Whilst back at the homestead, it is noticed that Sukiskyn is attracting a number of refugees. Amongst them is a strange and alien man from the Ethengar Khanate called Arakin of the Bortaks. Arakin is a man who doesn’t deal well in large groups of people, avoiding physical contact with them at all costs, so jumps at the chance to try and improve his magical skills with the adventurers. His help is gratefully accepted.
The party head back to the petrified forest to seek the Wolfskulls and are not disappointed. About a mile into the stone trees they encounter a raiding party. Short work is made of them and the trail they made is followed back towards a fast flowing black river, with what looks like a stone fortress on the opposite bank made out of fallen petrified trees.
Arakin demonstrates his usefulness quickly, using Invisibility to help the party scout out the entrance. After this, the party attack, despatching Wolfskull guards and wolves alike. Padraig has fun firing arrows at the fearsome dire wolves which are chained up until one breaks free and charges him. He aided though by other characters who have just felled their opponents.
The rest of the exploration of the petrified fort is a mix of combat and exploration, during which the party encounter Thouls and Giant Ferrets before destroying Kloss, the King of the Wolfskulls. A thorough search of the complex reveals a well decorated room out of kilter with the rest of the place; clues of machinator directing the Wolfskulls.
What the party also find is an old woman who was captured from the goblin raid on Cherkass. Calling herself Babushka, she relays the following:
She was captured during the goblin raid on Cherkass along with a young girl; They were brought to the Kloss-lunk lair and put in a cell. Later they were joined by five other prisoners including Pyotr’s brother Stephen; The goblins seemed to be under the command of a big hobgoblin called Vlack; The hobgoblins and goblins wanted to know where “The Great Map” was, but the prisoners did not know; A few days ago some goblins wearing iron collars arrived and took the prisoners to “the old ruins at Xitaqa”, where “old skinny-legs” would get some answers from them. Babushka was left behind because she is too old to travel.
The party conduct a thorough search of the stone-tree fortress and find a wealth of treasures before heading back to Sukiskyn with Babushka.
Horseman on the moor
Pyotr is dismayed at the news about Stephen being taken elsewhere and has absolutely no idea about the location of a place called Xitaqa. However his mother Kuzma, an ageing cleric, suggests summoning the “Horseman on the moor”. Pyotr and his wife, Darya, scoff at the idea but the party has no more leads. Not knowing what to expect, they head out to the moor to carry out the instructions to summon the Horseman: that is whistling at midnight whilst standing on one leg for the next three nights.
The Horseman arrives on the second night and is quite clearly a centaur of some sought. Accompanied by three warhorses, the Horseman greets the party’s horses first before introducing himself as Loshad and asking why his counsel is required. When questioned about Xitaqa, Loshad tells them that he will give the location if the party destroy the dread werewolves Bailakask and Kalkask for him. Mother and son, these werewolves have been causing mayhem on the moor, killing horses and other wildlife indiscriminately. Also, Loshad wants the party to set their horses free within 28 days of this bargain. The party agree and Loshad gives the location of Bailakask’s lair.
Bailakask and Kalakask
Heading from Sukiskyn the next morning, it takes over a day and a half to reach the landmarks the Horseman described. A cave sitting in a rocky outcrop of the Volaga river. The entrance is a narrow, natural tunnel which the adventurers may not have found if they hadn’t known it was there.
Hobbling their horses some distance away, the group move forward towards the lair. All seems a bit too quiet as they move together into what opens up as a rocky clearing with numerous caves coming off it. As the party inch forward they are suddenly rushed by two massive werewolves and 6 normal lupines. The battle is fierce and for a while the gods do not smile on the luck of the characters, but fortune turns and the beasts are felled. Their heads are taken as trophies as evidence for Loshad.
Looking around the caves a bit closer reveals some treasure kept by Bailakask and her son, but what is also found is a trail up high to the rocky outcrop where a statue of a strange creature is found; a humanoid with what looks like a jackal-type head. The party take their leave of the place and head back to Loshad with the trophies. Loshad is pleased and lets them know the location of Xitaqa; an ancient site on the banks of the Volaga, far from any recent trade routes. The party thanks Loshad, promising to make good on the bargain to loose their horses within a matter of weeks.
Heading to Xitaqa
The next day the party head to where they are supposed to find Xitaqa and after a further day’s travel, ford the Volaga and spot, exactly as the Horseman said it would be, a broken tower rising above an escarpment beyond the ford. At its foot, hidden amongst tangled gullies, are the ruins of Xitaqa, carved from the rock of the escarpment; homes built into the earth.
As the adventurers neared the ruins, a troop of rock baboons suddenly broke from their hiding place and ambushed them. After a tough fight, the baboons were defeated and the party explored deeper into Xitaqa, heading for the ruined tower…
And so ended this session…