The PCs have been traveling for more than 3 weeks with the Merris clan, a pair of familes bringing textile materials to the frontier for sale and returning with goods for the cities to the east. The Merris clan is made up of the following people:
Dun Merris – He’s the wagonmaster, father and head of the outfit, he has 5 children with him. Dun is a suprisingly descent man, fair, honest and makes for a solid travel companion. Dun lost most of his hair after he lost his wife 3 years past. He is garbed in simple but well cut clothes that seem like they’ve seen many miles on the road.
Nel Colt – Nel is Dun’s oldest daughter, she has stringy brown hair and seems to constantly teeter on exhaustion. She has two children, Derra and Maraih, and is married to Mal Colt. She is a quiet woman and keeps to herself and her children for the most part, the constant toil of traveling, and herding her children seem to wear on her.
Mal Colt – Mal is Nel’s husband he’s older than her and in his late 30s, Mal has a strong jaw and the lean look of a man who’s known hunger before. His brownish red hair is kept fairly short and is rarely styled. He has an easy smile but tired green eyes. A scar starts just below his left ear and gets larger before disspearing under his collar. He walks with a bit of a limp but has strong arms and shoulders. Mal often has a distant, far-away look in his eyes and you’ve heard that he spent time as an archer in the army. He has a long bow and quiver over his shoulder most often and seems a capable hunter. He’s apprenticing to learn the textile business from Dun but seems to enjoy life on the frontier more than in the city.
Derra Colt – Derra is one of Nel and Mal’s daughters. She’s 8 years old and has a strangely blank expression for a child her age. She rarely laughs or cires. She often wanders off and twice she’s been saved by Mal from a wild animal. Her parents worry that she may be simple but she knows her name and will reluctantly give answers when asked.
Mariah Colt – Mariah is Mal and Nel’s younger daughter and an opposite in every way from her older sister Derra. She laughs, runs, cries and is in every way a typical 5 year old. She is often seen playing with a few simple toys in the dirt or climbing around on wagons when the adults aren’t looking.
Mennius Merris – Mennius is Dun’s oldest son at 22. Mennius is often sick with a rough cough but his sharp mind and solid head for numbers has paired well with Dun’s salesmanship. Mennius rides in Dun’s cart most of the day and emerges only to inspect materials or for meals around the evening campfire. He does not seem very personable but among others of high intellect he can be quite engaging.
Hal Merris – Middle Son Hal is Dun’s middle child at 15, Hal Merris has a wide lantern head with reddish hair and freckles that form on the back of his neck. His eyes and mouth appear a bit too small for his heavy build, dispite his tall and thick frame he’s a nice quiet kid who likes splitting wood, tending horses and fixing broken goods.
Emon Merris – Emon is Dun’s youngest child, and twin his sister Ester. He’s a young excitable child and loves playing with his cousin Mariah.
Ester Merris – Ester is Dun’s youngest daughter and twin to her brother Emon. She’s quiet and spends much time with her oldest brother Mennius in the wagon. The two of them have a very close bond.
The PCs have joined the group for a variety of reasons, Abdul the cleric (Drake) has joined up with them and often discusses the price and quality of materials from his far away homeland. Mennius and him have spent many hours together debating the prices of goods and what trade routes would have the greatest return. Others like the salty ranger Jamalamin Bushbeater (John M) and the shaved dwarf paladin Nibil the Beardless (John K) have joined up as guards protecting the caravan while trying to get to a part of the Wardlands that they both have an interest in. Despite some misgivings by Mal and Nel Dun agreed to allow Rystime Alehame a Wizard (Nick) to ride with them with hopes that his intellect could she some light on which roads in the Wardlands might yield up the most profit. Bicklebrick the dwarf rogue (Lars) joined the group with his mule Snot. Dun seems to have more than a little interest in Dwarven culture and is eager to try and create some sort of trading arragement with the barberic dwarf clans that live in the Grey Mountains.
After 3 weeks of slow plodding travel the group has come to the outskirts of the town of West Ward. It is 3 weeks after the fall harvest, the mornings make dragons out of men with their smoky breath creating clouds about their faces and the nights are growing ever more cold. The PCs are in the Wardlands a series of rough hills, low marshes and thick woods that jut up against the Grey Mountains in the West and fade into the expanse of plains to the east which stretch to the sea. The Wardlands are the frontier, shallow wagon tracks connect pinpricks of light and civilization to one another and the nights are dark and full of terrors. Ever since the border wars to the south ended 2 summers ago more armed men have walked the roads looking for coin and weakness in their fellow travelers. The residents of the few established towns view those outside their walls with skepticism and distrust.
One of those towns has just come into view. The town of West Ward looks shows it’s roots easily. The town started as a logging camp and now has a wall of roughly hewn logs surrounding it giving it a prickly appearance. Cookfire smoke and noise rise above them after many days on the road this view of civilization is a welcome one. The gate directly ahead of you is barely open and a long line leads towards it. On the field outside the walls other groups of wagons, carts and travelers gather together.
The residents of West Ward have come up with a taxation system where each good brought into the city has a tax levied against it. Some people try to do business outside the town on occasion but the security of West Ward’s tall walls are hard to ignore. Unfortunately the PCs have arrived late in the day and they are unable to get through the line and the tax collectors before sundown. Jamalamin thinks that they should camp a bit away from the road leading to town and away from the stink of the village. They make camp in the field outside the town among numerous stumps and 24″ grass where the forest used to be.
Dun sees another trader he knows and heads off exchange greetings and catch up on old times. Hal and Mal setup camp and Nel tends to the children. When camp is settled and the evening meal is just about ready Dun returns with a small keg of ale the result of an old favor that he cashed in. He thanks the PCs for their hard work in getting them to West Ward and tells them that they’ll be paid the 15gp promised in full on the morrow.
Abdul takes the first watch. After huddling close to the fire for warmth in the cool night for several hours he hears some faint sounds over the wind at the other camps across the road closer to town. He listens for a bit and then returns back to the fire. Not long afterward he hears more sounds and wakes Jamalamin whose ranger ears clearly make out the sound of battle across the road.
Jamalamin shouts to the others to wake up and arm themselves, with both Nibil and Bicklebrick up their keen Dwarven dark vision allows them to see several beasts beyond the light of the campfire.
These beasts stand about shoulder height with a heavy stooped frame. Corse long fur covers their enlongated sounts, heads, and body. Dull yellow teeth hang out of it’s long mouth and it’s eyes catch the firelight like a cat’s. The beast smells of strong body oder and fetid water. Its monkey like hands end in small chipped yellow claws. A long, bald wormlike tail trashes about behind it. It lopes towards you using a combination of hands and feet while emitting a horrible shrieking sound.
Jamalamin is charged while Bicklebrick begins to suit up in his armor with the help of Rystime the wizard. Nibil reached out with his senses to determine if the beasts had the touch of evil upon them but his heart was unsure if they were truly horrific creatures or just wild animals. Abdul drew his scimitar and shouted at the beast that charged Jamalamin. Jamalamin tried to gut the beast that charged him but the creature proved too nimble and slipped through his defenses.
The beast sunk its teeth into Jamalamin and the stink of it’s twisted mouth was nauseating, the salty ranger managed to shrug the beast off before the infection could take root, still the beast nearly crippled the ranger’s shoulder. Seeing his travel companion and friend suffer a wound Nibil forgoes donning his armor and engages another of the monsters. He fights with it for a short bit but again the creature proves evasive and soon the shaved paladin is bleeding as well. The wound delt to him feels hot and aching in the cold night. He worries that he may have suffered some infection from the creature.
Abdul sees the blood seeping through Jamalamin’s armor and calls upon the power of the goddess of winds to heal him so that he can drive back this evil. Jamalamin feels a strong breeze at his back as if the wind itself wants him to fight on and retightens the grip on his scimitar. Rystime sees his companions in trouble and lets loose with an arcane missile which strikes one of the creatures with enough force to draw blood. A thrid creature charges out of the grass and crashes into the side of one of the wagons and begins to savage the wooden exterior. Screams from Nel and her children can be heard from the inside.
With his armor fully suited up Bicklebrick moves to engage the first beast while Abdul sees if he can draw the attention of the one attacking the wagon. Abdul calls upon the power of his god to try jolt the beast with divine lightning but in the flickering firelight the bolt goes wild but the bright flash shows that there’s at least 2 more beasts out in the field nearby, they seems confused or lost and don’t seem keen to attack though. Unwilling to sit by while his family is attacked Mal jumps out of the wagon shouting “bar the door behind me Nel!” He lines up a shot with his bow but the poor light and the frenzy of the melee cause his shot to go astray.
With a combined effort Bicklebrick and Jamalamin put down the first beast and the two move over to support Abdul who is engaged in melee combat with the beast attacking the wagon. Rystime is trying to help Nibil with the beast that injured him. Abdul manages to score a solid hit with his scimitar and by the light cast from his light spell he can see that upon opening a wound on the beast that it has maggots crawling on it’s skin and fur and now into the open wound. The creature lashes back and bites Abdul on his side. The dull teeth puncture his armor and he is soon bleeding and his wound also feels hot and foul.
Jamalamin tries to draw the beast’s attention while Bicklebrick moves around the wagon behind it and finds an opening in the creature’s defenses and puts a shortsword between it’s ribs. The creature spasms for a second then lies still. Jamalamin then moves over to help Nibil and by flanking the beast they manage to silence it as well.
5 men on horseback are closing in quickly on the group and shouts of “WEST WARD!” and “For the Ward!” can be heard heralding their arrival. While help may be on the way, 2 of the PCs are injured and the greater question remains, what are these things and where did they come from?