Our brave band of adventurers returns triumphantly, if not a little beleaguered, to the Hare of the Dog. The Dwarf seems to have wandered off, taking whatever loot he held and keeping it to himself quietly. Stanick recognized our return and threw a questioning eye, as we had picked up a stray cleric and huntsman were in much greater force than previously. Never mind that, as Stanick drew attention to “our table” where a large dragonman was sitting, absently engrossed in the task of decimating the remainder of an entire roast turkey(!)
Glim the Gnome seems to recognize the man and somehow lets it slip that we found a mysterious book of nonsense. The stranger demands to see it, insisting that he may be able to comprehend the mysterious cough-werewolfcough language. Overhearing our discussion, Stanick offers that he might have some helpful information if we can allow him to examine some ledgers. After indicating proprietarily to the serving girl, he took his leave to ruminate on the newly discovered book of madness, and she arrived to the table presently.
The rather attractive serving wench . . . girl of course, made an attractive description of meaty rabbit pie and I would have paid good gold pieces for a cooked meal, so the bargain for warm food and ale was almost as attractive as the waitress. Almost.
Speaking of good looking women, it was almost hard to miss the eyes a stunningly dressed maiden was throwing to our cleric Sadron. I swear sometimes I think the religious life is the way to go; to have all that good luck. Astonishingly, she beckons him over and like a cow unaware of the slaughter wanders awkwardly to her table.
As I’m watching our serving girl leave (like a drink of sweet, cool spring wat- the mysterious maiden snags her attention and puts in an order for two wines. Can you believe it? She is buying this stranger from the woods wine! Has she no eye for taste and talent, when theres clearly a dashing young bard about to enjoy a feast which would only be heightened with wine and company; but who can explain the minds of the pious.
Shortly the pretty girl, who’s name for the life of me I can’t remember, returned with a tray bearing two fancy iron goblets, the kind that could only hold wine, as well as mugs of ale for my goodnatured barding self, the huntsman, and the dragonman. I didn’t mind that she served the wine first, admiring her figure and grace as she steadied the tray while leaning in to place the wine between Sadron and his newfound lady friend. She seemed to be examining him vigorously (ahem), while the fool was probably reciting prayers to himself and worrying about the sin of a lustful eye or some such, and had slid uncomfortably into the seat next to her before the wine was delivered.
Before the girl has time to step away and deliver salivation to our parched mouths the loud clinking of iron glasses rings out and the strange(ly hot!) woman makes a light laugh. “To Wanderlust, indeed.” Like an attuned salesman our sweet girl turned back to the table at the sound and watched the pair apparent raise their glasses and, as expected, down the contents in a single, relishing pull. Catching the other woman’s eye she casually indicated refreshing their wine. She lithely bent forward, apparently listening to Sadron bumble some nonsense; probably asking for forgiveness for the grapes or something.
Finally she rounded to our lonely table and it was brightened as much by her fine character as the tankards of ale she unloaded in front of three of us. She remarks on the singular attractiveness of our cleric’s friend, and his fittingly bewildered expression. Something in the way she phrases it would make for a wonderful song, and I was in the process of imagining all the musical things those two could do together when a bell drew her back to the kitchen. I hoped, for the sake of music itself, she would only be drawn away to deliver my pie and then I could continue my . . . musical theory. And discuss getting a room for the night.
Helga (suddenly in her absence I can recall her name!) seems to have departed hours ago, but you can only know how thats true if you’ve ever been a man of hunger. . .
Stannik approaches our table again and expresses he has recalled something that may be relevant to our inquiry. He glances around conspiratorially and prepares to launch into what I can only assume will be a long and tedious revelation of some vague glimmer of enlightenment when I notice the delicious Helga returning from the kitchen; tray laden with another pairing of wine, three common ale mugs and a plate of the most delicious looking meat pie I’ve ever seen.
Once again she stopped off to deliver the wine first, and seemed to wait as she walked away despite the weight of the tray, as if listening for another clink of glasses. I couldn’t spite her business savvy and the pie looked delicious enough as I willed her to bring it closer to me in a sultry saunter. To my surprise she also set down the other round of ale for the gnome and the woodsman and finally myself, indicating that the drinks were compliments of our gentleman friend and compatriot sipping wine with the beautiful stranger.
To my chagrin the bell chimed again as an order came up and I saw Helga look to Stanick who seemed to settle vaguely in his chair and she departed once again towards the kitchen. The rabbit pie was as delicious as it was thick, and paired nicely with someone else’s ale. I almost forgot to compose on Helgas departure, and was distractedly reminiscing while devouring the delicious pie.
Mostly I remember the pie, and the pie girl, and the free ale, but when it comes to a worthy story I never forget, and what Stanick mentioned as I savored my pie was almost as delicious as the previous courses. He couldn’t seem to provide any information on the mysterious text beyond the recognition of the moleg term. According to Stanick, the term belonged to some sort of legend of a hero or some such named Kirin, who was as it were ‘unscathable.’
At this point it becomes quite obvious that Sadron is paying more attention to Stanick than the luscious mysterious stranger when she raises her glass in another toast and Sadron hesitates, or misses the obvious signs of a soon to be irate woman! He seems to make a fumbling escape and downs his drink without clinking before the woman can react. She appears, as they say, miffed.
Meanwhile Stanick is expounding on the legendary Kirin, who will know about our book of madness. And isn’t it convenient that she makes her home in the nearby wedge of wood only three hours good time out of town? I make vague note of the directions as I watched the cart-wreck tragedy of our cleric, who, I emphasize, we found in the woods earlier that day, be glowered at by the most stunningly gorgeous woman in probably the entire town as she makes obvious her intentions to “politely” retire, and thank you very much. After watching her storm off towards the rooms helplessly Sadron returns to our table, looking bewildered, while Stanick is expressing his remorse for our last adventure in the form of individual rooms for a single silver per night.
He calls for Helga, who arrives curiously swiftly, and orders rabbit. On one of her later rounds she caught my eye at an idle moment and approached, indicating casually the table just abandoned. We discussed the strange woman, who had apparently been sitting stunningly all day rebuffing men with the premise that she was waiting for someone. Helga indicated she herself was inclined to take a pass and the muse in my head did a backflip for joy. She was curious what the woman had to say to a man who bought wine for his friends and none for the lady herself, and then ends up ordering the rabbit alone, as it were, with our presence.
Another chime summons her once again to the kitchen, and it is noticed that the dragonman hasn’t but sipped his ale. On inquiry he relinquishes it, scoffing that ale is a drink for peasants and not someone as highborn himself. I gladly accept more free ale, peasant that I am, with gusto. Helga returns with the rabbit, kindly reminding Sadron that his five coppers of rabbit will be in addition to his round of ale and four wines, but that he’ll have to provide the silver for the room up front because that was just good business.
While I, humble bard Mezla Mezla magnanimously dole out my silver piece with a haughty look towards Helga I notice Sadron seeming to give himself a pat down in an increasingly frantic rhythm. He seems to be contesting the addition of the wines as a stalling tactic, insisting that they be placed on the tab of the strange woman who retired to her own room and shared her wine all on her own. When it became apparent that he had been robbed of his entire purse while entranced by the beautiful stranger, who, as Helga insisted she would be aware of, was certainly not renting a room at the Dog I graciously paid the silver for our “lucky” cleric in a nonchalant fashion I hoped would entice Helga to try to earn some coin herself.
After all my generosity Sadron charges upstairs towards our chambers, delicious, warm, and for him apparently free, rabbit be damned! He notices an open window at the end of the hall and rushes to it to look out and search for tracks or trails, but finds nothing. Hoping to find the beautiful (now rich) woman in what I would surely claim as my own chamber I searched the rooms allotted for our group. Someone searches one of Stannik’s rented rooms, indicating the usual contents of a local lush, while Sadron pounds on the locked door of another rented chamber despite the unfriendly hour.
Summarily an old couple answers the door and indignantly agree to allow a search of their meager rooms. The couple seem to goad then tease Sadron lightly and reveal nothing but scathing wisdom and old age.
The dragonman, who Glim has mentioned in passing is called Brotrillisk, stomps angrily upstairs and I invite everyone into the rather cramped privacy of my chamber. Brotrillisk demands to see the book and inspects it, attempting like we all did to gain some meaning from the scribbles. Unsuccessful and unsatisfied and embarrassed each member retires to their own chambers; leaving me free to cast a spell of Identify on the mysterious ring I had found. After crushing the pearl and allowing the inspiration to enter I found it to be a ring of level three (two bolt) magic missile with two of three charges remaining.
After a good night’s sleep I slip the ring onto my finger and head downstairs to inquire on breakfast and the willingness of the team to trek to the wood of wedge, or wedge of wood as it were, after a hearty snack.
Day 2: The wood of wedge and searching for Kirin
We collect the next morning at our table in the bar. Stanick appears to be preparing a breakfast gruel and includes some fresh rabbit meat by special hearty request and eventually bowls a dish out to each member and one for himself as well, thanking me for phrasing my order as an invitation to the breakfast he’s been making and insisting it is on him in apology for the difficulty caused by Willem. He did some adventuring in his days too why don’t you know, and proudly explained that he would begin adventures in his youth with a breakfast of raw egg cracked into beer. He appears proud and grandfatherly when we demand the adventure drinks and even the dragonman slurps down the egg despite his prior reservations of ale.
The sun is slowly rising and the troupe finishes breakfast and sets from the bar toward the wedged wood. The day is warm and beautiful and the sun is bright as we walk south towards the “hut” of the legendary translator.
Arriving at the edge of the Wedge of Wood our woodsman Thrash tracks the hut via a softly traveled trail and finds it shortly through the trees.
S.adron (not Hadron ffs) departs to pray to the sun or whatever they do to get their powers and we approach the hut. Thrash approaches the door backwards, peering out at the forest around us suspiciously.
Mezla attempts a knock on the door and finds it ajar as Brotrillisk is preparing to barge it down. As it stands ajar he looks inside.
The single room inside appeared to have been ransacked or abandoned in a hurry. The bed was unkempt and there was a chair knocked over by the fire in addition to the obviously askew dresser which had either been searched frantically or furiously. I push my way past the hulking dragonman and right the chair next to the still-warm hearth before settling into it comfortably, conveying the atmosphere that I was finally home after a long journey and finding my room rummaged while we discussed what could have happened to the owner of the hut.
Our tracker indicates multiple paths converging on the hut resulting in one larger path more directly leading into the thick wedge. Following Thrash, we come upon the sounds of laughter and carefully approach the sound until we spot a substantial group of people exchanging conversation over a fire laughing crassly and speaking an unknown or indecipherable language. Prolonged eavesdropping and observation from more than fifty yards indicated that the group of eight lightly armed ruffians had lost the individual they were questing whom they just recently attained to their . . . possession.
Thrash sneaks quietly closer around the upper flank to attain a surer arrowshot and a better view of the camp. Climbing a tree to get a clear view he confirms the light armament of the small squad and prepared his bow.
Brotrillisk and the tiny Glim in his shadow attempt to flank downwards but the dragonman apparently can’t help but be loud, or maybe just doesn’t care about the element of surprise or assessment. The camp was obviously unsettled by the racket and loosened their steel as they looked around. Knowing our cover was blown anyway I did the only manly thing I could think of.
I summoned myself a lute and began to strum rhythmically and happily, as if I were enjoying a walk in the woods on a beautiful day at my fathers estate and hadn’t expected to come across a group of people, no less that it was at night!
The armed men are obviously displeased and have neither sympathy or answers when I explain that I am searching for my sister (did I really try such an awful story?!)
One of the men, who was likely the leader but to this day I can’t remember, and would never recognize anyway called for my capture.
Being rather attached to my skin and recognizing when a bad joke turns sour I turned and hightailed it directly towards my lower flanking party hoping to lead the group away from our archer. They were making enough noise to shoot at night anyway and were the reason I blew our cover so stunningly in the first place. I remember looking back as they chased me down, hoping that the big dragonman was good with that great big sword of his and that the lucky cleric could cover my composure of wit with the freedom of a fresh breath.
Thrash the archer fires from his angular perch towards the tail end of the camp and while one arrow flies wide his second quick shot sinks into the throat of the first bandito, killing him instantly. The two who encountered Mezla were quick to pursue and reached while he (I) was ahem retreating to the cleric, who appeared engrossed in a divine conversation.
At the end of his ritual a canine figure seemed to step from a rift in the air before Sadron; transparent but visible in its gold outline and the fact that it shone with all the clarity of the sunshine on a bright warm day.
Once again the huntsman fires arrows from his perch, this time more haplessly and without result, the arrows careening into the woods.
Glim the gnome flicks his jazzhands at the nearby enemies and showers two of them in fabulous looking bright Glitter Dust. They are blinded but the better part of the spell is how hilarious and embarrassing they must have looked.
In the momentary distraction Brotrillisk charges to the upper flank of the pursuers and, when he comes to a point neatly aligning a majority of the attackers unleashes forth a belching gout of fire engulfing the group in front of him. A few of the men take cover behind shields or their bare arms but singed skin can be smelled beneath the crumbling armor of the men closest to the fire as it rolls forward.
Despite the astonishing flames the blinded bandits closest to Myself swing wildly, one connecting a solid bodyshot that left me gasping for air.
The cleric conversed with his god again and seems to focus on his hands until a strange brightness could be made out on his hands. He simply nodded to the celestial hound, who leapt towards the nearest blind man, mauling him in the groin before jumping to bite the man’s jugular and enjoy the sweet meat as the stranger dies a gruesome death.
Thrash wings more arrows haplessly (haphazardly?) in the general direction of the hostile band and Glim is equally (un)successful using a spell to attack just one lightly armored knife weilder.
After closing his mouth like he just had a satisfactory burp, Brotrillisk frees his sword and swings it impressively, but misses connecting with his target and curses menacingly. The pursuers do not seem much impressed or afraid.
Once again I, fearless bard Mezla, turn tail and make a run for it behind the sturdy dragonman. In my escape one of the bandits managed to slice through my very own armor with a longsword inflicting rather grisly damage. In my stumbling his companion in crime managed a debilitating wallop on my spine and the moments after that are blurry at best in my memory.
Sadron attempted to channel the shiny power in his fire hands into a touch attack but was slapped away like a child. An embarrassed nod from his master and again the sunlight animal leapt at the man his master had missed, eviscerating him aggressively as if in punishment for embarrassing his boss so soundly.
Thrash fires more arrows rapidly into the crowd from the rear. This time the huntsman’s aim is true and he immediately strikes down two baddies.
Glim magically dons his mage armor and moves away behind another mighty swing by Brotrillisk which flails once again hitting nothing but air.
At this point I must have gasped loudly for air or something, for next I know Sadron is healing my wounds magically and I am suddenly able to climb to my feet. The bright celestial pet lays around while Thrash snipes down two more pursuers from his undisturbed perch.
Hailing the remaining assailant, Glim attempts to convince him to throw down his weapon and go painlessly with the tax of some information regarding my “sister” but he is rebuffed most rudely. Brotrillisk approaches the man closely and makes his most intimidating figure, but the prisoner appears unafraid.
Equally calmly Brotrillisk punches him in the face, knocking him unconscious.
Thinking quickly I cut two three foot sections off my rope spool and bind the mans feet and hands behind him as best I can. Meanwhile the bodies of his companions are looted ahem searched and tallied for gold or silver. Thrash runs his hands over my knots and unties the bowtie I had found appropriate to secure and reties his own half hitches. Brotrillisk stomps away solidarily while counting his gold and silver, leaving Mezla, Thrash, Glim and Sadron with their stoic prisoner debating their next course of action.
What to do with a prisoner who doesn’t fear death/Fort Gallant
Sans BDF and prisoner intelligently and safely secured our troupe discusses casually his fate. The man’s minimal responses were gruff and antagonizing, and I must say I was encouraged to run him through with my rapier, as for all my brashness I had not yet been able to swing my sword and display my prowess and finesse. When I argued this loudly the prisoner seemed unafraid, even reserved in the face of threat.
As we discussed the pros and cons to letting the man live or die Thrash the hunter walks calmly over drawing his scimitar with a flourish. Mutely, since the man appears unwilling to answer any of MY questions, he places the blade of the sword against the man’s ear and beings slowly to saw to and fro.
The bandito seemed to take perverse pleasure in staying silent all the while Thrash calmly sliced off his ear. It was like watching the moonrise battle a glacier and I was distracted from Glim’s constant questioning by my reverie. Punctuation was made when the soft snick of the sword severing the prisoner’s ear was drowned by his blood curdling scream. Howling with agony or rage he capitulated to the gnomes assault, admitting the men were contracted to apprehend the woman living in the hut alive and deliver her to a secret location.
Beyond the general details the guild member possessed, for that must be what they were, he could not (would not) divulge any details on the operation. Due to the cell-like nature of these operations and the compartmentalization of information its likely he was even telling the truth. These type of men are content simply awaiting orders from a dark shadow in an alley and returning to collect their coin obediently.
Again I argue loudly to kill him for the sake of simplicity, but I’m no longer eager to dirty my sword and encourage my companions to stoke their own fires. Conversationally, I ask the prisoner about the songs of his homeland before his summary execution and am rebuffed darkly that the place he is from has no song or art beyond the quiet taking of lives.
‘Fort Gallant,’ as he called the place derisively, apparently used to be a powerful bastion of law and community. So secure, in fact, that the fort was home to a penitentiary which housed the area’s most notorious murderers and bandits. Complacent in their security, the prisoners succeeded in overturning control of the fort, usurping the gates and used their trade skills on the guards and constabulary.
Now visitors to the fort can get “illegal things” done with enough coin and good manners; if you’d be foolish enough to take a full purse into a den of murderous thieves.
In an attempt to reassure the runaway Kirin that we were not allies of the bandits continuing our search the prisoner is wrapped in rope and leashed. I proposed we march him to the hut and possibly nail him to the door in a show of peace. He argues, convincingly enough as we walk back down the trail, that the woman will never return to her hut so soon, especially under those circumstances. The party returns to the bandit camp to notice that there is one fewer corpse than they diligently left sprawling on the dirt. Thrash checks the camp again for trails and identifies a path west, the general direction of the Fort. Glim the gnome encounters a white, sticky substance brushing against nearby foliage, glowing slightly radioactively. Upon a more . . . facial examination he determines the stuff to be gossamer spider silk and pronounces the fate of the missing corpse as ‘taken by spiders.’
The talk of missing corpses has the prisoner interested, mentioning that we would never find the remains of the man who let their prisoner escape. It seemed to me that he was indicating the gang picked the bones clean with their teeth and buried them quietly under a tree; a courteous notion allowed to any character of suitable disrepute. He was infuriatingly smug as Mezla led him like a cow after Thrash followed the trail westward.
The trail jogged north and leads to the edge of the forest. Across the wide plains in the distance can be spotted a loose outcropping of buildings and again the party stops to discuss the fate of the prisoner. I had repeatedly promised to kill the man, but he had struck the deal to spill information to be let go alive, which he had indeed done. Without pointing out that these terms are not mutually exclusive and that maybe he would give us a reason; the bard yanks the leash roughly and reels in the line, effectively spinning and unwinding the prisoner.
After a short, reorienting stumble the former prisoner languidly stretched his arms, casually shrugging off the now limp wrist restraints and scratching his chest.
Then suddenly the recent prisoner bull rushes me directly! He charges directly and tackles me before I can get my rapier drawn free, and having just completed the stakes of all bargains independently I must say his timing was good since I was sizing up how much experience killing a prisoner was worth in the real world. Sadron the cleric attempts to doom the man, but unless the spell was intended to define his offensive breath it seemed to have no effect. Thrash grabs the man, pulling him free of Mezla who draws his delft rapier to square off with the now-armed once prisoner. Staring down the blade of my own dagger, can you imagine! The sneak had pilfered it from me then he charged, as I had forgotten to secure it before strolling into their band in the forest (an oversight!)
As we are facing off, Thrash, sword drawn from the hike, steps in and swings the blade, neatly lopping off the head of the bandit. As the blades approach is certain the man cries out again, appealing to scorpions (?) that he died in battle (which is questionable at best. . .) I recover my dagger from his cold, dead, decapitated hands and we head towards the “Fort”
I say “Fort” because like every substantial fort the strong walls bred a small city on its outskirts, bustling with activity of people who knew they could take refuge within the security of the walls if they were disturbed. As we approached all signs of an average town could be seen including sheepherds, blacksmiths, and bread bakers surrounding the fort itself.
Two guardsmen in front of the tall thick doors of the fort extort an entire forty silver pieces for entry. While haggling we learn that the “new establishment” enforces order by wielding weapons freely and in public view. There is a court of wealthy aristocrats common to any kingdom, including an effectual king.
Once inside the walls, in the square of the fort proper is a rickety signpost pointing every direction with names on it. One sign depicts an arrow and a tankard of ale pointing just to the edge of the square. We approach the building to find it signed as ‘Cloak & Stagger’ and appearing to be more a bar than an inn. Approaching the doors, which were the doubled type, swinging on hinges on both sides of center common to bars in the far far west a commotion can be herd on the other side.
A large man busts through the doors and loudly vomits over the entrance porch. Shortly behind him a smaller man sails through the doors which neatly open as he strikes them. As he collapses in a heap on the deck a mean looking stranger strolls out the doors and casually stabs the crumpled man through the eye with his dagger. No city watch runs to the scene, even the men with swords drawn don’t appear concerned. Noticing our curious regard the man simply shrugs and remarks that ‘its what a man deserves for cheating at cards’ as he saunters back into the bar . . . . . . . .