are divided as to the cause of its recent manifestation. They know only that it was not present five years ago, and that is steadily growing.

Ezio asks a number of questions of the group, both about their problem and about the disappearance of Jalenna. The farmers know nothing of the girl, and most of them don’t even have any idea who she is. No one has seen any fleeing girls, or anyone who would be capable of kidnapping a girl. Some of the farmers do mutter about bandits, including some they say hide out under a bridge on Cutter Brook. The party recognizes these to be the bandits they killed or captured a couple weeks ago, but say nothing. As to the spreading marsh, the farmers cannot agree of the cause is natural or not. Some say it is a dark curse, while others argue that it is just extra melt-off from a couple harsh winters. The farmers also cannot agree on how to deal with it. Some are fatalistic, saying there is nothing to be done. Others insist that Sir Damien Catharn must intervene. The weeping half-elf Dendrickdoes not speak, but is loudly championed by the brash spokesman, Garren.

Ezio pledges to the farmers that they will investigate, and if possible, speak with Sir Catharn about the problem. Somewhat mollified, the farmers return to their work. Our heroes cut across farms, heading west until they find Cutter Brook. They walk along it, all the way to the bridge, without seeing any sign of obstruction. The water is running clear and fast, making is seem unlikely there is any significant obstruction up river. Never the less, there is some discussion of following the brook back to its source at some later date. Along the way, Ezio’s sharp eye finds him a handful of small gems, six in all. He pockets them, having noted that children and fishermen from Holtan have been collecting them, and that he has seen the wealthier citizens of the Dale wearing jewelry made with the pretty stones. Once they reach the road, the party makes swift progress back to Tilburne, reaching the town by nightfall.

No sooner do our heroes enter the Baron of Mutton when they are accosted by a desperately hopeful Randen, seeking news of his missing fiance. After a couple fumbled attempts by Ezio to explain things, Cuts intervenes and reassures the youth that the search continues, with some of the best trackers and woodsmen in Farandale hard at work on finding the girl. Crestfallen, but grateful, Randen waits on the party’s table. His reaction to Cuts changes dramatically, and he no longer ignores the Warforged, instead treating him like a person. His behavior is still awkward, as if he can’t figure out the proper decorum. He tends to speak slowly, and in an over-loud voice, as if addressing a simpleton or a child. Nor can he seem to grasp that Cuts neither drinks or eats. Never the less, it is a marked improvement over the way most people react, or rather, do not react to Cuts.

During dinner, the constable Garyth limps up to their table, and they fill him in on what they know. He informs them that Sir Damien Catharn has agreed to a trial date, and that Scir needs to stay in town so the Dragonborn can testify against the two bandits. When the retired ranger hears that they are unsure where to search next, he mentions a couple northern locations the girl might have gone. Splitrock Dale is home to many plants that cannot be found anywhere else in the region, and Heldast Wood has some useful herbs at its periphery. Garyth tells them Karipur is the most knowledgeable about those locations, and that they should consult the younger ranger before heading north. He also tells them of another ranger they might enlist aid from. He gives them a note, sealed in a leather scroll tube, and tells them they can search for Zasheera near Eelrock Lake. The woman has a way with birds, and might be able to offer them yet another perspective for their search.

The following day, everyone but Scir takes passage on a barge headed down river, making the journey to Karipur’s Farm swiftly. Over a pleasant lunch with Karipur and his farmhands, our heroes discuss the plan to search northward. Karipur agrees with Garyth’s idea about seeking out Zasheera, and figuratively kicks himself for not thinking of it. He fills them in on the various hazards of Splitrock Dale and the Heldast Wood, and agrees to accompany them if they can wait until his crops are planted in a few weeks. As to the matter of the marshland near Holtan, he has no insight. However, he promises that if the situation is still worsening after the harvest, he’ll then have time to look into it. Satisfied with their meeting, the party sets out overland, bound for Tilburne. Their hope is to attain an audience with Sir Catharn after the trial, warned by Garyth that it can be difficult most of the time to arrange such a meeting.

On their way back to town, hiking over the rolling hill and through the occasional copse of trees, they notice movement shadowing them on the south side of the river. The river is too wide, deep, and swift to make crossing feasible, but someone or something is definitely keeping pace with them while staying hidden by the northern edge of the Tanglewood. Ezio and Nithauk wait until the party is passing through a stand of alder, and then break off from the group. Creeping down to the bank of the Churnwash and hiding in the reeds, the pair watches for their would-be pursuers. In due course, their stealth and observation are rewarded. A small group of brigands, skilled and disciplined, are clearly scouting the movements of the party. This game of hiding and watching continues all the way along the river, to the western edge of the Tanglewood. At that point, the bandits slip away into the forest.

Back in Tilburne, the group splits up to acquaint themselves with the town. Ezio goes to the temple, where he finds Randen making a small donation and lighting a candle for the safe return of his fiance. He also encounters the temple precept, a young cleric named Hesein. After filling the priest in on the disappearance of the girl, Ezio inquires after the availability of a ritual scroll or two. He and Hesein haggle back and forth, until a suitable donation to the temple is agreed on. Ezio takes the scroll for the ritual and stashes it in his pack. His coin purse is all but empty, but the scroll will come in very handy. He then heads back to the inn to take supper and find a bed for the night.

Nithauk and Cuts wander down to the docks, where the Goliath strikes up a conversation with the woman who keeps them. Carella ends up agreeing to show him some tricks of the rope-making craft in return for stories. She is highly curious about Nithauk and his companions, since everyone knows only untamed wilderness lies west of Farandale. Thus, she wants to know where they come from and how they came to be here. There does not seem to be malice or rancor in her interest, and Nithauk agrees to her trade. Cuts, having no interest in either their conversation or the ale they drink during it, wanders off to the woodworking shop of Garyth. He finds the retired ranger smoking a pipe on his porch, and tries to engage the man in conversation. It is a long and frustrating process to impress on the man that there is value in talking with Cuts. In the end, however, the Warforged secures permission to take rejected pieces of lumber and old tools from behind the man’s shop.

The next challenge for Cuts involves getting some nail. Buying an ale for the blacksmith is challenging, and very nearly results in an altercation as Barret first ignores Cuts, and then tries to cheat him. The younger man, Randen, intervenes and smooths over the dispute before it can erupt. With ale in hand, Cuts then seeks out the blacksmith at his table near the crackling hearth. Welvrith is more than happy to supply nails to Cuts, though he first manages to drink a number of ales on the construct’s coin. He also asks many questions about Cuts’ origins, most of which the Warforged does not know the answers to. At last, he helps the now inebriated blacksmith to his smithy to get some nails, and then to his house to sleep it off. Cuts spends the rest of the night working on the unfinished bridge, much to the consternation of the town guards.

Mikal, in a fit of predictability, heads straight to the only establishment of questionable repute in the town. The Silvered Crown is full up with raucous drunken miners and boatmen, not to mention some even more shady characters. As usual, the old dwarf is alone in his corner. The mood in the tavern is rowdy, but there is underlying tension in the air. A pair of hapless bandits stand trial the next day, and it is possible they have more than a few sympathizers among the rough and tumble crowd. And probably a few who are unsympathetic to their plight as well. The room is primed for a drunken brawl. Nithauk, slipping into the tavern behind Mikal, moves his bulk through the crowd with characteristic (if improbable) stealth. Mikal takes the opposite approach, barging directly into the most high profile game in the place.

Kravv, as the game is officially known, is very old, and variations are played all over the kingdom. Mikal quickly discerns the rules and buys into the next round. He then proceeds to play in the most ridiculous and madcap fashion possible, throwing the shuriken over his shoulder and with his eyes closed. It does not prove to be lucrative, and the bard finds himself quite a bit poorer by the end of the evening. His antics do, however, disarm the tension of the crowd and lighten the mood in the tavern. In fact, within a half hour, Mikal is the toast of the room, and the center of much good-natured attention. The only exception is a trio of scowling men who keep whispering to one another conspiratorially. Nithauk decides that one of the men, the one obviously nursing some sort of injury to his chest, even looks a little familiar. Maybe. He slips up to Mikal and suggests that the bard should stay on a cot at the tavern when it closes.

With that handled, the rogue then tails the men into the night, watching them take up positions clearly meant to enable an ambush of Mikal. Nithauk disrupts their plans handily. A hurled coin draws the attention of the would-be assailants, as well as setting many of the town’s dogs to barking. Perfect cover for a surprise attack. By the time the bandit realizes the danger, there is a blade pressing against his back, and a big (big) hand around his throat. It takes almost no effort to get the man talking, and Nithauk learns their plan. Kidnap Mikal, and then force the foreign adventurers to make a trade. Give up the spell caster… who is obviously not well liked in any case… for the bard, who is obviously the more desirable companion (at least in the bandits’ estimation). All this, the man claims, is to finish the plan Jorlanis brought to them. To capture the spell caster and turn him over to some vague authority figure for the reward. The man is clearly sketchy on the details, and perhaps not too bright. Nithauk is able to glean that man and his cohorts figured to meet this mysterious authority figure “over by the Tanglewood” where the forest “runs up to the Churnwash”. Nithauk knows this to be in the vicinity of the Kyrnin Farm.

He takes a sap to the man’s head, leaving him trussed up in the shadows. The next bandit is not interrogated, merely struck unconscious where he hides, and tied up as well. The last bandit is spooked and tries to flee, only to be set upon by a half dozen dogs and two city guards. Nithauk calmly reveals himself to the guards and offers a benign smile. The fleeing bandit is the problem… he’s just a man on his way to his bed. The guards hesitate only seconds before dismissing the Goliath and focusing on the bandit. Come morning, all three men find themselves in jail beside their two comrades, ensuring that Sir Damien Catharn will have a full afternoon with the trial.

The following day, the group goes to the Silvered Crown to speak with Old Grizz. They show the dwarf the two silvered long swords and the small shield. The swords he identifies as being dwarven made, as they suspected. The process of alloying the silver and steel is tricky, and few know how to make them anymore. He tells them they are left over from something called the Shifter Wars. The shield he hesitates over, but eventually claims not to know of it. He can confirm that it is of the finest craftsmanship, and made by dwarven hands. The style is archaic, and the shield is likely more than a century old. But, if he knows anymore, he does not reveal it.

Once More The Adventurer
Our heroes venture back into the wilderness in search of clues.

The trial proves to be fairly straight forward. Content Not Found: pc-scir is called to testify that the accused did, in fact, attack him and his companions on the road. The charges are simplistic, making no distinction between intent to rob, kill, or kidnap. Simply a single accusation of banditry against each man. There is carefully no mention that three of the accused were actually captured two weeks later in Tilburne itself. As no one was killed in the alleged act of banditry, the sentence is hard labor rather than death. The duration of the sentence draws some murmurs, as ten years seems high to the townsfolk. And there are those who mutter about a conflict of interest, since the man passing the sentence down owns the iron mines the men are sentenced to serve their sentence in. Nothing comes of the muttering, but it is noted by more than one of our heroes.

After securing an audience with Sir Damien Catharn, our heroes amuse themselves for the afternoon at various pursuits. Some accept the invitation to take libations at the Exchange, and make the acquaintance of the exotic Tashmia, owner and proprietress of the high-brow establishment. Others make their way back to the cheaper swill and rougher company of The Silvered Crown. Thus they pass the day and night, and arrive the following morning at Catharn Manor for their audience with Sir Damien. He proves to be as aloof a host as is a governor. His table is plentiful, but not sumptuous. They could get almost the same variety, if perhaps less quantity, at a table in the Baron of Mutton. There are a few delicacies, obviously brought over from the Exchange, but for the most part it is a utilitarian feast. Over breakfast, the knight fields their various questions and asks a few of his own.

The main item of interest is the disappearance of Jalenna, which the knight is unaware of. His concern is pedestrian level at best, as he shrugs it off in his typical aloof manner. A problem, he seems to feel, best left to his appointed constable; and most likely a straightforward case of a young girl falling afoul of bandits. One area their interests and his seem to overlap strongly is the situation with the new marshland forming along Cutter Brook, near Holtan. This present a very real threat to the wealth and self-sufficiency of land he is responsible for. Another area of overlapping interest centers around the forged arrest warrant our heroes took from the slain bandit Jorlanis. The knight informs them that the forged document has already been sent, along with a report of the matter, to his liege, Lord Sandrioc Farthane.

Eventually, Sir Damien offers our heroes a tidy sum of 50 GP each to investigate the affair of The New Mire. If they succeed in actually solving the mystery, he promises them an additional sum of 1,000 gold. Both the up-front fee and the additional reward come in the form of Letters of Marque against the knight’s account in the Exchange. He gives them two weeks to investigate the new marshland. The knight also writes them a writ of introduction to his liege, should they wish to present themselves before Lord Farthane. As the region was originally tamed by adventurers at the behest of the original scion of the Farthane family, Sir Damien is confident they will be well-received. After taking their leave of the knight, they spend some time equipping themselves at the Exchange and about town. In the course of this, Nithauk makes the acquaintance of the eccentric Falstirn at the dry-goods store, and receives some odd advice.

The following day, they set out for Holtan, and beyond that to Cutter Brook. Their wanderings lead them ever higher into the Thatchwork Hills. All along the way, they note that the brook is running clear and fast. There is no sign of obstruction or excess sediment, no indication that there is any blockage. Eventually they reach the very headwaters of the brook, a cluster of small springs. Clearly there is water in the hills, bubbling up here to flow towards the Churnwash, but still no indication of why the brook is slowly seeping through its banks to soak the land. While investigating the springs, they catch site of a goblin with blue skin. It vanishes when they rush towards it, but they eventually manage to find a cave where its tracks disappear inside. Excited, they break out a sunrod and enter.

The tunnel is low, forcing the tallest of them to duck often. At its widest, they can fit two abreast, and they never have to squeeze through any narrow areas when single file. The tunnel forks, and here the troubles begin, though they do not realize it. Mikal Slips away from them, as he seems wont to do. They proceed along the left-most passage, while the bard creeps away in the dark. With their light, they eventually find a cavern and venture in. Here, even Nithauk can stand easily. It is a tense moment of surprise when Ezio comes face-to-face with a goblin whose skin is died blue from head to toe. It has rags for clothing, and a crude short sword. The priest brandishes his holy symbol and prepares for battle. At that moment, Content Not Found: pc-scir roars, his draconic heritage lending a fearsome timbre to the sound. The goblin promptly surrenders to Ezio by dropping its blade and raising its hands above its head. Moments later, five more emerge from the dark to do the same.

Mikal moves through the darkness by feel along, following his instincts. He passes first one fork and then another, always sticking to the largest tunnel. Eventually he sees light and smells smoke. Sneaking ever closer, he find himself approaching a larger cavern. In the center of it, a fire throws dancing shadows about and reveals the cavern’s occupants. An older goblin male sits on a few crude skins. To the creature’s right, an old crone wearing the trappings of a shaman sits on a smaller collection of furs and skins. Like the elder male’s seating adornment, these are crude. To the opposite side, a couple of younger females are seated on some crude furs. Four healthy young males stand in attendance, leaning on their spears and listening to the elder goblin. They seem to be debating what exactly they should do about the mysterious roar they heard earlier. Mikal, in his typical gambler’s fashion, steps into the light and addresses them in goblin.

“I am your god.”

A Dungeon Master's Aside (OOC)
Communication and teamwork, or failure and death

Not every encounter in the game should be solved with combat, and for seeking alternate methods I applaud you all. On the other hand, not every foe can be bluffed, tricked, or intimidated. Sometimes, you will have to avoid an encounter with stealth, or fight it out. More importantly, the number of situations that can be solved with the ingenuity of a single player, or the abilities of a single character, is rapidly diminishing. This is not a solo campaign, not even one which is very forgiving to excess solo endeavor within the larger picture. Work together, in and out of character, or we will see PC deaths sooner rather than later.

In almost every encounter you could have faced besides these specific goblinoids, Mikal’s antics would have ended in his death almost immediately, and could have severely compromised the rest of the party as well. In some other scenarios, the same has been true of Kane’s aggressive outbursts. To a lesser extent, Nithauk’s sudden ‘looming’ falls into this category in certain settings. Make sure you are not stepping on each others’ toes just for the hell of it. It is by working together and communicating effectively that you accomplished a task which kills 19 in 20 who try it. You cross the Anthalp Vast. Had you acted in the Vast the way you have acted in this current encounter, you would all be dead. Period.

I don’t wish to curtail the fun and creativity. As a DM, I thrive on players doing the unexpected, and finding ingenious uses for their character’s skills/powers/possessions. If these unexpected exploits happen in keeping with the character, so much the better. However, there are story lines and plot arcs afoot. There are encounters that will probably happen, and NPCs you will most likely meet, which will not share your DM’s amusement. They will be out to hinder/swindle/kill you. I might be laughing with you, but they are not, and ultimately I have no side but that of the story line.

Please try to find ways for your individual enjoyment of the game, and your character, to facilitate the group’s enjoyment and success.

Thank you,


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