The next morning dawns cold and damp, with low fog everywhere. The spell-casters rise late and refresh their spells. Once that's done and everyone has eaten, the main group heads back to Hill Hole and the hiding place there. The group reaches the site without incident, and Ingvild and Dagmarten take the first watch. Several hours pass and the group starts to wonder about Mordikarr and Rawon. "They should be here by now," mutters Durego.
[Meanwhile... Rawon and Mordikarr]
It takes the pair a long time to find base camp since they're coming at it from a new angle. This is made harder by the fact that there's no sign of a fire as they approach the camp. "No like this," mutters Mordikarr as he sends Ava ahead. As the pair waits for the owl's return, Mageta starts to growl, then shivers and hides behind Mordikarr's legs. A few moments later Ava returns and crashes onto the beastmaster's shoulder, hooting softly. "Bad," says Mordikarr. "Ava say no one in camp."
The pair draw weapons and slowly advance toward the campsite. Rawon nearly trips over the first body, or rather, the shriveled husk that was once a mule. "Very bad," says Rawon, but they continue forward. The camp is a mess. Gear and goods are scattered around the site, some burned, some soaked from the rain. Another body is near the fire. "Is... was that Tesso?"
Mordikarr stoops near the remains, and then nods. "That his shirt. What did this?"
A hasty sweep of the woods turns up two more corpses, Jonquil and Gorvil, both shriveled and lifeless. The pair also stumbles across hoof prints from at least two mules, but there are no other tracks, aside from a few human prints from the camp guards.
The bodies are simply shriveled as if they died naturally and then were baked in the sun for a few years. There are no burn marks as you found on Jedit when you went back to examine her remains. It doesn't seem like the same thing. The complete lack of marks is eerie.
Mageta is very skittish the entire time, but Mordikarr can't make any sense of what's setting her off, just nameless unease. Ava does report some good news, the other mules are nearby, hiding in a thicket a half-mile or so to the west. Suren does not smell anything unusual around the camp site and none of Mordikarr's beasts spot any creatures nearby, other than a stray squirrel.
It's clear from the site that the men fought whatever attacked. Weapons are out and crossbows fired. There's no blood sign on any blade, but there is a trace of some black fluid on Gorvil's spear. It's very odd because there are no prints in the area other than the boot marks from the camp guards, even when you do a sweep out 50 yards from camp.
The supplies are scattered and some have been damaged or destroyed. It looks like the mules panicked and ran across the supply depot. Nothing is obviously missing, but it'll take some time to reorganized everything and figure out what's what. From the mess, you'd guess the stuff has been laying around at least a day. It was certainly exposed to the recent rains.
[The pair get the mules, load them up and start heading toward Hill Hole, but they're both dead tired, Rawon in particular. Mordikarr sends Mageta to find Maro and bring him back.]
[The Main Group]
An hour or so later, Mageta shows up at the rear camp and makes a beeline for Maro. The others watch as the half-grown kit pounces on the slumbering elf, who awakens with an exclamation of surprise. Once Maro rises the lynx grabs his cloak and gives it a yank, then darts away, pausing at the edge of the hidden alcove with a quiet yowl.
Roused by the sudden appearance of an obviously agitated Mageta, the group recalls the scouts and follows the cat. She leads them northeast, coming uncomfortably close to Hill Hole. "I don't like this," says Maro. "Rawon and Mordikarr may be in trouble."
"Or the guards at the camp," says Durego.
The pace is swift and Mageta doesn't need much space, so the party finds itself cutting across rough spots and patches of underbrush that they'd normally avoid. It takes half an hour to reach the ambush site. Mageta continues past that another two miles. A low whistle sounds from ahead and the cat gives a little yowl of recognition. "Mordikarr," calls Ingvild. "We're coming in."
Mordikarr lowers his bow. As the group moves closer they see Rawon asleep on the far side of the clearing, next to four mules. Closer still and they can see Mordikarr is streaked with dirt and soot. "Only four mules," mutters Raúguey.
"What's happened?" cries Maro.
"Where's Jonquil?" asks Ohwatoo.
"And Gorvil and Tesso?" adds Durego.
Mordikarr just shakes his head. "Dead. All dead. Something bad come, kill all men, one mule. Something that leave no track. Come, we tell." He moves to the sleeping elf and rouses him to help tell the tale.
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