Our caravan moves out with the scout who returned to lead the way along the first leg.
We meet the small village south of the river, a pleasant people, and we move on. We are led through the trailblazed woods by our 1st scout, within which we camp at a large open area within the woods at end of day 23. Next day, Duncan and a group enter Daviski to meet and greet, set their role along a future silk road, then move on mounted to catch up with the caravan which continued forward. We get back on the north side of the river this day.
By the end of the day, we meet our 2nd scout.
The next morning, its drizzling a bit off and on. The weather is changing; getting very windy and some precipitation. SKy getting darker. We batten down the hatches. The rainstorm hits in 3 hours and its bad. Everyone performs stellar duties of animal handling and survival. Only a mule and 2 horses out of panic are able to free themselves and break. Duncan joins the Proniar and a couple cav to round them up. But, one of the cavalry has a nasty fall and twists his ankle. He'll be laid up on the med wagon for a few days. The storm lasts for 6 hours. We let everyone rest and dry out, camping here another night. Duncan sends the 1st leg scout, well rested now, ahead to meet the 3rd scout to inform him of our situation.
Its a comfortable cool temperature post storm.
Moving forward we pass another swampy area to the south of our trail. Signs of a large herd that moved past recently since the rain storm.
A few hours from stopping to meet the 2 scouts at the end of the day, outriders report that ahead there was a scuffle of some kind not long ago. 2 groups of horsemen may have clashed along the river: kinned and butchered horses, broken arrows, mound of fresh dirt like a burial mound as well. We know the Tsyrgys and Tunguskik clash along this border often. There were signs of both sides leaving the sight.
Duncan leads the cav lt. Kallestios, half dozen cav, and Grumpet to ahead to follow the north trail. The caravan will continue on.
We find a camp about 8 miles north of about 2 dozen cav camped. Its obvious they were in the battle.
They call out a challenge at first, who we are. Duncan calls his name, that he is travelling to meet Wughash and help his new friends in any way we can. They were on their way to meet him when they were attacked. The storm scared off some cattle from a nearby clan and they were trying to gather them back to the stock camp. They failed to do so are returning to report. The Tsyrgys they met were running from something else, which showed up and the 2 side fought that together. Something they have never seen before. Large bugs of a sort, but didn't act like bugs. Wielded weapons. Their number was small but they were mighty. Twice as long as a man.
They sound to us like manlike mantid people.
He says they carried off their dead. 6 of them killed 20 warriors in all. The horsemen killed 2. The 4 that got away also took 2 of the horsemen dead as well. They do have a legend about these sorts of creatures. Centuries ago Masters gave intelligence to many things that did not deserve such intelligence. Ancestors of the horsemen encountered a giant rift in the earth where many insect and bug men lived. None in recent memory had ever seen such a thing until several hours ago. By legend, the valley should be at least 1000 miles east, though.
Their settlement lost 60 head of cattle.
Grumpet helps tend their more seriously wounded. He finds that a few are poisoned and tends to them first. Grumpet will stay here to tend their wounds for the night, and stay with them until our 2 sides meet. The rest of us return to our camp.
The 3rd scout reports that he almost lost his camp in the storm that hit us.
Next day, not far ahead we meet come to the of yurts, mobile village of maybe 300. Several hundred head of various herd animals. As we move in, we see the horsemen with Grumpet in the distance closing in.
We meet Wughash quickly. They plan to ride to the geoglyphs with us where they will cut north. He invites us to drink fermented mares milk called coumis, and lunch with him at his table.
On a huge steel shield is a massive slab of meat. Bligh, Duncan and Grumpet all drink the milk and come out alive and avoid sick!! Kallestios and Achilio also drink and get very ill and very drunk. Our hosts find them very entertaining, lots of friendly ribbing to come.
Argyrus drinks it like its just mead. Impressive.
Forward to the geoglyphs where we all camp together. Wughash is very pleased by our assisting his men last night. They consider this a holy site.
They are set into a slight depression in the landscape about a mile and a half wide. One looks like a simple representation of man, staff in one hand sword in the other; another, odd for this area, we would swear is either a giant spider or perhaps octopus like thing, 2 protrusions longer than the others; another a long snake.
Wughash says his forefathers did this to commemorate their travels, each is a god to them. How they are described differs from tribe to tribe and clan to clan. He gives us his people's lowdown:
* The long snake is a dragon of the east. Represents strength and honor. Toronaga recognizes his descripiton as his lands' dragon, indeed. Most were killed long ago but for perhaps a few survivors of legend.
* The man was an ancient being venerated as an ancestral spirit/deity. Known as the black khagan. A spirit that only came to flesh when a willing human body accepted. He is a dualistic spirit, evil blood lusting while also one of growth and good grasses.
* The last to them is a spider representation, the tsyrgys say it is a soft bodied demon. A spirit of pain, like a devil. Prefers cold, dark, damp, unsavory places of earth. Hence, underworld.
So only the dragon is a wholly good thing. One could say its one good, one neutral, one evil; one air one earth one darkness.
They say there are many other places with geoglyphs across the lands.
We can feel that this whole place hums with magic aura. Probably a major layline intersection.
When showed the glyphs, Kyros knows no more. He agrees in full with Dunacn's layline theory. He says if we were to dig under the site we would surely finds the gems from back at the standing stone.
Brillstagg the skull has some input: Well before Brillstagg's time, Lathander had a consort, a lover/rival, best girl also though of a greater Master who created the elves, Master Corellon. She loved to play them against each other. Finally they teamed up an booted her, but many followers went with her underground setting up their own culture; they turned dark and evil. Many that didn't go underground though went east and disappeared from history. The only thing the 2 groups have in common is their veneration of spiders. He feels that glyph might be the female elf slut. Concerning the man, he agrees with Duncan and Callimachus's first idea: its Andzus Lord of the Malakaz whom we learned of a few weeks ago.
We hang and eat and all, talk a lot. Wughash introduces us to a gift he gives us, a translator and guide for our travels who knows at least in passing the languages of 1000 miles. His name is Bhodan Khmelnyst, a cousin of Wughash by marriage; handsome, bushy beard; horn comp. longbow, mst leather. Fantastic swordsman, great archer as well. His wife's side of the family would not appreciate him being sent off alone, so 5 riders accompany as his guard. All in dark brown head to toe overcoat that straps at legs and face covering; leather armor; 2 scimitars each drawn from the back of the waste from underneath; bows. They are elites for sure.
They head north and we continue on with our new friends.
Finally late morning, we reach old Kimaristi. They know we are coming thanks to Arisaan. Then on to Kimaristi itself. The town is abustle and ready for our arrival. High interest in wares from a faraway land.
In a state of nervousness when Aarisan arrives. The primary wemic tribe to their east is in chaos. News here is that the primary pride leader has been overthrown by 2 brothers, great warriors but seem not very good leaders; a tribal nation of gnolls north of the wemics in the area of Bharag have attacked them and are faring well. The city feels that w/o the wemic buffer, the savage gnolls will roll in like prairie storm.
The former pride leader was not killed, so they have heard. They know little about the country first hand.
The Tsyrgys in general are nervous.
Aarisan dropped, during his stay, that our caravan is moving this way. The place seems excited that a caravan is coming through, they are looking for busines. They mainly trade with other cities in the steppe's of this region. He tells them also that he heard the leader is apt to adventure, and has already solved some issues for another city or 2 along the way.
The town leader is a shrewd dealer. He and Duncan come to an agreement, he accepts to be a stop on the silk road. We get no sense there is any con going on or other bullshittery.
It should be a stay in good faith and company.
Our merchants get right to selling.
Arisaan makes contact, and says he also feels we are safe.
Duncan asks about the wemics. They know there are 3 nations there: lions, a smaller breed by the mounains like cougars, and further east a cheetah breed, not as strong as lions but super fast. The 3 breeds get along but rarely interract with the other 2.
The big trouble is among the lions.
That land has the wemics and human settlements; oxmen with a subrace of yakmen; hyena men who live in the Bharag land to the north, they travel in small packs and are a blight on the earth, when formed into a horde under a great warleader they are worse than a swarm of locust, a thing of nightmares; the solitary Yuan snakemen, horrifying, evil to the core and never to be trusted; centaur tribe, good guys, amiable race.
Wemics and gnolls hate each other to the point of killing on sight.
The ox/yakmen tend to be herders. They are vegetarians but love the herds milk; prone to build permanent settlements and farm. Both wemics and gnolls raid them, but they are also huge and rippled with muscle, very dangerous; breed slowly.
A royal pride once ruled with a royal male in charge. He is no longer in charge, a set of brothers are the royal males though one is more dominant. The nation is in turmoil over this. Many prides have refused to accept them and left. The nation's relations with the other 2 breeds has suffered a lot.
There is a long highland east of the pass mouth that is a major meeting place. A pride lives there. That may be our best bet for introductions.
The gnolls have seen this as opportunity, there numbers are high. They have even been seen in this area at the river. Last time that happened they had a great warchief. If so, a war is brewing. The only thing that ever could stop the gnoll horde were the wemics. If they are about to freak out, the wemic situation needs resolves asap.
Full day of business and politics.
There is a pass through the mts. It starts east of the city, goes north before turning a short distance east and opening up into the wemic savanah.
Mulligan's report: he went east across the hills into the pass, then continued to its end searching for a rest point while we, he figured, dealt with the wemic situation Arisaan told him about.
The pass floor itself is too wide and exposed to set up. Just outside of its end, to the south, is a series of caves running between the hills. He explored them and found no danger. Looks like a good protected area to set up a temprary easily defendable camp with caves to sleep in.
He saw no wemic signs in the hills, but he wouls expect that from cougar/leopard types. But knowign they do hang in small prides, its a bit suspicious. He did find obvious proof of gnolls along that northern edge. He turned immediately upon realizing that and checked the south edge. One spot about 15 miles out of the pass was a potential spot, wooded area with a bluff to its back.
He then retuned to the city.
Duncan decides to move the caravan once we are done here to the cave gully.
Full day business and politics