The party finally finds life on the horizon, but are perplexed by their strange language, clothing, and hostility. They need information.
The party is stuck. The heavy Dragonborns are incapacitated: Balcazar, petrified by the Cockatrice poison, and Wacha, still unconscious. Furthermore, Balcazar was their navigator, the only one who had a lock on the horizon, the party's only reference for true bearing.
Slowly, Balcazar and Wacha recover. Wacha, regains consciousness, frightened, awoken into an alien reality. His head pulses. He has difficulty walking. He doesn't recognize the people around him. He's too weak to run away. It takes some artful language on the behalf of Hardy and others to ease him into the world.
Balcazar starts to thaw from stone to flesh. He too regains consciousness. The party is whole and mostly healthy. They eat, prepare and pack what they can of the cockatrice meat.
Balcazar, scans the horizon to regain his bearings but he can't find them. Maybe his head is still scrambled. Orryn, as a ranger, knows the approximate direction they were traveling in and they choose their bearing as best they can.
Days 7 - 39
Balcazar finally reacquires his reference on the horizon and now Orryn sees it too. The party needs to course correct a little, but their path has been mostly true.
They travel on. Nothing changes. The wisp of smoke doesn't grow larger. The plains taunt with their size. The sameness of the land and conversation begin to drive everyone crazy.
Balcazar snaps. Wacha receives the brunt of his irritation. An argument comes to blows. The rest of the party scatters. They hit square to head and torso. Both are exhausted. Wacha is knocked unconscious and Balcazar sits down. His anger evaporates.
Wacha wakes up. There's apparently no ill will towards Balcazar. Maybe Dragonborn methods of conflict resolution are a bit more physical than other races.
The party continues their journey through the grassland expanse.
Days 39 - 40
The wind picks up. The clean skies darken. Rain comes eventually, but the preamble is a slow-walking wall of intense lightning. The party watches. Oddly, the lightning strikes near their smoke mark on the horizon are hued green and orange. They watch in the calm. But eventually there is no escape. They are caught in the storm. They buckle down in the sideways rain. The ground is soaked and softens to mud.
It takes a full day of walking for everything to dry out.
Days and weeks pass. Their direction has been true.
The party makes first contact at a farm. The prairie opens to a clearing, full of of vegetables supported by wires and sticks. The party picks soft, ripe cucumbers from the ground. They can't help themselves. It's the first non-sustenance food they've had in over forty days.
The clearing is wide. At the far end is a single human in ragged but clean clothing. The party waves and he waves back with hesitation. They approach.
Hardy engages him in conversation. He speaks in a strange, heavy accent, nearly unintelligible. Balcazar and Orryn don't understand him. His name is Bareris. He leans on a worn hoe. Behind him, an irrigation ditch fed by a gleaming metal pump, caged and locked. The pump has no apparent energy source.
Bareris calms down. On the party's approach, he holds out silver coin in an unrecognizable denomination, but the party refuses. He apparently believed that the party was from the government and was there to shake him down. He's a laborer, either assigned or forced to work the land.
Bareris points Southwestward and says the main farm is in in that direction. It's about a day walk.
Small separate plots merge into a continuous agricultural farm. The party spots other workers, some now in groups, but avoid them and they ignore the party.
There's a low fence a hundred yards ahead the appears to contain the central farm compound. There's a cluster of nicer buildings, wide warehouses, and a well-built, brick, multi-story residence.
Placed along the low-wall are shacks. The party assumes they're for storing farming equipment, but Hardy and Orryn decided to sneak up to check, leaving Wacha and Balcazar behind. They approach slowly.
The shack has a single door. Inside is the body of a dead elk, half-decayed and half-eaten. A large-linked chain, attached to a foot-thick metal post, pools outside but terminates somewhere within the building.
As they move to get a better look, Hardy makes an errant, backward footfall and the brief snap of ground alerts something within the shack. They hear a grunt, and then running through the door, a large bugbear.
Hardy and Orryn sprint backward. Wacha and Balcazar sprint forward. They meet and together in combat kill the bugbear.
Unfortunately, the noise rouses a second bugbear from the next, rightward shack, but the chain is too short. It can't reach the party. The party leaves it alone.
The party walks over the low wall and towards the cluster of interior buildings. Workers move away from the party. Most jog towards one of the three warehouses.
Between the buildings, an eight-foot dusty trap-door built of square timber beams, and in close proximity to it a gleaming cluster of pumps, this time uncaged, pumping water into two irrigation channels. One channel heads roughly North, the other South.
Two Dwarves, well-dressed, exit the home and approach the party. They are unarmed.
They party tries to talk to them but they are reticent and don't want to communicate. The party gets a pair of names from them, Pall and Verrir, but they clearly don't want the party on their land and the brusquely push them along. They point out the direction of the nearest large city, called Ferran. They won't say what's under the trap door.
Balcazar has had enough. He grabs a Dwarf by the hair and cows him into talking. Pall speaks. He tells the party that the path to Ferran is very dangerous if you don't have papers and can't travel on the main road, but it's a big city and they'll know what's going on. He says the party's appearance is probably an Eleven thing. They're strange, awful people. He says he doesn't have the power to open the trap door and Balcazar believes him.
As Balcazar is extracting information from Pall, Hardy wanders over to one of the windowless warehouses and discovers that they are worker barracks. He talks to one of the farmers resting inside. They learn that another foreigner passed through the farm three to four days ago. That's the second-hand information going around.
The group re-gathers in the center of the farm. They don't trust the Dwarves. The move on, gathering and picking what they want, and try to disappear into the distance on the path to Ferran.