The party was soon joined by Tessa, an old associate of Alex’s, eager to join his expedition to the Desolation and further her arcane prowess;
The next several days of travel were mercifully uneventful, but the signs of civilization faded as the miles rolled by. Trees became fewer and scrubby brush more common, and eventually the air itself was suffused with dust that left a faintly sulfurous taste in the mouth. It made for some spectacular sunsets, though.
As the small train of wagons crested the last hill before the desolation, The Camp came into view, A bit larger than expected in a simple caravan stop, from a distance you could almost mistake it for a market town. As the party drew closer, though, the ramshackle and temporary nature of the place became evident. Many buildings were nothing more than overturned wagons with tarps, and who knew which were abandoned and which inhabited. The small wagon train drew several uncurious stares from the townsfolk (or “campies”, as they call themselves), and a corpse, several days old hung from a gibbet in the town square, a placard with the lone word “CHEATER” around its neck.
A low, incomprehensible roar could be heard over the hill leading up through town, and any visible the campies made themselves scarce. The enormous figure of Gurg, a hill giant with horrible acid burns on his face came charging down the road, tree-trunk sized spiked club in hand.
Asura was quickest on her (his?) feet, glancing out of the lead cart and creating a deep pit across the road, right in Gurg’s path. Tessa lit up the town square with twin gouts of flame arcing from her figures to burn the oncoming giant. These haazards just seemed to enrage Gurg further who jumped the pit, and brought his club down on one of the draft horse’s heads, the expedition’s first casualty. This very much upset the horse in the adjacent harness, and between sounds and scents of roasted hill giant, mixed horse blood and brains, the poor beast panicked and started pulling hard against the harness, rocking the entire wagon violently. Dagonet struggled mightily to get it under control.
Alex, not unused to adversity, was steady as ever and unleashed a volley at the hill giant, piercing him several times, Gabe summoned a spiritual hammer to aid in the fight, and the battle was truly joined.
After getting the party in a tight spot by flipping the lead wagon over, and dispatching Hubert back to the celestial realms, Gurg finally succumbed to the combined onslaught of the PCs. Amidst the confusion, the panicking horse had burst its harness and run off, and Alex left with Tessa to track it down.
The rest of the party caught their breaths and searched the body, turning up a decanter of endless water and finding that the enormous club was enchanted as +1 keen. Gabe approached a finely dressed campy, who seemed to be eyeing the body eagerly, and met Griswold, the town’s undertaker. He also happened to be a ghast..
Meanwhile, Alex and Tessa had tracked the horse to the businessplace of Finneleaus the elf. A drunkard and remarkably quick-thinking horse trader who had appropriated the beast. Despite the remnants of the snapped harness dangling from the horse’s head, he refused to give it up unless he was brought more wine.
Rather than get into a fight with the second person they met as well as the first, they proceeded to the Sip o Blood Tavern, where they met Lucky Bjorc, a half orc who had nothing left to lose, at least when it came to limbs. He was in surprisingly good spirits for someone who could only count to three on his good hand, and told them that the Usurer made sure that the only currency in town was “iron bits”and that he was the only moneychanger. Bjorc filled their tankard on credit. They left to meet the Usurer and change some coin.
The Usurer was also the town blacksmith, and the incessant clanging coming from his forge made one wonder if he every stopped. He was a thin, tall man, with a too-toothy smile that never reached his eyes. So thin, in fact, it left one wondering how he handled that fairly massive blacksmith’s hammer. Not much of a conversationalist, he changed their money at 5gp to the iron bit and went back to his forge.
Meanwhile Gabe and Tessa went about trying to secure lodgings. The only inn in town seemed to be the “Bender Brothers Inn”, run by a pair of gnomes. It appeared to be just several overturned wagons joined together by a fair amount of slapdash carpentry, but was actually quite cozy on the inside. Rooms were dear, though at 5 iron bits per person..
Finally, Alex and Tessa returned to Finn’s livery. Fed up with the Elf’s abuse, Alex tossed the wine jug at him, and the drunk elf let it slip through his fingers and it smashed to pieces at his feet. Tessa leaped onto the horse, and rode it back into the town center while Finn picked up a spear and sputtered.