[How the Hell Did a Pack of Wolves Sneak Up on Lilykai? You might be asking. Mechanics my friends, mechanics….and some storytelling. Roll a D6, 1-2 : you’re surprised. These are the breaks kids, even the best of us lose focus occasionally. At least this was the case in the early days. Once the transfer to 5e occurred, its happened a lot less. But then again, her passive perception is running around 19 right now, so good luck sneaking up on our heroine. But at level….4. Yeah, she got caught day dreaming a bit. But my intrepid GM did also set up the terrain so that a sneak attack is actually a possibility. The Red Hawk Meadow has rolling hills that are deceptively deep. I’ve actually seen hills like this when visiting the site of Custer’s Last Stand. The area looks like open plains but is also actually hilly with deep ravines interspersed. This is how an entire army got caught unaware. Same thing with Red Hawk, which is where our intrepid hero has been ambushed by wolves.]
Well, that sucks. But, on the positive side, this means I won’t have to track them down. The Alpha lunges straight at me before I have time to do anything. I manage to dodge it’s teeth, but take a claw hit. So much for my coat repairs. I sidestep the second wolf that attacks, draw my sword and slice it clean in half [! CRITICAL!]. My next swipe cuts deep into the body of another, but it still stands. I’m able to defend attacks by 2 of the remaining 5, but the alpha comes in and takes a huge bite out of me. Deep puncture wounds to my leg. So I focus my next attack on him, stabbing into his spine before he can pull away fully. He staggers, coming in for another attack that misses. The smaller one that I hit before catches me with a claw and a bite, a third wolf comes in to nip but fails to draw blood, it does catch my side with a claw though. I do a feint at this one and then spin and strike down the wounded one, and stab the Alpha for a second time, he drops. At this point the remaining three growl and posture but when I level my sword in their direction they retreat into the meadow. I briefly consider chasing them, but I’m in no condition for it. My clothes are torn again and bloody so I tear off some strips and bind my leg. My snow walkers are still usable, since they attacked me I didn’t have to do much running around. I tighten the bindings and take off towards the ranch again.
I don’t arrive until close to dusk. I can smell the smoke from the chimney for about an hour before I arrive at the ranch. They have roughly the same set up as the Bilder Ranch. I can see light coming from the windows of the house. The barn is closed up for the night. I knock on the door and announce myself “Hello! It’s the Ranger.” I’m feeling rather tired, and my leg wound is throbbing. I still have some of Yilly’s healing potions left (3), but I’m trying to save them for an emergency….like a snow terror! I’ll be able to dress my wounds properly once I’m inside [herbalism for extra healing!] The door swings open and I am not met with one, bit TWO crossbows pointed at my face….and a man with a sword drawn. I just hold out my bloody hands to show they are empty and shake my head in frustration. I have a bit of a short temper when I’m in pain.
“Ranger!” the older woman yells as she drops her crossbow (lucky it didn’t fire) and goes to assist me inside.
“I’m fine.” I practically bark at her, I soften my tone and ask “May I come in?” I can’t help it that there’s an edge to my voice, I’m currently bleeding on their porch. The man has put his sword down and is also trying to assist me. I shake them off and, remembering Taryn Bilder, say “I gotta get these off” and gesture at my boots.
“Never you mind that, let’s just get you in the house,” the woman replies. “Sybil, untie those things on the Rangers feet”
While my snow walkers are great in the snow, I’m rather like a waddling duckling on the hard flooring of the porch. The younger girl has put down her weapon and kneels to untie the walkers, but it is a complicated series of knots. I tell her “Just unlace the whole boot, I can deal with it later.” I realize that the woman is taking my heavy pack off, while the man is helping hold my weight. I am grateful of their help now, I got hit worse than I thought, and now that my annoyance has worn off the fatigue is setting in.
Finally my boots are removed and they help me into the house. As they are guiding me to a side room with a bed the woman tells me “I’m Falwyn, this is my husband Maeglad, and Sybil…our daughter.” In the light of the house I see that my leg, from thigh to ankle is saturated with blood. Sybil runs ahead and throws a blanket over the bed to protect it I assume, before they put me down. Falwyn shoos her husband out the door and it is then that I really look at her and realize that she is an elf and Sybil is half-elf like me. This is not common here, some elves have decided to make Ratik their home, but not too many. Falwyn puts one hand on my shoulder as she guides me to lay down, her other hand is holding mine as she closes her eyes in concentration and heals my wounds completely. Wow, that was a rush. She still insists that I rest for a bit. Apparently magically healing wounds doesn’t reduce fatigue.
“Rest here for at least 30 minutes, you will still be a little stiff and sore even though the wounds have closed. Do you have spare clothes?” I nod as I have a second set in my pack. “ Good, you’ll want to change into them so we can burn the ones your wearing.” My look of surprise/alarm must be obvious, she shakes her head and points at me “Those are far too gone for cleaning and repair.” She uses a tone of voice that brooks no argument. I look down at myself. She’s kinda right about that.
[Game world note: My GM has established that Ratik is a low magic realm. Alchemists are in the capital (Marner) and the Port of Dunn. Otherwise there are no magic shops and magical items are rare and unusual. People who can cast magic, the Ranger slang is sling, are uncommon and most of them keep it on the down low. Regular people, especially in the North which is more rural and wilderness than other areas of the kingdom, are very superstitious of the whole concept of slinging. It is no wonder Falwyn isn’t known as a healer and it’s actually a pretty big deal that she outed herself to heal Lilykai with magic.]
There is a knock on the door as I’m getting dressed after cleaning up. “I’m up” I respond through the door.
I hear Sybil say “Dinner is ready now, will you join us?”
“I’ll be right out, just give me a minute” I say as I’m pulling on clean socks. I look around and then remember that my boots are on the porch still attached to the snow walkers. I’ve got to get my shit in order tonight, I’m a mess.
I come out with my torn, bloody clothing in my hand. I’ve taken off my chain and left it in the room to clean later, I feel so light without it. Falwyn stops what she’s doing in the kitchen, takes the bloody clothing from my hands and promptly throws them in the fireplace. “Hey!” I can’t hold back by shock. She just shakes her head as she washes her hands in the kitchen sink “Too far gone” she just says. I look to the other two at the table for some back up and they just shrug and look away.
I take a seat at the table. “Ok, let’s start again. Hello, I’m your new Ranger, Lilykai Kodel.” I extend my hand to the man….Maeglad.
He takes it and says “Maeglad Belag. Good to meet you Ranger. You’ve met my wife and daughter Falwyn and Sybil.”
“Everyone just calls me Wyn” Falwyn says as she an Sybil put the food on the table. Wyn also has a bottle of wine tucked under her arm that Maeglad takes from her and starts to open. Wine, yes! Now we’re having a proper meal. I notice we’re having a hearty stew and honeycakes for dinner. The aroma and spices remind me of meals back home where the dishes definitely have a more elven flavor to them, and wine is always served. This is almost like being at home.
“Let me guess, you’ve seen some strangers running around so you met me at the door ready to take care of business” I say as I start to dig into the stew. Like the Bilder’s they look a bit sheepish. “No problem, I understand being safe instead of sorry. And believe me if anyone tried to attack you three, with a welcome like that, they’d be sorry” Sybil snickers into her bowl.
Maeglad nods “Yes, I did see some men in the valley a day ago. They were heading either towards the garrison or maybe Emme’s place if they turn more north.
“Emme?” I ask, Wyn answers, “Emme is our daughter. She and her husband bought a plot further North from here, about 20 miles.” Sybil interjects in a sing song voice “He was a soooldiieer and then Daddy hired him as a hand for a season, and they fell in LOooove, and got married.” Sybil is actually grinning a bit maniacally. It is so funny I can’t help but burst out laughing.
“Is that so?” I say while chuckling. Sybil is about 13 or 14, not quite what you would consider marrying age, but definitely boy crazy age. She nods at me vigorously in the affirmative. “Speaking of LOooove…” I mimic her words and tones precisely as I nod towards my coat. “There are a couple of letters that were snuck to me by two young gentlemen at the Bilder farm to give to you.”
This effectively shuts her up completely and she turns a bright shade of pink. “Really!?” her father says, one eyebrows cocked, in a mock stern tone. “I might need to take a look at these missives myself first”
“Sorry sir,” I say all businesslike. “It is my duty to deliver said messages solely to their intended recipient. I would be falling short if I were to hand them off to anyone except the addressee.” Did I mention that Rangers are also the equivalent of a Royal Messenger, especially out here where mail delivery is practically unheard of. “But that doesn’t mean I can’t tell other people of the existence of said correspondence.” I look knowingly at Wyn and Maeglad and wink. Wyn brightens up at the subject, though for completely different reasons, “That’s right! You can deliver a letter to Emme for me, and maybe a little something for the baby!”
“Now Wyn….the Ranger has better things…..” I interrupt Maeglad by putting my hand on his arm and stopping him from continuing his thought. “Actually, Sir, that is one of my favorite duties. I am always happy to deliver letters to family and friends for you. And a small package would be fine.”
He can tell by the look in my eyes that I speak the truth. Before you are a fully recognized Ranger you have to spend a year as a Ranger Messenger which entails running to garrisons and picking up Ranger reports or delivering letters and pay packets from Headquarters to various stops on their routes. When you’re acting as a messenger anyway, a lot of people, soldiers especially, use you to deliver letters for them as well (along with a copper or two for your trouble). One of my favorite things was to deliver a letter to home from a soldier or caravan drover and see the relief on the faces of their family when word arrived.
“That would be marvelous, I’ll get something ready tonight” Wyn gushes. We fall into a comfortable silence for awhile…well except for Sybil who is half excited and half embarrassed. She finishes quickly and asks to be excused. I’m not quite done yet, in fact, I’m getting seconds, but I take a moment to retrieve the letters from my coat by the fire and hand them to her on my way back to the table. She actually squeals a little and darts up the stairs to her room. Maeglad rolls his eyes and lets out a huge sigh. Wyn snickers and pats his hand.
I take this moment to ask them about the traveler that I found in the snow terror nest. Had they seen anyone fitting that description or wearing that kind of jewelry? They shook their head no, and recommended I ask around at the garrison. Maybe he had come through with a caravan and got lost. Hmmm, that’s still a mystery.
I also tell them about Ginn’s discovery of the strangers in the meadow two days ago and how the Bilder’s greeted me at the door. “It sounds like those men are moving more to the North.” Maeglad says thoughtfully. “That’s what I was thinking too, based on the timing of them being seen. I’m surprised they haven’t run into those wolves…or maybe they have by now.” He asks me what my plan is tomorrow. “I’m going to go to Emme’s first, and if they’ve seen these guys or not I’ll start criss crossing across the meadow looking for signs of them. It’s just a little odd for them to be moving about but not approaching anyone.” I leave out that I think they might actually be scouting out weak targets and a man, woman and baby is the weakest target out on the meadow. I’m suddenly in a rush to get to the next ranch.
As we retire to the sitting room in front of the fire (Wyn picks up my coat and starts sewing) I ask “So, can you tell me more about Emme and the Soooldiiier?” I impersonate Sybil again. Maeglad fills me in on their ranch. It’s much smaller than the other two I’ve seen so far, they just bought it and started ranching on their own in the last year. They were staying with Maeglad and Wyn up until then. “In the room you’ll be staying in.” Emme’s parents like Micha Abner. He’s a good worker and kind to their daughter. Wyn thinks that Micha got the job as a hand in order to learn the ranch business and court Emme. Both parents apparently approved of him. Micha and Emme’s daughter Luanna was born right before they moved out to their own place. She’s about 18 months now. And her grandparents obviously dote on her as they recount the event of Luanna’s birth and how incredibly adorable she is.
I listen respectfully but as I’m taking all this in I’m feeling anxious to check on the ranch. I bid them goodnight as I need to leave early tomorrow. They understand and Falwyn tells me my coat will be ready in the morning. There was a time when I would argue that she didn’t have to do it, but right now I’m just thankful for some additional sleep.
Early the next morning it is freezing cold. As I’m getting my gear together in the main room (my coat looks great, Wyn cleaned it a bit too) I see Sybil come in with a basket of eggs. She says that her Da is closing up the barn and lighting the wood stove there for the animals. It’s too cold for them to wander today. Not too cold for the Ranger to wander I think. Falwyn has a huge breakfast prepared for us all and once Maeglad arrives we sit to eat. She makes sure I load up on everything.
As I’m finishing and taking my plate to the sink (I was raised right) she goes upstairs and comes back with a letter, a book, and a sweet little knitted jumper. “Do you have room for these?” she asks as I’m getting my pack closed up.
“Of course! Are you sure that’s all?” I note how cute the sage green jumper is. “Well, I’d like you to have this too.” And she hands me a tin. I open it and smell the aroma of a really nice strong tea. “Wow, that is great..but you don’t have to..” Wyn shakes her head. “It’s an honor. Thank you for your Service.” Oh, yeah…that again.
She also hands me a wrapped bundle of leftover breakfast for my food pocket. Pancake wrapped sausages is a wonderful thing.
I brought my boots in last night to warm by the fire and I get my snow walkers hooked up again on the porch and wave goodbye as I trot out of the yard. I can’t see them inside through the reflection of the window, but I sense they are there. I stick to the treeline to make better time to the Abner Ranch. I’m getting there a bit after mid-day and it’s still very cold and crisp.
Not only is there no smoke coming from their chimney but I can see what looks like tree limbs and debris poking out of the top of it. The barn doors swing lazily open and I can’t hear any animals inside. Something is really wrong here.