The Wemic Team: Bhodan and his 5, all the PC's, Trysta, Maith, Nnesk, 2 survivalists to send back as runners to move the caravan forward, 8 hoblites, Toronaga.
The dwarves with 1 scout will move up with them but cut off to the caves to secure and fortify.
2 scouts will explore from here for now. 1 will go through the hills around and south of town. The other will go south along the low edge of the main mt chain to the east.
The main group goes through the pass.
We are out of the pass, and set up camp.
On the way, Mulligan and Duncan noticed lots of gnoll signs in the hills to the east of the pass, on the city's side. Duncan is sure that in the last few days a party of mt wemics had been in the valley. Further on, a section of dozens of trees have been cleared out on in a disorganized manor. Chopped down.
Mulligan searches it in detail "Crude axes, and by the hair as well it had to have been those nasty gnolls to make some sort of primitive wood palisade or building. Roughly 50 worked in the area."
We set guards all night at camp. 4 shifts of 4 men.
On the 2nd shift, we hear a crash from Toro's tent. He immediately knows his personal shrine medicine bowl has been knocked over. He rushes for it followed by Mulligan. He sees a huge half man half lion with huge braided and beaded mane!! This wemic is rolling around in the tent knocking everything over. He is licking the bowl clean. He is equipped as a warrior.
"Unhand my bowl, beast!"
Mulligan thinks it looks like a cat doped up on catnip "What did you have in that bowl?"
The wemic gets to its feat, cramped in the human sized tent, looking wild eyed. It starts speaking in its own language. Mulligan tell the rider that is also on guard to get Bhodan fast.
No weapons have been drawn by either side. The wemic goes for an overrun by toro and Mulligan but they block the stoned wemic. It was a sloppy jump, the rug slipping partially out from underneath him as he tried.
Mulligan "Hurry up Bhodan!"
It gets back up partially, crouched and ready for danger when Bhodan runs in.
Bhodan starts communicating, telling it to calm down. It speaks in highly accented plains tongue. Bhodan says his name is Hrok Angry Spear. He had been watching us for a while and smelled Toro's herbs he cooks as incense for his meditations. He had to investigate it smelled to so, and apparently to him its highly intoxicating to the wemic. He's a bit scatterbrained right now.
Duncan will make not of this as a future trade good.
Nnesk shows up with Duncan about now.
Duncan has Bhodan lay out the short of why we are here, lucky to have run into him. He is from the pride at the high ground. He's out on a lone hunt for game and the gnolls that they call Bharagrok. He says war is brewing.
This guy is an odd sort. Twice during the talk in the tent he cut a sting down that toro had clothing hanging on, randomly.
WE get him outside and sit. He paces while we discuss, randomly getting too close to a person, or jabbing at an interesting looking clothing. Sniffs someone.
He says the gnolls have terrible warchiefs but great champions. The 2 new kings of the wemics are not great at fighting wars. They killed off the old kings young. Not a strong tradition anymore unless you are really throwing down the gauntlet and disgracing the old king. This has, however, angered many clans who threaten to migrate away. The mountain and cheetah wemics are not fond of them either and have distanced themselves. The royal pride lead female has gone missing only days ago. The coup happened about 2 months ago. The first evidence of gnolls was 3 to 4 months ago.
She was the last of the pregnant females by the old king, she is trying to keep her litter alive. The brothers have promised not to harm her and are looking for her.
The old king, Sirrok Tor, wasn't exactly the nicest guy either, bit of a jerk, domineering. He was a good warleader though. The female was one of the best hunters in the land.
They call the meeting highland Pride Rock. Currently the pride there works with the nation and the brothers still.
There is a tribal council in the near future to meet there.
Everyone is worried for the queen especially since a lone wemic birthing in the wild is a precarious and very dangerous situation.
The survivalists are sent back to tell the caravan to finsish business and leave for the caves in a couple days. About 8 miles into the valley, they are spotted by a patrol of hyenamen. They managed to evade them but were followed for a few miles before doing so.
We make for Pride Rock with Hrock. He says the tribes are very migratory here, unusual for a tribe to have a permanent home, like the humans here. He describes a further tribe now, a bipedal tribe! Toronaga has heard of such a thing in his lands legend: Nekonohitobito. Supposedly died off or migrated away long ago. He's interested to see one.
Hrok says there are a few permanent settlements, no cities though. There are also ruins.
It takes a bit of a push, but we arrive late today at Pride Rock. There are copses and patches of woodland all around. At dawn the surrounding terrain causes a singular beam of light at he right time of year shine into the area, hence the spiritual import of the location.
To the north as we are pushing on the final stretch we see shapes moving in the grasses at twilight. We assume the areas wemic sentries. Duncan mentions it to Hrok, who also noticed. His ears are already perked and attentive.
"No, not wemics." Its the hyena men! "They come closer and closer every day. "One pack, probably all related."
Mulligan "As many men as we have, or smaller?"
"Less, so unlikely to attack."
They are too far away to make a move for.
Sentry wemics meet us as we approach the Rock. Hrok explains our presence. They are all quite curious, smelling up on us, a couple feeling us out, even literally. One rubs a pigment or ochre of some kind on Duncan's neck until Hrok stops him. He was trying to mark us as property. Duncan cleans that off right quick.
The tribe here is 2 or 3 prides. 7 to 8 females plus cubs per pride. 2 or 3 males on average each.
Hrok introduces us to the shaman Roko and Chief. WHat they call him is not so much a word but a sound they make. As a translation, one could say "Victory over hyena". We Kelestize the title Hyena slayer into an Imperial name.
Roko is very suspicious of us. Especially the hoblites. He thinks we may be demons and sent by demons. The Chief, while taking head, is more interested in details.
He calls the hills to the west the Great Hills.
He wants to know lots about our lands, our games, foods, drinks, lots. We offer to trade with him when our caravan arrives. Duncan starts a quite good relationship with him. Roko even decides we are no good evil spirits, omens of ill portent, not really demons. Good first step!!
Duncan then goes into how we are here to help, and explains what we know of their situation.
These prides are relatively loyal to the brothers only because their first born will be born here, as is custom, so it will be the rightful heir. Basically, just because they are in charge.
If anything else were to happen, they would follow the next leader. They have no idea where the former king may be. They assume he's dead. They do greatly lament the missing head female.
The royal pride is the pinnacle of the race, have been breeding the heirs for as long as the wemics remember.
Usually, when alpha female is on her deathbed, her oldes child will naturally become more and more alpha. When its an abrubt death, especially with 2 males leading, the females will go estrogen crazy and many could die. Potentially ruining the royal pride for generations.
We dine on meat with the wemics into the night.
Several younger members look on in astonishment as Hrok says something to several of them. They wnat to know if we have any more of that stuff he got high on in Toro's tent.
Duncan "I'll ask Toro when I get the chance."
He has a few lbs of it. Duncan tells him to pass a bit out to the most interested.
The night goes swimmingly.
The females will be up earliest, to hunt. The males sleep in late.
He reiterates that the Bharag started acting up just prior to the brothers taking charge.
The royal pride is only the females, genetically. Males come in from outside.
The 2 brothers were clanless, wanderers. They stay with a clan here and there, were well known. One day, decided to stake their claim on the throne. They were beating him in combat and he fled.
Grumpet "Anything seem different about them since, compared to before?"
"No, same personalty as always. Only thing different, they came in with better equipment for the coup battle. The older brother's axe is more similar to what you humans have. The younger brother wields a saber, very uncommon for wemics."
We don't think 2 wandering brothers would have much to use as stardard trade for human weapons.
Currently, the Royal Pride is just shy of 100 miles east, then 40 miles south, from here. They still have rounds to make to establish their rule. In about 10 days time, the chief and alpha male from each tribe, and alpha male if it is different, is to come to Pride Rock for a great meeting. Chief is usually the eldest or eldest warrior, so sometimes not the main breeding alpha.
So, its up to us if we wish to wait here or go and seek the Royal Pride ourselves.
Mulligan "Where were they when the female disappeared?" About the same area they are in now. Also same area that the coup took place. She left 2 days later after the slaughter of the cubs.
If we ride to them, Hrok will stay with us for safe passage. Its about a 3 day ride. They will likely not leave until they have to for the meeting.
The dangers are gnolls and human raiders, at least.
We convince 2 more males to join us as guides as well as Hrok, in case we split up, if we go. Hrok and the chief will give them rudimentary words to communicate with us. They aren't thrilled about waking early.
Archileus and the hoblites stay put.
Duncan moves out with the rest. He, Bligh, Toro and Arisaan will meet the brothers.
Mulligan, Nnesk, Maith and Grumpet will go as well, but branch off to search for the missing 2 lions. Grumpet will come in with Duncan first, to get the info from the source on what direction they went and such. Bhodan et all go with Duncan.
One of the guides will always be with the trackers. Hrok and another with Duncan's main party.