Encounter #13 (H9)
The farmer rumored to have gone missing while trying to pull treasures out of Grolbeak Swamp, constructed a semi-permanent base camp amidst the trees in this location. Here there is a simple A frame cottage with a roof of branches and thatch. It is only a single story structure with a stone hearth and small fireplace set into the North wall. The cottage has one window on the South wall and a single wooden door on it's West side.
Outside of the cabin there is a medium sized stump from a Cedar tree which has been carved into a totem for the Northern god Gymir, Winter god of feasts and gold.
The single door into the cabin is closed with a simple wooden latch and is not locked. Inside the cabin is furnished with a large wooden frame bed with a rope mattress covered in thick layers of pelts, the small stone fireplace and hearth, a narrow table and above that a trio of shelves lined with clay jars filled with salt, pastes of herbs and dried jerky. A short bow of yew leans in one corner with its string wrapped around the haft. Next to this is a quiver containing nine arrows. A hand axe hangs from a leather thong next to the table along with a large curved knife.
There are two simple stools for sitting and a chest. The chest is secured with a heavy iron lock. Inside of the chest there are several sacks containing strange curved pieces of a shimmering metal. The metal pieces have occasional marks and runes on them. A careful study will reveal these to be debris of some ancient elven origin. Also in this chest there is a velvet bag containing 9 of the valuable glowing gems, coins of the ancient elven civilization. These gems are worth 20 gold pieces.
A lightly worn foot trail leads from this cabin to the Northwest in the direction of Grolbeak Swamp.
Encounter #14 (G8)
The trail from Ulf's camp leads to this grotto which cuts into the steep cliffs surrounding the swamp. The trail cuts back and forth down the grotto at a steep descent. In places where the terrain because steeper than can be easily traversed, Ulf has added short sections of steps, all made from rough hewn wooden planks.
This is one of the only easy ways to descend down to the edge of the swamp. For miles around the cliffs are sheer drops of up to a hundred feet and would require a descent using ropes and spikes.
Encounter #15 (F6)
At the center of Grolbeak swamp there is a shallow, brackish lake. At the center of this lake a large rock formation rises up, towering more than a hundred feet into the air. The rock has a strange appearance, almost as if it were once a carved tower but which was somehow melted in the ancient past. It is said that there is an opening up in the side of the rock which leads into some strange interior chambers, long ago abandoned by an unknown race.
The swamp is dangerous, filled with many sink holes and boggy spots. Animals which sometimes escape and wander into this area usually become mired. Farmers usually abandon any animals which wander down into the swamp because of the danger involved in trying to recover them.
Note: An entire dungeon adventure entitled "The Abandoned Outpost" is written for Grolbeak Swamp and the spire of rock at it's center. This adventure will be available in a few months.
Encounter #16 (G4)
A small group of Gnoll scouts have set up a lookout at this spot. The Gnolls are encamped in the areas of light woods further to the West. Over the previous weeks the Gnolls had spotted Ulf as he came and went through the swamp, sometimes hauling sacks of something back towards his cabin. The Gnolls tried to ambush Ulf a few weeks prior but Ulf turned out to be much tougher than they had counted on. Here there are always three Gnolls.
The Gnolls may send down a small raiding party of 10 members to attack the adventuring party while they are traversing the swamp.
Encounter #17 (B2)
Here amidst the tall grass fields full of herbs and wildflowers between the Old Wood and the hills of the Ravensfeud there is a small village of Neanderthal. The Neanderthal have dwelt in this region for thousands of years but over time they have dwindled in numbers. Confrontations between the Neanderthals and Northmen are fairly uncommon. The Neanderthals avoid settled areas and do not raid. The Northmen, for the most part, have come to understand that the Neanderthals just want to be left alone.
This village is a circle of seven large round huts. These huts are cut down into the earth about three feet with walls lined by flat rocks pulled from the surrounding fields. Walls of wood are constructed in a circle for the walls of each hut and the roofs are cones made of wood covered in a layer of turf. At the center of each hut is a hole for allowing the smoke of an interior campfire to escape.
There are fifteen Neanderthal warriors dwelling at this village and forty more who are females, elders and children. The Neanderthal hunt with spears and stone axes. They usually have a supply of excellent pelts on hand for trade with humans who might wander nearby. The Neanderthal are usually interested in trading for bows, arrows and weapons made from iron.
The Neanderthal are led by Grook, a tremendously beefy and muscle bound chieftain who stands a full foot over all of his warriors. Treat Grook as a 6 HD monster. He has 36 hp. He wears a mix of hide and mail armor, a suit traded to his Father by the old Jarl of Bolgrad after saving his life.
No. Enc: 1d10 (4d10)
Alignment: Lawful (neutral)
Movement: 120' (40')
Armor Class: 8
Hit Dice: 2 (12 hps)
Attacks: 1 (weapon)
Damage: 2d4 (weapon)
Hoard Class: XX
Encounter #18 (E15)
The East Bridge
This long wooden bridge crosses the Warfang River. The river marks the border between the Kingdoms of Ostvick and Morgwen. At all times a small patrol of guards, sworn men loyal to the Kings of Ostvick and Morgwen are present, each guarding the side of the bridge respective to their home territories.
Mounted patrols of warriors arrive at the bridge every three days from the village of Bolgrad on the Ostvick side and every two days from the village of Soddenford on the Morgwen side. The patrols check the status of the guards at the bridge and should a problem be encountered it is likely that both sides will heavily reinforce the bridge within forty eight hours.
Orcs and other monsters dwelling in the surrounding countryside avoid the bridge because the road and the bridge in this area are so heavily patrolled.
A cabin and shelter for horses has been constructed on both sides of the bridge. The cabins are two story with an attached watch tower and surrounded by a stone wall. The cabins have sufficient room to provide a barracks for the men guarding the bridge. There are always a dozen warriors assigned to guard the bridge from each Warhold. The guards take in turn to stand post on their end of the bridge in groups of four. Four guards are usually busy performing duties at the cabin and four are sleeping.
The guards on both sides are first level human fighters, each group is led by a second level leader. Both groups are attended by a cleric.
The guards will cooperate to defend the bridge from outside threats. Because they spend a considerable amount of time assigned to this post, the guards on both sides get along reasonably well. Individuals who use the bridge are expected to pay a toll of 2 silver coins each. Mounted travelers are asked to pay a 3 sp toll. Persons bringing goods over the bridge in a wagon or cart are expected to pay a 5 silver coin toll.
Encounter #19 (F13)
Here a whisper thin trail cuts North away from the Soddenride and up into the surrounding trees of the Old Woods. The start of the trail is marked by a tall wooden carving dedicated to the Goddess Gullveig. The statue looks like a long haired woman whose braids cascade down to her feet. Her brow is encircled by a carved crown of snowflakes and ice cycles. The statue is surrounded by a small herb garden. In front of the statue is a smaller flat stone for offerings.
Three isolated farm steadings are known to exist up this trail. These villages are inhabited by Northmen more or less loyal to the King of Ostvick but who are known to be odd and reclusive. Few outsiders travel up the trail beyond the first village which is called Kalbeak.
Referee's Note: An entire adventure entitled "Witch Hunter" is written for the Old Woods and the villages up this trail. The adventure will be published in a few months.
Encounter #20 (E13)
At this point along the path any travelers are forced to make a saving throw versus the spell generated by the "Dark Heart" monster located at encounter area #21. If the save versus spell is successful, the individual is aware of the creeping touch of strange, evil magic but they are otherwise unaffected. If the save fails the character will slip into a trance where they will stand in place, dropping whatever they were holding in their hands and stare, doing nothing else for a full thirty minutes. Taking damage will allow the character to make a new saving throw versus spell to shake off the magic.
Encounter #21 (E11)
Here, hidden away in a landscape of deep woodlands, where overarching limbs and moss covered trunks of black oaks cast a shroud of dwimmer dark over all, is the pulsing "Dark Heart" responsible for the recent magical assaults against Kalbeak Steading to the East. Only the pale, immobile face and fingers of the left hand are visible of the victim ensnared and used through guile and evil to create this Druidic abomination. Thick mud encrusted roots rise from the base of the nearby trees and wrap all about the victim's body and a thick oozing amber colored sap has been excreted from the roots to entomb almost the entire form of the once human villager in a gigantic clot which pulses and glows softly, filled with eldritch wizardry and menace.
This is but one of several horrors which assail the folk of the Northman steadings up and down the whisper thin trail connecting their homes and hearths to the Sodden Ride, the main road leading through the heart of the Kingdom of Ostvick.
Referee's Note: A full write up of this monstrous creation is found in the Witch Hunter adventure I've been writing up for this area.
Encounter #22 (C12)
The Tanner, who once dwelt in Kalbeak Steading is buried here. His grave and monument stone were set a far beyond the borders of the village on account of his having hung himself. His beloved wife rushed after another of the village children called out into the surrounding menace of the Old Woods but stumbled out shortly after, throat slashed near to the bone by nobody knows what, and no sign of the child anywhere which prompted her to chase it into the trees. When the Tanner's body was found, swinging and creaking by a rope of twisted rawhide from the rafters of their cottage it was blue white as river ice and all covered in a layer of frost. Both of them were laid out and what prayers could be managed spoken over them but come but a few hours later to wrap the bodies in their grave coverings the Tanner's wife was gone and spattering trail of her dead blood leading down under the boards of their raised floor and out towards the village walls, skirting from building crawl space to crawl space until a thick smear of it marked where...whatever she was now, dragged itself right up over the palisade and off into the woods.
Horrible and more horrible. No one from Kalbeak will willingly go into the light woods to where the Tanner's stone marker is set. Since his death and burial the trail leading North from Kalbeak has grown increasingly dangerous. A few folk have vanished altogether and nobody travels from Kalbeak up towards Kaldrboth these last weeks and none come down the trail from Kaldrboth either.
In a hollow of a vast and half rotted ancient tree just a stone's throw to the East of the Tanner's grave marker is where his wife, now turned into one of the monstrous creatures called a Kinder Ghoul lairs. The child formed Kinder Ghoul what slew and damned her into this undead form is there along with two others, victims of the pair of those they have tricked and stalked and slaughtered trying to travel up the trail. All the machinations of the last Black Druid of the Henge still in The Old Wood, their order thought to have been cleared out of this forest years ago by the King's Father.
Referee's Note: Stats on the horrifying monsters known as the Kinder Ghoul and the plot of the last Black Druid of the Henge in the Old Wood are detailed in my adventure "Witch Hunter", coming soon.
Encounter #23 (B9)
Here the "Dark Heart" responsible for the destruction of most of the population of Kaldrboth Steading resides. The brave Northern hunter who set out alone, trying to track the vile Druid is the victim here and the Druid has him suspended upside down, dead eyes and outstretched arms dangling down trapped within the glowing amber clot within wrappings of roots and thick vines.
This source of evil in the woods has been here longer, months rather than weeks and so it has had a longer time to root and grow and become a mark of blasphemous power in the Old Woods. Destroying this menace will be more difficult than the first. A Witchling protects it and a half dozen Kinder Ghoul which hunt the surrounding forest after dark like a pack of the damned gone feral.
Encounter #24 (A7)
Here is the site of the Old Grove, the ring of tremendously antiquated standing stones covered with undecipherable markings which are said not to even belong to this plane of reality is here. The surrounding dense forest of the Old Woods presses in so heavily that traveling for miles through it is impossible for someone attempting to travel by mount.
For centuries this was the powerful grove of The Druids of the Henge who sought to maintain power over the Kingdom of Ostvick. The Druids of the Henge traced their origins all the way back to the evil Kingdom of Asmorgar which once controlled all of the lands of Ostvick and Hraedir. The very wise and scholarly know the legends of how the Necromaster, that dark and terrible sorcerer of old, came into these lands after the defeat of the Necrogarchy of Leng during the Nightshade war. Here he was opposed by The Ragged Cloak Druids, the original order of Druidry in the North. Through treachery and enchantment the Necromaster seduced and corrupted some of the Druids with promises of greater power. The Druids split and the rebellious members of the Druids of the Henge began to interact with the strange and very, very old standing stones found scattered throughout the Kingdoms of the North. Nobody in those days knew much about them. The were said to predate the arrival of men into these lands, thousands upon thousands of years ago, but the Necromaster knew.
After the fall of the Necromaster and the burning of Asmorgar the Northmen in these lands were free but the Druids of the Henge still remained. They still sought to exercise their own power and rule over the Kings and peoples of the North and for generation after generation the Chieftains were required to provide them with human sacrifices to avoid their displeasure.
It was during the younger days of King Gudbrand's Father that he and a host of his sworn men marched in secret, protected by a weave of sorcery cast by Queen Gerrid herself. They killed most of this particular grove of the Druids of the Henge, pulled down some of the stones and scattered those few who survived. Of the thirteen original evil Druids only three remain. One, has become a reclusive enchantress dwelling somewhere in the wild hills of the Ravensfeud to the West. Another, the heir to the title of Grand Druid of that circle now wanders the territories of Ostvick, Hraedir and Morgwen Holds. He doesn't dare travel into the lands of Skyerga Hold where Queen Gerrid rules for the Druids of the Ragged Cloak are there in numbers and they would hunt and kill him if they could find him. The last of the three returned to the damaged circle, the site of the Old Grove three years ago and has set about his own plots of dark revenge and murder against the folk of the Kingdom of Ostvick.
Encounter #25 (A13)
This is the location of the camp of Narl, Ragged Cloak Druid. The Druids of the Ragged Cloak are the original spiritual leaders for the human barbarian clans which settled here in the far North. They get their name from a practice whereby local villagers would come to the Druid to ask for wisdom or healing and as a ritual payment would sew into the fabric of their large cloaks a piece of leather or cloth made by themselves. Thus the cloaks of the Druids were this chaotic patchwork of hundreds and even thousands of small scraps, each one a offering and blessing sewn into their cloak by someone they had helped.
The Ragged Cloak Druids are especially connected to the Northern Immortals called Gerda and Freyr. Gerda is the Goddess of the Spring and Freyr is the God of the Autumn. Both of these immortals are shape shifters. All of the Ragged Cloak Druids are also shape shifters. They receive the mark of lycanthrope as a blessing instead of a curse. In my world lycanthropes have preferred animal forms they can shift into but they can also transform themselves into other animal forms, usually for much shorter durations. A wolf shifter is not aligned with evil. They are just a Druid (usually) who is a lycanthrope and able to change into a wolf.
The Ragged Cloak Druids are led by Queen Gerrid, the ruler of the Kingdom of Skyerga. She is a prophetess and although she looks to be a woman of noble bearing perhaps in her late forties or early fifties she has sat on the throne of Skyerga for more than a century. Some say she has elven or faerie blood in her. At any rate she is unusually long lived.
The Ragged Cloak Druids and the Druids of the Henge have been enemies for hundreds of years, going all the way back to the days of the evil Kingdom of Asmorgar. Narl was sent to this area to keep an eye on the evil power rising again in the Old Woods. He is not allowed to cross the Warfang River into the Old Woods to confront the evil personally as this would violate a long standing cease fire between the still powerful grove of the Druids of the Henge which operates in the Kingdom of Morgwen and the Ragged Cloak Druids. Queen Gerrid has sent him to make sure that whatever evil is growing in the Old Wood does not successfully cross the Warfang River into the woods on the East bank. Meanwhile Queen Gerrid and King Gudbrand are hoping to dispatch a party of mercenaries into the Old Woods to deal with the evil there. Gerrid knows that the power rising in the Old Wood is Druidic in nature but her gift for the sight is blocked from penetrating the borders of the Old Woods. Even she cannot say with any certainty who exactly is behind the evil growing there or what its exact nature is.
A small number of villagers from the Old Woods have crossed the Warfang River into the Eastern woods and have found sanctuary under the protection of Narl. In particular some of the few villagers holding out in Kaldrboth Steading know that if one can safely cross the Warfang River and get to the Eastern woods that protection awaits them there.
Encounter #26 (A19)
Halfdan the Old has ruled over the Kingdom of Morgwen for 40 years and this area of forest lies well inside his Western border which runs along the length of the Warfang River. Halfdan the Old has partly remained in power by aligning himself with the last powerful grove of the Druids of the Henge, which is located in the Eastern lands of his kingdom. Halfdan's connection with the Druids of the Henge has put him at direct odds with Queen Gerrid and the Ragged Cloak Druids who are in the Kingdom of Skyerga on his Southern border.
Over the last several years border skirmishes and flare ups between the rival orders of Druids has escalated into a period of open warfare and raiding across the border. To supplement his body of sworn warriors, Halfdan has opened his Kingdom up to every imaginable type of brigand, mercenary and pirate imaginable. Some of these have adjusted well enough to serving in his war band but there are still those who are simply too corrupt to be trusted even with raiding over the border into Skyerga.
This location is an encampment of some of those brigands who at first joined Halfdan's war band but who later deserted and have plied a trade in banditry ever since. There are twenty six bandits camped here at a semi-permanent location set up deep in the woods. For now the bandits have made it a habit to scout the East Ride from just about a mile or two East of the bridge to about ten more miles down the road as it passes the woods.
Halfdan the Old's warriors have been to tangled up in the border raids and back and forth fighting with Skyerga to have the resources to track down these bandits. The guards posted at the bridge from Morgwen are aware of the bandits but they lack the manpower to do much about them at the present time.
Encounter #27 (D17)
Just a few short miles East of the bridge are the remains of an earlier bandit attack against a pair of merchant wagons. The attack happened weeks ago but the two wagons still rest abandoned off to the side of the road. There are no bodies here and no dead animal remains. All of that was discovered and cleaned up by the patrol of guards days ago. A few arrows still stick out of the wooden sides of one of the wagons and a large stain of old blood remains in the back of the other wagon.
Just to the South where the bank next to the road rises up into the surrounding fields there are five stone markers set up. None of these bears any specific inscription or identification outside of the simple drawing of a skull in white chalk. This mark is a common symbol found on graves which is meant to invoke the power of the Immortal, Death over the soul of the deceased. There are no treasures remaining here and the dead merchant and his several servants were dumped into their graves blissfully free of anything of real value other than the clothes on their backs.
Encounter #28 (E19)
Several miles South of the East ride, off in the midst of an area of rolling plains full of waist high grasses and purple to white wild flowers one can stumble upon the camp of a trio of hunters. To a casual observation this appear like any temporary camp with a simple stone ring around a small fire, a couple of small, low to the ground tents constructed with waxed animal hides and a wooden frame where four fat rabbits hang awaiting the next meal. Next to the tents are several large packs wrapped in rolled hides and furs.
The three hunters here are well equipped with studded leather armor, strong longbows with quivers filled with broad headed arrows. Two favor one handed battle axes for hand fighting and one wears a sword on his hip. All of these hunters are in their late twenties to early thirties, making them prime age for fighting in the war band of King Halfdan the Old who rules over these lands. The men wear cloaks and wrappings of fur both for warm and to obscure the decorative arm rings every sworn warrior in Warholds region wear. Arm rings adorned with animal or creature heads and shapes meant to identify which Chieftain they have sworn their allegiance to.
This is because all three of these hunters are spies from the Kingdom of Skyerga to the South. They keep a hunting camp in the general vicinity of this region of wind swept plain because it is very rarely travelled. They are here to provide support to the Ragged Cloak Druid, Narl who is watching the goings on in the Old Woods further to the North and also to be a way station and stopping point for Queen Gerrid.
Gerrid is something of a risk taker. Fierce, independent and seemingly unafraid. She occasionally slips out of her own lands accompanies by a small body of Ragged Cloak Druid bodyguards, all of which are lycanthropes, and travels through the wilderness along the Eastern side of the Warfang River up to this general vicinity. From here she will ford the Warfang River some miles South of the bridge and ride into the lands of Ostvick to an arranged meeting place where she can speak directly with King Gudbrand the Cruel. Gudbrand and Gerrid are close allies and Gerrid seems to be of the mind that she would rather do most of her negotiations and discussions personally instead of sending a rider whose messages might be intercepted.
The "hunters" keep their camp available as a safe stopping point for the Queen on the occasions when she makes the trip up to see her ally.