Renlen's Problem
"That caravan's more than just furs and oak, you know..."

Dahr Morleigh had just about run out of options by the time the friendly, oddly-forthright dwarf marched through his office door, offering the solution he needed. Late Fall was a precarious time for the town, with so much commercial activity and profit hanging in the balance during a relatively short period of time. Trade had to take place during this window if people, in both Renlen and the surrounding hamlets and farmsteds, were to get the supplies they needed for the coming winter, which by all accounts was likely to be a harsh one. The missing caravans – 3 of them! – represented a sizable blow to those efforts.

Morleigh recognized the dwarf as a cleric of Aiomaedyn, and by the symbols he wore he might well be the genuine article – with powers provided by his deity. Morleigh had seen a few of those over the years and he still had to pinch himself sometimes as a reminder that this was real and that he truly lived in interesting times. The Academy had taught him all the finer skills of management and law, and drilled into him a healthy respect for process, structure, and tradition. And yet like most boys he imagined excitement and the unexpected, while also dreading it as a challenge to the stability that the Realm worked so hard to maintain.

And yet here it was: change and the potential for chaos it brought. He shook the thought away as the dwarf presented his idea. His two half-elf companions were mostly silent. The Dahr knew of Kit, a local Warden and guide, but he’d never seen the other half-elf before.

After some discussion, the Dahr decided to support the three as best he could.

“I can supply you with a wagon, two horses, and two men to accompany you. Find out what’s happened, where those shipments are, and the status of Amaschat, as well.” After a brief pause to let his words sink in, he added, “a grateful town and a reward from the merchants’ guild will await your successful return.”

Cultural note: it’s considered very bad form to negotiate or even ask about what is probably a monetary reward. A “grateful town” typically means a potluck-like collection of goods and services provided by prominent members of a given community, such as free lodging at an inn for a certain period of time, the store providing additional provisions free of charge, and other rewards. Given that most rural communities are relatively cash-poor, the provision of goods & services as rewards is common. However, Morleigh’s mention of a reward implies actual money, too.

I’d like to start next session at least on the road to the pass, if not farther along. Don’t worry about listing provisions – you’re being supplied with enough for a week for all five of the party, and that’s all packed in the wagon. There isn’t much else around in terms of esoteric stuff – healing potions aren’t available, for example – so only bother listing something if it’s unusual.

Otherwise use this post to plan, ask questions, and get things rolling.

Characters & Setting

All of your are from Lineon, the northwestern province of Ahris, in some way or another. The Warlock is the least rooted there, but has spent all his time there since coming off the boat from the Old Realm not too long ago. Marstabashan in the provincial capitol, and a major seaport, and that’s where he landed before heading west on land.

Marstabashan is about two weeks’ travel by road, of which the first week is pretty rough, as Renlen is way out west. There is a major river separating the eastern, coastal portion of the province from the western half, where Renlen is situated. This river, the Tyragh (TEE-rog) is wide, fast, and cold, coming down from the northern mountains that form the limits of the colonies. The land, overall, is forested and hilly, with natural meadows common enough to make small to medium-sized farming possible with some extra clearing. There are also a number of smaller rivers and lakes west of the Tyragh. Finally, the terrain west of the river slowly rises in elevation to the NW, ending in the foothills of the Sconay Range.

I’ll add some secrets for each of you, and based on this information and, if you want, those too, respond and expand on your backgrounds and why you were in Renlen, and the general area, below.

Over the Mountains
although the clouds lack silver inlays

Ezra Clay, Kithkanen Wraithwind, Renli the dwarf, Morgren, and guild regulator made their way into the mountains, in search of answers. Reaching the Gates by nightfall on the first day, nothing seemed out of the ordinary until dark, when Kit noticed a distinct lack of wildlife signs north of the entry to the pass – the first two switchbacks were silent, seemingly devoid of life.

By just after mid-day on their second day away from town they’d made it almost to the apex of the pass, and were then stopped by the remains of a landslide that had blocked the pass, at least a week or so ago. The higher they went into the mountains the quieter it became, and the colder, with a few inches of partially frozen snow covering the ground and some ice on the few remaining trees. This portion of the pass was almost empty of trees, being above the timber line, and only alpine scrub and other small plants were scattered here and there. The cliffs and steep hills to their sides loomed overhead, making for perfect ambush sites or sources of rockslides.

Renli and the other guy stayed on the south side of the blocked road while the other three led their horses over the heap of rock, dirt, and snow, and headed higher into the mountains. No more than 30 minutes Kit came upon five large cargo wagons, sitting aside the road. Going into high alert, the three men crept up to the lifeless caravan and found evidence of a fight, at least a week in the past. No dead bodies, aside from one horse, with a large arrow piercing it’s heart, and no easily-portable cargo, either. Blood stains were here and there, but nothing so large as to suggest that someone died and bled out in or near one of the wagons. Depressions on the ground around the wagons – on both sides – suggested a party of bipeds did approach and surround them, but several days of light snowfall plus nightly freezes prevented any positive identification beyond that they were bipedal, and large man-sized, or maybe larger.

Aside from a bloodstain here or there, the other only evidence of a fight were some cuts in the wagons themselves and the single, dead horse, which had also been rudely butchered with claw and fang, leaving large, rough chunks of meat stripped from its left side.

While exploring the hills around the road, Morgren discovered a frozen brook running parallel to the pass, and obscured by a smooth, low ridge – making for a perfect means by which to shadow travelers and launch an ambush. While poking around there looking for any clues, he heard a voice – a muffled cry of the injured. Kit and Ezra quickly came to help investigate, while Morgren headed up the hillside to get a better view of things, and the cries continued, down the hill to their northwest. “Help…help me…” was heard, in strained Common. Watching, waiting, trying to find out the source – was it a threat or someone in need of help?

In the span of mere seconds, Kit could hear Ezra mumbling and pointing, and suddenly Kit heard those same mumblings, albeit louder, in succession at two points far in front of them, as if the other half-elf had thrown his voice. A reddish glow seemed to pour over and from his left hand as he spoke and pointed. Before Kit could process and respond to this all of them heard rustling to their front.

Morgren, from his high perch on the hillside, was the first to see the shadowy figure moving at high speed up the road, toward their horses, then tied at the lost caravan. Loosing an arrow at the thing – man-sized but hard to see in the deep shadows cast by the mountains to the west – he missed, but shouted and began running down the hillside, alerting the others. Kit reacted next, bounding over the ridge back toward the pass trail and firing his own arrow before dropping his bow and drawing his rapier as he closed with the thing. His shot landed true, piercing the left side of its chest and staggering it some.
The thing looked to have once been a man, but it was clearly dead, with grey-black skin, freakishly extended fingers and claws, and an elongated jaw filled with jagged, filthy teeth. Its stringy, matted hair was not very long, but wild and had dirt clumped in it. Its clothes were those of a traveler, but torn, rotted, and stained with age and exposure to the elements. What it was, no one knew.

The creature closed with Kit, moving at unnatural speed, and closely missed with its claws. Within melee range, Kit could smell the stench of death and frozen rot, and could see that it was not breathing – or, at best, that its body did nothing to warm any air it did take in. Ezra sprinted around to the thing’s side, shouting some guttural speech and gesticulating with one hand while drawing his dagger with the other. Once close enough to stab, Ezra instead continued his garbled mutterings and from his left hand shot a black-purple blast of darkness, slamming into the creature and knocking it a few feet to one side.

Kit, having dropped into the mindset of Hugh’s training, continued his attack, swinging at the thing with a rapier in each hand, striking home once with a deep cut to its abdomen. The thing’s rotten guts poured forth from the gaping cut, and it staggered to once side and dropped to the ground, seemingly defeated. The pounding of footsteps on the rocks and snow rose above their pounding hearts and heaving breathes – Morgren had reached them.

Just as Kit was above to slice the head off the thing, they all saw the spread of ice over it – as if it was growing a shell of dense ice. Kit dropped a large rock on its head, and the ice deflected it. Morgren placed his short sword on its neck and Kit gave the pommel a good whack with another rock to add weight, and the block only knocked a chunk off the growing shell. The two looked at each other, both trying to figure out a way to stop whatever was happening, and Ezra acted again, mumbling more guttural syllables and blasting it again with a ball of black-purple force, then turning to clean his mouth out with snow as the others took the opportunity of the cracked ice to behead the otherwise inert body. The ice, however, began to form again.

Not until they decided to light a fire using their tinder did they destroy it, with the fire melting the ice slightly, then quickly consuming the head and body once it reached the flesh. What is was, none could say, although it was very dead long before it had attacked them.

Standing in the waining light of their second day on road the three men were still feeling the heightened senses, and mental and physical power brought on by the adrenaline of the fight, and as it also started to wane, an unsettling set of questions came to the minds of both Kit and Morgren. Ezra had displayed powers of a rare, powerful, and troubling sort, and answers were needed…

“You’ve got some explaining to do, Ezra,” Morgren started, his hand moving reflexively and slightly back toward his sword’s hilt. Kit, without realizing it, had already stepped back and to one side, opening routes of movement around Ezra, as if he were already a foe – Hugh’s training had been relentless, meant to drill into his pupil reactions that could not be considered in advance, or the benefit of time would be lost.

The silence of the mountains surrounded them as dusk quickly turned darker: three men facing each other, or perhaps facing off against each other.

A wagon, a rockslide, and a cold night
Renli and Durghdar's Night

Night fell quickly, given the location of the rockslide heap and where the two men had set up camp. A purple-blue sky lasted only a little while, giving them just enough time to set up camp, light a fire, and scout enough of the area to feel at least somewhat secure.

“Meng, you see dat up dare?” asked Durghdar in a hushed voice, his brow furrowed in concern while he motioned toward a ledge halfway up a hill to their west. Renli, smart enough to not turn immediately to face whatever it was the man-at-arms had indicated took a moment before turning.

When he did caught a glimpse of a figure just before it moved out of sight – something probably man-sized, likely in furs, and watching them. Its skin was darker than that of most of the humans and all the half-elves he’d seen…maybe grey? Or perhaps blue? Maybe that was the fading light and shadows at work. Nevertheless, the figure disappeared and did not come out again, or could no longer be seen.

They’d have to be watchful that night – even more than just for the wolves that prowled these mountains in packs.

Hopefully the others were making progress and had found out something. Durghdar had spent some time on a hillside earlier, with an eye on what parts of the trail he could see, but he didn’t catch any glimpses of the others.

Meanwhile, Renli ensured that the fire was securely-lit and that the wagon’s shelter sides were properly staked down in anticipation of the possibility of a windy night.

Sconay Mountain Way
a cold, windy night

Lacking the wagon and its roll-out shelter sides meant a cold night for the three men in the high pass. They were able to clear away enough snow, piling up some around the base of two close abandoned wagons, and did the best they could with what little they had. The wagons were in good enough to repair to move again, should they get some horses, and so dismantling or otherwise damaging them for wood to burn or use for a one-night shelter seemed like a bad idea. Plus, Morgren and Ezra, employees of the guild that owned an interest in them, wanted as little property damage as possible. 20 missing draft horses was already a high bill to pay.

Night fell, the temperature dropped to freezing, and a light wind came up, but fortunately not enough to keep them from lighting a fire. There was no food or other provisions or supplies left in the wagons, and so they had to make do with what they’d carried. Another task was ensuring some protection for their horses which, although thick in their own winter coats, were still shivering. Enough already-damaged canvas was cannibalized from the wagon covers to create makeshift blankets for the three animals, and along with the fire they were likely to make it through the night without much more than a chill – so long as the weather didn’t take a nasty turn.

The three divided watch duties and set about eating, sleeping. Wolves howled into the night as they tried to save the power of light and heat – their fire – as the wind picked up.

Daylight could not come soon enough for them, but given the season and their placement in the mountains, the night would be a long one. Good planning and vigilance, however, enabled them to get through to the next day and the slightest hint of a sunrise to the east.

Views of the Sconays in the morning

To the west

Toward the Loy Valley

To the east

Chronicles of Renlen
Told to a group of children and others at an annual festival, years in the future

“…yes, that’s when we first learned of the Wolfen, when they burned Amaschat,” the storyteller explained to those gathered around him in the cooling air of the summer night.

“Our riders found them on the other side of the pass, and to their great dismay saw that the trading post and surrounding farmsteds had been burned – destroyed by some unknown force…” he said dramatically before pausing to let the image sink in. “Far up in the mountains, on the cold and shadowy northern slopes, they looked down on the sad remains of the tiny outpost, and they knew they needed to find out what had happened. Already they’d dispatched their fellows to bring together a work party to recover the oak from the lost wagons, but they needed answers – what if this threat spread? What of Renlen? And so they bravely forged ahead, farther from home and safety, closer to the unknown danger.”

Children shifted in their seats, some of them smiling, knowing what was coming next, while other, younger children sat still in wrapt attention, learning the details of the story for the first time.

“Yes, farther through the pass they went, encountering and exchanging arrows with an unknown figure who’d been tracking them, until the reached the exit from the mountains into the valley, where they were suddenly set upon by sentries – an ambush!”

“Yips and howls they heard, gnashing of great Wolfen teeth accompanied the volleys of arrows from their attackers. Quickly they responded, firing back and fighting on despite the vicious ambush and the damage they themselves took. One beast was shot dead, and after clever maneuvers by our men the other Wolfen was felled. But the danger was only increasing, as their loud cries – their call to war for the pack – had drawn the attention of the others, a mile away in the ruins of the town, and they were only minutes away. Flight! The men had to take flight back into the mountains, where they concealed themselves, and the next day snuck, cleverly, back into the valley, confirming the destruction of the town, the deaths of its residents, and the presence of more Wolfen and their Winter Worgs – their dreadful steeds….” the man pulled a carved image out of his pack, a wooden figure of a hunch-backed riding animal to show the children.

“They knew they were outmatched…outnumbered…and that they needed to warn Renlen, and so swiftly back through the pass they rode, seeking nothing but the southern slopes, and there met the recovery caravan, dispatching a rider to our town, and then – without rest of resupply for themselves – drove back into the pass with the teamsters, only to discover another problem, theretofore only hinted at by story and wild legend….”

A small hand went near the front of the group of children. The storyteller nodded to the little girl, encouraging her to speak.

“Is that when they found the Winter Folk?”

The storyteller flashed a sly, knowing grin. “Or did the Winter Folk find them?,” letting the question hang in the air.

That is a story for another day!”

And remember: you’re all 2nd level now.

Recovery Mission in the Pass
splitting the party by necessity

The caravan consisted of five wagons with a crew of two each and pulled by four horses each, and four riding horses. Morgren, Kit, and Ezra rode alongside sometimes in front of the teams on horseback, and one other rider, a teamster security guard named Bolin, provided an extra set of eyes.

Upon arriving at the landslide blocking the road, and discovering the spear stuck in the road, Volo, the leader of the teamsters, reminded everyone of their core mission.

“We need to get that wood. I don’t need to explain what that means to the Guild, and the coffers of Renlen. We need to focus on bringing all of it back,” he stated in a firm, no-nonsense tone. His crew was ready with shovels, picks, and boards to surmount at least part of the rock pile in order to get the wagons across, and got right to work.

Kit knew that scouting for security would be critical if they were going to get their work done quickly, and so he, Ezra, and Morgren ranged forward on horseback to check on the status of the abandoned wagons. Within 90 minutes they’d returned: the wagons were still there, complete with their cargo, and there were multiple booted footprints around them, and leading off into the woods and rough hills. Upon their return, as daylight faded, Kit also found tracks around the collapsed pass – these were days newer than those around the lost wagons.

“I will accompany the wagons forward to recover the wood, while a team stays behind to ensure that this pass stays open enough for us to escape,” Kit informed the group. They’d stay the night here and the men would continue working, in shifts, through the darkness to clear enough of a path to get the wagons through. Once that was open Kit would lead them to the other site while Ezra, Renli, Morgren, and Durfin, a teamster man-at-arms, stayed behind to keep their escape route clear.

Keeping the hastily-cleared pass open would be critical to their escape, and those staying behind knew this, considering it as the last of the wagons trundled out of sight in the early morning twilight.

Protecting the Pass

Ezra, Renli, Morgren and Durphyn arranged their positions so as to provide both good fields of view and adequate concealment. Between the four of them they could see deeper into the pass, toward Renlen, and across the steep valley to the south. The peaks above them to the north, they hoped, were too high and steep to enable an approach from that direction, and so they put their backs to those hills and settled in for what they hoped would be a boring, cold day.

Within an hour, however, this hope was dashed by the appearance of three of the blue-skinned mountain men: one hiding in the woods up the trail, one on a hillside down the trail, and one on the hillside across the valley. All three were concealed, and it was only their movement now and again, over a period of some 30 minutes, that enabled the four men to pick them out.

Morgren, trying to get closer to one of them, crept through the brush and rocks aside the trail and made his way across the road unseen. As he closed on the watcher to the north, Ezra made an overt move to try and instigate a peaceful interaction with the watchers, stepping out of his hiding spot and walking down the hill toward the trail, with arms wide open, making his presence and knowledge of the far watcher clear.
As Ezra reached the bottom of the hill a great roar echoed off the valley walls and surrounding hills, accompanied by sounds of smashing and crashing from the chasm to the south. From over the cliff came, at surprising speed, a great, while, shaggy-haired beast, which roared again mightily and bounded toward Ezra, who blasted it with an sphere of crackling darkness.

Morgren pounced on the man hidden among the trees, putting his sword to his neck. “Call it off!” he barked as the blue man tensed and turned to face him.

“What makes you think I can?” the stranger replied in even, heavily-accented Common before letting loose with a blast of ice from his left eye, staggering and momentarily blinding the Rogue.

Meanwhile the Yeti closed on Ezra, howling and roaring along the way. The half-elf backed up slowly while blasting it again. Over the next few moments, action was a blur – Durphyn fired on the Yeti; Morgren’s quarry escaped into the woods and the Rogue dashed to Ezra to attack the beast. Sword, bow, and spell blasted forth, concentrated on the white monster until it dropped dead in the snow, charred and bloody. The team took some damage and would need some rest, with Renli’s healing powers speeding the process of recovery.

The blue men disappeared into the rough terrain…only to return an hour later in greater numbers, two from the north and three from the south. This time the moved forward and began raining arrows down on the team, eventually killing two of the four horses before Ezra and Morgren killed one of the two to the north, and Morgren disabled the other as he tried to flee. Renli, channeling the power of Aiomaedyn, elevated his voice to a deep baritone, bouncing it off the peaks and cliffs around them, seeming to bring the wrath of the Father Over All down on the blue men, who turned and fled.

After performing some first aid on their prisoner, they interrogated him, learning little beyond the powerful sense that his people never had, would not, and do not tolerate outsiders on their lands – and that it seemed that “their lands” meant areas that were deep in the snows of winter. After Renli’s calculated use of magic to intimidate and persuade, and Ezra’s frank negotiations, the man agreed to advocate on their behalf for a two-day window of activity in the pass, so long as winter did not bring the deep snows to this point before that time. He would ask that his people leave them alone until then.

They also learned that the blue man knew of the ‘Wolfen’ attack on Amaschat, and that it seemed that the wolf-men had tangled with his people recently. With that, he took his gear and left, quickly disappearing into the woods and snow.

Durphyn butchered the two dead horses while the others warmed themselves by their fire, and all waited on the return of the wagons.

Later in the afternoon, just as the sun dipped below the western peaks, they caught sight of Kit trotting forward on this horse, and soon behind him they saw the first of the wagons, driving as hard as they could back toward Renlen. Although some 100 yards or more out, the four men could see that the others had been in a fight, with some men laid out on the wagons, and possibly Bolin, or another, either laid across his saddle or slumped over it – shadows and distance prevented any more detail.

At least they’d made it back this far, and none too soon, as the last light of the day illuminated clouds that were sure to bring heavy snows within days, possibly even tomorrow.

Marstabashan, nearing winter, late afternoon
In the offices of Moizhian Ethrey

The elf sat and listened to her advisors as they discussed the various reports they’d presented during the meeting. There was so much to consider, sort through, and make decisions about. There were disputes over fishing licenses along the northern coast, especially between fleets from Lineon and Taynsel. There were confirmation hearings related to appointments into the Hehlen across the province, and a few disciplinary actions, as well. Her own report on the latest dispatches from the Old Realm also factored in, with an immediate need to find temporary housing for the troops that would arrive over the next few months. Those, in addition to a seemingly endless heap of small legal, procedural, and economic issues needed attention.

Ethrey held up her right hand, middle and index fingers only extended, giving the signal to her council that she was about to speak. Silence quickly followed.

“We have much work to do, and one piece of this business that I wish to resolve now is that of planning for how we will apportion, assign, and utilize the troops being sent to us. This is a bigger issue than bickering fishermen, would you not agree?” she posed to the group, her tone somewhat weary. Those around her relaxed at the clarity they’d been provided. The bureaucracy and local leaders would sort out the little issues while they would be left the important and complicated task of deciding how to use the regiment that was being sent to Lineon.

“Our task is to ensure that order is provided throughout the colonies, and the troops are being sent for that purpose. I believe that a token presence, in support of the city constabulary, will be adequate for Marstabashan and the immediate area. The Eastern Valley should receive increased patrols in order to calm the worries of the people and show them that their government is as it has always been. As for those areas west of the river…” she stopped in mid-sentence and let the others think while she looked each of them in the eyes.

“…that is where where we shall focus our efforts most,” she finished.


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