Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition: Secrets of the Snakewood.

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Prologue:

The Blood Lord sat on his throne of bones and blood-oozing skulls, engulfed in darkness and the putrid stench of death and misery. Cries of pain and anguish played in the background of Orcus' residence of Undeath. Nothing of this reached the dark lord. His blood-hazed eyes were lost into the distance, his mind stretching out to listen to the calls and prayers of his dark clergy and followers. Like buzzing flies, their requests and calls for favours left no impression on the Demon Price of Undeath - his schemes of power were on a level incomprehensible to his mortal followers. But suddenly his eye twitched, a prayer - no not a prayer - a whispered word that brought back memories of lost causes and unpaid debts. Orcus focused his divine attention towards the source, spanning his godlike awareness cross planes and dimensions. "...Master of Undeath, Tear in the shroud of Death, listen to the words of your humble servant, a maggot in your godlike corpse. I have found out where the followers of Bahamut have hidden the Rod of Ruin! The paladin of Bahamut I defiled and brought back in your name knows of its hiding place, great Master." The Rod of Ruin - Found! The Blood Lord clenched his fist around the Wand of Orcus, blood dripping between his fingers. This opened up new possibilities, the chessboard had suddenly shifted, and things were tilting in his favour again. As Lord of the Undead, Orcus had the everlasting patience of the dead, a trait seldom seen among his demonic cohorts and enemies. But Orcus knew that if he waited long enough in the darkness, secrets held in life would resurface in the afterlife. It was just a matter of time, and that time was now. With the Rod of Ruin resurfacing he could send his pawns to collect it and complete the task once started but never finished - turning the living world into a realm of undeath and eternal darkness. His divine mind immediately identified the hundreds of actions needed for setting the plan in motion, but first - he poured a fraction of his essence into the world of the living. His aspect materialized in the crypt of his maggot, pulling darkness and the chill of the grave with it. The priest screamed in terror as his eyes started to bleed at the sight of his true Lord. There were still questions that needed answers and a debt of a soul to be paid...

The Adventure Begins...

In the northern most areas of the Snakewood, several weeks walk from the City of Athkatla and only a few days travel from the fissure known as Land's Mouth, four adventurers are headed towards the town of Winterhaven. Asked by a young priestess of the Pelor to investigate strange goings on in the area, the inexperienced heroes have little idea what lies in wait for them deep within the Werewood to the west.

Furgin Cleawater:

Looking up through the woodland canopy Furgin Clearwater can see the sun positioned high above him in the sky, telling him it is midday. This means he has made good progress, and that he will make it to Winterhaven before night fall. The guardsmen of Mardain's Pass told him to take the road, as it would be quicker. But Furgin has always preferred the protection offered by the woodlands of Faerun to the open road. After all, if the bandits or goblin raiding parties so common in the Snakewood were to set up ambush for unsuspecting merchants or adventurers they would do it upon the many roads and causeways throughout the wood, not the groves or dense brush.

Kriv Balasar:

Kriv had his eyes peeled upon the road ahead of him. He hoped to catch up with this Halfling woodsman Marla had mentioned. If the situation was as bad as the Pelor priests thought then a group of adventurers would fare much better than individuals wondering into potential danger.
Keeping his eyes on the woodland as he rode, Kriv had slowed down as to avoid missing the Halfling, incase her were making his way concealed along the sides of the road. The last thing he wanted was to arrive at Winterhaven, never to have seen the Halfling due to him falling into some trap laid out by the bandits that frequented the King's Road.

Gradually, a toppled cart came into view up the road from Kriv. Riding up cautiously, Kriv could easily see signs of foul play, the merchants cart was stuck in a ditch on the side of the road, the wheels busted, horses nowhere to be seen. Kriv dismounted from his Crodlu steed, patting it gently on the side of its neck to assure it that he would return shortly. Then Kriv spots the former owner of the cart, a middle aged human male, leant against the side of the cart facing away from the road, a huge arrow protruding from his chest. Drawing his khopesh, the Dragonborn knight approaches the cart to inspect it more closely.

Suddenly, the injured rider Kriv had assumed dead, gasps for air as he comes to. The man squirms, tears stream down his cheeks, his face a picture of anguish.

"Please..." the man gasps, bringing his blood stained hands up to grip the grand arrow sticking into his chest. He appears pinned to the side of the cart. His lips are chapped and dry, his eyes glazed over, though he looks directly at Kriv, his eyes see through him almost. This man is dying.

Baldur Herget:

Without shade, the sun beats down upon Baldur's helm unrelentingly. He can feel the sweat dribbling down his face and soaking into his beard. The road ahead of him appears long and the journey with weather like this arduous. Marla had mentioned other adventurers, a Dragonborn and a Halfling that had set out ahead of him. How were they coping with this ridiculous heat, he wondered, as he wiped a thin layer of sweat from the back of his neck.
Baldur's attention had only slipped for a moment, but he was startled when a man spoke tom him from across the road to his left.

"Can you spare some Gold sir?" asked a well spoken Beggar, sat among the tall grass at the side of the road. The beggar's hair was matted with mud and twigs, his beard a lot cleaner than the rest of his dirty face. His toes peeked through the tips of his old and worn boots. He sat with his arms and legs crossed, his demeanour unthreatening.

He smiles a toothless grin, "Where ya headed sir? To Winterhaven?"

He looks up expectentantly towards Baldur, awaiting a reply.

Boindal Felhammer:

Boindal Felhammer stands before the Gnome stable mater of Mardain's Pass, the small settlement at the foot of Thunderspire Mountain, a day or so walk East from Winterhaven. After his meeting with Marla at the temple an hour ago, Boindal is getting ready to set out towards Winterhaven.

Dwarves are not renowned for their speed, and Boindal knows that if he wants to catch up with the other adventurers he is going to need a horse. This is what has brought him to the Stables on the outskirts of Mardain's Pass.

"Effetain 'Steed Monger' Jones at your service sir!" the stable master bellows, "If it be horses you after, then you have come to the right place Mr Dwarf." The Gnome grins, his two golden teeth catching the sun.

"What can Effetain do you for today then?"

Baldur

Baldur's attention is more on the promise of a cool tavern and a stein of ale, than the beggar. But he nods a weary acknowledgement to the man and tosses a gold coin in his direction.
"Not far, I hope." he says as much to himself as to the beggar as he walks by.

A pox on these damned furs! Ye'll meet my blade before the day is done.

Kriv takes a moment to glance at the surrounding woods. If the bandits had left this man alive, it was very well possible that they had done so to ambush any passerby who stopped to help him. Underhanded and dishonorable tactics like this made him despise bandits even more. They were cowards all, only ever fighting trained and armed men when they were certain of their advantage or when they couldn't run and stared death in the face. Kriv almost wished that the bandits who did this would jump out of the bushes then and there, so he could deliver the justice they deserved upon them. Almost. Such an event however would likely mean the death of the unfortunate traveler and so Kriv found himself oddly hoping that he wouldn't have to fight any scourge of Faerun today.

Kriv sheaths his khopesh and kneels down beside the man, withdrawing a water skin and holds it up to the man's lips so that he can take a drink. While he does this, Kriv takes a closer look at the grievous wound. Kriv does not know much of the art of healing, but he had seen healers in action before in the aftermath of battles during his youth and knew some of what to do in a situation like this, but still did not know how well he would be able to do it or how much he could recall.

"Good sir, I am Sir Kriv Balasar. I will do everything I can to help you. Do you understand me?"

Kriv

The woodland, to Kriv, seem quiet except for the occasional bird song. He sees nothing out of the ordinary.

As he gets closer to the injured merchant, Kriv notices the man is bootless.

The traveller laps up the water, his thirst quenched he thanks the Dragonborn adventurer with as much enthusiasm as he can muster.

"Bandits..." he says, fighting the pain to talk, "They took my wife... Please, please, help me."

The wound is serious, with the arrow having pierced deep into his chest. Kriv knows this man needs to see a trained healer to have any chance of survival, but he can try to administer basic aid to keep the man from dying. An arrow wound, even of this severity, is a common sight to the warriors and adventurers of Faerun, because of this, even despite his lack of training, Kriv may just be able to help this man.

Baldur

As Baldur begins to move on, the Beggar rises from where he was sat, the gold piece in his hand. Looking over his shoulder, Baldur observes the old man as he staggers forward with a limp.

"Thank you kind sir. I knew it. I could sense you were a good man," the old beggar holds out an amulet, the chain grasped firmly in his dirty right hand, the face of the jewelled necklace dangles, gleaming in the sun, "Please, before you go, take this. You will need it in the future, need it more than I."

Something about the beggar appears unusual to Baldur, he may not be what he seems.

Stopping at a small brook, Furgin contemplates his journey through the woods. It had been uneventful so far, quiet and relaxing; a feeling of solitude that he fiercely clutches. He knows the feeling will soon die out, knows that his life will become much harder as the days, weeks - perhaps even months - wear on.

Furgin does not know how long this task will take - or even if he will return. The only thing the little halfling is certain of is that he must do it. For himself, but more importantly, also for the his people. The community that that he let down all those years ago.

Crouching down to one knee, Furgin cups his hands and draws some of the cool water to his face, gasping in delight at it's crispness against the heat of the day. As he lifts his head, he sees a small doe grazing a dozen human-paces ahead of him. Instinctively, Furgin slowly reaches for his bow, hand gripping the smooth bone. No, He suddenly thinks, fingers unwrapping themselves from his weapon, Let it live, let the peace continue a little longer...

The deer raises it's head at the crackling sound made as Furgin carefully pushes himself to his feet. The two regard each other for a moment before the doe twitches it's ears and darts away, bushes rustling as it disappears into the undergrowth. "Avandra smile on you." He whispers, stepping across the brook to continue on his journey.

"Of course I will do all within my power to help you. Once I take care of that arrow I'll take you to Winterhaven to see a healer. Then I shall find your wife, alone if I must, though I hope to recruit the assistance of some companion I plan to meet in town. Do you know where they have taken her? How many there were?"

Kriv removes his shield to free up his left hand leaning it against the cart nearby. He then attempts to remove the arrow.

Unsheathing his khopesh once again, Kriv gingerly leans the man's upper body forward just enough to slide his blade behind him, cutting the arrow shaft and unpinning the man from the cart. The man groans and grimaces painfully during the process and as Kriv lays him down on his back. Using his clawed hands to rip off the man's left sleeve, Kriv prepares some improvised bandages.

"This is going to hurt a bit." Kriv advises the wounded traveler, his voice empathetic but strong and supporting. Wrapping some cloth around the base of the arrow shaft and underneath the man at the exit wound, Kriv places his left hand firmly on the man's chest and uses his right to pull the arrow out both as quickly and as carefully as possible. The man attempts to muffle his own painful shouts, but lets out a loud yelp as the arrow comes free.

The wound bleeds profusely, and Kriv attempts to stem its flow.

Kriv applies constant, steady pressure to the wound and fortunately the bleeding slows quickly enough to a manageable level. The man's own body weight seems to have put enough pressure on the exit wound and it has stopped bleeding profusely as well. Kriv then wraps and ties a bandage around the man's chest just tightly enough to keep pressure on the wounds.

Next Kriv rights the cart and attempts to move the traveler into the back of it and then treat for shock and ensure his condition is stabilized for the trip to town.

The transition to the back of the cart goes smoothly with the man able to somewhat limp himself over as Kriv supports the vast majority of his weight. As the man lays down in the cart, Kriv allows the man to use his pack for comfort and to keep his head propped up. Finding some larger rocks in the surrounding woods allows Kriv to prop the man's legs up to keep blood around the vital organs. Kriv then unpacks his tent and uses the fabric as a sort of blanket for the man.

After one last check on the bandages, he rests a reassuring hand on the man's shoulder. "Don't worry, we'll get you to town in no time, and I promise you I'll find your wife and bring justice to whoever did this." Kriv then waves his crodlu over, "Kalhar, come!" After a few minutes, Kriv has his crodlu, Kalhar, rigged up to pull the cart, picks his shield back up and begins guiding the cart onto Winterhaven on foot.

Furgin

As Furgin continues through the wood he suddenly hear the sounds of squawking and shouting, some fifty or so feet ahead of him.

Although he can't understand what is being said, after listening for a few moments he picks out particular sounds and realises that they may be speaking Draconic. With the frequency of Draconic speaking Kobolds in the area it doesn't take a genius to figure out what he maybe listening to.

Kriv

"There was five of them. They beat me," he grimaces as Kriv begins the delicate procedure of extracting the arrow, "I was defenceless, I asked them to take my money and go, but they beat me, laughing. Then their leader shot me, while I was down." The man is crying again. "They headed west towards Winterhaven bridge. Please save Dora."

The procedure goes well, and once the man is stabilised, shifting the trade cart back on to its wheels only takes a matter of time.

Resting the wounded man in the back of the cart, the traveller grabs Kriv's hand softly and looks him in the eye, "My name is John," smiling, "Pelor must have sent you." Kriv of course realises that this man's thanking of the Gods isn't far wrong; maybe Pelor smiles upon the people of the Snakewood this day.

Kriv rigs Kalhar to the cart, and then proceeds to check the wheels for any signs of damage. The back left wheel is indeed damaged, the shape contorted from its impact into the ditch. The cart will need to be pulled at walking pace or risk destroying the wheel completely.

As Kriv moves toward the front of the cart, Kalhar suddenly bucks and snorts anxiously, bringing Kriv's attention to two wolves that have come onto the road from the forest ahead. They may have been drawn to the scene by the noise Kriv's new friend had made. One wolf is huge, a male, its slobering jaws are wide as it growls upon the approach. In its wake, the smaller, possibly a cub, follows.

They are fifteen feet ahead of you, creeping forward; they appear to be assessing you size.

Like most dwarves Boindal has no love for horses, but unfortunately needs must and he is running later than he would have liked. If only that damned inn keeper hadn't messed up his order of boiled rabbit and potatoes he would have been half way to Winterhaven by now. Of course, like his father always said, "Ye be dumber than an orc if ya ever start a journey with nary a bit o' food in ya!"

Boindal looked the gnome up and down hoping that he was a reasonably fellow. He had little in the way of coin since leaving his home, but he had to strike out on his own, it was the only way he was ever going to live up to his namesake's greatness. "If only he knew something about horses," he thought. After all, what kind of great hero gets swindled on his first real adventure? But, if Moradin wanted dwarves to know anything about horses he would have given them longer legs!

With his smartest looking expression on his face Boindal says, "Pleased ta meetchya! Name's Boindal Felhammer and I be lookin for a horse to take me to Winterhaven. I'm on a very important mission for a young priestess of Pelor, and I'd be much obliged if you could give me a good deal on good horse? I'm afraid I've not much coin to speak of."

Curious, Furgin decides to investigate. He drops his travelling pack in the hollow of a nearby tree and, clutching his bow tightly, moves closer to the sounds. Crouching low to avoid being seen, the halfling zigzags from tree to tree, hoping to catch a glimpse of the suspected kobolds.

As the squawking gets louder, Furgin drops to his stomach crawls through the undergrowth towards a toppled tree trunk. Slowly bringing his head up, Furgin peeks over the trunk and sees the kobolds gesturing wildly at each other twenty feet in front of his position.

Kriv had no time for these wolves. Though stabilized, John still needed to see a professional healer as soon as possible if he was to survive, and the longer it took to set off after the bandits, the more difficult it would become to find his wife Dora. The wolves still seemed unsure of whether to attack or not. The large one must be rather confident to even consider picking a fight with an armored Dragonborn of Kriv's size and a crodlu, no easy target by itself.

His favorite tratnyr in hand, Kriv tried to make himself as large as possible, clearly presenting his 6 feet, 6 inches and 317 pounds. He let out a loud warcry, then beat his weapon against his shield defiantly, staring the large wolf in the eyes he released small bouts of flame from his nostrils, bearing his teeth.

Baldur

Baldur pauses and stares at the man. "With a treasure like that, I'm inclined to ask for my coin back. Tell me, old man, what do you know of my future?"
Baldur takes the necklace and studies it.

Bolindal

"For the the temple of Pelor eh?" the Gnome repeats, stroking is his bristly beard. "Well I am not one to interfere with church business."

We waddles over and pats Boindal upon the shoulder, "Usually, I see an adventurer, and I believe my luck is in. Y'know, you sorts can be spotted a mile off and usually have more than a few coins to rub together, if you know whadda mean?" Laughing, the gnome leads you outside to the main stable, walking past the usual assortment of healthy looking horses to a separate enclosure. He pulls open the doors to reveal two larger, more impressive looking mounts.

"These be m' Family horses. If you place a deposit... let us say, 50gp, I will let you take my horse to Winterhaven. She be fast, and more durable than your average bred horse. All I ask on top of this is two things. Firstly, that you put a good word in for me at the Temple; the rest of my family be farmers, and the harvests have been poor this year. And secondly, that you bring her back in one piece."

Stepping out to look at his regular horses, "I can only go as low as 60 gold to buy a standard horse. Profit margin on those things isn't so great. And they won't get you to Winterhaven any time soon, not like Eponas will. So whadya say?"

Furgin

As Furgin makes his way cautiously through the wood, he focuses his eyes on the direction from which the sound are coming. Obscured by thick trees he just about makes out two or three Kobolds, roughly twenty feet ahead of him, arguing over some small object. Two of the Kobolds appear to have hold of the item and are locked in a struggle to pry it from the others hands. A third stands screaming at them, jumping up and down, thrusting his javelin into the air repeatedly. They appear oblivious to Furgin's advances.

Kriv

Kriv's intimdation tactics worked, the Wolf and his cub back off at the sight of the Dragonborn growing angry. Kriv also notices a rustling in the trees to his right, as if a startled animal had ran back into the forest. It seems like there may have been more than one wolf.

Neither Kriv nor John will be food for the wolves today.

Baldur

The old beggar's words and demeanour are ambiguous at best, Baldur is certain that he is not what he seems, but other than that his gut instinct tells him very little.
As Baldur cautiously takes the necklace and pendant from the man, and studies it. You can tell there is some kind of enchantment, or curse, placed upon the item, and that it has recently been forged. There is a symbol of the sun adorning the face of the item, the sun has a circular hole missing from its centre; Baldur identified it easily enough as the symbol of Pelor. Whatever magics seep from this Mysterious Pendant are very difficult to identify, though Baldur can tell that the enchantment seems more powerful than those he used to dealing with.

While Baldur looks over the pendant, the beggar speaks again, "If I could tell you with any certainty of your future Baldur, I would. But unfortunately, I can't, not yet. Events still look... uncertain."

Startled at the mention of his name, Baldur looks up to find the old man gone.

Baldur

"Curious." Baldur stows the symbol into his pack. Augurs - odd but worth bending an ear to. I'm sure this trinket will come in handy at some point.
Baldur continues his sweaty way on to the more and more ironically named Winterhaven.

Satisfied that the wolves retreated, Kriv finally begins to continue his journey to Winterhaven, lest more trouble find its way to this eventful little spot on the road.

Unsure of what to do, Furgin decides not to move from his position until he he's certain he'll be able to get past them without drawing attention to himself. He strains to see what the object is that the two kobolds are fighting over, but from this angle it's impossible to tell.

Baldur

The Kings Road begins to wind its way through the Snake Wood, curving left and right, begging the question as to what the makers of this road were thinking when they constructed it those many hundreds of years ago.

As Baldur makes his way around another bend, he spots a merchant cart stopped roughly fifty feet ahead. Strangely, this wagon is not being pulled by a horse, but a crodlu - a large bi-pedal reptile.

A huge Dragonborn stands adjacent to the cart, looking back down the road at Baldur.

Kriv

Kriv travels for another thirty or so minutes, the carts wheel proving more problematic than he first thought, slowing down travel considerably. The road begins to meander its way through the woodlands, the cart proving ever more cumbersome to manoeuvre down the steady winding road. Gradually, around one corner, a bridge comes in to view, roughly one hundred and fifty feet ahead. Upon the bridge are four humans, adorned in leather armour, all, as far as Kriv can tell from this distance, equipped with weaponry; what looks like crude clubs and one with a grand bow upon his back. They are currently moving boxes and sandbags around, and have paid little heed to Kriv and his decrepid wagon.

Looking back around the bend Kriv had just travelled he spots another figure, a huge sweaty barbarian with a flowing grey beard striding up the road.

Boindal smiles widely and clasps Effetain on the back as he says with a jovial boom, "Yer offer worth all the gold in the great Dwarven holds and I will do my utmost to make sure that Pelor smiles upon you and your family! I'd be honoured for your Eponas to bear me on my journey to Winterhaven. You've done me a great favour and I am in your debt!"

When Effetain leaves Boindal alone with Eponas he looks up at the horse with a little apprehension. Boindal moves around to the front of the horse and grips the reins firmly but not roughly and says, "all right horse, if you treat me well I will treat you well in turn. I be headin to Winterhaven and need to get there with utmost haste. I've not had much experience with your kind before, so I don't want any funny business." Boindal feeds Eponas a handful of hay as he pats his snout gently.

After Boindal is satisfied that he and the horse understand each other, he moves back around to its side and prepares to climb into the saddle. If someone were to be watching as this dwarf climbed up onto his horse they may think that he was an expert rider with years of experience, for Boindal mounted Eponas with no problems at all. Of course if they could see into his mind they would know just how surprised he was that he managed the feat on the first try.

With what appears to be practised ease, Boindal rides the horse out of town. Once on the main road out towards Winterhaven Boindal nudges Eponas to move at a more brisk pace, hoping to reach his destination as quickly as possible.

Baldur

Baldur, seeing the cart, breaks into a jog to catch up with the cart.
"Hey there! Not heading to Winterhaven I suppose? Can a traveller get a lift?"

Kriv puts a finger up to his lips, telling the new human traveler to keep his voice down. He then starts to back up the cart to get it out of view of the men on the bridge. As he does so he points to the men on the bridge and speaks softly to the new arrival, "I believe we have some trouble up ahead. By their looks and actions, they be the Bandits my friend John here ran into earlier today." Kriv then heads to the back of the wagon, checking once more on John's condition. "I believe I have found the bandits who did this to you, though I haven't seen the fifth or your wife yet. Don't worry though, we'll get her back."

Kriv turns his attention back to the capable looking human, "Those men beat, shot and left this man for dead, taking everything he had along with his wife. By the looks of it they mean to set up a roadblock on this bridge and repeat their actions to someone else. I am honor bound to bring them to justice and rescue his wife Dora. You look like a man who can handle himself. Can I trust to have your aid against these brigands?"

Baldur

Baldur takes in the appalling state as of the man and his tale caused a darkness to be cast over his heart. "Bandits - opportunist whelps; I have no tolerance for such people. Tell me, you have only just met this man on the road, yet you would risk your hide to help him?"

Baldur looks the man over, trying to figure out what he can do for him.

"Of course," Kriv seems somewhat surprised by the question, as if there weren't any other possible answer, "I am no fiend as to leave a man in need dying at the side of the road. As for hunting bandits, I consider it an enjoyable pass time. I should like to confront these bandits soon, while they're yet unprepared and tired from setting up their blockade. Oh! Excuse my manners, I am Sir Kriv Balasar." Kriv quickly frees Kalhar from the cart and gives him a rough pat on the flank. "Kalhar, I need you to stay here and watch over John for me. He's in no condition to fend for himself and I don't want any wolves dragging him off while I contend with these bandits." Kalhar clicks his beak in acknowledgement.

"Shall we venture forth into glorious battle?"

Baldur

Honourable, yet bloodthirsty; I wonder how long this dragonborn can balance that mix ... ?

Baldur hops down from the cart and watches Kriv release his beast. "Baldur, a pleasure. I hail from the far north, the Vaasa region. Up there, we respect those who help the helpless, you have my sword. Let battle be joined and let us pray we are not too late to rescue this poor soul's good wife."

Kriv's lips curl back displaying his sharp teeth in the closest thing a Dragonborn can present to a smile as he nods and grunts in approval at Baldur. "Excellent, no sense standing around here when there's work to be done."

Kriv begins walking down the middle of the road towards the bridge. As he approaches he lifts his favorite tratnyr, pointing it at the bandit with the bow and shouts, "Stand to, Cur, and prepare to meet with your god in glorious battle! Unless of course you wish to surrender and hand over your prisoner, in which case I can promise you a swift and painless death."

Boindal

Eponas is as fast as Effetain led Boindal to believe. Of course, the viewpoint atop the creatures back coupled with his inexperience when it comes to horses and riding means the speed at which Eponas covers ground doesn't seem at all unusual for Bolindal. However, to any onlooker the horse almost appears super natural in its speed and grace, as if enchanted.
A few hours pass, uneventful, Boindal's main focus being upon holding on for dear life as the grand horse gallops through the forest unhindered.

Just as Boindal is getting the hang of the riding, a creature comes darting out of the woodland right in to Eponas' path. The horse tries to stop, but her hooves simply slide in the soft dust of the Kings Road. Due to the sudden stop, Boindal finds himself being propelled from the saddle.

Boindal lands with a heavy thud, bouncing once, rolling over and sliding to a halt upon his back. But Dwarves are made of stern stuff, Dwarven heroes more so, and little harm is done by an accident that would potentially kill any normal man. Standing up in a cloud of dust, the Dwarf can make out the shape of Eponas getting back on her feet after her tumble, and the trampled corpse of something in the road.

On closer inspection, the corpse is a recently deceased Kobold, who even in death still grips a dark wooden box within his claws.

Furgin

Furgin lies upon his stomach watching the Kobold squabble unfold. After five or so minutes, the third Kobold begins to calm down. He stops shouting and sticks his Spear into the ground. He moves over to a well camouflaged makeshift tent that Furgin had not seen until now, and disappears inside.

Just as the two Kobolds struggling over the item begin to calm down, the smaller of the two lets go of the item. The one on the left is at first shocked by this development and stares down at the item now resting solely in his hands. Furgin can now see the item more clearly; it appears to be a small dark coloured wooden box.

Suddenly, the other Kobold draws a dagger and stabs the supposed victor of the argument. The blade digs deep into the creatures exposed chest. Stunned, the Kobold stands still for a moment staring downwards. From where Furgin is situated it is unclear whether the injured reptile is staring at the item, or this blade now lodged in his chest. The third creature emerges from the tent with a small pot of broth clasped firmly in both hands, wisps of steam rise up from the hot liquid within. Shocked, the Kobold drops the pot, a steaming froth sloshes against the leaves that litter the woodland floor.

The aggressive kobold snatches the small box from the claws of his victim, shortly before the injured Kobold's body tumbles to the floor dead, and darts into the woods. The third Kobold stands, still in shock, staring at his fallen comrade.

It looks like the Kobold with the box has ran towards the forest edge, in an attempt to get onto the road.

Kriv

Kriv's bellowing challenge is met by the bandits dropping what they were doing, and somewhat startled, draw their weapons. The Archer among them readies an arrow, aiming at Kriv.

"What the hell?" he screams, "Looks like we have some wannabe adventurers to contend with boys."

An arrow sets sail from the archers bow, smashing against Kriv's full plate and shattering. The Dragonborn shrugs off the attack, unharmed.

On closer inspection, one of the three thugs appears to be brandishing a well crafted scimitar, the other two crude clubs.

Baldur

Looking over John's grievous wounds, Baldur wishes he could do more to help him. In the past, his stories and his songs have inspired warriors to get back on their feet, to fight on, to keep going through pain and injury. But not today, John is too far gone.

Furgin takes this opportunity to quickly make his way back to his pack and avoid an unnecessary confrontation with the clearly unpredictable kobolds. Not wishing to hang around, Furgin decides to risk moving faster, meaning he has to run hunched over. The sound of his movements seem like a torrential waterfall to Furgin.

Breathing heavily, the halfling skids to a halt at the tree where he left his pack. Throwing the pack onto his back, Furgin crouches behind the tree and tries to decide which way would be best to avoid the kobolds.

Baldur

Seeing the bandits on the bridge, Baldur shouts a mysterious verse to imbue his fighting spirit ...
"Vin snum
skal mar vinr vera
ok gjalda gjf vi gjf
hltr vi hltri
skyli hlar taka
en lausung vi lygi

Vin snum
skal mar vinr vera
eim ok ess vinr
en vinar sns
skyli engi mar
vinar vinr vera."
... and hurls himself into battle.

On the Bridge

The mysterious notes sang by Baldur wash over Kriv, instilling him with a sense of reassurance. He shall not stand alone in this battle today.

Baldur sprints towards the nearest bandit swiping visciously with his blade and connecting hard. The sword slices through flesh with ease, a fatal blow. The bandit grasps at the gaping wound in his side, collapsing to the floor. Baldur steps over the corpse of the fallen enemy, his eyes set upon the archer.

The scimitar wielding brute, larger in stature than his companions, screams as he leaps towards Baldur, scimitar raised above his head, ready to strike. But Baldur's blade fresh from the innards of his enemy is quickly raised above the barbarian's head. Dripping with blood, the swords clash with the reassuring sound of the metal upon metal; the blade did not find Baldur's skin. At least, not this time.

Further back down the Kings Road, somewhere in the woodland running along the roadside:

Furgin hoists his back pack onto his back and looks through the woodland towards the forward camp of the Kobolds. No creatures follow.

To avoid the Kobold camps that will no doubt litter the woodlands ahead Furgin has two immediate options. Firstly, to move out on to the road and proceed onwards to Winterhaven that way. Or alternatively, he can head North a while, then East, allowing him to hopefully avoid anymore Kobold encampments. The problem with the latter plan is that it would put him several hours out of his way.

Kriv readies his tratnyr, the weapon itself seems eager to taste blood. He sets his eyes on one of the bandits and charges into him, attempting to skewer the knave with the full force of his momentum.

Kriv then prepares himself to counter the movements of enemies around him and to protect his friends from attack as he moves between Baldur and the archer, just west of the bandit with a scimitar.

With an arrow half-knocked, Furgin pushes through the undergrowth in the direction of the road. He figures that the kobolds would try and avoid being in plain sight if they possess an item that they consider important. Furgin recalls briefly that goblins are much the same.

As the bushes thin out, Furgin begins to relax, although not too much. Out in the open he feels exposed, always having relied upon his natural gift for hiding in the forests to keep him out of danger. With the arrow still readied in his bow, Furgin cautiously walks the road.

Soon, he round a bend and spots a rather fine looking horse a few feet from his position. Just past the horse is a hefty dwarf standing over what appears to be a dead kobold.

Not realising that the dead kobold is the same one that he saw murdering one of it's own kind and fleeing with a strange box clutched in it's arms, Furgin lowers his bow and walks towards the dwarf, shouting a greeting to him as he advances.

"Ho, dwarf! Bit of kobold trouble? I saw some lurking in the woods earlier." Furgin halts a couple of human paces from the horse and smiles amicably at the dusty-looking dwarf. "Get all of them?" He asks, scanning both sides of the forest, muscles tensing in case of an ambush.

On the Bridge

Kriv's tratnyr slides through the thug's leather armour with little resistance. Thrusting, Kriv lifts the bandit off his feet with the blade planted firmly in his chest, before dropping him and stepping sideways to cover his ally.

The archer back pedals slightly, notching another arrow and letting fly, before turning completely and running a good twenty or so feet to get away from these evidently deadly melee fighters.

A short moment after the thud of the arrow making contact occurs, Baldur realises he has been hit. The arrow has landed firmly in Baldurs left shoulder, a considerable wound, he can feel the blood expelling from the wound and filling the shoulder of his chainmail armour. This archer is dangerous, and far better trained than his colleagues.

Boindal

Throughout Boindal's life he had always wondered what it would be like to be a great dwarf lord leading a thousand strong dwarven army against an army of orcs ten times as large. He had also, on one occasion, wondered what it would be like to be as tall as an elf. Of course he would always deny this! But never had Boindal Felhammer ever wondered what it would be like to fly, and now that he knew the feeling, he never wanted to feel it again! This thought crossed his mind as he flies off Eponas and lands face first in the road 15 feet away.

Boindal shakes his head and begins to dust himself off as he gets up from the road. "What the Hell was that," Boindal shouts in a manner that only a person who has just been embarrassed can. He turns and looks directly at Eponas, "I thought we had a deal, us crazy animal!?!" But as Boindal begins to walk back he notices the obstacle in the road that sent him on his short flight. "Kobolds," Boindal whispers as he draws his hammer and shield as the realization dawns on him that he could be under attack. Quickly he scans the woodlands for any sign of trouble.

Satisfied that there are no other attackers in the immediate vicinity, Boindal moves to the dead Kobold with caution. Noticing the dark wooden box clutched in the obviously dead kobold's hands he sheathes his hammer and picks up the object. Looking it over thoroughly Boindal tries to discern what the item is.

Baldur

Baldur grimaces and tries to keep his head clear of the pain. He takes a huge breath and cries "sekfi hri Skglar!" at the other thug, calling upon his every ounce of strength left in him.
Baldur then calls upon his lkningar or and advances on the archer, allowing him plain view of his wound healing over.
"Think you can do that twice?!" he yells across the bridge.

Elsewhere on the King's Road

The item is a small ornate wooden chest with golden latch. It isn't locked.

Upon opening the chest Boindal finds a small vial, roughly four inches in length, filled with thick black liquid and sealed with a small amount of wax. The small box appears to have two more slots for storing similar vials which are missing. The glutinous liquid is so dark in colour it appears to the eye that light around the vial is being absorbed. Attached to the neck via a strand of incredibly strong spiders silk is a label that simply reads "Death-". Unfortunately the label is damaged, torn in two. Whatever suffix or secondary word that originally accompanied the ominous message now lost forever.

Interestingly the vial appears to be designed so that it must be smashed or cracked in order for the liquid to be removed. Boindal feels that there is something innately wrong with the liquid, it is certainly not natural. It almost feels as if Boindal is being pulled towards the vial, with such a feeling fading when it is place within its container and the chest closed.
Looking up, Boindal sees a young Halfling ranger wandering towards him along the road.

On the Bridge

Baldur's voice rings out with the crackling boom off thunder, pushing the scimitar wielding aggressor of balance, he stumbles and falls backwards over the three foot high wall. Splashing into the fast moving river, the bandit is swept away as he struggle to keep afloat.
The archer is alarmed to see Baldur relatively unscathed by what he considered a magnificent hit.

Kriv begins to chase after the bandit archer. Crossing the bridge he yells out, "Running won't save you now coward! Come and face me like a true warrior to redeem what little honor you may have in your final moments!" Finding the bandit's cowardly tactics most despicable, Kriv sends his tratnyr flying after him, then draws his khopesh.

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