April 26th – May 2nd
We stayed in the cave for two days so that Vlad and Derg could recuperate and so we all could get a little rest. Then we made our way towards the Red Rock Kingdom.
We were running a little low on rations so we decided we should stock up before we went on into the Mirkwood Forest. Derg suggested we stop in a town called Carrington on the edge of the Red Rock Kingdom. Looking back I wish we had avoided that stop. Carrington is a carnival town, thus it is full of carnies, circus people who travel in large caravans. Luckily our little group didn't stand out as too odd in the melting pot Carrington is. The only problem is that there were only four of us, which is a bit unusual.
Carrington was a sight to behold. There were circus tents everywhere and performers practicing their acts. I've never seen such a varied assortment of people and costumes. Everything was loud and bustling. Almost immediately upon entering town I was approached by some circus master. He offered me a job as a dancer of all things. My mother would have been horrified, of course my mother is already horrified by my life, so that might be an improvement in her eyes. I finally persuaded him to leave me alone and he reluctantly gave us directions to the marketplace.
We hadn't gone far when Beryl was approached by another halfing and offered 50 goldpieces if he could successfully disable a trap. I was sure Beryl would accept the challenge, but he was just as anxious to get out of there as the rest of us, so he declined. The halfling didn't give up easily, but he finally let us be on our way.
As I said Carrington is a gathering place for circus people and carnies, so when we got to the marketplace and asked a merchant for rations for four people for five days he laughed in our faces. When he realized we were serious he said the best price he could give us was 30 goldpieces. Derg was doing the negotiating and the preposterous amount angered him too much to continue speaking. I stepped in and thanked the merchant but said we would try elsewhere. The second merchant we talked to explained that he susually didn't sell rations in portions lower than 100, so the best price he could give us was 15 goldpieces. I didn't think we were going to get a better offer, so I accepted.
As I was finished up the sale a paladin approached Vlad and started appealing for his help. He was going on about some maiden in need of rescuing and if Vlad was really a paladin he would help this man rescue the maiden. To my amazement Vlad agreed to aid the man. I told him we had our own damsel to save, and that this stranger was obviously a raving lunatic, but to no avail. Vlad told us he'd meet us outside of town and left with the other man. I still can't believe it.
Beryl said he was going to keep an eye on them and he slipped away too. Later Beryl told me the details of that side journey:
Beryl followed Vlad and his companion through the crowds until they came to the entrance of a large tent. While Vlad was conferring with the other man, Beryl snuck ahead and looked around. He saw a street lined with large tents, and he decided to hide behind some barrells so that he could watch Vlad unnoticed. Suddenly he saw Vlad come sprinting down the street with his sword drawn headed towards one of the tents. The tent he was headed for was guarded by two armed men. The paladin followed after Vlad, but as he had explained to us earlier his sword had been taken from him.
Vlad knocked the guards aside and burst into the tent, and as he did an arrow flew past his ear. Meanwhile Beryl was interupted by the feel of a blade across his neck. Another halfing told him to get up and walk to the tent. Beryl obeyed and found Vlad facing a woman and a crowd of men. The woman knew Vlad's companion and she told him that she had already warned him about bothering her anymore. This was his damsel in distress, apparently. He maintained that she had been brainwashed, but he was obviously the one who was delusional. She told Beryl that he could either be killed or pay them 50 goldpieces for spying on them. If he didn't pay they would hunt him down and kill him. Beryl was allowed to leave, but my little friend was far from happy. He walked around the side of the tent and start pouring his lantern oil on the canvas and then he found a spot to hide and waited for Vlad.
We still don't know what happened to Vlad but as soon as he came out Beryl through a match onto the tent and told Vlad to run. Vlad glanced behind as the flames enveloped the tent, and then they were both running as fast as they could. They lost track of each other in the crowd. As he was running Beryl saw a dagger fly past his head, and when he turned to see who had thrown it he was faced by the halfing again. Before he could react he saw Derg's axe come down on the other halfling's head and Derg yelled to him to keep running.
Derg had left me to go after them, so I was waiting by the east exit out of the city. Derg came back to me and motioned for me to keep running. A few miles out of town we were joined by Vlad and Beryl and we didn't stop running until well after nightfall. Even then we only slept a few hours before Beryl urged us to go on. He wanted to get as far away from Carrington as possible.
That morning we entered Mirkwood and finally slowed to a walk. We stopped earlier in the evening and after eating Derg offered to take first watch. I don't remember much, because I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the ground. Not long after, it seemed like minutes but I'm sure it was longer, Derg woke us. He said he'd heard some noises in the forest, and had awakened Beryl to go scout it out. Beryl found some bandits and overheard them talking. He heard them say they were going to come after us, so he rushed back before he heard the rest. He wasn't sure how many of them there were, but we deided we would have a better chance if we split up. Vlad and I would go North-East and Derg and Beryl went East. The idea was to require the bandits to split up to follow us. If we could we wanted to capture at least one of them and ask them how to get to the wasteland, wehre Axe had last been seen. Beryl and Derg woudl try to ditch those following them and then arch their path over until they met back up with us.
Beryl and Derg's adventure:
They hadn't gone far when they heard their pursuers. They stopped and hid and when the bandits couldn't hear them anymroe they split up in three different directions. Beryl & Derg killed one of them, and then shot another. They asked the one they injured how to get to the wasteland. He told them to go one day north and half a day east, and they wouldn't be able to miss it. Derg knocked him out and they headed towards us.
Vlad and Shata's adventure:
We too hadn't been walking long when we heard our pursuers gaining on us. We hid in the trees and waited for them. We were able to shoot and kill two of them, and then injure the third (there were six total following us, so our plan had worked to split them up). We asked our captive how many more of them there were. He told us about his other three companions, but insinuated that they weren't the only six in the forest. He wouldn't tell us more, in fact he made it clear he would die before doing so. Vlad then asked him for directions to the wasteland. His instructions were to go one day north and half a day east. He sounded pleased with the idea of us going there. We left him where he lay and headed north hoping to find Beryl and Derg.
They caught up to us soon enough and we decided to go half a day east first.
The next morning we continued north and sure enough we found the wasteland. Words can hardly describe the sight. The earth was barren except for the old weapons and refuse that littered the ground. As we stood gaping we heard the sound of hundreds of footsteps coming over a small rise in the ground in front of us. At least a hundred men, at least some of them looked like men, faced us. We had foudn the undead army!
I had no idea when I agreed to embark on this journey that things would take such a turn in the direction of myth. I could harldy believe my eyes as we stood there. One man stepped forward from the crowd and I will remember that voice for as long as I live. He asked us who we were and what we wanted. We explained that we were searching for Axe, the son of King Madder and his sister Princess Miriam. We assured him that we meant him no harm, but that we needed to find the son and daughter of our king.
He introduced himself as Astar the general of the undead army, and told us to follow him. We saw little reason to not do as he said. He led us down into his camp, and I was amazed by how many men there were. Some looked like they were decomposing as we watched and others looked almost like living men. When we sat down in the camp he introduced us to a woman in her mid twenties. Her name is Phalis and she was once known as Princess Miriam.
I can't tell you how shocked I felt. The Princess Miriam we were seeking was barely more than a child, lost less than a year ago, and this was a grown woman. She told us that she had been there for fifteen years fighting alongside the undead army against their common enemy. Their enemy was a a neverending army of orcs. Astar explained that it had been his people who had kidnapped Princess Miriam in order to draw Axe to them. His battleaxe is magical and allows him to kill multiple orcs in one swipe and for every orc he kills he restores one of the undead back to life. Our minds still reeling we asked where Axe was and Phalis explained that he had been captured in battle a couple of months eariler, and the orcs were planning on executing him in the next couple of days. We asked why they hadn't already done so, and she explained that she thought they were waiting for more orcs to arrive, so that they would have a large audience. Axe's death would mean an ultimate victory for the orcs.
Phalis asked us why we had come after her and her brother after such a long time. We explained that she had only been missing for about six months, and Axe for about three. Her father had enlisted us because he thought it was probably a suicide mission and he didn't want any one to know. She was as amazed by the time difference as we were.
I think they realized that we couldn't take any more in. We were all about dead ourselves, as we had been running for days on limited sleep. I think that brings me up to date for now. None of us knows what happened to Vlad after Beryl left him in that tent, but he has been different ever since. We haven't exactly had time to sit down and chat, so I don't know if he ever plans to tell us.