And so Kat and Beldren (who now has, like, stats and stuff, the narrator presumes) meet for breakfast to discuss their journey. Action!
Kat orders a mimosa with her breakfast and hangs around until her new friend comes down.
Beldren comes downstairs to discuss ADVENTURE!
Kat waves when she sees him. “Beldren!”
Beldren is much more sober today. “Katreana! How are you this fine morning?”
Kat takes a sip of her drink. “Same as usual, really. You?”
Beldren - “I’ve never been much of one for hangovers, so I’m doing fine!” He settles down.
Kat: “We need to find more people for this party.”
Beldren - “Right, probably not safe just the two of us. So, if you’re a wizard, and I’m a fighter, that means we would need a cleric, and uh… something else.”
Kat: “A rogue, traditionally. But a ranger would do as well. I was going to look at the board out front and maybe put up a notice.”
Beldren strokes his beard. “Seems reasonable. Shall we interview people here?”
Kat looks around the inn’s common room. “It’s as good a place as any. Looks professional.”
There’s Cedrika, behind the bar, polishing a glass, as is traditional, and a few non descript looking people having breakfast. One person that does catch your eye (cause he’s large and good looking), is a young man having breakfast alone across the room from you. Also he has a large sword.
Kat: “There’s a likely looking fellow.” She gets up from the table and approaches the young man. Beldren will follow, attempting to look professional.
Kat gently taps the young man on the shoulder “Excuse me. Are you an adventurer?”
Young Man swallows the mouthful he was chewing. “I guess so. Why do you ask?”
Kat: “I’m looking to set up a party to go fight giants in someplace called Sterich. My name is Katreana, of Exiles’ Haven, and my companion here is Beldren…” She trails off
Beldren - “Beldren Eregion of the Ironaxe Clan.” He bows.
Kat: “Yes.” She murmurs “Sorry” to Beldren.
Young Man stands up, bows slightly, and shakes both their hands. “My name is Kochevnik, and I am a paladin of <insert Lawful Good deity here! I’ll think of it later.> I was actually waiting for you to finish your breakfast, as I’m also looking to assemble a party. Cedrika has pointed you out to me last night.”
Kat: “Convenient. Are you on a particular quest?”
Kochevnik- “No, my superiors merely think I need to get out and see the world; get some life experience is all.”
Kochevnik doesn’t look entirely human; you notice that he has what appear to be feathers growing in among his hair, and he has normal skin on his palms and face, but scales on the outside of his limbs. And the blackest irises you’ve ever seen.
Kochevnik- “Where is this Sterich?”
Kat: “Somewhere north of Hiasport, is all I know. The sending I received wasn’t very informative.” She tilts her head slightly. “Would you happen to be a tiefling, by any chance?”
Kochevnik looks slightly embarrassed. “Yes, I would be.”
Kat: “I thought so. Well, welcome to the party. Do you know anyone else who might be interested in joining us?”
Kochevnik- “Oh, me? No. I’m only passing through, I come from Dor Mephis, to the west.”
Kat: “Ah, that’s an interesting place. I’m going to check the board outside for any “Looking for Group” notices. We can leave tomorrow or later today.”
Beldren stays to chat with Kochevnik, if Kochevnik is the chatting type. Kochevnik is indeed.
Kat mostly finds want ads for people looking to hire, not join groups. “Someone stole my Rod of Lordly Might” is still there, as are things like “Find the Lost Temple of Tharizdun!” and “Dingos Stole My Baby!” “Wanted in Stoneport, for breaking and entering: elf wizard, human thief, half-elf thief, human bard, human wizard; reward 30 gp. For Information!” The last one is really faded and old.
Kat takes that one off the board and stuffs it deep into her bag of holding, then goes back into the inn.
Kat: “Nothing interesting on the board.”
Beldren - “Ah well. Three isn’t bad to start with, perhaps we can pick up a few more along the way! I get the impression it’s a long trip.”
Kat: “Probably. As near as I can tell, we can go part way by sea or all the way by land, but I don’t know which would take longer.”
Kochevnik shrugs- “I couldn’t say, this is the first time I’ve been out of my country.”
Beldren - “Perhaps we should consult someone who has information on the wider geography? Probably somewhere in the marketplace?”
Kat asks Cedrika where the best place to find maps and information is.
Cedrika stares off into space as she thinks for a minute. “There probably are a few mapmakers near the market, but you could always just take the east road until you get to Jalkive, I think they have a small port near the border.”
Kat thanks Cedrika. “That sounds like a good option. We’ll leave tomorrow morning.” So the group spends the rest of the day bonding or whatever. Or getting supplies and riding beasts for everyone but Kat.
When the subject of horsies comes up, Kochevnik shifts uncomfortably. “I would have to throw myself upon the generosity of others for a horse, as I spent all my money on arms and armor, and this wand of curing.”
Kat: “Don’t worry about it. It’s my quest, the least I can do is make sure everyone has something to ride. We’ll go find everyone something suitable.”
They party goes out and Kat sells one of her sapphires. They then look for someone selling horses and ponies.
You’re able to find a horsemonger (?) without trouble, and can outfit your compatriots with a horse, tack, feed, and whatever other things are needed for horse maintenance, all before lunch.
Kat asks if the other have proper clothes and cloaks for mountains.
Kochevnik has normal explorer clothes, but not any specifically cold-weather gear. Beldren does, as he came from the mountains.
If Kochevnik wants cold weather gear, Kat will purchase some for him. He says yes, reluctantly, and promises to pay her back four-fold when he has the money.
She pats him on the arm. “You’re helping me assist my friends in very hazardous circumstances. If it makes you feel better then you can consider these your wages for accompanying me.”
Kochevnik does not look convinced. “I’ll accept such generosity for now, Kat.”
Kat gets a set for herself as well, and the group is ready to go! ...in the morning after a good night’s sleep.
You all turn in early, after some delightful conversation, and since at least two members of the party are Lawful Good, nothing interesting happens at all. It’s all very wholesome.
In the morning, Day 97, in case you were counting, you all rise early, like the good citizens you are, and head toward the rising sun! Since the slowest horse can move 32 miles per day, you make pretty good time, and since this section of road is patrolled fairly heavily, you aren’t bothered either, and in two and a half days, you arrive in the town of Kaldac. (Kat’s passed through here before, but it was a looong time ago.)
Kat: “Oh, I remember this place. Sort of.”
Kaldac is nothing special, just the cluster of buildings at a road crossing.
Kat “Let’s stop here for the night.” So the group finds the inn.
It’s also nothing special. You’re able to get rooms for cheap, rooms for your horses for cheaper, bath is the horse trough, here’s some soap. The only remotely interesting thing you hear is that you’re a few days behind a largish caravan headed to the Jalkive border.
Beldren - “Hope they’re prepared for the Dead Brook area…”
Kat: “Oh? What’s around Dead Brook?”
Beldren - “I was just there not long ago, apparently the local rodents are, ah, hydras.”
Kochevnik- “Wow. Actual hydras.”
Kat - “Or miniature rat-sized hydras? Because that sound like something worth capturing.”
Beldren laughs. “I wish. No, actual hydras. Apparently they generally leave people alone, but the town has a large trench filled with spikes around it to keep them from accidentally wandering in at night.”
Kat: “Good to know.”
Beldren - “We’ll definitely want to plan our travel to not spend the night close to the town, only in it. Though last I was there, the group I was with and I did manage to kill one.”
Kochevnik- “Oh wow.”
Kat: “That is impressive. Tell us about it?”
Beldren launches into a tale of them finding a hydra wandering into the nearby dwarf tunnels! You can read about this saga in our other volume, the Adventure Log HoW #3. It involved cleaving hydra heads. And running around tunnels trying to keep out of the reach of too many heads at once.
Beldren managed to impress the locals with his story as well, so he gets free drinks the rest of the evening. BUT again, good citizens, nothing untoward happens that evening, and you set off again in the morning!
Kat asks Beldren (or whoever else knows the information) about the distance and time to Dead Brook, and whether they’ll have to camp in hydra territory.
Retired Caravan Master- “Why, you’re about 85 miles along the road to Dead Brook, and it will take you at least three days, although the road is flat and straight, so it depends on your horse. The last night you should watch out for hydras, as you’ll be close to, but outside of, their territory.
She thanks the caravan master and the group continues on their way.
As predicted, it takes just under three days at your current speed. You occasionally hear the sounds of a really large animal in the trees on one side or the other, on the last day, but don’t see anything. It’s early afternoon when you cross the bridge into Dead Brook.
Kat: “Definitely time for a drink.” The group find the nearest decent looking inn.
It’s a dive, but the roof doesn’t leak.
Dercic- “What can I get you?”
Kat: “Dinner and a decent whiskey. Please”
You’re all able to get dinner, decent alcohol of choice, and even rooms! For fairly cheap. The only two significant tidbits of information are again, the caravan you’re now about a day behind, and the main topic of conversation in these parts: the hydra forecast. Happily it’s not mating season, so they’re not too aggressive.
Dercic, to Beldren- “Sir dwarf, I think I recognise you, did you pass through here nigh on eight or nine days ago?”
Beldren - “I did, I was one of the adventuring group that slew the hydra in the dwarf tunnels. We went our separate ways afterwards, but my road landed me back here, at least for the night!”
Dercic smiles- “The world seems to shrink every day. For your valor, your drinks are on me. Madam Elf, your compatriot here is a hero to us in humble Dead Brook.”
Kat: “I’m glad to have such a noble soul with me.”
The rest of the evening is quiet; the locals are all a little withdrawn, but Beldren says that’s normal, and so once again, you’re able to make your way out of town without violence, theft, arson, or kaiju attacks.
Your first day of travel is like the last five: straight roads, but by the second day you’re starting to get into the foothills of the mountains, and the road starts to wind and lose some quality.
Kat hears the sound of shouting over the next rise. It sounds like person vs predator.
Kat: “I think someone is being attacked up ahead.” She spurs her pony into a run…. But slows to observe when she crests the hill.
Kochevnik, who was apparently daydreaming, jumps to his senses when Kat starts moving, and follows her. So does Beldren.
Over the rise, you see a lone cart, being defended by a lone man, against something that from this distance looks like a large bear. The man is in serious trouble, or so it appears.
Beldren will do his job as a fighter and charge! Or more precisely ride his horse closer and jump off to fight.
Kochevnik spurs his horse to a gallop, but dismounts about 30’ away from the bear-thing, cause he wants to be a dragoon, not cavalry.
Kat stops her horse about 70’ away from the battle, and casts a magic missile at the bear thing.
The magic missiles thump into it’s side, and the monster turns to you and screeches. Now that it’s looking at you, you can see that it has the head of a great horned owl, scaled up to match a bear’s body. Beldren thinks it’s kinda cute, and now wants a pet miniature version.
Kochevnik has drawn his sword, and moves up to take a swing! He gets in a decent blow, but nothing to write home about.
The owlbear is now angry (but it’s always angry) and tries to make another meal out of Kochevnik. It gets him twice, solidly, once with a claw, and once with a bite.
Beldren moves forward and attacks! He is unsuccessful.
Kat casts another set of magic missiles at the owlbear.
It is yet more enraged!
Kochevnik decides to test drive power attack, which he’s never used before. Gathering his strength, he just barely misses!
So the owlbear decides to chew on him again..but only hits with one claw.
Beldren also attacks again! And misses again!
Kat casts Melf’s Acid Arrow at the beastie. It’s yet more angry! It;s fury burns with the, uh, fury of a thousand suns!
Kochevnik tries power attacking again and misses.
The owlbear...swings at Kochevnik three times, and misses all three!
Beldren swings and hits this time, but doesn’t do much damage.
Kat casts Magic Missile again. The owlbear takes more damage from the acid eating through its skin.
The owlbear looks pretty beat up, by this point, but it still hates you! So Kochevnik hits it, power attacking again, third time’s the charm! Miss.
Owlbear goes...and hits Kochevnik three times! He’s down! The owlbear roars in triumph!
Kat throws another Acid Arrow...and the owlbear collapses! Kat spurs her horse to go see if Kochevnik is salvageable. Beldren goes to patch up his wounds, but doesn’t get very far.
He is alive, but is pretty hurt, and
Kat pulls out Kochevnik’s wand of healing and uses one charge on the paladin. You quickly dig through his pack and manage to get it to spit out some healing! Kochevnick is still unconscious, but appears stable.
Kat: “Close enough. Beldren, are you alright?”
Beldren - “Yes, I am unhurt.” He goes over to the guy they saved.
He’s super-dead. Beldren looks into the cart, to see if anyone else is there.
There are no people in the cart, just a bunch of small locked boxes and chests, and some jars as well. If you dig underneath the driver’s seat you find a stack of paperwork as well. Beldren checks it to see if there’s info on what’s in the cart.
It’s clear both from a few labels and the manifest that the cart is full of alchemical products and supplies; for example there is a box full of tanglefoot bags. Beldren notices that there is one item that is not on the manifest, a small box, shaped almost like a coffin, covered by a small tarp. He’ll lift the tarp. Yup, looks like a small coffin (about three feet long).
Kat binds up Kochevnic’s wounds and wraps him up in his winter cloak, for the moment.
The horses were both frightened into not moving, fortunately, but they’re pretty skittish right now.
Kat: “Beldren, bring that tarp down here. We’ll wrap the driver up in it.” Kat approaches the cart horses, making soothing noises. One horse calms a bit, the other rears at Kat.
Beldren - “Sure. This coffin doesn’t appear to be on the manifest, just so you know.” He wraps the body up, and then goes to shift the stuff in the back to make it the most comfortable for Kochevnic that he can, while making space for the driver as not-near where they’ll put Kochevnic as possible.
Upon further reading of the documentation, you find that this cartload is owned by one Nifrege, Gentleman Merchant, and that this particular set of stuff is, indeed, bound for Jalkive. This is cart 14 of 14. “That’s a lot of carts.” Beldren says. “I think this one must have been part of the caravan, I wonder how they got separated.”
Kat tries calming the horses again. They’re both marginally calmer than before. At least they’ll both talk to you, so to speak.
Kat: “They could have left this one behind when the owlbear attacked.” She tries a third time to settle the horses. Finally they settle down and are friendly. “Good horses!”
Beldren loads the body into the cart. He then moves Kochevnik to the place he made (he put down his bed roll to make it more comfortable.)
Beldren finds out the hard way that Kochevnik weighs about 280 lbs with all his gear on.
Beldren - “Well, we should get away from the bugbear, at least. Oh, hold on a sec.” Beldren searches the bear.
The owlbear doesn’t have anything on it, except a couple of axe cuts, large bruises, and some acid burns.
Kat makes sure Kochevnik is resting comfortably, and then ties her pony and his horse to the back of the cart. She gets in the driver’s seat and takes up the reins.
Beldren gets on his horse and takes up the rear to make sure no one falls out or escapes. “We should travel for a couple hours at least, then set up camp.”
Kat flicks the reins to make the horses move.
The horses get into forward easily, and you’re off! The rest of the day is uneventful, although kind of slow going. By nightfall, you estimate there’s another half a day of travel up what has become a pass to the border town, which is at the crest.
Kat: “Shall we try for the town? I’m not keen on camping right now.”
Beldren - “On a mountain pass? That’s pretty dangerous. I think we’ll just have to camp. Kochevnik should be awake in the morning, hopefully.”
Kat: “Not that he’ll be in any shape to fight. Alright, let find a spot to stop. Somewhere relatively defensible.”
You’re able to find a flat area that looks likes it’s a commonly used resting spot for travellers, easily big enough for you and your five horses.
Kat starts unhitching and currying the horses, and setting out feed bags for them.
Beldren sets up camp otherwise and lights a fire. He then moved away from the light of it so that he can keep watch. Once everything is done, he comes back to help Kochevnik out of the cart, only this time he removes his armor and other gear first. Also Kat can help.
The only armor Kochevnik has is a mithral chain shirt and a buckler, so it only takes a minute. The two of them muscle him out of the cart, and onto a bedroll on the ground, hopefully without making his injuries worse.
You notice he’s carrying a set of lockpicks, for some reason. You get him ensconced in a blanket or something near the fire, and he looks chewed on, but otherwise okay. Beldren sets all his various gear in a neat pile near him.
Kat: “Go ahead and rest first.”
Beldren - “Alright, just wake me up at whatever time will give you enough time to actually get your spells back tomorrow, we may need them. If I only get a couple hours sleep tonight, it’s not the worst thing. I’m used to keeping long watches.”
Kat: “Alright.” She walks the camp’s perimeter, nearly invisible once she pulls up her cloak’s hood. She wakes Beldren about three hours later.
The rest of the night is uneventful, except for a crow that decided to hang out near your camp and won’t shut up. By sunrise, Kochevnik’s eyes are open, although he doesn’t seem to want to move very much.
Kat is still sleeping or whatever elves do instead. She wakes up 8 hours after she slept.
Kochevnik- “Man, did we win?”
Beldren - “Fortunately, yes, although the drive of the cart had already passed by the time we got there. You can thank the wizard for the win.”
Kochevnik- “Yeah? Seems we chose our employer wisely, then.” He focuses for a moment, and a bunch of his wounds heal instantly. “Okay! I feel better now. Did you bring all my stuff?”
Kat rouses herself at this point and looks around. “You’re looking better.”
Kochevnik- “Yep, feeling alive again.” He digs through his stuff, pulls out his wand, and uses it on himself twice. “Hmmm, I might save the rest of these for other emergencies.”
Kat: “About the wand, Kochevnik. I used one charge on you yesterday, but it didn’t work very well. I am sorry for wasting the charge.”
Kochevnik- “Ha, you shouldn’t be sorry for saving my life. That was not a wasted charge, and how I’m honor bound to owe you a year of service for it.”
Kat: “If you say so, but I expect that there will be plenty of mutual saving of lives as we go along.” She puts aways her blankets and checks on the horses, before pulling out her spell book and leafing through it.
Kochevnick dons his armor and preps his horse. He pauses when he sees is thieves’ picks laying around, but doesn’t say anything unless asked.
Beldren - “So I checked the manifest, and this coffin-like box is the only thing not on it. I’m wondering if the cart driver was smuggling something.”
Kochevnik- “Could be. That’s odd.”
Beldren - “Paladins can sense evil, can’t they? Can you sense anything from the box?”
Kochevnik- “Oh! Yeah, of course!” He concentrates a moment, and shrugs. “I’m getting nothing.”
Beldren, quietly - “At least that makes the eldritch abomination theory less likely.” He taps his fingers on it.
Kat finishes studying a little while later (assuming nothing come bursting out of the box.) and starts hitching up horses.
Kochevnik assists while Beldren pokes around at the coffin. He does find some markings, which say...something in draconic. “Anyone know draconic?”
Kat: “Of course. What did you find?” She comes around the back of the cart.
The writing is a short piece of doggerel: “Devil box, devil box/Trusting strong locks/Take him in, long to keep/Tiny, small, asleep.”
Kat translates it to Common, definitely not saying the Draconic out loud.
Beldren - “And we’re back at the eldritch horror theory.”
Kochevnik- “That’s really strange that I didn’t detect any evil, then. Maybe it’s empty?”
Beldren - “Wait, I just thought of something. What if the box is bad, and the contents good?”
Kat: “We’re not opening it to find out. Not out here where we can’t put up a containment circle.”
Beldren - “Fair enough!” He’ll put the rest of camp away, and get ready to set out.
The eldritch abomination doesn’t do anything, and so you’re able to pack up and leave without anything happening. It does take almost half a day to reach the top of the pass, cause it’s pretty windy, but you do so without any further trouble.