Starday, 9 Kuthona, 4733
After a long journey from Magnimar, the Rune Wardens arrived at the rain-drenched village of Turtleback Ferry the previous day. While they wait for their companion Lea to rendezvous with them, the adventurers settle in at the Turtle’s Parlor inn.
The arrival of so many exotic and well-armed strangers draws gawks from the locals. Marcus retreats to his room to focus on his crafting and research. Zavian awkwardly tries to offer Abadarian services to the locals. Amelia does a little busking, hoping to learn more from the locals, but gets too caught up in her performance. Astrid shyly lingers in the inn’s common room, avoiding the locals.
Word of their arrival travels fast, however, and the adventurers are soon summoned to speak with the town mayor, Maelin Shreed. A priest of Erastil, he offers his spellcasting services to them free of charge for the duration of their stay.
They learn from Maelin that the rangers from Fort Rannick have not visited the town for several weeks. A few days ago, a group of foresters and woodsmen from the village trekked out to the fort to try to make contact. They haven’t been heard from either. So he’s very happy to see a band of adventurers, no matter how strange, here to help.
They ask the mayor about any other strange occurrences in the vicinity of the town. He tells them about the sinking of the Paradise, a controversial pleasure barge that was set up several years ago by a beautiful red-headed woman named Lucrecia. The barge sank in the middle of the night about a month ago, taking all hands and passengers with it to the bottom of Claybottom Lake. The Rune Wardens consider investigating the boat once their other business is done.
The adventurers tell the mayor that they will be investigating Fort Rannick once their final companion arrives.
Sunday, 10 Kuthona, 4733
The following morning, there is a commotion in the center of town as a griffin touches down. The elegant beast has the head of an owl and manages to look both majestic and judgmental despite the rain. On its back are two armored women, one in silver and gold, the other in black and gold.
A weary and chastened Lea dismounts, thanking Ser Chammady of Korvosa for this favor. The senior paladin tells her to remember her lessons, and then tells the other adventurers that she will hold them responsible should anything happen to Lea. She also passes on a greeting to Amelia from her parents. With that, Chammady takes off for Korvosa on the back of her griffin.
Lea is exhausted from nights of standing watch and has to be gently escorted to the Turtle’s Parlor. Along the way, she passes Marcus a book and a letter from Shayliss, as well as a letter from his mother Clairian.
At Zavian’s request, Shalelu takes a walk around the village, inspecting the soil and the sky. She reports that there is a fell voice on the wind, and suspects that the rains are the result of magic, though she’s not sure to what end.
Once Lea has recovered somewhat from her journey, she asks Shalelu about the man she is here to find, Jakardros Sovark. The elf says that she’s heard from the locals that he is a workaholic who has risen to second in command at the fort, and lost an eye some years ago. Lea urges Shalelu to keep an open mind about him, as his disappearance after her mother’s death might have been driven by grief rather than malice. Either way, Shalelu is determined to find out the truth.
The elf ranger is somewhat flummoxed, however, by Galodar’s continuing courtesies towards her and does not know how to react.
That evening, Zavian and Nualia take advantage of a break in the clouds to go stargazing. Zavian urges Nualia to take this opportunity to find her destiny and sends her off on a vision quest, accompanied by Vivi and a summoned lyrakien azata.
Moonday, 11 Kuthona, 4733
With Lea refreshed after a night’s rest, the Rune Wardens set out for Fort Rannick, following an old road that leads all the way north to the ancient dam of Skull’s Crossing. While most of them travel by foot, Amelia takes to the skies on her hippogriff. Marcus rides with her, taking the opportunity to read up in the book Shayliss gave him. It’s a treatise called Path of the Eldritch Knight, a meandering tome written by a gnome which nonetheless has some useful nuggets of information buried in it.
About three miles north of town, the road crosses over an old bridge to the western bank of the Skull River. As they make the crossing, the adventurers become aware of the sound of a big cat yowling in pain emanating from the nearby Kreegwood. At Lea’s insistence, they investigate.
They discover a firepelt cougar with its paw caught in some kind of bear trap. In the distance, they can hear hunting dogs bearing down on it. Lea approaches the creature and discerns that it is well trained, and likely a companion for a ranger or druid. While Astrid and Shalelu take up stealthy positions among the trees, Lea, Zavian and Galodar pry the cat free of the trap.
The party is soon confronted by the dog pack and their hunt master, a grotesque ogrekin named Rukus Graul. He orders them not to interfere in his hunt for the “kitty cat,” and sics his dogs on them when they refuse. The Rune Wardens make short work of the pack, and Rukus as well when he tries to flee.
The firepelt cougar leads the party deeper into the Kreegwood, following a rough trail back towards the Graul farm. Amelia scouts ahead on her hippogriff and spies a sickly field of corn adjacent to a dilapidated barn and sagging farmhouse. She notices another ogrekin stealthily patrolling the perimeter of the farm clearing.
The party decides to try to lure the guard away from the farm and into an ambush, using Amelia’s ghost sound to mimic an ogrekin voice calling out for “Mammy!”
The guard, Crowfood, hears the party moving into position, but his attempt to ambush the ambushers fails. Astrid cuts him down as the grotesque cornhusk fetishes the Grauls have hung from the trees around their farm look on.
The firepelt leads the party around the fringes of the farm clearing to the old barn. The adventurers debate how best to enter, but ultimately Lea and Astrid bash a human-sized hole in the back wall.
The cavernous interior beyond is thick with spiderwebs strong enough to snare a deer. A catwalk runs around the edge of the space, and the room ends with a set of double doors on the far side of the chamber. Beyond the doors, they can hear the muffled sound of voices.
No one is eager to step into the webbing, so Lea slaps together a Molotov cocktail and chucks it inside. The spiderwebs go up in a flash, startling the enormous ogre spider that lurks within. The arachnid slams into the double doors, battering them down.
An ogre kin in the next room hollers “Look out! Biggin’s got loose!”
Marcus takes this as a cue to step forward and hurl a fireball into the next chamber. Only after the spell is loosed does he wonder if there are any surviving rangers in the room. The fireball explodes into a wrathful globe of flame that sweeps across the room.
There is a sharp hissing noise, and then an explosion that rocks the barn as the still the ogrekin were working on explodes. The Grauls are killed, and the ogre spider is set on fire. Lea rushes forward and bashes its thorax in with her earthbreaker.
While the the others attempt to scavenge what they can from the wreckage, Zavian races up the snmoking stairs onto the catwalk. There is a large wooden cage jutting out from the walkway, within which are three badly injured men in their underclothes. While Zavian heals them up, Amelia frees them from their manacles. the two of them notice that one of the men has a Sihedron rune tattooed on the inside of his left arm.
The men are rangers of the Black Arrows: Vale Temros, Kaven Windstrike, and Jakardros Sovark. The older ranger gruffly explains that ogres have captured Fort Rannick. His unit was out on patrol and upon their return attempted to retake the fort, but were repulsed. While they regrouped, they were set upon by the cannibalistic Grauls, who have been devouring them one by one.
After wrapping the men in blankets, the party takes them outside. Jakardros’ entire demeanor changes when he sees Shalelu. Zavian, meanwhile, sternly questions Kaven about his Sihedron and breaks out a zone of truth to force him to answer.
Kaven admits that he was a regular at the Paradise, and got the tattoo to get VIP access. He ended up in the arms of the proprietress, Lucrecia, and spilled information about the fort’s defenses. He got a tip that he should stay away from the fort on a specific date, which was why he volunteered for Jakardros’ long distance patrol.
The party suspects that Lucrecia is connected to the Sihedron murders, and is perhaps Xanesha’s sister. The Rune Wardens are divided as to what to do about Kaven. Zavian thinks he should be given a chance to win back his honor, and Marcus thinks he could be useful in the fight, while Lea thinks he should face justice for his crimes.
They leave the decision to Jakardros, who takes a sword from Lea, but then looks at Shalelu and decides to grant Kaven a chance to redeem himself.
The adventurers decide to leave the rangers with Shalelu, Galodar, and Jakardros’ firepelt cougar Kibb, while the Rune Wardens assault the Graul farm and recover the rangers’ weapons. Jakardros warns them that the place is likely riddled with traps.