Terran's Ponderous Campaign

Ch. 1 Part 1
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4th of Sunwane (November, year 506 P.C.)
The story opens on a mild and sunny autumn afternoon. Along a well-maintained road (known to locals as North Hill Road) amidst the rolling, oak-speckled hills just north of the small city of Riverhills in the Republic of Kalifaa, two figures amble along. In no hurry, Theodoric Fowler, and Vindle VonBindle make their way to Riverhills. Theodoric is an expatriate, former soldier from Prospolis, whilst Vindle, a gnome, is of indeterminate origin.

As they walk, two other people emerge from the woods to their right. These are Ardadan Arandur and Lassidil. Both are from Riverhills itself. Ardadan is a Ranger and Lassidil is a local Druid.

Note

The new arrivals hail Theo and Vindle and approach them. The two pairs engage in idle conversation for a few moments, asking for news of other places, and exchanging polite pleasantries.
Without warning a group of ruffians rushes out from the woods on the opposite side of the road. Taken aback, the ersatz group responds to their assailants in kind. The attackers were clearly expecting an easy ambush of unprepared, simple travelers and are undone by a determined and skillful counter-attack. After the defeat of the ambush, Vindle and Theo ask if this sort of thing is common in the area. The two locals reply that, while not unheard of, banditry like this is quite uncommon. A quick backtrack of the ruffians’ path reveals a small encampment in the woods. Instead of a simple clearing and bedrolls, there are lean-tos, a maintained fire-circle and cooking implements, as well as other signs that rather than a simple overnight camp, the band intended to occupy the area for some time. It is decided that Ardadan will investigate further while the rest hurry to the town, sticking together for security. Leaving behind the small battlefield, thankful that they avoided becoming victims of a robbery, our band has no idea that this tiny skirmish was the beginning of events, which would shape their lives for many months to come.

A few hours later, near the outskirts of northeastern Riverhills, the group sees a Militia patrol. Lassidil notices this and mentions that it’s unusual for there to be patrols of this type, and wonders what it could mean. They approach and tell the Sgt. the basics of the encounter they just had. To their surprise, they are told that there have been several incidents of the same type (thus the patrols), and are directed to head straight for the Constabulary and give a report.

Note

In town, the group travel up the High Street towards the Constabulary. Once arrived, and upon entering the fore-room, the group gives a brief summary to the officer there and is then asked to wait for the Constable himself. Shortly they are ushered into an office for a meeting with Constable Harrick. Here, they inform him, in as much detail as they can, of the events that transpired on North Hill Road. Ardadan adds that he found evidence of one to three more occupants of the camp than they encountered in the ambush. He also noted that they seemed well equipped, with gear in decent repair. They were certainly not poor either. All the bodies had coins on them and more were to be found among all the packs and bedrolls at the camp. He also noted that the party’s first impression was correct; the camp was set up for an extended stay, there were several caches of foodstuffs as well as spare arrows and the like. In addition, he found several tracks leading to and from the campsite, suggesting the site had been occupied for some time and engaged in some patrol-like activity. While listening to their account, Harrick seemed to be comparing their tale to notes and papers strewn across his desk, as the story wraps up, he looks up and addresses them.

The Constable tells them that, while not the first, this is, thus far, the largest encounter reported. Violence of this sort usually occurs less than once a year in this area, and now, in a matter of a couple weeks, there have been several similar events. He has recently concluded a meeting with the Mayor and Town Council, and, based on the current situation, it has been agreed to increase the town Watch and to implement a 1/8 call-up of the town Militia in order to patrol around the immediate outside of the city limits. So seriously is this being taken, that, in addition to these measures, the city has implemented recruitment of deputized bands to patrol and scout the outer, rural areas as well. The members of these bands are taken from qualified volunteers from the community (like Lassidil and Ardadan), plus interested outside parties…i.e. mercs/adventurers.
The first group was signed in today, during the late morning. Six adventurers took up the call. They headed straight out afterwards, planning to patrol to the northwest and west.
There was minor debate about this response being overkill, and costing the city too much, but, in light of everything, prudence won out.

Constable Harrick explains that these groups will receive the support of the city. Ammunition and basic, martial supplies will be provided from the armory, room, board & stabling when in town is available in the barracks, or at Old Inn (per a contract with the city) further, in addition to the pay, 15 silver coins a week, and in recognition of the risk any willing individuals are taking, the parties may keep any booty not verifiable as property of the city or the citizens, and not relevant to the investigation. He wonders if perhaps our little ersatz band might be interested?

Agreeing to meet again soon with their answer, the group heads to Saroyan’s, a local eatery, in order to discuss the situation and decide what to do about the Constables offer. Being locals, Lassidil and Ardadan naturally decide to accept. Theodoric and Vindle after a brief discussion decide they will accept as well. The four choose to continue to work together. Ardadan wishes to inform a friend of his, Bern (Ironside) of the situation and to invite him to join the party. He explains that Bern’s skills can be of use to the party, especially in concert with those of Theodoric. By now, it is quite late, so they will contact Bern in the morning, for now the party heads straight to the Constable to give him their answer. They complete the contract paperwork, and after, all head to the nearby Old Inn to rest (Ardadan, and Lassidil take advantage of available rooms due to their homes being on the outskirts of town and the hour being late.).

Part 2

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Ch. 1 Part 2

5th of Sunwane

Next morning, the Party rises early and heads through town to see Ardadan’s friend. Bern (Ironside) lives at the south end of town along the river near the quarry where he is employed. Originally from the Sawback Mountains in the East of Kalifaa, Bern, along with many other Dwarves moved west during the Great Western War some 65 years ago. (While not engaged in the war itself, Kalifaa experienced a large economic boom during this time, and, consequently large portions of the Dwarven population moved west to take advantage of the new job opportunities.) They find the taciturn, chocolate-loving dwarf at home, and Ardadan explains the opportunity to his friend. It doesn’t take long for Bern to agree to join the party. The group returns to Saroyans to eat and discuss their plans. They agree that they want to present their ideas to the Constable and hopefully dovetail with his orders (they are now, per the contract, provisionally under his command).

Note

While at Saroyans, the group is surprised to encounter what is either a large Hobgoblin or a short Bugbear accompanied by a rail-thing scholarly looking fellow. The two are; Bigulf, an exceptionally (for his species) intelligent runt-Bugbear who has attempted the clerics path, and his Elven companion, Antalante, a rare wizard. A conversation ensues, and it is revealed that the previous day they too suffered an attack along a different route to Riverhills. Hearing this, the group tells the two about the Constables offer and suggests they accompany them to the Constabulary and sign up as well. Bigulf and Antalante agree and the enlarged party continues developing their plan of action. Concluding their arrangements, the band returns to the Constabulary to introduce Bigulf and Antalante, as well as receive their orders and supply-chits for the armory.

Note

Constable Harrick is more than willing to sign on the new arrivals. He informs the party of a few new developments, mostly pertaining to other groups and their areas of responsibility. He then gives the party the orders specific to them. He has had reports of encounters to the west, northwest, and north, and has patrols scouting in those areas. There are several areas that have had no ill reports, (or no reports at all) and he needs those areas scouted as well. He wishes our party to head to the outlying eastern/ north eastern areas starting near the point where (coincidentally) Bigulf and Antalante had their encounter and then conduct a fairly broad sweep first to the east, and turning north in order to discover the extent of the outlaw bands and whether or not they are connected to each other in any way or, if instead, these are spontaneous, unrelated incidents.

Note
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The party is pleased to note that these orders are not too different from what they, themselves were inclined to do, so the party is happy to begin the undertaking. They depart and head toward the armory across the river on the east side of town. This is on the way to their area of responsibility, so, again, no time is wasted.

Properly supplied for a week or so in the wild, the party now moves out along the road to the south-end of town. They plan to travel south by the East Road for the better part of a day or two before turning north-northeast and striking off overland.

As the town recedes behind them, a clearer view of the eastern hills greets them. The group can now get a preview of the terrain they’ll be scouting through. The hills are gentle yet tall with broad and deep valleys between their arms. Trees fill nearly each valley suggesting small streams draining towards the river. The crowns of the hill-spurs tend to be bare, while dense oak covers the main portions of the hills. Several farms and ranches can be seen here and there, separated by wide stretches of golden grasses turning towards brown (this being late-autumn). From time to time, Ardadan or Lassidil point out important features of the area, such as Gold Hill Vineyards, near where they will turn into the hills, or the beautiful cypress lined Pegaso Ranch, home of an important horse-breeding family, a short way beyond. It is over the pastures of this ranch that the party will cut overland. Bern lets his fellow locals do the talking.

They travel at an easy pace, conserving their energy as well as attempting not to draw undue attention. It is estimated that around sunset they will have reached Goldhill Vineyards. Shortly beyond lies The Joint, an intersection where Hill Road (along which Bigulf and Antalante were attacked) branches north over the hills. From there, they will proceed for a while as if they mean to continue on the East Road but, instead, after a short time, the party will cut overland north eastwards. They intend to use the dark and the folds of the land as well as the presence of the Ranches own horses to enter the tree line unobserved. Once inside and secure, they will bed down and set their watch. The next day the party means to begin its true mission.

Note

Part 3
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Ch. 1 Part 3

6th of Sunwane

When the new day dawns, all pack and ready themselves for the day. They plan to move a bit further into the woods and establish a base camp. From there they will conduct the scouting missions, free to carry a minimum of gear, moving their base forward every day or so as they determine necessary. Naturally, the party proceeds cautiously while doing so.

7th-9th of Sunwane

Proceeding with this arrangement, the group spends several fruitless days combing the woods for signs of bandits. Using all their special abilities, they still turn up nothing. Embarking on yet another day of searching, finally there is a sign worth investigating. Through the oak canopy, a small group of scavenger-birds can bee seen circling perhaps 1/3 of a mile ahead. Naturally there can be any number of reasons for this, but the fact remains that they’re circling for a reason and that reason is worth investigating.

Note: (The youngsters participation was an on-again, off-again affair. For this encounter they were unavailable. We were still learning how to manage our own characters and hadn’t figured out all that spell-stuff yet so we had the wizard hanging out with Vindle. [I think] Bigulf was brought along because we figured there was enough about his abilities that we could properly operate.)

Quickly, as they’d done when checking other potential finds, most of the party closes up while Ardadan and Lassidil scout ahead to left and right. Covering the distance stealthily requires slow movement and it is some time before any further signs appear. However, they note that the birds remain above where they were first seen.

Eventually the scouts find what they’ve been looking for. A thin, pale wisp of smoke is now occasionally visible. Now they’re sure something is up ahead. A band of nine or so heavily armed individuals occupy a camp in a small clearing. As with the previous camp scouted by Ardadan, there are indications that this group has been here for some time and plans to continue residence for a while. Most of the band is seated around a small, clean fire talking and eating, another figure stands a bit further to the right while one more prowls about behind them, perhaps making rounds of the camp perimeter. Ardadan and Lassidil stealthily back off. While Ardadan continues to observe the camp, Lassidil returns to the rest of the party (which has stopped some way back) and informs them of the development.

While the rest of the party slowly moves into position, Ardadan is able to learn a bit more about the camp. This particular band is a mixed bag of goblins, orcs and hobgoblins. They are well armed and armored. One of the orcs is patrolling the perimeter. He has also spotted a lookout hiding a bit away from the main group. So far as he can tell, there are eight individuals in or around the camp.

Once reunited, the party quickly formulates an ambush plan and sets it in motion. They plan to sneak into close-bow range, using the good cover to their left. They will fire a volley and then rush the remaining bandits. Now progress is even slower as the party inches its way into position.

_Note: (This ambush preparation resulted a protracted series of nerve-wracking hide, move silently, spot, listen, etc. checks. Talk about creating ulcers…)
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Ardadan sets himself up furthest back with a clear line of fire to the group around the campfire. Bern is nearby. Lassidil has set herself further forward near the center-left poised to attack the sentry from his right. The rest of the party had continued on more to the left and forward, resulting in a formation somewhat like the letter ”C” with Ardadan at the bottom curve, Bern a bit further, Lassidil in the middle and the rest at the top.

Everyone is tense during the wait to get into position. At last all are where they should be and give the agreed on hand-signal indicating that they are ready. Ardadan stretches his bow and looses his arrow. Hissing past the trees and shrubs, the arrow slams into a spear-carrying orc at the base of his neck, and drops him instantly. Nearly at the same time, Bern loosed an arrow of his own which missed only because his target had turned to look at his falling comrade. Bern’s arrow continues through those at the fire and strikes a nearby tree. Theodoric has also released an arrow, which misses and passes, unnoticed by the bandits. Meanwhile, Lassidil has dropped the sentry with a single shot.

In a stroke of good-fortune, the remaining opponents, seeing the arrow in their companion, and the one in the tree, as well as the commotion of the dying sentry (and NOT seeing Theodorics arrow from a different direction), all turn in the direction of Ardadan and Bern, for the moment unaware of the rest of the Party on their right flank. They begin to move towards the two Party members they do know about, with two bandits moving further to Ardadan’s right. Rather than rushing the remaining bandits as originally planned, all the Party members seem to have the same idea and instead, loose another volley. This second volley kills one of the hobgoblins and wounds several of the other bandits as well as sowing confusion among them. About this time a ninth bandit (a small goblin) who had remained undetected emerged from the brush and loosed a few shots without effect and moved forward. The two orcs to Ardadans right continue towards him while the rest seem undecided whether to join them, or attack the Party members to their right flank. Taking advantage of their indecision, Theodoric and Lassidil bring down another hobgoblin with their bows.

Having done as much damage and sown as much confusion as they could with their ranged weapons, the Party presses their advantage and closes with their opponents, keeping the momentum of the fight on their side. However, there is one surprise, the bandits leader has entered the fight. He, like the goblin archer had gone undetected until now. The fight now is close, brutal, and fairly quick. Bern and Ardadan deal with the two opponents who had engaged them, while the rest are taken by the other members of the Party. Someone shouts out not to kill the leader so the Party essentially dog-piles him, disarming and incapacitating him. Just a few short minutes have passed.

Searching the dead, the Party once again finds that they were well armed and armored and also well paid. While they collect the monies, they are intrigued to find that there is no sign of ill-gotten loot at all, raising the question of what they were doing there. A short distance away, the leaders campsite is found. A human, he apparently he preferred not to sleep with his troops. Unfortunately, aside from more coins, there is nothing in the site itself to shed further light on the situation. All hopes for information now rest on what can be learned from the prisoner. It is now late and the Party decides to return to camp and set out for town with the prisoner in the morning. So…they do that.

Before nightfall, the Party prepares their gear for an early departure in the morning. They secure their prisoner, eat a cold meal (not wanting the risk of a fire), arrange watches, and settle in for a short rest, planning to leave at first light.

Part 4

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Ch.1 Part 4

10th of Sunwane

The night is spent with the Party torn between fatigue and watchfulness. Finally in the early dawn everyone rises and prepares to head into town. Once all is ready, they set off, roughly back the way they came. Lassidil and Ardadan scout ahead and on the flanks while the others remain in a group, leading the animals and the prisoner. They are now heading more-or-less downhill with thicker foliage to their left, front and behind them, while the trees are visibly thinning to their right. Occasionally they can catch glimpses of the rolling grasslands and farms in the distance. After an hour or so (the Party is, naturally, moving more quickly than the previous day) one of the scouts signals a halt. Behind them, the sound of many individuals can be heard. Hastily they form up. Lassidil and Ardadan move a bit forward (towards the noises) and out to either flank. The prisoner is placed on Ithilmir, (Lassidils’ horse) who walks next to Bill the mule. Vindle takes station in front of the animals with Bern close by, while Antalante stands to the rear, supported by Bigulf. Theodoric places himself roughly in the center of the formation.

As the source of the noise comes into view, the Party realizes that they are facing a much larger force of bandits. It has probably been cobbled together out of several smaller groups. There appear to be at least twenty of them, mostly orcs, and at least eight hobgoblins, one or two may be human. On sighting the Party, the bandits waste no time. Those armed with bows begin shooting immediately, while the spear, and swordsmen immediately form into groups and advance from several angles.

Though with luck, they just might be able to survive an attack this big, the Party instead focuses on their main task of returning with the prisoner. They at once change course west, exiting the woods intending to go overland in a strait (ish) line, towards town as fast as they can. Vindle, the animals, the prisoner and Antalante move to the front and keep up as quick a pace as possible, while the rest form a screen behind them, constantly shooting at their attackers then falling back.

This immediate change of course proves to be fortuitous as, after a while, a second band of enemies emerges from what would have been the Party’s left flank. Now, instead of the Party being driven to them, (as was clearly the plan) this second group, made up almost entirely of goblins, is farther away than the first and must now desperately rush just to catch up and join the fight. It is clear that the assailants are very serious about recapturing the prisoner.

Fortunately, effective bowmen seem to be fairly scarce among their enemies. Few arrows come close enough to pose any real danger (for now). This allows the Party to concentrate on maintaining distance between them and the real threat, the danger of the infantry catching up and overwhelming them. This is a running fight with quick, careful shots to thin out and slow up the enemy. A few already lie dead in the yellow grass though the dark line continues its angry advance.

Ten minutes pass, then fifteen and the cycle continues, shoot, run, stop, pick a target, shoot again, run. One here, two there, orcs fall, but the gap is closing. The bandits are now spread about, their formations in ruins, but still they come on. Inevitably they’ll close and begin to cause damage, and, worse, slow the Party. Though the bandit’s strength is now reduced to a point that the Party could confidently take them on, this would allow the second group to catch up and tip the balance.

More time passes and more enemies are eliminated, but something must be done quite soon to break the pursuit or the Party’s failure (and probable demise) is certain. The second group of bandits has now nearly caught up with the rearmost of the first group. The tactics of the enemies have also changed. Instead of just firing at the Party members, the bandits have begun shooting at the prisoner. Evidently they mean to deny his usefulness one way or another. In response to this, he is taken off the horses’ back and is placed between Ithilmir and Bill. (With Antalante and Vindle guarding the back and front)

Amidst the shouts, screams, and calls to one another, a new sound carries over the rolling grass fields. Away to the north, some quarter-mile or more away, yet another ruffian band emerges from the distant trees. This one is very large, numbering at least twice that of either of the other two.

_Note: (Just to clarify: The party started the day headed more or less south, then they were attacked and made a right turn to the west. They have continued the running-fight in a westerly direction, so this new group, though far away is north of them. This puts the large enemy group to the party’s right when they run, and to their left when they turn to shoot at the other groups.)
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A solution is needed now. If they are caught, the Party will be swarmed, and no matter the qualitative difference, will be defeated. Things are desperate, then, a few hundred yards further on, a ray of hope. In a fold of the low hills, one of the many ravines created by the seasonal streams can be seen. If the Party can reach it, they’ll have a chance to break the pursuit. They’ll have an elevated position from which to fight a tired and disorganized enemy. If they can break the remnants of the first group, they may then be able to successfully repel the second, goblin group afterwards.

Temporarily abandoning their run-shoot-run practice, they turn and run flat out for the ravine. Tired, they reach it and scramble up the far side. While desperately trying to catch their breath, they quickly refill their quivers with arrows carried by Bill and Ithilmir. Then, it is agreed that the prisoner is the priority so, while the rest of the Party turns to fight at the ravine, Vindle, Antalante and the prisoner continue their escape mounted on Bill and Ithilmir.

With a wide, flat field of view and a position of relative strength, the remainder of the Party spreads out and prepares to repel their enemies. Drawing their bows, they let loose a volley on the advancing force. Several more enemies drop to the grass while the rest re-group and enter the ravine. As the attackers begin to cross the ravine and scale the opposite side, the five remaining Party members keep up a furious rate of fire, wounding an assailant here, killing one there. Finally, the few left (of the first group) break and begin to run away. Rather than retreat entirely, the archers and three or four of the first group instead fall back and join the oncoming second group. The enemy archers begin returning fire and the rest move forward in a more organized fashion. Outnumbered though they are, this is what the party was hoping for. They now can deal with the groups one at a time and this group is mostly made up of smaller, (slightly) less dangerous goblins. They also have more time to shoot while the attackers advance to the ravine again, picking off as many as they can. Once again, several fall as the advance nears and as the goblins slow at the ravine. With more enemies arriving though, it is becoming impossible to hold them all off. Several move to the right and left and scale the steep wall of the ravine. Now all depends on breaking this groups attack. If they can’t, the Party will fall. If they can’t break it quickly, the large group to the north will catch up and they will be killed anyway.

Abandoning their bows (except for Ardadan) the Party goes on the offensive and lays into the foes clambering up the side of the ravine. Theodoric, Bigulf, Lassidil and Bern tear into their opponents while they are partially immobilized by the ravine wall. Ardadan shoots at the flankers and those on the far side of the ravine. To the left, two or three hobgoblins have managed to successfully clamber up and pose a danger to the defenders. Ardadan kills one then draws his sword and moves to take on the other two.
Faced with this ferocious counter-attack, and their numbers reduced so rapidly, the attack disintegrates. Goblins and orcs begin to run. The hobgoblins and humans fall back in a more orderly fashion. A few, engaged with the Party can’t run and must try to cut their way out. Ardadan is hard pressed by his opponents until the others come to his aid, killing the hobgoblins.

Note: (I know Ardadan fought with several baddies that were threatening the flank. I also know that he had help, but I honestly can’t remember who came over to that fight. The most likely seems to be Bigulf, but I’m not sure at all.)

With the pressure lifted, and their enemies in flight, the Party retrieves their bows and fires a few volleys to keep the bandits running. Then, exhausted, they turn and, quickly as they can, follow the path taken by their companions and the prisoner.

Now, with no immediate danger of delay, it will take quite a while before the northern group can possibly pose a risk. But the bandits still follow so there is no time to relax. The Party must continue their flight to Riverhills. Over the fields, the enemies can be heard shouting. The broken ruffians, driven by their leaders, have partially re-grouped and once again joined the chase. They are quite far away though, and by now are extremely weary and have no further stomach for this fight.

Looking ahead, there is no sign of Vindle or Antalante, it seems they’ve made good use of the hard-bought delay and the speed of the animals. The Party’s faint hope now rests on getting close enough to the city for the militia patrols to come to their aid. Time is of the essence though, tired as they are; the Party can’t hope to match the pace of their pursuers and, eventually will be caught. In the distance though, one of the scattered farms around Riverhills appears. Without a word they head directly towards it. In this open country, there is no other likely cover to fight from, so the farm seems to be the only useful place to go.

Nearing the farm, which sits on a rise, they can clearly see the city in the distance, basking in the noonday sun, unaware of the drama unfolding on the eastern hillsides. They quickly gather the residents and inform them of the danger and apologize for drawing them into this. As the Party members prepare once again to defend themselves, they notice that their antagonists have paused on the hillside. The bandits seem to be looking at the distant city and at the farmhouse. There seems to be some discussion among some of them. After some time the bandits back away, creeping up the low points between the rolling foothills, heading back towards the woods. It appears that they have no desire to operate within sight of the city, even if the prisoner remained with the Party. Perhaps they feel that, given that they’ve failed in freeing or killing the prisoner, being too close to the city would only compound their problems. Or, maybe they have other reasons to avoid being spotted this close. Whatever the reason, the Party is intensely relieved and wastes no time capitalizing on this fortunate turn of events. The farmers agree to help the party (and themselves) and drive them into town loaded in a cart. Eventually running into the patrols, the exhausted group makes a quick-bare bones report and, being given permission to pass through to the Constable, finally relaxes, dozing while the cart carries them through town.

Upon arrival at the constabulary, the Party turns the prisoner over to the authorities and then exhaustedly make as detailed a report as possible. The Constable congratulates and thanks the party, then tells them to get some rest. He’ll fill them in on details of the interrogation in the morning.

Part 5

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Ch. 1 Part 5

11th of Sunwane

LATE the next morning, the group heads over to learn what came of the interrogation.
The Constable tells them that the prisoner was extremely stubborn. This is cause for concern, he knew that his allies tried to kill him and yet he still remained silent. There is a bit of good news though. A more thorough search revealed some papers among his clothing. The most interesting one is a list of numbers. The most likely explanation is that it represents a series of dates, but it’s difficult to be sure because if so; it is just calendar days but with no months indicated. For now the assumption is going to be that these ARE dates, and that there is an imminent threat. The Constable explains that there have been oddities with communication out of town as well, especially down the River towards the capitol. The Mayor is taking this all very seriously and has expanded the militia call-up.

Next, he explains that, based on the parties report, it seems that the eastern hills are more sparsely infested than the others, he’s decided to use regular militia to clear the eastern areas, so he’s going to pull the party from there and give them a new assignment. The Constable points to a map showing the heavily wooded area to the southwest of Riverhills. He notes that, just as it appears on the map, between the Great Highway and the coast there isn’t much there other than trees and hills. There aren’t even that many farms. He tells them that he thinks he’s made a mistake. At first he didn’t worry too much about the area because he’d had no reports of any activity from there, and, besides, there were no roads or settlements like there were where he was getting reports from. Then it occurred to him that this would also mean someone could hide there (even in large numbers) if they wanted…
He wants the Party to scour the areas south of town and along and west of the Great Highway for these bandit groups. Before he sends the party off, he informs them that, so far, of all the scouting groups he’s sent out, theirs is the only one with no casualties. He also instructs them that before they leave town, to stop and speaks with the Harbor Master about the oddities on the River (which will be a factor in their scouting area).

The Party heads on over and speaks with the Harbor Master. He has noticed and been reporting on some odd behavior. Southbound vessels seem to be having no troubles (not that he’d know for sure since they’re leaving…) but inbound shipments are always late. Each and every shipment is half and hour to an hour late. What’s more, when questioned the crews are surprised to learn that they’re late. They haven’t noticed anything odd.
With this unsettling information, and now resupplied, the Party heads out to the south end of town. They will enter the hills directly from the edge of town.

The first day is mostly uneventful. But at a family ranch set into a dell the party has a minor encounter. Approaching the ranch house, they are confronted by a fearful man, Mr. Ambrosier, trying to appear fierce. At first he tries to intimidate them and get them to leave. Then, after explaining who they are and what they’re doing, Ambrosier instead asks for some help. They have been noticing a strange stillness in the area, perhaps movement in the woods. A few days ago one of the nephews was sent to town to give/learn the news and ask for help. It’s only a couple of hours walk and naturally he should have been back ages ago. The family would like some help. After a short discussion, it is decided to continue with the main mission, but Lassidil will use some of her nature skills to send a message to the Constable via one of the farm animals. Even so, things don’t sound good for the Ambrosier nephew.

After this interlude, the Party continues on. It had been decided earlier to keep close to the road for the first day or two before heading deeper into the hills, so they do so, moving fairly slowly in order to more easily spot any clues as well as to remain undetected themselves. Ardadan and Lassidil immediately notice an oddity. Except for domesticated animals, the woods are empty. All the birds, squirrels, deer, etc are gone. Very uneasy about this, Ardadan proposes that the party make for Old Farm. It’s mostly in the direction that they’re traveling and could provide some answers. A few hours later (at their cautious pace) they arrive. Old Farm is called “Old Farm” for obvious reasons, though in actuality it has no “official” name. It’s actually a ranch that runs from the hills to the river itself. The Great Highway cuts through the middle. Here they are met by a much more self-possessed family. Confident and gruff, they exchange news. Old Farm has been noticing much the same sort of thing as the earlier one, but they are less afraid, and more determined. They’ve pulled in their stock and are actively guarding themselves. They have also noted that the river traffic seems to have changed schedule. Ardadan speaks quietly with the patriarch for a few moments and then they part company. Ardadan asks the group to follow him. They backtrack a few hundred yards to a circle of trees near the border of the property. Ardadan explains that this family has been here a long time and has always maintained good relations with the inhabitants of the woods and hills. Perhaps they can be of help. In the tree-ring there is a horn. Ardadan sounds the horn and then leads the Party out of the ring and straight up into the hills. From this vantage, they can more easily see a long stretch of the River. A few sails can be seen slowly making their way south. It is decided to move on for a while longer and then make camp. Some of the party members wonder what the fuss with the horn was about, but Ardadan explains, “These things take time” and to be patient.

12th-13th of Sunwane

The next morning they break camp and set out again. At first there was more confusion about the horn blowing and the potential for aid, until Ardadan further explains that it’s best to just keep on with their job. If anyone is going to meet with them, they’ll find the Party no matter where they are. As they travel, the Party decides to maintain a route from which they can (at least intermittently) also see the River.

Still ill at ease with the disturbingly empty woods, the Party continues with its mission. After some hours, Lassidil halts the group, telling them there is something up ahead. Warily, the Party creeps forward. Seconds later, and without warning, the Party find themselves looking at a Satyr. He seems to have simply materialized in front of them, though obviously it is simply masterful woodcraft that accounts for his stealth. With a slight smile, he addresses the group, “I am an Herald. You have called and I was sent ahead. You may follow me now. The way is clear.”

He leads them through the trees for a short time until they come to an area that, at least to their eyes looks much the same as anywhere else in the woods. The Satyr turns to them and says, “You may speak to him now.” then gestures to the woods. Looking for someone with which to speak, several (though not all) of the Party members are startled when one of the trees takes a few steps towards them.

Part 6

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Ch. 1 Part 6

It is a treant. It gazes at the Party for a few moments, looking at each in turn, and then begins to speak in a gentle, yet sonorous voice, “Greetings woodfriends and wild. You may call me Greybough. Dyonystos has brought you here for your task is known to us. I will give you news. There is a darkness to the south. Tree haters are in our home. Waiting. We destroy them, but we are so few. We have sent the wild creatures to safety. The woods are clear from the town to one half-day south and one day west of here. We are looking further west and south. We hear nothing from the west, no friends at any rate. Darkness and heaviness grow further south, maybe a little east. Something my folk cannot clearly see”. With nothing further to say, Greybough and the satyr, Dyonystos turn to leave. As they do, Greybough says, “Fare you well. We will do all we can to guard your back so you may look to your front.” Then they take their leave, striding westwards into the woods.

Digesting this news, the Party sets off once again. The need to move slowly and be watchful creates a sort of intense monotony. Hours crawl by as the Party descends one hillside then climbs another. Evening approaches and they make camp. No fires are lit, and food is eaten cold. The watch rotation is decided on and those who can, bed down. The following day proceeds much the same. Monotony and wariness vie for dominance. Near evening though, signs of an enemy camp are discovered.

Vindle and the animals back off a bit and the rest of the party offload anything not needed for a fight. Then, with the scouts up front, the party advances on the enemy. As they approach, it can be seen that the enemy are once again chiefly orcs and/or hobgoblins. Their camp seems to have been here for some time. Near one of the shelters

is a lumpy shape. It seems the bandits have a prisoner. The lump is not too large, so perhaps it is a child or a halfling or the like. As with the other bandit groups, there appears to be a human in charge. Confident from their earlier successes, and concerned by the presence of a prisoner, the Party attacks without much delay, hoping for a swift victory. In this they are mostly successful, except that, tragically, during the fight, a small group of the enemy managed to cut around the assault and hit the flank. Antalante has fallen.

Bigulf is distraught. Antalante was his only friend. He feels guilty and devastated by this loss.

Searching the camp, it is discovered that, indeed the bandits did have a prisoner. A dwarf, a bit small for his kind, named Hans. Hans Ahlone. He tells them that he had been traveling on the highway when he caught sight of the bandits just inside the tree line. They set upon him and dragged him to their camp. If not for the commander, who seemed to have sent somewhere for orders concerning Hans, undoubtedly the rest of the bandits would have killed him out of hand. This sort of discipline among orcs (and other goblinoids) is worrying. They also find and “conscript” another pack horse. Also noticeable is a well-beaten path leading towards the highway as well as another leading south-ish.

Searching the tent of the commander, a battered map is discovered. It is lightly detailed and bears several errors, many of which have been corrected in pencil. The most important details though are several x’s and a line drawn on the map. The line partially surrounds Riverhills. The Party immediately notices that many of the x’s roughly correspond to areas where they encountered other bandit groups. One of the x’s is in red ink and seems to correspond to their present location. There are other enigmatic marks on the map as well as some stains and a hole or two. They also discover a note with what appears to be orders. It reads, “ Proceed to assigned patrol location. Observe traffic and maintain contact with flanking units. Avoid observation by and contact with area civilians and forces. (Until set date.) Support local supply routs and bases. If unable to avoid contact, Authorization is given to neutralize observer(s).” Additionally, under this is written in pencil, “Lost contact with north flank after sixth day.”

Now this sounds like a military operation, yet no uniforms, insignia or recognizable “troops” have been found at any time. Perhaps these are simply highly organized bandits, but perhaps not…clearly they have a specific plan. It also seems likely that this commander was not meant to have kept this note.

In the fading light, copies of the map and note are quickly made. Vindle and the animals rejoin the Party. Antalante’s body is recovered and placed on Bill. Ardadan will return to Riverhills with his body, the copy of the map and the information they have thus far gathered. A meeting place is agreed upon, as is a time, then he and Bill set off.

Just as they do, a figure flashes across the darkening sky. All the party look up at it. Some sort of winged creature is flying from the west to the southeast. Unfortunately, between the tree cover and the low light, hardly any detail can be seen. It may be some sort of large bird, but then it may have also had a tail. It passes too quickly for a second look.

The remainder of the party moves off to find a campsite of their own. They are disheartened at the loss of their companion. Bigulf in particular is in need of companionship and comforting. Grateful for his rescue, curious about the who’s what’s and why’s of his capture, and interested in the potential to enrich himself, Hans has elected to remain with the party.

[[Ch. 1 Part 7 | Ch. 1 Part 7]]

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Ch. 1 Part 7

14th of Sunwane

The following day though tense, passes uneventfully. The Party moves forward according to their plan, and again makes camp for the night. Then in the morning, they head out once again. In the mid-afternoon some distant noises are heard. The Party immediately investigates, using their customary caution. Moving forward, they come to the edge of yet another of the large, wealthy ranches in the area, Opal House, owned by the Dariya family. They begin to relax their vigilance and move through towards the buildings until something catches their attention. Through the well-maintained trees (Several generations ago, the Dariya’s supplemented the natural woods in this area with many, many saplings) they notice that, instead of the regular activity one could expect of a working ranch, here and there small groups hurry from one building to another, and none linger in the open. Cautious again, they prepare to investigate.

Once again, a spot is chosen for the animals and spare gear. Naturally, Vindle will wait here.
The Party is grateful for the heavy tree cover. It allows them a great advantage during their approach. Once close enough to observe, they go to ground and watch for a while. Eventually their fears are confirmed. The occupants are not ranch workers; they are bandits. This is greatly worrying. This is a large ranch complex, quite near the Highway, apparently completely in the hands of bandits. The complex of buildings is capable of housing and concealing a great number of foes. Also, there obviously existed a large number of ranch-workers. What has become of them? What has become of the Dariya family? Clearly it is imperative to investigate, though the risks are immense and deadly.

From the northwest side where the party is in hiding, the barn is the closest building. At this angle it obscures the ranch house, but the Smithy, the bunkhouse and a few other small buildings are visible. The party works around to the rear of the barn using it and the surrounding foliage to mask their advance. As close as they can get while still under cover, the party halts and observes the barn. They can see that this side of the barn has double doors (as does the front). One of the rear doors is open a bit and, as they watch, a goblin emerges. The goblin appears to be a sentry of some sort. He begins milling about, half-heartedly looking around. This seems to be an opportunity for Hans…
With great care, Hans succeeds in approaching and eliminating the goblin. At this, the remainder of the party quietly joins him outside the partially open door. Unfortunately, as Hans moves to peer into the barn, the door creaks on its hinges. The orcs, goblins and other ruffians who are using the barn as a bunkhouse turn towards the noise. Seeing Hans poking his head through the door, the bandits grab weapons and move to attack. It seems that for the moment at least, they think they are attacking only one interloper, so none exit the other door to get help. As they get closer, the rest of the party rushes through the door and joins the fight. They need to end this as quickly as possible in order to avoid attention from the other bandits who are surely occupying the other structures. Moving quickly through the barn the party takes advantage of the unprepared state of their adversaries. This is a nasty, brutal affair. One or two bandits are slain even before they have fully risen from their bedrolls. Once the fight is over, Hans quickly makes his way to the opposite door to see if the fight has attracted any notice.

_Note: (During this series of encounters the party had to make several rolls to determine how much noise they were making, and then if that noise was noticed. Naturally they had to roll to avoid being seen as well.)
_
Fortunately their fight seems not to have resulted any unwanted attention. It would appear that, because the rest of the bandits are hiding or resting inside the other buildings, that whatever noise was made, hadn’t been enough to be heard.

From their new position, the party once again observes the layout of the buildings. The ranch house is furthest away. It lies ahead and to the left. The rest of the structures are strung out to the right.

The party decides to exit the barn through the door they entered and to swing around and come in towards the smithy, using it to obscure them from the bunkhouse. Decorative trees and gardens will hide them from view of the ranch house. They do so and, once at the smithy, they prepare to storm the building. The smithy itself is facing them with the attached living quarters on the far side of the building. The most dangerous part now will be entering because the door faces the open “courtyard” area. Luck is all the party will have to hide their entry.

Bursting through the door, the party is faced with seven large hobgoblins. Only one is not fully armed. If the previous fight was brutal, this one is unadulterated savagery. The tight quarters, one exit and nature of hobgoblins makes this fight a maelstrom of ferocious hacking, punching, biting and stabbing. Bern jumps onto a table, which both allows more room for the others and gives him a height advantage. Once again, though the party is somewhat banged up and bloody, they appear to have escaped notice.

By now the party feels they’ve figured out what would come by going through the buildings one at a time. The Bunkhouse is surely packed with opponents. (It was…) Mulling this over, they feel that the ranch house is the most likely location to find any answers, prisoners, or bandit leaders. Also, by attacking and taking over the ranch house, if they are noticed, they’ll have an easier time defending a building than assaulting one. This makes bypassing the bunkhouse an attractive proposition. Thus, the party sneaks out of the smithy and backtracks around the barn once again, this time angling to come in at the ranch house from the east. This turns out to be a fortuitous decision; there is a secondary door on that side of the house. The party needn’t risk being seen by the other buildings as they enter. They are also fortunate in that the house is set further from the remaining occupied buildings, and, in addition, is made of stone. If they escaped notice fighting in the other buildings, it’s much more likely they will this time as well. This fight is somewhat easier than the previous two. There are few defenders, and it is large inside, allowing for more freedom of movement. However, three or four of the bandits are quite tough, and, they have a prisoner who the party desperately wishes to save. The leader is a very difficult opponent indeed and does not die easily. In the end though, the party is successful, they have taken the house and rescued the captive.

[[Ch. 1 Part 8 |Part 8]]

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Ch. 1 Part 8

They discover that the man they saved is the owner of the ranch and patriarch of the Dariya family; Amrun Dariya. He tells the party that he has been held for a couple of weeks now. The bandits have been using the ranch as a base. They chose if for it’s size, and because it is both close to, but hard to see from the highway, The rest of the family has been taken elsewhere as a guarantee of his cooperation. The ranch hands however, met a gruesome fate it seems. He’s been told that they were fed to some of the gnolls, orcs and goblins. He was being held in order to assure any inquisitive travelers on the Highway, that things were fine and that the road was clear. Amrun also tells them of all the activity especially after dark. It would seem that every couple of days, groups of bandits enter and then leave the ranch. He can’t tell if the bands are rotating through, if some stay while others leave, or what, but he does know that there are a lot of them. There are also regular deliveries (from the forest he thinks) of supplies. Some of it seems to stay while some, smaller portions seem to be sent out to other locations. Once in a while a large amount of supplies heads out all together. In fact, he says they’re organized more like an army than bandits. The man in charge here held some importance in whatever organization this is. He regularly sent and received reports and messages. When the Party asks him where the supplies were being sent, Amrun says he doesn’t know. He could only tell that they were coming in and going out, his view was too restricted to have any idea where they headed. When the party asks if there are any other places such as Opal House, that could be used, Amrun says there isn’t. All that’s around here is several hundred acres of very sparsely populated forest to the west of the highway, Vanton village several miles to the south where a branch of the Highway heads into central Kalifaa, Black Point where Aurelian Bay begins (also to the south), the old abandoned toll tower along the river, and the marsh itself. If there were trouble in Vanton, surely there would be indications. Amrun then mentions something that really grabs their attention. It seems that on occasion, some sort of small, flying creature would arrive, flying directly to the house. The leader always handled it himself. Whenever this happened, Amrun was shut in an upstairs room for many hours…sometimes most of a day and could only hear a lot of commotion. He couldn’t tell what was happening except that it seemed to involve a lot of people and a lot of movement. The only other detail he knows for sure is that the creature always came (roughly) from the south.

The party is both elated at this trove of information and disappointed. They were beginning to hope that they had found the center of the bandit activity. Instead, while clearly an important base, this is not where this mystery ends. Still, they are definitely on the right track and have much information to digest & decipher (and to send back to Riverhills). As a local landowner and a hardy if aged man, Amrun volunteers to aid the party in investigating the local area. Clearly he has more than enough reason to wish to help. He locates his old armor and weapons among the possessions of the bandit leader and, once ready, accompanies the party back out the east door and into the woods. They have decided to cross the highway and set up a camp near the remains of the old road. Unused now, it is set lower and overgrown, and thus, easy to hide in. They will find a good spot and use it to rest, ponder their new clues and send a message to Riverhills.

Guided by Amrun, it doesn’t take the party long to find a suitable location. After a short discussion, it is agreed that unless the bandit headquarters is somewhere else entirely, the river and land between their camp and Vanton Village is the only place left to check.

After setting up the main camp, members of the party carefully move south and set up a small observation post from which they can watch the river and at least part of the highway. From here, they can see to the east, running southwards, a large swath of the river and it’s banks, south, the hills just north of Vanton Village, the highway, and to the west the hills that they were just in.

There is, for the time being, an almost peaceful quiet. As the day wanes, two or three river scows can be seen making their way south. Protected on all sides by dense brush and the slope to the Highway, they Party feels it is safe to build a fire. They set caltrops at the two openings in the brush, and settle in for the night.

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Ch. 1 Part 9

15th of Sunwane

This night passes restfully and uneventfully. Nothing disturbed the campsite, and nothing was seen by the observation post. The Party gathers itself and prepares for the tedious, but essential effort of watching. Little transpires for quite some time, until, in the late morning, some figures can be seen off in the distance to the south. Three or four figures seem to be moving from the Highway, to a path running between a marsh, and the hills to the south. They are moving east and, if they continue, they will eventually reach an old, long disused toll tower on the banks of the river. It is at this point that Bern and Lassidil realize something that has been right in front of them. Instead of a crumbling ruin, the tower has clearly been hastily repaired and is habitable, and, more importantly, defensible. Now under greater scrutiny, other figures are occasionally visible along the walls and atop the tower itself. This is a stunning, yet, in retrospect, obvious development. Cross-checking the captured map, the Party members notice that a hole (with traces of red ink) has been scratched in the area corresponding to the tower.

Clearly, THIS is where they should be concentrating their efforts. They decide to move even closer to better observe the tower.

As they are doing this however, there is a sudden flurry of activity at the tower. A small boat has raced up to the tower from further up the river, followed minutes later by a good deal of commotion. Fearing, for a moment, that they have been spotted, the party hits the ground and freezes. Nervously watching the tower, they notice that all of the guards have disappeared. Instead several figures can be seen running to the repaired portions of the wall and tower. To the surprise of the party, a few seconds later, all traces of the repairs disappear; leaving the toll tower once again looking ruined and abandoned. Bewildered for the moment, the Party decides to risk moving a bit into better cover. Minutes later, a possible explanation for these strange events appears on the river. The masts of a southbound boat can be seen approaching.

All is still for quite some time as the boat makes its lazy way down the river, past the tower and out of sight. Not until long after the boat has passed is there any activity to be seen at the tower. Even then, it takes another hour or so before the repairs begin to slowly re-appear. This is a stunning development, clearly worth reporting. While some of the Party continues with the task of establishing a close observation point, the rest return to the main camp to discuss the events and decide how to proceed. Eventually, they decide that while definitely important, it’s better to wait until the whole day has passed before sending any messages in case any further developments occur. As it transpires, this is a wise decision.

After the incident with the boat, there is little activity for quite a while. After several hours though there is again a commotion. Another mast appears, this time coming north, from Aurelian Bay. From the tower shoot two fast-oared boats, full of dark figures. They rapidly intercept the inbound vessel and escort it to the tower.

For the better part of an hour there is no more to be seen. Eventually, however, the river trader and the two escorts leave the tower and continue up the river. They continue towards a bend that will hide them from view, so Amrun, and some of the others hastily scramble through the marsh to find a point from which they can continue to observe the convoy.

Once situated, they watch as the smaller boats continue to escort the trader through two loops of the river, coming ever closer. One of the loops brings the convoy within a hundred yards of the Party members. At that distance they can make out more details. It seems the two small boats are less crowded than before, and that the trader is currently being crewed by the brigands. This observation is soon confirmed as, shortly after passing, but before rounding then next bend, faint cries can be heard from the convoy. The vessels slow to a halt, and, one at a time each of the smaller boats lays alongside the trader, taking aboard the brigand crew. Once all are aboard, the two boats swiftly row away, back down the river. After some time (and long after the two boats are out of sight) a stirring can be seen aboard the trader. Here and there, men can be seen standing up and looking around, bending below the gunwales to rouse their companions. After a short time, and some confusion, the trader again sets out north towards Riverhills.

There being nothing more to see, the group heads back to camp to inform the others. Once all are gathered and have shared their information, the Party agrees to send another messenger to town. Vindle will head out this time.

Afternoon is growing towards evening as they have been discussing this and are preparing for the coming night. As they are doing this, the party is abruptly interrupted by the unmistakable sounds of something approaching from the north.

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Ch. 1 Part 10

Hastily readying themselves, the Party is relieved when a voice calls to them by name and claims to bear a message from Ardadan and the Mayor.

It is indeed a messenger. He has much to tell and not much time. Events back in town have been developing quickly. In the absence of contact with the capital, with deteriorating contact elsewhere, and based on the information provided by Ardadan, the mayor has decided that he must take control of the situation. The entire militia and watch have been called up. Further scouting (by other parties) has indicated that, for the most part, the north and east of town are clear enough to be ignored for the present time, freeing the local forces to concentrate on the west and south. While it is clear that important matters are occurring to the west, the Mayor agrees that the south is the most likely present threat and/or center of these troubles. The capital is to the south and re-opening communication is imperative. Additionally, any threats from the south are closer, so, even if they prove to be minor, little time would be lost and then the militia would be free to turn its full attention to the west.

So, the plan is to move the bulk of the militia south and clear the area and break through if necessary to the southern settlements, then turn their attention to the west. In order to facilitate this, a series of relay point are, even now setting up along the old highway route. As the party gains further information, they can quickly contact the closest, and that info will be passed along. The “army” will be moving slowly due to its size, and the effort of clearing out the route.

No longer needing to send Vindle, the Party relays all that they’ve observed to this messenger, but then, ask why he, and not Ardadan brought this information. The messenger tells them that, in the interests of speed, Ardadan had several times used portions of the Highway. At some point bandits had spotted him and shot him. The arrow had hit him in the back, near his kidney, and he was obliged to ride for several hours before reaching town and receiving any aid. He may recover, but, due to the delay, this is no longer certain. Several of the towns’ healers are looking after him.

At this, the Party thanks the messenger, and returns to their assignment. Not without some discussion of Ardadan. Now events are certainly coming to a head, both with hope as well as uncertainty.

As the Party ponders this turn, word comes from the observation post that more bandits have hastily, and none too stealthily approached and entered the tower from the direction of the Highway. The entire Party now watches as, a half-hour or so later, two bandits emerge from the tower and trot rather quickly up the path towards the highway, where they turn north. After another half-hour, the gates open again, and a small troop escorting a wagon emerges. The column also turns north (right) as it reaches the Highway.

Perhaps the intense stress of the last few days, together with their feelings about Antalante and Ardadan, can explain what happened next. Ignoring their orders for the first time, the Party decides to ambush the column. It will take some time for the column to draw parallel with the Party, so they have time to prepare. If they hurry, they may even be able to intercept the two bandits who left earlier.

In the gathering darkness, the Party makes its way to the side of the Highway. Fortunately they do arrive before the two bandits. Staying under cover, they also discover two more bandits emerging from the brush on the other side of the Highway. Amrun tells the Party that that area is the furthest corner of his land. From this position, the Party can tell that the (now four) bandits are goblins. They are able to overhear some of the conversation. It appears that the survivors of the Opal House fight have sent word to the tower and asked for re-supply and reinforcement. The column coming up the Highway is part of that relief effort. The new commander for Opal House is with them. The conversation takes a quick turn though as the goblins discuss the situation. It seems they are not happy, and feel that things are getting out of control and dangerous for them. After making contact, the four goblins split back up into two groups, one heading back to link with the column, the other returning to the trees, likely to pass the word to Opal House.

The Party is excited by this news and readies an ambush. They find cover in the dark and the brush along the Highway. Theo and Lassidil are further to the right, while Hans, Amrun, Bern and Bigulf are in a group to their left. The plan is for Theo and Lassidil to stop the column from the front, while the rest hammer into it from the flank. Hans moves down the road a bit to watch for the column.

After some time, he returns, indicating the approach of the column. All now ready themselves. As it approaches, the details of the coming fight can be seen. There appear to be two goblins, four or so orcs, and three or four hobgoblins. The human commander can’t be seen at the moment, but is likely just obscured by the wagon. There are no lights being used, so it is quite dark. Once close enough, Lassidil and Theo open fire.

The ambush goes off perfectly to plan. In the darkness, the confusion is complete. Taking out the head of the column brings it to a halt, and as more move to the front to see what’s happening they can be eliminated as well. Though the bandits quickly realize they’re under attack, the confusion is more than enough to seal their fate. They are being attacked from multiple sides, and, before they can organize, the Party slams into them. Even the commander is easily taken care of. By the time he entered the fight, he was nearly on his own. After, the party is intrigued to discover that he is dressed and armoured identically to the original commander at Opal House.

After the elation wears off though, they realize the flaw in their plan. They now have a cart full of supplies, two horses and eleven bodies to deal with. Considering their job is to observe and report, this is something of a problem. Eventually they decide that the best course of action is to drag the bodies to the marsh, and to find a spot where they can take the cart off the Highway and hide it somewhere along the old road. Risky as this is, it seems better than leaving everything on the Highway where the carnage would act as a signpost saying, “Search here for enemies!” laborious and tiring as this is, they clearly have no viable alternative and, so, set about covering their tracks. In the dark, they do the best they can to obscure the spilled blood. Eventually, tired, sweaty from the effort, cold from the autumn night, the Party wearily returns to the campsite, surprising Vindle with two more horses to care for.

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