(For those who weren’t paying attention, Ash was killed dead a couple of weeks ago. Read the miserable account here.)
Kae is also a female ranger with ties to the church of Emrys (god of the forest). She’s young (21) and has come north for adventure with her roguish friend Effu. They’ve most recently been swords in a southern fighting company, but joined the throng of southern refugees heading north after the great civil war.
Kae and Effu met up with the remnants of Ash and Saffir’s party at the frontier northern town of Hyden’s Ford, where they were looking for an employment opportunity. Over a few pints of ale they all got to know each other… and ultimately, as you might expect, the two new southerners in town joined the team.
Here’s Kae to tell you what happened.
Well, if we wanted adventure I daresay we’ve come to the right place. Yes! The so-called town of Hyden’s Ford is teeming with activity. Most of its people appear to be from the various nations in the south, but it’s the northern barbarians who are way more interesting. They’re pale and blond and wear braids in their hair. And their garb is all rough wool and undyed leather.
We’ve made the acquaintance of one, Effu and I. A northern barbarian! She’s rather an acerbic woman, but speaks the common tongue well enough and is a cleric of her people. Who knew the northern barbarians had priests too? (There are certainly many southern clerics stumbling around this town.)
The northern woman’s name is Alix and she was with a couple of southerners we met in the tavern. They’d just lost two of their companions and were in need of new members to join their party. Calwyn is a small young man, who seems smart, although he doesn’t appear to have any weapons. Not sure what his deal is yet. Intan is a mighty paladin from the south, and clearly the fighting strength of this group. He’s hot-headed, though, and I don’t think he likes us overly much. I get the impression he is in deep mourning for the loss of their friends.
For better or worse, we have joined their group. For better, I think. They’ve got some amazing stories to tell — of goblins and necromancers and all manner of fell creatures. They speak of towering snow-bound mountains, verdant forests and sprawling plains. They have seen some action, those three. And covered vast territories. Since it was the lure of exploration and adventure which brought Effu and I here, I feel we have chosen well.
Tales of dubious humanoid activity in the north
And now we meet another two men from the northern plains! They come from a village near Alix’s, and bring a tale of dubious humanoid activity in the foothills of the mountains. They fear their village is in danger and beg the aid of Alix — clearly they thought to also find Ash, who was one of those recently killed. Intan the hot head is agreeing before anyone can respond, but Alix and Calwyn are both nodding slowly.
Effu and I exchange a glance, shrug, and find ourselves agreeing to accompany them. We ask as delicately as possible about the possibility of remuneration for these exploits. I am not fooled by their attempts to persuade us of the likely weaponry we will find. Nor is Effu, I think. But what else have we to do? The plainspeople have agreed to provision us, and we are here for adventure, after all…
The plainsmen guide us north across the plains for several days to their village. I feel a very long way from home right now. These lands are lush and green and abundant with wildlife. To the west is a vast range of mountains. Huge. More enormous than anything I’ve seen in the south. They stretch as far north as I can see, even after six days of steady travel. I am getting blisters from all this walking!
Finally we reach the village, a dire settlement of rough huts and open fires, and hear more about these humanoids from the sole survivor of a party of nine they sent in to investigate. He is injured and cannot accompany us, but I do feel it rather poor-spirited of the villagers not to offer any more of their warriors to aid us. It is hard to fathom why we’re about to risk our lives without any guarantee of reward. Effu and I consult each other again, reconsidering — after all, we do not know these people! — but we are here now, and staring adventure in the face. We agree to continue.
Between the plains and the foothills lies a river and a ford
The next morning we head west across the plains towards the foot of the mountains. We reach a swift flowing river, but there is a ford. We camp on the eastern side, intending to cross in the morning. I climb a tree to survey the foothills that are our destination beyond the river.
Overnight, dark clouds and a dense rain sweeps in and I know it will rain all day. We decide this will provide good cover for our approach. We confront the ford, preparing to cross, and Intan — did I not say he is a hot head? — bustles in without a rope, loses his footing and is swept away, plate mail and all, by the river.
We stare, open-mouthed. Quick-thinking Effu throws me the end of a rope, the other end of which is lashed around her middle, and dives in to see if she can find him. The river defeats her.
Still, we stare. Intan is gone.
Intan departs (vale) and a young plainsman joins the party
We are gathered at the river’s edge, discussing whether we have any hope of success without the paladin’s sword, when a youth from the village catches us up. His name is Madon, and he wants to avenge his brother, who was among those slain in the original party. He is impressively built and carries weapons, and we decide with his aid we will proceed.
We cross the river with the aid of a rope. With the driving rain, vision is poor, but we climb the first hill without incident. We have chosen this route rather than the easier approach along the valley between hills, where the first party was ambushed. We are seeking a cave on the far side of this hill, where we believe the humanoids might have set up a base. I find tracks to the cave and we approach silently.
Inside is an orc. He looks dozy and doesn’t see me. Calwyn takes a look and reports he’s now dead. There is no time to question this, but a second glance for myself confirms the situation. I resolve to question Calwyn about this later. At the back of the cave is a tunnel and, making sure everyone stays very quiet, I listen carefully.
Stealthily, we slay sleeping orcs
I hear snoring in two separate locations. After a hushed conference, Effu and I volunteer to sneak down to deal with the one or two occupants of the first chamber. Calwyn touches me on the shoulder and suddenly I can see in the dark! Oh, blessed Emrys! I do not stop to question this now, but creep down the tunnel with Effu and we slit the throats of the orc and bugbear sleeping there.
We then tackle the second chamber, where there are around ten sleeping orcs — except one is now awake! She rummages around and doesn’t see us, for we are still and silent. We retreat and wait, hoping the orc falls back to sleep, then return with Calwyn to watch for any who wake. But Effu and I are efficient and we slay every sleeping orc in that chamber without waking one of them.
I think we have proven our worth to our new companions this day. But the day is not over yet.
Outside, the rain continues to fall. We descend this hill and climb the next, which is called tri-top hill, according to the locals. Near the top I spy two lookouts. They are strange, tall creatures with dog-like faces. Gnolls, the others name them. This time, Calwyn creeps closer with me to get a better look at them, and they fall asleep.
More enemies fall asleep and I start to get suspicious
This Calwyn has some interesting talents, I think. I have heard of such things; indeed, have been taught to be wary of them. I’m not sure what to think right now.
Other than right now I have to go make sure those gnolls are dead. When it is done, we find ourselves within a crown of monoliths at the pinnacle of the hill. I gaze back the way we have come and spy a band of figures — some six, I think — moving along the valley floor.
Looking in the other direction, I see an encampment some 400 yards distant. It has some fifteen tents, with three figures — more of these things called gnolls — huddled in its centre. It is still pouring with rain and vision is getting worse. Flushed with our success to-date, we decide to creep closer and try once more for the element of surprise.
This time, alas, we do not succeed. There is a path leading down a steep slope, and they spot us. I daresay we should have expected it. In the rain, they swarm towards us and there is a furious battle, us strung out along the path, them clambering up to meet us. Fortunately for us, they slip and slide on the muddy slope, diminishing their advantage.
A furious battle in the rain — with a magic fireball
But they still have the advantage of far greater numbers. Madon — that indomitable youth — does well with his greatsword until the shear numbers swamp him and he falls. One of our party — by now I am not sure if it is Alix or Calwyn — summons a great roaming fireball.
I fight well, I think, but every time I slay one, another comes to take its place. And I am forced to face three at a time, taking blow after blow until I am bleeding in many places. We have almost defeated them, when blackness descends and I miss the end of the battle.
I do not die. Somehow I am awake and we are fleeing the battlefield. Twenty-three gnolls lie dead, but my companions tell me three escaped. Calwyn and Alix find something of interest in one of the tents — some sort of potion? — but there is little time for talk. We flee back to the ford and the safety of the eastern bank. By now it is late, hours past nightfall, and we fall into an exhausted, soggy heap for the night.
This has ended up rather long. Hope you made it to the end! (Better go put in some subheads!)
Kae promises to be a fun character to play, I think. And poor Intan. We’ll miss him.