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Adventure Updates, by Lugoun

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Latest Update; Goodmonth (August) 24th

After reading the letter from Phalan, the members of Thorn set about getting ready to travel to Hommlet, some sixty miles to the west along the Sinann river. They refreshed their supplies then saddled up and made their way out the gates of Tilith. The journey was uneventful and they made it to the village late on the 25th. They headed to the the only lodgings available, the Inn of the Welcome Wench. The Inn was quite famous in the south for its fine fare and good prices and although the place was busy, they had no trouble getting a couple of rooms from the innkeeper Ostler rather than staying in the common room. After an excellent meal they discussed the upcoming audience with the Earl and retired for the evening. The party relaxed in the morning, taking time for baths and another good meal before making their way to the small keep with the green bow banners of Earl Masterton.

Earl Raedda Masterton was at least equally as famous as the Inn of the Welcome Wench. In her youth she reputed to be the finest human archer of her time, winning honors in tourneys across the land. During the Goblin Uprisings of ____ she and her brothers were credited with slaying at least 200 goblins and a score of ogres. In her later years she proved to be as formidable in the political arena as the tourney field, successfully maintaining a balance between the demands of Lord Tor, the nearby Angharad Temple and relations with the elves to the south. Under her management the lands of southwest Eradain have prospered for over a decade.

At the gates, Thorn found two guardsmen dressed in green and white tabards of the Earl standing casually on guard. After a brief wait they were shown in to the main hall. Keep Masterton is one of the older castles in the south, originally just a military outpost of Tilith. The inside the main hall was drafty and the chill was only marginally affected by the roaring fire in the great hearth. Seated at the end of the hall was the Earl. She was dressed in traditional Angharad leathers and the white and green plaid of her house. Her hair was iron gray and she had obviously been attractive in her youth. She was listening to an older man who was short one leg below the knee. The man, who must be her house steward, was reading from a scroll and propping himself up on a crutch when the party was ushered in,

"...and twenty more barrels of flour sire."

The Earl frowned thoughtfully for a moment, then said

"Send fifteen barrels of flour, five of apples and five of turnips instead. It'll be another two-ten days before the late wheat is ready for milling with half the militia still gone, we'll be lucky to get it all in before the weather turns. See to it and pen an appropriate note for the Duke for me to sign."

"Very good m'lord, I'll see to it after this mornings audience."

The man, obviously long at ease without the use of his leg, moved to a desk near a door to the right of the dias and sat down. The Earl then turned her attention toward the party and after a moment looked at the guard and cleared her throat. The young guardsman, caught in the act of staring at Rhiannon and Adara started slightly, then sheepishly announced,

"Mercenaries of the Black Legion to see you m'Lord."

At this queue Elonan stepped forward and bowed.

"Good day Earl Masterton. My comrades and I are on a mission for the Knights of the Horn. Sometime in the next few weeks a delegation from the King will be coming to Hommlet and preparing to visit the Temple of Lugh. We are here to give you advance notice of this visit and to assist with security."

The Earl chuckled and said,

"I'd heard the young King was seeking a bride. Who's in this delegation and when are they to arrive?"

"The High Priests Nibradas and Nimribeth are heading the delegation along with Justicar Abaran. I don't know for sure when they're coming, but a messenger is to be sent ahead at least three days in advance. We have also been told to give you assistance with the troglodyte raids you've been having."

"Ahhha! I'd wondered what the Duke would come up with to help me with those beasts. Let me tell you what has occurred so far. During the last several months since most of my warband and militia have gone to fight the Harad with my brother I don't have near as many men to put out onto patrol. At least three groups of traders that I know of have disappeared. At first I thought it was bandits or such becoming overbold. The last attack just over two weeks ago was on some ten poor souls not ten to fifteen miles north of here. My guardsmen found this among the wreckage of their camp."

The Earl gestured to her steward, who opened a box and pulled something out. He then limped over and handed it to Elonan. It was something like an arrow with a thick shaft and a triple vane made out of some kind of stiffened leather with a sharply pointed metal head. After the party had a chance to examine the weapon the Earl continued.

"Seven or eight years ago I'd had trouble with troglodytes along the trade road north of here toward Roth, this weapon was used by those creatures during those times. That territory is rough and unpopulated except for travelers, traders and my patrols. After a unsuccessfully trying to engage the cunning things during the day, I ordered all travel to stop along that road for a month. Then I sent my soldiers disguised as traders with additional soldiers hidden in the wagons instead of trade goods. The ruse worked and the critters having been denied their favorite repast attacked in force. Our nasty surprise worked, and my men managed to wipe out most of the raiding party. I stepped up patrols after that and had men travel with traders as guards for a bit. There were several other attacks and all told I think we killed about forty of the beasts. I had my best tracker out in the hills where we figured they were coming from, but he disappeared not long after the last attack, and I never was able to find their lair. Now it seems that they are back and I just don't have the resources right now to deal with it. I've put out the warning to travelers, but just just a week ago a young boy out after dark turned up missing from the village."

She sighed then and rubbed her forehead.

"If you travel north toward Roth, about half way a'tween here and there is a way station that travelers use. Northeast of there are some hills where I suspect their lair is at. I wish you luck and may Arawn guide you in your hunt."

Intrepreting that as a dismissal the members of Thorn bowed and took their leave.

Upon returning to the Inn they started planning their next move. From the Earl's description it would take them most of two days to get to the trouble area and if they spent any time hunting troglodytes it might be as long as a week before they returned to town. Knowing they would only have three days advance notice it was likely they would miss the messenger and not be in Hommlet when the delegation arrived. After discussing and discarding different options they decided that the possibility couldn't be helped since they couldn't very well be hunting troglodytes while hanging around the village. Since it was already early afternoon, the party decided they would ride up the road looking for any clues at the location of the last big attack the Earl described, then return to the Inn that eve and get an early start for the way station in the morning. They had the stable boy bring out their horses and headed north along the road to Roth, but the Earl's men must have cleaned up the site of the attack very thoroughly because they found no sign of where it had occurred. They returned to the Inn well after dark and enjoyed what they knew would be their last good meal for a few days before retiring for the night.

Goodmonth (August) 27th

Thorn left early the next day keeping an eye out for the location of the last attack. They don't find no signs of the attacked merchants camp and encounter no other travelers throughout the day. They spend an uneventful night camped beside the road and an equally uneventful second day of travel arriving at the way station early the next afternoon. The trackers examine the area for signs of their quarry, but don't notice anything useful. The party uses the remainder of the day to ride a circuit around the way station and familiarize themselves with the territory before returning to the way station and setting up camp for the night. They stick to their standard watch routine, but stayed extra alert through the night.

Goodmonth (August) 28th

The next day they foray into the hills the Earl told them the trogs were in. It was slow going and relatively fruitless looking for troglodyte tracks in the rocky ground of those hills. Discouraged they set up camp early that day and discuss returning to Hommlet to check and see if the messenger had arrived while they were gone. They finally decided to turn in for the night and see what the next day might bring. That night during Notem's watch, she noticed the horses spooking a bit and acting restless. After listening intently for any sign of a foe she awoke the rest of the party and slipped into the darkness away from the fire to scout the perimeter of the camp. After a bit the horses quieted down, and Noctem returned having seen no sign of any intruders nearby. Eventually everyone bedded down again, but they slept lightly the remainder of the night.

Harvester (September) 1st

In the morning light Noctem and Adara scour the area around the camp looking for signs of anything that might have come nearby in the night. Noctem finds the tracks of something that had actually come quite close to the camp. She and Adara compared notes on the tracks and decided that the troglodytes the had been looking for seemed to have found them first. The other members of the party had been breaking and cleaning up camp and by the time the two returned and filled them in the whole group was ready to leave. Noctem led on foot following the tracks toward a nearby hill. At the foot of the hill the tracks led to a rocky slope that was to steep for the horses to climb. The front of the hill stretching to the west was a small cliff, and the tracks went up a gully and along a rocky shelf that extended above the cliff. Noctem climbed up the rocks and explored part of the shelf then returned to the party.

"We could climb up there if we left behind the horses, but there are a dozen places to split off and climb up or down from that shelf. It could lead somewhere, or it could just be a way to throw off a tracker."

The members of Thorn decide not to leave the horses and scramble up the hill till after they've ridden around and explored a bit more. They begin riding around the hill along the cliff to the west, curving around and finally heading northward they spy a place on the west side of the hill where they can ride the horses higher up the hill. Deciding to forego going around the whole hill, they take this path up the slope. They still reach a point where they cannot take the horses any higher. They dismount and set up a temporary camp then stake out the horses and proceed to climb on foot. Its not a bad incline and with some scrambling on all fours they make it to a level area about half way up the hill where trees and brush grow more thickly. Proceeding cautiously they climb a bit higher and curve around the north side towards the center of between the two hill peaks. They find that between the two peaks of the hill below the level they now stand is a tiny pocket valley totally hidden from out side view. From their vantage point they spot a cave opening of some sort partially obscured by thick ivy growing on the hill. Noting that the path they are on is definitely well used, they head down. Noctem is in the lead scanning for traps and after a brief inspection of the area looking out for an ambush, they make for the entrance of the cave. After making sure there are no other obvious entrances and that the cave is more than just an overhang of rocks, they discuss the next course of action. Adara and Rhiannon will take the lead, followed by Roland who will be carrying a torch. Elonan, who will also have a torch and Noctem would bring up the rear. After checking their weapons and gear they enter the cavern cautiously, letting their eyes adjust to the dimmer light of the cavern. The entrance and tunnel ahead are a good twenty feet wide and 8' to 10' in height with old stalactites hanging from the ceiling. The relative chill of the cave is immediately noticeable, the air is damp and and carries the faint odor of rotten eggs.

Sticking generally to the center of the passage the party moves cautiously deeper into the cave. Just ahead the tunnel splits left and right, the main passage descending to the left. Rhiannon edges over to peer down the right branch, and suddenly the wall moves! Rhiannon yelps and jumps back from a man shaped lizard that thrusts a spear at her. For a moment confusion reigns. The group had been tensed for action since entering the cave, but they had been scanning the darkness ahead and were unprepared for an attack so nearby. The creature blended in with the surrounding rock, but now that it was moving it could be seen more clearly in the flickering torchlight. It advanced upon the retreating Rhiannon and struck a glancing cut on her side with its spear. Noctem recovered first and hit it point blank with an arrow. It hissed in pain, then slipped around toward the main passage. Rhiannon drew and threw a dagger at its retreating form but it escaped into the darkness and the dagger could be heard clattering on the stone ahead. Noctem also fired another arrow, but it went wide and cracked off the wall. Rhiannon brandished her sword and took a half step in pursuit then faltered, clutching her side. With a sharp intake of breath she exclaimed,

"Arrgh, its burning!"

Elonan, not sure what was happening shouted,

"Adara, Noctem, cover the front! Roland, check that wound!"

Roland had already dropped his torch and was moving to assist Rhiannon. He grabbed his waterskin and sluiced the wound with water and then wiped away the blood with a bandage from his herb pouch so he could examine it. He noticed the cut was unusually red and irritated looking. After a few minutes leaching the wound with herbs he stopped and shook his head.

"I'm not sure what were dealing with here, maybe poison...hold still."

Roland began canting a spell, calling out to Heimdal for aid. In the meantime Adara had recovered Roland's torch and she and Noctem were standing facing the downslope where the troglodyte had fled with weapons at the ready. Elonan stood with his back to the wall watching both front and rear of the party while providing light for Roland as he worked. After completing the spell Roland finished bandaging the wound right over Rhiannon's leather armor.

"I've done everything I can for this, but if were dealing with a strong poison I cannot cure it, only hold it at bay for a few hours."

After a moments thought Elonan announced,

"Lets back out and go make camp until we can determine what were dealing with."

The rest of the party agreed and they quickly backed out of the cavern. The wound itself was minor, with Roland's spell holding off any poison effects and the herb bandage, Rhiannon was feeling just fine. They made their way quickly to where the horses had been staked out, saddled up and rode to a location a few miles away that they had spotted the previous day as a possible campsite. Adara and Noctem went out to gather firewood and Elonan began setting up camp. Roland examined Rhiannon's wound more thoroughly, trying to determine what had occurred. Finally he cast a cure wounds on it and they settled in for the rest of the afternoon watching to see if Rhiannon had any further reaction.

To be continued....