|Entering The Forest Of Ascetir|
They reached the edge of the Forest of Ascetir that evening and made camp. During the night strange rustling and "clicking" were heard within the darkened confines of the forest, but nothing was actually seen.
However, it wasn't long into the next day, when the group was heading deeper in the forest, that they discovered the source of the noises - giant, black scorpions... and heading right for them.
Sensibly, the group headed away from the scorpions, leading the mounted Jarl off the rough track they had been following and deeper into the trees.
Carrying on, they began to spot overgrown, but clearly worked, stones dotted around the place and following the clear line of ancient destruction they came upon the base of a ruined tower.
A search by the eagle-eyed Hob and Alys discovered not only signs of a partially-buried trap door, but a scrap of paper wedged into the rocks. Hob succeeded in tearing it half when he tried to extricate it and Alys managed to retrieve the other half.
However, even though symbols like a mountain with a skull on top and a rough sketch map (of the coast of Scotia) on the back were recognisable, it was at this point that the group realised their only member who knew her letters was Maud... and she was back at the Iron Door. So, the exact contents of the old, faded note remain a mystery.
|The Malte Volk|
The three barbarians were quickly felled and then 'our heroes' carefully buried their bodies under the rocks they were moving from the other part of the ruin.
Listening at the trap door, Hob heard an odd rhythmic humming, almost, but not quite, like a heart-beat.
Darkness was setting in, so Othwic headed out to forage up some foot while the others tried to figure out how to open the now uncovered, but handleless, trap door. Eventually, Hob discovered that jumping on it caused it to open - luckily he was nimble enough to avoid falling through.
Alys, Hob and Jarl descended into the dark depths below, finding themselves in a curving tunnel that they followed round until they came to a door. The humming sound was louder now and opening the door they discovered a circular central room, with an elaborate frieze running around the wall and a very posh, leather bed in the middle of the room - with three bed bands sticking out from each side.
As Jarl stood guard, Alys made her way slowly around the frieze - discovering that it pictured three distinct species (a tall, noble, armoured race; snake-men; and monkey-faced demons) and four distinct locales at the cardinal points of the compass - to the east was a battlefield, to the south a tall tower, to the west a mountain with a skull on its peak, and to the north a pyramid with rays of some kind arising from it.
Going around a second time, she noticed something peculiar about the pyramid and pressing it caused it to open a small drawer in the wall, containing a long golden rod set with various protuberances that she quickly deduced was a key. This she tucked away in her pack before anyone else could see.
While this was going on, Hob had climbed onto the bed and lay down. The metal bands had arced over him and he fell into an unnatural sleep.
Meanwhile, Othwic's hunting had been interrupted by a Malte Volk warband, of about a dozen men, heading towards the ruins. He hid as they passed then followed them back to the remains of the tower. The Malte Volk formed a circle around the ruins and stayed there for about an hour, unwilling (it seemed) to enter.
Eventually they took the party's horse and headed back the way they had come. At this point, Othwic slipped into the ruins and descended through the open trap door.
As he came into the "bed" room to meet the others Hob woke screaming and then lapsed into an unresponsive state, only able to walk and feed himself (with the help of others).
The group decided it would be a good idea to leave now and headed off to the west, Othwic having caught a faint scent of salt and reasoning that the coast was that way.
They made camp, but on Alys's watch were again attacked - although this time only a single Matle Volk, who sprung from the trees, knocking her unconscious with an axe blow before a groggy Othwic came up behind him and decapitated him with a mighty swing of his own axe.
The next day the group carried on and eventually found themselves at the coast, and there they decided to make camp and hope that Hob would come out of his traumatised state.
They were also hoping to find some landmark so they could get a bearing on where they actually were, and see if anything tallied with the grubby sketch map they had discovered in the ruined tower.