Incensed that Deston Jappeur betrayed them and stole the Shattered Moon Staff, on March 13th two adventurers set out to be the first men of the Vale to make their way to gnoll lands. Their planned course will take them to Gilded Falls (the old elven capitol now controlled by the Union of Schek) via the Great Road before they strike out beyond Union of Schek lands and through an independent Schek’s territory to reach and cross the mountains.
- Malcom (HuS): Level 4 Human Cleric of the Empty Tomb
- Giant Bat
- Victor (TrS): Level 4 Elf Thief
On the way from Kite to the Great Road, they are attacked by bile drakes and Malcom’s bat is killed, though he replaces it with one of the drakes. With fair weather, by mid-morning on the 14th, they reach the Great Road and make haste to make it to Gejlber (one of the elven way-cities now used as a haven by the Union of Schek) just a day up the Great Road from Gilded Falls before dark.
Not far along the road, they decide to take to the trees for a spell to escape the interest of three giant eagles that circle back to get a closer look at them. They soon arrive in Valalarte (one of the way-cities) where a Union of Schek patrol pays them little mind as they pass through. Not far outside Valalarte, they see orcs fighting among themselves. They rush forward and identify one side (the winning side) as having at least one member of Schek Garim. They quickly step in, Malcom healing one of the fallen Garim allies and Victor attacking the other side’s leader.
The leader turns and, with a critical hit that Victor fails to dodge, cuts Victor down in a single mighty blow. The Union of Schek patrol soon overpowers and captures the remaining two foes (orcs from independent Schek Tarifk, including the leader. Malcom runs to Victor and finds him without a pulse. With a fervent prayer and a hopeful resurrection spell, Malcom manages to bring him back from the other side. The Union of Schek patrol is amazed and grateful and the one Malcom healed bestows a lucky token on him. With Victor exhausted from a near death experience, they continue to press westward.
Another friendly Union patrol and they travel along for some time before seeing a camp off the road. They investigate and see that it is Schek Tarifk again! Malcom speaks to them and warns them that the Union of Schek is cracking down on Schek Tarifk in their lands. When Malcom tells them about their intention to visit the gnolls and they advise them not to take the southern pass near Schek Viilka, but rather the more northern pass near Schek Tarifk, though not the northernmost near Schek Molva. They thank Malcom for his warning and give him a token to commend him to Schek Tarifk so they will allow him passage toward the gnolls.
With no other major incident, they arrive at Gjelber where they camp in the ruined city with the Union of Schek occupants. In the morning, they find that bugbears were killed near the city and set out for the last leg to Gilded Falls. They soon see large train approaching, dozen of orcs and goblins escorting trolls and massive drakes pulling wagons with siege equipment and other creatures in cages. They can tell their tattoos are non-Union and they address them, learning that they are Schek Viilka hired by the Union of Schek to join in their war against the Dragon Empire as they are planning a spring assault. They pause to prepare a message to send to Lord Verdis and inform him that the Union of Schek intends to attack the Dragon Empire, sending it with Malcom’s drake before continuing on.
Passing by yet another patrol camped on the road, they catch a gnomish caravan on its way to Gilded Falls as it arrives at still another camped patrol that waves them on. Leaving the gnomish caravan behind, Victor notices gnomish letters and symbols carved on trees to the south of the road, but unable to recognize them, he ignores them and they continue on.
Just a few more miles and Victor spots bugbears preparing to ambush them. With four bugbears rushing to the front line and four slinging from the woodline, Victor finds himself engaged with the leader and Malcom and Tom are seriously wounded cutting down the other four before rushing toward the slingers. With the help of his distracting coin, Victor manages to defeat the mighty warrior before him and the slingers flee before Malcom and Tom can close. Malcom animates the skeleton of the mightiest bugbear and they continue on.
With no other traffic on the busy road for three whole hours, they arrive in Gilded Falls to find Union forces marshalling near the Great Road gates and pass into the city through a lesser gate and renting beds and buying porridge at the closest thing to a tavern in Gilded Falls.
In the morning, they set out on an old, ill-maintained elvish road into the northwest toward Schek Tarifk lands, planning to make their way through their lands into the north to meet Schek Molva on the way. Not far outside Gilded Falls they pass by more Schek Viilka mercenaries headed to the warfront. They note that one of the ogres is not doing so well, but refrain from healing it as the mercenaries are hard to approach.
As they near the borders of the Union of Schek, a Schek Charuke patrol warns them to take care going out into the wilds, as their treaties will not protect them with Schek Tarifk or Schek Viilka. That night, the 21st, they make camp off road and beyond the border markers. During the first hour of their watches, Victor hears a group approaching haphazardly through the woods and their camp is soon joined by a group of gnolls, all of them wounded somewhat. Victor greets them and welcomes them to the camp and binds their wounds. He learns that they’ve just come over the mountains from gnollish lands and had a run in with Schek Viilka monsters, having strayed a little to far to the Schek Viilka side of their route between Schek Viilka and Schek Tarifk. The gnolls convince them to abandon any notion of passing near Schek Molva to take the northern pass, helping them to plan a course directly toward the middle pass which will bring them near the village Deston Jappeur most likely hails from, the village Jappeur.
As they set out to pass near Schek Tarifk’s shrine area, they are stalked by animals that suddenly emerge from the surrounding woods as orcs. Presenting their token and the name of their Schek Tarifk contact, they earn enough of their trust to be allowed to pass through their lands, though they will continue to watch them. By the evening of the 25th, they have arrived safely at the mountain pass where they find a ruined elven tower apparently frequented by gnolls and others with ogre and giant skulls on stakes seemingly arranged to ward off these large threats. They don’t trust the structural integrity of the tower and camp outside.
They set out over the mountains and make their way through the secured pass, encountering only a band of grey-skinned demi-humans who are curious to see elves again. These skritha, as they call themselves, emerge from the rocks where they had been camouflaged and ask about them a little before indicating that they consider them not a danger and disappearing into the mountains.
They summit the top of the pass late on the 26th and in the morning of the 27th descend. From their elevated perspective, they can see sandy desert extending as far as the eye can see and forest and a green valley nestled against the mountains. A gnoll border guard confronts them and though he is unfamiliar with the Vale (and even Randall) he does recognize the names of gnollish adventuring parties they mention and is willing to let them enter despite Malcom’s (relatively wholesome) skeleton. He gives them directions to several villages (including Jappeur) in the area but highly recommends Le Caniche for experiencing the highest of gnollish culture.
They make their way following his directions toward Jappeur but know they won’t arrive until late in the night, and so camp a couple hours out from the village. In the morning, they approach the village and observe and pray. As they lurk around the village, several of the locals see them out in the cultivated woods but pay them little heed. Malcom feels inspired that Deston’s house is one of the several houses against the wall of the central manor yard. They wait until night so Victor can break in and look for the staff.
Observing the manor guard patrols for a few hours, Victor is unable to recognize a pattern and so make a move anyway. He approaches a window and finds that its shutters haven’t been opened in months (not terribly unusual for late winter, though he did see many windows open in the village during the day in this temperate land). He jimmies it open and finds bars over the window unlike in the other homes of the village.
Believing he still has time before the next guard pass, Victor moves to the door and picks the lock (finding it to be a higher quality than others he saw in the village). Inside, he finds more evidence that Deston hasn’t been back in months, let alone since stealing the staff. He lights a hooded candle and searches the place, finding that most of Deston’s notes are in gnollish. He does find an elvish book open to a page describing the Shattered Moon Staff as causing discord through the power of the moon that more effective near the full moon (coincidentally, the moon is full on the 28th as Victor reads this). It seems the elves considered it important to keep track of it so it wouldn’t be used against them, but also so they could use it if needed. Based on his underlines and copied elvish lines, Deston seems to have been interested in using it to prevent the Nefil tyrants returning.
Victor grabs a bunch of notes and escapes the village to rejoin Malcom, who through prayer obtains the gift of the interpretation of tongues and reads the notes. They come to the conclusion that Jappeur intends to use the staff to cause conflict within the Union of Schek, possibly to rile up the lich at the college. On the 29th, they decide to visit Le Caniche as recommended before heading back over the mountains, killing an ogre and seeing a skritha stalking them.
Back down the mountains on the 30th, Schek Tarifk is surprised to see them so soon. They indicate that the Union of Schek may be in danger of collapsing or becoming violent and despite being on uneasy terms with the Union, they agree that the turmoil that would cause would be bad for them as well. Schek Tarifk again escorts them through their lands and by April 2nd they are back in Union patrolled lands (shaving a day after their last time through with the help of Tarifk guides). They arrive in Gilded Falls the evening of April 5th and find that the last two weeks have been rough on the city with Union soldiers and Viilka mercenaries fighting amongst themselves and other conflict being rampant. The residents of Gilded Falls seem to attribute it to tensions surrounding the war and bringing brutish Viilka mercenaries into the city. Malcom and Victor suspect the cause may be more supernatural.
Malcom levels up and we will be picking this up again some time in the next few weeks.
Wow! What a trip! And to think Victor would be dead if exactly Malcom weren’t with him, probably. This week, I decided to roll random encounters ahead since I knew where they were going. The prep is over on Patreon.