We rejoin our intrepid duo several days later after the first winter blizzard in the shared lean-to with the 3 Hill-Landers, Baalkra (the Fighter/Satyr and elder of the hillmen), Han (the half-faun/half-human Ranger/Archer), and Skran (the half-faun/half-hill-giant Brick) laying about before a blazing fire. They were stinking of whiskey, the high quality Highlander sort, and coming to a realization that after around seven days or so of complete boredom and heavy drinking that they were out of booze. Skran shook his cask and peeped the bunghole then looked at his fellows with the sad look of a hurt child. “Awww, that’s so cute!” said Jen (Bers’ player).
Dead-Eye, played by Cris, heard shouting from outside and tried to peek out of the doorway but had to dig at the snow which blocked the way, the snow had stopped. He shuffled out onto a very high snow bank all but covering the roof of the lean-to. He eyeballed the camp where the servants were digging out what they could which included a few frozen-solid corpses, the knights and paladin were tucked away in the manor-house. Olf, the Arborean (played by Mike) followed him out. The camp appeared to be especially hard hit and mostly buried the land surrounding was white with a heavy layer of snow but maybe only a couple of feet or so not the man-height that now sheeted the tents, manor-house and lean-to. The next couple of days were spent digging out the camp. The men-at-arms and the servants suffered while the Templars, nobles and Chinsalis (the elder paladin) remained in the warm and still well-stocked mansion. In all 4 servants died found frozen solid in their collapsed and buried tent. During those few days Dead-Eye was able to spot a few strange shadows here and there skulking just out of sight around the fringes of the camp he assumed it might be the druid, Siamnecca or the escaped Westlander warrioress until her frozen corpse was found by some noble knights on their way to hunt. It was Bers and Dead-Eye who decided to bury her out of respect and maybe a little guilt. Suffering from restlessness for the next few days Bers and Dead-Eye decided to go hunting dragging Olf along with them.
They found game, a fat deer and some rabbits which they took back to camp knowing full well that all of it would be gone by morning due to appetites of their Hill-Lander companions. The next morn they awoke bright and early in order to get some more hunting in and planning to forge as deep as they could into the Light Wood to the North-East since the edge of the Granfor appeared even more foreboding than before as the high and unearthly thick umbrage of the ancient trees had caught the snowfall giving the dark wood a cavernous appearance. They began their tread from camp passing in the direction of the graves of Changris the young paladin, the younger female Westlander captive, the unfortunate servants and the warrioress’ graves. It was Olf who pointed out that the one of the graves looked “all dug-up”.
They found the Westlander woman’s grave open looking as if something had dug its way out of the snow with bloody footprints leading form the grave into the Light Wood so they followed them. After several hours they found themselves in a ravine with trees to either side. Dead-Eye lost the trail and they sat for at least an hour as he tried to pick it back up again and before they knew it they were surrounded.
On all sides there were heavily armed Westlander warriors wearing studded leather armor with wolf-skin draping their shoulders and bearing heavy war-axes. Dead-Eye counted at least a dozen. Dead-Eye cursed about getting caught in the open just before they surrendered. They were almost relieved to see Siamnecca, his white streaked grey knee-length beard swaying gently in the frigid breeze rushing through the ravine. Relieved that is until he commanded his men (and some women) to seize them. Both Dead-Eye and Bers were blindfolded and had their hands bound with rough hemp rope, Olf on the other hand was asked politely by Siamnecca to accompany them and was addressed as “brother” by the druid. The druid told them that he could not trust them though they had vanquished evil together as his ally the green archer (they didn’t catch the name he gave for her) had seen them at the bridge in the crusaders’ camp but he would not let the tribesmen slay them as they did not take an active part in the battle there.
He went on as they were led into a nearby hidden village located in a fortified hollow with roughly hewn wooden ramparts and a dozen mud huts. He told them the crusaders must pay with blood for their violation of the village tree, a druid tree marked with the runes of the brotherhood, and for the raising of the Eagle-Roc village. The group saw at least 50 warriors in the camp though they were not well equipped they were definitely a threat due to their numbers to the crusaders camped at Veringer’s Field. They were finally led to a dug out in a low hummock where a wooden gate made of lashed together poles served as their prison cell. Olf was told he didn’t have to join Bers and Dead-Eye but he insisted he had to be with his friends. Cris looked at Mike (Olf’s player) like he was an idiot. A few hours later while they tried to figure out how to get out of their predicament Cris said, “Gee too bad somebody didn’t stay on the outside and come to open the cage after knocking the guard out!”
Sometime around midnight or possibly later Olf called the guard over to let him out and then let Bers knock him out since he couldn’t do anything since he was a Healer class character and thus due to the Healer’s Oath (see CCI; Character Codex Vol.I) he couldn’t cause harm. They quickly beat it back to the crusaders’ camp successful in their escape purely due to luck.
By the next afternoon they stumbled exhausted into camp having made a few wrong turns in the wee-hours. They gained an audience with the paladin Sir Chinsalis and passed along the information of the impending Westlander attack. Due to getting lost Dead-Eye couldn’t remember where the Westlander camp was however. The paladin also told them that while they were gone something had gotten to one of the Sleipnir (six-legged horses sacred to the Hyvalians) in the old stables on the West side of the manor and he would like them to look into it as they found what appear to be dragon tracks around it. After the meeting they hurried to rest in the lean-to.
Later that night they laid in wait inside one of the stalls in the old stable for what Dead-Eye had determined to be a Winter Dragon by the footprints. These are cold-blooded middle-weight dragons which come out in winter and hibernate in the warm months. The hours passed and both retreated at first light back to the lean-to though on their way there they heard some commotion and saw that Changris’ grave had been dug up in the night. Dead-Eye made a quick look around and found a trail of tracks that he could follow though these appeared to be very different from those that they had followed into the Light Wood straight into the Westlander ambush. They went to get some shut-eye and gave orders to the servants in the meantime to make sure the trail remained unspoiled. As they went to sleep Olf wandered off.
To Be Continued…