The party is finally back on the road, after an extended stop in Auslaug to restock, rest, carouse, and visit family and friends. When they finally get back on the road, they elect to head southwest to Hustwood, and then travel west from there hoping to avoid potential encounters with the gnoll village that lies closer to the northern route.
Several party members spent big chunks of gold on the few magic items found in Auslaug, picking up a few potions, a ring, a spear, a wand, and a sword. No doubt the traveling merchant Bekki will carry the news of a ready market for magic items south when she travels down-river to East Gorsebonn with the trade delegation.
I've skipped a bit of uneventful travel here, let's move on then, into the Wilds!
Start Date: August 8, Year of the Badger, dawn
Start Status: Back in Camp
Start Location: In the Wilds west of Hustwood
After a night's rest, the party prepares to push on through the dense growth, hoping for a break in the undergrowth. Ava returned just before first light, and reported many trees (and mice) as far as she flew, before flying into the upper branches of an old beech and roosting for the day.
The undergrowth thins a bit beyond the old foundation, but the trees, if anything, are taller and denser. It's somewhat easier to walk in the gloomy shadows beneath the tall oaks and elms, easier to lose track of the sun too. The party spends half the morning hiking before they realize that their course has bent northward, and that they're not exactly sure where they are!
After a halt to rest and reorient, Locky suggests simply following the blaze marks back the way the party came. "I mean we've been blazing our trail, right? Who was doing that?"
Maro twitches and jerks, as if startled by something, then mutters, "Nissa was."
"Well... cr***!" exclaims Rawon. "No one has been marking our trail?"
There are sheepish shakes of the head all around. Finally Mordikarr speaks up. "No need markings of trails." He gestures, "Sun go up there, down there. Just open eyes and walk straight." He points again, this time southeast-ish, "Stone place where we camp there. Mordikarr can find way back."
Reassured by the wild man's apparent fix on the group's locale, you set off again, with more purpose this time, heading west. After a few hours marching and a pause for lunch, the party finally breaks out the dense trees into more open terrain. Low barren hills contrast sharply with the dense woods at the party's back, which continue off to the southwest. Another brief debate, and the group continues west, making better time over the scrubby open ground. The hills green up ahead, and by nightfall the party finds itself marching through mixed woods and meadows. Locky calls out "Hey, there are cherry trees here, and that's a plum!"
The others scan the nearby trees and note there are quite a few fruiting varieties scattered between the oaks and beeches. "Maybe this is why!" shouts Rawon from up ahead. He points down the slope to yet another old ruin, this one on the far side of a small stream that runs from north to south. It is little more than scattered rectangles of mossy stones, half-covered by fallen leaves and branches, but here and there are other signs of habitation, a broad flattened rectangle that may have been a paved area, and more fruit trees arranged in too neat lines.
"Maybe an old orchard?" queries Raúguey, picking the few remaining cherries off a nearby tree.
"Could be," agrees Durego, kicking through the debris within the ruined walls. "There's water here, looks like a decent spot for tonight's camp. I don't see any signs of occupation."
The others agree, and while Ohwatoo, Maro, and Jonquil prepare the camp, the others set off in pairs and threes to explore the nearby woods in the fading daylight. The general consensus when everyone returns to camp is that this was an old farm. Locky and Gorvil were lucky enough to stumble across a patch of herbs and even a few wild potatoes and onions, perhaps the remnant of an old kitchen garden. The fresh food makes a welcome addition to the party's standard fare, and the rest of the night is passed in peace and quiet.
August 9 - the morning is hot and bright as the party sets out, though Dagmarten points at scattered clouds to the west. The night's rest, fresh food, and easy access to water have brightened everyone's spirits, and the group makes good time, cutting a straight swath west across low hills dotted with scattered woods, rocky outcroppings, and open meadows. They spot deer and even a lone black bear in the distance, but the beasts hear the noisy party approaching and quickly vanish into cover as they draw near. "Could be good hunting if there weren't so many of us. I guess the gnolls don't get this far south."
Mordikarr speaks up. "I know this place!" He points off to the northwest, "Old buildings there. Burned and ruined. Not old like stone place of last night. Mordikarr has camped there before. There is water there. Spire place a long walk beyond."
The party follows Mordikarr to the desolated village. Burned and fallen beams and piles of stone are all that remains, but it's clear to everyone that this ruin is far fresher than the old, old stone ruins of the previous night. Ohwatoo pulls Locky aside and whispers, "I don't want to alarm our new friend, but I suspect that this may have been his village. These burned beams are much fresher than the ruins we've seen so far. Maybe this is where his people were from, captured by the gnolls?"
Locky nods. "Probably best not to mention it. I'll spread the word."
Though there are no signs of recent occupation, the party is a bit more on edge, realizing perhaps, that Ohwatoo's theory means they're now in gnoll territory. The watches are alert and careful, which, as it turns out, is a good thing. Shortly after midnight, Durego shouts, "BEWA... AUGH!"
The party rouses to find the cleric flat on his back, desperately fending off a huge crab-like spider! The creature's bite skitters off the cleric's shield, and Maro, Raúguey and Gorvil rush forward to hack and stab at the thing! The creature manages to get in one more bite against Durego (this one hits!) before the others crowd in and swing, but hampered by their friend's sprawled form, they cannot strike home! Finally, Gorvil manages to skewer the creature with his shiny new spear and shove it off his master's twitching form. Raúguey and Maro both hack at the pinned creature and finally end its creepy-crawler existence.
"Rawon and Mordikarr pull the cleric to his feet, but he staggers, and then sinks to one knee. "I don't feel so good," he mumbles, before collapsing in a heap! [7 damage plus POISON! Durego is unconscious.]
End Date: August 10, Year of the Badger, just past midnight
End Status: Medic!
End Location: At the ruined village, in the Wilds