Beyond the Wardwall

Leaving the forest.

Bracken the Elven druid sets off on an appointed task and meets enemies and new friends along the way.

Bracken sat still and quiet within the dappled shade of the forest, trying to spot the hidden lessons that could be gleaned from the environment around. His brawny companion the mountain tiger Sorell curled placidly beside him.

His reverie in the surroundings was broken however, when another initiate of the druidic commune brought a message. A meeting of elders was taking place in a sacred space within the forest and they wished Bracken be present. Bracken, moving with the same grace as his great cat, made his way to meet the elders. He wasn’t expecting to see so many of them gathered together, had in fact never known so many to have gathered at once before. The sacred circle of stones was surrounded by the deep forest, but open to the sky, and the elder druids filled that space right to the bordering shadows of the treeline, it must be something of great importance to warrant this many elders in one place. A hooded druid welcomed Bracken into the center of the circle. He was told that many of the elders here present had witnessed portents and seeking answers by divination or consulting oracles, Bracken’s name or face had come to many of them. Somehow Bracken’s involvement would be crucial in the near future. And so the elders granted an important task to him, one which would normally have been taken up by somebody more experienced. Another elder approached, an aged woman who produced a small bundle and began to unwrap the layers of covering fabric. A pearlescent oval stone almost the size of an open hand was revealed, a luminescent white in colour and wrapped in a fine gold filigree of leaves and vines. When the stone was wrapped back up again, it was passed into Bracken’s keeping. Bracken was told to take the stone to the king in the capital city of Berkkenstadd, show the stone to him and he would understand.

The following dawn the hooded elder asserted the urgency of this matter to Bracken and warned him to be wary. Even though he had a wanderlust and had explored to the edges of their territory, Bracken had spent most of his life within the bounds of the great forest and the outside world could be very dangerous to somebody new to it’s ways. His journey begun Bracken was determined to make good time and keeping to the directions given he travelled south-east until he came upon a huge rift in the land, a dark chasm that stretched down beyond sight and split the great forest and the landscape it sat upon in twain. Using this landmark to keep a bearing, Bracken walked back into the forest and followed known pathways toward the south, he needed to get beyond the southern tip of the chasm to change direction and head into the kingdom proper. Bracken travelled through the forest for some time but became aware of something, a sense of unease had settled over him and he wasn’t sure what the reason could be, the great cat at his side was also giving a nervous throaty growl. He decided to wander around this area of the forest and upon a closer investigation noted something quite odd and unnerving. There were no animals, the signs of their spoor and tracks were a little old and there weren’t any fresh enough to follow. As he wandered deeper into the wooded realm, signs of rot and withering were apparent upon the plant life, Bracken could see it was getting worse the deeper you could travel into the forest. Using the power to sense magic, Bracken felt a vague sense of decay, death and a general sense of emptiness but nothing definitive at this distance. Indecision warred in the heart of the Elven druid, did he push deeper to investigate what was happening to the forest? Did he turn back and take news of this to the elders? Or did he stay on his quest to deliver the message? After a moment of agonising thought, Bracken decided to stay true to the request of the elders and get the message to the king as quickly as possible, maybe they already knew about this and it was the reason he was going in the first place. With worry and doubt in step, Bracken turned back to his original route and carried on with his journey.

Bracken had been journeying for a long time and the day was drawing to an end when Sorrel began to growl again, the cautious Elf crept through the undergrowth to find out what was wrong, the scene that greeted him was grim. These parts of the forest were often frequented by furriers, trappers and hunters from the borders and beyond. Here lay a half dozen or so of these woodsmen that had been brutally slain. Bracken looked closely at the bodies and found jagged cuts, not made by any animal he knew of and there were short, wicked looking arrows, crudely made and fletched with crow feathers. He didn’t recognise their origin or the tracks the attackers had left behind, he tried to remember them as best as he could for later investigation and moved on after saying blessings over those that had fallen. It looked like it may be too dangerous to travel by any of the well trodden paths in the area, so Bracken decided to take to the more difficult routes through the thick foliage from now on. Bracken didn’t have any known landmarks to guide himself by but made good time travelling, stopping to make camp that night only when he thought he wouldn’t be discovered.

The next morning brought a surprising turn of events, Bracken reached the borders of the thinning forest and looked out onto a landscape he didn’t really know, but he wasn’t alone. There on the border of the great forest was another Elf who had a large serpentine creature in tow. The two showed no aggression toward each other and after appeasing their companions approached each other. Bracken and Caladrel exchanged greetings and pleasentries and conversed for a while. They talked a little of their journeys and what they had discovered, Caladrel using the information given to him about the dead bodies at the camp and Bracken drawing a likeness of the tracks on the ground, he identified the attackers as possibly being Goblins. It also became apparent that Bracken, trying to remain off road to avoid discovery had become lost because he was now on the south-western border of the great forest. After discovering that their journeys at least in part lay in the same direction, the two Elves decided to travel together for mutual safety. The weather took a dark turn and as the pair travelled back through the forest rain began to fall, they shrugged their cloaks about their shoulders and kept moving. Their way became hard, the rain was too heavy to negotiate a path now and forest canopy offered no respite from the torrential downpour, the Elves rushed to find cover of some kind. After a bit of struggle to keep their footing in the soft ground they found a large clearing, the center of which had a large rocky bluff and what looked like cave openings, with only a moment to discuss this possible cover they determined that they would risk it to get dry and warm again.

The Elves now in the dry surroundings light some torches, they notice more Goblin footprints in the dirt and warily explore deeper into the caves, they leave their companions by the entrance to keep watch. Inside the wider are of the caves they find the makings of a rough camp, either disturbed or never finished. They were still a little nervous and investigated the caves further, they found masses of webbing in some of the corners and small things bundled in the webs, on closer inspection they turn out to be the dessicated corpses of goblins, then upon disturbing the webs an ambush is sprung. Large spiders drop from the ceiling around the two cave mouths and within the wider area too, the elves and their companions waste no time in preparing to fight and the spiders find they are well met by the blades of the Elves and the teeth and claws of their companions. When the fight had ended they checked upon each other, they had all sustained bites from these venomous creatures but it seemed their fortitude had been enough to fight off the poison. They went around the caves burning the rest of the webs to make sure they don’t have a repeat of the earlier attack, but their was no sign of any of the larger spiders and any smaller spiders either escaped into the safer cracks of the deeper caves or burnt up along with the webs. The two Elves now feeling a little safer, fix up the camp and light a fire, desiring nothing more than warmth and sleep. Unfortunately their rest was interrupted by the sounds of shouting and violence of some sort. They armed themselves and headed for the entrance to the caves, Caladrel noted with confusion that he could hear someone shouting insults in Orcish aimed at the Orcish. When they emerged from the cave mouth they saw a hardy looking Dwarf take down a goblin with his heavy crossbow and duck under the swing of a massive falchion wielded by a brutish Orc warrior. The two Elves and their companion creatures rushed out to aid the outnumbered Dwarf, returning fire at the Goblin archers keeping their distance around the clearing, they realised the Orc was quite a proving tough to take down so joined the Dwarf in fighting it. This Orc was strong and able, he fared well against them for some time hacking and slashing at the opponents he faced until he was finally brought down. The allies turned the table against the Goblins killing a few more and the cowardly little creatures fell back into the forest. the Dwarf introduced himself as Gotrun Heldefast, a ranger from the north of the kingdom, he was grateful for the assistance of the Elves, they decided to get some rest and all shared the camp within the cave for the night each taking a turn at watch just in case the Goblins returned with reinforcements. When morning broke Gotrun was ready to part ways with the Elves, he said he was heading to the King’s road and making haste to the Capital city to bring grave news to the King that the Northern Wardfort has fallen, at this point they all discuss their various tasks and find they have common goals.

They set out together two Elves their companions and a Dwarf traveling together as friends and allies.

(The first party of the campaign)

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Stygianheart

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