Grand Duchy 59

Grand Duchy of Adventure

Session 59
June 5-24, 2015

A Scouting Mission

Nytdain 15th Yarthmont

Griffin’s Scouting Mission

Griffin scrambles up and away from the track that the Company had been following. The mountains are rough and rocky, but they generally provide good opportunities for climbing and scouting. Lots of foot and handholds and good places to observe unseen.

Griffin climbs easily up the mountain side. He has left behind most of his gear, to move more quickly. He takes his sword and crossbow but leaves his shield. Useful but heavy. The ridge line is up a steep slope - steep but manageable. He actually likes the climb up, one hand finding a hold, then the opposite foot, over and over. The rhythm takes over and soon he finds himself cresting the ridge line. He slows and peeks over the crest.

Beyond the ridge, Griffin sees more mountains rising up. There are some places that look like they might provide passage, but only in short distance. There are no clear routes visible from here.

The path that the Company had just retreated down lies to the west of Griffin's current location and he sees a narrow ledge that looks like it might take him to a location above the spot where the undead tree had been encountered.

Griffin can also follow the ridge line he is on, but neither direction it goes in seems to be a useful direction and it promises to be a fairly precarious path.

His curiosity getting the better of him, Griffin makes his way down the slope to the ledge above the undead tree. He takes his time and makes a slow stealthy approach, trying to avoid alerting any creatures below.

Griffin is able to maneuver himself to a spot where he can get a decent look at the dead stand of trees, or at least the spot where they had been earlier. Now that area is just a wide, shallow spot on the side of the mountain. The trees are now spaced out around the hollow, mostly near where the Company had originally made their approach, as if standing guard. Some other trees now stand on the far side of the area and a few more are perched on the sides of the surrounding steep slopes like lookouts. The undead tree cannot be seen, but Griffin is unsure if he would even be able to pick it out if it were standing still with the others.

From his current position, he thinks he could climb back down there or maybe follow a nearby ridge and bypass the area altogether, though that would be a tricky climb and probably take a bit of time.

Griffin sighs. Why can’t things be easy, just once. He looks up at the ridge line. He doesn’t doubt his ability to handle it, but it could be difficult for some of the rest. On the other hand, the undead tree could be nasty. He takes his time and continues to scan the terrain, looking for other possible paths around the hollow.

After looking around for some time, Griffin finds a previously unseen track running along a tiny brook that looks like it might swing wide around the area that the undead tree was inhabiting. If his calculations are correct, it should connect back up with the path they had been following just a little farther back from where his companions were waiting for him.

Now we’re talking. Griffin grins as he follows the track forward, past the deadly hollow. He is still taking his time, moving quietly to avoid drawing attention to himself or his friends.

He makes his way along the brook, making sure that the path is one that all his friends can manage. Some of them don’t have his training, after all.

Moving slowly and carefully, Griffin makes his way onward. After about an hour or so, he thinks he must be a good distance past where the dead tree hollow was. The sun is already hiding beneath the peaks of the mountains to the west, casting long, sharp shadows. It appears to Griffin that travel this way could be possible. He seems to have found a way around the undead tree, though he has no idea where this will lead him further on or if it will continue in the correct direction, but then again, the Company’s initial track held no such promises either.  

Griffin stops brushes his hands together as he surveys the track as it heads further into the distance. Seems like a probable way. Maybe if I can get Remar to let me fly, I could pick a way from a higher vantage point.

Another hour exploring the mountains eventually results in what looks like a very good place to camp. There were only a few spots that the Company might have trouble with but he thinks that with some time, rope and magic, the rest of his companions should be able to make it up here. It is starting to get dark finally and he realizes that his companions are probably getting worried about him being gone so long.

He turns and heads back along the trail, taking a few moments every few minutes to mark his path. When he gets close to the area with the undead tree, he slows again and takes care not to give the creature any excuse to investigate. After several hours, darkness has fallen, and he finds himself nearing where he left his friends.

Finally Griffin gets back to where he knows he is close to his companions. As he moves to round a wide rock outcropping, he hears some movement up ahead. He stops and listens as he peers over the edge of a rock. He can see the limbs of a white and withered old tree sticking up over the top of the next rise. He does not remember seeing any trees along the path he initially took though he is certain that he has retraced his footsteps almost exactly.

Griffin swears. Then he slides forward again, trying to get a glimpse of this strange creature over the rise. Where are his friends? Do they see this monster lurking near them? How can he get back to them to warn them?

As he moves into position he hears a slight scratching noise from above, near the top of a large rock to his right. He crouches, weapons ready to defend himself from whatever may be stalking him then he sees a familiar face, that of Ree, appear over the top of the rock. She cries out and then laughs. “It’s just Griffin returning, relax everyone!”  She disappears from Griffin’s sight and he hears her sliding down the other side of the rock.

Waiting for the Scouting Report

As Griffin scrambles up and away from the track that the Company had been following. Ree slumps against the slope of the mountain, exhausted from her recent scouting mission.

Burik looks around nervously, “What if that thing is sneaking up on us? Ree didn’t see it back there, it could be anywhere.” He draws his sword and paces around.

The area where the Company has stopped has a decent view of the area. They can see down the track about 20 yards in front and behind them and much of the slopes above their heads are open and visible, though Griffin seemingly disappeared mere moments after he ascended the rocky slope. Stephen sits and studies his map, Iris looking carefully over his shoulder. He shakes his head back and forth, “I just don’t know. These hills and mountains are going to be tough. I just don’t know.”

“I fear this was a mistake, to come this way, as well. Stephan, what do you know of the trade traffic through here? Are the mountains more passable if we make our way, quietly, through Verge and up the road there, or would we merely be delaying the impossible mountain climb?”

"I've traded with Verge and Threshold before and know that they deal with miners and goat herders a lot, so there are ways through the mountains, I just don't know if there's a way through in the areas we want to be in, or if we will be able to find it. As much as I hate to say it, we may have to find someone who knows these mountains better than us and ask for help." Stephen looks downcast as he says this. He folds his map back up and puts it away. "I'm also a little concerned leaving that tapestry with the boys back there. I've got the needle with me but who knows if this Golthar has another one."

Iris adds, "My, um, uncle has dealings with traders from this region also. From what I know from that is that the mountains are difficult but not impassable if you know the routes. But it is not only the terrain that makes them difficult. There are tribes of savages that make their homes among the Black Peaks. Goblins, Orcs, Gnolls, Ogres, Giants and worse. Harpies and Manticores," she shudders, "undead tees or whatever that vile thing was!" She looks around at her gathered companions, "I'm all up for following this to the end but we should do it right. A guide could go a long way to getting us to our goal, I think, and if that means going into one of these towns and revealing our location to Golthar and the Iron Ring, then let them come for us. We can deal with them then finish what we started. It's not like any of us think we're done dealing with those slaver bastards anyway, right?"

“Ugh, Tovarich.”, Marcel exclaims. Everyone turned their head. “Going in without a guide is a bad idea. However, not having the yellow goblin on our back is not a bad thing. Can we just send a few of us into Verge, covertly, to find a guide? With luck, there must be guides living well outside of Verge that would do.”

He scans the surrounding, hoping to find a set of magical stairs. None appears.

“I hate this place already.”, kicking a rock and heading up. “I’m going to get Griff.”

He definitely thinks that everyone is throwing the towel a bit fast. However,  they can’t afford to run in circles at every turn because they don’t know the difference between up and down in these parts.

When he looks up and realize that the road to Griffin is out of his league, he turns around, sits back and informs everyone that he'll be napping until Griffin is back. There is no sense in risking limbs just to make a point.

Marcel rests quietly near Ree, who has fallen asleep. Burik paces around the area, sword in hand looking this way and that, anxiously looking for anyone or anything that might be sneaking up on the group. Stephen, Iris and Remar stand around uncomfortably silent, waiting for someone else to speak.

Waiting is Hard

It has now been over an hour since Griffin scrambled up the rocky slope to go scouting and there has been no word or signal from him.

After another hour of waiting, everyone is beginning to get anxious and Ree is pacing back and forth so much she has worn a mark in the ground. The sun has disappeared behind the nearby Black Peaks.

“He’s been gone more than 2 hours, shouldn’t we do something? I’m going to go look for him!” the young girl cries out. Ree knees and begins checking the gear on her backpack in the fading light of the afternoon, looking up several times at the slope that Griffin climbed up when he left for his scouting mission.

Burik looks up from his spot resting at the base of a large rock. “Uh, what? No, you should stay here. Griffin said he was going scouting to find another path through the mountains. He said stay. We should stay. He will be back.” The young Traladaran looks around to the others for support.

Always one to point out the worst case scenario, Remar interjects, “But what if he’s hurt? I know he’s a skilled climber. But he didn’t have any real gear. He could have slipped, got caught in a rock slide, run into the dead trees or some other monstrosity. We don’t know.”
The Alphatian mage folds his arms across his chest, smiles and nods as if he has just made a telling point in a debate. He then slinks back to his seat on the ground when he realizes no one else shares the enthusiasm for his answer.

Looking for Griffin

“Who among us is steady enough a mountaineer to go after him? I have these boots that can help me avoid the need of too much climbing, or at least assist in doing so. I’m not arguing that we send the whole team, but perhaps Marcel and I can go and investigate. And Remar, as you have clearly laid out - if he is in danger, we’ll need your mystical gifts as well. I can try my hand at a few spells as well, to aid in our tracking him down. The rest of you wait here with the camp, in case he returns while we’re gone.” And how long should they wait if we disappear as well, I wonder?

Ree speaks up, “I can assist with some magic to make the trek easier, though I would have to cast it now and keeping it going for more than a minute would be difficult.” Remar starts to speak up, but then nods his head, agreeing with Ree. “Maybe I should go with you. I can climb and track almost as good as Griffin can, and I have magic to help as well.” She looks at Remar, Burik, Iris and Stephan, “These guys should stay here, maybe find a good spot to camp for the night. I think camping here on the trail that leads to the undead tree is not the best idea. But it’s getting dark and we need a camping spot soon.”

Stephan nods and Burik begins gathering up their gear. Remar nods again, “You should take her with you, she has many useful spells to help you find Griffin. I can fly and shoot fireballs.” He shrugs and smirks. Ree turns away, holding her hands up to her reddening face. “If you miss him while you are out and he returns to camp first, I will send up a signal for you to see, though I suppose anyone will be able to see it too. Just watch the in this direction when you can, you will know it is me.”

“Let me at least help you get up that slope first,” he waves his hands and chants a magical spell, “Wingardium levi-oh-sa!” while touching Marcel on the shoulder. “There you go, Marcel. Up and at ‘em!” Marcel begins floating up into the air, having just enough time to grab his spear, shield and pack.

Ree smiles and scrambles up the slope after him, not needing any of her magic to do so.

Using his fancy new magical boots, Draven follows the other two up the slope with ease. At the top, Marcel and Ree are already heading off, following Griffin’s path. The three adventurers travel some distance over the rough and rocky terrain, though they move slowly and carefully while traversing several difficult parts of the trail. After about an hour, they come to a wide, flat part in the trail and decide to take a rest under withered old mountain tree. As the companions rest and take drinks from their canteens, Ree signals them to be quiet and motions toward the trail ahead. She gives the sign that someone, or something, is approaching!

In the darkness of the mountainous evening, Ree slides up the side of a large rock to the left, hoping to get a good look at what is trying to sneak up on them. As her head and shoulders disappear over the top edge she lets out a short cry followed by laughing. “It’s just Griffin returning, relax everyone!” She slides back down the rock and Griffin appears from around the side of the rock. He greets his friends and suspiciously eyes the tree rising up from between two nearby rocks.

Griffin Returns

Relieved that his has once again connected up with his friends, he makes his way around the rock. He sees Draven, Ree and Marcel resting in a wide spot on the trail. A dark, dead tree trunk rises up from between two rocks above the clearing. He looks at it carefully and the surrounding area. He is positive that he came through this exact spot a few hours earlier and, at that time, there was definitely no tree here.

“You were gone some time, friend. What did you discover?” Draven queries.

Griffin turns and smiles at his friends. “I think I found a viable path around that dangerous area.” Keeping an eye on the strange tree, he says, “Let’s get back to the others. That way I have to tell the story only once.” He leads them back down the path. When they get out of sight of the tree, he whispers, “Call me crazy, but that dead tree back there? It wasn’t there when I passed through here before. I’d swear to it. I think that evil tree may be able to use the plants and trees as spies.”

A full moon has risen and sheds a pale white light over the dark mountain slopes as the companions make their way back to where the others are waiting for them. Once there, they are shown to a nearby spot that looks to make for the best possible campsite in these rough mountains. The rocky ground is uncomfortable at best, but it is slightly concealed in a narrow crevice back away from the main trail the group had been following. Griffin recounts all that he saw while on his scouting mission as the group gathers around a meager fire eating Elvish waybread.

The night passes uneventfully until about 4am when a light drizzle begins falling from the sky. Marcel is wakened by a rogue drip of water coming off the earth above his head. He hears the campfire hissing as the light rain falls upon it. He crawls out of the little nook he had been sleeping in and wraps himself tightly in his blanket. He looks around the camp to see who is on watch, thinking it should be Remar, and finds the young mage perched on a rocky ledge up above the narrow entrance to the camp.

Remar hops down and Marcel immediately notices a tiny blue gemstone floating in the air, doing circles around the mage’s head. He also notices that Remar is completely dry. Remar notes the curious look on Marcel’s face and winks. “I got it in Rifllian. It keeps the rain off. Was a bit expensive, but, hey, I’m dry, right?” He pats Marcel on the shoulder and rushes off to find his own little cranny to squeeze back into.

Loshdain 16 Yarthmont

Rain Rain Go Away

The rain carries on until the sun comes up in the east by the time the it is fully in the sky, everything and everyone (except Remar) is soaked through and through. The rain stops and the clouds dance around the sky, covering and uncovering the sun. Tiny streams and fast flowing rivulets make their way done the rocky slopes and trails of the mountains. Before camp is packed up, the rain starts again. Griffin looks at the sky and sighs, he anticipates the rain to continue off and on all day. He then looks down at his pixie necklace and realizes that the amulet has gone dark. He looks for Draven to recast the light spell on it!

Marcel squints and tries to look up-beat. “The crew was wondering...”, he starts and waits for others to pay attention.

“Ah-hem! The crew was wondering yesterday...”, he looks around, satisfied. “If we’re committed to keep on going this way.” No one is speaking up nor even nodding. “Someone helping here. Can we go forward and make good distance without a guide? I mean, there is a way around this time...”

His voice goes silent. He actually doesn’t feel strongly about it and mainly wait for the other to weigh in on the discussion that they had when Griffin was out venturing in the heights.

”Yea, what if there isn’t a way around the next time?” Burik blurts out. “It’s great that no one knows where we are so they can’t follow us, but if WE don’t even know where we are, how are we going to find someplace that we don’t really even know where it is?” He looks at Stephan questioningly. “Do you know where we’re going yet?”

Stephan shrugs in the falling rain, “No, I do not know exactly where we’re going. All I know is that it’s that way,” he points north, further into the mountains. “As much as I don’t want to reveal our location or mission to anyone, I think there is no choice but to enlist the help of locals. Maybe someone in Verge or one of the outlying areas knows how to get through these mountains. We’re not far from Verge, no more than 10 miles I’d say.” He looks at Griffin, Draven and Marcel for approval.

Griffin looks around at the group, trying to weigh the mood of the group. “Well, the plan was always to avoid Verge and follow the river. This area can be pretty challenging, I agree. I didn’t think you didn’t know that going in. If we agree, I have no problem trying to slip through Verge. Preferably at night, and hopefully without any of the locals noticing.” He looks around. “I don’t think a local guide is a good idea. First, we’d have to ask around just to find one. ‘Excuse me, could you direct me to someone who knows the ins and outs of the mountains to the north?’ It’s likely to point Golthar right back to our traill!”
“But right now, our trail leads nowhere. And yea, we knew it would be tough, but I think that maybe, some of us at least, didn’t quite realize HOW tough it would be,” Remar states. “We can trudge through these mountains for days and not really get anywhere, especially if the weather doesn’t cooperate. Bringing supplies will be difficult, can’t get the horses up here at all. Lots of things to consider. I’m sure Golthar will just wait for us to perish somewhere in the mountains and follow the carrion birds to our location, grab the tapestry and needle and be on his way.” The young mage looks disheartened, though so does everyone else in the slow and steadily falling rain.

Griffin claps Remar on the shoulder, “Hey, my friend, cheer up. Let’s not lose heart when we’re so close!” He turns to Stephan. “The tapestry showed that if we followed the river, it would get us close to the treasure, right? We’re on the right track. I’ve got a path that can get us past the weird tree-thing to a decent spot to camp. We just need to change our approach to this. Split up the team into scouting and supplies. I’ll scout ahead for a day, maybe with Ree. We could also use your magic, Remar, and maybe your new boots, Draven, to better plan our path through the rough terrain. The rest of you all forage and hunt while I’m out. Better?”

Remar looks at Griffin and shrugs. “We’ll still be wandering around the wilderness, very slowly, running out of supplies. Maybe more slowly, but we’ll still be stuck in the middle of nowhere eventually.”

Iris looks up at Griffin with tired eyes. “We’ll keep following you if you think it’s best, but I’m afraid that even if we can keep going, we won’t end up anywhere near where we want to go. Unless you have some clues that I’m overlooking, we’re going to spend a lot of time out here with little to show for it.”

Griffin looks at Iris, then sighs. “Okay, fine. We’ll head in to Verge and see if we can find a guide. Satisfied?”

Remar looks startled at the outburst. “Well, if you think that’s best, of course.”

Griffin glowers at him. “If this will make you happy, Remar, then that’s what we’ll do.” He looks at the rest of the group. “Okay, folks, rest time is over. Grab your gear, we’re going back.” Griffin picks up the rest of his gear and stomps off back down the way they’d come.

The companions travel slowly and carefully through the mountains and well after the sun has disappeared, they make it out of the mountains and head toward the campfire of their base camp.

Cast of Characters: 

Garrett "Griffin" Constantine, a Thyatian rogue of a gambler from Penhaligon rolled by +Arne Jamtgaard 

Marcel Maasa homely but sincere wielder of spears aspiring to cooking greatness commanded by +Christian Blouin 

Draven Rickart, a Thyatian Acolyte of the Church of Karameikos ministered by +Jason Packer 

and +Jason Woollard as The DM

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