June 15, 2011

An excerpt from Balen's missives home (translated from Dwarven):

Mother & Father,

Some of the group felt like sleeping in to lick their wounds or nurse their hangovers.  We’ve already had some delays that were not avoidable.  Sleeping in is avoidable.  We managed finally get back onto the road and a couple miles down the road before we needed to halt the wagon again.

At a small river crossing we came across an unusual sight.  On the far side of the bridge lay the body of a massive dog.  The bloated and distended corpse looked like it had been feasted upon.  Sure enough, before we could even cross the bridge, a group of very large ants, the size of a normal dog, came to dissect some of the dog meat.  These ants were grotesquely disfigured with open boils and multicolored tumors.  We let them get on their way and considered crossing when an even larger ant appeared to stand guard over the meat.  We figured we’d wait a while to see if the ants would return to haul off the rest of the carcass.

Not even 30 minutes elapsed before the ants return to remove the remaining dog, but the sentinel ant senses our presence and comes to check us out.  We were prepared for this and had set up to fire a full volley of javelins, arrows, and bolts at the behemoth.  The dark skinned ranger lets loose before the mark was given and then everyone follows suit.  I wait another second and then fire Master Blim’s crossbow which I was using.  We injure the beast, but it keeps coming.  I manage to stow the crossbow but the sentinel is upon me before I can ready my shield.  Fortunately it seemed to be attracted to the Elf’s movement and went right by me to pursue her.  I was able to attack it from behind with Norkrak, but it wasn’t enough.  The ant swivels around to attack me, and it comes very close to connecting, but I narrowly dodge the bite.  Zaki runs up beside me and puts his Warhammer to use.  He nearly splits the beast in twain when he connects through a vicious boil.

After washing our weapons we continue on and enter one of the farmlands which we hope is a destination for some of the trade goods we have been escorting.  The land is very odd here.  The fields are similarly overgrown, with the corn rows nearest the road laden with ears thrice as big as they should be.  Watermelon patches bear fruit the size of beer barrels and there is a sickly-sweet smell of death and decay.  It smells like something called “silage”, but there is something else in the air too.  We continue down the path and some of us can soon pick up the sound of crying.  The crying turns into a screech and then goes silent.

Running towards what sounds like a youngling’s cries I notice the stench is getting bigger and I can see more massive dead animals.  A couple of cows and a pig lay about, covered in boils and burst pustules.  We think the crying is from a farmhouse at the end of the lane and we strive to reach it.  We have to approach the barn first , but before we can even get within 30’ of the structure its doors burst open and a giant 12’ tall rooster rushes out.  The monstrosity lets out a blood-curdling crow that about ruptures my eardrums.  The crow stopped me in my tracks and caused my non-Dwarven compatriots to flee in terror from the beast.  For a split second I half considered fleeing myself, but I managed to contain that feeling.

The Rooster rushed up to me and flapped it’s wings with such ferocity that I took a small wound to the head and got pushed back a couple feet.  I got what I thought was a good blow in on it, but the monster seemed unfazed.  It came back at me with a fury, but I managed to back up some and dodged the blow with ease.  Zaki leveled his heavy crossbow at it and nailed it good.  The beast still had some fight in him.  He attacked me again and I continued to move back.  Just as I was set to run up and wail at the creature, I get hit by a javelin!  I wasn’t sure if it was thrown by that new Elf wench or the Dark-skinned Human, but luckily it only put a nice gouge in my armor.

That Hobbo girl was the first to return to battle and managed to give the bird it’s death blow.  I’ve got to give the girl credit.  She plunged her dagger deep into the creature’s thigh and then pulled herself up just enough to remove the dagger and plunge it back into the monstrosities eye.  She didn’t even stop to make sure the cock was dead.  Patch jumped off of the felled beast and pretty much sprinted towards the farmhouse.  Zaki and I ran after her at our top speed and we were joined by the Elf wench and the Human.  Instead of overtaking us, they slowed down to match our speed.  As effective as they had been so far, it probably wasn’t a good idea for them to rush into danger.

Everyone rushes up when we approach the house and I end up being the last to burst through the door.  The scene inside is one of turmoil.  The Elf is standing over the body of the Human and the hobbo is squaring off against three massive beetles.  One beetle is down and just above it is a small human girl resting on top of the room’s chandelier, currently safe from the fray.

Zani and I split apart and each work our way in around the Elf lass.  Another beetle moves in so we can each attack one on our own.  The Elf stubbornly standing over the body and even though we can cover her retreat, she refuses to move.  The beetle attacks at her and seems to ignore me.  Patch dispatches another beetle.  It seems that her sword is more effective than Norkrak, but it may just be luck.  I managed to kill one beetle and move up to engage the remaining vermin.  With the last beetle surrounded on three sides, the Elf finally let herself disengage and drag the Human off to safety while we beat it down into a pasty goo.

A quick search of the house while the party bound their wounds revealed a large amount of seed, some journals and books written in the Tongue and some in Merchant’s Cant.  A large chest contained a fair amount of coin and some potions.  We boxed anything of value into the chest and loaded it into the wagon.  These goods are all the little girl has left of her family and it is only right that we secure it for her.  Master Gorum will know what to do with the girl and will see that her inheritance is safeguarded.  Evidently this family was good friends of the Master.

It was apparent that the errant javelin shot came from the Elf.  Although I saw the Human with a javelin earlier, he was just fetching the implement for her.  He uses a bow and if need be, a throwing ax.  She feigned ignorance when I brought up the subject and I was too busy guarding the beetle’s entrance to the house to march over to her and do something about it.  There is something about her I do not trust.  In our first combat she went into some frenzy and slaughtered the captive kobolds and the orc before throwing up.  While I don’t think those creatures needed pity, it didn’t seem to be her duty to dispatch them.  This last battle she runs away, only to contribute by jabbing me with a javelin?  Then she acts all protective over the Human when she could have let us cover him?  I think she fancies herself to be much more capable than any Elf is, much less a fancy lass.

We are at a crossroads on what to do.  We were to unload at least part of, if not all, of our shipment here, but now we don’t have anyone to receive the goods.  We don’t know what is causing all of these mutational growths, but I’m not sure now is the time to try and figure it out.  We need to check the manifest and see if there are any other stops before returning to the main caravan.

I think we should see if there are any other mutated farm animals about and put them out of their misery.  We should also bury this little girl’s parents.  They may be strangers, and they may be humans, but they were close to Master Gorum and I’m sure that is what he’d have us do.  We have a lot of work to do and I doubt I’ll wish to add to this letter later, so I will end this here.

May the Ancestors Watch Over You.

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