Date: <Throalic calendar date for August 16, 2020>
Re: Deceiver Activity Sabotaging House Mikul Trade Route Near Throal
To whom it may concern at the Great Library,
I met with my friend Mal the elven archer, who had a lead on a job; to investigate the mystery of some supply caravans that had not arrived as scheduled at Clear Creek Crossing [CCC]. We were joined by Jarok, the orc weaponsmith, Killian, the obsidiman warrior, Juniper, the elven Shadow, and a new companion, Bloodbeat the t’skrang Nethermancer.
Mal had heard that the Elders of CCC had reported a couple of missing caravans and needed adepts to look into the matter. So, off we went.
Travel along the road from Throal was uneventful. When we arrived at CCC, we found the town Elders were building a sort of passport control office outside the palisade, and demanded that anyone who wished entry perform their Greeting Ritual and strip, as there had been incidents involving doppelgangers with some sort of stinger hidden under their clothing.
We complied with this unusual request, and learned that two caravans, each consisting of two wagons, had gone missing. The first was due in just over 3 weeks ago, and the second was due about a week ago. After the second caravan was late, the Elders sent a pair of local scouts, Umikas, a dwarf and Josehorn, an elf to see what was going on. Jose carried a summary of what had been ordered, so that the two would know what to look for if needed.
The two scouts found where the caravans had been attacked, just off the road and up in the hills a few hours north of the town, about ten minutes travel from one another. In both cases, the bodies of the waggoneers were left where they fell in a fight. At one of the sites, a number of items from the manifest were found, but notably, all building supplies were missing. The two scouts improvised a funeral pyre out of a damaged wagon, gave what rites they could to the slain, and returned to CCC with their report. We asked the Elders if one of the scouts could show us the location, and Jose was assigned to accompany us.
[NB, subsequent cross-checks with caravan companies in Throal revealed that the trade route is operated by House Mikul. A copy of this report with the available details was provided to the dwarven merchant house, so that next of kin could be notified and a review of security provisions for the trade route completed. The caravans were outward bound and not expected back for several weeks, so House Mikul operations was unaware of their loss and the new danger on the route. They thanked the adepts for their assistance.]
At Site #1, there was evidence of a fight, but little could be found after over 3 weeks. Jose the scout pointed out where broken vegetation and other signs of passage marked the route taken by two wagons. The tracks connected to those of the single wagon from Site #2, see below.
At Site #2, one of the wagons was apparently damaged in the fight. The attackers dumped most of the cargo out of the undamaged wagon, taking only building supplies. The two sets of wagon tracks from Site #1, and the single set of tracks from Site #2 converged about 15 mins to the east, and the combined path continued east.
Bloodbeat performed a physical and astral analysis of the two sites, and noted that it was unusual that both caravans were off the road before the attack. Details from her analysis suggested illusion and other magics were being used to redirect the wagons off the road and into excellent tactical locations for ambush. A high fly-over revealed that the area was under surveillance by at least two individuals, one human-ish sized, and one dwarven sized, but the two spotters quickly vanished into the underbrush in a fashion that appeared magically augmented.
The party posted warning signs an hour’s travel on either side of the area, and will spread the word of the attacks in both Throal and CCC.
Cross country travel to follow the tracks is more taxing than the road, and we were set upon by a pack of wolves whose hunting territory is in the hills to the east. We killed several and drove off the rest, but any group following up on the Deceivers should be aware of the hazard.
As we approached a box canyon <insert map location and geographic details>, pollution in astral space began to spike. We were set upon by a group of Strawmen and Twisted Falcons who appeared to be operating off of rote instructions to defend the area – they were not particularly interactive outside their instructions. Other, not on guard, Strawmen had apparently been tasked with some sort of digging activity further up the canyon. They stayed focused on their tasks, and only reacted when we got too close.
The fight is a very bitter note in this report. The tactics of the Strawmen were straightforward and we were able to handle their threat with our usual competence. The Twisted Falcons however had the ability to perform vastly powerful diving attacks with hyper maneuverability. Our new companion, Bloodbeat, was tucked up against one side of the box canyon. One of the birds came diving out of the sky and snapped her neck in a single strike, as tho she was a rabbit and not a powerful t’skrang Nethermancer. Even through the astral pollution, I sensed a sort of… …death curse? energy? anger? from Bloodbeat as her body slumped to the ground. There was a chilling echo on the astral of “I’ll be baaaaaaaaaaaaak” that makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck to this day….
The non-guard Strawmen were… …digging? gardening? feeding?... …three shallow graves? It’s hard to describe. After dispatching the Strawmen we unearthed what can only be described as unhallowed ground infused with magic and being used as a nursery to grow Deceivers. Their partial form is… …disturbing, to say the least. After we had used fire to cleanse the screaming, writhing proto-Deceivers in their shallow graves, I looked around at the hills and wilderness, and wondered how many such nurseries whoever is behind this has started in these largely unpopulated woods, and what they needed all those building supplies for… Also, if they had twisted the falcons into such formidable forms, what were they doing with the other wildlife in the area?.... We were unable to carry Bloodbeat’s body back, but I think it is somewhat fitting that we spread her ashes in benediction over that cursed canyon where she died. I just have a feeling that she protects us from the Horrors still….
I have penned a note to be delivered to House Syrtis to let them know of her passing, and included a copy of this report. I just hope it brings some comfort to her kin.
The current version of the Earthdawn West Marches Discord campaign, effective Jan 1, 2020