The dawn broke over the dewy grass and heather of the East Meadow, the great ringed purple moon began to fade gradually in the West in proportion to the new rays of the sun, and the acrid stench of burnt troll-flesh still choked in the throats of the Slayers as guttering columns of black smoke rose from the improvised pyre. The Blackwings’ morning ritual commenced Grom the shaman applied war-paint to each in turn. Jez their Hill-Giant guide kept his distance finding the “heathen practice” distasteful; he mumbled a quick prayer to Vinshru and to all of the Saints of the hill-people and of the Hyvalians. A little while later Vorwulf the ranger found some elevated ground and began to survey the land with his spyglass. The ranger spotted a column of grey smoke in the distance, the faint remnant of a distant campfire only about 2 miles off to the northeast.
It took about an hour with the speed of the giant and the slayers’ weird craft to arrive at the sight of the smoldering campfire at the top of a hill-ridge. There was no cover in the immediate area with only distant clumps of low evergreen shrubs scattered over the wide undulating grassland. It was obvious to all a fight had taken place by evidence of the torn ground and the ratling corpse and dead riding-boar among the hastily deserted camping gear.
Vorwulf (Played by Cris): “Well, I guess that’s it for the Outrider.”
Grom (Played by Gil): “You think that’s him?”
Vorwulf shrugged his shoulders in response.
The ranger was able to discern that there were tracks moving north and another set going east maybe southeast. The tracks moving north were of 3 boars and 1 goat probably being ridden; those moving in the other direction were the prints of around 10 humans. Maggi stood by keeping an eye out as she was “still messed up from the troll-fight”. The shaman sat down near the corpse of the ratling and began chanting trying to Commune with the Spirits. Jez the giant found this practice distasteful as well and walked away mumbling something about “blasphemy”. The shaman was able to contact the ratling’s spirit after about an hour and asked its name. Bellok fourth-born told Grom that his master and brothers were guiding a mage to the White Heath, a mage that wore black and yellow named Xanto when they were attacked in the night while they were distracted by an apparent battle to the southwest (the slayers fending off the night-trolls) by barbarians with sharpened teeth.
All of the players went wide-eyed, I swear, and all at once hissed, “The Wasp”!
Cris: “It’s that mushroom. There’s something up with that mushroom! He’s after it.”
Come evening the slayers found themselves further to the northeast having traveled the rolling landscape of Norusk keeping north of a small forest of pine and yew that Jez referred to as the Steppe Wood. They were setting camp in a shallow gulley in a glade that ran between the Steppe Wood in the south and a large unnamed thicket to the north a high ridge was visible about 2 miles directly east over lower ground. The shaman used up the last of his magic for the day healing Vor and Magiia and before sleep both of the latter also rubbed on some healing salve. Just before first watch began and while all were just about to settle in Vorwulf decided to pull out his spyglass and take a quick scan of his surroundings. He immediately spotted a large balefire, easily in the gloaming, directly east presumably at the base of the ridge. Activating the Eyes and Ears of the Dragon ability on his magic helmet he was able to spot out those dancing about the fire with some detail, barbarians with the hides about their shoulders dyed red. They also had a prisoner tied to a post where one of them was casually brutalizing him occasionally holding a dagger to the poor soul’s throat. The bright yellow stripes, spattered with blood, of the prisoner’s clothes gave away his identity though Vorwulf couldn’t make out the face through the blood. Squatting on a stone next to the thick wood post and the prisoner was a very large man presumably the leader of the band turning what appeared as yellow silk mask or hood over in his hands inspecting it before ultimately scrunching it up and tossing it into the fire, the steel helmet at his feet which was presumably his own had a pair of deer antlers attached on either side.
Jenn (at hearing the details of Xanto’s situation): “Oh no!”
Cris: “S#*t! The wasp went and got himself captured.”
Gil: “So, we got to go and rescue him?”
Jenn: “Hey! We got a giant don’t we?”
In response Jez the boar-hunter started fake snoring and rolled over so that his back was to the slayers.
Gil: “I’m out of spells.”
Jenn: “Yeah, I’m still kinda hurt, I don’t think my girl can take another battle right now.”
Cris: “S#*t. Well I guess we wait until morning and try to follow them. They’re probably going east – same place as us.”
Morning. They struck camp as quickly and quietly as they could munching leathery trail rations at the same time. Vorwulf kept an eye on the enemy camp. The barbarians were apparently eating human and possibly faunic remains for breakfast. Xanto was still tied to the post and whole from what the ranger could see. After Grom war-painted them the slayers got into the rowboat and Vor activated his helm. They readied for pursuit.
Jez: “Hey guys um I ain’t gunna fight, I wasn’t hired ta do dat. So I’ll uh meet you guys somewhere easterly if’n we get separated.”
Grom: “What!? How about if we pay you some more money, we got alot.”
The GM (me): “He’s only a hunter, just an NPC class.”
Cris (Vorwulf’s Player): “Yeah. He isn’t gonna help us he’s only tough ‘cause he’s a Hill-Giant.”
Both Jenn and Gil sighed in disgust.
The barbarians began to disembark Xanto still bound to the pole, was being carried between the shoulders of two of the hulking warriors. The savages were farther from the ridge than Vorwulf had initially guessed but were heading directly towards it. The group began to make plans as they tried to stealthily follow the enemy party; the landscape broke into a desolate pale rocky mostly flat area with absolutely no cover. The Blackwings pondered waiting for nightfall then sneaking into the enemy camp as they slept, snatching the wasp up, also pondering leaving the wasp with their hill-giant guide as to cover the escape anticipating some immediate “blow-back”. Barbarians had sharp senses after all.
Jenn: “We can’t leave the wasp with the giant, he’s a dumb@$$. The wasp will just talk his way out of it.”
After less than a quarter of an hour it appeared as if the barbarians had reached the foot of the white cliff and were getting ready to surmount it which would make it hard for the Blackwings to follow in their mysterial rowboat.
Cris: “Well, I guess it’s Plan A then.”
Gil: “Wait. What was Plan B!?”
Jenn: “Follow then wait till midnight.”
Cris: “Plan A is CHARGE!”
Before our heroes were able to put their brilliant plan into action the barbarians suddenly turned, every single one of them easily spotting the boat-load of dragonslayers whom had floated dangerously close (within about 600 ft.). The savages snarled showing their sharpened teeth, dropped Xanto to the stony ground right onto his scabby, swollen face and charged. Without missing a beat Jez burst into a run southward towards the trees of the Steppe Wood deserting his sledge.
Jenn: “Stupid giant.”
To Be Continued…