Journey to the East

Ill met in Sandpoint (1st September 4711)
1st September 4711

Part1

One armed Moe staggered into the tap room of the Rusty Dragon, dripping wet from the heavy rain. He sniffed and wiped his tattered sleeve across his face, as his proffered tankard was filled with cheap ale. He looked round- the usual bunch of poseurs and would be adventurers, lightly seasoned with a smattering of locals who thought they were living dangerously by coming here. The main body of the inn was for the food and the many visitors, but the taproom was a kingdom unto itself. Boris the barman watched impassively as Moe emptied his tankard. It was refilled equally quickly.

“I heard Long Torm and Scylla and them others that went off to Brinestump Marsh haven’t come back” volunteered Moe, “I just overheard one of the Deputies talking. They reckon they’s deaders.”

“That makes a sort of sense” said Rufus the Bard, “They say there was a show of fireworks to the south late last night; probably the stunties way of thumbing their noses at us.”

“I warned Torm but he just laughed” said Silas the Bow, a slightly scruffy man who made his living hunting game in the lands about, “Brinestump Marsh may not be as large as the Mushfens farther to the south,but the swamp is dense and tangled. It’s easy to get lost in the place. No one’s made a really detailed map of Brinestump— but of course Torm knew best.”

“Reckon you’re right Silas. Torm’s crew were the first off pursuing that Bounty, though I imagine they won’t be the last”, Evan the Boatman shook his head.

“Well the Sheriff is raising the Bounty to 10 gp per head”, continued Moe, “Plus a 300 gp bonus for their leader. They really need to attract someone else- and that’s a good deal of money.”

“What about old Walthus Proudstump?” asked Blackrat , “That old halfling knows the swamp as well as any do. Didn’t Torm speak to him first?”

“Naw always boot first brain later with Torm. Well I suppose we’d best drink to his shade, and those of the others.”

“What about you two boys?” asked Rufus, looking at the Flambeau twins sat in the corner. “You’re always boasting about what great swordsmen you are, but I never see either of you move from that dice table?”

The Flambeau twins, upon being addressed, looked to each other for a few seconds as if silently speaking. Although having no “mental telepathy” as the Vastani Gypsies often boasted of twins having, both Reynard and Dinald knew this freaked the townsfolk out.

“Being this close to Copper pieces wards away arthritis in the old age…” stated Dinald matter of factly. His bluff seemed to work on some of the more gullible regulars, but Rufus grinned into his winecup.

“…and keeping ones fingers constantly in motion helps with nimbility.” Reynald rolled the dice to demonstrate. This was not strictly true, but then he had been suspected to have picked a lock or two in the past.

“However, at 10 Gold per Stuntie head I am willing to take the risk of a lifetime of old, gnarly knobbed fingers like Evans over there and leave this wine soaked table behind (after I take my winnings, of course) and head out into the Brinestump.” Dinald said as he scooped up the used Copper pieces.

“Although our skill at sword play is the best in town, I suppose we’d need the guidance of that feller you talked about…Walthus Proudstump to make sure we don’t walk into a nasty patch of poison Oak.” he continued.

“Hold on there Lads” struck in Silas, “I’m not certain you know what a swamp is, never mind finding your way around one alone. Remember what happened to poor Tomas. You need more hands”

“Funny enough there was a scruffy looking halfling asking around after Walthus yesterday” said Boris. “Not sure I liked the look of him but I heard he went over to the Pixie’s Kitten.”

“There’s a Big Bastard Ulfen scoffing himself in the main room as well- I hear he recently quit as a Caravan Guard-might be a good man in a fight.” added Evan.

“And there’s the Ulfen Witch as well- she seems right well in with Ameiko”, added Blackrat, " She doesn’t say much but I hear she gave Marius Quickfingers the rightabouts when he tried to lift her purse."

Meanwhile Ragnar, the “Big Bastard Ulfen”, had been nursing his watery ale carefully. It had been six days since he had arrived in Sandpoint with a Magnamarian caravan he’d picked up in Riddleport. He was glad to be shot of the “Thieving Varisians”; he’d had to keep a tight hold on his purse the entire journey. Not that there was much in it. Enough for a couple more nights in this flea-bag. And a few more pints of the watered down ale he was drinking.

Well, he’d given up his studies with the Iomedaeans to “find himself”. He just hadn’t figured the answer lay at the bottom of a tankard in the “civilized” southern lands. Nobody here even spoke a proper warrior tongue — he’d had to get by with the merchant babble with its big words for money and screwing people over. Although at least merchants followed a code. Those damn free-living Varisian vermin with their veils and dancing just weren’t his kind.

He needed some action he thought. Something to sink his temple sword into. His hand went to the hilt hanging above his left shoulder. The hilt was well worn; it had been his master’s first sword, presented to Ragnar when he left the temple to begin this journey. The big man’s eyes misted as he recalled his master’s farewell. “Fight well, die gloriously!”

Ragnar lifted his head from the ale and glared around the room. There, those two shifty varisian bastards, the twins who’d just shambled in from the Snug. “They’ll do nicely,” he thought. He rose to his full height and stretched the kinks out of his shoulders. It was time to kill something. Or at least beat it senseless.

From a shadowy corner the big man was watched by a tall half elf, emitting a distinct odour of damp leaf mould. Boris noted that he was probably trouble, ordering only a tiny goblet of the cheapest and most watered down mead. He had sneered at the serving wenches, and even had the cheek to complain about a non- existent smell of urine in his corner. He had wanted to throw the miserable tramp out but he had been restrained by Ameiko.

“Leave it. Got a chip on his shoulder like a lot of half-elves” she had said. He watched the vagrant through slitted eyelids as he no doubt imagined problems with his surroundings. Boris was absolutely correct.

The half-elf Rasha settled back into the dark corner of the Rusty Dragon and grumbled endlessly to himself like the appalling cheapskate he was. “What a dump” he thought.“It reeks of stale urine- not like my cosy woodland hovel at all. The wench is hideous, like most full blooded humans and the food looks revolting”. As if to add credence to this he reached into his bag for a few strips of rancid lizard meat that had nestled into the bottom.

“Only the truly desparate would come into this awful place” he sighed. "Ah well, I guess I’m a bit careworn and desperate myself. If only that Woodsman’s wife hadn’t been almost comely. And so eager. And so noisy…”

He was just bringing the flagon of what the locals called “mead” to his lips when he noticed the large man get up and head for the two Varisians. He saw that this movement was also noted by the strange looking human woman at the bar. She whispered something to the very large looking barman next to her who reached below the bar for something hidden below it.

“Now this should be interesting”, he thought, settling even deeper into the gloom to watch.

Dinald stopped short as the Ulfen giant flexed his muscles. “Brother I do believe you are right!” he smiled, casually unsnapping the restraint on one of his rapiers….one of a matching set. Dinald quickly looked around to see if any Owners, waitresses or cooks were looking to stop what might be an enjoyable bar room exercise, and noticed Ameiko staring straight towards him.

“This gent fits the description Evan mentioned…‘Big Bastard Ulfen’. He is big and he seems Ulfen. I guess well have to ask him if he’s a bastard though” thought Dinald as he prepared a typical Varision pre-fight greeting. He hooked his foot around the spokes of one of the empty chairs at the table, in case the lout started any funny business- he intended to slam the chair into the Ulfens kneecap.

As the locals saw what was coming Boris slammed down a massive club on the polished oak bar.

“I will not tolerate this nonsense in my bar Dinald. You know the rules- and you’re disturbing my customers.” Ameiko’s calm but clear voice rang across the bar. Seconds later Garrick, the very large Half Orc bouncer came in from the back room, and stood glaring across the bar.

“And as for you Ulfen” continued Ameiko, glaring at Ragnar “take your business outside, before I have to embarrass you in front of all the other customers. You’ve had enough to drink. Go.” The rest of the customers went deathly silent.

“Amei, Darling, please…you misread the situation! This gentleman was coming over here to…socialize. Obviously drawn to our tables’ Dice and Coppers game. I was going to offer him a chair and buy him us all a round of your most expensive ale.” Dinald simpered reassuringly as he slowly slid an empty chair towards the big newcomer. Although Dinald and Reynald would have liked to teach the lumbering outlander a sharp lesson in city manners, Dinald wanted to ignore the authority of Lady Ameiko even more.

“And besides Miss Kaijitsu,” Reynald interjected; face glowing red with blush at addressing who he thought was one of Sandpoint’s most beautiful women. “we would like to propose to this…uh…guy a teaming to ward off the gobbers from the merchant roads. We would be hard pressed to do that outside on such a miserable night.”

Both the twins then look at the owner with wide innocent eyes and half pouty lips.It didn’t look like she believed a word of it.

“Hmmphf…if you just talk fine. Any trouble- you’re all barred. You can stay then.” she barked to the glowering Ulfen- his reaction still unpredictable. . "この不自由な方のやがていっぱいです! 私が私の生命にここで無駄に選んだら! " muttered Ameiko as she turned away.

As Ragnar stood there uncertainly, a harsh female voice cut across the bar.

“Hold fast der! EN landsmand i denne gudløse sted? " Starting in surprise Ragnar turned round, and saw a tall blonde woman, with attractive fine features and pale shoulder length hair. She was wearing white robes and animal furs- obviously also Ulfen.

“En Ulfen her? Vel mødt søster!” replied Ragnar.

“What the fuck are they talking about?” whispered Reynald to Dinald.

“Who cares that’s probably the Ulfen Witch. A right looker too!” responded Dinald.

At the Varisian’s words, Rasha rose languidly and strolled between the giant, the witch and the bored rogues.

“If I might interject, gentlemen, and lady, you sound like you’ll be needing a scout. That is unless your plan of action is to go crashing through the brush like drunken ogres until the Goblins come to you? I admit that plan may have some merit if you don’t want to work too hard at finding them. In any case, I also thought I heard a rumor of free premium Ale, though I’m sure what passes for the finest in this establishment will most likely have the bouquet of Orc sweat.”

Reynald nodded toward the newcomer, and motioned for a new round of the best ale on tap for all at the table. Dinald pulled a chair across and waved the female Ulfen towards it. With a hesitant nod, she complied. “The big outlander will probably be less likely to start a fight with the girl present” he thought.

“Vell, if zis lovely lady is a friend of yours, then so am I!” said the Big Bastard Ulfen, as he took the offered seat, and rising up, motioned for the witch to take the vacated chair, while he took an empty chair from a nearby table.

“Now, I am Ragnar Yellowbreeks, warrior of Iomedae. And I am thirsty!”

“I am Ailukka Kolveig, of the Agjarnkyn.”said the Witch, speaking slowly but distinctly. “I heard you speak of der grim drillesyg alf…..Ach! Goblins!?”

“He’s Reynald” said Dinald nodding to his brother across the table.

“He’s Dinald” said Reynald hoisting a newly filled pint of Boris’s best.

“We are the brothers Flambeau.” They said annoyingly in unison. If the others at the table had known the hours spent on getting that introduction just right, they would either have been mightily impressed or amazed how much effort the twins could put into wasting their lives away.

“What about this surly halfling Boris mentioned?” asked Dinald. “Anyone know anything about him?”

“You joke brother” chimed in Reynald, “We need Adventurer’s Bold not a mascot.”

The atmosphere of the bar changed as a high-pitched growl came from the other side of the bar.

“Small? SMALL? SMALL? Are ye talkin’ ta me or is ye chewin’ a brick? ‘Coz iffen ye be talkin’ to me, ye’ll be wishin’ ye’d been chewin’ a brick ‘coz ye’ll be ‘avin’ more teeth left a’ the end.”

The outburst was met by laughter. Until a flagon came flying through the air crashing into one of the regulars, sending ale splashing across half of the bar.

“C’mon then, ye bastards. Let’s tek it outside an’ see how funny yees think it then. I’ll tek the lot ’o yous.”

Garrick the bouncer sighed a deep sigh as he headed over to sort out the growing altercation –a sigh that told everyone that such events were a regular happening at the Rusty Dragon this close to closing time.

The half orc grabbed a spitting halfling by the scruff of the neck. The little fellow was thrashing around, trying to punch and kick at the bouncer, but his limbs simply weren’t long enough.

“Garrick, ye pig-fuckin’ bastard,” Ungo shouts. “One o’ these days I’m gonna be sober. An’ I’m gonna ‘ave me axe wi’ me. An’ then I’m gonna gut ye like …”

The rest of the halfling’s tirade was cut off as Garrick opened the door, and hurled the little fella out into the gutter.

He closed the door, sighed once more and looked around to see if anyone else deserved the same treatment as the halfling, before returning to his stool on the bar and picking up his knitting: it looked like a cold winter was on the way this year.

“Dear oh dear!”said Dinald, rolling his eyes. “Halflings! I ask you!”

“Now, that one,” said Ragnar admiringly, pointing at the door through which Ungo was just tossed, “that one I would approve of!” He got up and headed for the door “Please excuse one moment!”

Outside in the chill autumn dark the halfling was dusting himself and cursing. Ragnar noticed that there were Shoanti tribal tattoos on his arms- possibly there were some halfling communities within the Shoanti territories, or perhaps this one was an adopted stray. Still- no matter. As he listened to the halflings curses, he frowned in curiosity.

“Please excuse me Master Sindsyg, but what is ‘Bampot’?”

The halfling sneered as he rearranged his kilt to hide the fact that there was very little contained beneath it.

“Master? MASTER? MASTER?” he shouted, continuing his earlier tirade. “D’ye ken ahm lookin’ like a wee bairn t’ye? Ye bastard. That’ll be MISTER if’n ye be plannin’ on speakin’ ta ma face an’ not me axe, C*ntCleaver.”

He calmed a little.

“Bampots – all o’ the boggin, bowfin, dreeps in there,” he scowled with a nod towards the bar. “Think’n they’re harder than me jus’ because they’re a bunch o’ lanky bassies. They’d never say it to ma face if’n they met me alone though, cuz they know I’d nut the feckin’ bastards.”

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A Brisk Morning Walk ( 2nd September 4711)
2nd September 4711

It was cold when Dinald woke up- doubly so as his landlady Magla had just thrown a bucket of water over him where he lay sprawled in the small stone courtyard, not having made it as far as the stairs up to the two room pigsty he shared with his brother.

“Magla my sweet, your divine counten…..”he was rudely interrupted.

“Stow it Dinald, you look a state. I’ve got chores to do and you lying in a pool of your own vomit in my courtyard is getting in the way.”

Dinald looked down at the state of his clothes and wished he hadn’t. Annoyingly he could hear Reynald crashing about upstairs. Ye Gods what time was it? He guessed it was far earlier than he liked to imagine.

Whistling annoyingly Reynald came down the stairs. He was carrying his weapons and had his pack slung by one strap over his shoulder.

“Wuh…..?” Reynald stopped.

“You don’t remember do you?” he asked Dinald.

“Remember what?” replied his brother.

“We’re meeting the others for a bite at Cracktooths at eight, and then it’s off goblin hunting. You’ve got half an hour- try to wipe the smell of puke off. See you later.”

“Bugger” thought Dinald.

It was nine ’ clock when Dinald rolled up at Cracktooths.The other four were waiting there, not looking too happy; there was also a scruffy looking halfling in a kilt.

“Good day brave comrades!” called Dinald breezily, “And I see you got us the mascot after all!”

“Is this grinning eejet the useless F******g nancy boy we’ve a’ bin waitin’ oan?”said the halfling surlily, fixing one eye from beneath a craggy red eyebrow at Dinald.

“This is my brother Dinald” replied Reynald- with a hint of embarrassment Dinald thought.

“Ah see he’s no’ got eenie proper weepons like yersel’” said the halfling,“Another Varisian bar poseur I suppose.” Reynald laughed hollowly, looking round at the two Ulfen for moral support, but their faces were impassive.

“Perhaps we better get on” coughed Rasha. “It’ll take us a couple of hours to get there, and we may be searching for some time.”

“Aye mebbe yere right” said the halfling. “Dae we ken weer we’re actually goin’? Wheer this Walthus feller lives?”

“We could ask around” said Reynald. “Boris at the Dragon knows pretty much everyone.”

“This not excuse for drinking at bar all day I hope?” sighed Ailukka.

“No my Lady. We will be brief and sober” smiled Dinald ingratiatingly.

Boris directed them to the fishermen at the waterfront, where they learned that Walthus had a cabin deep in the swamp, where he farmed snakes: something of an odd character. The cabin was situated along the New Fishermans Trail- a safe path into the swamp which a few bold souls used to set eel traps.

The group tramped silently southwards along the coast road, Dinald trailing somewhat sulkily behind. To their left rose a large limestone escarpment, which Ragnar squinted up at. He stopped and pointed.

“There are tiny figures moving up there- they are goblins yes?” he asked.

“Probably” replied Rasha. “There’s a tribe up there called the Birdcrunchers, but as far as I know they don’t cause any trouble. Up behind the ridge is Devil’s Platter- not a safe place to be: it’s rumoured that there are some particularly nasty Bugbears up there.”

“I know what you’re thinking” said Rasha looking at Ragnar. “But the terrain is murderous up there- they’d see us a mile off. And if we stirred up an otherwise non- aggressive tribe it would likely not go well with us.”

After a couple of hours the road reached some shallow cliffs, which sloped down into a narrow marshland. A smell of rotting vegetation wafted up, and the land below seemed covered in a hazy fug.

After they descended the narrow path they found themselves in a wetland tangle of nettles, reeds, and other swamp plants, as well as larger scrubby cypress,eucalyptus, oak, and willow trees, which further reduced visibility in the tangle. Only a few yards from the trail pools and creeks of fetid water lapped close, and there were many strange noises off in the mist.

“The Soggy River flows into this basin” explained Rasha, “But it splits into a delta of mudflats, and many small creeks and pools. The whole place is a maze-I don’t usually come in here.”

Rasha paused, and kneeled down. He pointed downwards at a clear two clawed imprint in the mud-larger than a man’s foot. Ragnar frowned , “What is Dass?”

“I’m not sure”, said Rasha, “But there are rumours of a strange creature in here. The Soggy River Monster they call it.”

After a while they came to a small wooden bridge across a creek. Rasha was searching behind for more tracks, and so Ragnar was scouting ahead. He drifted silently across the bridge, and then heard an angry voice off to his left.

“Stone beat scissors stupid, stupid! Me win!”said one voice.

“You cheatee eyes open” said another voice. Obviously these fools were Goblins.

Ragnar turned to motion backwards to the others but the movement gave him away. The alarm went up and three tiny arrows thudded into him; miraculously he remained on his feet.

With a roar Ragnar drew his Temple Sword and rushed forwards, and the others started to follow towards the bridge. To his right were a group of three malicious looking Goblin archers, and as he rushed forwards he snapped out with his foot, lifting up one of the runts and punting it through the undergrowth. His sword cut another in half.

Ungo and Dinald too raced forward, the halfling decapitating one of the Goblins with his axe. Dinald lunged and managed to spear a nearby birds nest, fortunately abandoned.

Reynald had noticed a lone Goblin on the near side of the bridge,and was more fortunate than his brother, dispatching his opponent with ease.

Rasha had knocked one of the Goblins from his perch in a willow tree overhanging the creek, and when the body splashed in he was interested to notice a long sinuous shape snaking through the water towards the spot. The brief fight was now over, and as he watched the water suddenly became red with blood; whatever it was was making a mess of the fallen Goblin.

Reynald suddenly heard a noise to his right. He was surprised to see a scruffy looking and somewhat bedraggled dwarf, with a black beard and wearing hide armour.

“Nae calm doon Laddie. Friend. And am I glad tae see you!” said the dwarf.

As the others gathered round he introduced himself as Gram- possibly the last survivor of Torm’s party. He had spent the last day or so hiding and being hunted by this Goblin group. Dinald noticed that he walked with a limp.

“Aye it was some way over to the west. Ah’ve fled through creek and bog.Ah had dropped somewhat behind, on account of me leg,” explained Gram. “Torm were over-eager, and I heerd the fight ahead. But when I got there all I recieved was Goblin arrows-the rest ye pretty much know.”

It transpired that Gram had some skill in healing, which was welcome as nobody else really did. He cast a healing spell on Ragnar, “Me last one” he explained, but he managed to bandage some of the others who had been wounded.

Dinald had recieved a minor scratch, and was embarrassing Reynald by making a huge fuss about it. Ragnar and Ailukka looked on with quiet scorn: the halfling- Ungo- was somewhat more vocal in his contempt.

“Put a sock in it ye’ big Jessie” he snarled. “Yer embarrasing yersel’. It’s but a tiny scratch and ye’re squawking like a wee gurrl.”

After an hour or so the ground started to rise slightly, and they found themselves on an island of solid ground; there were even some rocks present. Presumably this was an actual island which had been swallowed up by the shifting mudflats at some point in the past.

Peering ahead through the mists Rasha spied a stone wall, and beyond this a small house of wood and stone. “I suppose this is where Walthus lives”, said the half- elf. He moved quietly up (he thought) and listened: nothing.

“Feck this.” said Ungo, and marched up to the door, kicking it open. It was not locked. Sat down against the far wall was a wounded halfling. “Axe wounds” he thought, recognising them immediately. He glared at the wounded halfling- dressed in muddied green and brown.

“Weeel? Who arr yooo? Speak quick noo before ye’ have a conversation with C***slicer here.” snarled Ungo.

“I…. I live here. I am wounded….” stammered the halfling.

“Yer no’ listin tae me. Doun’t p**s me off ye’ bawling maggot, or I’ll have ye’ heid. Are yoo Walthus?”continued Ungo.

“W..Walthus…. Yes! Yes I am Walthus!I live here.” said the halfing.

“Guid! Goblins. Where are they? Speak quick noo! Ah’ve money tae make and ye’re delayin’ me.” Ungo tapped the edge of his axe.

“They’re off to the west end of the swamp. They have a village there, and I think they’re planning to attack the town. If you’re going perhaps you’d better go quick!” repled Walthus.

“I’m hungry” said Rasha, “Have you got anything to eat?”. He had entered the cabin and was looking around- it was a mess. Some sort of fight had occurred in here. “How did all this happen- and your wounds?”

As he looked across at Walthus a ripple seemed to spread downward across the halfling’s face. Ungo had turned round to glare at Rasha, and so he had failed to notice it.

“On second thoughts we have important business to transact with the goblins. Come on Ungo, time is wasting. Goodbye sir and thanks for all your help.” Rasha walked straight out. With a final glare at Walthus, Ungo followed.

“Make yer’ Feckkin’ mind up” said Ungo.

When they had returned to the others Rasha explained what he had witnessed, his innate paranoia coming right to the fore.

“What if thats not the real Walthus? What if some Fey shapeshifter has killed and replaced him?” asked Rasha.

“Pfft. Fey: no reward. Goblins: reward. Let’s stick to the matter at hand. Feck the Fey halfing or whatever he is.” sneered Ungo. There was a short debate, but eventually the party decided to continue along the path westwards.

They were soon disappointed however. After half a mile it ended in a muddy beach and a wide lagoon. Casting along to their left and doubling back they realised that a wide creek lay directly to their west. Possibly Walthus had not been clear enough-or perhaps they had simply been too impatient to get more detailed information. Either way, Ungo was not happy.

“That Feckin’ Fey halfling has been wasting my time. Nao ah’m p***ed off! Let’s go have wurdds with the shifty scunner!” he growled.

When they returned to the cabin the shutters were closed, and this time the door appeared to be locked. “Right.” said Ungo, and set into the door with his axe. After a few moments it burst open; within all was darkness.

“The weasally Sh***e has done a bunk!”said Ungo, and marched inside. He caught a glimpse of movement off to his side and then a sharp pain in his right shoulder- badly wounded he staggered round to see a halfling sized figure, featureless except for wrinkled and shiny grey skin, and a head characterised largely by the huge maw which had bitten him. Fire shot through his wound-the bite was poisoned.

Missing with his axe he staggered backwards, as Rasha ran in close behind him and engaged the Thing with his shortsword, recieving a bite in turn for his pains. The creature fought fiercely, but with the twins entering it was besieged on all sides, until a blow from Ungo split its head open, and it slumped to the ground. All had received wounds however- Ungo severely.

As the group sat round and Gram started to bandage their wounds, a creaking noise was heard and a timid voice called out “H…Hello? Is anybody there?”

Ragnar called out, and the voice started sobbing in relief. A halfling…presumably the real Walthus emerged from behind a hidden door in the wall, and poured out his story. The Thing had attacked him yesterday, when he was out seeing to his snakes in the stone corral. The resulting battle had been difficult on both sides—while Walthus had managed to severely wound the creature with his hand axe, and several of his snakes had bitten it, the Thing had still managed to pin him down.

“It almost killed me” he shuddered, “It was feeding on my blood. But it got bitten again and I managed to pull away. I have a safe room for emergencies that I hid in- maybe it thought I’d fled the area.”

Walthus seemed very grateful, and for such a reputed loner seemed glad of the groups intent to stay the night and recover their strength. He also rummaged about in a chest and produced a halfling sized cloak, which he offered to Ungo.

“It’s one of the few things I can offer which might be of value to you, and I owe you my life. It has an enchantment on it.” he explained.

Ungo was dismissive at first, but the apparent sincerity of Walthus seemed to change his mind, and he gruffly accepted the gift.

For the hours of daylight which remained, the group helped him set the door to rights and tidy up the cabin, while Walthus gleefully prepared them all a meal. As they ate he explained how to get to the Goblin village.

“The Licktoads are a fairly minor tribe, and they’ve been too weak to cause any trouble in the past. But they’ve acquired some fireworks from somewhere recently, and since then they’ve been making a nuisance of themselves.” he explained. “Their village can be reached on the Old Fishermans Trail. Best way from here is to exit the swamp back up to the road, and then follow the road around the edge of the cliff above the swamp, as it follows its eastern edge. After a couple of miles the road crosses the Soggy before it drops down into the marsh. Cross the river, follow it west towards the cliff and then walk along the cliff edge-eventually you’ll hit the old trail down. Once inside the marsh keep bearing west along the trail and you’ll hit the village. Once you hit the road again it will take you maybe 2-3 hours to get there.”

“Aye them’s better directions than that fake Walthus gave”, said Ungo. “Here’s tae yer health!”

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Making Friends with the Neighbours (3rd September 4711)
3rd September 4711

The next morning, and following Walthus’ instructions, the group exited the swamp and followed the coast road round to the south, skirting the eastern edge of Brinestump Marsh. Crossing the bridge, and checking along the cliff, they eventually hit the Old Fisherman’s Path, and once more descended downwards into the murk. After three quarters of a mile the trail branched westwards and to the northeast.

Following westwards, Rasha, who was scouting ahead, spotted a filthy village-fort surrounded by a crude wooden palisade sitting atop a low hummock of solid ground . The wooden gate along the north wall of the palisade was lying in a shambles on the ground.

Nearby, a large, algae-filled pool on the northeastern side broke the palisade allowing a clearer view into the village’s interior,which consisted of a collection of ramshackle huts connected by wooden walkways, all built on thick wooden stilts. The place looked deserted.

As they gathered round the gate, they seen that it had apparently been hacked down with weapons-it was a fairly flimsy thing anyway. As they paused Ailukka cast a protective spell on Ragnar, Ungo and herself.

“One for me and one for best warriors. Last an hour.” she said. Dinald frowned,but said nothing: he surmised he needed to do something to boost his esteem in this group.

Ragnar and the twins clambered up onto the nearest walkway and checked the nearest buildings; Rasha climbed a ladder onto a roof and kept watch with his bow. The whole stockade was silent.

Several huts were checked, and all appeared to have been the scene of some furious fighting. Smashed utensils and simple furniture lay scattered about.

Just inside the gate was a shallow pit; Ailukka called the others over, and they saw that inside were half a dozen burned goblin skeletons. The mystery deepened.

In one room Ungo found a few fireworks, but these proved to be the only thing of interest.

“This is a fecking waste of time”, he complained. “They’ve all gone”.

“Only a few more buildings to check anyway” said Rasha. “We may as well be thorough.”

Ragnar opened the next door expecting not very much. WHat he saw were three goblins poised to attack-one of them pointing a very large fizzing firework at the door he had just walked through. There was a flash and an almighty bang, accompanied by the smell of burned pork and powder-two of the goblins fell lefeless to the floor, one of them burned horribly. The survivor staggered forward screaming shrilly, until Ragnar silenced him with a sharp blow which snapped his neck.

The twins rushed through and into the next building, and then out into a small open area enclosed by buildings and walkways. With a combined shriek of “Killee!!” a dozen or so goblins started to pout out of the surrounding huts, a number of them cornering Dinald and Reynald in the hut they had just run into, and trading them blow for blow. Ailukka,Gram and Rasha became involved with another group, while Ungo and Ragnar also joined the general melee.

The twins recieved a number of wounds, though Reynald managed to give as good as he got. Dinald managed a number of textbook fencing moves, which although impressive failed to connect with any of the goblins slicing holes in him: he was learning the hard way that a field of combat is not quite the same as a fencing masters piste.

With the protective spells cast on Ragnar and the others however it was no contest, and the few remaining goblins fled and started hammering on the door of the largest and most impressive (which was not saying very much) hut. The group followed and mercilessly hacked them down from behind.

The final survivor, hanging onto life by a thread, surrounded by four foes finally fell as Dinald lunged in from the edge of the combat, skeweering him. Dinald strutted like a peacock.

“Well what do you think of that eh Brother? A fantastic piece of swordsmanship don’t you think? Well we’re all heroes now!” he beamed. Reynald looked away, appearing slightly embarrased. DInald looked round, and saw to his annoyance that no-one was paying him the slightest bit of attention at all.

Ragnar and Ungo examined the door to the large hut. It was a ramshackle affair, and was comprised of many pieces of timber and driftwood lashed or nailed together-including what appeared to be an oaken rib section taken from a ship of some sort. Ungo started to hack away with his axe.

After three or four blows the door caved in. There was a high pitched shriek and a flash then another almighty crack, as something exploded in the middle of the doorway, wounding several of the group. They rushed forward to confront a particularly large looking goblin readying his spear, surrounded by three flunkies. The combat was short but fierce, seeing Reynald skewered by the goblin, and Dinald being very badly hurt, before Ungo’s axe lopped the goblin’s head from his shoulders. And then everything was quiet.

Ungo and Ragnar searched the hut while Gram saw to the wounded; once again their protective spells had seen them safely through the combat. They found a somewhat beautiful red and black lacquered chest, which in itself was probably quite valuable. Inside was some money and a variety of oddly styled but exquisite jewellry, including a rather ornate fan featuring a lizard of some sort amidst some blossoming trees. Ragnar stared hard as though he recognised the style of the pieces, but it eluded him: it was certainly not Varisian.

As he stared at the fan Ailukka exclaimed “There is drawing on back.” Ragnar turned it over. It was very crude- goblin maybe? The others gathered round.

“It’s a map” said Rasha. “A map of the swamp. There’s the village- and these two look like what- ships? And a cave?”

“Mak’s sense Laddie” said Gram. “Mebbe these here firewurrks came from a looted ship? Where else might they come from?”

One of the ship markings was quite close by, and the group determined to make camp in the village overnight, and then strike out in the morning after Gram had renewed some of his healing magicks. As they scavenged around for firewood Rasha came back frowning.

“I’ve found a trail” he said. “It leaves the village through that pond and then bears round the village to the wide creek to the south. And then it…er….wades into the creek and vanishes. I found about two dozen of these dropped along the way.” He tossed a large handful of silver coins on the table.

“More goblins?” asked Ungo.

“Er no. Human size. Skeletal in fact.” said Rasha, looking him straght in the eye. “Over half a dozen of them.”

“So let me see.” said Reynald. “These goblins stole something-fireworks and more valuable things. Then a bunch of walking skeletons appeared, hacked down the gates and killed a number of goblins before marching off with the loot? Have I got everything?”

“That certainly fits the facts” said Rasha. The guard was fitful, and the sleep restless that night.

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The Kaijitsu Star. (4th September 4711)
4th September 4711

With empty stomachs they awoke the next morning after a restless night.

“Let’s do this quick” said Ungo, “and then head back tae Sandpoint to dump these goblin ears and resupply- and eat!”

Although the first marked ship seemed quite close on the map, the reality of negotiating the marsh soon shattered this illusion. Picking the way between treacherous pools, mudholes on narrow patches of secure ground took the best part of a morning, but eventually Rasha found an old goblin campsite.

“Very old” he said, “Several weeks maybe. Still it does mean they came here.”

The group searched around the area, and eventually spotted the skeleton of a small two-masted ship lying mired in the mud in a clearing,its rigging thick with moss and decorated with old lanterns and windchimes made from goblin skulls and bones. Strange writing was faintly visible along the ship’s prow,while the soggy, swampy “yard” that surrounded the wreck was encircled by a rickety wooden fence: it did look that something-or someone, once lived here.

Near the prow of the old ship could still be discerned a name- ‘Kaijitsu Star.’

“Kaijitsu! Kaijitsu? That’s Ameiko’s family!” exclaimed Dinald, his eyes glazing over slightly.

“Who are these people?” asked Ragnar.

“Ameiko is the Tiannese owner of the Rusty Dragon” said Ailukka. " You saw her the other night when we all met."

“Not only that” said Reynald, “She’s one of the richest people in Sandpoint.”

“And probably the most beautiful woman” said Dinald. " Don’t forget that!"

“Her family” continued Reynald, “are the Kaijitsu’s, -one of the four founding families of Sandpoint from when it was set up about 50 years ago. They own the Glassworks, and produce fine jewellry. Nobles. Very Rich.” He smacked his lips.

“This news may be worth something then.” said Ragnar.

The ship itself contained the rotting corpse of a large dog and and an even larger goblin. It had the hallmarks of a den, which had been overturned in violent fighting. It also appeared to have been looted.

Somewhat dissappointed the group made their way back out of the Marsh, and headed north along the coast to Sandpoint, which they reached late in the afternoon. Splitting up to collect their bounty and undetake various tasks, they agreed to meet at the Dragon around six.

“I hear your friends softened up a goblin sufficently for you to finish it off Dinald” said Ameiko levelly as Dinald swaggered into the bar. Ailukka was leaning next to her and the two giggled as Dinald reddened. Ragnar and the others laughed loudly at his expense.

When they told her the story of the Kaijitsu Star she was interested, but puzzled.

“Hmm no, it doesn’t ring any bells with me. If it’s an old ship it might well be before my time. But I am intrigued.” said Ameiko. “Tell you what, I will check with some of the older family servants this evening- one of them is bound to know something, or I can get them to dig out our old business records. If you come round here in the morning I’ll let you know what I find out.” And so it was agreed.

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Messing About with Boats (5th September 4711)
5th September 4711

The next morning the group turned up early to the Rusty Dragon: Ameiko was waiting for them.

“This is quite puzzling. The Kaijitsu Star was one of three ships which went north on a trading mission with my Grandfather Rokuro, and my father Lonjiki. Only one of those ships came back-the one with my father on board. The Kaijitsu Star and the Kaijitsu Blossom were lost in a terrible storm as they returned to Sandpoint. This was 24 years ago- in 4687”

“Rokuro was the man who brought us here from my family’s homeland, and who was the founder of our fortunes in Sandpoint-a new settlement at that time. None of the servants appear to know any of the details of this trade mission, which was surrounded with great secrecy.”

“And your grandfather?” asked Ragnar.

“He never returned. Sadly I never knew him, for I was born only later.” repled Ameiko. Dinald mentally made a note of her age range.

“And your father?” persisted Ragnar.

“Dead in the goblin troubles which hit Sandpoint a few years ago.” Ameiko looked sad . “There are none now alive who can tell us more of this mission.” She paused.

“If there is another ship there then it must presumably be the Blossom. If you are prepared to check it out for me and find anything which will throw some light on this I’ll pay you fairly. How does 100 gp each sound?”

“More than generous My Lady” said Dinald smoothly before anyone else could haggle. “We’ll see to it straight away won’t we men?” He looked at Ailukka and Gram. “Er.. I mean… ’won’t we fellow adventurers?’” . Gram sighed.

“Fine, fine. I asked about a boat and Old One Eyed Tam down at the dock is prepared to take you down the coast. You might have to prise him off the cabin boy first though.” She shook her head.

Ungo nodded in agreement as Dinald agreed to taking the mission. He recoiled in horror however when he heard about the cabin boy.

“The big shirt-liftin’, Jessie, nancy boy, better nae be gettin’ up to any ‘o ’is funny business when ah’m around. Not unless he be wanting to be known as Old No Eyed Tam by the end o’ the trip.”

Down at the harbour the group were directed towards Tam’s fishing smack, ‘The Jolly Bird’s Eye’ . As they approached they saw a white bearded fisherman in a hooped shirt, wearing a dark blue jacket and cap, smoking a pipe. He watched them approach, eying Ungo with interest.

“Bob, get out here lad.” he called as they approached.

“But maester me bum’s sore, do I have to?” called a voice from below.

“Look lively ye’ young snake, we gots visitors- and one right pretty one too Ah HArrrr” he said,again looking at Ungo, who glowered.

“Listen ye lantgulterrn dirtchute, I dinnae fash yer weelin’ jessie talk, so just keep yer mittens ohrf ma john thomas and yerl keep ye hands attached. Ye tak mah meanin’?”

Captain Tam frowned.

“Ungo says good morning Sir, and its time we got away if you’re to get paid” explained Rasha helpfully.

After a little more diplomacy from Dinald (who had ‘a woman’s hands’ according to Captain Tam)Ungo sat in the prow facing directly back along the length of the boat, while Tam and Bob steered the boat southwards into the small bay facing onto Brinestump Marsh. The dinghy was lowered, and Tam agreed to wait for them till sunset.

“Oi’ll be busy in me cabin, won’t oi’ laad? Ahhr Harrrr!” Bob eyed the cabin doubtfully.

The small boat paddled through the mist and into one of the larger creeks. Occasional splashings and eerie calls from the banks reminded them that this was not a safe place. eventually they came to a confluence of waters, and paddling became more difficult. Through the mists could be discerned a rising cliff on their port side, and Reynald spied what he thought might be a cave in the walls.

“That might be the actual cave” he suggested, “Which means we’ve missed the ship. Let’s double back and search.”

They beached at what they thought was a likely location and started to cast around. Ungo spotted what appeared at first to be a strange tangle of branches up in the canopy, but on closer inspection appeared in fact to be the moss-covered ribs of a wrecked ship. The ruined ship lays on its side, split down the middle and mostly sunken into the mud and murky water, but leaning over onto firmer ground. A short distance off lay the ancient ruin of some stone structure, little more now than a raised platform.

Making their way round to the firmer ground Ungo, Reynald and Dinald scrambled on board, while Ragnar made out the name of the ship, ‘Kaijitsu Blossom’, A shouted warning from Ailukka made him turn round.

Stepping silently across the marsh from the direction of the old ruin were three gaunt figures, clad in tattettered cloths and ragged armour. Their whitened bones stood out even in the gloom of the marsh.

On the port side of the wrecked craft Dinald was horrified to see three more skeletal forms rise from the mire, expelling a dry hissing noise as gases were released from the noisome muck.

Ragnar stepped in close and shattered one of the forms with a well placed punch through its ribcage. Reynald and Dinald jumped down into the muck, floundering badly, while Ungo went flying on his face, almost submerging entirely. Stood away a little distance, Rasha watched his arrows rattle through their ribcages without effect.

Alone on the other side of the vessal Gram’s warhammer was having more effect. With some help from Ailukka’s spells he destroyed all three of the horrific revenants.

Back on the port side Ragnar destroyed a second, and eventually the final one was downed by the combined attacks of four group members. When it was over they stood around staring at one another.

Some of the skeletons wore strange armour made of tiles of leather or wood, and bore short swords with odd wedge- profiled blades. “These weapons are Tian” said Ailukka, “There are many Tien in the Jade Quarter of Kalsgard.”

The old ruin was barely more than a raised platform and a tumble of stones, but there were signs of some long dead camp- a ring of stones where a fire had once been tended. “This is many years old” said Rasha. Apart from it’s name, the Kaijitsu Blossom revealed nothing of interest.

Re-entering their dinghy the group rowed back toward the cave they had seen. Soon after they disembarked Rasha reached down and picked up several silver pieces, and then pointed out a group of skeletal footprints headed off toward the cavern.

A fifty-foot-high cliff rose in front of them, it’s face a thick tangle of jutting rocks and bright green vines and nettles. A curtain of these vines only partially concealed the rather large cave opening at the base of the cliff. Ailukka lit up the end of her staff with her magicks and the group headed inside.

As Ragnar and Ungo scouted out a side passage Reynald and the others headed into a smaller cave, and hands quickly flew to weapons as the light revelaed a cluster of shining eyes, attached to the head of a spider sitting on the wall, its body as as large as a fully grown sheep. It scuttled towards Reynald, and thrusting his arm out straight to keep the thing away it skewered onto the point of his rapier. A terrific stink arose as the creatures fluids poured out, and dribbling liquid it shifted its bulk backwards. As the others rushed forward the thing was hacked down however, and then lay jerking horribly on the floor as they stood off at distance.

Following the course of a small stream they moved futher into the cave, eventually emrging into a larger cavern. As they moved across this they heard the rattle pf dry bones, and as they looked round they could see several twin points of green balefire glowing in the empty eye sockets of the long dead. Silently the forms stalked in.

The combat was short and brutal, with Reynald and Dinald again sustaining several wounds, their rapiers apparently seeming to have little effect. Ragnar’s fists and Ungo’s Axe did have an effect however, and soon they stood panting as Gram saw to those worst wounded.

Taking an opening to the north west this led to a smaller cavern, and sat at the end of this was another skeletal form, this time in more intack and impressive armour, and wielding a short blade which did not seem affected by damage or rust. It stood silently to its feet, and a handful of other forms also emerged from the shadows.

In the narrow confines of this smaller cave the battle was more restrictive, and Ungo, Reynald, Dinald and Ragnar each found themselves faced off against a single foe, with Ungo facing the apparent leader.

Ungo sustained a deep wound from the skeletal warrior’s shortsword, but otherwise managed to evade its blows, while his own axe smashed home again and again with repeated success. The others fought with mixed success, Reynald finally succumbing to his wounds and falling to the floor. By then however the fight was almost over, and the undead guardians smashed and broken.

“Let’s see what all the fuss was about” said Dinald. Behind him Ailukka bent down and picked up the fallen warrior’s shortsword, admiting it’s bluish stell and the tracings of small birds along the blade.

“This sword is good sword” she said. “It has enchantment on it. Worth keeping yes?”

The warriors crowded round with interest, but Rasha was the only one who expressed interest in keeping it. “Looks like it can cut and thrust too” he said. “I can make use of it.”

The skeletal warrior had been sitting on a beautiful carved cherry wood chest, inlaid with fine green stone. “Is Jade” said Ailukka. Inside were a number of potions, a ring and a carved redwood wand, as well as a good quantity of cash and jewellry, and more foreworks. Putting them back in the chest they carried the whole lot out into the boat.

Back on the Bird’s Eye Rasha was fiddling with his new aquisition. "The hilt is a bit wonky, I will need to get it to a good armourer to fix properly " he said. “Hey, what’s this?” As he had unscrewed the end of the hilts a small tube had fallen out of a secret compartment between the pommel end and the end of the blade tang. The small container opened to reveal a small parchment with a message written in an unknown script. “Tian I Assume” said Reynald. “Maybe Ameiko can translate?”

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A Letter from the Past (5th September 4711: Evening)
5th September 4711: Evening

At the Rusty Dragon the group recounted their story to Ameiko, and handed her the letter. Calling them into one of the back rooms, she read it out in full. In parts her voice seemed to choke, and Rasha noted that were tears in her eyes as she drew to a finish.

“My son, my heir. You know now that I have kept secrets from you. You were always a perceptive son, and while you may not understand my reasons for secrecy, I hope you may understand that it was necessary.Know that I was not angry with you for opening the Warding Box- I was angry with myself for witholding the truth from you and forcing you to seek out what I should have given to you. The words I spoke to you were from agger with myself, and it shames me to think of them now. I write this note as an apology, and to beg you to leave these secrets to history.

The next few days will be the most important I have faced in many years. If our family’s enemies have, as I hope, forgotten us, I shall reunite with you and your wife, and your mother and I shall reveal the truth to you. But if they still seek the contents of the Warding Box, I fear that I may not speak to you again. The box holds our family’s greatest treasure, so I have returned it to Kortun’s care, and it shall remain hidden in the secret vault below Brinewall Castle- obscured from our enemies. I hope and pray I will not grant our foes the satisfaction of killing me themselves- if it come to it, let my death,by my own hand, be my final act to protect you, so that our enemies beleive our line ended.

I have instructed Tsutamu to keep this letter from you, delivering it to you only should I fail to return as I hope too. If I can, I shall reveal all to you myself. If I cannot, this final missive from a father to a son must suffice as an apology in place of an explanation, and you must destroy this letter, flee to the south, and never return to Brinewall. If our enemies find what I have hidden, there will be nothing here for you. If they do not, they will lie in wait forever for your return.

I hope to see you again soon my son. But my heart tells me I will not. I am sorry to have failed you. But I am proud of you, and I know you will survive this old man’s shame. You are strong, and you must remain so. For if you are reading this and I am gone, know that our enemies will never stop searching for us, and that is why I cannot revela the truth to you until I know there is no chance of them finding us again."

Rokuro Kaijitsu
Sunday 29 May, 4687"

Slowly she put the letter down and left the room, and then came back in, counting each member of the group out 100 gp.

“I know you are curious but I don’t want to talk about this right now, and I need to think about what I have read. I will contact you in a day or so. My thanks.”

Dinald looked at her slyly as they walked out; he had certainly never seen Ameiko in a mood like this before.

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A Bad Dream (8th September 4711)
8th September 4711

Dinald woke up with a cold sweat, and then noticed that on the other cot Reynald was also sat bolt upright. Niska had been standing at the bottom of his bed-at least she was dressed like Niska, but her face was hidden in a deep hood, with just the glitter of her eyes shining outward. The only problem was that Niska had been dead for almost a year.

“You had the same dream didn’t you?” he asked. Reynald nodded.

Without further comment he got up, and even washed- unusual for him; Reynald did the same. Neither of them said anything- they were both thinking of the promise they had made to the old witch on her deathbed.

It was a cold morning- a taste of things to come as the summer finally waned. As they entered the Rusty Dragon there were no other customers other than a couple of fisherman having their breakfast. On one of the tables Ameiko was stood looking at a map, along with Shandru… and Koya.

“I’m getting a bad feeling about this” muttered Reynald. Amieko turned around.

“Ah the terrible twins – the scourge of goblinkind.” she said in that way of hers.

“I thought that was me?” This from the Elf Shaleelu, who had just come in from a side room gnawing a bacon sandwich.

“This gets odder and odder” thought Dinald. “Shaleelu isn’t often in town.”

“You can tell your friends I’ve reached a descision” said Ameiko. “I’m going to Brinewall to see what my grandfather was referring too. If I have enemies, and there is some great family secret, I’m not running from it.”

“By ship?” asked Reynald.

“You’re joking.” replied Ameiko. “The days when the Family maintained a small fleet are long gone-we just contract cargo space nowadays. And Brinewall is a ruin by all accounts- hardly a prime destination for a ship’s captain. No- I’m going overland.”

“Good morning Boys” grinned Sandru, flashing one of his brilliant smiles. Dinald knew he had to perfect one just like it. “I thought I’d do one last caravan run this season-there are a few settlements en route to Brinewall, and I might go a bit further and try to trade for some furs at some of the southerly Ulfen settlements and make a trek of it. Shaleelu and Koya will be coming too. Interested?”

The twins looked at one another and they didn’t need telepathy to know that the other was thinking exactly the same thing. “Shit.”

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Northward Ho!
13th September 4711

Dinald looked round from the seat of the Covered Wagon he was sat on, appraising his companions.

Ailukka had agreed straight away when Ameiko had mentioned the trip to her. “I wait for this” she said in her broken Taldean, “I wait many month, as you know.” He supposed that she was just friends with Ameiko.

Rasha too had a link with Koya he had not known about, and seemed quite friendly with Shadru also. Although he supposed that he should have known, Koya had acted as a sort of mother figure to Rasha when he was growing up, and so he too had agreed to come. Rasha was driving the Supply Wagon.

He wasn’t quite sure why Ungo had agreed to come, but Reynald had noticed that he seemed to want to say something to the Elf Shaeleelu, but had shied off several times. Shaeleelu was a strange one and didn’t exactly encourage company- surely Ungo didn’t have a crush on her? That would be too rich!

Gram unfortunately had not wished to come. “Ah’ve important business tae the sooth Laddie, and I’ve tarried here over long. But guid luck tae ye.” he had said. He had tried to convince him with some cock and bull story about a treasure and a mountain but it had fallen on deaf ears; in fact Gram had left town the very next day.

The Caravan itself consisted of four wagons. A fortune Teller’s Wagon carried Koya and was driven by Sandru, while their Supply Wagon was driven by Rasha of all people, with Ungo sat perched on the seat beside him. For their joint accomodation were two covered wagons driven by a pair of Varisian brothers named Beverlik and Vankor. Reynald and Dinald were seated in one of these, as was, theoretically, Shaleelu. Unfortunately she seemed to spend the majority of her time off scouting the trail or hunting to supplement their supplies, so it didn’t look as though he would get to know her as much as he’s like.

He was still curious about Ungo in this regard; it seemed to him very intriguing.

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The Moor Trail
15th September 4711

As the day drew to a close, Ailukka jumped down to stretch her legs and walked for a while. Tomorrow they would reach their first stop, the small town of Galduria. She had stopped here a while some months before-in fact she had travelled the moorland trail they were traversing also, though of course in the opposite direction.

Galduria was largely a forestry related settlement, which survived by transporting raw goods and supplies across Ember Lake. Here logs and raw timber would be transported by water or cart to be processed in its several sawmills, before being sent onwards across the lake and south along the Lampblack River. Grain was also a key element in its shipments.

It also hosted an arcane college, the Twilight Academy, which allegedly rivalled the larger colleges in Varisia, the Stone of the Seers in Magnimar, and Korvosa’s Acadamae. Anyway, that was tomorrow: there still lay another days tramp though the hill country, with its persistant dangers of bugbear tribes and bandit gangs.

She shook her head- she was not terribly impressed with the Varisian race as a whole from what she had seen. The few aquantances she had struck up were largely with outlanders like herself-even Ameiko, although raised in Varisia, still clung to many of the manners and attitudes of her Tiannese family, which Ailukka found somewhat more appealing and understandable.

However, the folk of Galduria were somewhat rougher and readier than the so -called sophisticated folk of Riddleport, Magnimar and Sandpoint, and she had found them somewhat easier to deal with.

First however, there was a river to contend with. With storm cloud visible in the west it looked like there might be heavy rain overnight, and so Sandru wanted to cross before making camp, in case it proved more of a problem the next day. She could see the ford from her current vantage point, with the ruins of some old homestead on the far side-no doubt some victim of the dangers which haunted this region. Gripping her staff, she tramped down towards the ford.

Ahead of her the first wagon was almost across, with Ragnar leading the horses from the front, when a slight movement caught her eye. Almost by reflex casting a protective spell on herself she saw Ragnar look round, and then heard shouts as a line of ragged looking men charged forward towards him, while a few archers shot arrows at the lead driver, wounding him until he scambled backwards among the cargo for cover. Behind her she heard more shouts as the wagons behind her also came under attack.

Striding down to the waters edge she fired her spells off att he archers as they now poured fire into Reynald, knocking his opponet down as his inept thrusts went wide of the mark.
On the opposite side of the wagon Rasha was shooting arrows at the bandits while Ungo and Ragnar took the brunt of the melee attacks, fortunately felling several. Retreating from three or four archers shooting arrows at him Reynald jumped onto the lead wagon and rushed to gee the horses forward-unfortunately pulling rather too hard, snapping one of the reins and falling sideways off the seat and into the ice cold water.

Back on the wagons Tamiko and Shandru made short work of the half dozen or so attackers who had approached from the rear, though a thrown spear at Vankor had led to a minor accident with the rear wagon, damaging one of the wheels and axle. After a short period of frenzied activity during which half a dozen bandits were felled, the remainder beat a hasty retreat off to the north.

Although there were several wounded Ailukka saw that fortunately all of the caravan party were still on their feet. Koya moved amongst the group seeing to their various wounds, while Sandru urged the wagons onwars over the ford to make camp before the darkness descended.

The rear wagon would probably need a new axle fitting, but for now the drivers and Sandru braced the axle with wooden splints and bolts, and hastily realigned the wheel. Driving painfully slowly they managed to get it across the ford.

A hundred yards past the ford they found an area which would make a suitable campsite. As the others set up Rasha looked around and saw a worn foot- trail leading off into the forest to the northeast. Following this with Ragnar they found a deserted campsite, with the remains of a fire several hours old.

Cautiously approaching the shell of an old stone cottage they heard indications of movement within, and on entering saw a young woman, her hair in dissarray and wearing a somewhat ragged and askew dress, cowering against the far wall. Her ankles were hobbled with a woven coil of stiff rope.

Although initially afraid, upon questioning by Reynald she revealed that her name was Alice, and that she had been taken from one of the farms surrounding Galduria. There were also a number of supplies which Sandru indicated they should ferry back to the wagons, as the goods were tradable- probably stolen from other caravans.

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Galduria
16th September 4711

As the afternoon drew on the land started to slope downwards towards the east, and the woodland started to thin out, affording an occasional glimpse of the vast grey sheet of water ahead of them- The Ember Lake.

As the woodland was cleared farms and smallholdings started to appear on either side of them-the logging community of Galduria was also renowned for its exports of grain which made their way both to the coast and southwards along the Lamp Black River. even through the thin grey mist and the light drizzle they could see that there was a fair amount of traffic upon the surface of the lake-both barges heading southwards and floating log rafts making their way towards the town from the various lumber camps located to the north and west. At the west gate they were directed northwards along the town boundary towards the Tinkers Camp- an area of ground near the northwest gate where several other merchants and wagons were encamped.

After settting up camp Sandru indicated that they would spend the next day here-both for trading and to undertake axle repairs on the damaged wagon: lumber was hardly in short supply here. Although Ailukka and Dinald would be wanted to assist with the trading, the others would have a day or so of free time on their hands. In any case the twins, Ungo, Rasha and Ragnar decided to seek out a suitable Tavern for the evening.

“This looks like a good place” said Dinald, looking up at the sign which read ‘The Damp Virgin’. And so it proved, although it seemed like Dinald spent much of the evening appeasing other customers who a very drunk Ungo seemed inclined to start a ruckus with.

As Ungo was finally poured out of the door a smallish looking man bumped into him, and scuttled off into the night.

Expecting the worst Ragnar laid a heavy hand onto the mans shoulder. “Excuse me friend, You seem to have taken something from my comrade here.” He indicated with his head towards an oblivious Ungo, who had his arms wrapped around Rasha’s leg (Rasha had mixed feelings about this, being a half elf) and had his eyes closed and was drooling steadily onto the floor.

“Who me Guv? Nah, I’m orf ‘ome to feed me poor kids with the few measly coins I’ve managed to make through an honest days toil.” smiled the man nervously, through a gap in his front teeth.

Checking Ungo’s purse Ragnar saw that it was in fact open, but actually still there. He had no idea how much coin Ungo actually had, though he had been spending it like water. He tossed the gold coins he had grabbed from the mans purse, and then reluctantly handed them back.

“Humm, well. I suppose these could actually be yours then.” he replied.

“Too true Guv, too true. I’ll be on me way then” said the man, shaking his head. “It’s a sad thing when an honest man gets accosted for going ’ome to feed ’is poor kids.” He scuttled off. Ungo noticed the incident not at all.

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