The party leaves Cador with Venya, a guide hired from Cordwellyn. Aelric seems concerned, and he subtly presses a crude map of the region, a ring of warmth, and a couple healing potions on Sarah. The day of trekking up into the snowier hills passes without incident. That night there is a fierce snow storm. All are cold, despite their heavy weather gear.
After sleeping in to recover, the party presses on through the thick snow. The day passes with eerie quiet as the sky clears and the sun sparkles off the fresh snow.
That night, as Invellios and Venya share the watch, Venya wanders away into the darkness for a moment. Invellios's keen ears pick up a rustling and sighing that makes him think something more is going on out there than the guide just taking a leak. Venya comes back, but just settles down on his side of the fire. Invellios remains wary, until an hour later he makes out the very soft crunchy sound of footsteps in the snow. Raising the alarm just in time, Invellios starts firing arrows into the eight thugs that pour into camp from all sides. At the same time, Venya leaps up and dashes out into the darkness. Everyone else stumbles out of the tents, strapping on shields and grabbing what weapons they can. Rorik falls on the thugs in a hollering rage; Luceo's Color Spray lights up the night, and Invellios's arrows whistle into their fire-lit targets. Within seconds, six of the thugs lay bleeding in the snow, while the remaining two flee into the night again, with Rorik giving brief chase.
Sarah makes the rounds, tending the thugs' wounds and stabilizing them all (though she does consent to Luceo's urging not to use up valuable healing supplies in doing it).
As dawn approaches, the party debates what to do with the fallen attackers. Sarah won't leave them behind, as they will surely die of exposure. Yet, with two already-laden ponies, moving them doesn't seem to be an option. The only conscious prisoner--a sullen, swarthy mercenary named Ivan--eventually reveals that there is hut nearby, which has served as the raiders base of operations for some time. Luceo sends his raven familiar Rasputin aloft to confirm this.
Rorik and Luceo guard Ivan, while Sarah and Invellios transport three of the unconscious prisoners on the ponies to the hut. Searching the place, they find gold, a map of the area, and Dhunraven uniforms. Returning for the other prisoners, they question Ivan. It seems these are the men who also attacked Allayn's trading party, under Venya's orders. Ivan doesn't know who Venya works for, but the mercenaries did meet up with a larger force that directed the assault on Allayn.
Sarah and Invellios return to the hut with Ivan and the remaining prisoners, while Rorik and Luceo set out after both Venya (whose tracks lead toward town) and the law.
Sarah tends to the weak men. Invellios slips away for a few hours to find the battleground marked on the mercenaries' map; he finds a few looted human bodies left, frozen in the snow. It is Allayn's trade caravan. There are no further clues or signs of Allayn, though is seems that the battlefield has been visited by others recently. Returning, he manages to capture one of the escaped, wounded thugs who is snooping around, at a loss for anywhere else to go.
Rorik and Luceo press on, but stop near evening due to a snowstorm. In the gathering gloom, they see 2 more of the large strange orcs of this area, who slip away into the falling snow.
As Sarah's patients begin to recover, they have mixed reactions to their predicament. Some spend the day swearing and struggling, tied to their beds, cursing her and the dark-haired elf. (One does manage to slip free, but he is quickly subdued and rebound.) Others, not really bad men at heart, but simply down on their luck, share stories about their families and their pasts to someone who asks and actually seems to care.
Though they have lost Venya's trail due to the storm, Rorik and Luceo press on to Cador, where they talk to Aelric. Venya has not been seen in town. With Aelric, they question Cordwellyn, who expresses surprise and sympathetic outrage at Venya's cowardly treachery. Aelric summons the local cleric, Brodan the Stout, to lead a small militia posse to bring in the captive thugs.
Sarah's patients/prisoners become increasingly polarized. Some are foul-mouthed and bitter, others weep over lost mothers and sisters and past evils. Invellios shakes his head in disbelief at Sarah's effect on them and itches to leave.
Rorik and Luceo hurry back with Brodan's posse.
Our heroes press on, refusing another guide, but instead relying on the maps they have accumulated. It has been over 3 weeks now since Allayn went missing, but his body is still unclaimed and the hobgoblin issues still unresolved. However, it seems now that other, more insidious forces are also at work here.
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Last Edited: 24 Apr 2010|
©2006 by Z. Tomaszewski