Guards and Wards

From Ardrana

This adventure began with the party, currently led by Toshiro, leaving Promise Junction bound for Vamnik Outpost, where they would meet a caravan from Floyk delivering supplies to the village. Their task was to escort the caravan past the Grazhnakh settlement of Blukh Ukh along Onyx Road 46. To that end, two of the humanoid residents of the village -- an orc named Makdad and a gnoll named Lamu -- had joined them along with two members of the now-being-rebuilt temple of Perasin, Stom and Pete.

Alvin received some supplies from his boss Cellani at the Red Dragon Inn, while Solidus Proudfoot provided several newly-created healing potions. After Rin checked the weather, the group set forth.

The road west

Getting underway

On their way, they had also been instructed by Bramus, the head of the village guard, to meet with Tara Goldmoon and possibly Rodney regarding the magical seeds mentioned by Maud Frickert. Passing through Eskalikor, they first met a large man carrying an axe, but could not communicate their desire to be led to Tara's dwelling. Rin then spoke to a weasel, who guided Emi, Makoto and Siege to what turned out to be Rodney's house. They relayed the message, and Rodney warned them about some dangerous creatures on the road ahead.

Fight for shelter

After exiting the forest, the group came across an abandoned fort. Hoping to use it as shelter from the snowy weather, Emi and Makoto attempted to climb the walls of the keep, but they proved too slippery, with Makoto injuring her ankle. They decided to chance entering through an archway on the north side. They discovered several buildings within, and when Toshiro poked his head into one he was nearly hit by a rock. After lighting up the building with fire, arrows followed, and Eckhorn questioned the wisdom of proceeding. After camping outside was dismissed as an option, Stom and Pete went inside, followed closely by Nyla and Lamu. They were confronted by several creatures, and battle commenced.

The party was able to use magic -- primarily hold person from Rin and blinding light from Alvin -- to impair several of the creatures. The enemy proved difficult due to their ability to paralyze their foes, resulting in several party members -- Nyla, Eckhorn, Stom, and Pete -- also becoming incapacitated. Makdad was able to tackle an archer off the balcony, but ended up being killed himself before the party finally finished off their foes.

While a cairn was raised for Makdad, part of the group explored the other buildings, finding the remnants of what appeared to be Onyx Empire heraldry. The party made camp in one of the buildings, then set out again in the morning.

In and around Blukh Ukh

The group passed a small settlement, then after lunch they encountered Ulsi Taligus returning from Sandpit, whom they asked about news from Promise Junction. Toshiro tried to summon an animal for food, but produced a mountain lion, with which no one wanted to mess. A second casting produced a deer, which the group slew and cooked.

The next morning, the party arrived at the outskirts of Blukh Ukh. Toshiro and Makoto scouted ahead, with Makoto in fox form and Toshiro under a camouflage spell, but found no danger before returning. The group carefully made their way through the Gar-bears Orc city, encountering nothing but occasional Orcish voices, before resuming their previous pace.

The group crossed a bridge over a small frozen stream, then passed by what smelled like a garbage dump, but otherwise the day passed uneventfully. That night, the group heard the sound of wolves howling as they had before, but this time it drew closer to the campsite as the night wore on. During the second watch, Klaven spotted two shapes approaching and sounded the alarm. The wolves -- or, rather, worgs -- charged into the camp, causing the party's draft horse to bolt. Other animals set about mauling Pete and Emi, while Toshiro's pony Chiba was also badly injured. Alvin was able to blow one away, literally, and Makoto scared off another while the group rallied to kill two others before the remaining worgs broke and fled.

The next morning, Eckhorn suggested Toshiro talk to Lamu, who had left camp, about not doing so again. The earth priest did so, and arranged for Siege and Klaven to hunt with him at night in the future. The next day passed without incident, but early the next morning a herd of buffalo-like animals came close to the camp. The group's hunters attempted to pick one off to no avail.

At Vamnik

As the group set out, Rin cast cloudview, from which she saw a group approaching the outpost from the north. She described an animal that Toshiro thought could be an elephant, but upon arriving a short time later, they discovered from its handler, a githzerai named Ali that it was instead a creature called a baku, part of a traveling circus that was also staying at the outpost. They soon met another member, a gnomish tumbler named Pikilily -- who picked Siege's pocket only to find she had pilfered a tube of glue -- before being introduced to its ringmaster, Barnaby.

They soon entered the main building of the outpost, hoping to warm up and get a meal. While scouting the common area, Toshiro met some other members of the circus: a pair of tieflings named Ixtala and Lady Maib, and a half-ogre named Biliko. Meanwhile, Lily confirmed her vocation as a thief with Makoto and Emi.

After lunch, Toshiro and Eckhorn visited Barnaby and Maib in one of the wagons. There, they offered to lend their aid to guard the circus, and discovered that the circus was being sponsored by Hest Travel. After some discussion of payment, they returned to the rest of the group to review their options. At that time, they learned that Lamu was missing, sending the scouts and Siege to search for him to no avail. Siege encountered Mrox, the leader of the outpost, but learned little, while Makoto spoke to the guards at the front gate, who had seen a gnoll leave the outpost headed west.

Just after sundown, the caravan proper arrived, led by The Inscrutable Vasnorbid Prossskulogreth Hyi'i'i'i Zq Jomwix, or "Sku" as he asked to be called. As they settled in, Toshiro, Eckhorn, Siege and Alvin returned to the circus leaders. They accepted as payment a potion of elemental form, along with space on the circus wagon for supplies and possibly party members. Toshiro returned to tell Sku of the change to include the circus, which seemed to rile the merchant a bit.

Later in the evening, Toshiro returned to the circus wagon to have his fortune told by Lady Maib. Klaven gamed with Barnaby in the common room while Alvin purchased spices from another of the caravan merchants. Pikilily made the rounds of the merchants, but while she met a pair of Gnomish merchants, Nootbaar and Azneen, she was unable to filch any treasure.

The road east

The next morning, the group gathered with the circus and merchant caravan to begin the journey back to Promise Junction. Siege tried to learn how to shoot his bow from the howdah on Kubo's back, while Alvin tested combining his ride the wind and Murdock's Feathery Flyer spells, but neither met with much success.

The morning passed uneventfully, but in the afternoon they encountered a familiar traveler: the woodsman from Eskalikor. Makoto talked to him for a bit, learning about some of the tactics of the Gar-bears Orcs, before he continued on his way to Floyk. The caravan stopped a few hours later, and discussed with Scu the possibility of using one of the merchant wagons as a sort of Trojan horse.

The next day passed uneventfully and the party set up camp about five miles west of Blukh Ukh, where the group finalized their plans for the next day's expected ambush. Rin set a fire trap on a box to be left in the driver's seat with Eckhorn, who would drive the cart of the book merchant Tupper.

The next morning, Rin's cloudview spell revealed the presence of a dozen Orcs congregated at the bridge. Makoto's observations indicated that they were expecting something, but weren't very concerned about it. Eckhorn drove the cart with Toshiro and Alvin alongside and Klaven, Nyla and Stom within.

Shortly before reaching the bridge, they were waylaid by the orcs. After Alvin used ride the wind to blow six of them away, Eckhorn noted that one was lighting something at the edge of the bridge. Toshiro used Marthammor's thunderbolts to seriously injure him, but his flare went off, and the remaining foes retreated. The group then tied up a seventh orc who was still under the effects of Alvin's spell, and returned to the caravan to interrogate their prisoner and decide their next move.

Splitting up

After a lengthy discussion, it was decided that the group would split into two. The caravan would return to Vamnik Outpost, then turn north to circumvent the orc city with most of the party. Emi and Pete would accompany the circus wagon would continue toward Promise Junction to meet their transportation with Hest Travel. Rin would send a dream vision to Bramus explaining the situation tomorrow night. Toshiro returned the earth elemental potion to Lady Maib in case the orcs put up too much resistance when they tried to pass through Blukh Ukh, and they went their separate ways.

The circus and Promise Junction

The circus troupe were stopped just outside Blukh Ukh, and Lady Maib was able to convince them to allow the wagon to pass through. In exchange, the circus would give a performance, and pay a small toll. The performance was received well, and the group went on its way. The group arrived in Promise Junction a few days later, where they learned from Solidus that he and Ishmakha had been attacked by a large spider while attempting to replace the continual light stones in the tunnel below the mayor's residence. They also met Solidus' new acolyte, a Desert Elf named Al'Hana.

Later, Rodney arrived with Airlia, and the ranger gave Tara's return message to Sinjamin. The barkeep then asked Emi to take a message to Ocsiban, creator of the formula, who was likely located in Imor. While there, she intended to obtain a magical item to allow her messenger service to perform more effectively. Rodney also conveyed to the half-Elf that a friend of Tara's -- some sort of important barbarian tribesman -- was on his way to town. Solidus wondered if it might be Vulgarda returning, or even Molbo, but Rodney didn't think either of those was his name.

While the circus folk set up their tents for a performance that night, a hedge witch named Tammra arrived in the village along with her dog Shadow, intending to conduct business from her wagon. She acquired a license to set up in the marketplace, and arranged for a room at the Red Dragon. There, she met several members of the party, and Solidus made note of Shadow, intuiting that he might be of a magical nature.

At the circus performance, Pikilily went about her usual routine of stealing items from the audience members. Afterwards, she and Emi were discussing her take when they encountered Oashirt, who invited the Gnome to join them in their attempt to start up a thieves' guild. She agreed to consider it, and the three discussed possibly hiring Pete to be dumb muscle.

Late that night, Emi departed for Imor...

The caravan and the long road

The caravan arrived at Vamnik after a couple of uneventful days. At the main building, Toshiro spotted another traveler and introduced himself. She said that she was Dax, a priestess of Sedric, who was on her way to Promise Junction. After conferring with her Halfling traveling companion Marcanto, they decided that it would be too risky to use Road 46, so they would instead accompany the party.

From Vamnik, the caravan traveled north via Onyx Road 62, then turned east onto a marked path. Dax cast easy road to speed the journey, but it was still slow going. That afternoon, Makoto spotted two large figures approaching from the south, and when they were identified as arctic owlbears the party went out to intercept them. After Alvin blinded one, the rest of the group chased them off, and they traveled a bit further before making camp.

The next day passed uneventfully, but that night, while Makoto was out befriending a stray dog summoned by Toshiro, the group heard sounds from south of the camp, and Siege spotted some kind of floating objects approaching. Klaven, Nyla and Stom went out to meet them, and they turned out to be bird-like creatures with metallic legs, one of which kicked Siege. Battle was joined, and after taking major damage, Klaven fled, while Siege positioned himself to attack from a distance. Nyla, left to fend for herself, was killed after taking several hits. Alvin had little better luck with spells, and was also knocked unconscious, as was Stom. Finally, Rin used mind read to determine that the creatures were after food. The group and the merchants unloaded all the edibles on the carts, and the creatures eventually left quietly. Once the wounded were stabilized, the party took up watches. Rin went out in search of Makoto, eventually finding her and the dog and bringing them back to camp.

After conferring the next morning, and Rin's omen indicating going forward would be a bad idea, the group decided to return to Vamnik Outpost. Nyla's body was loaded in Nootbaar's empty wagon, and the caravan set off...

Cast of characters

This adventure is currently being run by Shelley Proulx. Below is a list of characters who have been involved at one point or another:

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