As six mounted gnolls descended upon the wagons, Cormin studied the latecomer who had jumped into the wagon at the last minute. She was a catfolk. Most of her features were hidden by the large cloak she wore, but he could see that she carried a long spear and crossbow. He wondered if she would be of any help during the fight that was about to happen.
As the gnolls charged the three wagons, the civilians began to scream in terror. Cormin was relieved to see that the catfolk woman would indeed be of help as she viciously stabbed the first gnoll to charge their wagon. Cormin then took a wild leap from the still moving wagon. He landed on the gnoll; stabbing it as he fell.
As the fight continued to progress and the wagons rushed onward, several gnolls began climbing into the carts or trying to grab the villagers. The gnolls were also throwing lit torches into the wagons while their hyenas began savaging the cart horses. Ellamere deftly threw a lit torch in one of the hyena’s faces as she tried to keep Eustace and Gavin from being grabbed and taken. In Eshrin and Jaena’s cart, a gnoll grabbed onto a woman holding her child.
During the fight, Eustace and the gnoll who was holding him went tumbling free of the cart. Silver just managed to pull him out of the way before he was run over by a cart. Unfortunately, he had to bite Eustace in the throat in the process. Even from the rapidly retreating cart, the party could see that Eustace was bleeding copiously and no longer moving.
In a comical display, Cormin slew the gnoll he had jumped on, wrestled the large hyena around and came barreling back toward the back cart. Eshrin and his fox were able to kill the gnoll who had a hold of the woman and baby. The catfolk woman channeled positive energy to give healing to the cart horse and others hurt around her.
As Cormin leapt back into the final cart, Eshrin fired his crossbow at the hyena attacking the lead cart horse. Unfortunately, his bolt shattered, hit the driver in the head, and gave the driver a terrible start. Cormin managed to keep Felix from being taken away with help from the catfolk woman who cast a spell to make him squirt free of the gnoll’s grasp. Felix patted his many charms and said he knew they would save him.
After the party downed all but the largest gnoll, it barked a sharp command. The hyenas all grabbed their riders and ran off with the large gnoll.
Once the gnolls had disappeared off into the distance, we stopped the carts. Eshrin apologized to his driver. The catfolk woman made strange sounds which seemed to heal both Eustace and the cart horse. After everything was put to rights, the drivers readily agreed to drive through the night to get to the evacuation zone.
Once the wagons reached the evacuation settlement, Officer Mük said food, lodging, and a nice hot bath would be free. We happily retired to the inn. Once settled, the catfolk woman pulled out a scroll and a magical pen. The quill wrote that her name was Sibyl and that she was deaf. When she pushed the hood of her cloak back, a mass of runes tattooed around her ears became visible. This immediately caught the interest of Jaena, who sidled over to study them more closely. Jaena could see that they were arcane markings, but they seemed completely nonsensical. She also took note of the fact that Sibyl’s brooch was the religious symbol of Milani, Iomedae’s half sister. She knew that Milani was interested in the preservation of existing cultures.
As soon as introductions were over, Eshrin asked for paper, ink, and food to be brought to his room. He then studiously began penning his report about the job we had just completed. As we ate, Cormin asked Ellamere to help him training his pony not to shy away from battle. She readily agreed. Sybil wrote to Cormin that jumping onto that gnoll’s back was suicidal. Cormin shrugged, grinned, and said: “It was fun.”
In the morning, after the party was well-rested, we headed out to see Commander Amelia. We found that she was housed in a tent at the edge of town. When we entered, we observed a Halfling woman who looked distinctly piratical. Cormin immediately preened and puffed out his chest.
Eshrin bowed, presented her with an enormous ream of papers, and told her that it was his report. He then passed each party member a similar ream of paper. Amelia thanked him, said she would need some time to read the report, and asked for a quick summary. Jaena gave an animated if somewhat jumbled accounting of what had occurred. The others helped to fill in the details. Jaena made sure to mention Cormin’s heroics. This was followed by a somewhat discreet fist bump between the two.
Amelia took in this information. Then she said a large man with religious symbols had found something interesting inside his coat and had given it to her. Eshrin quickly said: “We know this man. You should not trust anything he says. He is an ignorant, superstitious fool.” Amelia smiled and said, in a placating tone: “That may be true, but in this case, it does actually seem important.” She then pulled out a pin of the symbol of Desna. Stuck to it was a paper with some sort of scrawl upon it. She said she hoped we could tell her what it said. Eshrin took up the paper, studied it, and said: “It is definitely written in gnollish.” Jaena peeked at it and nodded her agreement. As Eshrin set it down, Amelia said having that confirmation was good but that she wished she knew what it said. Jaena bumped Eshrin with her hip to gently move him aside. Then she cast a spell and said: “It says ‘Gone for business. Finish plans. Prepare northwest camp for movement.’” Jaena gave Eshrin a triumphant smile and turned back toward Amelia.
Amelia asked how we liked government work and said she had a crazy plan. Sibyl pointed at Cormin as her scroll wrote: “If you want something crazy, he’s your guy.” Amelia nodded and began tossing things out of her foot locker in search of something. Eshrin hurried behind her to pick things up and organize them. Finally, Amelia pulled out a map, which she spread out on the table. She showed us where Torvent was and the large area where she suspected the gnoll camp might be. She confided that the police forces were spread very thin. She said they needed to fortify the western towns since the gnolls always came back to places they had already attacked. She then offered us another contract to travel northwest and find the gnoll camps.
Jaena eyed her suspiciously and said: “What do you want us to do when we get there?” Amelia said that the most important thing to do was to rescue the hostages that the gnolls had. She said that learning more about their plans, finding a way to disorganize them, and killing as many gnolls as possible would also be highly desirable.
In a no-nonsense voice the party had never heard Jaena use, she said: “Before I agree to anything, I have a question I want you to answer.” Cormin quickly piped in: “How much does it pay?” Jaena murmured: “That too.” Then, continuing on is a very serious tone, she said: “I came here because I heard that these gnoll attacks have something to do with all of the citizens in the core cities who have been abducted. I want to know if that is true.” Amelia demurred and said: “I’m not attached to the city’s police forces, so I don’t know much.” In a hard voice, Jaena said: “Don’t know much or don’t know anything?” Ellamere leaned forward with interest as Amelia smiled and said: “Information on the abductions is written in reports in the presidium in Regunt. Access to those reports requires an officer’s note. If you do this job, I could give you that note.” Jaena crisply said: “Could or will?” Amelia said: “I will give you the note, and I will pay you hazard pay besides.” Jaena seemed pleased and said; “I’m in.” As everyone else agreed, Ellamere loomed over Jaena and raised her hand. As Jaena brought her hands up to shield her head, Ellamere’s hand connected with Jaena’s in an awkward high five.
As the group marveled at their pay of 250 gold a piece, Cormin sauntered over to Amelia and put the moves on her. Amelia seemed amused, said she was sure Cormin was a perfect gentleman, and then declined his advances. She seemed regretful as she said she could not be romantically involved with coworkers. Cormin tried to cover his disappointment by saying of course she did not want to get involved with someone who could be killed at any time and that her policy made perfect sense.
As the party walked to the supply tents, we learned that Ellamere’s husband is a wizard, that he was abducted, and that she is trying to find him. After gearing up, the group set out on the road back to Torvent to begin our search for the gnoll encampment. Much to our relief, we discovered that the river is fordable near the village. After traveling for six hours, Cormin spotted some unusual terrain. It caught his eye because it seemed that the rocks sat at odd angles. Ellamere and Cormin stealthily moved closer. After they determined that nothing was moving or seemed dangerous, the others hurried to join them. Eshrin approach and said it looked like the foundation of a building. Ellamere looked around for tracks, but she didn’t find anything. The rest of the group found the remnants of a functioning well and a fortifiable area. As Ellamere hunted and provided food for the group, the rest of us set up camp for the night.
During the third watch over night, Ellamere cried out in pain. The cry was sharp but cut off abruptly. Cormin leapt up, drew his sword, and hurried to find that she was on the ground and being crushed by an enormous snake. She looked very badly hurt. As Silver and Eshrin attacked the snake, Jaena rushed forward and cured Ellamere’s wounds. The snake crushed Ellamere again and began dragging her off. Cormin stabbed it again, and Ellamere punched it to knock it unconscious. We quickly freed Ellamere as Sibyl cured her injuries. Ellamere tracked the snake’s trail to the well. A lit rock cast into the well revealed no other snakes below.
In the morning, Cormin convinced Ellamere to skin the snake so he could have a nice cloak made. She also carved out some meat for the evening’s meal. As Cormin and Jaena discussed snake skin apparel, the group walked along the river. Ellamere pointed out that signs of life were growing sparser. We failed to find any tracks and made camp for the evening. The night passed uneventfully.
The next day, as we traveled further west, signs of animal life grew even scarcer. As we walked, Sibyl spotted something man-made in the brush. We investigated and found a cache of goods and some gold coins scattered along the ground. We recovered twenty arrows, two daggers, and five gold pieces. Jaena eyed Cormin crossly as he darted for the gold without looking for traps or tracks. The group found it interesting that the equipment was in mint condition. Jaena speculated that a gnoll had picked someone up and slung him over its shoulder. She thought that the gear and coins had fallen from the individual as he was dangled upside down.
Ellamere found no bodies, but she was able to spot some relatively fresh tracks. She determined that the tracks were vague canine and lead southwest. We followed the trail and came to the opening of what looked to be a substantial cave.