At this point the group was hovering between 4th and 5th levels and it was time to ratchet things up a bit. The 1st part of the adventure was going to be a mystery where the party was going to have to follow a string of clues to learn where the Circle might be hiding. Then it was going to be some intense fighting with waves and waves of druidy/fey sort of stuff. And finally the adventure was going to be a tactical approach and assault of the Caer and the Circle of Thorns there.
Write up follows:
It was still Battlecry, the tournament on the 16th of Workmonth to honor Odin and Thor, and the party was in attendance at the fairgrounds in Ponyboro. We took a bit of a break and watched some of the other bouts before Gwyn was recalled to the field for Spear on Foot. He was arraigned against a rather doughty fighter who took the dwarf's measure before the two of them charged each other. Once close, they feinted and jabbed at one another, circling around the field but not getting close enough to strike. The mood of the crowd went from cheering to dissatisfied and then cabbages and tomatoes began raining against the two fighters.
They clashed and the cheers resumed. Gwyn was outmatched and before you could scream out, "Toss the Dwarf" – the bout was over and Gwyn was destroyed in the first heat. Awww – poor Gwyn!
Then some time passed and it was Karis called for Sword on Horse. He rode up and faced off against…poor sap, a skilled knight for the first heat! They rode against one another again and again, and Karis was fairly battered, but managed to unseat his opponent. Opting to be chivalrous, he dismounted himself and they completed their bout on the ground. The half ogre still lost, but it was a fair fight.
Then the church of Frey called for the animal bouts and Smokey was all set…and Detheron's bear's first heat was against…The Famed Gunnarson Elk! Holy crap! It was a behemoth, giant, huge, and Smokey appeared to be very upset about the fight. But it started and the bear was getting his ass kicked. A couple of good blows were delivered on the elk, but in the end, Detheron threw in the towel and the bout came to a close – Smokey eliminated on round one.
We walked around, saw the sights, and had a good time. Zoltan picked up his green spinel headband and then turned over his rapier to have some crystals attached to it. And then the Battlecry was over and the group went back to Ponyboro to finish training and work off more of their bondsmanship.
There were roads to mend and fields to harvest and autumn and winter crops to plant. The days passed slowly but onward. Eventually Karis was approached by a representative from the new Frey sponsored orphanage called the Blessed Children of the Wilted Leaf – a Mister Dardis – about getting the half ogre's help in settling a disagreement regarding the numerous women and their children we liberated from the Kuluk the Terrible's K'Tharkian slave harem 3-4 months earlier.
It seems that after we brought the women (11 of them) and their children (14 of them) to town, the group lost track of them and their plight and went on with what they needed to have done. Turns out that they needed to be cared for and Marzen of the Copperworks took them in, indenturing them to him for a year and a day; effectively paying 20 crowns per woman to cloth them, set up lodgings, make sure their children would be fed as well, and gave them gainful employment in the mines as rock loaders.
The children were in the mines with the women.
Karis took Dardis that evening to meet with Sir Walter (and Sheriff Phozarn) where they gave the absent minded lord the run down of what was going on. Dardis wanted the children to be under the care of the orphanage while the mothers worked - as children between the ages of 1 and 3 should not need be in the mine. Marzen arrived and the group then had a lively discussion. (We Larped here – Jason played Marzen, Mike did Sir Walter, and Kyle did Dardis – Matt played nameless guard with a spear #3)
Settled on the fact that the children no matter what would be taken from the mine (Marzen was fine with that) and if the Sundered Chains wanted to pay for the bondsmanship costs to Marzen for the 11 women (at 15 crowns a piece – the remaining cost due back to the Copperworks for his outlay) totaling 165 crowns. This was a legal loophole since OFFICIALLY, the party saved the women first – and they owe a debt (should the party want to pursue it) to the group first.
Karis spoke to the party who debated the fact for a while and Gwyn and Puck opted not to be a part of it. The other three chipped in 55 crowns and the women were then paid off and allowed to find other employment should they wish. 10 of them went to work for the Greengrocer Coalition, one remained on at the Copperworks.
We wrapped up training and then talked a while about the books. We spoke of things to do and places to go, and what was going to happen next. Group had gotten their butt kicked and frankly, a revisit with Vanir would result in more ass kicked. We needed to do better and get better equipped and gear.
We spoke with just about everyone in town during the last month about the things we did and names and places – hoping something would bear fruit, while still unsure about where to go next and what to do – and even if we could/should go out there again.
Then Solkissa, Detheron's Druidic mentor, came to him with a mission. She wanted to hire the adventuring party – the Sundered Chains, to find a kidnapped girl from a dozen years ago. Northeast of here in the Barony of Dilabria, there lies the town of Huntington. This area had suffered much during the Ogrewars but there were some skilled elven clans living there. Wild elves; they were normally very distrustful of humans, but sided with the men and were able to cause lots of grief for the orcs and ogres.
One of the clans, Qu-Eshya (pronounced COO-ay-CHya), had been wronged a bit over a dozen years ago. A promising druidic student named Tehpaguar (same as mentioned in Vanir's letters) had abused their trust by taking a young half elven/half orcish girl (25 years old at the time of her abduction – which made her roughly 8 in human years and maturity) with him named Lavender who showed remarkable promise as a potential druid. The wild elves believe strongly in reincarnation and were growing to be convinced that Lavender was a powerful druid once named Marissa – and Tehpaguar's "removal" of her was a horrible blow to the xenophobic and tight knit community.
Tehpaguar had disappeared and has remained at large and his whereabouts unknown for a long time – until the party brought back word. Solkissa has been in contact with Ironshade, a leader of the Qu-Eshya clan of wild elves. She has been authorized to hire the party for 600 gold crowns – half now, half at absolution of the blood debt. If Lavender is still alive – another 600 for her safe return.
The description given was Tehpaguar is a wild elf – about 6', 145 lbs, wiry, greenish hair, brown skin with triangular tattoos all over his cheeks. His Circle is most likely to contain at least two others: Faranath another wild elf about the same height and weight but with red hair and two long scars on his neck and Glitterbell, a treesprite about 2' tall, black hair, thin, and with a mean temper. These two disappeared around when Tehpaguar's theft occurred of Lavender.
A circle could be from 6 to 13 druids. Most likely animal companions will be there. Maybe others – don't know. Rangers are a possibility. No other clerics – no mages most likely.
The group discussed it and a few of them were right off the bat – hell yeah, let's do it. A round robin had a unanimous vote and the group then went to talk to Sir Walter about being let go to do this. Solkissa went on ahead to smooth the wheels. Puck detoured to Sheriff Phozarn to see about the possibility of hiring Kalarig, the archer we had "charmed" and liberated from the slavers – who was now in town working as a guard of Orihalcus. Sheriff said – he'd think about it should Sir Walter agree to letting the group go.
Sir Walter was difficult about it, and asked the party for 6 days (1 week) to finish up some of the tasks they were doing. It was the 29th of Workmonth, and we agreed, knowing that it would be officially fall on the 1st. We got Kalarig to agree to come with us, accepting a fee of 25 crowns up front, with an additional 25 crowns for every week we were out (payable up front) and a ¼ share on the assumption that the party will fully extend any support or healing to him as well as an equal with the rest of the party.
Then the group spent time looking around for any records or notes, or anything that might be a potential lead as to the location of the Circle of Thorns, or Tehpaguar, or the Dargan's Folley. What they came up with after 4 odd days was: In the fall and winter months of the year 125, a Sir Dargan Cooperson placed an order for 3 shipments of 14 tons of quarried stone to be sent to "Ponyboro environs, Cooperson Demesne". That and that if the druids did come into Ponyboro every few months, chances are they would visit with the trader/general stone almost exclusively. And if that is so, then some of the rarish druidic found herbs or the like would most likely make their way here to Orihalcus via the trader here as well. Zoltan was talking about visiting Malcath and following this lead. They have been also getting information on any sighting of a circle of stones that might surround a hill – but are getting sketchy results on this.
We ended it here. We have another 2 days in town and then we can move out to someplace else. We have purchased SOME potions and re-equipped ourselves. We need to buy food, fill our skins, and decide what horses and either cart or wagon we want to bring with us. And we need to decide where to go next.