Tramping through the snow, the party arrive at the farmhouse which Kradorn, somewhat hastily scouts out. He is eager to get inside and get a fire going.
It is a two storey building with an impressive front door covered by a porch. There are four windows downstairs and five upstairs, all shuttered. The back has a similar layout but two of the downstairs windows are unshuttered and one of these is broken. Behind the main farmhouse stand two barns, a stable and two single storey cottages. The front door of the farmhouse is unlocked and the interior seems almost completely intact, untouched even.
Cynan and who ever else wants to comes with him searches the house thoroughly while everyone else waits in the hallway. Gildor notices as well as his own wrinkly skin, his leaf patterned leather armour is looking decidedly pale and a bit yellow around the edges.
The house is well furnished, if a little dusty but strangely untouched by the three hundred years that has passed since its occupants died.
The search finds nothing lurking in the corners or the cupboards, apart from a long dead body in the kitchen. Once Cynan has buried the body under the snow, he makes a fire in the parlour and lights it with his flint and steel. Kradorn gives a moan of joy and starts stripping off his wet clothes.
At this point Kalam mumbles something and keels over.
Jenson turns to Kalam, then looks to Talo. “Talo Kalam” pointing at Kalam. “Blah blah help blah blah” Then moves to Gildor’s pack and looks for the disease cure, radiation antidote ampoule and Healing spray. When he finds them he shows them to the group. Then he shrugs, pointing first to the cure disease then healing spray then to Kalam.
“Thank you, Jenson.” Talo pats the human and the shoulder with appreciation. Talo eyes the yellowing portion of Gildor’s armour and investigates. Talo does what he can to help stem the tide of the infection.
Gildor’s armour seems to be suffering from overwatering but the half-elf has been in the river for hours so perhaps drying it out might help.
Gildor says, “Let’s get warmed up. Talo can you heal Kalam with the stuff Jenson has? He points to the fire and tells Jenson “Fire” Gildor gets out of his Leathers and lays them out to get warm.
“Absolutely, I’ll get right on it!” Talo begins working on the healing spray. Once the spray has run out Talo administers first aid to everyone who is not fully healed.
Talo takes Kradorn’s Healing spray and uses the last two doses to bring everyone back to full health.
Jenson applies the disease cure ampoule to Kalam but it seems to have no immediate effect.
“We still don’t see animals, so this may not be a good spot for too long… Let’s rest quickly…Watch order the same as before okay? He and Jenson can take first watch.
After an hour Kalam shows no sign of improvement so Talo tries a cure light wounds which seems to work. Cynan doesn’t think it was anything other than a severe chill.
Kradorn asks what they should do with the dingy, leave it on the riverbank or drag it back to the farmhouse?
Gildor says softly, “Jenson… Fire blah blah… blah blah.”
Before Gildor takes off his leathers he goes and decapitates the body and covers it back up with snow.
“Saphiria get warm by the fire girl. We should get Kalam in front of the fire too, to warm him as well. Nobody goes alone to get firewood. Make sure at least 2 or 3 go get firewood. The house itself may provide enough wood from furnishings possibly. I think one of the kitchen windows is broken possibly so we should try and figure a way to get it fixed or closed off. Maybe a pantry door might be used to cover that window?”
The party are in the parlour and Saphiria shoves her way to the front and lays down in front of the fire. She secretly asks that if Kalam dies… would she be able to eat him.
There looks to be enough firewood to keep the fire going till next morning.
Kradorn grabs some chairs from the dining room and spreads his wet stuff over them.
The room soon begins to warm up and the floor and walls start to creak.
Gildor and Jenson take first watch, Kradorn reminding Gildor that being on watch involves actually being awake and looking outside for potential threats.
The first watch passes uneventfully and Kradorn grabs a pan and scooping up some snow puts it over the fire to boil.
Jenson made sure his clothes and gear got dried up best he can before and during the watch, shivers at times and looks to Saphiria as she took over the fire and chuckles softly finding a spot to warm up. On watch he will circle the cabin looking out windows and keeping awake while trying not to make too much noise.
Jenson spots nothing interesting from the windows, nothing moving in the flat whiteness of the landscape. To the north he can see the river meandering from the north west and the approaching haze of distant snowfall. To the south he can see the river bowing west before heading east again about 3km away, where two towers mark the town on the southern riverbank.
By midday Gildor and Jenson are replaced by Kradorn and Cynan and everyone eats a ship’s ration, except Talo, who seems to have forgotten to pack any.
“Jenson seems to have brought plenty, perhaps you could ask him for some.” says Kradorn to the dwarf.
Outside the sky has darkened and a light wind from the north is bringing low, yellowish cloud with it.
“Great, more snow.” sighs Kradorn.
When it is time to eat, as Jenson chews on his rations he looks to Kradorn then Talo as Kradorn says something obviously poking at Talo and sees Talo has no rations. points at Talo “Food” and pulls out rations for Talo “Talo eat”. Looking at Kalam “Kalam blah blah?”
While they are awake Jenson will try to talk and learn more common, interacting with the group using the gear as references.
Cynan talks with Jenson, going through numbers from one to ten and body parts.
Gildor works on drying out his leathers while guarding the place, looking from windows and circling the home as well. He grabs a ration and enjoys a meal with the others. He talks to Jenson to help with his grasp of the common language… Blah… Blah… Blah… Blah…Blah… Blah”
When they see the yellowish storm clouds Jenson points “Blah? Blah?” turns and looks about “Fire blah good? Blah two blah?” Looking out to the east pointing “Blah blah, blah blah, blah two blah blah blah blah blah blah?”.
Cynan seems to suddenly understand and sounds out the word BOAT and points back towards the river.
Within a few minutes Cynan and Jenson have walked back to the dingy where it was pulled up on the riverbank and they haul it higher and hide it behind a stone wall. The dingy glides smoothly over the snow and is quite light. Cynan worries that if the wind picks up it might blow away.
Gildor pats Saphiria and loves on her… ”I’m sorry my dear you cannot eat Kalam…I think he is getting better… You can go hunt. Follow the river the way we were going further on my dear…If you must, go until you find food but beware of humanoids just hunt wild game if possible. Try not to be too visible.”
The firedrake understands and tells Gildor she may also have to travel out of range of the link they have and wants to be sure the party won’t move off before she returns.
Saphiria leaves the house and heads east, keeping the river and the town to her south. When the river begins to meander wildly to the north east she heads in that direction and is soon out of Gildor’s mental range.
Gildor says, ”Jenson, come with me to the boat.”
Jenson hears “Jenson, blah, blah blah blah blah boat.”
Looking at Gildor, Jenson tilts his head. Looks questioning at first “Gildor, yes, boat” And follows Gildor to the dingy “Oh I Blah blah” also picking up two logs and as big of a rock he could carry with the wood.
They both head out to the dingy through the snow. It is not hard to find the dingy being as it is bright yellow.
At the Dingy Jenson lays the logs and rock down and starts putting snow in the dingy – looks to Gildor “Gildor, Blah Blah snow blah” Then lays the logs and rock on top of the snow “Blah”. Once done Jenson sees how loose the dingy is by sliding it about. “Gildor” Waves his arms in the air and points at the storm, makes blowing noises with his mouth pointing to the dingy then swooshes his hands going ‘whoosh” then points to the ground “boat blah – yes no?”
Gildor stops Jenson from adding snow. He signals to carry it back to the house. ”Jenson… Blah blah blah blah blah boat blah blah blah blah… blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah…”
Gildor lifts one end of the dingy up and Gildor checks the bottom to make sure the snow isn’t doing any harm to the bottom.
The boat is light and Gildor has no trouble pulling it behind him.
Jenson stops shovelling snow into the dingy “OK Gildor I blah.” Looks at Gildor as he points back toward the house “Gildor, Blah to Blah the blah blah to the blah?”. Following Gildor’s lead he takes a side of the dingy and helps carry/push it. Stopping when Gildor checks the bottom “Gildor, blah? Um is the blah good? No Blah?” Points to the stable “Blah?” and continues pushing/carrying it. “Gildor blah blah to blah?”
Back at the house Gildor points to the stable where they can put the dingy. Gildor goes inside to get Cynan and Kradorn to help put it in the stable.
Cynan and Kradorn check out the stable, though Kradorn has been in and checked it before and there are no more prints outside so he doesn’t quite understand why Gildor needs his help. Cynan is inclined to agree.
Afternoon Bell arrives and another watch passes, with Gordon and Talo taking over now. The gnome sticks to the upper floor, moving from room to room and opening the shutters to give him a good view out across the flat snowy planes to north, where he can just make out the mount that stood in the centre of the undead city to the north-west. To the south he can see the river bowing west before heading east again about 3km away, and the two towers that mark the town on the southern riverbank.
Talo wraps his cloak about him and patrols the farm, sticking to already made paths in the snow but thoroughly checking all the out buildings, holy axe held at the ready, to turn or strike.
He finds the usual farming tools as well as a light cart. The two farm cottages are dusty and empty but have the same eerie feeling as the farmhouse, as if the occupants who upped and left 300 years ago and the place has remained untouched since then. Which as far as the dwarf can tell, it has.
Gordon takes one final look north at the end of his watch and sees a dark wall of cloud and snow has closed to within a few kilometres.
Gildor goes outside and scans the sky to the north-east looking for any sign of Saphiria.
Gordon comes out to him and tells him it is Evening Bell and he is on watch again with Jenson.
Gildor nods and continues to pace around the building keeping an eye out for the firedrake. From out of the sky the first tiny snowflakes begin to fall from the evening sky.
Gildor is suddenly aware of Saphiria away to the south-east, she seems quite excited and is no longer hungry. She arrives back at the farm a short time later and relates her tale to Gildor once she has snuggled in close to the fireplace. She first warns that heavy snow is beginning to fall outside.
She started her journey by following the river north east but soon realised that it doubled back and headed south, along the western edge of the range of hills to the east. So she headed south until she was roughly south-east of the farmhouse. Here she saw the river made a giant loop to the west before heading north again and then going east, between a valley in the hills. At the southern edge of this loop is another town or city, larger than the one just downstream of the farmhouse but smaller than the big city they came from in the dingy.
Up until this point she saw no sign of life, neither green trees nor tracks in the snow.
The river twisted its way between the hills and to her surprise she noticed the hills to the south of the river were dotted with the odd conifer, green beneath their layer of thick snow.
She headed south-east and spent quite a while hunting in this great round patch of woods, dotted with evergreen trees and plants and criss-crossed with small animal tracks. There was a giant oak tree in the centre of the wood, twice the height of a normal oak. Her hunt was fruitless. Eventually a voice called to her, like the way Gildor speaks to her, calling her down to the huge oak.
Here she met a human and an elf. They said they were worshippers of Kementari, bringing new life to the ruin of Cadbaria. They said they were warned of her approach by the birds and in turn warned the small animals of the wood, which is why she couldn’t catch any.
They fed her with food they magicked out of nothing and asked her what she was doing here so far into the desert of Cadbaria. Saphiria told them all about the party and dropping into the city of the dead in a little metal box and their escape in a boat.
The Kementari worshippers say to avoid towns and cities as they are crawling with undead and that the party are welcome to come here but be warned that the place is holy and they must take no life in these woods.
Gildor tells the party of Saphiria’s adventure.
Listening intently Jenson waits for the commotion to end and quietly gets Gildor attention pointing to Saphiria then the way she came from “Blah Saphire Blah food?” points to each of the group member then back the way Saphire flew “Blah Saphire Cy, um C 2 um 3 Cynans , 2 um 3 Kradorns, Talos, Gordons, Gildors, Kalam’s? To Help?” Then stands taps foot on floor, “Jenson” Then walks a few steps and flaps his arms pointing to Saphire “Blah Blah blah Saphire go, 2 um 3 um 4 blah to blah food?”
“Err, ‘Do you mean, are we going to this forest’?” says Kradorn. Indicating the whole group and pointing south-east. “But it might be a little bit of a slog through the snow and we don’t know how long this horrible weather will last.” he says and nods out the window, where large snow flakes are battering against the window.
Gildor says, “Everyone…” Gildor motions for all to come and hear him. ”I think we take the boat to the river now and ride through the night. If you can find some blankets get some to stay warm with on the boat.. Those that haven’t rested yet get to rest in the boat first… Same deal as before on riding in the boat. Saphiria can guide us to the place to get out of the boat and take us to the grove. Let’s make haste my friend. I don’t want to meet any ghouls getting back to the river. Jenson grab your gear, come with me to get boat. Everyone get your gear and meet at the front door to move to the river.”
Kradorn looks at Cynan with a quizzical look. He gives a shrug and starts putting on his armour and packing his gear.
Gildor gets his gear, showing Jenson what he means and signals Jenson to come help get the boat. Gildor and Jenson get the dingy and bring the dingy to the front door.
Jenson looks confused. “Blah blah blah boat blah?? Blah blah blah blah ghouls blah”.
He sighs and shrugging follows Gildor’s direction getting the dingy back out “Blah blah Kradorn?”
“Saphiria how far is it to the grove using the river my dear and how far from the river to the Grove?”
The firedrake thinks it will take the boat at least half a day to reach the plateau with the woods but only a short walk up into the hills to the big oak.
Talo looks for some time to speak with Kradorn, “War-brother, I lack the blessed skill of Clanggedin. I wish to refine my the swing of me axe. Would you run me through some drills? It would be a great honor to me and I would greatly appreciate it.” The dwarf looks on with a hopeful, ugly smile.
“Well Talo, I don’t really have any experience with an axe, you’d probably need someone more experienced to teach you. I’m more of a archer myself, though I do have some skill with a sword.” Replies Kradorn. “Besides I thinks we’re on the move again. Even though it’s nearly dark… and it looks like we’re heading out into a blizzard.”
“I get it. We are busy relocating, but perhaps when we get some down time. I don’t mind picking up some familiarity with the Edge’s lesser kin.” As Talo indicates with a nod to Kradorn’s sword.
“Let’s get down to the shore. I think Gildor is champing at the bit to get going.”
“I think we should start thinking about where we are and where we are going. I have some real heartache about leaving that town un-cleansed and full of dead that needs some more dyin’. No pressure, but I would love to get back once we have rested to clean up there.” Talo pulls his fur cloak tight against the wind and heads out with Gildor to get the dingy.
Gildor says, “Whoa… Talo, we are leaving this place my friend. Grab your gear and let’s be going. Meet at the river where we came ashore yesterday. We are headed to a protected Grove Saphiria found… We cannot kill anything there though, but I think most will be provided for us.”
“I’ll do my best to keep the… peace,” with this Talo nearly spits the word out, “but if we are attacked? I daresay my axe-hand will give its gift.” Talo proceeds to help embark into the ‘river floaty’. The dwarf is heard to call the dingy this throughout their journey.
Thinking about things, the cleric remembers the escape pod warning that they would be coming in from the west and that they landed short of their destination – Lands End – by about 100km, which would put them smack bang in the middle of Cadbaria.
Gildor adds, “Saphiria thinks it will take half a day to get there on the river and then a short walk up the hill to the big oak. We need to get going as it will take us until morning bell to get there likely… I just don’t trust that the Dingy would be safe overnight with the undead in so much of the area and we will have a safe grove to rest in once we get there.”
Gildor decides to put his leathers in his backpack this time so it doesn’t get yellow.
“Saphiria make sure we are following the river the way we need to.”
Cynan comes down the stairs with some blankets he took from the beds. He isn’t sure if it is a good idea setting off in the snow with Kalam having just recovered from almost freezing to death but Gildor is the leader. They also can’t afford to add any more weight to the dingy, because if it tips over or sinks anyone in metal armour is going to go straight to the bottom.
Gildor says to the group,”IF the snowstorm hits, the snow gets deeper and harder to move through. IF we are attacked by undead and the Dingy gets trashed, we are stuck on foot through a snow storm/blizzard. I’d rather get on the river now and get moving. Even in a blizzard we are better off in my opinion than trying to get through several feet of snow on foot. Talo and Gordon would find walking very taxing and if there are undead about it makes walking that much worse. I’ll take my chances on the river. Armoured folk may want to not wear their armour just in case but it’s up to you… Let’s try and stabilize the load as much as possible.”
“Saphiria… were there any rough spots on the river we should be worried about or did it all seem fairly smooth?”
Saphiria says she didn’t see any waterfalls but she didn’t see all the river and she was flying high to see as much of the landscape as possible.
Gildor tell Saphiria,”Okay girl. Go tell the folks at the grove we are coming by boat in about 1/2 a day. If the weather breaks come scout for us.”
Everyone puts their dry clothes back on except Kradorn and Kalam, who wrap up their armour first and put it in their bags.
By the time the party set out from the farmhouse, the air is full of heavy snow and the party’s tracks are slowly disappearing under the snowfall.
They trudge back to the jetty and setting the dingy in the water start spreading their gear about to keep it as stable as possible. Behind them the farmhouse has disappeared in the swirling snow.
Before he gets in, Kradorn dumps his shield and a couple of other items on the jetty. Cynan looks to his own shield and dumps that too.
At the River Gildor helps secure the gear and puts his leathers in his backpack.
Everyone clambers carefully into the dingy as Gildor steadies it. The dingy seems okay and doesn’t sink any lower in the water than previously with Gildor’s armour and the blankets Cynan brought from the farmhouse.
With a gentle push off from the bank, the dingy floats out into the river, the far bank maybe 50m distant. The boat is caught by the current and helped along by some careful paddling. The snow continues to fall, quickly beginning to settle on the blankets thrown over everyone. Kradorn doesn’t think they should get too far from the bank, even if the river current is slower.
“Are you sure you want to keep that plate on?” Cynan asks Talo.
An hour drifting down the river takes them around in a loop to the west and then almost to the town on the southern bank as the river meanders its way east. As the dingy rounds a bend the party can see a tall sailed ship anchored in the middle of the river parallel with the town docks about 200m downstream. It looks like a warship rather than any trading vessel but any detail is obscured by the heavy snowfall. It is hard to tell just how much snow has fallen in the last hour but a small part of one of the blankets covering the party which has lain undisturbed is a good 10cm deep already.
Before they get to the warship Gildor says softly, “We should stay quiet so we can try and just float by quietly. Keep us a bit away from it. Get a path set so we don’t hit the bank or them and stop rowing, if possible. I’ll get along the opposite side to hide as well. Maybe get everyone under the covers till we get past.”
Jenson points to the snow on the top of the blankets and dingy saying quietly “The Snow blah the boat is good, blah blah blah blah, OK.” Then hunkers down and watches for directions from the group as he helps steer the dingy away from the warship leaving the snow in place.
The sailing ship is big, perhaps 25m long and 6m wide with several decks and a row of ports in the side for oars.
As the dingy drifts within 50m of the ship, the party can see there are lookouts on the galleon, one high up in the crows nest, one at the prow and another on either side of the ship. All of them are wrapped in cloaks and hoods. The lookouts at the prow and in the crows nest are both looking south, towards the docks and the town beyond.
The guard looking out to the north has his hood pulled tight around his head but it is inevitable that the party will drift right past him, within 10 or 15 metres.
Jenson looks to Gildor and whispers “Gildor” then points to the lookout they will pass and takes his hands and folds them on his cheek tilting his head on his hands and acts like he is sleeping.
“I Think he means sleep Gildor.” whispers Kalam.
Gildor whispers, “Gordon can you cast sleep on the lookout, I don’t think I can in the water? We may just look like a floating piece of ice to give you a chance to get inside the spells range. Everyone be still and under covers.”
Talo stays under his furry cloak, enjoying the ride.
The dingy drifts towards the boat and Gordon sticks his head out from under the blankets to give him a better view of the approaching lookout. He rises slightly to free his arms and begins preparing the Sleep spell. When the dingy gets within 20 metres, the gnome casts the spell and the lookout slumps forward onto the railings and then slides down onto the deck, his fall muffled by his cloak and the lying snow.
The dingy reaches the boat and after what seems like an agonizingly long time waiting for a shout or alarm, finally glides past it. Gordon notices another lookout at the rear of the boat but he too seems more interested in the town to the south than what may be on the river. The gnome notes the watchman had a short bow and quiver slung across his back.
Soon the warship, because that is clearly what it is, has faded to nothing but a shadow amid the swirl of falling snow and the size and frequency of buildings along the southern bank of the river slowly diminish too.
Gildor says softly, ”Good job team.”
The dingy floats on silently through the snow, the town lost behind it. The river begins to bend right and head east south east.
As the light fades, the river turns north and when darkness eventually falls the dingy reaches a section of river that kinks west then heads north east. Even with the blankets, those without cold weather clothing feel the temperature drop. Kalam begins shivering but insists he is okay.
Midnight Bell sees the party heading north east again after a frustrating hour long loop to the south. The snow is still falling thickly and needs clearing off the blankets every so often and even those that can see in the dark can’t see more than 100m in any direction.
As the dingy floats along it passes the odd village every few kilometres but none show any sign of life. The river continues to run north east then north west until almost Silent Bell, when it takes a turn to the right, heading east.
Those on watch notice a number of small buildings along the north shore, with perhaps more and larger buildings up ahead.
Gildor says softly, “Let’s get closer to the south bank further away from the buildings along the north shore nice and easy like. Don’t draw attention to ourselves. In a few more hours we’ll see the sun hopefully. At least it should put the dead to rest for a bit hopefully. Good job with the sleep spell Gordon. Jenson speak good words. Everyone, stay covered up and share body heat.”
The number and size of the buildings increase as the dingy approaches the town and soon the remains of boats and jetties come into view as they near the docks. Gildor and whoever is on watch keep an eye on the docks and buildings on the waterfront and spot the occasional figure in a doorway or standing motionless in the snowy streets.
Gildor thinks for a moment that perhaps here is somewhere free of the undead but when one of the figures turns its head and glimpses the dingy drifting by, it throws back its head and lets out a wail of the damned. The figure staggers stiffly towards the river and slowly picks up speed through the waist deep snow and finally, running along a half sunken jetty, throws itself at the dingy.
It lands well short and for a moment resurfaces, before sinking again beneath the dark waters of the river. The creature, like those in the city is thin, almost skeletal, hairless and semi-naked. More and more howls echo through the town and those ghouls closest to the river try to plough their way through the thick snow after the dingy and its precious cargo. But the snow is too deep, obstacles too numerous and the river too swift for the ghouls to close on the party. Within ten minutes the town is a grey shadow amid the swirling snow and the howls of the undead fade slowly into the distance.
The river turns south east and as the party glide along, the snow slowly begins to thin, then stop. To their left the party can see a line of hills not more than a kilometre away. Silent Bell passes and then Sunrise Bell as the river runs south east still following the hills, then south west before making a huge loop to the west and heading east again.
The river then widens for a kilometre or two, giving a good view of the surrounding terrain and allowing Kradorn (who carefully stands up in the little dingy) to spot hills, perhaps ten kilometres to the north east, then a valley and then more snow shrouded hills to the east. The river itself heads south east, towards a town or perhaps a city, then turns north.
Already farms and estate houses can be seen along the banks of the river as it flows towards the city ahead.
Gordon comments that despite all the time they have spent on the river, they can’t be more than fifteen kilometres south east of the town where they encountered the boat. He also thinks that this clear spell won’t last and that more and heavier snow is still to come, and soon.
With the sun climbing in the morning sky, the snow covered landscape shines clean and crystal white. The buildings on the outskirts of the city emerge from the waist deep snow and the watery morning light throws a glittering white shroud over everything.
They soon pass the outer walls of the city. A heavy gate in the wall by the river stands closed and is held closed by wooden props and a makeshift barricade… on the outside.
The party pass through the city unmolested, noting that the eastern side of the city has been largely destroyed by fire.
Jenson, looking out at the fire ravaged docks points out the first sign of vegetation, weeds, growing by the waters edge. Gordon comments that they look like odd and sickly specimens. Here and there the party also spot patches of ice forming in the slow moving sections of the river. Talo’s beard is dotted with blobs of ice too.
The city’s eastern walls glide by silently and once again the buildings surrounding the city begin to get steadily smaller and further apart, until after a kilometre there are nothing more than fields and the odd farmhouse to be seen.
By now the river is bending to the north east and soon it is heading north again. Ahead and to the east lie low hills. Dominating the northern horizon is a wall of dark cloud, its underside tinged with yellow and thunder rumbles from somewhere within.
By Midday Bell the river has reached the hills to the north and begun meandering east, heading between the low hills rising about the dingy. A light dusting of snow has begun to fall from the rumbling, jaundice clouds overhead.
Jenson, Kalam and Kradorn all comment on the drop in temperature, even under the blanket they are beginning to feel the effects of the cold.
Gildor hears something ahead, a distant rumbling, something more persistent than the odd rumble from the clouds overhead. Kalam says he thinks he can hear it too.
Shivering, Jenson tries to stay warm keeping very close to if just touching the person next to him but not totally breaking the overly touching rules “Gag, ca, co cold”
To keep his mind off of the cold as the drift along Jenson repeats words the group says also points to what he can as reference to the words “Wa wat water, bud budl budlin budling building, i ic ice, sit sity city, Undayd undead, wed weds, weeds, ahd odd,” with more emphasis since he understands better these as he points “East, west, north, south”. Stumbling on this one, “Rra rraamblah, ramble, rumle, rumble.” He looks perplexed for a few moments after leaning that word then a oh crap look passes his face and looks to the river and East (the direction they are heading) then back to Gildor and Kalam and points down the river “The river no good East, rrrumble blah a water blah?” and takes snow and slowly sprinkles it off his hands. Pauses for reaction then gets a little excited, “Blah blah blah blah the rumble?” and swishes his hands back and forth then up and down taking one hand and balling it and taking the other hand and with it flat passing it over and around the balled hand and says “rumble is blah blah east?”
Gildor says, “Let’s get out on the south bank… I remember Saphiria saying she went south east form the farmhouse we stayed at essentially. So, let’s go to the south bank and look from some conifers with some green on them still and some evergreens perhaps. They’ll know we are there as the woodland creatures will tell the druid. I’ll probably be able to talk to Saphiria soon too. Let’s be sure to bring the dingy in and cover our tracks. I don’t know if that warship was friendly or not. Make one single track from the river bank out of the water I can come back and use a downed branch to scatter the snow about to make it look undisturbed mostly. We can decide if we just need to walk past these rapids/waterfall or if we just go on foot from here on. Once we get a better lay of the land/river. Jenson we go single file through snow. Take dingy too. See how river/land is for a bit.”
Jenson shrugs “south boat blah blah blah? Jenson points to the south bank “good blah blah south blah “ then as Gildor and others start to row that way Jenson helps.
Gildor gives Jenson a thumbs up signal. “Jenson good job. We go to riverbank fast.”
Gildor tries to reach out to Saphiria to make contact in case they might be close enough or she has started moving closer to them too, “Saphiria, can you hear me? Are we close my dear?”
There is no reply from the firedrake.
Gildor can’t see much ahead of the dingy, being barely above the level of the water. He thinks perhaps the river enters a valley a kilometre or two ahead which narrows further on.
The party and Gildor paddle and kick towards the south bank and arrive without problems. They can hear the rumble coming from further downstream (east), they can’t see what it is but it can’t be far away. The ground is covered with waist deep snow, which presuming one of the stronger party members forges a path ahead of the others, they can move through at perhaps one kilometre per hour.
Helping unload the dingy Jenson points South East “Saphire South East?”
Once the dingy is empty Jenson looks to see if it can be dragged along behind them and finds rope and ties it off holding the other end.
“Jenson Blah Blah the boat, Jenson Blah Blah Blah. I blah help blah blah Saphiria blah weeds.” and points high up to the south east.
Gildor looks for conifer or evergreen trees off in the distance and a large oak tree possibly to help him choose a direction. South and south east will be the general direction if no clues to help make his choice.
Gildor brings up the rear, gets his leathers on, grabs his gear and tries to find a downed tree branch to scatter their tracks if possible if none are available, he just stays in the single track. Once they get inland a bit, he will stay in the tracks but move to the front and lead the group South south east. His ring will protect him more and this will take the cold off the legs of the whoever was initially leading.
“Let’s get going boys. We either passed it already as Saphiria didn’t see any bad spots or she didn’t see it because of the weather or it’s further on I should have been able to contact Saphiria if we passed her up since the grove wasn’t far from the river. I’m guessing it’s further up the river a bit but if we head south east, we should get within range of the grove or some of the forest animals to be spotted by them. Who’s in bad shape and cold?”
Gildor gives them the ring. Each take turns using the ring for warm then swap to someone else.
“We’ll survive better as a group if we share it. Let’s try and get to the grove before we get too much more snow dumped on us.”
Jenson takes the ring and puts it on – Almost jumping off the ground and yelping and grabbing his arm looking at his finger then follows his arm to his body and hugs himself, “Gildor, No cold, is blah blah? Looking at the ring “Blah Blah!! Blah blah is blah? I blah blah blah, I blah to blah blah blah! ” Then will take the ring off and pass it to another once he is warm. “The Blah is good, Blah Blah Blah, BLAH!!”
After putting packs back on and readying themselves for a slog through the snow, the party head south east with Cynan leading the way, in standard, single file marching order. Jenson pulling the dingy behind him and Gildor in the rear. There are no bushes or branches suitable to cover tracks, all that remain are the stumps of bushes and the trunks and largest branches of the trees.
Ten minutes pushing through the snow in a south easterly direction brings them to another river, smaller than one they were travelling down, barely twenty metres across but running swiftly south to north. On the far side of the river is a steep but not unclimbable bank, perhaps ten metres high. Gildor immediately spots a small fern growing under an overhang on the far bank.
The rumbling noises are now coming from the north. The river there seems to drop away after perhaps 150 metres and there is what could be a bridge, or what is left of one.
Gildor says, “Let see if we can find a way over this smaller river. It’s moving real fast and the noise is real close where the fall/rapids might be. Let’s go check out if the bridge crosses the river and if it’s sturdy enough for us one at a time. Unless anyone else had a better Idea.”
“Aye, lad, i think this is the best course. Lead on and we will follow..”
Talo loans his cloak to anyone who appears to be suffering the most.
Kalam accepts the cloak gladly. The sickly human seems more vulnerable to the cold than the others.
Meanwhile, Talo walks near Jenson all the while pointing and saying names of things, “tree… snow… hills… tracks… feet… beard… axe… armour… me… you… dwarf… human… I don’t know how much o’ this yer gettin’… but I’ll keep givin’.”
Following Talo’s lead Jenson tries to repeat each word, tree – Blah – weeds?… snow – snow… hills – Blah… tracks – Blah… feet – foot – feet… beard – blah face blah … axe – blah grenade ?… armour – arm blah blah… me – me… you – you… dwarf – dwarf… human – human… I – I don’t – blah know – blah how – blah much – blah o’ – blah o’ this – blah yer – blah gettin – blah ‘… but – butt (chuckles) I’ll – I blah keep – blah givin – blah. Shrugs after trying a few times and grins at Talo “Blah is good” then concentrates on the bridge they located.
The party head north, following the western bank of the river, Cynan ploughing through the snow and the party following on behind.
Five minutes brings them to where the two rivers meet. The river the party are following narrows to about ten metres and drops under a stone bridge before roaring out into what looks like a bay, where the larger river from the west widens for about 300 metres. Where the rivers meet the water is a churning maelstrom.
“I think we might have gotten wet in that little boat.” comments Kradorn.
Initially the bridge looks intact but a closer look shows a two metre gap in the central span. The walls on either side of the bridge are intact but the floor in the centre has collapsed into the river flowing four metres beneath.
Gildor’s Ring of Warmth seems to have worked its magic on Jenson and he is finally feeling warm and all the numbness has been driven from his extremities. He reckons it took fifteen or twenty minutes to take effect.
Gildor says, “I’d like to do this as safe as possible. Do we have some rope with us still?”
Gordon nods and digs in his pack.
Gildor continues “We can tie it in a loop. I’ll take my armour off and cast levitate on myself. I can levitate 600 lbs so we’ll tie Kalam and Talo to me with the rope and I’ll levitate us just high enough to pull us across using the bridge railing to stabilize us. Once across we can untie the rope and the others can pull me back to the other side and repeat. We can do this one at a time if necessary. The Dingy is empty so I can levitate it with the last person and tie it off to the rope to bring it across. So… What do you think?”
“Water Ice cold, no good boat go river” Jenson points to the river flowing under the bridge. “To Rumble no Good”
He then looks curiously at Gildor as he talks, “Gildor, Blah Blah Blah?”
Gildor says, “No river. Gildor levitate (uses finger and palm with fingers rising) bring 1 or 2 at a time over. Tie rope to me then wrap around one or two and I float over pulling myself along the bridge wall. We all cross safely.”
“Okay.” says Kradorn but sounds none too enthusiastic.
Gordon pulls out a 50’ length of rope from his pack and hands it to Gildor.
Gildor loops the rope securely about himself and does the same for Talo and Kalam. Kalam says to wait a minute while he secures all his equipment, while he is doing that Talo does the same.
Gildor casts his levitation spell and Cynan grabs the other end of the rope. “In case something happens. We can still pull you back.”
Gildor begins to pull himself and the others along the side of the bridge but the going is slow and there’s little to hold onto. The walls on either side of the bridge are smooth and icy and the top surfaces are all covered in more than 50cm of snow. Eventually Gildor finds the easiest way to pull himself and the others along, is to reach under the bridge and use what grip he can get there. Ten minutes later he’s across and Kalam and Talo are released from the spell and untied from the ropes.
Cynan tells Gildor to wait and to tie his belt around the rope, then they can hold it at both ends and Gildor can just pull himself along the rope.
Gildor returns and casts levitate on Jenson and Kradorn who push the rope through their belts and head across the snow laden bridge. Gildor has to come back across to negate the spell cast on them and returns quickly to cast the spell a third time on Gordon, Cynan, the dingy and all Gildor’s stuff.
Kradorn and Talo pull the others back across the bridge and onto the eastern side where they all get their feet back on the ground and pack away the rope.
Looking fascinated, Jenson excitedly awaits his turn “eww Blah, Blah is Blah Blah!!” He act like a kid in a candy store as the spell is cast upon him “Blah!!!”
On the eastern side of the bridge the snow has hidden any obvious sign of a path or trail but Gordon, who is sensitive to these sorts of things, thinks that the path heads north east, following the southern bank of the big river.
The land slopes up to the south east from the bridge, making seeing what is beyond it impossible.
The snow no longer seems to be just drifting down but is being blown by a light wind.
“We need to get moving,” says Cynan “if this wind picks up and we’re out of cover, we’ll freeze.”
“Which way?” asks Cynan. “North east following the path, east or south east going up this slope or south following the east bank of this smaller river?”
Jenson helps put all the gear back and looks about. “Saphiria South East??” hmm, “No good south east” pointing up and grunting as he acts out trying to climb “but North East um good but Ghouls to blah blah blah to? And shows his hands and fingers like walking “ghouls” at the same time. Sighs, “south blah river is good err no? but East blah blah blah to”? “Blah blah the boat blah blah the river?” points to the dingy and the river? shrugs “south, blah the river – yes”
Jenson pauses, looking more closely at the slope shrugging “Gildor is south east”. And points up the slope “Good um good to blah to the weeds um”. Points to the other ways. “No good”. And shrugs.
Gildor nods at Jenson says to all, ”Okay, south east it is folks. Perhaps we can get the lay of the land up that hill. We need to get somewhere soon though or we’ll freeze to death out here.”
Talo checks the sky through squinted eyes, “If worse comes to worse, we can put a snow shelter in a hillside pretty quickly. But you’re right, let’s try and get there if we can.”
The dwarven cleric keeps eyes on his comrades to check on frostbite and worsening hypothermia.
The party set off south east, up the gentle slope before them, through the slowly falling snow. They walk with Cynan taking the lead, forcing a path through the packed snowfall. Before long he needs a break and Kradorn takes over, then Gildor and finally Jenson.
This sequence is repeated three more times, with the the weather getting colder and the snowfall thicker. However at one point, with the snowfall relenting slightly, Jenson spots a conifer sapling off to the right, perhaps two metres tall and beneath its thick, snowy coat a healthy growth of deep green needles.
The party now seem to be walking along a spur protruding from the higher hills ahead.
Looking forward, the snowfall seems to obscure everything, except perhaps a diffuse tree line a couple of kilometres ahead, until that is Gordon scrambles up onto the snow, helped by Cynan and declares he can see a great oak tree far off, perhaps ten kilometres away to the south east. It is now Evening Bell and it will be getting dark soon.
Talo does a quick check on the party’s health. Several of them are feeling the effects of the cold now including Gordon, Kradorn and to a lesser extent Gildor. Kalam is worst off, staggering now and again despite Talo’s fur cloak. Talo seems fine, his healthy constitution and dwarven resilience countering the cold, while Cynan seems almost immune to its effects. Jenson is strangely unaffected by the weather too.
Jenson plods along. “Gildor south east blah I blah weed is yes um good is sapphire blah??
Moving up taking a look at Kalam “Kalam blah blah blah? “. He looks to see who has the ring and discovers to his embarrassment that he’s wearing it, which explains why he’s not feeling the cold.
“Blah blah blah the blah to Kalam blah blah fire blah good Kalam no good”. Pointing to the hand with the ring then Kalam.
Jenson points to himself. “Kradorn one Um, Cynan you blah Kalam three, blah four, Talo five, Gordon err six, Gildor seven“ and passed the dingy to Gildor. With urgency as he looks at each of them. “Cold blah weed good”. And he will lead looking for the best path possible, looking straight left and right as he goes, then behind him to see how everyone is doing. He will lead for a bit, till he either finds better cover/pines etc. or tires and needs some rest or worse case is halted by the group.
“Blah blah blah blah. Cold no good Um. Blah ghouls no good “ looks to the sky holds his hand in a ball then slowly drops it then moves out.
Kradorn laughs “Anyone got any idea what the hell he’s blathering on about?”
Gildor says, “Just the ones that need the ring should use it. Jenson, I and Cynan seem okay without it. The rest take turns using the ring. Kalam gets it now to get him bolstered a bit once he can tolerate a bit of cold the rest take turns, worst get it next and so on. If Jenson, Cynan or I get to a point we need it too we add them to the rotation. Let’s push on to the oak tree. I’ll keep trying to contact Saphiria every so often too. Gildor grabs the dingy for a turn hauling it. Good Job everyone. Jenson keep up the work on speaking. Talo great job watching after everyone’s health. We can make it. Remember the rules, we kill nothing here.”
Jenson passes the ring of warmth to Kalam, who takes it gratefully. Talo thinks Kalam might need the ring for a while to recover fully. Kalam passes his fur cloak to Gildor. The weather has deteriorated as the light has dimmed and the wind is now biting.
Two hours march brings the party within the borders of the woods and finally Gildor is able to communicate with Saphiria again.
The firedrake was wondering where Gildor had got to. She says they are camped in a cave at the end of a valley looking north west, she will come out and find you to guide you back to the cave.
Kalam passes the ring on to Gordon who seems to be suffering the most from the cold, though it looks to Talo that Kalam will be needing it again soon, the human seems to have a very poor constitution.
The firedrake arrives shortly, as the party are pushing on, still heading south east along the wooded spur.
Gordon passes the ring on to Kradorn next, who takes it gladly. He in turn passes his fur cloak on to Kalam.
Saphiria suggests heading in a more easterly direction as that should bring them into the valley with the cave at the end of it.
Sunset Bell and the party are heading east south east, angling towards the cave as Saphiria suggested. Kradorn passes on the ring to Gildor and takes Gildor’s cloak.
About this time Jenson points into the trees and makes a sort of owl sound. A snowy owl sits on a branch about twenty metres away. Gildor and Kalam nod and Gildor says he has seen the owl a few times, it seems to be tracking them.
A short while later a voice calls out through the snow and before them appears a short woman, wrapped in a thick woollen cloak and holding a short staff. She is perhaps five foot tall, her skin tanned and her hair dark, though greying. She looks to each of the party in turn as if assessing them and finally says.
“It’s a poor night to be out in the wilds gentlemen. If you’re not going to freeze your toes off you’d better follow me. We have shelter, it’s not far, two or three hours.” with that she turns and walks off towards the east. She doesn’t seem interested in answering any of the party’s questions and just insists they keep up. She seems to walk across the snow, rather than through it, her feet sinking no more than 10cm in the soft powder.
It takes till Midnight bell to reach the cave, hidden by trees at the end of a valley with an icy stream running down the centre. Here another woman, a stunningly beautiful elf, welcomes the party inside. A fire burns warmly and a pot of steaming stew sits close by. The place is homely enough and the entrance is hung with blankets to keep out the worst of the cold. The cave is four metres wide by about ten metres long.
Rather disconcertingly, at the back of the cave, a huge furry shape lies sleeping, a large brown bear by the look of it. Saphiria flies in and settles by the fire, while the snowy owl that has been following the party, swoops in and settles on a perch in one corner.
Kalam hands the ring of warmth back to Gildor as the cave, while not exactly toasty, is comfortable enough.
The human woman looks out at the falling snow. “Looks like we made it back just in time, there’s lots more to come tonight I fear. I am Persica, a priestess of Kementari and this is Laerdôl, our High Priestess.” The elf is short, with green eyes, her hair long and straight and lightly copper coloured and her pale skin is strongly freckled. She wears no armour but holds a staff like Persica and wears a shortsword at her hip.
The elven woman smiles and nods to the bear, then the owl “She is Niphredil and he is Maeghen. We have met Saphiria but who are you?”
Gildor sighs with relief at making it with everyone mostly safe, “I am Gildor and if it weren’t for my dear lovely Safiria I’m afraid we might not have survived too much longer. We would be grateful if you could let us stay for a while? My friends here can introduce themselves.”
Cynan bows before both of the priestesses “Cynan, Paladin of Ringheru, Baron of Harnanca, at your service.”
Kalam nods to them both. “Kalam Mekhar, warrior and… scout.”
Kradorn bows low, concentrating on the elf. “Kradorn… adventurer, at your service Lady Laerdôl.”
“Gordon… gardener, at your service lass.” says the gnome with a deep bow.
After Jenson secures the dingy and sets his meagre supplies down he watches his companions reactions then turns to the two ladies and bows then points to himself “um I Jenson Blah” smiles “I blah ah Blah Human, I blah blah Blah ” points to the sky as he says the last Blah. “I blah you blah you help blah blah blah (and points to the group) blah blah you building (points to the cave walls) and eat you food.” and bows slightly again.
“Not from round here then.” says Persica with a smile.
Laerdôl turns to Cynan, “Baron Cynan, so it was you took Harnanca from Kabroon. Good, better to have a servant of Ringheru than Ardûrband on our northern borders. You are welcome here but be careful, we have grown this wood from seed over fifty years and it is still tender. Kill nothing here, the balance is too delicate.“
She turns to address the whole party. “Undead sometimes wander into the wood but we are made aware of their presence quickly and can deal with individuals and small groups easily enough. You have no need to fear them here. Eat and rest and then we can talk about how you came here and how we can help you get home.”
Laerdôl and Persica hand out wooden bowls filled with a spicy vegetable stew and roast Tableleaf triangles to mop up the stew.
Accepting the food Jenson says “Blah you” and sets down to eat.
He watches the animals sleep with more curiosity on his face than fear then points to them, “Blah blah Gildor and Saphire. Good blah?”
Axe over heart, Talo bows deeply, inclining his head, “I am called Talo, Priest of Clanggedin, friend of good folk and axe of the bitter, at your service. I, for one, am grateful for your generosity and kindness in our reception.”
Laerdôl smiles at Talo “You are welcome Talo, we would see no one left out on a night such as this, even a dwarf and his axe.”
Talo lays hands on Gordon to heal his injury.
The gnome sighs at Talo’s fussing and says a good night’s rest somewhere safe and warm will heal all his ills.
Talo smiles at the large bear in the back of the cave and says, “Our clan symbol is the cave bear. A good omen, I say.” The dwarf sheds his armor and warms himself near the fire, ensuring the others were dry and warming with bowls of the stew in hand before he takes a seat.
Looking to the forest maidens, Talo appraises them briefly, “I am deeply troubled by the imbalance you face here and I, for one, am willing to lend my axe and heart to the cause. What more can we do to aid in restoring your balance?” Talo’s meal is a fitful mess in his beard and belly before he finishes his comments.
Gildor turns to Talo, “We are in no shape to do much of anything my friend. We are not geared up for winter survival and we’d need that to deal with the threats in the area. What we need to do is get Lord Cynan back to his Keep. Secure some gear and food, then come back better prepared if that is what we all want to do. We don’t even know how to get back home yet or how long it would take. I doubt the dingy will get us home.”
Talo smiles at Gildor, “Ya misunderstand me, friend. Of course we ain’t gonna march back out there to fix the problem – but my commitment remains the same.” The dwarf continues to warm his backside at the fire.
“We have no need of axes here.” says Persica sharply. Then she visibly calms herself and continues. “Dwarven axes do the wild, green places of the world no favours.”
“What Persica says is true Talo, your axe is of no use to us here but your heart is welcome. This place needs time and peace to heal, the undead we can deal with.” says Laerdôl to Talo and Gildor.
“Go to your brothers and sisters in the north and in Landsend Talo and tell them to leave Lost Cadbaria in peace, in a hundred years its villages, towns and cities will be lost beneath the green sward and forests of Kementari, the undead long put to rest.” the high priestess continues.
Gildor bows to Persica and Laerdôl, “It has been a long journey for my friends and I. We noticed a warship in the river we passed not knowing if it was friend or foe. Are you aware of it and it’s purpose, friendly or foe?”
“We saw the ship but let it be. It was headed for Cagermeg no doubt, the capital of Cadbaria, the city you dropped into if I understand Saphiria correctly. We do not see many ships this far up river but when times are less fraught, the lure of the treasures of Cadbaria’s lost cities still draw ‘adventurers’ in boats and on foot.” Persica says looking at Kradorn. “Very few return.”
Outside the wind seems to have picked up again and snow can be seen slowly accumulating against the barrier erected across the cave entrance.
Laerdôl suggests the party get some sleep while they tidy away the meal and put up a couple more blankets as a barrier against the snow.
Gildor then turns to Jenson and points at him, “Jenson – Human, Gildor – Elf, Niphredil – Bear, and he is Maeghen – Snow Owl. Let us all rest.”
Gildor turns to Persica and Laerdol, “We can take turns on watch to help and any chores you need done as we take shifts resting.”
Laerdôl smiles at Gildor’s offer. “The forest can look after itself and nothing passes within its border that we don’t know about. During the day we will be busy helping those that need it but now is the time for you to sleep and to recover.”
The priestesses can only provide two blankets to the party during the night but the cave is relatively warm with the fire and the cave bear. Before they go to bed, both women create large quantities of food, mostly nuts and seeds and store them in leather sacks.
The women sleep in cots near the back of the cave, beneath warm woollen blankets.
Sunrise Bell brings no sun but Laerdôl and Persica are up and about. Those that are awake hear Persica at the cave entrance laughing before she clambers up what is a wall of snow almost blocking the way. The darkness outside is calm and silent.
“The day will be fair, though still cold. We will return as soon as we can.“ says Laerdôl before she too vanishes over the wall of snow carrying one of the big bags of seed.
The priestesses return around Morning Bell, explaining that they were out feeding what wildlife the wood has accumulated since its creation. With the cold weather some need a little extra food to survive till spring.
“We have more work to do today, rites and prayers of thanks to Kementari. Today is Years End, tomorrow, New Year. We have little in the way of food and drink to celebrate but some Brandy and puddings but we can always make more if its needed.” says Persica.
“Tell us your tale Gildor, how you came here and where you are headed.” asks Laerdôl.
Yawning, Jenson awakes and while enjoying what is given for breakfast looks at Talo with a grin “Tree and weeds? snow cold, hills and tracks” and points to the floor and his feet “feet and foot, beard ” chuckles and scruff his own face “face” points to Talo’s Axe “Axe no grenade” Jenson taps his chain mail “armour good” points to Talo “you Dwarf” then himself “me Human” shrugs “Um I blah no blah blah OK the you err blah but I blah blah.” sighs points to Gordon “I um Gorden no elf, no dwarf, no human, butt a blah?” Looks to Gildor “Yes Elf, and and spell Levitate, oooo blah good I blah blah” grinning “I a Human Gildor, I blah levitate spell to 1 blah” grins broadly.
Then Jenson draws on the ground makes a circle and an X in middle, “Ghouls city” draws a squiggly line to another circle “we go” and draws a rough but not bad bear and owl “Bear, Owl, Me, you” looks up. Draws lines in a spoke (like spokes on a wheel). Labels each one, the top line “North” with a scribble, Then in order right to left “North East” with a scribble, “East” and so on till he has drawn out the lines. looks again to the group. “I no tracks but good, um no we you go building city blah” and makes like sleeping then points to Cynan, “Cynan um” and point to each line asking “yes, no” if a yes is said he marks it with scribble. He repeats it for each group member. “good building city you blah” then shrugs holds his hand in the air above the drawings “I no buildings city, me, Gildor help spell” sighs sit back down. “I no you go we go?” “Talo, help tree and weeds blah spell and axe?”
Persica looks at Jenson’s drawing on the floor and looks about at the others, unsure if Jenson will understand her answer.
“Yes, we’re here,” she says pointing to the bear and owl, “and Cagermeg is here.” she continues, pointing to the north west, where the city is. “About 50 kilometres as the crow flies. And Harnanca is over here,” she indicates north east “About 80 kilometres. However in between here and there is the Warpwood and you’d need to travel for about 30 kilometres through that.”
She pulls a face. “Or you could go around it, that might add on 25 or 30 kilometres but then you would have to cross a major river twice. As well as crossing the main river on the way to the Warpwood.”
Gildor gets up and eats breakfast and enjoys some morning chat with everyone and answers Jenson first ,”The Ghoul city would be Northwest I believe from here Jenson. Gordon Gnome.”
“High Priestess Laerdôl, our story is… well… it might be hard for you to believe. We cleared out the Keep at Harnaca my friends here except Jenson who we hadn’t meet yet. Cynan left Herzad in charge where I had a lab and my room was a study area. Herzad told us of the dwarven King Thraim was missing, and we decided to go help find him. It led us to an underground complex that was ruled by a Illithid. We ended up killing the illithid who had some sort of teleporting device. The dwarves planned to blow the tunnel we used to get down to the Ilithid 3 days after we started down into the cavern. Thraim used one of the teleporters and we used the same one to find him. It took us to some sort of sky ship we believe was far above this world. A talking picture we called LG helped guide us around the ship. We found Jenson there while we were helping LG by helping him regain control of the sky ship. We found an escape pod thing that flew us from the sky ship back down to the ground. We landed near the city but we were trying to get to Lands End so we could get back to Harnca Keep. We almost didn’t survive in that city. We thought we saw the big ship moving on the river but we were attacked by a lot of undead. We eventually found a way to get on the water and slowly made our way down river. We stopped at a small house but didn’t want to risk staying there in the dark once we knew of you from Saphiria. It was at the Keep that Saphiria and I found each other. I’m sure I missed some stuff and the others may correct my version if they so choose where I might have errored. We have strange weapons and other items we found on the sky ship with us. This is a needler pistol for example. That’s the short version of how we came to be here. Saphiria will need food and water too please..”
Laerdôl and Persica listen intently to Gildor’s story and have several questions.
“Where is Thraim?”
Gildor replies to Laerdôl and Persica, “My memories are foggy concerning Thraim. I think we found his body and the dwarfs took it back with them from the Sky-ship. We told them to give us a 7 days to make it back before they destroyed the cave entrance to the caverns to the Koa-Toa. We never made it so I’m sure they blew it, even if they didn’t make it back to the surface, I hope they blew when they said they would. After landing we saw some sort of remnants of an explosion off in the distance. Who knows but maybe that was them sealing the cavern.”
“So Thraim is dead then?” Laerdôl bows her head.
“Did you encounter Almund in Cagermeg, the huge city you fell into? He’s a powerful undead spirit, a vampire perhaps, living in the palace, he was a high priest before the red death.” asks Persica.
“As for encountering Almund in Cagermeg I don’t think we did. I think we encountered some of his knights/lieutenants and a whole lot of Ghouls. There were too many of them.” replies Gildor.
“Did you leave any of these magic weapons in the city?”
“There are some items we left there. Some dropped in the snowy streets when we were paralysed. Some on the riverbank near a sewer outlet. The Dingy/small boat we escaped with could only hold so much and we had far more than it would hold. I am sorry we left technology in the hands of evil, but we had no choice.”
“More bad news. Almund is very clever, we suspect for instance that he lets one or two individuals from any raiding party escape with a small amount of treasure, perpetuating the legend of the riches of Cadbaria and so ensuring a regular supply of souls for him and his creatures.” says Persica.
Laerdôl looks at Jenson’s map and turns to Gildor and Cynan. “The weather will be good, if cold, for the next week or so, so if you are thinking of setting off for home then tomorrow would be a good time to leave. As Persica explained, you want to head north east, out of the wood and down to the main river. You should have no problem crossing the river in your little boat. Once across the river continue north east up into the hills until you come across a smaller river flowing south. Follow that river upstream, it will follow the western edge of the Warpwood before plunging into it, heading north east. Follow the river and you’ll pass two waterfalls before emerging onto the high moors. You will see Harnanca to the north as soon as you emerge from the Warpwood.”
Talo proceeds to provide some first aid and healing magics to whoever need it, to help them recover from some of their injuries. “These gents would benefit from some time resting the evening if we may. What do you think Gildor? That walk sounds like a long one and we need to get ourselves into marching fitness. Also, I think Jenson may be talking about taking a watch rotation for the evening. I think we may be safe in this cave though… so long as we may stay.”
Gildor says to everyone, “I think we shall rest up then and take off tomorrow. Let’s fill our bellies and get a good night’s sleep and after a good breakfast get moving. Are there any areas of concern? The snow is kind of deep for our dwarf and gnome friends. How long a trek will this be? We don’t have much to sleep in if we can’t get all the way. Having to cross two waterfalls will be cumbersome but might be better than walking if we can row fast enough to actually move up stream. There’s some concern here for sure.”
“No. no.” Says Laerdôl. “You won’t be able to row up the river,” She looks at Gildor strangely “against the flow? I said follow the river up into the woods. When you come to the second falls you need to head left for a few kilometres to find a trail up that will lead you back to the river.”
“It’s a long walk but not an impossible one to do in twelve bells, if you don’t stop overnight.” adds Persica.
Gildor also translates to Jenson as best he can. “Saphiria we might be heading home my dear.”
“If you’re planning on marching through the snow, then we might be able to help you.” says Persica. “We can make some snow shoes for you that will make walking on even this deep snow a lot easier. We have most of the materials here and I can go get what we don’t have now. They take a little getting used to but will be a lot faster than forcing your way through the snow and that’ll be even harder now than it was last night, the snow’s nearly head height after last night’s fall.”
Persica shows the party a pair of snow shoes to try out. The snow outside the cave is now almost 2 metres deep but the sky, at least for now, is blue and clear.
Laerdôl begins making snowshoes for the party while Persica goes out and collects reeds from the stream outside the cave. The work takes most of the day and Kradorn is able to help a little, having some skill with wood and string as a bowyer.
By Sunset Bell the party are ready for sleep again, having had only one night’s rest in the last four or five days. Laerdôl and Persica use some magic to create food for the party, the food created tends to be a bit bland but there are plenty of spices and natural ingredients around to liven it up. If the players don’t like it there are always ships rations. At the end of the meal Persica brings out a bottle of brandy and shares it between everyone.
Once the meal is finished the priestesses go outside and begin a ceremony to Kementari to give thanks for the passing year and welcome in the new year.
The ceremony finishes after Midnight Bell and both priestesses return to the cave exhausted.
Leaning back on his heels as he listens to Persica intently, sometimes Jenson looks like he catches some or parts of the words. Jenson sighs when she is done speaking. Stuttering for a bit to get the word right then Jenson smiles “Kilometres” Ah. And points to the crude map “Me and you here” then draws another line North East a little longer then the rest “We go to good city no undead no ghouls um blah blah 8 Kilometres blah.”
Persica stops Jenson there. “No, not eight kilometres, eighty kilometres. Castle Harnanca eighty kilometres away.” and holds up her hands with fingers out eight times.
Jenson draws another circle for that city. Um and draws a heavy line intercepting the line to the new circle “river” scratches his head “here no good tree and weed?” and makes a squiggle line between the river line and the new circle. Looks at Persica then points to the squiggle line “bad tree and weeds 30 Kilometres”? He looks at her again “But, we go here odd go um 80 and 30 Kilometres blah“ draws another line that circles around the squiggle line.
Persica nods, though she doesn’t look sure.
Then Jenson draws another line crossing that circled line “2 rivers here to “ shakes his head “80 and 30 Kilometres here, err 80 Kilometres here”. Points to the squiggle “1 bad tree and weeds and 1 river, and rumbles?.” Points to the circled way “no bad tree, 80 and 30 Kilometres, 2 rivers. OK Jenson blah” and scratches his head sitting down thinking then listens to the conversations and tries to understand Gildor’s explanation. He asks a few times to clarify words but ends up just listening.
“Sorry,” says Persica “I don’t understand.”
Once the conversation ends Jenson points back to the crude map he drew “Jenson go North East, 80 Kilometres 1 river and no good trees and weeds. No go 80 and 30 Kilometres. To cold and snow to go 80 and 30 Kilometres and 2 rivers.”
He ahs and ohs when Persica shows the snow shoes “Jenson blah snow boots, good” He tries them out, “Good”.
During the day, Jenson will get out of Talo’s back pack his ruined translator and tisk tisks over it then recite all the words he knows. He then tries to write them in the dirt and asks for help there too. Maybe he can create a new cryptic writings the group only would understand they can use to communicate with – like a form of thieves kant only written out.
Once he is done reciting his learned words, he looks at Gildor, “Gildor, spell to help Jenson blah to Gildor?” and points to the ruined translator then Gildor them him. He also points at the spell books Gildor and Gordon study over “Help Jenson too?”
“Gildor, do you not have a spell to fix Jenson’s translator thing?” asks Cynan.
Jenson watches the druids cast the create food and water spell, then after Jenson eats his share “um, good, blah you. Good spell.” and smiles.
Seeing the hosts exhausted, “Gildor, me, you blah?” he points to his eyes then to the cave entrance then looks about “we blah?”
Persica looks at Jenson and shakes her head. “How many times do we have to tell you, we do not need your help.”
Gildor helps with the snowshoes and chats with the others, “Talo, it sounds like we can do this in 12 bells… If we leave at sunrise bell, we can be in Harnaca by the next days evening bell We’d have to keep going through the night. If we stop at evening bell each night, it will take us three days to get there. Each day we’d march from sunrise bell to evening bell. We’d have to find a camping spot each evening bell that would be safe.” Looking at the high priestess, “Are there undead along our path to get home?”
“Oh yes, among other things. Sometimes goblins and monsters of all sorts. You look like you can handle yourself though.” Says Persica with a smile.
“We don’t know how widespread this is. Jenson, we don’t need to stand watch. The animals are watching out for us. Let us wake a bit before silent bell to eat some breakfast and leave at silent bell.”
“Saphiria make sure you get your fill of food my dear. Once we get outside the grove later on you can hunt fresh game.”
Smiling as he concentrates on Gildor as he talks to him, Jenson blurts out excitedly “MA, MAcKS ,MAGETSK, MAGNETS, MAGIC, Magic. Yes, Jenson good Magic, Levitate Magic spell” and grins widely. “I magic in here” and points to Harnaca on the map.
Gildor says,”Yes. Now you are catching on. Keep up the hard work and you’ll know common just like us.”
Talo spends plenty of time going over words for Jenson. “I don’t know if I reviewed any of these before, but I will try and help where I can.”
Talo does what he can to help make sure the members of the party are healed. He checks on the druids in spite of knowing what they can do for themselves. He turns to Laerdôl, “Do any of yer animals require help? I’d hate for them to suffer any injuries or illness and I having done nothing to help.”
Both priestesses look somewhat offended “No dwarf, we can do that.” Says Persica.
“I have been here 50 years and we require no help. Just you concentrate on getting on your way, without killing everything that comes within range of that axe of yours.” adds Laerdôl.
Following Talo’s teachings, Jenson picks up: nose, fingers, toes, teeth, chin by pointing to his nose, fingers, toes, teeth, chin and Talos over and over again. After some crude drawings and pointing at the dingy Jenson picks up dingy, then ship using drawings and the dingy, when they peek outside Jenson is able to make out the celestial sites of stars, moon, sun. With the day winding down, Jenson picks up by walking around pointing to group members and objects to get they, us, this & that.
At the end of the days training “Blah you, Good help Talo” then helps clean up the days activities and finds a warm spot to rest. He continues to mumble and draw on the ground over and over again till he falls asleep.
At the end of the night Laerdôl and Persica once again make food for the local animals, mostly bird food it seems, and load it into big leather sacks for the morning.