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Friday, 16th March, 2012, 03:19 AM #21
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The Walking Miracle's main bar room held 6 tables on the floor and several comfortable boots along the walls. Nev and Orlath were occupying the smallest, a 4 person booth, by themselves. It was next to the entrance, which led to an anteroom, and they had a good view around from here. Unfortunately, there was little to see. It was too early in the day for many folks to be here. A lone serving girl took care of orders while an unseen servant cleaned the tables and another the glasses behind the bar. Somewhere, a goat like laugh sounded. They suspected it was the satyr they had seen come in earlier with some humans.
"I have no idea how we are to find some sort of message here without any more information," the prince sighed and sipped his juice.
Nev's eyes darted around the room while he tried to make it less obvious that he was looking for something. "If we just knew where he sat."
"I don't think he would have written anything on the table or left a note in the place he was sitting," Orlath mused. "Really, that would be the first place anyone, including his killers, would look."
"I suppose you are right." Nev's view returned to the scrambled eggs in front of him and he resumed eating. "I reckon he used the smoke he created to leave the information anywhere. Probably some place only another spy could find, though. I think we are a total mismatch for this mission. This needs someone experienced in such stuff."
"Well, we just arrived," Orlath reminded his friend. "Maybe we'll get an idea eventually."
"Yeah, we could be coming here for all 3 meals for the next weeks, and maybe there is not even a message. We could waste our time here just to find out it is all just... oh my! I may just have found out where the message is!"
"How so?" Cleaning his plate, the other elf stared at the prince in confusion. "Did you just happen to see it by accident?"
"No! Smoke and mirrors! I was about to say we could find out it was all just smoke and mirrors."
"Yeah, so?" Gulping his own juice down, Nev looked even more confused.
"You didn't pay any attention in our Realm politics lessons, did you? Smoke and Mirrors is one of the most effective groups of spies we employ. Usually just inside the realm and neighboring countries, but that matters little as far as the message is concerned."
Nev made a face. "Realm politics is about the most boring subject we ever had. How could you even stay awake? Asides, I still don't see what you are getting at. Do you mean our unlucky spy was a member?"
"Probably not, but the smoke was part of the message, you see!" With a wide grin, the prince pointed at the large mirror behind the bar.
Now Nev's face lit up. "The message is on the mirror!"
"Most likely." Orlath already got up and made his way over to the bar, not even trying to appear uninterested. Nev sighed and followed.
The mirror looked like any other mirror, except that it was exceptionally well polished, thanks to the unseen servant. "He must have known anything non-magical would be cleaned off," Orlath said. He mumbled in a barely audible voice, and a moment later, a set of letters and numbers flashed in prominent pink on the mirror's surface, only visible to those able to read the arcane. "A simple magic missive."
Nev took out a scrap of paper and scribbled down the information quickly, then he checked if anyone had been watching them. But no one paid any attention. "Risky way to leave a secret message."
"He seemed to have no other choice." Orlath deleted the simple cantrip with another mumbled word. "Let's go get the package."
"What? But we were only supposed to deliver the location. Which is scrambled anyway. We have no idea what it means," Nev protested as he followed his friend to the anteroom where the half-orc, who was not allowed inside thanks to not being a magic user, was waiting for them.
"Oh but we do! Don't you recognize the address? It's Melford's Vault, where we store our own money we don't want to have on hand."
Dumbfounded, Nev looked at the information again and slapped his forehead. "I'm never good with remembering such details," he admitted.
Uthas was falling in behind them, shoving the last of what looked like a formerly large loaf of bread into his mouth. "So, found it? Where are we heading now?"
"Into adventure again." The prince laughed.
Meanwhile Flip had his own problems. His two contacts towered over him in the warehouse – why was it always a warehouse, the halfling wondered – while handing him his assignments. Flip checked over them and stopped himself from grimacing, if barely so. "Both in the same week?" he asked.
The tall and muscular human grinned down at him. "Is that a problem? Sure a spy of the Realm can handle the workload. You want in in both, you need to do the entry requirements for both at the same time."
Flip sighed. "I'm not a spy of the Realm, technically, I only take my jobs from someone in the Realm who may or may not be associated with any official position," he explained again. "And it is not like I could live off those assignments alone, not even with being a servant to a spoiled prince."
"But at least you got a clever cover," the tall elf woman chuckled. "And being a hero and all sure helps, too."
"You don't know who your contact in the Realms even is, am I right?" the human took a guess. "Realms people are more paranoid than the southern dwarfs."
Flip, despite knowing very well where his orders came from, shrugged with a sheepish grin. "I don't mind, as long as I get paid. Also, it probably means no one else in the Realm even knows I exist."
"Fair enough," the elf agreed. "Well, here's the deal, then. You have a week and a half to get these jobs done, in whatever way you like. You may even enlist help, as long as you don't mention either guild, of course."
"Of course," Flip nodded. The thefts he was supposed to perform, at first sight, looked like minor contract thefts, some of them were even things of no more than sentmental or implied value. He had little doubt those would be relatively easy if he timed it right. From the first glance, the assassinations were merely pay back kills from the guild and not actual contracts, but he would probably find one or two contracts there. "Do I need a 100% success rate?"
"No, of course, not." The human winked. "But the closer the better."
"Alright. Better get to work then. Where do I drop off the items?"
"Oh yes." The human handed him another scrap of paper. It described a particular alcove in the temple of the God of Scroundrels. He couldn't help but grin. The method was old and reliable, if not used that often anymore as it seemed less and less of his profession or related work fields cared about religion. "Works just fine."
"See ya, then," the elf waved and suddenly vanished into the shadows. The human shook his head at her dramatics, nodded to the halfling, and simply walked out the back door. Flip turned and took the front door, not worried about being followed. After all, this was supposed to be a safe house.
Getting the package from the vault had been no problem at all. It had been registered as a diplomatic vault, and after all, the prince was clearly eligible to pick it up. What had been more of a problem were the 5 thugs who had waylaid them just when they had left the vault. Once they had noticed, mostly thanks to the half-orc's skills with his new hammer, that they were vastly outmatched, they had run 'like rabbits from a fire,' as Uthas had called it. It was possible that someone had waited for them to get the package, but it was much more likely to be a coincidence. Mugging attempts happened frequently, and they had had to defend themselves in the past.
Still, they decided to return to Greytooth immediately. If the man would get angry at them showing up early, Orlath could just remind him who he was talking to. He might be the youngest of the royal children, but just because he would never sit on the throne (and all the better in his opinion) didn't mean his rank could be ignored.
As soon as they moved into the corridor the makeshift office was in, they could see something was wrong. In front of the door and covering the walls of the corridor was a black mark, much like a fireball had gone off. The air was smelling like ozone. Uthas started running immediately, not waiting for orders. The little skirmish earlier had made him eager for more. The fact that significant, deadly magic had been used not so long ago didn't change that. With a battle cry resembling the sound of a manticore in heat, he slammed the door open.
A werewolf and an orc stood posed over the bleeding, unconscious spymaster, the werewolf ready to tear Greytooth's throat. While both of them looked slightly burned and smelled like it, too, they were nowhere near as much damaged as the fireball would have suggested. Uthas threw his small axe while the hammer stayed in his hands. The aye sliced right through the fingers of the werewolf, who howled in panic and pain.
The orc turned and grinned. "Now now," he said. "If that isn't our person of interest himself."
In his rage, Uthas didn't hear him. If the orc had expected any sort of reaction or even hesitation of the barbarian's part, he was bitterly disappointed. He barely had time to bring his iron shield up and move back a little. For some reason, he seemed hesitant to strike at Uthas though. Confusion and frustration showed on his face. "Let's get out," the werewolf hissed while he tried to stop the bleeding in his finger stumps. "We can't harm him!" He leaned against the hard pressed orc, who could not really hold off Uthas any longer, and the two of them disappeared in a teleport flash. Uthas, who had just made contact with the already very dented shield, lost his balance and stumbled against the window, which broke and cut his face.
"Darn!" Nev jumped forward and checked the spymaster over. "Bleeding shoulder and a bad chest wound. Orlath?"
The prince nodded and knelt next to the injured man. He withdrew bloodoak bark powder, a string of horse hair and a piece of numbleaf from his component pouch, put the powder in the leaf, bound it tightly close with the hair and put it over the spymaster's body. Then he made a waving motion with both hands and shouted a single word in the old language.
The little packet flashed up in green and blue light, and little by little, the wounds of the injured man healed, leaving only outlines of where the wounds were supposed to be. "He'll still be out for days, I guess," Orlath said.
Nev nodded. "We need to clean this place out. Nothing to leave behind. Let me take care of that." Not too long after, with a bit of less flashy magic, Nev's shrink spell had reduced the size of books, papers and other items by enough to put it all in Uthas' ever present backpack. Uthas also shouldered the unconscious man and carried him off. "To our place," Nev decided. "No one would be bold enough to break in there, with all the enchantments in place to prevent it."
"No one would be bold enough to break in there, not with all the enchantments in place to prevent it," the barkeep laughed while he poured Flip another drink.
Flip nodded knowingly. "But maybe some are stupid enough. I can tell you, there have been quite a few idiots trying to break into my prince's home. Sometimes for treasure, sometimes just for a dare – a dare, can you believe that? Like a lock or a piece of clothing from the prince is some keepsake."
The keep grunted. "I suppose the Realm elves take their personality cult a bit too far."
"You can say that," Flip agreed and put his glass down to be filled up yet again. "The prince hates it, but some other nobles like it well enough."
The human behind the bar filled the glass again and then turned to two just arriving customers. Flip downed the new drink and wondered if the barkeep was right. He had no intention in wasting his time – and freedom – on entering a place with so many wards that he would alert half Freeport. But he had to get the job done somehow.
Leaning against the bar, Flip looked out of the window and across the street. Odingo's Manor sure looked imposing, and the guards in front of it looked like the no nonsense type. Even if he had a way to make himself invisible, it would probably not help. There would be guards against magic as well. And he had just heard that the place didn't even have direct sewer access like so many other houses.
Odingo had, so the barkeep had told him, made a lot of enemies over time. His dealings in blood magic and worse had offended quite a few people, and his exploits had gotten him in conflict with the law several times, but Lord Drac used to protect him. He would have been fine still, Flip guessed, but he should not have crossed the guilds.
A large delivery was approaching the gates to the manor. The guards only checked the delivering servants, not the contents of the crate. Flip wondered if that was a way in or if the contents were otherwise controlled. There was just one way to find out.
He paid his bill and then went to wait outside to get one of the delivery people alone. If he got him or her drunk enough, chances were he would be able to discern enough about anything that was going in and out in the next few days. And while he was working on that, he could prepare for one of his other jobs. It was time to visit the old city's iconic statue.
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Wednesday, 21st March, 2012, 03:10 AM #22
Enchanter (Lvl 12)
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With the spymaster spread on the couch in the living room and the package they had recovered on the table, there was no way to take their uneasy minds off the current problem. Only Uthas seemed genuinely unruffled. It had been just another fight and was just another mission for him. The half-orc did not even seem to be the slightest bit curious about what the package might contain.
Not so the other two. Orlath was pacing in the spacious apartment, throwing looks at the package and the spymaster and the set of other stuff they had recovered regularly. He tried to pretend it was nothing out of the ordinary whenever Nev came close – who was currently doing his reading up on history of Northern Dwarfs – but he was jumping inside every time someone loud passed by the window and he literally jumped when a salesman knocked at their door to try and sell baked fish. Out of confusion and to get rid of the man, Orlath bought a whole plate, much to the delight of his bodyguard, who ate them all alone in less than half an hour.
On the other hand, Nev was really attempting to study. He knew they could not just go and get anyone to help Greytooth, but they had no idea who the man's contacts were so all they could do was wait. His attempts of memorizing the events leading to the death of the Northern Kingdoms didn't go well, though, and he, too, found himself wandering around with the book, throwing glances over the top of it at their guest and their cargo. Eventually, when Orlath had to "attend to other business," he seized the opportunity to go through the other material they had discovered at the flat and checking the box for magic.
There was no magic on the box, but some of the papers close by flared up. Curious, the young noble examined the binder and found a set of scrolls – although they were not rolled up so he mused they were rather magic letters – with interesting spells on them. They didn't look too complicated to learn, and his thirst for knowledge and spells got the better of him. He removed one copy of each and hid them in his book. When Orlath reappeared, he excused himself to the roof garden – a new project of his, born from his talent for botany and his ability to magically help plants to grow as most of the eastern elf tribes possessed. On the flat part of the roof, he and Flip and an apprentice from a gardener he sometimes borrowed had created a beautiful little resort, complete with greenhouse, a small pond and trees already looking several years old despite just being there for a week or two. From the outside, it looked like a normal roof with a small balcony, as he had had a local illusionist help make it private.
It also had some extra space Nev was not quite sure how he had created it. At one point, he had just wished he had more space up here and would not be limited in his ideas of what to plant and what to produce. All of a sudden, the world had seemed to twist around him, and he had had thrice the space available. It was not a pocket dimension or anything like that. It did not dispel either. The wizard had felt the magic around at creation, but was pretty sure he would not be able to produce such an effect. After a few days, he and Orlath had decided to just take it as a gift.
At this time of early afternoon, the insects, who didn't care for any illusions, hummed happily around and the sun was strong in the sky. Summer came late to Freeport, and the fogs lasted for most of the year, but the heat would be all the worse for it, or so he had been told. The bench under the shadow of one of the new willow trees was just perfect for magic studies. Uthas didn't come up here that often, and Orlath would not leave the living room out of his sight when he was not on the loo. Expecting no disturbance, the mage sat down and begun examining the magic letters.
The statue of Golgenath the gnome stood at a corner in the old city, almost always ignored by visitors but beloved by the locals. It was the oversized frame of a Gnome warrior, holding an even more oversized sword, point down, in a 4-fingered hand. The sword was not really part of the statue, it was placed into the hand where the finger was missing, and then fixed with a simple chain. It was said that over the years, the gnome had had many weapons, and not all of them swords. They tended to vanish every now and then, sometimes under weird circumstances. Like a flock of ravens or at once time a group of zombies stealing them. Most of the time, no one saw the theft happen. To Flip, this was a clear indication that the guild of his profession had a lot of fun making the theft part of their entry requirements for new Freeport thieves.
The chain, he saw, would be easy to break. In the fog of the night, it would probably not be too hard to steal the sword, but for someone his size, the weapon the gnome currently held was an issue. He would need a pack animal, or maybe... his eyes went up to the cloth line with various city flags – merchants, lords, officials – going right by the statue. A wide grin split his face. This would be fun. He would need to make some preps, of course, and deal with one of his other jobs as well.
From the old city, his business took him to an area close to the harbor in the less reputable part of town. In front of the shack of an old witch and fortune teller named Madam Byanca he placed himself on an empty barrel, trying to look bored and tired of a day's work of begging. There was but one door to the 2-room shack, a large front room where customers went in and out, and a small addition in the back to sleep and live in. There were no windows at ground level, the only openings were close to the roof to let light in but not to open. All in all a sorry place to live in, although at least the old woman kept it clean – with magic, as he could observe himself.
What the customer who ordered the theft wanted was her dream journal from the last month. Flip had no idea what exactly that was or why it was wanted and neither cared, but he had a good description. A small book bound in red leather with the month's name handwritten on it. Supposedly, she placed those journals in a magic box next to her bed. They had not been clear on the matter though – did she only keep the current journals next to the bed, and if not, where were the others?
After talking to a few of her customers of the day, Flip decided to play the part of a customer despite the risks. Supposedly, the woman was not much of a use as fortune teller, she could only answer one question a day for each customer but got very good insights on the matter – but maybe that was a marketing ploy to make them come back. She was, again a speculation, not able to see anything about herself, or any more than asked about a customer. Which again helped to bring her clientele of the less reputable kind. Like the high profile member of the Buccaneer's Flip recognized, a gang known to do press work for pirate ships.
Then he could not believe his luck. The witch left her shack and closed it, following the Buccaneer with her raven familiar perched on her shoulder. Maybe the one she was to divine for would not come to her place. It made sense. And it made the perfect opportunity. The halfling waited until the two of them had vanished, then pretended to be drunk and stumbled over to the door as if to grab a hold on it. None of the people walking by paid him any attention. While with one hand, he took his tools of the trade out of a pocket, he knocked with the other, as he had seen others do. When the door opened easily, he went inside in the hopes it looked as if the old hag had just let him in.
No magic went off on him. As he had hoped, much of the talk about the woman being dangerous was just that. No doubt she had done all she could to ensure noting got stolen. Not that there was much to steal. Most stuff in both rooms was looking like junk, some of it might or might not have been usable for divinations. Asides from table with some chairs, a bench and some chests and boxes and a shelf at the wall, there was little to go through. Flip made sure to be careful so no one would notice anything. Except, he grinned, she would notice when she found out one of her journals missing. It was in the only locked chest. Flip found an easily disabled poison trap but nothing else to threaten his endeavor. After locking the chest and resetting the trap, Flip left as undisturbed as he came.
He had no idea of the chain of events he had just set in motion.
The rest of the afternoon was spent with preparations to get the sword from the statue and long talks with two of the servants who regularly delivered wine to the Odingo mansion. In the process of finding out a way to get in, he learned more about the black skinned merchant than he cared to know. Supposedly, the man was a shaman or sorcerer of some sort, deep down from "the jungles" without any of them being able to say more. Yet, he seemed to be more civilized than a lot of the rubble washing at shore in Freeport. Odingo had been in the city for at least 5 years, supposedly he had been an adventurer for hire, or some sort of spellcasting mercenary, or maybe both as one was not always apart from the other. He was rich, in any case, and overloaded with trophies, keepsakes and other items from his quests. So rich he would surely not miss some of his things, so the delivery humans claimed. And none of the traps in the house were supposed to be deadly, or even dangerous at all. Odingo, so it seemed, followed the God of Mercy and Peace.
Flip was not so sure of that. Fortunately, he would not have to find out. Whether there were protective enchantments on any valuable items – unless he found something he liked for himself but that would be somewhat unprofessional – was not his problem. All he had to do was putting something in the house. A small white cardboard box in the form of a vampire's coffin, complete with a paper white hand and a vampire's face sticking out of the opening and a red set of letters spelling "gotcha." One of those running gags between two rivals trying to outsmart each other, or even friends playing pranks, he assumed. But then, he was always careful.
When it was getting darker outside and the first mists of the sea crept up. The halfling, still very much sober, left to get the sword from the statue. Hopefully, by tomorrow morning he would have completed 2, maybe 3 of his jobs already if one of the pirates to kill would be in the right tavern, and could get started on the more serious ones.
We are in a bit of a problem. The man you wished us to see got attacked and is now unconscious in our home. I healed him up but as usual, arcane healing takes long to really do anything about the state of him. We got a package he wanted us to get. What do we do now? I don't want to contact the embassy about this.
Your still angry son Orlath
22nd of Rhune
Good news, can count numbers now to 100 but very slowly as not have 100 fingers and toes. So can only count and calculate fast when is under 20. Flip say males can count fast to 21 but don't get what he mean by that. Oh and Nev gave me some sheet of magic velvet he says is spell checker so I can put over my writing to see when I spell words badly wrong and then fix it but says I need remember what I do wrong so learn to make less error. I ask him if he has spell checker for his magic spell stuff, too, and then learn making less error because priests in temple are grumpy when he make two rooms all frozen with ice last day. He did not like joke.
Flip came home late night or much more like early morning and son of yours was mad at him for not being home when we come with spyguy. Flip says he had own business and son of yours say he is servant and some other word I did not get. Flip was about being yours servant more than his and just like borrowed out to prince. Made son of yours even madder. Then Flip went and go bed because he says he needs his sleep to do real work next day not beauty sleep like prince. I was laughing so bad my ale was spilling on floor. Most because flip do need beauty sleep. Must have been in fight because nose was all bloody and big bump on head, and his left eye is black. Says he will take healing potion if son of yours like or not. We have enough coin to buy new.
Nev took some paper from all the stuff we brought here. Which is from spyguy I mean. Thinks I not saw but I am bodyguard and have my eyes all over. He not looked at box much just make sure no magic on it I think. But son of yours, you shouldn't have tell him not to open. You know when you tell son of yours not to do some thing and more when he angry with you, he is more like doing it. Spyguy woke up and is all ooh and ouch from wrong type of what they say is healing also. So when was in too much owie Nev spell him to sleep again. But he was wake enough to be happy we got box of his.
Oh and funny thing happen in a few streets away. There is statue of some gnome warrior and people keep stealing the weapon he holds. So someone did last night too but not that work out too good. Newspaper says they use the rope with the flags on to hang one of those rolling things on they use in harbor, then use lasso to get hilt of sword in it and then again use sword and lasso and rope it dangle on to hang on it and glide to city wall. But rope must be broke off close to wall and now they say there is blood on wall where thief has smashed into it. Still got run away with sword and donkey to carry it on. They think it was a gnome dare for the shape they could see in wall in morning was small like a gnome and only gnomes get such craze ideas about taking weapons from statue. I was sorry for statue and gave it my old hammer, and they say it was true act of a hero of city and made a new chain to fix the weapon to the statue. Flip think it silly but am happy I can help when I mostly get to smash stuff.
Friday, 30th March, 2012, 02:28 PM #23
Enchanter (Lvl 12)
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23rd of Rhune
Thanks for going to find someone to take this packet and the spymaster off our hands. We have been watching over both and I think Nev is beginning to get paranoid. He's pacing around and is looking out of the window every few minutes or so it seems.
Other than this little issue, all is fine here, so you really don't need to send my dear sister. Really, it begins to sound like you are just looking for a way to get rid of her, too!
Oh, I met a mage from the 13th Circle of the Western Kingdoms! He's al elf in his 700s and amazingly good at teleport spells of all versions. He only needs a picture, or the description of the mind image of someone else, and he can teleport there. Isn't that just great? I want to learn that, and since the priests at the Temple of Knowledge say they can't teach me much more, I'm considering taking a trip to the Western Kingdoms. The mage, a Grand Master Thelorian, has offered to take me on as temporary apprentice, as I am technically above apprentice state. He is traveling to the Southern Mines to meet up with a dragon friend, but on the way back he could take me along for a while. We will always he able to return to Freeport as he will create a teleport circle in our magic garden. He says thanks to a high magic grid over the city, only few people could create such a circle but he can. I'm all excited. Please mom, don't argue against it!
Your excited son Orlath
Honored Lady Theka!
I will be glad to be rid of all this secrecy business, so your help is very much appreciated. Orlath is getting paranoid, I believe. He is constantly pacing through all the rooms, ruffling his hair and muttering something under his breath. He also does not eat much.
Flip is behaving a bit weird, starting to defy Orlath, supposedly on your orders. He has likely not told you, but Orlath is going to hire another servant to do house duties, which should suit Flip fine. Am I right to think that Flip's business is not the least our own when he is out at night? I can certainly keep the prince occupied if needed.
We met an elf mage from the Western Kingdoms. He has managed to fix my fireball problem. It seems that I was forgetting a middle step in casting the spell, something that does not matter to anyone who has an affinity for the fire element. Well, I do not so I need the extra effort. My main affinity, it seems, is with water and time.
Orlath wants to travel with this Master Thelorian, which would suit me as well as he has offered to take us all along if we don't want to split. But I don't think Uthas likes the idea much, and Flip was openly resistant on leaving Freeport at all for longer than a few days. I suppose it has to do with the work you gave him here.
Ever in Your service
Most High Lady Theka!
I have placed the note in the rack of Odingo's weapon and arms display with little difficulty, I just had a bit of an issue escaping, as I had not counted on any boxes being searched when brought out. My mistake, I should know a collector of old and expensive things would fear theft more than anything else. It was considerably easier to place the bloody dagger in Count vingar's hands at the whore house. He was promptly arrested for the murder of a mesenger, which I find vaguely interesting.
Yes, I have figured out that while the jobs came from the guild, it was you behind it. I am that good, or you would not eploy me. It was a great help in any case, because it basically means I had 2 less jobs to do as they would have come to me anyway.
The politics in the city are a true mess. The council considers disbanding the Sea Lord position, and everyone is split about it. There is barely any other talk. Just Nev and the prince have not really noticed yet, they are too absorbed in this spy business. They are both getting paranoid, if you ask me. All nervous and sneaking around, looking out of the windows and talking to themselves and such. And now they even consider leaving the city, although it might truly just be an interest in more adventure and learning magic.
Orlath does not like me to be much more than a servant, and it is getting more difficult to maintain the ruse. We need a second servant around here. I may need to arrange something to that end.
Your humble servant Flip
For a moment, the halfling hesitated. He had not told her about the assassination of slavers he had pulled off despite having crashed into the wall the night he took the sword from the statue. Neither had he mentioned the killing of a Realms merchant who also happened to be a slaver – he suspected the Freedom guild had put the hit on. It was after the fact that he had found out that said merchant might have also been a realms informant, and he suspected the High Lady would be less than happy with him if she found out.
As Flip sent the letter, he turned the feather he had been writing with over in his hands and wondered, once more, what was in the package. He thought he knew the High Lady well enough by now to be sure that her interest in it was a bit too personal. Given that Uthas and Orlath were out to do some clothes shopping and Nev had gone to the roof garden, he decided to take his chances and peek inside. They had already determined it was not trapped in any way, so what could go wrong?
"Eh, boss?" Uthas was hardly visible under all the stuff he carried for the prince – full backpack, several bags and pouches hanging from his belt. "Are you sure we need to go to more shops? I will fall over with all this already."
Orlath chuckled. "You never do. And yes, we need to go to one more shop. And then back to the curio. I need to talk to Falthar."
If Uthas' face had been visible, the prince would have seen him pale. "All the way to the curio? Can't we rent a cart? Boss, if someone attacks you I can't protect you this way and that's some good walk."
For the first time since he started his shopping spree, prince Orlath really looked at his bodyguard. He couldn't help but chuckle. "You have a point. Let's find a cart."
As they rented the cart and the half-orc filled it with the bags and packs, he proceeded to tell the prince about the latest rumors he had heard. The council wanting to abandon the Sea Lord's position was just one little side story, as the barbaric fighter had little interest in politics. But he had heard of an increase críme rate, so much that his new friends in the guard had just asked him – while he had still been packed with the luggage, to his dismay – if he could probably help out with protecting a shipment for important people. The guard had no man to spare for extra duty, and with all the extra guards in the private homes, with what the burglaries and murders, it was hard to find anyone to do temp jobs. Uthas asked if he could probably take the job, maybe with Flip, if the price was sure to be busy in the temple. He had had enough of learning for a while, and the temple was well guarded.
"You are asking me to stay at the temple while you do errands for others?" Orlath was definitely amused. "It sounds like you are placing me under house arrest."
"You are pulling my ears, aren't you?" Uthas started at the smiling prince and grinned. "Does that mean you want to come along? It is simple, they said. Friend from a councilor needs some silk stuff from the docks to some storage across town. Basically just to show someone is there to watch."
"Sure, we heroes of Freeport need to show presence," the prince agreed. "When?"
"Tomorrow noon," the half-orc grinned. "I smell you want to take Flip along."
"But of course. He is spending too many nights who knows where. I am thinking I will wake him with a method he is all too familiar with." Orlath winked, and they both chuckled.
The curio was surprisingly busy when they finally fot there, with two visitors from the Wild Lands checking out things and asking for advice. Uthas parked their cart in the small backyard and helped himself to some coffee and tea – stranely enough, he usually drank both at a time – while Orlath went through the new aquisitions not yet labeled to see if anything would strike his interest.
Finally, Master Falthar came to the back room, full of energy and definitely happy for the sale he just made. "Ah, there you are," he beamed. "I was hoping you could make it, what with being heroes and all some such." He winked.
"What do you need from me?" The prince sipped his own spiced tea, trying, again, not to imagine how coffee and tea must taste together.
"Actually, not only you, although you being the prince I thought I talk to you first. I'd hoped all 4 of you could be of aid, and Nevukh seems to follow you around most of the time. Well, maybe the two of you would actually do." He took an unsure breath. "Ineed you to help me help someone to find someone," he started. "The guard had no people to spare in those times, and most people do not grasp the importance of the situation, so I thought I'd ask mages who know what it might mean."
"Can we get to the point?" Orlath asked, somewhat amused. "Who is missing, and why would you need a mage to find them?"
"Jasper is missing, the hightly talented cat familiar of a young sorceres and daughter of one of the guard captains. Jasper has a talent for killing rats in masses, thanks to some spells the cat can do. He patrols some old ruins of houses that were burned when the inhabitants died of the plague. And he's the only cat who dares doing that. People fear the plague will spring up again now that the cat is gone, and the girl is distraught but kows her familiar still lives."
"You want a prince to find a cat?" Uthas frowned. "I like cats but... but..."
"Not just any cat. A familar. A priced rat catcher. And, weird as it sounds, a good friend. I had Jasper over to get rid of my own rat problem a few months ago."
Orlath nodded thoughtfully. He had not found a familiar yet, but his mother's old owl had died a few months back and it had been a real tragedy. "Well look for him. Just give us the details and we'll get to it immediately."
"Great," Falthar beamed again. "So, this is where he normally is..."
Flip looked around in the small room of the ramshackle building once more. No hints of his identity anywhere, not so much as a drop of blood from the couple in their bed he had just killed. They had not been married, at least not to each other, and he suspected that was part of the reason someone had wanted them dead. He knew the female orc by rumors though. Where she walked, people went missing, even children, and the story went that she was some sort of evil witch doing dark rituals. From what he had seen in the room, the papers now scattered on the floor, she had been merely a slaver, albeit a very ruthless one. Probably stepped on too many toes, or bothered someones business. Just like the Real merchant, he supposed. In Freeport, most groups settled their business without the help of assassins, only political disputes and dealings with truly despicable beings, like this orc, were considered not worth making your own hands dirty. It would make picking jobs easier, Flip supposed. Less chances to kill someone he did not want to see dead.
Coming here in broad daylight had been a bit of a risk, but their supposedly secret meetings in this rent-a-hut area was probably the only place without their guards close by. And it now gave him more time to work with at night. If, he thought wearily as he sneaked out and mingled with the crowd, the prince would not come up with another stupid and childish idea to keep him at home.
His mind went to the contents of the packet he had checked earlier. It had been easy to open and easier to close, and none would be the wiser. But the information contained within had come as not a small shock. Now that he knew, there had been hints, and he had seen some similarities in the people concerned but... he shook his head as he almost bumped into a vendor at a market. He needed to watch his surroundings better and not drift off like that.
As he had a better look around, he saw her again! The girl from Milton's party and from the rooftops. By now, he knew where she lived and who she was. A daughter of an important family, he father was the head of the Merchant's Guild. Too bored to just live the life of the rich. A thief by choice and not by need, and a very skilled one at that. The guild was a bit upset over the unknown thief dubbed 'Nighthaunt' by many, who obviously didn't want anything to do with them. But in Freeport, unlike in other places, guild membership was not enforced. You simply didn't get any of the benefits if you happened to get into trouble.
Flip found himself staring at the girl who was at least one and a half times as tall as he. Margaret Roth, that was her name, but her family called her Margy. Maybe if he would not try to catcha glipse of her and her doings so often, he would have finished a few more of those guild jobs already. Was he obsessed with her, maybe even falling in love? With a human?
The girl had finished her shoppings and went on with her business. Flip tried to push away the urge to follow her but failed. Trying his best not to be seen and hoping for a chance to 'acidentally' bump into her, he pushed through the crowd, trying to stay out of sight. For now.
We was in sewers again for help your friend Falthar with finding some cat which is familiar of other friend. We is son of yours and me, as flip busy and Nev kinda dreamy. Dreamy is what Olath says he is, I would not know.
Anyway we was going into basement of house where they say cat always go in and out. Not much there but dead people fallen through from upstair and other trash. But then we come in long room and skeletons fall from ceiling. I go shmash all very fast, but then see them all fake. Not fake as in not skeletons but no undead. All tied with wire and rope and make to come down when steping on trigger. Silly, huh? Someone not have money to pay a real necro but that fine with me. Skeletons on strings! I still laugh about it.
So then in next room we find cat cornered by carrion crawlers. Looks like the little rascal was keeping things off with some spells. I smash them and think now we take cat and go home but Jasper, that's cat, runs off looking at us weird. Orlath say we need follow. One level down we wiggle through old machine son of yours says was made by alce... alchu... those wizards working with all the weird substance. It's to clean water afterward. Then we kill more worm like things – wonder what the city pays for critter removal? Rats fetch a copper a piece I learn today because when in and out of old tunnel going under the sewers we come to very large cavern with lots of rubble and rubbish and rats. The RRR cavern I call it. Some rats were in traps and that's why we think first it is some rat catcher not wanting to share prey who drive off people and angered by cat.
But then some rat-like halfling sized people come and take caged rats away. Which is weird for they look like them rats themself but then humanoids catch monkeys so yeah. The RRR has 2 tunnels going from it so we follow the rat person. Orlath says to be quiet as rats hear well but I fall over rubble and make noise. But no one come.
We find some small guard room with 3 rat people. They want fight but Orlath does some charm thingy and they tell us all about them. The wizard making them wants revenge on some councilor for burning the sick people from the houses above alive, and lots of healthy ones, him included. Only the councilor they say it was is dead, died with the Milton Drac monster. So we go on with them to very big lab cave and find the wizard. He is about to make more rat people. Son of yours and he have a small magic duel but then they kinda talk after half the cave falls in. See, the guy use real rats to make rat people. Wants his own army. I'm sorry for rat people, they just not natural and don't know where to go. Son of yours says he talk to council, see if the wizard and his rat people can become sewer wards and pay them and all. Also Orlath super angry with all the burning alive thing and says he will see if families get some money from it and rat wizard, too. Poor guy all burned up even with magic to heal.
And yeah Jasper the cat just want to stick with rat people and rat wizard until someone found the guy. He go back home to his master now.
Then when we go back through the RRR cavern, there is more carrion crawlers and this time son of yours just all make them fry as he wants out of underground quickly and no need to be quiet now. Also, me think he was so very angry at dead council man.
He say he wants not to tell you all this because he say last time he told you about going underground you gots all mad at him but this time I was with him so it was no danger. And he is hero and all that. But still not good with sword, just more strong. More strong bad tho cause when he hit me with his swing at crawler first time I got nasty bump on head. Next time he go and find some magic to make him better maybe it is magic adding some skill.
Tomorrow we go do small guard job for friend of some councilor as not much guards are free to hire. Nev say it is going be easy as a feather. Me, not so sure but 2 mages, a servant-thief and a barbarian, what can go wrong?
Wednesday, 4th April, 2012, 10:01 PM #24
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24th of Rhune
Impatience crept up in the halfling as he continued watching the house of the target for his delivery job. A friendly middle aged priest of the Goddess of Peace who was very much beloved in his neighborhood. Flip knew someone wanted to talk to him on a private matter, upon which he would be let go, but as usual he had no idea of the details.
He had been watching the place for several hours and it was getting very late, yet the light was still on in the living room and the shape of the man could be seen walking by the window every now and then. His plan had been to knock frantically a while after the lights had been out, claiming to need help, but he had a deadline to consider so he needed a change of plans. It would probably work less well with the priest not being half asleep but he saw no other option than to try his scheme, and should it not work he could still use force.
Putting a hood over his face, he made for the door and started to knock like a madman. When the door opened and the concerned priest looked down at him, Flip had the feeling he was not on the right side of things this time, but he pushed on nonetheless, being too professional to let sudden insights stop him. Unfortunately, his plan worked like a charm. Not half an hour later, he had directed the man to where the thugs were waiting for him for the mentioned talk and was on his way again. Relieved, he stopped at a tavern about to close and had an ale before heading home for the night.
That's when he saw the two thugs carrying the priest between themselves away to a boat. So much for just talking. So much for not listening to his instinct. As much as he tried, his short legs couldn't catch the hurrying men, and he could only stare after the boat in frustration. At least, he had not been seen. Maybe he should not even have gotten the idea to free the priest after he had been the one to cause him to be abducted like that. No, he could not be connected with this at all. At least not before he knew what was going on. He didn't like to be lied to, he was not just another new initiate. The halfling decided to pay the guild middleman who had given him the job a visit. Now it would pay to have checked out where the guy lived and spent most of his time. The joke would be on them, eventually, and if they wanted to play smug, he would break the deal and thus any work for the Realm would be made impossible for them. He was somewhat sure none of the guilds wanted that to happen.
25th of Rhune
am writing you to say sorry for son of yours getting hurt from our helping with guarding stuff. It all went wrong quick and then downhill from there. The wenting wrong quickly started when Flip was not even yet back from whatevers he is doing at nights when I came with bucket of water for the wakey wakey. Nev and Orlath were angry about that but figured 3 people is lots enough for guarding stuff a short way.
When going from the docks, after waiting long time for them to load stuff up the wagons, we were in busy warehouse district when suddenly it goes BANG behind us and lots of flames, and smoke goes up. Then we got fired at with crossbows from all places and could not see where from really, all the smoke got in the way. People all round scream and duck and both Nev and Orlath get hit by bolts in shoulder and leg. I tell them to wear some armor but son of yours say armor no good for magic.
Then someone sneak up to me when I try stand over Orlath and knock me on head with something heavy and all is black. When I wake, smoke and chaos gone and the guard is there. Hear Orlath done some spell to rid us of smoke and then time froze some of the thugs. Some escaped but cargo was all fine.
So after we went on for warehouse after Orlath done healing spell on him and Nev. They both still feel not so good with what arcane healing not quite working as should. Lots of protection magic and stuff on warehouse, so we happy to can go home. But when we walk – or limp – back, someone waves for us to come into a shadowy alley. Now I'm not that dumb so I tell others to stay and go first. Guy was all hooded and bearded and smoked a pipe. Weird but Not dangerous so I call others over. Strangers asks for Flip first and is mightly well disappointed that the halfling not there. Says he's Chris... well something longer name and I can't spell last name. Needs our help. Yeah right as if every one doesn't. Says it is for all of Freeport. Sounds like recruiter at Realm army center. Before we ask anything, he jump up like frog caught on fire, and looks all round like something was sneaking up on us but there was not. Then says it too dangerous talking outside and want to go somewhere private. Was ok with us suggesting a tavern we know. Weird cause if he's of Flip's sort, like a gangster or thief or some such, he not would want anyone but himself pick location. Specially strange as he jump so when thinks he hears something.
So when we go have a drink Chris says he is from the Cutthroats and goes blabbing about the gangs of Freeport, and how someone is forming them into one big thing, somehow getting them all work together. That's weird because he say even those who always hated each other now work like friends. And they have started selling some new drug. I hate drugs but when he say this new thing is may why all work together and is magic twisting their minds, I hate it even more. Chris says his men tried to force him to use that drug which he don't ever do. Is like because he is not using, he sees what happening, and we all agree one big gang is not good for city. Now he want us to help cause we are the heroes and all, and Nev and Orlath know magic and I hate drugs. He knows I hate drugs, knows Flip, what is no wonder to me but surprises the others.
Before he go he says who gave them the stuff and where his mates are who tried force him to sniff drugs. I want to go there to talk to them, but Nev wants to go to see the guy Chris says brings the drug, some guy called sky high. Fitting name no? Orlath really just want to go home rest and find Flip and talk things over. In his defense he still hurt from bolt and limps. But I got all mighty angry bout drugs and storm off for that den of theirs where they sell. So them follow me and we get to very very bad street. Run down and full with what Nev calls living human waste. I go run the door though and we find them all gone into their heads with that powder.
Nev tried to use a soberize spell on them but it nor work, and Orlath detects some charm magic on the remaining powder. While they pack that up, I tried get answers from them anyway. Bosslady, it is super hard to get usable answer from someone flying off their minds. All I got was sky High's name again and that someone called Barnacle Bottom Bailey being the alcy... alca... guy who makes the drug. Somewhere on a capze, cap something – means toppled over ship - they babble. Makes little sense to me but Nev confirms it is the truth with some spell or the other. So we pack up and leave, son of yours still feeling bad and now tired and staring off in space sometime. Nev says we should get home and then he would do research to where to find that ship, and maybe Flip could help if he was home. So we all go home with bit of evidac... evy... proof.
Son of yours and me went to bed, me for headache from getting bumped on. Nev went to check all the maps he bought to see where there are toppled ships. He got this magical map, see, where he needs to bump a wand on it and it shows the accurtate actual Freeport and area. Something to do with a genie from another plane I can't spell. When I wake up it is for shouting in the house, and I hear footsteps of someone new. I am good knowing sound of footsteps. There is a healing priest on the stairs and headed for Orlaths room. Nev is all pale, says son of yours sick and sweaty and can't wake him up. Detected poison. It must been from the earlier bolt. Priest comes out after a bit and says prince will be fine but need some days of rest.
But now Nev all mad, says if not someone making one big gang out of all the groups, there would not been attack on us first place. So he did not want wait for Orlath to be alright. Says we need go and find this Barnacle Bottom guy. He had find the ship on map, but only when asking the map directly. It is funny how he can do that because son of yours can't. Well I wanted to stay with Orlath but Nev asks what can happen and he needed me along. Right he was cause he ain't no fighter still, and you don't go alone into danger. So we was putting note on nightstand for son of yours when he wakes up and go.
When we get to the toppled ship there was some gang members, mostly orc and half-orc, not wanting to let us pass. We had hard time with them. Nev worse with sword than son of yours. One time, he stumble over his own feet and accidental stab closest thug and push another in water on the bridge we were on. Them not seen it was accidental so them run finally when I smash one on shoulder with hammer.
The place sure saw lots of people, many trails in the sands around it, some from reptiles. The sideway ship had new doors and all to match the way it was resting now. A weird view, made me bit dizzy. Then door of a shack on ship banged open and some guards look out. They been too far to do much bout it but Nev did something with a spell, not sure if he speed us up or slow everyone else down. But we ran to the shack and the guards were bound before they could say intruders. We saw why them not heard us before, they was playing dice and game probably got loud and heated. As some men show signs of fighting with each other. And we was lucky they not saw us because a nasty looking harpoon of sorts was in the shack. I felt funny standing on what was been the wall before ship was toppled over. There was a new door going inside and we bumped it open to find some sort of bad smelling lab with lots of chemicals and scrolls around. We are still faster than everyone else so we go tie up all people we can find. Most bulky guard types but there was a tiny guy, maybe half a dwarf, too. He moved very slow at the table he was working Nev says the powder on the table is the new drug and also magical. Then suddenly, all time goes normal again and the men we caught are confused as to what happen.
There was lots of papers on the table and Nev was saying how it is all about drug operations and such but also all the information on where the city guards patrol and when. So that is how they never got caught. Nev then made other spell, a charm, so the Barnacle Butt guy has no choice but... butt hahaha... to answer. Turns out the scrolls are all for playing charms on the drug when there is no spellguy there. He was asked to make this drug by that Sky High guy we was told about earlier. Says the serpent people are behind it, left over folks from the yellow sign thingy we crushed. He believes it but Nev says he's been charmed so he is not really himself. We know can't be the serpents as we are friends with them and the yellow sign crap is all destroyed.
Nev also wanted info about the guard schedule list, and we was told someone masked drops them every now and then, with no real plan on when. This make things complicated so Nev says he will see the commissioner of the guard we's been friends with to get him to pick this operation apart. He took all the stuff we found and says for me to guard the toppled ship.
So that is where I sit now, wondering how long the wait will be and if the captives will be any fun to talk to. Don't think so but hey, they at least have no choice but listening to me.
I have a headache from being bumped earlier and am kinda light in mind so I may have spell lots more wrong than last days. Need to get checked out when this is all over.
Wednesday, 11th April, 2012, 06:20 PM #25
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Players had a real hard time to get the hints so we had to improvise quite a bit.
25th of Rhune, continued
We got a bit in a pickle with the supposedly easy guard duty job I mentioned. I got hit by a poisoned bolt, but am fine now. Nev and Uthas left me sleeping here and went on to find a capsized ship where a new drug operation is run from, as it seems. See, this gang member asked for our help, as weird as this sounds, to prevent some evil overlord gangster from happening.
Anyway, I can't follow them as I have no clue where they are. Nev took the magic Freeport map he found at the curio with him. But I got something else to do. Some folk from a poorer area humbly asked for our help to find their beloved missing priest. It is a simple investigation matter, at least for now. Flip, who just came back very tired from wherever he goes at night – maybe he has a girl now – suggests that from what the people said, it sounded like he just followed someone's call for help and is simply not back yet. If it was up to him, we need not bother at all. So I let him fall asleep and am now in a carriage to where the priest lives. I'm not that good with divination spells but I can at least find out if there was any violence involved. I promise if anything dangerous shows up I wait for the others.
Your loving son Orlath
More than a little annoyed, Nevukh stood on the street, watching the guard drive and ride off towards the ship and Uthas. They had all been very grateful for the information and the drug sample and the help and so on, but then they had not only told him to leave the rest to them, but also forgotten to take him along so he could get back to Uthas. He wished for a teleport spell so he could be there first and tell them what he thought of such a rude behavior. For a moment, he considered rending a horse or carriage to follow them, but that would take too long and Uthas would probably be gone by the time he got there. The barbarian never had much patience for waiting. A shame that Commissioner Williams had not been around, he would have known how to handle the situation better.
As he took out his newly acquired ivory pipe and filled it with expensive tobacco, he thought about the situation again. Someone in the guard was supplying the wannabe super-boss with information, but to find out who seemed difficult. He wouldn't even know where to start. And with the guard's rash action to show up at the ship in masses, it was doubtful the serpent folk would show up there again – if it ever had been them. The informant certainly would not. A divination spell, maybe?
A puff of smoke rose up from the pipe, and as it sometimes happened when he thought about what he wanted to know, a picture formed inside the smoke. The shapes of two guards, going into a cramped room with many shelves, appearing to bow down and making weird hand movements. It lasted but a moment and he could, of course, see no faces, not that that would have helped. Nev stood there thinking, not getting any ideas, until he was pushed out of the way by a group of guards with a prisoner.
"Hey, I know you," a female voice talked to him from behind. "You are one of the heroes who got rid of the evil cult, no?"
"Why, yes." Nev turned while the smoke was blown away. He was recognized fairly often and used to it. "May I help you with something?"
The young elven girl appeared to be younger than he was, with a smile as bright as her eyes. She smiled shyly and handed him a small book. 'The New History of Freeport' it said on the title. Nev and the others had been interviewed for it a while ago. "I'm Linea, from the local wizard's school. Could you sign this for me, please? I'm so happy I ran into you, my friends will all be so jealous."
Nev blinked. He had heard of this new fashion to collect signatures from celebrities, but he would have expected to be asked as a member of the wider royal family and not as hero of a city. He was flattered nonetheless. "Sure," he smiled back and took the stylus she held out for him. As clearly as possible, he wrote his name and a short dedication to Linea and handed it back to her. As she thanked him and ran back to where she had come from, Nev removed some ink from his fingers and then it suddenly came to him. The smoke figures had been signing something, that was what the weird hand movements had been. And it had looked like a storage room. Nev turned around and decided to find out where the guards kept their records.
Hands in the pockets of his expensive pants, Orlath stared out over the sea to the south of Freeport. He was standing on a quiet part of the docks, and no boat was tethered nearby. No ships would dock here, it was just for the small scale fishers and other small boats. The divination spell he had used had led right here, but the priest and the supposed child, dwarf or halfling that was reported with him had taken to water from here, and even if he could fly, he would not be able to trace them any further. "What's out there?" he asked. "A settlement on an island? Any place where your missing priest could lend some aid?" The prince was still unconcerned. Very likely, this was just a case of overly worried neighbors.
"There is the lighthouse," one of the people who had followed his efforts was saying. "You should know, you have been there."
"Ah, me and my sense of direction, especially at sea or at night," the prince confessed with a warm smile. "That's why we are usually a team. Anyway, maybe the lighthouse keeper is sick? I heard they got a new one after the old one drowned."
Someone grunted a positive. "But why would Father Milas be called? He would have said something if he had known the new keeper."
"Maybe the keeper has heard of him. Did the Father do anything outstanding save helping you all that might have caught attention outside your neighborhood?"
"He made some enemies," a woman looking like she could be herb sage of the group that had followed him. "Spoke out against those bad kinds of drugs that make your head wuzzy. Said it would be the downfall of civilization. Made a local gang a bit angry but no one has heard from the gang in a while."
The other mumbled and nodded. "It's like the gang vanished, but that wasn't the Father's doing."
Ever so slowly, a mental candle lit up in Orlath's head. If their search for the ones behind the new drug was somehow involved with this missing priest case, then maybe he had just found out where the big bosses were hiding. "I could check it out," he said, more to himself. "But I know nothing about boats and sailing or even rowing."
Several volunteers made him realize he had just committed himself to something probably too big for him. But his pride made it impossible to back off. A few minutes later, someone was bringing a small sailboat to the dock, and he had no more excuses. He was about to tell himself that he was a mage, so what could happen after all, when he remembered what happened the last few times he told himself that. Maybe some precautions would be in order.
am writing a lot today, but lot has happened. I been waiting at toppled over ship for hours after the guards came and took everything away. Nev never come back but 4 humans in small boat came. Were wondering where everyone was and what I was doing here. Not the friendly sort. I had one of what son of yours says is my bright moment and told them boss had told me to wait. What with not even a lie and all their wizard guy did not find out to be wrong. They were bit dumb, never asked what boss.
So, told them everything was evacuated and I was to tell everyone to go to the other place for bringing stuff or picking up. They asked if I mean serpent house in east of city and I say yes. Then their boss got bit suspicious and tells me to come along and that no one else was coming. I think it would been dumb to say no so me went along. I was sure I could take them all if I had to. So we go by boat a bit round city and then walk some more. All the time they say no word so I not talk, too. We come to nice district and go to a house. When we go in an open door, it dawn on me that people here would know I tell lie but when I was thinking of just starting to smash everyone I see a bunch of people standing over Nev in the entry hall. Nev can't move, has some spell thingy on him and other half of people in room are sleeping so I guess Nev got spell off for sleep. I had no clue how he gots there.
The men I came with shout that they are friends and who the captive is. In all the talk of how Nev had come through back door with some spell and tried to make everyone sleep, they forget about me. I see lots of magic type folks so I remember what son of yours gave me for this. But that was no part of my bright moment anymore. The flask I threw in their middle burst and set everything on flame. I remember now that son of yours said it was called something-fire. So, house starts burning and some people, too and I bash down everyone close to me. All would been fine but then I remember Nev.
When I look Nev still could not move. And he been very close to fire. So I took gnome next to me who tries to kill me with small dagger and bashed fire around Ned out with him. No matter he dead, all other people in here were evil so they may as well all be dead, no? So, I grabbed Nev and carry him over shoulder outside. There was already lots of neighbors making a bucket line to protect their houses but not the burning one. I shout to them to let it burn as there is garden round it so fire not so much go over to their places. I told them evil people inside can burn, but turned out they knew about evil already, just were too afraid to tell guard. Cowards.
When Spells went out on Nev, he tell me he found out which guards gave gangs the guard patrol list. He had them arrested then came to the house they said were magic people in. He says he did so alone because the guard had not taken him along back to toppled ship, so he didn't want to take them along to house! That stupid, no? Almost got himself killed. The house of course was warded so he was caught quick. Methinks Nev need own bodyguard, but of the type to be glued to him so he not get himself in more danger.
So we go back home, Nev with limp, and I think at least son of yours will be home in bed safe. Oh, was I wrong. No Orlath but Flip snoring in bed. Nev waked him very rough and asked what happened. Flip not know, of course, said something about some people come get Orlath to help them track missing priest but he had told Orlath not to go. Yes, right, we all know by now that when we tell son of yours to not do something he will be like cat and do it anyway.
Flip was all upset that we blamed him for not being around first place, so he hurried and took us to where he says the missing priest was from. The neighbors of the old man there say son of yours tracked priest to harbor, then went on to the lighthouse with some people who know how to sail. Good because he is lots worse with boat than with any weapon.
Bad news is there was no more boat. Good news is Nev got really really angry again. You not see him like that I guess, bosslady, for he is always so formal and highty mighty with you, you being the queen and all. I learned few new curses form him today. He drag me and Flip all the way to where small runner ship from embassy is, that one with few crew and fast sails for messages and all the elf magic on it. We were super fast so he must have done some magic again, and we only bump into few people too. He tells crew we were in need of ship for an emergency rescue mission of the prince embassador (still glad I know how to spell that). Yeah he say rescue mission, but then I did not know why. He later says he had heard wizard crooks talk about the lighthouse and their big boss that is there.
They all jump at that and give crap about a permission you usual need for going to lighthouse with ship larger than rowboat son of yours took. Those elven ships are really spiffy. We went super fast and when half to the other island there was a small ship about same size as ours coming round looking like it tried to get away from the lighthouse island.
Turns out it was the supposed big bad evil boss fleeing the place. Not so big and not so bad, not even a wizard type guy as Nev had thought. He surrendered right away and say something about being chased out by a group of crazy people. When we get to lighthouse, the group of crazy people is a one man show. Son of yours made illusion image of himself and us attacking and threw some fireballs and them all run fleeing or gave up, and a few were all dead. Son of yours not good with pointy things but who needs a sword with this sort of magic? He had bad headache tho, says it's from to much of magic in to short a time. Nev say the prince better really stay in bed for some time and I agree. Won't let him out of house until healer and the mage guild guy scary old bloke) say it's fine. Promise.
Nev says to remember to tell that the big boss was the new lighthouse keeper, but really was a former guard leader guy, who was chased out after we got rid of that Milton cult guy. I hope we saw last of lighthouse but son of yours thinks we should do the lighthouse keeper job and make sure no one else gets in. Also says real good mages need a tower. Methink he got hit on head or drained of magic once too often. Don't want to live on island when we can't even drive boat. And storms, ick. Nev says it was a joke but you never know with Orlath!
Friday, 20th April, 2012, 04:29 PM #26
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Some weeks later...
3rd of Peli
I am sorry for replying so late, but we have been quite busy, not only with studying. But study time is now done with for a while. As the weather in Freeport has been unbearably hot, with the city's streets and the stink of the harbor which is overgrown with some brown algae really not making it better, Nev and me have decided to go on a long planned field trip to see the rest of this island and maybe a few other ones. The Temple of Knowledge is closed for the summer ceremonies anyway, and we really didn't want to be involved in all those boring rituals. We'll be leaving in a few days and hope to have some really needed downtime from studying.
The reason for not writing sooner, however, is that we have been doing Finn, the crime lord Flip has been working part time for (yes, I have figured out by now he is in your employ in other ways than just being my servant) a favor in checking something out in a place he has been to before. Finn's a halfling, too, so maybe that is why Flip decided to stop his whining about caution and all, but maybe you know about the issue already and just didn't tell me. In any case, we figured it would be fine to help out.
It may not be anything important. It is just that lots of Finn's beggars have disappeared without a trace. Funny thing is, he seems to really worry about them and not only about his loss of income. He used to be adventuring, and he got a limp from it which stops him from doing much on his own nowadays. He even offered to pay us and presented it in such a way it would not insult rich folks. Well, you did tell us to be more independent with money so we took that offer.
When we asked around a bit, most people blamed the disappearance on some cult or the other. I mean, by now, everyone in Freeport blames everything on cults first. Some others think it is a new, secret press gang. But Uthas – yes, Uthas of all people, he isn't half as dumb as people tend to think – figured out that whenever people talked about specific disappearances – a guy usually frequenting a bar every day, a religious type going to the temple daily, beggars not showing up at their usual places – it always seems to happen around new moon. Some accounts were not sure about when exactly it happened. But this all screamed werewolf to me, and if anything, our family does have a knack for dealing with any sort of shifter.
2nd day into our questioning, something totally weird happened. A bunch of ravens gone mad attacked us in the afternoon when we were leaving the stink of the docks. They attacked Nev and flip, mainly, and Uthas grabbed barrels of wine and oil and opened it and drenched most of them in it. It was the weirdest sight, and we had to pay for the goods of course. I'm ashamed to admit I had no idea what to do as torching the birds would have hurt the others. Uthas was really quick in thinking there, and as soon as the ravens were all wet they couldn't fly and we were fine. Uthas wanted to kill them but Flip got the help of a druid instead to talk to the birds. Turns out they were controlled by some powerful spellcaster - a rival mage, maybe, seeing how we did make some enemies with our money and skills and deeds – so we let them fly off once the druid cleaned them up. Nev thought it might be related to our investigation but we forgot to follow up on the matter. Turned out to be a mistake.
What was definitely related was the thug attack the next night after we've given up trying to stake out the kidnapper or killer. It was a rather pathetic attempt at our lives, Uthas dealt with two of them so fast I had hardly time to cast a web spell on the others. And before you ask, yes, the spell works fine now except that the net still looks very funny. But the spell is not designed for beauty, so who really cares, mom!
Anyway, their leader had a raven with him that flew off when they went down. Turned out the thugs had been hired by some "creepy ugly dark guy." Yeah, nice description. The raven was his way of communicating with them, and being no fools (other than attacking us) the thugs had tracked the birds down to the warehouse district.
So, we contacted the druid again for help with finding anyone with strong connections to flying animals, especially birds. Not much came out of it though. We were also going around invisible most of the time so the bird spies could not track us. Still nothing. But when we mentioned the birds to Finn, he got very quiet and then told us about how he got that lame leg. It was while he defended a village from some demon bird controlling thing called a vrock, which had the lizardfolk in the area riled up, quite a long time back. He was part of a force protecting their new found wealth or something, but in any case, not many adventurers survived and he was one of the surviving heroes. Seems he and a paladin of the group managed to finish the demon off but the paladin of justice didn't make it. Quite sad story. Strange how Finn became involved in crime, then, but he's not half a bad guy in any case. Just has an issue with birds, especially ravens and crows. We didn't think anything of that story. It just made us like the man more.
Checking the warehouse district proved super bothersome. We could either be invisible and safe or able to ask around and vulnerable. We resorted to having Flip in disguise be visible while the rest of us stayed around for support if anything happened. Nothing happened though and we found out that a creep matching the description of the thug was renting a few buildings and often showed up with filled sacks.
The man renting those buildings out didn't want to tell us anything, we guess he knows that most of the time his property is used for illegal stuff and doesn't want to know. Uthas had to pin him against the wall to get some answers.
The old man renting the place seemed to just want and out of the way place with a boat launch. He paid in jewelry, probably stolen stuff. We got the key to the warehouse after we promised to keep the damage to a minimum. The gleam in Uthas' eyes as Nev said that was funny, Uthas' idea of minimum damage is to leave the walls standing.
So that is where we will be this evening. I'll let you know how it all went, I have no doubt it will work out, demon or no demon. Nev says this thing isn't too strong so we should easily be able to get rid of it.
Your Loving son Orlath
On a ship crossing the Eastern Ocean, a young elf woman in plain brown shirts and pants was standing watching the quiet sea. Her long, red blond hair appeared to be flame in the light of the setting sun. To a casual observer, she appeared to be admiring the view or maybe just resting after a day's work in the ship's belly. To anyone looking more closely, her slight frown would have been obvious, and the letter in her hand seemed to be the reason for her worry, or maybe annoyance, as she kept throwing looks at it. Finally, she sat on the deck just as the sun was turning the sea into a blood red shade. A piece of paper and a feather appeared in front of her, hovering there, held by a magic second nature to her. Then the feather began to write with green ink coming out of nowhere.
Thanks for letting me know I'll have to play hide and seek with my little brother and his friends now. Figures they decide to turn and run just when I'm about to reach them. Almost like they felt me coming. You sure you didn't mention I was really on my way this time?
Yes, of course I'm sure I can find them. I've tracked them down before, and I'm pretty sure Flip will manage to leave some directions as you ordered. Annoying they would not even tell you where exactly they planned to go, or maybe they do not know yet and just plan on drifting along. I wonder if they will ever grow up. And going after a demon, without a priest or paladin by their side? Well, I'm going to remedy that, and I won't let them out of my sight for a while. I just hope they won't be dead before I can get there. Now I really wish I had taken the offer to teleport at least half way in, but you know, me and teleports...
The ship's captain has agreed to skip some of the ports she wanted to reach after I showed her my royal ring and paladin's shield. I guess I'm pretty weird to consider it better to travel the old fashioned way and not to show everyone who and what I am, but hey, it worked wonders for me before. Of course, this ship is not half as fast as a royal messenger ship would have been, one more thing to be sorry about. But it seemed Orlath and Nev had settled in so well and after all they had promised to stay out of trouble.
I'm overreacting, aren't I? Maybe the pure fact that you really sent me after them is enough to be close to panic, as they had been in trouble before and you never saw the need. If there is something else I should be aware of, please let me know, ok?
Thursday, 26th April, 2012, 10:39 AM #27
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Burn, evidence, burn
4th of Peli
We did it, we found the abducted beggars, although not all survived and some clearly lost their marbles. Also, I was wrong about Uthas and his idea of minimal damage.
We sneaked in invisible, which was easy enough as the warehouse was not designed to be high security. The only guard seemed to be an ogre who was playing dice with himself. We would have spelled him to sleep; however Uthas had other ideas. He happened to know and hate the guard – seems it was a slaver wanted in all Freeport, even by the gangs. You know Uthas and slavery, it is worse than Uthas and drugs. Before we knew it, he attacked the ogre with a battle cry and thus, of course, lost his invisibility.
Uthas, in a rage, is an easy match for a non-barbarian ogre so we ignored that at first. Flip pointed out the captives, who were stuck in crates full of sand, buried except for their heads. Their tongues had been removed and they had other wounds visible, too. Some of those marks were sigils of clearly abysmal nature, although at that point we were not able to figure out to which demon they would belong.
There was also a cage with a large, 4-legged bird with very small wings in it. The strangest thing. It sure couldn't fly. It started trying to open the hatch of the cage, and it was obvious that it was meant to be a guard of some sort. As Flip went to have a closer look and to find out how to seal the cage better, it breathed a black cloud at him, and Flip went down coughing. When he got back up, he suddenly attacked me, and there was madness in his eyes. The cloud functions like a spell, it seems. Nev didn't waste any time to wait for the thing to be out, he created an acid cloud around the cage while I was trying to fend Flip off without hurting him. I ended up using the sleep spell on the halfling and we had to carry him out later.
I don't know what else Nev did to the bird, but when I had Flip sleeping and saw the ogre was trying to run from Uthas, he had put an arcane lock on the cage, and the bird was unconscious. Now, at this point, Uthas should have just let it go and help us with the captives, but him being him, it was more important for him to catch the slaver. Unfortunately, the ogre had managed to trip him, so he was on the ground and wouldn't catch the guy before he made it to the tap door in the ground likely leading to the water.
You remember, mom, your advice to give Uthas some alchemist's fire in small doses to fend off thugs without having to result to a full fight? Well, I did that, and at that point Uthas had about 20 such small bottles designed to inflame the gear or clothes of any one person. He obviously decided that 1) the ogre was larger than one person and/or 2) that he wanted to do more damage than just a minor burn. So he hurled all the bottles at his foe at once. Some of them hit and as a result, Uthas really got a burning, screaming ogre torch. But the others, as it is the nature when throwing several small things at once, spread out over the back of the warehouse and set alight what must have been the ogre's sleeping spot made of old dry rags and some supply crates which also caught fire. And unfortunately, the sleeping place of the guard had been in a corner, so the walls quickly caught fire, too.
So we suddenly had an inferno on our hands while most of the victims were still stuck in crates. Nev had used his self-developed puppet master spell on those that were free, but he co9uldn't do that with all of them and they were so affected by their ordeal that they were either mad or unable to react. Uthas, who had come out of his rage in a sort of daze, went to free some of them and just grabbed them and carried them out. When he broke down the doors, a bunch of beggars appeared in search of their friends. Seems we have been watched all the time, or maybe it was just obvious what was happening here.
With their help, we managed to get most of the captives out, only leaving behind some of those that Nev's divination marked as unfixable. I hope they died a quick death in the smoke, although I think Uthas might have mercy killed some of them. I carried Flip out first, of course.
The beggar king, calling himself "Emperor Oswald" is a nice and weird guy. Tall and thin with a hawk nose and tattered clothes, he had all the behavior of a drama actor playing a noble. He merely thanked us and then tended to the freed captives. He had some sort of charm to control them, too, it seemed.
Once we had gathered around Nev, watching the inferno that used to be a warehouse and getting ready to leave, a gnome we recognized as Flinn's lieutenant appeared via a dimension door. He wasn't too happy with the ruckus we had created and also worried the fire would catch, but a whole lot of workers and guard from around had already gathered to try save the other warehouses.
In all the mass of people, we noticed a strange female figure wandering around, seemingly looking for something. Nev noticed the symbol of the God of Justice around her neck, so he approached her and asked if she was looking for someone. Turned out she had been after the ogre slaver Uthas disposed off, and was clearly satisfied with the end he had.
And then she saw the demonic symbols on the freed captive's faces and seemed to get a real shock over it. She told us those were the symbols of a demoness called Decarabia. We had never heard of her before. She is the demon queen of birds, we were told.
At this point she remembered she hadn't properly introduced herself and said her name was Asha Sante. This was heard by the gnome lieutenant, Trask, who expressed that Finn was looking for her and she should come with him and told us to follow when we were done mopping up. He said we should try and get info from the captives – how do you get information from tongueless, mad folks?
Nev created a gust of wind blowing the sparks and flames back from the nearest warehouse and I helped him a bit. Flip eventually woke up and was normal again. One of the beggars who had come to help said that some of their rescued friends scribbled in the dust about a mad vrock taunting them about being sacrifices and something about birds about to attack the city.
When the fire had died down due to the warehouse falling in, we went to see Finn who was happy this was all over. He deemed it unlikely that the vrock would come back after his sacrifices had been retaken. We agreed, but the Sante woman, who was still with Finn, didn't. She wanted us to help her stop the vrock for good when he would likely attempt to do the ritual, called Night of Decarabia or something like that. Turns out the woman is the daughter of a late adventuring friend of Finn, a paladin of the God of Justice. He gave her the warhammer of her father, which he had kept safe all the years. Finn is a real nice guy for a crime lord. After talking to Asha, Finn said she probably had a point as the next new moon was the 20-year anniversary of the happenings involving the same vrock, the very adventure that cause the man's limp. He agreed it would be cool if we'd help, but as far as he was concerned, his adventuring days were over.
We are still discussing this. On one side, we are the heroes of Freeport and all, on the other side, we can't deal with everything this crime and evil riddled city has a problem with. And the priest of the God of Justice did look like she could handle the situation, she sure knew more about all that demon stuff. Asides, you said we should avoid the demons, so we will probably stay out of this and commence our planned vacation.
Your loving son Orlath
Thursday, 3rd May, 2012, 02:25 PM #28
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Very sorry I messed up with the fire thing, totally lost my level head. I know Nev and son of yours will say I do not have a level head to begin with but them wrong. Slavers are as bad as them demons though so am not all much sorry but apologise to man who owned the warehouse. Son of yours say he will repay him for loss if he leave town and council kinda agrees cuz he been renting to criminals most of time. I promise to be more careful with this fire thing from now.
Day after I made big fire, all went to the birds. And I mean litra..litoral... well in true meaning. Oswald the beggar king came waking us early morning – so says son of yours but it was more like late afternoon and Flip said no water waking for he been out making party with that group of elf chicks. Long story me not suppose tell.
Was one of those days when moon is full bloom when the sun still up, and am not sure if that was good or bad. See, demon did his ritual thing and need full moon for it, and demons love doing stuff at night so the priest lady we met says. Well, this was the right time for that ritual for the moon was full, but also very wrong time for it was still day when moon rise up and all. Do I make sense? So this vrock demon thing got on some rooftop at old boathouse on some abandon like part of docks and got started early, so it would be done when moon goes down early at night. It like thinks no one sees it there before it is too late and starts calling all those angry flock of birds. It is master of bird, somewhat, and loves another demon girl called queen of birds or some such. Not so sure for when the others all talk about it they babbled very fast and use all those arcane and divine words that not stick in my head.
So when moon went up this vrock jock start calling up birds, controls them somehow. Sends birds to attack people. This is the bad part because during day more people in streets even when Freeport never really sleeps. There were small birds and big birds and all sorts sizes between. People run cover, so streets start being empty what is when Oswald come get us, the hero thing and all.
We go out all invisible again, really nice doing that unless folks bump into you. At the main dock we meet the limping halfling and the girl priest who say they don’t know where the birds come from or where the demon is. Flip gets flippy and asks how we are to know, as divination stuff fails on this demon for some reason, Nev tried.
The priest had some sort of bird protection going on, and I got bored so wanted to start smashing them, but just then the druid we met a few days ago comes running, complaining that the birds are innocent and under demon control and not to harm them. Guess he had a point. So they capture one of the doves and try to free it and talk to it, but somehow it won’t work as should. So me get different idea. Son of yours won’t listen, is arguing with priest over some spell. Well, when stuff needs to be done right, do yourself, yes? Is what you always tell son of yours. I look at sky to see where them all come from. There is doves and gulls and such flying in from sea, others from land, and they attack fishers and workers ho are not hiding. But one spot on docks some bit away no flocks go down. So methinks, there must be the demon, no? Why else no bird would attack the spot.
I ask to be invisible again and tell Nev what I think. Nev gets all exited and puts spell back on us, also some silent zone thingy. Son of yours and others are still not listening so Nev is all confedent we can do ourself. I’m there first course for Nev still not train daily. No battle cry though, bit disapointing but then vrock did not hear me and that is good.
The demon dances on that roof of the old boathouse and cackles like raven. Was easy enough to climb up with crates next to it, so I could go have a run at him. Didn’t look at roof though. So when I run at him, a shingle come loose and made me stumble. Embarassingly I lose my axe. And you know what, bosslady? The axe makes right for him and knocks him in the side with blade first. It also sparkles some ellow or orange shade, and then it did not fall down but flew an arch and hit the vrock in head splitting it up. And then... then it came back to my hand!!
Son of yours told me it must be some sort of demonbane weapon when they catched up. Strong one, too. Nev who finished vrock off with some ice spell thinks it must be aware, like a person, intelligent weapon and all that. Want to know if it ever talked to me.
I feel bad saying that bosslady, but it did. I use to hear whispering, funny comments and bad jokes in my mind, not know ever where it was coming from. I know hearing voices not good at all, means loosing yours marbles, never stop think it may be axe. How can I know, was just told this axe is better. Truth is bosslady, me am bit afraid of it now. It hasn‘t whispered since it attacked that demon almost on its own, and Nev thinks it may be angry at me. Maybe it is a female weapon, then, voice always sounded a bit girly to me. Bosslady, i never want marriage or even girlfriend. Women just complicate things big time. I no need explain myself but to son of yours and Nev, and they understand me. No disrespect bosslady, but you said yourself that to keep a woman happy you need be special type of man. I’m not a special type!
Anyways, birds all free after Nev, and probably son of yours, sling spells at vrock and kill it. Priest say it is truly dead not just returned to abyss because it has been outcast or bound of some sort, as I say before too much arcane and divine babble for me to get.
I am happy we won’t see Freeport for a few weeks. Son of yours has plan out our trip to the rest of the isle all well he says. Flip was chuckling when he says that so I am scptri.. scapt... don’t trust it.
7th of Peli
Flip was sooo right not to trust son of yours to plan anything. He took us to a swamp! Says there are talks of all sorts of treasure there, and he and Nev always wanted to be treasure hunters, even if they don’t really need them. Nev joked and said real heroes need to be adventuring out of town, and need to hunt treasures. Maybe wasn’t joke, not sure. But this is all crap.
You probably never were in deep swamp, bosslady. Us not before, too. Let me tell you you find dirt and crawlers everywhere on body after a few hours, and it is all smelly, too. Here are all sorts of living things not friendly but despite having some crocs and snake and a meat eating plant come at us (got a ring of protection from that one because it won’t fit on anyone elses finger) we did find no treasure but the ring and a few coins and an old key from that plant.
Most of time we don’t even have dry place to rest at. Last evening we finally find a place not so wet, with a statue of a warrior in the middle. Nev thinks this was middle of a large park or some such one time back. Of course he checks out that thing and cleans it up. And you know, what a coinca... coci... weird happening that they key we found and almost threw in swamp was a fit for under a writing when they de-mossed the statue. I’m sure the gods play tricks on us.
So you can guess what happen next. Those 2 dumbheads – sorry to have say that – make clear we go down the entrance they find when them turn key, which was almost stuck and they shoulds have taken hint from it. Cuz there was 9 stupid mummies and skeleton and something other rotten down there and it all smell worse than swamp. And the old dust all stick to us. Also am sure you can guess who had to do most the smashing.
Today we come across some sort of ambush with fake treasure, a lizardfolk village where they sacrifice people to appease their dread king or some such and some giant crabs mating who got unhappy with us disturbing. So sick of the place, but we can’t leave just yet. Oh no, son of yours thinks we need to deal with this dread king stuff, too. We are the heroes of Freeport, for the Wargod’s sake. Not the heroes of some smelling swamp sane people not go to.
9th of Peli
I want out of here, now! I’m sure you can make him do it, some how, he is son of yours after all. We are stuck and maybe lost in this swamp, and me having to free Flip from the sinkholes or carrying him over the deeper parts doesn’t help at all. Flip says not to tell you – everyone but me has lost their magic missives though so I feel can write whatever I want.
We found that so called dread king. Is no monster or some such. Is gnome sorcerer guy with too much of a magic item problem. Some old treasure, an amulet he finds long time go, makes him turn into evil. So he was, so to say, a small problem. He now is all fine and will help lizard peoples but before he went normal again he froze Nev into swamp and son of yours healed the cold wounds but with that arcane healing it does not help with Nev moving, so he is limping and needs help and we are all very slow.
I need things to smash, I does!
The late afternoon sun reflected brightly from Lhess‘ hair as she was watching the madness that was Freeport’s harbor draw close. It had been a while that she had been in a port city, other than boarding ships that was. The chaos of such places was both intriguing and disturbing to her. She knew that in most ports, there was a definite order behind all the chaos, but from the little she had heard about this place, there was a definite chaos behind all resemblance of order.
Something was different as they put in, something other harbors had in abundance. There were no birds around. No seagulls, no doves, not even the annoying little fishbiters, whatever they would be called here. The ship’s crew noticed, too, and it was the first thing the second mate shouted from the ship down. “Where did all the birds go?“
“Afraid t’ come back, the birds are,” a halfling dock hand yelled back in a jolly voice. “Was some sort of demon here a bit ago ‘n it forced the birds t’ obey ‘n attack people. Lots of birds died, and I guess them didn’t like any of it. The birds killed some people, too, though. Tell ya, without the birds it might be quieter, but there’s more dirt all round. Gulls ‘n doves use t’ do a good job in eating trash, them did. When them come back eventually, some folks will sure appreciate them more.”
“A demon?” Lhess was sure that there had not been two of those around at once. “What happened to it?”
“The heroes of Freeport drove em off, them did. With some help from a priest ‘n druid ‘n the boss from the Halfling organization.” The dock hand finished his job tying the ship. He seemed mightily proud of halflings being involved in the matter.
“Would I find those heroes somewhere?” the paladin asked.
“Them got a house in the city, expensive, too. The leader of the group is a noble, ya know? Some high ‘n mighty prince from the elf Realms, them say. Not sure where exactly, mayhap in Drac’s End.”
“Thank you.” Lhess gabbed her pack with her shield and weapons tied to it and jumped off the ship before the plank could be lowered. If she could not find Orlath and the others, she could just let herself in and wait for them. After all, before becoming a paladin, she had led a life out for excitement and pranks much like her brother.
At the same time, not long after Uthas had, in all secrecy of course, sent his letter, the group of swamp soaked adventurers finally found a path out of the wet zone – at least as far as the terrain was concerned. The weather, however, had taken a turn for the worse and heavy rain was now soaking them relentlessly as they stepped out on a plain covered with lush grass.
“Finally” The Goddess of all Beauty be thanked.” Flip dropped on the biggest patch of grass he could find. “Swamp alone is bad enough, but swamp and rain is terrible.”
“At least the rain kept those flying bugs off,” Uthas growled. “And it sure helps cleaning our stuff.”
“Yeah, about that.” Nev pushed wet hair out of his face. “I can fix our equipment little by little, but I’d like to keep some spell power for more important stuff.”
“We have him for the other stuff.” Flip pointed at Orlath, who was still hopeless with any sort of spells fixing or cleaning things.
“Yes, but still. First we need to find a dry place.”
“There is that,” Flip agreed and looked around. He was sitting on a moss and grass covered stone, and as he stood upon it he had almost as good a view of the area as his taller companions. “Not that there is anything around we could take shelter in – or under.”
“Who had the hare brained idea to leave Freeport again?” Uthas stared at the prince, who seemed not to listen. He was, instead, staring at the stone Flip was standing on.
“What?” Flip looked down, too, but all he could see was moss and grass, nothing seemed remarkable about the stone.
“That stone is hewn and polished,” the prince explained. “It looks like it has been part of a wall, probably the upper part of a foundation of sorts.”
Nevukh nodded. “Seems so. So what?”
“Buildings from that age usually had basements, no? Maybe there is something to dig out around here.”
“Seriously?” The half-orc stared. “After the undead under that statue, you want to go digging around again?”
“Those undead were a mere hassle,” Orlath pushed dripping hair out of his face and then gave up and shook his head instead. “And usually, abandoned basements are just abandoned basements.”
Flip had come down from the rock and had a closer look. “Actually, I think this is a marker stone for a smuggler’s lair, not a foundation for anything.”
“Marker stone?” Orlath bent down do check what Flip was pointing at. He could barely make out the symbol of the moon on the withered stone.
“Smugglers use those, usually covered in bushes or other plants, to mark the entrance to their inland lairs. We can’t be that far from the shore, then. This one’s clearly abandoned, but asides from maybe still having stuff inside, it should give shelter until the rain is done with. We could use a dry night.”
“So how to get it open? It’s not magical, is it?” Uthas sniffed the air as if he could smell magic. All that happened was that he got water in his nose and had to sneeze.
The halfling was already looking for an opening mechanism. He produced a set of thieves' tools and inserted a long pin into a small, moss covered hole and twisted it. “If I’m not mistaken, this should.... aaaah!”
A low rumble shook the ground, and the place where Flip had been standing rotated sideways, sending earth and grass flying. It almost got stuck but the mechanism proved strong enough to open it all the way.
Barely catching his balance, Flip slid over the wet grass for a bit and then shook his head. “What idiot makes the entrance so you’d fall in it?”
“I guess you used to rotate with the stairs.” Pointing at the still solid looking wooden stairs attached to the platform, he mumbled a word and the tip of his sword lit up in a bright light. “Let’s get dry, then, before the rain floods the place up.”
“Smells fresh enough.” Uthas, his not-so-much trusted axe in hand, went down first. “And it smells sea water, so maybe the smugglers used to come out here and had tunnels to the ocean.”
“Yeah, good thinking.” Orlath went in second, and Nev and flip followed, the halfling closing the mechanism again. Dripping water on the ground, they could hear no other sound. The hallway they were standing in had two rooms to the right, which were filled with old crates. Nev made Flip’s sword light up, too, and the halfling went to check them out while Nev went about drying and cleaning their stuff, especially their clothes. The halfling heard Uthas complaining about being last to be dried out, and Orlath mumbling about not feeling confident enough if he would not look regal enough while he opened the first crate. Thanks to their discussion, the halfling’s gasp of surprise went unheard.
The small boxes in the crate carried the late Sea Lord Drac’s symbol. Each of them was sealed with wax, and clearly labeled as to their contents. Whatever it was Drac had been planning after his cult was to have taken over Freeport, it involved the use of a lot of alchemical mixtures, magic potions and, as he quickly checked out the next room, scrolls and magic items. The latter were clearly labeled as to their enchantments.
“There is a table here. And a strange mirror,” Uthas called from the end of the tunnel. And more doors, one to the left, one to the right.”
“Anything interesting in there, Flip?” Orlath called back.
“You could say that.” Quickly catching up to the others, Flip opened the other rooms which were also not trapped in any way. While he explained what he had found, he checked out the barrels and crates in the right room. This time, he found weapons, not all of them magically enhanced but those that were were also clearly labeled. Some looked stolen, an impression he had had with the items in the other room, too – like a holy hammer which was definitely paladin’s weapon or maybe tat of a priest. The room to the left contained jewels and money in abundance. Probably all the money, Nev mused wile watching in astonishment as more and more riches came out, which the council was missing when they checked out the books after Drac’s death.
“So, we come through a dirty, annoying swamp, deal with a twisted gnome, beasts and plants and all, and get almost nothing, and then we stumble over a smuggler’s nest, or rather a cult stash, and get all the riches?” shaking his head, the half-orc looked into the boxes. “Someting’s wrong about that.”
“There’s something even more wrong,” Flip sighed. “If I know our bosses right, they’ll want to return most, if not all of it, to the council.”
“No, not right now, anyway,” the prince answered to everyone’s surprise. “We don’t know who the next sea lord would be, or, given the current political tensions, if there will even be a next sea lord. We will not give money to a potential evil government. We would be better off helping the poor with it. Or use it in other means to achieve our goals.”
“Huh? What goals?” “Goals? What?” “What are you talking about?”
“I’ve just decided that going around on a whim and wasting our energy on undirected adventures and waiting for people to come ask our help isn’t going to cut it. We are representatives of the Realm. We should start acting like it. Maybe mom was right all along and we need to grow up. The Realm stands for justice and equality. We should, too.” Orlath straightened himself. “The gods have given us a clear hint. Our little swamp adventure may not have done much much but help a gnome and some lizards. But that alone made it worth something, not our going after riches we don’t even need. And now we find this.”
“Never knew you to be the religious type, boss.” Uthas looked doubtful and stared at the prince as if he had been taken over by something.
Nev grinned at his friend. “You have a point, but hey, we are heroes already and always did what we could. You are not telling us to get all serious now, and not to have fun anymore, do you?”
“We stumbled into being heroes. Nev, you have sometimes told me to take things more serious. We will do that now. But we’ll also have plenty of options to have fun, still.” With a wide smile, he gestured at all the riches. “We just need to find a way to access this from our place, or get it all there. And then we need a plan.”
“A plan for what, exactly?”
“To make the world around us better, of course.” Orlath seemed to shine from an inner light.
That was when Flip decided the prince still had no idea about real life and was just exchanging one blue eyed view for another. But this, he supposed, was still better than drifting aimlessly.
“Found another hallway,” Uthas shouted from a corner. “And there are more rooms.”
While Flip checked those out, Nev took a piece of dry paper out of a scroll case and started making inventory. “If we are going to use all this, we need to know what we have.”
“The hallway goes on.” Not wanting to go much further in the dark despite his dark vision, Uthas waited for the others. “Or do we just stay here for the night and check the rest out later?”
“Yes, please, I’m tired and want a good dry night’s sleep,” Flip sighed. The others agreed. While Nev was still noting down items, the others set up camp in one of the first rooms, where they could open up the exit a little for the smoke to get out. For the first time in long days they could rest comfortably after a warm meal.
Thursday, 3rd May, 2012, 11:20 PM #29
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It had been easy enough for Lhess to let herself in, as her brother had created a magical trap not triggering for her family or anyone marked by him. He always did that, completely ignoring that not all members of their family would be that friendly, but then he had always been blue eyed.
Without disturbing the privacy of her friends and relatives, the young woman went through the rooms and admired the way everything was set up. You could see royal education and expensive taste everywhere but in Uthas’ room. The magically infused garden was a very pleasant surprise. Lhess could feel divine energies at work here in addition to the arcane ones, but she guessed the others hadn’t noticed this yet.
There were two spare rooms in the attic, and with her usual busy way, she set to converting them into a small place of worship to her gods and a room for herself. She would consider tracking down the others if they were not back the next day, she decided. For now, she would try not to embarrass them by just dropping in on whatever so-called adventure they might be on. They were probably just aimlessly wandering the island.
But the next morning brought a surprise for her. The sun was not quite up yet when someone was knocking at the door, loud and steadily. Not quite awake yet, the paladin considered ignoring the call, after all no one would be looking for her. But then, it might be something important so she got up when the knocking didn’t cease and opened the door in her morning robes, looking not quite regal with her messed up hair ans sleepy eyes.
Two human men, a half-elf youngster, a gnome elder and a half-halfling, half dwarf family with about a dozen children stood in front of the door, looking tired, dirty from travel and distinctly hungry. “Excuse us, we are looking for the heroes of Freeport,” the dwarf woman, who was looking like the mother of the family, spoke up. “The city guards told us to come here and ask for help, as they can’t do a thing about places outside the city.”
Lhess blinked. “My brother and his friends aren’t home,” she replied, taking in the group while trying to wake up fully. “I just arrived last night myself.” Noticing the despair in the eyes of the gnome elder, she opened the door and invited them in. “But maybe I can help you? And you sure look like you could use some rest and food and some cleaning up.”
Obviously grateful, the group entered under the coordination of the gnome and the dwarf. There were not a dozen, but 18 children, Lhess counted, and not all of them seemed to belong to the dwarf-halfling couple. One girl seemed to be all human, and there was a gnome boy and an orc girl. Taking matters in hand as it was her nature, Lhess directed everyone to the lavish bathroom and helped clean up the children, and once done with that she put them to rest in whatever bed they were closest to, usually 3 in one bed, and the older ones on the floor. Once everyone was cleaned and in several sets of spare clothing they had luckily carried, she ushered the grown ups into the living room and dealt out what little food she currently had on hand.
“Now,” she said just as the old gnome fell asleep on the couch after eating, “what happened to you? You are not from Freeport I gathered. Did someone drive you off your land or robbed you?”
“Something like it, but...” The halfling shook his head. “First things first. We are from Coasthold, a village a day or so travel from here. On foot that is. A week or so ago, a group of bandits moved in and decided to make our place their new headquarter. They kicked people out of their houses ans killed or hurt whoever would not comply. They stole everything valuable, too. Many tried to run but were brought back or killed as well. We got out with his help.” The man pointed to the snoring gnome. “he made us invisible, but he could not take everyone with us so our friends gave us their kids. He would have stayed behind to do it for others as well but they would have known and killed him.”
Lhess face darkened. “And there is, of course, no authority to protect you in this area, no government to stop the brigands.”
“Indeed not. But the area had been peaceful for decades, as the pirates and robbers don’t usually do anything in their backyard. We guess those bandits came from the mainland, but we rather not ask the criminal guilds here for help lest they see us as indebted.”
“Have you tried the Temple of Justice?”
“Yes, but they have no one to spare, being understaffed and everyone able to do something out on missions. They marked us down as to be checked out but it could take days or even weeks.” The half-elf boy sounded bitter about that, and no wonder. “I guess in a city like this, their priests and paladins will always be overly busy.”
“When will the heroes be back?” the dwarf woman asked. “And would they help?”
“I do not know,” Lhess admitted. “My friends went to explore the island. With some luck they have already stumbled over your village.” She would not wonder about that, Nev and especially her brother had always had a talent to stumble over things like that.
“We can not bet on luck. Luck has already deserted us,” the taller man said. “We need something real.”
The heroic swamp wanderers and treasure finders woke up considerably later. Uthas was the one waking up latest this time, having suffered most – or so he claimed – from the swamp ordeal. Nev was already continuing with the inventory when the half-orc went outside to check things out, which mostly meant to find a place to do his business. Uthas did notice something out of the ordinary on the way back. A black plume of smoke was coming from the south west, where the coast must be located if he wasn’t half asleep still. A burning building, he guessed, but he called Flip up to confirm.
Flip sucked at his pipe for a bit and then nodded. “Burning building, something tall, probably a wooden tower, or maybe someone is burning down a bunch of high trees. Could be lightning caused it. Could be some crazy person randomly burning down buildings as there has been smoke in that direction a day or so before. Just didn’t mention it because I didn’t want the prince to change direction and lose the likely path out of that swamp.”
“Could also be some attack?” Uthas pressed.
“Stuff like that can always be an attack. Which makes it even more important for us not to mention it. Can you imagine those two nobles of ours chasing off after the next adventure, probably with not fully known potions and weapons, and we will have to go after them to save them from themselves again?”
“They got better, lately.”
“Better, yeah. But remember the prince’s talk about responsibility last night? That’s just a more mature reason for him to chase off after whatever looks like someone could need some help. Saving the world and all that blue eyed nonsense.”
The bodyguard grunted. “They would be safer out here.” Keeping the prince safe was, after all, his job, not rescuing people, although he liked to do one thing with the other. “Has been a hassle to make sure they don’t get into too much trouble.”
“Exactly. So, we are clear, then? No word about this.”
Nodding, Uthas made to go back downstairs. “Not a hint at it. Let’s check the rest of those tunnels out instead.”
Some hours later, Nev was done with the inventory of the many rooms, with the help of his magic quill. Uthas and Flip had scouted the smuggler tunnel leading towards the coast and had reported in all clear after dispatching a group of dire rats and disarming a simple slide trap.
Orlath had been staring into the mirror for a while, which was unusual even for a prince caring for his personal appearance. When he didn’t respond to Nev’s inventory report, Uthas tapped him on the shoulder and caused him to jump. "Don’t' do that," the prince gasped. “I was concentrating.”
“On what?” the half-orc wondered, scratching his head. Orlath was weird at times, but his bodyguard could not remember an incident like this one. “It’s only a mirror and you don’t look different in this one than in all the others you use to stare into.”
“Oh be quiet, Uthas. This is not a mirror. I mean, not a mirror mirror.” Noticing the growing confusion and worry in the half-orc’s eyes, the prince pointed to what looked like minor scratches on the edge of the mirror’s surface. “See that?”
“Yeah, someone’s not been careful with that thing. Say boss, did you drink one of the potions without double checking or something?”
“What? No, silly. Those are arcane symbols. Magic stuff, you know,” he tried to make it more clear to the barbarian. Uthas only grunted.
“Say what?” Now Nev was stepping closer and began to stare into the mirror the same way. Then he whistled.
“What’s going on?” Flip inquired, trying to look around the legs of the taller folk, growing slightly impatient with the situation.
Uthas made a twirling motion with his fingers. “I think they’ve gone nuts.”
“I’m telling you, it is a magic mirror,” Orlath insisted. “It can transport you anywhere you know, like a teleport spell. You just need to think of the place. Oh and you need to be able to trigger the arcane magic of course.”
“Of course,” Flip sighed. “If it is like that, then why do we only see ourselves?”
“It’s a protection for the user,” Nev said, tracing some of the arcane marks with his finger. “Only who thinks of a place can see it. And from what I see, the one activating the magic can push anyone or anything through it, so it is more like a one way portal than a spell.”
“This is a one way thing, then?” Flip noticed. “Means that, probably, there is another one like this somewhere to get back here?”
“Not necessarily, after all, the stuff in here was brought here the usual way. But it explains why the exit above has not been used in what looked like decades,” Nev mused.
“But it means we can go back home, then?” Uthas was, as most of the time, the practical one. “And get all the stuff here home, too?”
“We’d not have space to put all this, not even using the attic, the basement and part of the garden, I don’t think,” Orlath replied. “But in theory, yes.”
“We would have the space.” The organizer in Flip came out. “One or two of us just need to be in the rooms it goes to and push the crates so they don’t waste space. And I’d not use the basement at all. The large room where Uthas put in a training room for the two of you would do for the heavy stuff, everything else can go in the attic.” He lifted a hand to stop Uthas from complaining. “Seriously, i think the two of them will not get any better with sword and staff with you training them – or maybe not at all.”
Uthas grunted acknowledgement. “Guess I’m the one to go home first, then.” He sounded half pleased, half annoyed.
“How do you figure?” Nev wondered.
“You need someone to push the crates around, and that would of course be me. Flip is too short in the butt and too weak in the arms, and the two of you would probably pull something trying to do that job. So, as usual, it’s going to be the barbarian, no?”
“He has a point,” the halfling grinned.
A few minutes later, Nev was working on a plan to get all the stuff home while Flip and Uthas were sealing the exit towards the coast again. “You know, Orlath, there is one issue with the plan,” Nev suddenly noticed.
“And what’s that?”
“How in the name of the Gods of Magic do we get the mirror home? I sure don’t want to leave it here.”
Lhess followed the small creek the refugees of the village had indicated, making sure not to overtax the horse she had borrowed from the Temple of Justice. It was a good solid warhorse belonging to one of their paladins who was currently on sea, and she and the gelding had gotten along well from the beginning. An elven horse might have been trained better, but for being the mount of a half-orc, this one was behaving exceptionally well and was reacting to her commands almost before she gave them.
The horse’s color was of a dull grey, and it didn’t look like much to a casual observer, which was as well. Lhess had no intention to be taken for rich prey. Fighting through thug encounters was boresome to her, even if they came in larger numbers she would just smite and spell them out of her way. She was in full armor and carried her shield, but she had put an illusion around both to make it look like old rusty equipment. It was likely as important not to be seen as worthwhile to rob once she arrived at her destination, and despite being a paladin she had no qualms with stealth if it made sense. She could bother with possible brigands on her way back. And there was no doubt in her proud mind that she would solve the village’s problem alone and come out of it basically unharmed. She was, after all, a paladin of the Realm.
The weather was fine enough, although there were some clouds hanging on the horizon. As Lhess covered her eyes against the sun to see better, she noticed that not all of it was clouds. Something was burning in the direction of the village. Probably a tall building. With her current speed, she would arrive there early afternoon, with plenty of time to check the area out. “The gods give there will be no more deaths,” she prayed.
That was when she noticed the motionless figure just off the road, an arrow sticking out of its shoulder. Lhess dismounted at once, hoping to find whoever it was alive. She found an orc female, from the looks of it a merchant’s guard, the arrow was stuck between her shoulder blades but she was still breathing. Pulling on the arrow, the paladin sent a healing prayer to the God of Health. She was barely done pulling when a golden light played around the wound and over some other parts of the orc and the wound closed. A crunching sound could be heard as the divine magic fixed a dislocated shoulder and a broken rib.
“Wake up,” Lhess whispered. “You are safe for now.” But she knew it could take a while.
“Right, that’s all of the crates and barrels for the training room and the garden,” Nev said, crossing out something on his scroll. “Only a few small crates of riches left that’ll later go in the attic.”
Flip was already shoving those trough the mirror. They were all exhausted after getting all the items here and pushing them through, even though the wizards had helped with levitation spells here and there. “I’m almost done. Then we can go home.”
“Yea about that..” Nev watched the last boxes disappear. “We should continue down the corridor to the coast instead, to find out where exactly we are. That way, we can come back later for the mirror.”
“You can’t be serious.” Flip stopped to look at the magic gateway. The mirror was as tall as an orc and one and a half times as wide, you would be able to ride a horse through if needed. “How could anyone, even Uthas, carry this all the way there? We do not even know if the passage is always wide enough for it.”
“There are spells to reduce the size of such objects,” Nev explained. “I’ve been studying them, but the ones I know until now cannot be used on powerful items like this one. You need a special spell for that and that’ll need some researching.”
“I see. But I don’t think it would be wise of us to go without a good fighter, after all we’ve seen.”
Uthas, who could still hear them from the other side and, if only in shadows, even see them, grinned back trough the gate. “Nice to know I’m wanted but all the pushing and shoving made me very tired. I’d not be good fighting now.”
“Well, we could always rest here another night,” Flip suggested. “But Uthas is gone now, anyway.”
“Ah yeah, about that...” Nev turned to the mirror. “Uthas, come closer to whatever it is you see from us.”
Curious, the half-orc obeyed. No sooner was he in what appeared to be arm’s reach as the noble reached through the mirror, grabbed him and dragged his bodyguard back to the tunnels. “As I thought. Not quite so one way, after all sound could pass through and you saw something, didn’t you?”
Astonished and also somewhat disappointed not to be back home anymore, Uthas nodded. “Mostly you appeared like shadows.”
“We’ll figure it’s secret out. Now, let’s cover some distance towards the shore. And who knows, we might find yet more stuff,” the prince said in a cheerful voice. Uthas and Flip groaned in unison.
From the top of the rise they were standing on, well hidden behind bushes, Coasthold appeared like a normal fishing village, with the exception that one of the 2 towers build to serve as signal point for the boats had been burned down. That had been the plume of smoke from earlier. Oher than that, there was no current sign of struggle, although 2 barns had been burned down recently as well. The orc woman grunted in annoyance. “Master’s carriage isn’t here, I think.”
“How do you figure? Could be in the stable, or the barns.”
The orc’s name was Thalla, and she was indeed a merchant’s guard. Her charge had been attacked by a group of mostly orcs all clad in black and blue leathers, and they had left her for dead after the attack, but had taken their master hostage. Ransom was a good way to make money, although in the Freeport area, abducting rich people could get you into troubles with both the authorities and the local criminal guilds and pirates. To keep Freeport a safe haven, even the thugs had to follow some rules, including not troubling the rich folks keeping the resemblance of order or taking care of the trade.
“His carriage is a fancy thing. Wide set of wheels, and it only has two wheels. It looks like...” Thalla frowned. “Have you ever seen war with charging carriages? Two wheels and fast and can turn almost on spot?”
“Yeah. Why is your master using something like that?” Lhess checked the ground for a sign that such a carriage might have been here, the tracks should have been remarkably different and the ground was wet enough to leave plenty of traces. But she, too, saw nothing despite her keen elven eyes.
“The master got injured in fight some time back. Has a limp, bad hip, can’t ride well anymore. Priests can’t cure it as it was done by a cursed weapon. So, to be as quick and maneuverable as riders, he had the carriage made. His own design.”
“Nice. But I think you are right, then, your master is not here. A different group of bandits must have taken him. Or maybe he has enemies?”
“Aye, he has enemies. But they would rather try and get him by ruining his business.”
“There have been no traces going off the main road, where could the carriage have gone? Lhess shook her head. “In any case, I’ll help find your master but I need to take care of this here, first.”
“And I’ll help. You saved my life and I owe you.” Thalla frowned as if to dare the paladin to contradict her. “You’ll be done here faster, too, and then you can help find master.”
“Right. So, my idea was to sneak close when it is getting dark, but the way it looks now, we might as well ride in like normal travelers. My illusions should hold against most people.”
Thalla shook her head. “Illusions are not good to rely on. What about me riding in pretending to look for some thugs to join? I grew up on a pirate vessel, I can pull it off.”
“The descriptions didn’t sound as if they were so happy to get new people, and here might be some magic involved, too,” Lhess said.
“There is magic involved and you want to employ illusions?” The orc shook her head and chuckled. “Maybe wait until it is dark is best.”
“It’s decided, then.” Lhess grinned. “We must look a crazy pair.”
The orc laughed out. “Yeah, an elf paladin and an orc mercenary. That would be the source of stories.”
Monday, 14th May, 2012, 12:09 AM #30
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"Are we there yet?"
Flip grimaced at Uthas' annoyed question. The orc had asked at least 5 times over the last half an hour or so, and the halfling was getting tired of it. From the moment they had seen the slightest hint of light up ahead, the barbarian had become increasingly impatient. "No," he replied again, searching the glassified ground for any traps. "I told you before, the light reflects from the mirror-like walls and we can't know how much further we need to go."
"Considering I was in our comfortable home a while ago and could not sleep in my comfortable bed – dry, warm and safe, I might add – any distance is too far."
"You could just wait here, of course, or go back," Nev snapped. The mage was tired and sweaty and cold, but most of all, he was annoyed at the half-orc. He had never seen Uthas so impatient and foul mooded, and it was rubbing off on him. It seemed to be the same with the prince, as far as he could tell, but his friend didn't talk, just grunted now and then, and that could mean a lot with Orlath.
Sneaking around the next bend, Flip sighed at the tunnel's slightly upward slope. It was the same glassy floor, the same challenge free environment. Normally he would have been happy about not finding anything dangerous. However, they were walking for quite some time in an unchanging, boring environment, and he was growing very tired of it, so much so that he was sometimes not sure if he had checked for traps or not. His mind was beginning to wander. Since they had torched a net of poisonous spiders way back, there had been little change except for the hint at some light ahead now.
"So, are we there yet?"
"I swear, if you ask that one more time I'll put a permanent silence spell on you," Nev hissed.
"When did you learn do cast permanency?" Orlath suddenly grumbled. It was the first thing he had said in hours.
Flip was about to turn around and snap at all of them when the strangeness of the situation wiggled into his consciousness. They never behaved to each other this way, even with the occasional conflicts and status related differences. Something odd was going on. And he wasn't a halfling if this would not have to do with the tunnel they were walking through. "You two said there was no magic in this tunnel, right?" he made sure he heard right. "And that it looks like this because it's been made by a fire elemental?"
"Yeah," Nev growled. "Are you going to start repeating your questions now, too?"
"Look, if you would just..." The thief caught himself and took a deep breath. "I mean, would there be anything else but magic to twist your mind and make you angry and gloomy?"
"Uthas' questions?" the prince offered.
"Hey, maybe you don't care to get out of here but I..."
"It was a serious question," Flip interrupted the bodyguard. "What all can affect your mind if it does not detect as magic?"
"There are some magic manipulations that won't detect, but if you are suggesting this is the case here, then forget it." Nev pointed to the glassy tunnel. "There is no way anything could be hidden here, or work for miles on end."
Scratching his head, Flip looked at the glassy walls and ground of the tunnel again. "What else could make a tunnel like this if not a fire elemental? Do fire elementals melt stone, even?"
"Nah, sand, mostly, that is where the glass comes from, and we are in a sandy area, after all. Move on, I want to get out of here." Orlath was running his fingers through his hair in a nervous gesture.
"But that's the thing, see, I don't think there is sand under all this..."
"Are we there yet?"
"Were we moving?" Flip hissed at his friend, unable to catch himself this time. "We are trying to find out what's wrong, you big oaf. At least I do!"
"What's wrong is that we don't get out," Uthas growled and took a step closer to Flip.
"The only thing I know able to melt stone like this and cause mental influence is the purple-green snailworm, but they do not live here and are rare to begin with," the prince mused, ignoring everyone else.
Flip took a step back from Uthas. "Why would those worms influence anyone?"
Orlath shrugged, seemingly bored with the topic already. "Oh, they live off negative emotions. They are psionic, you see."
"Ah yeah, and psionics wouldn't detect as magic, right?" Flip wondered why he had to think for those two supposedly intelligent elves so often.
"Right," the price agreed. After a few seconds he added "Oh, I see."
"And before you ask how come such a thing is here, we are talking of a hideout of the late Drac," Flip added, trying to stay calm. "Could we defeat such a creature?"
"Easily enough, as its strength is its weakness," Nev nodded. "What gets people in a bad mood makes them more likely to defeat the beast. If it even exists around here."
"Let's go, then. Because what is up ahead does not look like normal light to me. Do those things glow?"
Nev scratches his head and frowned at Flip. "Yeah, their antenna things do... oh, I see," he mumbled as well.
"Does this mean I get to smack something? Now?" Uthas frowning face seemed to get more intense. "I want to kill stuff."
"Yes," Flip said, pointing ahead. "That's what it means."
While the fearless 4 were still in the tunnels, night had fallen over the land. The orc and the elf weren't so much sneaking into the village than just casually walking into it. Before they were going to deal with the bandits here, they wanted to scout it out in the only way they knew – going to the tavern or inn.
Unfortunately, as small as the village was, it seemed to have two of those drinking establishments. The one further in town seemed a bit more seedy, but to their surprise had some semblance of order as they looked in through dirty windows, while the inn seemed a bit out of control – the first thing they saw was a patron, looking like a villager not a bandit, coming through the door flying and crashing at their feet. He mumbled something and ran.
Thalla scratched her head. "So, what now? Do we split up to check them out?"
"I think not. As we are already here and this looks to be more likely to be a place of trouble, we might as well start here." With that, Lhess stepped up and opened the door.
The first thing they noticed was the bored looking village whore sitting on the balcony looking into the common room from the upper floor, doing her nails. No one else threw a glance at them. A bunch of rough looking guys played dice or cards and cursed wildly, and someone else got himself some beer without asking the supposed innkeep. Said innkeep stood in a corner with a long face, with a lad who looked to be his son next to him. An aging serving woman wove nervously in and out of the crowded chairs, tables and benches, almost tripping over the leg of one of the supposed bandits. A few half drunk looking louts were popped up on the bar with half empty kegs.
The second thing they noticed was a titan of a man with wide shoulders in padded armor, carrying a massive mace. He sat all alone in the back of the room in a corner, drinking wine out of an ale keg while scowling at everyone. No one was close by, and no one dared to run a chance to bump into the guy.
"Maybe you shouldn't have come with an outfit shouting 'paladin to slay here,' " the orc suggested.
Lhess snorted in a dismissive manner. "I've taken on worse alone, and you don't look like you can't handle yourself, either," she said.
That was when the large guy in the corner noticed them. A few seconds later, the other patrons noticed where he was looking and followed his gaze. The room fell silent. "Uh oh," the innkeeper said and pulled his son into cover behind the bar.
"Hello, there," Lhess said with a pleasant smile. Only those who knew her well would have been able to detect the eager spark in her eyes. "Time to clean up here and and the nastiness. I, Lhess of the Moonwind, servant of the gods of benevolence, have come to restore this village to some semblance of order."
Thalla could not help to shake her head at the, to her, typical elf almighty talk. "And I, Thalla, just some orc from the road, have come along to smash some head because I'm in a very bad mood," she added. She was not sure why she said that, either, but something in the elf's voice pushed her along.
Several battle cries later, the whole room sans the workers and owners were coming at them. Two of the drunk louts from the bar used their bar stools as weapons. Lhess looked at the shouting avalanche and nodded to herself, seeing it all in slow motion. She also noticed the small guy in underwear coming out of one of the upper rooms – presumably the working place of another whore – trying to put on his pants while at the same time stringing his bow. In all that, she had time to pick her target.
For Thess, it was a simple decision of who stood closest, and that happened to be one of the poker players who now came at her with a short sword and a dagger. Thess lifted the spare longsword she had gotten from the elf seeing how she had been robbed and easily parried the attack. The sword was a bit too light for her taste and the balance was different but she still had no trouble to swing around and do her favorite deheadification move, as she called it. The head of the first casualty of the day fell a moment before the paladin felled an attacker who had tried to flank her. The orc felt great – she had had the first kill over an elf paladin!
Then a thundering roar came from the corner of the room and large guy broke his way through the crowd showing off a bastard sword. He cared little who he trampled down, friend or foe. With a swing of the sword to ready it for his attack, he cut into the shoulder of one of his fellows and did not even notice.
Lhess took a step back and sent a short prayer to the gods. This was just what she needed to turn this into a pandemonium. And the gods listened. Confusion spread over the faces of almost all of the shoved aside thugs, and their anger was redirected to the big guy. Lhess spun a confused looking, slim man with a mace around and kicked him into the way of her attacker, still seeing everything in slow motion.
And then the earth shook. It was not very pronounced and not from the battle, Lhess noticed. But several glasses and decorations dropped off the walls and hit random fighters, including a few who just burst through the doors behind them, obviously having noticed something was going on. A rat-like halfling who had his short sword posed to back stab her and had just been unsure where to try and pierce her armor suddenly had a large ham on the tip of his weapon. The thug who had had the mace came back in several versions of slimmer, having been sliced apart, and covered everyone with blood.
Thess took a bite out of the ham and ran the unfortunate new owner of the food through with her sword. At the same time she bashed another one's nose in with her free hand. "I love this," she laughed.
Lhess ducked under an attack from the large guy. Her nose wrinkled as she noticed the bad smell of the bandit. The invention of soap and other toilet utensils must have passed by him unnoticed. Maybe the reason why no one had been close to him was as much the smell as his size. Without realizing it, she used a spell all elf maidens of her upbringing learned as little kids.
An intense smell of jasmine, orchids and vanilla surrounded her opponent all of a sudden. As she blocked his sword with her holy shield, her foe attempted a battle cry and took in a large breath. A moment later, he started sneezing violently. The sword bounced down on Lhess' shield again and again with each sneeze. After a moment of confusion, the paladin used this welcome distraction to stab through the weak protection of his armpits and felled him. Thanks to the sneezing fit, he could not get up again and she now had little problem dispatching him.
An arrow deflected from her helmet, causing her to look for the archer. He had given up on his pants and fired random shots into the crowd.
The rest of the opponents slowly gathered their wits, noticing they were largely fighting each other and the furniture. And yet more thugs came in. It was time to think of some final solution to this battle. It dawned on her that this might not be so easy after all.
The final solution was on its way just then. Covered partly in slime from disposing off their snailworm victim, 4 well known adventurers ran down a secret door and fell out of a tree trunk just in the middle of the village. Nev sniffed the fresh night air and sighed. "Ah, I smell the ocean!"
"I still only smell snailworm," Uthas growled, still in a bad mood. "And we fell out of a fricking tree trunk. A tree trunk!"
"As long as we didn't fall out of a tree," Flip commented and tried to close the damaged door as best as he could. "Weird end location, though. Say, do you hear that?"
Uthas' face lit up. "Sure do. Sounds like a serious fight. And it comes from the building over there." He pointed to the other end of the village, where a crowd had gathered in front of the building, with some people wanting in and some people definitely trying to get out. "Maybe someone took the concept of a bar fight to some new extremes."
"Are we sure we want to be involved in..." the prince cautioned, but it was too late. Uthas was already drawing blank and rushed his still frustrated barbarian self to the place of battle.
The halfling sighed. "We don't really have a choice, do we?"