After emerging from the kobold caves, the party found their horses gone. They had wandered off, or had been taken. No one knew which, they just knew it would be a long walk home. They were packing their things, preparing for said walk, when a mounted figure appeared on the road from the south.
It was Gruffydd. "Can't go that way," he said. "Nasty troll guarding the bridge."
"I think we can figure our way back to the ford," Laramine spoke up, hefting the magical mace. It was decided he was best suited for it's wielding. "It can't be that hard. Find the river, and follow it east."
Indeed, the river was easy enough to find, but it was nightfall before they reached it. It was to be a cold camp. No fire tonight.
As the temperature dropped, so did spirits. It had been a dangerous trek, with little to show but a dead comrade, and a few bits of treasure. During Miss Adventure's watch, lights appeared in the west. There were at least a dozen. Maybe torches, moving fast south towards the bridge, which was barely in sight around the river's bend.
The halfling woke the rest of the party quietly, and pointed at the torches. There were mounted figures on the bridge. They stopped for a few moments, then headed south along the road toward Wall. The party watched silently. No one would sleep the rest of the night.
With little rest and a few mouthfuls of stale food, the group headed for the ford at sunrise. They heard the low hum of the hornet-men before they saw the ruined tower. A few of the creatures were flitting across the top of river, snatching fish up as they went and returning to their hive. When they reached the tower, the hornet men seemed to ignore the party, going about whatever it was they did.
"At least..."Gruffydd started, but the elf was out of earshot,"...take a rope"
Gruffydd follwed into the river and was behind him a ways, when the group spotted the riders. Gildrid was on the far bank, emptying his boots of water when three Men on horseback emerged from the trees lining the river. All were clad in leather mail and wore black hoods. Gildrid had his back to them, and one rider was raising a crossbow.
Gruffydd tried to shout a warning along with the rest of the party as they all started splashing across at once. The water was too loud. Gildrid saw their waving arms, and waved back, oblivious to the danger.
The rider loosed his bolt. It missed, but hit the elf's cloak, pinning it to the ground. Gildrid spun around in time to see a battle ax slam into his head as a rider flew by.
He circled his horse, ready to finish the stunned elf, when Gruffydd buried his own crossbow bolt into the rider. Another rode out to face Gruffydd while the one with crossbow reloaded. The injured rider took another swing at Gildrid and dropped him.
Nemon's thrown dagger caught the crossbow wielding rider in the neck. The hooded man fell from his saddle. Gruffydd crushed the leg of his own foe with a swing of his hammer. He too, fell from the saddle. Another blow from the dwarf, and rider was still.
As the rest of party came up the bank, the wounded rides departed in haste. He disappeared into the woods. Immediately, Laramine grabbed a spare horse and donning one of hoods snatched from one the bodies rode after in pursuit.
They party took stock of the situation. Gildrid was down, unmoving. There was a great gash beneath his crushed helmet. His breath was shallow. "Great, he;s dead again," Miss Adventure said as she plopped down beside him. She forced open Gildrid's mouth and began pouring healing draughts offered up by the group.
Gruffydd and Nemon examined the bodies of the riders. Their hoods were black sack cloth, similar to those put over the heads of men bound for the gallows. Holes had been roughly cut out to see, and indeed, a hangman's noose held their hoods on. The men themselves were skinny, bordering on malnutrition. Their leather armor and weapons were plain, well used, but in good condition. The party found a few coins, but more importantly, found a map.
It showed they immediate area to north of Wall. Few maps existed of the Fallen Lands. This one seemed to made by hand on rough lambskin, probably by the hand of one of the dead men. A strange circle was marked on an area close to their location, but it was judged best to head for Wall and investigate later.
As the party readied themselves again, and rounded up their new mounts, Laramine appeared.
"He was too fast. Besides, I'm a mariner, not horseman."
The rest of journey to Wall was cold and uneventful, but the party kept a watch over their shoulders the whole way.
Those Who Quit the Game
45 minutes ago