Tales of the Adventure

An Empire on the Brink, episode 4
Bugbears and Nazaraads and Bandits, oh my!

After delivering the wounded bandit to members of the Trebond household, Pythia, Colin and Stephan returned to Stephan’s house to find the other bandit buried and Aeryn talking of something in the trees with bird feathers but human hands. Stephan revealed what he had hoped was not true about the possible appearance of a Nazaraad; a creature that impregnates a woman with a demon, and the horrible chance that it had done so to Lady Katherine of House Cortland.

During the ensuing discussion Griffen began to bark at something in the forest. Aeryn investigated and saw bushes rustling and heard twigs snap but saw nothing identifiable. She did find tracks, however, of a large and beastly print. She heard more rustling in the bushes and fired an arrow where she hoped the thing would be, but her arrow struck a tree and she soon returned to camp.

The party discussed what course of action to take concerning both the evidence of a Bugbear (or something else that steals men’s livers) and of a Nazaard. Stephan, feeling a bit out of his depth suggested visiting the wizard Octavius in his tower to the south and asking him for advice. The other suggestion of heading to House Cortland and inquiring about, and potentially warning concerning, Lady Katherine herself seemed more appealing and the party took the horses and headed towards the Cortland boundaries.

Staying the night in a roadside Inn before entering the village proper, the party decided to let the agile Crow enter the Cortland estates on his own and under cover of nightfall first. Crow, being an expert in all things wizardly, would be able to detect any magic or other demonic influences upon the lady and report back to the party to give them a better idea of what was really going on, exclaimed Pythia.

An Enemy Within: Episode 3
A HUGE bandit!

After an incident with a delusional (?) Warrior Son at the Warrior Son temple, Viggur Bale and Torrent led the party along the Northwest trail towards Littleton in the hopes of catching the (supposed) marauding Ogre that had attacked the villagers enroute to Porliss Caith. The party spent the night in a roadside Inn, where a local confirmed the existence of an Ogre, but several party members insisted (understandably) that the ‘Ogre’ was nothing more than a large bandit.

The next day however, fears were confirmed and at a bend in the road a savage and colossal creature was encountered which wielded the wheel of the wagon it had destroyed as a weapon as it charged the party. The sudden charge of the monster threatened to cause a panic among the party, however all managed to stand their ground (quite remarkable) except for the mighty Torrent who was overcome with the passion of the immanent battle and collapsed off of his horse.

In the proceeding furious seconds, a surprisingly brave Kelvin faced down the Ogre almost on his own and managed to plunge several skillful thrusts into its hulking form. The young wizard’s apprentice Arthur slipped under the overturned wagon and set the ground ablaze beneath the Ogre’s feet and then attempted to push the beast back with a sustained blast of magical wind. At the same time the slow but steady smith Jorgan advanced on the thing and smote it with powerful hammer fells, causing it to bellow in pain. Even the acolyte of the Light, Carlist Mills, managed to whack the monstrosity with his staff. Somehow, Kelvin the light-footed found his way up to the creatures back and began to deal blows to it’s head and neck. The Ogre bucked and whirled in frustration, swinging its wagon wheel blindly trying to swat the annoying man from its back. Arthur, from beneath the wagon, continued to direct his ‘cone of wind’ at the Ogre which had the interesting effect of causing nimble Kelvin to flap about in the gusts while holding onto the creature’s hair like a flag on a flagpole.

In the following seconds Kelvin struck home with yet another finely aimed blow and pierced the creatures neck with his rapier. At the same time Jorgan smashed into its side with his smith’s hammer and and audible crack sounded the breaking of the thing’s ribcage. The Ogre smashed to the ground in a heap and expired it’s last.

Raclaw, gob stuck and incredulous had seen to the horses, which whinnied and pulled at their reins but somehow also did not panic.

Carlist, remembering his priestly duties, began to attend to the bodies of the dead villagers that had been strewn about the area; looking for where the other halves of bodies could have gone…

Little Deceptions, episode 7
The Streets of Helas Girith

The party disembarks into the streets of Helas Girith, sans most weapons impounded by the port authority.

Zartoshvar suffers a mild panic attack and fees he cannot enter the busy streets of the city, instead keeping to the water front and explains he will meet the party later at the Boots of Grace.

Rabinagath and Cloudhopper with River Grass the dog decide to accompany Rebekah and Quintus and help them find Quintus’ cousin the grain handler and the warhouses in the Northeastern warehouse district of the city. They pass along a central busy throughfare and stop in at a doctor’s to see what can be done about Cloudhopper’s wound. The doctor advises them to rest under the proper care of a doctor (such as himself) but baring that, they could seeks out the help of an alchemist or perhaps the Church. The doctor seems to take a liking to Cloudhopper and feels sorry for him, giving him a discount on some healing herbs and bandages and tells him to make sure the dressing is changed everyday.

Rabinagath spies some of the same people who sized up Quintus and Rebekah at the docks in the street outside the doctor’s residence. He stares at them and they leave back down towards the docks.

Zartoshvar, at the water front, calls over some street urchins and asks them to locate a tobananist. They pester him somewhat and ask him mnay questions about Dredena, but he finally gets them to fetch him a tobaccanist at the cost of a copper. When the tobacconist arrives, he is a little pissed at being drawn away from his shop just to serve some haughty Dredenian. He sells Zartoshvar tobacco, but soon the urchins confirm the price was a liitle too high.

Meanwhile, Rabinagath and Cloudhopper continue on towards the warehouse district through the main market place. Cloudhopper keeps an eye out for buildings and stalls of note.

Nearly there now, Rabinagath and Cloudhopper are walking down a street between rows of warehouses when they spot the men who were trailing them from before coming up from behind. In a moment, another three men close off their egress from in front. Rabinagath asks a passing dockworker directions and as he is explaining he spots the men approaching and puts down his barrel.

The men who have surrounded them demand money, but no sooner can they get their demands out when a screaming Rabinagath charges forward with his firepit staff and smacks one of them down! The fray is joined by all and after four seconds of furious jabbing and poking (including a vicious backstabbing by Cloudhopper) two muggers lay sprawlled out on the ground, River Grass bleeds from his side and the other attacks have run off. The dockworker congratulates the party on a fine fight and says suchs things are not uncommon in these parts.

Rabinagath looks to the wounds River Grass had sustained, while Quintus comforts Rebekah once again.

A Mission of Three

In the aftermath of the demonic interruption of the Strength of Three ceremony, a shard of the White Blade of Markus is found inside the cracked and tainted alter and a strange man with dark eyes and intricate, arcane tattoos in discovered lurking about the rear of the temple. The tattooed man in taken into custody and removed to the Warrior Son barracks for questioning and the party leaves the temple and exits into the confused and panicked streets. Many people have boarded themselves up in their homes upon hearing the alarm of a demon loose in the temple, and still others have taken up arms and formed small groups to seek out this enemy. The party sees an middle-aged man being accosted in an alley by young thugs who are taking advantage of the chaos to rob him. Kelvin springs into action and chases the ruffians away and as a result the party is invited to the mans house for diner where he tells them tales of his younger days when he and a friend explored the Monroe caves looking for treasure. It seems he did indeed find treasure but also lost his friend to some beast that fell upon them in the shadows of the cave. He never returned.

Later that evening the party comes across a commotion at the gates of the city where a group of travellers hobbles into the city with a tale of a giant man-beast, and Ogre, which attacked their wagon and sundered their group. Out of the crowd the renown Orc slayer Vigur Bale steps forth and calls for volunteers to join him in hunting this monstrosity. Only Jorgan Smitharm steps forth from the entire throng of people gathered…

That night, Torrent River is taken aside by the Lord Commander in the Warrior Son barracks and his mission is discussed. It is suggested that with lack of proper leads, perhaps the incident with the Ogre should be investigated as any evidence of strange and foul events may point to the clues of where the demon who stole the sword is.

Carlist also is spoken to by Father Cooper who, with mixed feelings, charges him with assisting the Warrior Sons in finding the Blade.

Arthur is called to his master’s side and told that the Circle council has decided that despite his lack of experience, because Arthur suffered the same visions as his master, he is the closest link to helping to search out the Blade with the Church and the Warrior sons and he is tasked with assisting them.

Meanwhile, as Kelvin roams the streets drunk, he is found by the barmaid Amy who pleads with him to help her brother who is greatly in debt to nefarious persons in Helas Girith. Kelvin agrees, though it may be the wine or the promise of her gratitude that persuades him.

Helas Girith

After pumping out and hooking up the derelict River Grass to the Cloudhopper, the party heads doen river towards Helas Girith. On the final night of their voyage, Rabinagath attempts to consult his Gods with a innocent enough yet decidedly disturbing ritual involving a circular arrangement of the bodies from the River Grass which are being kept in the hold. As Rabinagath prepares to meditate in this circle of bodies, he is interupted by Cloudhopper who cannot stomach this display and fetches the captain. Gnemoarshiz flies into a rage when he sees what Rabinagath is doing and orders him onto the deck.

The next morning the party finally arrives at Helas Girith; the sprawling agricultural centre of Tandasea. The air is warm and dry and the sun glares of the golden dome of the Church of Light which dominates the city skyline.

At the dock, the harbour master along with several dock workers wait for the approaching Cloudhopper. Explanations are needed as to why the Cloudhopper tows the River Grass and Gnemoarshiz spends some time explaining the circumstances. Zartoshvar and Rabinagath are somewhat suspect, being foreigners, but on Gnemoarshiz assurances they are allowed to disembark, provided they hand over their weapons (which can be claimed at the harbour master’s office when they leave the city).

The dog which they found on the River Grass whines and won’t leave its master as the dock wardens remove the bodies from the Cloudhopper. However, Rabinagath takes the time to calm the creature down and manages to tie a rope around its neck. For now at least the dog, which has been given the inspired name of River Grass, seems to stay with Rabinagath.

While the party stands on deck and official business is dealt with by Gnemoarshiz, they notice a distinct group of men wearing the same identical cut of clothing whispering amongst themselves and staring at Zartoshver. As well, a few down and out looking folks seem to be eyeing up Quintus and Rebekah from the pier.

Once business has been concluded with the harbour master, Gnemoarshiz takes Cloudhopper aside and says his goodbyes. He gives him a sack with some money and a silver bracelet from Cloudhopper’s father as well as a knife. He promises Cloudhopper he will help when he can as Cloudhopper has been ‘like the son he never had’.

Rebekah and Quintus, the two villagers rescued from the water when the Orcs attacked, look nervous and unsure of themselves in the big city. They say all they need to is reach Quintus’ cousin where he works at the granaries and he will help them. The party decides they will help the pair and escort them to the granaries.

The River Grass

The party carefully searches the deck of the derelict River Grass and discovers the bodies of captain Green, another crew member, a man in dark clothing with a tattoo of a skull on his breast. As well, one man is alive though near death; a dog guards him. Rabinagath carefully approaches the man and learns, despite his inability to speak, what he thinks is the story of an attack on the ship by men like the one in black who killed his father and stole his sister. The young men soon dies but gives Rabinagath a locket with a small painting of what is believed to be his sister and father. Many goods have also been taken from the ship and it seems at one point the bow hold was on fire.

Zartoshvar discovers the body of a man, assumed to be the father, in the cabin below decks in the aft of the ship. There is also fancy Farusean clothing strewn about; much of it women’s. The back of the ship is sinking slowly due to damage to the hull.

The party removes the dead and brings them aboard the Cloudhopper. All other goods are inventoried by Noel and they pump out the bilges of the River Grass and tie it up so that it can be towed.

An unlikely party
You never know who you'll meet at the Barnacle in the middle of the night...

Karliah, midnight:

As Hywel and Pythia set off towards the castle gates, they are abruptly called back by Grandmother Abalone riding forth with her steward and Pythia’s handmaiden Nilsine. Abalone complains of Pythia’s inappropriate attire and send her back with Nilsine to don something more suitable for the task ahead. Abalone then turns to Hywel and again outlines his mission, informing him he is to meet with the great Master Corvo at the Barnacle tavern in the Huntsman’s Quarter. Master Corvo’s services have been secured to add further protection for Pythia and she explains that Master Corvo is an experienced and masterful protector with years of service equalling near to 40 years. Hywel takes her instruction and heads out the gates towards the Huntsman’s quarter, but as he does so he sees a man in dark robes marching hastily towards the castle gate, another large man at his side, presumably a guard. The man complains of his house having been burglarized, and that the city watch is doing nothing worthwhile about it. He demands the royal guard step up and catch the thief! Hywel listen’s to his demands and learns the thief stole a rather valuable piece of jewellery. Hywel summons sergeant Axbrow, whom he knows is a notoriously unpleasant individual, and sends him off on the case. Hywel then heads towards the barnacle to meet with Master Corvo.

In another part of town, young Aeryn of Trebec explores the vast strangeness of the city, simultaneously impressed and awed. She hides her sword carefully in her backpack and keeps her bow unstrung so as to not attract unwanted attention from the guard.

*work in progress

A Night in Goln
How much to remove this arrow?

After the encounter with the Orcmen and the rescue of the two villagers, Gnemoarshiz steers the Cloudhopper on towards the trading town of Goln where he hopes to pick up goods from Farusea as well as see if poor Cloudhopper can get some medical assistance.

Rabinagath and Zartoshvar attempt to converse with the two villagers they rescued, and learn the the Orcs came in the night riding huge wolves and set fire to the village, killing many and dragging many away. All who were not killed or stolen fled, but most who did so were cut down as the party saw by the river. Zartoshvar offers his famous ‘Milk of the Poppy’ to the troubled pair, and the man takes some to give to the woman whose name is Rebekah. When told the ship is going to Helas Girith and if they know of anyone there, the man responds that he has a cousin there who will help them.

Docking close to evening, Cloudhopper is quickly brought into town and a local healer sought out. Zartoshvar and Rabinagath help Cloudhopper to the house of Bern, the healer that locals at the Goln tavern recommend. Upon seeing Cloudhopper, Bern steadies himself and asks the assistance of his two companions in extracting the arrow. He boasts of his skill with a surgeon’s blade, but when the moment of truth arrives and the arrow is extracted, Cloudhopper visibly spasms and falls back into unconsciousness, his chest torn with the extraction. However, having no better alternative, Cloudhopper is left in the care of Bern and his companions return to the ship for the night.

The next day a trip is made to the smithy to see if any weapons are to be had for the party to defend themselves against any other encounters with Orcs. The seaman Chris also brings along the broken crossbow (which he tried to fix himself) to see if anything can be done about that. The smith explains he does not have the skill to repair a crossbow as it is out of his expertise, but he can sell Rabinagath a spear from an order that was commissioned by the King’s army and was not not collected with the others. Zartoshvar asks if he has a sabre, and the man produces a short sword saying it is a better, and the only, sword he has. Zartoshvar tries to bargain with him to reforge the sabre he already owns, but the price is too high and Zartoshvar leaves with his same old cheap short sword. Back to the Cloudhopper they go.

The Cloudhopper takes on more cargo and Gnemoarshiz announces it is time to leave. A quick cast off and the ship is underway, wearing its way downstream. Several hours pass and then in the middle of the afternoon the party spies a derelict whip adrift in the middle of the river. A dog can be heard barking from its deck and as the Cloudhopper draws nearer they can see the ship is listing badly and sinking, its stern much lower in the water than the bow. Burn marks can be seen on deck near the forward hatch and several bodies can be seen on board, including one that dangles, caught in the ropes, head first into the river…

We can be heroes! (just for one day?)
or What makes a barrel float...

From the diaries of Rabinagath Bador:

17th of the Forth month.
An eventful day. I’ve seen things I never thought were true. Man beasts, of lore. The locals call them Orcs. Around midday we noticed burning on the western bank. Great plumes rose in the distance and blew towards us filling the river with acrid smoke. As we accented the burning drew nearer. Suddenly we saw peasants on the shore running for their lives, pursued by ragged men on barbarous assortments of armour. A few were hacked down others dragged into the woods. Four managed to leap into the river and seeing our boat swam out to us.
One of the crew, the youngest and most awkward wetlander I’ve ever seen left to their aids without hesitation. Taking a line he hurled himself into the water and sea out to them. Impressed with his bravery I leant what aid I could, securing his line and hauling him and one man back on board. The orcmen were more barbarous then Qi soldiers, firing at the women with arrows. Two were killed barely off from the shore, one lasting minutes as her wounds tormented her. The sailor reached the closest peasant first as the captain brought the boat out of danger from the Orc arrows. We managed to get them back on board but the sailor was hit by a deadly arrow through the chest. I have treated him as best I can, and can only pray he makes it. The man on reaching the boat left back off to save the remaining woman as our crew fired back at the orcs. Two fell to our bolts and another spontaneously burst into flames. Some devils magic of the Drudenian perhaps. I saw him playing with oil earlier.
It’s evening now, things have settled down, I wish to hear what these peasants say of the Orc beasts. I fear another danger has been unleashed on this land, one detrimental to my designs. If the trade routes are further cut and Tandesea is lost to us as Drudenia has been, I fear the caravans may cease completely, and my nation which depends on them, will be lost.

Official account:

The Cloudhopper quickly turned about as Captain Gnemoarshiz jammed the tiller to the left. Though even as soon as the cog was broadside to the shore, two of the Orcmen let fly with arrows at the ship. Zartoshvar dashed about looking for oil, when one of the crewmen came scuttering up on deck with a crossbow and several bolts in hand. Rabinagath rushes to the quickly uncoiling rope, to which Cloudhopper is tied to the other end, grabs it, slides to the deck and takes up the slack, propping his feet upon the gunwales for support, letting it out little by little as CLoudhopper swims towards the screaming villagers. Zartoshvar also takes shelter at the gunwales and removing his cowl, places it upon the end of his sabre and waves it in the air, hoping to gain the attention of the Orcs firing at them.

The Orcs let fly with another volley, and a short scream is heard from the water just as another arrow flies past the Captain hunkered down in the stern. Zartoshvar leaps to his feet and helps the crewman load the crossbow and set it up for a shot at their enemies on the bank. Ranbinagath secures the rope to the gunwales and gets to his feet and begins a little dance! He shakes and twists and offers quite the tempting target, but the Orcs are not persuaded and again fire on the Captain and upon those in the water and another scream is heard from those thrashing just off shore.

Finally, as the Cloudhopper has almost turned 180 degrees, the crewman has the crossbow ready to fire and squeezes off a shot. An Orc lets out a guttural cry and falls! Hooray for beginners luck! Zartoshvar then plans a fiery assault upon the Orcs and searches for rags with which to douse with oil and attach to the arrows, ready for lighting. He finds rags in one corner and oil in the stern and proceeds to setup the crossbow bolts with a recipe for a terrific blaze. As the boat comes about, Rabinagath throws the rope over the cockpit so as to not have the hooked rope pull Cloudhopper back prematurely. And indeed, at that moment Cloudhopper reaches one of the swimmers and pulls him close, only to be struck moments later in the chest with a cruel Orcish arrow! He lets out a cry but holds onto consciousness as Rabinagath begins to pull him and the villager in towards the boat.

The crewman with the crossbow fires off another shot and slams another Orc off his feet! What a marksman! Yet at the same time yet another cry from the water and then silence, another villager sinks below the water…

The remaining Orcs too devise flaming arrows and fire them upon the boat, luckily missing. Rabinagath continues to pull Cloudhopper in. Cloudhopper barely clings to consciousness but the man he rescues lends him aid as they get closer to the boat.

Zartoshvar ignites a readied bolt and the crewman fires again, missing his target completely and the flaming arrow flies off into the grasslands. Zartoshvar then goes to aid Rabinagath with hauling in the two at the end of the rope as the crewman sets up another shot.

The Orc fires again, but this time at the man in the water who keeps Cloudhopper afloat. Too close! The arrow grazes the villages shoulder and he cries out but is relatively unharmed.

The crewman fires another shot and SNAP! His crossbow breaks! The wooden armature broken! Zartoshvar inquires of the captain if there be any barres on board he could toss to the last surviving villager, to which the captain reluctantly points out the ships water barrel. Making quick mental calculations on mass to volume ratios, Zartoshvar tosses the barrel into the river and sure enough, it sinks… It is the Orc on shore’s turn to let loose with an arrow now, and he lifts his bow for a shot alive with flame, but he too falters and the arrow slips from his grip and the flames ignite his oil soaked clothing! With bestial howls he runs off into the grasses, leaving a smoke trail as he flees. The barrel, reconsidering its commitment to the laws of physics, resurfaces and bobs happily along.

At the gunwales now, CLoudhopper and the villager are hauled up by Rabinagath and Zartoshvar. Cloudhopper loses consciousness just as he is pulled onboard. Rabinagath, somewhat skilled at medicine rushes to his side and staunches his wounds with a clean cloth from Zartoshvar’s alchemical lab. He examines the arrow but decides it best to leave it in place for now; the fletching he breaks off however. He then turns to the man they rescued and asks him about the woman left swimming for her life as the last remaining orc slips away, his intentions unknown. The man is convinced by Rabinagath to go after his fellow villager and leaps in to rescue her. The attempt is successful and the Cloudhopper turns again downstream with a gravely injured Cloudhopper and two stunned villagers.

Fools and Money
A good time to leave

In the Sendsend market Zartoshvar sets up his alchemical lab and begins to concoct, with much flair and gusto, a herbal foot ointment. He is approached by Cloudhopper who asks him if he wouldn’t mind translating a bit of Farusean that Cloudhopper copied down off crates brought on board the ship in exchange for some tobacco. Zartoshvar begins by protesting at Cloudhopper’s previous assumption that he is Farusean but ends up agreeing to the deal seeing as he so badly needs to smoke his pipe. He receives a bowlful of pipe weed on the promise he will translate the notes later, but right now he insists on finishing his medicinal preparations. Cloudhopper then roams the market, keeping a watchful eye out for anything or anybody that appears out of the ordinary, while trying to look as casual as possible, wandering from stall to stall feigning interest in the wares. Nothing stands out, with the exception of a trio of young men in front of the tavern who lean against the entrance and seem to be watching Zartoshvar as he prepares his ointment with particular fixation.

On board the Cloudhopper, Rabinagath continues to redefine and copy the ships maps when he hears someone quietly hail him from shore. A man dressed as a Farusean merchant, shows him a small package bound in leather and sealed with wax and asks him if he would take it to a man named Emilson at a clothiers on River street in Helas Girith. He offers Rabinagath 25 silver pieces for the delivery, 5 now and 20 when he arrives. Rabinagath feels awkward about the transaction and asks why he doesn’t give the package to the captain. The man explains that he is from Nolunday, a city in Farusea, and has been called back home for his family has taken ill, otherwise he would take it himself and he does not wish to bother the captain as it might entail all sorts of paperwork which he wants to avoid. Rabinagath haggles with the man for some time, and just as it appears the man is going to walk off, they come to an agreed price of 15 silver pieces no, 25 when the package is delivered. The man hands over the package, which he explains is a codex of clothing patterns of the latest fashions, and the 15 silver and departs. Rabinagath ponders over wether or not to open it up…

Back in the market, Zartoshvar stands quietly by his alchemical stall, trusting that the professionalism of his work will attract buyers and there is no need to hawk his wares. A single man wanders over and asks him what it is he’s selling. Zartoshvar goes to great lengths to explain the qualities of the ointment he has prepared and the man appears interested though he wonders if Zartoshvar has anything for sore joints, as that is what he is really suffering from. Zartoshvar explains such a cure takes a while to prepare and months to work properly but if the man were to pay him 40 copper he could prepare him a months supply and give him instructions of how to make more. The man feels the price is too steep and asks instead about the foot ointment. Zartoshvar tells him 25 copper, to which the man insists on sampling the cure and then haggles with him and eventually they agree on the ointment plus a list of ingredients for the 25 copper. The man then leaves and Zartoshvar, having no other customers packs up. Zartoshvar calls a young boy over to him and gives him a description of Cloudhopper and orders him to find him and tell him he’s wanted. The boy runs off and Zartoshvar shouldering his pack, looks around for a place to eat and drink.

Cloudhopper, watching the market is aware of a man dressed in Farusean merchant clothing hurrying across the square. He follows the man and, gaining his attention, asks if he might translate the words he copied down. The man seems a bit perturbed by Cloudhopper’s request but when Cloudhopper offers him 10 copper for his services the man takes his money and tells him the words are the name of a Farusean Vineyard, Othlan Fields. The man then turns and leaves and Cloudhopper continues his meandering. A minute later, a young boy tugs at Cloudhopper’s sleeve and tells him a Dredenian is looking for him in the market. The boy then holds out his hand for payment and Cloudhopper gives him a copper piece. Pleased, the boy runs off and Cloudhopper makes his way back to where he last saw Zartoshvar.

Meanwhile, Zartoshvar, hungry and thirsty, turns to the local tavern. He notices the three young men watching him from the entrance and when he approaches they step forward and block his way. They ask him what he’s doing here, and then tell him to leave, and “go back to the wastelands”. Zartoshvar takes offence to this slight of his homelands and expounds upon the richness of Dredena and how Tandasean culture by comparison is so meagre. The comparison goes right over the heads of the young men who call him a “desert rat” and one of them steps forward and gives Zartoshvar a shove. At this moment, Cloudhopper comes into view and walks over, asking the young men what they are doing. They begin to threaten Cloudhopper as well and ask him if he wants a taste of a knuckle sandwich. Cloudhopper responds that he’s never had that before and asks if it’s tasty, and promptly gets punched in the mouth. Fists begin to fly now and Cloudhopper tries to defend himself but gets knocked about several times by his attacker. Zartoshvar on the other hand, draws his large knife and, patting the blade of his knife in his other hand, asks the young men if they are truly looking for trouble. Surprised and intimidated, the young men back off, one of them fleeing behind the tavern and the other trying to pull his friend off of Cloudhopper. A couple more blows against the side of Cloudhopper’s head and the thug’s friend succeeds in pulling his buddy off of Cloudhopper though the enraged young man still tries to throw punches. Cloudhopper takes off and Zartoshvar again makes a show of the blade in his hand and the remaining two men get the picture and leave. Zartoshvar then proceeds to the doorway of the tavern, but stops short of entering as the size of the crowd inside, a dozen people, makes him feel uneasy. He tries to get the attention of the bar maid and finally succeeds. With a little convincing, she brings him some dried meat good enough for a few days of travel rations and a mug of beer. He drinks the mug down and heads back to the Cloudhopper. Just after he leaves, Cloudhopper himself returns and collects his quarterstaff which he dropped during the altercation with the street tough.

Zartoshvar and Cloudhopper return to the ship and climb aboard, seeing Rabinagath again and exchanging greetings. The state of Cloudhopper’s face causes some stir on the boat and Captain Gnemoarshiz offers to clean him up a bit, but Cloudhopper refuses and simply sets to work. Eventually our adventurers and the crew of the ship settle down for the evening. Cloudhopper goes directly to bed, but Zartoshvar and Rabinagath stay up a while, listening to a musician who plays a lute by the water further north down the quay. As the night deepens, they spot what at first seems to be a meteor shower far off on the horizon above the mountains to the northwest, but something seems amiss as the meteors seem to be falling way to regularly. They watch the phenomenon for a while and then go to sleep.

In the morning, the Cloudhopper leaves the dock and heads downstream towards Helas Girith. The morning is uneventful, but in the afternoon smoke appears on the horizon to the north, over the west bank. The smoke is some distance away but as they travel further downstream they get closer and the smoke thickens somewhat and the scent of burning wood is clearly in the air. Cloudhopper, having climbed the mast, hears distant shouts and screams. Still sticking to their course they eventually come close to the western bank of the river and suddenly several men, women and children come running to the water’s edge and yell for help! The clear cry of “Orcs!” can be heard now and as if on queue, one of the men on the bank is violently heaved forward into the water from behind and 4 or 5 large brutish, grey skinned creatures with small eyes, furrowed foreheads and sharp teeth fall upon the people calling for help. Some of the people are run through with sword and spear, but others are grabbed by the Orcs and taken away into the reeds. People also begin jumping into the river to escape their attackers. Two of the Orcs on shore see the Cloudhopper and, putting away their swords, draw bow and arrow and begin to fire upon the ship. The captain curses and begins to turn his ship away from the bank. “Do you have any weapons on board!?” asks Zartoshvar to the captain, who tells him that below decks there is a crossbow. Cloudhopper then grabs the longest rope he can find on the ship, ties one end around his waist and one end to the ship, and leaps into the water heading for the people who jumped from shore. Rabinagath shouts to Captain Gnemoarshiz to turn the ship about and head into the centre of the river. Captain Gnemoarchiz is already turning the ship…