...move em' on, head em' up, cut em' out, ride em' in...
Session 20, Sukiskyn, Dymrak Forest
“I am… looking for someone…” the voice was a raspy whisper.
“Hello there, friend. You were saying something?” Bello said, flashing a completely disarming smile.
The elf’s dour expression didn’t change. He glanced about the bar. These human establishments were all the same: Filthy. He looked back to the man who seemed to be the proprietor, “I am looking for a group of traveling companions: a mage, an older heavy-set warrior, a cleric of the Karameikan Church, and a skinny man dressed in black…”
Bollo’s smile broadened, “Ohhh, I see… not someONE, then?”
Kane’s eyes narrowed as he regarded the barkeep.
“What?” the man responded, feigning mock surprise, “You said you were looking for someONE, but that description was surely of a group of folks!” his eyes twinkled as he smiled.
“Have you… seen them?” asked the humourless elf in that same, rasping whisper.
“Hmmm…” the barkeep made a show of theatrically stroking his chin, “…now, such a group would be hard to miss, wouldn’t it?”
The elf just wouldn’t take the bait. He was more stiff than Valeron, if that could be believed.
“Oh, have it your way, then… two days ago. Headed upriver. Likely headed for Sukiskyn, if I heard right…” Bollo brought the wooden cup he’d been cleaning down with a clatter, and tossed the cloth he’d been using across his shoulder. When he looked back towards the elf, the room was empty… it was his turn to frown. The door stood silently ajar.
“Good riddance to the lot of ya’…” Bollo muttered to himself before turning back to the remainder of his cups.
24th to the 28th of Fyrmont, AC 999
Characters: Endithas Wolfram, Erasmus (Endithas’ Henchman), Kalasandr, Kane, Gareth Ironhand (Kane’s Henchman), 2 Hunting Dogs and 1 War Dog belonging to Kane
Mortal Wounds: None
Deaths: Erasmus and Gareth Ironhand
Kane made his way upriver, landing at Misha’s Ferry a couple days behind the rest of the party. The place was deserted, and the tracks in the vicinity were confused: a lone, human-sized figure running erratically out on to the dock and not returning; an enormous beast, perhaps a bear, weaving about the cabin and bleeding as if attacked, but with no other tracks nearby. More hopefully, there was a series of far more recent tracks about the site that appeared more regular, and come the morning he could see that a group very like his companions had taken the main trail to the south-east. Following the trail without incident, the Ranger arrived at Sukiskyn on the afternoon of the 24th.
The reunion with his companions was subdued, as the family of the homestead were still counting and burying their dead, and the party were busy binding wounds and burning foul-smelling mounds of Goblin corpses. With the horses missing, Pyotr’s son, Taras, wanted nothing more than to chase after the Goblin thieves. With Belgarath severely injured, Caasi volunteered to stay and keep an eye on him.
“Might be better if he’d kept his own eye…” Kalasandr deadpanned.
“Shouldn’t we stake the mage and cut off his head?” Kane asked without a trace of humour.
“We should probably wait to see if he turns…” Endithas replied.
“I’m right here!” the Mage responded angrily, sitting up in his bed, “I can hear you!” he finished, the effort sending him into a paroxysm of coughing.
Caasi pushed him back down, “Rest now. Recover your strength.”
Belgarath had been badly wounded and nearly killed a by a giant vampire bat. Pyotr's own mother and young son had not been so lucky, and both were slain by the flying horrors.
“Why is it so bright in here? Can’t you cover that window?” the Mage whined as he stopped coughing, bringing his hand up to cover his remaining eye. The others exchanged worried looks before heading out into the courtyard. More ill luck had befallen the party that day, as it became clear that the sling bullet that had struck Waevryn’s head had robbed her of her vision. Her injuries necessitated bed rest, yet even so it wasn’t clear if her sight would ever return. Worse still for Kalasandr, his other Henchman, Solla, had decided that the kind of massacre The Siege of Sukiskyn had been was not what she had signed up for, and robbing abandoned tombs would provide a far more palatable ratio of risk to reward. She left shortly after Kane’s arrival.
In spite of their losses, the decision was made to leave with Taras the following morning in pursuit of the stolen horses. Pyotr had promised to reward them handsomely for the recovery of the steeds, with 20gp for each horse returned, and his son apparently knew the local terrain as well as anyone. The remaining able-bodied party members present would accompany him: Endithas, Kalasandr, and Kane, along with their remaining Henchmen. All would ride horses borrowed from Pyotr, including a pony for Gareth.
Kane spent time the next morning examining the tracks around the homestead, noting that there had been a small handful of Goblins (or their kin) present that had stayed apart from the main attack. Near these Kane found a small silver pendant on a chain in the shape of a ruined tower. The elf recognised the symbol as belonging to the hated Yellow-Fang Goblins. Yet none had been seen or recognized during the attack on Sukiskyn. As the group followed the tracks away from the homestead it was clear that the Vipers had headed this way with horses in tow. However, after following the trail of the horses for a mile or two, a new set of tracks approached and merged with those of the Vipers. These new traces had been left by Goblins, too, but were accompanied by a number of enormous wolf tracks. It appeared the Wolfskulls were pursuing their horse-stealing kin. Perhaps the Vipers leaving with the horses hadn’t been part of the Goblins’ plan after all?
The party followed the trail to the east until it left the Dymrak, skirting the edge of the forest along the Moor. The rolling grassland of the Moor stretched away to the east, but the goblin horse-thieves stayed close to the eaves of the forest, heading south-east. The later signs of Wolfskulls stayed with them, and Kane said he was certain they had gained on the Vipers. Near midday, all the tracks abruptly turned south towards the treeline, and their pace quickened. Less than a mile distant in the direction of the tracks, circling on afternoon thermals, the group could make out the shape of carrion birds soaring in circles above the treetops. The party didn’t have far to go…
A few hundred yards beyond the edge of the trees the party came upon the site of a terrible battle. The corpses of Goblins, Horses, and a huge Wolf lay strewn about, the bodies thick with flies. The stink of blood and carrion hung heavy in the air. Most of the Goblin corpses had been stripped, each bearing a distinctive snake tattoo on its cheek, and one particularly tall and obese Goblin dangled from a nearby tree-branch, suspended by a rope around its fat ankles. As the party regarded the carnage, their attention was drawn by movement amongst the dead. A number of large, three-foot-long beetles, interrupted from their meal, scuttled across the dead towards the party, disturbing great clouds of flies as they came. In the same moment, Kane and Endithas spotted movement at the edge of the battle-site: a lone Goblin hopped down from a nearby tree, and attempted to flee! The bulk of the party dismounted to fend off the Beetles, as Endithas, the only skilled horseman in the party, kicked his steed into a gallop and raced after the fleeing Goblin…
The group managed to kill a pair of Beetles as the insects approached, but the remainder scuttled into melee. As the Beetles attacked, they let loose with an acrid-smelling spray of vapour from their jaws, but all managed to step back from the horrid mist. The remaining Beetles were quickly dispatched.
Endithas quickly closed the gap to the fleeing Goblin before it could reach the shelter of the heavier woods, and as the horseman drew alongside, he leapt from the saddle, tackling the fleeing Goblin to the ground. The big man soon wrestled the Goblin into submission, and once the rest of the party ran over, the prisoner was bound with ropes and questioned. Fortunately, Gareth Ironhand, the dwarf, was able to put aside his racial enmity for the Goblin, and questioned the prisoner about the events that had transpired. After a frustrating few minutes, it became clear the Goblin was a female, and a member of the Viper clan. The Wolfskulls had caught and attacked the Vipers and stolen horses. No clear picture of what had happened at the battle site emerged, as the prisoner seemed to assert that the Vipers had won the battle! This in spite of the fact that the Viper chieftain was hanging in the clearing from a gibbet.
As it became clear there was little more of use the Goblin could say, a debate ensued as to what to do with the prisoner. Taras quickly tired of the argument, and, enraged by the senseless slaughter of so many of his clan’s horses, he pushed forward and drove his blade through the Goblin’s gullet. Without a word, the party returned to their horses and remounted, determined to follow the tracks of the remaining two-dozen horses.
The track of the horses was easy to follow, and it soon merged with a clear trail that wound its way through the fringe of the forest. A couple hours further on, the party came upon a wooden sign, tacked to a tree at the side of the path:
Miss L. Fyodorll — Equine Entrepreneur — Dealer in Fine Horses
The strange sign offered little to go on, other then the mention of horses. A short time later the trail broke into a sizable open clearing. Across the clearing from the trail sat three covered wagons, the weeds long since grown up around them. Adjacent to these was a large, crudely made paddock. As they rode towards the paddock, they could see thirty-odd horses, two-thirds of them beautiful white stallions. There was little doubt that these were the stolen horses from Sukiskyn!
From out of the wagons strode a tall elven woman wearing a blue robe, “Greetings on this fine day! What brings you to my encampment?”
The party glanced amongst themselves before answering.
“Greetings…you are…Fyodorll, I presume?”
“Indeed I am.” The elven woman replied, her voice surprisingly deep, “You have come looking for horses, no doubt. I have many fine animals you might be interested in.”
Another glance passed between the party members. Finally, Endithas spoke, “Actually… we come seeking horses that were… stolen from us. By Goblins. We followed them here.”
“Ah, I see…” said the elven woman, “…so, you wish to buy them?”
Once again, awkward silence descended as the party looked at each. It was Kalasandr that finally spoke, “Oh, now this is SUCH crap. The horses are stolen, and we’re here for them. How about you just hand them over? Then we don’t have to take them from you!”
Fyodorll smiled slightly, “I… see. Well, I am, of course… reasonable. I did indeed buy the horses from Goblins most recently. I’ll tell you what…” she said, extending her arms in gesture of magnanimity, “I will sell the horses back to you for 50 gold each – the same as I paid the Goblins!”
“Oh, come on!” Kalasandr looked fit to spit, and turned to his companions, “This is such garbage. The horses are stolen, I say we take them, over her body, if need be…”
Endithas raised his hand, trying to calm things, “Now wait. Surely we can come to some kind of agreement? Miss Fyodorll…you said the Goblins just sold the horses to you? Perhaps you can point us in their direction? We can recover your money, you hold the horses for us, and when we return, we can pay you…”
“I am a businesswoman…” the elf replied, “I can make no promises to wait, but, as I said, I would be happy to sell them to you…”
“Come – ON!” shouted Kalasandr, leaning over the pommel of his saddle, “How about we put her in ground and take the horses, now?”
“No. We leave, get the money from the Vipers, come back, and buy the horses!” Endithas was emphatic.
Kalasandr muttered a tirade of insults under his breath, sneering in Fyodorll’s direction. A pair of men had come out of the wagons and were approaching. Fyodorll said something unintelligible, perhaps in elven, while gesturing strangely. Nothing happened.
“Bows at the ready…” came a call from behind them. The party turned their horses, expecting attack. Heavy undergrowth and trees were behind them. The call came again, “…feather them… now!”
“A trick, perhaps…” Kane said, laconically, “Some type of spell?”
Fyodorll was speaking unintelligibly again behind them. They turned in time to see her gesture as she finished speaking, “…quiesco somnium!” pointing at the party. Kalasandr, Erasmus, and Gareth collapsed from their saddles to the ground! Two more men leapt from the covered wagons, and the four of them rushed forward as the party reeled in shock.
After a split second of agonizing indecision, Endithas reached down from his horse to grab Kalasandr and haul him across his saddle. Kane, not nearly as comfortable on horseback, leapt from the saddle to carefully lift Gareth up from the ground and across his saddle, before turning his attention to the elvish sorceress who had enchanted them. Two of the men charged Endithas and Kane, the elf whistling for his hounds to attack. The other two men circled round the outside of the horses. As Erasmus and Gareth lay helpless, their heads were drawn back, and the bandits’ blades were brutally stabbed into the helpless Henchmen’s throats!
WIth a roar, Endithas forced his horse past his immediate attackers and pushed towards the edge of the clearing. Behind him, Kane’s hounds tore into the bandits, savaging the nearest. Taras spurred his horse forward, swinging his axe. Kane swung into the saddle, his teeth clenched in rage, Gareth a dead weight across the horse’s back, “Fall back!” the elf shouted.
Fyodorll drew her bow, and with practiced ease, loosed an arrow. A feathered shaft sprouted from Kane’s side, the Ranger crying out as he pushed his horse to edge of the clearing. The elf woman was fast, almost preternaturally so, and at least as lethal an archer as Kane. Taras continued his desperate battle amongst the bandits, locked in combat. The hounds brought down another bandit, as Kane, deadeye archer, dropped from his horse and fired at the elven Spellsword, and missed! Fyodorll loosed another arrow, striking Kane again, staggering the elf. He was near death!
Kalasandr jolted awake from the blow to his face and slipped down from the saddle. Endithas immediately turned and spurred his horse back towards Fyodorll, who turned and ran towards the wagons. Kane fired and dropped one of the bandits, then loosed a second arrow towards Fyodorll and striking her robe, but falling back from the armour underneath. Endithas closed the distance, but the Spellsword reached the wagon and leapt inside, leaving Endithas to pull his horse up short. The last of the bandits was felled as Taras was finally able to withdraw, grievously wounded. The party regrouped at the edge of the clearing.
“We can take what we came for. Let us be gone from here.” The Ranger’s pronouncement sounded hollow.
The party gathered the horses, including eight more beyond the twenty-four white stallions left from those the Vipers had stolen. With heavy hearts, they turned towards Sukiskyn, the return trip uneventful.
Upon their arrival at the homestead, the grim news was relayed, and it was decided it would be far too long before Kelvin could be reached to raise their fallen Henchmen. Unfortunately, more bad news had arrived at Sukiskyn: refugees had arrived from the Ilyakana lumber camp upstream. The camp had been attacked by Goblins the day after Sukiskyn, and destroyed. Worse still, Gregor, boss of the now destroyed lumber camp, explained that Pyotr’s brother, Stephan, had been present conducting business during the attack, and was taken captive by the Wolfskulls!
Things had gone from bad to much more complicated…