Chapter 1- Flight from Deepingdale(1359DR, 24-26th Flamerule)
And so our flight from Highmoon and the Dalelands began. We travelled
as quickly as our injuries allowed through the light woodland; the burning
remains of Rhauntides's tower behind us, the Thunderpeaks somewhere ahead
of us and the Vulture Fiends searching for us. Several times that night
we heard their baleful cries, sometimes no more then 500 yards behind
Amber led the way. It was a clear night with a full moon. Trees were
scarce and we spent a lot of the time travelling across open farmland.
We all felt exposed and vulnerable and tension rose in the group. Before
long our journey met up with the Wineflow and we spent the rest of that
night never too far from its bank. Across on the other side we could see
a road that we knew could take us to Thunder-gap. As we debated the whether
we should try to cross, sacrificing what little cover we had for the speed
of travel by road, we heard the call of horns from behind us, a call that
was returned from far and wide. Unable to ford the river at our current
location we carried along on our original path. It was not long before
we heard the sound of horses being ridden hard along the road. Luckily
we were in a small copse of trees that, along with the darkness and distance
we were from the road hid us from the riders' view.
They stopped at a building, a farmhouse we discovered, and summoned
the farmer. Eager to learn what the purpose of their moonlight ride was
I took the form of an owl and flew across the river to the farm. Unfortunately
the riders had already imparted whatever message they carried to the farmer
and were now galloping of up the road when I arrived. One of the farmhouse
windows wasn't shuttered properly and peeping in I saw the farmer rummaging
through a closet and bringing out a shortsword. For me this confirmed
what I had dreaded since I had first heard the horns. The fiend, in her
guise as Herald of Highmoon, had mobilised the kingdom's men-at-arms in
a hunt for us, no doubt claiming we were murderers, spies or both. It
would not be safe to travel the roads.
Amber and Colatto were not convinced when I returned and explained what
I had seen and what I believed it ment, suggesting that the soldiers could
simply be warning locals that there were fiends about. Somehow, I felt,
it would take more then a shortsword to make me feel secure if I were
a farmer and the Tanar'ri were abroad.
We carried on. Over time our route and the road diverged, Amber was unable
to find a safe fording point across the river. We began to notice a light
ahead that soon resolved itself into another farmhouse, this one on our
side of the river. Bazil went ahead to look and we had to wait for long
minutes before he returned. There had been a pair of riders at the farm
when he had got there and Bazil had arrived in time to hear one of them
warn the farmer about eight fugitives who had murdered Azagartha and burnt
down Rhauntides' tower. Once the riders had left Bazil, reasoning that
they had been part of the original group we had seen and that there must
be a way to cross the river, had looked in vein for a fording point or
bridge before returning.
We pushed on for a few more minutes until we found a stretch of the river
where the banks were high enough to hide us from view if we camped at
the water's edge. Bazil and Primrose fell asleep almost at once. Baldric
and Faergil could barely move due to their injuries and I called upon
the divine power of Silvanus to place them into a deep, soothing sleep.
Colatto and Amber volunteered to take watch, Colatto rightly suggesting
we should be travelling again before dawn when the farmers would be up.
After checking over our horses, two of which were riderless with the deaths
of poor Azagartha and Moneetha, I quickly did what I could to treat our
two, valiant sentries' wounds and then placed myself into a deep sleep.
When I awoke an hour later, a few hours before dawn, the two halflings
were still asleep, Baldric was in prayer to The Lady, faergil was studying
his spellbook, and our two watchmen looked grey from lack of sleep. I
snatched the time to give a few quick prayers to Silvanus, though I would
have needed more time to renew the divine link that all clerics share
with their deity. Amber had found some berries and called upon the power
of Winstrum to charge them with enough nourishment that they would sustain
a man for a whole day. I was impressed by how Amber's power had developed
and reminded that I had a few magical "Goodberries" of my own, three of
which I gave to Faergil to ease his pain. Having finished his prayers
Brother Baldric called upon the power of The Lady to soothe some of our
injuries; I covered my wounds with a fresh cloak and claimed I was well
It had been decided that we would force a crossing where we were. The
banks on the river were steep and the water deep enough that the horses
would have to swim but it was only two of their lengths from bank to bank.
Colatto's Fireheart leapt from one side to the other but Amber and I had
to manhandle the rest across. I received a kick from Fleetfoot for my
toubles, which Amber later treated with surprising and welcome tenderness.
How the farmer whose land we were bordering didn't hear the din we made
I will never know. Poor Greymane in particular didn't like the experience
and I had to apologise to her, and the other horses, at length afterwards.
As the sun rose we finally took to the road and made for the border.
Concerned that there could be trouble on the road ahead I took the form
of a Kestrel and flew high above and a little way in front to keep an
eye out of danger. It was invigorating to be airborne again and have the
freedom of the skies. My companions road swiftly and we devoured miles
of road. Twice as we passed farms by the road we heard horns ring out
from within. Our flight was checked by, of all things, a flock of sheep
being taken out to pasture.
As my companions navigated their horses through the flock I scouted out
ahead and saw what I feared, a group of twelve riders galloping hard down
from a small hamlet ringed by watchtowers, further up the road. I flew
back to warn my friends but there seemed little time to form a plan other
then to break up the group as they were looking for eight fugitives. Dragging
the spare horses behind her Amber galloped off ahead while Baldric and
Bazil followed at a slower pace behind and Faergil, Colatto and Primrose
followed stayed put. I had doubts about the plan; there simply wasn't
the time or space enough to separate ourselves sufficiently to make it
look convincing. I decided to keep pace with the militiamen to see what
happened as they encountered each group of my friends.
Amber ran into the riders first. Unsurprisingly they stopped and questioned
her, Amber's naturally surly manner did little to help her cause and they
were still demanding answers when Bazil and Baldric arrived, the three
pretending that they didn't know each other. The leader of the patrol,
a Gold Elf, ordered that the three would return with them to the hamlet
ahead for further questioning. Almost as an after thought he sent two
of his men further down the road to see if there was any more travellers.
Wheeling back to where the two mages and Primrose had been I was a little
surprised to notice that they had got off the road and were now in a field.
Swooping low over them I gave a cry of warning. For a moment the field
seemed to shimmer and the three and their two horses simply faded from
view. As I hovered over the field pretending to look for food, I watched
the two riders come up the road. As they reached the sheepherder they
called out to him. I was not close enough to hear what they said but he
pointed back the way they came and then across into the field where my
three companions were concealed. The two patrolmen rode into the field,
passing within two horse's lengths of the trio, and then out the other
side. When the guards, and the sheepherder, were out of sight Faergil,
Colatto and Primrose re-appeared. With his trademark quick wits and risk
taking Colatto had torn a page from his spell book (something, I'm told,
which could have destroyed much of it) and given it to Faergil to read
like a scroll, creating the illusion of an empty field. Colatto himself
had readied another illusionary spell to create eight riders in the distance
and lure away the patrol, if it had become necessary. Returning to my
natural form I quickly outlined what had happened to our companions and
the four of us hastily formulated a plan.
Meanwhile Amber, Baldric and Bazil had been taken into the small hamlet,
less then half a dozen buildings, of Hallow Creek where the Militia Captain
escorted them to the carpenter's house for further questioning. While
Amber and Bazil used pseudonyms ("Silas Rabbit-slayer" was Bazil's
if memory serves) Baldric, possibly believing that it would be futile
to deny that he was a priest of Tymora, gave his real name. This got the
elf's attention, as did the contents of Bazil's backpack. I'm told that
Bazil did a spirited job of explaining away the fortune in precious stones
and gems and even the thief's tools but the halfling-sized uniform of
a captain in the Purple Dragons stumped him. The elf suggested that if
he were the famous Bazil the Quick of the Company of the Silvercoin he
should come clean as only then could he help him. Bazil, Baldric and Amber
dropped the charade. The elf, he never gave his name, confirmed that Scoril
had named the Company specifically as being responsible for Azagartha's
murder, the destruction of Rhauntides' tower and the disappearance of
the sage. However he knew the truth about the Herald and wanted to help
us so they planned the three fugitive's "escape".
Doubling up on horses Primrose, Colatto, Faergil and myself had circumvented
Hallow Creek and it's watchtowers and were on the road out of town. What
we didn't know was whether our three companions had made it out of the
hamlet by their own devices or were still there. We didn't want to blunder
in case we made the situation worse for them. Quickly it was decided that
Primrose and Faergil would remain where they were in case the others came
looking for us while Colatto rode into the hamlet to scout things out.
If asked he would claim to be a mage coming from Cormyr to visit the famous
sage Rhauntides, we figured that the patrols were looking for eight riders
leaving Deepingdale not one coming in. I went along as his snake familiar.
Once in Hallow Creek it was easy to spot our friend's horses hitched up
outside the carpenter's house and the two guards standing outside. As
we watched the two guards entered the building and were suddenly dragged
out of sight. What they had seen when responding to their captain's summons
was Baldric holding a knife to the elf's throat. Before they could react
Amber and Bazil, who had been hiding either side of the door had pounced.
As per their agreement with the elf the pair didn't do any serious damage
to the guards. It was simplicity for a woman of Amber's skill and unusual
strength to knockout one soldier with a blow to the head. The shorter
Bazil sent his target reeling with a blow to the back of the knees before
clubbing him with the pummel of his dagger and then quickly closing the
door. Intrigued by the guards sudden departure I slithered over to a window
for a closer look to see our three companions tying up the two guards
and, after a quick discussion with the elf, Amber laying him out with
a solid right hook. During this time Colatto had been untying the horses
and the pair of us headed out of Hallow Creek. We looped back round again
and joined up with all our companions, Faergil and Primrose and Amber,
Bazil and Baldric, on the road.
We didn't time for a tearful reunion as, seconds after Colatto and I
arrived, we heard horns being blown in Hallow Creek. As Baldric had had
the foresight to steal the horn he had found on the elf, it must have
been the pair of riders who had gone looking across the fields returning
to find their colleges trussed up. We rode onwards. We were now ahead
of the Highmoon militia and with superior horses and a friend in their
ranks it seemed there was little danger of them catching us. As the day
wore on we drew closer to the majestic red peaks of the Thunder Peaks.
We could all see the clouds that boiled around the mountaintops, heavy
with rain. They would reach us before too long. The presence of the vast
mountains caused a premature sunset and we were soon riding in a gathering
darkness. We caught glimpses of the famous red sheep of the Thunder Peaks
but other then that we saw not another living thing.
We rode through the deepening gloom for hours. The hard riding was aggravating
my wounds, so I ate my last two Goodberries. They helped a little. All
the while we scanned the pass for signs of a suitable campsite, well aware
of the gathering storm, which charged the air about us. We found none.
As we reached an area where the pass was narrower we came across the aftermath
of a battle. We slowed, wary of an ambush. The dead consisted of humans
and a few Bugbears, hulking creatures at least my height but far more
muscular. I had encountered their kind once before, shortly before The
Time of Troubles. The entire dead, human and Bugbear alike, had been stripped
of possessions. At Baldric's suggestion Amber dismounted and carefully
walked amongst the dead, seeing if she could read what had happened in
the ground. Even under these conditions she was able to tell that a wagon
travelling from the Dalelands to Cormyr had been ambushed by the Bugbears.
The humans had leapt from the wagon to defend it and the wagon itself
had left at high speed either during or after the battle, neither option
painted a pretty picture of the wagon owner's loyalty. As Colatto scouted
ahead for shelter, with no luck, the rest of us built a carne for the
fallen. Just as we had finished, and Colatto had returned, the storm hit
in all it's primordial fury. I may have mentioned that I'm rather fond
of storms, of thunder and lightning but you can have too much of a good
thing. The wind was icy and threw hard-hitting rain with blistering force
against exposed skin. Even through travelling cloaks it hurt. The howl
of the wind drowned out everything but the sound of thunder and the explosive
impact of lightning on the sides of the mountain, throwing hot chunks
of rock into the air to rain down on us. Not only couldn't we hear but
also we couldn't see more then six feet through the driving rain.
Since it was slightly less suicidal to press on then stay where we were
we fought our way deeper into the pass, foot by torturous foot. We had
to fight the horses every step of the way. By shouting directly into each
other's ears the suggestion went round the group that we should try to
find the Bugbears' lair and shelter there till the storm passed. Instead
we found the next best thing, the wagon. It was firmly pegged down in
the lea of a large rock. The one remaining horse hobbled and blinkered
and a dim, flickering light was visible through the canvas. I think Colatto
might have tried to hail the wagon but it was futile in the storm. Judging
that there could be no more then two or three Bugbears in a wagon that
size and suspecting that the occupants were probably humans who had survived
the ambush anyway, I went forward to make contact. For my pains I got
shot at with a crossbow from someone inside, luckily for me it missed.
I shout back that we were no threat and we simply needed shelter. A man's
voice told me in no uncertain terms that we were not welcome so I was
forced to try to open up the back myself. Realising that this would leave
me vulnerable to attacks by whoever was in the wagon, I reached into a
pouch and found the leaf that I had taken from an oak the night before.
By crushing the leaf I invoked the divine power I had placed in the tree
creating a connection that would temporarily divert all damage I took
to from me to it.
After a short tussle I got the flap open and was not surprised to find
myself looking at the business end of a crossbow. The man of middling
years who held it was unmoved by my request for aid until I offered to
pay him for his help and then he relented. The man, I soon learnt that
he was a Sembian merchant called Ernest, was not alone. There was also
a young woman, his daughter Carmilla, and a badly injured man called Hendry,
the last of Ernest's guards. We climbed in, grateful to be out of the
rain and cold. Amber came in last after seeing to the horses. I am often
taken off guard by people's reaction to my appearance and this time was
no exception. Seeing me in the candlelight, with my hood thrown back Ernest
went straight for his crossbow again before we managed to calm him down.
Baldric was able to manoeuvre his way across the cramped caravan to where
Hendry lay. Inspecting his wounds Baldric gave a grave prognosis. While
I had all but exhausted all of my divine providence from Silvanus I still
had my knowledge of what is called by some "Herbal Magic" to fall back
on and the lush Dalelands had provided me with a supply of rare herbs.
Mixing some specially prepared mirenna berries with water in a cup I passed
it to Baldric who made the guard drink it. The power of the berries went
to work at once and the man began to heal before our eyes, he was weak
but he would live.
We passed the time with sporadic conversation. When Ernest discovered
we were "adventurers" he offered us two hundred lions to escort his wagon
through the mountains. Amber and Colatto, exhausted by two hard days without
rest finally fell asleep and Faergil tried to read his spell book. After
about an hour the thunder and lightning had stopped and the rain eased
a little so I decided to slip outside to check on the horses. Baldric
came with me, mostly to stretch his legs I think. My half-dragon eyes
allowed me to see well in the dark and as I looked over our trusty mounts
I began to notice movement in the pass, seven or eight hulking figures
as tall as myself but far broader. The Bugbears had returned...
I used the following references:
Volo's guide to the Dalelands: information on Deepdale and Highmoon in particular
Elminsters Ecologies; information on the denizens of the Thunder peaks as
well as startling information on lightning strikes (which I chose to ignore)
Plus the Forgotten Realms box sets (both past and present)
I figured early on that Scoril (the persona assumed by the Succubus)
would use her position to send out a conventional search for the party,
as well as the Vrocks. This complicated matters for the group and one
of the discussions was how to handle a group of Deepingdale militia, should
they be found. I recall that the party was split over whether they would
kill any of these 'innocents'.
The other problem was one of resources. Pretty much all the spellcasters
had cast most of their spells and HPs were very low for most people, a
couple in single figures. They couldn't afford to stop to learn spells
The elven militia who arrested Baldric, Bazil and Amber was obviously
working for someone else. I think most suspected the Harpers, but there
was no evidence of this, and infact Bazil was convinced the elf was working
for King Azoun of Cormyr, because of the manner he spoke to Bazil after
finding out he was a Captain in the Purple Dragons.
They made very good time across Deepingdale, helped by the fact that the
characters have excellent horses, which they pushed hard, and they soon
made it to Thunder Gap.
The storm that brewed up probably happened a little too quickly - I did
take some liberties with that, but hey this is fantasy!
They were having a hard time travelling once the storm hit and were elated
when they encountered the wagon, though it was a very tight squeeze with
everyone one in it...
Ernest the merchant was desperate for add after his guards had been killed
to one (Hendry) which justifies the high price he was prepared to offer
for their help. I didn't want him slowing them down too much though. They
were being hunted and it wasn't just going to disappear because they passed
through the Thunder Peaks.
The last encounter - the bugbears is obviously a led onto next week, though
I didn't apply the bonuses that the monsters get to surprise. In fact
I didn't even roll (I rarely do). I wanted them to be aware of the danger
as the game ended.
Return to The Journey...