Wednesday, October 10, 2018

#12: The Road from Carrock

After nearly a week of waiting, we finally get a chance to meet with both Bonie and Larimo to discuss plans for the future.  He has been long in recovery, and it is our hope to persuade them both to accompany us back to Mirabar.  Larimo expresses thanks to Audric for aiding in his healing, but eventually confides that he feels too old to make the trip, though he hopes that we’ll take care of Bonie.  We learn that he is a cleric of Garl Glittergold.

Bonie seems as surprised as we are at first, though quickly conceals it behind her typical stoicism.  Despite her attempts to persuade him, he stands resolute in his decision to remain in Carrock.  Bonie lets us know of her desire to head first to Westtower to reestablish contact with her employer there, then eventually back to Mirabar.

We all—Erathmar and his men, Bonie and her pony Elseba, Audric, Selben and I—are eager to depart Carrock, and plans are put into motion to leave within the next couple days.

On the eighth day since the defeat of Carcerus, we are seen off by Drachus and those few other early risers of Carrock, most still abed, sleeping off the lingering effects of the previous evening’s festivities.  We settle upon a leisurely pace, Selben studying within one of the wagons, the rest of us taking turns on point.  Travel is uneventful through the first day, and we arrange for a three-part watch, splitting it among us and Erathmar’s men.

Despite the lingering fear of wolves attacking in the night, result of several weeks of stress anticipating an attack by Carcerus, the night passes uneventfully.  The next morning, we crest a hill and catch our first view of the ruins of Shadfeld since our flight weeks ago.  We decide that I, Audric and Bonie will scout ahead, make sure the road is clear for Erathmar’s wagons, and investigate the ruined village.

We make our approach, leaving the sounds of the rolling wagons behind us.  Only our own footsteps on the dirt trail break the eerie silence of the day.  Once we reach Shadfeld, perhaps it’s a trick of the mind, but it suddenly seems as if the sun is not as bright, the horizon darker than it was a moment or two ago.

The village appears much as we left it—abandoned.  Audric and Bonie head back to wave Erathmar through.  On a whim, I leave the road to investigate the house where we met Kezia, but before getting that far, I encounter a pair of corpses ahead on the road.  They appear to have been armed, but their throats and lower jaws have been ravaged and torn open—immediately, memories of the creatures that attacked in Carrock spring to mind.  The kills are recent…within the last 48 hours at most, with few other clues as to what happened.  As the men are in no need of worldly possessions, I cut a pair of belt purses from the corpses and considers my options.

I decide to continue towards Kezia’s house, but before I can take a step I see a fleeting shadow between two buildings.  Bringing up a ward against paralysis, should it indeed be one of those creatures, I foolishly decide to investigate.  In the distance, I hear the rolling approach of the wagons.

From the shadow of a nearby half-wall, one of the horrible creatures rakes its claws across my shoulder, then ferociously launches a flurry of attacks, clawing and biting, and it gets its hands around my neck.  Its intention—tearing out my throat—is apparent, and I raise my knife in defense, hoping that my friends heard my muffled scream.

Bonie rushes forward pell-mell but is nearly brought to a full stop when she witnesses the creature ravaging me.  Audric taps into untested depths of his powers and conjures forth a pair of snarling goblins.  Bonie and one of the goblins attack the creature as it continues to maul me, shattering Audric’s protective spells and ignoring the other defenders, intent on ending my life.

Unable to ward off the attacks, it sinks its maw into my throat, tearing out chunks of flesh.  Blood wells immediately fill the void, spurting onto the ground nearby.  The last things I see as my vision darkens, as numbness beings to take over, is Audric struggling against one of the creatures, bright blood flashing from several wounds, then Selben rushing forward, then collapsing suddenly by some unseen power.  Then, all is black.

When I awaken, I find myself once again within the confines of Carrock.  Audric is near, and I learn that he also fell during the attack—it was only by the bravery of Bonie, Erathmar, and Erathmar’s men that we were saved.  After the encounter with the creatures concluded, the company gathered our bodies and rushed back to Carrock; fortunately, Larimo was able to call upon the blessings of his deity to speed our recovery.

My mood is dark, and the atmosphere in Carrock seems grim once the news of the encounter spreads.  There is some talk of options, but both Bonie and Erathmar seem resolute in their description to accompany us, so we abandon any other option and quickly plan for a second attempt. Larimo, moved to action by the recounting of our encounter and subsequent fall at the claws of the unknown creatures, reveals plans to accompany our group.  It is determined, however, that such a plan would leave Carrock without the resources it needs would such an attack occur and is thus dissuaded.  We leave the following morning, and our return trip to grim Shadfeld is uneventful.

Going through Shadfeld a second time feels like a funeral march.  Bonie clings to Elseba, all of the men are eagle-eyed atop the wagons looking for any signs of movement, anything that would signal danger.  The corpses of the fiends that attacked us are where they were left on the road, heads removed, bodies bloated.  The procession pushes through, eventually reaching the opposite side.  We push on a little further, then decide to camp for the night.


  1. Much appreciated, as always, and fantastic imagery. I've posted before about the degree to which outcomes are determined by decisions made prior to any dice being thrown, and this was definitely one of those times. Zeb scouting off on his own was a critical moment, and it gives me a chill to think about how Bonie turned back for him briefly, before returning to the wagons with Audric.

    Of note, the belt purses contain a combined 78 gold pieces in value, mostly in coin, with perhaps a few gemstone fragments of nominal worth.

    The mood on the return trip to Shadfeld is somber and dark, weighted by an air of seriousness and urgency. There appears to be some tension between Erathmar's men: in the battle, Erathmar and two others rushed into the fight when all was nearly lost, while the remaining two stayed aboard the wagons. Though it's not spoken of along the road, a brooding disdain among them begins to feel palpable.

  2. Zeb shares the men's dark mood throughout much of the return trip, his sullenness really only broken once they reach Shadfeld the second time. After they pass through safely, there is a slight relief visible on his face, and his mood lightens.

    The men's unease is not lost on him, and he takes an opportunity as camp is being set up to address it. "You know," he begins, not quite sure where he's headed, "I did not take the opportunity to properly thank you for rescuing us the other night." He chooses his words carefully, making sure that he includes the men who stayed behind with the wagons as well as those who fought, as well as Bonie and Erathmar.

    He considers his course for a moment, then continues. "When children were being stolen from Carrock, it was my instinct to lay in wait outside of the village, perhaps even to use someone," he says, sparing a glance at Selben, "as bait to try and lure out the predator. It felt like cowardice to sit next to the fire that night in Carrock, just waiting, hoping that it was the right course of action. Praying that all of those in outlying farms heeded the call to bring their children to the Tower, trusting that caution would provide the optimal outcome."

    He kicks the dirt at his feet a little. "Fortunately, that proved the case in that instance. When Audric and I fell facing those creatures," he admits, "I don't know that I would have made the decision to aid us. Chances were far greater that we would all be slain. Fortunately," he smiles, the scars from his mauling forming wicked angles across his neck, "that was not the case here, and we were saved."

    "At the same time I thank you for coming to my aid," he says, focusing on Erathmar, Bonie, and the two that assisted in the attack, "I thank you for staying with the wagons," he finishes, looking at the others. "Had the horses fled, had there been no way to carry Audric and me back safely and quickly to Carrock, we would have surely died."

    "While there is certainly no dishonor in bravery, there is no dishonor in caution, and were it not for a mix of both the other night I would likely be dead, even if the result of the encounter played out the same."

    Unsure how to finish, he leaves his last phrase hang without further elaboration, and turns towards the preparation of camp, not soliciting or expecting any response, but hoping that it eases tensions all the same.

    1. The men who aided in battle match eyes with those who abstained, and over the course of several moments Zeb watches with great fulfillment the amalgamating effect of his words upon the group. Whether or not a rift will ultimately come between them remains to be seen, but Zeb's instincts tell him that a worst-case outcome has successfully been averted.

      OOC, this was really well done.

    2. Thanks. I feel like these kind of roleplaying opportunities are harder to pull off during the live game, but this kind of exposition suits the blog really well. I like that it fills the space in between sessions, keeps things alive.

  3. Audric's mood mirrors the rest of the group as they pass through Shadfeld, and for the remainder of the day. He quietly helps to setup camp that night, not really wanting to talk. He had much to ruminate on, after all he saw his spells work, but not be as effective as he would have liked.

    After eating, he is sits down, absently twisting the pewter ring around his finger. None, save Zeb, know the ring's true power and without Tussugar around Audric has gotten lazier about hiding the fact that he is wearing it. His thoughts drift back to the fight wondering, not for the first time, whether the ring might have saved them had he worn it. Perhaps Mystra was punishing him for turning his back on her and magic in general back in town, or perhaps she was trying to steer him towards using the ring.

    He shakes his head, too many times he has been down this trail of thoughts, and every time he has concluded that he does not know the wishes of Mystra, and needed to speak to someone else about these matters.

    One thing he does know is that he will continue to wear the ring. It would be a folly to not use every available asset to keep his party alive.

    1. I'm really glad Audric is wearing the ring again...but just in case, Zeb's going to sleep on the opposite side of camp. =)

  4. Despite being in direct contradiction to the words he spoke earlier that evening regarding the virtue of caution, there is something that nags at the back of Zeb's consciousness while he and the others set up camp. He hopes that it will fade once the fires are lit, and once it is time to settle in for the night...but the darkness--more than just the darkness, but the eerie silence that accompanies it--becomes an echo chamber for that nagging thought.

    Zeb volunteers for first watch that night, and completes his watch with one of Erathmar's men. Despite his intentions, he will not abandon a watch and leave the camp unguarded. Once his watch is complete, however, he leaves his heavy pack containing the grimoires and his gear tucked into his bedroll, and drives a knife into the dirt nearby, pinning a folded scrap of parchment to the cold earth.

    That complete, Zeb heads towards the edge of camp, out of sight of both the fire and the others just starting their watch. Calling upon the aspect of Malar that stalks its prey, he summons a globe of silence about him that masks his footfalls, and his escape into the dark woods. Zeb uses those moments of supernatural silence to his best advantage, sprinting through the light wood to put as much distance between himself and the camp as possible.

    The cold night air chills Zeb to his core as he inhales deeply, long strides leading him away from camp and back towards the ruins of Shadfeld. Not sure what he will find there...or more importantly what he wants to find there...his sprint slows to a run as the silence granted him by the Beastlord wears off. The group put a few miles of distance between the camp and Shadfeld, so Zeb tries to conserve his energy.

    Fortunately, the pace he sets for himself pushes out all other thoughts, and before he knows it, he empty husks of Shadfeld dwellings lie on the road ahead. Zeb pauses, collecting himself, lets his breath steady...and carefully scans the darkness, looking for any signs of light or life.

    1. The foray goes according to plan, and Zeb reaches the outskirts of the village unimpeded. Shadfeld is silent and lifeless, having only the dim glow of the moon to cast its forlorn pallor over the ruins.

      OOC, I assume you've already written whatever is stated on the parchment. We can leave that in the dark until such time that Audric or an NPC has reason to find it.

    2. Zeb spends a long time just standing there, staring at the ruined remains of Shadfeld, weighing the risks of entering the village at night against the possible gains to be had from such a foolish venture.

      Gains? What gains? That's the question that stays in the front of Zeb's mind. The village is dark, abandoned. The encounter with Kezia, now more than ever, seems more a hallucination than reality, but the grip that witch and her reading has on Zeb is palpable, nagging, frustrating.

      If there is even one of those creatures in Shadfeld, it would mean ruin for Zeb. He can't outrun the creatures, they are supernaturally quick, and Zeb wouldn't be surprised if they can navigate the darkness without trouble. The true nature of their gaze is still unknown...and Zeb's proof against it, his abjurations, are still very much un-proven.

      And if there are more than one of those creatures...if Zeb should fall and the others come to investigate, which they surely will--Audric is nothing if not predictable, in that regard--it could mean ruin for the group, all because of Zeb's ill-conceived, hot-headed need to rush off in the night.

      That, ultimately, is what stays Zeb's advance. He lets his thoughts and his accelerated heart rate settle, then turns his back on bleak Shadfeld, heading back towards camp.

      The relief is immediate--just making the trip seems to have tied together warring strands of thought within Zeb's mind, and he seems much calmer, much more relaxed having made the decision to abandon his fickle adventure. He quickens his pace to a run, letting the grueling pace expel all other thoughts, and hastens to return to the others and perhaps catch a short rest before sunrise.

    3. Zeb returns safely to the party's camp, allowing whatever fate awaited him in Shadfeld to remain unknown.

  5. One more note before we play again: as the party prepares to set off in the morning, Selben approaches Zeb, privately. "The creatures from the village... they haunt my nightmares," he begins, with a sizable measure of hesitation. "I feel an... affinity... toward them. It's as though they're part of my past, but I can't remember how, or where."

  6. I hadn't given Selben's reaction to the creatures much thought, thinking he was paralyzed by its gaze or something.

    Zeb flinches at Selben's statement, trying to cover it up by scratching at the back of his head, then realizing it to be a really poor attempt. He looks at Selben, worry creasing his brow.

    "I apologize,'s too easy to forget details with everything else going on. I am able to forget sometimes your dire introduction to Carrock, your silence, your reaction when you saw have come a long way since then."

    "There is clearly more to your presence in Carrock than pure coincidence, and we should be cautious going forward. In your dreams, you say that the creatures haunt you...are you able to provide any more details? Is it as if you are witnessing the creatures without them knowing your presence, or are they attacking you in your dreams?"

    Zeb pauses, realizing he is treading into delicate territory. "Or do you see through their eyes, in your dreams? I have had similar dreams of beasts, especially during my indoctrination to the beast cults."

    Zeb lets the question hang, waiting to see how the young man answers.

    1. "Not the latter," Selben replies, "but that it is I whom they seek among the villages, that I am the reason they scour the land."

      The young man grits his teeth, straining as though trying to remember, or as if enduring great pain. "I am always the one hiding, and yet... they somehow feel a part of me, and I pity them."

      He finally shakes his head, having exhausted his mental fortitude, for the time being, and looks up at Zeb. "Someday... I'll need to return home."


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