Th’ day stairted wi’ a rescue. Sae ‘twas juist a normal day fur oor heroes. Wance thay hud destroyed th’ hive, th’ group retreated tae th’ lip o’ th’ forest, whaur thay fun asanja ‘n’ kell guarding th’ three individuals thay hud rescued fae th’ demons. ‘twas earlie forenicht by this time, ’n’ th’ group decided thair best shift wid be tae return tae thair campsite fae th’ nicht afore, ‘n’ git some weel earned rest. Saena cast her paukit hut, providing thaim a’ wi’ a safe space tae kip, ‘n’ atween astaria, elias ‘n’ kell, thay hud enough fairn fur th’ nicht. Sure thay wid be safe, th’ group then git tae ken thair rescuees a bawherr better.
(At this point Asanja put down her ale and decided it would be best to write in Common from now on).
The human couple they had rescued introduced themselves as Heras and Kella, farmers from north of Endamos, who, along with Kella’s brother and cousins, had been dragged into the woods, beaten, and then carried off to the demon hive. All they knew of their time in the hive was that it had been long, as they had been kidnapped early in the season.
The third rescuees is a quiet Kalashtari lady by the name of Kathelian. She is found meditating when the others wake, and Astaria does her best to engage her in conversation. They discover that Kathelian lives alone in the woods, and unlike Astaria and Asanja had devoted her life to the psychic aspects of Kalashtari culture. She is grateful to the group for rescuing her, as she can ‘think now it is quiet’, and whilst she does walk with the group for a while, she declines their offer of an escort. Kell tells the group she left during one of the nights on their way to the farm.
It is decided however that it would be safest to walk the farmers home. They show their gratitude by giving their rescuers a meal and some jam. Elias seemed particularly pleased with this last.
The next natural move is to head back to Endamos for news, as they have been away for a few days, and about a mile out they run into a Ranger Patrol. A Patrol of new recruits headed by Sargeant Breda, a no-nonsense gnome. She eyes up Elias, lets him know there is a message waiting at the fort for him, and then goes back to ignoring our heroes and bossing about her recruits. As this news only affects Elias and Kell, they head to the Keep, whilst the rest of the group strike out for the tower and the comfort of their own beds.
Elias arrives to find a patrol has returned with a message for him, written on a rag stuffed in a sealed envelope, delivered by a mysterious woman who carries a pair of hand axes. It says ‘the Wolf is heading to Uld Vroggen to find his sister.’, and contains a map with a large X marking a spot near ruins. It is simply signed with a W. Elias uses this opportunity to check the maps to find where the note could be talking about, but it is likely in the unfriendly country beyond the frontier, where the patrols don’t venture. Whilst giving his account of their time at the hive to Jaks, Elias also shares the content of his letter. Jaks agrees to provide horses and some operational equipment, but that is the extent of the help he can provide.
Unfortunately for Elias, his companions aren’t very pleased to hear about his letter. They argue about the best course of action, as between them they have enough knowledge of the land beyond the frontier to know it’s not anyone’s ideal destination. Some of the locals can be negotiated with, but this is usually done whilst they are chewing on your squishy parts. They also know that the pillars in the diagram are likely the remains of one of the greatest temples ever built, a temple to whom is knowledge lost in time.
Eventually it is decided that the best plan would be to get a good sleep in their own beds, and then set out across the Aelthindaar and towards what could be an encounter with the Wolf. The horses definitely help, and despite the snow they make pretty good time.
As they travel, they begin to find ‘evidence’ of the Wolf’s passage; scorchmarks, arrows in trees where victims attempted to fight back, and eventually the non-fresh bodies of the victims themselves, buried in the snow. These people are recognised as one of the missing Ranger patrols, some of whom are known to Kell, and he takes one’s family pin along with their money, to be returned to the families when the group make it back to Endamos.
Asanja, distraught at the sight, insists on building a marker to let other travellers know that these brave Rangers gave up their lives in this place, and she also prays to her god Dakarai, Lord of the Doors, for safe passage of their souls. Whilst she is busy with this, the more rational members of the group build a pyre to burn the bodies, to ensure they do not return.
Burning becomes a theme of the journey, as the group are sure to dispose of the animals and goblin remains they come across, to ensure they don’t find themselves under siege by a horde of vampire creatures.
Certain unscrupulous members of the party check the bodies for valuables before burning.
Once the Pillars are visible on the horizon, the group discovers an area cleared of snow, with a large, highly unnatural hole in the centre. Upon investigating, Kell discovers it leads to a small chamber – someone knew something was hiding here. Upon consulting their map, they know this isn’t the site marked by the X, but decide it is worth exploring anyway.
It is quickly decided that Elias and Kell will anchor a rope, so Saena, Boba and Astaria can climb down into the hole. Asanja acts as part lookout/part scout. Saena makes it most of the way down the rope, falling the last few feet, but is soon back on her feet. Boba is about halfway down the rope when he hears a curse word from above, and Astaria falls past, luckily caught by Saena. Boba decides he likes the look of this, and jumps off the rope for Saena to catch.
The chamber is made of smooth stone, and was once fully equipped, judging by the weapon racks, crates and other objects scattered around. Boba cracks a sun rock, allowing the little party to investigate their surroundings further. At the centre of the chamber lies a vault.
The vault and the chamber appear to have been created by magic a long time ago, and something was sealed in until recently. The only item of furniture in the vault is a wooden chair with no arms, and once Astaria has cast detect magic on it, a faint aura of transmutation. Boba decides to throw his pot at the chair, but it garners no response, so he despondently puts it away again. Upon further examination of the room itself, they discover someone has been carving on the wall, counting something; they got to 6 before stopping.
Meanwhile, Asanja has explored a little ways away from the hole, and discovered a whole mess of footprints, which looks like whatever was in the chamber may have assembled here. They appear to lead away from the direction the group were originally headed in. Once their companions are safely out of the chamber, Elias joins Asanja, and they discover that just over the rise there is an old cemetery that is now missing a good number of its occupants. They surmise that, given the empty weapon racks found in the chamber, they are likely now also better equipped than when they were interred. The tracks leading away from the graveyard indicate whomever this was was moving at marching speed, gone for a couple of days at most.
Whilst our heroes agree that this is very likely a problem, it is not the problem they travelled all this way to look into, and decide instead to head for their original destination; an X on a map, sketched on a rag and delivered in secret.