Everyone awoke, weapons drawn.
"Easy now, ...easy," the stranger said. "The names Logun. I'm just a simple trapper, alone in these cold woods, attracted by the warmth of your fire."
Gruffydd stepped forward, to eye the shaggy man more carefully. "Well, Logun, is it? What's someone like yourself, doing out here alone, Beyond the Wall?"
"Ask myself that every day," he said with a cackle, showing his crooked yellow teeth. He opened his cloak. Everyone tensed, ready to spring if he drew a weapon. But, instead, the insides of his coat were filled with old pelts, beaver, fox, squirrel, and unknown.
"Ohhhh", Dimzad spoke in awe. "How much for that one?" He pointed to a fine fox tail.
"Looking for a replacement?" Logun held up the pelt to his chin, mimicking a beard. A beard that Dimzad had been missing since his encounter with a oversized crayfish. They all laughed. Everyone but Dimzad.
"Welcome to our fire", Gruffydd said patting Logun on the back. He nodded to those around the fire. It was all right to put away weapons.
The talk quickly turned to the area around them. How much did Logun know about the area? Was there a way to avoid the bridge, and the toll there? What was the toll?
Ol' Nik?" Logun asked. "Biggest, meanest troll I ever did meet. And bat-shit crazy, ta boot. Last time I saw him, cost me every shiny penny I had, and some furs, too. But, I found a few ways around him."
"We'd make it worth your while," the Northman, Laramine put in, "if you could show us those ways."
"Well, I ain't much fer company, but the fur trade ain't what it used to be up here. Fewer and fewer animals these days. So, I guess, so."
The rest of the evening and late into the night, Logun regaled everyone with his adventures Beyond the Wall. There was laughter, and the dark mood of the previous day was lifted, if just for a little while. Slowly, the party drifted off to sleep. Dimzad had been the first to his bedroll, but he did not sleep. He waited.
He waited until everyone was asleep, except for Gruffydd, who was on watch. He snuck quietly out from under his blankets and over to Miss Adventure's pack.
"What are you doing?" Gruffydd asked from across the fire.
"Shhhh!" was the only response. Dimzad furiously dug through the halfling's bag. Finally, he spied what he wanted. The nastiest, stinkiest cheese Miss Adventure carried. On several occasions, it had been debated amongst the party, whether to use it as a weapon against monsters. Now, Dimzad had another use. He carefully placed it in Logun's outstretched hand. Then, with just as much care, he plucked an arrow from Gildrid's quarrel, and began slowly tickling Logun's nose.
The old trapper sniffled and snuffed, almost sneezed, then brought up his cheese filled hand to swat away the imaginary pest.
The cheese exploded in Logun's face. "What in the Seven Bowels of Hell?!" He was angry.
The party, once again awoke with a start, weapons drawn. Dimzad couldn't contain himself. He howled in laughter. It was infectious. Soon everyone, including Logun was laughing. "You got me there, shorty", he said.
The next morning was bright, but still cold and wet. Logun led them cross-country, pointing out this and that. Where he had escape a rampaging Bullette, or dodged a Hobgoblin patrol. Soon, they reached the river. At one time, there had been a ferry. The ruins of a well built imperial mile fort straddled both sides of the quickly flowing river. All the rain lately had swollen it's banks.
"Gildrid", Gruffydd said to the elf,"you have the best eyes. What's on the other side? I don't want to get halfway across and get ambushed."
"Only a flock of birds, They seem to have roosted in the tower," Gildrid replied.
With that, they secured a rope to each other, and to a sturdy stone post, and crossed the river. To everyone's surprise, they made it across without incident.
But, as they untied and checked equipment, Miss Adventure noticed something strange about the "birds".
She yelled to the others, who followed her pointing finger to a fastly approaching creature. It had the body of an enormous wasp. Four limbs ended in clawed hands, and another two in sharp looking hooks. A nasty stinger protruded from it's abdomen, and strangest of all, it had a humanoid face. But, probably worst of all, it wasn't alone. Hundreds were swarming behind it.
Those Who Quit the Game
36 minutes ago