Stymied by the lake and river to the south, the party turns east, following the river's course in hopes of finding a ford that will allow passage. Almost immediately, they regret this choice. The shores of the lake and river's banks prove to be swampy, overgrown, and wet; the group has to hack and force a winding path through clinging briars, soggy reeds, and dense stands of willow and birch. Ingvild finds a nice pool of quicksand, and Rocky the mule narrowly avoids another. It takes the rest of the afternoon to progress only a few miles along the treacherous riverbank.
"At least it's not raining," mutters Dagmarten, as the group skirts another boggy pool.
"Looks like some high ground ahead," says Ohwatoo, leaning heavily on his staff. "Maybe we can see a better way to proceed, or at least find a drier camp site for tonight. I don't know about anyone else, but I'm beat."
"Looks like Rawon might have the same idea."
The main body of the group halts while the Elf and Mordikarr head for the top of the low hill. Oddly, they stop before they reach the top, turn, and return to the party, moving quickly. "We found a body up there. It looks... strange. Dried out and wasted. What do you want to do?"
"We should check it out, but quickly. It's getting late, and we'll need to find someplace dry to camp." Durego slaps his neck, leaving a bloody smear behind. "Curse these bugs!"
The party approaches the hill, weapons drawn. Calling it a hill is an exaggeration, the entire thing is only thirty feet high. Four or five big oaks rise above the lesser growth around the mound, creating a patch of dense shade beneath their boughs. The human remains are as Rawon described, dried out and leathery. "That seems unusual," says Ohwatoo. "With so much moisture here, shouldn't it be rotted instead of dessicated?"
"I'd think so, but..." Durego pauses, then gestures. "There's another." The second set of remains is older, almost a skeleton, and appears to be something other than human [gnoll perhaps]. "I don't like this at all," mutters the cleric.
"If you don't like that, you're really not going to like this," calls Raúguey, who is standing with Ingvild by one of the oaks. He points to the trunk, where another set of remains [human this time] are tied to the trunk with thick ropes. Again the corpse is dried out and leathery.
"There are more ropes here," says Maro, gesturing at another of the trees.
"Something leave trail here," calls Mordikarr from the eastern side of the hill. "Something big. No can say what, but big."
"Maybe we don't want to follow the river after all," says Gorvil.
The signs of passage to the east are difficult to read. The tracks are large but mostly washed away by recent weather. There is no regular trail to follow, nor are your trackers certain how many creatures made the tracks. Whatever left them is fairly large though. The trail seems to go more or less east, away from the river, which bends southeast here.
There are a half-dozen sets of remains on the hill, some human, some gnoll, some unknown. Some are little more than bones, which are curiously soft and crumbly, others are more intact, with leathery skin and dried out hair still intact. Most are wearing some sort of clothing, though there are no valuables, weapons, or armor. It's hard to say how long they've been there, given their unusual condition.
It's getting late. You need to figure out a course of action, and find a place to camp soon.
End Date: September 14, Year of the Badger, evening
End Status: Bring out your dead?
End Location: The Wilds
And here's the latest wilderness map in all its glory.
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