Extract from Naias’ journal
It has been nearly six weeks since we took the charter to explore this territory and it seems as though our mission may soon be drawing to a close. We have managed to resolve Jhod’s quest and I believe that we have found favour with Erastil. It is always good to have a god on your side when planning some great undertaking. I’d estimate that we should have completed our exploration by the end of the month, and two months to explore and map 4,320 square miles of monster and bandit infested wilderness seems like fairly decent progress. There is no doubt that it was a good idea to accept this commission. No amount of drill and training could have caused my skills to improve as much as pushing myself through life and death situations. I have become faster and more accurate with my bow and have got the hang of judging the movements of people in battle, so that I can time my shots to hit only foes, not friends. I’m almost as effective with it now as Gorefang is with his axe, although it is clear that he has been improving rapidly too. I honestly haven’t noticed much change in the others. Cal is still clumsy and seems no more skilled whilst Aramil is too far overshadowed by Lick for his own skills to be obvious. Lotus seems no more effective, but her singing is starting to be a bit more tuneful, although it is still really irritating at times. Having allies who I can rely on going to be a great boon in the future. When the time is right I think I will confide in a few of them about my goal and see whether I can get their aid. Cal will help, as it is the sort of quest that would appeal to a paladin, and my friend Gorefang is always up for a good fight. With her strong feminist militancy, I think I can count on Lotus too, despite our occasional differences. I’m not sure about Aramil though. I think that the condescending druid likes us, but he seems to be more interested in keeping us from doing unnecessary harm than in performing acts of heroics. I have a feeling that when we leave this area he will go his own way.
My acts of devotion to Erastil have also served to help me in gathering a warband. The mercenaries I’m hiring to protect the workers, repairing the temple, may become the start of my band. If I can persuade Johd to aid us, then having a Cleric of Erastil would be invaluable. It seems I may have also found a way to finance things for myself as well. The prospector who I had hired has reported that there is indeed gold in the gold mine and ores containing silver in the silver mine. The old saying about needing a gold mine to pay for a silver mine need not apply in this case, as the Kobold tunnels in the old mine already go deep enough to reach the ore we need to remove. I have told the others about this, because another act of generosity on my part should help bring us closer together. Having lent Gore the money to buy a breastplate and given Cal the other which I had bought I have already made them indebted to me. Besides which, money is of no use unless you spend it. I’m not sure if we will be able to start work in the mine without attracting the attention of the stag lord, but there is no reason Why a few silver miners could not be escorted to the Kobolds, to teach them how to extract and process the ore. With trade established the Kobolds should become a lawful part of the local community and they may prove to be useful allies.
I have decided to keep the ring hidden. Having a magical ring of swimming could be of use to me whenever I need to cross rivers, but if the others have cause to detect magic and notice it on me it will cause me to fall in their standing. Since I know now, from the events at the cairn that the magicians cannot detect magical barriers through solid objects, I decided to get myself a small lead lined box in which to keep the ring until I need it or decide what best to do with it. Oleg doesn’t have anything suitable in stock, so I’ve left the ring with Svetlana for safe keeping, for now.
Having had a good night’s sleep in a warm bed we have set out once again to the south. I really am starting to become a creature of habit. Even here in Oleg’s guest house I found myself waking up just before dawn, at the time when my watch usually begins. Lotus has been persuaded to trade in her pony and buy a riding horse, so that she will no longer be slowing the rest of us down. We acquired a few bits of wood and painted a small sign to leave in the gold mine, in order to stake our claim to the land before this area is annexed by Brevoy. It doesn’t seem safe to try mining there when a large bandit group are living in those hills. We have decided that we should go after the bandits first, before mapping the remainder of the area. I think there is a good chance that the old Verician that Kestin Garess is offering us 4 masterwork weapons for, Falgrin Sneed, may be with the stag lord. We reached the mine without event and have made camp. There was an amusing interlude when Gore started discussing possible names for our adventurer band. Such ideas as the stag party, the order of the lick and Plan B were suggested, but we decided to wait until we had completed some memorable deed before seeking a name for ourselves. One thing this does mean is that Gorefang intend for us to remain together doing heroic deeds even after our charter is fulfilled. This is ideal as it fits my plans too.
The night passed uneventfully and we continued to the old rickety bridge across the thorn river. Going across on foot one at a time, whilst Lotus stayed with our horses, we were able to search the far bank, but found nothing of interest. It seems odd to have spent a whole afternoon without Lotus’ endless singing. That’s probably why we are hardly seeing any creatures whilst travelling. That stupid woman is alerting them to our presence long before we get to them. Her voice may be scaring the animals, but if she is back with us again when we get close to the bandits, we really need to get her to shut up.
We returned across the bridge to rejoin Lotus and to finish searching the north bank of the Thorn. I’ve decided to name this bridge the Red Lotus bridge, because it’s unstable and makes a lot of noise. I’m glad Lotus was fine. She may be an annoying, opinionated, highly strung, noisy, idealistic dizzy little airhead, but she’s also strangely likeable. We followed the river to where the thorn joins the shrike. Apparently the Shrike flows all the way from Restov, but the rapids upriver make it unsuitable for river trade. Near were the two rivers meet we found a wide, shallow area which was easily fordable on horseback. I decided to name this place Goreford. We crossed over and are now charting southwest of the thorn. The Shrike is now flowing southeast, which means we are on the north bank of it. I can’t recall which river the bandit said the stag lord’s camp is to the north of, but I believe it is now south of us.
The weather has continued to be dry and it is becoming a little warmer, which is nice as none of us have yet decided to invest in a tent. As far as I can tell from the maps we have been making, we are now as far south as our charter requires us to explore. Rather than following the river to the south my companions have decided to finish our job and map the western area of the stolen lands. After a few hours we reached a deep valley, filled with berry bushes. These must be the berries which the old hermit had wanted. I don’t remember what he said the berries were, but these look like fangberry bushes. It is going to be hard to pick them without getting lots of cuts all over ourselves. Aramil pointed out that it would be best to get the berries to the hermit when they are fresh, so we are going to come back and pick them later.
Continuing west, we have entered the forest. After a while, the sounds of yipping attracted us to a pit trap into which one of those brush thylacine creatures seemed to be caught. The edge of the pit was unstable, but we avoided falling in. It would have been easy to finish off the creature, but this seemed like a great opportunity to win points with Aramil and so I proposed rescuing it, which he fully supported. We were unable to calm the creature, but I lassoed and hauled it out of the pit. As he tried to remove the rope from it the creature bit Gore viciously and then ran off. No good deed goes unpunished, it would seem. We are rangers. We hunt wild animals. It really is a bit frustrating to be going out of our way to be nice to them, just to keep the druid happy. The new wand of healing proved useful though.
After another uneventful night we continued west and reached another small river. This one is probably the river which begins at the hot springs were we had fought the giant frogs. When I get back to Oleg’s I’ll ask if there is a name for this river. The river meandered through this area and looked too deep to ford at the point where we found it. Cal’s folding pole does seem to be useful for things like checking rivers. Travelling north, following the river, we came to an area where a few small debris strewn islands were scattered across the river. The water was much shallower and it was easily fordable. On one of the islands a tatzelwyrm was sunning itself. This was a great opportunity as Oleg had offered us a large reward if we could bring him a tatzlewyrm head.
I moved to the edge of the tree-line, from where I could safely get a good shot. The tatzelwyrm stirred and started moving towards us. I shot it, but them my rather reckless companions decided to rush forward. Being extremely nimble, Lick was able to reach it quickly but for once the cat had bitten off more than it could chew. Another tatzelswyrm had been hidden under the rubble. The two of them attacked lick from either side. Before anyone else could reach them the tatzelwyrms had both bitten lick. One of them took him in its jaws, lifting lick into the air, shaking him violently and raking him with its claws. It then dropped the cat’s broken body and turned to face my companions. When I tried to shoot it, to avenge Lick I must have overdrawn as my bowstring snapped. (It might have been from water damage over the last few weeks or from being kept strung so long. I’ll need to wax my new string more often and unstring it at night to prevent this happening again.) Cal got bitten pretty badly by one of the wyrms but Gorefang cleaved one in half in a single blow with his axe. He truly has become quite formidable. The other wyrm tried to slither away, but I drove Perry forward across the river and cut it down.
Aramil was able to save Lick’s life with our wand of healing. He had been lucky. If Cal hadn’t interrupted the wyrm, causing it to drop Lick before he was completely dead, we would have lost as valuable companion. The wand was also presumably used for healing Cal too, but I was not paying attention. At the time I was more interested in a skeleton which I had noticed buried under the rubble. Digging it out I found that it was wearing a very fine suit of scale armour and nearby was an extremely well balanced cold iron broadsword. We gave the sword to Cal, as it seems like just the sort of thing which a paladin should use. The armour is apparently magical, but Gore was reluctant to touch it until we could determine what the enchantment is. He seems to be extremely fearful of it being some sort of cursed item, which I think is extremely unlikely. After pulling the skeleton out we also found a tattered pack containing some money and a scroll case. In the case was a map of the north western part of this land. Most of it is area that we have already mapped, but at least it confirmed that the river joins up where we expected. This person must have been another adventurer, hired to map these lands. Judging from his gear he was probably more experienced than ourselves, but had made the arrogant mistake of setting out alone. If I had not decided to join up with Gore when I left Restov it might have been me lying dead there now. Once again I find myself glad to have such talented friends. I decided to name the crossing Calford in honor of the heroic way that he tried to face down the two Tatzelwyrms and save Lick. More importantly, I want him to feel an attachment to this area. With a temple, as small mercenary band and a gold mine in the area I’d like to persuade them all to stay here and further chart the area, whilst we grow in wealth and prowess.
Our sleep was disturbed by the arrival of two Grigs, just before dawn. They said that they just wanted to say hello, because it was such a wonderful morning. Since I was up on watch anyway I was not bothered by the disturbance and was happy to chat with the irritating little critters whilst cooking some breakfast for the others. Gore was a bit more grumpy about the disturbance and tried to get back to sleep. We travelled west, to the furthest south western territory covered by our charter. We came across a marshy area which seemed to be unnaturally still. There was no sound of animals or birds and an ominous feeling of death seemed to pervade the very air. Moving forward we found a shallow pool with the body of a horse lying in it. On reflection I think the most unsettling thing was that there was not even the buzz of flies. At the time I didn’t realise why the silence had been so unsettling, but to find marshy ground and a corpse but no flies is extremely unnatural. At first we thought that this was simply a poisoned waterhole, but as I went closer I noticed that the horse was in fact a dead unicorn, whose horn had been removed.
All of us had heard tales of evil monsters and wizards seeking a unicorn’s horn for the magic properties which it holds but none of us knew exactly what properties those might be. A faint magical aura of some sort seemed to linger over the area, especially over the unicorn. I think that somehow the act of desecrating so pure and noble a creature as this unicorn had cursed the area. We discussed burying the unicorn, but none of us have any shovels and it would take a great deal of labour to do that. Cal is currently digging with a crowbar and a dagger, but I’m pretty certain that he’ll give up soon. We really need to get some shovels from Oleg. Preferable ones with folding handles, so as to be easier to handle. Aramil pointed out that we had heard weeks ago that the unicorn had not been seen for a long time. The body must have been here for months and yet it does not seem to have decayed. We resolved to somehow find the unicorn’s horn and return it. Johd probably knows more about this sort of thing than any of us, so we have resolved to go and ask him. The temple is close to the remaining uncharted sections of forest, so it is not out of our way. It’s probably just as well that we have a reason to head that way, as I will need to pay my workers and mercenaries in a week or so. On the way we can even stop off at the statue of Erastil and pray once again for his blessing. I don’t know when, but at some point in the last few weeks the enchantment which he placed on our weapons dissipated.
Gore is acting a bit strangely. He says that he can feel some sort of power awakening in him. It is probably just the unnatural aura of this place getting to him.