The next four days progressed largely without incident, though it became readily apparent from the other river barges we passed that far fewer adventurers were entering the wilds than leaving. Several members of the team went below decks or to private corners of the ship for private conversations, no doubt in an attempt to build morale and maximize team efficiency for the coming trials.
On the fifth day we docked, unloaded our horse-drawn wagon and set out towards the adventurer’s camp at the edge of the wilds. When I voice my concerns about driving the horses, two porters stepped forward to inform me that Mr. Krugden had paid for their services into the wild as well. I was relieved for the extra support, though the responsibility over two more lives weighs heavy on my already burdened mind.
Over the next two days the weather offered threats of rain but never made good on them, and the mountain terrain proved difficult but manageable for our horses. As we approached the camp it became clear that our status as adventurers would provide far better cover than any cover story, so we decided (as a group) do abandon the personae of cartographers. The team decided to call themselves “The Sovelliss Seven” after their beloved leader, and I was honored to humbly accept.
We arrived at the Adventurer’s Camp to little fanfare. It was a filthy and lawless shanty town with no discernible order, and I saw no need for dalliance here. Drake was adamant in speaking with the Slumlord of this tent city, and though I protested, when Igmo echoed his sentiments I acquiesced (in the interests of preserving team morale).
We found the oldest resident of the area, a veteran hunter named Havarrim, at a cabin removed from the rest of the campsites. He showed a great deal of disdain for adventurers such as us and a strong unwillingness to help us in our charge, but when Drake foolishly jeopardized our operation by divulging far too much information he recanted a tale about a “magic cat of shadow and flame” who surprised him in a ruin and scratched his left shoulder. He claimed that beast haunted his dreams since the incident and would offer us directions to the Sky Temple Peak in exchange for slaying the beast. I explained that we did not need directions as we already had a map, but Drake, in an ill-conceived attempt at bargaining, gave Havarrim our map as “collateral,” thus forcing us to complete his fool’s errand before continuing with our own mission. [In lieu of a formal Court Martial for Drake, I offered him a stern verbal warning for his insubordination.]
Igmo offered his natural shapeshifting abilities to bait the creature by taking on Havarrim’s appearance and luring him into a trap. I asked Havarrim to direct us to some ruins wherein to set this trap but, lacking any viable options nearby, he referred us to a small gorge about a day away. When we arrived I immediately assessed the situation and, utilizing the natural opportunities afforded us by the terrain, laid a trap for the beast. [A map of this maneuver can be found in the appendices of this journal] While it did not enter the trap precisely as I anticipated our team was ready and capable, and with a few sharp commands and decisive leadership we killed the beast with minimal casualties+. In the end, the animal proved to be a mere panther, further underscoring the triviality of our distraction.
Upon return to Havarrim’s camp we found him lazily dozing under a tree. He seemed nonplussed by our achievement and its risk to our persons, but made good on his ransom by returning our map with a few markings that may or may not prove helpful in the weeks ahead. In an apparent attempt at apology, he also offered us several magical items and a chest full of the ancient “chit” coins, which we graciously accepted.
May Her Ladyship’s Radiance Shine On All We Do.
Hamilton Sovelliss, 2nd Lieutenant.
+Drake sustained a serious bite to his trapezium and neck, Valerim sustained multiple lacerations and heavy blood loss, and Igmo was disemboweled.