Kingmaker

How the West was won (or at least explored)

As the sun rises on another day for our intrepid adventurers, it looks at first light like it shall be a good day. After a restful stay at Oleg’s Trading Post, the group plans to depart today to continue exploring the Greenbelt. Alas, the morning doesn’t stay peaceful for long. As we gather in the courtyard, we notice that our gypsy friend Natalia is not present. Around the time we make this realization, we hear screams coming from the guest house. Upon closer inspection, the door to the guest house is locked from the inside, and Natalia yells at us to keep our distance. Our friend seems to have contracted a nasty illness that involves bleeding from the eyes (an ironic fate if indeed Natalia consumed the eyeballs of our enemies in earlier sessions – though that remains unconfirmed).

Almost as though the gods are keeping a watchful eye on our quest, our soon-to-depart group does not stay at three members for long. A burly half-orc rides into the trading post wanting to know who the bandit killers are. We cautiously introduce ourselves, learning that this delightfully personable fellow is Harahsh Manslayer, a bounty hunter hailing from the villainous sector that is Pitax in the Riverlands to the west. While we aren’t in any hurry to cross this warrior, we are grateful that he seems likely to help in our quest.

Before we depart, however, Oleg alerts Layanos to the fact that a package arrived for him seemingly out of nowhere. Layanos is alarmed as he reads a note from the mysterious evil figure from his past. Sensing our curiosity, he finally fills us in about Raylas and how he “really got those scars.” The peculiar and ominous part of the story is that Raylas mentions paying a visit with Layanos’ wife, whom Layanos believed to be dead at Raylas’ hands.

The note comes with a chest, which we anxiously examine. Hayley’s skills as a thief come in handy as she is able to find and disable a needle dripping black goo that would’ve undoubtedly led to nasty consequences for us. We then open the chest, finding a brown cloth sack inside. The bag is clearly magical, and Layanos convinces Harahsh to open it. A man-sized zombified hand zips out of the bag and grabs furiously onto Layanos’ face.

Taking this is an act of war, the rest of us attack the hand. Hayley quickly discovers to her dismay that every blow on this hand releases disgusting necrotic pus. Samba tries fruitlessly to master his new scythe in these close quarters, and Layanos gets knocked out cold by the vicious hand. Samba gives him a different sort of hand by healing him back to consciousness, and the fight continues. With Oleg running away screaming, Stripes the tiger figures that something is wrong and dashes back to help. After everyone weakens the hand, Harahsh finishes the undead appendage and drops it to the floor.

For his trouble, Layanos is able to recover from it the ring that he had given his wife. He also keeps the bag of holding. Jhod is able to heal the group, Hayley particularly grateful for the healing of her face. With our guard officially up, we leave Oleg’s Trading Post with our new ally and head south. The adventure is quiet at first, revealing only a deer and another meeting with the river. We explore to the east of the river, eventually seeing a bridge in the distance. When we approach, we see that the bridge has decayed into a mere soggy rope now. A nearby sign identifies this area as Nettles Crossing.

Ringing a nearby bell (always a great idea), the group summons a soggy and rotten corpse with a personality to match. He asks us to end his torment. When we push him for details, he lets us know that he wants us to bring him the Stag Lord from a castle on the river. Having no clue where this castle might be, we move on and continue exploring the area before bedding down.

This night proves more interesting, as a group of bandits surprise-attack our camp during Hayley’s watch. She is peppered with arrows, but overcomes the pain to lead the attack. Ou group slowly turns the tide, taking the bandits down one by one before the last one has the bad sense to try to run away from Stripes. The tiger chases him down and we are able to heal and rest up some more before morning.

Our trek turns west now, our exploration continuing throughout the day. That night, our camp is approached again by mites. When Hayley sees them turning around and running from us, she opts to let them go. The next day, we continue exploring until we come across a sort of den. Hayley vaguely recalls hearing about a wild boar called Tuskgutter that has been tormenting locals in this area. Taking this is an opportunity to get us all in trouble again, Layanos yells out taunts about wanting to consume some crispy bacon this day.

Predictably, that brings the boar charging angrily. Learning yet again that life in the Greenbelt simply isn’t fair, Hayley finds herself the victim of this beast’s charge. Everyone surrounds the boar, fighting together to take the big pig down. Harahsh cleaves the boar’s head off, in case it leads to some sort of reward or local gratitude later.

The next day, we nearly stumble upon a 20-foot deep pit. Inside, a wolf-sized marsupial howls in agony. Despite it jumping and biting at us angrily, Samba’s conscience won’t let him leave the creature to starve to death in the hole. Hayley devises a plan to hoist the beast out of the pit involving her net. Layanos puts the beast to sleep, and Samba is lowered into the hole to fasten the net around the marsupial. Harahsh uses his strength to hoist them both up, and we depart the scene before the sleep spell wears off.

We find ourselves up against a far more dangerous beast that night, however, as Samba’s watch is interrupted by an Owl Bear. While this unnatural creature is formidable, Layanos gives us a fighting chance by blinding it. We lay into the Owl Bear, Hayley finishing the hooter off by severing its spine. The rest of the night passes uneventfully.

The next day, we decide to finish our exploration of the western fringes of our charter. The first thing of note we see is a statue of Erastil. Nature has nearly taken over the statue, but we clean it off and are rewarded with temporarily keener weapons.

The next day is more ominous as the forest grows very quiet at a clearing. We find a moldy pond with what first looks like a dead white horse in the water. Something seems odd about this, and closer inspection reveals that this creature was a unicorn. Its horn is missing, but it otherwise seems unharmed save for the fact that it is clearly dead. Unsure how to proceed, we nervously pull the deceased unicorn from the water and leave it on the dry land. Sure that this scene will come back to haunt us later, we’re happy to finish the western exploration and turn to the east.

Nature confronts us again as we are stalked during our travels by a wolf. Hayley begins to set a trap, Samba using his nature skills to enhance it and lure the wolf into a trap. Sensing that we can likely intimidate the hungry lone wolf without killing it, Samba calls Stripes over. The wolf runs away when freed, and we are able to press on.

Our exploration finally leads us to a fangberry patch. Remembering Bekken’s request for fangberries, the group decides to pick some. Samba relies on his druid abilities to navigate through the thorny patch without problem until he disturbs an angry swarm of spiders. He turns around to run, but Hayley thinks quickly and summons her swarm of origami rats. The swarms battle head-to-head while we back away to watch from a cautious distance. The rats eventually win, turning around to come after us. Layanos uses burning hands to put an end to the rats, allowing Samba to return to gathering fangberries for the quest.

That night, Layanos hears what sounds like a young girl calling for help during his watch. He doesn’t fall for what is in all likelihood another will o’ the wisp trick, Harahsh seeming unconcerned even if the call for help is sincere. We all return to sleep, continuing east in the morning. As we travel, however, we catch a glimpse of a pillar of smoke to the southwest. We know that this smoke is technically coming from past the border of our charter, but we head toward it anyway. The river feeds into a lake, the northern shore of which hosts a fortification. We sneak up toward the area, preparing to storm the keep when we recognize a flag that looks like that of a Stag Lord.

Our adventures in the Greenbelt have contained plenty of natural dangers, but our next mission may be the most dangerous we’ve seen yet. Will Harahsh continue to prove a fearsome ally? Will we meet the Stag Lord in this keep? Will Natalia’s eyes quit bleeding? At least some of the answers likely await in our next session…

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