On April 21st, Year 4, most of the party just returned from the Blood Wood embark on a still longer journey to escort Vale diplomats to the Gnomish capital (Stalla Airgid) where they will negotiate a trade agreement involving a permanent food for ore arrangement to sustain the Gnomish smelting facility just South of the Great Road and a better road connecting that facility to the Vale. They are:
- Verdis (HuS): Level 8 Human Fighter
- Phineas: Talking rock companion
- Conan (MiM): Level 2 Elf Magic-user (Fire and Wind)
- Scar: Level 1 Hawk Familiar
- Sylviana (LaB): Level 1 Satyr Thief
- Osiris (CoB): Level 1 Elf Magic-user (Life and Death)
With them travel Paul (District President of the Vale North District and head diplomat on their first visit to Stalla Airgid), Dorcas (land owner who provided the grain for their previous trade mission), and Philip (one of Dorcas’ servants who manages his gear). They travel the 21st and 22nd without incident, arriving in at the Great Road Mine refining facility, where they are given dinner, beds, and breakfast.
On the 23rd, they carefully approach the Great Road, sending Sylvania ahead to make sure it’s clear. She sees a patrol of three military-looking Lizardfolk heading West along the road and When immediately greets them. They seem intrigued at a Satyr so far from home and invite her to go with them back to the Dragon Empire capital in the swamp. She puts them off, saying she’s traveling with friends to visit the gnomes (oh no!), but that she can meet back here in a week to go with them. The lizards are intrigued about her friends and anything she doesn’t say they learn when Osiris (an elf), having failed to approach the conversation stealthily, emerges from the brush. By the time Verdis emerges, they are departing Easterward with the commitment to meet back in a week, the 30th.
They explain to Sylvania that the Dragon Empire is not to be trusted and continue, hoping that the gnomes aren’t endangered by the encounter. They continue, coming onto the gnomish road into the gnome heartland. On their approach to Rathad Oidhche, they are stopped by gnomes who saw them conversing with the lizards from their lookout point. Verdis assuages their concerns but warns them to expect more in the next week that they will try to deal with on their return.
They take an hour respite in Rathad Oidhche, Sylviana capturing a street kitten and Conan learning a number of tourist phrases in gnomish. They make a few more hours, camping in a wooded area between villages about halfway to Lùb Aibhne, the next large village where they spent the night when travelling with shorter legged gnomes.
On the 24th, Thursday, they pass Lùb Aibhne and continue on to Slighe Airgid (slowed slightly by rain), where they take rooms and meals at the inn, a gnome-day from Stall Airgid, the capital. On the 25th, there is more rain which slows them more on the steep road. Now deep in heartland and surrounded with fields broken only by rock formations from the mountains pressing in on the long narrow valley, they are surprised to come upon a village being harassed by bugbears. Once they realize what’s going on, they engage, Verdis plunging himself into their midst with support from the others. The battle ends quickly, with only minor wounds soon healed by Paul.
With the villager’s offer to replenish their food supplies on the return journey, they continue on to Stalla Airgid, where Paul, Dorcas, Phillip, Sylvania, and Osiris go immediately to the Silver Hall to arrange an appointment for their negotiations. Verdis and Conan, meanwhile, make arrangements at one of the inns before heading to the library.
It’s a massive library (the librarians boast the largest remaining in the world) and Conan finds plenty of material to continue expanding his gnomish vocabulary. Verdis asks for their orcish section on Agon’s behalf and once left alone steals a couple of books from the small collection, stuffing them into Mukdue (his intelligent ordered pouch of holding).
They meet back at the inn, Paul informing them that he has an appointment for their negotiations tomorrow (Saturday) and that they have been invited to church services at the temple again on Sunday. They should be able to depart early Monday.
On Saturday, the 26th, they each go about their own business. It’s a market day in Stalla Airgid, so Verdis, Osiris, and Sylvania head to the market streets. Verdis sells a Death Scythe obtained in the tomb under Wraecliff Castle, Osiris sells the bugbear javelins, and Sylvania plays some street music, getting a few coins tossed her way. Verdis buys two pounds of poten-wax at a gold coin a pound, convincing the seller to throw in two ounces free with the second pound. Sylvania picks up some exploding marbles for a silver each. Osiris quickly gives up on buying armor with his limited funds.
Meanwhile, Conan buys some paper and ink before spending the rest of the day at the library, learning gnomish as vigorously as he can. He starts to get the basics of the grammar down and starts to grow his vocabulary and go into nuances and irregularities.
That night at the inn, the negotiators return with significant tension between them. Paul reports that just when they were closing the agreement with very favorable terms, Dorcas suddenly changed his previously agreed upon position. Paul had to have him removed from the table, he became so disruptive, but signed the arrangement anyway, sure that if Dorcas wouldn’t honor it, someone else in the Vale would jump at the opportunity.
Suspicious of Dorcas after Paul’s story, Verdis convinces Sylvania to plant Phineas on him, to spy on his activities. Sunday passes with little event (except some suspicion at Conan creeping out at night again and somehow vanishing) and as they prepare to depart Monday morning, the 28th, Sylvania lifts Phineas back. Phineas noticed little suspicious (Dorcas spent most his time with the party) except Sunday night when Dorcas rushed to his room and drank from a flask. They determine to steal the flask, but not until they are close to the Vale.
Leaving early the 28th, well rested, in good weather, and downhill, they make excellent time, resupplying in the saved village and making it well South of Lùb Aibhne before making camp for the night. On the 29th, they pass through Rathad Oidhche, learning from the gnomes there that several lizardfolk are encamped beside the Great Road near the crossing.
They approach the Great Road, scouting the area and preparing an ambush while Paul, Dorcas, and Philip make a show of pitching camp a safe distance from the Lizardfolk camp. Sylvania approaches the lizardfolk and convinces them that, since her friends are against her going with them, they should go to a secluded place to discuss her particular travel needs. The Lizardfolk commander takes 3 of his soldiers and goes with her, leaving 4 at the camp.
Sylvania talks some information out of them about the trip East along the great road, learning that the trip to the capital is 6 or 7 days from there and that they have a garrison at mountain they call Ker Vedno about a day from the gnome crossing. Using Osiris’ armband, she is able to understand their whispering in Lizardfolk and also learns that they are trying to hide a garrison to the south from her, since that garrison watches the Vale.
Having learned enough, Sylvania tiggers their ambush, with Conan throwing rocks encharged with fireballs into the group as Sylvania takes a step back. With two fireball rocks, and one of Osiris’ arrows in the commander, the four are quickly dropped, badly burned. Meanwhile, Verdis engages with the camp, leading with an arrow but quickly cutting them down with his axe. They loot the bodies of weapons and a little coinage before breaking their false camp and crossing the Great Road.
They suspect that more Lizardfolk will be arriving for their scheduled meeting the 30th (Wednesday), so they press on past the gnomish facility and make camp several miles South of it so as to not leave tracks to it. On the 30th, they continue, taking an easy pace making camp a half day from the Vale rather than hurry and arrive well after dark.
During her watch that night, Sylvania steals Dorcas’ flask and between watches they briefly check it, learning only that it has a smell between swamp water and rancid wine. Verdi pockets the flask and when they break camp in the morning (May 1st), Dorcas notices its absence and becomes enthused, saying it was his father’s and that he couldn’t have dropped it, he had it the night before. He accuses a confused Osiris of stealing it before giving up the search and insisting on heading North alone when the party starts on its way to the Vale.
While the others return, Osiris follows Dorcas at a safe distance. He goes undetected through the day and they arrive near the Great Road, where a significantly larger Lizardfolk camp has been established. Dorcas doesn’t cross, but makes a fireless camp, writhing in pain through much of the night. Osiris doesn’t sleep, watching him in the dark. In the morning of the 2nd, the darkness recedes and there is no sign of Dorcas, only a gnome breaking his camp before going to cross the road in the predawn hours.
Osiris returns to the Vale, arriving exhausted on the 3rd. They distribute the loot of the mission equitably. Osiris and Sylvania level up.