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 Grazhnakh. 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 to seek additional information about the formula.

The circus departed the next morning via airship, leaving Pikilily in the village. At lunch, Tammra overheard conversation between Solidus and Shirella regarding the village's library, which piqued her interest. Solidus followed Tammra out to her cart, asking if he could determine which items on her cart were magical, which Tammra declined. Solidus went on to begin preparations for the future temple to Varice and Heironeous, casting continual faerie fire to mark the ground. Lily and Tammra also visited Tammra's cart, as the hedge witch continued gathering information.

The weasel and the pumpkin

Late that afternoon, several goblins came into the Red Dragon looking for Bramus. They told a tale about a mutated giant weasel wreaking havoc on their farms, and the guardsman agreed to check it out. Brozhin, Ishmakha, Mazhik, Solidus and Tammra accompanied him, and they asked Pete to join as they passed the temple of Perasin. Upon reaching the farms, Pete tracked a blood trail between buildings, but he was attacked by a humanoid with a pumpkin head -- perhaps the same creature who had slain Vernon the farmhand. Before anyone could react, the giant weasel jumped onto one of the farmers. The spellcasters chased it off, leaving behind Pete's body staring up at the sky. After he was roused, the wounded farmer was treated by Lennoy, while Mazhik and Ishmakha used a rope trick to watch the scene.

Late that night, Emi returned from Imor accompanied by Lt. Christine Barberry, an officer in the Imorian Army. She insisted on meeting with Bramus, but it was decided to hold off until the morning, when all those on his team were alert. Meanwhile, Lily paid a visit to Blood, Bone and Brew to attempt some picking of pockets. Unfortunately, she was caught by Khrutshar, the bugbear chief priest of Hruggek, and barely escaped with her skin intact.

The next day, the group met with Lt. Barberry. After Bramus told Solidus to remove the faerie fire, they discussed the goings-on in Promise Junction. Barberry requested that Maud Frickert be brought to the meeting before things could proceed, and Emi, Gilbert and Lily went to fetch her. Finding Maud not wanting to leave her farm, they convinced her by agreeing to help sell her preserves in the market. Leaving Pikilily to watch her barrow, the others returned to the meeting room. Barberry asked after Maud's husband Ukiah, and mentioned that the sample he'd been given by Ocsiban had mutating effects on animals. It was theorized that this might be the source of the giant weasel, and that word should be sent to Rodney about tracking it while Solidus coordinated the search for the sample in the village.

Late that night, Emi received Rin's dream vision, which she shared with Bramus and Quellit. Lily tried to join them in the meeting room, and Emi convinced Bramus that she could be helpful, so she was admitted. After everything was shared, Gilbert suggested that perhaps the Gar-bears Orcs could be negotiated with. Pete was summoned to provide insight, and he confirmed that the purpose of their attacks was likely simple intimidation, but that it was possible they might also just be in need of the provisions being carried by merchants. Not having the opportunity to do anything about it immediately, Bramus sent Solidus out, alnogh with Mazhik and Brozhin, to search Frickert's farm.

After the meeting, as everyone was having breakfast, Lily met with a mysterious man named Levi, with whom she'd spoken the previous night. The encounter piqued the curiosity of Tammra and Shadow, who learned that Levi was here seeking an apprentice. Shortly afterward, Lily and Emi went out to the market to sell the Frickert preserves, where they met with Rodney on his way into the village.

Solidus' team headed to the farm, and cast detect magic on the shed where Ukiah Frickert worked. Seeing a glow from within, they entered, only to discover that someone had broken into Ukiah's work area and dug up a magical box which they presumed had once contained the seed sample. They brought it back to the RDI, where Gilbert suggested casting know history to learn what had happened. Several members of the group then accompanied Rodney out to the site of the giant weasel attack, but the trails of both it and pumpkinhead had gone cold.

Back at the RDI, Rodney remembered that Tara was intending to visit tomorrow along with a friend of hers -- some kind of barbarian chieftain with a large retinue. He then went out with Bramus on evening patrol of the village, during which a scream was heard from the kobold settlement. When the group arrived, they found a kobold cowering in fear near a pumpkin, which she claimed had attacked her.

The next morning, Bramus asked everyone to keep watch for panic over the pumpkinhead business. Quellit added that due to the rising tensions, he wanted someone to accompany him on night-time patrols. After breakfast, Solidus visited the administration building to examine the box from Frickert's farm. He discovered that it had been made by one Nelson Firestone, then owned by Ocsiban before it had been broken into by a kobold, apparently named Bokbok. Bramus had not heard the name, so suggested that someone ask Jikjik, the kobold spokesperson, or perhaps Gilbert if they knew who that was. Later that morning, Emi and Lily asked Pete about joining them in Oashirt's prospective thieves' guild. He said he'd think about it.

Barbarians at the gates?

Around mid-morning, Shadow told Tammra that he was hearing drumbeats from somewhere. Tammra listened, hearing them as well, and went to the RDI to report, also relaying that she'd been asked for amulets to protect against scarecrows. As the drumbeats grew louder, everyone in the village began lining the streets to see a procession of several barbarian riders, along with one very large fellow carried by four hobgoblins on a palanquin. The parade halted in front of Gruumsh's temple and the man on the palanquin stood up. He announced himself as Turgan, chief of the Tribe of the North Star, and demanded that Nyla be brought before him. After being informed that Nyla was not present, Turgan, along with Tara and Moglar, the tribal shaman, joined Bramus in the Red Dragon. Many other interested parties followed them.

Bramus, with occasional input from Emi, told Turgan what they knew of Nyla's demise, and that her body was returning to the village. Turgan stated that it was a better death than she deserved, but agreed to allow one of the local priests to cast speak with dead on her corpse, noting that if she repented of her crimes against the tribe, she might be given a proper death ritual. Solidus later spoke with the chief, discussing their journey and other matters before Bramus shooed him out. The captain of the guard then consulted with Tara about the possibility of sending a message back to the group guarding the caravan. The druid agreed, and Emi would provide the message to be sent the next morning.

Tammra, meanwhile, adjourned to the village library, where she met with Shirella. They learned that they each were seeking a legendary drow library somewhere beneath the village, and what methods they might use to locate it. To that end, the hedge witch began spreading rumors around the marketplace, talking rather loudly to Oashelf about all the strange occurrences in the village recently.

Solidus asked Bramus about sending a message to Lt. Barberry about seed-related developments, but Bramus suggested waiting at least until they had spoken to Jikjik. The Halfling then set out to send a message to the kobold, and consulted Chalcedony, the village arbiter, who agreed to request his presence later that evening.

As the afternoon wore on, tensions in the village began to escalate. A skirmish in the marketplace required the intervention of the town guards, and as night fell one of the local hobgoblins stormed into the inn demanding something be done about all the recent disturbances...

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.

Back again to Vamnik

After conferring the next morning, and Rin's omen from Losyera 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. When the group stopped for lunch, Eckhorn suggested buying the empty wagon to use for firewood. After some hemming and hawing, Eckhorn went ahead and bought it himself, and Siege began taking it apart that evening.

The group made camp alongside a hill, and early the next morning Siege spotted several creatures approaching around the side of the hill. Makoto came to check them out, and saw they were some sort of giant ants. The battle was short, ending when Makoto blasted the last four with her wand of cold -- unfortunately, she also hit Siege and Eckhorn, rendering the former unconscious. After healing was performed, Rin cast speak with dead on Nyla, learning that she wished to be raised if possible. The group reached Onyx Road 62, and that night Rin used a dream vision to relay their situation to Emi.

The caravan reached Vamnik the next evening, arriving to find a bit of a disturbance. Guards were on the alert after a reported attack by a pack of pig-cats, and the healers were brought into the outpost to treat its victim, a man named Karresh. Once he was able to speak, he confirmed that he was a necromancer. The possibility of him traveling with the group came up, but tabled for the time being.

After conferring with Dax, Rin and Alvin to form a plan, Toshiro went back to convince the merchants to accompany the group for one more attempt at passing through Blukh Ukh. To that end, he cast impenetrable falsehood to sound more convincing, and indeed most of the merchants agreed, with only Nootbaar and Azneen declining. Talk then turned to the prisoner, Xenzak, who Toshiro suggested be put into hibernation for the journey. When this was presented to him, Xenzak reacted angrily, and said that he would rather be killed now. Toshiro seemed prepared to oblige, but things were defused before anything came of it, and the prisoner was brought to the stable for questioning. After learning input Xenzak that the bridge guards had specifically been ordered not to let wagons pass through the city, the group set about finalizing its strategy for bypassing the Blukh Ukh bridge.

As things wrapped up, Stom signaled that people were approaching. As the party tried to act casual, Eckhorn identified the livery of Floyk on the two men entering the stable. Eckhorn, Toshiro and Klaven chatted with the two -- a Dwarf named Izbin and a Human named Rez -- and brought up their troubles on the road. After learning they had never heard of Promise Junction, they brought up the possibility of trade, and the two agreed to make a report to their superiors. After further conferring with the merchants and with Karresh -- who agreed to preserve Nyla's body -- the party determined to once more set off down Onyx Road 46 the next morning.

Third time's the charm?

The next morning, Makoto left her canine friend in the charge of a local stable hand. Rin and Toshiro probed Karresh with personal reading and detect evil respectively. However, when Rin fixed his cloak without warning him, Karresh reacted with some hostility. Still, Toshiro found no evil on him, and officially invited him to join them on the road. As he was bound for Rogariel, he agreed.

Karresh cast preserve dead on Nyla, and after Toshiro and Dax read omens from Gaiya and Sedric respectively, the group departed. The day's travel was uneventful until lunch time, when Alvin tested his part of the group's plan by casting wall of fog to conceal the caravan. Most of the pack animals bore it well, with only the mule pulling the wagon of Rirka, the half-Orcish fur trader, being troublesome.

The group made camp that evening...

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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