The Mistmarches

Done with Therynwald
Through Winter at Camp Belgrey

Indeed, the Dr’Gahr were telling the truth: there was a great lizard in the cavern below – a horse-size black dragon, which attacked from the waters of the underground lake and almost melted both Korrigan and, even more so, Ti’ un Ril before the team, working in tight coordination, was able to bring the thing down. Sarick’s aggressive move – jumping on to the thing’s back, distracted it enough for Ti and Korrigan to jump into the water and get up against it, landing blows while Sarick went to town on its back with his sword, severing its spine and coating himself in dragon blood and innards.

The drake, although young, had a respectable treasure horde, totally over 6400SP, 1400+GP, some gems, a few potions, and an enchanted shield. The most impressive item from the heap was a massive greataxe, with a blade on one side and hammer block opposite it, bearing the Oornothi forge mark. This weapon, Genji determined, held two layers of enhancing magic, and something else he could not discern – some other magic, deep within it, that he could not understand. Later, with more study, perhaps. Regardless, it was a formidable weapon, and Ti’un claimed it.

The team decided that heading back to Camp Belgrey, per their orders, was the best thing to do, even with their growing misgivings over the hunch that the camp’s leaders were crooked and were skimming off the top of treasure hauls and were falsifying records to enrich themselves. They did decide to hide some of the gold they’d found – about 1300 coin – a few days away from the camp, and to not claim some of the items they’d found as recovered loot. This, along with a detailed accounting of the coin and gems, was intended to help them determine, upon their return, if someone really was involved in double-booking and skimming.

Treated like heroes and celebrities at the camp, they spent a few weeks on light duty, as was normal after a long mission and through that time were able to conclusively determine that indeed, there was skimming of treasure and creative bookkeeping that involved selling some Scout supplies to shady merchants for small profit. Additionally, Sarick, who’d gotten in contact with his merchant father, got wind of loose borders and trade highways, with some movement of wagons and small caravans into and out of the realm – movement that should have been more closely regulated and watched, and wasn’t being. All of this activity was taking place in the northwest zone – the large area Camp Belgrey was supposed to be handling.

Genji was kind enough to have four fine, stout necklaces made for each of the team, each with a single dragon tooth and a small black scale. The cured and mounted dragon head, about the size of the head of a large horse, was hung in the mess hall at the camp, and became a focal point of conversation and wonder – no one, after all, had slain a dragon in the realm in living memory.

About a month after returning, the team, along with another Scout team and a group of Oornothi, returned to the hold to clear it out completely and formally hand it over to the dwarves. The four heroes were formally recognized by the dwarves and presented with shoulder cords and broaches identifying them as friends of the clan. Additionally, they were extended permanent sanctuary at the hold – “stop by whenever you’d like.”

Genji is promoted to Senior Scout, Ti’Un and Korrigan to Scout First Class, and Sarick to Scout Second Class.

Finally, after about three months of deep, cold winter, the team was given a few weeks of leave, and they set off together to Burmovton to meet with Sarick’s father, as part of a secret plan to bring evidence of the ongoing corruption at the Camp to a responsible and honest customs investigator with whom the elder Onserrat was familiar.

We will begin the next session with the team arriving in Burmovton to meet Sarick’s father to talk about the situation at Camp Belgrey. Winter – the worst of it – lasted about four months, during which the team stayed close to the Camp, aside from the trip back to the hold. They would have done various duty jobs, trained new recruits, gone on short patrols, and the like. Operations sow down a lot in winter. Let me know, here, what other things you might do during those months.

Clearing the Forge

Session Summary

Relying on Korrigan’s expert trap-finding, the party made it past the octagonal statuary and into a throne room of some sort, smashed and defaced long ago. The team found evidence of, perhaps, another adventuring party’s camp, and were sternly warned off by a disembodied voice from within the orange-lit chamber. Not taking any of that crap, Ti’ un Ril bolted down one side of the chamber while the other three fanned out into the room, to be met with javelins and sword strikes from heretofore invisible attackers – dark-skinned dwarves who suddenly grew to massive size as they attacked. Despite their enemies’ magic and the element of surprise, the tactical acumen of the Scouts enabled them to quickly overcome the dark dwarves, even as a few reinforcements arrived.

After the short, violent melee, Korrigan explored four of the five exits from the room and found at three of them barricades on his side and, from the other side, unnerving singing and moaning. From the fifth he discovered a secret door, through which the team eventually went, and found themselves in a great forge room, with six large, cylindrical forges, of which only one was lit, and around which three dark dwarves labored. Once they realized they’d been discovered, the dwarves suddenly disappeared – their forms twisting out of sight in an instant.

Relying on intimidation and the heads of the slain dwarves, Sarick and the others sought to draw out the three smiths, and eventually did so after a short fight in which two were subdued and one was sent into the fast-moving stream that flowed into another chamber.

After overcoming something of a language barrier, the team learned that the dark dwarves – self-identified as “dur’GAHR” – were interested in using the last remaining functioning forge, and little else. They’d placated the ‘dark scale’ in the cavern below with dead sleestaks and orcoids, and otherwise had worked at the forge – they traded information for their release, and seemingly headed off as they said they would.

The party decided to eat what was left of their food, supplemented by rations left by the dead dark dwarves, and after a rest delve into the deepest cavern, where the ‘dark scale’ was supposedly hidden, among emanations of magic that Genji identified during his very brief recon of the cavern below.

The four implements on the rack and shelves next to the forge are, after being ID’d by Genji..

  • Javelin +1, returning
  • Shield +1, resistance to bludgeoning damage (half)
  • Bracers of Defense, +2 AC if wearing no armor at all
  • Battleaxe, +1 giant slayer
Entry Level - Clear!
Therynwald begins to give up its secrets

Session Summary
The price was quantifiable: one ogre-like creature, two dire wolves, and 25 orcish brutes of various types, all dead. Relying on their skill, some surprise, and the sometime-stupidity of the defenders of the hold, the Scouts had defeated the residents over a period of two days and two separate forays into the site. The site was certainly Therynwald, as evidenced by carvings and sigils here and there that matched sketches they’d been provided. From what they’d heard, there were probably a few additional levels beyond – that is, either above or below – this one. A few things were clearly missing from the chambers included nicer living areas for the Oornothi craftsman, work spaces for them, and the forge itself. These were somewhere – maybe somewhere around or beyond the source of rushing water, or that odd buzzing heard from below in the large chamber that surrounded the cavernous stairs downward.

All told, the team had recovered in Oornothi coin, 1600sp, 650gp, a large topaz, two onyx gems, a fine, albeit tarnished strongbox, a Wand of Fireballs (4x left), Potion of Climbing, and a once-magicked Oornothi short sword (that is, with a blade slightly concave on the inner side and carved with dwarven symbols).

After walking the chambers of this first level, it seems pretty clear that this was the workspace of the guards and cargo handlers who’d have worked at the hold, and would have interacted with outsiders who brought goods for sale or, more likely, were there to pick up orders. The remains of a tracked lift system was found built into the ceiling of the room with the rope bridge, attached just out of reach and practically asking for a team of skilled engineers to rebuild it. This must have, based on what the old dwarf had described, been where merchants would meet and haggle with the dwarves, and take delivery of the products of the forge.

The cleanest area, with the freshest air, is in that chamber with the rope bridge. Water, probably 70 or 80 feet below, moves swiftly in an underground river, keeping the air moving and refreshed with clean water mist. The two great doors that lead into the hold are a combination of heavy northern oak and metal bands, and can be locked, barred, and blocked from within. All those mechanisms are in place, and do not require keys – they’re controlled by levers, a wheels, and swinging support beams, although the lattermost of those is pretty rusted and moves only with great effort.

There is some game to be had outside in the valley, as no edible food can be found among the monsters’ wares. And what do you do with the bodies?

Moving Forward
Please decide what you’ll do next, as a group, and post it as comments. Staying vs. going make for very different planning work for me over this week. And remember, you are all 5th level now.

Into the Hold at Therynwald
...with new residents in need of eviction

Session Summary
After getting information about the site and surrounding area from the old dwarf, the team headed off to the northwest, helping a stranded family on the way, and encountering but avoiding a scout or foraging party of unknown monstrous humanoids in the dense woods not far from the target area.
Upon arriving in the valley their maps directed them to, the spire of the Stone Tooth was clear to see, along with a thin wisp of smoke rising from the area where a chimney could supposedly be found. The group explored some of the area around the base of the hill then proceeded to find and partially plug the mouth of the chimney hole, hoping to smoke the residents of the hold out.

Moving around to the front door, the party saw two blusih-green humanoids, roughly man-sized but wider and bulkier, standing guard. They were of a race unknown and speaking a guttural language only understandable through the use of magic.
Genji attempted to talk with the locals before Sarick decided that violence was probably the most efficient approach. The guards, assisted by archers hidden behind arrow slits, fought hard, and more creatures from within the hold, fought back and beat up on Genji pretty well. The party was able to prevent the defenders from shutting the massive doors, and killed about 12 of the creatures in three separate, but connected areas. Eventually feeling winded and concerned about getting too deep into the hold in such a state, the group barred a secret door they found that led into a barracks room, and retreated from the hold to a hidden camp around the other side of the Stone Tooth, to rest for the remainder of the day, to head back in the next morning.

Moving Forward
You establish a well-hidden campsite for the night, and in fact could leave your horses there on the next day when you make your next foray into the hold. You do not know if the scouting/foraging party you encountered a few days ago is still outside or returned before your arrival. Later at night, well after sunset and under a clear, cold early winter night sky, you all hear sounds to the south of grunting and clanking and digging, as if some number of the creatures had come outside and were up to something, but not moving in your direction.

After the break of dawn and cold rations, Korrigan scouts the area around where the sounds came from and finds that the plug you’d created in the chimney has been removed, dug out by a work crew the night before. He approaches the area stealthily, and sees evidence that a rear guard has been left around the hole, consisting of five of the creatures, who not only cleared the plug but also built for themselves something of a breastwork surrounding the hole, behind which they are partially concealed. They are watchful and ready for a fight, eager to keep their home from being filled with smoke again.

It’s a cold, crisp morning, with clouds of white breath hanging around your heads as you breathe and speak. Between rations and foraging during this mission, you have each 4 days of rations left on your horses, along with the same for the animals, as you’ve been trying to forage more than eat your stores (perhaps that’s why you all get gut-sick – maybe it was something you found along the way that wasn’t fresh?). There are enough streams around here to replenish your waterskins, and in fact to your east and down the hill some way you can hear the rushing of water – loud, too, now that you’re around the hill some. Remember that the front door is at about 6 o’clock, the chimney at about 4, and you made your camp at about 2. The rushing sound is downhill, out of sight, at about 3. In the valley below, maybe a half mile away, you can see a stream meandering away from the Stone Tooth, toward the south.

Forgot to Mention This
When Korrigan returns from his morning scouting mission he also reports that he found what looks like a cave, downhill and a little south of your camp, which is mostly covered with brush, but looks to be an active point of access, with some claw-footed tracks around the area. The beasties you fought the day before wore rough leather wraps and some boots.

Mission Briefing
It Could be Therynwald

At the end of over month of a combination of downtime, general training, and refitting, the team is gathered in the common room of the command building, where mission briefings are held. Belkar Ahtur, camp commander, is there along with his chief of staff, who normally handles briefings. That the commander is there seems a bit odd, but given the reason behind this is quickly made clear.

Ferryn Torth, an Oornothi dwarf, is present, as well – an old dwarf none of you have ever seen before. He’s a grizzled old sort, and introduced as a former smith and merchant caravan worker, in his younger years.

“A few weeks ago, Mermyon’s team came across some material evidence that leads us to think that a dwarven hold may be within reach, and it could be Therynwald,” the commander begins after formal introductions and some other formalities are taken care of.

“If you’re not familiar with Oornothi history, they were brought into the Kingdom almost a century ago, about a decade after the Storm began. Their people were never very numerous, and spread out among far-flung holds and towns, and they were hit hard by migrations of monstrous populations from the north and west. The histories are pretty fragmented, given how quickly things happened in some places, but the simple story is that the extended clans that are now part of the Mistmarches lived mostly in what was the southeastern reaches of their lands – their distant frontier,” he continues, looking to the dwarf perhaps for confirmation. The old man nods grimly at the tale.

“There are only two holds still in their possession from before they joined with the Mistmarches, and rumors have existed for years about the possibility of others ‘out there,’ ready to be found and reclaimed. The materials – some marked tools, some other implements, as well as landforms make us pretty confident that Therynwald, a hold maintained by the family of a particularly well-known smith, is within reach.

“Torth,” he says, gesturing toward the dwarf, “visited the hold a few times in his youth and when word reached his community about this, he came here to offer whatever assistance he could, in the way of information.”

Torth clears his throat and explains some of the basic layout of the subterranean hold and the two entrances to the place – one the front door, the other a less-known entry through a tunnel. He admits that he’d only been in the first entry rooms, and has no more knowledge of the layout of the rest of the place, but he does offer suggestions and ideas about “things Oornothi” that might help in delving the place.

One he’s finished, the commander hands the briefing over to his chief of staff, who uses a map to show where the area is – northwest, which is well west of where you just were – and the route your team will take to get there. The team’s mission is to get there, determine if the hold is actually there, and if so if it is actually Therynwald. If possible, they are to explore it and determine its current state. The mission is set to last over 2 weeks – 6 days out, a few days for exploration, and 6 days back.

Other details of the mission are discussed, and the floor is opened for questions.

One more thing is announced, too: promotions. Everyone but Sarick is promoted to Scout 2nd class from 3rd class. Sarick’s disciplinary action has held him back. Additionally, Genji is given operational command of this next mission, despite him being the same rank as everyone else. Due to casualties and other issues, there are no additional senior scouts to assign to the team. It’ll be just the four of you. Remember that the Scouts are not a military organization, but someone’s got to be responsible for making the call. Command arrangements like this rotate.

Note: Oornothi dwarves, and dwarves in general, are not as long-lived as in the standard 5e world, reaching adulthood in their 20s and lasting well past 100, typically retiring around 130-150, and dying before 200. Torth is probably just about at retirement age.

Other dwarves are eager to take part in reclaiming the hold if it’s the real deal. If it is, and there are things of value there, they will be claimed by the Scout service and the government will figure out what goes to the dwarves and what doesn’t. This will take into account the standard finder’s share that is set aside for the Scouts themselves.

Escaping from 'Home'
and finally sleeping in a comfortable, clean bed

Session Summary
The team learned a lot while stealthily escaping the great forest. First, the girl sees herself as an outcast now and, when presented with the great inconsistencies of what she believed versus what she saw behind the wall, she is willing enough to work with them for mutual benefit. It seems that each extended family group is ruled by or somehow answerable to a mated pair of snake people, who periodically bestow ‘gifts’ and offer the most fervent and favored followers the chance to ‘ascend,’ although it’s not clear what either of those mean other than a person goes behind the wall and might or might not come back. Some of those who receive ‘gifts,’ she says, do return; others do not. She does not understand.

The team was able to make good their escape, despite being noticed and pursued by some of the locals, and were also able to evade any Beast Men that were lurking in the jungle. Dragging theirselves home in sorry, haggard shape, they reported what they’d found to their camp commander, were fed, and went to sleep. On the next day, after a good breakfast and baths and getting on some clean, more comfortable clothes, they spent hours providing detailed reports of everything they saw and did, with Ti’ un Ril’s maps and notes providing key information and facts.

Ahtur, the camp commander, informed them at day’s end that they’d all have a week’s local leave – which means that they’d be able to have the next 7 days off, barring emergencies, and requiring that they stay in the local area. This is received as a welcome relief, as it will give everyone time to recover from what was a very taxing 8-day mission. At the end of that week, the team serves on garrison duty for about a month, training, instructing others in turn, and briefing several high-ranking Scout and Army personnel who come by the camp for that purpose. No one is taking their information or news lightly.

Thus, it is about 6 weeks between the end of this first mission and the beginning of the next, meaning that it is winter when the team is preparing to depart for their next patrol, which will be described in a separate post.

What do you think would happen to the girl? She’d be treated well and would be interviewed, too, but what do you think she’d do or would be done with her?

Moving Forward
In addition to benefits gained from reaching 4th level, during the time off everyone can choose one downtime activity to pursue, from the list below.

  1. Heal Corruption – DC13 WIS to remove 2 Shadow points. Roll this at the table next time we meet. This reflects spending time relaxing, training, and getting back to yourself by focusing on the things you value and the good you seek to do.
  2. Meet Patron – what with all the brass you’re talking to about your mission, one of you might impress someone influential person and earn an ally. If you choose this you and I will flesh it out, and this person will become helpful down the road.
  3. Research Lore – DC15 Knowledge (Something) roll to investigate something of interest and value, with a successful roll earning you three questions answered about it from me. If you an idea of something that you’d like to see happening in the world or story, this could be an opportunity to insert it into the game.

Go ahead and choose which of those you want and state as much in the Comments on this post so everyone can see it. I’ll write another post that will serve as your pre-mission brief for the next session.

Behind the Palisade and in the Dark
"I think we pissed them off, Genji..."

Session Summary
The negotiations went well until the locals wanted to “ordain” the proceedings, presumably by getting the blessings or involvement of their overlords or gods or whatever these snake folks are to them. Or are. Hard to tell. A few things are very clear, however: the cloth they spin is as strong as leather, and even stronger against slashing weapons, although as light and flexible as simple cloth. Their beadwork is very attractive, and might fetch a good price. They seem enamored with snakes, and are perhaps even in thrall to or somehow answerable to them. Are they charmed? Influenced? Willing servants of them? It’s hard to tell, but the snake was certainly interested in having Genji join it in the dark behind the wall, and equally disinterested in having the others, who were not interested in its overtures, come along.

The locals, including Sh’Rylye certainly fell in line with the thing’s order to kill the party, and although they were serious about their attempts there was not blood lust in their eyes or extreme zeal in their efforts. Maybe when she wakes up you can get some information out of her, or maybe she’ll flip out and scream bloody murder.

The snake man was tough, and all of you realize that if you’d not concentrated your blows on him right away he might have done a lot more damage. The snake that came out and turned into the woman had different powers, but dropped after lesser blows – maybe she’s a different type of snake person. Either way, none of you have ever heard of snake people or shape changers like this, or a group of people worshipping snakes or snake people. This awfulness is all new.

As we established, the session ended with the camera pulling away from your group of five: two conscious, two coming around, and the girl, tied up, starting to wake up, too. The darkness is some 40 or 50 feet away, but beyond that it’s thick, with twisted vines and trunks and roots coming together to form a twisted wall with but a few darker tunnels as means of egress.

Moving Forward
The girl wakes up and within moments she starts to struggle, fear and anger in her eyes. I assume that you’ve gagged her, and so she can only offer grunts and some muffled cries as she thrashes pathetically for a few moments before accepting that she’s stuck.

The dark woods offer sounds: bugs, maybe birds, and evidence of movement…slithering? Crawling? You can’t tell, but the woods are alive beyond where you can see, and you all have the unsettling feeling that eyes are upon you.

Among the Trees
Perhaps new friends? Friends with interesting habits?

Session Summary
The team made a daring escape, not without sustaining some scrapes and worse injuries, from 20+ Beast Men who came upon them as they were leaving the ceremonial area. Sh’Rylye was just as eager to escape, and led them northward, through dense, treacherous jungle and to a swift, deep river. Crossing the river seemed to reduce the threat of pursuit, and within a few hours of moving at a good pace through increasingly more open jungle, they reached the massive trees they’d though were mountains, and found a town built up and within the gargantuan roots, many feet above the ground.

Making some headway to bridge the language gap, the team was invited to a celebratory dinner in which they were thanked and honored for bringing back the girl, whose station was still unknown at this point. The ritual consumption of a well-prepared Beast Man was a shock to the Scouts, although all but Ti’ un Ril opted to eat at least some of the meat, served alongside a bounty of other exotic foods.

Given a secluded, open-air platform on which to sleep, the team decided to trust their hosts and relax as best they could.

Moving Forward
All four Scouts wake around the same time, in dim light and to the sounds of what perhaps passes for a normal morning in this new place: conversations echo off the massive trees trunks; there is the sound of tool use here and there; and there is even some singing heard – both from men and women, it seems.

The sleep was good, and in fact was the best that any of them had experienced in weeks. Even back at the garrison sleep could be hard to come by, given the communal bunking and duty rosters. This morning greeted the men with the scents of spiced cooking and a ever-present, albeit faint smell of cooking fires, which could be seen dotting the darkness out in all directions, giving the impression of stars at night poking through clouds, although the texture provided to the field of view was from the smooth tree trunks and exposed roots, rather than formations in the sky.

The platform on which they’d slept, constructed of a few layers of woven rope, was about 50 feet off the ground, and partially overlapped a similar, although empty aside from some sacks and rolls of cloth, platform about 20 feet below. Their platform had only one path that led back to any others, with the other four supports being just large ropes connecting, at various lengths, to trees around them.

Upon closer inspection, the rope appeared to be made of many fine fibers, almost hair-thin, and ranging from light browns to black, with the color variation only clarifying as the light level increased. Sunlight was evident, probably 100 or so yards to the south, in the form of a glow near the ground and a few broken views of what was either outside the trees or near to it – the jumble of so many trunks and roots of trees prevented a direct view. But from their elevated vantage point the team could make out many more platforms, small wooden buildings, and other evidence of habitation, giving the sense that this town could be even bigger than they’d initially thought.

Not long after waking, the team is approached by a pair of locals – a man and a woman – who greet them in a manner similar to others they saw the day before, and indicate that they are to follow them. The mood is courteous, not rushed, and yet formal.

What do you do?

For Reference
I bet that opening within the trunk, through which you can see, is about 2 or 3 feet high. Imagine if you were no larger than a game mini, and that the scale represented the lowest trees. That’s generally the look.

A Jungle, Beastmen, and a Rescue
Land and weather that don't fit

The keep, once explored, gave away few secrets and, in fact, presented more questions. The ruined tapestries were of an exceedingly old and foreign design – angular, geometric, lacking any specific images – and yet the torn fabric of them was probably no more than a century old. The damage to the inside of the tower and the adjacent chamber was structural more than from age – as if the whole place had been shaken violently like a box in a giant’s hands.
It was obvious, after some investigation, that the spiders had been using this as their lair for some time ,but did their hunting above ground – multiple animal victims, encased in web and drained of all fluids, littered the floor and walls of a room liberally coated in spiderweb. Two interesting pieces of information were discovered in this chamber, the first being the desiccated body of an unknown humanoid race. Bestial in appearance and primitive in his kit, the stout, hairy man was of a race never before seen.

A natural tunnel, from where the last, largest spider appeared, led up to the jungle floor, passing a side chamber full of melon-sized spider eggs and more animal victims and offal. The tunnel entrance was concealed by an elaborately-woven trapdoor of vines, leaves, and moss, held together by spiderweb – a four-foot trapdoor to hide the massive predators.

Korrigan volunteered to stay with Pare’, whose condition had worsened, and was now starting to wreak of earth and loam, and whose body was starting to swell. Their teammate also determined to burn out the spider eggs once the other three had climbed up and out of the tunnel – a small fire would not produce too much smoke, and given the trapdoor and multi-layer jungle canopy, the smoke probably wouldn’t be too obvious, they hoped.

Remembering the smoke trails they’d seen from the south side of the gorge the day before, the team decided that perhaps if there were people in this area they might understand the nature of the fungus sickness that seemed to be on the verge of killing Pare’ – if they could find such people, maybe they could find a cure for their leader. Much to the dismay of the Scouts, that fungus had also infected trees and the ground on this side of the gorge, forcing them to move circuitously and slowly to avoid the grasping vines and olive green pools of slime here and there. Ti’ un Ril noticed, however, that the infection only seemed to spread about one mile north of the gorge – less than what they’d found on their side, which extended about three miles south of the cliffs. The fungus, it seemed, was localized on both sides of the crack. Whether it was spreading, they could not tell, but there was certainly a limit – at least at this point in time – to its reach.

Once away from the fungus, Sarick climbed a tall tree – slowly, and not without trouble, due to its smooth bark and few horizontal branches – and saw again a clear smoke trail, only a mile or so north of their position. The dense jungle forced them to take another winding route, relying on their sense of direction to navigate the trackless jumble of vines and trees.

After over an hour of difficult movement, the first evidence of humanoid life came to their ears in the form of gruff chants and drums, which they eventually traced to the only clearing of note, within which were 12 beast-men, led in what seemed like ritual chants by one of their own, robed and waving a spear. At his feet lay a woman, beaten and naked, who appeared either entranced or drugged. The clearing was festooned with all manner of broken and unrelated things: wagon wheels, cloth, chains, a rug or two, bones – probably human – giving the impression of a collection created by an utterly alien mind.

Ignoring their fascination in the beastmen, the three hatched a bold plan to rescue the woman, who’d clearly been abused and looked to be in for more – and likely final, if the blood smeared on the leader’s hands and trees around him was an indication – bad treatment. Working in concert, the team launched their attack first with a distraction, with Genji using his magic to distort the thick smoke rising from the smoldering fire next to the leader, creating shapes and images that startled and then drew the attention of the chanting crowd, seeming to mesmerize them just enough to provide cover for Sarick’s bum rush at the leader.

An instant before slamming into and knocking over the leader, the warrior’s right peripheral vision gave him a sense that he alone was attacking a crowd of 13 armed and brutish enemies – bold, yes, but perhaps this wasn’t the great idea it seemed like moments before. The leader crashed into the ground and Sarick landed firmly, one foot on the man’s gut.

Genji had already cast another spell before his companion reached his target, putting several of the foes to sleep – they collapsed where they stood, and the volume of the group’s chanting dropped off noticeably. Taking these two actions as his signal, Ti’ un Ril rushed the nearest brute and sundered his head in two with a ferocious overhead smash of his weapon.

The fight was on, defined by Ti’ un Ril’s brutal attacks, Genji’s staff and crossbow, and Sarick’s almost sacrificial disregard for his own safety. After gutting the leader, the young warrior was knocked unconscious and almost killed by two beastmen who tried to beat him to death with their stone clubs. Quick thinking and more ruthless attacks dispatched the last of the brutish enemies, including merciless coup-de-grace strikes on those still asleep from Genji’s spell, and Sarick was nursed back to consciousness.

The girl, who looked to be about the age of the Scouts, had been roughed up and had scrapes, bruises, and some cuts across her face and body. She came out of her stupor as the team rested and bound their own wounds and hers, and although initially frightened by them she soon seemed to realize that they were her rescuers and not the mortal threat the beastmen had been. Clothed in a donated field blanket from Ti’ un Ril’s kit, she could only communicate through hand signals and body language, given that she spoke a language totally unknown to any of the three Scouts. With her help they did found a charnel pit near the ceremonial center, full of half-eaten bodies, two of which were very recent – as in, within the last day or two. She wept over the forms of those two, who bore the same dark brown skin and hair as her, and continued to display the fear and skittishness associated with someone still under a great deal of stress, jumping at little sounds and – given the language barrier – still not understanding the intentions of the Scouts.

It was probably early in the afternoon, a comfortable 70 degrees, damp, but with a cool breeze moving through the jungle. The immediate threat seemed to have been neutralized. The girl seemed to want to head north; the sickened Pare’ and his caretaker in Korrigan were to the south, presumably still hidden in the buried keep. And it was the day before they, per mission orders, were to turn and head home to report. Sarick had confirmed, when in the tree earlier, that the horses looked to all be there, tied at the top of the cliff on the south side. What to do now?

Outlands, Day 2
Graduation and a promotion await...if you live long enough

The first four days, within surveyed but not fully pacified lands, were cold and a little grim. The temple to Taal was an anticipated stop, but turned out to be a major letdown, and instead of providing them with an inspiring sight from the realm’s past it ended up dragging down the party’s spirits with its sense of abandon, loss, and ruin – a reminder that what had been, what they’d read and learned about, was no more.

And perhaps they were part of the continued decline of all they knew, or thought they knew.

The chance meeting with Finch’s party brought them even lower, learning of the death of three of their fellow recruits. The haunted look in Dale’s eyes followed them for the next few days, as each saw something of the same expression in one another.


By the time they’d reached the limit of surveyed lands and moved into the Outlands, and still in a generally foul mood, the wind has stilled and now they just had to put up with the bitter cold, and a forest that was becoming increasingly tangled in and choked by ground vines and growth. Attacked by some of the vines, hanging from a pair of trees, they surmised that the odd growth, wrapped around the trunks of the largest trees, was probably the cause of the somewhat sickly appearance of those great old oaks. Still, they held out hope for reaching their exploration objective, that of the high alpine Koth Valley, named for the type of winter wheat that grew there.

After another attack by the forest, this time in the form of vaguely humanoid slime creatures, they discovered that the valley was not what they’d expected; in fact, it was not even there, or had been so completely transformed that it no longer resembled what the historical records and maps had indicated.

Instead of a gentle slope out of the forest into a verdant expanse of low hills, they were faced with a gorge, with the land seemingly torn in two, and foliage and terrain on the far side that appeared to be quite different from what they’d been expecting. The gorge itself was some 60 feet across, probably 70 feet deep, and the far, north, side was about 20 feet lower than where they stood.

It was about this time, maybe an hour after the fight with the slime creatures, that the team began to notice odd behaviors from Pare’, the Senior Scout. He seemed drained, physically, and mentally a bit dull – distracted, at best, and muted in his thoughts. Still, the team forged onward, keeping to the mission. They had another two days of exploration and survey work to do before they were to turn around and head home to Camp Belgrey, and they were eager to get the job done, and done well.

Darkness fell completely as they made their way into the gorge by rope and approached the remnants of a stone keep – of foreign, unknown design – that Genji had noticed protruding from the far cliff wall at the base of the ravine. Relying on the sorcerer’s light spell, they were able to navigate the jagged and loose rocks and make their way into what appeared to be a second-floow terrace, now only about 5 feet above the floor of the ravine, and to which was attached a three-story tower. The door into the tower was jammed shut, but a shattered window was only about 20 feet up. Korrigan climbed into it, and found what appeared to have been a tower used for storage, and possibly surveillance, purposes. Trying to get into the bottom room, so as to open the door, he heard sounds, which soon turned out to be giant spiders, which Ti’un soon lit on fire.

The night ended, probably two hours after sunset, and now in freezing temperatures made worse by the movement of wind down the ravine, with the team scrambling into the highest room in the tower, practically dragging a dull-headed dead-weight of a Senior Scout up by rope, and barricading the three trap doors leading to the bottom of the tower, hopefully providing some protection for the night. One of their tarps served as a fine window covering, helping to cut out some of the wind and enable a little warmth to build up in the chamber.

Eating cold, hard rations and finishing what little water they had left in their skins, they did their best to calm their nerves and get whatever sleep they could.

This will count as a long rest. You’ll all wake sometime around dawn, and you each have only one day of food on your person – there’s another day of it, as an emergency ration, on each of the horses. You are virtually out of water at this point, too. This will be a problem if you do not find drinkable water soon. Your one level of exhaustion is gone, but you will gain it back later in the day if you do not find water. Half rations for two days will add another level; no food for a day will add a level.

There are secrets for some of you.


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