Tarsakh, 1st Svoradi, 14th Year of his Lordship Kresimir, Kotor Barony;
With much anticipation today our small party has left behind the East Road, striking off to the north to follow the line of the Vardar River. Aside from the East Road being the southern boundary, our charter is somewhat vague in its description of the boundaries of our land grant, so we have agreed to start our explorations and surveying as the East Road leaves the Border Hills and its path diverges from that of the river. It is said that the Vardar trends east by northeast and that there is a lake from which it flows. Exploring the land between river and road and confirming the rumor of the lake will be our first goal.
The weather has been fine and we have made good time out of Visegrad, needing only 6 days by foot to make the Vardar Gap. The roads have not been muddy and the rains gentle and light in the mornings. We have met with several farmers and lumberjack parties along the road, and they tell us that they expect the caravan season to begin early this year.
Tarsakh, 1st Libereci, 14th Year of his Lordship Kresimir, Kotor Barony;
Silviu brought down a young buck in the afternoon and we set an early camp in order to clean and preserve what we can of it to supplement our supplies. Luukas has pointed out several plants that he says will be edible or fruit bearing in summer, but has found precious little of use in this early season. We will likely be in camp for a couple days as we burn slow fires to dry the venison.
We have followed the course of the Vardar River for 5 days through light forest ripe with the earliest blooms of spring. We have crossed over a dozen or more creeks and streams draining the snowmelt from the hills and higher land to the south of the river. The land near the Vardar itself is often marshy and uncertain, but when we have been able to find it, the main course of the river runs swift and clear. We have sighted 3 ruined towers or forts atop hills. None have been near our course, but we have noted them for exploration in the future. What we have not seen sign of is any current inhabitants of these lands. It is known that there are farmsteads still in these lands, worked by sturdy and stubborn folk, but it seems they do not dwell along the river.
Tarsakh, 1st Miluteni, 14th Year of his Lordship Kresimir, Kotor Barony;
Our 2-day camp has allowed us the time to patch and repair our equipment and gear. The hide of the deer has been put to work on my jacket as well as Silviu’s trousers. It is makeshift at best, but I believe the patches will serve well.
We have finished drying the venison in strips and have gotten it packed as securely as possible. Luukas found some wild onions and winter camas and they have been added to our stores as well. If we are careful and nothing is lost or spoiled, we should have supplies to last us another two ten-days, more or less. We will continue to forage as we explore but I hope that we will manage to find some settlement or homestead before we are put in too much of a difficulty for supplies.
We break camp in the morning.
Tarsakh, 1st Borisi, 14th Year of his Lordship Kresimir, Kotor Barony;
Shortly before mid-day we were following a rough game trail through a wood of hornbeam, chestnut and linden, probably a deer track. We heard a sudden commotion from some distance away in the direction we were travelling; much shrieking and shouting and the braying of horses. As we listened we could hear that the commotion was drawing nearer to our position and presently we could see through the trees a mannish figure leading a train of pack mules. The figure was attempting to run at speed, but the animals were scared and panicky and much effort was being expended in simply keeping the beasts moving in the same direction.
Behind the mules by perhaps no more than 30 paces we were able to catch sight of small mannish figures running in chase, drawn to notice them by their shrieks and shouts. The pursuers were closing quickly. I glanced at my companions and we all dropped our packs to the side of the trail. Luukas stepped behind a tree and readied his sling. Silviu drew an arrow back with his bow while I drew my sword and stepped forward while summoning a mystical shield for defense.
The man was preoccupied with managing his mules and was nearly upon me before he noticed my presence. “Get behind me my good man!” I said to him, and then he was past. The closest of the pursuers was feathered by Silviu, but not before it shrieked a warning to its companions, then they were upon us. I stood my ground as the first approached and with a solid blow I drove him back. A second struck at me with a crude javelin, but his attack was blunted by my mail shirt and I smote him twice in return, dazing him and gashing him badly in the leg. A third attacker appeared before me, armed with a spear and this one would prove to be a much more savvy combatant.
They were not like any creature I had encountered before, nor heard tale of. They were mannish in figure, but short, shorter even than Elarkish folk. Their skin appeared brown and their hair black, long and stringy. They had wide mouths with small stubby teeth, and pug nose and beady black eyes. They spoke a language, but not one that was familiar to our ears. They wore a hard leather armor and their weapons were crude and basic, but effective, as demonstrated when Luukas came too close to the spear wielding one and was stabbed badly in the leg.
Our position appeared bleak as I continued to trade blows with their captain, unable to land any telling hits. Soon I knew that the other two would recover from my earlier blows and surround me. Silviu was being attacked by yet another of the creatures and could not come to my aid.
Fortunately, the goodman we rescued came to our rescue in turn. He appeared at my side and struck a great blow against my first attacker, wielding an axe with skill and determination. He then came up behind the captain who was still matching me at arms and struck him cruelly about the head.
I turned to fend off an attack from the last of the creatures attacking me, only to discover that it had fainted from blood loss. So relieved, I moved to assist Silviu and coming up behind his opponent ran him through.
And that is how we met Konstante Biteri.
Goodman Biteri is a fur trader. He travels regularly throughout the eastern flanks of the Border Hills gathering furs and pelts in trade for pots, pans, knives and other items of high value in this region. We quickly gather his mules and pack Luukas astride one as his wound is rather serious and we set off for a settlement he knows of that is not too far off.