The party left Tambrake with the vague notion that heading west to the coast might find a larger town to sell or trade their loot from their previous adventures. Their tiny village having very little market for things like armor or weapons.
After several hours of traipsing along the trade road (little more than a dirt track), they had left the farming fields behind and entered rolling wooded hills. It was late afternoon when they heard the sounds of rapidly approaching hoofbeats.
From around the bend ahead ran a fully laden and armored warhorse in a seeming panic. Blood was visible on its flanks as it turned from the PCs and bolted into the woods, scrambling through the brush. From ahead was the faint smell of smoke. A few of the PCs took off after the horse, the rest hurried up the road to see what caused the beast to panic.
Ox and Bennie hurried along through the trees, keeping the horse in sight, followed by Borey and Iago. They tracked it to a low marshy area, where a strange pool of mist rose up from the ground and enveloped Bennie. His blood was sucked from the very pores of his skin and he collapsed dead in the muck. The mist –now pinkish– moved toward the others. The other characters managed to flee the area without being attacked, reaching drier ground.
Back on the road, Mengali the cleric, Shekki the Mirthful, Brandt the warrior, Juke, and the others reached a stretch of the road where it met a side track. It looked as if a fight had taken place: Crude javelins were stuck in the ground and a smoldering patch where it looked like oil had spilled seemed to be the source of the smoke. As they investigated, the smoke eddied and formed into the ghostlike shape of an armored man. It spoke in a hoarse whisper, telling them that he was one Sir Dugar in life, a member of the Barley Knights. He had been charged to deliver an important message to the Duke in Lem, but savage humanoids had ambushed him. The message was in his saddlebags. He charged the PCs with delivering the message for him, bequeathing his horse and equipment to them if they would do so. If they would not, he promised a death curse upon them. His spirit, trapped at the crossroads, could not follow his body or his killers. The group quickly set off following the signs of the attackers up the side trail.
Meanwhile in the woods, following the sounds of hooves on stone, Ox and the others reached a rocky defile. As the moved through, they suddenly noticed one of the rocks was shaped in the likeness of a squirrel. Another resembled part of a raccoon! realizing that some sort of petrifying monster must be about, they hurried away from the rocks up the steep slopes. Ox then heard the sound of a frightened whinny ahead. Iago snuck forward and spotted three ugly humanoids with ochre skin and tusklike teeth struggling to lead the horse away.
The PCs who had seen the spirit had made good progress along the trail, gaining elevation in the hills. They were moving past an open downslope when they spotted some figures with a horse far below in the trees. As they began to descend, sling stones flew from a thicket and four more tusked man-things rushed forward.
The battle was short and the PCs pressed forward to help, as Iago had ambushed the three creatures with the horse. Ox and Borey ran forward to help as well. After a few rounds, the tuskers were dead and the PCs had grabbed the horse’s reins. It had a few cuts in its flank, but seemed otherwise healthy.
Shekki and Brandt checked the saddlebags and found –in addition to some rations and gear– some coin as well as a scroll case (the message presumably). After debating about whether to look for Dugar’s remains, the group decided fulfilling his mission (and leaving the woods before dark) was their priority. Leading the horse, they returned to the road and began marching back eastwards. Night had fallen as they continued to walk.