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The Eastern Road

Day of the Dog (15th), Thunder Moon, Year of the Sea Serpent [23/4/2002]

Eastern Great Forest

For almost two weeks the wagons trundle slowly along the coast road by the side of the Inner Sea. At night, Quarn and Lucidia sit apart from the drivers, who mutter nervously in the firelight about Mingols, beastmen and the decline in marshmallow sales. Ekki and Myron grow quieter and more subdued as you approach the dark wall of the Great Forest.

A few days from the forest, Quarn spots a plume of smoke rising from the plain in the chill morning air. A couple of days later, the caravan reaches the source, a wagon overturned, hacked and burnt. Human bodies are scattered around, stuck with black-shafted arrows. Myron and the drivers immediately begin wailing "Oh, all is lost, we're doomed to a man!"

Quarn is no master tracker; he can make out no tracks, although the ground is clearly disturbed and churned. The arrow shafts are made of wood found in the northern reaches of the Great Forest, with shafts died with a black tar of the Barrier Mountains. Lucidia scours every body and the wagon for treasure, but finds nothing (to her great disappointment.) Quarn is pretty sure that the flames which burned the wagon were natural. A little apart from the others, Quarn chants the spell Demon's Eye and scans the distant forest and all around for any watching eyes. No one seems to be observing. Quarn approaches one of the corpses and (attempting to shield his actions from the waiting caravan) utters the dead-waking Necrology spell. The corpse's eyelids flick open, and foul juices start to leak from its body and drip on the ground. Quarn demands to know of its death.

The corpse speaks with a dull voice: They were many, dark beastmen, they came from the woods, with a tall dark stranger behind. arrows, so deadly. Ah, I was hit. It burned like fire. The wagon wheel was spinning-

The corpse falls silent.

Quarn tells the others, "This attack was made a few days ago. It appears from the tracks that the fiends have moved on, so we should be safe if we make haste. Nonetheless we must be on our guard. If anyone sees anything out of the ordinary let me know straight away."

"Let's get on," says Myron nervously.

The Great Forest approaches the coast road as the wagon trundles along. Soon the trees are quite visible, not far from the road, and then you are in the forest. The nights are cold with no fires and the wagoneers are depressed. Quarn tries to restore the men's morale with tales of how he defeated the feared bandit Horn Hulfing but the wagoneers aren't particularly cheered by Quarn's tales, just filled with dismay. Myron is wringing his hands. "Oh what will become of us?" Quarn is constantly on the alert, and Lucidia scouts each campsite (preferring that duty to polishing Quarn's helmet).

On the Night of the Toad, Quarn is grabbing a little rest when he is suddenly awoken by Lucidia, staring down at him. At first he thinks it is a pleasure-dream but Lucidia roughly shoves him. "I heard something in the woods," she hisses "I think we've got company!"

Quarn jumps to his feet, grabbing his helmet and scimitar. The moon is jast past full and he can see the trees and the slumbering caravaners, huddled together. Quarn listens carefully. There! a distant CRACK in the woods. Lucidia is correct. Something is coming.

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