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A Battle in the Snow
Journal of Ailean O’Glaisin

Alturiak, 3rd Giovedi, 14th Year of his Lordship Kresimir, Kotor Barony;

This day would be Arnaulen 5, The Claw of Snows, at home, and my thoughts today find themselves often lingering upon my family. They cannot yet know that I have taken this foolish venture into the Beastlands, and it may be that by the time they receive my letter I will be feasting at the feet of heroes in Kanassas’ Hall.
Still, I am bound by oath and honor to Lady Samaras and she is headstrong and willful and cannot be dissuaded from her course of action. Even though it takes us both into the Beastlands, stories about which I have been fed since childhood that are numerous and entertaining, in a perilous and often bloody fashion. I pray only that the battle we engage in this eve will serve as the beginning of our own story that leads to the Lady’s ultimate redemption, rather than to our own ignominious deaths.

Alturiak, 3rd Dillundi, 14th Year of his Lordship Kresimir, Kotor Barony;

I survived the battle, and having done so, I realize that my last entry was quite doomladen. The battle was a hard fought affair, and I did not emerge unscathed. I was gifted a well broken rib by a sharp blow from a club, smartly wielded by one of the bandits. But, perhaps I should start at the beginning of the story!
We had agreed to handle a group of thieves that had been making trouble at the Leviton Homestead and on Arnaulen 3, the night of which the snows returned, Zan Kruhalk, nephew of Oleg Leviton, and Jetei, 2nd son of Teleboge, brought news that they had finally discovered the bandits haunting a ruined hilltop castle half a day’s walking distance.
We set out before first light the next morning with the two homesteaders as guides. It looked as though Andoni and Manus would earn their coin after all! Of course in the snow, a half day’s walking distance took most all of the day and we neared the castle as night fell. We were exhausted from the day’s march and needed to rest before we could make any assault so we found a vantage point from which we could observe the comings and goings of the bandits.
When we stopped moving the cold began to set in, but Lady Samaras put an enchantment of warmth upon our boots and cloaks to keep us in comfort. We counted a half dozen bandits and assumed there to be at least twice that number. Their leader was a great beast of a Yrchish warrior, but the others looked to be a motley group of Mannish and Yrchish peasentfolk driven to evil acts by hard times. They appeared poorly equipped with clubs, small swords and leather breastplates with few bows present.
We laid our plan and approached the castle under the cover of full dark and a light snow. Zan and Jetei circled around the castle, to keep watch in case any bandits fled during our attack, or attempted to flank us. There was a single guard posted at the entrance with a blazing fire to keep him warm, and also to provide illumination for our arrows. Another fire blazed just within the entrance and another guard was there. We attacked late enough that most of the rest of the bandits were sleeping.
When we had approached as closely as we could without danger of being detected we waited while the Lady began to prepare a spell for attack. When she was ready us menfolk charged to the attack (well, Andoni and myself did) or feathered the bandit standing guard (that’s what Manus and Koldo did instead).
We had surprise and luck was on our side. The two bandits on guard were quickly dispatched, one by an arrow Manus delivered unto his gut, the other from the ball of my morningstar upon his unprotected head. After that the battle became a confused and desperate affair. Much shouting and hullabaloo was raised within as the resting men roused and readied themselves against our assault.
In truth and eternal thankfulness however, they fought like the rabble they were. A stream of foes emerged from within the castle, individuals rushing to the contest as they felt themselves prepared. Neither waiting nor coordinating their counterattack with their fellows. This allowed us to engage them in turn and without becoming overwhelmed by their superior numbers. Andoni proved himself a doughty warrior as he laid about with his mace. Manus feathered any who made it past Andoni and I wherein some took advantage of the distraction their fellows provided as we smashed them down. Even goodman Koldo plied his shortbow with a will and gave much distress to those bandits awaiting their appointment with our mace and morningstar.
Despite the valor and effort of us menfolk, all would have come to naught had Lady Samaras not taken her part at key moments. Once it was that a bandit managed to avoid all of our bludgeonings and featherings to gain an advantageous position upon us, poised to strike a blow most deadly when a bolt of lightning flashed from the dark to strike and dispirit the foe. This unfortunate victim of her attention immediately retreated into the castle, both of his arms hanging limply at his sides, where we found him later, poorly bandaged, for all the good it did him in the end. The second was the very leader of the bandits who was knocked back and off balance by the blast she delivered to him.
Andoni had been hard pressed by the mighty warrior who wore a fine quality steel breastplate and wielded a heavy war mattock with dangerous skill. When he was forced back by the Lady’s power, Andoni was able to move to aid me when I found myself under an enchantment cast from within the castle that left me dazed and unable to effectively defend myself against the two bandits assaulting me. It was at this time that I received my wound, courtesy of the club of one of my opponents. Andoni quickly dispatched those two while I recovered my wits and Manus finished their leader with a brilliant shot, putting an arrow through his head that killed him standing.
After that the will to fight left the remaining bandits and we heard shouts of panic and surrender from within. Zan told us that they counted three taking flight, including one wearing heavy robes that was probably the one responsible for casting the stunning spell upon me. Well would I like to match with him while aware of his presence and not obstructed by a mob of underlings! Alas, I was not in any shape to press the issue in the dark and snow.
We took occupancy of their lair for the remainder of the evening, Jetei handled the disposition of the injured thieves who had retreated into the castle during the fight and were unable to flee. The next morning we gathered what portable valuables they had acquired and created a stash of the bulkier items to reclaim when the weather turns. Then we returned. I would like to say it was a return to a hero’s welcome, but these folk in the Beastlands live lives where they work hard and expect nothing less of those they offer their hospitality to. They made their gratitude apparent, but it was equally plain that we had simply done the work they expected of us.

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A Start Before Spring
Journal of Kalina Samaras

Alturiak, 2nd Martedi, 14th Year of his Lordship Kresimir, Kotor Barony;

The heathen weather-witch’s fortunetelling had been specific regarding the dates when a stretch of clear, cold weather would hit the valley. On the morning of Alturiak, 2nd Svoradi, yesterday, the clouds emptied of snow, the sun shown through and the temperature dropped, just as she said it would. She was certainly as good as her reputation and worth her fee, usurious as it was. The next storm is not supposed to arrive for a full tenday.

Ailean, Koldo and I had made the necessary preparations for our journey and managed to make some good deals on supplies and equipment, which partially made up for the excessive cost of the weather divinations. Most of the suppliers we patronized were happy to simply have our business during what is their slowest season. We even managed to hire a pair of Whitewater sellswords on the cheap. They probably expected to spend their entire contract comfortably drinking ale in the Whitewater Tavern and sleeping in their own warm beds while the usual late winter snow storms kept us from traveling.

1 wagon, 4 mules, a small mountain of equipment and supplies and 2 somewhat disgruntled caravan guards, we departed Visegrad by way of the Caravan Gate and took the East Road towards my destiny. I just hope it is a good destiny.

Alturiak, 2nd Borisi, 14th Year of his Lordship Kresimir, Kotor Barony;

The last 7 days have been torturous and now there are only 3 days before it is said that the snows will return. It is difficult to say which was the greater torture; forcing slow progress through thick and fresh fallen snow which was our fate for the first two days of our journey or enduring the freezing cold which has at least allowed us to make better time over the now aged and hardened snow the last five days.

We have passed through the gap in the Border Hills created by the Vardar River, although we have had no sighting of that waterway, hidden as it is under the ice and snow. We now exit the Kotor Valley and approach the Beastlands, of which I have heard many tales, most recently from Andoni and Manus, our two worthy guides. Even taking allowance for the exaggerations of tellers of tales, it does not sound like a land I wish to sojourn within in such a small party as ours, and not far with even a larger party.

Andoni assures us that there are some farmsteads still resisting the dangers of the wilds hereabouts and some old buildings that may serve as a base for our business venture. I pray that he is correct and that we may find one or both within the next few days.

Alturiak, 3rd Svoradi, 14th Year of his Lordship Kresimir, Kotor Barony;

This morning we met with the Levitons, a family that has kept a homestead here for decades. Goodman Oleg and his wife Svetlana preside over an extended family and employ some Yrchish and Elarkish families on their land as well. Several dozen people in all live on their homestead.

The land itself is well sited in a small valley. All is covered in snow and ice, but I am told a small stream runs through the valley and fills a pair of ponds at the southern end. Fields separated by tidy rock walls fill floor of the valley, an orchard with cherry, apple, pear and hazelnut trees lies on the gentle eastern slope while the houses, outbuildings and gardens stand on the steeper western slope to receive the morning sun. Sheep and goats graze the nearby hills under the eyes of the Yrchish folk while several draft animals are kept in a barn nearer to the houses.

The houses and other buildings are solidly built and most are dug somewhat into the ground; I am told that this helps keep them cool in the summer and warm in the winter. I can certainly understand the reasons for building them in that manner! It is only one more day that we are to have this break in the weather and the snows should return tomorrow. It is well that we found the Leviton Homestead when we did!

Not all seems to be well however. When we approached with our wagon and mules we were greeted most brusquely by several of the menfolk. It was only by the presence of Andoni, who was known to Oleg and a couple of the others from past dealings, that we were permitted to say our peace. Koldo spoke well for our intentions, and that we brought such a store of supplies with us certainly helped. We were invited to stable our beasts and provided beds for our use, but a service was requested for the courtesy.

It appears that the reputation of the Border Hills as a bandit infested land is not exaggerated and since the beginning of winter the Leviton Homestead has been subjected to the regular and unwelcome attentions of such a group. It has mostly consisted of sheep and goat rustling, but recently the scoundrels mounted a raid on a storage building and made off with a fair quantity of dried fruits and good grains as well as making a great noise and commotion and putting a fright into everyone.

Several of the younger men have been using the clear weather to carefully check on ruined buildings and caves around the area and believe that they have found the lair of the thieves. While these homesteaders are hardy, tough and not frightened by the prospect of fighting, neither are they foolish nor prone to taking unnecessary risks and they are not warriors. My companions however are warriors and Ailean has been known to take risks that are both foolish and unnecessary, so we have been requested to look into the problem of dealing with the bandits as payment for the hospitality of the Levitons.

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