17 Pharast, 4710
At twilight we camp upon an corrupted temple to Erastil amidst ancient Taldane ruins. The temple is carved into a cliff face. The cliff itself is 100 feet high and over 300 feet wide. A dark cave is surrounded by the outline of a stylized carved stag’s head.
Tamarie drinks from the pool and is suffused with vitality.
The cavern beyond the stag’s head has 5 alcoves. On the walls are a series of figures painted in a primitive manner in various earth tones. A crowd of people hunting, living, being chased, dying. The scenes repeat themselves in a myriad of ways. There is a sense of timelessness here. The same story is told of the wolves in another cavern; a pack of wolves hunting, living, chasing, tearing people apart. Each alcove tells the same tale, one in woodland, one in alpine settings, and one of burials and death rights.
When we enter the north west alcove, we find a pile of bones. There is a large bear skull, bleached by age. The paintings on the walls show various animals killing humanoids.
The northern-most alcove shows humans with animal traits. Here we find the depiction of a stag-headed man.
We make camp inside the larger cavern. On the ceiling there is a star-scape depicted. We bed down early as the cavern makes even a whisper echo, and its size and depictions by firelight suppress our desire to talk. As we drift off to sleep, the stick-figures haunt our dreams. In the night the stories draw us in and we see them played out before us.
Stories, passed down from civilizations past, pulling itself up to fall anew. One figure. A man with an arrow upthrust in the air is in contention with a giant wolf. They fight over a diminutive figure in between them. Thierry gains the insight that the shadows of the cavern depict the villains. One alcove in particular is reserved for those touched by Erastil. He is drawn in.
Xene is drawn to the stories of the humans with animal traits. They are the shepherds who guide and guard the flock. She is one of them and drawn in.
18 Pharast, 4710
We awaken. The day is overcast and chilly.
Xene holds a small mass to introduce Theirry to Erastil as a champion. After the introduction, she gently thumps him on the back, pushing him into one of the alcoves. He stands in awe of what is before him, reading the stories depicted in the paintings. He then uses a bit of coal-dust paint and coats his hand, leaving his hand print on a wall to mark his presence as one of Erastil’s chosen.
We spend the morning back tracking to find the Thorn ford and exit the Old Margreve into the Camelands. By late afternoon, the horses are carefully walking along a ridge top. It grants us a great view of the Cames. Along the way, Xene spots a cave opening. We leave Conrad with the horses and work our way down to the cave. Just above its opening we pick out a distinctive odor. It’s a very strong animal musk of a mammalian predator – a cougar or a Thylosine. Probably male. We decide not to engage it and leave it be.
We return to the horses and mount up. By late afternoon, the sky is clearing.
The evening we find a good place to camp in the lee of a came, and spend an uneventful night.
19 Pharast, 4710
We head back into the Old Margreve. There we discover a game trail and follow it. We come across a boar being led by a gray/black kobold with a stick. There are two others nearby, gorged on radishes. With Tamarie in the lead, we learn that Tartuk. is a soot-scale shaman, and that he’s purple. The kobolds are at war with the gremlins that live south-east of here. The kobolds tell us that to stop the war, the mites (gremlins) must die. We trade two daggers and their sheaths for 2 large radishes and one small. The kobolds claim this radish patch as their own, and use the radishes not only as food but also to assist in virility during procreation.
We make camp just after light fall. The evening is pleasantly troll-free, but there is a cold snap. In the night we are beset by wolves. They drive Parsley (our pack horse) off. Thierry mounts up and follows to protect the horse. He is attacked, but he defends himself and his horse. We engage the wolves from a distance and try to keep the others at bay through the fight. Most take flight, but we kill two.
20 Pharast, 4710
We sleep late, gather up the dead wolves, and ride back to Oleg’s. It’s chilly, but clear.
Along the way to the trading post, we find an arrow-strewn patch of ground near the “flag” we gave Horefrost. We ride in and see a 9’ tall creature made of blackened iron. It’s standing in the doorway. It lets us in after Thierry identifies himself. There are guests at the outpost: a gaunt man in black robes with a skull-face plate and a scythe. His name is Incanabulus He is accompanied by a man wrapped in tattered bandages wearing a helm with a canine face. His name is Alsket There is a human woman with a veil named Talia. Her gown has white spiral patterns. Off to the side is an iron forge. The iron man (golem) we learn is named Lord Carrion. They are the Iron Wraiths, a mercenary company from the south.
Svetlana’s certain the Iron Wraiths are here to kill us all. She’s hiding in the trading post. Oleg is outside, trying to keep his “guests” entertained. Thierry shares a glass of fine plum liqueur with Incanabulus. Xene and Brother Jhod speak with Talia. They learn the group is from the south and has been commissioned by the Swordlords to bring peace to a region south of here.