Game 1, 2/4/11
Nightal 1, 1230cc, Year of the Lightning Storms
The Feast of the Moon the previous night brought drinking and story-telling. This has left Sevenstones Park (the caravan massing ground in central Elbulder) in a condition requiring clean up. This is true of most of the buildings that are adjacent to the Park as traffic the day before was high.
Cecil’s sweeping out of the well-attended shrine of Helm is interrupted by a middle-aged man in a dark purple cloak named Lhesim. He reveals he is a caravan master for the Falcon-eye Trading Company — the company of ships and wagons owned by Cecil’s father and uncle.
Lhesim says he understands the impropriety of his request (not only is Cecil the son of his employer, he is a paladin and clearly above such dirty work) but he really needs help. The wagon caravan was attacked by gnolls on the journey north across the Golden Fields grasslands. He fears they are now understaffed to make the last leg of the trip to their home base, Cecil’s home town of Shamph. Other options for guards are few as this is the end of the trading season and other lookouts or even other caravans to travel in the company of are few.
Cecil’s senior priest, Azred, gives him leave to go, encouraging his duty to his family (so long as it doesn’t conflict with his duty to Helm.) However, he makes one specific instruction: he is not to escort the caravan any further north than Timindar, the small town on the southernmost border of Chondath. Lhesim is grateful and says he will pay any help Cecil can round up as well, especially an elf that could help ensure their safe passage through the woods. At Azred’s suggestion, Cecil speaks to Ethran at Windride Wheelright.
Ethran agrees to go along and recruits a previous caravan companion from his room at the Old Road Inn, a moon elf named Xandos. Together they meet with Lhesim over ale in one of Elbulder’s finest drinking halls, Stoneblood’s Ale House, to work out an agreement and plan their travels.
When their planning is near an end, they are interrupted by a former acquaintance of Xandos. The narrow-nosed, Shaaran-blooded man introduces himself as Mehmud Cor Maryk and sits down without invitation. He dresses plainly enough, is about 30 and walks with the help of a gnarled duskwood cane. There are vague insults passed back and forth between the two, and Mehmud tells Cecil that he “drinks with a thief.”
In the course of conversation between the two it is revealed that they know one another from Ormpetarr where Mehmud was a former recruiter for the thieves’ guild. After a few failed attempts at “politely” bringing Xandos into the guild, a more persuasive effort was made. This led to Xandos putting a rune-scarred arrow through Mehmud’s leg. The magical wound never healed corrected, leaving Mehmud with a limp and poor career prospects as a thief. He proclaims that he is “almost grateful” for the wound as it redirected him towards business and investments and away from a life of simple theft. After a few more casual jibes, he departs the tavern.
The group goes out and packs their belongings, purchases supplies and prepares to depart Elbulder the following morning.
The six wagons, drivers, mercenaries and the new company from Elbulder assemble the caravan at Sevenstones Park then make their way towards the North Gate, pass over the North Bridge and out onto the Old Road…
The first day of travel is quiet. The road here is well-kept and there are even a few places (seldom longer than 30 or 40 feet) where the ancient block/brick road that was laid still exists. Overall though, it is quiet and empty. Even the few outlaying farms they pass are left behind after mid-afternoon. The brown, dormant grasses of the gently rolling plains to either side of the road don’t even offer much in the way of wildlife to look at except a small herd of gray deer at dusk. Cloudy and cool, it is nonetheless good traveling conditions and the caravan makes good time.
By mid-morning, the road is less and less well kept. Ruts from rainy days of the past month or so are not filled in (as is customarily done by those who pass through here.) The group has passed no other wagons or travelers since leaving Elbulder. In the afternoon, at the crest of a hill, the group passes a stretch of intact roadway that is over 100’ long. It is the single remarkable sight of the day.
By mid-afternoon clouds can be seen rolling in from the north. A light but steady rain begins and continues into the evening. The caravan pulls off at a regular camping location known as Enil’s Pond where an old stone and clay dam across hillside rain run-offs create a 100-yard long shallow pond for watering horses.
After a cool, damp night, the caravan loads back up and continues northward. Beyond another afternoon of rain, the day is unremarkable. The view hasn’t changed in several days beyond the fact that a few more trees are present. From the back come the first sounds of grumbling from bored travelers.
By high sun the caravan crests a small hill that allows the Chondalwood to be seen extending most of the way across the horizon, west to east. Lhesim pulls the caravan in at the end of the day to a small clearing a little off the road. They are within sight of the real boundary of the Chondalwood.
The group enters the woods. The hard-packed dirt road here requires the attention of two “cutters” who walk along either side of the road helping keep vegetation cut back.
Not far into the forest the caravan encounters of a group of about ten people in pale green cloaks who casually stagger along. When met, they describe themselves as pilgrims and in need of food. Ethran provides some to them, as does Lhesim from the caravan store of food. Xandos goes so far as to give the travelers gold for their journey.
It is after this that the conversation continues and the group realizes they are pilgrims in some variety of snake-worshippers’ cult. The person who is speaking for them says they are on their way beyond the Golden Plains to find a creature named something like “Siss Morain.” When Ethran inquires about this being a naga or similar creature, the speaker replies “no… an anathema.” The group then continues on after offering their thanks to the caravan.
This remainder of the first day in the Chondalwood is tense and quiet, at least until camp is made when gambling and drinking are undertaken to relieve the uneasiness.
As the caravan riders are readying gear and answering nature’s call, they discover three snares in the trees near a water supply trail. Those snares appear to have been set by satyrs or centaurs, but upon closer inspection by Ethran and Xandos, they begin to think they are merely meant to appear satyr or centaur. In each snare is a dead person in various stages of decay.
Spirits among the caravan personnel turn further negative when Lhesim goes to distribute lunch rations and discovers a portion have spoiled. The crusty bread, cheese in wax, jerky and other road rations should have had no problem making the entire trip back to Shamph without spoiling. More grumbling and concerns about the forest residents working magic are heard.
The group stops for the night and makes camp in the woods. After eating, some drinking and dice-throwing take place as the men try to distract their concerns.
This is interrupted by the arrival of three “green” elves – brown-skinned wood elven residents who simply step out of the forest without a sound of warning.
Their leader asks Xandos why he travels with “non-people” then proceeds to walk straight to the center of the gathered travelers. In halting common he calls the humans “Kin of Illistine” (a reference to the original human king of Chondath who first invaded elven woods.) He tells them that when the day and night are equal again, they will no longer be permitted in “Eiellûr” (Xandos explains later that this is the oldest elven name for the woods.) The wood elf threat is that those who trespass after that will “feed the trees.” He departs without further discussion, though one of his traveling companions calls Xandos “traitor” before leaving.