[Flashback to 4 Kythorn 1372]
Without his having realized it, a cunning pack of wolves have slowly closed in on Markus. Hoping to bring down his mount, some of the wolves dash in to nip and claw at its flanks. Markus wastes no time and spurs the horse in a gallop to the east. Some of the wolves stay behind to finish off the wounded man abandoned by Markus, while others give chase. Markus' mount pours on the speed, and despite suffering some additional injuries, is able to outrun the wolves. With the sound of howling fading away into the distance behind him, Markus has made it to safety--at least for now.
[8 Kythorn 1372]
Inside the crumbled remnants of Startop Castle, Mellia suggests to the others that the group head for Silverymoon instead of Mirabar. She argues that the so-called Gem of the North is not only much closer and will allow Bearos to receive expert healing sooner, but also that she's been actively studying a spell that, when learned, will allow her to instantly deliver anyone to Mirabar who wishes to travel there. The others, however, are not convinced. Terreck says he prefers Mirabar as he's likely to find a friendlier reception there than in Silverymoon. Aloysius wants to be compensated for his contribution to freeing Bearos, and the bounty on Grim is payable in Mirabar. Fargrim also insists on Mirabar. Sha'dar, Cain, and Ellywick express no preferences one way or the other.
Aloysius and Sha'dar briefly foray into the orc caverns below the keep, but return upon realizing guards have been set there once again. The group thus sets out for Mirabar. As they make their way into the stone tunnel that leads to the trail down the mountain, however, Sha'dar notices a faint, almost transparent puddle of liquid along the path. Sha'dar halts the group so they can discuss what it is, but seconds later, the puddle moves! It flows along the ground and then a huge tentacle reaches up and tries to encircle Sha'dar. Fortunately, the elven scout is fast enough to duck below it.
Realizing that the puddle must actually be some sort of animate ooze, the party attacks. Although mundane weapons have little effect, Terreck's arrows, Mellia's spell "Nightflower's Retribution", and Aloysius's spell "Pumpernickel's Projectiles of Pure Power" seem to hurt the creature. Hoping to distract it, Aloysius tries to get his mount to walk towards it. The ooze is destroyed seconds later and the pony is unharmed, but an enraged Sha'dar strikes the gnome with the shaft of his bow and shouts that animals are never expendable. Aloysius demands additional compensation for his injury, but Mellia takes Sha'dar's side and says that horses don't come cheap.
The group reach the base of the mountain and set off to the west, looking for the sheltered campsite they had used recently. Although they're unable to find it, Sha'dar finds an even better substitute. The group settles in for the night.
[9 Kythorn 1372]
The group continues to head west. Sha'dar continues trying to make friends with Aloysius' cat, Cain finds success in healing the rotted flesh on Bearos' arm, and Aloysius complains that the group is moving too slowly and cautiously. A light snow drifts across the moor as the group camps.
[10 Kythorn 1372]
In the morning, Mellia starts talking to Cain and Fargrim about what will happen after they reach Mirabar, and asks for their support in returning to Startop Mountain. Before the conversation progresses far, Mellia and Aloysius begin arguing over the latter's tendency to use condescending nicknames. It seems clear that, despite his usefulness, the gnome has found few friends in the group. Fargrim interrupts the dispute by shouting that he has a group to run, and he won't have it arguing. The others seem impressed that Fargrim has taken a stronger, more vocal leadership role in the group, though they're also somewhat surprised.
Continuing west at a cautious pace, the group enter an area full of treacherous bogs. Long, but rickety-looking wooden bridges span one part of the bog, and the group is faced with the choice of taking them to continue further west or trying to find their own way through. Once again, careful scouting by Sha'dar keeps the party out of harm's way. The elf spots large, monstrous tracks heading into the bog and then just manages to make out a form lurking underwater in the middle of a muddy pool of water.
Working together, Terreck and Aloysius concoct an illusion of figures walking across the bridge, and instantly the bridges begin to shake violently. Cain surmises from Sha'dar's description of what he saw under the water that the lurkers may be undead abominations. Drawing deep on the powers granted to him by Kossuth, he channels raw positive energy to force some of the creatures to flee. Others emerge, and it becomes clear what the adventurers are facing: massive unliving things created from the skeletal remnants of trolls. Sha'dar riddles the creatures with arrow after arrow, and together the adventurers make it across the bridges and to the other side safely.
Director's Commentary (July 6, 2015)
This was a session of travelling. I like this stage of campaigns, as I enjoy random encounters and the sense that it takes time to get places. It won't be long before the PCs get teleportation spells and magical places to hide, and then the campaign has a very different feel (and is a lot harder on the director, as I can't use random encounters to slow down the pace of the game!). I'll talk more about this issue in a future commentary.
The group argues about whether to go to Silverymoon or go to Mirabar. I always enjoy moments like this while directing--I can just sit back and enjoy the players being in character and role-playing well. As they travel, you can see that Aloysius rubs other PCs the wrong way, but the character was very memorable and played extremely well. Sha'dar, run by the player who normally ran Markus, is a very serious character who is quite useful in overland travel with his knowledge of nature, tracking, survival, etc. (a type of character who is unfortunately less useful once teleportation magics and magical hiding places come into the campaign).
I thought the random encounters here were solid, if unspectacular. I wanted to give the sense that the Evermoors were extremely dangerous to travel through, and the PCs had to decide whether to travel quickly and face more risk, or travel cautiously and lessen the chances of random encounters.