Night's Dark Terror

27th Tserdain Thaumont - 1st Moldain Flaumont, AC1000

(Sorry about the delay in these postings. I hope I have most of it right, feel free to correct as necessary)

Journeying up the Volaga (Highreach) River, the party made slow but steady time through the uneven ground of the moors. After crossing into drier foothills that afternoon, they were brought up short as a boulder sailed out of some trees and crashed to the ground, just missing Martin and his horse. Ambush! The assailants broke cover and lumbered toward them. It was a pack of five shaggy ogres brandishing huge clubs and large rocks as missiles.

Such a foe was understandably confident, but they had underestimated their prey badly. The party tore into the brutes and made short work of them. Fyodor suggested tracking them back to their lair, as the folktales surrounding the beasts suggested they collected gold coins as shiny trinkets from their victims. Cromartie found the trail leading away from the river easily enough, and the party moved out.

Within a few hours, they espied movement on a hilltop ahead. Roger and Cromartie snuck ahead while the rest of the party waited in some trees. The movement turned out to be an ogre sentry. Another one of the creatures approached it and traded places with him. A changing of the guard, apparently. The pair of men watched the second ogre hunker down and sit still for a bit, then crept back to rejoin the group.

The party devised a plan: they would circle the hill and take out the sentry quickly, then track the other one back to whatever lair it came from. Roger and Cromartie returned to their hiding spot and prepared to shoot the beast after giving the others time to move into position.

After several minutes, the ogre stood up to relieve itself. Taking advantage of its breaking cover (and distraction), the pair fired. Unfortunately, the arrows flew wide and the sentry was now alerted to their presence. Nitely came to the rescue with a Silence spell targeted on the ogre, so that its attempts to raise the alarm proved futile.

The group charged in and found three more ogres outside a small cave behind the sentry hill. A bloody battle ensued, somewhat complicated by the silenced ogre charging into the fray and interfering with some spellcasting (no verbal components would work within 15 feet of him). In the end, the ogres were dead and the party largely unharmed. A search of the cave revealed a cache with thousands of gold and silver coins! The party decided to picket the horses here and rest for the night.

In the evening, the horses shrieked in terror. A huge spider-like creature was dragging one of the pack-mules away! Cromartie, who was on watch, waded in with the dead elf’s greatsword, but his arm was trapped in a crablike pincer. The rest of the party shot and hacked at the beast and it finally dropped. Pavel managed to heal the worst of the damage to Cromartie’s arm, but the mule was dead.

When dawn came, the group packed up and headed back toward the Volaga, intent on finishing their journey to Xitaqa.

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24th Soladain - 27th Tserdain, Thaumont, AC 1000

The party made decent time, despite the weather and the fact that Fyodor was now no longer mounted. Apart from a brief encounter with a pair of swamp panthers, which Chromartie scared off with a grazing arrow shot, they had no trouble.

When they reached the ford at the Wufwolde that led to Rifflian, it was just past mid-day. They opted to stay on the moors, finding the place that Fyodor had spoken to Loshad before and camping there. After some discussion, the werewolves’ heads were placed on spears with sacks over them (to keep the crows from rendering them unrecognizable). Roger prepared some “horse food” (grass and oats) as well as setting aside some ale for Loshad. Chromartie and Fyodor also oiled their weapons to keep the rain from rusting them.

As the day wore into night, Martin and Pavel took the opportunity to rest. Finally, they judged midnight to be upon them. Fyodor stepped down to where the heads were staked out, stood on one leg, and began whistling.

A few minutes later two large black stallions cantered up and the centaur-like Loshad followed. Fyodor showed him the heads and he agreed they were indeed Kalkask’s and Bailakask’s. Fyodor told Loshad he had already released his horse onto the moors. Loshad looked at the rest of the party’s picketed mounts, but agreed he had made no such bargain with them.

Fyodor had Roger bring the tapestry over for Loshad to examine. He explained that Xitaga was a ruined city on an escarpment north of the Shutturga river. He gave the party directions to the right area and told them to look for a ruined tower. Their business concluded, Loshad and the two wild horses galloped off into the night.

The next morning, the party decided they would head down river to Kelvin, it being the largest city in the area. By crossing the ford, they were able to follow the narrow road along the river, making better time than going cross-country on the moors. It was an hour or so after dark when they reached a ferry house. The ferryman overcharged them outrageously for making a night crossing, but deposited them without incident on the far side.

The party found their way to an open gate in the walls (near the animal pens) and paid their tolls to enter. A few minutes of wandering found a quiet, but inexpensive tavern they could lodge at (“The Battered Tankard”). After securing a couple of rooms next to each other, the group cleaned up and went to get a hot meal.

In the taproom, Pavel met a woman wearing a clerical holy symbol who went by the name Nightly. She was a priestess in the Church of Tralaldara and the two discussed matters religious and current events. Pavel felt she might be a valuable addition to the party and when Fyodor arrived at the table, he was delighted at the idea of another healer in the group, especially one of the same faith as him.

Martin spoke to a few people and got the name of a sage that might know something about the head they’d taken from strange statue the party had found at the werewolves’ den and checked for rumors about places to buy scrolls or potions. Fed, clean, and with a roof over their heads, the party rested well that night and awoke ready to face the city of Kelvin.

While Roger shopped for weapons, Martin managed to purchase a few potions and a couple of scrolls. Then they both took the statue head to the sage’s house. A servant explained that Master Basil was currently at lessons (tutoring), but would be home to visitors after lunch. The pair returned later and was shown in to the parlor.

Master Basil, an elderly thyatian, examined the statue and the tapestry for the pair of adventurers, but could only supply cursory information. Both seemed very old, and the statue might be related to the traladaran legends of the beast-man invasions in the Song of Halav. Beyond that, he had little to tell them. Roger and Martin left the scholar and headed for a jeweler to haggle over some of the spoils the party had acquired, including the ruby eyes of the statue.

When they got to the shop, the pair hit upon a plan. Roger downed a potion of ESP he’d been holding and was able to read the jeweler’s surface thoughts throughout the negotiations while Martin played “bad cop.” As a result, the two came away with several thousand worth of gold and platinum.

Meanwhile, Pavel and Nightly visited the Temple of the Traladaran Church. outside, several fanatics of the Cult of Halav were chanting and wailing. Pavel wrinkled his nose in distate at the heretics as he went inside. At the temple, he exchanged news with one of the clerics there and explained about the goblin attacks in the Dymrak and the party’s mission of mercy to rescue Stephan. The priest seemed sympathetic and promised to let them know if he heard anything useful. He also agreed to enchant a wooden holy symbol of Halav with a Continual Light spell to aid the party on their journeys.

With some of the money the party had made, Roger and Fyodor purchased a mule and two fine war-trained horses from a stablemaster. They purchased barding for their new mounts as well. Fyodor bought a set of dwarf-made plate mail and had it fitted. They also decided to let Nightly use Roger’s old riding horse.

Horse4

Once the party had finished their business, and had re-supplied on rations and other mundane items, they set out early the next morning. It was the last day of Thaumont and spring was starting to assert itself a bit more. the sun broke through the clouds occasionally and the air was less chill than other mornings. Perhaps a good omen for their journey to find Xitaqa?

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21st Moldain - PM 23rd Loshdain, AC 1000
Werewolf Den

The party made hasty preparations to leave Rifflian. After buying what silver weapons they could and distributing them among themselves, Martin and Roger hit upon the idea of creating a wolfsbane-based lycanthrope repellant. They paid an apothecary to take the herb, crush and boil it, then mix into a lard-like paste dubbed “Bane Butter.” The party then forded the Wufwolde and rode out across the moors.

Later that afternoon, the group came across a lone cairn of rocks on a hummock. Circling it carefully, Roger approached to investigate. As soon as he touched the cairn, several rocks tumbled aside and the desiccated corpse of a man in leather armor rose up to grab at him. Roger dodged the creature and backpedaled, shooting at it with an arrow. Cromartie also fired and the arrows stuck in the thing’s torso. The creature’s eyes burned red as it leapt clear of the rock pile.

Pavel and Fyodor closed on horseback with the creature. The warrior landed a terrific blow with his sword and Pavel invoked his deity to turn the foul thing. It shrieked and ran for its cairn, but Fyodor reached it before it had dug back into the rocks and cut the thing half with Trollcutter.

Pavel asked concernedly if anyone had been hurt by the creature. No one had and he breathed a sigh of relief. He told the others it was a form of wight and could sap your very life force with a touch.

The group carefully removed the now-dead thing and the rocks. Martin found two polished copper armbands on the wight and Roger discovered a rotted sack buried just below where the thing had lain. It tore when they pulled it out, spilling silver coins on the ground. There were too many to count conveniently, so they tucked them into a new bag and slung it on the mule. That night, they camped on the moors.

It was well after dark when Fyodor, awake on watch, heard sounds moving in the dark. He thrust a torch into the embers of the fire and, waking the others, threw it in the direction he’d heard the noises. Nothing could be seen in the light, but the party heard a guttural voice that spoke briefly in a language none of them knew and then fell silent. Just then a wolf howled from the opposite direction. Martin lit another torch and hurled it toward the sound, Fyodor ran toward the howl, hoping that perhaps one of the werewolves they sought had come to them. A moment later, two wolves came at the camp from the opposite side of the howling, followed almost immediately by four more charging Fyodor into the torchlight!

As the party battled the wolves, Roger and Martin saw some orcs stumble into the first torch’s light, fighting wolves themselves! One was taken down by a wolf but the rest fought on, eventually dropping one of the beasts.

As Fyodor hacked and slashed at the four beasts surrounding him, a larger wolf moved into the light. It seemed to ripple as it changed form into a bipedal “wolf-man” form. It held up some sort of trinket and growled mystic words at Fyodor. The warrior felt some sort of energy trying to bind his limbs, but he managed to shrug off the effects and keep fighting. Martin cast a Sleep spell in Fyodor’s direction, dropping the wolves, but leaving Fyodor standing. The werewolf shifted back into bestial form and leapt to the attack; the Traladaran fighter charged to meet him.

Pavel, Chromartie, and Roger dropped a couple of the wolves before they were able to harm the mounts, ignoring the orcs and their battle. Fyodor sorely wounded the werewolf, causing it to try to flee, but it foolishly turned its back on the warrior’s magic sword and Fyodor killed him with a parting stroke.

At the lycanthrope’s death, the normal wolves broke and ran, one of them being cut down by an orc as it fled. Fyodor looked across the moor at the orcs and brandished the fallen torch in one hand, his bloodied sword in the other, and screamed a defiant war cry. The noise awoke the magically slumbering wolves at his feet, but they fled into the darkness. The orcs beat a hasty retreat as well.

Fyodor looked at the dead werewolf. It had changed back into a man of early to middle years. He severed the thing’s head and sealed the stump with the torch. Whether this were one of the ones they sought, he wasn’t sure, but it was certainly worth taking the head along.

The next morning the party broke camp, and by early afternoon they’d reached the banks of the Shuttturga and began to move upstream. Within a couple of hours, they espied a rocky hill that fit the description they had been given. Moving cautiously around it, they spotted a likely entrance: a shadowy patch near the base that might be a cave mouth.

As the group moved past the hill, their horses grew nervous. The adventurers picketed the animals at a stand of scrub and trees a few hundred yards away. Fyodor, mindful of his oath to Loshad, turned his beast loose, but it didn’t wander far from the other animals.

The party decided to have Roger climb the slope and see what he could. The hill was steep, but not unmanageably so. Near the top, he saw that the hill was actually more like a bowl, with an enclosed canyon within. Moving along behind the ridgeline, Roger scouted the area below. He could just make out where a tunnel entered the area roughly in correlation to where they guessed the entrance to be from the outside, but there seemed to be no sign of movement. The canyon was largely in shadow as the day wore on, so details were few. He did spot a strange, beast-headed statue standing partway down from the ridge line on the opposite slope.

Roger tossed a rope back down to the others, who then ascended the hill. After checking the canyon from several angles, they came down to discuss their options. They decided to put a couple men on the ridge and the rest would attempt to lure the beasts out and deal with them as they exited the tunnel.

As they talked, a rustling in the brush gave them only a second’s notice before a huge wolf followed by three others burst out and charged them. Martin got off his Sleep spell, dropping the smaller trio, but the big one never slowed. Roger scrambled out of the line of its charge by hastily climbing up the hill a few yards, and Martin stepped behind the others. Cromartie and Fyodor met the beast head on. Pavel tried casting Light on the werewolf’s eyes to blind it, but the spell missed and managed only to illuminate its ears.

The fighting was short and bloody, but the beast was brought down. Like the other were, it changed into human form after it died. It was a middle-aged woman with long greying hair. Fyodor severed its head and Martin dispatched the sleeping wolves.

The party moved on with their plan. After Roger and Martin climbed onto the ridge with bow and oil flasks at the ready, Fyodor, Pavel, and Cromartie went around to the tunnel entrance and flung the glowing head of the female werewolf into the tunnel. Three more wolves came out of dens in canyon walls below. Roger shot at them as Martin hurled flaming oil down. One wolf fell, its hide stuck with arrows and smoldering. The other two tried to flee the flames. As they ran out of the tunnel, the rest of the party cut them down.

The party regrouped and explored the canyon. It seemed to consist of several dens, each their own small cave with an entrance off of the central canyon. The caves had matted bedding and crunched bones and stank of predator. One of the dens seemed larger and cleaner; it also had a battered chest in it. Another had a once-fine saddle with gold and silver tooling that had been badly chewed. The statue stood at the top of a winding ramplike path. It was obviously very old, and worn by the elements. It was about six feet tall, a human with a bestial head. The head was more like a jackal than a wolf, though. Its eyes were rubies.

The group decided to bring the horses into the canyon for the night and camp there. The mounts were nervous with the smell of wolf, but the characters picketed them to keep them from running off. The group rested and bound their wounds and the night passed without incident.

The next morning came with cool breezes blowing in clouds and a light drizzle. The group packed up and headed west, so as not to miss their rendezvous with the mysterious horse-man. By that evening the rain had not worsened, but nor had it slacked off. The group was still several miles from the ford and since they were not to meet with Loshad until the following night, they made camp once again on the moors.

The night passed without incident and the party awoke to a cool wind blowing in a drizzling rain. They broke camp and continued west toward Rifflian.

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PM of 16th Loshdain - 21st Moldain, Thaumont AC 1000

That night, during Cromartie’s watch, wolves burst from the trees. They attacked the horses and him but not before he had a chance to shout a warning. The group leaped up to defend themselves. Cromartie was wounded and one horse dragged down by a wolf in the fray. Fyodor, with sword and board, ran to Cromartie’s side. A larger wolf charged the warriors. Fyodor laid about him with Trollcutter and wounded the beast deeply. Roger fired several arrows at it as well, but in the dark it was difficult to see their effect. Martin did his best with his darts, being nearly tapped out for spells. Pavel single-handedly slew the wolf that had slain the horse. Cromartie and Fyodor had dropped two of the wolves with their swords as well. The horses panicked and broke their tethers, galloping into the night. The alpha wolf, not liking being hurt so badly, fled the scene and the remaining wolves’ morale broke. After the party had tended to their wounds, they moved camp away from the animal corpses and waited for daylight to gather the horses.

The next day dawned clear and cool. Cromartie and Gregor managed to retrieve all the remaining horses. After some debate, the group decided to head to Sukiskyn to regroup, hoping to arrive there by nightfall. Cromartie led the way, but the way was more difficult than expected and the group was still deep in the wilderness when darkness came. Another night was spent camping, but nothing accosted them while they rested.

The following morning was cloudy but no rain fell. By midday, the group had found their way to Sukiskyn. After discussing matters with Pyotr, it was decided that the white horses needed to be sold as soon as possible, even if it meant doing so without Stephan’s bargaining expertise. The party examined the tapestry again and asked the residents if they had any knowledge about “XITAQA,” but the only suggestion was by old Kuzma, who once again mentioned asking the “Horse-Man of the Moors.” The party determined to leave early the following morning to escort the horses to Rifflian.

That night, Fyodor slipped out on two missions. First, he paid a visit to the young widow Masha. She was awake, feeding her infant son. Fyodor made an honorable, if hurried, proposal of marriage. He offered to take her with him in the morning and be married at Kelvin. The lady was caught off guard, but not offended. She did not answer him immediately and the warrior accepted her silence and told her to think about it.

Fyodor’s second trip was to find Roger, who was keeping watch on the tower roof. He enlisted the thief’s aid in taking down the magic tapestry and trying to hide it amongst the pelts, etc. that the mule was carrying.

Early the next morning, before dawn, the party head out. Traveling with them were two ranch hands, Tralas and Alfana, who led the white horses on strings and would negotiate the sale at Rifflian. Fyodor and Roger kept the mule and its new cargo well away from the Sukiskyners. Cromartie noticed the lopsided bundle, but said nothing right away.

The crossing at the Shutturga went easily on the group found themselves out on the moors again. Fyodor questioned Tralas and Alfana about the “Horse-Man” Kuzma had mentioned. They laughed and said it was an old bit of folklore about a guardian spirit that watches over wild horses. The legends say if one goes out on the moors at midnight and whistles while standing upon one foot for three nights in a row, he will appear. They offered no opinion on whether the legend might be true beyond believing such a spirit would be no friend to folk like themselves, who make a living capturing wild horses.

The group made good time and even managed to cross the Volaga before making camp, though they still had one more river between them and their destination. Late that night, Fyodor went out on the moors and whistled for several minutes with one foot inthe air, but nothing seemed to happen. When Fyodor returned to camp, Cromartie commented (quietly) to him on the bundled tapestry hidden under the pelts and offered advice on how better to conceal it.

The next morning, the group and the horses forded the Wufwolde and rode upstream to Rifflian. The town was a trading spot where the elves of the Radlebb came to do business with outsiders. Half the residents in the settlement were humans. The buildings were fashioned in an elvish style but seemed almost “touristy,” as though designed by someone who wanted to make the elves “feel at home” and visitors feel like they were someplace “authentically elvish” – yet failing at both.

Tralas and Alfana took the whites to the horse traders and the rest of the party found lodgings at the Silver Swan, an establishment that catered to humans. Cromartie sold the pelts and Fyodor managed to trade the gems and the tiara for some platinum coins. The horses sold for a decent price, but Alfana felt sure that Stephan could have gotten a better deal.

Flush with cash, the party asked around regarding possible magic for sale. Finding none, they set about to gather information. Roger spoke to the elven priest of the local shrine about “Xitaqa” but only learned that it was probably a Hutaakan name or word. The Hutaakans were believed to be the first peoples of the land that is now Traladara. Many of the ancient ruins scattered about the wilderness are said to be the remains of their civilization.

Roger then located a wine shop that catered to elves and succeeded in getting the barkeep to ask his clientele if anyone knew much about ancient tapestries. One fellow by the name of Silveroak agreed to look at it. Fyodor, disliking the company of elves, stayed at his room in the inn, having food and drink sent up.

Roger arrived and told Fyodor to calm down and spread out the tapestry for Silveroak to examine. Unfortunately, the elf could provide little information beyond confirming that the tapestry was very old and possibly of Hutaakan origin. He also agreed that the design appeared to be some sort of chart or map.

Martin seized the opportunity to clean up and rest, grateful to have a night in an actual town with inns, shops, and clean rooms. Cromartie greased a few palms and found pleasant companionship for the night with a comely half-elf. Fyodor slipped out of town at night and forded the river back to the moors. He stood on one foot again and whistled for a while.

A few minutes later, his efforts were rewarded with the sounds of hoofbeats. Three large stallions rode up and eyed him curiously, followed by a centaur with a long iron-grey beard who named himself Loshad and asked Fyodor what he wanted.

Loshad

Fyodor explained that they wished to find Xitaqa. Loshad said he knew where it lay, but in return Fyodor must release any horse he owns to the wild, and must kill the dreaded werewolves Bailakask and Kalkask, who hunted the wild horses of the moors, and return to this spot in four nights with their heads. Fyodor said his group had already faced weres in the Dymrak. Loshad warned him that if they had faced any from Bailakask’s pack, the weres might already be seeking him! He told Fyodor to seek their lair among the caves in the rocky outcroppings along the Shutturga. Fyodor agreed and returned to Rifflian.

The next morning broke clear and almost hot, with a warm wind blowing from the south. Fyodor told the rest of the party what he had learned on the moors. Roger asked some of the boatmen down at the river if they knew of any rocky outcroppings on the Shutturga. One of the hands recalled a stony hill upstream from Misha’s ferry on the western banks. Rested, and with new information, the party prepared for their next move.

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Loshdain, 16 Thaumont AC 1000

The party holed up in the room with the prison cell, bringing the horses in as well. Cromartie moved the braziers in from the throne room and they dispersed most of the chill. Wounds were bound, rations doled out, and watches were set. The night passed peacefully enough, at some point the rain and wind died down outside as well.

The next morning, Martin cast Detect Magic on the items they’d found. Unsurprisingly, the small vial contained a magical potion, and the shield also was enchanted. Pavel decided to carry it for the time being to see how powerful it was.

After some discussion, it was decided to explore the area beyond the hollow bridge before quitting the goblin warren. Cromartie removed the door on the near side and laid it over the hole in the floor of the bridge. Pavel rigged it with a rope, so that it could be pulled off the gap from the tunnel entrance, potentially cutting off any pursuit. Roger moved across and opened the door, revealing a medium-sized chamber with some wooden beds and a table. It was neater than the other areas of the lair. Almost immediately, there was a rustling sound and several large weasel-like creatures came out of a hole in a tree trunk and eyed the thief curiously. Roger beat a retreat and shut the door.

The group then moved into the room together. Again, the creatures appeared, eying the party for a few moments. Cromartie loosed and arrow at one, wounding it badly. The other animals quickly became agitated and charged the group, with several more coming out the hole. Each was a long as man’s arm and snake-fast. Roger shot one more before Martin cast his Sleep spell. It knocked out all the weasels, but put Fyodor and Pavel into a magic slumber, too!

After the cleric and warrior were woken up, Cromartie crushed the skulls of the weasels, debating about their pelts and flavor in stew. The beds were bare straw-tick with no blankets and the furniture was all human-sized. There was also another door in the room. It was sturdier-looking than the others, and locked.

Roger attempted to pick the lock unsuccessfully. Fyodor used “method B” and applied a crowbar to the jamb. As he swung the door open, the torchlight revealed three hobgoblins standing directly in front of the door wearing studded leather armor and with longswords at their belts. One of them grabbed at Fyodor, catching his arm. The warrior jerked away, but not before seeing the unnaturally long clawlike nails on the creature’s hands and feeling a slight numbing sensation where they had scraped his skin. He dealt a powerful blow to his foe, but it wasn’t enough to drop it.

Pavel believed them to be unnatural undead and attempted to turn them, but with no luck. The rest of the group quickly moved out of the room with Roger dropping the torch onto a mattress. Fyodor and Pavel were close behind, slamming the door shut and crossing the bridge. The creatures did not seem to wish to follow and the door stayed shut.

Roger snuck up and opened the door again to see what was happening. The fire was out and the room was dark. One of the creatures was waiting by the door and tried to grab the thief, but he was too fast for it. Cromartie fired a flaming arrow but missed, striking the door. Roger retreated and the creature slammed the door shut.

The group decided to take a different tack. Roger climbed up through the ramshackle roof, shimmied across the top of the hollow stone log bridge, and tried to set the roof of the creatures’ chamber on fire with a torch and some oil. Unfortunately, the wood and brush were too damp, and all he produced was smoke. When he returned to his comrades, Cromartie suggested pulling back the layers, like a thatch roof, to get at the drier tinder. Roger agreed and climbed the roof again, taking his axe with him to help.

As he was preparing to hack his way into the lower strata, an arm shot up through the hole and grabbed at his leg. The claws sunk into his calf and he felt an icy numbness spread through his body. As he fell nerveless to the roof, the creature shouldered his way partway up and grabbed him, pulling him down inside.

The group heard the crashing noises and assumed them to be Roger hacking at the roof, but Cromartie’s keen hunter’s ears heard the muffled thud of a body hitting the floor behind the doorway (NOT up above). Believing Roger had fallen, the group charged the room. Roger was lying paralyzed half on the foot of a cot with one of the creatures standing over him. In the half-light from the hole in the roof, the group could see the other two approaching from the corners of the room.

The one by Roger had a rent in his armor from Fyodor’s sword stroke, but there was no sign of a wound underneath. Martin the wizard declared that these were a legendary creature known as “thouls”: a vile crossbreed of hobgoblin stock. They possessed both the paralyzing touch of a ghoul and the regenerative capabilities of trolls!

Thoul

The fighting was thick for several moments. Cromartie laid about with the late elf Allele’s greatsword but failed to land a telling blow. Pavel used his healing magic on Roger to neutralize the paralyzing effect of the thoul’s claw.

Fyodor bulled in with Trollcutter and nearly cut one of the beasts in half. There was no sign of it healing. Apparently its ability to regenerate would not return it to life. Roger revived enough to draw his dagger—his axe was missing—and took up a defensive stance. Pavel moved up to fight the one near Roger and struck with his flail. Fyodor hit at it as well, but was caught by a swipe from its claw and fell to the paralysis himself! Martin did his best with his darts and Cromartie landed a solid blow with his sword against the third thoul. Another dart from Martin put it down.

Letting Fyodor recover naturally from the paralysis, Cromartie and Pavel dragged the thouls to the hole in the bridge and dropped them into the piranha-infested waters. The group then explored the inner chamber. It was another bedchamber, with a single bed and a table with chair; this chamber appeared to be used, unlike the other one. Roger found a hidden panel in the side of a stone tree trunk, but discerned a booby trap attached to it, designed to drop a large stone branch from the ceiling onto most of the room. Trying his best to neutralize it while the others waited outside the room, he accidentally set it off. Fortunately, as he was aware of the trap he dove into a corner and avoided the worst of the deadfall, suffering only minor bruising.

Behind the panel was a hollow space with a small chest inside. It was padlocked, but Fyodor made short work of that with his crowbar. The chest contained a quantity of gold coins, a quiver with five arrows, and a velvet pouch. Inside the pouch were five gems of good quality. Cromartie made a quick survey for any other tracks that might have been from the departing goblins and their prisoners, but if there had been any, the storm had wiped them out.

Gemz

Schytian quiver

Taking their gains, the group made a quick search for any clues, finally deciding they should pack up and head for Sukiskyn to regroup, deliver the old woman to safety, and see of they could learn anything about “Xitaqa.” All any of them could determine was that it was an OLD Traladaran word or name.

After packing up the pelts and treasure, they led the horses carefully over the bridge and rode north out of the petrified forest. The day was warmer and drier with the occasional glimpse of sunlight through the trees. The group made good time before making camp. Cromartie and Gregor reckoned that they could turn west in the morning to head straight for Sukiskyn. They estimated, with luck, they might arrive tomorrow or the next day.

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Nytdain, 15th Thaumont AC1000 cont'd

Hasty exploration revealed the wolves to be in the next chamber, tethered to a petrified tree trunk. The group loosed arrows at the bound creatures, wounding one badly. Unfortunately, the enraged wargs burst their fetters and charged the group and a vicious melee ensued. Roger’s faithful hound was slain by two of the wolves in the process. After slaying several of the creatures, goblins popped out of a semi-concealed passage and fired arrows at the party. Pavel froze several in their tracks with a Hold Person spell and Martin, his spells almost exhausted, created the illusion of a berserk giant to instill terror in their foes. The last few wolves broke and ran for the bridge, but not before Fyodor felled one as it ran from him. Gregor had a few tense moments trying to calm the horses as the wargs ran past into the forest, but they were looking for escape, not a meal.

The party decided to move the horses into the compound. This proved easier said than done, as the bridge was uneven and slippery. One horse fell into the river and was wounded by the piranha, but managed to clamber out on the far shore (But not before Fyodor put a premature “mercy killing” arrow into its flank!). Another of the mounts fell and broke its neck. It was quickly consumed by the fish. The rest of the steeds (and the pack mule) made it across without incident. Fyodor barred the doorway the goblins had come from and Roger rigged a trip-line alarm with scraps of metal from the dead goblins’ gear. The group decided the ramshackle shelter of the goblins’ warren was preferable to trying to rest outside in the howling storm. Pavel and Martin tried to sleep while the others kept a watch.

It was less than hour later that Roger’s alarm was triggered and several goblins rushed into the room. Fyodor, Roger, and Cromartie fended them off and Pavel, despite having removed his plate armor to rest, charged in to help. One of the goblins managed to fall back past the doorway and slam it shut, but Fyodor’s blood was up and he kicked it open and charge in.

Beyond was an oblong chamber with two other doors. The fleeing goblin was just opening one when Fyodor caught up with him and cut him down. The party regrouped and decided that trying to rest with the remainder of the compound uncleared was a losing proposition. Fyodor shoved open the door as Cromartie and Roger readied their bows.

Inside was a long chamber lit by coal braziers. Furs hung on the walls and several goblins stood facing them. A larger goblin in scraps of metal armor sat on a makeshift throne at the far end and screeched an order at his subjects to attack.

Fakegrishog

The party’s arrows felled two goblins almost instantly, but the rest pressed in and blocked the doorway. Fyodor and Pavel had their hands full pressing through to the throne room. Martin, lacking any spells, did his best with his darts, even felling one of the creatures. Cromartie was forced to switch to blade work, using the late Allele’s enchanted great sword. Pavel charged into the room after the goblin on the throne, but the leader could see the fight was going against his minions. He ducked behind the throne as Pavel attempted to fire sling stones at him. Then the goblin ran for one wall and ducked behind a hanging pelt. Roger literally leapt over his diminutive foes and won into the room. He managed to hit the fleeing goblin leader with an arrow through the furs, but the goblin pulled loose. Pavel gave chase, seeing that the furs hid a door on the wall; the cleric grabbed a brazier by its stand as a light source.

Beyond the furs was an empty room with two other doors. The goblin had stopped partway between them, as if undecided as to which way to go. A moment later, Roger came through the door to Pavel’s aid. He charged the goblin with a flying tackle, knocking him to the ground.

Meanwhile, Cromartie had finished off his foes, with some help from Martin, and moved into the throne room. Fyodor was fighting three goblins at once when –as he struck one down– he left himself open to a vicious counter by the remaining two. Badly wounded, he called for aid. Pavel rushed to the Fyodor’s side, giving him the last of his healing potion. This left Roger alone with the goblin leader. The two battled furiously, exchanging blows and wounds. Cromartie came into the room behind the furs and picked up Roger’s bow, trying to get a shot off, but Roger finally connected a solid hit and the leader fell.

The battle over, at least temporarily, Martin searched the goblins and the throne. He found a small sack hidden under the chair containing a vial, a broken coronet with a single ruby mounted on it, and a goodly bit of gold coin. Roger inspected the chair itself, and found that its back was actually a round metal shield of good quality. They removed the shield from the backing and Martin promised he would use a Detect Magic spell on everything they’d found once he’d rested. Roger also inspected the pelts on the wall and found three bearskins and three wolf pelts of possible value among them.

Back in the room where the leader was killed, Roger listened at and inspected the two doors. Neither seemed locked. One led to cylindrical “tunnel” that ended in another door. It seemed to be the inside of a petrified log. The nimble thief edged along the walls of it, off the floor, to the far side. He tossed a rope back to Fyodor. The warrior had Roger tie a heavy sack onto his end then Fyodor dragged it to him across the floor. A section gave way under the weight and the sound of running water could be heard below. The group decided to leave what lay beyond the tunnel for later.

Beyond the other door was a smallish room with one corner closed off. There was a barred gate blocking the corner and a huddled figure could be seen inside. Approaching, they saw it was an old Traladaran woman. She was immensely relieved to see humans coming to her rescue. Roger quickly picked the crude lock and released her.

Her name, she explained, was Babushka. She had been taken by the goblins when they’d destroyed Cherkass (another farmstead like Sukiskyn). She had been prisoner here for several days at least. Recently, other prisoners had arrived, including one that fit the PCs’ description of Stephan, but they had been moved within the last day or two. She had heard the captors saying they were wanted for questioning at “the old ruins at Xitaqa” by someone the goblins called “Skinny Legs.”

By now the party was nearly done in and decided to secure a bolt hole to get some much-needed rest.

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Moldain, 14th - Nytdain, 15th Thaumont AC1000

After waiting a while, the group decided Allele should have returned by then and set off to find him. Cromartie tracked him to the river and saw his bootprints heading into the water. Taking his walking stick to check the depth and the end of a rope secured by Fyodor, he started across the water to check for tracks on the other side. He only got a few yards before the cold stream piranha attacked him, but he was lucky in that Fyodor pulled him out before he was too badly injured. Pavel killed one of them hanging onto Cromartie’s leg, but received a nasty bite on the thumb by another. The group surmised that Allele had been dragged down by the fish and was lost.

Piranha copia

After a good bit of debate, it was decided to keep watch on the bridge during the night and set up a decoy camp to fool any goblins that came looking for the party. Roger and Cromartie took the river watch just upstream from the stone log bridge. The rest of the group was back about a hundred yards from the water and 50 yards from the trail, with the false camp between them and the path.

As night fell, clouds rolled in and the wind picked up. The air grew chill and rain began to fall in driving sheets. A miserable night to be out in a dead forest made of stone, with no fire to keep warm by. Martin and Pavel rested to regain their spells while Fyodor and Gregor kept watches.

It was too dark to see properly, but the scouts did their best to at least listen for activity. At one point during the night, Cromartie heard movement from the direction of the bridge, but couldn’t discern any details. A bit later, the louder sounds of several people or creatures came hurrying down the trail toward the bridge. Nothing molested the camps, though.

Shortly before dawn, the sounds of several goblins leaving their base and crossing the bridge was heard again. A few shadows could be seen in the pre-dawn light, but nothing else. Cromartie was bleary from his turns on watch, so he tried to grab a quick rest while the others discussed strategy.

It was decided that several of the group would hide nearby and Pavel walked straight up to the bridge to force the goblins’ hand. The response was arrow fire. Pavel, wounded but still on his feet, managed to retreat off the logs as Roger shot one goblin archer who was peeking above the barricade. Martin cast a Sleep spell at the gate and saw at least two foes fall. Fyodor advanced towards the bridge, sword and board in hand as two wolves came running at him out of the fort.

While Fyodor fended off their attacks, taking a few bites in return, Roger sent his hound to harry the creatures at Fyodor’s side. Just then, several more goblins came charging down the path from behind the group, led by a warg rider! The leader charged Martin and wounded him with a spear. Cromartie fired several arrows, all finding their marks but failing to penetrate. Roger shot at the wolves on the bridge, wounding one. Pavel interposed himself between the mage and the warg rider, allowing Martin to retreat sufficiently to cast Sleep on the foot goblins behind the leader, felling them.

Pavel healed some of the damage he’d taken from the arrows while fighting off the wolf. Fyodor killed one wolf and its body dropped into the river, food for the piranhas. Roger killed the rider and the mount was dropped moments later.

Pavel then cast a Light spell on the eyes of the remaining wolf on the bridge, blinding it. In a panic, it fell into the water and was quickly dispatched by the voracious fish. Roger and Martin set about the grisly task of cutting goblin throats and searching the bodies.

That done, the group crossed the bridge and entered the gate, finding several sleeping goblins. They dispatched them and saw another chamber adjacent to the entrance with a dead goblin in it. It was the one Roger had shot. As the party debated its next move, the baying of wolves was heard from ahead in the darkness!

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PM of 13th - Moldain, 14th Thaumont AC1000

While the rest of the party slept during the night, Roger and Allele were on watch when several large bats swept out of the darkness at them. Allele yelled to alert the others and brought his greatsword about, but failed to connect with the dodging creatures. He received a small scratch as one tried to bite his wrist, but was otherwise unhurt. Roger’s hound grabbed one in its jaws and mauled it to death, but the thief failed to hit one with his axe.

The rest of the party awoke, except for Fyodor who was slumbering deeply. Gregor the lumberjack thrust some nearby torches into the banked embers of their fire, casting some light on the campsite. Cromartie unlimbered his bow and looked for a target in the darkness. Pavel took a torch and moved toward the conflict. Martin readied himself but took no action until he had a clearer idea of the threat they faced.

The bats swept around their targets but failed to get through the sentries’ defenses. When Pavel brought the torch closer, Cromartie could see the beasts in the light and fired, taking one more down. Fyodor, awake by now, lit another torch and carried it in one hand, with his sword in the other, and advanced.

Another one of the bats was felled and the remaining two fled. Fyodor hurled his torch in the direction of their flight to keep them illuminated a bit longer. Roger dropped his axe and chased them while hurling a dagger, but missed his mark. The bats disappeared into the gloom and the thief recovered his knife.

Pavel bound Allele’s wrist, declaring the wound not serious. The others inspected the dead creatures. They were large specimens, their bodies the size of a weasel and a wingspan of almost four feet. The teeth were narrow and sharp, like a cat’s. Most notably though, was the fact that each wore jesses (leather cords) on its feet, like a falcon. Apparently these were trained, or at least kept, beasts.

The party settled down again and tried to rest a bit more. When daylight came, the sky was blessedly free of rain for once and the wind had died down. After breaking camp, the group decided it was time to advance back into the petrified forest and continue the search for the goblins and their prisoners.

Following the goblin tracks they’d found previously, the group rode slowly into the stony “woods.” Even the underbrush was petrified, making it necessary to break through finger-width stone “branches” if one wanted to make a new trail.

They were a couple of miles into the bizarre landscape when Allele and Roger, taking point, nearly stumbled into a large goblin patrol that hadn’t been paying attention either. The two groups stared in surprise at one another, then launched into battle.

Warg riders jackdaw

Three of the goblins rode large wolves, and Allele shot one out of its saddle then dropped his bow to ready his sword. Roger fired and missed while the rest of the group prepared to move up and aid the two scouts against the goblins.

Pavel cast a Light spell on the eyes of one wolf, blinding it and sending it into a panic. The rider slipped nimbly from the saddle and screeched an order at the wolf whose rider had been shot, causing it to spring at the elf. Several foot goblins advanced behind the wolves and a few fired arrows at the thief and the elf.

Martin attempted a Sleep spell, but it failed to affect any of the foes. A goblin shot Roger and wounded him badly, and the wolf attacking Allele sank his fangs into the elf. Roger’s war hound bravely harried the wolf attacking Allele.

Fyodor couched his spear and charged forward, skewering a goblin, then dropped from his saddle and drew his sword, Trollcutter. Cromartie advanced on horseback, then dismounted to better use his long bow. Pavel rode forward, flail in hand. The dog distracted the wolf enough to allow Allele to withdraw from the melee and use a Sleep spell on the goblins, felling several, including the third wolf and its rider. The blinded wolf continued to run around in random directions, yelping in fear.

Cromartie fired at the wolf that the dog was fighting, but Roger stepped into the arrow’s path! The shaft sunk into his shoulder and he scrambled toward Pavel for healing. The cleric had already cast a healing spell on the elf, but was able to mend the worst of Roger’s wounds as well.

Fyodor struck at one of the goblins that had resisted the elf’s spell and literally cut him two before advancing on the blinded wolf to finish the creature. The noise of the fight woke a few of the sleeping goblins, but they were cut down almost as fast as they woke up. The sleeping wolf also awoke and launched itself at Allele, nearly bringing him down. Fyodor dispatched the blinded wolf with a massive blow to its spine.

Finally the wolf that had been fighting Roger’s hound was brought down and the last wolf was killed as well. The party delivered the coup de grace to the sleeping goblins and searched them for valuables and/or clues.

The goblins were all obviously of the Wolfskull tribe, and carried a few coins each, but nothing else of much value. The heroes moved off, letting Allele scout ahead, as Roger was still in bad shape from the goblin arrow (and Cromartie’s!).

Allele crept ahead and espied the stone walls and bridge described by Roger yesterday. There were sounds of goblin voices across the black water, but he couldn’t make out words. Returning to the group, he decided to look for a place to ford the river upstream, so they could sneak up on the lair from the North. Allele left his heavy armor and greatsword behind to aid in his stealth. After picking his way through the stony brambles, he came to a shallow part of the river bank. The water was too dark to see the bottom, but his woodcraft told him the water was moving swiftly enough it couldn’t be too deep. Carefully wading out, testing each step to avoid plunging into deep water, Allele attempted the crossing. When he was almost halfway across, he suddenly felt a sharp pain in his leg, then another! Turning to retreat to the bank, the water began to boil around him as he felt his flesh torn at from every angle. He caught a glimpse of white scales thrashing beneath the surface before his legs gave out, their tendons torn, and he was pulled under. He never had a chance even to scream. Within minutes, his bones were picked clean and littering the river bed along with the tattered remains of his gear.

His companions, less than two hundred yards away, remained oblivious to his grisly fate.

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Tserdain, the 13th AC1000

Cromartie had some difficulty picking up the trail after the night’s rains, but the group made their best reckoning and pressed on. The group had a brief scare as –of all things– a green dragon flew overhead! Apparently it was not hungry, or uninterested in tangling with a large group of armed men, and it disappeared within moments.

Eventually, he and Allele scouted ahead trying to find signs of their quarry. When they were several hundred yards ahead of the rest of the group, the elf’s keen senses spotted movement near what looked to be a swale or gulley. The party quickly regrouped and made plans to investigate.

Once near the head of the depression, Roger scouted ahead for a bit and saw a wolf riding goblin below riding away from them, it did not seem to be aware of him, though. Following the gulley from above for a few hundred yards brought the thief to a large bowl-like hollow where dozens of goblins were milling about and being shouted at by a large hobgoblin on a wolf mount. Some seemed t be shooting arrows into a cave mouth at the far end of the bowl. At least on of their number was lying on the ground, apparently shot by someone within the caves. Heartened by a definitive sign of their foes, Roger returned to his comrades and the party quickly made plans to ambush the goblins.

Allele and Cromartie circled to the south on foot as the rest of the group rode along the north edge of the swale. Grogor, the lumberjack, led the riderless horses, the mule, and Roger’s hound along the floor of the gulley with orders from Fyodor to goad them into a stampede towards the hollow if he gave the order.

As the group to the north neared the goblins, a smaller group came boiling out of the ravine toward Fyodor, one of them mounted on a wolf. The sound of the attack alerted the main group and the battle was joined.

One of the goblins sunk its spear deep in Fyodor’s side, and the warrior rode in retreat several yards away. Pavel rode up swinging his flail. Meanwhile the goblins’ thrill at chasing off the larger foe was cut short as Fyodor couched a spear in his arm and charged his horse back at the wolf-riding leader, plucking it from its saddle and skewering it to a tree.

Cromartie and Allele loosed arrows at the hobgoblin, dropping him from his saddle. Several of the goblins panicked at their leader’s demise, though one stepped up to lot his body. This proved his undoing as Cromartie shot him down as he bent over his late leader’s body. Meanwhile Allele cast a Sleep spell on several of the goblins near the cave entrance.

Roger shot several goblins and Martin rode up loosing another Sleep spell on a group climbing the northwest edge of the bowl as a fantastic shot by Cromartie killed two goblins with a single arrow as it passed through one’s throat and into the chest of the second! The goblins fighting Fyodor fled down into the ravine and were nearly run down by the charging animals loosed by Gregor. Upon seeing the goblins, Gregor fled up and out of the swale. Pavel, having healed some Fyodor’s wound rode down after the goblins, with Fyodor following a moment later.

Martin spied two fleeing goblins leaving the bowl and trapped them with a Web spell, then rode up and killed a third with a hurled dart.

By this time, Allele and Cromartie had descended into the hollow and began to deliver the coup de grace to the sleeping humanoids.

Fyodor and Pavel killed the last of the goblins in the gulley and Roger killed the two caught in Martin’s web. One of the goblins put to sleep by Martin was spared and bound for later questioning.

With all but one of the goblins dead, the party examined the bodies. Judging from their trappings, nearly all of the humanoids were from the Red Blade tribe. A few wore scraps of wolf pelt, and the hobgoblin had a necklace with wolf teeth. Other than a few coins on the large goblinoid, the dead had little of value.

The prisoner awoke to find himself tied between two horses and a glowering elf firing questions at him in Goblin. What little resistance it had was quickly broken and it said they were here to punish the Vipers for disobeying “Vlack” in the mater of the horses. Some of the group was sent on to the Wolfskull lair with the prisoners, the rest came here to break the Vipers. The goblin said the lair was south, but wouldn’t reveal any more. Allele slapped the horses’ rumps scaring the goblin so badly it literally wet itself. The ropes were actually secured to nearby trees and the goblins arms stayed in their sockets. It lived just long enough to realize the deception when Fyodor beheaded the creature.

Meanwhile, Cromartie and Roger had gone partway into the cave and found a heavy, but crude door blocking the tunnel. It had a large snake design carved into it, corroborating the prisoner’s story. The group decided to pile the dead in front of the door and burn them. They hoped to smoke the other goblins out –or smother them– rather than waste time exploring the caves. With the grisly task done, the set out to backtrack to where the goblin troops were supposed to have split up and follow the other trail. A couple hours later, they were following tracks due south.

It was nearing dusk as the group found themselves in a strange part of the Dymrak none of them had ever heard of. The trees were all petrified. Not fossilized, but literally stone! Allele even found a fox that had turned to rock. The ground was silty and muddy with no underbrush, though from the looks of the “trees” whatever caused the transformation happened long ago. Roger used a pinch of his Dust of Disappearance and scouted ahead invisibly. In the failing light, he found a black stream moving through the trees and could see that several “trunks” on the far side had been felled to build stone walls around a complex of some sort. Another stone tree lay across the water, presumably as a bridge.

5014509 forest winter night

Rejoining the group, Roger explained what he’d seen. Cromartie suggested that –since night was falling– the party withdraw back to the “normal” woods and make camp for the night, then approach the complex in the morning.

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Gromdain, 12 Thaumont AC 1000 (& early AM Tserdain, the 13th)

The trail proved easy to follow and with few turns. In the space of a few hours, the party reached a point where the tracks split up. The smell of smoke was again heavy in the air, so they knew whatever had burned must be close. Again, Cromartie scouted ahead. When he saw a clearing ahead, he began to circle. Soon he found a new trail leading away from the clearing, heading roughly southeast. As he began to continue his circuit, he heard the sound of a braying mule. Following the noise, he came upon the laden beast peacefully grazing near a grisly tableau.

Lying on the ground near the mule was a dead man with a spear stuck in his ribs. Next to the corpse was a dead goblin with a sword in its chest. The two had apparently slain each other. The man had the look of a trapper and his mule was carrying pelts as well as some outdoor supplies. The bodies were less than a day dead by Cromartie’s estimate. Leading the mule back, he told the others what he had found. The group then decided to approach the clearing.

As expected, a burnt out farmstead lay in the open area. A few flames still licking the timbers. There were several dead humans lying amidst the wreckage, as well as a few goblins. The bodies had been stripped of valuables. The characters bundled the human bodies into a still-burning building as a pyre, then set off along the goblins’ trail. They left the trees for a time, riding out onto the foothills along the northern edge of the Dymrak.

Roger asked Gergor if there was any other settlement in the goblins’ current path. The lumberjack said that there was a small horse camp to the southeast, but –as he’d only been there once– he was unsure of its exact location. The party decided to make time for that, leaving the trail hoping to cut off the goblins. After a short ride though, they realized they were heading for the camp where they’d encountered the Viper clan and recovered the white horses, so they doubled back to pick up the tracks again.

By the time they were following their quarry again, the skies split and a thunderstorm began. The trail became harder to see but –as the goblins seemed to be unconcerned about hiding their passage– Cromartie was still able to pick up the spoor.

It was nearing dark when they made the treeline. The rain had slowed to a drizzle again. Pavel cast a Light spell on Cromartie’s walking stick to let him lead the way in the gloom and keeping following the goblins for a bit longer before making camp. It appeared that the party was gaining some ground on their quarry. The spell was nearly spent and the sky was dark when Cromartie began to look around for possible campsites. Just then, a pair of red eyes appeared on the edge of his light and a huge wolf bounded out of the darkness at him as three smaller wolves attacked the party’s flanks.

Cromartie fended off the creature as he slashed with his sword, but his strokes failed to slow the beast. The archer thought he could see the cuts close as he made them. It caught his arm in its maw for a moment, but he tore free with just a flesh wound. Fyodor charged in with his blade Trollcutter and cut the wolf’s ribs to the bone.

Roger drew and fired at the large wolf but missed and ordered his hound to attack, but the dog was taken with a strange fear and fled into the woods. Martin used a Sleep spell on two of the wolves, dropping them handily as Allele fired at the third. Unfortunately, the spell caught poor Gregor in its net and the man slumped in his saddle.

Pavel rode up and jostled Gregor to wake him then dismounted next to a sleeping wolf, planning to crush its skull with his flail. Fyodor struck the huge wolf again and it fell dead at his feet. Cromartie ducked into the trees to see if he could spy any more beasts lurking beyond the light.

Roger was attacked by the remaining beast, but the wolf got tangled in his mount’s hooves and nearly got kicked to death by the panicking beast before deciding it’d had enough, fleeing into the trees. Allele pursued it on horseback for a minute, but had no clear shot. Martin and Pavel dispatched the two sleeping wolves.

As Fyodor beheaded the wolf, it transformed into a naked man with iron grey hair and beard. A werewolf! When Cromartie returned to the others, they immediately questioned him as to whether he was wounded. The bite did not look serious, and Pavel healed the damage, but a full moon was up there behind the clouds.

The party quickly made camp nearby and set the watches. The rain held off for the rest of the night and when dawn came. The group prepared to press on in pursuit of the marauding goblins and, hopefully, the prisoners the characters hoped to rescue.

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