23rd day of the 9th moon in the year 4512 of the Noruz reckoning, morning.
The morning after Ringo’s Star’s last performance is another crisp cool autumn day. This far north, the days are rapidly cooling, but the weather can still be unpredictable. The party is in the fortified town of Alabash. Alabash sits at the crossroads east of Kahnul. The east road, along which the party arrived last night, leads to Aval City. South connects to the famous Lighthouse of Kahnul (2-3 days), while southeast joins the south coastal road to Jiroft (~15 days). Kahnul is only a day or two along the west road.
Alabash is the last town on the road to Kahnul before Kahnul itself. West of here, Claacos incursions are too frequent for small settlements to reliably defend themselves. Though there are regular patrols along the road, they are inadequate to allow for permanent habitation. Sitting on a major crossroads, Alabash has always been a prominent town. It was fortified in 4157 after the Claacos nearly successfully swarmed onto the Aval peninsula. Travelers rest here to prepare for the dangerous journey west. All manner of goods from southern and eastern Aval travel west to supply Kahnul. Claacos carcasses and timber flow east to other points in the kingdom. Travelers will spend some time in the town waiting for others to show up. After ‘enough’ travelers show up, they will travel together for mutual defense against possible Claacos attacks. One such caravan departed yesterday, so it will be some time before enough people show up for another caravan to form.
When the party descends into the common room for breakfast, they find Jongo has risen earlier and is seated at a table writing in his journal.
“You shouldn’t have THAT much to write about…”, Relana comments. I mean, all we did yesterday was travel to Alabash. I don’t remember much happening, the weather was pretty rainy. What are we doing when we get to Kahnul? I think up until now, it was more to go somewhere other than Aval City. I’m worried about the Claacos patrols… and I’m not sure how long we want to wait to travel to Kahnul… I’m going to go check out the town once I finish breakfast.” Relana scarfs down her breakfast (hey, she’s 15 and has a fast metabolism), and heads out to scout around town. She looks for the town hall or “town gathering place” where she might encounter people who are interested in making the trip to Kahnul.
Corvis, trying to find word of other survivors from his tribe, asks the bartender if he’s seen any elves or other persons carrying totems or trying to sell them. The bartender replies, “No, I haven’t see any elves come through here in a while, and I don’t know anything about your sick animal toys!”
Sorkin sneaks up on Jongo and tries to read Jongo’s journal. As Sorkin creeps up behind Jongo to peak at Jongo’s journal, Jongo clears his throat and asks, “Nosy little gnome…well, make any sense to you?” Sorkin sees arcane notations and schematics that look like the makings of a spell.
“Haha, well, harumph, I was just looking if you were writing anything about me in your journal! I wanted to make sure it was all good things!” Sorkin lowers his voice. “My, that looks like some sort of arcane magicks! Don’t worry, Ringo, it takes one to know one, hint, hint. Care to trade some trade secrets?”
Jongo winks back at Sorkin. “I thought you might have an idea about this stuff.” The two whisper back and forth. Jongo says it would be better to swap the spells in Kahnul. Alabash is too small, and there are no quiet places to work. He has a friend in Kahnul who will let them use his house. After they settle their spell swap, the conversation moves back to the Library. Sorkin asks Jongo what he learned of when he visited the Aval Library. Jongo replies, “I was wondering when one of you was going to ask me that! I’m not sure I want to tell you. It’s sort of the most valuable thing I own. Still, I haven’t done anything with it, and I’m not getting any younger…”
Sorkin says, “This library thing, what would make it worth you while to share this information? If it’s useful, I think our growing party of adventurers will be more than willing to make fair on the information, and be willing to share the “results” with you! In fact, you wouldn’t even have to lift a finger, if you’re disinclined to. We’d be happy to do all the work!”
“Hmm… I like you Sultan. I’ll tell you what I know, but you have to promise not to tell anyone else unless they accompany you, and, if you profit from the information, you must come back and find me and share the treasure!” Sorkin enthusiastically agrees. Jongo continues so that only Sorkin can hear.
“The Library revealed the location and battle formation of Xelem XV just before his army was annihilated by the Claacos. After marching southwest from New Darin, Xelem XV won early successes and gained confidence. He decided to head for Chaleh which is the former capital of Kermaan and lies about 300 miles southeast of Ushan in Zahedan. These plans were known, but what is not well known is that Xelem XV did manage to reach Chaleh.
Having cleared a lot of the Claacos out of the area north of Chaleh, he decided to try to find the main hive which he surmised was south of Chaleh, across the Bandar river. His army was massive, so the river crossing took a long time as they had to build rafts and then ferry the men across.
The Claacos have a strange intelligence. Small groups of foragers behave like any other animals, but large groupings of Claacos can act in concert as well as any elite army. The Claacos waited until Xelem XV crossed the river and then attacked en masse when it was impossible for him to retreat. It was a trap!
Some of the rafters managed to make it back to the Shomaal. One of them told the tale to the Library and provided, from memory, Xelem XV’s disposition of forces after the army crossed the river. Since the Claacos have no need for treasure, most of what the army carried with it must still be on the battlefield waiting to be found!
Though one could surely find great quantities of gold and silver, the greatest treasures would be magical devices carried by prominent officers in the army. I have spent the years since hearing this tale trying to research what sort of artifacts might have been carried by Xelem’s troops and trying to research a spell to pinpoint locations. It’s been nearly 130 years since Xelem XV’s adventure, so any treasure must be buried.
The map from the Library provides the rough location of where prominent nobility were stationed after crossing the river. Presumably, they would have died not far from their starting points. If you could find out who carried what items, magic could be used to pinpoint the exact location to dig once you were in the general vicinity as described by the map.
Since Xelem XV, the heraldry has changed somewhat, but I have managed to link the old houses to their modern descendants. I have identified some items that seem to have been lost around that time, but I don’t have very good descriptions of them, and I haven’t figured out a good location spell.
Finally, there’s the question of how to get to Chaleh…and back out again. I fear my time has passed. In less than a year, I will be 83. We half-elves benefit in longevity from our elven ancestry, but that’s still pretty old. I doubt I’d be up to the rigors of such a journey, let alone fending off hordes of Claacos.”
“Ringo, that’s mighty interesting info! We’ll talk some more on the road or probably at Kahnul when we arrive. You have my gnome’s honor not to reveal your information to anyone except those that accompany us.”
Relana hits the town square which is bustling with locals going about their normal routine. It looks like some kind of merchant is arriving from the east gate. The merchant is older and putting on weight. He sits on a wagon being towed by a team of 4 reindeer. The wagon is piled high with hay. 3 men who bear a family resemblance accompany him on foot. They wear leather armor and are armed with short swords, though 4 longspears are strapped to the sides of the wagon (2 on each side).
Relana walks up to the merchant, and greets him, and feebly attempts to help him. “Ho there, where be you headed? A caravan left yesterday to Kahnul, and my party and I arrived just yesterday after the caravan left. There’s 5 of us, with various skills…”
The merchant and his sons introduce themselves as Gamus (the merchant), Jarl, Kavo, and Milo. Gamus curses his luck at having just missed the caravan. He complains about having to waste money lodging in the city and feeding the team while waiting for more people to show up. Jarl replies, “We’re headed to Kahnul. Do your friends look anything like you? If so, we’d be happy to take you all on a hayride, wink, wink!”
“Well,” Relana says – they’re all stronger and better at fighting than I am, I think. All I can do is sing… We’re staying at the inn over yonder… You can meet all of them, and we can discuss going to Kahnul together if you’re in a rush… I’ll warn you – we have a gnome with us… and he’ll probably want some sort of protection fee.
Gamus snorts, “A gnome? Hah! You’re more likely to need OUR protection. I’ve got three strapping lads and ‘Armageddon’ here,” Gamus hefts a heavy crossbow stowed on the wagon and gives it a loving pat. “Who else do you have? A bunch of cowardly elves? You must be new here. Custom says no protection fees. Anyway, it would probably be cheaper for me to camp here in Alabash than pay you anything. If you can convince your fearsome gnome to forgo his mercenary wages, I’ll take a look at your party.”
Relana comments, “Well, our party is staying at the inn over yonder.” Just watch your belongings… the gnome likes to ask a lot of questions, and he’s “overly curious” if you know what I mean…
Relana returns to the inn with the fat merchant and one of his son’s (the other two are outside watching the wagon). Relana introduces the merchant and explains they have just arrived and are eager to get to Kahnul. Gamus is impressed with Corvis, thinks Sorkin is useless, and that Dorvian and Relana are interesting because of their bows. Jongo says he is familiar with many weapons, but only happens to have a club with him. The merchant says they have an extra longspear Jongo can use if there’s any trouble. The merchant seems content that chances would be good to make a run for Kahnul. He says, “Let’s leave now. I can’t afford to waste time dilly-dallying in the city. Also, it will be better to be closer to the previous caravan. We might catch up with them, or get close enough for them to help us if necessary. It will take about two days to get to Kahnul. We should arrive just after dusk tomorrow night.”
The three sons take the longspears from the side of the wagon once the party leaves Alabash. Jongo follows suit. Jarl and Kavo walk on the left, Milo and Jongo walk on the right. Gamus drives the team with Armageddon in easy reach. All three of the sons seem wary of Sorkin as he tries to socialize, as if they don’t want him to stand so close. Sorkin wonders why. The wagon proceeds slowly enough for Sorkin to walk and keep pace, so Gaffey is tethered to the back of the wagon (to make sure he doesn’t flee if there’s a Claacos attack). After being friendly and refraining from any sudden moves, the brothers relax somewhat and Sorkin is able to figure out that Kavo is the smartest, albeit in a very relative sense. Kavo explains that they are hay farmers and are hauling the harvest to Kahnul to sell to the garrison which has a lot of horses. He says they’ll have to make a few trips to get everything there which is why Gamus is in such a rush. All sorts of people walk the road on all kinds of business. They’ve run into Claacos a few times in the past, but they’ve always been in large caravans that have been able to defend themselves. This is the smallest group by far in which they’ve attempted the run, but at this time of year it’s usually cold enough to slow down the Claacos.
The day proceeds without incident. It’s a very pleasant journey. In fact, it’s unseasonably warm. The party pitch camp and set a watch. 2 people take each of 4 watches, one from Gamus’s family, the other from the party. The night passes without incident. DM assumes Corvis hunts some things down since the pace is so slow (limited by the wagon), so nobody has to subtract any rations. In general, the party cannot proceed at max speed and hunt at the same time.