Week 28 - The First Signs of Spring

The days are getting significantly longer and the farmers are starting to plant their crops, so the group decided it was time to look outside their own borders. There was some discussion of a trip to Drelev, because Rudy wanted to see Tamary again - but they discovered that one of their members of a rich merchant house was missing. He had been going to Varnhold to see the jeweller the gem cutter there, and was weeks overdue. So they decided to pay a visit to Varnhold instead – travelling via the proper roads (as the missing merchant was supposed to have done) rather than across the much shorter (but basic) trail that had started to develop.

But first they assembled an entourage. There was the boat crew, to act as ceremonial guards and crew the folding boat, if it was required. Then there was a unit of six road marshals, one carrying the Newhaven banner at the head of the column, and four auxiliaries to do the cooking, look after the horses and various other chores. A column of 24, counting the four pack horses they had along.

The first sign of trouble came at Fort Seenko - normally a bustling border Fort – they found it empty. Everything was clean and tidy, but empty. Next day it was on to Nivaktor’s Crossing where they reported the fort to the lord mayor, and were surprised to be told that the troops had been withdrawn, for ‘other purposes’. All very mysterious, although they discovered later in the tavern that there was some sort of tension between Restov and New Stetven. They also discovered that the Tavern they were staying in (The Taragon King) was not the only place in town – and that The Buxom Slipper was a much better Inn.

Next day they continued on their way, but were surprised to find empty farms on the road down to Varnhold. Even when they got to Varnhold itself, the village was empty.

The first place they found was a pig farm - and the farmer clearly had an affinity for the creatures he farmed, for even his cottage looked like a pig sty. Worse though was the great wild boar that had been feasting on the bodies of its dead brethren in the sty. Disturbed, it charged directly at the head of the column, crashing into the lead soldier’s horse and severely wounding it. That was a short battle though, and even the horse was saved with Roberts healing magic.

As they explored this first part of the village, one of the auxiliaries started to butcher the boar for the evening meal. In the other buildings they discovered an abandoned cottage, a brewery making a dark stout, and a tannery - where they discovered the tanned hides of four centaurs.

At hat point they sent most of the entourage back to Nivaktor’s Crossing (with strict instructions to stay at the cheaper tavern there). Three of the Road Marshals, however, were detailed to set up a camp about a mile back along the road to keep an eye on the horses, while the party continued on foot.

Across the river they nearly fell into a set of pits, but Rudy managed to throw himself backwards just in time. Then onto the stable and smithy, where there were flocks of crows feeding on the corpses of the dead livestock. Rudy used a potion of speak with animals, but the crows attacked him – and the rest of the group. That was a much tougher fight two of the characters were on the point of collapse when the last of the crows were destroyed - and two of them (Robert and Ox) lost their sight in the conflict.

Quickly, they headed to the nearest house and barricaded themselves in for the night. Only for Hebrin to spot a raven sitting in a tree, watching them. After a couple of minutes thought and some preparation they opened fire, intending to kill it as quickly as they could. An arrow from Hebrin’s Bow (with precision damage), two arrows from Larran’s bow (one of them critical) and a set of magic missiles from Cassandra did incredible damage to the bird. However, it flapped up out of its tree and flew away over the roof of the house.

For some reason they decided it was not a normal raven ….

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