Shorn 28th, 1048; Evening : Staring at the massive bulk of Frandor’s Keep, the caravan slowly wound its way up the narrow track leading to the castle entrance. Everyone noticed the scattered debris of previous caravans along the cliffs; broken crates and wagon wheels, oxen bones and other debris. After a careful ascent, they approached The Keep’s entrance, noticing a gaggle of individuals scattered about in front. Some displayed various wares on blankets, others approached the caravan, tugging on sleeves to get attention and offering to exchange their services for coin.
The group learned the motley gaggle was known as “The Gauntlet”, and while most people avoided them like the plague, Content Not Found: krusk began offering silver to them if they’d line-up and make way for the caravan. Squirrel commenced "Squirreling"_. The caravan eventually began moving past the_Gauntlet, and made their way into the Keep at last. Crossing through the Outer Bailey_, a rocky island dominated by a massive round tower of black stone (_Storm Tower), they passed over Three Leaps Bridge.
The Lower Bailey beyond was well-guarded, and not without conflict. As the group approached, they were grilled by a venomous guard, who spoke gruffly to both Krusk and Fangrik, questioning everything about them, but they were eventually let through without much more difficulty. Within, they found a pillory with a whipped man manacled to it, who moaned and could barely talk, having been there for some time, apparently… They had to surrender and register their “large” weapons (spears, great axe, longbows, maces and such) and await a license (at a cost of 1 sp for each member of the group), and the group stowed their wagon in the former stables, now a warehouse, where they were given a key to its lock, and a bronze medallion, shaped like a songbird of some sort. Krusk took both. Drew the Avaricious took the group’s horses and ponies and oxen back out to the Palisade, arranging stabling for a ten-day, and selling the oxen and captrued riding horse from the bandit’s camp.
Passing through the outer gate, they noticed a young woman behind a table with coins and weighing apparatus, and a notice board listing various topics. Drew introduced himself, finding the woman was Nepra, a jeweller’s apprentice, who exchanged coins for travellers headed to any local destination; Westwind – The Emerald Realm, Cygnus – The Swan Kingdom, or Brightwater – City of Coins. The flirting commenced. The group took note of various offers and opportunities to make some money during their stay, chuckling over some and staring in abject horror at others. For a few silvers, Nepra detailed where to find the individuals, as well as the local shrines. She also explained about the missing The Golden Lynx from the gate above.
Entering the Middle Bailey, the group scattered to conduct some business. Among them, was the curio shop owned by Dasas, where he had everything including sleds hanging from the roof, and “…Crazy, Low Prices…”. Retiring to The Prancing Pegasus Inn, the group were paid-out for their work in the caravan by Captain Tallus. They arranged for a stay of a ten-day, and met the innkeeper, a stoically handsome dwarf named Darg Turikan. Drew managed to meet with a mercenary, Firg, who sold himself for 1 gp a day plus supplies and equipment from the group’s gathered supplies in the wagon, though he initially asked for 10 gp per day. He knew the nearby area well enough, and would prove to be a benefit in searching the area for whatever the group might seek; Drew saw him as his first recruit for his future merc company…
Lastly, Healer Balan appeared at Lord Taumus of House Daure request. He proved a saint, and was both respected and beloved by everyone at The Keep. He and Taumus spoke about the orphans, and as a result of the talk, Taumus interviewed all five, and decided that two of them; Gyda and Nefera seemed the type Taumus might take on himself as servants. The others would be apprenticed off to local tradesmen.
Shorn 29th, 1048 TR : The group visited Belipar, a local artist, in response to his notice on the public board. Belipar proved to be a waking trope, with all the expected appearances and twitches. He was looking for someone to discover a shipment of lead that had gone missing, which he needed to complete a commission for Lady Lucretia Rainford, since it would be impossible to get more in the time remaining for its completion. He offered 50 gps and further offered to paint the group’s portrait once the snows set in, as a means to make their glory known throughout the valleys… He then modified Taumus’ map, detailing much of the terrain to the east, near the travel road to Cygnus, where the caravan was supposed to have come from.
The group then started to divide-up their gathered loot, and Lady Vathra banRainha took her leave, wishing everyone well and stating she might head across the passes in Spring, and see everyone then… Some shopping commenced, and supplies were gathered to prepare for the search for the caravan.
Leaving in the early afternoon, the group retrieved their mounts, Taumus bringing his new servants, and Drew having his guide assist Fangrik as they travelled. The weather was turning very cold, and by nightfall, the wind was swirling snow across the ground.
Shorn 30th, 1048 TR : The group awoke with frost covering everything. The two children, Gyda and Nefera were heavily bundled and stayed close to their ponies and the fire. Taumus got them moving and helping prepare the morning feast of porridge and bark tea. Starting late, they travelled further east, and after about an hour came upon the horrible scene of the fallen caravan.
The bodies of many gaurds and merchants were strewn across the clearing, obviously slain by bowfire from the woods on both the north and south sides of the trail. One wagon remained, and all the horses were slain, as well. The wreckage of the caravan’s goods were strewn everywhere. The odd smell of algae could be detected everywhere across the trail. Careful searching revealed a set of cart tracks heading off into the south woods, about three days old, along with several horses and about a dozen small, scaly clawed feet. Kobolds! Off in that direction lay a rocky outcropping, and the group headed off into the frosted brush.
After about an hour of hacking through the woods, they came to edge of a large flat stony swath of land, where the tracks ended at the battered cart, now stripped of its belongings. The tracks led across the stones, so Taumus left his servants and Drew his guard t watch over them and the group’s mounts, while they headed across the stony area. Within a few minutes, the cry of a wolf-pack broke across the clearing, and soon enough the group was surrounded by a pack of vicious wolves, led by a massive black beast the size of a large pony. The fight was quick, wiht the smaller wolves knocking over individuals and the large one moving smartly back and forth, displaying its great cunning. After grieviously wounding several, and slaying one, the pack broke and scattered into the nearby woods. Fangrik gathered the hide of the fallen one, and the group continued across the clearing into the heavy woods on the other side.
In the thick woods, they found the rotting corpses of the horses, seemingly attacked, but not eaten by the wolves. The smell of algae was very strong around the corpses, and Ash Cogward identified the algae smell as being a warning of some sort of fungus was rooting in the corpses… a toxic one. The group burned the horse bodies, using lamp oil and torches, and moved on into the forest.
They promptly found themselves in an old orchard, of a type which none of them could identify. They gathered a sack of the old, dessicated apples, and followed the path to a large pond with a small steading on an island in its center. A thin wisp of smoke escaped from the chimney, and it was apparent a smartly tended orchard of these same apples lay behind it, along with a collection of small outbuildings and sheds. They were unable to get anyone’s attention, and with no visible way across the lake, they followed the shore leading to the rocky outcropping.
At the base of the rocky promontory, they found a sandy beach surrounding a dark-looking cave. As they approached, they noticed the same small clawed footprints and heard the distintive barks and yips of Draconic. Entering the cave, they quickly found a central cavern, wiht piles of caravan goods and crates scattered about, and a dozen kobolds dancing, cavorting and generally carrying on. The utterly obnoxious odor of urine could be smelt everywhere. In the center of the room lay a pile of silvery crystals (the LEAD!), and a pile of dirty jars next to it. Ash found a trap near the entrance, disabled it, and the group charged in to attack.
After the initial surprise, the group proceeded to mow down the kobolds, though the appearance of one from the shadows wielding paired short swords was a surprising development. Overall, however, the kobolds took a beating, and eventually tried to escape, but the group worked together to defeat them, allowing none to escape. Taumus and Drew gathered the smelly lead crystals, tossing them into the urine-soaked jars, and then tossing those into a barrel packed with hay to protect them. Collecting a pewter service set (for ten!), some burgundy seed in a sack, a a few luxury items (like a small-sized silk dress and a candlestick). They then looted the kobolds of their loose coins and javelins, and left them to rot in the cave.
Travelling back to the lake, Fangrik swam across, and approached the cabin, trying to get the inhabitants attention. Eventually, he coaxed the door open to reveal an older lady bering a crossbow. After convincing her the “wolf” meant no harm, Widow Parikin opened the door, and let Fangrik take a rowbot from a shed in back to retrieve his companions. They packed themselves into her cabin, festooned with drying herbs, and were offered bark tea and slices of her own Norish Apple pie. Fangrik slipped out to chop wood (just like ol’ Joe would do when he visited widows).
The group engaged in a long discussion about the Norish Apples, and why she lived alone, and the death of the local kobold tribe that had been annoying her. She told about how her husband had learned the secret to Norish Apples, and how to raise them and prepare them into all sorts of things, though she only baked them into pies and cakes. She also told of how her grand-daughter braved the wilds to bring her a basket of supplies once and a while. Lastly, the group learned about her great-grandfather, Ver’Kusi, and how he once had a balde of some sort that he kept… Soon thereafter, teh group excused themselves, and making it back across the lake (followed by Fangrik, who returned the rowboat and swam back across the lake.
Travelling back through the orchard and across the rocky field, they met with their companions and mounts, and camped for the night.
Uktar 1st, 1048 TR : The morning dawned misty and cold, with hoarfrost on everything. The group broke camp early, and headed back to the caravan wreckage, with the cart (now loaded with the barrel) in tow. They found The Black Banners, where the two groups kinda stared and glowered at each other, before the group headed back up the trail to The Keep, hurrying to get there before the door’s and gates closed for the night. Leaving their mounts in The Palisade, they made their way back across Three Leaps Bridge and into the Middle Bailey. They had their licences, so were able to keep their weapons, and they packed the cart and its contents in their warehouse stall. They visited Belipar, returning the stinky barrel and its contents to him and getting their 50 gps reward. He promised to work on their painting once he’d finished his commission for the Lady Rainford. Lastly, they turned the wolfskin over to Dolm the fur trader for a pittance of 2 gps.
That night, the group feasted on deer stew and cheese (so warm and savory!), and discussed their options. Drew bemoaned the fact they hadn’t brought the kobold heads back with them for the bounty, and they made inquiries about the Widow Parikin’s grand-daughter, to which they learned “…Oh! You mean one of Lanar’s Girld… he’s very protective of them…”. When no one seemed to understand what the dwarven innkeeper was referring to, he mentioned she worked in The Broken Hilt Tavern, where “Lanar keeps, you know… bedwarmers for a price…”.
While everyone suddenly realized what he meant, and looked a little uncomfortable, Drew chugged his ale and ate his meal quickly, and rose to leave, stating “…sorry, I need to see a amn about a whore… I mean HORSE…”, and left for the Tavern. He passed around a few coppers and silvers among the mostly ragged crowd, learning a few common rumors, and retired to a night of bliss with a pretty bedwarmer named Thelka, who charged him an exhorbitant 6 gps for the night. Which he nonetheless paid… He did learn that waerewolves appeared to attacking the livestock in The Palisade, however… The rest retired to their own chambers and slept peacefully in warmth and peace, their bellies full.
Uktar 2nd, 1048 TR : The group roused early, and headed to The Palisade to investigate the rumors. Speaking wiht Tarkin, the old master of the stables and The Palisade, they learned that something, werewolves everyone believed, were indeed attacking the livestock. Since Lord Sandus Rainford own cavalry were stabled in the barn, only the merchant’s and other visitors, including the group’s own mounts, were at risk. Examining the wounds, they found a strange, oddly-shaped wound on several mounts, and Malkin related that they were usually just wounded, though the other night, they had found on horse slain from a fever it had caught from the wound it had taken. In exchange for solving the mystery and ending it, the group (with Drew as spokesman), managed to convince him to give them free stabling for the winter.
The group then headed back to The Keep, dodging The Gauntlet, and while some grabbed the hand-cart and emptied it of goods, the others headed to the Hepekerian Dasas’ curio shop, and acquired a large wooden cage (that would fit on the cart), and several fishing nets, intending to capture several of the creatures for resale to Jiric, the “exotics” trader. After a good early meal at the inn, the group headed back to The Palisade, and iwth the cage on the cart nearby, and several nets at hand, they staked-out Kruck’s horse, and hid among the herd for the night.
After several hours of waiting, they noticed the herd go silent, along with all the nearby woodland creatures. Scattered along the edges of the stockade, several shadowy forms rose up. Small, but bent and spindly, like ghouls, the creatures seemed to hiss and snicker back and forth between each other. After a few quiet minutes, the group slipped back behind the stockade and scattered into the dark… apparently the trap had been noticed. The group gathered and with Fangrik’s skilled nose, sniffed-out their trail, and followed it about a mile east along the mountain.
The thicket they approached was cloaked in shadow and brambles, with a handful of bones and other debris lying among the roots of the thickets. Approaching something appearing to be a heavy thicket and lair, the group noisily pushed their way among the roots, before a sudden movement all around the thicket erupted. The Leech Men were awakened, most scattering nimbly out of the thicket and into the dark, though a couple charged and attacked the nearest targets. The battle was brief, with several members taking brutal damage from the Leech Men’s lamprey attacks, and a couple even felt the poisons of the Leeches blood disease course through their veins, but they managed to subdue a pair, tie them up and toss them in the cage. Securing their cargoes, the group pushed back along the frozen trail to reach The Keep, even though the gates would likely be drawn shut…