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PRP: Lost in the Gray Forest

House Grayson was alerted that an exploration team has gone missing the Gray Forest and worried family members are asking that a search party be formed. They were last headed to a set of ruins to the northeast of Bastion and they were due back a week ago. House Grayson has put out a call to any and all who work in the field of adventure to help join the search party and bring the missing team back home to their families.

OOC: This is a low key, low risk event, with sign up preference first given to those who attended the Grayson Family Dinner on January 15th and then filled in with anyone who also @mailed Lou to sign up. I can take up to 8 players on this event.

Directions: From The City Center - Go East, until you can't. GATE -> GF -> GF

Date

Jan. 26, 2023, 8 p.m.

Hosted By

Lou

GM'd By

Lou

Participants

Ian Mabelle Jan Lucie Lisebet Kiera

Organizations

Location

Outside Arx - Gray Forest - Deeper in the Gray Forest

Largesse Level

Small

Comments and Log


Winter, A Highhill Puppy, Angeline arrive, following Kiera.

Ramona - A Guard in Ashford House Colours, Bigsby - A Thoughtful Looking Young Man in Nondescript Clothing, 2 Ashford Archer, 1 Ashford Scout arrive, following Lisebet.

House Grayson is well known for the number of explorers they put through their fealty. Norman Greyridge the Explorer, Princess Lou Grayson, Princess Aislin Ashford are just a few names that have come up as either legendary or near legendary people. They take their exploring and explorers very, very seriously. So, when a group of explorers didn't return from an expedition in the Gray Forest on time, House Grayson put out a call for volunteers who might be able to help look into matters. The explorers were on their way to a set of recently discovered ruins to the northeast of the city of Bastion. Lou provided a map, which she entrusted to Lord Ian Kennex, a member of the Society of Explorers, and set the group on their way, confident in their abilities to get the job done.

They've made their way through the Gray Forest, stopping here and there the various towns to resupply. Their brief stop in Bastion showed them that the rebuilding of the Grayson's fair city is well underway. Some of the walls are newly erected and some of the shops and homes that had been destroyed during the attack of the Traitor, known as the Horned God in other circles, are well under way. Their stop there was very brief before moving on. They're a few days ride from the city now, it's just after mid-afternoon, and they seem to be approaching the location of the ruins when they hear a strange sound within the woods.

House Grayson is well known for the number of explorers they put through their fealty. Norman Greyridge the Explorer, Princess Lou Grayson, Princess Aislin Ashford are just a few names that have come up as either legendary or near legendary people. They take their exploring and explorers very, very seriously. So, when a group of explorers didn't return from an expedition in the Gray Forest on time, House Grayson put out a call for volunteers who might be able to help look into matters. The explorers were on their way to a set of recently discovered ruins to the northeast of the city of Bastion. Lou provided a map, which she entrusted to Lord Ian Kennex, a member of the Society of Explorers, and set the group on their way, confident in their abilities to get the job done.

They've made their way through the Gray Forest, stopping here and there the various towns to resupply. Their brief stop in Bastion showed them that the rebuilding of the Grayson's fair city is well underway. Some of the walls are newly erected and some of the shops and homes that had been destroyed during the attack of the Traitor, known as the Horned God in other circles, are well under way. Their stop there was very brief before moving on. They're a few days ride from the city now, it's just after mid-afternoon, and they seem to be approaching the location of the ruins when they hear a strange sound within the woods.

Given that he's usually only active in the Isles lately, Ian is probably here as a favor to someone, maybe Lou. Maybe Jan, his cousin. His lifetime as a sailor has left him very comfortable with maps and charts, which has allowed him to guide the group easily, but it hasn't left him comfortable on horseback. He's staying mounted, but that's all. Someone at Bastion found him a very, very patient horse, and that horse has decided that he is an idiot and sometimes does what he wants, but frequently doesn't. Fortunately, his horse has also taken a liking to Lisebet's horse, and so winds up sticking with the group.

Mabelle put on her sensible shoes (she owns no sensible shoes) and made her way with the search party toward the forest. Because she was growing board of her own ashes and needed to see other ruins? Maybe. Because she needed to see a city in a state of reconstruction? Maybe, because she likes helping her Patron's house? All answers are correct and then some. Mounting an appaloosa horse with one of her staff leading the beast in the front, following Ian's lead until the noise heard, "That... does not sound good", her expression turns grim and she wonders, "Should we dismount?"

Jan is astride a chonky charger with fabulous mane-the charger not Jan. She rides alongside Ian where the way allows and just behind him where the path narrows. She frowns and nods, dismounting and looking for a spot to tie her mount to keep it from wandering off "What in the hairy-cleavage was that?"

Promises of adventure and dashing rescues is all that's needed to pull Lucie out into the forests in the north. Following the group on her own mount, she brings the horse to a stop at the sound of the noise. Green eyes peer through her hardened mask as she shoots a glance to the dismounting Jan. Taking the maneuver as a cue, she follows suit, jumping from the animal and to the soft dirt.

Lisebet's horse is a gentle one, not a warhorse by any stretch of the imagination. But she's bright and Lisebet at least doesn't fall off, so it's a bonus. Maybe Ian and Lisebet each on a horse is a funny sight, but at least it gets them where they're going. She blinks, looking around and up to see what that was, and then at the comments, she shakes herself a bit. "Right, dismount," she agrees. "And take a look around? I - " Did she just hear hairy-cleavage? Lisebet's eyes widen, and then her lips curl in a genuine smile. "I don't think it's cleavage really, but since I'm not quite sure what it is, maybe?"

Ian checks intellect and animal ken at normal. Ian is successful.

Mabelle checks intellect and animal ken at normal. Mabelle is successful.

Lisebet checks intellect and animal ken at normal. Lisebet marginally fails.

Kiera checks intellect and animal ken at normal. Kiera fails.

The sound leaves Ian a little bit wary. He draws up his horse. The horse ignores him and stops next to Lisebet's horse. "I don't know, but I don't like it. I'm not sure who told these people that it was safe to be out this far in the gray forest. It's not like all the Traitor's supporters packed up and went home." With everyone else dismounting, he does so, too, by very carefully sliding out of the saddle, grabbing at it at the last moment so that when his legs try to fold rather than suddenly bear his weight, he's able to keep from just dropping like a puppet with cut strings. He takes a moment to steady himself, then slides his cane free from the place on his saddle where he had it lashed and safe. "Sounds like a hurt animal," he observes.

Kiera e is unable to idenify the odd animal sounds coming from the forerest. Her horse twitches its ears nervously

Mabelle jumps into the ground and almost twists an ankle, so graceful that one. She mutters and then moves forward to lend an ear, "Yes it does but...I mean... its not a dog it sounds more like.. a bear? A small bear? A cub maybe", she eyes the ground and considers, "Baroness Amari did not come out well from walking into the woods following a bear but...", her nose wrinkles as her heart squeezes, "Poor thing".

Lisebet has no idea what animal might make that sound if any. Of all the Ashfords, it would be this one here and now. "A bear?" she asks, turning to look at Mabelle. "One in pain and hurt? Or is that how they normally sound?"

"A bear." Ian shakes his head. "It could be a bear, but I don't think bears sound like much at all if they're not in trouble, do they?" Thinking of something, he turns towards Jan and his flat expression briefly spasms into a grin. "What do you think? Ready for round two?"

It takes Lucie a moment to find somewhere to tie off her horse, patting the creature on its side as she does so. Her attention shifts to Mabelle as once Ian mentions the bear, her gleaming expression hidden by her mask. She wanders out towards the noise, stepping away from the group and into the fresh brush. "We should get a closer look."

Jan frowns "Hurt animals are universally dangerous. Anyone see anything that looks like tracks, or camp, or anything that proves our wayward flock were in the general vicinity?" Her blue eyes are downcast, sweeping the ground.

Mabelle confirms to Lisebet, "Yeah it sounds hurt and Jan has a point here, we should likely approach with care, perhaps leave the horses here, try to sneak over".

Mabelle also adds, "Lucie, be careful, stay with the group!", she calls for her cousin out of sheet concern.

Jan's features split into a grin "Wiseass is a bold move given some of your misadventures, cousin." She retorts back a good natured quip.

A general search of the area does show some tracks leading down a path that cuts through a thicket. The path is well traveled by beasts of all sorts, but the freshest of tracks belongs to a large bear with a pair of cubs. Another loud pitched noise of some animal in distress sounds in the woods in the general direction the group needs to travel.

"So we should tiptoe in closer and see what's going on?" Lisebet asks. She simply follows along, reasonably able to make her way in the woods. She pauses to look, as she hears that sound, and then says, "I rather feel if we want to help we should probably move reasonably quickly?"

Mabelle seems utterly turn with the sound coming from that direction, "I dont think he's alone but goodness", she holds her head and ears for a moment to try to block their distress from her mind. "Yes, we need to move quick and wise and prepare for anything".

Lucie slows her pace once Mabelle calls out to her. She spins about to face the rest of the party, waiting as patiently as she can manage, her eagerness to press on visible in her body language.

Ian takes a moment to take out the map. "Don't wander off," he adds to Mabelle's warning, without looking up from it. "You don't want to get caught out alone out here. There's a lot worse in these woods than bears." Then he looks up from the map and scans the woods. "The bear is between us and the ruins we're looking for. I'm not thrilled about running across the mother, but there's probably no going around it. Not without adding days to the trip."

Mabelle wields Frosting Spreader - a brightly colored wide seax.

Jan says, "Ladies, Gents, if I were expected to bow or answer to you in formal settings maybe stay behind Ia-Lord Ian and I." She strides forward trying to move quietly but opting for speed over being ninja silent. Towards Ian she hisses in a projected whisper "Relax cousin. It's just creepy woods. Nothing EVER goes wrong in creepy woods!"

Kiera hms "Perhaps the bears have actually caught some prey

Ian eyes Jan. "... Aside from the occasional light bear mauling."

Jan huffs and straitens "Listen here, boogermuncher! I-" She stops and looks around and grunts and declares with a meaningful look towards Ian "Later." it's hard to tell if it's threat or a promise.

Lisebet starts to move forward, but she does not leave the group. She just moves more to the front where she strains to see through the woods.

Mabelle grumbles, "Fine, lets go". She lifts her knife however in front of her as if she knows how to use it, making careful steps, avoiding dry leaves and trying to hide behind tress as they progress forward.

"If there's a bear ahead, it should be more afraid of us than we are of it." Lucie adds, waiting for Jan to pass her by before falling in behind. She wanders through the brush, trying to keep up with the other woman's speedy pace.

It's hard to tell whether it's the threat/promise from Jan or just being called 'boogermuncher' that gets a grin out of Ian, but either way, he's grinning as he falls in with everyone else, at least for a moment. It's not long before his expression shifts back to neutral as he warily scans the trees in between watching the ground under his feet.

Mabelle checks perception and investigation at normal. Mabelle is successful.

Lisebet checks perception and investigation at normal. Lisebet is successful.

Jan checks perception and survival at normal. Jan fails.

Lucie checks perception and survival at normal. Lucie is successful.

Ian checks perception and survival at normal. Ian is successful.

Kiera follows in the middle of the pack and draws her daggerdrawn and held in he right hand just in case

Kiera checks perception and investigation at normal. Kiera is successful.

Jan flashes a quick grin towards Ian and then returns her attention towards the task at hand but at present her attention is split between keeping a protective eye on the others in the search party and seeking evidence of the lost explorers is not a winning combination. There's a soft string of cussing as she almost trips over a tree root while her attention's unevenly divided.

As the group moves forward, moving down the path, the reason for the distress becomes entirely clear. The bear cub is alone. It's younger sibling is dead. It's presumed mother is dead. Both were trapped, quite literally, in metal traps. The larger of the bears was unable to get away. The living cub's head comes up as people come and then it picks itself up from where it was laying in the ground. It scampers sideways toward more brush, dark, beady mistrustful eyes watching them. It's really no bigger than a medium sized dog, probably only a few months old at best. The traps were set a long time ago, meant to catch food for when game was plentiful. There are human tracks around the bears. Collectively they can figure out that the tracks are several days old at the very least. It's possible the humans they belong to are their group or.... they might be something else entirely. They continue off in the direction they need to travel.

Mabelle presses a palm to her mouth when the horrible sight comes to view. Yes, he's the size of a dog, yes, Mabelle does not register he is not as gentle as a dog. "Oh gods for the love of...", she rushes unthinkingly toward the bear and of course the reasonable thing for her to do is pet its head, it is so much stronger than her. The instinct and the bear. Anyway smart. There might be consequences. "Can someone help break the trap? I'll fix him".

Mabelle presses a palm to her mouth when the horrible sight comes to view. Yes, he's the size of a dog, yes, Mabelle does not register he is not as gentle as a dog. "Oh gods for the love of...", she rushes unthinkingly toward the bear and of course the reasonable thing for her to do is pet its head, it is so much stronger than her. The instinct and the bear. Anyway smart. There might be consequences. "Can someone help holding him? I'll fix him". If he does not smack her first.

Mabelle checks charm and animal ken at normal. Botch! Mabelle fails completely.

Jan says, "Woah! Lady Mabelle don't-!" She frowns and moves to try to stop Mabelle "He's not going to survive without his mother and he isn't our concern right now. We got people with families counting on us to find the missing explorers."

Winter, A Highhill Puppy have been dismissed.

Angeline have been dismissed.

Lucie checks dexterity and brawl at normal. Lucie is successful.

Ian is clearly way less concerned with the bear than with the people they've been sent to find, based on the way that he ignores the dead (and alive) bears, and studies the human tracks. He's leaving the animal people to do animal people things. Or get mauled by animals, as the case may be.

The small bear lets out a roar, stands up on its hind legs, and swipes at Mabelle's hand with its tiny, powerful paws before skittering away from her. This creates an opportune moment for Lucie to sweep in and catch it if she wishs.

Kiera checks charm and animal ken at normal. Kiera marginally fails.

Lisebet checks charm and animal ken at normal. Lisebet fails.

Mabelle is all Koochie Koo, petting the bear as he suddenly rises to his legs. Her eyes round and he swipes at her, pushing her to the ground, tripping her over a rock and he suddenly easy demeanour turns to, "You little fiend, I am trying to help you! You ungrateful little...", and then she recalls she's a Lady in the presence of a Duchess and substitutes it for "Owe". All while Ian is looking for tracks.

Kiera tonight is not kiera's night as the poor cubby takes one look at her and lowers its head backing away

Lisebet is many things, but an animal person is not one of them. She literally steps back away, ending up over by Ian. "I don't even know what to do with a cat, never mind a bear." She's noping out, because well, what else is a petite duchess to do. Besides a big dog is bigger than she is. "So Lord Ian, what are you looking at? Maybe I can learn to be more useful."

A surprised glance flashes across Lucie's face as Mabelle decides to approach the young cub. As unexpected as it may have been, she jogs up to her cousin as she attempts to charm the bear. Once it swipes, she breaks into a sprint and tackles the young animal, using the diversion as an ample distraction to begin wrestling the bear.

Jan is briefly torn between trying to rationalize with the bleeding heart gang and following Ian but as more people follow on the bear she declares "Festering fucknuts this is an idiotic thing to have to explain why we didn't achieve our objective!" She turns and follows Ian, abandoning the notion of bear wrangling.

"People went this way." Ian explains to Lisebet, pointing out the tracks. He's slowed down, partially to accommodate tracking, partly because he just slipped into teacher mode and... well, it leaves time for everyone to mess with the bear cub, but that might not be a consideration for him at the moment. "They went around the bears, so they were probably here and already dead when it happened. Judging by how much the carcasses have decayed, no more than a couple of days. They went that way." He motions.

Determined, Mabelle rises and smoothes her gown, "I'll show you, you stupid bear". She stalks in his direction and takes out a small vial and forces it down his throat to sedate him. It takes a beat but once he is out, Mabelle leans down to stitch him, all the while muttering, "You are so adorable. When you sleep". It is then when Ian makes his final estimate, "Alright. He'll be down a while, we can go".

Lisebet listens to Ian, trying to learn, because she's really a relatively poor explorer. "Ah, Okay, so the tracks - I can see since you point it out, the toes to the shoes pointed that way and- " She looks at the trap and the decaying bear carcass. "It seems a waste to set traps and not come by to get the meat," she observes. "Shouldn't there be some hunters checking this?" That's a bit thoughtful from her, though she does pause to look over at the bear cub fixing crew. She's only paying them a teeny bit of attention though, mostly learning. Nobody ever tells a duchess these things.

The poor bear cub mewls and mewls, surprised when Lucie grabs it up and takes it away from the others. Then Mabelle, who it had just swiped. in a sort of 'WTF' moment, comes over and stuffs something in its mouth. It gives out another pitiful cry before it falls off to sleep from whatever it was. It goes limp in Lucie's arms, allowing Mabelle to tend it. Of course, without its mother for protection, that little bear cub will now be prey for any predators out there.

Once the bear is appropriately sedated, Lucie rises from the ground, brushes herself off, and looks towards where Jan had started to venture off. She casts a glance down at the sleeping beast with a self-indulgent pose. Her shoulders rise with a shrug before she falls back in with the rest of the group, picking up the pace to try and stay along.

Ian turns back towards the people dealing with the bear cub. "Guys, tracks are this w... did the bear die?"

Kiera hms "Can we take that bear back to the lodge?"

Mabelle looks at Ian, "No he's not dead, he's... ", she looks back at the bear and then calls Lucie, "Help me out here a moment", moving toward the leaves on the ground and tosses them over the bear . There. Camouflage. Can we move on now?

Ian watches Mabelle skeptically. "It's not moving and you're trying to bury it," he points out.

Mabelle protests, "I'm hiding it!"

Ian asks: ".... From the police?"

Lisebet stops, blinking, and looks over at Ian, then to Mabelle. She opens her mouth and then closes it.

Jan begins walking in a zig-zag path "Same tracks but they're days old. I-Oh for _fuck's_ sake. She takes her satchel and dumps out the contents. This includes a water-skin, tinderbox, and what might be snacks. She stomps back, grabs the cub, and shoves it face first into the satchel so it's little fuzzy backside sticks out of the satchel "IF this fucking flea-catcher comes to and tears my face off I am haunting EACH and EVERY one of you bear-canoodling wierdos UNTIL THE DAY YOU FUCKING DIE!"

Lucie halts as she is called at, spinning about to watch as Jan snaps and marches over to snatch up the bear. She laughs audibly, watching the rest of the group with a timid curiosity.

Mabelle stares at Ian and then at Lisebet and then at Jan and she almost protests to Lucie that she does not think the bear can breath that way but instead asks, "Can we move on already?!"

Ian takes a moment to start collecting the stuff that Jan dumped on the ground, at least the most important of it. The water. The liquor. Mostly those two things. He still doesn't look like he's fully on board with this 'let's haul around the probably dead bear cub', but he's also at least wise enough to know that this isn't a hill he wants to die on. "... Tracks go this way," he says, after also tucking the folded map into an inner pocket of his coat.

LIsebet looks at Lucie and then she smiles. "Thank you," she says softly. And then to Ian. "I think the bear is sleeping. Don't ask me why. I don't know. But these tracks - they're going the way we want to go right?" She's hoping to get things back on track, but Ian beats her to it. Which is only to be expected.

The group starts following the tracks once more, now that the mischief with the bears has been managed. The bear is settled nicely in Jan's duffle. It weighs her down a bit, making travel a little bit harder in the woods than usual, but it is manageable; for now. There's some hills, climbing over fallen trees, and roots and brush to work through as they make their way following the tracks. Eventually, they get to a set of ruins. They see camping gear strewn about, much like someone was searching through things here.

Ian swears under his breath at the state of the camp, as it comes into view. He scans the area quickly, at ground level and then higher in the treeline, and studies the ruins, especially in places where ambushers might hide.

Mabelle checks perception and investigation at normal. Mabelle is successful.

Lisebet checks perception and investigation at normal. Lisebet marginally fails.

Jan checks perception and investigation at normal. Jan is successful.

Lucie checks perception and survival at normal. Lucie fails.

Kiera checks perception and investigation at normal. Kiera is successful.

Ian checks perception and survival at normal. Ian is successful.

Lisebet looks around as Ian starts to, but right at the moment, she's still a little perturbed over someone carrying a bear. So she keeps looking back over at the bear cub's rump instead of around the area.

Mabelle shares Ian's expression when she notices the state of the camp. She looks around to see if there is anyone close and then goes over the belonging to see what was stolen or maybe what was left behind and checks, if there is a firepit, if its still warm.

Jan wonders "What were these explorers out here looking for? Is this there camp or someone's camp I wonder? If this is theirs and someone is following them this is more than a little concerning..." She turns in place slowly.

Kiera bends down and starts moving the strewn gear about looking for signs of blood, claw marks and other signs of struggle

Lucie aimlessly wanders about the camp, kicking the dirt beneath her feet and trying to look as if she is doing something productive. She casts a couple of glances at other people in the company, checking in on those that are significantly more qualified to handle an investigation.

There's plenty of stuff strewn all over the place to be distracted simply by that. For the rest, it looks like there was a struggle at the camp site. There's a rock with enough blood on it that it's probably easy to surmise it was either used to hit someone or someone fell on it. Bloody hand prints are left behind on a wall and there's a bloody boot print headed in a westerly direction on what looks to be the remains of a floor. It seems that anything that had any value has been taken. Further searching and the body of one of the missing explorers is discovered; identifiable from the packet of pictures that the Pathfinder sent with the group as one of the missing. The explorer has been dead almost as long as the bears.

Ian keeps an eye on the people who are making a beeline for the camp, but his first concern is clearly making sure that whoever is responsible for the disappearance of the explorers is not still here, lying in wait. With his mind in that particular kind of space, it's no wonder that the first thing he notices is blood, and shortly afterward, he swears again, quietly and under his breath, as he comes upon the body and kneels down to examine it.

Lisebet wanders around the perimeter of the camp, keeping an eye out, but not really seeing anything she identifies as useful. She looks over to Jan at her questions, and nods quietly. "This does not look very good."

Mabelle frowns as her eyes dart from one wall of blood to a rock, "No, looks like someone ambushed them. Maybe they were kidnapped and are held hostage", she exhales softly, that would be the least worse if the scenrios she has in her head.

Jan puffs out her cheeks "Look around and see if tracks diverge? There's still four bodies unaccounted for." Her features pull into a scowl and she begins to walk in concentric circles scanning the ground again "What kind of weirdo bandit stops to kill bears before rolling a camp?"

"Lady Mabelle!" Ian looks up from the body and calls out to the people at the camp. "Can you tell me how this guy died?"

Kiera goes over to the body behind to see if the cause of death can discoven "given the place seems stripped it might have been looters"

Mabelle checks intellect and medicine at normal. Mabelle is successful.

Mabelle steps over toward Ian and lowers herself to the body, kneels down. She examines it for a brief moment, looking at the bruises and a specific wound at his back, right around the spot where the kidney is, "Oh that's a.. particular stab wound, if you want to kill someone fast", she points out to Ian, "This was an attempt to kill, not just harm. No struggle". She wonders, "Could they group turn on him?"

Lisebet tilts her head, as she moves over. "But why would they ransack their own camp?" she asks.

"To make it look like bandits attacked?" Lucie suggests with a glance to Lisebet, then to Mabelle, Ian, and the corpse. "A conspiracy."

"Doesn't need to be the group," Ian sighs. "If they didn't set up watches at night, and it wouldn't be the first time people out on an adventure forgot something like that, they could have been taken while sleeping." He plants his cane in the ground and uses it to push himself to a standing position, stumbling a little bit as he gets his feet under him. "Alright. Working theory is shavs or bandits. Did you guys find anything valuable in the camp?"

Jan says, "Maybe the explorers found and took something from someone who wanted it back? The bandits were looking for something but hard to tell if it is for valuables or something specific?"

Further inspection of the camp shows that the tracks resume on the other side of the ruins, heading off to the west. That direction also looks particularly hilly.

Mabelle rises then and begins to walk toward the tracks, not going far, "All options are possible, really. I guess there is one way to find out", she looks wearily at the hills and thne her boots.

Kiera hms "It seems like things were taken fro taken. West we go"

Mabelle concurs with Kiera.

Lisebet nods her head, sticking with the group. "It seems that we follow the tracks to see where they lead, doesn't it?"

"Sounds like shavs or bandits," Ian concludes. Then concurring with Lisebet: "Tracks go that way, and we're already a couple of days behind. Let's go."

Lucie checks dexterity and athletics at normal. Lucie is successful.

Jan checks dexterity and athletics at normal. Critical Success! Jan is spectacularly successful.

Mabelle checks dexterity and athletics at normal. Mabelle fails.

Ian checks dexterity and athletics at normal. Ian is successful.

Lisebet checks dexterity and athletics at normal. Lisebet is successful.

Kiera checks dexterity and athletics at normal. Critical Success! Kiera is spectacularly successful.

The terrain is terribly rocky and some of the hills are quite steep, but they are still able to follow the tracks regardless of all of that. For the most part, everyone is able to maneuver the terrain. However, Mabelle's boots are being quite uncooperative. It looks like there are several caves in this territory and the tracks seem to to be leading to one such cave.

Mabelle huffs and puffs on the way up, complaining to herself silently the entire time. When she notices the single direction of tracks, she points out, "Looks like a trap". Now she breathes.

Ian winds up taking up a rear guard as Jan and Kiera blaze a trail ahead, mostly by virtue of the care that he needs to take with the uneven terrain and the fact that he's still staying watchful of the surroundings. But the upshot is that he also won't allow anyone to fall behind the group, and he's a good backstop against anyone else coming on them from that direction.

Lisebet, at least, has good hiking boots on, and so she's solid on her feet as she walks. She keeps an eye on everyone, making sure they don't leave anyone behind, but the petite duchess does not actually try to help out, lest she get tumbled over as well. At least for now. She stays in the middle of the group as she's been asked to do on other trips.

Jan picks down the hill carefully. She carefully but hastily hops and trots towards the front, pulling her flail out so it's in hand as they make their way towards the cave.

Following along the group, trying to keep with Jan's pace, Lucie trudges over the rough terrain without complaint. Arriving with the group on their way up to the cave, she follows the other's lead, drawing out her weapon with a swift smooth motion. The old claymore held in both hands.

Kiera trudges slowly up the hill to the top emerald dagger still clapsed ed in hand

Ian joins everyone else at the mouth of the cave and peers into the dark. "A lantern would be better for this than a torch," he decides.

A lantern is produced from somewhere; likely someone in the group who had one with them. It's all standard with the explorer's adventuring packs. You never know when one might be handy. Shining it carefully into the mouth of the cave, it's easy to see the four other explorers who are in various states of bloodied disrepair. Trussed up like pigs, hands tied to ankles, it does not look like their captors are anywhere to be found. What remains is the rescue.

Jan moves to help cut loose the captives, "Who did this to you? How long ago since they left?" she is sure to make sure that she has the relevant details before anything beyond cutting the bonds.

Ian has his diving knife out of its sheathe by the time he's kneeling down next to the nearest trussed up explorer to start cutting the ropes. "Hey. Hey, you conscious? Do you know how much time we have to get out of here?"

Lisebet mutters, ""Thank you for teaching ... a bit. I'm still ... sure what ... ... the ..."

Lisebet moves to help get folks moving, if she can, once their bonds are cut and they are free. "Seems rather like a good place to leave quickly," she observes quietly.

With a free hand, Lucie holds up the lantern as high as she can, illuminating the rock for the others as they work to free and interrogate the captured adventurers.

It seems only one of the missing explorers is awake. The others seem to be unconscious. It's one of the women who went on the trip, who seems relieved to see some somewhat familiar faces. Lisebet's in particular, as she's a member of the Ashford family herself. "Abandoned. They wandered into our camp in the middle of the night. It's a small raiding party. They went out hunting, since they ran out of food after abandoning their kill to follow one of our people back to the camp." There's a pause and her eyes well up with tears. "It was awful. They killed him." She takes a moment to compose herself, rubbing at her ankles and wrists now that her bonds are off. "They've been gone a few hours, and will probably check in any time, since they stored they stuff they took in here."

Jan wonders to Ian "Get them out of here or wait and ambush the turd-lickers?"

"Alright." Ian scoots over from the woman he cut free to one of the others. He looks back at Jan briefly. "We need to wake them up and get out of here. I'd rather not fight this out with however many people are coming back."

Lisebet at least can work to keep folks calm. She might manage that. While she's doing that, she hears Jan and that gets a blink. "I think we need to get them out of here, and send back - a bigger force."

"How small is a small raiding party?" Lucie asks with judicious intent. "If there is only a few of them, we could take them in an ambush." She adds, seeming to agree with Jan's sentiment. Her hand jostles the lantern about, the light bouncing erratically.

"We came here to get these people out." Ian's focused on cutting the explorers free and waking them up. "An ambush puts them at risk. We know where this place is. If you two want revenge, we'll come back for it."

"We're in no shape to fight." The female explorer responds to Jan and Lucie. "There's probably 10 or more of them, but not more than 15. They know these woods better than we do too," she adds as a bit of an afterthought. She gives Ian a grateful look before going off to grab what she can carry of their stuff. That still leaves quite a bit behind. It doesn't take long to get the other prisoners free. However, not all of them can walk on their own and need extra care and handling. One more wakes and is moving about. That leaves two still unconscious.

"You can lead the bigger force back?" Lisebet suggests, as she helps with whatever needs doing. "I agree with Lord Ian." She's talking to the folks who are waking up, helping them to get oriented and moving if they can. "C'mon, we can do this. All together, let's get out of here."

Jan nods once and grabs one of the unconscious ones and slings them over her shoulder "Once we get them up the hill I can stay to create a false path so if they come chasing they at least have to split up. Let's get out of here."

Jan checks luck at normal. Jan is successful.

"It's not a matter of revenge." Lucie defends herself, taking a moral stand. "It's about keeping order and maintaining honour." She continues to do her best to keep the lantern hoisted with her off hand. "But if you wish, we can leave...and always return." She adds, looking to Lisebet with a nod.

"I can't carry that guy." Once again, it takes a concerted effort for Ian to get back to his feet. "And I'm not carrying the fucking bear. You'll have to stay with us, Jan. Come on."

Winter, A Highhill Puppy have been dismissed.

Angeline have been dismissed.

Jan says, "Alright-then we better hurry cause they are likely to follow."



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