Day 9, Month 9, 3 After the Night of Fire (ANoF)
[Note: This is the first session since my friend, Steve Bauer, who plays Devron Sharpis, died.]
The characters continue their travels towards the west, and the village of Abreal on the edge of the Kiton Forest, but they are slowed down by the various loot and booty that they have gained during their travels. Devron Sharpis suggests that they stop, and redistribute the goods they are carrying among themselves, but Maila Arette is impatient to continue on. Once the characters set out again, they continue their travels until in the late afternoon they reach a large copse of woods. Barm Vaks estimates they are only a couple of hours walk from the edge of the forest, and Devron decides that it is in their best interest to camp here, and proceed to the village the next morning. The evening passes uneventfully, although the party is attacked by a small group of skorons during the night, but are able to drive them off.
The morning begins with a light drizzle, but as the characters arrive at the edges of what appears to be a thriving village surrounded by a fortified wall, the rain tapers off. Hailed from the gates of the village by what appear to be two guards wearing leather armour and bearing pikes, Devron explains the purpose of the characters arrival, that they are seeking friends of one of their number, and that they believe them to be within the walls of Abreal. The guards get the approval of the higher-ups in the village to admit the player characters.
In the village proper, the Elf craftsman, Rovanis Gellorin, is working at his craft when he is visited by mayor Carew Hanover's assistant, Arita. She tells him that strangers have arrived in Abreal, and that he is not to talk with them about Kalev Hale, and the other group of visitors who went in search of the creature that has ravaged the village for some time. Rovanis is not happy with this order, but he knows better than to disobey Arita and her master's requests.
The player characters enter Abreal village proper, and discover a somewhat intact community that specialises in agriculture, animal husbandry, and a modicum of timber and other woodland productivity. They are amazed to see an apple orchard (!!) within the walls of the village, and that a stream flows into the village from the woods that irrigates the orchardi, as well as providing water for the wells. The characters are escorted to a large building, where they are told that Carew Hanover, the mayor of Abreal, is waiting to see them. The characters receive a cordial greeeting from Carew Hanover, who welcomes the characters to his village, and asks their purpose. When informed of the reason they are there, and learning from Maila Arette of Kalev Hale, she is told that Hale and her other friends were indeed in Abreal, but that they went into the forest in pursuit of "a creature that killed one of them". Maila is distraught to learn from Hanover that the dead member of their group was Chanar Vorlek, a Mongrel hunter from the distant north. Hanover tells the player characters that they are welcome to stay in Abreal as long as they wish, though they are expected to contribute to the economy of the village. The astute Kiarra Foxten notices that there is a solitary Elf, seemingly a villager, watching the proceedings. He appears to recognise Maila, although she either does not see him or does not know him. Kiarra is determined to talk with him, once the characters settle into the village for a bit.
Once the characters are settled into some rooms at the local inn, Kiarra tells Torvu and Devron about the elf she saw watching them, and how he seemed to recognise Maila, though she did not appear to know him. The next morning, Kiarra goes in search of the Elf craftsman, and is soon told where to find his small stall. Kiarra onfronts Rovanis, and after a bit he tells her that he does know Maila, through her friends, but he fearfully says that he cannot help her or her friends. When she tries to convince him to do so, he adamantly refuses to do so but will not tell her his reasons.
The player characters spend the next couple of days in the village doing various types of work. Kiarra helps out at the local innkeeper; Devron aids in the training of some of the village militia; Barm does some hunting on behalf of the village, and helps to stock the larder; Torvu Peng helps the villagers evaluate some of the goods that have come into Abreal of late through scavenging, and manages to swing a good deal or three for some of the goods the party of characters brought with them; Teela takes a job in the inn as a waitress, and she and Kiarra keep their ears and eyes open for information on what happened to Maila Arette's friends; and Maila goes to work in the orchards, as she has had some training in that field as a child. While Rovanis goes about his job, the Elf spends as much time as he can with the player characters, and tries to get to know Maila Arette better. At the end of the second day, the player characters gather together, and share what they've learned. As best they can piece the story, Kalev Hale and three of Maila's other friends arrived in the village, and were allowed to stay. The village of Abreal was attacked by a Broken animal of some sort, and in exchange for some room and board as well as a few supplies to see them on their way, Hale and his friends agreed to seek out the creature and kill it. That was several days ago, and Hale and Maila's other friends are feared dead.
The next morning, Devron, Torvu, Teela, and Maila go to confront the mayor of Abreal about what has been going on, and Hanover gives them a relatively cool reception. Torvu puts it to the mayor that they are there to find Maila's friends, and that it seems to mean going in pursuit of the creature that may have killed her friends. Carew Hanover is willing to accept the player characters' help in finding the beast and destroying it, although he doesn't support their plans to find Kalev Hale and the rest of Maila's friends. Torvu manages to make a deal with the mayor of Abreal for food, supplies, and a few trinkets in exchange for finding the creature and destroying it, and they leave to make preparations to depart. When they emerge from their meeeting with Hanover, Rovanis confronts them and tells them that if they are going after Kalev Hale, he intends to accompany them. Devron and Torvu are doubtful about taking the elf with them, but he insists upon it. The player characters prepare to depart into Kiton Forest the next morning. Carew Hanover is quite content with this, although he is displeased when he learns of the elf Gellorin's choices in the matter.
The next morning, the 14th day of the month, the player characters, led by Barm Vaks, set out from Abreal into the Kiton Forest. Both Kiarra and Maila tell Devron and Barm that they don't trust Mayor Hanover, but they can't pinpoint why. Devron assures them that the group will take every precaution, but Maila says that her priority is finding her missing friends. The party expresses concern for Rovanis Gellorin's entering the forest, but the Elf says that "I've made my peace with the forest; hopefully, it will have made its peace with me!" Barm goes and scouts for several moments, and finding a set of tracks to follow, returns to the rest of the player characters. The group sets out in pursuit of the creature. Barm tells Devron that he doesn't know what made the tracks, but perhaps it is a Broken or Warp-Weaved creature of some sort. He does find it odd, however, that the tracks follow the edge of the river into the Kiton Forest, and that the trail is relatively fresh. As the characters continue on, the tracks depart from the river, curving east into the forest. The characters smell a charnel odour up ahead, and Devron tells Barm and the others that he has smelled this odour before - there is a mass graveyard up ahead!
As noted earlier, this was the first game session that I ran of the regular game in the aftermath of Steve Bauer's death, and it was a hard game to run. After some thought, Kathy decided that she wanted to take on the role of Devron Sharpis, SteveB's character, in the game, and I couldn't really find a reason not to have her do so. She told me at the time that she plans to play Devron until the characters return to Wilkerson Dale, and then she what she wants to do with things. In addition, the new player, David Matchuk, joined the gaming group as a regular with this session of the Desolation campaign, and seems to be a good fit to this poiht. His Elf character, Rovanis Gellorin, has a few secrets of his own that the rest of the players (other than Nick) don't know about, and so the game should be fascinating to see how it evolves and how David's character fits in. Overall, the mood of the gaming group still in the aftermath of SteveB's death was somewhat subdued, although Kathy and the others said that they were glad getting back to a campaign; it would just take a bit of time to adjust to SteveB's absence. His death has made me realise how privileged I am to game with my Friday night gamers, and that I have such a great bunch of people. Looking forward to the future of this campaign.