Castle Whiterock—Chapter 9: The Road to Galaron
- Emmeline Forthwrought, eccentric human wizard, with Jonathan, cat familiar.
- Frevia Arden, self-sufficient human druid, with Roberta, snake animal companion.
- Imra Shadowmantle, disciplined elven rogue.
- Melanie Shadowmantle, aristocratic human fighter, with Angelina, recovered toad.
The party decides to travel to Galaron by escorting a Shadowmantle family caravan. Luckily, a shipment of dwarven textiles is scheduled to leave the next morning. Before setting out, Melanie buys a pair of very fine fountain pens. She gives one to her father as an early birthday present, and the other she gives to Emmeline.
Lord Shadowmantle calls Imra into his office. He tells her that the family has begun negotiations with the gnomes of Far Cirque for their gems, but the town has existing contracts with three merchants in Galaron. He gives Imra a list of names and hints that it would be good for the family if someone convinced these people to break their ties with the gnomes. Imra isn't entirely sure what he's authorizing her to do, though.
The next morning, the party sets out along with six wagons as well as their drivers and porters. The hot summer days pass slowly on the road. But soon, the party can see a wall of mist on the northern horizon: the Ice Mire is a swamp that is perpetually cold as the heart of winter. When the humid air of the surrounding fields hits the frigid air, it creates this cloud layer and the occasional powerful storm.
After four days of travel, the caravan reaches a large bridge spanning the Morro River. They stop at the Stonebridge Inn for the night, leaving their wagons in the large walled lot. Inside the common room, they see an interesting sight: a handsome half-orc bard playing for the room, his surly human sister, and her wolf animal companion.
Imra speaks with the bard and learns that his name is Darlok. Frevia finds his sister terse but not unfriendly. Her name is Daria, and her wolf is Arlo. The pair are heading to Galaron to work for a few months before returning to their home of Bone Hollow for the winter. After some deliberation, Imra hires Darlok and Daria for the remainder of the trip to the city for a fee of 100 gold.
What's the Opposite of "Ambush?"
The next week of the trip goes by uneventfully. Daria returns to the caravan, having scouted ahead of the group for much of the journey. She has spotted a camp of eight armed individuals off the road ahead. She doesn't know who they are or what they're doing there, but she thought it best to alert the rest of the party. Imra decides to check it out, and she tells the driver of the lead wagon to shout if they get into any trouble.
The party sneaks off through the tall summer crops, following Daria's lead. By the time they reach the edge of the field, they are aware that the armed group has taken cover on the edge of a small wood ahead. Melanie strides out to speak with them and is met with crossbow fire. A man in plate armor comes out from behind a large tree and says, "It's not every day that they come to us," before drawing his bastard sword.
The fight goes quite well for the party. Darlok inspires the group with a quick song of courage while Daria and Imra take up firing positions behind low walls at the edge of the field. A dwarf and a few humans rush out from their cover to engage Daria and Darlok.
From the woods, a woman's voice incants a spell, and Melanie is overcome with hideous laughter and falls to the ground. Fevia responds by conjuring a flaming sphere to harry the caster. A few halflings continue to fire crossbows from the treeline, while another human with a heavy mace and the man with the bastard sword try to take out Melanie while she's on the ground.
Frevia gums up much of the battlefield with an entangle spell, which slows down the enemies but also makes Emmeline's spellcasting much harder as she struggles against the vines too. But before long, the party dispatches most of the bandits, including burning the spellcaster to death.
Melanie recovers from her laugther in time for Frevia to drop the entangle and Emmeline to enlarge her. As her size expands, she draws Treeheart and brings it up with incredible force through the plate-armored leader's head, killing him instantly. The party gathers up their gear (including a pair of magic bracers and a few dozen magic arrows) and carries it back to the wagons.
Bright Lights, Big City
The caravan arrives in Galaron after more than two weeks on the road. The city's gleaming grey and green walls and the high towers of Stormkeep greet them from afar. As the teamsters unload the wagons at the Shadowmantle family's warehouse, Darlok and Daria take their leave of the group. Darlok tells Imra that they'll be staying at the Falcon and Child if she needs their services or "an evening's entertainment."
The party books rooms at the expensive Elven Oak Inn, but Imra leverages the family connections with the proprietor for a discount on the week's stay. Melanie and Emmeline enjoy a fine dinner at the inn, and Melanie convinces the wizard that she needs to slow down and learn to relax. She won't be able to reach her potential and save her transformed family members if she kills herself studying.
The group handles some business the following day. Imra sells the gear they pulled off the bandits for a tidy sum. Frevia purchases a fine darkwood shield and arranges to have her hide armor magically enhanced.
What mischief might the group get into in the city? Find out next time.