On August 11th, Year 4, Randall answers a long-standing call to chart the areas along the road to the gnomish lands from Iron Fields to ensure they will be safe for regular trade and cart travel. He is:
- Randall (HuS): Level 3 Human Druid
- Oliver, Level 3 Fox Companion
He departs early in the morning, flying to Iron Fields in falcon form with the plan to spend the next 6 days exploring the woods on either side of the road for a quarter mile out, making a quarter mile zig zag up one side for 3 days (long, 12-hour days) and then down the other side on the way back. He believes this will give him good coverage (62.5% of trees and underbrush should be at least seen in a cursory manner) of the area within a quarter mile or so of the road. While there will be some gaps, anything significant he should get a glimpse of through the trees.
On the first day, he finds and investigates a stele in the woods, covered in moss that easily falls away when touched. It is clearly ancient, though how ancient he doesn’t know, and depicts what looks like a bearded human in green stone. Engravings beneath the figure could be depictions or a language, but he doesn’t recognize it as elvish, dwarvish, or gnomish. He makes note of it and continues, passing the road builders who have reached the point where the new road joins the gnomish footpath to Citadel. By the end of the day, he has passed through a particularly wet section of forest, finding mugwart mushrooms that in his experience cause animals digestive problems. He notes that the road builders will have to take special care that flooding in this area doesn’t damage or cover the road. He flies back to Iron Fields and spends the night there.
On Tuesday, the 12th, he flies back out to where he left off and continues through the day, making a note of drake prints and long abandoned cottage foundations a quarter mile from the road. The area surrounding the foundations are newer growth that the rest of the forest, indicating that the area was farmed within the last few hundred years. He again flies to Iron Fields to spend the night in comfort.
On Wednesday, the 13th, he returns to his course. As he walks, he meets a bear who he converses with, learning that ahead is a part of the woods he calls the “best forest.” He continues and is lucky to spot a tree moving out of the corner of his eye. He goes out and confronts it, learning from it that the it was given movement and life by someone named “Wrinkle” and that its name is Guffo. He learns that Wrinkle is the steward of this especially verdant part of the forest and that their intended road (where the footpath is now) is far enough outside his domain to be allowed, so long as cutting and fires are avoided on that part of it. Near the end of the intended road, he meets a gnomish hunter returning to the Great Road Mine amid a rain storm and they converse, the gnome acknowledging that the wood where Wrinkle resides has stymied their hunting there. Randall turns down an invitation to spend the night at the mine and flies back to Iron Fields, sleeping comfortably there.
On Thursday, the 14th, he again flies out to the end of the road and begins his traversal back on the other (west) side. He finds some ogre (he calls them “elephant men”) footprints on a hill that run south parallel to the road before diverging around the hill west toward the river. Disappointed that he wasn’t visited by Wrinkle as he passed by, Randall flies a mile or so into his especially verdant forest and sets up his hammock (with permission from the trees), spending the night there.
When Randall awakes the morning of Friday, the 15th, he finds Wrinkle watching over him. Wrinkle is clearly a fey creature, with skin like bark and hair like moss. He tells Randall that he is welcome in the forest, but that others should be cautioned against entering his wood and making camp off the road near it.
Randall leaves Wrinkle on amicable terms and continues his exploration of the West side of the road. On his way he spots an old limestone quarry in one of the hills, speaks to the bear he met Wednesday again, and encounters an unusual archway that a nearby tree (named Mufa) tells him belongs to a strange creature known as Gibby, who vanishes when he passes through it. Mufa tells Randall that Gibby has been here this season, but before that many year ago. Randall also finds nightshade on this day, as he learns from Dorcas’ gardener Reginald upon returning to Citadel. He once again flies to Iron Fields to spend one more night.
On Saturday, the 16th, he returns to his search, now exploring along mostly sections of new road and finding nothing on their North side. With the road path charted to his satisfaction, he returns and reports to Matthias what he found. The ogre and drake prints concern Matthias and may merit further investigation, but Wrinkle’s forest they agree can be left untouched.
This exploration session was an experiment that I think went fairly well. Randall found more than I was anticipating with such a small search pattern. This test was inspired by Rick Stump’s last year of exploring rough terrain in Seaward call the Briars. Perhaps someday I will expand on this experiment to do something so large. For now, Randall has turned up plenty of interesting things to examine further.