Burning Sky Session 19

After regrouping, we searched the goblins and recovered 25 golds, 15 silvers, and some miscellaneous jewelry, including gold teeth and a string of pearls.

It was midafternoon when we continued our march.

By the end of the day, we had marched beyond the Tunda Mountains and crossed into Namin.

On the side of the road we could see debris from large numbers of people coming down the road, and many obvious signs that there's a lot of movement along these roads.

We decided to camp out of sight of the road, and found a spot behind a rise, over 500 feet east of the road, closer to the shore.

While we were setting up our campsite, Ulfgar asked, “Did anybody else see that?”

We all looked questioning at Ulfgar, and he explained, “There's something else in the grass. I could've sworn I saw something moving.”

“Should we investigate?” I asked, and we all agreed.

“It seemed to be in that direction over there,” Ulfgar pointed further from the road than we were, and back the way we came. “It was moving slightly. It was like a flash. I only saw it briefly.”

Scanning the ground, Ulfgar spotted some patches of grass that had been pushed down. He recognized the pattern of shoes; a very distinctive oval shape with two horizontal impressions in the shoe print.

“It appears to be somebody from the monastery where I left,” Ulfgar explained. “They might be tracking us.”

“Is that bad?” Cyrus asked. “Are they not our friends?”

“I didn't leave on the best terms,” Ulfgar revealed. “They weren't happy that I left. It's not a cult, but they just don't like people.”

Ulfgar also found little sheets of rice paper with little bits of rice remaining on them.

“I don't know what their motives might be,” Ulfgar warned, “so we might want to still set a watch.”

It appeared to be only one set of tracks, but he soon lost the trail.

“Is there anything we need to know about you and your monastery?” Cyrus asked.

“Well, basically there's two schools,” Ulfgar explained, “the east wind and the west wind. They take you in, they train you, but they expect you to stay there forever, and if you don't necessarily follow what they believe, they aren't necessarily the happiest. They don't want you to go.”

“Why did you leave?” I asked.

“Did you get kicked out?” Xireas asked.

“I didn't find their teachings aligned with what I believed any longer,” Ulfgar shared. “I wanted to seek my own way. So in the middle of the night I left.”

“Was there anything specific about their teachings?” I asked.

“No, it's just a belief I didn't follow,” Ulfgar maintained. “It was too narrow of thought. The wind is but one of the elements. Why would I constrain myself to study only that direction? I suspect they're trying to take me back.”

“And you don't want to go back, right?” Cyrus asked.

“No,” Ulfgar replied. “I seek my own way.”

“Okay,” Cyrus acknowledged, “good to know.”

Returning to our camp, we agreed to take three watches, each with two people for four hours.

The night passed uneventfully.

In the morning, Cyrus suggested, “Maybe it's not so crazy for us to get off this road, go to the coast, and see if we can hire a boat to take us to Seaquen, because I'm looking at this map and Seaquen is on the end of a peninsula full of swamps.”

“My only concern about that,” I pondered, “is, are there any settlements on the coast?”

Torrent and Ulfgar did not know if there were any settlements on the coast.

At my suggestion, we agreed to continue on the road and ask the next people we encountered where there's a settlement where we could get a boat.

While we were plodding along, around midday, we noticed two knights on horseback who appeared to be pacing us at about a hundred yards back.

We noted that their accouterments were different from Sir Quincy’s.

We turned around and headed toward them.

We greeted them from a distance, and they showed no signs of aggression as they walked their horses up to us.

“Well met, lords,” I greeted them.

“Good afternoon,” they replied.

“Are you lords of Namin,” I asked.

“We are,” They confirmed.

“We seek passage through Namin,” I explained, “and we were hoping we might be able to find a boat to make that passage swifter. Would you happen to know if there are any port settlements where we might be able to obtain such a ride?”

“There are no ships willing to take to the sea at the moment to go down to Seaquen,” one of the knights explained, “due to all the conflict.”

“Okay,” I acknowledged, “I guess we're gonna—”

“Does that mean the Ragesians are also attacking ships at sea?” Ulfgar inquired.

“No,” the knight clarified, “the Shahalesti fleet seems to be moving down the shore towards Seaquen, so the captains are hesitant to take their boats out to sea at this time.”

“Do they plan to make war or battle against Sequen?” Ulfgar asked.

“I don't know,” the knight admitted. “They're not making war with us, so we’re not particularly inclined to want to get involved. And through the influx of these refugees, we've got our hands full enough.”

“Thank you for your help,” Ulfgar said. “We don’t want to slow you down.”

“We didn't wanna be here any longer than we had to,” I added, “but I guess we’ll be on our way.”

“Just to let you know,” the knights shared, “there are lords all over this road just trying to keep traffic moving and keeping people from settling in around here. It seems like people tend to want to just stop wherever they please to start setting up camps. So if you wouldn't mind, it's okay to camp for the night obviously, but if you don't mind just keep things moving.”

“Yeah, I believe me,” I replied, looking around in disgust. “We have no interest in being here any longer than we have to.”

The knights waited while we turned back around and continued on, eventually returning to pacing us.

The rest of that day passed relatively uneventfully, at times the knights falling out of sight, but it was never long before another pair replaced them.

We continued our routine of making camp.

I decided to discard the head of the hobgoblin leader amid the rubbish littering the side of the road.

At the mention of Moznek, we returned to questioning his transformation when we left Bham Thurum outpost. I admitted that I did not know if that was the spirit of Moradin or a sign of Moradin's blessing. Recalling that he had said, ‘Stay the path of redemption,’ I recounted a dream I had in the abandoned village in Innenotdar Forest:

“When we were sleeping in that tree in the forest, my sleep was disrupted by nightmares that started with soothing sounds of clanging bellows and the scent of hot forges—I remember it like I was there. Then it became smokey and difficult to breathe. At my feet was an unconscious orc. Cyrus, your face flashed before me, whispering ‘I'm going to kill him. I'm gonna kill him,’ in my ear. ‘I don't have a problem with that,’ I replied in the dream. And then a wound appeared on the orc’s throat as its life drained away. Then the scene faded and was replaced by the prisoner in the canyon—remember that prisoner in the canyon? You were interrogating him in my dream and threatening him. And I was keeping the others from seeing what you were doing, which also happened in real life. As you killed the prisoner, the heat and the light from the forge diminished and an angelic voice echoed around me, and I remember it said, ‘Redemption is yours.’”

“Huh,” Xireas wondered. “So what does that mean, the whole forge thing? Is that connected to you somehow?”

“I can only interpret it to mean that Moradin did not look favorably on my actions,” I stated. “At least that's what I have to conclude it means today.”

“So how would he know to say that?” Xireas aked. “Do you think it's a coincidence?”

“Moznek?” Cyrus suggested. “Yeah, that’s what I'm saying, he didn't seem like a regular dwarf. I think Moradin needs to look at the context more. You know, we weren't just going around murdering people. Maybe you could tell him that.”

“I don't think it works that way, Cyrus,” Xireas said. “I'm not much of a religious type, but…”

“The gods are always listening,” Ulfgar offered. “They listen when we sleep. They listen when we're awake. You have but to speak with them.”

“And it's really for us to listen,” I explained, “not to tell the gods how things should be. Like I said, I must think that I erred in the eyes of my god, who did not look favorably upon my behavior.”

“But that was your dream, right?” Xireas asked. “How does that connect to what happened?”

“Well,” I speculated, “if this was a message from Moradin—”

“You think I was a vision?” Ulfgar asked.

“I was sleeping in this holy place,” I explained, “so at the time, how much am I going to make of a dream? But then, when Moznek said ‘redemption is yours’...”

“After he transformed into this big, larger than life glowing figure,” Xireas offered.

“Do you think it was a warning?” Ulfgar asked.

“No, I think it was probably a message from Moradin,” I elaborated. “I don't need to understand exactly how—but a message for Moradin that I need to ‘stay the path of redemption.’”

“Well, he can't be that mad with you, right?” Cyrus offered. “He gave your dad's weapon. Sheltered us.”

“I'm not trying to keep score here,” I explained. “All I know is I need to be righteous in the eyes of my god.”

“Sounds like too much work to me,” Xireas sighed.

“It's not for everyone,” I acknowledged.

“Well,” Cyrus suggested, “everybody's got their work their own way, right? You gotta study books and tomes to get your power. You gotta listen to this god to get his power, right? Everybody does what they gotta do to get their power.”

“Yeah, well,” Xireas agreed, “can't argue that. That's for sure.”

The night passed uneventfully, and in the morning I prepared sending.

We marched throughout the following day without incident.

That night I cast sending to Danvadin: “We are working our way toward you. Do you know Moznek Woldbeard? Anything we need to know?” and received no response.

The next two days went by relatively uneventfully, with Xireas dismissing her zombies along the way.

Toward the end of the third day we reached the border of Megadon. At the crossroads, we saw a long line of travelers obviously fleeing the war and conflict, waiting to get past the toll on the road.

It soon became clear that it would be hours before we made it past the toll, so we made a quick camp on the line, amid the many refugees. Occasionally a fight broke out along the way, usually involving someone trying to cut the line.

As the sun set, the guards closed the toll bridge.

Ulfgar was pleased to be so close to where he was originally from, explaining that his dwarven clan has a settlement in the mountains and foothills just east of Bresk.

After taking turns with the watch, two at a time, we resumed our slow approach the next morning.

As we got closer, we saw desperate people, some with crying babies, some without any coin getting turned away at the gate.

When we reached the gate, there was a big sign proclaiming ten golds per person to cross.

We each paid our share and entered Megadon, amid the throngs of people, noting that there were more frequent lodgings and food places along the road here.

We marched throughout the day, and found an inn to rest for the night at three times the usual cost. We all squeezed into a single room.

That evening, I invited my companions to join me as I walked around the many refugee campsites.

With Cyrus and Ulfgar with me, I took in the desperate conditions of the settlements; a lady with the only clothing on her back and a baby crying out of hunger, people with just a little bit, sharing what little they had with their family, some by themselves.

Eventually I came across a dwarven family huddled around a small fire. Dirt ridden with tattered clothes, they didn't seem to have much other than the stick of beef jerky they passed around, that the whole family was trying to sustain themselves on.

I introduced myself to the mother, who looked particularly rundown. Asking where they’re from and how they came to be in this predicament. Their story was both heartbreak and unsurprising.

“Blessings of Moradin be upon you,” I offered. “Please share what you don't need with those less fortunate. This food will not last more than a day.”

With that I cast create food and water, and instantaneously filled up their containers, as well as many of those nearby.

Very grateful, the mother hopped up and gave me a big hug and a kiss.

They had never heard of Moradin and began asking me questions about what kind of god he is.

As people nearby began to gather around, I told them of Moradin, the Soul Father of all the dwarves.

Attempting to keep it brief and avoid attracting unwanted attention, I reminded them to share what they don't need and that the food wouldn’t last more than a day. “Moradin’s blessing be with you.”

We made our way back to the inn, and the night passed uneventfully.

The next morning we headed out bright and early.

Later that day we left Megadon, crossing the Nasham River into Dene.

Frequent rain storms from the north made the march unpleasant.

“The kraken in the eagle must be fighting,” Ulfgar commented, referring to the strange windy, wet weather.

While we were walking through the grasslands, we noticed a big piece of stone ahead.

Approaching, it appeared to be one of many life size statues along the road.

The statues seemed to be quite detailed, depicting dwarves, humans, and maybe others, many with rather frightened looks on their faces. Many seemed to be in active positions, as if they were running.

Suddenly we heard snorting as the ground began to shake from heavy hooves.

Almost fifty feet away, we saw a large monstrosity covered in iron plates, its nostrils fuming with green vapor.

Xireas hit with three magic missiles.

Ulfgar and Cyrus spread out in both directions. Ulfgar hit it with his fist of unbroken air, knocking it twenty feet away. Cyrus cast frostbite, but it had no effect.

Approaching us, the gorgon exhaled a cone of green fumes at us. Torrent was able to avoid the effects, but I was caught off guard and felt my muscles tightening.

Spreading out, Torrent cast bless on herself, Cyrus, and me.

I cast spirit guardians as my skin began to harden until I felt a wash in a warmth, like from that of a forge, envelope me, and the stiffening dissipated.

Crystin hit the monstrosity with shatter and withdrew.

A bright streak flashed from Xireas’ pointing finger, exploding into a twenty-foot-radius fireball around the gorgon.

Returning to within my spirit guardians, Ulfgar tossed a spear, but missed.

Drawing his sword, Cyrus attacked the creature from its rear, but could not penetrate its iron plated hide. With his offhand, he raked the creature with searing claws.

Rearing up on its legs with a roar, it stomped on Cyrus’ chest, forcing him back a couple of steps with its force.

Engaging the gorgon, Torrent hit it with a ferocious thunderwave.

Flanking the gorgon, I hit with my warhammer, and then with my spiritual weapon.

Crystin hurled an undulating, warbling chaos bolt that seared the gorgon’s hide when it hit. Xireas hit it with three more magic missiles.

Flanking the gorgon, Ulfgar swung his quarterstaff and then hit it with a flurry of blows.

Cyrus slashed his sword into its hide, and again on the back swing.

The wounded monstrosity crumpled under the barrage of the blows and the constant pelting of my spirit guardians.

Eager to harvest the gorgon’s iron plates, I tried to separate the hide from the dead corpse, but despite my struggles, was unable to rend any of the plates.

Late in the day we arrived at the small shanty town of Vidor at the edge of the Sour Lake Swamp.
Merchants were aggressively hawking their wares as we entered the predominantly human settlement, with some elves, a few dwarves and very little else.

A merchant offered to sell us boats to get through the swamp, tempting us with, “You buy three boats, I'll throw in a free keg of beer.”

Each boat cost one hundred golds and was large enough for three of us.

“Buy the best boats around,” the merchant claimed. “You don’t want to buy a boat from the other guy. He just makes doors. He doesn't know anything about boats. I make boats. I've sold hundreds of boats. My boats are the ones you want there to get you through the swamp.”

“Isn't a road through the swamp?” Cyrus asked.

“The only way through the swamp is by boat,” the merchant insisted. “I mean you can try and walk through the swamp, but I wouldn't advise that. Gators in there are all kinds of things that are gonna be biting at your feet as you’re walking chest deep in muck and water. Who needs that?”

“Surely not everybody that travels through this through the swamp purchases a boat?” I questioned.

“Some try and navigate the swamp without a boat,” the merchant replied, “but I doubt many of them are successful.”

Huddling together, we debated whether we would purchase boats, and noted that we would also need to replenish our rations.

“I can sell you a tent if you like,” the merchant interrupted. “And I've got this wonderful gator tooth necklace. This will ward off all the wild animals. I can give it to you for a steal at 25 golds. This is what you need to keep you safe through the swamp.”

“Thank you very much,” Ulfgar waved him away. “We might be back. We’re on our way to pick up some extra rations. Thank you very much.”

“Think about it,” the merchant continued. “These boats are going fast.”

We passed Leto’s Boats and continued into town.

At a general store, we all replenished our rations.

We agreed to secure lodging for the night and find out what we could about our options from asking around.

We found a tavern and made conversation with the patrons and the barkeep. While Xireas was schmoozing and buying drinks, I asked around with some of the less well off patrons.

Torrent overheard, “Lots of refugees coming through here. Lots of mages. Too many, I think, with lots of black cats coming with them. Lots of bad luck concentrating in one place. Folks who can afford a boat through the swamp have already left. One crazy redhead, she just hired a couple of burly guys as bodyguards and walked into the swamp. Swamp’s dangerous. Guess she had a death wish. Too bad. She was the prettiest thing I’ve ever seen in this town.”

Ulfgar overheard, “Sometimes mages—rejects from that wizard school, probably—get lost in the swamp and go crazy, start eating folks who get lost in the fog. Don’t trust any lights you see.”

We also confirmed that travel along the coast is difficult and some people have gotten tied up in the difficult terrain. Also, there are no real seaworthy boats around. There was mention of some fleet coming down the coast.

The general consensus was that you need a boat to get through the swamp.

“Well,” Ulfgar resigned, “perhaps we should get a boat.”

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