We crossed the Shrike River this morning and came upon a city in the distance. A sign marks this city as Varnhold, our missing neighbor. It is a small place with houses spread out along a shallow river and with no walls to defend it from attack (maybe that is why we haven’t heard from them). A fort on a hill to the south seems to be the only sort of fortification this city has.
We came upon the first house and it wreaked of death. It would seem that this used to be some sort of pig farm, but a feral, wild boar had broken into the enclosure and eaten the tame pigs. We put the beast out of its starving misery. Abraham suggested we burn the building and the carcasses to the ground, but I forbade it saying “Let us not start fires, where water would suffice.” I am starting to sound more and more like my father.
We explored the other buildings north of the shallow river that divided the town. They were all empty, seemingly looted by… who know’s what. As we crossed the river, Abraham’s horse stepped in an unseen hole in the river’s bottom. The horse panicked and Abraham was thrown into the water. It would not have been of much concern had not a giant lobster/crab/squid monster crawled out of the hole and made to eat Abraham!
Shtor made to fight the creature and I cast a spell to help him move faster underwater. Pete managed to place his shot so expertly that the lobster was forced to drop Abraham. The three of us made short work of the beast after that.
The other side of the river proved no less perilous as the ground opened up and Shtor fell into a pit trap. We pulled him up and thankfully he was not badly hurt. This gnome is tougher than it would seem. We came upon an abandoned stable full of horse carcasses and a murder of crows feasting on their flesh. Abraham and his lackey stepped inside the building and made the murder quite angry. We were forced to slay them all. After inspecting the horses, it would seem that they died of natural causes.
At that time, Karigen rode up behind us. We had left her behind to govern Nicenia while we were gone, but she craves adventure and the outdoors. I cannot blame her for that and her skills will be of use as we continue to explore this town.
We had yet to find anybody and the day was growing late. Abraham convinced the others to march up the hill to inspect the fort. Shtor and I explored a final house and found it to be an abandoned potter’s house, full of clay pots. Shtor mumbled something about an urge to roll and break the pots, but then we heard the sound of fighting from the hill. Apparently, the fort was occupied and our approach had made them quite angry. Abraham was hurling angry words up at shadowy figures in a lookout on top of the fort’s stockade, that seemed quite intent on filling him with crossbow bolts. Pete was attempting the climb the wall via grappling hook and Karigen stood a distance away firing her arrows at our shadowy attackers.
I felt conflicted about attacking these people. We had no idea who they were and they certainly did not know who we were. Tempers were flaring and it would seem Diplomacy was out of the question. After Karigan managed to slay one of our attackers only to have another step forward and take its place, I called for a retreat. We scrambled down the hill and took refuge at its base, well out of range. Shtor and Pete were the last to arrive. Apparently, they had used the confusion to scale the wooden palisade and peek over. Shtor told us that the creatures defending the fort are creatures called Spriggans, sworn enemies of gnomes and very evil to boot. They are scavengers, taking armor, food, and housing from the dead. Meaning, these creatures may not be responsible for the disappearance of Varnhold, just happy beneficiaries from the owners’ absence. Still, I wonder if they know more of what happened here…
Night has fallen and we journeyed further into the city to take refuge in one of the buildings. As we passed a green area in the road, we inspected a well and found a bloated Spriggan floating inside. After hauling the body out and inspecting it, we determined that the Spriggan was a victim of a cruel prank gone too far. We all wished to bury it, but Shtor refused to help and stayed far away.
We have found an empty house and have taken up residence for the night inside. We should continue exploring Varnhold in the morning, and hopefully learn more about where her citizens are.