IT is the dusk of day five of travel as we finish dealing with the mantidrake. The few remaining bandit ambushers have long since scattered back into their dense forest. The more savage night time forest is waking up now as the cloak of darkness descends.
Horlamin finally wakes up and wonders what all the noise is about.
Charlotte is feeling like a badass because, y’know, practically single-handedly destroying things.
Ianthe informs Horlamin that he missed a great fight, but agrees that shut-eye is important. On that subject, where should we sleep tonight?
Ianthe wonders how the doll protected us from the Mantidrake, and Charlotte suggests that it may have been the repungent smell. Ianthe agrees. Horlamin decides it is druidic.
Avin is chilling in the cart with Ser, keeping an eye out for trouble, while the rest of us chat about this doll. Well. All but Charlotte, since she is avoiding the revolting thing.
Horlamin and Ianthe sets up camp. Charlotte sets up her tent and passes out pretty quickly. Growing big takes a lot out of a woman.
Avin naps for two hours so that he can help keep watch.
Horlamin: “How long until we are by the wall?”
Ianthe Eir: “I’m just hoping we get out of this forest soon. Not really thrilled about meeting another Mantidrake on our way.”
Avin crafts while Ser keeps an eye out for danger. Horlamin goes to sleep after getting water from our dispenser (Ianthe).
Ser notices a few of the nocturnal beasts come close to the camp but they stay away due to the wall, or maybe because the corpse of the mantidrake nearby. Either way the corpse receives a lot of attention throughout the night as packs of animals fight over it until its all been taken. A feast for the natives.
The rest of the night passes without incident …
Day 6! We break camp at first light of dawn (as close as we can tell from inside this forest anyways) and get back on the road. Charlotte chooses to walk alongside the cart to stretch her legs. Her axe is held ready. Ianthe apparently wants a bath. She rides in the cart and hums to herself.
Horlamin: “Alright, let’s move out. The sooner we get to the wall, the sooner we can get home.”
Another sunny day in the forest as the old road stretches and winds through the forest. Avin plays with the small bead in his hand for a few seconds before returning his gaze to the surroundings. After an hour or so of travel Ser and Avin see something ahead. There are bodies lying in the road.
Ser communicates this via telepathy and then turns invisible and flies up and ahead to try to check for attackers nearby. Charlotte holds her axe tightly as she approaches, preparing for an ambush. Ianthe squeezes her staff and climbs down from the cart, reading herself for a fight just in case. Karl peers into the woods. He sees nothing nearby. Ser can’t see anything either. They both report this back to their masters.
Charlotte sees that the Orc bodies have been pierced by arrows and looted. She informs the party and then kneels by one to inspect it. By the smell, they have been dead for at least a day. She notices something stuck under the orc, and carefully inspects it. She uses her axe to move the corpse. The body flips over and reveals a torn piece of parchment, which she picks up and unfolds, shouting back to the party that she found something.
Charlotte sees what appears to be half of some kiind of map. Something is written on it too, but its in orcish.
Charlotte: “Can anyone read Orcish?”
Avin raises his hand absent mindedly.
Charlotte takes it back to the cart and hands it to Avin. “Some kind of map?”
Avin looks it over. Avin sees that it is indeed a map of some kind, leading to what is described to be “Strategic resources”. It doesnt say where it is, but it does say that “Ur-Ok” has the other half.
Avin relays this information back to the group while Charlotte goes to look at the corpses again. The first one doesnt have anything seemingly around it, however the third has something clenched in its hand, something out of parchment. Charlotte eases it from his hand. As Charlotte wrenches the thing from the orcs hand, a slight sizzling noise is heard before a moment later the area is bathed in an explosion. She is fine.
As this happens Horlamin studies the map and realises that splitting it in two is a clever ploy to protect valuable information from falling into the wrong hands. Ianthe rushes to check on Charlotte, scolding her for being careless. Charlotte shrugs.
As soon as the explosion clears we hear a booming sound coming through the forest: “You didnt think you could leave my forest before seeing my hospitality did you?” Charlotte readies her axe. “You have my thanks for dealing with that beast, however.” The voice booms from another direction. “It has been a pain in our sides for quite some time. So as a token of my gratitude I will allow you to leave this forest unharmed, as long as you leave your wagon and horses.”
Charlotte likes having something to chill on so is defiant. “Scared you’ll lose if you fight us?”
“Yes. Very much so. I am no match for the likes of you, however I will win if it comes to that.”
Ianthe Eir: “Ah, so your… manticore wasn’t that hospitality?”
Horlamin: “To who are we speaking?”
Charlotte: “Bring it on, bitch.”
Avin sighs and casts mage armour on himself.
The voice booms from another direciton. “You have the honor of being in the court of King Palinus the Green. I have no interest in wasting more resources or manpower on this conflict, so I urge you to take me up on my offer. It is not unreasonable.”
Charlotte: “Fight me like a man. I’l fuck you up mate.” Charlotte continues to provoke the voice while everyone else is assessing the situation.
Horlamin: “Be that as it may, we will not simply leave our cart and horses to a voice from the woods.”
Ianthe remembers Palinus the green was a historical figure known for his robin-hood like qualities. He took from everyone and, the legends say, he gave to the poor. It’s disputed if this was fact or merely romanticised, however it was a popular tale back in the day.
Avin assertains that the voices are being reflected off of a series of tubes. Wooden from the sounds of it. Ser tells everyone.
“Let’s just move on.” Charlotte suggests. “This guy is too chicken to face us.”
Horlamin: “I think you are just trying to scare us away for some easy loot, and using a historical name to make it sound plausible.” Horlamin tells the voice that we will not leave our things behind and will fight if provoked. Charlotte mumbles something about wanting to fight anyway.
Ianthe tries diplomacy and offers to take the man to the next village.
“You…” The speech falters for a moment. “You speak with such kindness. Why? I am trying to rob you of your posessions.”
Ianthe: “Ah, well. I can see you have at least done some help to our cause…” She waves her hand towards the dead orcs. “We’re on our way to the Wall.”
“You are heading to the wall? So…you seek to stop this orc menace?”
Ianthe Eir: “Indeed we do. Ah… if you don’t mind… would you happen to have any recent info about what’s been going on? We’ve been travelling for the past 6 days.”
“Hmm… Well in that case…” The voice seems to consider our offer.
A moment later, a man jumps down from a nearby tree, covered in leaves and branches. He lands with a flourish “I, shall join you!” He bows to Ianthe.
Ianthe bows to the man "Pleasure to make acquaintance . " She looks at the other group members, silently asking their opinion about this new addition. Charlotte sighs loudly, glaring at the man and putting her axe away grudgingly.
“You may call me Paulinis, its a silly name but im sticking with it.” He grins.
Ianthe and Ser introduce themselves.
Charlotte gets up in the guys face and says, “I kill for fun. Bear that in mind.” Then she storms over to the cart and settles in the back, her eyes fixed on the weirdo.
The man stares at Charlotte and at Ianthe. “Not one for forgivness is she?”
Ianthe Eir: “I think that means approval from our axe lady too. Shall we get a move on? You definitely do not want to piss her off. Or touch her alcohol.”
Charlotte coincidentally has a tankard in hand and is drinking from it.
“Noted” He throws off his disguise. “Well, you have my bow and my…tricks. For good or bad, I will follow you.”
Horlamin makes a joke about his age.
The man smiles wide at the short gnome “Surely you know I am not him, you cannot be that da-” He laughs. “Oh very clever. You almost got me. You. I like you.”
Horlamin booms out in laughter so deep it’s hard to imagine it coming from a gnome.
We get back on the road, with Paulinus the Trickster as our new companion. Avin is still keeping an eye on things.
Avin sees nothing out of the ordinary. Paulinus also is a big help in finding dangers in the road and a few short-cuts to get out of the forest quicker. He also regales us of how he and his gang of bandits have been taking out many orcs that have been passing through. However after the last attack on us, the bandits all lost their nerve and some went off on their own and the others just left for home. Paulinus also brags about his own genius and skill with the bow. But his main point of pride is his mechanical and alchemical skills.
Ianthe: “Have you ever seen an old lady around here in the woods?” She describes the lady they met outside the forest. Paulinus can’t remember seeing anyone by that description.
Horlamin asks him about the doll.
Paulinus picks it up and sniffs, pokes and licks it before handing it back. “Smells, and tastes, foul. Looks like some druid stuff.”
Horlamin: “That’s what I said. Safe to keep or throw it away?” Paulinus shrugs.
We set up camp for the night.
Horlamin is getting quite used to setting up camp by now and is done after a few minutes. Avin sleeps for two hours whilst everyone else is getting stuff ready, telling them not to worry about the fire.
Paulinus explains that we are now out of the immediate DANGER ZONE and that Dornari has always had a good control on their lands. Better the closer we get.
Ianthe Eir does the usual stuffs of camp setting and getting everyone wet (“err, I mean….. watered up?”).
Paulinus jumps up a tree and offers to take first watch.
After the snooze Avin wakes up and plops the bead down in the centre of the campsite, saying a few words as it springs to life as a log fire. Avin explains to paulinus that he’ll be awake all night after two hours and also about the campfire wall spell.
The night passes by without incident as Paulinus keeps a watchful eye until AVin gets up and then he too gets some sleep. He admires Avin’s resourcefulness and quips that it would be a shame to injure such a fellow scholar of the arts, before he saunters off to sleep in a place where he can defend Ianthe if needed.
Day 7 breaks brighter than the last few days, as we are now leaving the dense forest for the open plains of Dornari. We make good time now out in the open and the winds coming in from the sea have resumed. The smell of salty sea opens our nasal passages. We travel uneventfully for a day. Paulinus notes that it’s weird not having run into patrols yet.
We set up camp in record time in the flat, open terrains.
Charlotte and Avin hear some hushed words being exchanged on the perimeter of the camp, between Paulinus and some unknown men. “No, these people are my companions now. They are under my protection.” – The other men object until Paulinus pulls out something from his cloak, you can’t hear what, but the men mumble harshly before seemingly scampering off. “And dont come back.” Paulinus mutters as he gets back on watch, checking over his shoulder to see if someone heard him.
Charlotte eyes him suspiciously. Paulinus meets Charlottes eyes and stares back seriously before climbing back up the tree, wordlessly.
Day 8 breaks. The morning is bleak and dreary as the storms roll in.
Ianthe Eir mutters rude words about the rain in celestial and goes to hide in the cart. We break camp in the pouring rain and get on the muddy road.
Charlotte pulls a hood over her head and walks alongside the cart. Paulinus makes a quip about how rain washes away sins, so somebody here must have sinned a whole lot. Charlotte mumbles something that includes the words “shut” “up” “or” “else”.
Ianthe Eir: “Well, I just now want to get to the damn inn and in a hot bath!” She sneezes.
“Do not worry, Ianthe. Crossroads Keep has a tavern with baths and the greatest mead this side of Haven. I can taste it now.” Paulinus reasures her. He makes a point to not agitate the dour Charlotte by instead referencing things she might enjoy, like mead. Charlotte seems to walk with a little more purpose.
The day’s travel passes without incident and we make camp just half a day away from the crossroads. The rain doesn’t seem to be letting up. Our watch rotations work out and we rest a night in peace and wetness.
The rain has let off and has given way to an overcast day. As we break camp Paulinus leaps down from his tree and rushes over to Ianthe. “Ianthe! It’s bad.”
Ianthe Eir: “What’s going on?”
“Crossroads Keep… Is burning.”
DUN DUN DUUUUUUN
That’s it until next time!