It was a curious place that for some reason stuck in the back of his mind. Upon first glance it appeared to be nothing out of the ordinary to him. A simply built, semi-permanent fort in the marshes the gnolls had either built themselves or taken up residence in. A fairly good location for it too, as it was located around a swamp with hills offering various vantage points for lookouts and access to the sea. Something about it seemed off to Garrik though, and one night he decided to take a closer look.
He made his way through the Feywood and as he got closer to the sea, joined up with a patrol of elves making their evening rounds along the eastern edge of the woods. The evening was relatively quiet until the sudden sound of barking and yipping echoed through the air. The Elves quickly formed up without hesitation as Garrik darted up to the front lines to help wherever he could. Before he knew it, a group of gnolls crashed through the brush to ambush them. The patrol's frontline combined with the support of the archers made short work of the attack, leaving a handful of the gnolls dead and others scampering back off into the trees. After reaching the edges of the swamp, Garrik split from the patrol instead of heading back with them to the Feywood.
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Garrik sloshed through the swamp, taking care to stick as close as he could to the shoreline with the thought that he would have less of a chance to run into anything along the way to the fort. Closing in upon the entrance to the fort, he ducked next to a boulder in order to get a feel for how active the gnolls were this night. There was definitely a sizeable group outside guarding the gates, complete with a sentry posted next to what looked like a gong. It would be stupid for him to even consider confronting the group and walking so brazenly up to the entrance. The last thing he needed was for the entire encampment to swarm upon him.
His gaze shifted toward the coast, eyes his stopping upon a giant, bright flame just beyond the treetops in front of the fort for a brief moment. Shaking his head to himself, he backed away from the gnolls and moved toward the shoreline. He walked straight into the water without hesitation, slipping a kajubo bud into his mouth before his head disappeared under the surface. Breathing underwater was still a strange sensation to him, so he planned to keep this a short swim. He trudged through the sand, trying his best to kick up as little as he could so he would be able keep his vision on the flame that shone brightly in the fort. Shortly Garrik came up to a set of sunken posts. Hugging the beams, he slowly shimmied up it until he was able to reach the planks above the surface. With a quiet grunt, he heaved the rest of his body up onto the surface and glanced around.
Docks. With stacks of crates. Blinking water out of his eyes Garrik looked up to the pillar of light. A lighthouse? He looked around. It had to be. But who were dropping crates off at the docks? Gnolls didn't sails ships.. did they? Casting a look around he crouched low and shifted over to the crates to take a peek into them. A handful seemed empty, others had random supplies and bottles, the last Garrik opened contained a random assortment of blades and other weapons. His eyes narrowed a bit before closing the crate and deciding to look further in the fort.
He stayed close to the tree line and ducked behind the tents that were set up, keeping his hide cloak high around his shoulders in hopes that any gnoll that overlooked him would pay no attention. It wasn't as active as he thought it would be. Most likely a few scouting groups were out in the woods and swamps. As he headed deeper into the fort, he paused as he noticed a small crop field with growing plants. Garrik tilted his head some in curiosity. It appeared as though the gnolls have either been here for some time or were planning on it. Stepping up the hills, he came upon a bonfire surrounded by gnolls, one of which had a weapon that glinted red in the firelight.
Garrik quickly shuffled past, staying to the outside of the fire as much as he could in hopes the eyes of the gnolls around it would not be adjusted to the dark backdrop of the night. Away from the bonfire, he noticed a small glow in the distance. Approaching it, he realized it was the dying embers from a forge. Not surprising to him if they planned on sticking around. Lost in his thoughts, Garrik did not notice the light dim around him as a hulking figure skulked up behind him. His breath froze in his lungs when he heard something barked out at him. When he didn't move, something gave him a hard shove in the back accompanied by another yip and growl.
Taking one step forward to steady himself, he pivoted on his back foot as his axe escaped from his cloak in one swift, upward motion. Off guard, the creature caught the full force of the strike, the axe embedding into its chest before crumpling to the ground. Quickly looking it over, he recognized it as the creature he had seen before, a spear dropped at its side with a red tint to its blade. He stooped to pick it up, immediately dropping it as he felt an uneasy feeling settle into the gut of his stomach. Rifstones. Garrik grimaced a bit, but was not allowed any time to think as he heard the sound of a gong being struck repeatedly. Time to go.
Hearing the same snarling yips and barks he heard earlier with the elven patrol, he decided to take his chance sliding down the hills rather than fight his way through waves of now alerted gnolls. Spreading himself out as much as he could in an attempt to slow his fall along the steeper portions of the hills, he grunted as he unceremoniously crashed into the ground and rolled away from the base. Staggering up, he sprinted off, splashing through the swamp and praying his feet didn't land in any sinkholes. He heard arrows whiz by his helm as he ran and felt a few soft thuds in his back as his cloak took the brunt force of the arrows that did hit him, but he continued on.
Eventually the snarls and yipping faded to nothing, and after a few more moments of running, Garrik darted behind a tree and collapsed to the ground as he fought to get air back into his lungs. Blood dripped from a couple injuries drawn by grazing arrows, but nothing seemed too serious. He took his time to patch himself up and regain his breath, peeking out from behind the tree before setting off for the elven stronghold. He left with more questions than he went in with, his curiosity still unsated. If he wanted to know more about the place, he figured the elves of Feywood were his next best bet. As he walked, Garrik hoped that being so close to the gnolls, surely someone amongst the elves would have some kind of knowledge about that fort of theirs or even the gnolls themselves.
A few days after his poking around, Garrik decided to make his way to the Feywood Council fasthold to see if he could gather more information. The steps of his boots echoed throughout the stone corridors as he walked. He kept his gaze focused on the ground a few feet in front of him, the quiet scrutiny from the guards along the hallways making him slightly nervous. Before Garrik knew it, he found himself in front of the Council Warden who gave him a somewhat impatient look as Garrik fumbled over his thoughts.
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"Ah, hello.. sir." He bowed his head in greeting. "Garrik Brennan. I was wondering if I could make an inquiry regarding something that borders your territory. I have recently taken an interest into the fort the gnolls inhabit in the swamps, and was curious if you would be willing to share any information you have on the matter. I believe something more than meets the eye is going on there." As though remembering a thought, Garrik started slightly and began to pat down his person for something. He felt the guards tense up as he brought his hands up to the Warden, opening them to reveal a Feywood council seal.
"If this stands for anything, I truly come with no ill intent planned toward Feywood or your people. I have even traveled with a few of your patrols out by the swamps in an attempt to lend a hand. All I seek is information. I do not seek council with Lady Syrrisia about this if it's unnecessary. I wouldn't want to waste her time, but if there is someone else you can direct me to, I would appreciate it." After a moment of thought, Garrik offered another alternative: "If you can't think of anyone that may be able to help, would you be able to tell me how to get in contact with one named Styvn or let him know I would like to speak with him? I have met him once before, and his name came up when talking to a woman by the name of Sydney who said she camps in the Feywood. Perhaps he would be able to help me with what I'm looking for..."
Be kind to each other. Registered Member #1711
Joined: 2:51:22 am GMT 04/03/11
The Feywood guard remains stoic yet nods at you before speaking in a calm soothing voice.
"We acknowledge your request. We will send a messenger to Styvns home to see if he will meet with us, although its very likely he is out in the forest. That will require one of our scouts to track him to where he may have purposely left tracks for us then waiting there for him to make contact with us. Until that time please accept our hospitality, we will provide you with a bed, wine and food until he returns."
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Joined: 8:28:45 pm GMT 08/30/07
Moving silently through the forest of the Weald Styvn noticed the scout camped at the assigned meeting spot. He addressed his kinsman in elven as he entered the clearing.
"Greetings, Lairndel. You have news"?
"I do, Styvn". "Someone named Garrick came to the council chambers seeking information about the gnolls encamped at the old fort in the swamp. He asked to speak with you personally. He said he has met you before".
*nods* "Yes, I remember meeting him some time ago outside the council chambers. He was with a group of adventurers who had aided our defense against the attack of the Bagnorn orcs. Hasten back to the Stronghold and tell them I will arrive as soon as I have finished my business here. I should be there within a couple of days".
And as silently as he came, the ranger disappeared back into the woods.
Word traveled fast amongst the inhabitants of the Feywood. Before he knew it, Garrik was standing in front of Styvn discussing what he knew of the gnolls. Apparently it was clear to others something more was going on with the gnolls, that indeed they were having some sort of extra help. Styvn seemed fairly confident that the supplies was coming from Raven's Watch and furthermore, backed by Banites and Zhentarim. Unfortunately, he lacked the proof to make such a declaration. The last thing Garrik wanted to do was overstep any diplomatic boundaries and incite any more unrest amongst those involved. After pitching some ideas to Styvn, the pair decided it was best to go the route of sabotage. If the gnolls could be made to appear inept and no longer a good investment, hopefully their supplies would dwindle, or even stop. The two discussed some potential targets, then agreed to meet up at a later time to take a look at the fort.
The night they set out was a gloomy one. No moonlight or stars made it through the clouds and a gentle, but steady rain beat against their helms as the pair made their way north into the swamps. Coming to realize that gnolls had keen vision in the dark, Garrik trusted Styvn to lead the way and point out any small packs they were likely to cross paths with. Activity seemed quiet this night, and what few gnolls the pair did come across were quickly put down by Styvn's impressive display of archery. Garrik did not even see some of the targets the elf shot at, only realizing they were gnolls after coming across bodies with strategically placed arrows buried into their hide.
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Before approaching the fort, Styvn led Garrik off toward the west. He mentioned that past the rocks was one of the few places in the marsh that contained a pool of freshwater. It was also where some of the pacified hounds gathered. Garrik was surprised to learn from Styvn that their obedience to the gnolls was due to the gnolls' use of the riftstones on the them. After a few more moments of rest, the pair continued onward to the fort, agreeing that the path through the hills was a stealthier approach than knocking on the front gates.
As they neared one of the lookout posts, Garrik stayed up against a rock as Styvn went ahead to ensure that no alarms would be raised. Garrik quickly lost sight of him as the elf slipped away. Moments passed before Styvn reappeared as silently as he left, motioning Garrik forward. Making their way into the main camp, Garrik noticed two slumped over figures that remained motionless next to a gong. The pair came upon a bonfire similar to the one Garrik had seen before, with a handful of gnolls loitering about its surrounding. He sprinted forward in a sudden charge after hearing the distinct hum of Styvn's bow, two gnolls falling dead before Garrik reached his first. Caught unprepared, Garrik and Styvn made quick work of the group that was present.
Garrik's eyes narrowed in thought. There did not seem to be as many in the fort as there was during his last brief look. Glancing up, he blinked through the droplets of rain that made their way into his helm. Perhaps tonight was one of the nights the gnolls went out to receive whatever goods were given to them. Surely no one would easily be seen on a night like this. With that thought, the two moved toward the docks, Garrik pausing briefly to toss a firebrand into a tent that was set up close to a campfire.
On their way to the docks, they came across little resistance, Styvn's silent arrows quickly cutting down the few gnolls that wandered into their path. The docks themselves were quiet, though lined with various crates. As Styvn went to investigate their contents, Garrik took another look at the gnolls' makeshift lighthouse. The foundation was stone, but the roof upon which the spire sat was merely logs that were lashed together. Much easier to accidentally dislodge and cause to collapse than stone and mortar. He kept that thought in the back of his mind and moved to meet Styvn at the docks.
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Styvn showed him a small pile of supplies he had collected: leathers, shields, healing balms and bandages, and even alchemist fire. The last item caused a few more ideas to pop up into the back of Garrik's mind. There was little doubt however that the gnolls were indeed being supplied by -someone.- Styvn stared off to the east and after a moment of silence shook his head, making a comment that the islands he believed stored the supplies were too far off to see. He mentioned before that he attempted to hire someone from the Watch to sail him out that way, but the only sailor willing to talk to Styvn was never seen again. There were no doubt ears in Raven's Watch.
The two gathered up what they could carry out before more gnolls came back, with Garrik kicking a chest full of supplies into the water for good measure. Satisfied with their work for the night and full of ideas, Garrik followed Styvn back to the Feywood, hopeful that their plans would work and they might even be able to get down to the bottom of who was giving the gnolls an extra hand.
The man shuffled his way through Raven's Watch. His hood was pulled low to protect against the light rain, his robes heavy and flowing to keep him warm against the biting wind that whipped up from the cliffs. Slightly stooped, he walked with an odd gait, favoring his left leg. It was not exaggerated enough to draw attention to, perhaps an old injury that never completely healed or a flare up of old age. Carrying a small bucket and simple fishing rod, he made his way down to the waters, never stopping to make idle chat with others. He would walk along the beach until he found a spot suitable to his liking, set his bucket down, and cast away.
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A few hours would pass before the Fisherman would pick up his bucket and leave as quietly as he arrived. Never did he shout out in happiness at the size of a catch, nor would he moan in lament the times he left with his bucket as light as it came in. He did not seem to favor any one spot over another, moving along the beach with each new day. Some days were luckier than others. Such was the way of the Fisherman and he appeared content in his way of life.
A simple trade such as this one allowed the mind to wander and contemplate many things. The Fisherman's reserved attitude also granted him the ability to listen without interrupting those who passed him while he fished. And oh did he listen. With each cast of the line and splash of the bait into the water, he kept his eyes and ears open to all that he could. Any sign. Any clue. Any hint as to put him on the trail to the answers which he sought.
Be kind to each other. Registered Member #1711
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The dock creaked, soldiers in full battle armour made their way down the gang plank their features obscured by the complete lack of moonlight. Workers, human and gnoll alike waited for the passangers to disembark in order for them to unload the ships precious content. The ship had been here many times of course, at first just trading weapons, supplies and building materials in exchange for escavated gems but this time something was different.
The soldiers stood a near attention on the small wooden dock, the lighthouse giving them an errie presence. Slowly a man, walking causiously rose from the stairs on board the ship then proceeded down the walkway. There was mostly silence broken by the gnolls nervous barking as the pale aged man made his way down turned finally stopping before the gnoll leader. The creature stood silently more from fear than any measure of shock. Speaking in broken common part bark part speech it made a rather poor attempt at a greeting. ".......we were not expecting a visit from...." he was cut off sentence by the small slow gesture.
The elderly man took a few more steps forward as if measuring the outpost. His voice a raspy tone barely above a whisper could have been heard clear down the encampment due to the sheet silence. A strong accent punctuated his origins "Have you made contact with the Minotaurs in Eastern Drakamyre?"
"Yes we speak to them, we give them boxes you sent and after many days their Fire Shaman say he will send his army when we say."
"Good, good, then everything is in order?"
This made the gnolls nervous, a low grumble of growls and barks near the dock resulted in the elder human slowy turning his face to the gnoll leader. "Is there a problem?"
The gnoll silenced his troops in one chopping motion of his arm. "Forces come. Yes forces many, while we were gone. They attacked killing many of my troops. Stealing many of the supplies!" his voice a mix of anger and fear.
The elder man now held his gaze, a deadly pall seemed to decend on the dock. The sound of dog like whimpers could be heard in the distance. "There will be no delays. Is that understood?"
The gnoll leader rocked in place looking at the floor and back at his troops. If he got our of this alive he would burn a sacrifice to Gorellik himself at the first hunting moon.
"I will send another ship. One with the supplies you need. Try not to loose them." the elder now moved back toward the ship using frail hands to keep his robed from catching on the rough wood. The gnoll leader nearly felt safe when. " I will also send some of my soldiers." The gnoll stiffened. "I do not want a repeat of the last attack on Feywood. This one will go as planed yes?" the man concluded.
The gnoll nodded shifting his weight from one foot to another.
"Tell the Bagnorn, they and us will soon have all that we need. When next they attack they will have others to support their cause." He turned now standing at the top of the plank, he gave a brief look up a the sky then at the water as if measuring time and the tide. "My ship will arrive in a fortnight. Have you troops ready." then with words that seemed to cut souls. "Pray you do not see me again."
At this a wave a fear seemed to flow out and again a chorus of whispering whimpers arose.
The man now turned giving them their backs bording the ship slowly one step at a time. The gnolls dropping to one knee out of repect, the elder mans voice traveled once more even as he decended onto the ships deck.
An envelope sealed with plain wax is left at the Feywood Council chambers for Styvn. The enclosed letter is written in somewhat scribbly, yet legible, common print.
Styvn, during my rounds along the coast I have heard of fishermen speak of supply crates floating around the waters. Following their lead, I came across a broken and weathered one washed up along the beach and it had print I could barely make out. The one word it had on it wasBezantur. I haven't the faintest idea what that is or relates to, but maybe it's something you've heard of in your searching.