The adventure begins in Cordrend, where various individuals hear that Halmaro the Red, a merchant guild master, is organizing a caravan. His daughter, Kira, is getting married to a high-ranking official in Womtham. A large caravan with many wagons is headed west to that city, and he is recruiting various hirelings/experts for the caravan. Various recruits show up: Storen Wolfgast, a hedge knight, and his retainer/squire, Cullen Ashcroft; Atticus Goonyaxe, a dwarven cleric of Pelor and armorsmith; and Gregor Ironwood, a barbarian raider from the Frost Barbarian tribe with a checkered past. They learn that Halmaro will not be taking all recruits—only those who can prove their mettle!
Gregor signs up to be a guard; he fights with a wooden weapon, and no armor, against a few other recruits, and does quite well. Meanwhile, Storen tries out to be both an archer (requiring him to shoot his crossbow at a target in competition with other archers) and an animal handler (requiring him to shoe a horse, ride a horse around obstacles, and lead a mule to water and make it drink). Finally, Atticus proves his worth as both a physician (diagnosing and healing various ailments) and as an armorsmith (repairing certain armor failures). After a long day of tests, Halmaro’s right hand man calls out various numbers, and tells them their role: “Number 19, Laborer! Number 42, Guard!” and so on. Storen is one of the first chosen, serving as both an archer and animal handler (and earning 3 gp/day as someone who does double duty—Halmaro saves 1gp/day on that deal); Cullen can come as well, but won’t get paid (Halmaro’s a bit shrewd that way). “Number 3, scribe!” is called out, and a thin young man, Angus MacIver, steps forward. Gregor is hired as a guard (2 gp/day), and Atticus as the armorsmith/physician (3 gp/day). A one-eyed half-orc named Yesunge is also hired as an archer—the best one in the competition. Several more people are hired as laborers (Pedro, Ramon, Angel, Juan), animal handlers (Miguel, Joaquin) and a guard (Felipe). The group learns that they will lead the advance force to Womtham, scouting out and clearing the way for the large caravan. The advance force will be led by Otto, a small, wiry man who Halmaro explains is one of his best men.
The new recruits get together at the tavern that evening (drinks are on Halmaro!) and learn a bit about each other. Atticus, Gregor, Storen and Cullen sit together, and after Atticus invites him, Angus joins in for a bit as well (previously reading a book in the corner). Otto explains that they will stop at a small town, Deghulan, first, which is on the way, and that the trip to Womtham will take a total of 10 days. He then heads up to bed, as they’re getting an early start. Cullen and Storen decide to also call it a night, and as they are headed to their rooms, a large, drunk man bumps into Storen and spills his beer everywhere. The drunkard is irate at the loss of his brew, and yells at Storen—it appears he is looking for a fight. But Storen calmly apologizes and states that he’ll buy the man another two beers—and the drunk then gives Storen a hug with a great smile. Eventually, the group hits the sack.
In the morning, they head out to great fanfare. Once outside the town limits, Otto gives a look back and then quickly pulls out a flask and starts drinking some alcohol—“some” being an understatement. He enjoys the trip, singing some bawdy songs and getting roaring drunk. When some of the laborers ask him questions, he responds, “How should I know? Figure it out yourself.” Storen silently disapproves. The first day is without incident, and they camp out for the night, sitting around two campfires, one of which has all the laborers and animal handlers, and the other with the specialists. Atticus inquires with Angus about his book, but Angus is not offering a lot of details. On a hunch, Atticus asks if he knows anything about magic, and with a bit of thamaturgy, makes the fire where the laborers are sitting burn green! They cry out in alarm, but eventually settle down. Angus whispers to Atticus that he can do some tricks, too, and uses a cantrip to perform similar acts of hijinks with the laborers’ campfire.
Otto, drunk, falls asleep and is snoring. Off in the distance, though, Storen can hear what appears to be a young child crying. He gets up, and Cullen follows him with a torch and his sword. Advancing down a path, Storen can see nothing—until he gets kicked in the chest by a deer-sized animal. It has the body of a stag, the head of a badger and a leonine tail. It has bony, yellow-gray ridges for teeth and burning, feral red eyes. While its body is largely tan colored, it darkens to black at the head. Storen can smell the stench of rotting corpses surrounding it, and its breath reeks of the grave. Further down the path, Storen can see another creature—the same kind, only larger—and hears the sound of a crying child coming from that beast’s mouth! Gregor, Atticus and Yesunge jump into action, and within moments, they badly wound the creature. As it turns to flee, it kicks out again, but cannot get away, and is felled by the group. The larger one flees, and is not pursued.
Atticus performs some surgery and removes the lower jaw, careful not to slice open his fingers on the sharp ridges. The laborers ask for the carcass to cook the meat, despite its foul stench. Otto briefly wakes up, looks around, and then falls back asleep. The rest of the night passes without incident.
Otto wakes up the next day with a nasty hangover, and they head out again. After a day or two, they arrive at the Cracked Tavern Inn, which is surrounded by a very small hamlet. They stay there for the night, and speak to the tavern keeper, who seems to be short-staffed and hectic. He explains that one of his workers, Paulus, is missing and didn’t show up to work today—unusual for him. Atticus, Storen and Gregor tell the owner that they’ll look into it, and do some investigating (including entering Paulus’ small home). They find no clues in Paulus’ home, other than it looks like someone who didn’t intend to be away for long. The next morning, before they head out, they speak to his neighbor, an old crone, who explains that it isn’t like Paulus to be missing. She describes him as very fair skinned—almost white like a ghost—and with blond/white hair.
As the advance force gets moving, a few miles out of the hamlet, they see something in the road. Gregor and Felipe get out of the wagon to take a look. As they get closer, they see it is a body, with a black-shafted arrow in its chest. The man is very pale, and very blonde. As they turn to go back, Felipe jerks backward, and an arrowhead protrudes through his throat. He clutches it and falls to the ground. It’s an ambush!
The group quickly finds themselves surrounded by goblins—a few with missile weapons, such as bows and crossbows, others with scimitars, and one riding a wolf. Two of the four horses attached to the wagon take arrows, and the animal handlers quickly attempt to calm them while the specialists engage the enemy. The group makes fairly short work of the goblins, Gregor cutting some down with his glaive, Storen with his sword (with Cullen helping), and Atticus with his axe. Angus shoots at some with a fiery bolt and misses, lighting a tree on fire, while Yesunge returns fire. Within moments, six of the goblins are cut down, and the remaining two flee—including the wolf-rider, who injured Storen. Atticus chases down one on a horse, while Gregor chases the wolf-rider. As Gregor chases, the wolf is able to duck and dodge as they head to the Flinty Hills, and Gregor nearly loses his balance as a small herd of deer gets surprised and bolts in front of him. But the wolf is tiring, and Gregor seems to be gaining, but will he catch him?
Until next time!