Night's Dark Terror

Lunadain, 11 Thaumont AC 1000

The rain continued as the group made plans to leave to Ilyakana. Gregor, one of the loggers, had agreed to lead the party there. While the characters discussed how to proceed, Fyodor asked Martin to cast Detect Magic on the Sukiskyn heirlooms hanging in the hall. The spell revealed that one of the tapestries was indeed enchanted. The colorful design was of various geometric shapes. Pyotr said that it had come to the clan in his great-grandfather’s time, but he knew nothing of its origins.

Despite his somewhat brutish appearance, Fyodor possessed a quick mind and set to studying the patterns. The young widow Masha brought him some bread and bacon as he sat engrossed in his task. After a time, he pieced together that the weave was a map, cunningly disguised with designs to make it symmetrical. He theorized that the map showed their immediate region and nearby parts of the Duchy, though there were symbols that could represent cities that were in supposedly uninhabited areas.

When Fyodor asked about whether anyone knew of any settlement in such spot on the map, Kuzma (Pyotr’s aged mother and cleric of Petra) suggested he “Ask the horse-man on the moors.” Pyotr explained that there was a legend of some sort of “nature spirit” that watched over the wild horses and had been part of the local folklore since time out of mind. Kuzma claimed that he could be summoned by going out alone on the moors at midnight and whistling while standing on one leg for three nights in a row.

At last the party was ready to ride out. Travel was slowed by the weather and riding through the woods, but their route was more direct than the one followed by the refugees during the night. By early afternoon, the group could smell woodsmoke ahead. Cromartie slipped off his horse and scouted ahead, searching for signs of goblins or survivors. He soon found the tracks of several creatures that had beaten down the undergrowth in a hasty passage. The trail led from the encampment ahead toward the east, but the woodsman saw prints of wolves and goblins traveling in both directions, as well as some booted human prints leading away from Ilyakana. Cromartie returned to the woddcutter’s path the party had been following and marked the point even with the track he’d found in the woods.

Roger, tired of caution, spurred his horse ahead and soon broke into the clearing and a scene of carnage. Tents were knocked down and the remains of a few small buildings smoldered. There were several dead men lying on the ground, as well as a couple of dead goblins. The bodies had all been stripped of valuables and there was no sign of the attackers. At the river, a burnt and broken mast stuck out of the water next to the pier, presumably out of the sunken Marlinev’s Pride.

The group was ready to set off and follow the trail, but the lateness of the day made them decide to camp at Ilyakana for the night. Gregor found a few intact tarps that were strung by the walls of a ruined hut to give some shelter from the rain. The horses were tethered near the other hut as a windbreak. Cromartie banked a small fire and the group tried to dry out a little.

It was after midnight when Pavel and Roger, who were on watch, saw that the sky to the east had a reddish glow and roused the party. Realizing it was simply too wet to be a forest fire, they figured the light must be reflecting off the clouds from someplace farther off. They asked Gregor if there was anything in that direction. He said that Segenev, a farmstead much like Sukiskyn lay that way, about nine miles off. The group began to get ready to leave, eager to stop what they assumed to be another goblin attack, but Cromartie counseled caution. A midnight ride through the dark and drizzle would take hours and leave them exhausted, unfit for any real confrontation. Resting until first light, then making the best time possible toward Segenev was the wiser move, though it seemed unfeeling. The glow from the flames lit the sky for several more hours as the rest of the night passed.

When day broke (Gromdain the 12th), the rain had abated, but the air was humid and warm and the clouds were still dark. Thunder rumbled now and again, threatening a storm as the party rode out to see if they could reach Segenev if not in time to help, at least to avenge.

(to be cont’d)

View
Soladain, 10 Thaumont AC 1000

After the goblins’ bodies were gathered for burning, Martin used a Detect Magic spell on the gear and discovered that a battle axe with a crude red paint job was magical. Roger, lacking an enchanted weapon, took the axe for the time being.

Pyotr, desperate to raise enough money to repair his home, offered a half-share in the sales of any white horses the party could recover. Taras, Pyotr’s son, was eager to go and find the steeds (and punish the goblins who stole it). The party borrowed the other clan members’ mounts and left shortly after dawn. Allele and Cromartie used their woodcraft to scout out the trail. Fortunately, a herd of horses leaves an easy track to follow and the group set of into the forest.

The trail led them to the northern edge of the Dymrak then turned southeast, following the treeline. Before long, Cromartie noticed the stench of death in the air. Roger scouted ahead and soon discovered a grisly scene within the trees: it appeared that a battle between several goblins had taken place in a small clearing. Besides the dead goblins and a dead warg mount, there were over a dozen dead white horses as well. Examining the goblins revealed that they were of two different tribes: The Vipers (recognized for yellow markings on their armor), and Red Blades (with blood-red paint on their weapons).

A noise from above attracted the party’s attention. Looking up, they spied a lone goblin hiding in a pine tree. Allele, with his knowledge of the Goblin tongue, ordered the creature down. It complied, but was clearly terrified. It wore the trappings of a Red Blade. The party questioned it for a few minutes, but all they learned was that goblin tribes had united to steal the horses and were then going to split them up between them. The Red Blades had chased down the “cowardly” Vipers after they violated the agreement, by stealing the horses and leaving the siege against “Vlack’s” orders. Who Vlack was, it would not say. Roger moved to behead the goblin with his new axe, but it dodged and fled. It only got a dozen yards or so before Allele and Roger brought it down with arrows.

As the two went to check the body, the elf heard a low rumbling sound. Suddenly the ground erupted near Fyodor and an ankheg burst out, obviously attracted by the smell of carrion. Fyodor and the beast traded several blows, but none landed tellingly. Pavel moved up on his horse and swung his mace at the thing, but its thick carapace deflected the blow. The others fired several arrows at the creature and Martin hurled a dart, until Cromartie’s bow sent an arrow deep between two chitinous plates, killing the beast. The group gutted it, hoping to find something of value undigested within, but nothing of interest was there. They also debated following its tunnel, but determined it was too much risk for too little chance of reward. Taras performed a head count of the dead horses and found that 17 of the poor beasts lay on the killing ground. That left 24 horses unaccounted for. The party pressed on.

After another few miles, the horses’ trail (mixed with goblin footprints) turned down a path into the trees. The trail was slightly overgrown, but obviously had seen recent use. Relatively fresh horse droppings also showed that mounts had been there in the last several hours. Roger scouted ahead on foot.

About a hundred yards in from the treeline, Roger spied a clearing with a couple sagging huts and a corral. Inside the fence were the white horses. There was a campfire burning but no sign of life beside the horses. Roger turned back to report.

The group decided to send Cromartie and Roger to circle the clearing. Allele’s armor made him too loud for scout work. The rest of the party rode halfway up the trail and waited 50 yards or so from the clearing. After a few minutes, Martin and Allele decided to advance to the edge of the clearing and watch from the trees.

The two scouts were about halfway through their circuit when someone came out of the huts. It was a woman in a short riding cloak. As she walked toward the fire, Roger and Cromartie decided she must be in league with the goblins and drew their bows and fired on her. Roger’s arrow struck her solidly in the back, but Cromartie’s foot slipped on a root and his arrow flew wide, arcing over the huts and landing in the corral, striking one of the horses in the rump! The beast whinnied in fright and kicked wildly, setting off a panic among the other beasts. Roger shot again. This one found its mark and she fell heavily to the ground.

At this point Martin advanced into the clearing and headed toward the fallen woman for a closer look. He could see she was very likely dead, but before he could examine the body, the doors of the huts flew open and goblins poured out of both! One shot an arrow and struck the mage, but not seriously. Allele threw a Sleep spell and they fell down to the last goblin.

By this time the horses had broken part of the fence and were jumping and running out of the corral for the trees. Fyodor charged toward them, waving his arms and trying to divert the exodus. He made a grab for one beast but missed. His attempt did check its progress for the moment, though. As the warrior was trying to stop the herd from fleeing, Cromartie and Roger moved into the clearing. A moment later, a handful of goblins came out of the trees near Fyodor and attacked. One of them shot its bow, but missed the Traladaran, striking the horse he was trying to hold onto! The enraged beast kicked out at the man in front of him, but his heavy mail stopped the blow. Fyodor drew his weapons and prepared for the goblins’ assault. Roger and Cromartie could see that Fyodor was fighting with something, but the horses blocked their view and they had no clear shot. Allele, however, was on the same side of the corral as Fyodor. He shot and killed one of the goblins that was closing with the fighter.

Meanwhile, Pavel rode up and looked in one of the huts. It was dim but he could see forms slumped against one wall. Dismounting, he entered the hut. Inside he found two humans, bound and gagged with their throats slashed. By the freshness of the blood, he could see the killing was very recent. Martin, after cutting the throats of a few sleeping goblins, moved toward the other hut. Inside he found another dead hostage like the two Pavel saw.

Fyodor managed to drop two of his foes and Allele shot the last as it tried to flee. By this time, the horses still in the pen were not trying so hard to escape and the ones in the trees has slowed their pace a bit.

Several of the group set about capturing the stray beasts and getting them back into the corral. Fyodor crudely braced the broken fence rail. In the end, they managed to retrieve all 24 white horses and four normal horses that appeared to have belonged to the people in the huts. A quick search revealed basic supplies for a small homestead and stables, as well as a coin pouch with some money.

Examining the dead bodies, the party found raw skin on the woman’s wrists, as if she had been recently bound. She also appeared to have some elven blood (slightly pointed ears). It appeared that the goblins had captured the horsemen and had sent her out for some purpose or another. Sadly, the goblins had decided to kill the prisoners when the fighting began.

Wrapping the dead folk in blankets, the group lashed them to their horses. Fyodor, finding a patterned blue dress in the woman’s effects, took it as a gift for the young widow Masha. Leading the whites on a string, the group headed back for Sukiskyn. It took the rest of the day, but the party arrived back shortly after sunset. Kuzma, Pyotr’s mother and a cleric of Petra, prepared the dead from the horse camp for burial. The party did not go into detail about the manner of the woman’s death, but asked Pyotr if he could identify her. He did not know her name, but seemed to recall having seen her at horse sales before.

The clan held a muted feast, celebrating their surviving the previous night’s attack and the return of (most of) the horses, but mourning their lost kin. Pyotr was a gracious host, serving the party the best cuts of meat and making sure their cups were full. He also said how very pleased he was that the homestead was not damaged more. Sukiskyn, he explained, is very old. It was founded by Pyotr’s great-grandfather and many heirlooms of the previous generations are proudly displayed in the main hall, including a stuffed eagle, a wolf’s head, two ancient battle-axes (said to have been wielded by Pyotr’s grandfather), some old but fine tapestries, and a carved hunting horn. Such treasures are not much he admits, but they all have sentimental value to his family and would be impossible to replace if lost or destroyed.

During the night, the characters kept a careful watch. Near dawn, Cromartie heard movement to the north from atop the tower and spotted what looked like torchlight. He raised the alert at almost the same time the compound was hailed by voices from the trees. They said they were from Ilyakana, a logging camp to the northwest. They said they had been attacked by goblins in the night and the camp was burned, along with the riverboat Marlinev’s Pride! Kalanos was wounded and raving, lashed to a stretcher. The party had them step forward and, after checking their arms for brands, let them come into Sukiskyn.

Gregor, the head of the handful of refugees, told everyone that Pyotr’s brother Stephan was at the camp and captured along with several other people. Pyotr grew visibly upset by this news. Pavel used his healing magic to calm Kalanos and let him rest.

Pyotr told the party he hated to impose on them again, but he wished that they might try to rescue his brother and the others. The fact that he and some others weren’t killed outright seemed to indicate that they would be kept alive, at least for a little while. A consideration for the party is the fact that Stephan is the trader of the clan and without him and his contacts in places like Kelvin and Rifflian, the price for the white horses –and the party’s share– would not be nearly so high.

Dawn broke on Lunadain (11 Thaumont) with a drizzling rain as the party considered their next move….

View
Night of Loshdain, 9 Thaumont AC 1000
More goblins, anyone?

The party crossed the tributary using the late Misha’s boat and made their way upstream. The undergrowth made the going slow but at least there was a definite path to follow, and the water made it difficult to get lost.

As the day began to wane. Allele caught a whiff of woodsmoke and spied what looked like firelight ahead. Roger slipped into the trees to investigate, but before getting very far, a pack of goblins came out the woods in front of him.

Martin quickly cast a Sleep spell and dropped the creatures in their tracks. As the group dispatched the goblins, the observed they all wore scraps of wolf pelts, like a badge or token. As they pondered this, the firelight ahead seemed to grow larger and the smell of smoke stronger.

Approaching cautiously, the party found that the light came from a fenced farmstead, where a barn was ablaze! A narrow bridge crossed the stream and goblins were harassing the gatehouse. As the characters approached, several wolf-riding goblins burst from the trees, closing fast!

Allele cast a Sleep spell, but it only toppled one mount and rider. A couple other riders slid off their still running wolves, though. The group poured arrows at the goblins and Martin also used a Charm spell to slow one rider’s charge (no longer clear on why they were attacking “friends”). The fighting was thick for a few moments but after the goblins were cut down, the wolves’ morale broke and they fled into the trees.

At the gate, a young woman named Alfana hurriedly gestured them through. Once inside, she barred the gate and a man named Tralas climbed down from the platform above. they told the PCs they had to retreat to the main house as the burning barn would eventually leave the yard open to attack and the gate couldn’t be held with enemies behind it.

Quickly entering the main house, the party met Pyotr, the head of the farm and their client. A wandering warrior named Fyodor was also there, having sought shelter at Sukiskyn earlier that day.

Pyotr described the initial attack and explained that while goblin tribes were not unheard of in this region, they rarely attacked in such earnest, or in cooperation with other tribes, as these forces seemed to consist of at least two. He also told the characters that there had rumors of other farmstead in the area being attacked.

The assault began an hour or so ago. Two of the men were killed when a group of goblins came into the south yard and began stealing the white horses. Some of the other goblins appeared angry at this and chased the first group as they drove the steeds into the trees, but soon the attack resumed on the household. Drums pounded out in the darkness and fires burned in the trees.

Gobsukis

Pyotr believed that the goblins would not continue the fight beyond this night, as they loathe the daylight. With that, the party began to make arrangements for the defenses.

Nails from the smithy were bent into caltrops, doors were reinforced, oil and tallow were poured on straw as possible fire traps, and the farmsteaders were set to watch for sorties; the first of which came all too soon.

A group of goblins, led by two wolf riders, came over the bridge and smashed the gate. Then they crossed the yard, taking some arrow fire, and began to batter at one of the doors. Martin expertly dropped a torch into the oil that had been poured there earlier, causing one of the goblins hacking at the door to catch fire and retreat. More arrows and slingstones flew, and the few goblins that survived fled.

Later, a high pitched scream was heard. A dim shape of someone in a yellow dress was seen being dragged through the trees. Fyodor, over protests that it was likely a trap, charged out to save the woman. Of course, his comrades were correct and several goblins charged out of the forest to slay the lone warrior.

Fyodor’s armor proved too tough for the goblins’ attacks and he managed to retreat while cutting a few of the goblins down. When he was close enough, the characters’ bows covered the rest of his escape. After a few goblin curses from the darkness, the drums fell silent.

It was well after midnight when the next attack occurred. Stellios, a young stablelad, and Alfana were on watch atop the old stone tower attached to the main house when Fyodor, making rounds from window to window inside the house, heard them scream. Pounding up the spiral staircase, he found them both on the floor with dark shaped flapping around them. Alfana was swinging her cudgel at her assailant, but Stellios lay still with a shadow on his chest. More shapes flitted about in the air above them as well: Giant Bats!

Fyodor cut the one over Alfana in half with one swing of his sword, but then two more closed on him from above. He kept his shield between himself and the creatures’ fangs and cut one more out of the air. Alfana wounded one badly enough that it dropped from sight off the tower. The last flew off of Stellios’ chest but was brought down by an arrow from Roger, who had arrived at the top of the steps moments before.

Stellios was dead, blood soaking his tunic where the bat’s fangs had opened a vein in his throat. Fyodor, fearing stories of vampiric curses, beheaded the corpse. Alfana was shocked at first, but had grown up on similar tales and understood the warrior’s motives.

Shortly afterward, a rattle of slingstones pelted the windows of the eastern wall as snipers had snuck close enough to hope for a lucky shot, but no shot told.

False dawn was just beginning to fade when the biggest assault yet occurred. Packs of goblins came in from three different directions. One crossing the bridge, one through the smoldering remains of the barn, and the last –and largest– at the gate beneath the tower. The fighting was thick and fierce for several minutes. Martin, most of his spells exhausted, hurled more torches to light the targets for the archers. The gate by the tower shattered and the goblins poured in. Fyodor leapt to the ground floor from the balcony to prepare for any that got into the house. Cromartie and Alleles’ longbows harried the wolf riders in the yard, picking the riders off their mounts. Finally, the last goblins’ morale broke and they attempted to flee back to the trees, but the defenders’ arrows found them and dropped them in the clearing.

As the party took stock of the situation, the sky paled and the sun broke through the trees. No sound or sign of any living goblins could be seen. The siege appeared to have been broken, and the dawn found the characters triumphant.

(Map of Sukiskyn)

View
Moldain PM, 7 Thaumont - Loshdain AM, 9 Thaumont, AC 1000

Pavel, a Traladaran cleric, had taken passage separately from the party on the Pride, but was “praying” (sleeping) below deck when the attack occurred. He emerged blinking in the waning sunlight and the aftermath of the melee, but donned his armor and joined Martin the Ineluctable and Roger Agrippa in following Zak the Thrall back to the Iron Ring’s campsite in search of “Rocko” and answers. The remainder of the party stayed on board the barge.

After almost an hour or so of tramping through marsh and moor, including Zak briefly getting lost, the campsite came into view, laying on a relatively bare hilltop. It was nearly full dark by then and the rain had become steady, but not hard. Wisely, the characters had elected to blaze their trail going into the moors to avoid getting lost on the way back.

Roger scouted the camp from a safe distance then reported back seeing no movement. The camp itself was little more than a few bedrolls and packs scattered about as though tossed down in haste. The party approached and as Roger went to check the firepit, he stepped in a hole, causing him to pitch forward onto a tarp which was covering several pointed stakes driven into the ground. Suffering only minor flesh wounds, righted himself quickly, but took more care in moving about the camp.

Martin and Roger questioned Zak about the camp. He said that it was not is such disarray when they left for the river. Further questions about the Iron Ring’s operations led to Zak growing suspicious of his new “friends” and breaking the fog of enchantment over his mind. Running in panic, he stepped in one of the trapped holes and was stuck long enough for Roger to put two arrows in his back, killing him.

A few more minutes were spent by guttering torchlight investigating the “camp”, but nothing of interest or value was found. “trip holes” were dug near each bedroll and tarp, which several stakes hiding beneath each one. The packs were stuffed with rocks and grass and the rain had obliterated nearly any chance of tracking anyone or anything out of the site. With that, the trio began their soggy journey back to the boat.

Meanwhile Cromartie, a Traladaran warrior and scout, had been working his way along the river toward Kelvin when night fell and the rain increased. Spying the Pride tied up along the bank, he hailed the boat and was allowed aboard. Not long afterward, the three returned from the moors and, after asking to see that the newcomer’s arms bore no brands, offered to recommend him to their prospective employer. With that, the group set the watches and tried to get some rest. Before retiring, Pavel used his healing magic on Roger and Martin to remove the wounds from the fight and the stakes. Except for what sounded like a panther growling in the darkness along the bank, the night passed peacefully, though the rain continued and conditions were crowded under the tarp.

The dawn (8 Thaumont), broke with a heavy mist on the river, but the sun came out and burned it off before midday. By early afternoon, the barge pulled up outside the ferry hut, situated at the fork between the Highreach and a small tributary. Misha, the woman who runs the ferry did not answer Kalanos’ hail, but he assured the party they could stay at the hut. His said she and her pet bear were likely hunting and would probably return before dark.

The party put their gear in the hut and decided to try their hand at some hunting and fishing as well. Cromartie went into the woods with his longbow while Roger rigged a pole and fished from the tiny dock. Cromartie managed to down a scrawny doe.

Roger, while he caught no fish, did make an interesting discovery. Spying a boot submerged in the water by the dock, he, Martin, and Pavel, pulled it out along with the corpse that was wearing it. It had been a middle-aged Traladaran woman. She had obviously been dead for at least a day, but the fish and river creatures had been at the body so she was in fairly bad shape, though no obvious wounds were to be found. Roger dug a shallow grave, Pavel said words over the body and they buried her.

Meanwhile Cromartie had returned and dressed the deer, carving a few steaks for the party. The group retired into the hut, barring the door and enjoyed a hot meal under a roof. The night was clear, but chilly.
Oryx steak3

Later on, scuffling sounds were heard outside. Cromartie peered through the shutters and saw a large brown bear pawing at where he had dressed the deer, digging up the buried offal. It seemed agitated and came over to the door and clawed at it several timed, but did not seem to try and force it open. After a few minutes of growling and scraping, it lumbered off and all was quiet again.

Grizzly bear 566 600x450

The next morning (9 Thaumont), the weather was cloudy, but dry and the group arose refreshed and ready to complete their trip by following the tributary upstream to Sukiskyn.

View
Moldain, 7 Thaumont, AC 1000
The campaign begins

The characters, after having spent some time in Kelvin, find employment from a man named Stephan, who hires them to help guard a herd of rare white horses being taken to market in Rifflian, where it is hoped that the elves will pay a good price for the beautiful creatures.

The party departed via the Marilenev’s Pride, a river barge captained by a man named Kalanos. He has promised to drop them at the fork in the river near a ferry house. From there the party can find their way upstream to Sukiskyn, the farmstead run by Stephan’s brother Pyotr where the horses are located. It is a cool day in early spring and overcast.

Vidra2rv7

En route up the Highreach, a submerged chain in the river trapped the barge and men attacked from the banks. The PCs quickly shot down several men attempting to reach the boat by swimming, but arrows from the trees killed a couple boatmen. One of the crew turned on Martin the wizard and wounded him with a knife to the back. The cleric dispatched the turncoat with a single hammer blow. Martin loosed a sleep spell into the trees to neutralize the snipers. All the men who were swimming toward the boat were killed before reaching their objective.

Chain rightAfter the fight, the party found and tied up four men with shortbows. Investigation revealed a brand on each of their left forearms showing a length of chain links. Interrogation yielded little results as the men stubbornly refused to talk, forcing allowing Roger the thief to dispatch three of them with impunity.

The last prisoner –a man named Zak– was magically charmed by Martin, who is currently attempting a ruse to get the slaver to lead the party to the ruffians’ base camp out on the moors which surround the rivers around and north of Kelvin. Kalanos has agreed to keep the Pride tied up at the bank for the night as the PCs chase down their lead, but will not wait past noon the next day or if he sees any trouble.

Moor

As the sun begins to set, the wind picks up slightly and a light rain begins to fall.

View

I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.