So, after purchasing a pair of domesticated diatryma imported from the south for their wagon they got their little foray to the ruin underway. They began on Hill Road and made it north and followed it as it turned east at the Southern Hills and as it approached the edge of Estlavir Forest which concealed half of the East Bend. They reached the point on the road where the Southern Hills were at their left (to the north on the compass) with the forest ahead and to the right (south) of the road. It was approaching evening and they had about an hour before they had to look for a good camping site when Dead-Eye spotted a dragon flying furiously towards their position from the rear (west).
The dragon appeared to be a grayling but spotted with bright patches of red scales fortunately it also appeared to be a young one. Bers shot at it with her crossbow and missed by a mile. Dead-Eye got a shot off on it as it flew in wounding it badly using up his last dragon-bone arrow. It exhaled a cone of fire as it strafed them roasting the birds hauling their wagon and scorching it black. Vorwulf shot the dragon hurting it badly before it flew out of range. Bers began to reload her weapon while Dead-Eye to another shot carefully aiming as it was near the end of the range for his shortbow. His aim was true and the dragon crashed into the forest a ways off with a shriek. They were determined to get to the corpse and skin and bone it. It was then that they noticed ratlings ducking and fleeing at the edge of the trees. They appeared to be of the savage kind and the few that they got a clear look at bore tattoos around their left eyes. Bers and Dead-Eye barreled through the trees shouting to Vorwulf to take care of the wagon and meet them at the bend!
It was well dark before they got to where the dragon’s corpse had landed and remained hidden in the bushes as they approached as they caught site of a dozen or so savage ratlings gathered around the body. The apparent leader was lifting an eerily glowing jewel above his head and mumbling what appeared to be a prayer. The chanting ratling appeared unusual in that he seemed to scaly skin rather than hair. He soon tossed the gem at the corpse and it exploded with a violet light which turned into bright blue flames surrounding the corpse reducing to ashes in an instant and with that the mischief scattered as Dead-Eye and Bers watched with mouths agape. They tried to track the ratlings following their tracks for about an hour heading in a northeasterly direction but eventually losing the trail. They decided to turn back after Dead-Eye failed to pick it back up.
They met with Vorwulf a short while later at the bend. He had pulled the blackened wagon to the bend by himself and had set up a decently concealed campsite without a fire as he had cut the choicest bits of the wagon-birds for food.
Cris (Dead-Eye’s player): “Hey why waste it. I don’t have time to hunt today besides Dead’s tired of trail rations.”
Bers snatched up a leg and began munching. Late that night those sleeping were woke by an unusually loud and deep wolf-howl. Vorwulf due to his previous experience with a certain pack of wolves (see Pt. 22) was not happy though he had bonded somewhat with Rrhga the sentient wolf (see Pt. 23) when they had hunted together on the road while traveling to Hirok-Nor from the Falmark.
The next morning Dead-Eye and Vorwulf found ratling tracks around the campsite and spent a few minutes pondering the mystery of who they might be working for. They began following East Bend into then out of the forest and when it began to turn north they stayed north going off of the road into the Ot Lake farmlands. They encountered a farmer whose land they cutting through on the first day who told them about a hungry and unnaturally large wolf that has been killing their animals recently. It had been sighted but ran away north towards the hills. He also told them out about a hedge-mage who’s taken up in the ruins of Ekit’s Watch and exacts a high price from the local farmers here and around Merdna for his services. He’s been threatening curses on their crops and pox on their livestock and families. They have been paying in money, goods, crops and on occasion a daughter. That got Bers’ dander up but Dead-Eye didn’t want to “mess with no wizard” so they stayed focused on reaching the ruins of Robber’s Roost. They spent the day wandering around the base of the hills after spanning the farmers’ lands. They then encountered a hill-giant who seemed to be good-natured but mute. He didn’t carry any weapons aside from a large but crude knife and a hide kilt. On guard they started to try to communicate which took a while and since neither Vor nor Dead could find a trail over or through the hills for the wagon they asked the giant. He nodded his head acknowledging that he did know a path and offered to guide them. Night was falling however and they decided to camp at the base of a hill.
Jenn (Bers’ player) to Cris: “Hey. You don’t think the giant’s a werewolf?”
Cris: “Nah. He [meaning me of course] wouldn’t do that to us.”
The next day the giant led them up into the hills and though the path was wide enough for the wagon it was still rough going, the local farmers simply take the East Bend going around the hills, especially tough since they were pulling/pushing it along. They made it through the hills by evening into Ot Lake and the farmlands thereabouts. They still needed to cross another set of hills further to the north on the other side of Ot Lake and asked the giant about those and found he would guide them through those as well. So they set camp on the shore of Ot Lake and started a fire. Around first watch with Vorwulf on duty the giant walked away northward. On second watch Bers saw a large black wolf around the edge of camp seemingly afraid to step into the firelight and soon ran away after she woke the other two. On the third watch, Dead-Eye’s watch, he saw a large bird shape, like that of a great black raven fly over camp. In the morning the hill-giant came striding into camp with a freshly dead cow slung over his shoulder its throat appeared to have been ripped out. The giant had already crudely dressed the carcass. They put two and two together but decided to let it go. They cooked the beef and found themselves eating a good breakfast well into late morning.
Later that day as they reached the top of the Ot Hills they could see Robber’s Roost less than a mile off and directly north of them as well as a large hill-like ridge to the northeast near the height of a low mountain rising lazily above the trees of the Nor Forest. At its westernmost tip they could see a 50 ft high tower set on top of a hill flying a red banner about 4-miles off. They assumed that was Ekit’s Watch and as they traveled down into the glade towards Robber’s Roost the giant stayed behind and waved bye.
They reached the ruin and stashed their wagon in the bushes, Vorwulf deftly camouflaging it. They inspected the tower which looked like an ancient watch tower its pale walls pocked with holes dug by birds. The wood doors on the front however looked new and were painted to look old and weathered. One of the double-doors was hanging open and Dead-Eye checked the ground finding a fresh trail of footprints coming and going. They decided to proceed with caution and prowled into the dark interior of the tower. The inside was unusually well kempt and looked to have been recently swept. The bottom floor was barren saver for a set of stone steps which wound up to the second floor. Dead-Eye also spotted a suspect flagstone on the floor in a far corner which may conceal a hollow underneath. They proceeded up the steps and walked into the second floor. The room was far sized and comprised of the whole floor. All four walls had two arrow slits and on the floor scattered randomly about where bedrolls and packs of gear. At the center of the room was a weapons rack with a sword and a couple of wood staves on it and a table with four chairs and a few oil lamps on its worn boards. The center of the ceiling above them was open to the upper part of the tower which was intact enough to form a ridge along the inside edge at the walls and along that ridge were dozens of clay and glass jars and some casks some of them broken and others studded with crossbow bolts. A fixed wooden ladder went up from the floor to the ridge. They decided to go back down to the bottom and investigate the suspicious flagstone as they had guessed that Robber’s Roost was currently being used as a highwayman’s hideout, probably the Crossed Staffs gang, and that they probably stashed some loot under the floor. They left Vor upstairs to keep an eye out if the criminals should return.
Bers borrowed Dead-Eye’s iron crowbar after they found the stone stubborn and easily pried it up. A cloud of poisonous gas sprayed out, Dead-Eye was unaffected as he had a Ring of Breath Without Air. Bers however, was hit full in the face and suffered some strength damage and hit point damage having failed her Fortitude saving throw. They found a hollow in the floor ripe with a small chest. Prying that open they found it contained some gold coinage and a handful of potions. Just then Vorwulf came down and quietly got their attentions leading them back up to the second floor in time to spy a group of 6 Crossed Staff thugs entering the tower. The group took up positions in the room readying to pull off an ambush as the thugs entered. Vorwulf squatted on the far side of the room and covered the doorway with his bow. Dead-Eye and Bes got against the wall on either side of the doorway ready to strike the first ones through. It wasn’t long before they heard booted feet jogging up the steps along with shouts, “check the upper floor!”
The first through the door was a fairly skilled swordsman wearing a steel pectoral plate over his yellow tunic whom was able to avoid Dead-Eye’s initial blow and dodge into the room. He was immediately followed by a knife fighter who spotted Bers and immediately backed into the room and threw a knife at her, she dodged it and clanged into the wall imbedding itself in the plastered stone. Vorwulf shot at the knife fighter hitting him in the back wounding him some his scale mail vest protecting from most of the damage. Four more thugs wielding short staves filed in. The fight lasted for three rounds with the swordsman being the last to fall dropping at the beginning of the third round. Dead-Eye had been wounded pretty badly by the swordsman and Bers had taken some wounds from the knife-fighter and was reduced to whacking his head off using called shots to the neck since her reduced strength had dragged out the fight but was not that hurt in the end. Vorwulf was also hurt but still in good shape comparatively having taken a few knocks by the staves and the point of a thrown dagger. When they searched the place again and the area around it they found no more gang members but found that their wagon had been pilfered of all the dragon-boned which was not being held in the sack of holding. Both rangers saw the multitude of ratling footprints around it. Dead-Eye immediately began to track the prints cursing to himself the whole time with Vorwulf helping him. They tried to follow the spore for several hours until it got close to evening. The ratling had split up and though they were all moving in a northeasterly direction they either disguised their tracks too well to follow or were leading their pursuers in a circle. The three decided to break off the chase and went back to the wagon. They snatched up the loot and moved as fast as they could back over the hills where they would camp. It took another 3 days for them to get back to Asternor.
The morning after getting back to town they decided they were going to travel to the Varidna Plain in the northwest as they were dragon-slayers and there were dragons about there. Figuring they didn’t know their way around the Hirok-Nor region they found a cartographer and he had a map of the area ready-made. They picked it up for a very steep price but which they could easily afford. They then stopped by the fletchers’ shop as the dragon-bone ammunition should’ve been finished by their reckoning. They found that the master fletcher’s throat had been slit and all of the dragon-bone had been stolen. Cris wasn’t happy at hearing that and let out a pretty long stream of cusswords.
They left town immediately and were going to make their way to Merdna and from there they were going to go through the Pass Road which passed between the Sirti Mountains and into the Varidna Plain.
To Be Continued…