The threat of bandit reprisal weighing heavily on the minds of our heroes, they set about fortifying Oleg’s Trading Post as best they could. Expecting an attack near dusk, they were surprised to see soldiers riding towards the fort at noon. The protectors Oleg had been expecting finally arrived: Kesten Garess and the Free Irregulars.
The competent-looking team was comprised of five: Their leader, Kesten, and his four followers Gael, Dhavik, Marcus, and Harris. All five looked hardened but none were so intimidating as Dhavik, whose partly orcish lineage was betrayed by inhuman musculature and a small tusk-like tooth jutting upwards slightly over his upper lip on the left side of his mouth.
Kesten and the Free Irregulars made it clear that they were chartered to garrison this fort and protect it from brigandry. They were impressed that the PCs were successful in not only defending against the earlier attack but even managed to capture the leader. They were less impressed that a witness got away. They further interrogated the prisoner, but got little additional information. Kesten set his men to watch and prepare for the expected reprisal.
But it did not come that night.
The next day at noon saw the arrival of Jhod Kavkin, a priest of Erastil. He claimed to be seeking a ruined shrine somewhere to the south. When the band of chartered adventurers offered their assistance, he accepted it gladly and promised that if he was able to restore the shrine with their help then they could look forward to him providing free divine spell casting from him for as long as he finds himself able. Jhod then made himself useful around the post.
The next to arrive, in the late afternoon, was a beggar on muleback named Carl. He was on his way to Restov from Pitax, in hopes that Restov would tolerate his presence better than Pitax where he’d been rousted and kicked out, told not to return. He begged a bed for the evening, and upon agreeing to help with the work on the fort, it was granted him.
But Carl was not what he seemed. Instead, he was a member of Kressel’s crew sent here in disguise to gather intelligence on the fort’s defenses – specifically, the size of the group of defenders and their likely capabilities. He was under the impression that Happs Bydon had been killed and was unable to hide his surprise at meeting the prisoner being kept in the (now clean) middens pit. Challenged, he decided to make a run for it. Seeing Kosgrim standing before the now-closed gate, he decided to run to where he could find a ladder up to the battlement where he might be able to jump over the palisade and run to safety if he survived the fall.
Swords swung and bolts flew, and Carl seemed to have the luck of a leprechaun for a while. But he didn’t know his way had been blocked by a large overturned table, specifically set to control the motions of any enemy that might get into the fort. He tried to get past it, but fell. Before he could regain his feet, he was captured.
Successful interrogation confirmed the information Happs had provided, but also more:
Upon hearing of the slaughter of her men, Kressel decided to move cautiously rather than committing to a frontal assault on a fortified position protected by a force of unknown size. She sent Carl to gather intelligence on the opposition, and ordered him to arrive unarmed in order to allay suspicion and improve his chances of success. (Sadly for Carl, Kosgrim proved to be a good judge of character and Edric read his reaction to seeing Happs all-too-accurately. Carl would have liked to have had a sword at that point.)
Additionally, Kressel moved their camp upstream six miles just in case any prisoners had been taken who might betray her. She also sent two of her number south to report the loss to the Stag Lord, whoever that is.
Kesten struck the group as a good leader. They saw he had been watchfully staying out of the way and allowing them to work even though he could have stepped in at any time. But with this latest news he assured the party that he and his men could securely hold the fort against attack and that while he’d accept their help if it was offered, they were more than free to conduct the business of exploration for which they’d been chartered.
So, on Pharast the 4th, the band struck out into the plains. They went southeast towards Bokken’s Hut to begin their mapping. While in the area, they visit Bokken who mentioned he was in need of fangberries and would provide discounts for a month to the group if they brought him some. Finding little in the area but a field of sunflowers from which they harvested some seeds, they spent three days mapping and returned to Oleg’s on the 7th of Pharast. Life at the fort seemed to be settling into a routine for those staying there. Asking around to see if any help was needed, they found that Svetlana was willing to pay in the form of a substantial store credit if the group could return with some moon radishes so that she could make Oleg’s favorite soup. They promised to see what they could do.
The next day they headed northeast. While exploring on the second day, they heard the sound of fiddle music and soon found themselves unable to resist dancing to the tune. As they danced, four tiny cricket-like fey with elven countenance revealed themselves and continued their performance. After several minutes the grigs departed with giggles floating back on the air, having done no harm, and the group was released from their thrall. Edric explained that these were grigs. At his suggestion, they left an offering of sunflower seeds and continued their exploration finding little other than some blackberries.
On Pharast the 11th, they moved south. Finding little on the first day in this new area , they continued their exploration. On the second day they heard soft moaning in the distance and discovered four kobalds lying in the middle of a large patch of moon radishes, having gorged themselves to the point of sickness. They weren’t so sick as to avoid a fight, though. They felt this patch was theirs, and nobody was going to take it away! They fought to the death. They made the tactical error of ganging up on the strongest party member, thinking that they could together bring down Marra and make the rest of the intruder’s group weak. They failed to realize how hard it would be to hurt her though, and while they continuously made ineffectual attacks against her, the three humans quickly cut them down. They gathered the radishes, finished a third day of exploration, and returned to the Trading Post on Pharast the 13th.
On their way in, they noticed flies buzzing around the hanging bodies of Happs and Carl on the outside of the palisade. The Swordlords’ justice having been delivered by Kesten and his men. (Though Oleg was happy to report that they had let him personally throw Happs over the wall after they secured the noose.)
A thankful Svetlana told them to help themselves to up to 250gp worth of goods. A small misunderstanding was corrected when she elucidated that this was a total for them all, and not meant to be a total of 750gp between them. They used much of their awarded credit to resupply, including obtaining a dose of antitoxin. That may come in handy soon…
They spent the night at the Trading Post and set out again on the 14th, this time to the south. Their second day out, in the midafternoon, they came across a field strewn with the bones and dessicated carcasses of many animals. Walking about the perimeter and watching closely for some time, they witnessed a giant trapdoor spider exit it’s lair momentarily and then return. A while later, this happened again and this time they could see that it was removing the remains of prey from its lair.
They discussed options for dealing with this threat. Marra revealed a strong streak of arachnophobia. Kosgrim suggested summoning a monster to both draw the spider out and to attack it while they remained at range, using bows. Kosgrim’s favorite idea was to gain the element of surprise by attacking it with a summoned octopus. They also considered having Marra (the survivalist of the group) hunt down a wild animal of some sort to flush towards the spider’s lair to draw it out.
Tune in next time, to hear a giant trapdoor spider say, “Yum! Calimari!”