Having defeated the “tax collectors" and reached the ford, the party paused and laid their plans. The sun was reaching its zenith as the heroes’ advance guard Wolfgrin and Saeldur splashed across the river to explore the two large clearing nestling close to the river bank. Beyond the clearings dense, forested hills rose into the distance. Ahead—perhaps two or three miles away—lay the so-called Nameless Monastery and, hopefully, the Borderers and their charge the wizard Kullervo Lempinen.
Investigating the two clearings, Wolfgrin and Saeldur discovered the southern clearing to be a beautiful meadow blessed with a waterfall and stream while the northern clearing was marshy and boggy.
While the scouts scouted, Bodrum spotted a dark form lurking under the trees. The half-elf’s keen eyes picked out a giant humanoid lurking behind a fallen tree whose attention was fixed on the party. A plan was quickly hatched. Although only Bodrum could see the lurking giant, Wolfgrin and Saeldur quickly got a good sense of where it lurked. While their fellows caused a distraction by casually crossing the ford, the two scouts slipped into the wood and began to stealthily work their way toward the watcher.
When all was ready, the trap was sprung and the lurking giant—while undoubtably strong—was quickly subdued before it could injure anyone. The heroes tied up the giant, bound its wounds and waited for it to regain consciousness. After about an hour the creature—identified as an orog (a half-ogre/half-orc) regained consciousness. Balasar questioned the primitive creature. He learned little except that the creature lived far to the west, seemed very stupid and was scared of dragons. Unsurprisingly having been beaten into unconsciousness, the orog—who identified himself as Gark—seemed reluctant to help, trust or join the party. Luckily, however, Balasar’s miraculous healing magic went along way to smoothing over any murderous-feelings Gark might have been feeling.
Eventually, the heroes let Gark go and he loped off into the woods following a stream that wended its way through the deep shadows of the forest floor.
Now the party were faced with a tricky choice: which way to go. Saeldur during his scouting had found some tracks belonging to a booted group of five human-sized travellers, and the party decided this must be the Borderers and so decided to follow the tracks.
This they did for the balance of the day as the tracks wound their way deeper and deeper into the woods. As the faint summer sun began to fall behind the western hills, the party came to a high, rocky ledge. A high cave mouth pierced the cliff. A thick stand of bramble bushes and the like grew in the cave mouth. Huge deposits of excrement covered the brambles’ upper reaches and—intrigued—the party decided to investigate.
Once Wolfgrin had cut a way through the brambles, the party cautiously entered, and explored a small rubble-strewn network of caves. Most of the caves were empty, but a trail of excrement led deeper into the caves. In the deepest part of the network the party discovered four huge bats. Easily the size of horses the massive beasts hung upside down from the cave ceiling. While three hung motionless, the nearest bat was stirring and seemed restless.
The party beat a hasty retreat and discussed their plan. Eventually, they decided not to attack the beasts—after all, they seemed to offer no threat and several of the heroes were concerned about the bats’ battle prowess.
Leaving the bats to their slumber, the heroes pushed onwards deeper into the wooded hills. Shortly thereafter, they came out onto a rocky promontory that provided fantastic views over the surrounding territory. The party could see a thin lake below them fed, and emptied by, two waterfalls. Further to the west, a blasted, strangely denuded clearing festered like a wound upon the otherwise pristine wilderness. Nearby, the shadow of the Nameless Monastery lay upon the hills like a malevolent phantom from an elder time.
The party pushed on. A couple of hours later, the heroes reached a long, thin lake. The lake’s waters scintillated in the setting sun, and across the lake a small warband had set up camp. From the amount of rubbish and the like scattered about the party surmised the warband had been there for some time, but because of the distance could not ascertain the creatures’ type. A waterfall tumbled into the lake, and beyond another path led deeper into the hills. After a brief discussion, the heroes decided to sneak away from the warband and not engage what was surely an enemy encampment.
Crossing the stream at the waterfall’s base the party managed to reach the second path without attracting the attention of the dozen or so encamped warriors. The steep pathway led deeper into the hills, and as the day’s shadows lengthen Saeldur realised the party were drawing closer to the ruined monastery and the blasted clearing lying nearby.
With this in mind, it seemed prudent to rest for the night and so the party struck off the trail and quickly found a small campsite bounded on three sides by fallen trees whose boughs would protect the camp from casual view...