Author Topic: Crackbones Expedition Journal  (Read 28 times)

The Dan

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Crackbones Expedition Journal
« on: February 10, 2020, 03:47:23 PM »
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Peoples Day, 24th Verion's Month
22ND YEAR OF AMBRIA
Thistle Hold

My dear friend,

Well, the time has come. we are going back into the forest. We are going to Symbar. We are going to race the queen, the high chieftain, the templars and black cloaks and who knows who else. we are going to beat everyone to the throne of thorns.

Because none of them should have it. Maybe no one should.

And yes, I still wish to be the first to enter Symbar and return. And yes, I hope there is booty a-plenty for all of us. But greed alone will not see us through, so I have worked hard to bring good people with us. You would approve.

We are all here for different reasons. will has come to see things as I do, I think; that whatever power they are all seeking is too dangerous and corrupting to be allowed in anyone’s hands. He has a haunted look these days, as if he knows this is his last adventure – he seems older in spirit than in flesh, but I find it hard to judge age in you people. he asks that we burn his body if he falls. I think he is coming just to see how far he can get before the end. And to help his friends, of course.

Bran too, thinks as we do (I hope), though I think he loves adventure itself - a life fitting to his skills and the thrill of battle he has seen before. Something… worthy perhaps? It also seems some enemy of his has joined one of our rivals, and my heart tells me that the forest will throw this feud into our path. He is a brother in arms, and we will stand with him.

Korik of course, cares only for the treasure - and perhaps some acclaim. In the end, this may impede us more than the forest does – ha! I speak with the naivety of one yet to venture into Davokar’s deeps. 

Today is peoples’ day in thistle hold. Fitting, for we are the expedition of the people – no patron’s purse binds us, no foolish noble in search of thrills commands us. the price of independence is poverty. We are poor now, but I hope it doesn’t in the end cost our lives. Fortunately, our new guide insists there are dangers aplenty in the Davokar no matter how numerous or well-equipped we are.

We have many new companions, drawn from the treasure hunters and citizens of thistle hold. Good people, I hope – though in dark moments I cannot help but wonder, have our rivals thought to seed a spy among us? I have tried for careful balance in assembling them, but confess, I like to help ‘my’ people, the overlooked and oppressed goblins and ogres of this town. maybe I just Trust them a little more than your people.

Crooky is our guide, an ogre I have known for many years. though slope-shouldered and cruelly named, she has a good stride and has been to the dark Davokar more than once. She’ll see us through if anyone can.

Oaf is another ogre, another reliable friend. people give us such rotten and hateful names, but she is smart and a great flail-fighter, and no trouble on a trip – which is important on a venture this deep.

Our bearers will be Ulg and his crew: broad-shouldered goblins, stout and uncomplaining as cathedral gargoyles. They have all passed the ‘gob test’ and been deemed reliable. Pullu & Pulli, Gok, Rega, and Wut. Good, tough folk.

Speaking of goblins (and gob), one of Freya’s many ‘friends’ has also joined us: Kit - a goblin sneak and alley-fighter. Useful. She also had to take the ‘gob test’ and passed with flying colours. She brought with her a valuable journal, detailing a doomed expedition into the forest. Grim but Essential reading for us all.

As to sell-swords, we have steered a course away from nameless thugs and bravos. Instead we were approached by a gang of known treasure-hunters looking to sign on. Expensive but far more talented than everyday mercenaries: Torbjørn is a bear of an Enoia, loud and brash but loyal, they say. He wields a great hammer called ‘soul-eater’ which fills Korik with envy and desire! A disturbing name but a powerful artefact, and no doubt Useful.

Torbjørn’s crew is Esa (a lady version of will, most amusing), Inga the halberdier, Eleo (a pyromancer) and old Shigg (an elderly goblin explorer – old enough to feel the call, I think). They are so very expensive but Worth it, I hope.

Yagaba has decided to throw in with us too and is now a true hoodlum! that is very good for our chances. She is a witch steeped in lore and has great power over ghost-things. I remember well our night with the frostwraiths, let us not have that encounter again! She says she is of the ‘white path’ if that means anything to you and wields a white orb of old Alberethor whose light holds off the dead.

Also joining us is Balon, a young witch of the Karohar, walking the green path. He will be useful to avoid trouble as we pass through the lands of his people – although I now the Karit of old (I Was one, once), they can be trouble, and good fighters. I have heard word at the witch & familiar that they are split – what is the word you used once, schism? – between the high chieftain and the sovereign oath.

And that leaves us with Constance – the only hire that troubles my conscience. She’s young, Ambrian, and a skilled alchemist and medicus. Too young, I fear and with no experience of the forest. Still, we need someone with her skills, and she is cheap and eager. So very eager. she is following in her father’s footsteps. I cannot deny her passion, Nor that she reminds me much of Kirsten. I hope she survives. And survives unbroken. I hope we all do.

I know what you are likely thinking, and I worry that we’ll be the death of her. I will ask Balon and oaf to look after her. Whatever her inexperience now, by the time she comes out, she’ll be a dark Davokar veteran.

I hope she makes it. Crooky thinks that is a pipe dream, that Davokar always takes a toll of flesh.

It has been hard to do this alone. We have sunk every orteg we have into this. There’s just enough left to keep “Crackbones’ Corner” in business – things are looking well in that regard. My name is spoken across the town now, as a treasure hunter and leader of expeditions. This is good, but better will my name be when I return from Symbar... if the map is truly to Symbar. I leave my tavern in Freya’s care. If I don’t come back the place belongs to her, so long as she keeps the name.

I am not sure if I hope the map is true or that it isn’t. it would be safer if the trail we are following is false and the throne is lost forever. Maybe the throne is just a story, and Symbar will hold some other danger or power worth all this trouble.

It has been a mad time here. The war has stalled over winter, all forces wisely calling halt. It is suicide, says Crooky, to travel and fight in Davokar in winter - The other expeditions are setting out on the first day of summer, the traditional safest months. We are off a week before of course, reckless heroes that we are! The other expeditions are bigger, but we are smaller and nimbler, faster, I hope.

We argued for some nights over whether to race to Symbar or let other fools rush in ahead – but I refuse to pick at the leftover scraps when others have feasted! no one remembers the name of the third or fourth man to do a thing. No, first in and first back and a shit on caution – this is bigger than just a hunt for loot, as Korik would prefer.

Here’s to Fortune and glory, a great challenge and worthy foes.

So much has happened in thistle hold. People speak openly of restoration now, and those who cannot tolerate it fled to much rejoicing. Ravenia too, I hear is ‘restored’ and everyone says our ally duke Ynadar is the champion of that cause. I thought this good news when first I heard it, but I fear now it is only the calm before the storm. I wonder if Symbar will not be the greatest battle of our lives, but if another, across all Ambria, will be next. Certainly, all this upheaval has dulled the shine that normally lays over your queen. I have seen this before, whenever chaos threatens the order of things. it is a storm that can be weathered. Alas, we know more than we should of these things and suspect all factions of the darkest motives.

The bloody “war tax” is the worst trouble of all! It can’t pass soon enough for me! 10 thaler a month from every household, how dare they? They are making beggars of good people to fill their war chest and it will only get worse now summer is approaching again. We’ll likely have the oath to deal with on top of everyone else before we’re done.

What else? Ah yes, Books! We are all readers now, you know - Trying to prize out the secrets of Davokar before setting a foot inside it. Will has bought a bestiary and is feverishly scribbling corrections in its margins and amusing us with horror stories of forest beasts. The excitement has got to him, despite his grimness and the danger.

We have a lore box like yours, taken from our enemies, full of useful tomes. I will try to keep them safe for you. I am reading the journal that kit procured and will has a sheaf of parchments telling of all manner of horrors. We are heading so much further in than we did before.

who knows what we will see in there? Who knows how the darkening will torment us? Yet I believe we venture after Symbar for the best of reasons (well, some of us!) and I hope that will count for something when we tread upon the forest’s soul.

If I had had time, I would have tried to go again to where no tears fall in vain and seek the advice of the weepers and the iron pact. Let us hope our encounters with the elves continue as they have so far. Alas, no one speaks so well to elves as thee.

And that is that. We are ready to depart. I hear them now, in the tavern (my tavern!) next door, gathering to toast the new venture, to joke and fight and bind themselves together in fellowship for what is to come. I look down at our hoodlum’s table and see the names of gob, Kirsten, and Lothar, and I wonder how many more names will be carved here all too soon. Maybe me, at last, Maybe all of us. Pah! maudlin old ogre! When my knee aches, I makes me all melancholy. I need to fill a tankard with blackbrew, toast to death and danger, impress the youngsters and flirt with crooky and oaf. Ah there it is - like a fever, rising. Giddiness in the belly and a grin on my lips – Adventure is in the offing! My feet are restless to be off, and I find I that have missed the forest greatly.

I wish you were here.

I will copy this letter into a new journal, which I shall write as we go and document our quest. I hope that it is not found floating down the Malgomor, as the other was, the only trace of folly and pride. But if it does, I like to think that it will somehow make its way to you, Ulavan, so you can remember your old companions, and the foolish older ogre who was your friend.

To Symbar then! To the throne of thorns! To a tale worth telling and an end worthy of song. Here’s to finding where we come from and to learning what secrets the past has hidden, and what the future holds.

Always, your friend.

Crackbones


Day One

So here we are.

A grand departure in the grey predawn, to scattered cheers of locals come to see us off. It’s good to know that I will be remembered should I not return, even if it is just as a man whose ambition exceeded his reach. Can it be done, with us, with these resources? I think about the huge expeditions that will follow us and I do not know if we are fools. Nevertheless, I am proud to have done this alone, without a patron’s purse to chain us. The Corner will be safe in Freya’s hands should I not return.

The warm, sunny day made for a good start – I do not know how long it will be before we feel the sun and open sky again, but it was good to stretch my legs and feel the forest air in my chest, cloying though the late spring air can be. The Davokar is blooming, its green and brown splattered with brightness like dots pf scattered of paint. I love this place, despite the dangers.

We set a good pace, Will and Esa roving ahead with Crooky, Balon, and I at the head of the train. Bran and Shigg make fine rearguardsman, keeping us all together and at a fine pace, and guarding our arses.

We forded the Eanor before camping, that’s no few miles. I don’t know how long we can keep it up, but it seems worthy to press the pace for now. Today at least we are ahead in the race for Symbar, and I wish to stretch that lead as much as we can.

Able to forage today, adding fresh food to supplement our provisions. I worry about so much on this trip it is good to have food off my mind for a while. I am sure that will change in the wilder deeps, but while the forest is easy and abundant, let us harvest what we can.

A warm day, fresh forage, and everyone feeling good. Morale is important on these ventures. I have seen bands scatter or murder each other over petty arguments, let alone artefacts. We must be true companions, simply to survive.

Father told me a trick once, which I am stealing now. Each night someone cooks and someone else must entertain. A song, a dance, a game, whatever. Something to bind us. Bran is the lucky fellow tonight, while Balon cooks.

Day Two

Another warm day and another good handful of miles ground beneath our boots. Crooky says the deeper Davokar will be a much greater challenge, so I am glad we are covering great ground so early. I begin to see the benefits of a smaller group than the hordes coming in our wake.

Damn, it is good to be back in the forest. The air, the living wild, the adventure. I found myself laughing at nothing: This is why I could not deny Constance her wish to join us. This is the best of life, and if I die here so be it - at least I lived fully and shrunk from no challenge.

This morning Will reported a Ranger path ahead of us, so we chose to skirt it and avoid them despite our valid licence. No use courting trouble. No use letting others know where we are.

The land was sloped and craggy, but we were able to cut into a mossy dell, with angular chunks of masonry protruding like islands from the sea of deep green plants.  At its centre was a ruin, a tower half-buried in the moss being excavated by a band of treasure hunters. After a brief stand-off we gave them a wide berth and that was that. They were suspicious of us, fearing we were there to seize their prize. That is not who I am, and perhaps they were here without a licence, but it is a good lesson and reminder to us all. You can’t trust other hunters in the forest.

Trouble this evening, as Esa, Shigg and Kit have all taken ill. No idea of the cause – fresh provisions, water from the Eanor, or something they picked up in town? Hopefully it gets no worse and passes quickly.

Day Three

The land is rising today, we are cresting crags that have been swallowed by the trees.

We set a more strolling pace today, as our sickened companions are still weak. Lost time already, oh well. I think on Haake’s journal and how his party experienced a similar sickness and blamed it upon spies and sabotage. Could that be true here too, that someone has inserted a minion into our band? I cannot think that way. The Davokar is too dangerous. I must trust these people.

We talked this evening about why we are all here. More opportunity to see into the hearts of our companions. Torbjørn especially seems to share my thoughts that he wants riches and glory – but also knows that the darkness in Symbar may need to be kept from other hands. They’re a good lot. I made the right decision.

Day Four

Marshy ground today, I felt sorry for Ulg and his people, uncomplaining despite the knee and waist deep wading. Bless these fine boots, they were worth the thalers. Crooky says there is a danger of spring floods flowing down from the mountains and turning the forest into a lake, but we decided to press through, and it paid off. We were able to reach higher, dryer ground by nightfall.

Fun in the camp tonight. Bran was feeling restless, so we wrestled to stretch our arms as well as legs, and this soon attracted other attention, so I took on all comers in a wrestling contest. Torbjørn fell before me but in the end, I was bested by none other than Yagaba! Some witch’s magic, it must be! Ha. It was a good night, although later that night we suffered our first attack.

Overnight we were ambushed by ‘living thorns’, creatures more known in the darkest Davokar that out here – another sign of the Darkening that Balon and Crooky speak of. They came at us while we slept. Will says they lay dormant in the day hours, but creep and rove by night. Luckily, we have four at a time on watch, but even so they almost strangled Will and others before they could be awoken.
A troubling event, but we worked well enough together. We will be better with time, I hope.

Day Five

We crossed the second and greater river barrier today. The Malgomar - wide, swift and swollen from spring rains. We set to work creating rafts for the mules and baggage while Korik and Will went over the river with my ship’s rope to create an anchor loop for my pulley (glad I bought a canoe, after all). A simple solution to a challenge. This is how we’ll weed out the amateurs.
« Last Edit: February 16, 2020, 08:00:15 PM by The Dan »
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The Dan

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Re: Crackbones Expedition Journal
« Reply #1 on: February 15, 2020, 06:38:51 PM »
Day Six

We are in the Wild now. I still see familiar things (sickbush, signs of aboar and the like) but more and more I see larger, wilder, plants and unidentifiable tracks or spoor. We are leaving the forest we know, the forest in which the clans live – or at least, the clans I know.

Following the Malgomor today. Dangerous, since things come to drink here, and things come to prey on them (and things prey on the things preying on things), but it  means we can press on hard with the river a clear guide for us.

We passed a Karit village today, the farthest one in, I would imagine. Balon and I went to speak to them, to see what we could learn of the forest ahead. There were fewer of them than I had expected, as befits a clan I have heard is sundered by loyalty to the High Chieftain and the Sovereign Oath. Their warriors were dead, hiding or elsewhere. They spoke of being threatened by the people of New Earthmoor – the settlement that Elmendra visited before Karvosti, which we did not and paid the cost for. Interesting.

It seems I will not get to visit them now, either. The feud is over, and the Earthmoor is ‘dealt with’ thanks to the aid of a warrior from Clan Gaur. This has bound them in debt to the Gaur however, and so to the Oath. I am not certain how I feel about them these days, the Sovereign Oath. It is hard to condemn people fighting against the conquest of their land, against an enemy whose greed causes blight and corruption. Maybe I am just becoming soft in my dotage – or I just like too many Ambrians nowadays?

One final piece of news: The villagers saw another party cross the river a few weeks ago.  Dagasto and his crew, perhaps? Or just another band of clansmen or treasure-hunters? Time will tell.

Day Seven

Two dead today. From curiosity and ill-chance.

This is delving the forest; this is the life of a treasure hunter - bright but brief. This I have told Constance. It is truth, but little comfort.

Everyone was feeling better this morning, so we set a faster pace once more. Signs of marlits today, so many eyes on the underbrush and trees, and interest from Korik in what he could do with their skins.

We reached another village by the end of the day. This one was empty, however: A fortified steading in a clearing, straddling a tributary of the Malgomor. New Earthmoor, perhaps. Abandoned, blackened by fire, but mostly still standing. Pausing at the edge of the forest, I sent in Kit, Will, and Shigg to scout for danger before we approached and maybe camped there. I cannot think of it as a mistake, otherwise I will be lost in my own doubts, unable to lead us. It was a decision, I made it.

Nothing for a while, then a sudden a frightened cry from Kit, coming running towards us. Fortunately, we were formed up in fighting order so Bran, Korik, Torbjorn and myself moved up to the gatehouse, with Esa joining us behind the line.

No sign of Will, but Shigg and Kit came fleeing towards us, pursued by large wasp-like things (‘Spites’ they are called, I later learned), one was attached to Shigg’s back, doing who knows what. We slew the creatures, or those we saw anyway, but Shigg had died of his wounds. Will too, we learned on searching for him. Dead, face down in the mud with a Spite upon his back. Bad luck, dark fate, or the forest’s wrath?

And that was that. Two dead, our most experienced too; a scout and explorer lost. Now we have only Crooky to guide us, and only Esa and Kit to scout.

Day Seven, Night

A sombre night, with wary eyes on the darkness and ears alert for the soft hiss of Spite wings. Maybe we got them all, but I wouldn’t risk further lives for the sake of a roof over our heads.

Constance was in shock. Several of us were, I think. Bran and I shared a look, and he walked over to talk to her, to help her through it. I much admire his talent with people. Maybe we’d be better with him in charge. He's a good man.

We laid the bodies out, stripped them, wrapped them up. We’ll burn Will in the morning, as he asked us to. Torbjorn spoke of his friend and how Shigg expected this to be his final journey. We did the same for Will, how we both felt the same way. Strange, that it was that pair taken from us, was it bad fortune after all, or some kind of price exacted by the forest, choosing those two specifically?

Korik of course, was Korik about the whole thing but Torbjorn shut him down with a face like thunder and a threat of no uncertain terms. I thought it might mean trouble later, but afterwards he gifted Korik a small box, an artefact Shigg had plundered long ago. It left Korik thoughtful, troubles – quite unlike his normal self. It means something to him.
Dan: A title of honor for respected men, equivalent to Master or Sir. Any of 12 levels of proficiency at the grade of black belt in martial arts such as judo and karate. An expert or expert level in shogi and other such games. He that judges.

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Re: Crackbones Expedition Journal
« Reply #2 on: February 16, 2020, 08:00:35 PM »
(Added a Forward)
Dan: A title of honor for respected men, equivalent to Master or Sir. Any of 12 levels of proficiency at the grade of black belt in martial arts such as judo and karate. An expert or expert level in shogi and other such games. He that judges.