Day 30, Month 8, 3 After the Night of Fire (ANoF)
The haggard and injured Barm Vaks and Kiarra Foxten arrive back where they left their fellow adventurers. While Devron Sharpis questions Kiarra and Barm about what happened and learns of the orc attack and the possible shambles at Stor's End, Teela Goran does her best to use her medicine skills to heal them of some of their damage. When they insist they are able to travel, and wish to go on, Devron takes charge and has Barm lead the way to where they fought the two orcs.
Back on the scene of the attack, the player characters examine the body of the orc. While they find nothing of value, other than the leather armour that they give to Kiarra to wear for protection, Torvu Peng recognises the markings on some of the orc's belongings as being those of the original goblin inhabitants of Stor's End. The player characters are concerned about this fact, as it means that the surviving goblins of Stor's End may have returned. This means the colonists from Wilkerson Dale may be in serious danger, if not already dead. Devron tells Barm to lead the rest of the way to Stor's End, but tells the others they need to be cautious.
As Barm and Devron lead the way back into Stor's End, they come upon the scavenged and burned wreckage of two wagons. The bodies of villagers and a merchant that the players recognise as having been part of the group that came to Stor's End to settle it are found in the wreckage, also scavenged by predators. Several carrion reapers wheel in the sky overhead, and a pair are perched on the wreckage of the wagons. The carrion reapers do not attack them as they examine the wagons, totally gorged on their meals. It is Kiarra who finds several remnants of canvas cloth that indicate to both her and Torvu that the wagons were bound for Wilkerson Dale. Devron tells them to leave the wagon behind; they must go forward and find out what has happened to the villagers from Wilkerson Dale who came to settle here.
As the player characters cautiously follow Barm into the edge of Stor's End proper, they find that the small village has been almost razed to the ground. There are still small, smouldering fires coming from the ruined structures, bodies of both humans and goblins lie scattered about, with several carrion reapers and skorons feeding on the dead. The reapers scatter at the player characters coming towards them, but the skorons snarl their defiance. While Devron, Torvu, and Teela keep an eye on the skorons, Barm and Kiarra look around and check to see if they can tell what happened. The two find the trail of the blooded orc that fled from the battle earlier with them, and inform the others. The orc's trail seems to head into the hills of Clandar. The characters debate whether to follow, as Devron and Barm both point out and discuss the fact that none of the Wilkerson Dale hunters have gone further than Stor's End. The hills are a relative unknown. Kiarra rightly points out that they need to find out what happened here, and Devron reluctantly agrees. Before the player characters can proceed to follow the trail, a group of five skorons nearby move in to attack the player characters. Devron makes quick work of two of the pack members, and the skorons flee towards the plains and meadows where there are better pickings perhaps.
As the characters pass through the ruins of Stor's End, heading to the north and west in pursuit of the orc, Torvu and Kiarra examine several of the bodies. While there are a few of the folk they recognise from Wilkerson Dale, most of the human corpses they have found here are *not* the villagers who were sent here to settle the area. This has the player characters very puzzled. Devron says that this is something to be figured out later, as they have more immediate goals. Barm leads them towards the lightly scrub and bush covered hills that extend to the north and west.
The trail leads them to the edge of a fast-moving river that flows *into* the hills, rather than away from them. Devron tells the others to be sharp, since they are entering unknown territories. The player characters come upon a campsite with a firepit and still warm embers. Barm is able to tell the others that there were at least four people here, possibly orcs, but he's unsure because of the rocky terrain. The characters stop at the site, and eat a quick, cold meal. They refill their waterskins from the cool, crisp river. When Kiarra ponders aloud why the river is not on any of their current maps of the area around Wilkerson Dale, Torvu says that it's possible the river is newly formed here. Since it is getting late in the day, the characters decide to camp by the river, a little further on. The night is uneventful.
The next morning, the player characters set off after a relatively light, quick breakfast. Barm says that the trail diverges from the river, and moves off to the northwest. Devron and the rest proceed to follow the route, the terrain becoming somewhat more rugged, but with copses of trees and brush. They come upon what appear to be several bodies, and see to their utter horror that these are the remains of three of the villagers who went to settle Stor's End. They are rotting and dessicated, having been scavenged by the wildlife, and Torvu notes that none of them have any belongings, though they still wear threadbare clothes. Teela says the bodies are probably relatively recent, but the exposure and scavenging makes it impossible to tell for sure. Barm points out the presence of the continuing trail of the orcs, and the group continues on.
The player characters come upon a small vale in the hilly region, filled with several copses of trees. What horrifies the characters more are the various bodies that lie here. Teela Goran goes up to the nearest pair of bodies, and finds they are some of the villagers who were sent to settle the area. Kiarra quips that it is the "vale of the dead". The others aren't amused. The player characters thread their way cautiously through the area, and suddenly see what has been obscured by the trees and hills themselves - a small, grim, dark tower that rises into the sky, nestled between two hills. They can make out several orcs and a number of goblins working down near the tower's base.
While Teela, Kiarra, and Torvu examine several of the bodies, Devron and Barm consider ways to approach closer to the tower without being spotted. As the player characters focus on other things, Kiarra is the first one to notice that the bodies are rising from the ground, becoming animate in some fashion...
As you can see, the Friday night players are in one heck of a mess. As Kathy and Nick pointed out during the game session, the player characters have definitely, perhaps bitten off more than they can chew. Whether that's true remains to be seen, but my entire Friday night crew agreed that they are having the time of their lives playing Desolation right now, and really are enjoying the mess they find themselves in. The best bit for me was right at the end when the corpses got up, and the characters realised they are in a whole batch of doodoo. The five players are definitely looking forward to Friday night. So am I! :)