Adventures of Thorn
These are tales from a D&D 3.0 Campaign, some quotes are from actual gameplay, but 'poetic license' and retcon was applied to adjust the story. Please note that this page contains references to old images, links and maps that have not been imported to the Eradain Wiki.
There are 5 player characters in The Adventures of Thorn campaign, Elonan the mage, Roland Knight of the Horn, Noctem Priestess of Arawan, and the warriors Rhiannon and Adara. As a group they call themselves 'Thorn', the unique title they have selected for their Black Legion 'squad' name. The players have completed their Initiate training and are now Novices within the Legion (see structure). In addition to their personal goals (see player roster for history and motivations), they have a common one; to decide if they want to pay off their Legion training debt and leave it forever or consider a lifetime commitment. Should they wish to become Journeymen and full voting members of the Legion, squad Thorn will have to prove themselves to their Captains and the existing Journeymen.
Thorn has just completed its 'graduation' mission, and is expected to volunteer for a Legion mission or find their own contracts. The group informed Captain Kane that they wished to be assigned a mission by the Legion. Within a week word came to Captain Kane that the Knights of the Horn were in need of a few Legionnaires, and they specifically requested Roland as one of them. After the party was interviewed briefly by Knight Phalan, they were hired.
During the weeks in Medrius prior to the mission, Elonan began seriously researching the mysterious inscription found on the ring given him by his deceased master Menua (see Elonan's history on the Roster of Player Characters page). His researches led him to several tomes located at the local Temple of Lore, and he discovered that one of the books he sought, The Book of Dimma actually had belonged to Menua and was on loan to the Temple. Upon further inquiry, Elonan found that The Book of Dimma was out on loan (for a 2,000gp deposit) to another member of The Black Legion, a mage named Tamman. In order for Elonan to gain permanent ownership of The Book of Dimma, he would have to obtain verification from a lord or priest in the village of Orlane that he was Menua's heir. Until that time, Elonan has sent a message to Tamman, who is currently out on a mission at an unknown location...
- Greetings Tamman,
- My name is Elonan De'Dannan, also of The Black Legion. During some recent personal research, I was guided by Adrazan, a sage in Medrius, to seek answers in The Book of Dimma. this book is currently in your possession according to the Temple of Lore clerks, on loan from my uncle and master, the late Menua De'Dannan. I need to confirm if you are still in possession of the tome, and I also would like to continue my research as soon as it is possible.
- Respectfully, Elonan De'Dannan
Elonan now eagerly awaits a response from Tamman so he can continue to research his legacy.
The basis of the new mission is to aid the Knights escort a Danrae religious delegation into Southern Eradain, an area mostly dominated by the Angharad religion. The purpose of the delegation was to approach Angharad factions in the south to open up negotiations for a possible bride to young King Elcadan. A marriage between an Angharad of the old noble blood and the King might help reduce some of the long standing tensions between the Danrae and Angharad people of Eradain. The Delegation was to be composed of a High Priest of Odin named Nibradas, his wife Nimribeth a High Priestess of Frigga (both elderly), Abaran a Tyr Justicar (Paladin) and their retinue. On the appointed day the Delegation arrived escorted by Phalan, his second in command Nithur and five other Knights of the Horn. The High Priests and the Justicar rode in a four horse carriage, followed by a Knight of the Horn squire leading pack horses, and two wagons carrying baggage and the remaining retinue. Roland knew all the other Knights and would have welcomed their presence, except for Nithur. Nithur has always despised Roland's 'peasant' background and resented the fact that he was 'given' entrance to the Knights of the Horn (see Roland's history on the Roster of Player Characters page).
Escort the Delegation Wealsun (June) 25th
Their first goal was the closest village south of Medrius, called Buckhorn. Buckhorn was to be a stopping off point for the Delegation to ferry across the Sinann River and visit the Temple of Silvanus during the midsummer holy week of Litha. The party was to ride in advance of the delegation, look for potential trouble, and bear official notice that the delegation was due to arrive.
On the way to Buckhorn, the party encountered some peasant farmers who had their wagon forcibly moved from the road and overturned by one of Duke Abromo's war bands. The farmers were fearful of yet another armed group descending upon them, but were reassured when Thorn assisted them to right their wagon. When the party arrived in Buckhorn, they came upon the very same war band being refused entrance into Lord Gwaddry's fortress. After Abromo's war band left to go occupy the only open Inn in town, the party discovered that Lord Gwaddry was away fighting goblins. Rather than deliver the notices about the delegation to a gate guard, Thorn decided to await Lord Gwaddry's return. Without being granted permission to stay in the ward or stables of the fortress, the party also went to the village's only inn for food and lodgings.
Abromo's war band, dressed in their lords colors of silver and black, occupied most of the space available in the tavern, and left no room in the inn. At first they were a little rude, and a few made comments about the female warriors Adara and Rhiannon, but a sharp word from their sergeant quickly ended that and the night passed in peace. The Abromo's war band was on its way to Tilith to deliver dispatches to the ongoing Council of Southern Lords. They were passing through Duke Eldrick's territory because the feud between Duke Abromo and Duke Argan had flared up again and they could not use the Eastern Road.
The next day Thorn delivered its messages to the returned Lord Gwaddry, and helped make ready for the delegations arrival. The day after the delegation arrived the party escorted them across the Sinann River to the edges of the Temple of Silvanus' territory. Noctem, being a Priestess of Arawan, was invited to come to the Temple to celebrate Litha with her brethren. Before the party departed back to Buckhorn, Phalan ordered them to assist Lord Gwaddry with his goblin problem. They were to be sure there was no danger to the delegation from the goblins and that the upcoming festival went smoothly in Buckhorn.
Tracking the Goblins
After discussing the goblins with Lord Gwaddry, the party headed to the farms just north of Buckhorn, near the Bronze Hills and the Shambler Fens. According to Lord Gwaddry, the goblins had only been a nuisance so far and there had been no deaths. He said that the fens were the normal haunt of the goblins, but for some reason they had began raiding his farms and livestock. Upon arrival at the farms the party found help and information with the very same farmers they had assisted on the road before.
- "Don't really know why those thieving' little goblins are plaguing us now, but if there is something goin on in the fens or the hills then old man Amze would know bout it..."
The party was given a vague description of how to find the old hermits home, and set out looking for it the next day. The directions turned out to be accurate and they located the old man. After giving him some assistance with a wounded foot and chopping some wood, the slightly senile old man gave Thorn directions to where the goblins of Shambler Fen usually were to be found. Upon arriving at the place Amze indicated Thorn found the goblins camp had been raided and all the goblins killed or driven off by sword, axe, spear and bow. Probably looted by the raiders, and later by the surviving goblins, nothing much remained within the camp.
The Secret Stockade
Curious as to who had slain the goblins, the party decided to track the raiders. Adara, a skilled tracker, led the way north through the fens. They discovered a small wooden stockade being built by workers and fighters that did not act like bandits but also wore no lords colors. Even more curious as to who these fighters were the party decided to find out more. Elonan cast a spell of invisibility upon Rhiannon, the best scout the party had with Noctem gone, and she set out to infiltrate the stockade. Carefully avoiding the busy workers, Rhiannon searched through several of the tents and found a shield. The shields leather covering had been slashed in battle, and underneath was the twin silver sword symbol of Duke Abromo. When Rhiannon returned, the party decided not to take further action and quickly carry word back to Lord Gwaddry.
Return to Buckhorn Richfest, 5th day of Litha Festival
The party returned to Buckhorn without incident, having missed most of festival, but in time to meet the delegation the next day. Lord Gwaddry was gratified to hear that the goblins would no longer be much of a problem, but was somewhat alarmed to hear about an armed camp within his demise. He immediately sent a messenger to Duke Eldrick, thanked the party for their assistance and offered to let them feast in his hall that night.
While the delegation prepared to travel to Tilith, Phalan ordered the party to ride out a day ahead, once again to scout out any possible danger. After camping for the night, they were to return to meet the delegation on the road, cover the back trail and rejoin them that night. Roland, fell in with his brother Knights on guard duty, and early that evening during his watch he heard horses galloping up the road from the south. After sending warning to the camp he remained on the road to see who was approaching. It turned out to be three Green Riders (messengers traditionally granted neutral passage), who upon discovering the nature of the camp ahead, asked leave to stay the night.
News of War
Richfest, last day of Litha Festival
The news the Green Riders carried north was war. Forces of Haradan had advanced north from Hurloon in a surprise attack. Lord Velruz of The Keep was besieged and Greensward had been overwhelmed with little resistance. Haradan regulars and slave raiders had moved as far north as the Ann River before the Eradain lords had rallied. After hearing this disturbing news it was announced that the delegation would set out early on the morrow to make Tilith in one day instead of two. Nibradas, Nimribeth, Abaran, and Phalan held a discussion long into the night, while Roland relieved nightmares from his past and worried about his family at the village Gealand, a half a days ride from Greensward...
Haradan Attacks the South
Haradan was the empire south of Eradain. It is a theocracy, ruled over by a high priest rumored to be the actual Avatar of Kakatal the Fire Lord. Haradan is a hard land of slavery where Kakatal's fire priests are sanctioned to find heretics and sacrifice them to the flames of the one true god. Because of the poor and overworked soil of Haradan, the two countries have warred for centuries over the rich farmlands south of the Ann River. When not openly at war, slavers from Haradan will often raid into Eradain, thus even peacetime are often not safe. Ironically because of the warfare and other troubles, much of those rich lands lay fallow and most of its produce is used to support the war bands. Lord Velruz of The Keep is the first line of defense for Eradain, and several times in the past The keep was the only reason Eradain had managed to maintain control of the region.
No one in the camp managed much sleep that night and the wake up call came well before first light. Even so, the dedicated Green Riders were in the saddle and gone before the first tent was struck or the fires stoked for a hasty breakfast. Once one the move, Phalan dropped back to Roland and the two of them began to discuss Roland's family. Phalan had remembered where Roland was from, and pledged he would find a way for Roland to get aid to them. The ride was a long one, lasting well into the second hour after dark.
When the delegation arrived at Tilith, the gates were shut but well lit by torches and Duke Tor's soldiers could be seen patrolling the battlements. Phalan rode forth and after establishing his identity, impressed upon the gate guard how much better his head looked upon his body, rather than upon whatever pike Duke Tor would put it on if the gates were not opened. Soon the delegation was led inside, and the chastised guard informed Phalan that martial law had been declared in the city. The streets were to remain clear until dawn and the gates barred, if it hadn't been known Knights of the Horn seeking entry they would have remained outside till the morn. Several guards escorted the delegation to the compound of the Knights so the city watch would not deter them. After a little confusion in the courtyard, Phalan came over to the party.
- "I'm sorry Roland, with the delegation here and all the Knights that had been recalled, there no room for your comrades here." Then he said with a slight wink, "If I remember correctly the Inn of the Raven is nearby. Just be here at first light tomorrow."
Inn of the Raven
The Inn of the Raven was known to be owned by The Black Legion and Thorn headed to it eager to see an end to the long day. After arriving at the inn and making sure their horses were taken care of they met the inn keeper, Thorvas. Thorvas greeted Thorn warmly as a retired Journeyman of the Legion. The inn was fairly busy and Thorvas joked with the party about having to evict someone to make room for them. After having them served a round of ale on the house, Thorvas said he had to take care of some business, but would return to speak with them later. In the meantime their meals would be prepared. A short time later, Thorvas could be seen escorting a grumpy and rumpled peddler down the stair and into the common sleeping area off the tavern proper. Thorvas later shared a chuckle with the group over the way the peddler's sleepy complaints turned into nods of agreement when Thorvas offered him free meal and lodging for the night.
Thorvas reminded Thorn that should they need to send or receive messages or make any deposits to their Legion accounts they could do so here. Over another round of ale the group exchanged information about the current conflict. The only new information Thorvas had was that Haradan was definitely using Greensward as a staging area for their advance north. Roland told Thorvas of his brother Kantlon and his two sisters in Gealand, but Thorvas had no information about any refugees from behind the lines. Roland then gave Thorvas some gold and asked him to take care of any of his family that came to the Inn of the Raven and asked for him. Thorvas nodded solemnly, then showed them to their rooms upstairs.
Knights of the Horn
The next dawn found Thorn at the gates of the Knights compound. Soon Phalan appeared and told them that today preparations would be made for the main body of Knights to set out. Elonan had skill in leather working and so was sent to assist the armorers, the rest of the party helped with weapons duty and packing. That evening before they left for the day Phalan had a meeting with Thorn.
- "All right here's the plan for now. Nithur and the delegation will remain here. Tomorrow we will take a two day trip to the Order of Sif to bring word that the supplies we prepared today are on the way. We will stay there outside the walls as is their tradition, that is, except for you ladies," he said with a slight bow in the direction of Rhiannon, Adara and Noctem. "The next morning ten Warriors of the Order will travel with us to Sagamon, where I will make arrangements for the Knights arrival with Lords Benegris and Sorenson. Roland, after I have met with them, I'll have a better idea of what we can do to help your family."
At hearing they were to go to Sagamon, Noctem turned ashen and asked in a strained voice if any Fire Mages were involved in the offensive. With a slightly puzzled look, Phalan told her that there was likely to be both Fire Priests and Mages with the Haradan forces....
March Toward War
Reaping (July), 6th
Phalan and the members of Thorn arrived at Sagamon on the evening of the sixth. The whole village was filled to overflowing with warriors of Eradain. The bulk of the forces were wearing the blue and white of Sagamon and the green and black of Tilith with a contingent of lancers from Galt and priest-warriors from the Knights of the Horn and the Order of Sif. Phalan found a place for the group to camp and headed for the command pavilion in the center of town. Phalan returned early the next morning, having obviously not slept.
- "Thorn, here's what I've learned. Another Black Legion member, the scout Raven reported in late last night. Raven has discovered that the Haradan forces at the Eastern Road ford are composed of mostly irregulars, probably conscripts, and they are not as heavily armed and armored nor likely as experienced as Duke Argan's war band or the Tempus Knights stationed there. They are planning a thrust across the ford sometime in the next three or four days. The bulk of our forces here at Sagamon will make several feints to keep em busy so they don't send reinforcements. Raven also discovered a slave raider stockade in the woods south of Galt. She estimated their numbers around 50 or so, half of which ride patrol during the day watching the river and raiding the small farms in the area for prisoners. I've volunteered us to make a raid on that stockade. We are to either stop messengers passing through or flat out take the stockade. Either way we need to bottle em up so they can't go to the aid of their forces in the east. After that is accomplished well see what we can do about getting to Gealand."
After refreshing their supplies, the party traveled along the Ann River Road toward Galt to a section of the river that could be crossed with the horses. They camped out of sight in a small stand of trees until nightfall and began and then sent Noctem to scout across the river. After checking for any hidden sentries she gave the all clear sign. The group had almost completed its crossing, when Noctem's sharp hearing picked up the sound of horses galloping toward them from the east. Noctem warned those on the bank and the the remainder of the group quickly completed the crossing then got their mounts to lay down in the tall grass at the edge of the river. Fortunately the riders, probably a patrol looking for large armed forces, did not even slow as they passed the hidden group. After they were long gone, Thorn regrouped and moved south to the woods. Once among the trees, Noctem once again took point and searched for a place they could remain hidden the remainder of the night. The next morning Phalan ordered Noctem and Rhiannon out to scout.
- "You need to find their main camp and the trails they use in this wood. If possible, locate their sentries and get a rough count of how many men and horses they have. If for some reason you get spotted try to lead em away from where the rest of us are camped, and either rejoin us later or head to Galt."
The two elves nodded and grinned at each other as they trotted off into the forest, bows in hand. They returned late that afternoon with good news. They had found the slaver's stockade and there were only two sentries who didn't even patrol the woods just the small road to the fort. They had been unable to get a count of the forces within, but they did find a sheltered place nearby that the whole party could camp and near a place where a watch could be set on the fort. The group changed campsites and spent the rest of the day and night observing the slavers.
The Raider Stockade
The stockade was composed of logs and was some 60x100 feet in size the walls were 10 to 15 feet high and had archer platforms at each of the four corners. Within the structure was enclosures for the horses and a cage/pen area for the slaves. In the center of the compound was a 30x30 building also with an archer platform. In addition to the two sentries out on the road, there were at least five archers on watch at all times. The only entrance to the place was through the front double doors that were secured by a strong-arm. According to the information that Raven supplied, the slavers were following a normal routine, a large mounted force would leave in the morning and return late in the afternoon, sometimes with prisoners. Phalan told the members of Thorn to come up with ideas for raiding the place. After some discussion, Phalan raised his hand for silence.
- "Here's what we're going to do, in the morning we're going to split up, each group needs to be in a place where we can see the sentries and also the fort. That will be the first task for Noctem and Rhiannon right after we're done here. You two keep in mind that Roland and I are wearing a lot of noisy shiny armor. Then we'll wait for the raiders to leave...."
Phalan went on to sketch together a battle plan based on the best ideas from the discussion.
The whole group had been keeping odd hours and doing with less sleep since news of war first hit over a week ago, add to that the stress of being behind enemy lines and for Roland, worry about his family. But the members of Thorn were hard from their first mission. They had spent weeks in the saddle pursuing bandits that had taken up kidnapping. And in the final showdown Thorn had taken up a night attack on the stone fortress the bandits were using as a base. Phalan himself was in his prime with enough experience to be third in command of the Knights of the Horn. Since the Knights of the Horn have often fought in border wars with Haradan and their slave raiders, both Roland and Phalan knew the raiders would be only marginally better than bandits in a fight. Thorn knew they would be capable of taking on odds of four to one with the magic capabilities of their spell-casters and the fighting skill of Rhiannon and Adara.
Attack on the Raiders Stockade
Reaping (July) the 9th
Before dawn on the 9th, they got the horses saddled and ready to ride in case they needed to retreat and split up, each group giving the other a thumbs up for luck before departing. Phalan, Rhiannon and Elonan headed toward the sentry in the west and Roland, Noctem and Adara would take the east. They waited in position in darkness while the sun rose, everything went smoothly even during the tense moments during the changing of the guard. After the guard changed the stockade filled with activity, food was cooked and eaten and a group of raiders formed up on horseback in front of the fort. With a wave, their leader led twenty-five raiders out on the road east. This caused a little concern since Thorn's orders because they were to try and interfere with any warriors going east, but they couldn't take on the whole fort and were already committed to assaulting it. At the prearranged time, Noctem and Rhiannon began moving in on the sentries. Nearly simultaneously Phalan and Roland cast a spell of silence on each sentry. The western sentry went down with Rhiannon's arrows in his back and the eastern with Noctem's blade across his throat. While they were in action, Adara and Elonan acted as backup and kept a watch on the fort.
After dragging the bodies out of sight, Noctem and Rhiannon donned the cloaks and hats of the sentries and began to move in toward the stockade. As they went out into the clearing around the fort seeking to get as good a shot as possible on the archer guards, Phalan cast a prayer to Heimdal for his aid in battle. Rhiannon and Noctem waited until the first guard hailed them in Haradan, then turned and fired. A moment later Elonan's magic missiles streaked forth and together they slew two of the archers. Noctem and Rhiannon continued to shoot cover fire while the rest of the party charged out from the woods, and they were half way to the fort before the defending slavers fired a couple of hasty shots in return. Phalan ordered Rhiannon and Adara on his flank with Roland behind and Elonan and Noctem bringing up the rear. As they had planned Phalan, Rhiannon and Adara (being the best warriors) would take on the bulk of the melee, Roland was to watch for enemy spell casters and give the three in front support if they needed it. Noctem and Elonan would use spells and arrows try and keep knocking out the archers. As they made the gate, Phalan signaled Roland who then raised his holy symbol horn to his lips and let out a clarion call. Phalan drew his two-handed sword, raised his hand to the main doors of the fort and shouted.
- "In the name of Heimdal, I command ye to open the way before me!"
With a thunk and a thud, followed by the the curses of the Haradan slavers behind the wall the strong-arm bar flew off and the gates started swinging open. Roland began a battle chant to further invoke Heimdal's favor in battle.
Immediatly jumping into the gap, Phalan cut down the first raider he saw. Rhiannon and Adara were snagged up behind the doors and the slavers tried to push the gates back closed. Rhiannon, stronger than any normal human was forcing her gate opened, but Adara had two pushing against her. Seeing her struggle, Roland charged in to lend his strength and Noctem cast a spell that warped and weakened the wood where the hinges attached. With a great crack the door broke inward, narrowly missing the two shocked raiders behind it. Now clear of the gate heavy fighting ensued. Noctem and Elonan managed to take out the archer on the central building, just as a second one appeared. Up front the superior skills of the fighters was making quick work of the defenders as raider after raider dropped. After a few vicious exchanges one of the slavers leaders was killed by Rhiannon and the other severely wounded by Phalan. In their efforts to kill the leaders, both Phalan and Rhiannon sustained wounds and on cue Roland ceased his battle-chant and cast healing magic upon Rhiannon. The slavers remaining leader, wounded and desperate, called a retreat back to the main building. However the moral of the raiders had cracked and they were unorganized. They were unable to get the inner door closed before Phalan and Roland (now in the lead) mowed into them. Roland seemed inspired and in two powerful maneuvers with his two-handed sword nearly decapitated one of the raiders before stepping into the dim inner building. Within a few more moments the last of the slavers inside was killed and the mopping up finished in the yard. Thorn, bloody and tired had won through without casualties, and went to work on the second part of their plan.
After freeing the prisoners, and tending wounds with bandages and magic, Phalan and the members of Thorn discussed their next course of action. The could leave here and get to safety with the prisoners, or they could rest here and attempt to ambush the remaining raiders when they returned. Faced with having to repeat the battle they had just fought again they decided to stay. Rhiannon stayed on watch while Adara organized, reinforcing the gate and clearing the yard of the dead while the spell casters meditated or prayed to gain back valuable spells used during the battle.
About two hours later, a mage dressed in the colors of Haradan flew over the gate and dropped into the horse pen, totally surprising Rhiannon who had been watching the roads. It quickly became apparent that the mage was trying to steal a horse. Foul luck again struck as Rhiannon's bowstring broke just as she was trying to shoot at the mage. Adara, finally seeing the danger Rhiannon was yelling about charged the mage just as he was leading a horse out through the fence. Her blow stuck the mage in what should have been a killing blow, but the blade just bounced off as if she had struck stone, shivering her weapon. With a curse in Haradan, the mage almost negligently gestured and enveloped Adara in a sheet of flame and she reeled backward to the ground. With Rhiannon considering jumping from her platform and Noctem screaming
- "FIRE MAGE! FIRE MAGE!"
The Haradan mounted upon the horse bare-backed and went for the gate. The rest of the party was filing out into the yard trying to make sense of the yelling when Elonan and the the enemy mage both began casting spells. A moment later the bar was flung to the ground and once again the gates opened by magic. No sooner did the mage slap his mount away from the gate than Elonan's spell completed and completely filled the gate with magical trapping webs. Alas, the mage had slipped past and was on the road galloping west. For a moment the only thing that could be heard was the cursing and spluttering of Elonan over the near miss, then Noctem sang out.
- "Guys! There's a large group of riders coming in from the east!"
Moans and curses erupted from the group as they scrambled to prepare for this new threat. Phalan wearily drew his two-handed sword and addressed the group.
- "Steady now, we were afraid something like this might happen. Roland, see what you can do about Adara's burns. Elonan get the prisoners out of the yard. Rhiannon, get yer bow fixed to help Noctem with arrow cover, that web wont hold em away long."
Too quickly the sound of approaching horses could be heard by those within the stockade. Noctem called out in warning and fired a quick shot as riders erupted into the clearing from the eastern road. With precision the riders fanned out in front of the stockade, weapons at the ready. Phalan called up to Noctem.
- "How many are they? What colors are they wearing!?"
- "Thirty riders! Twenty in chain, ten in leather! They wear the flaming hammer of Tempus!"
Just then a powerful voice rang out from the riders,
- "Throw down your weapons and surrender or you will all be put to the sword!"
There was a brief pause, then Phalan breathed a sigh of relief, and called out.
- "Alkamar! I'd know that voice anywhere! This is Phalan of the Knights of the Horn! We've already secured this stockade from the enemy!"
The voice outside shouted again,
- "Show yourselves, so we know this is no trick!"
At a signal from Phalan, Elonan gestured and released the magic of the web spell blocking the gate. As soon as the way was clear, three Tempus Knights rode into the yard looked about and then called all clear to the remainder of their band. The party could see that all the riders were worn from the road, and had been in battle that day. Many bore wounds and wore hastily donned bandages. Alkamar, the leader of the Tempus Knights rode in and with a glance at the members of Thorn, he looked to Phalan.
- "Phalan, good to see your "knights" have things in hand here. We're in pursuit of a fire mage that headed this way, have you seen him?"
This brought a fresh string of curses from Elonan, which made Alkamar raise an eyebrow his direction. Phalan waved Elonan to silence and replied.
- "Aye, just moments ago he flew in, burned one of my guards and escaped on a fresh horse."
Now it was Alkamar who was cursing.
- "I knew his fly spell was running out."
He spat on the ground.
- "Well, no use chasing him now, our horses are all done in. We chewed up the raider band he was leading, but we're tired from the fight and the chase. Can we make use of your fort to rest?"
There is no love between the Tempus Knights and the Knights of the Horn, but when in battle against a common enemy the two sects, like all the other battle priests of the Danrae, work together. The Tempus Knights dismounted and started caring for their animals while Phalan and Alkamar discussed what needed to be done. Soon a messenger was dispatched to the eastern forces and scouts were selected to watch the roads. After setting watches and preparing meals for the troops, the Eradain forces bedded down for the night. Members of Thorn, having had more rest then the Tempus Knights were to take the last watches. Early that morning well before first light Elonan woke the other members of the group.
- "Come, up to the archer platform, you all should see this..."
The party joined the other sentries with Phalan and Alkamar on the deck above the inner stockade building. Flashes of light could be seen in the west, followed by soft thumps. After a little discussion, they came to the conclusion that those were fireballs in the vicinity of Sagamon.... The two Knight leaders conferred briefly and decided to hold their position and continue to block enemy messengers and send scouts west in the morning.
At first light two riders were sent west to try and determine what had occurred that night. A scant two hours later they returned with five weary riders in tow. One Knight of the Horn and four soldiers, worn from a night fighting and in the saddle were escorted through the gates. Members of Thorn arrived in time to hear part of the report the Knight of the Horn was giving to Phalan.
- "We'd been following the diversion plan for days now, but someone forgot to give us contingency orders for what to do if the enemy actually made an assault against us.... While we were making one of our diversionary maneuvers, our forces were out of position and they struck. They had to have inside information to our plans, because they hit key places along our lines. I'm certain that some of our command tents were struck by multiple fireballs. I think many of our units have been split up. When I tried to get the men in my area back to Sagamon we ran into Haradan regulars between us and the ford. In the confusion and fighting I only managed to round up these men. We decided to head east and try cross the Anne north of here...."
After more meetings and plans, Phalan approached the members of Thorn.
- "I'm sorry Roland, with all that's occurred, I can no longer continue on with you to Gealand. I need head to Sagamon as soon as possible, especially if any of the commanders have been killed."
Phalan is one of the Knights of the Horn most experienced commanders.
- "I'll be taking the civilians and the soldiers that came in this morning and I'm going to have to leave you nominally under the command of Alkamar as long as you remain here. I suggest you make your move toward Gealand tonight. Hopefully the Haradan forces from the eastern ford to Greensward will still be in disarray."
While allowing a few hours of rest for the men from Sagamon, Phalan and Roland discussed ideas for Thorn's push to Gealand. Later the members of Thorn said their goodbyes to Phalan and they made plans to try and gather together again in Sagamon or Tilith.
Not long after Phalan rides out, Alkamar approaches Roland.
- "I'll be needing your group to do some scouting this afternoon. I want you to scout the perimeter of the woods to the south, keeping an eye out for enemy activity. I know yer wantin to leave tonight, so wrap up your patrol a couple of hours before dark so you can get some rest."
The members of Thorn headed out of the stockade on foot about noon, making a zig zag patrol and trying to observe enemy troop movement on the Easter Road each time they hit the southern limit of the wood. They settled into their regular march order without comment. Noctem took the lead a good thirty yards ahead of the rest of the party, followed by Adara, then Roland and Elonan and finally Rhiannon bringing up the rear.
The patrol passed uneventfully for several hours when suddenly Elonan seemed to take a leaping fall into some nearby bushes. Roland moved over to see what he was up to and discovered Elonan had been hit by a massive crossbow bolt! Seeing the severity of the wound, he yelled out a quick warning and began casting a heal spell. Noctem raced back to join the rest of the group and they all drew weapons and began scanning for the source of the danger. Noctem fired in the direction she thought the foe might be, hoping to make the enemy reveal themselves.
Before Roland could complete his healing magic another massive bolt ripped through the undergrowth from the north-west and struck him in the back interrupting his healing magic. Cursing, he changed tactics and started dragging Elonan deeper into cover. Noctem was able to narrow down the position of the foe and shouted directions to the others in the group while launching her second arrow. With Noctem's directions Adara and Rhiannon began moving to face the danger, Rhiannon swinging wide to the left and Adara to the right.
As Adara charged around a tree closer to her target, movement in the bushes resolved itself into a crouched Minotaur covered in camouflage pointing a huge crossbow directly at her. She checked her movement and got back behind the tree just in time as the bolt buried itself deeply into wood right where her head had just been. Now finally seeing the Minotaur fully Adara realized it must be a Hurloon mercenary. This was one of the most fearsome opponents this group had yet faced. Noctem dropped her bow and began incanting a spell to call upon the plants of the forest to entangle the beast. Roland successfully cast the healing magic of Heimdal and withdrew the massive bolt from Elonan's back.
Adara sprang forward as the Minotaur attempted to reload its great crossbow, almost simultaneously the bushes and trees began waving about from Noctem's magic, entwining the Minotaur. Adara's slash bounced harmlessly off the signature gray scale mail these mercenary Minotaur wore. With a bellow the Minotaur discarded its fouled crossbow and drew out its axe, ripping and tearing the plants around it as it stood to its full 8' height. Roland, now sure that Elonan was recovering started scanning all about the rear of the party for any additional foes lurking in the wood. Rhiannon continued to circle to the left also seeking any other enemies.
Even hampered as it was, Adara had trouble doing any damage to the Minotaur, its scale armor protecting its already tough hide. The beast struck, severely renting Adara's mail and staggering her. Noctem fired her bow, aiming high so as not to hit Adara and scored a shot to the Minotaur's thick neck. Elonan, now shakily getting to his feet waved Roland back to the battle saying he would watch the rear. Roland moved back around the bush to where he could see the battle more clearly.
After the last blow Adara took the Minotaur had the upper hand and again severely wounded her. This time she was able to get in a minor slash and follow through with her morning star, these blows preventing it from breaking any further free of the entangling shrubs. Noctem was able to score another shot, embedding an arrow at the joint of head and horn. Elonan, now fully recovered and sure that no enemies were going to fall on the party from behind moved out of cover toward the battle. Rhiannon also had found no additional foes and tried to come upon the Minotaur's flank, only to be blocked by the still wildly whipping and twining undergrowth.
Adara now becoming weak from fatigue and blood loss was unable to parry the Minotaur's next blow completely and was struck in the head, causing her to collapse in a heap at its feet. Roland, seeing Adara dropped and the Minotaur breaking free of the entangling plants stopped casting mid-spell and charged the Minotaur. Elonan incanted and cast a magic missile, purple bolts of force scoring burning holes in the beasts hide. Noctem fired two more shot, both missing in the confusion of battle. Rhiannon continued to circle wide around the effects of Noctem's entangle spell back toward the battle. Like a bull himself, Roland charged the Minotaur ducking his head down to hit it in the stomach at full speed with all the weight of his plate mail armor behind him. The Minotaur even though fully enraged and becoming desperate to escape was totally taken off guard by this and was knocked back into the entangling plants.
Roland, because of his magic ring was unhampered by the entangling plants and drew his two handed sword. Elonan once again cast a magic missile spell and Noctem scored another shot to the Minotaur's chest. The Minotaur made one last attempt to break free, but to no avail as Roland's two handed sword slash ripped through the beasts armor mortally wounding it.
Behind Enemy Lines
After tending Adara's wounds the party put together a makeshift stretcher for her and headed back to the palisade, cutting short the rest of their patrol. They reported their findings to Alkamar and rested until the mid of night then set out on their intended path for Gealand despite Adara still not being totally recovered from the fight with the Minotaur. She had recovered enough to be able to ride and it was decided that should they encounter an enemy force that they would flee instead of seeking battle.
Thorn struck south out of the woods and into low rolling hills and grassland, turning more easterly after about five miles. Riding with only starlight to see by and straining to keep quite lest they run into a Haradan patrol severely reduced their speed, but they needed to cross the eastern road and take cover in the hills before daylight. As they neared the eastern road, the party dismounted and slowly walked their horses taking what cover was available. The road was busy, forces were on the move even at this hour as could be seen by the torches weaving along the road in the darkness. Thorn settled in to wait for an opportunity to cross, waiting for Luna to set, but worried they may get caught by sunrise on the wrong side of the road. Luck was with them and not long after the larger moon set the road cleared of enemy soldiers. Hastily they made their way across the road, the approaching dawn no longer allowing them the luxury of a stealthy pace. All went well and the members of Thorn were able to make it into the cover of the hills as first light began to gray the skies. The whole party was worn from the patrol yesterday afternoon and the stress of moving silently for so many miles in darkness.
Once the group was deep enough into the hills, Rhiannon and Noctem split up to look for a suitable campsite. They soon settled on a location, there was no water, but it was uphill and screened by trees from the path they had followed into the hills. They dared not risk a fire to attract any attention so they broke their morning fast on biscuits and jerked beef then discussed plans before bedding down for some rest.
Waking the Camp
Hours later, during her watch, Noctem quietly awakens the members of Thorn giving each the signal to be silent.
- "There's movement on the hillside above us. Make weapons ready, but be silent, the longer they don't know we know they are there.... I'll try and scout out who and how many we're facing, but I'm guessing at least ten and they are dam quiet whoever they are. Be ready to back me up."
Swiftly and silently Noctem disappeared into the undergrowth, while the rest of the group tensed to spring into action. Noctem ghosted along, picking her path with care for the best cover in the bright morning light. Rounding a corner she suddenly came face to face with a human moving equally stealthily toward her camp! Noctem fumbled with her arrow at the same time the human nearly dropped his spear in surprise. For a tense moment the pair surveyed each other, black leather clad elf and tartan wearing human, before he spoke in bad Elven.
- "You not Harad. You elf."
Easing back on her bow and attempting a non-chalant attitude after being surprised, Noctem spoke in Eradnian.
- "Aye, I'm here ta fight the Harad. Better tell yer boys up the hill there ta back off before things get ugly."
The Angharad clansmen lowered his spear.
- "What do you mean my boys up the hill?"
- "I mean the 12 men who are about 20 yards uphill from my camp thinking they are bein sneaky. I mean the 12 men who just might find out too late that everyone in the camp isn't Harad and are definitely awake and armed."
- "Och, I should know better than ta try n' fool an elf."
A short time later, after both sides have given the all clear signal, the two groups sit at Thorn's campsite exchanging information. The humans are a group of Angharad hill clansmen who have gathered together to fight against the Harad. Their total fighters number only about 50 or so, but they have been keeping the Haradan regulars from wandering too deeply into the hills with hit and run ambushes. The leader of this group offers to take Thorn to their main base deeper in the hills to see if the resistance leader Laerna will aid their cause. Wearily the members of Thorn once again cut short their rest and packed up camp. Seven or eight miles of tough terrain later the party enters the hidden glade where the Angharad fighters are based.
After hearing Roland's tale and Thorn's goal to rescue family, Laerna and the other Angharad warriors are willing to give aid. Ten fighters volunteer to guide Thorn help out however they can. Laerna quietly warns Thorn,
- "Just remember these boys are farmers and hunters, not professional swords-men. Try to get em back in one piece."
After getting enough rest, the party with the ten Angharad clansmen set off for a long ride into the afternoon and night to get into position to approach Gealand. Except for slow going in the darkness, the trip to the edge of the hills near Gealand was uneventful. In the shelter of a gully the group rested and made what plans they could until night fell again, observing what they could of the village still a good three miles away. From what they could ascertain, the majority of Harad soldiers were stationed at the meeting hall on the southern end of town. It was difficult to tell, but it looked as if the majority of the villagers were still in town and had not been hauled away by slavers. During the day a group of mounted soldiers escorted people from the village out to the farms to work and except for the soldiers the scene looked pretty normal.
Reaping (July) 12th
In the dead of night, Thorn along with nine of the resistance fighters crept toward Gealand. They planned on leaving the resistance fighters just outside of the village while going to the hut of Roland's family, in the hopes that Kantlon and the rest could be gotten out right away. Luck was not with Thorn. After a surprised and joyful reunion and much explanations, it was found that the slavers were striking the more isolated small villages south of the Ann River, but in the small villages around Greensward the Harad seemed to be digging in.
The people were treated little better than slaves and were being forced to work and provide food for the invading army. Already some had been killed or taken off in chains, but only a few so far. To make matters worse the Harad soldiers had hostages at the main meeting hall they were using as a barracks. Many of the young girls of the village were held there to cook and "serve" the soldiers, including two of Roland's sisters.
No question remained to the group about getting only Roland's family out. The abuse of the hostages, and what might happen to the people in the village after an attack was just too much. After more plans, the group agreed that the best time to make an assault was during the day. With a large group of soldiers out guarding the workers in the fields and the night sentries asleep, it seemed the best time to make a rescue attempt. Kantlon will pass the word to the other villagers he trusts, and seven of the Angharad fighters are sent out to guard the road toward Greensward. Their primary duty is to stop any fleeing Harad soldiers or messengers if possible, and warn the rest of the group if any reinforcements are coming in. All is prepared, and the next morning after the guards and villagers leave for the fields, Thorn goes into action....
Attack on Gealand - Journal of Elonan
Reaping (July) 12th Cont.
Continuation of our story from the Journal of Elonan....
- Elonan De'Dannan... who might have finally figured out that mages do not attack Orcs and such with daggers, and to not commit an offensive act the round after casting invisibility....
- Roland.... devout cleric of Heimdal in full plate mail and two handed sword...the very same sword with which he could not hit the ground if he dropped it....
- Rhiannon... affectionately known as the Elven blender, her blades gleaming and spinning in the light must look somewhat like a blade spirit in battle...though she does have a tendency to get in the way of Roland's spiritual hammer....
- Adara.... the half-Elven warrior, with a mace that seems to be only too capable of crushing the skulls of the foe...to bad the long sword she wields in the primary hand seems only for decoration... she also seems to be constantly tripping over the Elven blender after she gets clubbed senseless from the aforementioned spiritual hammer.....
- Noctem.... Priestess of Arawan the Hunter, whom is always there to aid the group in time of need with her healing powers, but I am sure wishes she kept her old crossbow instead of a bow, that way she would only miss one shot per round...Noctem also has the misfortune of finding most traps by triggering them (ooof)....
The intrepid group of adventurers are deep behind enemy lines attempting to rescue the family of Roland from the clutches of the evil forces of Harad. While attempting to storm the main hall where hostages in the village are held, the small force is seen, the alarm bell rang, and battle ensued. Rhiannon is instructed to head to the door of the main hall, and Roland will be right behind her. Adara scurried off in the opposite direction to take care of a group of four fighters. Noctem previously had crept silently to the commanders office in an attempt to take him out with a knife in the back. Unfortunately as the alarm bell was rang, all those plans were laid to waste.
The normal sounds of battle issuing from Roland's direction told of a battle preventing him from getting to backup Rhiannon. (Whoosh, grumble; whiff, grumble; swish, grumble; woooff, grumble) The mage, standing somewhere in the middle of the two different groups of the party, sets a magic missile right between the eyes of the combatant engaged with Roland, which unfortunately does little. Roland, in a rare lucky streak is able to get in a killing blow and rushes to Rhiannon's aid.
Meanwhile things are getting desperate for Rhiannon, the odds are now roughly 8 to 1, fortunately Rhiannon is in the doorway preventing all 8 swords from coming to bear. Adara has deftly crushed the skulls of two of the men she has been fighting, unfortunately the other two are now rushing towards the mages unprotected back. Noctem is also in dire need, having missed both bow shots she is now in melee with two 4th level fighters and taking a sever beating.
Roland, the hulking behemoth that he is, arrives to the aid of Rhiannon, just as she is struck down by one of the many men fighting her. Roland using his gifts from Heimdal, stands atop Rhiannon's unconscious body protecting her and thus the bastard becomes un-freakin-hittable with AC0. The mage sensing the danger rushing at his back, (he sense it because somehow the two fighters both missed him), turns and in one deft move utters the incantation for burning hands and envelopes them in a sheet of flame. Unfortunately, he did not notice Adara rushing to his aid and she loses a little hair.
Noctum is in dire need and Rhiannon is down. Adara wastes little time in downing the two burning soldiers. Elonan surveying the situation whips around once again and decides that a trademark move would be effective in this case. He's got the range, he's got line of sight, and spider-man like he tosses a web inside the building, effectively encasing the warrior at the front of the building. Roland is fortunately free of the icky sticky stuff, is content to try and kill the defender closest to him and then sits there for another two or three rounds fanning him.
Adara gets to Noctem just in time to see her clubbed senseless by the two 4th fighters on her. As Adara arrives things get even BETTER. Now the head guys actually comes out, (ugh we are in trouble now) Elonan, keeping an eye on both ends of the battle sees this and utter the words for blind, and effectively takes on of them out of the fight. Elonan yells for Roland to aid Adara, who cant seem to hit a blind man for some reason and Elonan proceeds to drag Rhiannon to safety. Roland, gathering steam is actually able to make it half way to the hapless Adara before she too is knocked unconscious. Upon seeing this Elonan makes a desperate move, drops Rhiannon and runs headlong toward the three remaining Harad.
Things are getting desperate for the Roland and Elonan now. The fighters are down and so is the only other healer. The soldiers wont stay trapped in the web spell forever and Elonan is getting low on spells... At this point somewhere out of the heavens there issued a voice.
- "DON'T FORGET THE VILLAGERS YOU ARE HERE TO SAVE."
Boy, don't I feel stupid. A cry for help issues from the two remaining party members...
- "HELP US WE ARE GETTING OUR ASSES..... I MEAN...AH....WE HAVE THEM ON THE RUN! COME AND HELP US!"
Roland is actually able to get there, and engages them for a round before Elonan catches up, and for the first time in his life uses all his spells effectively, and issues a color spray, which knocks the two 4th level fighters cold, and blinds the head guy, who is immediately dog piled and hacked apart by the villagers who came out to our aid.....
They had bested the majority of the armed invaders holding the town captive, though not without great difficulty and loss. Roland, and Elonan are the only ones of the group left standing and even they are in dire need. Elonan has nary a single spell left, and Roland has few. There is a group of invaders held securely in the web left by Elonan, that must be dealt with, as well as the guards keeping watch on the villagers working in the fields. Elonan sets the group (all 2 of them :p) in motion. Elonan has the villagers in the village gather only their most precious belongings, and strip the fallen invaders of their clothing and weapons. Elonan does a quick search of the commanders hut, and finds a satchel which he quickly grabs without examining the contents. Meanwhile Roland, thanks to his ring of free action, finished off the unfortunate held in the web.
The villagers prepare the fallen members for travel in a wagon, and a couple of the resistance fighters that accompanied our heroes to the village are sent to fetch the horses and from there to travel on to inform the resistance of what has transpired. Roland gathers all of the able bodies that are willing to fight and sets out for the fields for liberate the villagers there. Elonan and the villagers continue the preparation to get the hell outta dodge.
Roland, sitting atop his war horse, looks very impressive in some what bloody and dented plate mail, and I'm sure that the mob of angry villagers behind him don't hurt at all. The guards keeping watch on the workers in the fields flee in terror. Roland quickly gathers the workers and heads back to the village proper.
Now everyone back in village makes haste to be on there way, they must be quick, as there have been at least 10 of the invaders if the town that have escaped and are no doubt on their way to their main force.
Just as the motley caravan heads out Rhiannon regains consciousness, but is still weak. Just as the group crosses the small plain and enters into the hills they are met by a force of 25 of the resistance fighters, which will no doubt aid considerably in the battle that will no doubt come. The group travels into the hills and makes camp, it is late and our group is exhausted.
Now our intrepid band continues their flight out of enemy territory, only time will tell the outcome. Not even the greatest of scrying will determine whether or not our heroes will survive.
Flight from Gealand
Reaping (July) 14th
Behind enemy lines, leading the frightened villagers away from Gealand where they were held captive by the forces of Harad. The group of 75 villagers trudges its way toward the unsure safety of the hills, as fast as the motley group can move.
Adara, Noctem, and Rhiannon, have now recovered somewhat and with the aid of the healing powers of Roland and Noctem the group is able to recover fully. (See 1 on Map below) Though tired from the rescue the mercenaries know that there is little time for rest, as the Harad army is surely on their heels. As the ragged group makes it into the hills proper they are met by another 20 of the resistance fighters, that have come to aid their escape. The resistance leads them south westerly deeper into the hills. Scouts are sent out, the group is able to make it another three miles before a rear scout returns and tells them what they feared. The group of nearly 50 Harad pursues them and will overtake them in less than an hour. (See 2 on Map below)
The group of warriors gather in an attempt to form some type of plan, many suggestions are offered, but unfortunately there is too little time and not enough warriors to implement many of those plans. There is talk of separating the villagers in hopes that it will confuse the forces of the Harad, and even if it does not some villagers escaping is better than none. Noctem and Adara volunteer to use their skills as trackers to obscure the trails of the split groups, but that is not enough. Roland in a moment of insight offers an idea. He will attempt to lead the Harad off by creating a false trail. Rhiannon and Roland accompanied by 11 of the resistance fighters, will walk their horses, making their group appear larger than it is and continue along the same heading that the group was going. The resistance fighters will split the fleeing villagers into three groups and lead them off in different directions. The old and infirm villagers, along with the family of Roland will be led to a hidden canyon and will await the return of Roland's group. Elonan realizes that this is a good plan but there is still not enough time to get away. Something must be done to delay the pursuing forces. A plan comes to mind and although dangerous it should delay the group of Harad horsemen somewhat. Elonan will use his magical cloak to fly, invisibly back toward the Harad. Once over the pursuing horsemen he would attempt to encase the group within a web. The plan is set and ready to put into action Roland suggests another grand idea. The group leading the false trail shall drop their numbers by 2 at random intervals and the Harad will find themselves pursuing an ever smaller group until they follow nothing at all. Its a good plan, and hopefully it will work well.
Escape Plan in Motion
The plan is now set to motion, Noctem and Adara set about obscuring the tracks of the fleeing villagers. Roland takes his group and lays the false trail toward the south. Elonan utters the words that will make him unseen, and soars off toward their pursuers. Elonan reaches the group of soldiers, moving more slowly now in the rougher terrain. Upon seeing the many archers, Elonan decides that a shield spell would be in order, it will help deflect the arrows that will surely come his way. Weaving the incantation, the web sprays forth from his hands covering the Harad in the sticky strands. (See 3 on Map below) As the magic that kept Elonan invisible fades, he turns to the west and heads toward the assigned meeting spot where he will join up with Roland's group. Unfortunately not all of the Harad, are encased in the web, and many arrows hurl through the sky toward the mage. One finds its mark and grazes Elonan. He mutters a thanks for the shield and speeds off through the sky.
Meanwhile Noctem and Adara continue to disguise and cover the tracks, paying special attention to the group of villagers that will be led to the hidden canyon. Roland is making his way through the valley creating the false trail. Upon reaching a particular narrow spot in the trail Roland decides to make use of his powers granted by Heimdal and brings forth a wyverns watch to guard their passing and to hopefully delay the pursuers further. The Harad soldiers reach the spot where the group stopped to form their plans. The forces spit into three, the largest group continued along the main track left by Roland and Rhiannon the other two began to search around the area.
Roland is now able to see his pursuers and blows his mighty horn. (See 4 on Map below) The two groups searching the area hear the horn and turn their attention toward Roland's direction, thundering off toward their prey. Roland and his group throw caution to the wind and double up on the horses in an attempt to gain distance from the soldiers. Roland chuckles to himself in thought of what will happen to the first of the group that crosses the wyvern watch. Back at the area where the Harad split up, five of them still search the edges of the valley for tracks and manage to see the trail that Noctem and Adara were attempting to hide. Noctem and Adara wait quietly with weapons drawn at the top of the hill as the five Harad gain sight of the trail and slowly move toward their position. Halfway up the hill Noctem calls upon the plants for aid and 3 of the Harad are entangled within the suddenly writhing plants. (See 5 on Map below) The 2 in the lead are met by Adara charging down the hill to meet them and a hail of arrows from Noctem. Noctem in a rare good shot skewers the first and he drops dead in his tracks. Adara crushes the brains of the other with her sturdy morning star. The remaining 3 are quickly put down, their cries of alarm going unnoticed by their comrades chasing down Roland's group. Noctem and Adara make their way back to the group of villagers at the secluded valley.
As he soars to the rendezvous Elonan realizes that at his current rate of he will not be able to make the meeting spot with Roland and uses his cloak again to fly at utmost speed toward the rendezvous. Elonan comes to rest on the ground just as Roland with his now smaller group barrels into the clearing. Elonan quickly jumps on his horse and the group is off again. (See 6 on Map below) The group, now comprised of Roland, Rhiannon, Elonan, and one resistance guide are still pursued by a group of at least 15 of the Harad who are gaining. The situation looks grim for our heroes indeed.
Here ends excerpts from the Journal of Elonan...
Reaping (July) 14th Cont.
Roland, Elonan and Rhiannon with their Angharad guide move through the growing gloom of the forest, for the first time realizing that they have been on the move all day and that their horses cannot be run anymore or they risk ruining them. At least the Harad following them have to be just as tired. The diversions seem to have worked, now they just have to shake off this last group and make their way to the hidden valley. After consulting the Angharad fighter on his knowledge of the territory, he recommends continuing on this trail at whatever pace they can manage until darkness, then backtrack a bit and head totally off the trail leading the horses. The three members of Thorn all agree with this plan, since none is eager to fight at nearly 3 to 1 odds after the long day of flight. (See 7 on Map below) After the party puts the plan into action, Rhiannon lags back at the rear of the party for about an hour before catching up the the group. There is no sign of pursuit, the Harad have been lost in the darkness. Wearily the four lead their horses several more miles before making camp. (See 8 on Map below)
Reaping (July) 15th
Early the next morning Roland's group sets off leading their weary horses and are able to reach the back entrance to the hidden valley by sunset that eve. (See 9 on Map below) The whole small valley was as beautiful and serene as could be wished for and had obviously once been part of a druid grove. A small spring fed a pond and streamlet which had carved the gullies on both sides of the canyon. By accident or design neither path could be found unless you happened upon them directly or made a treacherous and steep climb to the summit of one of the surrounding hills. The members of Thorn breathed a sigh of relief at being reunited and caught up on news since they had split up. Noctem reported that from her vantage point at the western valley entrance she had seen the Haradan force riding back toward Gealand through pass below this afternoon. That evening after everyone was fed and watches set, Elonan left the group for a period of time. He returned with rubbings of stones he had found and then intently copied them down into his journal.
Reaping (July) 16th
The members of Thorn, along with about 30 villagers and 15 Angharad fighters left the next morning under cover of a thick fog. There goal was a local Angharad village located in a large valley about ten miles northeast. After making the village Thorn was going to escort whichever of the villagers wanted to leave Gealand forever onward toward the Carill ford and hopefully safety. The Angharad clansmen offered shelter to any of the Gealanders who wished to wait out the war and return to their homes and farms. The going was slow with most of the people in this group being oldsters and mothers with children, but they made it to the village by the next afternoon without mishap. Upon arrival, the village which was about the same size as Gealand was found empty. No sign of violence could be found and almost anything of value had been taken. Knowing that their people had been ready to go hide in the hills at the slightest sign that the Harad were riding their way the Angharad were not overly concerned. The Angharad dug up some hidden supplies and there was plenty of space, so for the first time since fleeing Gealand everyone had plenty of warm food and good rest. (See 10 on Map below)
Reaping (July) 17th
Unsure as to why the village was abandoned, the Angharad clansmen and the liberated Gealanders decide that it would be best to continue on as a group toward the safety of the the Carill Ford fort. Another good day of travel finds the group in yet another wooded valley near the trail through the hills to the Carill Ford. (See 12 on Map below) Noctem volunteers to scout out the way ahead to be sure that Eradain forces are still in control of both banks of the Ann River. She does not return until late the next morning, but has joyous news. Not only are they Eradain forces there but it appears that soldiers of King Elcadan and the northern border lords are encamped on the southern side of the river! The news is passed around the camp and everyone quickly makes ready to travel to the ford. That afternoon after being picked up by patrols they were brought into the heart of the encampment. Under unobtrusive guard, the whole group is shown a place to camp and asked to stick together until someone can be found to deal with them. Extra blankets and a few tents are found from somewhere and they everyone settles in for another night together.
Reaping (July) 20th
The members of Thorn were able to truly relax for the first time in many many tense days. There was still plenty of work to be done to set up camp and watches were to be set for that night, but being somewhere near the middle of a friendly army was comforting. That evening Thorn discussed plans for the future. Their immediate goal was to find Phalan at Sagamon or Tilith. Next they needed to take care of Roland's family. During the preceding days Roland and Kantlon had discussed leaving Gealand permanently. Their family had lived in Gealand for generations, but after the devastating slave raids that took their father and brothers and the latest round of invasion, Kantlon was more than ready to try and establish the family in another area. Roland had then told his brother about Thorn's first mission after becoming initiates in the Legion.
The Black Legion had been contracted by Duke Eldrick of Medrius to assist one of his newly appointed thanes with bandits and kidnappers that had been plaguing the area. Lord Gordrenn had been made lord over the lands of a village called Melbourne and in addition to the bandits he also had his hands full with a dispute with a nearby rival lord. At the end of the mission a grateful Lord Gordrenn had told them pointedly tht if they should ever need his assistance they were welcome to seek him out. Between Lord Gordrenn's gratitude and the fact that some of the lands around Melbourne were now laying fallow from the depredations of the bandits, Roland thought he might find a new home for his family.
The other members of Thorn were also eager to return to Medrius. After long months fighting and traveling the whole party was ready for additional training with the skill masters at Legion headquarters. Elonan in particular had been driving the others crazy with constant talk about his theories and calculations of magic fireballs and nearly equally constant promises not to toss one into a confined area with the party.
So that night, over an expensive keg of beer Roland had acquired, the group decided they would check in with Phalan first to speak with him about the status of their current contract with the delegation. Then circumstances permitting, they wanted to travel on to Medrius for training. While training, Roland would send a message to Lord Gordrenn outlining his request.
Reaping (July) 21th
Early the next morning, Roland, Elonan and Noctem approach one of the guards stationed near the Gealander's camp. After a brief exchange they find that they are still confined to camp.
- "I expect the Cap'n will be along shortly."
Soon enough a scarred veteran in scale mail with a scribe in tow arrives. After establishing the identity of the group before him and getting some of the party's story, the captain says that he will go to speak with his superior and return. Before he leaves he orders the nearby guard to be sure the refugees have adequate supplies. About an hour later the captain returns and the members of Thorn are asked to attend Lord Gravan.
Lord Gravan is the nephew of Duke Maarken of Northold and is in charge of the soldiers sent by the Duke. Thorn, along with Kantlon representing the refugees from Gealand and Laerna speaking for the Angharad fighters are shown to Lord Gravan's command pavilion. The font half of the pavilion was open and the party peered around curiously as they waited to be seen. Except for the black and blue Direwolf battle standards and a large Corsani rug the set up was as spartan and functional as the Northern border lords were reputed to be. To either side of the opening were two hulking guards wearing plate and halberds with the snarling wolf helm of the Maarkens. Inside the pavilion at a table covered with papers and maps stood Lord Gravan. Danrae to the bone, he had sharp blue eyes, dark hair and a neatly trimmed beard salt and peppered by gray. He wore a blue tabard over his dark mail and his hand rested easily on the hilt of his broadsword. The only sign of his rank and wealth were the sapphire eyes sewn into the Direwolf on the tabard. He was flanked by two retainers and a scribe priest or mage. One of the huge wolves the family crest was modeled after lay curled up under the table seemingly asleep. It opened one eye lazily for a moment before absently licking its paw and once again closing its eyes. At the front of the table was a green rider messenger standing at attention. Lord Gravan finished dictating a message and sealed it with wax, pressing into it the large signet ring he wore before handing it to the waiting messenger. Roland whispered to the others that the ring indicated that Lord Gravan had the full authority of the Duke, one of the most powerful battle lords in Eradain. After the messenger departed Lord Gravan ordered his noon meal to be brought and then waved the captain forward.
- "Just what have you brought before me in time for my noon meal captain?"
- "These are the mercenaries from that village near Greensward sire. May I present Roland, Knight of the Horn and his companion mercenaries of the Black Legion, Kantlon of Gealand and Laerna of the Caerlain clan."
Lord Gravan nodded to each in turn, then sat down and reached for an uncorked bottle of wine as his retainers cleared away the table. After a moment considering the motley group before him, Lord Gravan spoke.
- "Well, why don't you tell me your story while we share a meal."
After food was brought, Elonan launched into the party's tale, beginning with the commission to escort the delegation and the news of the invasion brought by the Green Riders. Inter-spaced with comments from the others, he culminated with the flight from Gealand and presented the documents satchel recovered from the Haradan officer. None of the members of Thorn could read the Haradan tongue, so they did not know if the information would be of value to the Eradain forces. Lord Gravan nodded to his scribe who took the documents and left for an enclosed section of the pavilion. Lord Gravan was immensely pleased and told the group they could procure any supplies they might need from his quartermaster.
- "Within reason,"
He added with a wry grin. After replenishing food rations for themselves and their mounts and refilling quivers the group made their goodbyes to the rest of the Angharad fighters and people from Gealand. They still had a half a day of travel available and wanted to make the most of it.
Back to the Road
Reaping (July) 22th
Making good time on the road Thorn and Roland's family made it to Galt early the next afternoon. Galt was packed to the brim with soldiers, mercenaries, camp followers and tradesmen who had come to sell their trinkets to the soldiers. The party camped in a small tent city that had popped up with the influx of the people into the town. A room in one of the inns was out of the question, but Thorn took advantage of the more civilized settings for a round of hot baths, and food and drink from one of the taverns they could squeeze into.
The next morning, feeling refreshed they pressed on to Sagamon. The following evening they arrived, with enough daylight left to set up another camp on the outskirts of the town. Noctem spent a long night in vigil at the burned out remains of Lord Benegris' mansion. The next morning Roland went to the local temple to Odin, in search of news about Phalan. As he expected the temple was being used by his battle cleric brothers as a headquarters. Quickly he found out that Phalan was indeed here in Sagamon, but was out dealing with a supply issue. Phalan had left word to look out for the Legionnaires and a squire took word to him that Roland and the others had arrived. After he returned, Phalan and Roland went to join the rest of Thorn at their camp, catching up on news as they went. After getting the whole story of what had occurred since they parted ways at the slave raider fort, Phalan heard out the groups other goals and concerns over their contract.
- "That's easy enough, you were contracted to help escort the delegation through the lands of southern Eradain. The members of the delegation are going to be staying in Tilith, probably until the conflict with Haradan is concluded. Its somewhat of a political coup of the King to arrive so quickly and Nibradas and Nimribeth are likely to be wringing as much support as they can for the King at the council in Tilith. They wont need any protection behind Tiliths' walls and the Knights of the Horn there to guard them. So for the time being you are free to take care of your training and get your family to Melbourne. I will need you to check in at Tilith at the end of Goodmonth. I will leave instructions for you at the Motherhouse."
And so temporarily released from the obligations of their contract , Thorn was free to leave for Medrius. Backtracking the path they had originally taken to Sagamon with Phalan past the Order of Sif, the party arrived in Tilith just before the curfew and the gates being closed for the night. Thorvas the inn-keeper of the Inn of the Raven was glad that their mission was successful. After he had the group settled in for the night he caught them up on all the local gossip and he had a sealed message for Elonan. It turned out to be the long awaited response from the Black Legion mage Tamman.
- Salutations Elonan,
- I'd heard that the apprentice of Menua had joined the Legion. Perhaps if you become a journeyman we will work together sometime. I do indeed have a copy of the Book of Dimma from the Temple of Lore in Medrius. As I am currently using the tome for my own researches, I would like to purchase it with the funds left on deposit at the Temple. I'm sure that for a novice the gold will go a long way toward paying for other researches or skill training. If you should require the tome, I shall be returning to Medrius sometime after winter approaches. Before then, you would have to travel here to me or send a courier to pick it up. In either case I will of course require the verifying documents from the Temple and the deposit funds. I will be in the area of Feylin and out in the field most of the time until I return to Medrius. I can be reached at the Three Oaks Inn or have messages left for me there.
- Until we meet, luck on your journeys.
Thorn left Tilith the next day, traveled two days to Buckhorn, and arrived at Medrius on the evening of the third day of travel. Roland found lodgings for his family at an Inn in Medrius and the members of Thorn went to the barracks at the Black Legion keep. The next day the party contacted the various captains who would schedule their training and paid the dues necessary for the personal and intense training the skill masters would give them. Roland prepared a message to Lord Gordrenn and had it sent to Melbourne via a Black Legion courier. Now they all settled into their individual training routines, and awaited to receive word back from Lord Gordrenn.
Journal of Elonan
Goodmonth (August 13th)
Excerpts from the Journal of Elonan
Finally we will get some deserved rest, well perhaps not rest, but it will be a welcome change not be on the road for at least a little while. I believe that all of the other members of Thorn have settled into their training regimes, as I have. Though the training is indeed difficult, it is most welcome, though it will cost the majority of my gold.....
Roland has received word from Lord Gordrenn, his family will gladly be accepted into the community. They will be given one of the farms that was destroyed by the bandits that plagued the area. Roland will pay for his family to take the barges up-stream to their new home, the only condition Lord Gordrenn gave was that Kantlon take two orphan boys into his home. Roland made sure Kantlon had enough gold to see them through the winter and said his last goodbyes till he could go visit them again.
Our training is now complete and there are a few more days before we must again leave for Tilith to rejoin Phalan and the Delegation that we have been ordered to protect. Before we go though I must go in search of some other magicks to add to my repertoire of new found knowledge, I don't know what I shall be able to afford, or even find, but one should have more than a fireball at his disposal.....
Goodmonth (August) 14th
I have purchased a scroll of dispel magic from the Black Legion Savants Library and successfully added it into my spell book, this should come in handy I think. We have decided to leave early on our trip back to Tilith, a leisurely journey rather than the usual hard ride. Something that the horses will definitely appreciate, especially Roland's poor beast. Perhaps this ride will give me time to speak with Noctem. She seems reluctant to utilize her special skills, a knife in the back may not be considered honorable by some, but it is undeniably effective....
I have allowed one of the others to lead the group back to Tilith, this will give me some extra time to study the rubbing of the curious stones I found in the secluded valley we used on our flight from Gealand. What could those stones be, the better question would be whom put them there. Answer that and I would likely gain some insight to the strange sigil's carved upon them. The same characters are present upon the ring given to me by Menua, though different that the ones that I found in the Annals of the Four Masters. Frustrating as it is I must find out what these sigil's mean, this will likely take time though. I have some of the pieces of the puzzle, but I have not the slightest clue of what the picture is supposed to be....
Goodmonth (August) 18th
We have arrived in Tilith once again, in plenty of time to meet with Phalan. Adara wishes to travel to the Temple of Sif a days ride from here, and we do have the time. Rhiannon and Noctem set off with Adara this morning, to the Temple of Sif, I believe that it would be prudent for Roland and I to assess this city, and let know of Phalan that we are in the area. Before we report back for duty at the appointed time, I shall speak with Roland again, have him pose as the front man for our squad. The other heavily armed and armored knights respond much better to him than they would to I or any of the others, despite his lack of tact....
Here ends comments from the Journal of Elonan
Goodmonth (August) 24th
Thorn reports to the Motherhouse of the Knights of the Horn, and is shown to Nithur. Important officer that he is with the Knights, he is quite busy and Thorn waits 30 to 40 minutes before a squire shows them into Nithur's office. He does not rise, and he tosses a thick letter with a broken seal onto the desk in front of Roland.
- "Here are your new orders from Phalan."
With a slight sneer that just borders crossing the line he adds,
- "Normally we would send a contingent of Knights to Hommlet to deal with this and properly herald the arrival of the delegation, but all the noble Knights that can be spared are in battle at the keep. I'll leave you to read the details. If you are confused by anything feel free to stop by my office and I can explain it to you."
Quickly leaving before anyone loses their cool the party returns to the Inn of the Raven for some fresh biscuits and gravy prepared by Thorvas before looking over the letter. The outside page with the broken seal was addressed to Nithur, and contained only the following.
Nithur, new orders for Roland and the Legion mercenaries. After the report in, order the paymaster to give them their next months wages, per the term of their contract.
Folded within is a letter addressed to Roland.
- The delegation has decided to resume their progress through the south. They have plans to visit Hommlet and perhaps the Sun Temple of Lugh. Depending on the amount of time spent at each location they have plans to visit Feylin, Sea Keep, and Orlane. They may have to cut off part of their planned stops depending on the weather and the roads.
- I have received word from Duke Tor that the Earl of Hommlet has experienced several night attacks upon travelers on the road to and from Roth and at least one assault in the village itself by marauding troglodytes. The Earl has had problems in the past with these creatures and defeated them. However according to my report her armsman were unable to track them to their lair. Most of the Earl's armsmen are away fighting and she has requested aid from the Duke to deal with this problem.
- Please travel to Hommlet and meet with the Earl. Perhaps Elonan would be the best speaker for you, being from Orlane. Explain that you have been sent to aid her with the troglodytes and later you will be acting guard/escort for the delegation when they are to arrive in Hommlet. I do not know for sure who will be the official escort in my place, but a message will be sent to Hommlet for you and the Earl at least 3 days before the delegation arrives. If myself or Nithur are not with the delegation, Justicar Abaran will be in charge of security and you should defer to his requests.
The Village of Hommlet Goodmonth (August) 24th Cont.
After reading the letter from Phalan, the members of Thorn set about getting ready to travel to Hommlet, some sixty miles to the west along the Sinann river. They refreshed their supplies then saddled up and made their way out the gates of Tilith. The journey was uneventful and they made it to the village late on the 25th. They headed to the the only lodgings available, the Inn of the Welcome Wench. The Inn was quite famous in the south for its fine fare and good prices and although the place was busy, they had no trouble getting a couple of rooms from the innkeeper Ostler rather than staying in the common room. After an excellent meal they discussed the upcoming audience with the Earl and retired for the evening. The party relaxed in the morning, taking time for baths and another good meal before making their way to the small keep with the green bow banners of Earl Masterton.
Earl Raedda Masterton was at least equally as famous as the Inn of the Welcome Wench. In her youth she reputed to be the finest human archer of her time, winning honors in tourneys across the land. During the Goblin Uprisings of ____ she and her brothers were credited with slaying at least 200 goblins and a score of ogres. In her later years she proved to be as formidable in the political arena as the tourney field, successfully maintaining a balance between the demands of Lord Tor, the nearby Angharad Temple and relations with the elves to the south. Under her management the lands of southwest Eradain have prospered for over a decade.
At the gates, Thorn found two guardsmen dressed in green and white tabards of the Earl standing casually on guard. After a brief wait they were shown in to the main hall. Keep Masterton is one of the older castles in the south, originally just a military outpost of Tilith. The inside the main hall was drafty and the chill was only marginally affected by the roaring fire in the great hearth. Seated at the end of the hall was the Earl. She was dressed in traditional Angharad leathers and the white and green plaid of her house. Her hair was iron gray and she had obviously been attractive in her youth. She was listening to an older man who was short one leg below the knee. The man, who must be her house steward, was reading from a scroll and propping himself up on a crutch when the party was ushered in,
- "...and twenty more barrels of flour sire."
The Earl frowned thoughtfully for a moment, then said
- "Send fifteen barrels of flour, five of apples and five of turnips instead. It'll be another two-ten days before the late wheat is ready for milling with half the militia still gone, we'll be lucky to get it all in before the weather turns. See to it and pen an appropriate note for the Duke for me to sign."
- "Very good m'lord, I'll see to it after this mornings audience."
The man, obviously long at ease without the use of his leg, moved to a desk near a door to the right of the dias and sat down. The Earl then turned her attention toward the party and after a moment looked at the guard and cleared her throat. The young guardsman, caught in the act of staring at Rhiannon and Adara started slightly, then sheepishly announced,
- "Mercenaries of the Black Legion to see you m'Lord."
At this queue Elonan stepped forward and bowed.
- "Good day Earl Masterton. My comrades and I are on a mission for the Knights of the Horn. Sometime in the next few weeks a delegation from the King will be coming to Hommlet and preparing to visit the Temple of Lugh. We are here to give you advance notice of this visit and to assist with security."
The Earl chuckled and said,
- "I'd heard the young King was seeking a bride. Who's in this delegation and when are they to arrive?"
- "The High Priests Nibradas and Nimribeth are heading the delegation along with Justicar Abaran. I don't know for sure when they're coming, but a messenger is to be sent ahead at least three days in advance. We have also been told to give you assistance with the troglodyte raids you've been having."
- "Ahhha! I'd wondered what the Duke would come up with to help me with those beasts. Let me tell you what has occurred so far. During the last several months since most of my warband and militia have gone to fight the Harad with my brother I don't have near as many men to put out onto patrol. At least three groups of traders that I know of have disappeared. At first I thought it was bandits or such becoming overbold. The last attack just over two weeks ago was on some ten poor souls not ten to fifteen miles north of here. My guardsmen found this among the wreckage of their camp."
The Earl gestured to her steward, who opened a box and pulled something out. He then limped over and handed it to Elonan. It was something like an arrow with a thick shaft and a triple vane made out of some kind of stiffened leather with a sharply pointed metal head. After the party had a chance to examine the weapon the Earl continued.
- "Seven or eight years ago I'd had trouble with troglodytes along the trade road north of here toward Roth, this weapon was used by those creatures during those times. That territory is rough and unpopulated except for travelers, traders and my patrols. After a unsuccessfully trying to engage the cunning things during the day, I ordered all travel to stop along that road for a month. Then I sent my soldiers disguised as traders with additional soldiers hidden in the wagons instead of trade goods. The ruse worked and the critters having been denied their favorite repast attacked in force. Our nasty surprise worked, and my men managed to wipe out most of the raiding party. I stepped up patrols after that and had men travel with traders as guards for a bit. There were several other attacks and all told I think we killed about forty of the beasts. I had my best tracker out in the hills where we figured they were coming from, but he disappeared not long after the last attack, and I never was able to find their lair. Now it seems that they are back and I just don't have the resources right now to deal with it. I've put out the warning to travelers, but just a week ago a young boy out after dark turned up missing from the village."
She sighed then and rubbed her forehead.
- "If you travel north toward Roth, about half way a'tween here and there is a way station that travelers use. Northeast of there are some hills where I suspect their lair is at. I wish you luck and may Arawn guide you in your hunt."
Interpreting that as a dismissal the members of Thorn bowed and took their leave.
Upon returning to the Inn they started planning their next move. From the Earl's description it would take them most of two days to get to the trouble area and if they spent any time hunting troglodytes it might be as long as a week before they returned to town. Knowing they would only have three days advance notice it was likely they would miss the messenger and not be in Hommlet when the delegation arrived. After discussing and discarding different options they decided that the possibility couldn't be helped since they couldn't very well be hunting troglodytes while hanging around the village. Since it was already early afternoon, the party decided they would ride up the road looking for any clues at the location of the last big attack the Earl described, then return to the Inn that eve and get an early start for the way station in the morning. They had the stable boy bring out their horses and headed north along the road to Roth, but the Earl's men must have cleaned up the site of the attack very thoroughly because they found no sign of where it had occurred. They returned to the Inn well after dark and enjoyed what they knew would be their last good meal for a few days before retiring for the night.
Goodmonth (August) 27th
Thorn left early the next day keeping an eye out for the location of the last attack. They don't find no signs of the attacked merchants camp and encounter no other travelers throughout the day. They spend an uneventful night camped beside the road and an equally uneventful second day of travel arriving at the way station early the next afternoon. The trackers examine the area for signs of their quarry, but don't notice anything useful. The party uses the remainder of the day to ride a circuit around the way station and familiarize themselves with the territory before returning to the way station and setting up camp for the night. They stick to their standard watch routine, but stayed extra alert through the night.
Goodmonth (August) 28th
The next day they foray into the hills the Earl told them the trogs were in. It was slow going and relatively fruitless looking for troglodyte tracks in the rocky ground of those hills. Discouraged they set up camp early that day and discuss returning to Hommlet to check and see if the messenger had arrived while they were gone. They finally decided to turn in for the night and see what the next day might bring. That night during Notem's watch, she noticed the horses spooking a bit and acting restless. After listening intently for any sign of a foe she awoke the rest of the party and slipped into the darkness away from the fire to scout the perimeter of the camp. After a bit the horses quieted down, and Noctem returned having seen no sign of any intruders nearby. Eventually everyone bedded down again, but they slept lightly the remainder of the night.
Harvester (September) 1st
In the morning light Noctem and Adara scour the area around the camp looking for signs of anything that might have come nearby in the night. Noctem finds the tracks of something that had actually come quite close to the camp. She and Adara compared notes on the tracks and decided that the troglodytes the had been looking for seemed to have found them first. The other members of the party had been breaking and cleaning up camp and by the time the two returned and filled them in the whole group was ready to leave. Noctem led on foot following the tracks toward a nearby hill. At the foot of the hill the tracks led to a rocky slope that was to steep for the horses to climb. The front of the hill stretching to the west was a small cliff, and the tracks went up a gully and along a rocky shelf that extended above the cliff. Noctem climbed up the rocks and explored part of the shelf then returned to the party.
- "We could climb up there if we left behind the horses, but there are a dozen places to split off and climb up or down from that shelf. It could lead somewhere, or it could just be a way to throw off a tracker."
The members of Thorn decided not to leave the horses and scramble up the hill till after they've ridden around and explored a bit more. They begin riding around the hill along the cliff to the west, curving around and finally heading northward they spy a place on the west side of the hill where they can ride the horses higher up the hill. Instead of going around the whole hill, they opt to take this path up the slope. They still reach a point where they cannot take the horses any higher. They dismount and set up a temporary camp then stake out the horses and proceed to climb on foot.
Its not a bad incline and with some scrambling on all fours they make it to a level area about half way up the hill where trees and brush grow more thickly. Proceeding cautiously they climb a bit higher and curve around the north side towards the center of between the two hill peaks. They find that between the two peaks of the hill below the level they now stand is a tiny pocket valley totally hidden from out side view. From their vantage point they spot a cave opening of some sort partially obscured by thick ivy growing on the hill. Noting that the path they are on is definitely well used, they head down.
Noctem is in the lead scanning for traps and after a brief inspection of the area looking out for an ambush, they make for the entrance of the cave. After making sure there are no other obvious entrances and that the cave is more than just an overhang of rocks, they discuss the next course of action. Adara and Rhiannon will take the lead, followed by Roland who will be carrying a torch. Elonan, who will also have a torch and Noctem would bring up the rear. After checking their weapons and gear they enter the cavern cautiously, letting their eyes adjust to the dimmer light of the cavern. The entrance and tunnel ahead are a good twenty feet wide and 8' to 10' in height with old stalactites hanging from the ceiling. The relative chill of the cave is immediately noticeable, the air is damp and and carries the faint odor of rotten eggs.
Sticking generally to the center of the passage the party moves cautiously deeper into the cave. Just ahead the tunnel splits left and right, the main passage descending to the left. Rhiannon edges over to peer down the right branch, and suddenly the wall moves! Rhiannon yelps and jumps back from a man shaped lizard that thrusts a spear at her. For a moment confusion reigns. The group had been tensed for action since entering the cave, but they had been scanning the darkness ahead and were unprepared for an attack so nearby. The creature blended in with the surrounding rock, but now that it was moving it could be seen more clearly in the flickering torchlight. It advanced upon the retreating Rhiannon and struck a glancing cut on her side with its spear. Noctem recovered first and hit it point blank with an arrow. It hissed in pain, then slipped around toward the main passage. Rhiannon drew and threw a dagger at its retreating form but it escaped into the darkness and the dagger could be heard clattering on the stone ahead. Noctem also fired another arrow, but it went wide and cracked off the wall. Rhiannon brandished her sword and took a half step in pursuit then faltered, clutching her side. With a sharp intake of breath she exclaimed,
- "Arrgh, its burning!"
Elonan, not sure what was happening shouted,
- "Adara, Noctem, cover the front! Roland, check that wound!"
Roland had already dropped his torch and was moving to assist Rhiannon. He grabbed his waterskin and sluiced the wound with water and then wiped away the blood with a bandage from his herb pouch so he could examine it. He noticed the cut was unusually red and irritated looking. After a few minutes leaching the wound with herbs he stopped and shook his head.
- "I'm not sure what were dealing with here, maybe poison...hold still."
Roland began canting a spell, calling out to Heimdal for aid. In the meantime Adara had recovered Roland's torch and she and Noctem were standing facing the downslope where the troglodyte had fled with weapons at the ready. Elonan stood with his back to the wall watching both front and rear of the party while providing light for Roland as he worked. After completing the spell Roland finished bandaging the wound right over Rhiannon's leather armor.
- "I've done everything I can for this, but if were dealing with a strong poison I cannot cure it, only hold it at bay for a few hours."
After a moments thought Elonan announced,
- "Lets back out and go make camp until we can determine what were dealing with."
The rest of the party agreed and they quickly backed out of the cavern. The wound itself was minor, with Roland's spell holding off any poison effects and the herb bandage, Rhiannon was feeling just fine. They made their way quickly to where the horses had been staked out, saddled up and rode to a location a few miles away that they had spotted the previous day as a possible campsite. Adara and Noctem went out to gather firewood and Elonan began setting up camp. Roland examined Rhiannon's wound more thoroughly, trying to determine what had occurred. Finally he cast a cure wounds on it and they settled in for the rest of the afternoon watching to see if Rhiannon had any further reaction.
Here ends the Adventures of Thorn