Stunned at the loss of Everitt, the adventuring party spent many days contemplating how to best continue on to Naspers. This effort got a boost with the arrival of Atabraxes Stormcrow, a barbarian northlander with a very curious connection to Everitt. Three adventurers (Prometheor, Jalez and Stormcrow) then decided to resume their quest to Naspers, hoping to reach the mysterious village and put to rest the rumors surrounding its demise. This time, however, they wisely avoided a direct route into the swamps.
Instead, the three heroes chose to track down the surviving villagers from Naspers. Rumor had it they had had fled west many months ago to seek shelter in the Crandar Moors. Surely these fearful folk would have more knowledge of their erstwhile home?
The adventurers’ route took them across the Great River to the untamed lands past its western bank. Atabraxes Stormcrow was the first to find evidence of a savage culture that prowled these wild landst. Heavily traveled foot paths and gruesome totems indicated that a race of fearsome humanoids laid claim to the western wilderlands.
The adventurers eventually came to a large, slow-moving stream, which they knew from their map to be the Riksen River. The stone bridge that spanned its breadth had fallen into ruin, but nevertheless the three heroes were able to ford the river and continue south. After several more hours of arduous travel, the party came to the Crandar Moors—a windswept vista of grassy hills dotted with small copses of trees. An hour later, the group came across the refugee settlement itself: a collection of crude tents, cookfires and latrines, inhabited by some 60 former residents of Naspers.
The group met Yinivax, the gnarled, aging leader of the band. He explained the history of Naspers, how decades ago the village had been a thriving town full of prosperous residents. Then, some thirty years ago, a small marsh nearby had slowly begun to encroach on Naspers, swallowing up farmlands, paved roads and eventually cloaking the village itself in mist and gloom. A curse fell on Naspers. Babies were born deformed; strong men died young; crops failed. Still the villagers held out, Yinivax said, “Until the dead walked out of the swamp.”
The villagers fled in terror, seeking refuge in the Crandar Moors. They struck a tenuous peace with the Blood Kin Orcs, who ruled the lands from the Eslohen Forest to the north. But the three adventurers had carelessly violated this agreement when they struck down the gruesome totems that lined the river bank.
After much discussion – knowing an attack was imminent – the adventurers decided to meet the Orcs in open combat while the bulk of the villagers escaped to safety. The battle was joined at a river crossing, and the invading Orcs were beaten back with the help of a brave contingent of fighters conscripted from the villagers. The refugees (presumably) continued their escape north to Delen, while the three adventurers continued south, skirting the edges of the vast, trackless swamp.
They camped in the Moors overnight, watching warily from afar as unseen figures carrying torches swept up and down the length of the river ford, as if searching for something…