Our story begins in the geographically isolated nation of Seorsus. Strange abductions have been occurring in the major cities. Strange attacks by gnolls have been occurring in the outlying villages. In fact, it has been reported that whole outland villages are being massacred by gnolls. There are even reports that the villagers’ mangled corpses are being returned to the sites of the massacres.
The police are having trouble keeping the peace and protecting the numerous outland villages. Police recently received a report from a farmer in Torvent. He said that his livestock were killed by an enormous beast that made a vicious cackling sound. The police force has put out a call for volunteers to aid in a mission to protect the farmer’s town. Rumors swirl in the cities that the gnoll attacks are somehow connected to the recent rash of abductions that have taken place.
In the cities, four heroes have volunteered to assist the police. In Oblectant, Jaena Adair, a vain but not unkind young bard, volunteered to join the police so that she could search for clues surrounding her mother’s disappearance. She asked her friend, Eshrin L’vatt, a taciturn wizard, to join her. While Eshrin is brusque, Jaena has known him for a long time as a fellow worshiper of Shelyn. She knew she could depend upon him and that he would want to help.
When the bard and wizard reached Regunt, they met up with a giant of a woman and her wolf. The woman had an air of quiet sadness about her. Jaena quickly identified her as a “woodsy sort.” She and Eshrin made a beeline for the woman and quickly laid claim to her as a traveling companion. The woman introduced herself as Ellamere, and said she was an herbalist. She said she used to travel with her husband, but did not do so anymore. Jaena and Eshrin suspected that he had either been taken or had died.
As the trio prepared to leave Regunt, they were assigned to a wagon. Sitting atop the wagon was a brash looking Halfling with a very fashionable hat. He managed to swagger without moving as he introduced himself as Cormin Shadowhand. He proudly proclaimed that he was a mercenary and did this sort of thing all of the time.
As the four heroes traveled toward Torvent, they learned that they were to safely evacuate the villagers to the hub cities and that district chief Amelia was in charge. They also learned the very interesting detail that sometimes the bodies of villagers who were taken were returned dead but clear across the country. We asked more about the gnolls as well. The policeman told us that the gnolls attack in a highly organized and methodical fashion. Jaena thought this behavior sounded highly unusual for gnolls.
After a day of travel, the group arrived in a quaint little village. We were ordered to check in on a farmer named Eustace. Eustace was the farmer whose livestock had been killed by a “terrible beast.” We traveled a short distance to a shack. Outside, we saw a creaky looking old man wearing a big hat.
The old man was more than eager to tell us about the awful beast that had taken two of his beloved sheep. He described it as a lumbering beast that cackled maniacally. Eustace demanded vengeance for his sheep. After some cajoling from the group, Eustace agreed to pack while the group looked for the beast and the sheep.
Out in the pasture, we discovered some disturbed ground that headed toward the woods. The druid easily followed the trail until we came to a six foot gap in the fence. The fence was broken from the outside of the pasture inwards. Ellamere was very eager to follow the trail. Cormin quickly agreed. Jaena and Eshrin seemed a bit concerned but also decided to follow and help the others.
Forty feet into the forest, Ellamere spotted a mound of dirt that led to a sizeable hole. She crept forward to examine what she determined to be a den of some sort. Just as the pungent odors of animal musk and decay hit her nostrils, she heard a howling yelp. A spotted hyena charged from the den, viciously bit Ellamere, and knocked her down. The animal then sprinted for Eshrin, bit his waist, and also knocked him down. In a panicked haste, Jaena fired at the creature. Unfortunately, she fumbled with her bow at the last second and shot Eshrin instead. Luckily, Cormin was able to rush in and stab the beast. This gave Ellamere time to stand up and smack it with her quarterstaff. The Halfling and the giantess were able to finish the beast off.
The party mused that it was interesting that hyenas would be in a forested area since they are typically indigenous to desert regions. We also noted that gnolls tend to keep hyenas as guard dogs and mounts.
Ellamere searched the den. She retrieved the collars of two dead sheep. As she hurried off toward Eustace’s home with the dead hyena slung over her shoulders, Jaena cured some of her wounds. Then she offered a hasty apology to Eshrin before curing his wounds as well.
The party informed Eustace that the beast had been killed, and his sheep’s’ collars were returned to him. Jaena and Corwin were able to cajole him into leaving all but his bonneted sheep, Gavin; and to hurry to the wagons. Jaena promised to tell the police that his 130 sheep needed to be herded to safety. As we were leaving, Eustace told us that his granddaughter, Verna, was out in the woods searching for the beast. We promised to try to find her.
Ellamere went to the town center with her companions in tow. She unceremoniously dropped the hyena carcass at the feet of Officer Mük. He seemed very concerned by the animal’s presence. He encouraged the party to find Verna and then to get the innkeeper to leave. He said the man would not leave until his insurance paperwork was signed off on. He also said there was another holdout. He was a balding man whose home was on the way to the forest.
As we headed out to find Verna, a dodgy looking boy crept up to Cormin and tugged on his tunic. The boy, Tomas, tried to convince Cormin to hide the “stuff” he bought from a merchant. He said he could not sneak it into his parents’ bags. He promised Cormin he would share if he could help the boy smuggle the “stuff” out. Cormin took on a solemn look and told the boy he would help him if the boy brought the “stuff” to him. The boy soon returned, made a blazingly obvious handoff to Cormin, and darted away again. Cormin peeked into the bag of what he assumed was flayleaf before stuffing it in his pocket.
At the edge of town, the party came across a balding, rotund man. The man was decked out in a coat bearing every religious symbol you could possibly think of. As soon as Ellamere saw some druidic symbols on the coat, she grew agitated. Eshrin brusquely strode over to the man and demanded that he pack his things and leave immediately. The man proudly motioned to a pile of iron spikes. He proclaimed that they were “anti-evil” spikes and that they would protect him and the house. Eshrin angrily barked that that was absurd and that the man was going to die. As Jaena tried to calm Eshrin, Cormin asked the man if he had the magical warding tea. The man grew concerned that he did not. Cormin gave him a speech that would impress a snake oil salesman and asked the man for 100gp for the purification tea. Jaena, still trying to calm the now outraged Eshrin, saw that Cormin was not going to leave without fleecing the admittedly irritating man. She helped him get the man to agree to give him twenty gold for his flayleaf tea and bogus blessing ceremony. A little more effort convinced the man to pack and leave with the others.
Ellamere agreed to help the man drive a purified spike into his house’s foundation if he would give her the druidic symbols on his coat. She seemed content and led the party into the woods with the sound of the quietly trying to console the affronted wizard.
In the forest, Ellamere found human tracks. She noted that paw marks were parallel to the tracks but a ways off. As she followed the human tracks, they became increasingly difficult to follow. Sometimes they seemed to purposefully double back on themselves. As we reached a thicket of trees, we saw the silhouette of an animal. Then we heard a canine growl. Ellamere moved closer and tried to soothe the animal. It emitted a deeper growl, and Ellamere retreated. Cormin took a chance and called out for Verna to call off her dog. Soon, a young human female popped out of the forest. She was suspicious of the group at first until we gave her details about her grandfather. She agreed to go with us so she could keep an eye on Eustace and Gavin.
When we reached town, we went to the Torvent Inn. Jaena encouraged Eshrin to put his orderly mind to the task of getting the innkeeper’s insurance claim sorted. Eshrin readily agreed. We were met in the taproom by a Halfling man with an enormous stack of papers. As the rest of the party helped themselves to food and some of the finer alcohol, we listened to Eshrin and the innkeeper argue about things like “protohumanic” architecture and battered heirloom furniture. After many hours of paperwork and a well-drafted codicil to the government paperwork, Eshrin and the innkeeper reached an agreement.
We emerged from the inn near sunset to find three wagons full of people. Jaena helpfully guided the drunkenly weaving Cormin toward a wagon, while calling over her shoulder that the once again cranky Eshrin did not have to share a wagon with the ignorant fat man.
Once the wagons were settled, we headed out toward the hub cities. In the distance, we spotted a dust storm approaching. This was peculiar, as Ellamere had felt certain the weather would remain clear. As we rode the wagons through slightly hilly land, the dust seemed to get closer. Cormin asked the wagon driver to stop. Eshrin cast mage armor and told his wagon mates they were under attack. Jaena let out a nervous laugh, tried to calm the villagers, and told them to cover their faces and crouch down into the wagon.
Just as the wagons passed a large hill, the dust storm disappeared. In its place was a group of gnolls mounted on hyena back.