Visions of Aquelae: The Redstone Band

The Daughter Unmissing
In which our heroes enter Lochdon, to find a tense serenity there, and a baron who denies anything is awry

Laucian

After a couple days of journeying, we neared the Barony of Lochdon. It was late enough at night that, instead of heading straight for the city gates, we decided to stay at a nearby farmstead. The Travers family was kind enough to allow us to stay in their barn overnight in exchange for an evening of entertainment, provided by Nina and myself. Poor Kyrnyn is not a dancer, but he did provide much humor with his attempts. However, I did catch him out of the corner of my eye later, practicing some steps for next time. It was a rather enjoyable night, until the rat disturbed our sleep. Well, in all fairness, the rat itself was very quiet. It was Greenbeard, yelling and howling and hollering as he shot the rat, that woke us all up. And I had been having a very nice dream about a mysterious handsome elf (I never do catch his name anytime I dream about him). What could be worse than being broken out of your favorite dream by a yelling dwarf and seeing a rat the size of Nina with red glowing eyes. I wonder if anyone else noticed it was a summoned creature? Greenbeard defeated it easily enough. The rest of us had just enough time to draw our weapons as it faded into mist. As if we weren’t enough on edge, then the alarm I had set resonated through the air as the barn door opened. Thankfully no one injured the farmer’s son, we just scared the living daylights out of him. That’s it, from now on every alarm I set will be mental ONLY. I will be the only one notified when something crosses the barrier. It’s the only way to keep from having a jumpy dwarf and a high-strung human from injuring our beneficiaries. The boy turned and ran back out of the barn. I followed to try to smooth things over. Mr. Travers looked about ready to flay us all alive for threatening his boy, but I profusely apologized to him, stating that we didn’t mean to startle the lad. We had just seen a rat and were ourselves on edge when the boy came in. The farmer then laughed, and muttered something about “city folk” under his breath. He told me that they were getting ready to do the morning chores and asked if we could please refrain from becoming startled again. He turned away, laughing to himself again, and I went back inside the barn. Who could have summoned that rat? I’m fairly confident Malaika could do it, but I know she wouldn’t summon something to attack us. No one else in the party even has the ability…unless maybe Kyrnyn is more powerful than he would have us believe. And the rat did seem to be going after Nina. She has been teasing him quite a bit. Hmmm.

We all went through our morning routines, and then we continued along into Lochdon. Farmer Travers mentioned that if we wished to speak with the Baron, one sure way of entry was to mention his recently missing daughter. Those who would be willing to try to save her are guaranteed an audience with the Baron himself. Maybe there will be a reward if we find her? The guards at the gate asked us our business, and we followed the farmer’s advice. Sure enough, they escorted us through the streets of the city to the Baron himself. The entire town had an odd feeling to it. It was as if the town had stopped living. The people were alive, they functioned (barely) day to day, but they had stopped living, doing anything that made life worthwhile. And there seemed to be a layer of dust over everything, as if they hadn’t been living for a while. There also seemed to be several patrols moving through the streets. Every single one of them was bald and dressed in unadorned white robes. People seemed to get awfully nervous when these patrols came around.

We were taken to see Baron Prisius, and the odd feeling continued. He flat out lied to us. He said his daughter isn’t missing at all and whoever told us this must have been mistaken. He told a beautiful story about his daughter being away visiting her aunt or cousin or something, but that’s all it was-a story. He also seemed to put great emphasis on the fact that we were “simple merchants” and not wanderers or adventurers, because that would be a truly terrible thing. He kept casting glances at the tapestries that hung around the room, but he became greatly distressed when I made my way towards one. If there were people hiding behind there, I think it would be better to have it out in the open and we could fight them then and there. But no. The rest of the group didn’t want to. Just because we weren’t allowed to be armed to come see the Baron, you’d think none of them brought hidden weapons. We mentioned to the Baron that we were headed towards the Tomb Steppes, and he declared that he would have a map made for us. He asked us to wait in the merchants alley, since of course we were “simple merchants”, and his Captain of the Guard would bring us the map. We headed towards the designated spot and everyone split up to go do their own things, leaving Nina and I with the cart. The same dusty, funny feeling continued.

Nina kept going on about how a city needs commerce or something to thrive, but this city doesn’t seem to have any. I blocked out most of what she muttered on about as I was busy thinking about the tapestries I left unturned. Captain Wando Breckin brought us the map and the first thing Nina and I noticed was that the map led us away from the Tomb Steppes. It seemed to lead us to a mine in the nearby mountain range. I think Wando might have told us more if one of those patrols hadn’t happened by at just that moment. As it was, he gave us the map and left. When the rest of the group made it back to the wagon, we loaded up and left town as quickly as possible. We were stopped on our way out by yet another patrol of the Men In White (these guys are just plain creepy). They were intrigued by the fact that we were leaving so soon and they warned us against the evils of the violence that is to be found outside the city walls. We continued with the cover story of being “simple merchants” and we told them we were leaving already because there didn’t seem to be a market for our goods within the city of Lochdon. I’m not sure they completely bought it, but at least they let us leave.

Once outside the city gates, and well away from the crazy Men In White, Nina and I showed the map to the rest of the team. We’ve decided that the map either leads us to a designated meeting place where we might be able to learn more about what’s been going on in this Barony, or it could lead us to where Jezesina (the Baron’s missing daughter) is being held. Either way, we’ve decided to follow the map. Kyrnyn could be a problem. If he is the one who summoned the creature, he’s more powerful than he would have us believe and he’s using those powers against us. If he’s not the one who summoned the creature, he’s just as not powerful as we believe him to be and he would more likely be a liability in a fight than an asset. Fortunately we found a way to leave him behind without actually leaving him unattended. There was no way the wagon could make it through the rocky terrain, so we decided to leave it and most of our goods at a farmstead just south of town. Well we couldn’t very well just leave the goods with no one to guard them, so we asked Kyrnyn to stay with the wagon. Nina, true to her teasing ways, told the farmer that Kyrnyn was her fiancé, to prove to him that we would be sure to return. By the look the farmer gave Nina, I think he’ll be spending the time trying to talk Kyrnyn OUT of his engagement. We continued on our way, much faster now without our burdens, and after several more hours of travel, we finally settled down to make camp.

At some time in the night, we awoke to a noise. Some of our group crept towards the road and, when they returned, reported that they had seen more MIW. What’s more, there seems to be quite a bit of activity occurring at an encampment further west, exactly in the direction the map was leading us in. Greenbeard decided to scout ahead to see what he could find out. The plan was for the rest of us to finish resting and meet up with him near the encampment in a few hours. After a few more hours of rest, we started to wake up and get ready to follow Greenbeard. Suddenly, we heard people moving on the road. This time Malaika and I made our way towards the noise and, sure enough, more MIW were there, coming from the West and making their way towards Lochdon. I heard one shout out “Look, over there!” and I froze in place, sure that they had spotted us. But the one that separated from the group ran in the opposite direction from where we were hiding. He caught a wild hare with his bare hands! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a mere human agile enough to do that. Halflings, sure. Elves, naturally. But not humans. And then they continued along their way ever so nonchalantly, discussing if whether or not catching the hare constituted as violence. We need to meet back up with Greenbeard fast.

We got loaded up and started off. After a few hours of traveling, we heard a large, triumphant cry from ahead and we quickened our pace. Along the way, we heard someone making their way towards us along the road and we hid. Well, most of us anyway. Malaika apparently didn’t hear the hoof beats and by the time any of us realized this it was too late. The crowd had crested over the hill and she was seen. Interestingly enough, the leader had hair. Brown flowing locks reaching down to his shoulders. All of his followers, even the few women in the group, are completely bald, but not him. He is also wearing a headtie of a sort, along with several other select members. Very interesting. I drew my crossbow, ready to spring if any of them attempted to injure Malaika in any way. The leader talked to her a little, at first worried that she was a violent wanderer. She assured him that she was a healer, and he invited her, first to go with them back to Lochdon, and then, when she refused that, to his encampment tomorrow where apparently he will be giving a particularly moving speech. The group traveled onward, with a few of them making comments as to the evils of violence. Malaika seems fine, but a little swayed by something the leader said to her. Just because the man is good looking she’s sputtering nonsense about following his non-violent ways.

As we approached the camp, we slowed and became more cautious. Nina crept forward as we waited for Greenbeard to meet with us. After several heart-pounding minutes, Nina returned and told us that there was a large group of the Men (and Women) In White gathered in an open area attempting to give a child a bath. As we sat there waiting, we pondered aloud about what might be keeping Greenbeard from meeting us. Malaika pointed out that she hadn’t seen any children with any of the other groups of MIW. She asked if Nina had seen any other children in the camp, to which Nina replied that she hadn’t. We had just suggested possibly creeping our way around the camp to see if we might find any sign of Greenbeard anywhere else, when we heard the sound of approaching footsteps. At least two sets of footsteps, and most definitely NOT dwarf feet. We hid. And just in time, for two patrolling MIW were making their way around the edges of the camp. They might have noticed us if they hadn’t been so enthralled in their own conversation. They were discussing all the excitement of the morning, When we spotted that dwarf in the woods, and then the chase, and then our leader had almost convinced him to give up his terrible violent ways. He had even chopped up and burned most of his weapons. Sadly, it was that last one that he just couldn’t seem to let go of and he injured poor what’s-his-name in the ensuing struggle. But maybe after we shave him and put him in our robes he will return to the sanity that was almost in his grasp…

SHAVE GREENBEARD???!? If there was ever a dwarf proud of his beard, it was Greenbeard. We needed to save him from the shaving. Malaika was still a little affected by the cute leader’s words to her, so she doesn’t want us to just run in there firing weapons. I like Nina’s idea. We should just take out as many of them as possible, charge them, and get Greenbeard out. For all the non-violent ways they’re promoting, surely they can’t have many weapons. Malaika finally came up with a non-violent plan that just might work. I just have to get close enough to cast Lullaby on the crowd of bath-givers. Sadly, since Greenbeard is at the center of said group, he will be affected too. Once they’re all sleepy and non-caring as to the world around them, the others will run in, grab Greenbeard, and run out, not killing (or injuring) any of the crazy people. Then we escape. It worked better than planned. Just as I was casting, Greenbeard broke free of their hold and started running. Then he noticed us standing at the edge of the camp, so he turned and started running towards us. We ran North, with several crazies chasing us. We saw several horses tied up along the northern edge of their camp, and we decided to steal them in order to speed up our retreat. Some of them beat us to the picket line and tried to form a blockade. Greenbeard called out that he needed a weapon, and since I was nearest, I handed him my short sword. I still have my whip. I managed to trip the one in my way, and everyone else basically barreled through the line without much difficulty. We managed to escape.

Following the map, we continued North towards the gem mine. The only thing Greenbeard would say about his experience was a muttering of “Violence…bad…axes…gone…shave…beard…” The closer we got, the larger the garrison loomed over us. Roughly a bow arrow’s shot away from the mine shaft entrance, the foreboding stone building stood as a sentry blocking out path. There was no way to sneak up to the mine without someone from the garrison spotting and stopping us. So instead of sneaking, we marched straight up to the guards. As we approached, I noted several typical crazy MIW meandering about. But what is of more interest is all the miners who were lounging about, playing games of cards and dice. In the middle of the day, all the workers are sitting around doing nothing. We met with the crazy who appeared to be in charge. We kept up the story of being “simple merchants” sent here by the Baron to appraise the mine to determine if we should invest in shares. “Baldie” offered to let us speak with the miners. When we stated that we wished to see the mine for ourselves, he assured us we could see it, but he pointed out that we didn’t all need to see the mine. He wished to share with us the teachings he had learned. We promised we would return and speak with him after dark, but while the daylight continued, we wished to complete our work. At that he let us go, but not before inviting us to the speech his leader is giving tomorrow. Seeing the way this leader has affected both Malaika and Greenbeard, I hope to avoid this speech of his at all costs, unless I can get more information about his methods. Something to question Greenbeard about later. We reached the mine entrance to find a locked door barring our way. We tied up the horses out of sight nearby, and Greenbeard had started investigating the rocks around the doorway, when Nina produced a key out of nowhere and unlocked the door. Apparently she “found it” while we were speaking with Baldie. She just happens to find some of the most useful items. We all entered as inconspicuously as possible, then Nina lit a lantern before we shut and locked the door behind us. That way, if anyone was watching from the fortress, they won’t be alerted to anything out of the ordinary.

We made our way into the first room. It was a large and open room with four rows of mining carts available for coverage. In addition to the entrance we just came through, there was a tunnel directly across the room which seemed to lead down a slope. There was also a guard (standard white robes, bald head, headband) standing in the middle of the room. Greenbeard took him by surprise, but not enough of a surprise. He was able to call out an alarm before Greenbeard punched him out. I was barely able to distinguish the sounds of doors slamming and a girl’s muffled cries from the darkness, but it was enough to let us know that there are more of them hiding down there. We pulled the guard’s unconscious form into a cart, and Greenbeard put on his robe. Then he waited in the middle of the room to confront whoever responded to the alarm while the rest of us hid. Two more guards, each carrying a quarterstaff, made their way up the tunnel. Greenbeard started to speak with them, but they must not have liked what they heard, for they charged at him. For people who promote non-violent teachings, they are certainly handy with those quarterstaves. As Greenbeard rolled out of the way of an attack, Wil rushed forward to help him fight as Nina, Malaika, and I fired shots from our respective hiding places. It was easy enough to subdue them. However, I once again heard doors slamming from the darkness. We waited for more reinforcements to arrive, but nothing happened. There were ruts leading down the tunnel which appear to be used for the mining carts, so we pushed one down the slope to see what would happen. It crashed at the bottom after less than a minute of coasting, but there lacked the sounds of anyone investigating the noise. After an eternity of waiting, Nina had an idea. She crept up to the doorway, opened, and then quickly and loudly slammed the door closed, re-locking it behind her. The idea was to make whoever is still waiting down there think that we had left so they’ll drop their guard. Then we crept down the pathway as silently as possible.

The next room was similar to the first: large, open, the way we came in, and another tunnel directly across the room leading further down still. Instead of mining carts, there are two long tables with benches lining the sides. And there are two doors, the one to the left of the tunnel closed, and the one to the right standing open. We stealthily moved to the open door, when something inside said rather huskily, “Ah, four of you.” Either it can’t count, or it missed noticing one of us. Either way it could be an advantage. Greenbeard and Wil raced to the doorway to start the attack. I could tell that this large, wolf-like being was a summoned creature and I said as much. There must be something holding it here on this plane. I leaned around the door frame to fire at it, but it knocked my crossbow out of my hands. As I ran to retrieve my weapon, I started singing to help my comrades. From a distance, Malaika summoned a couple of Giant Fire Beetles of her own to help us attack this thing. One of them disturbed a brazier that was in the room that I hadn’t noticed before. The wolf creature turned all it’s attention to that beetle as it righted the brazier. It was then I remembered an elementalist entertainer that used fire to summon and control creatures in courts. I sang out that we needed to snuff the flames just as Malaika was trying to work out how to destroy the brazier itself. As Greenbeard and Wil continued to attack the creature, Nina tumbled into the room, around the creature, and flung herself onto the brazier, flipping it over and dumping out the contents. As the flames dissipated, the creatures, wolf as well as beetles, evaporated into mist. Is it possible that whoever summoned this creature also summoned the rat in the barn? It seems far-fetched, but maybe somehow they found out that there were wanderers making their way towards Lochdon and they were trying to stop us before we learned of the Baron’s plight. Or maybe I’m grasping at straws because I really don’t want to blame Kyrnyn.

Just as we all were starting to relax, the other door burst open and five robed figures rushed out of the room towards Malaika, as she was the closest to them standing in the middle of the room. Wil rushed to her aid just as she started pointing towards the way we came in and yelling something. I raced up the length of the table towards the exit to see what she was so excited about. It was then I noticed, sneaking his way up the other side of the room, a sixth crazy figure, with a squirming bundle flung over his shoulder. I dropped my crossbow. I didn’t want to shoot and accidentally hit the girl that we were sent here to save. I might not get paid. Instead I pulled out my whip and stood blocking the way out, prepared to trip him when he got close enough. Greenbeard and Nina were also making their way towards the exit, when three of the five crazies ran towards us. I managed to knock the one who tried to tackle me unconscious and he lay sprawled across the exit tunnel. Two others were taken down, and the one with the bundle was stuck in the room, not sure of what to do or where to go. One of the two that had been grappling with Greenbeard turned his attention towards me. As I tried to deflect him with my whip, out of the corner of my eye I saw Nina fly through the air as she jumped on the back of the sixth man. A light glinted off the blade a moment before she plunged the knife into his back. As Malaika and Wil started towards us and Greenbeard staggered to his feet, the man handed the bundle over to his only companion left standing, the one in the exit with me. The sheet that had been covering her fell away to reveal that the bundle was indeed Jezesina as we had expected.

The last standing crazy grabbed her about the throat. He said if any of us tried to stop his escape, he would strangle her. Of course we’re going to stop him. The trick is merely making sure we kill him before he kills the girl. I tripped him with my whip as he was backing up. He fell on the body of one of his unconscious (maybe dead?) friends and he tightened his grip on her neck. At that point everyone pretty much started hitting whatever part of him that we could reach to finish him off as quickly as possible. Just as Jezesina started turning colors, four ropes appeared seemingly out of nowhere and wrapped themselves around the crazy holding her. Everywhere they touched him, they burned through, almost like a hot poker would slice through ice. But Jezesina was untouched, even though she lay directly on the ropes. We pulled her off of him and his hand snapped off from his arm like dust, but she was still gasping for air. Malaika healed her enough to repair her damaged windpipe so that she could breathe, but the girl remained passed out. It’s probably a good idea for all of us to rest. Based on how much time has passed, it must be well after dark. Once we make sure all the crazy men are dead and not merely knocked out, we should barricade ourselves in one of the rooms and rest for the night.

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Malaika's laconicism. A write up in brief.

A man in a white robe, his hair flowing in the breeze, riding a horse surrounded by bald men and women in the same robes. An invitation to the traveler – tempting. A camp of white robes. Is that a child they are trying to bathe? No – it is a dwarf! Save the dwarf, steal the horses, ride to the mine. Inside the mine: fight the guard. Defeat the guard. Fight two more guards and win another victory. Look for the girl. Fight a wolf monster. Fire beetles distract, Nina empties brazier, creature is destroyed. More white robed guards come to fight. One tries to escape with the girl. Travelers confront. Fight. Six down. The last tries to kill the girl. Now comes her Awakening. He is wrapped in ropes of flame and is no more. Exhaustion. Victory. Always they seem to go hand in hand.

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The Giant's Riddle
In which our heroes find a town under seige by a two-headed giant with some curious behaviors

GM

The Redstone Band spent the rest of the day and the entirety of the next in Redstone, resting and sorting the crates they had recovered. The Illuminator Abendessen burned all the unclean remains, and secured the remaining ashes in a sealed crate. The band then departed in the morning by the southern road, bound for the Tomb Steppes, a warded place to bury the dangerous and unnatural dead. On their second evening on the road, the band was attacked by three bandits. All of the bandits were subdued, and the band resumed its southward journey at a slower pace, to account for the wounded bandits.

On the afternoon of the fourth day out of Redstone, they arrived at Newkeep, just in time to witness the end of an attack by a two-headed giant. The giant had destroyed the bridge over Conv’ne Nent gorge, killed several townsfolk, and made off with some livestock. The band found that the giant had been harassing the town for a tenday or more, and the town leaders negotiated with the band to attempt to stop the giant. Some investigating led the band to realize that the giant was probably based out of Oldkeep (to the northwest), and that the giant snuck into town at night, leaving a riddle at the shrine to Ochoso, God of Valor.

_Two heads have we, but born with one. We served our people, unrejected. Our Master was ever victorious. The zeal for Voctory ecipsed our Duty Our fervor like the unsleeping One-eye And so by Victory are rejected. Thus this is out fate: One head, bisected._

The players examined the riddle left there, and half the party left to scout the giant’s base, the other half remained near town to prepare a trap for the giant. While part of the party was scouting, Constable Malwick and a mob of townfolk began toward Oldkeep, intent on slaying the giant once and for all; the trap-making band joined the mob. At Oldkeep, the scouting party encountered the two-headed giant, one head asleep (Muck) and the other mournful and quite intelligent (Restik). It claimed to once have been a man, a follower of Ochoso. During a battle with an malicious mage here in Oldkeep, he was turned into this two-headed giant, and has been stuck in this form ever since, slowly loosing control. The party delays the mob and works through the riddle with the giant. As the mob bursts into the ruined Oldkeep, the giant is transformed back into the man he was, and collapses. The mob is subdued, and returns to town with the man, and the party (eventually) follows.

Laucian

The day started off peacefully enough. I finished my newest song and began working on a fife. Nina tormented Kyrnyn, Wil helped with rebuilding the bridge, Malaika read her new scrolls, and Greenbeard guarded our prisoners (just because they develop a few new interesting bruises he starts glaring at me). And then came the trial. Greenbeard is the one who insisted we bring these imbeciles in for justice. Personally, I think the best form of punishment would have been leaving them in the wilderness with the wounds they received from trying to slit our throats in the middle of the night. But no. We had to heal them and “bring them in for justice”. The trial was hardly any form of justice.

Someone had to have warned them. One of them (I will call him Lying Bastard) was prepared. He sat quietly and calmly, listened to every one of the accusations we brought against them, and then he started to spin the most ridiculous lies. He claimed that WE were the ones who attacked THEIR camp. And that WE were planning to sell them to the Mirnm as slaves. As if the Mirnm would take such moronic weaklings as slaves. Although they might have had the presence of mind to cut out their tongues to keep them from whining. If only Greenbeard would have let me do that. And what’s worse, the people of Newkeep were being convinced by his falsehoods. They decided to ungag the other two. After all we did to help them end their giant problem, they were ready to believe these imbeciles over us. Lewd Bastard decided that Lying Bastard had a good plan, and he started verifying everything that Lying had said. I never though I would say this, but thank O’Dell (or Corellon Larethian or Ochoso or whatever deity you choose to believe in) that Whiny Butt is as whiny as he is. The moment his gag came off, he declared the he was royal (distantly) and he demanded his horses and gear returned to him. He fully admitted to attacking us, but regardless he ordered his own release. And they let him go! Apparently just because someone happens to be loosely related to nobility, that means you don’t need to be held accountable for your own actions. Why wasn’t I born nobility I followed Whiny outside to ensure he only took the items which belonged to him. After watching him ride South, along the edge of Conv’ne Nent gorge, I went back into the temporary court room in time to hear the sentence. Let’s see them try to raid again without the use of their hands. Now that is my idea of just punishment.

And after all the tribulations the people of Newkeep put us through, they had the nerve to ask me to sing for them. Well I refused. I drunk an ale instead. And then I sang for them. I sure showed them. … (What can I say? I was excited about performing my new song, “The Heroes of Redstone”. Even if it meant singing it for these yokels.) The rest of the week passed in much the same way. I worked on my new fife, making quite a bit of progress. Nina tormented Kyrnyn and worked on training her pet lizard, Wil helped with the rebuilding of the bridge, Malaika read her new scrolls, and Greenbeard tracked the prisoner that got away (but not far enough to find another way of crossing the gorge). Finally, the bridge was finished and we continued on our journey South to the Tomb Steppes. Somehow Kyrnyn was invited to join us. What’s more, he accepted! I thought surely he would relish being rid of his own personal Nina shadow, but apparently he’s just a glutton for punishment. Whatever happens to him now is his own fault.

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Shy a Wagon
And so the band of wanderers tackles their first foe

Write-ups from the first adventure:

GM’s Write-up “In the chill of the evening our heroes were gathered at the Redstone Inn, where lamplight gleamed off of tankard and brass and a stoneworked bar polished to the luster of midwinter ice. Some gathered for business, some for leisure, and a few were trying to earn a living. A gust of cold air announced a latecomer, a burly man with a beard only a hedgehog could love – the Lord Fritzfram. He downed his usual and had begun his second drink of the evening before his voice rang across the commons, calling for folk willing to hunt down an orc and a couple of pale, smelly humans who had hijacked a wagon of supplies from the south. After a bit of conference, our heroes stepped forth into the chill night. Their breath smoked in the deepening night, and forward went the band from Redstone. It was not long before they found where the deed was done – two guards lay dead on the roadside. They tracked the wagon back from the road, and found it being unloaded by a set of foul undead – skeletons and zombies, directed by an orc. In the ensuing fight, the orc was gravely wounded and carried back into the hill where they were storing the crates of supplies. The band followed into the darkness of the hill, and breaching the door, found ranks of the dead at the ready to fall upon them. It was only by the faith and wit of the priestess among the band, Malaika, that they were not overcome then and there. The band now stands in a room, with the light fading from where the lantern spilled, and the only sounds their labored breathing and the faint sound of coin from the corner…”

Malaika “I sigh, and slump against the wall. We will have to continue soon, but I desperately need a second to rest. I peer over at Greenbeard, pleased that he is looking better. Healing is not normally something I have trouble with, but trying a serious healing after a fight like the one we just had is not something I have previously been required to do. At least I was able to help in the fight. Yes, I have been trained, but sparring and turning in a controlled environment is little like the real thing. And the real thing almost conquered me. I shudder just slightly, remembering. Not only was I not that great a help outside the hill, but once in the hill I almost got myself – and then Will (praise heaven for his courage!) – killed by rushing in unprepared. Honestly, I ought to know better. But I am just not a patient person. When something needs to be done I would much rather do it than stand around listening to people talk about how to do it. Well it did work out in the end. I smile. Being surrounded by eight undead tends to goof up a person’s concentration, but when one hit me the pain focused me like a knife. I had prayed beforehand for divine guidance, so I lifted my holy symbol of Corellon Larethian and cried out the sacred words in the name of my god. Not only did all the undead turn away against the far wall, but one exploded! The victory of that moment, though the fight was yet far from over, will live with me a long time.

Laucian is no longer singing. Something clinks, and I look over to see Nina kneeling by the trunk in the far corner of the room…”

Laucian Naïlo ” It was a terrible, horrific, demoralizing, degrading, tragical, awful, painful night. And then Lord Frizzfram entered the tavern. I never thought I would be so thankful to see that pompous fool walk into the room. Anything to save me from the embarrassment my performance tonight has been. Fairly straightforward, a wagon had been ransacked by an orc and “some stinky, pale humans”. All humans stink to my nose, so this was not something I was concerned with…at the time. Lord Frizzfram asked for volunteers, and I was more than willing to leave the tavern, as long as I did not leave him with the impression that I would jump anytime he asked. Oh how I need to put as much distance as possible between me and the simpletons of this outpost before I am contained for the entire winter. We started North to the designated place. And what a troupe. There is the dwarf Greenbeard who is leading us with his tracking skills. A highly energized halfling prances about. I have seen her dance in the village square, and while I must admit she is lithe and graceful, I hope she has more than the obvious skills if she is to be of any help taking on an orc. The fairly generic human seems pleased to be going to fight something, anything, with his great sword in his hands. The cleric, whom I have seen about town, rounds out this odd assortment of a group. Although I have met other half-elves in my travels, I’ve not had an opportunity to speak to any of them in any sort of depth. I do hope there is time later to ask her more about being raised by elves, as opposed to the humans I have been surrounded with from birth. The place where the wagon was attacked was very well-marked, what with the wolf having his supper of Dover and the wheel tracks leading off the road. We followed said tracks to a hill, where a chill entered my heart from the moment I heard the sibilant tones of the language of necromancers. I could tell this night was not going to be good. Four zombies, four skeletons, and an orc later, we circled around to the back of the hill where we found an opening into the hill, and the wagon and crates we were supposed to retrieve. We moved on into the hill and yet another fight. Did I mention that I hate zombies? And skeletons? Really, anything that has to do with the black arts of necromancy. I contributed to the fight inside the hill the only way I knew I could: by singing. We survived, and decided to rest for a few hours outside in the night air before continuing on further into the darkness. The halfling, Nina, collected quite a bit of treasure from a chest in the corner that we will split when we’re back in town. She seems to be handy at opening locks, so she might turn out to be more useful than I originally thought. I made sure to check the labels on the crates in the wagon to see if there might be anything of use to us before going to sleep. I situated my bedroll so that the wagon was between me and the cave entrance. Others in the group were not as clever. We were ambushed by Kobolds in the middle of the night and the human (I believe his name was William) would have died had Malaika, the cleric, not acted right away. She healed his wounds, and then we prepared to head back into the hill. I found the secret door that led us into the cavern of the Orc. Not the one that we already killed, though he was there as a zombie. No, there was another, even bigger, even smellier, orc there, surrounded by his many minions. We all chose our opponents, and the fighting began. I killed the Orc!!! I shot him with my crossbow. Though others were also attacking him, it was my shot that brought him down. I had thought that by bringing down the orc, his zombies would fall. I was wrong. One of them came after us. Malaika and Nina cornered the undead terror, but then it seemed to attack with lightening. Malaika was caught in his charge. I couldn’t let another half-elf suffer in such a terrible fashion (not to mention she’s our only healer, so it wouldn’t do any of us much good if she died). I pushed her out of the way to safety and, with my head reeling from my recent success, I attacked the zombie. Next thing I knew I was on the floor, in lots of pain, with Malaika standing over me. We had defeated all of the monsters, Greenbeard had freed Robert the Dover (who we didn’t even think would be alive), someone had cut off the orc’s head as proof for Lord Pompous Fool, and the halfling seemed very interested in a pile of debris in the corner. I mentioned that the altar should be destroyed before we left, and once I got assurances from Will and Greenbeard that it would happen, I staggered out of the cavern. I stopped by some of the open crates in the next room. I needed to get a quick idea of what my cut would be from all of this added reward. I filled up my pack with as much as I could carry of my share of the treasure. You really can’t trust people to give you you’re fair share unless you take it for yourself. I will worry about the rest of the goods later. For now, I just want to get completely healed.”

Nina

Exhausted, I curl into my little bed and pull the covers up over my head, sighing softly at the simple comfort of it. I am more tired than I have ever been before, and yet I find it hard to sleep, as the events of the past two days tumble through my mind. The memories surface, jumbled and out of order, and far more terrifying now than they were are the time. Did I really kill an Orc with my crossbow? A crossbow I bought and practiced with for sport. I never thought I’d actually use it to shoot at at something alive, much less kill a sentient being. Why did I volunteer in the first place? I recall, dimly, that it had been the call of silver pieces that had caught my attention. Mama always said my greed would lead to trouble. But, then, Mama never expected that I’d have to fend for myself so early. In those lean years, it was my greed that lead me to the small acts of thievery that allowed me to eat, and keep Mama’s house…

That line of thought leads to memories that are best forgotten, so I stop it, trying to focus on relaxing my muscles so I can sleep…

… a man, beaten and bound, meant for a fate worse than death…

… zombies …

… skeletons …

… a lizard that bristled with electricity …

Did I really bring that home?

I peek out, and sure enough there he sits, in an interesting cage of metal and wood, tiny arcs of lightning buzzing around him in his agitation. What possessed me to capture this strange creature? Mayhap, I just need a physical reminder that all of this actually happened. Something I could show my friends to prove that, if nothing else, I had actually left home – albeit for only a few hours – and that I’d had an honest-to-goodness adventure. I will probably look back at this day for the rest of my life as the most exciting day of my life…

I’m beginning to drift off, now, the memories and dreams mixing until I can’t tell them apart. My muscles relax and my breathing slows and deepens. I am still aware of my new pet, and the crackling sounds he is making in agitation, but dimly. Soon, even that awareness will fade as sleep claims me…

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