The party wrapped up their time in Ponyboro, now thinking they have a heading and direction to find both Caer Dargan and the Circle of Thorns. We spent the majority of the night roleplaying which was fine for me as the players were having a good time in town. Typical town adventuring though, the "outdoorsy" characters had little to do - ie the druid. For the rest of the group, they did well and we left Ponyboro behind and entered the wild.
Write up follows:
We picked up in Ponyboro, Watermonth the 7th, just shy of 8 o’clock. Puck and Gywn went down the foyer of the Rampant Griffon where they met with Steward Beldric Cooperson who was going to take them both (his treat), to see the Minstrel show. The show was about two hours long, and most of the audience laughed uproariously, a few merely chuckled (such as Gwyn) and some just sat there stoically. On its completion, Steward Beldric invited the two party members to join him in some drinking in the Inn's tap room and some serious alcohol imbibing occurred.
Steward Beldric, before he was slobberknockered, confessed a bit about his own life and the envy he has for Gwyn and the adventuring style. Sir Kona Cooperson (his father) was slain in a duel 5 years ago and the young Steward has been in a strange position as he has not been either knighted or lorded – instead continuing to administer his family lands as best he is able to. This has led to a situation where girls from high born families are not presented to him, as it would be seen as marrying below their station – and girls from wealthy merchant families want to marry him, but he shies off as it would actually be (assuming he gets knighted or lorded) marrying below HIS station.
Around 11, seriously inebriated (no thanks to Puck trying to get Gwyn drunk and the dwarf happily sucking down the free drinks poured his way), Steward Beldric's retainers took him home, paid the bar tab from the Steward's pouch, and wished Puck and Gwyn good luck.
Meanwhile, Karis went to pick up Yolanda Skeerous from her home, the elven sheriff wearing an attractive gown, her lithe frame belying her smooth strength and comely shape. They went for dinner at Eight Acres Black, and then conversation and light wine (water for Karis) and listened to the local skalds play a song or two while others came up to relieve them. At one point there was a song being sung that Karis recognized as some of the actions his own party had done, but there had been no names mentioned – only the Local Heroes, The Local Heroes of Orihalcus. Hmmm…who was taking their deeds and turning them into song? And why? What reason?
As the night wore on and Yolanda admitted she was getting weary, Karis offered to lead her home – eventually the half ogre templar getting bold enough to confess his feelings to the elven woman and ask to spend the night with her. Yolanda didn't say no, and informed Karis of a few things. That she was 174 years old and Karis was not even 20, that she was not looking for a long term or even exclusive relationship, that she liked Karis but not for him to get his hopes up for anything more, and that she had had 3 other "human" relationships before – one of them ending with her paramour dying of sickness and age in his 50's. The knight understood and agreed that he was aware of all this - and just wanted the opportunity to be with her – as his first time.
So Karis became a man in the Sheriff of Ponyboro's bed that night and then after the 2 minutes passed (chuckle), Yolanda took the rest of the night to patiently teach him what it was to be to be a lover.
Zoltan hung out at the Rampant Griffon with Detheron, Kalarig, Amal, and Osgar – lightly joining in the banter and jocularity as everyone took the time to learn to play Wolves and Jackals. Eventually a page came to the hotel from Stewardess Serilinis Cooperson, looking for Zoltan who left and went back to the Cooperson Demesne. Serilinis was happy to meet again with Zoltan and was willing to entertain him. Some light kvass and fruit was laid out (and two guards REAL close by but not TOO close) and the two of them talked.
Zoltan (Captain Zoltan as his honorific was, chuckle) thanked the Stewardess for her candor and honesty. Serilins then talked about her family and that those were the tenants her father espoused and as long as she tried to live up to his standards, then she was a good person and he was not forgotten. Zoltan talked about the little girl and mysteries and eventually brought up the name of Dargan Cooperson. She hadn't heard of him, and Zoltan gave the thought that it might be a cousin and it was from 50 odd years ago. She asked why and he said that there was some story about Dargan and some druids – and there is a chance the self-same druids are the ones mentioned in the tales as being the ones involved with the little girl.
They went to the records room/library (again, like other aspects of the Cooperson Demesne, there were missing books, scrolls, and artifacts from here) where Serilins was able to find out some more info on Dargan. Dargan was Nathanial's cousin, and Nathanial was her father's uncle. There is talk about Dargan did not go north with the 3rd Crusade and should have been the lord of the Cooperson Demense, but he gave it up to Nathanial as he was part of an adventuring group and found a dwarven mine or city. Was building a keep and becoming a lord on his own, but the records just end around the year 127 – two years into the ogre war (which lasted 4). She didn't see his name or reference anywhere afterwards either.
Zoltan thanked her and they chatted a bit more and then the bard left and promised to come back this way again when their search for the lost girl was finished. He stayed until Steward Beldric was brought home and Serilinis took no pity on her drunkard brother, instructing the seneschal to place a platter under the drunk Steward's head and leave him on the rug to mull over what he did stupid (again) by drinking so much and so long.
And finally Detheron had a hard time getting Amal and Osgar to learn the details and tactics behind Wolves and Jackals, the two orcish fighters instead mass moving their pieces around to chase the prey or resorting to shoves and hitting to accentuate points and moves. At one point, they began shoving pieces of the game into their mouth, snarling around the wooden and stone pieces and saying, "I'm a wolf and I'm eating your jackals."
Detheron had to tell them repeatedly to spit them out.
Kalarig and Detheron talked for a while about the archer's skill and ability and some of the things he's done and learned. He came from Tarkis, then did work in Principia, Ironshire, Seneshia, Cymbarton, and eventually ended up in Ponyboro where he was hired out often as a scout and bowman. At some point he asked Detheron if the druid liked Puck, asked him what he thought of him. Detheron hedged his answer and said that he liked Puck as he knew about him and where he was coming from, blah blah blah. Kalarig replied, "Hmm, weird thing, because I mean, I liked Puck-o a whole lot, right? Like he could do no wrong, and then one day, BAM, he just rubs me the wrong way. Can't explain it."
Detheron did a great job deadending this line of revelation and had Kalarig speak on the rest of the group. Eventually he was tired and the night broke up. He heard Puck come up to his room and vomit in his wash basin. Twice. He heard Gwyn come to bed and within a few minutes drop off to sleep. He heard Zoltan come back and go to bed as well – and then the druid fell asleep.
Party awoke the next day on Watermonth 8th and broke their fast. No Karis. After breakfast, Zoltan took two mugs of chicory coffee with him and wandered toward Sheriff Yolanda's house where he knocked on the door. The two of them, naked and under the covers, were startled and Sheriff swept on a night dress, slid a leather vest on, and took her sword, heading downstairs to see who it was. Zoltan said, "I want to report a missing person. It's a half ogre goes by the name of Karis. If you see him, give him one of these and tell him his friends are at the Rampant Griffon and getting ready to go."
Yolanda thought it was funny and went upstairs to tell Karis it. Karis was put off and went to the window and made to throw the coffee mug out at Zoltan's retreating back, but misjudged and splashed hot coffee all over himself and breaking the clay container. Yolanda and he laughed and he was trying for a morning quickie but she was too fast and got dressed, telling him he had to move on. They left together and kissed goodby and Karis went back to the Rampant Griffon.
Zoltan returned and went with Detheron and Kalarig to go to Vermyzier's Tradegoods to get food, water, and feed for another week (since it’s 3 days at least out of Ponyboro and most likely 3 days back). They made all the arrangements and then told Vermyzier to get it ready while they went and got the horses and cart.
Meanwhile Karis arrived at the tap room and wolfed down breakfast, Puck sitting there holding his head, The two orcs talking about the game, and Gwyn eating whatever was left. Where was Zoltan? Um..don't know. Maybe they went to get horses?
Zoltan and Detheron gathered the steeds and paid Conner for stabling them and led them and the cart BACK to Vermyzier’s where they were loaded up and then headed back to Rampant Griffon.
The other half of the party went to the stablers and found out they MISSED the two friends who had left with the horses and cart. Both sets decided to stay where they were and wait for the other half of the party to find them until Karis and Co. said to go back to Rampant Griffon. All joined up now (and some snide words and comments regarding not waiting, and jokes, and coffee, and how big were Yolanda's …er, and then dwarf smacking) the party followed the road to the Cooperson Demesne, picked their way past the mill and Cheshire Lake, and followed the game trail to Deep Lake.
It was overland travel and the druid did his best to keep up on a SW direction. The day was cool and clear and the party eventually camped for the night in the shallow hills near a copse of oak/elms. We had some people keep watch (Zoltan and Karis, then Puck and Kalarig, then Detheron and Gwyn, and finally Amal and Osgar). Karis thought he heard drums at some point during the night, but Zoltan didn't. Detheron was awoken to be told: There was a foul omen – an owl flew overhead. Then he was told: There was another omen, Amal heard drums. No one heard them now, and Osgar swore Amal made it up – some funny banter but it was ended here with Detheron telling them to ONLY wake him on REAL big emergencies they BOTH heard and agreed to.
It was Watermonth the 9th and the party moved on. We continued SW until we saw on the horizon something slender sticking out of the ground. The party was treated to this description:
You've seen the shaft of stone sticking out of the ground for a few miles now, the only thing that has marred the horizon of almost non-existent hills, sparse pines, and tall grasses for some time. Aptly named the Monolith, it is a single spire of dark granite standing like a shaft out of the earth itself. It is canted at an angle, maybe ten or fifteen degrees from the vertical, settled into its position after who knows how many years.
Drawing closer, you can see that near the top there are two sets of four deep gouges in the stone itself, the deepest of the regular furrows closer to nine inches deep. The granite spear reaches almost fifty feet out of the ground, the entire length roughly three feet by half that at its widest point.
Numerous bits of pigment and scrawls have been scribbled along the lower portion of the monolith – testament of those who've visited the area before and felt the need to make their marking.
We checked the entire thing over and discussed it a bit – where it came from, what it means, etc. Most of the markings were not just common but dwarven, elven, halfling, orcish, ogrish, goblin, kobold, and a half dozen other languages and forms the party couldn't identify.
A few of us smelt faint cooking meat and scouring the countryside (Zoltan from ONTOP of the monolith after climbing up and donning the leather wolf's helm) we spotted a low encampment about a mile or so west of here – the same direction Matriarch Cassandra had told us to go after reaching the monolith. What to do? What were they? Who were they? Do we avoid and go around or ride up?
Detheron went behind the monolith and gave his clothes and belongings to Amal and Osgar and then concentrated REALLY hard – his body going strangely light and pulsing and green and glowing until POOMPH – he transformed himself into a large hunting falcon. Then the party was treated to a show as the falcon spent 20 odd minutes learning how to fly and get off the ground – while Detheron did his damnedest to stay air born and learn how to use his new senses and abilities as a falcon.
He eventually strafed the camp – 12 to 20 tents sort of around a campfire, stew on it cooking, maybe 25-30 orcs here in makeshift and poor armor bearing spears and clubs – one of them taller than the others and sporting a rusty serrated broadsword on his back. The orcs watched the strange falcon pass over them (most likely a bad omen! Chuckle) and then Detheron came back and landed…er…I mean crashed and rolled to stop against the muddy ground, changed back, got dressed, and told us what he saw.
Party wanted to engage them. Zoltan, Gwyn, and Puck snuck up to camp with sleep spells, charm spells, and poisoned crossbow bolts at the ready. Karis rode ahead of cart with Detheron and Amal in driver's seat and Osgar in back with Smokey, Fodder, and Kalarig being hidden and arrows out and ready.
As the orcs massed to shout out words to Karis who was having Amal say he was from Ogrelords and visiting and whatnot, Zoltan crept real close and fired off his sleep spell. 15 HD of orcs dropped to sleep – which was HALF the camp! Then it was battle time.
Kalarig plugged the leader 3 times with arrows (first time the party saw him in action – he really IS good!) and Puck charmed one of the orcs. Amal charged forward, taking a spear to the belly for his efforts, but mowing a feral orc down and hacking him to bits with his axe and shouting out blood cries as he did so.
Gwyn shot the wounded leader in the head and critically struck him, killing him – and then the orcs broke. Dropping weapons and begging for mercy. We rounded them up and Amal and Osgar wandered about the sleeping orcs, counting coup on them (read – smacking them in the sleeping skulls with a bladed hand axe and killing them) – until Amal was ordered to step forward and translate for them as the orcs did not speak common.
Orcs didn't know of Ogrelord. Been here since “Ravens of Odin chased ancestors away. Ravens were huge with eyes and breath of fire.” They said they don't know druids. Hunting party wandered into some trees a day or so ago towards setting sun and many of them just turned and started walking home for some reason. A few were actually lifted by the branches and killed by the forest. Orcs spooked, heading home. Clan is referred to as K'Narsimu.
Survivors were put to the sword and the party rounded up what trinkets the orcs had – mostly fetish jewelry and simple fare – except for a thick odd metallic black rod. 3 feet long, three fingers wide, one end was metal fatigued as if it was bent/pried off something else. Group kept it. We went on (taking the stew pot and the stew!) for an hour or so and made camp. Sleep was good this night and we all got a good night's rest.