Author Topic: Crackbones Expedition Journal  (Read 128 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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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.

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Re: Crackbones Expedition Journal
« Reply #3 on: March 01, 2020, 10:44:23 PM »
Day Eight

We burned Will this morning, using wood gathered carefully from the gatehouse of New Earthmoor. Shigg we left out to the sky, to return to the forest. Maybe that still counts for goblins somehow. I hope so. It is a proper honour. It is important to do things the right way this deep in the forest. We must evade the wrath of the wild.

Torbjørn has taken Shigg’s head and now carries it with him, so his friend can see Symbar in spite of death. He is a good friend to his companions.

I cannot believe we have lost two of our three scouts in one mischance. This will surely put is in further danger. Kitt has volunteered to join Esa on point, but she is a sneak not a scout. She’ll have to learn quickly.

We cut away from the river today, to avoid the Black Pitch Mire, its flies and sicknesses – and Skaramagas, of course. I added Korik to the rearguard. Short legs, but he’s too stubborn to fall behind or complain and won’t allow any slackers to drop past him. This, it turned out, was wise.

In late morning, arrows flew from the forest into our rear. Luckily Bran and Korik did not go down. Elves, darkening take them! This is how I remember those pointy-eared bastards - shoot, run, shoot, run. They disappeared back into the forest before we could get the measure of them.

And again, later, the same gang or another came at us - from the front this time. Summer elves, I would judge. Thankfully, Kit and Esa spotted them in time, this time, for us to form up and charge them down. Second verse, same as the first: They ran like deer, bounding away into the underbrush… but this time we gave them a hard goodbye, felling two and wounding others before they vanished. Not a bad result but they can just come back at us, again and again, for as long as they care too. This could be the end of us. They’re too damn sneaky.

All we can do is press on. If they have come because we are in their territory, maybe they will stand down when we leave it. If not, if it’s just malice or some mad elf mind thing, then the best we can do is make it painful enough to not be worth their while.

Day Nine

Strange noises last night, but no elves. I doubled the watches, put Kit and Esa in the trees to give them a taste of their own medicine, but nothing came of it. Perhaps we have cleared their range, or their dead are enough to dissuade them. Or maybe they are merely biding their time.

Stranger than strange was the source of the wet, sticky noises in the night: Investigating, we found a great mystery revealed. A great, drying mass, like a caterpillar’s cocoon but massive in scope, had been torn open not far from camp. From the inside, by the look of it. Beside it, still speckled with strands but otherwise naked and mindless as a babe, was an ogre. A newborn.

So, this is the answer to the mystery... We emerge like butterflies from a - what is the word, chrysalis? - in the deep forest. I tried to think back to my earliest memories, of Redhair and what I thought of as my ‘brothers’ among the Karohar. I do not remember being a 'child' as humans are, but nor was this new ogre before me half-grown. I called up Oath and Crooky, but they could shed no more light on it than I. It seems somehow disappointing to know the how but not the why. Some mysteries are best left unknown. A man should not conquer all his dreams. Best to keep one or two to lead you on.

While they fed and calmed our new brother, I delved into the drying cocoon in search of a clue. Nothing but a ring; smallish, bronze, unmistakable: A Thistle-Hold gate ring. So we do come from something else too, a goblin maybe? But the elves told Gob that goblins go down to the Underworld to become trolls. What does that mean for us? I do not know. More questions than answers here, but a big leap down the path to the truth. But it leaves us with seven feet of pressing problem.

I feel bad about him. We couldn’t keep him with us, and we couldn’t just leave him here. It hurt, but he would be a burden; we cannot take him into the dangers we were heading into. Nor could we leave him here, with elves on the prowl.

Bran came up with the solution. He used the artefact ring we’d taken from ‘Artel’ in the Beyond to place a wordless image in the ogre’s mind: follow the river, find the humans. We fed him as much as we could, then the nameless ogre scampered off - we couldn’t even give him a name. We just have to hope he makes it. And hope the Karohar treat him well until we return.

They’d better.

We pushed on, but with more concern for stealth than speed. No more attacks. Yet. We did encounter a tribe of goblins moving southwest, however: The Ufal tribe, and a chieftain named Tulga. They spoke a language I had never heard before in Thistle Hold or Karabbadokk. Luckily, Ulg knew enough of it to get by. After some gifted ‘tribute’ they told us about another band of treasure hunters looting the 'death crater' (a ruin a couple of hours march west of the Malgomor and the Mire), and of “trolls, dressed like men”. In return we warned them of the humans following us. We parted on good terms. Its nice to know there are people this deep in who have more for us than arrows.

I wonder if the elves mistook us for those adventurers? Is that the cause of their hate?

Day Nine, Night

A strange night. Another uneasy camp, but still no elves.

Korik had been toying thoughtfully with the box that Torbjorn had given him. Some artefact of Shigg’s, or dwarf make. He was playing with it all last night too. Thoughtful.

Tonight, he did… something with it, and we were no longer alone. A dwarf woman appeared form nowhere! Korik says she was trapped in the box for hundreds of years – so long that she has never heard of Ambrians, or ogres. He released her. She speaks only dwarfish. Korik says her name is “Longenof” or something like it. She’s as glum and reserved as him, and yet… somehow, Korik seems different around her.

I did not know such magic was possible! It makes me wonder; who put her in there and why? Or does every dwarf have a box somewhere?

Day Ten

Another new companion today. It is a strange fate that has brought two new companions to us so soon after losing two.

In a clearing by the river, many dead bodies and a lone survivor - a witch of the red path and her wolf familiar. Farina and Ola. Her companions died to the hunger wolves. We took her in. She is a skin-changer and a mistress of tooth and claw. Useful. With Shigg and Will gone, we need all the help we can get in the wild Davokar. She transformed herself into a hawk – not a pleasant thing to witness – and now flies ahead of Esa and Kit, to give us warning of what’s to come.

Her aid paid off almost immediately: She returned with news of the trolls that Tulga has spoken of. A whole band, a dozen of more, moving towards our path. Dressed not in rags but strange garments, and armed with weapons of trollish size, as if forged for them – by them.

After a hasty discussion, we decided to send the others off the path but to wait for the trolls in the open. Better to show strength than be found hiding. Korik, Torbjorn, Brand, Oath and I waited for them. Balon and Yagaba can speak the troll tongue. They stayed to speak for us while the rest lay low.

The trolls are part of a clan lead by one called Ultrox. They were seeking a new home, having been driven out of the underworld by blighted magicians of the Ordo Magica, who have befouled the pool of their homeland. Even if the invaders are slain, their home is ruined now. I wonder if we will think that way of ‘Ambria’ one day. Through Balon, I told them of New Earthmoor, and again warned them of the people following us. They call Symbar the Mother of Darkness. They fear the forest’s darkening– it’s the only thing I think trolls fear at all – and blame humans for it. I cannot say that I disagree.
We talked a little more with the trolls. It seems they pity us (Oath and I). They know how ogres are born (or made?) and calls us “unhealthy, weakling trolls”. They blame the darkening for it, our ‘births’ either premature or stunted.

Is that all we are? Under cooked trolls? Pah. It is as I have always said: Where you come from, what you are, they mean nothing. It is what you do that matters, and what you leave behind.

Day Ten, Later

We must cross the Malgomor again, now the Black Pitch Mire is behind us. We joked that we can always slay the great lindworm Skaramagas on the way back, if Symbar turns out to be a myth. Korik has the serpent-slaying spear, after all.

I write this at a moment’s rest before we cross the river, which is wide and slow here. Another raft built, the ropes and pulley are over the river. I just have to decide who to send over first. All seems quiet, just the hissing rain. And yet, I have a bad feeling about this.
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Re: Crackbones Expedition Journal
« Reply #4 on: March 09, 2020, 09:27:30 PM »
Day Ten, Night

This is Davokar: Not one, not two, but FOUR king toads assaulted the raft on its second trip over. The raft was suddenly upturned - Oath and Korik (luckily) left dangling from the guide rope; Eleo, Gok, Ola, and the mule went into the water. That was the first and last clear look we got at them.

Plop! Plop! Plop! Plop! Then Eleo, Gok, the mule, and Oath were all struck by their tongues and dragged under. Having had their fill, they never resurfaced; we never saw any of our companions again. Not living, anyway.

We are weak, in moments such as this. Too few missiles, and even less skill. And plate armour of course, is a death sentence in water. A bad situation.

I dived in, managed to kill one in the water – after what felt like an age searching in the murk. I had expected one of them to attack me, but I did not know then that they already had full maws. The big one – the mother, maybe – Kit slew it, in a frenzy of stabs and slashes. Small she may be but a fine war-sister! Uncomplaining in travel, fearless and fierce – she clambered across the guide rope to dive upon the king toad’s back.

Farina too well-earns her keep; she saved Korik from drowning after he went under in his death-suit. She looked half-drowned herself when she clambered out. I fully expected him to be dead when I surfaced later.

We didn’t drive them off. They left.

We kept searching, in vain hope. In time we found Oath’s bloody, drowned body. Of the others, no sign. We laid her out in the underbrush for the forest to take back her shell. Farewell, Oath - at least you found the answer to your question; at least you died knowing something of the truth of us.

Fairwell, Gok. You were strong and uncomplaining. You entertained us well and your cooking wasn’t too bad either.

Fairwell, Eleo, artist of the conjured flame. Without you we may have lost more companions to spites. We will miss your calm knowledge and brimstone cascade.   

I begin to wonder, does the forest somehow know when we are done with whatever drives us? Does it somehow decide to take us? Will thought hed die in the forest, and it took him. Shigg just wanted one more trip into the forest, and it took him. Oath wanted to know the truth of the where we come from; she found it and the forest took her too. Will come for me, once I reach Symbar?

I shouldn’t let my mine wonder like this, but it is hard. I remember father talking about this, about the weight of command, it lays over your shoulders like a lead yoke. Every day I make decisions that mean our companions might die. Every day. I do not know how Bran did it, back in the war. I think maybe I know why he lets me do it now. They may be dead and left behind, but I carry them with me, nonetheless.

Where was I?

I managed to drag the big toad’s corpse from the water, cut it open, hoping to find – I don’t know what; within its belly was our missing mule. Dead of course but with its packs and sacks mostly in-tact. Small consolation. Provisions ruined some gear salvageable. Some of the beast’s meat we could take too – meat we now desperately need. I hope toad takes good. We’re going to be eating a lot of it.

Piss wet through to the skin. Lost two month’s provisions. Lost three good companions.

Another day in Davokar.

Day Eleven

Bran looked terrible this morning. He’s not sleeping well, and I doubt yesterday helped. He covers it well, but his fitful sleep does not improve we must do something. I know Korik suffers this too. Maybe we all will by the end of this trip.

So, more shifting of our marching order, more changes to who stands watch and when. A solemn march but at least today the land was a little flatter, the underbrush not so tangled as it has been. We made good progress today. This is the irony of Davokar – every day a roll of the dice.

Today our scouts reported a clearing hung with bodies. The corpses of men strung up in arcane patterns, rotting. A bad place. Sorcery, we could all feel it. We gave it a wide berth, and marched hard and fast to put as much ground as we could between us and that place.    Who would do this, so deep? Elves? Blighted folk? Some cult of sorcerers.

Cold camp tonight, cold and silent and wary. At midnight a scream echoed out from the depths of the forest: Some creature in terrible pain. Nothing approached us however, crouched in the dark underbrush.

We finished the last of the toad meat today. Chewy. Thank goodness I brought pepper and vinegar.

Day Twelve

Bran looks a little better this morning. Constance offered him a dose of drone dew last night, but he refused. It seems he has managed to sleep on his own tonight. He seems to have traded woes with Inga however, who is looking weak and fevered. Balon has made her stay away from the rest of us. He thinks it is ferber fever, but that there is nothing to do but wait and see if she can fight it off.

No other luck today: The foliage is thick and tangled, slowing us down.
« Last Edit: March 17, 2020, 03:46:58 PM by The Dan »
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Re: Crackbones Expedition Journal
« Reply #5 on: March 17, 2020, 04:07:07 PM »
Day Thirteen

Excellent puppet show from Rega last night.

A sunny day, warm. Better than marching in the rain but I can smell everyone by now. It feels like we need a rest, some respite from the chaos of the deep wood. Everyone is on edge. And today was... strange.

Travelling by the river again. We came upon a patch of corrupted trees, blackened and twisted and oozing purple ichor. No sign of how wide it might be, although the other side of the river seems clean - not that anyone wants to cross it again. Fortunately, Balon was able to "sing the corruption to sleep" while we pushed through - and thankfully it was small enough to hike through before our green witch's throat gave out. This time. We saw animals that seemed melted on our journey, no sign of how. Nothing troubled us however. We made it through, checked everyone's boots and hooves to make sure we hadn't picked up any infections. So far so good.

We're all learning the deeper lore of this place. One day at a time, and its not costing us lives for now.

Day Fourteen

Another good day. We traveled through a field of bright flowers, beautiful - until their pollen started choking everyone. Wet scarves and hustling got us through. Pretty flowers though. I knew a man once, a professional strangler Father had me study with for a few weeks but that talent was not for me. He spoke of choking spores like this, how to harvest and keep them. So this is where they come from.

This evening we found the waterfall Crooky has been telling us about, before the river's fork. A great camping spot, and way to SAFELY cross the river once more. Another beautiful spot - I really like this place, despite the dangers - and FINALLY an opportunity to bathe! Soap, a good meal (that is not toad!), some fun with this ridiculous sack-hitting game Torbjorn, and a chance to rest without attack or bloody elves stalking us. If only we didn't have Inga to worry about, it would have been perfect.

Day Fifteen

Another beautiful day, another terrible horror revealed to us.

A large, bright flower, something like an upturned bell. Crooky warned us off it at the last moment: Apparently it sprays a stream of corrupting vomit at anyone who comes too near. So now we add Sorcerer-Tulip check to our nightly camping routine, alongside Bush-check and spore-check.

And then, The Boy. A boy just wondering the depths of the Davokar like he was strolling through his hamlet, picking flowers. He seems strange in  the head - for a person at least. He seemed more like a forest spirit than a human; a human shape but a mind and soul of something else. Innocent, maybe. Unworldly, certainly. Capricious, potentially. Dangerous, quite possibly. He said his named was Aluin, that he is the son of Father Sarvola, the famous 'heretic' of Thistle Hold and leader of the Reformists. His mother, he said, was "of the forest."

He was "going for a walk", he said, but his father's party, also seeking Symbaroum, is east of the forest and skirting the Ravens. He dissapeared before we could truly learn anything useful, or ask him to let the Reformists know they have allies in the forest. Oh well. Perhaps we will see him again.

Inga was weaker today. I wonder at what point we might have to leave her, and how Torbjorn will take that.

« Last Edit: March 23, 2020, 09:27:23 PM by The Dan »
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Re: Crackbones Expedition Journal
« Reply #6 on: March 23, 2020, 10:42:57 PM »
Day Sixteen

Into a steep valley today, dangerous terrain that blocks our sight of the forest - but it was heading in the right direction and less tangled than yesterday's underbrush.

Around midday we came upon a nest of some dangerous... somethings. Big, roughly human-shaped in terms of arms and legs, but covered in a kind of stiff hide, a little like a beetle but dull and rough and almost rock-like. No one had any idea what they were, but they were guarding huge leathery eggs. We tried to skirt around them, it didn't work.

We'd formed up to guard the mules but this did not go according to plan. The creatures, let's call them Boulder Beasts or Rolling Horrors (not sure which I have settled on yet) curled up into a ball and rolled at us. The result is rather like being hit by a rock-slide. They crashed through us like an avalanche, suddenly I was the only one of our mighty front line standing - everyone else was on the ground and the Rolling Beasts were in t eh middle of us.

They hit like a rockfall, just so we're clear.

A hard fight, with them among us, with their gouging claws and skin harder than pansar plate. A fine battle, on the edge of death for us all. I thought Balon as dead for sure but somehow Yagaba brought him back from the brink in the midst of the carnage. We lost no one. A minor miracle.  Farina has earned her keep twice over in this fight, I have no doubts of her prowess now: She bound two of the beasts to her will, having them attack each other - truly, I think we might all have perished or been forced to break and run without her. And her claws are not to be underestimated.

We left the eggs untouched. Picking over the remains, they did not seem like blighted beasts but Balon suspects they are a symptom of the Darkening nonetheless.

Tired and wounded we finally reached the end of the valley and emerged back out into the forest-proper. It is eerily quiet now and we see less animals, even less flies and moths. Deep Davokar.

Tonight we found a simple ruin by the riverside, with a stone jetty still intact. No clues or treasure, but this seemed as good a place and time as any to cross the river again. This time we could use the jetty to better secure the raft, and spent the afternoon building one big enough to fit us all, while Korik went over with Farina and Ola to secure the ropes. So strange, our dwarf - he cannot swim and almost drowned mere days ago - and yet he volunteered again.

Thankfully our raft was not attacked on the way back over. All the eggs in one basket, yes. But a bigger raft is harder to topple and the water is swift here - best we stick together.

I cannot bear to wreck the raft again after so much work. We hid it in the underbrush, away from the bank. Maybe we can use it on the way back?

Now there's optimism.

Day Seventeen

We actually went treasure hunting today! It has broken the monotony and reminded us of the skills we may need in just a few more days time.

It was another warm day, and a journey lit by deep emerald light from above the leaves. There are no landmarks here, and we are at the end of Crooky's experience though she knows where we should go - there's a certain patch of corrupted land we need skirt on the Ravens' side. Farina continues to prove her worth - she took on the form of a hawk to guide us from above the canopy.

Then, in the afternoon, a clearing edged by low ruined walls. Within, the wreck of a Symbaroum manse! Unguarded and apparently unpillaged. Worth a look, not just for treasure but for clues about nearby Symbar. Balon and the other witches did not partake of our interest. Understandable, these places are all taboo, and their role is to seal such things away, not dig into them. They respected that not everyone feels the same way. Balon did include me in with the other Ambrians as he talked... not sure how I feel about that.

This was a good opportunity to stretch our treasure-hunting muscles and ensure the equipment is still sound. Ulg and his goblins also got to show us their quality - they are the real experts at safely digging out places like this. Worth every penny (note to self: Pay a Bonus for today). After a few hours of shoring up and digging through, we had quite a haul.

A silver broach, in the shape of a wraith owl face
Eight sticks of mystical incence, which Yagaba says grant you power over others in negotiations and diplomacy
A blackened bone ladle, carved with runes - looks cursed to me.
a nail-file with a wolf's head handle
A set of wind-chimes
5 seeds, which Balon believes grow unique alchemical plants. The golden berries, maybe?
Strange pieces from a mosaic, or perhaps a puzzle


Our trip's first haul! Constance's first real turn at treasure hunting. She was overjoyed to be following in her father's footsteps, good to see. I still remember my first time, hauling out who knows what into the light... I gave her the nail file as a gift, it is good to commemorate these things.

Day Seventeen, Later

Trouble always follows.

As the rest of the us settled in for the night, Torbjorn awoke us with news that a mist was gathering. Yagaba said it was unnatural, and unresponsive to her spells. We formed up swiftly - goblins and mules in our centre. Lanterns out. The mist thickened further, although we saw nothing, we all knew danger was gathering around us. Balon advised that we leave, that this might be a repercussion for our dig. He was wise and kind enough to not say "I told you so."

Ulg and his crew gathered up and quickly packed our things, while we stood guard. Still nothing, though a strange fatigue started to fall over some of us. I have been steeling myself against such as this, and tonight it paid off as we tried to move on, using ropes strung between us to keep us all together in the blinding mist. One by one, first minds started to wonder, and limbs became leaden. Some of us passed out - I am honestly no sure what luck was with us that we didn't lose anyone in  the fog.

Day Eighteen

More strangeness today, and another patch of corruption. This time the air itself seemed to turn yellow, which Balon says is another sign of deep-blight. We skirted around it. There are still very few sights and sounds of animals out here.

Tonight, perhaps in response to yesterday, Balon told us a tale of Wyrtha, Wielda and Wratha, and also talked of why he has come into the forest. He believes the Ambrians are obsessed with Wielda, and having heard similar talk from a close Councillor of the Queen, I had to agree. Almost no one is here simply for treasure (although Inga is, and got a stern talking to by Torbjorn later!)  although most of us appreciate it, we all have other reasons - stop the war, find the source of the Darkening. I was plain with everyone that I am here to deny the Throne of Thorns to everyone.
 
It seems to me that this war and mirrors his tale of Wyrtha, Wielda and Wratha. That the High Chieftain seems a good man, who honours the old ways and taboo places. He would represent Wyrtha. The Queen is Wielda, seeking control of the forest and the power to dominate her enemies; her quest has disrupted the forest and spawned much evil - from evil war mage to the Sovereign Oath. Are they the forest's way of channelling Wratha? I do not know but it all fits together too well. What is the word Ulavan used for books: Ah yes: "Thematically."

[To be continued]
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Re: Crackbones Expedition Journal
« Reply #7 on: March 30, 2020, 09:15:13 PM »
Day Nineteen, Early Morning

We lost Constance last night. When we camped, she was there and happy and admiring the treasure I gave her - then she was gone, vanished in the middle of the night. Not left, just disappeared.

There was nothing left: The only sign was churned earth where her bedroll had been, right among the middle of us. Farina says witches can travel beneath the earth by magic and it sometimes leaves a sign like this. After searching the trees, we finally came to our senses and dug down into the ground and found her – buried in the earth, soil filling her mouth, hands out and clawing, futile, as if drowning in the dirt.
And that was the end of Constance. Taken from us just like that. Here. Gone.

Beasts, blight-creatures, elves, trolls – death in combat I can accept. An accident, treading too close to a death flower or into a pool of corruption? Ill-chance and anger but so be it. But this? Simply there and then taken away, amidst the lot of us. That is a hard fate for all of us. There is still dirt under my nails. It makes me angry. Angry at this whole fucking forest.

At least she followed her dream, I tell myself in small consolation; she became a treasure hunter, explored the deeps, followed in her father’s footsteps. Only days ago, she helped pull artefacts from a ruin, a real treasure hunter at last! And now she is gone.

Damnit. Another one I failed to protect.

Did the forest know she had fulfilled her dream? Did it kill her as soon as she was done, her purpose fulfilled, like Shigg and Will? I find myself telling myself that I do not just wish to find Symbar, but to stop the madness of the throne of thorns and come back alive. I tell myself and hope the forest can hear me.

Day Nineteen, Later

Hot, damp. Rainstorm. I am miserable. I cannot stop seeing her dirt-drowned face.

Attacked by primal blight-beast today, hit like a troll with a battering ram, took all of us to take it down. Just one of them. My shield arm aches, where I broke it that time – or was it twice? I feel old.

Day Twenty

Symbar! You are before us.

We have arrived. And yet, after the misery of yesterday, I am yet too numb for my heart to soar – it is more a grim satisfaction, like the exhausted triumph after a long day of battle. A third of us are dead, Constance only yesterday. She missed Symbar by a single day.

Whoever may read this later, know that it is Earth Day, 16th day of Konelias, the first month of summer. The Hoodlums were here first. I was here first. I was the first to step into Symbar. I claim it for ogres and goblins and everyone else no one gives a shit about. We did it. We are better than you humans.

We passed a chasm in the morning, and by noon reached a cliff. Maybe it was always like this, or maybe the whole city dropped into a sinkhole. It is all broken and overgrown. Trees erupt from the ruins, like pillars of a massive underground hall. They are true giants, a hundred, two hundred strides of men into the sky. Their leaves are gold, red, and brown – as if they lived in perpetual autumn, while the rest of the forest is the verdant green of summer. Their tangled roots and branches dome the entire city, some as wide of streets in Yndaros, and sturdy enough to walk upon. In the cool darkness below, strands of grey-white fungus grows everywhere – mould on the rotting corpse.

We saw no living things, yet it is not uninhabited.

We ventured briefly in, exploring; silence, fungus, ruined buildings; a susurrus of faint noises, movement by who knows what both near and far. A troop of marching dead lead by a woman, a noble perhaps?
Despite their corrupted status, we were able to speak with her, thanks to Yagaba’s mastery of the old tongue. They were not especially hostile. They were not much concerned by us, much moreso by news of Ambria. My sense was that they were lost in time, that they thought their empire still existed, and had no news of the wider world or sense for the passing of many winters.

Yagaba warned us that the ruins possessed a miasma of corruption, but this does not extend to the canopy above. We have thus decided to make our way over the canopy of giant roots and towering trees. A few man-made peaks breach the canopy into the sun. We will try our luck that way.

What do you have in store for us, oh Mother of Darkness?
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Re: Crackbones Expedition Journal
« Reply #8 on: April 07, 2020, 05:57:43 PM »
Day 21, Morning

Symbar, we are upon you. Today we begin our delve into (or rather over) the root-choked Mother of Darkness, in search of her secrets.

Rega looked a little worse for wear today. I am sure we’re all tired, but he looks most affected. I suspect he stole some of our supply of waybread – wolfed down two whole loaves – almost a fortnight’s food! I can prove nothing, but the loaves are gone. I will watch him carefully tonight.

One more, Farina took the shape of a bird to fly over the canopy and scout the city. Our aim today is what we think is the palace, a plateau poking out from the southeast of the mass of the roots. She returned with interesting news.

Some kind of red tangled weed forms a ‘moat’ around the pillar of rock, which reminds me a little of a miniature Karvosti, with the palace on its summit. The outer courtyard is packed with shambling blight-beasts, but the inner remains a beautiful garden that fills us all with deep suspicion of its true nature.

Yet more disturbing news: Farina spotted fellow interlopers trying to hack their way up to the palace through the roots and briars. Clansmen by the look of them but lead by a great, winged leathery monster – a dragon. Not even a lindworm but a drac-worm!

Now that would be a fight worth seeing. Korik is cradling that worm killing spear like a raft to drowning man. He is looking forward to this fight, I think. Good! It will be a great battle, worthy of the hard men of old.

For now, let us leave these men – Sovereign Oath maybe? – to tire themselves. We will be in and gone before they ever get close.

Day 21, Later

An interesting day.

We traversed the bramble moat and palace walls by means of ropes and rope-ladders, grapples and pitons and the aid of Kit and Farina. Within the palace, much is wrecked and faded, yet some sliver of glory yet remains.  We pulled some trinkets and keepsakes from the ruins, but the place feels… empty? Looted or emptied before the fall. There are passages down into the rock, I think, to the Dungeons of Symbar perhaps. But they were rubble strewn and delicately balanced. We left them for now.

And there was the throne room, of course.

Like the garden, there are parts of the palace that were restored, or which never lost their former glory. Marble, pale as snow, without chip or crack; lush crimson carpets, candles that burned without being consumed. It is strangely pristine – so much that I suspected some glamour of magic was being worked upon our eyes.

And the throne was there.

Or was it?

On a dais of marble sits a great stone throne, plainer than I thought it would be. Nothing magical about it, says Yagaba with her witch’s sight. Strange. I imagined it glowing like the sun or oozing black corruption, not this. A big stone seat, with carved stone thorns. I think I half expected it to be a living tree.

The mosaic was more interesting.

It was huge, filling the wall behind the throne. I wish Ulavan could have seen it. I sketched it down as best I could. Two circles, like opposing suns – one black, the other green. Between them, with its stern towards the black orb, was a great ship – like the Emperor’s death barge, or perhaps the ship we’d seen peeking through the root cover?

Thinking of the garden outside, it made me wonder if the Symbar people thought only of corruption and the wild, not of Wild, Wield and Wrath. That would explain why they fell to such corruption, if they did not know the truth.

And why a death ship, here of all places? If that is what it represents.

Day 21, Evening

The Emperor is here.

We found his spirit in the garden, fixed upon a single flower in all the abundance of the inner garden. We cannot be sure, but I believe he is restoring or transforming this place by will alone.

That is power indeed – but at what price? What immense corruption this must cause. I look at the roots, I can smell the rot of green things and hear the blight-beasts beyond the wall. Is this power the cause of all this, or just another, what would Kirsten call it – a symptom?
It vexes me to not know the tongue the Symbar, I feel so hamstrung by their forgotten tongue. I must try to pick up a few words from Yagaba, who has it mastered. It might save our lives to give good greetings or say we come in peace.

Wait, did I mention he is dead? Of course, he is, a thousand years dead or more. And I have seen all his parts withered and cut up in jars, back in his death barge, in the Yonder place. Yet his spirit is here. I wonder, did it always reside here and never took its final journal, or was it at peace until he was disturbed?

Yagaba asked him a few questions – enough to know he is the emperor and behind the restoration of this place. His answers were half-formed, as if he did not remember or was remembering a dream. But that is the way of the dead, says Yagaba.

There are of course a thousand questions. We ask a few before a bleak mood took the spirit once more and he turned back to restoring or perfecting his plants.

He spoke of the fall of Symbar, and throne. There is something missing, or something else needed perhaps, before the mere stone becomes truly the throne of thorns. Perhaps some artefact one must attune to? Por perhaps the ‘throne’ is something else entirely, some poetic name? After all, we thought we were chasing Symbar to Yndaros, until it was revealed that perhaps “Symbar” was a man as well as a city – or the city was the body, and the emperor the will. Perhaps it is the same, and ‘throne’ means that with signifies majesty or some such. Perhaps the throne is a crown? He said himself that he was part of Symbar, but not all of it.  Perhaps it is like the race for the throne itself – the Throne is Wild, the King Wield. Then what is Wrath?

Something was missing, the emperor said. Something stolen or taken by the priests in the final days, perhaps to protect it from the city’s fall- but perhaps in a bid to seize its power.

The quest continues.

Day 21, Late Night

I almost forgot, so I sat it in it. I can say I am the first to sit upon the throne of Symbar in a thousand years. Uncomfortable chair. Bet the room is hard to heat in the winter, but that's no problem for emperors. I remain myself, uncorrupted. No fabulous secret powers were revealed to me.

Worth a try.

I do wonder though - if the emperor can restore things that are damaged and broken, perhaps he can remove corruption too?


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.