Off the Beaten Track
An Evening with Endithas Wolfram
Session 21, Sukiskyn, Dymrak Forest
Another player-written summary from Endithas Wolfram's player...
Dear friends, gather round! For I have, once again, a tale to impart! Though the hour is late, my flagon is full, as is my belly. Come, sit with Endithas, and listen.
Tonight’s tale begins as my companions and I returned to the Sukiskyn farmstead. We had been in search of the horses that had been stolen by goblins from the Viper clan and sold to Miss L. Fyodorll, an evil elven merchant. We were able to reclaim the horses, but at great cost; Erasmus and Gareth had fallen during the confrontation and Miss L. had escaped into the woods.
As we neared the farmstead, 24 of the reclaimed white steeds in tow, we could see a small congregation in the front enclosure. Pyotr, chief of the Sukiskyn clan, introduced us to four men, a look of apprehension on his face. These four had only just arrived from a lumber camp to the north east, a camp called Iliykana, and the tale they told was one of evil and destruction. We knew of this camp as Kalenos, the captain of a small transport vessel, was headed there to deliver a shipment of peat just a few days before.
The first man said his name was Gregor, and he was the lumber camp boss. He described a scene of butchery and bloodshed as the camp had been set upon by a goblin war party! Only he, Yuri the smith, and twins named Grisha and Griskal had escaped the attack. Pyotr asked about his brother, Stephan, who had travelled to Iliykana on business. Gregor looked at the ground and told Pyotr that Stephan had survived, but was now a captive of the goblin horde! I asked if Gregor knew what had befallen our friend Kalenos, but he had no answer, having barely made it out alive himself.
I turned to Pyotr, but before I could say anything, he motioned for us to come into the homestead and take refreshment and comfort. A feast would be had that evening in our honour, having returned his horses to the farmstead. There would be time for words later.
Kalasandr leapt back onto his horse. “Give my regards to the Miser and Caasi. I have something urgent that needs tending to. Take care, my friends, and stay safe until I return.” And with that, he sped off across the bridge and into the woods.
Pyotr took us into the hall. We had been there only a few days earlier, defending it and our lives from a goblin attack! Now we had chance to enjoy the well tended room. Pyotr asked if we would like to see the clan treasures, and we readily agreed. This was and honour he was bestowing us, his manners impeccable even under such duress and sadness. We viewed a stuffed eagle and wolf’s head; they looked almost alive as the workmanship was truly exceptional. There were also tapestries, one with the image of a stampede of horses, the other with a colourful geometric pattern. Both were wondrous to behold. Finally, there was a large hunting horn with elaborate carvings along the sides. Caasi, in awe of the oversized spike, said she would like to blow it, bringing a rather muted hush within the room.
The festivities that night did not disappoint! A wonderful feast was prepared. Caasi performed a sermon, though I must admit the parable was a little confusing with imagery of bees and dripping honey. Though I could not understand completely the message, it was most certainly an exciting sermon, and all that listened were roused and invigorated! I also provided some entertainment, and told a tale of wonder and adventure to the good people of Sukiskyn.
As the embers in the fire began to fade most of our hosts began to retire for the night, and so we went to talk to our companion, Belgarath. He had taken a grievous wound during the attack on Sukiskyn, losing his right eye, and was still recovering from the trauma. Though only able to speak in whispers, he talked of Caasi’s new healing methods, a wry smile on his lips. She had remained at Sukiskyn to help heal him.
Belgarath told us of two disturbing visions that his feathery affiliate, Stikini, had recently dreamt. The first vision depicted a scene of horror from the darkest reaches of the mind. Hordes of people, naked and chained to one another, were seen wailing and moaning as they shuffled down a darkened passage. The second vision was of a pair of unseen eyes, ever searching, over cries of bound prisoners. What could these strange admonitions mean? As he detailed the confusing visions that had been told to him, Pyotr entered the room.
Pyotr spoke in an even tone, though we knew that he was filled with grief. His wife and youngest son were dead, and now his brother had been imprisoned, or worse, by goblins. “I would like to offer you half of what we earn on the next shipment of horses,” he said, hoping to maintain our allegiance with gold. “You have succeeded in defending us from the swarm, as well as returning most of our horses, the livelihood of this small community. Accept my offer, I beg you, and return my brother to me.” I looked at Caasi, Kane and Belgarath and I knew that my companions felt as I did. Our fates were somehow tied to those at the Sukiskyn farmstead, and we would indeed grant them our aid. No bargains or talk of money was needed, all that mattered was to search for Stephan, and perhaps slay those responsible!
The next day we buried Erasmus and Gareth at the edge of the clearing. The babbling brook and shade from a large oak made for a good resting place. As Caasi said a few words for our fallen comrades, I felt that they would be at peace here. We bid them farewell and set out towards the lumber camp, Iliyakana. Gregor had said it was further up the Volaga to the north east, and might take a couple of days through the woods. As we mounted our horses Taras asked us if we should stop at any of the other homesteads along the Volaga, as he was joining us this day. We decided to head directly to Iliykana, and on the way back look in on the other outposts. Time was of the essence.
We rode through the Dymrak Forest, moving as quickly as we could. But night was soon to find us, and we needed to bed down and make camp as we were losing light. We camped in the thick woods, and soon gave in to sleep.
It seemed I had just closed my eyes when I was sharply awoken by rough hands. Though I could see little, I did notice that my companions were awake, and seemingly ready for battle. That’s when I heard it, a loud thumping sound coming towards us, as some unknown behemoth made its way through the woods in our direction! I grabbed the hilt of my sword and crouched, ready for whatever may be lurking in the woods beyond.
From just behind the trees a booming voice resonated, “What you DO!?!” We were all terrified, for only an enormous creature could make such a sound! I called back, as politely as I could, asking for the beast’s forgiveness and that we didn’t know we were trespassing. I quickly rummaged through our bags and pulled as many provisions and wine as I could find, asking if our gargantuan host was perhaps hungry? I stepped forward, offering it dinner. From behind the tree a hand the size of a man lay down in front of me. Such a creature I can only imagine to been ten times the height of a man, judging by the size of its hand! I placed the food, almost all that we had brought, into the giant’s palm. I heard munching sounds and grunts, followed by sloshing and gulping. I asked the creature how the food was, to which we received a hearty “GOOD!” The behemoth, satisfied, turned and left the area. We never really saw more than the outline of the monster, but we saw its footprints the next morning, and they were a meter long!
The next day we head towards the lumber camp, and around noon it came into view through a break in the trees. As we approached, the devastation became apparent. It was a massacre, with charred remains of both human and goblin littering the camp grounds. The palisades had been torn down and burned, and a very familiar ship had been sunk at the dock. It was Kalenos’ barge, and little of it remained afloat.
Kane, our trusty elven ranger, set about the business of examining the tracks within and around the camp. It was then, crouched and analyzing the ground, that he first heard it, someone muttering, deeper within the camp. He crept stealthily to investigate, and he soon saw a figure walking around, obviously agitated. Taras, having followed Kane towards the sounds, saw a man that he recognized; Kalenos, the captain of the river barge! Taras called out to him, but what happened next we could not have guessed!
Kalenos turned towards Taras, his face red and contorted with rage and madness, before running in the opposite direction and out of sight. I was still on my horse and pursued, finding our friend Kalenos hacking away at a tree a short distance away. As I approached, he bent down and picked up a bow, firing an arrow at me! His aim was true, but even though I was injured I continued in pursuit, yelling at our friend that he was not in danger and we were here to help. I leapt off my horse as I neared, but he was intent on escape, and continued though the trees and in the Dymrak. Caasi, fearing violence in the man, took this opportunity to use her sling, finding its mark. But insanity must have infected his mind, for he now leapt behind the trees and beyond.
Mounting my horse I summoned my companions to give chase; we mustn’t lose him in the woods! Kane knew what to look for and easily tracked him. We soon found Kalenos in a clearing, doubled over besides a tree stump, gasping for air. Kane, advancing, threw a net over him, and we wrestled him to the ground. He struggled and uttered mindless words, until Caasi, using magics given to her from her God, gently touched his face. Kalenos instantly became calm, the insanity extinguished, at least for the moment. We bound him, as Caasi said the madness would return, and she was right, for he soon began to moan and cry inhuman words.
We found nothing else at Iliyakana, but Kane did explain that there were two groups of goblins that had attacked, and one with wolves. It must have been the Red blades and the Wolf Skulls! It was the same groups of goblins that had attacked the Sukiskyn just days before! After a quick discussion we decided to continue our search at the Churkas farmstead, and we followed the Volaga River south west towards it.
The way was treacherous, and we even lost a horse to injury. But soon enough we had pushed through the wilderness to the Churkas farmstead, but what we found was more death and devastation. The goblins had been here as well, and made short work of the place. Kane closely analyzed the tracks, and he said that a set of prints moved away into the bush. We decided to send Taras back to Sukiskyn with Kalenos and that the rest of us would follow the tracks, but the trail was soon cold, so we followed Taras back to Sukiskyn.
Back at the farmstead we passed on the news of destruction. Pyotr looked concerned, his brother’s welfare certainly on his mind. Irena, one of the Sukiskyn clan, said that Kalenos’ mind was broken, and she was unsure if he would ever recover.
After replenishing our supplies, we soon headed back out into the wilderness. Checking in on other homesteads and camps was now all that mattered. We looked in on the Hokol farmstead, south west of Churkas, and the Sielo lumber camp, a little past Iliyakana. All we found was death. Not a single living person remained, and we returned to Sukiskyn saddened at our discovery.
Our spirits raised as we saw that Belgarath was up and about! He listened to our findings and suggested we head towards the camp we had encountered Miss L. Fyodorll. We could track the Vipers, and perhaps exact some vengeance! Doing as he suggested, we came to the Equine Entrepreneur’s camp after a day of riding. Nothing had disturbed the corral and wagons since we were last there. Now we hoped that Kane could pick up the Vipers’ scent, and lead us to their settlement.
Kane was soon in pursuit of the foul swine, heading east and deeper in the Dymrak. As we bed down for the night a discussion on whether or not we should head towards the Segenyev mining camp or continue on towards the Vipers nest. At dawn, we continued to follow the trail; finding the Vipers our sole purpose.
After a few hours we came to a steep embankment with a bubbling brook below. Kane motioned for us to be silent, as he believed our foe to be in the vicinity. Caasi climbed down to investigate, and soon found an opening in the side of the mound. We tied the horses up in the woods, and made our way down the embankment. A few meters into the hole we came to a florescent green door with the image of a snake carved into the wood. Our search for the Vipers was at an end.
The door was bolted from the other side. We silently looked at one another, knowing that we would need to either find another way or break this door down. Mearl and Kane took their hounds, and soon had found another entrance hidden behind the bushes in the side of a hill 100 meters from the first entrance. We lit torches and lanterns, and entered, ready to battle.
The tunnel was dank and dreary and smelled of earth. I had to crouch to continue, and the path wound its way through the earth like a serpent. I took the vanguard position with Mearl, and suddenly the ground gave way and I fell! It was a deep drop, and I hit the bottom hard, but was none the worse for wear. I’d fallen into a pit trap, the bones of previous victims proof of its danger. Caasi helped me out of the pit and used her skills and magics to heal me. A little shaken and moving a little more cautiously, we continued our descent into the dark.
We turned a corner and entered a large chamber illuminated by two large iron braziers. Ten of the foul creatures lay in wait as we entered the hollow, throwing daggers as we closed! Snakes lay all around between us and our foe!
I gripped my bow and loosed three arrows, dropping two of our foe as one of them threw a large snake right at me! It bit my leg and I grimaced from the pain. Mearl, steady with his bow also ended two goblins as they charged towards us. Belgarath used his magics and arrows leapt from his fingers and the rest of our party engaged the deadly enemy.
One of the snakes slithered up to Belgarath, but the fearless miser sliced the serpents head off as it attacked! I was not as lucky, as the snake that had attacked me coiled itself around my leg and squeezed! I almost screamed from the excruciating pain, but Caasi struck the life from the vile creature, saving me once again. I then picked up my sword and charged the final snake, taking its head as trophy.
The last survivor, a goblin significantly larger than the rest, turned and ran out of the room. Kane notched an arrow and bore it into the fiend’s back, but still it ran. Sprinting after the villain, Kane ordered his dogs to attack the lone Viper. We followed it down the corridor, finding a trail of blood behind it. We came into a room with two doors, and blood leading us to the one on the right.
We regrouped and followed the fresh trail down a winding corridor, passing openings and doors. I was leading the way as we entered another sizable room, only to be met by the sting of steel as a dagger cut my arm. A number of them lay in wait behind a barrier, cowardly little villains. I raised my bow and released an arrow, finding a new home in the head of one of them, but two more daggers cut into me. I had been injured so many times; I was finally slowed by the multitude of wounds and gashes.
Kane then took aim with his bow and killed another goblin as Belgarath sent his dogs over the barrier. We could see little, but heard high pitched shrieks as the pack tore the little bastards limb from limb. We could make our one of their number turning to run, but the hounds followed close behind. Climbing over the barricade, we arrived seconds later to find all of Belgarath’s hounds sitting attentively, yet surrounded by carnage, a hand still gripping the latch to the door, its body on the other side of the room.
And that, my friends, was the end of the Vipers, and is almost the end of our story, only one last point to mention. As we rummaged through the dirty belongings we came across a small, yet well made chest, one no bigger than a breadbox. It was locked, but we were all certain that valuables lay within. Kane could not open it, and without a word, handed it to Caasi. She looked at him, and then to Belgarath, and they both nodded as she raised her mace. I yelled at her to stop, that this was madness and that she should be patient! But alas, she brought her baton down on the fragile container.
It shattered, and we gathered closer to look at what lay within, only to see thick liquid spill out of broken jars. Some platinum was found within the broken glass and ooze, but miraculously one jar remained! I picked it up and cradled the jar, not allowing any more harm to come to the goo!
So, dear friends, we come to the end of our tale, as my flagon is now empty! Ha!