4th Day, 1st Ride, 10th Month, 1374th Year
We camped in between the outer wall of the keep and the broken tower, trying to stay as far away from the stench of the troglodyte bodies as we could. Even after death they seem to ooze an indescribable stench that was hard on my stomach. Jago once again stunned me with his practical sense by building a large, smokey fire to cover up the stench.
We had a discussion about what to do next. We considered several options; going back to join Ser Fosco on the Thar, trying to find the second troglodyte camp, heading back to Glister. Every option seemed to have a strong drawback which kept us from deciding anything. Instead, we decided to go to sleep and make a decision fresh and early in the morning.
One thing that struck me during the conversation was the notion that before we found the carnage at the Lizard’s tower the troglodytes and gnolls had been collaborating. I asked how that conclusion was reached, and Widukin explained that he recalled the gnolls and troglodytes meeting after the encounter at the Stillwater Rapids. During that time I was dealing with a surge of adrenaline and repeated spasms from voiding the contents of my stomach. I had just taken a deep breath of the vile mist the troglodytes were capable of producing, and I was not well. It bothered me tremendously that I had only learned of that encounter then. It changes a few things.
My assumption had always been that the Lizard’s Tower was the base of operations for a troglodyte leader who held tight and merciless control. Our conversation with Gal’nutha reinforced the idea that Oxul’nitha was that leader. Her powers are demonic and more than enough to drive the troglodytes to these acts of aggression. But I don’t believe that she would have enough power to bend gnolls and ogres to her will.
No, a far more powerful force is at work here. I suspect the ogre mage we spotted at the Stillwater Rapids is in charge of the gnolls and ogres and has enlisted Oxul’nitha and her troglodyte followers.
5th Day, 1st Ride, 10th Month, 1374th Year
When I awoke the following day, I quickly began to prepare my spells for the day. I noticed that Gunnar had perched himself atop a section of wall that was left standing. He was performing an augury. Later he said he wanted to return to Glister. He wouldn’t speak with certainty on what augured, but he felt it for the best if he made his way back.
A conversation was had about how to proceed next. A consensus was reached that the men on the Thar would come and take up shelter at the tower, preventing Gal’nutha from moving in and retaking the tower and keep for herself. I volunteered to help the men bring down the goods since I had prepared a lot of arcanokinetic spells. Gunnar would make his way to the ropes that Ser Fosco and the others had prepared for a possible hasty retreat and make his way over the Thar towards Glister.
I took off flying, together with Blackwing. I had yet to really take the time to go flying with her, but it was as exhilarating and energising as expected. The sense of freedom, of opportunity and of mobility was unparalleled. Long have I desired to be able to fly. Since the time where I was bed-ridden as a young boy I’ve dreamed about it. It helps that it significantly relieves the pain in my joints that I feel when walking for long stretches at a time.
Bo med faal ven
Fly like the wind
Arriving at Ser Fosco’s camp, we found that Sigbart was not doing very well. The bloodloss he had incurred was too profound for him to remain warm, despite a good campfire. It would take a long while before he would recover and to do so he would have to return to Glister. Gunnar, who arrived at the camp a little while later, would take Sigbart, three donkeys, some excess supplies and building materials, back to Glister. I helped levitate the other two donkeys, together with the rest of the men, down to the marshes below the Thar.
We arrived back at the keep around noon. Jago and Widukin had busied themselves in searching for troglodyte tracks. They had found tracks leading south-by-south-east. It was unclear which group the tracks had belonged to, but the going theory was that they belonged to whoever survived the fight at the keep. It lead me to think about the fight again.
The gnolls and ogres are seemingly working together with the troglodytes. I now believe they do so under the leadership of the ogre mage. But they are probably very reluctant bedfellows, and infighting is likely. What if the fight between at the keep was nothing more than a reestablishment of dominance within a loosely aligned group with a common goal? And if so, who won?
After showing Ser Fosco around the keep, making special note about the tunnel entrance through which we sneaked into the keep, we left him and the rest of the men and set off down the path through the forest leading towards the small river. We kept following the tracks that Jago had found and followed them upstream for a while before they lead north. The tracks were essentially heading roughly in the same direction as we had come from, except that they passed between the hill that held the keep and the hill we suspected held another camp.
When we were about middle way between the keep and the other camp Jago reported he had found gnoll tracks which crossed the troglodyte tracks. Jago estimated that they were tracks coming from the keep and heading towards the other camp. The gnoll tracks were freshest, which meant that the gnolls had crossed from the keep to the other camp after the troglodytes that we’d been following had made their way from the keep to the river and back north.
What did this say about what happened at the keep? Were the gnolls victorious? Did they come to the keep to hand out the orders given by the ogre mage and did they enforce them by engaging in battle? Did the surviving members of the troglodyte, now beaten into submission depart for the river only to return north again under orders from the ogre mage?
The tracks continued and we kept following them. Soon after, Jago found more troglodyte tracks coming from the direction of the second camp, joining the tracks of the group of troglodytes we were following and heading north. North towards Glister. At that point I thought Gunnar may have had the right of it.
We continued following the tracks down the path until the path veered off west towards the Thar. Shortly after, the tracks seemed to turn north again, away from the path and up a hill. Another discussion started about what to do next and what the troglodyte actions meant.
David, who had grown very quiet and was unwilling to engage in conversation, suddenly walked off without a word and continued down the path. My guess is that he was tired of the talking, the indecisiveness and confusion. For a man of the cloth he has little patience for contemplation, rhetoric and counselling. He is a man of action. Either that or thinks us all stupid.
Quentyn had given up trying to penetrate David’s reasons for doing anything, and he wasn’t about to run after him. He ordered us to continue following the tracks. I suspected that perhaps the troglodytes decided not to follow the path but continue straight across the hill in order to save time.
Atop the hill we found a clearing where the tracks temporarily got muddled. Eventually Widukin and Jago decided that this had been a site where the troglodytes had met up with two other smaller groups of troglodytes. There were several dead troglodytes in the clearing, whose throats had been slit and hands had been severed. This gave me the confidence to assume that Oxul’nitha was among the group of troglodytes and she was either demanding a sacrifice from the smaller groups who were joining her, or she was preparing for battle and made offerings for good fortune.
We continued on, deciding to skip eating, despite the dying light. Soon after we caught up with David, who had continued to follow the path. This supported my earlier assumption that the troglodytes had cut across the hill in order to save time. We decided to give up trying to search for tracks and simply march for Glister. Soon afterwards, we started hearing sounds coming from the north, coming from the woods that lay more land inward, away from the Thar.
Jago spotted five stalkers along our path, laying in wait to ambush us. We could either fight, maneuver around them. I handed out dollops of the protective ointment to everyone. If we were going to have to fight them it was best we were protected against their awful stench. While we were getting ready to attack, Widukin shot off an arrow, which missed horribly but sent them scurrying away. Clearly they were not interested in a fight where they weren’t able to catch us off guard.
We continued down the path and a little while later I heard some draconic hissing coming from the darkness up ahead. I was trying to make out what was being said, but couldn’t quite hear it without moving in closer. Suddenly we heard drumming of weapons against wooden shields coming from our right, more land inward, and was afeared we were getting boxed in by another group of troglodytes.
We decided to retreat in order to not get caught between the Stillwater Lake and two groups of troglodytes. Soon after we heard a fight coming from up ahead. We heard gnolls resoundingly defeating the troglodytes who we had heard hissing and whispering in the darkness. I had been completely off, the group banging weapons on their shields weren’t troglodytes but gnolls.
Why would gnolls, who shared a common cause with the troglodytes, be attacking the troglodytes? Was their dissension within their ranks? Were they ordered to set an example? Was this another case of infighting? I decided that we needed answers before we could effectively decide what to do or how to proceed.
We snuck back down the path towards Glister and found the corpses of the defeated troglodytes. Further down the road we came upon a group of three brutes, six stalkers and four regular troglodytes. A well-placed fireball took out the stalkers and two of the regulars. The other two regulars ran off, but the brutes engaged. Two of the brutes we cut down with fire and steel, but not before they managed to critically injure Widukin.
Ag ko faal toor do Dinoksetiid
Burn in the inferno of the end times
I called for the last brute to be taken alive for interrogation. It took David, Jago and Quentyn to bring the beast down and tie him up. Now it was time to use a spell to read its mind and get some answers!