You wake up, groggily, your head beating like a hundred ogres playing “Flight of the bumblebee” inside your skull; your eyes dreary and fighting to stay closed, you force them to open. Not that it does much good – wherever you are, it’s pitch black, except for a very small square of light shining from the side of what must be a wall, not far from you.
Your wrists and ankles feel heavy, restricted by cold metal clasped around them, binding your hands and feet. You can feel the same icy touch of iron surrounding your head, against your mouth, and pushing down your throat, making it impossible to utter any pleas for help, without choking on your own tongue.
Confused, with no memory of how you got there, except for a few fuzzy recollections of what you can only assume were the previous night – sitting in a very packed bar, mostly gnomes, but a few other races. Dancing, music, whizbangs of Gnomish variety. The entrance door slams open, pain, then blackness.
As your senses return and the beating in your head recedes, you notice that the ground beneath you is moving, shaking violently. A constant grinding noise can be heard as if wheels on stone.
The aggravated rocking and vibrating continued for what seemed like hours, when suddenly a loud scream pierces through the cacophony of sound around you. An abrupt jolt knocks you over as the floor beneath you pivots to a steep slope. The wooden boards creak under the pressure, as they settle. No more shaking, no more whirring of wheels; just silence.
A moment later, footsteps can be heard from outside whatever box you are in. Faint and distant, but getting slowly closer. It’s difficult to tell, from the muffled thumping, how many sets of feet there are, but they are now right on the other side of the wall.
Whispered, but heated voices can be heard from where the footsteps stopped.
thunk thunk clang.. thump
The wall opens, and the small window that provided minuscule light is now dwarfed by the harsh brightness that now blinds you from this new opening. If you look around, you can now see clearly that there are several other people chained in the wooden box, like you.
A silhouette stands in the doorway, the shape of a crossbow visible in their arms.
The silhouette shouts something, <gnome> “It’s okay, they’re normal!”, and then proceeds to climb in, crossbow held firm. You can tell from her voice, and stature, that the silhouette is female and either a Gnome or a very thin Dwarf.
One-by-one she leans down to you all and carefully pours a thin line of black powder, from her satchel, on to your restraints. You see the sparks of a flint and the powder is ignited; moments later a deafening bang rings through your ears and the shackles come clattering to the ground, along with the bridles, that were so uncomfortably gagging you.
Looking down, all of your clothing and belongings have been stripped from you.
The cart is tipped at an angle, having lost its front-left wheel, which is lying on the ground several feet away.
The wooden carriage is stained a dark red, the colour of the inquisitors. A large wooden chest is built in to the outer-rear wall of the cart, with the Inquisition insignia on it, and a rather hefty lock.
The horses that once pulled the cart have seemingly vanished.
In the front seat, where the driver would have sat, is a small bonsai tree, with it’s roots very firmly wrapped and entrenched around the seat. Over it is draped the recognisable, but ripped, red cloak of an inquisitor, almost as though the tree is wearing it.
Apart from that, the cart is undamaged.
The cart is directly at the centre of a junction, facing West, assumably the direction it was heading in.
4 horses are tied up against a tree that stands just to the South of the junction, happily grazing on the grass.
There is no sign post at the junction, but there is a small stone, similar to a milestone, where a signpost would usually be.
A small ring of stones, less than a foot high, encircles the junction.
The Gnome which freed you stands outside and introduces herself as Niza Surespark. Beside her stand her companions, Dave and Harry, also Gnomes.
Niza explains that you were captured by an Inquisitor. She explains briefly that the Inquisitors are the military arm of a very powerful religious cult, that are trying to destroy anything that they deem heretical or demonic – which is most likely why Persephone was captured, although she’s unsure as to why Kitty Lock and Eleana where as well; perhaps just a case of wrong place and time. The were only expecting the single captive to be the Gnome that was in the carriage with you.
She also shows you the carriage seat, where the driver sat, which now contains the bonsai tree. In a bemused smirk, she explains that it was the driver! There was a loud bang, the horses vanished and the driver appeared to have become a bonsai tree.
After a brief “What on earth!” moment, where Persephone checks whether the bonsai tree is evil (it’s not), the party is told that two other carriages came through just moments beforehand; one headed North, towards the The Wilds, whereas the other headed West, towards the Greatwood Forest.
They’d known about the planned attack for along time and had planned an ambush in the forest for the carriages.
The party decided to come with Niza to the forest, to ensure that the ambush went without a hitch. Fortunately, the carraige wheel was easily re-attached, and they could continue at speed, once the Gnome’s horses were hooked up to the carraige.
The western road is wide and barren at first, but after a few miles, small shrubbery starts to crop up, growing out of the rocks and partly covering the road. It is clear that this was once part of the main road system, from the sporadic mixture of large and small slabs of stone that would have once covered the way, but are now sparsely dotted around and worn over the years. Especially now, as the road has become less used, allowing for the flora to take over once again, with brambles threatening to trip the unwary traveller and grass down the middle tall enough to hide a young Gnome in.
The road is just wide enough to fit 2-3 people standing abreast or a small cart.
Ahead of you is the vast forest of Greatwood, which is roughly 200 miles wide and and over 600 miles long.
Although the forest looks quite dark from the entrance, once inside it’s actually quite bright with dappled light falling through the gaps in the leaves. A worn path, spotted with old cobblestones, trundles ahead of you, through the mass of trees. The ground is covered in thick waves of spongy green moss, ranging from bright green down to a dark brownish hue. You can hear birds calling high up above in the trees, and a sense of calm fills the air.
It’s quite picturesque.
As you go further into the woods, it gets quieter and less birds can be heard. Two thick gashes slice across the road, as though a cart was forced to swerve to the side and thick, erratic hoof-prints dot the area.
Both the wheel marks and hoof-prints then straighten up and carry on down the road.
A little bit further down the road is chaos; The road is again churned by wheels and hooves and shards of wood scatter the floor. You can see blood spattered over the mossy ground and the bodies of many Gnomes lie haphazardly, limbs broken, protruding at odd angles, their faces full of anguish. Looking up, there are several just as unfortunate Gnomes dangling from various branches.
This is the ambush spot. There are several makeshift, wooden walkways amongst the treetops, with interconnecting bridges, and a series of swing ropes, for swooping down on whomever may pass along the road. These are also dotted with the bodies of many Gnomes.
Out of the many Gnomes that are lying around only one is alive. A young Gnome, around the age of 30 (Adulthood is 40), not even an adult, let alone old enough to fight. He has short, spiky, bright green hair and a row of freckles across his cheeks.
He has apparently fallen backwards into a small bush, with his feet sticking out. His left arm is broken and a sharp shard of wood sticking out of the lower part of his stomach. He is conscious but very weak.
Eleana calls out, to let the others know that she’s found a survivor. Immediately, Niza Surespark spins around and wails, ‘Sprik!’. As she runs towards him, tears stream down her cheeks.
Although his wounds are extremely sever, after several hours, Eleana manages to stabilise him and stitch up his wounds.
After a while he is strong enough to talk. however he is absolutely terrified. He keeps crying about how “It should have been easy, it was just one man … Am I going to be all right? It hurts.. Am I going to die?!”
Between his murmurs, you ascertain that the carriage came through and the Gnomes carried out the ambush on a lone driver, dressed in dark red robes, a matching red hat and an evil looking mask. The figure single-handedly killed the Gnomes, laughing as he did so, apparently revelling in the pure destruction and horror that he was inflicting. The mask he wore seemed to incite a lot of fear in the young gnome; a dark red mask with large fangs.
Time to leave
The party offered their assistance with Sprik Fitzbarrow and anything else required, but Niza Surespark, distraught and mad with grieve simply shouted at them to “Go! Just leave!”, even turning down the offer of the party leaving the carriage for them.
With this, the party sadly left, deciding to try and track down the main in the carriage.
- The party were bound and gagged in a carriage, by an Inquisitor
- A small group of Gnomes, headed by Niza Surespark freed them
- The carriage driver was turned into/replaced (?) by a small bonsai tree
- The party is told that there were two other carriages – one went North, towards The Wilds, the other headed West, into Greatwood Forest, where a Gnome ambush is waiting for it
- The party decided to follow Niza Surespark into the forest, to meet up with the ambush
- The ambush site was destroyed, with only one survivor, Sprik Fitzbarrow. The inquisitor killed the others with apparent ease and continued through the forest
- Eleana spent hours healing Sprik Fitzbarrow.
- Once stabilised, they left to follow the other carriage, as Niza Surespark was very upset and insistent that they leave them alone