In the White Shadows

Chapter III: Session I - Gricks and a High Dichotomy

Sage is a misnomer...

Ah, the road! Pleased to again smell fresh dirt and unguarded roads, the DFAs set out for the Karenguuld Archives. Such a visit would require traversing the realm — something the party had not yet done together. After some debate about speed versus scenery, the DFAs chose to head due north in hopes of finding sea passage.

The party set forth, picking its way through the present-albeit-sparse trailways leading up to the Knoll of Udacha. They knew little of the town, but assumed a seaside port must be included. Behrtogg ranged through the hills for food while the party proceeded methodically throughout the day. Other travelers passed by, but the journey was altogether uneventful. The party set camp as dusk closed in, and watches were quickly ordered. Drezan, perhaps unfamiliar with camp life, would have slept right through his fourth watch, but Faustus convinced him of the import.

Unfortunately, Behrtogg and Drezan’s dreams were more eventful than the day had been. Drezan dreamt of vicious slaughter, but kept the details close at hand. Behrtogg, still confused by what he saw, questioned whether other’s had seen the crying girl in the garden. Neither felt particularly energized the next day…

On day two, the party decided to double-time, in hopes of reaching Udacha quickly. While the journey was more taxing (especially for a worn-out Behrtogg), the DFAs arrived in Udacha just after nightfall. The town was small, comprised of four streets lined by thatched buildings and patrolled by a few sorry-looking militia men. Behrtogg strode up to the first and asked where the stinkiest of ales could be located. The guard swallowed his fear of the looming character and pointed to the Pig’s Head, the only tavern in town.

The DFAs strode in like they owned the place, save for Drezan who hung back in the doorway with uncertainty. The tavern was small, but friendly, and had a second floor inn. The group milled about and had a few drinks, but quickly realized they were no longer in Kievstal. The tavern wench, although mildly pretty, didn’t offer much more than a room and a generic point towards the ocean. Some patrons were engaged in a card game, but So’Khra abstained when he saw half the brittle deck was missing. Instead he said something dickish and walked off. Eventually the party retired to their rooms, barricaded the door and windows, and fell asleep.

The dreams returned…

In the morning, Faustus recognized (with creepy precision) that Drezan was not sleeping well and inquired of his troubles. Drezan shared that visions of slaughtered hobgoblin children flashed before his eyes. He wasn’t sure if this was lost memory, or just some twisted vision. Similarly, Behrtogg recounted the story of the girl in his dreams. The DFAs were unsure of what to make of things and considered seeking out a hedge witch or oracle when they next could.

The smell of fried bacon brought them downstairs, where breakfast was being served. So’Khra noticed that one of the dwarves from the card game really didn’t fit in. Recalling that Udacha was rumored as the location of the last-known descendants of the Primal Elves, he decided to inquire. The man really didn’t know much about Elves, but prided his family as the first settlers here in the Knoll. He didn’t really say why, but apparently they lucked onto this area of beautifully arid soil several generations ago. That’s why he’s the richest fool in this place, although now he “grows pigs” for a living. With that, the party decided to get the fuck out of this dump.

Three hours to the north, they met the sea. The vast blue expanse startled most of the DFAs who had never seen such a thing. Balancing all the sea’s majesty, however, was Udacha’s “port.” The party approached the pier, only to see a rowboat and a single-sail dayship tied aboard. This was going to be interesting…

The heroes then met the kindest, most thoughtful human they had yet encountered. Cornbread Pete had a drawl as thick as molasses in winter, but couldn’t be more polite. CP was genuinely excited to see the party and fed them with all the information he had about Eastport, the sea, trade ships, and Udacha’s history. His tiny business could only accommodate day travelers and required return of his ships, but damn if he didn’t treat the DFAs right. Of course So’Khra couldn’t get past appearances and scoffed at any information he had. But hey, one shouldn’t forget why they’re called the DFAs…

Only slightly disheartened and never dissuaded, the party decided it best to follow the shoreline east to the Archives. The trail was less-established than their previous route, but easy enough to follow. The remnant of the day was spent in double-time march. Faustus ran his blood sugar a bit low, requiring the party to break for an hour, but the group made good progress until sundown. They chose to camp along the beach and picked their way down the cliffside. Drezan and Faustus took a quick dip, realizing that this part of the sea was rife with riptides and undertow. Fortunately, their first time swimming went better than one would expect…

That night, the dreams returned again. How troubling…

Day four of the journey was met with more of the same. As dusk approached, the sporadic sagebrush lines were growing denser. Behrtogg knew little about the arcane arts, but knew that sage was “magic” from the way it tasted in bear sausage. He convinced So’Khra that all his rituals would be buoyed in strength by substituting this magical plant…probably. When the wizard responded enthusiastically, Behrtogg knew he was right. They spent several minutes gathering all of the stinky bud they could find.

By nightfall, the party thought they were nearing the delta of the Vehemine River. One last night of camping, then a braving of the elements should put them at their destination, they thought. Behrtogg selected an appropriate campsite in the treeline, and So’Khra declared that watches were “unnecessary.” !!! He quickly cast his watcher eyes ritual using the powerful component he had just acquired. He was confident they would work, although the eyes looked a little sallow.

Soon after the party drifted to sleep, the ground rumbled! It seems they had stumbled onto a trope grick lair! Several gricks and worms sprung out of the ground, happy to take this easy prey back into the depths. In Freudian fashion, So’khra was sleeping with one eye open and alerted the party just in time. A vicious battle ensued, and the gricks were narrowly sent back to their dirty hell. The party quibbled with So’Khra over his silly rituals and lack of battle acumen, but cooler heads prevailed. The DFAs slept and set out yet again…

A short walk brought them to a wide river crossing. The widest part of the channel sprawled before them. It was stunning. Fortunately, this area looked to have a pier of substance. They quickly approached a merchant captain and inquired about the price of crossing. So’Khra handled the negotiation individually. The rest of the party was confused when the captain approached and asked how the other half planned to pay. Turns out, So’Khra took out his frustration with Behrtogg and promised to indenture him for the journey. Drezan and Faustus quickly agreed upon a price (contingent on their promise not to make trouble), and the party boarded.

Behrtogg, to his great surprise, was told to climb the high rickety mast and wait for further instruction. Scowling at So’Khra, he obliged. As the ship undocked, the party remembered they had little experience at sea travel, and adjusted their gill settings to green. None suffered more than Faustus, who’s misfortune doubled upon being hit with an arc of goliath vomit (which somehow still contained entire potatoes and squirrel drumsticks) from above. The party eventually found their sea-legs, but looked eagerly to the shoreline…

About halfway across, the ship began to tilt uncomfortably. Behrtogg, still in the depths of seasickness, was given his signal. He would be required to take the sheet-rope from the nest to the bowsprit, in order to counterbalance the emerging undertows. Mustering all the grace of a badger on a trampoline, he unleashed a powerful swan dive that launched him from the crow’s nest. All paused in awe. While the landing was tricky, Behrtogg managed to grab the bowsprit and secure the rope. Visions of So’Khra being devoured by bears crossed his mind…

Eventually, the party reached the other side. Tall cliffs lined this side of the riverbank, and the party could see high walls ahead. They would need to dismount directly from the ship. Predictably, the captain held his hand up to the burly shipmate holding the plank. He complained that the party had been troublesome which breached their deal. A glint of gold glittered in his eye and he held out his hand. A “negotiation” began, but the party wanted nothing of this greedy captain, nor the map he offered up. So’Khra blustered mightily about fire and flying, but the captain was finally turned away when Drezan grabbed his collar and growled. While surprisingly resistant, the captain finally acquiesced and the plank was thrown down. Defiant, So’Khra flew across while the rest of the party scrambled across.

The DFAs had never been so happy to have solid footing, and they kissed the ground with relief. Gathering themselves, several high walls stretched across their vision…it looked like they were finally at the Archives of Karenguuld….

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