Beyond The Shore: Legacy of the Golden Horseshoe

Adventure, The Fourteenth and Fifteenth
Death Becomes Her

August 20, 1720

Their interview with Shaking Snow finished, our heroes returned to the chieftain’s longhouse and, finding him still passed-out drunk, bedded down for the night.

The next morning…

Sorry I’m several weeks behind on this, life is weird.

August 25, 1720


Experience: (includes last 2 sessions)

Session Current Totals Current level
Tess 5130 20,649 4th
Liadan 5130 19,236 4th
Rhodri 5130 18,356 4th
Siclare 5130 14,940 4th

Other Rewards:

Lingering Issues:

  • Several of the Tuscarora warriors are addicted to Liadan’s Song of Serenity
  • Tess and Liadan are dead and drowned
  • Tess, Líadan, and Zibbler are still suffering from 1 point of Wisdom drain.
  • Tess might still (not yet verified by full moon) be infected with Lycanthropy.
    • The moon is currently a waxing crescent, so you’ve got one weeks to sort it out…
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Adventure, The Thirteenth

August 19, 1720

Once the dragon’s enforced laughter died down and the will-o-wisps had been driven off, Tess went strait to the warrior on whom the wisp had been feeding. While she was unable to find any apparent wounds or other obvious damage, the man was comatose. His breath was shallow, his heartbeat slow, his pulse almost un-findable, and his eyes rolled back in his head — not unlike Dr. Leibowitz when he was strung out on absinthe and laudanum.

Tess glanced around, looking for something sufficiently pungent to serve as smelling salts. Her eyes fell on Rhodri, With a wicked grin she motioned the dirt-faerie over. “Stick your butt in his face…” Sure enough, Rhodri’s stench was a sufficiently sympathetic irritant. The downed warriors awoke with a gasp, his eyes welling with tears and his nostrils flaring and running with mucus. The other Tuscarora warriors, awed by this further display of “faerie magic”, flocked around their companion to tend to him further.

Those of the party that could tried to go back to sleep, hoping to squeeze a few more hours of rest in before daylight. Liadan, meanwhile, addressed the dragon. “What is one of your kind doing here?”

“Delivering the mail,” it said, snaking its long neck down from the tree in which it’s bulk was perched and twisting its head around to look at her upside down. “So…got that drink you owe me?” Liadan promptly filled its cup with the strongest whiskey she could conjure. Plein-Vite said his thanks, then asked, “Say, I have a bunch of letters that I’m supposed to deliver to some trading post up in the mountains. Do you folks know where it is?”

Liadan explained that they were staying there. “Great, maybe you can save me the trip,” the dragon replied, and promptly pulled a rolled sheaf of papers from somewhere behind its left wing and handed it to her. Before she could respond, Plein-Vite had launched itself into the air and was gone.

A quick look at the mail revealed it to be a single letter to Oleg from Constable Zimmerman, describing the events in Germanna two weeks past, along with a series of wanted posters for Liadan, Tess, Zibbler, Amos, Thond, and Sara, accusing them of such crimes as murder, manslaughter, conspiracy, inciting a riot, vandalism, destruction of property, and grand theft (slaves), and a request that they be hung up at the Trading Post and that any information as to the whereabouts of the escaped slaves or the criminals who stole them be forwarded to the Germanna Constabulary. Tess and Liadan both agreed that their likenesses on the wanted posters were not at all flattering.

Once everyone was awake and fed, they resumed the march, turning away from the mountains and the river, and striking out into the wide alluvial plain to the west. The going was easy, over low, gently rolling hills, through light forests cleared of heavy undergrowth by regular flooding.

Just under six hours from when they started out, the Tuscaroran village came into view, though it looked more like a fortified military encampment than an typical village. The village was built on the top of a hill, half-again as tall as any surrounding it, and almost perfectly conical. Tess likened the hill to the volcanoes she’d read about, though without the pyrotechnics. The village was surrounded by a high wooden palisade, even larger than that defending the Trading Post, but nowhere near as well built. There were no corners to speak of, with walls that instead formed a rather wobbly, undulating circle. The posts were not fitted together — some leaned at odd angles, and others still had branches attached, making the whole thing look like some sort of drunken porcupine.

“Well,” Bittercress said in a voice that betrayed a hint of embarrassment, “this is it…”

She marched them up to the gate. It was large, wide enough for a dozen men to pass through abreast, and constructed of the same spike-topped logs as the rest of the wall. Two guards were posted on top of the wall to either side, and, on seeing the large raiding party returning, promptly opened the gate.

Tess watched in amazement at this, for the gate did not swing open, either in or out, like a door, nor raise like a portcullis, nor even lower outward like a drawbridge. Rather, the gate fell inward with a resounding crack, that seemed likely to split some of its constituent logs. When they had all passed through, the guards leaned backwards off the top of the wall, looking likely to fall outside of the makeshift fort, and hauled on thick, heavy hempen cords drag the “gate” back into its upright position, then used the same cords to tie the top corners off to the wall.

Tuscaroran-Huts.JPG“We should offer to help them improve their fortifications too,” she suggested to Liadan.

Inside the compound, they found a large number of conical huts made from hemp fibers daubed with mud, arranged in a circle facing a single, larger building. Seeing that the raiding party was not alone, a crowd quickly gathered to watch the (largely female) band being led in by Bittercress. Other than Bittercress, there was not a single woman to be seen, nor any children. Tess, Liadan, and Siclare quickly counted perhaps two-dozen men, mostly in their early thirties, and another dozen drowned.

Hancocks-Throne.jpgBittercress lead them to the central building, through a heavy wooden door with interlocking knotted hemp ropes as hinges. If the August heat outside was uncomfortable, the inside of the council house was downright oppressive. The majority of the building was one long room, with a large fire burning in the center. A single door, much like the one they’d entered through, could be seen at the far end, though whether it lead to an inner room or back outside, they could not say. The floor was covered with beautifully woven, but old and worn looking, hemp mats. The only other furnishing was a single wooden chair, clearly of European make, with x-shaped legs and intricately carved arms, which sat across the fire from them as they entered.

ChiefGracefulCock.jpgSitting, or rather lounging, in the chair was a tall man, clearly of the same racial stock as Bittercress. On his head was a polished silver coronet, with a single, large white plume coming from the top. He wore a black cravat around his neck, and a tartan-checked shirt covered by a cloak of hemp trimmed with red fox fur. He held a norse-style drinking horn in his left hand, and a Scottish sabre leaned against the chair to his right.

Bittercress cleared her throat and made a clearly mocking attempt at a European courtly bow. “May I present his highness, King Graceful Cock…”

“It’s HANCOCK!” the man roared in response.

Liadan stepped forward and bowed, not at all ironically, but most gracefully, with all the pomp and poise she would show a great lord of the fairy courts, and introduced herself as an envoy of the same. This clearly got Chief Hancock’s attention, as he suddenly sat up strait in his chair and peered at the guests across the fire, though it soon became clear that he had no more experience with fairy lore than Bittercress had.

Tess stepped in, with the best curtsy she could manage, and explained that they represented a displaced tribe, much like the Tuscarora were, and were seeking an alliance of mutual protection against the English. The chief seemed slow on the uptake, so Bittercress repeated Tess’s plea, very slowly and loudly, and also explained how they had defeated Mad Bear (though she left out her own part in it).

The chief harrumphed, stood, and staggered towards them. As he stood it became clear that, rather than pants, he was wearing a hempen kilt, and also, Liadan noted, did not live up to his name (at least, not at the moment). It was also clear, from the staggering way in which he approached them around the fire, that he was immensely drunk.

“Wazzat?” he asked.

“We wish to join with your tribe for mutual protection,” Tess reiterated.

“You need protection?”

“Or we could protect you.”

“Ah,” he grinned lasciviously, “bodyguards. I could use some bodyguards. Maybe you could guard my body tonight…”

Liadan, Tess, and Siclare rolled their eyes at the drunken innuendo and continued to make their arguments as to why the Tuscarora should ally with them. Citing their mutual dislike of the Empire, their desire to create a place where all people could live free from Imperial influence and the practice of slavery, and their superior skill at constructing fortifications.

“How many warriors do you have?” the chief slurred.

“Fourty-nine,” Tess said.

The chief paused, long and awkwardly, as if having difficulty doing math in his head. “Their numbers are the same as ours,” Bittercress said helpfully, “together we would have twice as many warriors, double what we have now.”

He looked at Liadan, “Why didn’t you send warriors to talk?”

“I think we have different ideas of what a warrior is,” Liadan replied. She then went on to explain that their “tribe” was almost entirely women. Siclare added that just as the remaining Tuscarora warriors faced an inevitable decline into extinction with no women, their “tribe” faced a similar fate if they could not find husbands.

The talk of wives and husbands really got Chief Graceful Cock’s attention. The conversation continued for some time. The chief’s mood soon soured when he realized that his drinking horn was empty, but negotiations were saved by Liadan refilling it with her (magically delicious yet mostly non-alcoholic) faerie wine. After hours of talking, the chief seemed sold. He suggested that they should stay the night, and that they should also talk to the Tuscarora’s shaman.

Liadan graciously accepted the chief’s offer of hospitality, then helped him walk, wobblingly, back to his chair, where he promptly passed out.

Once he was out, they asked Bittercress why there were no women in the tribe. She sat down and explained at length about the Tuscarora war of eight years prior. How she was originally a member of another tribe, the Kǎ’tě’nu’ā’kā’ (People of the Submerged Pine-tree), who had been friendly with the Imperials until disease wiped out almost all of her family. How relations between the Tuscarora and the settlers steadily devolved as the Europeans encroached more and more onto their tribal lands, and how Chief Graceful Cock had lead the first attack executing one of the colonial leaders, and she had joined his cause. How, after years of fighting, their last village was attacked while the Chief and his warriors were engaged in another battle, and three hundred warriors were slaughtered and a hundred women taken prisoner and sold as slaves.

“There were only eighty warriors left when we found Catechna destroyed. Mad Bear and I convinced the chief to break through the Imperial lines and flee, northward. That was eight years ago. A third of our number have been killed, and many others have sought the waters.”

“I guess I should take you to see Shaking Snow next,” Bittercress said, then went on to explain that the shaman was Chief Graceful Cock’s grandfather, and notoriously mean, spiteful, and hateful towards outsiders of any kind. Siclare seemed unbothered by this revelation and asked Bittercress to show them the way. Liadan, however, pointed out that she was clearly the whitest member of their party, and informed them that she would wait behind.

Bittercress lead them outside to an open pit behind the longhouse. A hole, perhaps six-feet in diameter, had been dug in the ground. Numerous beautiful woven hemp mats circled the top of the pit and a single rope hung down into it. Wisps of smoke rolled out the side of the pit opposite the rope. Siclare claimed down immediately, calling into the darkness “Helloooo, I was wondering if we could trade notes…”

The pit lead down into the center of a very large space of roughly the same shape and dimensions as the longhouse above. The floor was a wet, muddy mess, with three to four inches of standing, dirty water. The walls appeared to have been hand-dug from the surrounding clay, with small ridges from where the soil had been scooped away by bare fingers, and were hung at irregular intervals with strips of scaled skin, and, in one place, the full hide of a fifteen-foot-long bull alligator. The only light in the space came from a small, fire burning at one end, choking the low ceiling with smoke that smelled strongly of crisping fat and cannabis.

Tess descended the rope awkwardly and splashed down behind Siclare with a muttered curse. Almost immediately there was a second splashing sound, like the rhythmic lapping of waves, and a pair of bulbous eyes poked up out of the shallow water, following by a snaking tail with a double pair of ridges running along the length.
dwarf-caiman.JPG

“Oh, who’s a cute little alligator…” Tess said, leaning forward and picking up the three-foot-long creature. The beast seemed perfectly
content to be held and petted by the strange girl.

nugrag-the-decrepit.jpegAn unintelligible, but clearly very irritated, voice range out as Tess picked up the animal. Following the sound, Siclare and Tess saw an old, wrinkled, and very angry looking face suddenly protrude from the wall near the fire, followed by pair of shoulders and arms. Siclare tried to translate the man’s speech, and was at least able to get the gist — namely that he was angry with the tiny alligator for spoiling an ambush.

As the man finished emerging from the wall and continued his tirade against the now very docile gator, Siclare tried greeting him in every language she knew. Finally the man gave up trying to get his familiar to attack and responded to Siclare in broken English. The ancient-looking shaman, it seemed, was as much a fatalist as the rest of the Tuscarora, if not more — beaten, broken, and wanting to die. The rest of the tribe, it seemed, only sent people down to him to be killed when their time was ready. He asked Tess and Siclare several times if they had been sent to kill him, and even asked them to do so himself.

Siclare refused this request and went on to explain their desire for an alliance to strike back against the English. Tess explained their plan to wed the women of their “tribe” to his warriors to preserve their bloodlines.

“Oh, you want to marry my grandson? Fine, I consent. Get out!”

“No, not her specifically…” Siclare tried to interject.

“Oh, you both want him?! Fine. Great. Get out!” The old man said, grabbing the little alligator out of Tess’s arms and disappearing back into the muddy wall.

To be continued…


Experience:

Session Current Totals Current level
Sara 1500 17,555 4th
Tess 2300 14,109 4th
Liadan 2300 12,981 3rd
Rhodri 1500 13,226 3rd
Siclare 2300 9,810 3rd
Rel Ter 1500 6,500 2nd

Other Rewards:

  • A tentative and not-fully-finalized alliance with the remnants of the Tuscarora people

Lingering Issues:

  • A couple of the Tuscarora are now addicted to Liadan’s Song of Serenity
  • Tess, Líadan, and Zibbler are suffering from 1 point of Wisdom drain.
  • Tess is probably (not yet verified by full moon) infected with Lycanthropy.
    • The moon is currently almost new, so you’ve got about two weeks to sort it out…
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Adventure, The Twelfth

August 17, 1720

After yet another very late night, the party woke late the next morning. Not wanting to waste time, they quickly gathered up their things and went to find Bittercress.

They found her and the other Tuscarora warriors just outside the fort. The warriors were kneeling, prostrate on the ground as Bittercress walked through their ranks, beating them with a green pine-switch and berating them mercilessly in their own language. Seeing the party come out of the fort, she broke the switch and cast it aside before walking up to them, all smiles.

“Take us to your leader,” they said.

Bittercress explained that the village was about 4 days away, walking at a good clip. Her raiding party, she said, kept a semi-permanent camp on the west-bank of the river, only a few hours hike away from the fort, and only rarely went back to Chief Graceful Cock’s village. Liadan implied that her magic could speed them up considerably.

With that, as quickly as possible, their few horses were saddled and the party was underway, surrounded by an honor-guard (if it could be called that) of a dozen fully-armed Tuscarora warriors. Were it not for Rhodri riding point and scouting, it would look, to any outside observer, very much like the small party were the Indian’s prisoners, rather than the other way around.

They quickly descended from the mountains heading north-west and crossed over the river, with only Rhodri’s stature causing any issues with fording it. From there they turned south and worked their way upstream, following the river’s course. They paused at dusk. Over a brief supper, Liadan worked her magic to dispel their weariness and they all pressed on through the night.

August 18, 1720

Some time in the dark hours of the morning, Siclare pointed out that they were not far from where they had encountered the werewolf a few nights before. Sure enough, Rhodri soon found wolf tracks crossing their path and heading more-or-less the same direction. Liadan called a halt and she, Tess, Siclare, and Bittercress came up to examine the tracks as well.

When Rhodri turned back to point out what he had found, the tracks looked, oddly, to be going in the opposite direction from what he had first observed. Even more oddly, the tracks appeared to be depth-less, almost as if the tracks had been painted on the ground (albeit convincingly) without any weight actually being applied. Of course, no one else seemed able to see this. Tess even went so far as to break out rulers, calipers, and every other imaginable measuring device in order to show him how deep the tracks were.

Their argument was cut short by the sound of a deep-voice laughing. Looking up from the tracks, Rhodri spotted a number of floating balls of light drifting through the trees towards them. He fired off an arrow, striking one of the glowing balls and sending it spiraling down into the underbrush. At that same moment, Tess’ pants fell down and she tripped, falling flat on her face, accompanied by even more laughter, this time from right above them.

“Pixies!” Rhodri shouted, with an obvious tone of disgust. The pantsings, and laughter continued for some time, while the glowing balls kept their distance. Tess pointed out another glowing ball up in a tree right above their heads, then pointed out a branch, at the same height, but on an opposing tree, that seemed to be sagging oddly.

Liadan called up and offered the faeries booze, in exchange for leaving them alone. She gathered up handfuls of nut shells from the forest floor and began filling them with water from the river, which she promptly transmuted into whiskey. There was a loud rushing sound, as of large wings snapping, and the branch Tess was watching shuddered as if a great weight had been removed. One by one the tiny nut shotglasses vanished, then a deep voice, now right beside Liadan said. “Got a bigger cup?”

Rhodri, who apparently had a deep-seated prejudice against all pixie-kind, began to berate their unseen tormentor. He quickly felt something hard come up between his legs and rose nearly seven feet into the air and stayed, floating there, almost as if he were sitting on an unseen horse. Tentatively reaching out to either side of him, he felt something smooth and leathery, almost wing-like. Liadan explained that she had made all the booze her spell could, but offered them more tomorrow.

Plein-Vite.jpg“Then I guess I’ll have to stick around until you can make more,” said the deep voice. Slowly a horse-sized, winged reptilian creature faded into view between Rhodri’s legs. The dragon was dark yellow in coloration, with brown spots running down its spine, and brown and white striped wings, and introduced itself as Plein-Vite. Tess took a good look and pointed out that the coloration matched a French breed, used by the Empire as couriers, leading to much speculation as to how Plein-Vite might have gotten out there (though with no answers from him).

Once everyone had settled down, they got back on the road, with the dragon trailing along behind them, determinedly pointing out that he would stay with them until provided with the promised additional alcohol.

They marched on through the day, stopping only to eat and relieve themselves. As they day wore on, they found that Liadan’s fatigue-suppressing magic had to be used more and more often. Some of their Tuscarora escort even found themselves getting strangely jittery when they went more than an hour between castings, forcing her to constantly relieve them as they walked.

Finally, around dusk, the foot-pain of thirty hours of mostly uninterrupted walking overcame even the fatigue-lifting effects of Liadan’s magic and they were forced to let up. They pitched camp and turned in for the night.

August 19, 1720

hector-ortiz-157913-will-o-wisp-hortiz-final.jpgA few hours before dawn, while Tess sat watch, the glowing balls again appeared drifting through the woods. Assuming, from the events of the night past, that they were the work of the dragon, Tess sat back and watched as one drifted into the camp and began flitting about the bedrolls.

Finally, the light settled just above the face of one of the sleeping Tuscarora warriors. His body stiffened, jerked, then bent almost in half as his spine seemed to curl in on itself as if wracked by excruciating pain.

Tess screamed and quickly woke everyone. Seeing their companion’s state, the other Tuscarora grabbed their weapons in a panic. Liadan turned towards the light and unleashed a volley of eldritch blasts, to no avail. More and more of the lights began floating towards the camp, faster now, their radiance pulsing brighter with every scream.

The dragon, sleeping on a tree-branch that seemed far to thin to hold something of his bulk, looked down and suddenly caused all of the Tuscarora’s pants to drop around their ankles, then laughed uproariously. The lights paused their advance, as the startled warriors stopped their screaming for just a moment. No one else thought the Plein-Vite’s antics were funny at the moment however.

Meanwhile, the sleeping warrior continued to writhe in agony as the light pulsed over his head.

With a roar of, now seemingly forced laughter, the dragon dove and unleashed a sharp exhale. A billow of thin, yellow-brown gas washed over the party and their terrified escorts. Immediately everyone burst out into uncontrollable fits of mad, cackling laughter. The lights froze, even the one feeding on the downed warrior, turned and flew away with great speed.

Liadan looked up at the dragon, “You weren’t pranking us last night…you were trying to protect us from those will-o-wisps. Weren’t you?”

The dragon merely rolled his eyes and muttered something about the dangers of not having a sense of humor.

To be continued…


Experience:

Session Current Totals Current level
Sara 15,555 4th
Zibbler 10,865 3rd
Tess 800 11,809 3rd
Liadan 800 10,681 3rd
Thond 6,505 2nd
Amos 6,355 2nd
Rhodri 800 11,726 3rd
Siclare 800 7,510 3rd
Rel Ter 5000 2nd

Lingering Issues:

  • A couple of the Tuscarora are now addicted to Liadan’s Song of Serenity
  • Tess, Líadan, and Zibbler are suffering from 1 point of Wisdom drain.
  • Tess is probably (not yet verified by full moon) infected with Lycanthropy.
    • The moon is currently almost new, so you’ve got about two weeks to sort it out…
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Adventure, The Eleventh
The Battle of Wounded Knee

August 16, 1720, Midnight

Our heroes reached Oleg’s Trading Post less than a half-hour ahead of the Tuscaroran raiders. As the gate slammed behind them, Tess and Rhodri ran up onto the walls, shouting alerts for everyone to wake up and the musketeers to get into position. As their people began exiting the tunnels connecting the stone huts, Liadan gathered the mothers and daughters to form medical support and (magically assisted) bucket brigades in case of fire.

Looking out from the walls, Rhodri spotted fourteen figures coming over the retaining wall at the western edge of the ridge. The raiders spread out to the north and south, splitting into groups of three, each group bearing a long pole of some kind. The Mad Bear, and another, female, Indian held back, as the four squads charged the wall.

As they neared the wall, the rear runners slowed, choked up on their ends of the pole, and rammed the butt into the ground, allowing the leader of each crew to run strait up the wall with the pole as a support. In moments, three Tuscarora warriors were leaping over the palisade to confront the small fort’s defenders.

Seeing their intent, Rhodri took aim at the last of the four crews, planting an arrow in the kneecap of the lead runner just as his pole-bearers were starting to plant. His wounded knee buckled mid-stride, just as the pole-bearers were beginning to plant the pole. With his momentum arrested, the sudden downward pressure on the pole launched him nearly ten feet into the air, only to fall back onto the knee, leaving him severely crippled and out of the fight.

Up on the wall, Tess, makeshift spear in hand, and the two musket squads (by which we mean two muskets with a squad of loaders), stood waiting. Sadly, even at such close range, the musketeers were pretty bad shots. As bullets (and the occasional opportunistly thrown rock from below) whizzed by their heads, the three assailants lashed out with short-handled fighting spears. Rhodri spun and put another arrow through the back of one of the attacker’s knee, nearly (but only nearly) knocking him from the wall.

Back below, seeing that his plan had succeeded, more or less, the Mad Bear charged. Two of the pole crews swung their logs his way and within moments he was also up on the wall, leaving a deep, bleeding gash in Rhodri’s side.

Kressle-v-MadBear.JPGAs soon as the bear was away, Siclare dashed out the back of the fort and ran over to where they had spotted the native woman breaking off from the main group of attackers earlier. Siclare found the woman leaning casually against a tree, arms crossed over her chest, dispassionately watching the battle unfold. After a moment of sizing each other up, the woman greeted Siclare in her own language, and explained that she was technically in charge of this raiding party, and sufficiently fed up with Mad Bear’s repeated failures that she had to come out and see for herself. More importantly, she was quite surprised to see not a single white face defending the fort, and women apparently giving the orders.

Up on the wall, things remained tense. Rhodri was bleeding badly. One of the musketeers had fallen to a Tuscaroran spear. Two more attackers had just surmounted the walls. Three of the attackers had been knocked down into the inside of the fort, one with both of his knees shot out from under him, where they were promptly pummeled into unconsciousness by the small army of ex-slaves waiting inside. And the Bear was staggering under a barrage of eldritch blasts from Liadan.

“Hasn’t this gone on long enough?” Siclare asked the woman. Making another comment lamenting the Mad Bear’s stupidity, the woman agreed, and, jogging a few steps forward lobbed a tomahawk, lodging it between the bear’s shoulder-blades.

With a cry of “Treachery!” Mad Bear turned, right into the line of fire of both muskets, which promptly scattered his brains all over Rhodri’s best shirt.

Striding forward, the woman shouted something to the other Tuscarora, causing them to stand down — promptly dropping their weapons and kneeling. Liadan, with some difficulty, convinced their host to open the gates and let the newcomer and the disarmed Indians inside to share a meal with them and discuss terms of…what? Surrender? Peace? At the bare minimum it would establish guest rights.

Oleg lead them into his house, banging the door opened loudly to wake his wife and gruffly announcing “Guess whose comink to dinner!” Tess grabbed Thond and pulled him into the kitchen to help the beleaguered woman whip up something appropriate for a midnight snack. While the three of them went to work, the others sat down at the long table to begin discussions.

Their guest, who introduced herself as Bittercress, asked how it came be that this fort, which they had taken to be an outpost of the colonies, was being run by a native woman (clearly seeming to think Siclare was in charge) and populated entirely by blacks, and that the one white man seemed to be taking orders from them. After a long, incomprehensible rant about faerie queens and changelings and stealing children from Liadan, Tess came in with bread and salt to begin the meal, and explained that they were looking for a place where they could live in peace, free from the influence of the imperial colonies.

Bittercress responded that her people were looking for the same. Once her people had gotten along with the colonies, and even intermarried with them, and even fought and captured people of neighboring tribes to work as slaves for the colonials. Then, eight years ago, when she was still a girl, something had happened that brought them to war with Carolina colony. They had lost…badly. And those still loyal to their chief had fled north. Since then they’d been wandering and raiding, trying to find a place free of imperial rule. In the last year, though, their chief had taken to drinking incessantly. “Never far from a bottle,” she said. Leaving her and the Mad Bear to lead their few warriors out to hunt or steal what their tribe needed.

Bittercress asked her hosts what they called their “Tribe”, which apparently set Tess off.

“We’re an autonomous collective,” Tess said. “We’re an anarcho-syndicalist commune. We take it in turns to be a sort of executive officer for the week, but all the decisions of that officer have to be ratified at a special bi-weekly meeting. By a simple majority in the case of purely internal affairs, but by a two thirds majority in the case of…”

Liadan cut in to explain that they were, or might one day be, a colony of the Faerie Court of Winter, subjects of Medb, the Faerie Queen of Air and Darkness. This, of course, raised many questions as to whether these faeries she’d been going on about earlier had the same notions of colonization as the Imperials — forcing people off of their long-held lands, forcing them to adopt new laws and customs and religions, and so forth.

Siclare suggested that perhaps they should speak with the chief of the Tuscarora, and that, since their goals were similar, form some kind of formal alliance (probably by marriage) for mutual defense against the colonies. Bittercress agreed that she could lead them to her village in the morning.

Liadan added that she could conjure up some very good faerie wine as a gift. Tess, who had a lot of experience with alcoholics from being the daughter of a miner, pointed out that the worst drunks typically either grew more angry the more they drank, or else would wake up the next morning having forgotten all about what you’d been discussing. With a sigh, Liadan agreed to take him the fey-wine equivalent of near beer instead.

To be continued…


Experience:

Session Current Totals Current level
Sara 400 15,555 4th
Zibbler 400 10,865 3rd
Tess 800 11,009 3rd
Liadan 800 9,881 3rd
Thond 400 6,505 2nd
Amos 400 6,355 2nd
Rhodri 800 10,926 3rd
Siclare 800 6,710 2nd
Rel Ter 400 5000 2nd

Loot:

Lingering Issues:

  • Tess, Líadan, and Zibbler are suffering from 1 point of Wisdom drain.
  • Tess is probably (not yet verified by full moon) infected with Lycanthropy.
    • The moon is currently Waning Crescent, so you’ve got about a month to sort it out…
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Adventure, The Tenth

August 15, 1720

After a late night running from werewolves, Thond and Siclare were awakened by the sounds of someone approaching their camp not-at-all stealthily. Siclare rolled over, waving her arms ineffectually, and mumbling something about not wanting to wake up, without ever opening her eyes. Thond rolled right out of his lean-to, hammer in hand, and bounced to his feet.

He was greeted by a stranger, clearly native by the look of him, but proficient in English and clearly not one of the Tuscarora (judging by his hide, rather than hemp, garments at least). The stranger introduced himself as Rel Ter, and, after explaining that he was not in the business of selling land, said he was looking to trade — mostly furs and skins.

As Thond and the still very bleary Siclare talked with the new traveler, Liadan arrived. She explained that she’d left shortly after they did, with the intent of catching up to them, but that she’d been distracted by a particularly talkative titmouse. In her typical faerie fashion, she looked bright, chipper, awake, and free from any signs that she’d been beating her way through the forest all night, and immediately struck up a conversation with the newcomer, offering him booze and explaining that there was a trading post about a day’s walk to the east, and that they’d be returning there after they finished their current berry-picking errand.

Having no clear objectives himself, and seeing that the party knew how to get to the trading post, Rel Ter agreed to join them (at least briefly).

They woke up Tess, quickly packed up, and headed west. Between Bokken’s map, Liadan’s trail-blazing magic, and Siclare’s survival skills they were able to travel quite swiftly. They rode for about three hours, leaving the foothills of the mountains down into broad alluvial plain of the valley. As they crested a low rise, they came into sight of a broad marshy expanse, filled with dense thickets of low, half-submerged shrubs, replete with large, globular red berries and and the two-inch-long thorns from which they take their name.

Looking out into the bog, Rel Ter pointed out a number of large dead animals drowned, impaled, and tangled in the shrubberies — several elk, a couple of bears, even a mountain lion. Still, they had come this far…

chew-spider.jpgTess handed out gloves and bags, and, somewhat reluctantly, they waded out into the bog to start picking berries. The berries were tucked back in among the thorns, making extracting them quite hazardous. Then, of course, Thond poked his hand in a little farther and felt something sticky. He withdrew his hand to find it covered in webs. Soon dozens, then hundreds, then thousands of spindly-legged spiders as big as his thumb, with large, barbed mandibles, started to boil up out of the thicket.

He shook his hand off and they ran back up the hill as fast as they could.

When the spiders settled down, the approached more cautiously. Probing the bushes with sticks, they found a thick network of horizontal sheet-webbing running throughout the thicket, just above the water line, crawling with swarms of the spiders. Again, they withdrew, waiting nearly an hour for the spiders to also settle again.

On a whim, Liadan walked to the far end of the bog and used a mage hand to agitate the webbing. Again, the spiders boiled up en masse and moved towards the disturbance. Seeing their opportunity, Thond, Siclare, and Rel Ter crept back to the thicket and started picking. Liadan kept up the distraction, mage-slapping the webs and adding some booming, bush-shaking bass with ghost sounds.

After about fourty minutes, they had gathered eight pounds of the ripe, red berries. When a slip from Rel Ter alerted the distracted arachnids to their activity, they decided that eight pounds was enough and beat feet out of there. They headed back to the east, and, by nightfall came to the western bank of the Shenandoah’s south fork. Despite the waning light, they forded the wide, shallow river, then made camp on the eastern shore.

While on watch, Thond noticed that Tess was tossing and turning badly, clearly in the throws of some kind of nightmare, and sweating profusely. He placed a hand on her forehead to check her temperature, and she awoke with a growl, snapping at him with her bare teeth. While she expressed no knowledge of what she had been dreaming, Thond was sufficiently concerned that he woke the others.

belladonna.jpgSiclare suggested that their encounter of the night before might be related. Rel Ter asked what she meant, and she explained of their run-in with the werewolf and how he bit Tess. Rel Ter said that he and the wolf, might be kinsmen, informing them that a rare few of his tribe were able to take on the form of a wolf-spirit. He ran off into the woods and soon returned holding an uprooted shrub, with bell-shaped purple flowers and black berries, explaining that his people sometimes used the plant to cure those who took on the wolf-spirit involuntarily.

Siclare took a hard look at the plant and identified it as belladonna, otherwise known as deadly nightshade, a potentially lethal poison. Liadan suggested that curing lycanthropy was a known use of the plant among the fey — assuming the dose didn’t kill you. They looked at the moon, and seeing that it would not be full for at least a month, agreed to save the poisonous plant as a last resort, should it come to that.

August 16, 1720

The next morning, Siclare pointed out a pass through the mountains on Bokken’s map that looked like it would take them directly to his little valley. Given their agreement not to reveal the location of Bokken’s home, Siclare, Rel Ter, and Liadan left Tess and Rel Ter behind and headed across the mountain to meet the grumpy old hermit.

Bokken, for his part, seemed almost pleased to see them — complimenting them many times on their wisdom in leaving the foul-mouthed, wrinkly dirt-faerie behind. He was more pleased on seeing the berries and accepted them with a quick dismissal, promising to deliver the medicine as soon as he could. Of course, nothing is ever that easy…

Siclare demanded that he could only have the berries once they had been allowed to peruse his library in search for a cure for Tess’s condition. Elisha grumbled his assent and let them in. He immediately pulled a large earthenware bowl out from under his bed, and, dumping the berries in in batches, began crushing them with his unwashed feet.

As he stomped, the three of them helped themselves to his sizable library. They sat reading late into the afternoon but, unsurprisingly, found very little about werewolves in his collection of early-modern French novels and plays, nor in his small collection of books on physics and mathematics. If only he had had a copy of Webster’s Duchess of Malfi

Finally, growing tired, Thond demanded to know when the medicine would be ready. Elisha, having added a full jug of moonshine to the crushed berries, was now crawling under his bed, muttering something about “I know I’ve got some moldy bread around here somewhere.” He stuck his head out from under the big bed and grumbled, “Two to three weeks! I already said I’d deliver it once it was ready…”

Getting, thus, no where, they packed up and headed back through the pass.

Rel Ter, meanwhile, had spent the day hunting. Scouting the area around their camp, he found signs of both elk and bison. He chose the latter, but, sadly, ended up upwind of the herd. By the time he was close enough, a massive bull was staring him down and he was forced to abandon the hunt.

They all converged back at the camp on the east bank of the south fork as night was falling, and decided to camp there again and head to the trading post in the morning.

August 16, 1720, Midnight

Thond again took the first watch. Late, towards the end of his watch, he spotted a number of faint lights moving in the distance on the other side of the river. He quickly doused their campfire and moved as close to the bank as he dared to get a better look.

The flickering light of at least a half-dozen torches could be seen, moving north along the far bank, and, in the faint light, nearly he could make out nearly twice that many shapes. Waking the others, they quickly agreed that the lights probably represented their Tuscaroran antagonists. When the light stopped only a few hundred yards north of their position, and started to ford the river, they decided that it must be another raiding attempt.

They struck camp in a hurry, and hopped on their horses (except for Siclare, of course, since she could run as fast as Vicious). Siclare lead them back through the pass into Bokken’s valley, pointing out that the main path to the trading post would require the Hemp Wearers to go north around Hawksbill Mountain, and that the pass would give them a significant head-start (though a harder climb at the end).

With Liadan singing a faerie-song to dispel their fatigue, they booked it through the pass, followed a tributary of the Hawsbill up to the top of Cedar Mountain, then followed the bison-trail along the ridge to approach the Trading Post from the south. They reached the post roughly a half-hour ahead of the raiders, guessing by the lights winding their way up the western slope of the mountains at least. They banged hard on the gates until Oleg let them in, and quickly explained the predicament.

Oleg slammed the bar back on the gates with a resounding bang, and they began rousing the others…

To be continued…


Experience:

Session Current Totals Current level
Sara 15,155 4th
Zibbler 10,465 3rd
Tess 10,209 3rd
Liadan 200 8,881 3rd
Thond 200 6,105 2nd
Amos 5,955 2nd
Rhodri 9,926 3rd
Siclare 200 5,710 2nd
Rel Ter 200 4600 2nd

Loot:

  • 1 dose of Belladonna
  • A promise of “medicine” made by Bokken, with the first shipment to arrive in “2 to 3 weeks”

Lingering Issues:

  • Tess, Líadan, and Zibbler are suffering from 1 point of Wisdom drain.
  • Tess is probably (not yet verified by full moon) infected with Lycanthropy.
    • The moon is currently Waning Crescent, so you’ve got about a month to sort it out…
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Adventure, The Ninth

August 14, 1720

After returning to the trading post and getting a good night’s rest, Tess pulled out Bokken’s map and broached the important question to the others: “Do we trust this guy?” They had plenty of meat, and a promise of food for the winter, but that did nothing for their need to shelter 50-plus people against the elements. Did they trust Bokken enough to trek another 50-miles west on his word that it would be a good place to make a home?

The discussion ensued. Rhodri pointed out that, even if they did pack up the wagon and their people, they had practically no tools, just a pair of axes, and none of the emancipated persons had any experience with winter or snow. They might know how to build huts, but not ones that would be sufficiently insulated. Nor were any of the rest of them particularly skilled or equipped to be pioneers.

Zibbler mentioned that two axes and a lot of man-power would be sufficient to construct a log cabin or three, given the plentifulness of trees in the area. But that did nothing for the trust issues. Siclare countered that Bokken, if he truly valued his privacy as much as he said, had every reason to be forthcoming with them, since they could easily tell their host where he lived.

Tess, re-reading Bokken’s hastily jotted map key, pointed out that the things he noted as reasons for building in that spot — farmland, open spaces to build, etc. — were actually not relevant to surviving the winter. They couldn’t plant this late in the season, and they needed protection from the wind and elements, not open terrain. They’d be better off in a small valley or cave than open farmland, she argued. Laying on the charm, Tess turned to their host and asked how he would feel about them building a small village in and around his fort for mutual protection.

“Vell,” Oleg said, “you’ve been a help so far. You drove off sat Mad Bear, your folk helped plant my fields, and we’re smoking more jerky zan I could sell in a year. I know you’ve got problems back in ze colony, but I came out here to get away from ze same sheeit. Sure…”

That settled, the problem of how to construct homes for fifty people before winter came back up. Tess, mad scientist that she is, queried as to whether Rhodri could simply raise and shape the stone from the ground into some kind of structure — perhaps dugouts like Bokken lived in. Rhodri explained that he could only displace a relatively small volume of rock per day, and not nearly enough to carve large living spaces.

Siclare spoke up and suggested something more like a stone tent. If Rhodri could cause the stone to life itself out of the ground to form walls, then they could create a much larger sized shelter while still displacing the same small volume of rock. Tess jumped in and suggest as A-frame design, basically stone lean-tos. Siclare suggested something domed more like the wigwams her people lived in. Zibbler pointed out that if Rhodri could force a conical shape up from the ground, it could be grown over several days, just by adding more material to the bottom of the structure. Rhodri agreed to try, and he and ZIbbler put their heads together to start working out how such a structure might best be made.

Given that it would take Rhodri days of shaping stone to construct even a prototype, the others left the gnome and the mage to it, and turned to other matters.

Tess pointed out that Bokken, isolationist though he was, had said he would make some medicine for them if they could collect certain berries that were known to grow along the route to the place he had marked out for their colony. She suggested that while the construction was going on, a small group of them might trek to where the berries grew and collect what Bokken needed, both for the medicine and also as a kind of good-will act for having barged in on his life.

Leaving Rhodri and the others to their work, Siclare, Tess, borrowing Siclare’s horse, and Thond, borrowing Vicious to keep up, set out in search of the berries. Consulting the map, Tess suggested that they should skirt north around Hawksbill Peak, then due west to either cross, or closely skirt the nest ridge they could see — that way staying well clear of the Indian encampments and giant angry boars marked on the map.

With Siclare running ahead of them picking out the trail westward they made good time. They followed the swift run down out of the mountains to where it emptied into the Shenandoah’s southern fork. The river here was wide, but shallow, barely waist deep on Tess and Siclare. They waded across, then continued due west towards the high ridge of Potato Field Mountains (or "Massanutten as Siclare called it). By nightfall they had reached the foothills of the towering syncline, where they pitched camp.

During the second watch, a tired Tess wandered out of camp to relieve herself. Stubbing her toe on a rock she tripped. Cursing exasperatedly, she looked down to see that a pair of tough leather riding gloves and one of Dr. Leibowitz’s patent-pending foldable sacks, which she had forgotten that she even had, had fallen out of her pocket.

She picked herself up and finished her business. As she was pulling up her trousers, she caught a whiff of something on the wind, like the smell of wet dog fur. She rushed back to camp and woke up Siclare, who quickly dispatched Zerda to investigate. Only moments after being sent out, the small fox came rushing back, terrifiedly yipping about hungry wolf spirits.

Still thankfully downwind, Tess woke Thond and the two of them slipped into the shadows of the undergrowth. Siclare settled herself down by the fire and waited.

Soon a tall, lean humanoid figure stepped warily into the camp. Judging by the pallor of his skin he was from one of the northern tribes, but was covered from his toes, to his tail, to his lupine head with short, gray fur, and nothing else. He looked around as if expecting to see more than just the fox-headed girl, then growled something unintelligible and began circling the fire.

Siclare offered him some bison-jerky and bade him sit with her. While he clearly did not understand her words, either in English or her southern dialect, the offer of food was clear enough. As he tore into the jerky, she, by gestures and crude drawings in the dirt, asked where he was going. He responded by quickly sketching a wolf-shape chasing a herd of elk shapes in the dirt with a stick. To which she responded by drawing a fox-like shape running alongside the wolf.

While she had intended this last to ask if he wanted help in his hunting, the werewolf (for so he was), clearly, judging by his perked ears and growing erection, took it to mean that she wanted him for her mate or her pack. He raised his tail suggestively and inched closer to her around the fire. Siclare quickly called to the others. When Tess moved in first, Siclare grabbed her and pulled her close, trying to indicate to the wolf that she already had a mate — and hoping that his was one of those tribes that consider such pairings acceptable.

Of course, the wolf merely took this for a challenge and lunged at Tess, biting her and knocking her to the ground. Tess grabbed a brand from the fire and swung it awkwardly at the wolf-man before rolling away. As Siclare tried to think of something appropriately wolfy to do to distract the thing, Thond rushed in and thumped it with his hammer, only to get bitten and knocked aside in his own right.

Moving again downwind of the wolf, Tess dropped a cloud of darkness over his head, blinding him. Thond used the darkness to stand and move away, as the wolf began pacing around the fire, looking for an enemy. When the wolf completed its circuit, Thond charged in again, hitting it squarely but not leaving so much as a bruise.

The situation soon became a standoff. The wolf could not see his prey, nor could he see anything else past the very near periphery of the flames, but neither could Thond or Tess harm the wolf. Tess, Thond, and Siclare all took turns throwing extra bits of jerky at the wolf’s feet, hoping to distract him ans assuage his hunger. Of course, hunger was no longer his motivation.

Finally, wanting to break the stalemate, Siclare rushed into the darkness, and, groping about hit him with a, gentle, touch of fatigue. She then exited the darkness upwind of him and “tried to smell sexy”, which, in wolf terms, means only one thing. She peed.

The tired, blind, and confused wolf-man’s ears immediately perked back up and he rushed in Siclare’s direction and, spinning a surprisingly graceful pirouette, smacked her in the face with his tail. Thinking she was under attack, Tess and Thond both rushed in, swinging with hammer and flaming brand alike, but both missing. Siclare, committed to her course, grabbed the wolf-man by the wrist and ran off into the woods at top speed, heedless of the fact that neither of them could see with the globe of darkness clinging to his head.

Fox and wolf ran together, full tilt into the trees. Then the wolf ran full-tilt, head-first into a tree. A silver maple in fact. While running face-first into a tree was no more effective at actually damaging the wolf than Thond’s hammer had been, the force was still enough to knock the wind out of him and knock him prone.

Leaving him, still fatigued, still blinded, and dazed from the blow, Siclare circled back. The three quickly broke camp, throwing their gear haphazardly over the backs of their steeds, and ran off into the night as fast as they could.

To be continued…

Months 1 & 2, Aug 14 to Oct 14

zibblers-engineering.jpgMeanwhile, back at the fort, Rhodri and Zibbler labored together on concocting shelters for their band. Rhodri’s first attempt at a “stone tipi” left the walls much too thin, such that it quickly collapsed in on itself. The next day he tried them much thicker, but, in doing so, barely made a bump above the landscape.

Finally, Zibbler came to him with an unusual series of drawings and explained how a triangular structure could be used to make the walls thick and strong while minimizing the actual volume of stone material used to make those walls, and also leaving air pockets to increase their insulatory value. All of this sounded like nonsense to the fairy, and much more complex and precise than anything he had ever tried to do with his powers before. Unsurprisingly, his first attempt at the triangular honeycomb style walls was an utter failure.

The next day, however, he decided to talk the stone through the process, using his stone tell ability in conjunction with his ability to shape stone to get real-time feedback from the stone on whether it felt solid enough. Sure enough, it worked, and made a roughly conical and reasonably sound, though small, dwelling, with thick, well-insulated stone walls. On the fifth day, working from below, he expanded the walls, forcing the structure even higher, until it was roughly six feet tall at the peak, and seven feet around — plenty of space for three or four people to sleep in he thought.

And, indeed, the structures were quite roomy inside. The displaced stone from the ground that had risen up and stretched to make the walls left a clean depression in the center of the space. On the outside, the sod, shoved up by the rising stone, formed a natural cover over the odd little hut, such that it could almost pass for a natural mound.

stone-shaped-hut.png

Over the next weeks he built a total of fifteen of these structures, laid out in nice strait lines on the flat of the ridge just west of the fort’s walls. Rather than bothering with doors, in typical gnomish fashion, he used the movement of the stone to create small tunnels linking the huts and leading back inside the fort’s walls. While small, Oleg, Zibbler, and the emancipated persons were able to expand these by hand to make them tall and wide enough for a young or short person to walk comfortably, and the tallest of them to walk with only a small stoop. Thus allowing the huts to be accessed without walking outside of the fort, and having easy passage even if the ground were blanketed with snow.

When the huts were finished, Rhodri turned his attention to improving the stables, reinforcing the walls with stone, and sectioning off a special stall for Vicious.

After this, Zibbler came with a crazy plan for getting water to the fort. He suggested that by using Rhodri’s powers to dig a very long, very narrow hole — only a few inches across but more than half a mile deep — they could create an artificial artesian spring, using the pressure of the mountains, and capillary action of the tube to force water up from the valley’s water-table. Agreeing it was worth a try, Rhodri asked the stone how deep he would have to dig to find water, then shaped the stone to drill down. Sure enough, it worked, and soon there was a steady stream of water bubbling up out of the mountaintop to fill the fort’s cisterns.

Because magic plus engineering is awesome…


Experience:

Session Current Totals Current level
Sara 1000 15,155 4th
Zibbler 1000 10,465 3rd
Tess 1150 9,281 3rd
Liadan 1000 8,881 3rd
Thond 1150 6,105 2nd
Amos 1000 5,955 2nd
Rhodri 1150 9,926 3rd
Siclare 1150 5,710 2nd

Loot:

  • A nice sturdy pair of gloves
  • A silken bag with a handy inner pocket into which the entire bag can be folded and cinched.
  • You’ve officially established your first settlement. Kingdom/colony/settlement building stuff will be tracked Here for future reference.

Lingering Issues:

  • Tess, Líadan, and Zibbler are suffering from 1 point of Wisdom drain.
  • Tess is probably (not yet verified by full moon) infected with Lycanthropy.
    • The moon is currently Waning Half, so you’ve got some time to sort it out…
View
Adventure, The Eighth

August 13 1720

Waking up early the next day, Rhodri suggested that they try again to find the old hermit their host had told them about. Tess, Liadan, Siclare, and Sara agreed to accompany him — the men being total wimps as usual. Then Tess reminded them that they had seriously pissed off a large group of natives the night before, so Zibbler and the musketeers were included, and thus five became twelve.

Then Liadan pointed out that the man they were seeking was a hermit by choice, and that he might not be pleased by a dozen armed people walking into his home. With typical fey logic, Rhodri decided that the best solution would be to take him a pie.

“Hey, what’s this guy’s favorite food?” Rhodri asked their host.

“How should I know?”

“Well, what does he eat when he comes here?”

“Vell, he eats the raddish stew my vife makes…”

raddish-pie.jpgRhodri promptly borrowed some surplus radishes from Siclare, took over Svetlana’s kitchen, and baked up a radish pie. Despite his utter lack of cooking skills, and the protestations of everyone present that a radish pie would be completely disgusting, he persisted.

After a few hours of impromptu baking, they finally got underway. Based on the directions their host had given them, Siclare suggested that they follow the well-worn bison-bath along the southern ridge, as it seemed the best track by which one might bring in a cart laden with vegetables.

Liadan pointed out that, if he was selling vegetables, he would need ready access to water. Siclare suggested that there were three rivers along their current path which could serve and which would all be roughly half-a-day’s travel by mule-cart (though only a few hours on foot) — the Roach River on the east side of the mountains, the Hawksbill on the west, and Ivy Creek almost due south. Lacking any more detailed information, they decided to make for the Ivy.

Making good time with the trail, they reached the headwaters of the Ivy a little after noon. The river was small, here, narrow enough for even Rhodri to step across but still flowing in spite of the hot, dry weather, bubbling up out of a spring in the hillside. The area around the small stream was still quite lush, with a thick growth of ferns along the bank.

Rhodri stooped down and took a drink from the river, then gagged. The water burned his throat and tasted of sulfur. Pausing, Siclare heard a faint ringing sound in the distance, like metal on stone.

Following the sound, in case their quarry might also be a miner or smith, they found, just a bit further east and uphill, a large exposed rocky face of the hillside. A large cleft rent the rock — perhaps five-feet wide, twenty-feet deep, and tapering towards the end, as if a gargantuan axe had stuck the hillside. Water flowed freely out of the cleft, smelling strongly of sulfur, then bubbled into a depression just a few yards beyond the opening and disappeared, likely to reemerge as the river further down the slope.

The sound was quite louder here, and clearly coming from the depths of the cleft. Rhodri waded into the ankle-deep water, ignoring the distinct tingly sensation on his wet feet, and headed in. At the very back of the wedge-shaped cleft, he found a cleanly cut rectangular opening, two feet wide and four feet high, running at least another sixty feet back into the mountainside. The passage was squared, and judging by the lack of channels carved by the stream still running over the limestone floor, had to have been made in the last year or two. Funky fairy that he is, Rhodri did what faeries do and asked the wall about who had carved it.

“You,” it replied simply.

Some further interrogation led to the conclusion that it was in fact, a number of short, wrinkled fey who had carved the shaft. Judging by the clearly visible yellow-green and purple chloroargyrite crystals in the wall, and the high sulfur content of the stream, Rhodri guessed that the creatures were there to mine silver, coal, or perhaps both (as both were definitely present).

Interesting as this was, Rhodri could not convince his friends to go wading through the acidic stream into the mine, nor did he have any interest in tangling with the miners. They made a mental note of the mines location, and set back out in search of “Old Bokken”.

Heading back to the north-west, they crossed over the ridge at Simmons Gap and down towards the headwaters of Hawksbill Creek. They descended into a gently sloped valley, with numerous hollows branching off, carved by the runoff of the many small streams and rills feeding the Hawksbill. The creek itself was mostly dry, with only a thin muddy trickle running through the wide bed under the late-summer heat.

A cardinal sat on a near-by tree branch whistling some Hendrix. Liadan struck up a conversation and learned that an old and very hairy human lived within the bounds of the cardinal’s small territory, and had lived there for all of the birds life apparently, and also grew lots of delicious grains. The discussion made the bird hungry, and it promptly flew off in search of some of the aforementioned grain.

Following the bird, they came over a rise into a deep holler. The floor of the holler was laid out in rows of neatly plowed fields, the the slopes on either side had been terraced into vineyards, orchards, and even what appeared to be a rice paddy. At the far end of the holler was what appeared to be a simple dugout — a rough-cut wooden door set into the hillside, flanked by a pair of wood-shuttered windows.

092611.pngNumerous animals were also seen about — chickens, turkeys, hogs, donkeys, two horses, and several dogs. In one of the fields, a stout old mule was pulling a plough, followed by a rail-thin old man with a wild, dark beard reaching down to his waist. He wore a battered, old leather hat, and his black-gray hair stuck out in untended dreadlocks, clearly the result of years of unwashed neglect and nothing intentional, from beneath it.

Rhodri yelled and waved at the man, who began cursing and tugging on the mule’s reigns. After a few minutes he finally got the beast to stop, though not before it had dug a very crooked ten-yard furrow, and unhooked from the plough. Finally, after shooing the animal off to go graze, he turned and raised a hand as if to wave back. The wave quickly turned into a raised middle finger and an entreatment to “Get the fuck off my land!”

Rhodri.pngAfter a brief shouted exchange, during which Rhodri grew ever more angered at his comparison to a small wrinkled dog and the man’s refusal of the proffered pie, Rhodri began to walk down the hill, intent on talking to the man face to face. The old man, seeing Rhodri coming closer, turned and bolted for the dugout, running at full speed. He raced inside, slammed the door, and soon a breach-loading rifle was sticking out one of the window shutters, pointed at Rhodri.

When Rhodri did not desist, a warning bullet whizzed over his shoulder. The others cautiously joined him, making a variety of diplomatic overtures towards the man. At this, the man burst out of the house, tearing off his shirt and danced around brandishing a pair of knives and letting forth piteous, sighing wails. Sara pointed out that the man’s eyes betrayed his sanity, and that this was clearly just another show to attempt to scare them off.

Finally Rhodri, quite sick of racist old men pointing guns at him, announced that he had brought nearly fifty settlers over the mountains with him, and threatened to settle in this very same valley if the man did not let them in and talk to them. Finally the man relented, lowered the gun, opened the door, and invited them in.

The inside of the dugout was a simple one-roomed affair, its walls and ceiling of bare dirt, save for a single curtained alcove. It had a single pot-bellied iron stove, the smoke billowing out the top to rest among the wooden beams holding up the roof, venting out only through a small hole above the door. For furnishings there was a single bed, spread with a thick, bright quilt, and, in the alcove a wooden bookcase packed with several neatly arranged volumes. Beyond that there was nothing, not a single table or chair. The old man sat down on the bed, propping the rifle against the headboard, and waved at the bare floor as if inviting his “visitors” to sit.

They conversed for some time. The man continued to harangue them with insults and encouragements to leave. Liadan, Siclare, Sara, and Rhodri tried to explain to the man their situation, trying to find a place to settle fifty-odd people, away from the reach of the empire, and also looking for assistance against Mad Bear and his raiding band of Hemp Wearers.

Eventually, Liadan was able to get the point across that they were seeking to establish a colony and settlement for the Unseelie Court of the Fey, and not the Empire. Unwilling to anger an official emissary from the courts (though he clearly had no problem insulting Rhodri only moments before), the man accepted a bite of Rhodri’s radish pie and offered them a jug of moonshine by way of establishing the protection of a guest pact. When the threat of them settling near-by was settled, he agreed to draw up a Map of any “threats to be avoided” (by which it was clearly meant anyone able to speak).

As dusk drew near, he, now more congenially, urged them to leave, offering that, “If you go away and promise not to tell any of your folks where I live, I’ll make sure your little passel of settlers doesn’t die of starvation in the coming winter…”

To be continued…


Experience:

Session Current Totals Current level
Sara 600 14,155 4th
Zibbler 500 9,465 3rd
Tess 600 8,131 3rd
Liadan 600 7,881 3rd
Thond 500 4,955 2nd
Amos 500 4,955 2nd
Rhodri 600 8,776 3rd
Siclare 600 4,560 2nd

Loot:

Lingering Issues:

  • Tess, Líadan, and Zibbler are suffering from 1 point of Wisdom drain.
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Adventure, The Seventh

August 12, 1720

After the incident with the Tuscarora trying to burn down the gate, the night passed uneventfully. With the morning came the difficult decision of what to do next. Tess and Rhodri, independently and almost simultaneously, came up with the idea that they should seek out the hermit, Elisha Bokken. Their host informed them that, “Old Bokken ain’t ze nicest fellow. Likes his privacy.”

“Less nice than you?!” Rhodri asked incredulously.

Their gruff patron went on to explain that he knew Bokken’s dugout was somewhere to the south-west, as he always saw Bokken arriving along the ridge-line from that direction, and, from things Bokken had said, about a half-day’s journey away and somewhere on the western slope of the mountains. But, of course, he had never been there himself and couldn’t give better directions than that.

Figuring that, given the vagueness of the directions, finding Bokken’s home would involve some exploration, Tess asked if they could leave the bulk of their group at the Trading Post for a few days. “So long as ze make zemselves useful, and zey’ve got zeir own food,” came the reply. When they asked if they could buy food, he explained that his wife had had to largely empty their larders to make the massive meal the night before and that he barely had enough to get the two of them through the month, let alone feed a small army. Their little caravan had barely enough food to feed everyone for a day, so the party’s plans once again turned to hunting and gathering, rather than finding Mr. Bokken.

On the topic of “making zemselves useful”, they learned that their host was apparently a very poor farmer, and had failed to get a field planted earlier in the season due to all the work he had been doing building and maintaining their “very fine accommodations”. With Líadan translating, they convinced the emancipated persons to take over getting the fields planted, even though it was late in the season. They had been farmers back in Sierra Leone, and had the basic skills, though they lacked any familiarity with the climate or local plants. Zibbler was able to step in with the requisite knowledge of local farming techniques, and Siclare provided some wild greens and ramps to augment the potatoes and turnips that their host had for planting.

With Zibbler and the emancipated persons dealing with the the long-game of food production, Tess, Líadan, Sara, Rhodri, and Siclare turned to the more immediate need. Heading out of the gate, Siclare quickly spotted a distinctive browse-line at the edge of the forest, and a deep-rutted north-south trail following the ridge. Bison, she explained. Judging by the churned, muddy hoofprints, a large number of them had passed by the Trading Post heading north early in the morning.

An hour of following the quite obvious trail soon found them creeping downwind of a large herd of Eastern Wood Bison. Nineteen mature cows and eight calves were clustered around a single large bull, casually munching on the surrounding rhododendrons. A second, smaller bull stood several yards off from the main herd. Having learned somewhat from their deer-hunting misadventures, Rhodri suggested that they use the terrain and try to chase the herd back towards the Trading Post and over the western cliff.

They circled upwind, catching the big bull’s attention, then Rhodri and Sara charged, Rhodri putting an arrow into each of the bulls and Sara flailing her hair at the larger one. Tess followed with a quartet of glowing torch-lights moving rapidly towards the herd out of the woods. Finally Líadan conjured the sounds of a roaring mountain lion, while Siclare foxed-out and ran in snapping at the cows rears.

All this of course amounted to an instant stampede.

When the herd started moving, Sara was the first casualty. Close enough to grab at the big bull with her hair was close enough to get that hair stepped on, and she was soon plowed under by the trampling hooves and left bleeding. The others managed to duck aside, though Siclare narrowly avoided getting rammed when she darted in to nip at another’s heels.

With magical roars and dancing flames chasing them, and the occasional fox-bite or arrow pricking the stragglers, the herd ran strait back towards the flattened clearing around the trading post, then strait at the low stone wall marking the western edge of the ridge. The calves, unable to clear the wall, were crushed against the stone by their parents in their panicked flight. The adults that cleared the wall were no better off, encountering a nearly two-hundred foot, uncontrolled tumble down a steep hillside.

Having watched the spectacle of the stampede from the safety of the fort, the rest of their crew came out as soon as it was over. The ‘musketeers’ were sent off to retrieve Sara’s body, and she was soon nursed back to health with the aid of some of the mothers’ magic. The rest went to work dressing out and hauling the twenty-odd bison back up the hill — sped by the fact that their host seemed able to lift and carry a full-grown cow all on his own.

By noon they had all the meat they could want. Some of the mothers went to work dressing the bodies and magically purifying the meat. Other teams were dispatched to dig pits just inside the wall, and cut down trees to start smoking the meat under Thond’s direction. While still others began cutting away chunks of the fat to be rendered and used for poaching. Even with such a large labor force, with nearly ten tons of usable meat, Thond suggested that it would take nearly two weeks to fully process it all.

As the day lengthened towards evening, their host reminded them of the Tuscarora threat — and the likelihood that the Mad Bear would be back again that night. They hurriedly finished moving the last of the carcasses and operations inside the walls, and their host dropped the massive bar across the gate. Tess, Líadan, Sara, Rhodri, Siclare, and the musketeers took turns standing watch on the walls while the others took it in shifts to continue the massive undertaking of preserving nearly 22,000 pounds of meat.

About an hour after nightfall, Rhodri’s sharp night-eyes spotted a dozen of the hemp-wearers making their way slowly down the trail from the south-west, with the jowly, wild-haired Mad Bear at their lead. When they got close to the walls, it became clear that they were hauling a large, felled pine tree, with most of the branches stripped away, save for a few on either side that could be used as handles, and the wide, cut end tapered to a battering point.

Rhodri put an arrow into one of the lead one’s bearing the ram, then shouted a warning to the others below.

The Mad Bear trotted forward and yelled up, “We smell your food. Open up or we’ll smash your gate down!” Líadan’s response was to light them all up with a blast of glitterdust. Thus provoked, the tree-bearer’s charged, full-tilt towards the gate. Their make-shift ram struck with a resounding crash, and the sound of splintering wood, but the massive bar held.

As the ramming squad backed up for another rush at the gate, Sara tagged one of the bearers with a ray of enfeeblement, causing him to stagger under his portion of the tree’s weight. Siclare then set the tree on fire with a produce flame spell, and Tess snatched up an oil lamp and tossed it to smash against the tree as well.

The Mad Bear grabbed one of the limbs and joined the next rush, slamming the burning pine into the gate with tremendous force, but still not enough to break the heavy bar. They then tossed the burning wreckage up against the gate, hoping for better success than the previous night’s attempt to burn it. They, of course, had no such luck. Líadan’s faerie magic transformed the burning oil coating the ram to quite non-flamable water, then Sara and the mothers drenched the old tree with another hundred gallons or so of magically conjured liquids.

Siclare shouted down to the men, in English this time, suggesting that they should stop raiding, make peace, and try to do something productive with their lives. Tess in exasperation, quietly pointed out that these people had just lost a devastating war with the white settlers to the south, and were probably not in a mood to make friends half-way through a raid on a white-man’s fort. Rhodri and Líadan, meanwhile continued to rain arrows and eldritch blasts down on the attackers.

The Mad Bear’s response to all this was simple — he summoned an enraged spirit-wolf inside the walls of the Trading Post. Siclare leaped down at the thing, but missed. Líadan then whistled for the three owlbear cubs, who quickly bumbled up and tore the thing to shreds. She made a mental note that the smell of owlbear might be a pretty effective way to start their next bison stampede without risking getting themselves trampled.

Thus foiled in his latest scheme to get into the fort, the Mad Bear and his braves began another fairly-orderly withdraw. One last toxin-laced eldritch blast from Líadan dropped the portly Mad Bear, turning the withdraw into a proper route — his braves scooping up their leader as they retreated over the wall and down the hill to the west. “This fort is under the protection of the Lords of Faerie!” she called after them.

Then, half to herself, “Well, I guess I just officially appointed myself to be everyone’s Fairy Godmother…”

To be continued…


Experience:

Session Current Totals Current level
Sara 450 13,445 3rd
Zibbler 8,965 3rd
Tess 450 7,531 3rd
Liadan 450 7,281 2nd
Thond 4,455 2nd
Amos 4,455 2nd
Rhodri 450 8,176 3rd
Siclare 450 3,960 2nd

Loot:

  • Food problems are solved!
  • 29 Bison worth of hides, horns, hair, bones, and tendons for making whatever you might need.

Lingering Issues:

  • Tess, Líadan, and Zibbler are suffering from 1 point of Wisdom drain.
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Adventure, The Sixth

August 11, 1720 — Night

Oleg_Leveton.jpgAfter being let into the Trading Post, our heroes finally got a good look at their host. The man certainly did not look like the sort of fellow who could heft a four-hundred-pound log — middle-aged, slightly portly, and weathered, plain clothed, with a thick donegal beard. Other than his freakish strength, harmless enough. No sooner had he barred the door, than he excused himself to go “Tell ze vife zot she’s got to make zirty peoples vorz of dinner…”

While their host was inside, Rhodri, Siclare, and Tess explored the grounds inside the palisade. Everything was quite well constructed — carefully flattened and packed ground with neatly mowed grass, sturdy wooden buildings with steep rooves. Even the middens, filled with rotting vegetables and human feces as they were, were cleanly dug, with square sides and latticed covers. The stable was empty, save for one old nag, and there were no signs of other visitors. For all that the place was built like a fort, it was unmanned save for the old man and his wife.

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Finally the man stuck his head out of the main building and invited them in for supper. The house was a palace compared to what Tess was used to in Germanna — slatted wood floors, rather than dirt, and carefully chinked walls dividing it into six separate rooms, complete with finely hand-crafted furniture and cabinetry.

A long table was set out in the central room, with chairs instead of benches, set with two large iron pots of stew and a large platter with loaves of brown bread. They sat down to eat. The stew was filling but bland — a mixture of potatoes, turnips, and radishes — and the bread was warm, but had the stale taste of food that had been laid up for storage.

As they ate, the man leaned in towards Rhodri conspiratorially. “Whot’s an ugly wrinkled zing like you doing viz zree fine looking ladies like zis? And a red-skin and a negroe no less? You a slaver? Oh! You have zem under a faerie charm don’t you?!” The man went on at some length about how he knew Rhodri was a faerie, and that all faeries were liars, and how he wasn’t going to be fooled by any of his faerie tricks.

Rhodri in return grilled him for a very long time about what he thought of escaped slaves, and slavers, and the practice of slavery, and how he got on with the constabulary, and how often people from the colonies came to the trading post. The short of it all was that the man himself did not believe in slavery, nor did he have much use for “civilization”, having moved out and started the trading post specifically to get away from the colonies.

After they had finished eating — not nearly thirty people’s worth of food — they walked outside discussing how to smuggle the rest out to their followers. Rhodri, clearly not meant to be the face of the party, tried to slyly ask the man to re-open the gates. “I’m not an idiot,” was the reply, “go out and bring your escaped slaves in. Just be quick about it…”

The man seemed extremely nervous about opening the gates after dark. With a little prodding, they learned that a group of “zem Hemp-vearers from down Carolina vay” had recently moved in to the valley, south of the Trading Post, led by a “Chief Graceful Cock”, and that “zeir Mad Bear has been coming around every night asking for hand-outs at arrow-point”. He claimed that he had tried to run them off with a gun, but that the weapon had crumbled to dust in his hands when he tried to fire it. Luckily, they “are no good at ze siege” and the high walls and heavily barred gate had kept them out so far.

Armed with this knowledge, Líadan was put in charge of encouraging everyone to get inside the fort as quickly as possible. As this was going on, Rhodri noticed a dry-laid stone wall marking the western edge of the ridge. Looking for some impartial confirmation of facts, he cast stone tell on the wall. The wall, it seemed, was built entirely by their host, one large stone at a time. The stones also confirmed that five days ago, and every day since, a “man who is also a bear” had come to the fort late at night, first with eleven braves in tow, and later with progressively smaller numbers.

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As he chatted with the wall, he looked down and spotted torches winding their way up the mountain. Rhodri asked the wall for advice on how to deal with the hostile natives. “Be firm. Be unmoving. Wait.” The rocks in this world, it seemed, were not very knowledgeable regarding action.

He rushed back and joined Tess and Siclare in shoving the last of their people through the gates. As Zibbler was guiding the wagon in at the end, Tess spotted the top of a torch coming up behind the stone wall. Then an arm. Then a hand. Which Rhodri promptly put an arrow through. There was a cry of pain. The torch fell atop the wall, sputtering.

With everyone inside, their host slammed the massive bar back across the gate. Líadan ordered the musket crews up onto the catwalk around the top of the palisade, where Rhodri, Tess, and Siclare joined them.

Mad_Bear.jpgPeering into the darkness, Rhodri and Tess spotted five natives creeping through the trees at the edge of the cleared area. The five men didn’t really fit his preconceptions of native warriors — they were broad and stocky, rather than lean and muscular, and dressed in thick, long-sleeved coats and pants of woven fiber, with tall bows, almost comparable to the long-bows of the English, slung stringed across their backs. The central figure, and clearly the leader, was short and jowly, with a wild shock of hair held in place by a decorative headband. Tess lit up the leader and the two flanking him with faerie fire, and Rhodri promptly fired at one of the two flankers. The arrow hit dead-center of mess, but slowed and tangled by his thick fibrous shirt, and barely penetrated to flesh.

The natives responded with high, arcing shots, badly wounding Rhodri and Tess. The leader strode forward and raised one hand towards the muskets trained on him. There was a click as the boy pulled the trigger, followup by an oddly muffled bang as the gun exploded from the inside out, crumbling into metallic ash and blowing away on the wind. Rhodri fired on the leader, but the arrow stopped inches from his flesh, hanging in mid-air. The flickering green faerie-fire also shifted, pushed away from his body, until it made the shape of a large semi-transparent bear superimposed over his frame.

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Up on the wall, Siclare foxed out, literally, growing fox-like ears and a tail, and tried to parley with the bear-man, first in her native Apalachee, and then in Sylvan. Either the man did not understand, or he did not care. He shouted something she could not understand, though she pegged the language as Tuscarora, an Iroquoian language, and his braves let fly another volley of arrows, injuring her and dropping Tess. Rhodri narrowly avoided being hit again by dropping to the deck.

Tess, bleeding badly, rolled over and fell right off the narrow platform, dropping twenty feet to the ground below. Sarah and a few of the slave-mothers rushed up and began patching her up with bandages and spells. Groaning and sitting up, Tess expressed her exasperation and rummaged through her pack, finding a Powhatan war flute — played by war bands when they go on the offensive.

Rhodri, his arrows unable to get through their strange hempen armor, and worried about losing more of the guns, ordered everyone down off the walls. With the counter-fire stopped, the five men rushed towards the gate, and the bear shouted in broken English. “Old man! You bring weak defenders. Open gate now or we burn your fort down!”

Their host glared at Rhodri, “You just had to provoke zem!” he said. Then yelled out the chink in the gate, “Fuck off!”

The men outside pulled bundles of pine-tar soaked kindling off their backs and piled them against the gate. Then their leader splashed a jug of something that smelled very strongly alcoholic over the wood of the gate and set the whole thing alight.

“Fire!” went up the general call.

“I need a hole over there!” Siclare told their host. Obliging, he grabbed a knot-hole on one of the posts making up the back wall of the palisade and heaved, lifting the heavy log three feet strait out of the ground. When asked how he managed such feats, he just muttered something about “havink ze blessing”.

“The blessing of what? An Ogre?” Tess asked.

“Vell… sort of…”

“Vat are you doink?” he asked as Siclare slipped under the gap he’d made. “I’m running away…” And ran she did.

Líadan, who had already been working with the ex-slave women at coordinating their limited spellcasting abilities, gave the order and twenty-four create water spells splashed down over the gate. Nearly a hundred gallons of rapidly conjured water did the trick, and the hastily made blaze was just as promptly doused.

At the same time, Tess struck up her best war-tune on the flute she had found. This, combined with a mixture of her own dancing lights and illusions from Líadan, and the abject failure of their fire plan, sent the five attackers retreating back into the woods. Siclare, outside the walls, followed them for some ways south along the ridge, then circled back to the fort when they started headed downhill to the west.

With the immediate danger dealt with, their host asked if some of their very large group could keep watch on the walls. The rest found the nearest bedding they could and passed out exhausted.

To be continued…


Experience:

Session Current Totals Current level
Sara 13,105 3rd
Zibbler 8,965 3rd
Tess 250 7,081 2nd
Liadan 6,831 2nd
Thond 4,455 2nd
Amos 4,455 2nd
Rhodri 250 7,726 3rd
Siclare 250 3,510 2nd

Loot:

Lingering Issues:

  • Tess, Líadan, and Zibbler are suffering from 1 point of Wisdom drain.
  • Lost one musket.

Food Stores: 320 lbs
Consumption: 220 lbs per day1

1 These numbers do not account for feeding animals, and assumes that the group has ready access to clean water and that followers are engaging in a moderate level of foraging as you travel to augment the largely meat-based diet.

Speaking of Beards

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Adventure, The Fifth

August 10, 1720

The party awoke the next morning to the rich smell of roasting bear meat — or was it turkey? Despite having slain and skinned an owlbear the night before, it took an unusually long time for their minds to equate the horrible monstrosity they’d fought so recently with the smell of breakfast. After they had eaten and packed, Líadan suggested that they should attempt to find the Owlbear’s lair, siting the rather high market value of owlbear young, eggs, and pelts. Despite some dithering, and against pretty much everyone’s better instincts, the party agreed.

Lacking any real tracking skill, Líadan asked the local fauna for directions. Starting in the obvious place — where the owlbear had been caught in their trap — they followed the creature’s massive claw-prints backwards. Despite the thing’s bulk, they found no signs of its passage other than the prints — not a single broken twig or misplaced leaf. Whenever they started to lose the trail, a helpful fat, fluffy chickadee would flutter down and tweet shrilly beside the next nearest paw-print.

For over an hour they tracked the thing thusly. The trail lead them up into the nearby hills, through many a briary thicket or thorny hedgerow which seemed somehow completely undisturbed by the owlbear’s passage, and yet proved quite the barrier for the party. Finally after nearly two miles of pushing their way through the tangled undergrowth, they came to a steep ravine which cut towards the foot of Gaar Mountain. A half-mile up the ravine, they found a large cave-entrance in the hillside, with a small spring-fed pond in front of it.

With the enclosed walls of the ravine, the rank wet-fur/wet-feather smell of owlbear coming from the cave was nearly overwhelming. With much cajoling, Rhodri convinced Vicious that she should go down to the pond to get a drink and to get a look inside the cave. Grumbling as she went, Vicious reported that she saw something moving in the darkness of the cave, something big she thought. Líadan then asked the nearby birds for verification, a chickadee reported that there were “many, far too many” owlbears living in the cave and that they were “terrifically huge”.

Deciding that they were quite under-prepared for dealing with multiple adult owlbears, Tess, Líadan, and Zibbler decided to head back to camp and return with the musket squad and the bear traps, leaving Rhodri and Vicious to keep watch on the cave. The small, wrinkled faerie hid himself as best he could in the undergrowth and dug in to wait. And wait he did. Sitting there trying to keep still for solid three hours, he, unsurprisingly, dozed a bit.

After rounding up the boys with their muskets and the mothers with some sleep spells prepared, the crew made their way back towards the owlbear cave. As they neared the ravine, Tess caught a whiff of owlbear stench, not coming from the ravine, but from behind them. Going on the alert, everyone circled up and peered out into the dense tickets around them, but saw nothing.

They waited.

The silence was punctuated by the squawk of a small bird and the sound of crunching bones. Then silence again.

After several minutes with no visual sign of an owlbear, they resumed their trek, but this time heard the distinct sounds of something rustling in the underbrush, keeping pace with them. Stop. Sound stops. Go. They kept it up for some time, but still saw no sign of whatever creature was stalking them. Only the smell of owlbear and the sounds of rustling leaves gave any indication that their stalker was still there.

Finally after a tense hour of this stop and go walking chase through the woods, they came to the cave. Rhodri took the bear traps and snuck up to the cave mouth to lay them out, while the others fanned out around the pool to keep watch. Tess, near the back, caught sight of rapid movement out of the corner of her eye, she spun just in time to see a flash of fur disappearing back into a ticket of raspberry bushes, accompanied by a panicked flight of small birds bursting out of those same bushes.

“There!” she cried.

Zibbler responded quickly unleashing a gout of magical fire at the bushes. The dried underbrush went up in a roaring column of flames, and something furry went rushing out of the bush and back towards the entrance of the ravine. Sadly, with the nearby flora quickly catching fire, they were unable to pursue, but instead went to work trying to contain the blaze.

Rhodri, meanwhile, so close to the cave, peered in and saw nothing. He moved closer. Nothing. Finally screwing up his courage, he marched into the cave and found it empty. Five small alcoves branched off from the entrance. There was a pile of broken and gnawed bones and bits of fur, and some bloody stains on the floor, but no sign of owlbears other than the lingering stench. He took the time to sift through the bones, but found nothing of any value.

Once the fire was under control, the party fanned out to look around, but found no signs of owlbears in the area. Disheartened by their failure, but somewhat relieved to not have to fight another owlbear, they packed up and headed back to camp.

As they left the ravine and descended the hill back towards their camp, Tess found several fresh owlbear tracks, heading the same way. Afraid that the owlbears might be heading for their camp, they sped up and ran the last mile. They arrived, breathless, to find nothing at all amiss.

With the sun now high in the sky, they ate a quick lunch and broke camp, determined to make some progress at least. Turning south by south-west, they followed the Whiteoak Run upstream. The mostly dry riverbed of the Whiteoak run served as a fine road, and they made good time. Near nightfall, they cut through the gap between Tippet’s Mountain and Carter Ridge, then pressed on, downhill, another two miles to the confluence of Whetstone Run and the Rapidan River, and camped on the shore.

As camp was being set, Rhodri rode out on Vicious, making a circuit of the camp, looking for “signs of bandits or wolves or bears or whatnot”. While he found none of such, he did stumble upon a large field of wild radishes. Making mental note of the location, he gathered up what he could and rode back to camp. Soon several parties of the emancipated people were coming and going, laden with large armfulls of the roots and greens to add their mostly carnivorous diet of the last few days.

eyJ1cmwiOiJodHRwczovL2Rpc2NvcmQuc3RvcmFnZS5nb29nbGVhcGlzLmNvbS9hdHRhY2htZW50cy8yODM3ODg2MTcwNzQzNDM5MzYvMjgzODA1NTkyMjEwODk4OTQ1L0ZveC5qcGcifQ.jpgThat night, everyone was plagued by nightmares. Everyone except Rhodri that is. While standing first watch, he found a small wooden doll on the edge of the camp, looking like a vaguely feminine fox, painted in bright reds and yellows. He pocketed it with the intent of giving it to one of the young girls in their train.

August 11, 1720

The next morning, everyone woke bleary-eyed and grumpy, having suffered a night of much fitful turnings and cold sweats. As they packed up camp, Líadan pointed out that they had regained the Rapidan, having cut out nearly fourty miles of its southern dip from when they’d left it back at Raccoon Ford, and were now on track to follow it strait north to the gap at its headwaters if they chose, but also pointed out that the next ridge to the west marked the edge of their maps. Vicious countered that he smelled owlbear from the north, and that they should instead follow the Rapidan south by south-east and look for another path west, since the way due west looked “much too rocky”.

Exasperated, Tess pointed to the west, “There’s a pass right there!”

eJwFwcENwyAMAMBdGAADVjBkgO6BCCKpEoyw-6q6e---5rNus5tTdcoOcFxSeR1WlFfpzXbmfrcyL7GVHyiqpZ5PGyoQKHrKmCNllyluPkBImFyiiIhbJJ-8g1cbo1X7nt38_uRFIi4.jpgAs they argued about which route to take, Zibbler spotted a tiny fox lurking on the edge of their camp. The little creature trotted into the camp like it owned the place, and began telling them, in plain English, what idiots they were and how it was a miracle that they’d survived this long. A moment later, a horse followed the fox out of the woods, bearing a native woman with an elaborate feathered headdress.

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She explained that she had been watching them since the owlbear cave, and that the owlbears they seemed so afraid of were still on their trail. She pressed them as to whether they had thanked the spirits for their good luck so far, and for the food which had so fortuitously come to them, then lead them in a brief ceremony before urging them to move.

With the native woman’s aid, they took the western route, back up into the hills, then down into the Conway River valley, then around the northern edge of Teel Mountain and Lydia Mountain. By late afternoon, they reached the Swift Run and started finally making their way through the gap and up into the Blue Ridge Mountains.

As they started up the steep trail, climbing thousands of feet, the wind changed and they caught the now familiar scent of owlbears. They scrambled, trying to move the ox-cart and the long train of women and children up the mountain as fast as possible before the predators could catch them.

As they moved up another switchback, Zibbler, walking at the trailing end of the group, once again heard the sound of a small bird being eaten whole. He spun around to see a rounded, furry haunch disappearing behind a large boulder. At his signal, Rhodri turned and kicked Vicious into a full gallop up the hillside. They rounded the boulder to come face to face with three razor-sharp beaks. Albeit much smaller than he expected…

owlbears-tiny.png

The babies, it seemed had been following the scent of their mother all the way from the den. Líadan stepped up and tried to coax them out from behind the rock with a series of gentle “hoot hoot hoot” noises (presumably something in owl-language). Within moments the three wee beasties disappeared around the other side of the rock, then rushed Líadan, scrambling up her back and clinging to her protectively. They made a small ruckus of grunts, and growls, and whistles, and hoots, but Líadan wasn’t able to understand a word of the owlbear speech.

As night was falling, and it was already quite dark on the eastern face of the ridge, Rhodri suggested that they camp where they were. The native woman, who had by now introduced herself as Siclare, pointed out that there were numerous human tracks along the path they were taking, and Tess argued that the Trading Post was supposed to be right at the top of the ridge. So they pressed on.

It was full night, and an overcast one at that, when they crested the mountain. There, nestled in the gap, was a small fort, surrounded by a tall wooden palisade with a pair of square watchtowers at the corners. Worried that the force at the trading post was likely to give them away to the colonials, the escaped slaves hid in the woods while Rhodri rode up to inquire at the trading post about food and supplies.

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Circling the palisade, he saw no sign of guards or soldiers — no lights, no men dozing in the watchtowers, nothing. He approached the gate and banged loudly to be let in. Several minutes later, a lonely eye peered out through a chink in the huge wooden gate. “Go avay! Eetz ze middle of ze fucking night!” said a voice, accompanied by the sound of the hammer being cocked on a rifle.

Rhodri argued with the very rude gatekeeper for several minutes, asking to be let in. Tess, Líadan, and Siclare slipped up to help with the extended negotiations. Finally the promise of money, and two shillings tossed over the wall, led the man to open the gates. They were lead inside, where Rhodri explained that he was “twenty or thirty people worth of hungry”, and Líadan offered the man the owlbear pelt in exchange for a place to sleep for the night and “a very large meal”.

The gatekeeper, nodded. “I veel ask my vife to cook somezing for you”, he said, as he casually shoved the twenty-foot high, solid wood gates closed with one hand and lifted a log that was easily twelve-feet long and bigger-around than a man to bar the gates behind them.

To be continued…


Experience:

Session Current Totals Current level
Sara 500 13,105 3rd
Zibbler 860 8,965 3rd
Tess 860 6,831 2nd
Liadan 860 6,831 2nd
Thond 500 4,455 2nd
Amos 500 4,455 2nd
Rhodri 860 7,476 2nd
Siclare 860 3,260 2nd

Loot:

Lingering Issues:

  • Tess, Líadan, and Zibbler are suffering from 1 point of Wisdom drain.

Food Stores: 320 lbs
Consumption: 220 lbs per day1

1 These numbers do not account for feeding animals, and assumes that the group has ready access to clean water and that followers are engaging in a moderate level of foraging as you travel to augment the largely meat-based diet.

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