The Stolen Land
- Explore the Stolen Lands
- Guide the new kingdom to a successful start
Loot and XP
XP 35000/35000 (level 7)
Map is right here. The black star marks the Stag Lord's fort.. Flat-colour hexes are those where you know the predominant terrain; artistic hexes are those that count as fully explored. There's an XP award for exploration of each hex... Colour codes:
- light green = plains
- dark green = forest
- blue = lake
- dark grey = mountains
- brown = hills
- yellow = swamp
Because we all like a handy guide to characters!
- Oleg & Svetlana Leveton: couple who run Oleg's Trading Post; Svetlana is a very good cook.
- Grigor and Tomas: ex-bandits, working as general menial help for Oleg. Both branded to mark them as former bandits.
- Kesten Garess: taciturn mercenary who leads a small group of guards, currently guard commander at Lakeside.
- Akiros Ismort: ex-bandit, recruited to work as a guard under Kesten's command. Helped rescue Oleg when he was kidnapped and held hostage. Now acting leader of the new settlement, Lakeside.
- Jhod Kavken: Priest of Erastil; has not explained his reasons for being in the Stolen Lands. Acting as priest in Lakeside.
- Jan and Marten: ferrymen. Both worried about trolls and undead. Marten's wife has been having it off with Wiglaf.
- Eadmund: innkeeper in Lakeside.
- Tanner and Mairi: couple in Lakeside; their son, Tig, was rescued from the lizardfolk.
- Chief Sootscale: kobold chieftain; ally of Lakeside.
- "Spirit of Sissthak": a will-o-the-wisp, masquerading as a lizardfolk ancestor spirit. Defeated and fled, but still alive.
- The Stag Lord: Bandit leader, rumoured to be feared rather than loved, a dead shot with a bow, and a drunk. Killed during the assault on the bandit fort.
- Dovan: Bandit lieutenant. Torturer and sadist. Killed when he attempted to have Akiros assassinated by the party.
- Auchs: Bandit lieutenant. Huge and stupid; killed defending the Stag Lord.
- Old Man: living in the bandits' basement, defending their treasure. Documents suggested he may have been the Stag Lord's father: though why he was locked in the basement was a mystery.
- Vekkel: old hunter, encountered in the wilderness. Found dead, killed by Tuskgutter the boar.
- Tartuk: kobold shaman, with purple scales. Killed when he turned on the party. Turned out to be a resurrected ex-gnome, with a vendetta against kobolds.
- King Hargulka: king of the trolls; appeared to be setting up a monster kingdom to the west of Lakeside.
The summer had been quiet. Only a couple of raids by trolls, after the heroes drove them off from the logging camps, had troubled the town: but Alhandra was almost killed, and then again almost died victim of a scythe tree, and decided to retire to run her hospital full-time.
Over the winter, presumably as the trolls' food sources became rarer, they started attacking more; guarding the borders along the swamps to the west became almost a full-time occupation. Eadfrid led, and trained, the militia to the extent that they were almost a small army; Cuichelm worked hard to provide magical items and potions for the forces; while Aldwulf trained some as scouts and infiltrators. Between these efforts, there were few deaths, but the constant threat was casting a shadow over the town.
In some ways the most important news was that some dwarves, travelling back north to trade at Oleg's, spotted the glittering cave in the hills: and, being rather more aware of such things than the heroes, recognised it as a potential gold-mine. They set up in business, and it led to a boom in the new nation. The population has been increasing rapidly, as a lot of people come to try to make their fortunes. The council is working hard to keep things under control - food is scarce, and so they've restricted mining permits. Fortunately, it was a mild winter, and there was enough stored food to keep everyone going, though the end of April was the hungry time as always. If next winter is harsh, that could devastate the population.
Trade is now flowing well: there's even something like a road up to Oleg's, where the ground has been worn into a flattish surface, and the smaller boulders have been cleared aside. It's not a good road, as you would expect in a city: but it shortens the journey, and means the militia have a defined area to patrol if they need to. Not only that, but there's a more established path to the kobolds' mine: they are becoming accepted trading partners, providing silver and the odd gemstone from their mine in exchange for shiny trinkets and exotic foods.
As spring starts, and the last of the snow melts from the hillsides, an archer staggers into town, emaciated and wounded... She tells the story of how she'd escaped, desperately fleeing the trolls who had taken herprisoner, and that the trolls have a fortress and a large number of slaves to the southwest. They were taking slaves, working them to exhaustion, and then eating them; even now, there are hundreds of half-starved slaves being made to clear the forests around the trolls' lair. The purpose of this activity was not clear, but it seems that King Hargulka is a more effective ruler than trolls normally are.
The militia assembles, the heroes at its head, and the small army sets off - guided by the escaped slave, Keela, to the ancient dwarf outpost that the trolls have taken over. The battle is joined, and the militia are gaining the upper hand, but the lair itself is a much better defensive position: here an elite small force will be much better placed to clear out the enemy.
The battle at the gates, a fortified block overlooking the valley, is swift and bloody, but once inside the progress is slower. Deep in the caverns behind the old dwarf stonework, a two-headed troll almost kills Eadfrid, and then King Hargulka himself tears into the wounded heroes, once again knocking Eadfrid unconscious. Keela, too, takes serious wounds, retreating into the trolls' ghastly larder to fight from a distance. Finally, though, they are victorious, and sever the troll king's head to ensure he cannot regenerate.
As they search the rooms, discovering a map of the area indicating an organised campaign against Lakeside, HHargulka's severed head rolls upright, his eyes open with clear emerald green energy bursting forth. He speaks in loud sylvan: "He comes, and he can't be stopped. The promise will be fulfilled."
The spring passes in a flurry of activity. Exploration to the South is going well, until the party runs into a group of trolls by the lakeside. Though one of the monsters is brought down, the fight proves too much, and the other trolls almost kill the party. It is a great relief to flee, on foot, as the trolls eat the slain horses.
The retreat back to Lakeside is slow and painful, as everyone gradually recovers from their wounds. The town itself, however, is growing, and going from strength to strength: new settlers are arriving, and farms are being built across the hills to the north and east, with grain crops in the valleys and sheep grazing on the slopes. The small village, huddling by the old bandit fort, is growing to a small town; the empty land is being civilised; and gradually this is turning into a kingdom.
On returning to Lakeside, the party are asked to search for a missing child, Tig Tannersen. His parents report that the boy often disappears for a day or two, seeking new "pets", but this time he has been gone a week. Heading in the direction the boy was last seen, the party calls in at the old witch's hut - after all, she has a reputation for eating children - but in the event, she is helpful rather than hostile. Mostly: only Aldwulf is admitted to her hut, and he watches as she brews up a divination potion, searching for clues to the boy's whereabouts, and finding him to the southwest, in danger, on an island.
So, they set off. Southwest, to the island in the river, where they find the lizardfolks' village. It is a small settlement, a few earth mounds within a palisade, but the battle inside is hard and bloody. Eventually victorious, and rescuing Tig, the party is investigating the last mound, the "spirit hut", when they are attacked by a will-o-the-wisp. The evil creature has been masquerading as a lizardfolk ancestor, driving them to torment their captives instead of just eating them immediately. It is this, ironically, that means that Tig is still alive. The will-o-the-wisp is defeated, and flees into the swamp, perhaps to return later... but the party make their way back to Lakeside, Tig in tow, and carrying a strange survivor: a lizardfolk egg, that will perhaps be raised in the village as another inhabitant.
It did not take long for the news to spread: the "Heroes of Lakeside" had saved the lost child, and this was a far more personal feat to the villagers. After all, defeating the bandits, and clearing the land around the settlement, was much less immediate. None of them had been there for that. This, however: this was something people could relate to. A heroes' welcome was soon arranged, and the inn was packed for hours with repeated demands to tell and re-tell the story.
After the fuss had died down, Cuichelm demonstrated his new spell, again to an admiring audience. He flew up into the air, high above the town, looking for any nearby threats. He was able to see a long way, but unfortunately not in great detail. Not enough, in fact, to see the commotion at the east gate, until he was already descending, and everyone else followed him there.
There, in front of the gate, was a kobold - Mikmek, who had been rescued from the mites, and now had to be rescued from an over-zealous wall guard who had nearly impaled him. When the crisis was averted, Mikmek brushed himself off, and passed on his invitation: Chief Sootscale would like to invite the "Mighty Heroes" to a feast in their honour. Though the kobold wasn't telling everything, the party set off anyway, to the Sootscale Mines. They were greeted there by the delicious smell of roasting meat: a feast indeed, and a warm welcome (the kobolds proudly guiding everyone past the various traps in the entrance tunnel). The surprise, however, was yet to come. In the main chamber of the caverns, there were not just the kobolds, but a group of trolls. Two were bad enough, but the others: one was a giant, two-headed monster; and the other was even larger than his followers, and carried a morningstar that crackled with electricity.
The troll leader, King Hargulka, had come to pressgang the kobolds into his own kingdom, instead of having them join the new nation centered on Lakeside. Chief Sootscale, more wily than he appears, had manoeuvered the party into "being threatened" by Hargulka here. His real plan became apparent when, of course, everyone started arguing against Hargulka. The kobolds had no wish to join a troll kingdom, and were looking for an excuse: simply saying "no" would not have ended well for the tribe. The trolls left, abruptly and angrily, and the party waited a while before following.
Back in town, the settlement was growing. More settlers, arriving from the north every week, were building houses and farms; people were starting to graze sheep on the steeper hillsides and plant crops on the valley floors. It might never be a rich, fertile land: but what it could offer was now beginning to show. If the trolls were to invade, however, that could all end suddenly and violently. Eadfrid's militia, though only a hundred in number and barely trained, were keen to defend their homes, and soon a plan was formed. Based on where the trolls had been seen before, a guard post was established at the ford, and patrols in the hills between there and the town. The party, as the most capable fighting force around, set out exploring, trying to find the trolls' lair and hopefully take the fight to them.
They set out on a sweep around the south shore of the lakes. There was not much to find: a foul-smelling pit, where vapours from deep in the earth well to the surface; and an abandoned ferry station over the next of the rivers, were all between the two (as yet nameless) rivers. Further west, however, things became more interesting. A lost hill giant, half-drunk and alone, did not survive attacking the party. In his belongings there was a crude map, labeled in semi-literate Giant "mean ugly troll-men", marking a spot far to the west. The guards at the ford were in the wrong place, and the attack would be more likely to come through the forest...
The winter starts slowly, a few winds blowing in from the hills to the north and east. Within a month, however, Lakeside is besieged by continuous strong winds, first driving rain and then snow into any accessible space. The snow piles up around the buildings, drifting where it can, and turning fences into snow-covered walls. Outdoors work is cold, and necessarily brief; Eadfrid finds himself lucky to have started training the militia before the worst of the weather arrives. As the snow continues, training almost grinds to a halt, but the impetus is there, and each day sees a few brave souls drilling with their spears and bows. Cuichelm has taken the approach of staying indoors much more, starting off by enchanting a few items. He has to scrounge hard to find the necessary reagents, for Lakeside is not yet a great city, but he finds enough of the necessary components to carry on with his work. Alhandra works with him, her magic - though different from his own - filling in the gaps where he needs them, and making the project a bit easier. Adwulf, after taking one look at the books and lab equipment, mutters something about getting some fresh air, and is soon co-opted to help train the crossbowmen.
Alhandra's other project is to begin setting up a hospital in the town. Though small, Lakeside is large enough that isolating the sick, and tending to wounds, is important: and that is the next part of her plan. A building is planned outside the town walls, downstream a little so that the hospital does not pollute the water for the town, and Alhandra begins training a couple of assistant healers.
The snowstorm passes after a couple of weeks, leaving the ground covered and the air cold, but the wind has died down. Eadfrid's plan picks up again, delayed a bit, but the shouts of squad commanders and the sound of crossbow bolts hitting targets echo across the town. Cuichelm begins designing a bridge, testing his ideas, including how to assemble the bridge on-site: it is much harder than building a wall, given the need to build across a river, not just along flat and solid ground. There is a small diversion, as Cuichelm leads a group to search for suitable timber; a site is identified nearby, and logging will start in the spring. Alhandra, meanwhile, works with Jhod to maintain the shrine, gradually cleaning the old fort and turning it from a rough, half-ruined shelter into a solid building with clean plastered walls. The wind still gets in through the gaps, but Jhod seems to accept that happily: after all, Erastil is a god of the wilderness, and the wind is part of nature.
Springtime comes, crops are sown, and people begin their normal lives again. Soon, the little town is emptier, farmers heading out to the fields and foresters to the woodlands. The time has come to set out again...
7 Arodus-5 Rova, 4716
The murdered bridge-keeper, Davik Nettles, rises from the river one last time. Granting his revenge on the Stag Lord, and the other bandits, has set his spirit at rest: like him, the Stag Lord died in fire and water, and he is freed. His sword, an enchanted greatsword, is lodged downstream in the wreckage of his bridge, and Eadfrid adopts it as his own blade.
The next weeks are filled with exploration, south of the next river. This flows, cold and clear, down from the mountains to the east; apart from the ford, it is nearly impassable. To the south of the river are only empty hills: day after day of rolling and rocky terrain, the monotony broken only by an encounter with a leucrotta, which tries to lure Adwulf away from the camp for its next meal. However, it misplays its ambush, and is soon defeated.
The same cannot be said of the group of trolls, found by the lakeside. Unusually for trolls, they are patiently fishing, collecting several baskets full of fish, and they demand that the party "Leave or die!". Unwilling to obey, the party attack, but the battle quickly turns sour. Eadfrid is almost torn to pieces; Cuichelm falls as well; and everything looks desperate when Alhandra heals them enough that they are conscious at least. Even more unusually, the trolls allow the party to leave, giving them a message again - "Leave or die". Their Common is not sufficient for further communication, and Cuichelm resolves to learn Giant in future.
Beaten and bloodied, the party heads back to town to recover. After a short rest, they are soon drafted into helping with the harvest: less heroic, perhaps, but just as vital to the survival of the village.
30 Erastus-7 Arodus, 4716
Adwulf is still weak from the disease he caught off the giant tick, so when the party returns to town with their report, he spends several days in bed rest under the constant care of Alhandra and Jhod. Cuichelm, meanwhile, spends his time studying and preparing some scrolls, while Eadfrid helps out with the construction of the new Inn. The settlement - Lakeshore - is growing, and now truly merits the title of "village". Most of the wagons have been stripped down for timber, and the new inn even has a stone foundation.
Akiros reports that nothing particularly urgent has happened, though there have been rumours of troll sightings to the south. He and Jhod have kept this quiet for now - no need to panic the people - but, when Eadfrid tells him about the troll they saw to the North, he begins to grow more concerned. The party sets out to investigate, first calling at the ferry to scatter the Stag Lord's ashes in the river.
29 Erastus, 4716
After a night's rest, during which Mikmek completely failed to "help keep watch", the party heads back to the kobold tunnels. Cuichelm in particular is determined not to go in and assassinate the shaman, preferring not to meddle in neighbouring societies while the new kingdom is just getting established. This honourable approach goes wrong, however, when Tartuk betrays the party: he orders the kobolds to kill the "scaleless defilers of Old Sharptooth". The battle is nasty, with the shaman draining his kobolds' life-force to strengthen himself, and casting a blood-letting spell that has most of the heroes almost on their knees. Alhandra is able to heal the survivors, including Mikmek, who scurries off to find Chief Sootscale himself.
Chief Sootscale turns out to be far more reasonable than Tartuk. He offers the "heroes" anything they want from Tartuk's stuff, which turns out to be a generous offer indeed: the shaman has collected much of the goods from the tribe. One of the more interesting items is Tartuk's diary: it records how he was born a gnome, not a kobold, and was afflicted in a resurrection accident. Since then, he has been infiltrating and destroying kobold tribes; the Sootscales were his third project of this sort. The Chief is grateful to have his tribe back, and smashes the statue of Old Sharptooth: much to the dismay of the other kobolds. However, when the Chief is not immediately struck down, they begin to calm down...
26-28 Erastus, 4716
The party setts off to deal with the mites. Their lair is under the old sycamore tree, down a narrow tunnel; the first attack is made when Cuichelm summons a swarm of hungry spiders. It does not take long for the spiders to be smoked out, though, and the next incursion (Adwulf heading down the tunnel to investigate) meets stiff resistance. The party make a plan, keeping a wary eye on the hole, and retreat for Cuichelm to prepare his spells.
The following day, on a gloriously sunny morning, the party head down the pit to investigate the mites' lair. The mites themselves are easily dealt with, as are their pet centipedes, though the sheer numbers of the mites makes the battle difficult and dangerous. Adwulf is protected from arrows by Cuichelm's spell, and the whole party is reduced in size so they do not have to squeeze through the tunnels.
On the deeper layer of the mites' caves, in what looks like living quarters, Adwulf - scouting ahead - is jumped by most of the survivors of the tribe. Though they are individually puny, together they can gang up on him; then their chieftain arrives, riding a giant tick into battle. The monster grabs Adwulf in its jaws, sucking his blood, and eventually leaving him weak and unconscious on the floor...
It does not take much longer to clean out the mites' lair, once Alhandra has restored Adwulf to consciousness. The party finds the sacred statue, on a war table - a crude map, with a scoresheet for the war with the kobolds - "US" vs "THEM". On the way back to the daylight, a giant centipede attacks, but it - and the two remaining mites - are dispatched easily. The mites' current victim, a kobold prisoner named Mikmek, is delighted to be rescued: and gleefully shouts "death to Tartuk" before he stops himself. It turns out that the shaman rules the tribe through fear - kobolds who go against him turn yellow and die - and Mikmek pleads for help in saving the Sootscales.
16-25 Erastus, 4716
The next few days are spent building a crude raft to serve as the new ferry across the river. Two of the settlers, Jan and Marten, agree to man the craft - for now - and they, together with the party, set out on foot to install the ferry. It is a difficult and dangerous task, made more so by the undead spirit of the former bridge-keeper, but he offers a month's grace in exchange for a promise that the party will scatter the Stag Lord's ashes in the river. The bandits were those who destroyed the original bridge, when the man would not pay the "protection" money they demanded.
Despite Eadfrid getting a soaking, and some bad bruises, the ferry is installed successfully. Now able to cross the river, the heroes continue their exploration; they find a cave marked Oaktop Silver Mine and begin to investigate. Before they can go too far, they encounter a kobold, Nakpik, who recruits them to come in and help. The shaman, an unusual purple kobold named Tartuk, explains. The tribe of mites to the north have stolen the kobolds' sacred statue, Old Sharptooth, and the heroes are recruited to retrieve it in exchange for a promise of future trade. The mine is not played out, and with kobold miners, a source of silver would be a valuable addition to the new land's resources.
6-15 Erastus, 4716
To the east of town, there are miles of empty and desolate hills. Farming this area, even keeping livestock in it, will be difficult. The ground is slow to explore, as well, and it is almost by chance that the party finds a lonely barrow, cut deep into the side of one of the steeper escarpments. Inside, there are bats roosting, a vicious trap that saps the energy of its victims, and a horde of skeletons: all guarding the tomb of an ancient warrior, who fights with his broken sword and severely weakens Eadfrid and Adwulf. The blade, broken though it is, seems to drain life-force. After a good night's rest, Eadfrid is recovered, but Adwulf is still suffering. The defeated warrior has just one last request - leave me... my sword - and the party is happy to oblige.
On the way back to town, the party encounters a troll, who shouts at them in Giant. No-one can translate the words, not immediately, but later research might help. The troll charges and, with help from Cuichelm's summoned fire elementals, is quickly defeated. It is here that Eadfrid truly begins to appreciate the joy of being twice his normal size.
28 Sarenrith-5 Erastus, 4716
Exploring further, the party travel around the lake to the west of town. The ground becomes more swampy; a difficult area to settle, as evidenced by the fact that no habitation is encountered for days. That ends when Eadfrid spots a small hut in the marsh, on a slightly drier hillock; smoke is coming from its chimney. As Eadfrid climbs over the fence to investigate, however, a scarecrow in the fenced yard comes to life and attacks Eadfrid, leaving him cowering in the corner before Cuichelm and Adwulf drive it off.
Eventually going around the hut, finding the gate and the path, the party engage in a shouted conversation with the old woman living within. They are unable to convince her that they mean no harm, or that she should let them in to talk - hardly surprising, given the misunderstanding with the scarecrow - and they eventually set off and leave her alone.
The party returns to town to rest, resupply, and see the progress on the town. It's been less than two weeks, but the town is thriving, and people are beginning to settle into a routine of daily life.
25-27 Sarenrith, 4716
Soon enough, this relatively domestic life begins to pall, and the party sets out hunting again. The wolves to the east - a strange pack, to follow riders across their territory - are an imminent threat to the new colony, if ever it expands in that direction. The party set out on foot, leaving the horses behind where they will be less vulnerable to the wolves.
After a day's march, the party make camp in the wolfpack's territory. The sun sets, and - camping without a fire - the party set up to watch overnight. Eadfrid is on watch, in the graveyard shift, when he hears a voice calling softly: "Help!"
Eadfrid wakes the others, and they set out to investigate. As Cuichelm and Adwulf get ahead of Eadfrid, glimpsing wolves in the night, Eadfrid is suddenly attacked by two wolves, who bite at his legs and pull him to the ground. Others appear in the night, closing in; Eadfrid struggles to his feet - taking more bites in the process - and cuts down one of his attackers. The wolves melt back into the darkness.
No longer timid and afraid, the voice commands the party to turn back: "This land belongs to me, not to you." They stand, back-to-back, straining their eyes in the darkness. For several minutes, nothing happens - but just as Eadfrid begins to flag, the wolves reappear, a full pack of them led by a worg, and all of the party take wounds. With effort, though, Cuichelm is able to stun the worg with a spell, and Eadfrid desperately cleaves it in two. Without their leader, the wolves are easier - though not easy - to defeat, and soon they are fleeing into the night. Only one escapes.
1-24 Sarenrith, 4716
The settlers arrive on the first of the new month. The curse on the hillside is still there, as far as anyone can tell - any dead bodies there will rise as zombies - and, without powerful enough magic to take on a deity, the only way to overcome this is to establish a new shrine in the ruin, dedicated to a more benevolent god. Erastil, god of frontiers and hunters, seems the natural choice - and Jhod, as a cleric of Erastil, agrees to take charge of the shrine once it is built. For now, a simple canvas roof over the central area of the bandit fort is all that can be achieved: but Old Deadeye is a god fonder of actions than of words, of deeds rather than of ceremonies; and this will be to his liking.
The next few weeks are a strange break from the activity of exploring. The days are long, rising at dawn and working hard to build houses: temporary wooden frames, covered in canvas, at first; more permanent structures with stone foundations will have to come later. With the industry of the settlers, and the example of the heroes, a small village springs up; it looks like a frontier town with its primitive buildings down either side of a single broad street, but it is closer to civilisation than this area has known for decades or more. Fields are cleared around the town, preparing for farms; though it is late in the season for sowing, some crops at least are planted, and some fish traps are constructed in the edge of the lake.
17-31 Desnus, 4716
The party set off early on the second morning, leaving the settlers behind. Jhod and Akiros agree to lead the settlers South; with a day's hard riding, a small party will have a day or two to deal with the zombies before the settlers arrive.
They start off by investigating the old fort, avoiding the haunted hillside. Cuichelm is able to decipher the graffiti on the walls - they are ancient messages, a hate-filled set of scrawls cursing other writers, other people, and the land around them. Piecing together the fragments, Cuichelm suggests it might once have been a shrine to Gyronna - the goddess of hags and hatred. Why the cultists left is not clear.
There's a startling moment when Adwulf yells, pointing out that the bodies - the Stag Lord, all the bandits, and even the old man from the basement - are vanished as if they had never been there. Not a bone, not a scrap of armour or clothing, is left. The obvious conclusion - that they have been dragged under the ground - leads Adwulf to nervously command "no-one is allowed to die".
As far as a plan goes, nothing seems better than destroying what zombies can be found. With Eadfrid in the lead, enlarged by Cuichelm's magic, the party set off - and waves of zombies emerge from the hillside, threatening to overwhelm the party, but teamwork wins the day. Alhandra runs forward to blast the undead with holy energy, while Cuichelm calls stones from the sky, slowing down the approach enough that Eadfrid can cut them down one by one. After a hard hour's work, no more zombies arise as the hillside is explored thoroughly, and the job is done.
1-16 Desnus, 4716
Exploring to the south and east, the party finds that the land rises towards mountains in the distance. They hear wolves howling in the wind, but only see two of them, trailing them as they ride across the territory. To the north, a ruined bridge - or ferry? - crosses the river; a sign still reads "Ring bell for service". The bridge looks impassable to Eadfrid in his armour, especially after the last experience with a dubious bridge, so the party turn back towards the South.
Camping on the lake-shore, in a pleasant sheltered spot, seems like a good idea: until a monstrously large turtle rises from the water to snap at one of the horses, soon killing the unfortunate animal. Adwulf's arrows almost entirely fail to penetrate the reptile's shell, but eventually Eadfrid is able to dispatch it. Cuichelm's magic proves useful, burning through the armour plating as if it were paper.
Chastened and riding double, the party return north to Oleg's, to find a crowd beginning to gather. Two dozen wagons, and around a hundred would-be settlers, are milling around waiting for leadership. Eadfrid orders them to form up, ready to move - and though it takes longer than he requests, the party persuade the settlers to head south, Akiros and Jhod guiding them and Kesten's men serving as guards. Oleg is relieved to be left alone again, though Svetlana looks less happy about the absence of people.
Finally, on the road South, the party break off from the settlers: it is time to clear out the zombies and make the site fit for human habitation...
19-30 Gozran, 4716
Returning to Oleg's on the evening of the 19th, the party report the defeat of the bandits, and Oleg sends a messenger to Restov with the news. Meanwhile, having unloaded the horses, Alhandra takes a look at Adwulf's and Guthmund's injuries. The bites from the werewolf look bad: inflamed and red: and there is an immediate worry that the two might be infected. With the moon near full, this is a problem: so the next day, the party sets out to find wolfsbane.
Returning with the herb, Alhandra (with Jhod's help) brews a tea from the leaves; despite the foul taste, Adwulf and Guthmund dutifully drink their medicine. Adwulf suffers serious side-effects, and is barely able to leave his bed for a number of days, but Guthmund seems much less affected. This turns out to be bad news, when he starts howling at the moon and runs off into the forest.
Still wondering what to do about the loss of their friend, the three remaining members of the party are debating plans when a messenger arrives from Restov, bearing a letter with enclosures. It is startling, to say the least: it offers the party ("the Charter-Bearers") the opportunity to establish a realm of their own, a client kingdom of Brevoy, in the Stolen Lands. Not only that, but it promises a substantial financial reward for their work so far: 4000gp, or the equivalent in goods.
After some discussion, no-one wants to take on the role of a ruler. Cuichelm comments that he'd left Restov specifically to get away from serving in the city guard, and that ruling didn't have much more appeal. However, exploring to recommend a site to settle is at least within the charter: and though Oleg's might make a good nucleus for a settlement, the man himself is far from happy at the idea. With that in mind, the party sets off down the river from the bandits' forest camp, looking for somewhere defensible, with fresh water and potential trade links.
After several days, travelling around the forest and the hills, mapping and exploring, it becomes clear that the bandit fort is in an excellent location: the hills make it defensible; the river - and the lake - nearby could be good sources of water and trade. There is the minor problem of zombies rising from the ground - but for now, the plan is to return and deal with those later.
16-18 Gozran, 4716
The party sets a watch overnight, in the near-silence of the bandit fort. The owlbear, in its cage, hoots and rattles the bars. Apart from that, nothing moves: and nothing comes back to claim the fort.
As the sun rises, the party explore the fort. It is clearly the ruin of a much older structure - at least a century old, judging by the graffiti still visible on fragments of old plaster, and once a much sturdier and more important place. Why it was here, in the middle of nowhere, is still a mystery: perhaps its former owners also had reasons to avoid civilisation...
The Stag Lord himself, once his helm is removed, turns out to be a badly scarred man: it looks like his face has been disfigured, burned by fire or acid. Adwulf, tempted as he is by the magic properties of the helm, is cautious enough not to put it on for now. Guthmund, meanwhile, takes the bandit's bow: a finely made weapon, not quite as heavy in the draw as Guthmund's own, but with an enchantment to help its arrows find their target. That done, the party discuss how to deal with the owlbear: left alone, it will starve; the choice is between slaying it and trying to drive it out into the wilderness. Barricades, of crates and a bed, are constructed to guide the beast out of the gate. Alhandra leads the horses away, out of easy pursuit, while the others stay back. Eadfrid is in position to assist if the beast attacks, while Guthmund and Adwulf pull the rope to open its cage. Adwulf is startled by the speed of the owlbear's rush for freedom, and stumbles back. With a heroic effort, Guthmund pushes the barricade into place in time, and the owlbear takes the easier option of running out into the wild, heading off into the nearby hills.
Finally, there is only the basement to deal with. Akiros had warned the party about the "mad old man"; though the basement seems deserted when the party first enters it. They hear a spell being cast, and are suddenly beset by a giant ant and swarming spiders, while the old man himself turns into a wolverine to attack. The spiders' poison, in particular, is a debilitating threat, but the party survive victorious - though not unscathed.
It turns out that the old man was guarding the bandits' treasure: and what treasure! Trade goods worth thousands, and coin and jewels worth almost as much, mean that several trips will be needed to clear it out. Guthmund suggests setting up a trading post of their own, but Eadfrid points out that traffic will be quite limited. Reluctantly, the party load the most valuable - and portable - items onto the bandits' horses, and set off back towards Oleg's.
The journey is long, walking and leading heavily laden horses. On the second night, nearing the forest with the old bandit camp, a stranger approaches the campfire. He asks to share the camp; though wary - something seems off - the party invite him in. Everything is fine until later at night, when Eadfrid and Adwulf turn to see the stranger standing over Guthmund with a drawn sword. He howls, shifting into a wolf-like shape, and a brief but bloody battle commences. When the stranger is slain, despite his near-immunity to normal weapons, he has bitten both Guthmund and Adwulf. All four know well enough that the man was a werewolf - and that two of the party may also be infected by now.
Night of the 15th
Dusk. The party watches the bandit camp; three guards stand on the watchtowers, observing the path more than the hillside around it. A plan comes together: Alhandra, Eadfrid and Guthmund will shoot flaming arrows into the palisade, trying to start fires. When the bandits ride out to deal with the attack, Adwulf will sneak in and let out the captive owlbear. A bold, dangerous plan: but better than trying to storm the place in a doomed assault.
Night falls, and just after dark, the party start small fires in hollows in the ground. They are lucky enough that the bandits do not spot the glow, and the first wave of arrows gets no reaction. The second wave starts a couple more fires, and now the bandits start to move. Four of them run out of the gates, while the others put out fires. The noise they make is enough to be heard, and so the three archers begin circling round. Adwulf waits for his moment, and sets off towards the open gates.
Every plan lasts until the first arrow is fired. This one lasted seconds longer: the bandits see Eadfrid and Guthmund, and Alhandra circling around, and call for reinforcements even as the first of them dies. Another bandit runs out to join the fight, but he almost falls over Adwulf, who scrambles back into the darkness. Eadfrid has crossed the hillside, the unguarded area, and finds out why. A group of zombies rise from unmarked graves, and begin to give chase; meanwhile, the bandits shoot both Adwulf and Eadfrid. The battle seems to be turning in favour of the bandits, and then the Stag Lord appears in the gates. He is a tall man with a stag's skull for a head; he shoots one of the zombies almost casually, and returns it to death. Then he turns his bow on Eadfrid...
The fight is brief and bloody. The remaining bandits are killed, taking the zombies with them. The lummox Auchs drags his leader back inside the palisade, as the grievously wounded Eadfrid is healed by Alhandra and by Guthmund's wand. As the party approach the gates again, ready to finish the job, the two bandit leaders step into the gateway. Auchs prepares to charge, while the Stag Lord raises his bow...
The new attack starts badly. Both Guthmund and Eadfrid take serious wounds, and Eadfrid is almost killed by an arrow just before the Stag Lord falls. At the last minute, more by luck than judgment, he turns his head: and the arrow leaves him with a long scar across his forehead, blinding him for a moment as he struggles to clear the blood from his eyes. In a final moment of desperation, Guthmund steps up and strikes. He finally lands the blow that's been eluding him all night, and the Stag Lord drops his bow at his feet. He staggers forward, trying to grab Guthmund, but he only manages to drag a smear of blood down Guthmund's front. He falls, bleeding and dying: and the battle is won.
8-15 Gozran, 4716
A decision is reached to attack, and eliminate the bandits permanently. Akiros warns the party to be careful of the old man in the basement: he's mad and dangerous, though Akiros is unable to give much more detail.
The party ride south, planning the assault, and decide to try picking off a few more bandits before the real battle begins. The plan starts well: two bandits, setting out hunting, are attacked and killed quickly. Unfortunately, the second of them gets far enough away that he manages to alert the fort, and the tables are turned: most of the remaining bandits ride out after the heroes. Fleeing into the wilderness, they outrun the pursuers: helped by Guthmund shooting one of them who was a better horseman than the rest.
Leaving the bandit fort for a while, the party explore further, then decide to hunt the great boar Tuskgutter. Finding the boar's lair takes some time, though it is easy enough. The boar is not there, and while searching the area, the party find the body of the old hunter who first told them about the boar. It seems his efforts weren't enough. In his memory, however, they take his bow and three magical arrows, enchanted to kill the boar, and follow its trail through the forest.
Guthmund steps on a twig at the wrong moment, and the boar charges. It's a brief and bloody fight, Guthmund taking a serious wound, but the arrows (and Guthmund's new bow) do enough to win the day.
The party heads back to the lake-shore, seeing that the bandit fort is still on alert after their previous raid. This may be the first time anyone has challenged the bandits in their lair: and they do not like it.
1-7 Gozran, 4716
After some discussion, the party decide to execute the two captured bandits. The fact that said bandits are entirely unrepentant, one of them in particular seemingly convinced that the "do-gooders" will never execute anyone, helps to make the decision.
Svetlana is overjoyed to see Oleg returned alive and, mostly, unharmed. Akiros agrees to take Kesten's orders, working as a guard at the trading post; and the party set out to explore more of the region. Guthmund sums it up: "I, for one, have had enough of bandits for now." Before setting off, they question Tomas and Grigor (the two repentant bandits working for Oleg) about the whereabouts of Svetlana's wedding ring. Tomas says that if it's not in the loot already recovered, it will be in the bag stolen by the mites: "There's a tribe of the ugly little sods, living under the old sycamore tree. Like goblins, but twice as weak and twice as pathetic."
The expedition lasts most of a week; exploring the hills, with their twisting gullies and occasional cliff faces, is a slow process. An old dead tree, struck by lightning many years ago, marks the hidden cache on the sketch found weeks ago; this contains a small amount of treasure along with a damaged spellbook. The only other encounter of interest is the old sycamore tree, where a tunnel leads down into the mites' lair. A shouted conversation, with a high-pitched voice, leads to negotiation and eventual trade, despite the voice's frequent demands of "You go away now!". Trading some tindertwigs for the ring seems like a good plan, and both Oleg and Svetlana are delighted by its return.
1 Gozran, 4716
Approaching the lonely hut, the party stop to plan for a while. They decide to "bind" Akiros, and lead him up as an obvious prisoner: to make it look less like the trap it really is. After some tense bluff and counter-bluff, Dovan and his bandits are lured out of the hut; Guthmund manages to persuade Dovan to release Oleg before they surrender Akiros for torture. The bandits shove Oleg at Alhandra, as the fight starts; though it is a vicious and bloody melee, Alhandra manages to save Eadfrid from an untimely death. Soon enough, Dovan and two of his men are slain: the other two flee on foot, but are soon ridden down and captured.
Oleg is reluctant to employ these latest two at the trading post: they had stood by and watched him tortured. Akiros, of all people, suggests forgiveness: but the decision will need to be made; is there to be a redemption or an execution?
28-31 Pharast, 4716
That evening, the party enters the bandit camp. They are greeted by Dirty Jeb, a bandit with particularly bad hygiene, and - showing the liquor they've brought for the Stag Lord - talk their way into the camp. The evening passes peacefully enough: they meet Akiros, their target; and Alhandra shuts down the amorous advances of Cragger, one of the less intelligent bandits. There's a tense moment before the bandits decide to laugh at Cragger, accepting Alhandra and the others as part of the group.
In the night, Eadfrid starts looking for assassination opportunities. It's clear that, while killing Akiros might be done, getting away afterwards would be almost impossible. Adwulf points out that Akiros seemed unhappy with life as a bandit.
The next day, Eadfrid and Adwulf explain their plan to the others. They will take Akiros out hunting, and see if they can talk him into leaving the bandits. If that fails, at least he will be alone and undefended. They ride quietly for a while, then the conversation starts: and Alhandra manages to persuade Akiros to join them. He admits to looking for a way out; he guesses they were sent by Dovan, and offers to go back with them as a hostage - and a potential victim for Dovan to torture - if they bind his hands lightly enough that he can attack.
For two days, the party ride northeast. Akiros shows them a better river crossing, a shallow ford instead of a now-collapsed bridge, but the focus is on what awaits at the hut...
26-28 Pharast, 4716
The party sets off to find the bandits who took Oleg. Svetlana reports that they came from the South, five of them, but rode off to the East. They paralleled the road for a time - deliberately leaving tracks - and then veered off, to a small hut in the wilderness. At the hut, Eadfrid and Guthmund were spotted: and the bandits were waiting, with Oleg as a hostage.
The bandit leader called Adwulf out from hiding, saying Oleg had been "most informative", and that he was here to make a trade: the party were to kill Akiros Ismort, the Stag Lord's second-in-command, and return within ten days. He would then spare Oleg's life, instead of killing him slowly.
Without enthusiasm, but without a choice, the party decided to go along with the bandit's plan. After all, the man they are to kill is _also_ a bandit. They return to Oleg's briefly, arriving at dusk, and retrieve the liquor they had found at the bandit camp on the river. The Stag Lord is apparently a drunk: and will accept the alcohol gratefully.
The journey to the fort is almost without incident. The river, so easy to cross near the bandit's smaller camp, runs through a ravine here: and the rickety bridge collapses under Eadfrid's horse. Fortunately, the horse swims ashore downriver, and Eadfrid and Adwulf are also able to cross: though they take an icy soaking in the process. Having warmed up, they head on to the fort. It stands on a small rise, where the river empties into a broad lake, and the party come up with a plan.
Guthmund: "Will we sound believable?"
Guthmund: "Maybe stick with a simple story"
Guthmund: "I'm not a particularly good liar"
Adwulf: "Nor I. Less detail is better"
Eadfrid: "Kressie recruited us, we've been raiding for a week and now we're here with the spoils."
Adwulf: "What have we got as spoils?"
Eadfrid: "8 bottles of liquor."
Eadfrid: "And some gold and silver."
Guthmund: "A small amount of that"
Adwulf: "So we sold anything else and drank the proceeds?"
Adwulf: "Wait, what was the password?"
Guthmund: "By the bloody bones of St Gilmorg, who wants to know?"
Adwulf: "Ah, yes. Right look casual"
19-25 Pharast, 4716
Leaving Jhod at the old temple, the party sets off to explore. They head first south, to the edge of the forest; that night, they meet an older hunter named Vekkel who is setting out to kill a legendary boar known as Tuskgutter. He says it's not anything worse than a bigger, meaner boar: "you see men who are bigger and meaner than other men; don't mean they're orcs". The party steer well clear of where the boar lairs, remembering their last encounter with the animals, and head west.
The ground slopes down, becoming marshy. As it turns into a true swamp, they see two abandoned buildings. A boggard - a frog-like humanoid - tries to tell them to back off, in broken Common. Unable to establish a line of communication, Eadfrid and Adwulf bully their way in to the ruins, while Guthmund stands watch. They find nothing of interest and head onwards.
The abandoned temple seems to be a safe place: though Guthmund spotted an owlbear, and Jhod reports seeing a wolf, neither of the predators came close to the temple, even though horses were tethered and defenseless on each occasion. Adwulf suggests that the place has a calming effect on animals, and Jhod wonders if this is Erastil's influence.
Returning to Oleg's, the party is greeted with terrible news: Svetlana tells them that the bandits have returned, capturing Oleg and taking him away as a prisoner.
15-18 Pharast, 4716
Jhod describes an abandoned temple deep in the forest. He is cagy at first, but explains it is a temple of Erastil, God of the Hunt. The party agrees to investigate, and slay the "wrong" bear that Jhod says is guarding the site. Exploring to the West, the party encounter the fey, and Tyg-Titter-Tut agrees to guide them to the temple.
The temple is abandoned, but a giant bear guards it: the bear seems dizzy and bewildered, and soon lumbers forward to attack. The party defeats the bear, and the apparent curse on the place is lifted. The water in the stagnant pool turns clear, the ominous shadows retreat a little, and the bear's corpse turns into an old man, who dies with a look of relief in his eyes - before crumbling into dust.
The next day, they bring Jhod back to the temple to translate the inscriptions. He describes a history: the wall-paintings in the cave are a symbolic account of how the last priest of the temple lost his faith in Erastil. He lured a giant bear to the temple, and sacrificed it in a prayer to anyone who would listen.
8-14 Pharast, 4716
After trading with Oleg for some new armour, and requesting a healing wand on order, the party sets off into the Greenbelt. They pause to bury the (somewhat gnawed) body of the bandit at the edge of the woods, building a rough cairn; after this they proceed to map the eastern edge of the forest in more detail. Late morning on the 9th, they come across a clearing where four kobolds are trying to digest their over-eating on radishes. Eadfrid tries to steal a radish, to see if it's any good: but the kobolds spot him, and won't be talked out of attacking. It does not end well for the kobolds.
Exploration continues, including identifying the direction of the river past the old bandit camp - which remains deserted. The party agree not to take on the main bandit fort at this time, but to explore the area instead. They encounter no intelligent life, and no dangerous animals, for a couple of days: though they do find a cave with a strange glittering wall, and make a note to come back later. On the way back to Oleg's, the party is jumped by a large and hungry spider; this time, it has bitten off more than it can chew and despite difficulty with horses, they slay the spider and investigate its burrow. Of most interest, they find a crude map on the corpse of a bandit: it depicts a dry dead tree on a hilltop.
Largely uninjured, but tired, the party head back to Oleg's for a rest and a hot meal. They are welcomed warmly; another new arrival introduces himself as Jhod Kavken.
7 Pharast, 4716:
Despite trying to track the bandit, his trail is lost somewhere in the woods. The party return to Oleg's, and meet Kesten Garess, a mercenary whose small group have arrived to guard the trading post. He asks the party to track down and bring to justice a man named Falgrim Sneeg, who stole from them earlier this year. Oleg is glad to see the party back, and trades with them.
6 Pharast, 4716:
The party, guided by Perlivash, ride all night through the forest to the bandit camp. Arriving just after dawn, Adwulf sneaks ahead to scout the camp: but he is spotted. Eadfrid and Guthmund rush up the track to the camp, seeing Adwulf being shot at by archers in the trees, and facing down the bandit leader. Though she injures Eadfrid, he cuts her in two with a single blow, and the two bandit archers surrender in panic.
Interrogating the bandits, the party learns a lot of information:
- The boss, Kressle, reports to a bandit called the Stag Lord. All his officers wear amulets with an image of a stag's skull.
- The Stag Lord is a drunk, and not popular with his followers, but they don't dare go against him.
- He's a dead shot with a bow ("Never misses!") and either his helm or his face - the two bandits disagreed - is like a stag's skull.
- His fort is downriver, on the shore of the lake.
After some discussion, the party decide that the bandits are truly repentant, and therefore should not be executed: but they are branded instead, marked on the cheek with the amulet, and sent to Oleg's with a note asking for some degree of mercy. How much will be granted remains to be seen...
The party waits, most of the day, for the two surviving bandits to arrive. Alhandra casts her spell in ambush a little early, and though one bandit is killed, the other escapes. After a rest, the party sets out to track the bandit.
4-5 Pharast, 4716:
After a good night's sleep, the party sets off, guided by Perlivash, the pseudodragon. He shows them where the first trap is, and leaves them to explore. It's a time-consuming job, but despite a couple of near misses, the party find and trigger (using sticks, not limbs) a number of vicious bear traps. On the way back, the party run into a group of six bandits; everyone is badly injured, but Perlivash arrives in time to help. He turns Guthmund invisible, and the resulting violent death of one more bandit is enough to scare off the two survivors.
Perlivash tries to convince the party that the bandit camp might be too dangerous for them, but they disagree - even though he points out their habit of nearly getting killed. He does mention a couple of other sites in the forest: "Giant frogs, and an ancient temple with a mad bear".
3 Pharast, 4716:
Despite the increasing difficulty of following tracks in the forest, Guthmund and Alhandra are doing well: until the tracks suddenly vanish. There's a patch of magical grease where the tracks cease to be visible, and though the grease disappears soon, the tracks do not reappear. There's muffled, high-pitched laughter in the treetops, though nothing can be seen.
A long day's ride, returning to the edge of the forest and following it, leads only to an abandoned campsite. Before the party can investigate, they are attacked by two wild boars; Guthmund and Eadfrid are both seriously injured. One of the boars is killed; the other staggers off into the undergrowth, badly wounded. Alhandra is able to heal her companions, saving them from likely death.
In the aftermath, a quiet voice says "Oh dear. We weren't watching."
Another voice, slightly higher-pitched, replies "And whose fault was that? You were looking for another prank, and they nearly got killed!"
A conversation ensues; it turns out that the two pranksters are fey - a pseudodragon, and a grasshopper-bodied girl. They accuse the party of being bad sports and not having a good sense of humour, particularly when Guthmund threatens to burn them out. Eventually, however, they agree to help: they know where the bandits keep camp, and ask only that the party clear out some "nasty traps" from the forest to the northwest.
2 Pharast, 4716:
The day after the ambush, the party sets out to the West, carrying the body of Happs Bydon. They attempt to hang him from a tree, as a warning to other bandits: but strangely, the first branch they use falls out of the tree; the second attempt is met by a shower of pinecones landing on Guthmund's head. They come up with a second plan: peg the bandit's body to the ground, then light a signal fire to lure other bandits. Despite waiting until nightfall, no-one turns up: perhaps the bandit camp is too far away.
1 Pharast, 4716
The party sets up an ambush. Though Eadfrid is spotted, and he and Guthmund both sustain serious injury, the bandits are defeated and their leader captured. The leader, Happs Bydon, is killed trying to escape: but not before he has revealed some information. The bandits' camp is "on the edge of the forest, near the river, to the west"; Oleg provides information that the nearest edge of the forest is around ten hours' walk (less time on horseback). The party decide to keep the bandits' horses; Oleg offers to handle the sale of any items they have without charging them, and will be able to get a good price.
28 Calistril, 4716
The party arrives at Oleg's trading post in the late evening. As they are sitting by the fire after supper, the storm breaks; Svetlana (Oleg's wife) explains how the trading post has been beset by bandits. The bandits typically arrive early in the morning, on the first day of each month. The first time, three months ago, they came in force: but since then it has been a smaller group. The party plan to ambush the bandits the following day.
20 Calistril, 4716
The party is chartered by the Swordlords to explore the Greenbelt and eliminate banditry.