Thursday, May 23, 2013

Wilds - Beyond the Swamp

After hearing more from the stranger, Mordikarr, about what lies nearby, the party decides to follow the abandoned trail that leads south, hoping to find the old stone road they'd been following west. Everyone is on guard owing to the wild man's description of the lizard people that live in the swamps south of the stone road.  Onward, into the Wilds!

Start Date: July 13, Year of the Badger, morning
Start Status: Cloudy, with a chance of rain
Start Location:

The Turn

It's gray and hazy the next morning, and Dagmarten says it may rain later. Despite the gray skies and the threat of lizard men, everyone is ready to press on and see what lies further down the old stone road. The party heads out along the rutted dirt trail that leads south. They follow it for about five miles, into open grasslands again, and then the trail bends SW as Mordikarr predicted. Moving swiftly over the relatively flat plain, the group makes another six or seven miles, and then finds the stone road. The intersection is marked by a cairn of field stones with a rotten log stuck vertically in the center. "Perhaps it was a signpost," says Ohwatoo.

Grit pokes around the pile, but it's pretty clear there's nothing there.

Maro climbs atop the rocks, and looks south. "I can see darker green down there. Maybe that's the swamp?"

Mordikarr nods. "Swamp a short walk that way. We maybe should go. Lizard people have good eyes."

Heeding those words, the party follows the road west, and a mile further on finds the ruins of what must have been a house and barn near the road. Again, not much to see, but there's an old well in the center of what must have been the farmyard, and the water smells and tastes good, so the others top off skins and casks and water the mules while Maro and Rawon keep an eye on the southern approaches.

On then, further west. The road cuts a fairly straight path, and the group makes good time, covering another twelve miles. The green swamp disappears to the rear, but green trees are still visible to the north. As the sun begins to sink, the road bends SW, and everyone starts start looking for a camp site. The dry, flat plain offers little in the way of cover, so the group finally settles on a low rise that at least provides good sight lines in all directions. The plain offers little in the way of firewood, so it's cold food for dinner. Locky suggests scavenging some wood along the way tomorrow. The load on the mules is much lighter now that their feed is half-used, so they could carry a bundle or two of wood.

The night passes quietly, the only disturbance the arrival of Ava the owl, well past midnight. She seems unhappy, and eventually flies off toward the woods you can barely see to the north. "She like trees, not grass," whispers Mordikarr to the others on watch. The next morning there's little doubt as to the path, so it's back to the road, SW. Six miles later Rawon spots a line of trees and undergrowth cutting across the plains ahead. As the party gets closer it becomes obvious that there's a stream or river there. Closer still and the group can see the road heads straight for the stretch of green, which is running more or less N to S. Into the scattered trees, and then... ruins, the now familiar sign of abandoned huts and houses huddled along the banks of the narrow stream that slowly winds across the plain (flowing north). A stone bridge carries the road across the stream, and on the far side there is a more substantial ruin, perhaps an inn that warranted the use of stone instead of timber and thatch.

Though it is still mid-morning, the party decides to poke around the place and see if they can learn anything (and the mules seem happy to have a source of fresh water right next to rich grass. Nissa, Raúguey and Dagmarten head north along the stream, Grit, Rawon, and Ohwatoo head south, and Maro, Locky, and Durego poke around the ruins, particularly the inn. The others keep watch on the mules and the general surroundings.

It is Durego that finds the remains of the fire in a corner of the inn, and Rawon that finds the foot prints and depressions where someone slept. Several someones actually. There are maybe a half-dozen scuffed depressions where smaller-than-human creatures lay in disordered ranks. Locky finds a rubbish pile, the scorched and gnawed bones of a deer, a frayed bit of rope, a torn bag. "This is fresh, well, fresh compared to the ruins. It's been here at least a week, probably longer," says Maro.

When the others return, Raúguey has more news. "We found tracks near the water. Small but humanoid. Hard to say how many. It looks like there were beast tracks too, but we couldn't tell what sort." At this Mordikarr trots off, headed along the stream. He growls something in the weird beast-speak he used with Suren and the fisher lopes over and climbs up his leg. "About fifty paces downstream!" calls Raúguey as he disappears from view.

Mordikarr returns about ten minutes later. "Suren say wolf and dog lizards. Many. Cannot say where they went. Maybe back to road. Maybe not." He shrugs. "Long time, many days."

"Seems like we're on the right path here. I say we keep moving," says Durego.

"Keep moving, but keep a sharp eye out. There's no telling where these things are now," says Grit.

The road continues on the far side of the stream, and then quickly heads back into grasslands, but there are more trees here, patches of scrubby locust and scattered ash and maples. The party has been walking for half an hour when Jonquil points north, "What is that?" A few hundred paces away there is a large flattened spot in the grass, and the ground appears disturbed.

"Let's find out," says Grit, hefting his axe. He leads the way and most of the others follow, leaving the hirelings with the mules. When you get closer you can see the grass in the flattened area has been crushed by something big, and the ground has been gashed in spots. There are dark stains spattered over the broken stems, and the dismembered carcass of an antelope is on the ground off to one side.

"What did that?" asks Ohwatoo, glancing nervously at the surrounding grass and scrub.

Rawon stoops near one of the gouges in the ground, while Maro and Raúguey examine the remains. Mordikarr and Locky walk around the edges of the site, Mordikarr looking at the ground, Locky watching Mordikarr. "What are you looking for?" the halfling finally whispers, somewhat embarrassed by his lack of wilderness skills.

"Tracks. Mordikarr think if something kill antelope, it must be fast. Antelope very fast. Should be sign of chase." He looks up as he completes the circle. "But no tracks. No chase. Very odd. Maybe big bird come down, catch antelope."

Locky shudders and scans the sky, thinking that any bird that could bring down an antelope could carry him right off.

Rawon says, "You might be right. These are claw marks. Really big claw marks!"

"Whatever it is, it has big teeth too," says Maro. "This carcass has been shredded."

"I don't like this," says Durego. "Anything big enough to bring down an antelope and fly..."

"Then let's get moving," Growls Grit. Not for the first time this trip, the Dwarf wishes he was safely underground. "At least there's trees ahead. A big flying critter probably wouldn't like heavy growth like that."

The party gets moving with renewed vigor, and continues SW. Trees press in from the north and from the south, and after another nine or ten miles plains have become forest. Ahead the trees are thicker and taller, limiting sight, dimming the sun, and stilling the breeze that was so welcome on the open plain. The road continues beneath the dense canopy, twisting between the trunks, but still headed SW.

OOC: pausing here for planning / discussion. Current group food supplies: 10 days food, 16 days animal feed.

End Date: July 14, Year of the Badger, mid-afternoon
End Status: Trees. Why did it have to be trees?
End Location: Deep in the Wilds.

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