"Out of the Frying Pan" - Book I: Gathering Wood (reprise)


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el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Session #3 (part III)

Interlude

“There is no reason for goats to bleat backwards, mommy. I told you I didn’t. . . “

“Ya na' makin'any sense, mun,” Malcolm said.

“I wasn’t throwing eggs at the knights, I swear. . . “

Jana felt the forehead of Jeremy who was looking pale, and whose glands were so swollen his neck looked as thick as Devon’s.

“He’s burning up. He’s got the bog flu,” the herbalist concluded. (25)

The second day of the northward journey was dampened by this news, and by the fact that the boatswain would not provide a separate room for the sick passenger despite Jana’s declaration that it was contagious. Instead, Kristian suggested that the whole group quarantine themselves in their cabin. No one else agreed of course.

The training did not go very well either. While Carlos continued to prove his proficiency with the quarterstaff, John, Guisel and others seemed easily bored and others did not even want to try for whatever reason. Kazrack and Beorth found it very disconcerting.

Kamir helped Jana to care for Jeremy.

Things got worse on the fourth day, when way out of sight of land the Sea Cow was hit by a sudden squall, which left everyone below deck sweating and feeling as sick as Jeremy. Kazrack clutched his prayer stone the whole time and mumbled prayers to the dwarven gods to deliver him from such a hellish place.

The storm lasted an entire evening and most of a day, but on the sixth day they were in sight of land, seeing an armored horseman galloping northward along a rocky beach. And by early the next morning they passed cliffs that lined the shore and came to the port of Cutter Jack’s. (26) The estimated six day journey had taken seven.

Teflem, 6th of Ese – 562 H.E.

As Crumb’s boys disembarked from the Sea Cow, Deet ordered them to get into groups of four to collect their tents as the group would be camping out in a field just southwest of the town. Jana was given her own small one-man tent. They were all also give their 28 pieces of copper for their seven days of travel.

Kazrack already had his own larger tent that he and Beorth decided to share, and on Malcolm’s orders Kamir grabbed a tent for him and Jeremy and Chance.

The town of Cutter Jack’s was distinctly larger than Weevon, made up of several score white-washed brick builds and some wooden ones. The port looked as if it could hold a dozen or more ships, but part of it seemed as if it had been recently burned and was still in disrepair.

The town was flanked to the north and south by woodlands, and earthen ramparts were built up to defend the approach from the west and south. In the far distance, Kazrack could see the mist-shrouded mountains, whose peaks were lost in the clouds – mountains as far as the eye could see. The dwarf’s heart swelled with pride.

The band marched through the town towards the southern woods. Malcolm and Chance helping Jeremy to walk. The Neergaardian was a bit more clear-headed, but still felt weak.

As they past one small white building, Kazrack noticed a red dwarf come out and tying a message to a Faultless (27) sent it off. Kazrack saluted the dwarf, who waved back.

Crumb and Deet led the boys to a clearing southwest of the town, just beyond one of the earthen walls. The grass was short and a nearby stream provided water. Everyone began to set up their tents, though Kamir seemed to be doing most of the work. Kazarack and the others put their tents near the center of the clearing, not far from where Crumb had his large pavilion-style tent set-up.

Gathering everyone together, Crumb assigned everyone’s tasks before giving them leave to explore the town or do whatever they like.

“There will some basic chores I will have you all take turns doing to keep our camp running efficiently, so when this meeting is over I will be sending some of you off to do things. However, before we do that, I want to remind you all to obey local laws and stay out of trouble. We will be here for three or four days while I arrange for wagons that will bring us as far we can go into the mountains until we have to go by foot. Gothanius is about a fortnight’s journey away. Okay, now… You, you and you, collect rocks of the central fire pit. And you and you, go get firewood.”
With that Crumb ended the meeting. Kazrack and Jana were chosen to collect rocks along with the short ugly companion of Devon’s, while Malcolm and Beorth were sent off for firewood.

--

Beorth and Malcolm wandered down a nearby ridge picking up the dry wood of fallen trees, Beorth made neat piles to pick up as they head back, while Malcolm just had a huge bundle tucked under one arm.

As they collected wood from a particularly ample spot, a frightened doe broke through the brush and running past them disappeared into more brush to their left. Malcolm immediately dropped his pile of wood and pulling his bow chased after the deer.

“Malcolm! Where are you going?” Beorth called.

At that same moment Beorth heard the sound of movement behind him and turned to see two young men with bows come through the brush. Both were of medium build with longish brown hair and light skin, dressed in the greens and browns of hunters.

“Goodness! I thought you were a goblin,” one of them said.

“A goblin?” Beorth said surprised.

“Did you see a deer come through here?” the other asked.

“Um, yes. My companion went after it,” Beorth explained, pointing to the brush.

“Come on, Andre!” the second said and he and his friend ran off in the same direction that Malcolm and the deer had.

Meanwhile, Malcolm had caught up to the deer by a stream and had sunk an arrow into its rear flank. The deer struggled up the bank and disappeared over the ridge. Malcolm took off after it again, when the two hunter came bursting from the brush.

“That’s our deer!” said Andre.

“The `ell it is,” Malcolm replied. From the top of the ridge, Malcolm fired another arrow that missed, but one of the hunters’ arrow’s aim was true and the deer collapsed and feebly tried to get away.
The three of them ran down towards the deer.

“Git tha hull away from ma deer!” Malcolm cried out. One of the hunters was beginning to pull ahead, so Malcolm tried to trip him up and succeeded in slowing him down, but he slowed down himself allowing the other to get to the deer, pull out a knife and slit its throat.
“That was mah deer!” Malcolm said, “Ya best bock away from et.”

“It is our deer. We have been tracking it for hours,” the hunter closer to Malcolm said.
“Ets nat mah foolt ya could'n' cetch et.”

“Actually, we were about to snag it when you and your companion started breaking wood and spooked it,” the hunter explained.

“Yeah, we thought you were goblins,” the other hunter said.
Malcolm paused.

“Et dosen matta. Ah het et wit mah arrow.”

“So did we. Why don’t we just split it? We really want the hide and antlers. So, we’ll take that and one third of the meat, and you can have the other two-thirds,” one of the hunters suggested.
Malcolm thought it over.

“Fine,” he gave in.

As the cleaned and prepared the deer, the hunters introduced themselves as David and Andre.
“Well, you seem like a pretty good hunter. If you’ll be around for a while you can come by our cabin and we’ll show you where the best game is. You can even trap beaver and stuff further up the crick,” David explained.

“Where are you from anyway?” Andre asked.

“The Dubh Moors. I’m here with a band that is going to help some kingdom further in-land.”
“You are gonna help a dwarven kingdom?” David asked incredulously.

“It is a human kingdom,” Malcolm replied.

“Human kingdom?” asked David. “What is it called?”

“Gothanius.”

“Never heard of it. As far as I know there are no human kingdoms in Derome-Delem. Are you sure it’s a kingdom? Do you mean the Far Shore League?” (28)

“No, I don’t.”

“I think someone is pulling the wool over your eyes,” Andre said.

Malcolm shrugged his shoulders. “Didja seh soomthin' 'bout gooblens, behfore?”

“Yeah, we thought you and your friends were goblins, that is why we hesitated coming through the brush,” David explained.

“Are there a loot uf gooblins around here?” Malcolm asked.
“Not so close to town, usually – but ya never know. They kind of come and go. There is a standing bounty on them of like one piece of silver per goblin ear. Left ear only,” said David. “It used ta just be ears, but people tried to double their money by brining in two ears.”

“The bounty’s been around since our dad’s time,” said Andre. “But be careful, these goblins, the Na-Sor Tribe are crafty and are likely to ambush ya.”

The three men spilt the deer and Malcolm returned to where he left Beorth.

--

Beorth got back to the camp just as Kazrack and Jana were placing the last rock in the fire circle. Devon’s short companion had placed about two rocks and had left the work to the others. Beorth dropped his armful of wood, and Crumb said, “That isn’t enough. You better go get more.” The paladin immediately turned around and complied.

Beorth ran into Malcolm who was on his way back with deer mear over one shoulder and wood tucked under one arm. Beorth grabbed more wood.

Upon returning to camp, Crumb stopped Malcolm.

“When I ask you to do something for the group, I expect for it to be done right away,” he said sternly. “That is not the share of wood you could carry, and you took way too long to do it.”
Malcolm stared back at him, fuming.

“But you did bring back a deer, which is good of you. The men will appreciate some good venison after the ship’s seven days of gruel.”

Malcolm grunted and walked past Crumb, putting the deer down inside his tent, next to the resting Jeremy.

“Make sure nobudy touches mah deer,” he said to Kamir.

“Okay, Malcolm. Whatever you want.”

At dinner, Crumb’s boys noticed that Crumb had hired on two cook/assistants who served the food and helped to keep the camp clean.

Malcolm, Chance, Beorth, Kazrack and Jana gathered together to eat.

“Ah met this hoonters an' they sai' thar is a boonty on gooblins 'tound here,” Malcolm told them.

“Goblins? Grrrr.” Said Kazrack.

“They oofer one piece of silver per gooblin ear,” Malcolm explained.

“Wow! We could rack up some extra coinage,” said Kazrack.

“Do you think that would violate the terms of our contract?” Beorth asked.

“It says no brawling. We wouldn’t be brawling,”

“And the local law says is the one offering the bounty. We are well within the limits set by the contract. And goblins are a foul menace. We’d be helping the people of this town,” Kazrack added.

“It’s settled then,” Malcolm said. “We’ll hunt us some gooblins tamarrah.”

--

As Malcolm and Chance went to bed (Kamir was still stoking the central camp fire and the smaller fires people had closer to their tents), Chance said, “Maybeh you shood give that dahr for the camp ta sharr like Crahm suggested.”

“Why shood I?”

“Ta get in good with everyone `ere. Ya nevah know when ya might need some `elp, an’ me dad always said, ya can catch more flies with `oney than with vinegar.”

Malcolm thought it over, and before retiring brought his venison over to the new cooks; making sure that they told everyone that it was he that had caught it when it would be served for dinner the next day.

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Notes

(25) The causes of “bog flu” are unclear. However, it manifests itself in terms of great fatigue, fever, aching and occasional delirium. Coincidentally, bog flue often coincides with a character’s player missing a session. Chronic bog flu has been known to lead to premature retirement or even death.

(26) Cutter Jack’s is one of Derome-Delem’s “Freetowns”, which were founded by deserters or those left behind after the failed invasion of Derome-Delem by the Kingdom of Herman Land in 409 H.E. This town was named after its current lord who was a commoner who saved the town from a curse by retrieving the legendary “Sacred Rose of Osiris”.

(27) The Faultless are birds with large wings that are impressed with two sites that they can fly between and faultlessly deliver messages. By riding high altitude air currents they can travel over one hundred miles a day. For information see Thoth’s Libram vol II, issue #3.

(28) The Far Shore League is a loose confederation of towns on the western coast of Derome-Delem founded in 562 H.E
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Session #3 (part IV)

Anulem, 7th of Ese – 563 H.E.

A low grey cloud cover obscured Ra’s Glory the next morning and the air had a refreshing edge of coolness to it.

Malcolm woke up as naked as the day he was born and stretching walked over to the smoking remains oft the camp fire and relieved himself. . . and then walking over to where the buckets of water were kept, dunked his head in one and flicked his hair back in with a snap of his head.

He returned to his tent to get his kilt, awaking Kamir who immediately awoke to light the campfires. Jeremy stirred.

“Oh, are we there yet?”

“We’re in Deh-rome-Deh-lem,” Malcolm answered.

“Good, let me know when we get to the dragon. The way I feel I want to be the first one eaten,” Jeremy said weakly.

“That’ll be a relief to the dwarf,” Malcolm said with a smile.

The camp began to awaken. Kazrack, Jana and Beorth decided to explore the town a bit and see what they could find out about the goblins and perhaps getting provisions. Malcolm decided to seek out Andre and David’s cabin and get directions to a place where goblins could be found.

The original trio of companions that first walked together to see the witch in Verdun, not found themselves in a town hundreds of miles away from their place of origin. The streets were of raked dirt, with cobbled market square that was just filling with vendors. They walked past a boarded up inn that looked as if it had been partially burned.

“Probably goblins,” said Kazrack.

Walking further up the street they came to another tavern called “The Gleaming Star”

A hand-written sign declared “No dogs or Black Islanders Allowed” – But since only Beorth could read, he swallowed his pride and went in with the other two to ask some questions.

The sound of scurrying rats greeted them as they entered the filthy establishment. The barkeep greeted them. He shooed a rat off the bar, and picking up a mug he spit into it and wiped out the contents with a rag, placing is upside down on a tray of “clean” cups.

The barkeep knew little of the goblins, but did direct them to the Safehouse of the Nauglimir Dwarven Merchant’s Consortium (29) only a few blocks north.

The trio walked to the Safehouse, which was built as a small fort of grey stone with a gatehouse and towers. Just within the gate stood a black bearded dwarf in plate mail with a battle axe. Sweat streamed down his face.

“Well met!” called Kazrack.

“Aye, well met,” the dwarf replied in dwarven.

“I am Kazrack Delver.”

“I am Captain Nerelor Threnegar,” the dwarf said. “Where do you hail from?”

“Originally my family is from Derome-Delem, but most recently I have lived in Verdun.”

“Verdun? Heh,” the Dwarf spit. “It is good that you have been able to come back here to our homeland.”

“Yes, it pleases me to be back. I have not seen these lands since when my beard first started to come in. I hope to see a lot of our people’s strongholds while I am here”

“Are you looking for work?” Threnegar asked.

“Um, no. I am working with a group of humans who are going to Gothanius to clear the land of a dragon.”

The dwarven captain was taken aback. “A dragon? Well, be careful, there are many that would want to take advantage of our kin.”

“I am always cautious. But I was wondering. Do you know anything about the goblins in this area?” Kazrack asked.

“Goblins? I know there are some, I guess. But I don’t think they are too much trouble. I spend most of my time here helping to guard the safehouse, so I don’t know much about the town. I sometimes travel from here to various strongholds, but we have everything we need in here.”

“Okay, thank you. How about provisions? Tools, and such – where can we find those?”

“Try the market. Or there is a shop just off the square called ‘Metalgoods’, it is run by a fine dwarven couple,” Threnegar answered.

“Okay, thank you very much.”

“The reason I asked you if you were looking for a job is because the Nauglimir Dwarven Merchant Consortium is always looking for dwarven caravan guards, and it is a good way to see various dwarven strongholds and how our people live,” Threnegar said.

‘Thank you for the offer, but I have this other commitment, but perhaps one day I will be able to accept it,” Kazrack replied.

“Well, you are welcome to come back for dinner and religious services at the temple we have in here. You can learn more about the N.D.M.C.”

“Could my companions come as well?” Kazrack gestured to Jana and Beorth who was just standing there wondering what the two dwarves were jabbering about in their native tongue.

“Dwarves only,” said Threnegar simply.

“Okay,” said Kazrack with a shrug. “Natan-ahb guard you.”

The three friends walked back towards the market, running into Malcolm who had made his way back after gaining the location of the goblins from Andre and David.

“Ach, the hoonters said that it is only a few miles sooth along the shirr. They are oft near eh ole mine whose entrance is eena ravine,” the skald said. “But that we should be karful `cause they ambush people a loot.”

As the party stood there discussing go down there, Malcolm heard:
“Ah, what quaint little village market! Perhaps there is some local craftsman whose day I can brighten by purchasing some of his trinkets. . .”

It was Garcon.

“Who ya talkin’ too?” Malcolm asked.
“Ah, well when one speaks as sweetly as I, and has an adventurous life as I - there is required a bit of narration,” Garcon explained.

“You are daft, mahn!?!”

‘So, you say. . . But I do note that one of these common peddlers is selling phials of fine smelling cologne. Excuse me, I must investigate and perhaps gain a new shirt made from that fine bolt of silk over there.”

He wandered off – And the group walked back to the camp to collect their weapons and equipment to hunt the goblins. Realizing that they did not remember seeing Garcon once during the sea journey.

------

The four companions stopped at the camp where Kazrack went over his equipment carefully to make sure he had everything he could possibly from his impossibly full pack. Chance joined them “To bring `em a little luck and watch over the lass,” and off they marched into the dismally grey afternoon.

The group moved along ,with Malcolm taking point to watch for ambush. Kazrack and Beorth followed at a distance of 60’ and directly behind them were Chance and Jana.

“Now duncha worry, lassie. If there’s trouble, I‘ll handle it. Ya just stay by me, okay?” Chance said to Jana

“Uh-huh,” was Jana’s only reply.

The party climbed a ridge to a grassy plateau that over-looked the greyness of the sea below and to their left. The place was wide open and the cautiously crossed remaining alert to the possibility of ambush. Coming down the other side of the hill Malcolm spotted the ravine that the hunters must have been talking about. The group walked close to brush that obscured the edge and it was decided that Malcolm would go ahead to see what he could.

The skald moved forward, keeping an arrow ready to be nocked in his short bow, creeping through the dry foliage to edge of the ravine.

The ravine floor was pebbly, and could be access by means of what appeared to be a natural ramp of stone that ran parallel to the side of the ravine that Malcolm crouched on. Otherwise it was a straight drop down of about 25 feet. The opposite side which was covered what appeared to be green thorny shrubs had a less steep grade, but still seemed like a difficult climb.

On the ravine floor Malcolm could see a strange ritual or ceremony in progress. Under the cloud cover that veiled the hated slight of Ra’s Glory, there were a dozen or more short ugly brown-orange skinned creatures. All wore studded leather armor, except one who wore the furs of wolves and a necklace of small skulls around his neck. Two larger of these obvious goblins with spears flanked a black slab of stone about two feet high. A small group of young goblins stood behind the stone and one at a time would step up on to the stone and kneel. Leaning forward, the one in the wolf’s fur would take his head in his hands and speak words in the foul goblin tongue. And then with a jerking motion, the young goblin’s head would be thrown back. Clutching the left side of his head, he would step over to one of the flanking goblins take a spear and join a line of goblins that all looked dazed and stood holding the left side of their head, and holding halfspears at their right sides.

Malcolm slipped back to the group to tell them what he had seen. The party hesitated, not being sure on how to approach the situation. Should they go down the ramp and risk getting picked off?

“Did they missiles weapons you could see?” Kazrack asked.

“They had spears, but not else I could see,” Malcolm replied.

“Maybe we can get tem to come charging up at us and mow them down when they get here. They’re goblins they aren’t too smart,” Kazrack suggested.

“But they haven’t done anything yet,” Beorth interjected.

Kazrack turned about to explain the deep-seated evil that goblins represented when Jana spoke up.

“I think we have been spotted.”

The party turned to their left to see something moving through the branches of the foliage towards the ravine.

“What should we do?” asked Beorth.

“Maybe we should run away,” suggested Chance.

Malcolm headed back into the brush, and Kazrack and Beorth followed fanning out to the skald’s left. They got to the ravine edge to find two goblin warriors charging up ramp at them. The five with spears, remained in a line looking dazed and clutching the sides of their heads. The goblin in furs moved to the ravine wall to keep out of sight of missile fire, while Malcolm fired at the two goblins that passed him by where he stood above them and charged to meet Kazrack and Beorth in melee.

goblinravine.gif


The remaining young goblins who had been waiting their turn at the black stone turned and fled, beginning to climb up the other side of the ravine. With a cry in goblin from the obvious leader, the dazed goblins dropped their hands from the sides of their heads and clutching their spears moved with incredible speed in an attempt to surround the would-be heroes.

The goblin leader spoke a word and pointed at Malcolm, whose mind was momentarily clouded, allowing the young goblins to easily get around him.

Jana moved in behind Malcolm, who dropped his bow to pull his club and meet the goblins in hand to hand combat.

“Wait, where are ya goin’. It isn’t safe,” Chance said, hesitantly following the young girl closer to the battle.

Kazrack and Beorth continued fighting the two more experienced goblin warriors who were being supported by the fresher recruits when they noticed an odd thing. The older goblins had a dry and ugly scar where their left ear was, but the younger goblins had a fresh and still bleeding wound where their left ear was.

“They cut off their own ears!” Kazrack cried.

The goblin in wolf skins stepped up to fill in behind the ranks of goblins that were surrounding Malcolm, stabbing furiously with their spears. He spoke three guttural word and pulling a skin from his belt took a deep swig from something and then leaning forward spit a stream of acid onto Malcolm’s face and shoulders. The barbarian cried out in pain, as his skin burned and hissed. Droplets flicked off on contact and struck the nearby goblins as well and they cried out, but did not stop trying to bring down the stocky moorsman. (30)

As Chance tried to convince Jana that they should step back into the thicker brush between hasty prayers to his god, the young Westronian, spoke her arcane words and flicked her hand in the direction of the obvious goblin spell-caster. However, he shrugged off the spell.

Malcolm dropped a goblin, and Kazrack and Beorth were making quick work of those near them and moved to help their companions.

The tide of the battle was turning. The goblins who had fled made their way up the other side of the ravine and disappeared into the brush. Jana cast her spell again, and this time the goblin-sorcerer turned and fled. Malcolm and Beorth chopped down the last two goblins and took off after him. They caught up to him at the base of the other side of the ravine, but he turned and fled again. Malcolm took a swing at him, clipping him in the back, and Beorth tried for a blow to the head and missed. Barely slowed the little spellcasting creep took off for the cave entrance at the far end of the ravine. Again Beorth and Malcolm took off after him, and Kazrack cam barreling down the ramp and around to take to the chase as well, but his diminutive legs and heavy equipment slowed him.

Jana also started to make her way over there by running, but Chance only hustled, crouching behind the black stone altar-thing to watch the action.

Malcolm and Beorth wanted to stop the remaining goblin before he made it into the darkness of the cave, but failed. They slowed down and entered more cautiously.

The dim light of the cloudy day only did so much to illuminate the inner portion of the cave, revealing only that about twenty feet in the cave widened to the left and right.

“And when the thegn steeped into the darkness of the shadow oov the dragon, his shield did cast the shadow aside!” cried Malcolm and suddenly his club shone with a light that revealed even more of the cave.

Malcolm and Beorth crept into the gloom of the cave and suddenly the goblin leapt out surprising them striking Malcolm with his club. Beorth moved in to take a swing with his quarterstaff, but the goblin took another swig from his wineskin and spit a stream of acid at the paladin. Beorth was able to turn away so that his armor took most of the spittle, but a drop landed on Malcolm as well.

There was a flurry of blow but the goblin in wolf skins was too quick to be hit. Still moving with unexpected deftness he suddenly disappeared. (31) Beorth, having been trained to battle the undead with the darkness of crypts stopped to listen, but Malcolm swung wildly in the spot where the goblin had been screaming like a madman with the increasing rage of his people. The light that now shone from his club made crazy shadows fly everywhere - unfortunately, he did not feel his club connect with anything.

At that moment Kazrack ran into the cave, being able to move without fear because of his darkvision. He moved to his right and down the craggy corridor coming to a steep stairway going down. He paused there, not sure of where to go.

“Where did he go?” the dwarf asked.

“He disappeared,” Beorth replied.

Kazrack turned. Everyone paused, not sure of what to do next. Jana stepped into the cave and Chance followed saying, ‘Don’t go in there, Jana. It could be dangerous.”

He stood just within the mouth of the cave.

Fortunately for the companions, years on the rough streets of Westron’s Thieves’ Quarter made Jana’s ears sharp and hearing a footfall pass her on the right she moved in that direction hands forward. She felt herself bump up against someone she could not see and then felt the painful blow of a club, as the goblin-sorcerer came into view.

The goblin tried to run back out of the cave, but Chance stepped in his way and took a wild stab with his dagger, which missed, but delayed the creature enough for Malcolm and Beorth to step up and finish it with a sickening crack from the skald’s club.
As Kazrack began to search the body, taking a gold ring from the goblin’s finger, Malcolm drew his bastard sword and placing its edge in the goblin’s neck stepped on the blade to remove its head. Blood poured wildly from the neck stump.

“What are you doing?” Beorth cried when he noticed what Malcolm had done.

Kazrack saw that the skull necklace had been cut loose by the barbarian’s blade and lifted it up.

“Anyone want this?”

Jana took it without a word.

“Ahm taking the head as a trophy,” Malcolm explained to Beorth.

“No, you are not. You cannot desecrate the dead that way,”
Beorth said.

“Wait, but they are just goblins,” Kazrack said joining the debate.

“It matters not. They were alive and now they are dead. Anubis would have it no other way,” Beorth said. “Since we cannot easily bury them all, we must gather their corpses and create a pyre.”

“What about taking their stuff? I mean this studded leather they wear is small but might have some value to us,” Kazrack said, clutching the bag of fresh ears he found on the shaman as if they had already transmogrified into the silver coins they were worth.

“Wait, I dun car if he’s the bluddy High Priest of Ra, if he’s dead he dun need his stuff an ahm takin’ it,” Malcolm complained.

“You don’t wanna make Anubis angry do you?” Chance asked.

“Whut about me ancestors? They’ll laugh at me if I don’t take a trophy,” Malcolm said.

“I will not tolerate the dead being desecrated, but these goblins have not been interred yet, so their possession are spoils of war, not part of their funerary accoutrements – so to take them is not to violate their graves,” the follower of Anubis explained. (32) “This also applies to the ears, since they were taken before the goblins died and by their own hands. However, I do believe that we should take a portion of whatever spoils we gain and donate it either to a local temple or to the town’s effort to defend itself from the goblin menace.”

Malcolm began to gather the goblin bodies in a pile on the ravine floor to burn, but searched each quickly and as inconspicuously as possible for whatever treasure they might have. He found none.

“I will agree, but if I were someone else I would say that you should make the donation out of your own share,” Kazrack said to Beorth.

“I already plan to make a donation over and above whatever we agree on.”

Malcolm and Kazrack each took a sample of the goblin studded leather, which amazed Kazrack in its quality.

“Goblins cannot make such things, they must have bought it or traded for it. Do you think they could have chopped their own ears off to pay for their armor?” Kazrack mused.

No one seemed willing to follow up on this speculation. Jana picked up the goblin leader’s club for herself and the after setting fire to the goblin bodies (sending a column of smoke way up into the dark clouds) the five companions headed back to camp, Malcolm wondering aloud what could be found in the cave when they came back to explore it.

End of Session #3

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Notes

(29) The Nauglimir Dwarven Merchant Consortium is a league of dwarven merchants who facilitate trade among dwarves in Derome-Delem and, to a much lesser extent, other parts of Aquerra.

(30) This spell, Acid Spittle, can be found in Sword & Sorcery’s Relics & Rituals.

(31) This spell Disappear, can be found in Sword & Sorcery’s Relics & Rituals.

(32) Believers in Ra’s Panthoen hold those interred with personal effects have spiritual equivalents of those things with them in the afterlife, and to disturb the things in this world is to disturb their rest.
 
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el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Session #4

As the five companions walked back to camp the dark clouds let loose with a soft, yet constant rain that increased in strength as the closer they got to shelter.

“Today is Remembrance Day,” (33) said Beorth. “I am going to go to the temple of Anhur when we get to town to give respects for brave warriors who have fallen in battle.”

The rest of the group seemed more concerned with cashing in on the goblin ears, Kazrack wanted to warn the guard about the goblins’ resources – their ability to make or trade for armor of excellent quality. So as Beorth went off to pay his respects, Kazrack, Malcolm and Jana went to the local guard house. Chance went back to the camp to look in on Jeremy.
At the guardhouse the companions were informed that the bounty was only six pieces of copper per ear. The one silver piece bounty was only during times of emergency, when goblins were a serious problem, which was not the case.

“What about this?” Kazrack said, showing them the studded leather armor, obviously good craftsmanship.

“I am not in a position to determine this an emergency, but I will express your concern to my lord, and it is in his power to do so. May I take this armor as evidence?” the captain asked.

“Will we get the difference in the cost of the bounty if the lord declares an emergency?” Kazrack asked.

“That is doubtful, since the state of emergency had not been declared when the ears were collected,” the guard explained.

“But it is in his power to change that. He can do it according to his discretion?” Kazrack said, pushing.

“Yes, I will mention it to him. Jack is a fair man, and he will give it serious thought, though I cannot promise anything.”

“I will give you the armor for 20 pieces of silver,” Kazrack offered.

“We do not wish to buy the armor. It will be returned to you once the Lord as examined it,” the captain explained.

Kazrack harrumphed and handed over the bag of ears and place the armor on the desk.
The captain looked in the bag and with a look of disgust tossed the bag to his assistant, “that’s really disgusting! Get rid of those!”

Malcolm took the copper and divided it among the three of them, giving Beorth and Chance’s share to Kazrack to hold when the dwarf insisted.

“Actually, I’m surprised that you got any ears at all. Everyone around here knows the Na-Sor Goblins chop off their own ears in defiance, for generations. Sometimes the locals trick foreigners to go hunting for the ears for laughs,” the captain said.

“Well you should stop them from doing that. Someone could get hurt,” Kazrack said, offended.
“Technically, they are not breaking the law, and no once forces people to go hunt goblins. They choose to.”

Kazrack harrumphed again,” I’ll be back to find out what your Lord said.”

----

Outside the rain showed no signs of stopping, making the streets of Cutter Jack’s a muddy mess. The trio walked down the main street, and passed by a place called the White Flag. It was packed with what appeared to be sailors and they recognized two members of the Sea Cow’s crew standing in the shelter of the doorway smoking pipes. Jana decided she was too cold and wet to continue and wanted to stop in for a warm meal and a mead. The other two continued on their way, heading to the Metalgoods shop to get supplies to repair their armor.

Jana shook off her wet cloak and could feel the eyes of many sailors on her as she walked over to an empty spot at the bar. All the tables were full and the air was a cacophony of sound as the men whooped and hollered and sang and gave toasts. The barkeep brought Jana her requested mean and a plate full of steamed crabs, which she happily cracked open and ate with much relish – Crabs are a favorite food in Westron.

From one crowded corner, Jana could hear men cheering especially loudly, and occasional quiet, broken up by grunting and then a cheer! She turned to look and saw a bunch of crowded around one table. From within the ring, Devon stood, his sweaty muscled arms above his head in triumph. “I win again!” he cried. Jana noticed that Devon’s handsome companion was standing by, watching the arm-wrestling from the ring of men, while the short ugly one sat by himself, quietly, in another corner.

She turned back to her food and drink. As she placed the last husk of a crab on her plate, she heard a voice to her right.

“Mind if a join you for a minute?” the voice said. She turned to see Devon’s handsome companion, sitting in the stool beside her.

“No one is sitting there,” she said rather curtly.

“Thank you,” he said in a polite tone. “May I buy you a drink?”

“I’m fine,” Jana replied, gesturing to her mug.

He ordered an ale, and taking a big swig and sighing, he turned to the pretty young girl again.

“I wanted to apologize to you if you offended by anything my companion, Devon, said or did,” he said. “He kind of thinks with his mouth instead of his head. I try to keep him in line, sometimes I feel like his bloody mother.”

Jana smiled at this, and he returned her smile.

“I can see how you would have your work cut out for you,” Jana said. He laughed.

“I’m Markle, by the way. I don’t think we’ve been properly introduced,” he put out his hand to shake and Jana obliged him.

“I’m Jana.”

“Lovely name,” he took another sip of ale. “I was wondering what a girl like you was doing here with us? Going to Gothanius… It is not as if you had to escape conscription.”

“I just was tired of Herman Land. I wanted to see a little of the world.”

“Where in Herman Land are you from?”

“Westron.”

“Oh,” Markle paused, as if deep in thought.

“It is just that I know you’ve signed a contract and all, but some of these small backwards kingdoms aren’t as cosmopolitan as Westron or Verdun. They don’t see women as being worthy of being treated with respect like I do.” He smiled, sipped and continued. “You may be promised something, but I would not be surprised if they tried to deprive you of it.”

“I had thought of that possibility,” Jana said, sipping her mead slowly.

“Well, my friends and I know that seemingly limited opportunities like this might lead to more opportunities and so we keep our eyes open. And I think,” He paused “That there might be room for you to take advantage of these opportunities as well.”

Jana took it in, but did not reply.

“I just don’t want you to be left out. Your chosen friends might mean well, but they are little naïve. Their antics are only going to get them into trouble. Hunting goblins? Seems like fun until someone ends up dead - Too high a risk for too little profit, if you as me. You’ll do well to stay away from such endeavors.”

“I was thinking that as I sat here and ate,” Jana replied.

“Well, I don’t want to bother you too much, so I’ll let you go, but if there is anyway I can help you let me know,” Markle said, placing some coins on the bar. “Barkeep! Her next drink is one me!”

He made to walk off. “And if I can help you with one of these opportunities, please let me know.”
Markle smiled and nodded and returned to his companions.

“I win again!” cried Devon. “Come on! Come on! Who’s next? I’ll beat anybody!”
Jana finished her drink and slipped the coins Markle left on the bar into the folds of her skirt, slipping back through the rain to the camp.

---

Chance got back to the tent to find a wakeful and confused Jeremy.

“Where have you all been?” Jeremy asked groggily.

‘We went ahuntin’ goblins,” Chance said.

“Goblins? Are they nearby?” Jeremy asked.

“No, we had to walk miles to find them in this ravine and there were dozens of them all over the place, but I fought off a bunch wit’ me daggers, shifting back and forth, protecting the lass and making them fear me blade. The others did okay, too. Ya shoulda seen me face off the goblin warlock – I kept him from escaping even though he was using his foul foul magicks.”

“Where is everybody else?” Jeremy asked. “In town collecting the reward. Ya hungry? I’m hungy. We missed dinner.”

Chance stuck his head out of the tent flap. “Kamir! Fetch us some stew or something. A bowl for me and a bowl for me sick friend here.”

“Right away, Chance!” Kamir said, dropping his endless task of keeping the fires burning despite the rain.

Malcolm and Kazrack returned from haggling with Oleg the dwarf at the Metalgoods shop for some supplies to repair the armor, and Kazrack immediately retired to his tent to work on his armor.

Malcolm entered the tent he shared with Chance, Kamir and Jeremy.

“Jeremy! Yer awake mahn! Good ta see it!” Malcolm cried. “Where’d ya get the food?”
“Kamir brought it to us,” Chance said.

Malcolm stuck his head outside of the tent flap, “Kamir! Get me some stew! And a piece of bread! And something to drink!”

“Okay,” said Kamir with a lack of energy. He had just been on his way back to the tent to get some sleep.

Malcolm turned back to his friends, ‘That’s a good lad.”

“So, what’s this about goblins?” Jeremy asked his barbaric friend.

“Aye, we fought gooblins an’ there wus eh foul witch of a goblin, but we killed them all. An’ we’re gunna go back tamarrah to hoont some more!”

“We are?” Chance asked.

“Uf carse we are. Ya feelin’ well enough to cahm with us?” Malcolm asked Jeremy

“I guess I will go. Someone has to watch your back,” the blonde Neergaardian said.
‘Thas tha spirit!’ Malcolm said.

Kamir entered the tent spreading mud all around making it difficult to feel comfortable in the already damp and cramped tent. Malcolm took off all his clothes and slept on his folded kilt, naked as the day he was born, his feet resting near Kamir’s head. Chance and Jeremy slept close together to one side trying to stay as far away from Malcolm as possible.

Outside the rain increased and decreased in intensity like soothing waves broken only my intermittent thunder – but it never stopped.

Ralem, 8th of Ese - 564 H.E.

The sound of thunder cracking open the still dark grey sky awoke everyone to the realization that the rain still showed no sign of stopping. Jeremy and Chance awoke in cold puddles of rain that had run down the sides of their leaky tent and collected in puddles beneath their bodies. Malcolm did not seem to either mind or notice, waking with a sudden stretch and stepping outside naked as he always did, to greet the day.

Malcolm retrieved some drinking water and splashed some on the “important spots”, and then walked over to Jana’s tent to wake her to get ready for some more goblin hunting.

“Jana! Weck up! Time ta go a hoontin’ again!” he cried at the entrance to her tent.
The young girl looked outside to find the bare barbarian standing in the rain. She looked him up and down, taking in his hairy and stocky form, not shying away for one second – then she met his eyes unashamedly.


“There is no reason to go back. No more ears, no more reward,” the girl explained.

“Thar’s a whole lar uv em there to be explored,” Malcolm explained.

“There is no way you’re gonna convince me to go into a goblin lair. I do not have a death wish,” Jana said.

“But the goblins be a dahnga ta eva’one en this aria. We ave ta do something,” Malcolm tried, changing tactics.

“I don’t see that at all. *We* had to go find *them*,” Jana said. “I am not going. There is no reason for us to risk our lives and definitely no reason for me to risk MY life.”

Malcolm gave up and walked (still naked) across the muddy space between their tents to awaken Kazack. The dwarf was already up and getting his things ready.

“Jana dun wanna come,” Malcolm told him.

Kazrack shook his head, more at Malcolm nudity than his news. “Go get dressed, I’ll convince her,” he said.

The dwarf walked over to the human girl’s tent.

“Jana, Malcolm said you do not want to accompany us to hunt more goblins,” he told her.

“Yep,” she said shortly.

“But the goblins are a danger to the town and the people here,” the dwarf said.

“Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t - Still no reason to risk my life going into a goblin lair.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, there is no way you can convince me,” she came out of her tent to get ready for breakfast. “And if you ask me you guys shouldn’t go either.”

By this time Chance and Jeremy had exited their tent, and Malcolm followed draping his kilt over his hairy body. By this time the rain was just an annoying and obscuring mist that made one blink a lot.

“Jana isn’t goin?” Jeremy asked.

“No, I’m not,” she said.

“Well, if she’s nut goin’, Ahm nut goin’” Chance said matter-of-factly.

“Why?” asked Jeremy.
“`Cause I’d only be going to protect ar, and if she’s not goin’ I have ta stay here to watch over `er.”
Jana smirked.

“What do we need for her to come for anyway? She’s just a girl. What can she do?” Jeremy said.

“She’s a wizard,” Kazrack replied.

“I am?” Jana said.

“She is?’ Malcolm and Jeremy both said at once with great surprise.

“I am not a wizard,” Jana insisted.

“Of carse ya nat. Wizards use foul spells ta make people do things they dun wanna and summon up demons ann’ such. Ya not be doin’ that eh girl?” Malcolm said.

“I am not a wizard. I don’t know where he got this idea,” she pointed at Kazack.

“Of course she isn’t a wizard. Women cahnt be wizards, they can only be whi. .. “ Chance swallowed his last words, but looked sharply at Jana.

She returned his gaze without wavering.

“What did ya say?” Malcolm asked his countryman.

“Nuthin’,” Chance replied.

“Well, then if she is not a wizard, she shouldn’t come. She’ll just be in danger and get in the way,” Jeremy concluded.

“That is fine, because I am not going. I am not so greedy and blood-thirsty to risk my life for what? The chance that they might have some treasure in their lair?”

“We’re naht goin’ en the lar!” Malcolm said vehemently.

“We’re not?” Jeremy said.

“Of carse not!” Malcolm elbowed Jeremy. “We ahve no intention av doin’ so. We’re jast gun look `round anhn see if there be mar scarin’ up trouble.”

“I’m still not going,” Jana said stubbornly. “And I’ll say again, I don’t think you should go.”
“We have to go,” Kazrack said. “What about the armor the goblins had? They are being supplied by someone or something. We need to investigate it for the good of this town.”

“How does the good of this town concern me?” and with that she slipped annoyed, back into her tent.

“Well, I’d love ta go with ya, but if she’s nut goin’, I cahnt go,” Chance said.

“Whatever, Chance, we don’t care if you come,” Kazrack said.

“Okay, okay. . . I’ll try en cahnvince `er,” Chance slipped into Jana’s tent.

Inside, Jana was getting her issued bow and spoon together, since the breakfast bell would be rung soon.
“Listen, I jast wanneda tell ya thaht I thank it’s a good idea that yer nut goin’ huntin’ gahblins,”
Chance told her softly. ‘They’re crazy ta wanna go, tittle be dahngerous.”

“Yes, Chance I know,” Jana said, exasperated.

“Well, then…” Chance spoke more loudly now to be heard outside of the tent. “If that’s yer final answer I understand.”

He came back outside.

“Nope, I cahnnut cahnvince `er,” he said.

“Fine,” Kazrack said. “Let’s go find Beorth.”

The three of them walked towards town.

“Ahn we ned ta buy a lahntern,” Malcolm said.

“For what?” asked Jeremy

“For when we go inta tha lar, of carse.”

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Notes:

(33) Remembrance Day is a holiday in honor of Anhur (God of Honor & Battle). This day is spent mourning over fallen heroes and soldiers and honoring the memory of worthy opponents. This is also an official political holiday of the Kingdom of Neergaard.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Session #4 (part II)

Malcolm, Jeremy and Kazrack found Beorth at the temple of Anhur. They walked through the open courtyard of clay (34) and passed the statue of the great bald and spear-toting god. They knocked on the door. The priest there, Greglon, showed them into a finely appointed wood-paneled parlor, where Beorth was enjoying a breakfast of fluffy biscuits with jam, eggs with sausage and tea.
“I see you’ve had a better breakfast than we have,” Jeremy said, stomach rumbling.

“I’m sorry. Greglon and I were talking way into the night, exchanging stories about brave warriors who honorable fought their way into Anubis’ Realm and finally it just made sense for me to stay the night here.”

“We came to get you because we are going after the goblins again,’ Kazrack said.

‘We are?” Beorth was puzzled. “Why?”

“They are a danger to the town, and it is our duty to do something about it,” Kazrack continued.

“Well, shouldn’t the authorities be alerted?” the paladin asked getting up.

“They ahve ben but tha lousy bastards wunt do nuthin’ `bout it yet,” Malcolm interjected.

“I’m not sure this is the best course of action, but if you are going then I’m afraid I must go too to ensure that bodies are defiled.” Beorth shot a glance at Malcolm. “And to help ensure that you do not go to meet my master too quickly.”

Beorth began to gather his things. “Will Jana be joining us?”

“She doesn’t want to come for some reason,” Kazrack said.

“Who cares? She’s a girl. But since she’s not coming Chance isn’t coming,” Jeremy said.

“Well, Chance…” Beorth sighed as if to say, `what difference does that make?’

He continued, “but perhaps I can convince her to come with us when we stop at camp. Her healing skills might come in necessary if the tide of battle turns against us. Speaking of which…”

Beorth looked at both Kazrack and Malcolm. Seeing that Malcolm was still slightly wounded from the previous day’s engagement. He said, “Malcolm, bow your head.”

The skald obliged him, and Beorth placed his hands upon his head.

“Anubis, please strengthen this man’s corporeal form so that he may not come to meet you before his appointed time.”

Malcolm felt the sudden discomfort of some of his wounds healing quickly, and stretched to get out the sudden kinks in his muscles. “Thahnk Anubis,” he said with a smirk.

The four of them headed back to camp, stopping only to buy a lantern, which Kazrack added to the collection of things he would keep on his overfilled pack.

----

Meanwhile, Jana was waiting on line to get her hard biscuits and watery gravy that was being served for breakfast at the camp, when she overheard two of Crumb’s boys talking ahead of her.

“I’m telling you Finn, they left very early this morning, before dawn,” the one closer to Jana said.

“Hunting goblins?” the one named Finn asked, he had black hair and that permanent tan of a sailor.

“Are they stupid or something? They’ll get themselves killed!”

“Well, they heard some other guys did it. You know, Malcolm and those guys? And they thought, they could do it too.”

“I hope for their sake they don’t run into any goblins. This is bad,” and they got their gravy and biscuits.

Jana wondered who else would be stupid enough to go after goblins as well, as she walked back to her tent in the misty rain, her plate sopping with biscuits drowned in gravy. Instinctively, she looked around to see if anyone she recognized was missing. At that moment, Chance came running up to her, gravy stained his chin.

“Jah-na! Jah-na! Did ya here? It is all over tha cahmp. Sohme of the others went out to hunt tha goblins!”

“I know, I heard,” Jana said.

“What are we gonna do? They could be in dahnger,” Chance said betraying his obvious anxiety.

“Well, the others have already left, so maybe they’ll catch up to them and send them back,” Jana reasoned.

“Ah hope so, but they said they left very early,” Chance said. “Maybe we should go ahfter them to warn them.”

“I think the smartest thing is to just wait. It is best that we don’t wander around by ourselves.”

“Ah hope yer right.”

---

The others returned with Beorth and collected their stuff. Beorth sought out the young girl from Westron. And he was having little luck convincing her to come along as well.

“Honestly, Beorth I am surprised you are going with them. It only encourages them,” Jana said, not caring that the others were there to hear her.

“I must go to ensure that both justice and my god’s will are served,” Beorth replied.

“Ahnd he’s got to help the others that went ahead,” Chance interjected.

“What others?” asked Kazrack.

“In turns out some of the others decided to hunt some goblins for themselves,” Jana explained.

“Oh no, they could be in danger,” Beorth said.

“We’ll find them and send them back,” Kazrack said.

“Ya know, Jah-na, maybe we *should* go. If someone is hurt, they might need ya skills,” Chance said quietly to the girl. “We both knows those kids ud jast git slaughterd by those goblins.”

Jana sighed, and finally relented, “If and when we find them we come right back, okay?”

Most of the group agreed, though Malcolm’s agreement was muffled.

As they began to retrace their steps of the previous day, thunder exploded once again and the rain picked up strength once more.

---

The group fell into what seemed like normal marching order now. Malcolm was out in front scouting, while Jeremy walked alone between Beorth and Kazrack and Jana and Chance who were respectively paired up.

The rain kept coming down, and as Malcolm creeped ahead towards the high clearing where he should have been able to see the ocean to his left he saw nothing but a blurred grey that made no differentiation that could be called horizon.

Up ahead, he saw the lump of a tarp of some kind, figures were cowering beneath. Malcolm waved his companions forward and stepped up to the tarp.

“Who’s there?” a frightened voice called out.

“Ets Malcolm,” the skald said, and he tried to pull off the tarp, but whomever was below held on too tightly.

John and Guisel looked up meekly from beneath the tarp. Carlos was tucked in behind them. Kazrack and the others approached.

“Oh, Malcolm! Thank Ra you found us! There were goblins everywhere it was terrible,” John said.

“Yeah, we thought a couple of goblins would be no trouble. We’re are going to a dragon, aren’t we? But oh, it was worse than terrible. They came out of everywhere,” Guisel added.

“Where was this?” Kazrack asked.

“By a ravine not far from here,” Guisel said. “We thought we’d split up to find them easy and then they started shooting arrows at us!”

“Si! Si! Era horrible! Empersaron a venir de cada lado. Cucos! Cucos!” Carlos cried in his native tongue.

Malcolm tried yanking the tarp off again, and failed.

“Do you want to come back with us?” Kazrack asked

“No!” said Guisel. “There are still two of us back there though.”

“Dunkle and Doris,” said John.

“When the goblins came out they were at the bottom of the ravine and we were forced to leave without them,” Guisel explained.

“You left without them?!” Beorth said, trying to hide his disdain.

Jana smirked.

“What else could we do?” John pleaded.

Malcolm tried to pull the tarp off of them again, and yet still failed.

“Get up!” he roared. “Git back ta tha cahmp!”

The three got up with a start and started moving back towards the direction of the camp. Kazrack stopped Carlos.

“Do you want to come with us? You can fight,” the dwarf asked.

Carlos just shook his head in fear and jogged to catch up to the shelter of the tarp his friends still held.

“What a fine lot of heroes Crumb has collected himself, huh?” Kazrack said more to himself than the others. “We had best hurry. The others might be dead already.”

With that the six of them began to hustle towards the ravine, moving down the ridge, they could see the mist-shrouded rocky out-cropping that stood above the ravine and cave entrance. Kazrack called the group to stop, but Jeremy kept on going eager to find out what had happened to the others.

“Somebody stop him,” the dwarf hissed. “They could be waiting in ambush for us. We should go around the back side of the hill and try to get high ground.”

“I’ll go,” Beorth offered.

“No, let Malcolm go, he runs faster,’ Kazrack said, and with that the skald took off telling the others he’d meet them at the other side of the rocky hill.

Malcolm poured on the speed trying to trip Jeremy once and failing, and finally grabbing hold of his shoulder and spinning him around, not far from where the party had fought their battle on the previous day.

“Ya bloody git! Whadya doin’? Ya cahnt be roonnin’ off by yerself that way,” Malcolm said.
“Where is everyone else?” Jeremy asked.

“They went around tha uther way. Ya woulda nan that if ya had listened.”

“Oh, I. . . “

And with that a rain of arrows came flying through the misty air at the two companions. The rain and fog made it hard to see the exact direction they came from, but it was somewhere to the right. Jeremy dropped prone, while Malcolm ran behind a nearby tree to attempt to get cover, but it was too late they both felt the sting of arrows and already their blood was flowing, however lightly.
“Get back here, ya bloody git!” Malcolm cried to his friend.

Jeremy began to crawl on his stomach into the cover of the brush. He could feel arrows bite at his feet a he did so; more arrows thunked into the trunk of the tree Malcolm was standing beside. Not satisfied with his progress, Jeremy go up despite the rain of arrows and dove in to the brush beneath Malcolm. While they knew the general area that the arrows were coming from, the mist obscured the exact spot.

“They’re shooting arrows at us!” cried Malcolm hoping his friends would hear, but unfortunately they did not.

Kazrack and Beorth began to climb the rocky hill from the other side, with Jana and Chance behind them. This side of the barren hill was a series of small plateaus at varying heights, and mist clung all around it, obscuring vision. They had made their way halfway up when arrows began their rain on them as well.

Kazrack tried to find a way to get to where the arrows cam from, fanning to the right. Beorth, Chance and Jana continued straight on, and the gambler paid the price for this wager. In a second, Chance cried out and dropped to the ground, the bite of two arrows drawing blood. He placed his back to a plateau wall to stay out of their sight.

“Ahm gravely wounded!” he cried out.

Kazrack began to supply cover fire with his crossbow from his vantage point, while Beorth and Jana climbed up to the very top of the hill – a vantage point above the goblins that were firing at them. Unfortunately, when the stepped up there, looking to see how to get down to where the goblins were, there were two things they did not expect. The first, there was another rank of goblins behind those that were firing and they turned from where they were firing at Jeremy and Malcolm and fired point blank at the two of them, injuring them. In addition, at that moment a second volley of arrows came from another direction, somewhere across the ravine, and more blood flowed. Disabled, Jana dropped to the rocky ground.

Jeremy and Malcolm had been looking out of their cover, trying to determine where the arrows had been coming from to no avail. However, they could see Beorth standing above the mist on the highest plateau and the direction he was looking, so they had an idea of where the goblins might be. Malcolm decided to take his chance and drawing his bastard sword ran full speed towards the top of the hill. Suddenly, another rain of arrows came out of the mist from another direction, peppering him, but he did not stop until he had leapt from plateau to plateau and stood among the three original goblins - One had been dropped by a crossbow bolt from Kazrack. The goblins dropped their bows and pulled clubs.

Chance poked his head up over the edge of the plateau having heard Jana cry out and seeing her on the ground, climbed up and shielded her body with his.

“Dun move,” he said to her, but she had no intention of moving, the slightest strain would aggravate her wounds, and she would most likely bleed to death.

Kazrack leapt down to the ground level, thinking he’d find another way around and up at the goblins, but he twisted his ankle and fell to one knee. Jeremy followed Malcolm, but was also shot by arrows out of the mist. The Neergaardian drew his longsword and short sword and arrived beside his companion and now, he and the skald and the Ghosthunter of Anubis surrounded the three goblins. However, Kazrack could now see four more goblins with bows emerging from the brush near where Jeremy and Malcolm had been hiding. Steping into the brush on his own right, he leaned his halberd against a tree, feel to one knee and began to fire his crossbow at them. They fired as well, but the arrows got caught up in the brush, and failed to hit him. Kazrack’s aim was true and one of the goblins dropped with a single shot.

Atop the rocky hill, the three companions were having a hard time with the three goblins. Jeremy and Beorth were both trying fancy double blows from their weapons and failing to make contact. One of the goblins dealt a heavy blow to Malcolm’s brow, drawing blood.
Jana pushed Chance off of her and rolled over to the edge of the plateau to see what was happening in the battle. She mumbled her arcane words, but none of the goblins seemed to take notice.

Finally, the three warriors were able to fell the three goblins. Beorth immediately charged down the hill, leaping and bounding to support Kazrack, thinking that the danger was over at the top of the hill.

But the follower of the Jackal god was wrong, for in that same moment Chance began a stuttered cry…

“Tharce mar coming!”

Jana turned to look and four more goblins armed with bows were hustling up the south side of the hill. These must have been the source of the second flight of arrows.

Malcolm climbed up to where Jana and Chance were, but Chance in fear for his life dropped down, getting in the way of Jeremy who was trying to find a way up. Before they knew it, the goblins were upon Malcolm and Jana. Jana had had her club at the ready and smacked one hard, knocking it down, but it got up rather quickly returning the blow. Malcolm fought fiercely, swinging his bastard sword wildy, but not to much effect. Jeremy finally began to climb up to them, when a goblin struck a lucky blow against Malcolm’s jaw, sending him reeling backward. The back of the barbarian’s head slammed against the stone with a crunch, and blood erupted from his brow wound. He lay still, and the goblin that dealt the blow stepped over him towards Jeremy who came up to the plateau.
Meanwhile, Kazrack had rushed out his hiding place in the brush to charge a goblin with is halberd, shoving the broad blade deep into the creature and flinging up and over his head like a rag doll. Now he and Beorth were fighting side by side against the two remaining goblins that were down there with them.

Jana and Jeremy continued to fight two goblins, one of the other two waited to move into the action, but the fourth still had his bow out and as Beorth dropped the last goblin before him and Kazrack he felt the bite of a goblin arrow in his back. Reaching pathetically for the arrow in his back he slowly turned and dropped, disabled, to the ground.

“No!” cried Kazrack, and pulling his crossbow began to fire bolts up at the goblin.

Jeremy sliced deeply across one goblin’s belly with his long sword and another stepped up, striking a firm blow to the warrior’s hip. Keeping his balance Jeremy swung again, but the blow was parried.

Jana crushed the skull of her opponent and moved to tend to to Malcolm’s wounds. All this time Chance was trying to climb back up to offer help once he heard Malcolm fall, but the slippery stone and constant rain conspired against his efforts.

One of Kazrack’s bolts found its target and another goblin dropped. The remaining goblin turned and ran, but passing Jana she quickly swung out her club, crushing its knee cap and knocking it face first into the stone, where it lay motionless.

“Quick, do something. Help Macolm!” Jeremy cried. He kneeled on the other side of his friend and tried to help the young healer, but his lack of knowledge was obvious.

“Stop!” Jana said to him. “If I need your help I’ll ask for it.”

The blood kept on pouring out, blue, black and red. The skald’s eye was scarred, his breath a thin wisp of steam in the cold air.

Kazrack knelt beside Beorth. “Are you okay?”

“I’ll be okay. I just need some help to move,” the paladin said, trying to get up.

“Just sit still,” the dwarf said.

“Chance,” Kazrack cried up. “Come help me with Beorth!”

Chance obey and came down the hill towards the dwarf.

Jana’s attempts became more frantic. She pressed an absorbent herbal leaf on the wound. Smeared it with a poultice made of berries meant to help coagulation. But more blood began to pour from the skald’s nose, and then he coughed a bubbled of bright red blood. Malcolm’s face looked like one enormous bruise.

And with one last raspy breath, he stopped breathing all together.

Jana and Jeremy just stopped and looked down at their former friend. Kazrack and Chance walked up, carrying Beorth between them.

“How is Malcolm?” Kazrack asked.

There was a long silent pause, the constant rain was the only sound as it fell into Malcolm’s still open and now lifeless eyes.

“He’s dead,” Jana said quietly.

“Whut? No…” Chance said quietly, and helping Beorth to sit, he sat down as well and buried his face in hands no.

“Are you sure?” Kazrack asked. “Isn’t there anything you can do?”

“I have done all I can. The bleeding was mostly internal. There is little to be done about such things.”

Suddenly, Jeremy leapt up from where he sat.

“He can’t be dead! He can’t be dead! I was supposed to watch his back. Do something!” he grabbed Malcolm’s corpse and shook it. Tears flowing down his now ruddy cheeks, his blonde hair plastered to his forehead by the rain..
“Jeremy, stop. It’s over,” Jana said, placing her hand on his arm.

Jeremy roared in frustration, and standing grabbed one of the goblin corpses and made to toss it off the side of the hill in anger. Of course, Beorth moved to stop him, running to tackle him, but the sudden action aggravated his wounds, and he wrapped his arms around him only to collapse. Blood billowed from the wound in his back, and Jeremy paused to look down at the crumpled form However, even as Jana ran over to bind Beorth’s wounds before he bled to death, Jeremy tossed the body over the side and pulling his sword, sunk it repeatedly and violently into all the bodies of the goblins that were about. After a moment or two of this he collapsed as well, dropping his sword and burying his face in one hand.

Kazrcak decided that he would gather the goblin bodies in order to burn them, so that Beorth would not see the desecration of the bodies if he were to awaken. After making a pile not far from where Jana tended to Beorth, the dwarf walked down towards the ravine floor to retrieve the body Jeremy had tossed. He was surprised to find a human corpse beside the altar stone the goblins had used in the previous day’s rite of passage. He recognized it as one of Crumb’s boys, perforated by many arrows and he shook his head.

“Hello?” he heard a voice call out from the entrance to the cave where they had fought the goblin warlock. The dwarf hefted his halberd and walked closer to investigate.

“Someone there?” the dwarf called.

“Kazrack?” said an unfamiliar voice, and another of Crumb’s boys emerged from the cave mouth’s darkness. Kazrack recognized the boy’s face, but knew not his name.

“Are there any more goblins out there?” the boy asked.

“They are all gone for now. My companions and I killed them. What are you doing?” Kazrack asked.

“I was hiding from the goblins. They came out of nowhere…everywhere and this seemed like shelter so I came in here. Have you seen Dunkle? The last I knew he was crouched behind that square black stone.”

“He is dead,” Kazrack said simply.

The boy cringed backward toward the cave mouth. “What? No! Oh, no! Not Dunkle! No,” was all he could say.

“Where are you going?” Kazrack asked.

“I’ve gotta hide. There could be more goblins around. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die!” the boy became hysterical and sobbed, crouching back to the cave.

Kazrack stepped forward and grabbing him, shook him. “Listen. What’s your name?” he demanded.

“Doris.”

“Listen Doris, pull yourself together. This is no time for this. We have to get out of here. We have lost a friend as well.”

“Who?”

“Malcolm.”

“Oh sweet Ra! Malcolm’s dead, too?” Doris sobbed.

“Come help me with your friend’s body. We need to get him out of here.”

“Leave the body. Let’s go. Let’s hurry up. I don’t want to die too.”

“No. Come help me,” the dwarf said.

In time, a stretcher was fashioned for Beorth to be carried back to camp without further harming him. Malcolm’s body was stripped, and Jeremy hefted his friend’s body over one shoulder. Chance grabbed the skald’s bastard sword. Chance helped Kazrack with the stretcher, and Jana and Doris carried Dunkle’s body between them.

The walk back was long and hard, and the companions had to rest often in the rain that never seemed to rest. Eventually, the made it back.

Among the first people they saw was Boris E. Crumb who happened to be returning to camp at the same time.

“What is going on?” the fat man asked in his basso voice.

“Goblins,” said Kazrack. “Beorth is injured and Malcolm and Dunkle are dead.”

“Whut?” Crumb sighed “Whut in Set’s Realm were people doing wandering around after goblins for?”
“I don’t know. We went after them, but were too late to save Dunkle.”

“After ya went off to hunt some goblins yourself I’m sure. I know how it is. Well, this can’t be tolerate,” Crumb grunted, angrily. ‘Well take care of your injured friend and do something about the bodies. I’m gonna have to hold a meeting about this tomorrow. I can’t be letting my investments get killed on wild goose chases.”

He was already turning and walking away and mumbling as he finished. “Deet! Deet! Where are ya?”
Dunkle’s body was left at the camp, but Malcolm’s corpse and Beorth were brought into town to the temple of Anhur. There, Greglon of Anhur, showed them a room where Beorth could be laid in a bunk, and another where Malcolm’s body could be placed (after asking several questions about whether Malcolm had died as a brave warrior). The militant of Anhur then went into the room with Beorth, asking the others to wait outside. In a few minutes he returned.

“Beorth has been healed, but he needs his rest. He asked to speak with you, but keep in mind what I told. I will give you a few minutes alone, but then I will ask you to leave,” Greglon said.

“Of course,” Kazrack agreed.

In the room Beorth tried to sit up, but failing merely turned his head and said weakly, “Malcolm is dead? I’m not sure of the last thing I remember.”

“Yes, he is dead. His body is here in the temple to be taken care of,” Kazrack said.

“We must burn him in pyre as is the custom of his people,” Beorth said.

“Yes, that is what he would have wanted. Shall we try to arrange to send his stuff back to his kin?” the dwarf asked.

“I don’t think that it would matter even if we could,” Jeremy said. “He was exiled.”

“Then we will put his things to the fire as well,’ Beorth said.

“Except his bastard sword. I’m keeping that,” Chance said.

And it was agreed. Chance, Jana and Beorth returned to camp, but Jeremy asked for and received permission to stay at the temple with Beorth, not wanting to be far from the body of his companion who he had loved.

At the camp, Kazrack found Kamir digging Dunkle's grave all by himself - the rain making the sides of the hole erode, even as he shoveled out the dirt. So, he helped.

End of Session #4

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Notes:

(34) Temple of Anhur have open clay courtyards for daily martial practice and sparring.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Session #5

Isilem, the 9th of Ese – 564 H.E.

Shu (37) did not seem to care that this was the day of a funeral, for he continued to send his rains down upon Aquerra mercilessly. Kazrack awoke and sighed, the memory of Malcolm’s death re-entering his mind with his day’s first breath. He got up and getting dressed walked into town to find Beorth and see what help was needed with the funeral preparations. The camp was quiet.

At the Temple of Anhur, Beorth awoke to find Jeremy still sleeping, rolled into a ball in a bunk across the wood paneled room. He got down on his knees to pray, and then wrote of a list of things he needed for the funeral. As he was doing this, Kazrack arrived, shown in by Greglon of Anhur.

“We need to build a pyre for Malcolm,” Beorth told his dwarven companion.

“I will help in anyway I can,” Kazrack said.

Jeremy awoke and sat up stretching.

“Good morning, Jeremy,” said Kazrack.

“Oh, it is a beautiful day,” Jeremy said through a yawn.

“It is still raining. The skies still cry for our fallen friend,” Beorth said.

“No, it is a beautiful day. The sun feels warm,” Jeremy insisted.

Kazrack looked at Beorth with a puzzled look and then back at the blonde Neergaardian.

“I’m hungry,” Jeremy said, patting his stomach. “Malcolm is hungry too. I have to get him some food.”

“What do you mean, Malcolm’s hungry? Is that some kind of expression?” Kazrack turned to Beorth.

“Is that some kind of expression?”

The paladin shrugged his shoulders.

“He’s hungry. I’m his friend, and I should get him something to eat. I’m gonna get him some him some haggis.”

“Um. . . Jeremy? I’m sorry to tell you this, but don’t you remember? Malcolm passed on yesterday,” Kazrack said gently.

Jeremy stood. “Is there food here? I have to go the inn to get him some food. He’s really hungry.”

“Oh, no. He’s gone crazy. He’s gonna try to eat rocks or something,” Kazrack said to Beorth.

“Different people react to death differently. Often such a shock passes. Let’s hope that is that case with our companion. You watch him and make sure he doesn’t hurt himself. I have to prepare the body.”

“Yes, I’ll make sure he doesn’t eat rocks or anything,” Kazrack said, following Jeremy out.

Outside, Jeremy walked in his shirt-sleeves in the cool rain, seeming to be oblivious to it.

“It is a beautiful day. I hope they have something Malcolm likes at the inn. I don’t want him to be disappointed.”

“Is this some kind of custom of his people? Do you bury him with his favorite food for the trip to the afterlife or something?” Kazrack asked, nervously looking for any explanation of Jeremy’s behavior.

Jeremy stopped and looked at Kazrack, “Malcolm’s hungry. He wants to eat. I’m getting him food.”

He continued to walk.
H
“Malcolm told you this?”

“Of course. Stop being stupid.”

Jeremy wandered in the rain for some more time, followed closely by Kazrack, and eventually made his way back to the temple, where he climbed back into his cot soaking wet and closing his eyes fell back to sleep.

Beorth emerged from preparing the corpse; dressing it properly, wrapping it in a death shroud and such and explained to Kazrack what the pyre should be like – One pile of wood for each compass direction and one large one in the center to rest Malcolm’s body upon.

Kazrack went back to the camp, and found Kamir explained to him what needed to be done, and the eager young lade began to gather wood from under the tarps where it was kept dry. Chance volunteered to help as well, and Jana went to the temple to watch over Jeremy and keep him out of trouble when he woke up. The rain let up slightly, allowing Kazrack and friends to set up the pyre without fear that the wood would get too wet.
When they were done, Kazrack and Chance went back to the Temple of Anhur. They found Beorth and Jana eating biscuits and jam and drinking tea, waiting for them.

Jeremy woke up, “Morning, still raining, huh?”

“Is Malcolm still hungry?” Kazrack asked Jeremy hesitantly.

“That’s not funny,” Jeremy said in a voice of anger.

“Huh?” Kazrack was dumb-founded. “Don’t your remember getting up before? Walking around to get Malcolm something to eat?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Jeremy insisted.

“You must have been walking in your sleep,” Beorth said.

“I don’t do that.”

“Well, anyway, it is time for the funeral,” Beorth said, and with that they placed Malcolm’s body in a wheelbarrow and rolled it over to the camp where the burning and funeral would take place.

All of Crumb’s boys gathered around the pyre, which was right beside the grave where Dunkle’s body lay at the bottom. Deet and Crumb stood to the side and behind the crowd a bit, as did Devon, Markle and their companion (on the opposite side).

-----------

Beorth whispered a short prayer over the powdered incense that he held in his hand and moving from the south (at Malcolm’s head) to the north and then from the east to the west, he placed a small pile of incense in each of the four directions. Silently he lit each pile and within moments the camp filled with the thick scent of incense.

Beorth stepped to the head of the pyre and extended his hands in supplication to the Gods.

“Anubis, I am no priest but I stand before You as Your servant and ask You to grant me this favor. Today I am sending you the soul of Malcolm Mac Duligh. I beg You to greet his soul when it arrives and to allow him entry into Your realm. Watch over him while his soul experiences Duat and until the time comes when Your Father calls upon his heart to be weighed and his soul is judged.”

Beorth plucked the torch he used to light the incense from the ground where he had ensconced it and placed it into the wood piled near Malcolm’s head. The flames fought the droplets of water falling from the sky, but eventually the fire began to grow.

Moving clockwise around the pyre, Beorth came to stand at its northern point. His voice rose over the crackle of the growing flames.

“Father Osiris, Judge of the Dead, today the soul of Malcolm Mac Duligh will arrive at the gates of Anubis’ realm. In Life, he fought honorably and bravely in the name of Good. When the times comes to weigh his heart, I pray that You will find it as light as a feather and the You will speed his soul onward to whatever is planned for it.”

Beorth plunged the torch into the pyre at Malcolm’s feet and watched as the flames spread around Malcolm’s ankles. He tread the distance to the eastern point of the pyre in silence. After glancing into the sky where Shu’s tears still obscured Ra’s Glory, Beorth addressed his words to the King of the Gods.
“All powerful Grandfather Ra, God of the Sun, an honorable and just warrior has fallen in battle and his soul now travels to Anubis’ realm. I ask that You make room in Your celestial barge for Malcolm’s soul and transport him safely to my Father who will be waiting. His soul merits your attention and deserves this honor.”

After igniting the pyre along the eastern side, Beorth came to rest at the West.

“O Great God Ptah, Creator of All, the soul of Malcolm Mac Duligh has left this world and has begun its journey to Anubis. I ask You to protect Malcolm’s soul on this journey and bring him safely into the care of Anubis."

"When we left on our journey many weeks ago, we prayed for Your assistance and I pray now that You will continue to watch over us so that we, like Malcolm, may safely reach the end of our path."
Beorth knelt and lit the wood in front of him. As he walked to stand again near Malcolm’s head, he felt the heat from the fire grow and through the smoke, he could see the flames consume Malcolm’s body.

“Father, today You will receive another soul into Your care. Welcome him and keep him safe.”
In a whisper few could hear, Beorth added, “Peace be with you, Malcolm. In Death, as it never was in Life.”

And with that Beorth cast the torch into the center of the pyre and watched to ensure that Anubis’ will was done.

-----------

All bowed their heads as the flames licked upward towards the grey sky, which still squeezed out some last drops of moisture. Chance and others began to cover Dunkle in his grave. Beorth walked over and said some words over Dunkle as well.

As the pyre burned down and Crumb’s boys (and Crumb himself) began to wander over towards the mess tent, the companions noticed that standing back a respectful distance from the funeral were a group of armed and armored men. There were a dozen in studded leather, with helmets, holding spears and having short swords and maces at their belts; a handful had crossbows. Standing a little before them Kazrack recognized the Captain of the Guard. The dwarf also noticed standing beyond this group were three men. Two held halberds and maroon tabards, and the flanked the third who wore a chain shirt, and seemed middle-aged had a bushy mustache and bright friendly grey eyes.
Kazrack walked over to the Captain of the Guard.

“Captain.”

“Kazrack, right?” the man asked. “I wanted to say that I was sorry for the loss of your companion, and to tell you that the Lord decided to investigate these goblins himself. He wants to talk to you and your companions before we leave.”

“Of course,” Kazrack said respectfully, and gathered his companions. The Captain brought them over to the man flanked by the two others with halberds.

“My Lord, this is Kazrack and his companions that I told you about,” the captain looked at the young adventurers. “This is Cutter Jack, Lord of Cutter Jack’s.”

They nodded their heads.

The lord spoke in a pronouncedly “unlordly” way, “I just wanted to give my condolences for the loss of your companion and to thank you for your help with the goblin problem and bringing it to our attention. I am convinced that goblins alone could not create such fine armor, so we are going to investigate this. However, before I do I wanted to reward you for your efforts.”

The lord gestured to one of his men, who pulled a fat pouch of coins and handed it to Kazrack who passed it to Beorth.

“I know no amount will repay the loss of your friend, but I hope this does give you some small comfort,” He looked up. “It looks as if the rain was only taking a respite. We need to be going on our way. If your journeys ever bring you back to Cutter Jack’s you must come by the house for dinner. Okay?”

“Um, okay… Thank you,” the friends all mumbled and with that the Lord stepped of accompanied by his men.

“Pleasant chap,” Chance said.

“I think we should donate this money in Malcolm’s name, in his honor,” Beorth said.

“Sounds like a good idea,’ Kazrack said.

“I think we should count it first,” Jana said.

“It doesn’t matter,” Jeremy said, sullenly.

“Aye, we should count it, for certain. No need to be givin’ away too much now,” Chance added.

“Exactly,” said Jana.

“It matters not. Malcolm paid his life for this money. We should do something worthwhile with it,” Beorth insisted.

“Ah think we should use it ta buy the best bottle of booze we can find and get smashed,” Chance said.

“That sounds good, too,” Jeremy said with only slightly more enthusiasm.

“Is that what Malcolm would want?” Beorth asked.

“Of course,” said Chance, eyes gleaming.

“Yes,” said both Jana and Jeremy.

“I think so, too,” said Kazrack.

“Here is five silver pieces, Chance. Go buy something,” Beorth offered.

“Five pieces of silver! Loosen yer pockets, man! Malcolm was worth more than that,” Chance said.

“That is all your getting.”

“Fine, I guess I’ll ahve ta gamble it fer more.”

However, before Chance could take off. The lunch bell was rung and they were all reminded of the meeting Crumb had wanted to call ,and the friends gathered with the others, to where Crumb stood beneath a strange object that Deet held over their employer’s head. It was a parasol with an oilskin cover, that kept the now heavy (again) rain from making him too wet.

He spoke in his deep deep baritone, “As ya all know we lost two of our numbers yesterday and that is very sad, but it is also a waste. There is no need to go running off huntin’ goblins or anything similar, when you have much more important things to be done in Gothanius. I have a great deal of time and money invested in you boys and there is a such thing as `the spirit of the contract’. In Gothanius, you will be equipped and there will be some training. Why risk yourselves now when you are unprepared? As an incentive I plan to up your daily travel pay to 5 pieces of copper…”

Kamir let out a quiet cheer, and Crumb continued, “Luckily for you there are some people here who care enough to go after those who would so easily risk their lives. They wouldn’t go off by themselves to hunt goblins, but would risk themselves to return those who would. I think that if you get a chance you should thank those people for nipping this thing in the bud, before a few people inspired others to go do the same. No need to mention names – We all know who they are.”

Kazrack, Jana, and the others could sense the subtle sarcasm in Crumb’s voice. Everyone knew who they were, and everyone also knew that they were the first to go out there looking for goblins, and they were the ones who had tried to train some of them to fight.

“Regardless of this, Deet and I have secured wagons and oxen and we will be leaving tomorrow, through Bountiful to Stonebridge and north all the Tall Twin Rive from there. Because of all the supplies we need to bring, you will have to switch off riding in the wagons every day – Half of you walking, half of you riding. Except for the dwarf, he will get to ride all the time as to not slow us down. I will be driving the first wagon with Kinney and Deet will be in the rear one with Horung. (38) So get your rest, and we’ll be off in the morning!”

The group dispersed, and Chance ran into town returning with a hand keg and a few bottle of wine and a bottle of Dwarven Spirits.

Jana, Chance, Kazrack and Jeremy sat in the dwarf’s tent and drank away the night, toasting to Malcolm and laughing a lot. Beorth was no where to be found, preferring quiet contemplation to revelry.

When the inebriation had really set in, Chance stood up and sang his “Son of Whore” song:
Ain’t nothing as lucky as a son of whore/ Ain’t nothing as lucky as a son of whore / Ain’t nothing as lucky as a son of whore / Ya get some good luck and then ya get a bit more! / Ain’t nothing as lucky as a son of whore / Ain’t nothing as lucky as a son of whore

“Ya know me mum whas a hooer. Thas right,” Chance said in his drunken slur. “Me Da’ said she’d do anythin’ for a cahpper; for that promise of a cahpper even.”

‘Did you like your mother?” Jana asked.

“Ah nevah metah,” Chance replied. “Ah’d come back ta Verdun to see `er, but I found she had died. Me Da’ brought me up in Wallbrook. He said, thar’s lots of suckers. . . I mean, money to be won I Wallbrook.”

Everyone laughed. “Hold on. I got something fer ya, Jeremy.”

Chance ran back to his tent and returned with a sword wrapped in a cloth, “It’s Malcolm’s bahstard sword. I figured ya’d wan it.”

Jeremy was silent for a moment and then finally spoke, “I don’t know. He always told me a should use a bigger sword, but it really isn’t my style. I guess, I’ll take it, but I doubt I’ll use it.”

“You know there is a custom among my people, where we re-forge an item that belongs to a loved one that has passed away so that can use it in their memory,” Kazrack noted. “If we get to a forge I can use, I could do that with the sword.”

“That sounds nice; maybe some rings we could all wear,” Jeremy smiled.

“I’ll carry it for now,” Chance said.

“Well, we know you won’t use it,’ Kazrack said.

“Now, what da hell is that supposed ta mean?!” Chance said, with the sudden anger of a drunk.

“I just meant that you aren’t exactly the bravest person around,” the dwarf said, a bit of ale and spirits loosening his tongue as well.

“How da hell wouldja know? Ya busy runin’ around killin gooblins with ya big pole-axe or whateva’ da hell it is. I do my part. Ya know, a real hero doesn’t haveta explain himself, but lucky fa me, I’m nutta real hero! I sheltered Jana with me own body when I gravely wounded, an’ there were arrahs flyin’ all about.”

‘That’s true he did,” Jana concurred.

“An’ when the goblin warlock tried ta get away, who blocked his path? I did!”

“Chance has his uses,’ Jana said.

“Ya damn, right!” Chance said, standing.

“I’m sorry, Chance. I guess I misjudged you,” Kazrack admitted.

“Ya damn, right ya misjudged me, and I’ll tell ya another thing…” And with that he passed out.

Kazrack let him sleep there. Jana returned to her tent, and Jeremy stumbled back to his as well. Beorth returned from whatever he had been doing and went to sleep as well.

Tomorrow they would all be deeper into the inland of Derome-Delem.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Notes:

(37) Shu is the god of Birds & Sky of Ra’s Pantheon – twin to Tefnut (Goddess of Oceans). He is one of the five elemental gods of the pantheon.

(38) Kinney and Horung are the assistants Crumb hired to help him and Deet manage the trip overland to the Kingdom of Gothanius.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Osilem, 10th of Ese – 564 H.E.

It was morning again, and still no sign of the rain stopping for good. The field was a muddy mess, and Crumb’s boys (and one girl) took down their tents with little enthusiasm. Even Kamir seemed sluggish in his frantic running about to help every pack up their tent to be the easiest shape for stowing and/or carrying.

Everyone got into the assigned wagons, Kazrak and his friends were in the rear one, along with the older quiet man, who seemed to re-materialize when it was time to leave. He spoke no word, but simply sat near the edge of the covered wagon. Devon, Markle and their friend were among those who would walk the first day. Kamir, of course walked as well.

Kazrack took note as he helped to load one wagon with supplies that these wagons were in particularly bad shape. They groaned and creaked as the supplies were put on and as the boys climbed on, and when the oxen were finally whipped and pulled with their great strength, it seemed only with great hesitation that the wagons moved from their muddy spots on the field.

The two wagons crawled through the misty rain, breaching the comfort of the nearby roads wagon ruts, because of the great softening of the earth. They traveled through woods most of the day, but before lunch the rear wagon’s wheels sunk into a deep patch of mud and even oxen strength was not enough to pull it out. Those who walked were told push, and Devon put his all into it. His head hanging into the wagon as he and the others pushed.

“Get the hell off the wagon and help push,” Devon said, the others who were pushing concurred.

“Come on, Devon,” Kazrack taunted. “Push! What’s a matter, are you as soft as a girl? Can’t push a little wagon?”

The dwarf and the others hopped off to help.

“Listen, Stumpy, shut the hell up and push, before I push your teeth through your head with my fist,” Devon said.

“Tough words from someone whining for help,” Kazrack said, getting his shoulder into it.

The wagon rocked three times and was free. Those riding in the back climbed back in, covered in mud; of course, Kazrack also rode.

“Your welcome for the help,” Kazrack said, sitting with his legs dangling from the back of the wagon. Devon. “If you are too weak to do anything else, let me know if I can help.

“Your are pretty witty,” Devon said. “Perhaps, if you weren’t so busy being witty and could actually fight Malcolm would still be here to hear you be witty now.

Kazrack opened and then closed his mouth, having nothing to say. He was quiet for the rest of the
day.

After stopping for lunch and to water the oxen, evening fell as Crumb’s Boys emerged at the foot of some hills. The encroaching darkness became too much to risk traveling in. Fires were built despite the rain and camp was made in the grassy place between the rockier hills and the forest.

Tholem, 11th of Ese – 564 H.E.

Another day and still more rain, now rumbling in and out of a roar with polyrhythmic anger and joy. A cold wind smelling of the frost of the obscured mountains to the north and west, shook the canvas covers of the wagons, and helped drops of water find their way through small tears in the covering, to leak annoyingly on those trying to remain dry inside. Now they journeyed along a mud track flanked by grassy foothills on right, and gradual decline to a rolling plain to the left. The going was even slower now. The road was a soup of mud and loose stones. The front wagon become stuck and had to be pushed free twice before lunch, and as evening come close for a second slow and miserable day on the road, the rear wagon again would not move.

Again everyone helped to push the trapped wagon (except Crumb and Deet who stood watching, one covering the other with the gnomish horizontal rainshield). They pushed the wagon and rocked it, and Kinney whipped the oxen as Horung pulled on their horns and chastised them, but to no avail. They all gave it one final heave, and there was a loud cracking sound as the whole top of the wagon came free of the chassis and the covering toppled over, sending crates to scatter in the mud.

Crumb’s boy’s gathered the boxes, as Horung calmed the startled oxen. Crumb and Deet began to talk quietly together, both obviously upset by the occurrence. Kazrack was already thinking of how to put all the supplies in the first wagon and have everyone walk, when Kinney shouted there was a huge crack in one of the front wagon’s wheels and that it would not be going much further either.

Crumb called everyone off of the first wagon and then he and Deet went in there and talked for a long while. The rain was cold and unceasing, and trickled down the hillside in torrents that made huge puddles in the road.

After a time Crumb called for Beorth and Kazrack to join them in the wagon. The dwarf and the paladin found the expedition’s leader hunched over a map that was spread out on the top of crate.

Crumb addressed them in his deep voice, fingering his damp mustache.

“As you know we’re not going to be getting very far without the services of a wainwright,” Crumb said. “Fortunately, there is a mining town less than half a day’s travel north of here called Tallow’s Post.”

He paused.

“As you have proven your willingness to be helpful to the group and your trustworthiness to not just wander off we’re sending you to find a wainwright there to return with you and do the needed repairs.”

Deet handed Kazrack a pouch of coins. “Here are 35 pieces of silver. This should sufficient to pay the wainwright. You only need to go over the ridge to our right and keep the cliffs you will eventually see the village to your left; according to the map. The place is only recently established, so I don’t know too much about it. We are lucky it is on the map at all.”

“Can we bring anyone else?” Kazrack asked.

“Yes, bring your friends along. There is safety in numbers,” Crumb said. “We will wait 3 or 4 days for you and then we’ll have to figure out some other plan.”

Kazrack and Beorth agreed and gathered Jeremy, Jana and Chance.

“Do you want to come?” Kazrack asked.

“Anything is better than staying stuck here,” Jana said.

“Well, if she goes then I go,” Chance said.

“Whatever,” said Jeremy.

The five companions gathered their soaked packs and clambered over the ridge and headed north, gradually rising in elevation towards the mining town.

---------------------

The rain was lightening into just a constantly circulating mist, only obscuring vision, ceasing to cut down to the bone. The surrounding landscape was shrouded, and only the looming shadows of cliff faces to either side and distantly ahead could be made out.

The five companions marched upon the tall yellowed grass that was bowing low with the weight of water, and through the mist – However, they all halted when they saw the silhouette of a large hulking figure. It seemed to stoop and swing its arms back and forth in the mist and shift from foot to foot, waiting in the mist.

Kazrack and Jeremy pulled out their crossbow and readied a quarrel. Chance and Jana hung back, and Beorth held his quarterstaff at the ready.

“We’ll cover you, while you go ahead and see what it is,” Kazrack said to Beorth.

“Alone?” the paladin asked, wearily.

“You do not have a ranged weapon,” Kazrack said. “Don’t worry, we got you covered.”

“I am not worried,” Beorth said, with a hint of annoyance and crept forward towards the figure in the mist coming around it from the right.

It seemed to lurch forward in his direction, and he paused, and then took three quick steps forward, just as the wind dispersed just enough mist to see that it was a large weeping willow swaying in the wind.

“It’s an ogre!” Beorth cried, and both Kazrack and Jeremy fired. Beorth began to hustle back, while Jeremy reloaded, but Kazrack dropped his crossbow, and wielding his halberd went charging through the mist at the figure.

The dwarf paused as he saw the tree and said, “It is only a tree!”
Beorth laughed, as did Chance and Jana. Jeremy fired another crossbow bolt just as the dwarf said this.

------

After their encounter with the ferocious tree, the companions continued moving northward, finding that the willow was just the first of many more trees that made up a sparse forest set between two tall cliff faces, that loomed like stone giants on their flank. The mist became thinner as well, but swirled madly and thickly above their heads, obscuring the tops of the nearby hills and mountains. The wind they walked into was cold and damp, but at least the rain had stopped.

They marched on for another hour among the low and sparse trees; Kazrack and Beorth in front, followed by Jeremy, with Chance and Jana taking up the rear. It was then that they noticed a tall figure come running out of the mist ahead of them.

The man was over six feet tall and shoulders as broad as Chance’s if they were tripled. He wore a fur cloak, the hood pulled over his face, his jutting jaw protruding from the cowl’s shadow. He held a quarterstaff in one hand at his waist, and had a quiver of javelins bouncing against his left hip. He wore deer hide pants and a fur shirt, that lifted occasionally to reveal a chain shirt underneath; a bow stuck out from the top of his pack.

The party stopped. Kazrack called. “Who are you?”

The man only replied with, ‘Get back to back!” The group became immediately aware of what he spoke of, for behind him came running a scrawny grey and black wolf, that leapt at him, tearing a piece off the man’s pants as it bit deep into his thigh, and made the man stagger forward and spin around to face his attacker.

Jeremy charged forward to help the man, but three more wolves emerged from the mist, coming at the group. Jeremy changed his course to meet one wolf, as Beorth went forward to take on another. The fourth wolf seemed to be coming towards Kazrack, who waiting to meet its charge, but moving at incredible speed, it ran past him and around, biting deeply into Chance’s chest, knocking the rogue over. Chance began to cry out as his blood spurted everywhere. The wolf that Beorth faced off against grabbed his pant leg and pulled the warrior off his feet as well. Chance managed to pull off the wolf and climb to his feat as Jana spoke her arcane words and tried to place a deep fear into him, however the wolf was too intent on his prey. Kazrack ran over and slashed the beast with his halberd, created a deep wound in its flank. For a moment it looked as if it might flee, but growling it attacked. Jana and Kazrack both noticed the foam flicking off the creature’s mouth. It was thick and white and foamed, making their muzzles white with the dried liquid.

Chance moved away, gravely wounded. Jeremy finished his wolf with two blows of his longsword, and the ran over to stand beside the strangers who’s own wolf seemed to be giving him trouble.

“Stand aside, I’ll help you,” Jeremy said to the man who was nearly a full head taller than the Neergaardian. Jeremy looked up at the man at his side, and saw a long scar that seemed to bisect his left cheek. It was deep in his ruddy, almost umber skin, and ran all the way up to his eye. The two of them made short work of the wolf, as Kazrack took a last swipe at one that fled in fear from an application of Jana’s spell. Beorth was finally able to get to his feet and crush the skull of the wolf attacking him. It died with a whimper, even as he noted the foaming flecks on the creature’s muzzle as well.

“I never knew wolves would attack people that way,” Jeremy said.

“These wolves are diseased,” said the tall stranger, as he began to pull the corpse of a wolf into a pile he began making.

“I noticed that,” Kazrack said, walking over. “Was anyone bit?”

“I am gravely wounded,’ Chance said, from where he was lying on the cold ground. Jana tended to his wound.

“I was bit,” said Jeremy. “Do you think we can be infected?”

“It is possible, said the dwarf.

“Come here, let me clean out and dress your wounds,” Jana said.

“Looks like you were bitten, too,” Jeremy said as he walked over to Jana. “Don’t you want Jana to clean your wounds?”

“Anubis provides. I will be fine,” the paladin said, turning to the new stranger, who Kazrack was now approaching as well.

“Who are you? What are you doing out here alone?” Kazrack asked the stranger.

“I am called Ratchis,” the man said, in a raspy voice. “I was traveling hoping to find a caravan I had heard of going to Gothanius, and came across these diseased wolves. I decided I needed to try to destroy them before they spread the disease, and so they would not suffer unduly, and of course, to keep them from attacking others. Unfortunately, there were more of them than I could handle alone and had to flee.”

“It is a good thing you came upon us then,” Beorth said.

“How do you know about the caravan to Gothanius?” Kazrack asked.

“I simply had heard that the place was looking for settlers and warriors in its time of need, and that a caravan of such would be heading there. I wanted to join,” the stranger answered. “You know of it?”

“Yes, we are part of it, but our wagons broke down and we are going to Tallow’s Post in search of the services of a wainwright. Do you know the town?”

“Yes, I passed by it on my way here. I can lead you to it, if perhaps you will help me with the plague of wolves.”

“Well, we have kind of a time limit to get back to the caravan,” Kazrack said.

“But if the wolves pose a danger to the people of this area, we should help,” Beorth said.

“Well, there are more wolves in the woods to the north of here, so either way, I have to go towards Tallow’s Post, so I will lead you there and perhaps you will change your mind.”

“Sounds good,” Kazrack said.

So the group gathered together and continued their march.

Chance leaned in close to Jana and whispered in here ear, “Ida trust this man, looks ta me like he led the wolves teh us. He could be en leg with them.”

“Chance, he was bitten too, and was being chased,” Jana explained.

“It could all be a ruse, I say,” Chance insisted. “Imma gone keep an eye on him.”

“You do that.”

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Notes:

(39) This road is called The Mountain Door and rains from Cutter Jack’s to the One Road which connects many of the Free Towns of central Derome-Delem, and both are used by the Nauglimir Dwarven Merchant Consortium.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Session #5 (part III)

Now being led by the mysterious tall man in the fur cloak, they continued to march for a little less than an hour. The cliff face on the right, receded into the distance, but the one on the left was taller and steeper. Eventually they came to a small village of white stone houses with thatched roofs set upon a low plateau in the cliff face. At the edge of the plateau where a stream ran down the crumbled cliffside, was the tarped over foundation of some sort of mill that seemed under construction.

The party walked up the short flight of wide steps up to the village. (40) A broad street lead to a small village square with a well, where an inn and a general store were situated among houses. The followed the sounds of voices and the soft glow of a warm hearth into “The Silver Vein Inn”. In the distance they could see another building under construction. This one was of stone and was built on it own plateau just a little above the rest of the town.

The inn’s common room was very dim, and the tables were full of men dressed in dark utilitarian clothes, and black leather hats. They had dirty face and hands, and they had the smell of earth on them, which hung on the damp air. The warmth of the hearth came over the travelers, and they felt the exhaustion of the day’s travel and the damp that had worked its way down to the bone.
The six of them took a table, as the miner patron looked at them strangely for a moment and then went back to their own meals and conversations. A young boy of about 12 years old with dirty blonde hair and fat chipmunk cheeks, came over to take their order.

“I’m Nicholas,” the boy said. “Whaddya want?”

“What do you have?” Kazrack asked.

“Food. What the heck do ya think we got?” the boy said in a shrill voice. “You’re a dwarf like Rene is!”

“Who is Rene?’ Kazrack asked.

The boy sighed as if this were common knowledge throughout all of Aquerra, “She’s the priest of Thor here in town.”

“A dwarven priest of…” he coughed. “Thor? I had heard of such things it saddens me.” (41)

“Whatever,” said the boy.

“Well, I will have an ale and some mutton. Have you got mutton?”

“Yes, of course we have mutton. What do we look like? And potatoes?” The boy did not wait for the dwarf to answer. “Good, potatoes it is.”

The boy came back with a tray full of plates and mugs.

“No one else said what they wanted, so I brought the same thing for everyone,” Nicholas said.

“Well, you didn’t as us,” Jeremy said.

“Mister, if ya wanna be heard in this world, ya gotta speak up, or so my dad always says.”
He served the food and left.

“Sharp-tongue kid,” Jeremy observed.

As the group ate, Kazrack and Beorth overheard some miner talking about the wolf at a table behind them. It seemed that the number of wolves had increased, and that they were endangering the local shepherds’ flocks of sheep and goats. Jeremy, Jana and Ratchis overheard some other miners saying how they thought the plague of wolves was a curse brought down by the goblins that had been “forced out of the mine” a year or so before, and that travel into and out of the town had become too dangerous to risk for most people.

“Looks like we might have to help out with the wolf problem,” Kazrack said.

“Why do you say that?” Jeremy inquired.

“Well, if no one can leave the town, we can’t get a wainwright to come with us,” said the dwarf.

“He’d be traveling with us. He’d be fine,” Jeremy said.

“But still we should help these people,” Beorth said.

“That is what I plan to do,” Ratchis said. “I need to take care of this wolf problem, with our without your help; though I’d prefer if I had it.”

“You are guys are just incredible. Didn’t the incident with the goblins teach you anything? Why go after these wolves if we don’t have to?” said Jana.

“Well, I have no problem with going after the wolves, but let’s see if we can gain something for doing it. We could all use some extra coinage,” said Jeremy.

“Coinage is good, but I’m not so sure about going after foaming wolves. I was gravely wounded in that last encounter,” said Chance.

Ratchis grunted.

“Well, I’d like to help these people, “ said Kazrack. “but our first commitment is to the caravan and the contract we signed, but again, I think we’re going to have to end up doing it anyway.”
Ratchis looked at the dwarf.

The young boy, Nicholas, came back. “Ya want more ta drink?”

“Yes,” said Kazrack. “Another ale for each of us.”
“Okay, well that will be 18 cps up front and ya better give me a good tip, too.”

“Nickie! Go get a bucket of fresh water from the well!” the innkeep called.

“Dad! Don’t call me Nickie! And I’ll go in a second after I bring these weirdos some drinks!’
His father laughed at his son’s cheekiness, but Kazrack sneered. The boy retrieved their drinks and then went out to the well.

“Well, first thing’s first – We need to find a wainwright,” Kazrack said.

“Did you say, wainwright?” the innkeeper asked, as he had overheard as he walked by.

“Yes.”

“He’s sitting right over there,” the innkeep said pointing to a man sitting a table with two other men.
Kazrack went over and was discussing terms with the man (who insisted he would not leave town while the danger of wolves existed), when there was a ruckus of screaming from outside.

Ratchis immediately ran to the door, followed by Jeremy and Kazrack.

“I hope that isn’t Nicholas,” Beorth said.

From the door, Jeremy, Ratchis and Kazrack saw three townspeople being chased down by wolves. Little Nicholas stood frozen in fear by the well. Ratchis ran out after one wolf, while Jeremy moved towards another. Kazrack moved to block the path of one wolf heading toward Nicolas, but it out maneuvered him, as two other wolves knocked down townsfolk. Beorth stepped up to one just in time to see it pull the throat out of a man sending a shower of blood in all directions. Jeremy pulled his shortsword and longsword and engaged another wolf, as Kazrack decided it made more sense to go after the boy than the wolf, so when the boy panicked and ran the dwarf tackled him and shielded him with his own body, which allowed the wolf to grab a big chunk of the dwarf’s hindquarters in his teeth and start biting through the dwarf’s scale mail.

Ratchis finished a wolf with one mighty blow and ran over and began to swing his quarterstaff at the one atop Kazrack, as Jeremy finished one wolf and went for another. Beorth was pulled off his feet in the muddy and bloody earth and had to struggle to get back and keep from being killed by a wolf as well. Beorth finally crushed the skull of the wolf he was fighting. As Jeremy and Ratchis tried to finish that last wolf that was determined to rip a hole in the dwarf who shielded the squirming kid, a ray of sickly green light flashed from behind them striking the wolf. They did not see where it came from, but its bites became less effective, and they skewered it.

Yet, even as the party gained their breath from the battle, a howl caught their attention, and looking towards the top of the street they saw what appeared to be a very large and shaggy white wolf, that beheld them with intelligent ice blue eyes. They felt the blood in their veins freeze, as it cocked its head, taking them in, and then just as suddenly as he appeared, the mist rolled in across his position and when it cleared he was gone.

“Didja see that?!” Chance exclaimed and then hushed his voice. “Twas a devil-wolf. Oh, Bes protect us!”

“Yes, I did see it. What was that?” Jana aked.

“I didn’t see anything,” Jeremy said.

“Nicholas! Nicholas!” the innkeep came running out of the Silver Vein Inn and embraced his son, who Kazrack was just helping to get up off the ground. “How many times have I told you not to go out alone at night?” He turned to Kazrack. “You saved my son. You all did. Drinks are on me and you may stay in the common room of the inn for free tonight.”

“These men are dead,” Beorth said, examining the townfolk ravaged by the wolves. “Someone needs to notify their families.”

“Someone help me with these,” Ratchis said, beginning to drag the wolf bodies into a pile to burn.

“You cannot burn those here. They need to be dragged to the edge of town,” said a man who walked out of one of the dark streets. He wore a chain shirt and held a loaded crossbow. “I am Sergeant Fnord, constable of Tallow’s Post.”

He looked over at the dead men and clucked his tongue. “That is a shame. Thank you for your help, generally wolves would not attack the town itself. It must be the disease. People on the outskirts of town have been reporting wolf attacks.” He paused. “And you six are?”

“I am Kazrack Delver,” the dwarf said. “My companions and I are here to acquire the services of a wainwright, but it looks like the wolves are getting in our way. We were thinking that perhaps we might help to take care of the problem.”

“Well, the town would really appreciate it, and perhaps I could even get the burgomeister to offer some compensation,” Fnord said.

“What shall I do with the bodies of these men? Shall we bring them to their families?” asked Beorth.

“No, it would be better if their families did not see them like this without knowing what happened first. I will go and inform them, if you will do me the favor of bringing their bodies to my office.”

“Of course,” Beorth said.

So, Jeremy, Kazrack, Chance, Beorth and Jana brought the bodies to the constable’s office, while Ratchis remained behind to burn the wolves and watch for more. The tall woodsman went into the inn (which had cleared out as people went home after the wolf fight) and pulled a bench the shuttered window. He strung his bow and leaned his quiver of javelins against the wall, and laid his quarterstaff on the floor below him. The warmth of the hearth was getting to be too much, so he pulled off his fur cloak.

---

Meanwhile, the others had to wait a while for Sergeant Fnord to return.

“I’m sorry I took so long, but it would have been rude of me to give the families such news and then simply leave,” he said.

“We understand,” said Beorth.

The constable showed them inside his office.

“I will not be able to speak to the Burgomeister until the morning, but like I said any help would be appreciated.”

“Well, it looks like we don’t have much of a choice but to do something about the wolves,” Kazrack said.

Jana and Chance looked at each other.
“As the wainwright won’t leave town with the wolves running around,’ the dwarf added. “But why don’t you and your guards take care of it?”

“There is only me and two deputies. We do not have the manpower for such a project. Normally,

Rene would help us, but she is away on church business in Rockmar,” Fnord said.

“Rene is the priestess of Thor?” Kazrack asked.

“Yes. She helped with to get rid of the goblins that took over our mines just over a year ago, and as payment the burgomeister agreed to pay for half of building a temple of Thor in the town.”

“We heard that the wolf infestation might be a some sort of revenge by the goblins,” Beorth said. “A curse?”

“Unlikely,” concluded Fnord. “The adventuring party that cleared the mine, called the Oath (42) , collapsed the tunnel to a goblin city in the Plutonic Realms (43) and we haven’t had trouble with the goblins since. And from what I can remember, these goblins used worgs, which are intelligent, not normal wolves.”

“Well, we should return to the inn and rest, since we will probably head out in the morning,” said Kazrack.

“I will come by in the morning after I speak to the burgomeister,” said the seargeant.

-----

At the Silver Vein Inn, they found Ratchis still waiting, and despite the dimness they could now see what their new companion looked like. The scar that Jeremy had noted before ran from above his eye down his cheek and over his eye; when he blinked they could see that the scratch was on his eyelid as well. Despite his broad shoulders, his head seemed disproportionately large. He had a large protruding jaw, with teeth that peeked out in a pronounced underbite from behind his swollen lower lip. Ratchis’ complexion was mottled, with lighter yellow splotches of skin color on his face chest, but darker on the neck and sides of his head his flat broad nose and cheeks was a wash in a myriad of freckles. His eyes, were brown with hints of red fleck, set into narrow slits beneath his nearly ridged brow; his hair was shoulder length nappy bunches of fiery copper, dulled by dirt and grime, tied back. About Ratchis’ neck was the dark shadow of an indigo tattoo, which looked like it probably
reached beneath his clothing.

“Damn, he’s ugly,” Chance said under his breath.

The companions called for a nightcap, which the innkeep happily obliged them with.

“Here ya go,” the old man said. “You know I was thinking, I bet the old hermit has something to do with whole wolf thing.”

“Hermit?” asked Beorth.

“Yes, some solitary man that lives in the woods north of here, where the wolves were seen coming from. People say he has dealings with goblins and might be warlock of some kind.”

“Perhaps he’d be worth asking about this whole thing,” Kazrack said. “We’ll see in the morning.”

“Well, I’ll tell ya one thing, if he’s got dealing with the devil wolf we saw he has ta be a warlock,” said Chance.

The five companions and their guide found spots on the floor by the hearth and went to sleep to dream about hunting wolves or being hunted by them.


Balem, 12th of Ese - 564 H.E.

The warmth that had evaded the companions’ journey for so long now, found them asleep on the common room floor. Birds chirped, and actual sunlight crept along the floor to itch their noses and makes them squirm to find comfort on the hard wood.

They awoke to the innkeeper’s call of breakfast, hard-boiled eggs and butter on yesterday’s toasted bread. As they ate, the constable arrived with a hunched over elderly woman in tow.

“Good morning,” Fnord said. “This woman lives on one of the out lying farms, and she came to me this morning to report what she had seen two nights ago and I thought you might find it interesting. Go ahead, Grandmother, tell them what you saw.”

The old woman sat at a table and in a voice that creaked like a ship at sea began to speak, “It was two night ago, as I close up the house to go to sleep. I heard a howling and looked out from behind my shutters to see… “ She coughed, and clutched her shawl closer around her shoulders. “. . . a white ghostly wolf. . . It seemed to be almost floating over the ground, and it led a pack of other wolves that were trailing behind it.”

The old woman wiped her rheumy eyes. “And then, just when I thought they were all gone, there comes another pale white ghostly form of a girl or something trailing them. It also seemed like it was floating above the ground.”

“Ah knew it was a devil-wolf,” said Chance.

“Grandmother, where was it going?” Kazrack asked.

“In the direction of here, the town. I live alone, so it took me time to get things in order to get here as soon as I did.”

“She has family in town that she is going to stay with,” Fnord said.

“Will everyone from outlying farms be evacuated to town?” Kazrack asked.

“Well, I am sure they know about the wolf plague by now. If they wanted to come into town they would, I cannot make them do so,” Fnord answered. “However, I did speak with Tallow, the burgomeister and he is willing to pay for the services of the wainwright to fix your wagon if you help with the wolf problem.”

“That sounds acceptable,” said Jeremy, thinking of the money Crumb had given them to purchase the services.

“Yes, that will be okay. . . Especially since we will have to get rid of the wolves to get the wainwright down to where the wagons are,” said Kazrack. “Where are the farms? We should go to where the wolves were last seen and track them from there.”

“They were last seen here in town,” Jana said.

“Too many people have probably walked around by now for the trail to be any good,” Ratchis said in his raspy voice from a dark corner.

“Well, you can try anyway,” said Kazrack.

“Yes I can.”

“The innkeep mentioned and old hermit in the woods north of here,” Kazrack said, turning back to Fnord. “Said he works with goblins or something; do you know anything about this?

“I have heard of the old hermit, and herbalist of some kind, but I know nothing of him and goblins. I don’t think he’s been around long, but I hear tell he lives in a shack almost a full day north of here, past the farms on the bank of the river. If you keep the water to you right, you should eventually get to it.”

----

However, as Ratchis had expected, the chance of finding a track at the entrance o town was scuffed away by the passing feet of villagers. So, the five travelers and their new companion, back in his fur cloak despite the growing heat of what looked like it just might be the coming of elfin summer (44), marched north by northeast towards where Fnord told them the farms were.

Eventually they came to a tall embankment that looked down upon the farmsteads, and they could see a large number of dead sheep scattered before the closest one.

“I’m going to go down there and look for tracks,” Ratchis said.

“Shall we all come down?” asked Jeremy.

“No, just keep a lookout, I’ll be back,” said the tall fur-clad man heading towards the steep incline. However, the woodsman miscalculated his decent and ended up tumbling head over feet down the thirty feet to a hard wind-knocking landing.

“Are you okay?” Jeremy called down, his voice echoing across the landscape.

Ratchis waved him off and walked off towards the closest farmstead. What he found was mess of dead sheep, their entrails trailing around the farm yard, and large bites ripped from their throats and flanks. He also noticed that while many sheep were killed only few were eaten and that there were a lot of regurgitated remains as well. The wolf spoor was two days old at the oldest.

Ratchis searched around for a time and found a set of tracks that matched several wolves and followed it up where the embankment turned northward and was less steep. He followed it up, and then went to retrieve the party.

The others had begun to wonder where Ratchis had disappeared to when he emerged beside them.
“Come, I have found tracks that go to the east and north,” was all he said and turned to walk back the way he came. Kazrack, Beorth, Jeremy, Jana and Chance followed.

They marched on with Ratchis trying to sustain a substantial lead to look for unspoiled tracks, but the party kept walking at the same pace and thus catching up with him, much to his annoyance. Also as they marched they all talked, Chance with Jana, Jeremy with Kazrack, Kazrack with Jana, Chance with Jeremy; talking about the wolves, the caravan, the hermit, Ratchis, and whatever else came to mind. Ratchis just kept looking back at them with a frustrated glare, to him it was a cacophony of monkeys. He had never heard people talk to so much. Eventually, he walked back to them and said, “First, keep it quiet back here, you can be heard for miles. Second, slow your pace to be equal to mine.”

They all looked at each other wondering where he got the idea they talked so much. They had hardly talked at all, or so they thought.

The group continued with some better progress. They stopped bumping into Ratchis as he kneeled to check for wolf signs, but still chattered too much for the tracker’s tastes.

While looking, Ratchis found a new set of tracks, a bit fresher than those of the wolves that seemed to run parallel to them. They were small booted footprints of perhaps a woman or child. There seemed like it might be of just one figure.

“Goblin?” he wondered. He walked back to the rest of the group. “Be wary of ambush, it seems like there are things other than wolves in these woods.”

The companions continued northward, running roughly parallel with the river, which they could hear gurgling to their right. They heard birds chirping in delight of the return of the sun and warmth, but not much else as they still talked among themselves quite a bit. After another 20 minutes of marching, Ratchis had lost the tracks, but continued to in the same general northward direction, coming to a clearing that caught his eye. He motioned for the others to stop and peered into what seemed to have been a campsite. The charred remains of a small fire lay beside a fallen log, the woodsman crept along the perimeter of the clearing avoiding the center.

However, a foaming-mouthed wolf emerged from the underbrush and took a bite of his calf, trying to pull the huge man to the ground. He was able to pull free and keep his feet by pure strength alone. Ratchis called out, and faced off against the wolf, but did not see the second wolf creeping from behind and pulling him from his feet, with another bite and pull. Jeremy ran out to aid Ratchis, but a third wolf emerged from the right to attack him, and when Beorth entered the clearing, yet another wolf emerged to attack the paladin. Kazrack entered the fray himself, heading towards Jeremy’s wolf, only to have yet another emerge.

Ratchis found his feet, and turned to brandish his staff against both wolves at once. He slammed them with all his might on the snout, but they did not flee, but only growled, blood mixing with the white foam that bearded their faces. Jana and Chance stepped into the clearing, and the young girl tried to cause a wolf to flee, but it refused to give into the chill of arcane fear, and continued its assault.

Ratchis was having a hard time handling two wolves at once, blood pouring profusely from his leg wounds, but finding an opening to withdraw from the beasts, he mumbled words and laid his hand upon his wounds healing some of his injuries; though none of the others noticed, as the wolves closed in once more. Kazrack made short work of his wolf, and was moving to aid Jeremy, when Jana and Chance gasped. At the north entrance to the clearing they noticed the intelligent ice blue eyes of the white wolf, its shoulders a tangle of thick fur, its white muzzle making the foam that dripped from his gums difficult to see.

Ratchis was able to dispose of one wolf, but the other seemed stronger, if not just and violent and diseased, and bit him again. Beorth finished his, and ran to meet the great white wolf as it bounded towards Kazrack. The dwarf thrusted forward with his halberd, but the creature side stepped, and Beorth saw his opening. The beast moved in such a way to leave itself perfectly open, and his muscles tensed for the impact of what was bound to be a skull-splitting blow… but the blow did not connect! He looked again, and it seemed as if the blow had gone straight through the creature. The dwarf and the paladin, prepared another strike, but then the white wolf was gone!

Jana cried out as she felt and immense pain in her thigh. She turned, wrenching her leg to see the white wolf standing behind her. Jeremy finished his combatant and began to run over to help with the white wolf, but as it avoided a flurry of blows by the companions who attempted to surround it, it disappeared again. Appearing this time behind Jeremy and biting him as well. Ratchis finished the last wolf and ran to join the fray. Jeremy landed a glancing blow with his short sword, but before any more damage could be dealt it, it disappeared again and was nowhere in sight.

“Didja see that? Didja see what it did?” Chance said in a voice cloaked in fear.

“What? I didn’t see anything, “ said Jeremy. “Though the white one did seem to move kind of fast. Where did it go?”

“It just disappeared,” said Kazrack.

“Back ta hell where it probably came from!” said Chance.

“Calm down, Chance,” said Beorth. “We don’t know what it was. Though my blow seemed to go right through it.”

“I was able to injure it slightly,” said Jeremy.

As Ratchis stepped up to join the conversation, he paused and tilted his head.

“You heard that, too?” Kazrack asked him. It was the sound of someone or something moving quickly through the foliage between the campsite and the river. The sound stopped and then immediately seemed to move in the opposite direction. Kazrack and Ratchis charged after it, followed by Beorth. Jeremy decided that it might be best to “cut off” what it was and began to take a circuitous route towards whatever it was. Jana began to make her way in that direction more cautiously, and Chance followed close behind.

Kazrack and Ratchis stopped and listened again, when Kazrack spotted a figure crouched behind a tree.

“There!” he pointed with his halberd, and ran in that direction. Whatever it was dashed into the undergrowth and kept going. Ratchis quickly passed the slower dwarf, and came around a large oak to be face to face with what they were chasing, and with a whispered breath, the huge woodsman toppled over into a slumber.

Kazrack’s tumbled companion cleared the dwarf’s view of a slender androgynous figure, with long golden hair, large blue eyes, pale white skin, and tapered ears. Only the slightest swelling of a breast was visible beneath her near transparent wrap, and she wore long hip-high boots. In a flash of sunlight she turned and ran again, but Beorth who had not slowed down caught up to her as she tried to maneuver about another tree. She turned quickly and in a flash drew her short sword, holding the other hand up, in a unique fighting stance.


End of Session #5
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Notes:

(40) Tallow’s Post was established to support the silver mine, Tallow’s Deep, both of which are run by Burgomeister Grundle Tallow.

(41) In Aquerra, Thor is a member of the Kalevalan Pantheon of northern gods, and is god Thunder and Mountains, and a often a patron of dwarves in those realms. The worship of a human god by dwarves is looked down upon by most traditional dwarven communities.

(42) The Oath this adventuring band is best known for the infiltration and razing of the slaver city, High Port in the Schrab Hills of western Thricia. (This Aquerra campaign ran from fall 1996 to winter 1999).

(43) The Plutonic Realms are the expansive caverns and tunnels that exist beneath Aquerra, from the near-surface strongholds of black dwarves to the deepest colonies of illithids. At one time all the different pockets of these realms were connected by the tunnels of the Undersea, but many have been lost or collapsed since the height of the long ago fallen Second Dwarven Kingdom.

(44) This is the common name for a short period of otherwise uncharacteristic time of near-summer-like condition in the mid-Autumn. Often harvests of autumn foods like apples and pumpkins are done during this time.
 
Last edited:

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Session #6

“Stand away! I mean you no harm,” the elf said in a soft, but high voice like a morning bird’s.

“What did you do to our friend?” Kazrack asked stepping up brandishing his halberd. The elven figure stepped backwards and crouched reflexively towards the dwarf.

“He is unharmed. He but sleeps and will awaken soon enough,” she said in her liltingly accented voice.

“Why are you here?” the dwarf asked.

“I am hunting my former companion. He is ill and not acting as himself, and may even be dying,” she said in an even tone. “I saw you fighting him and the other wolves.”

“You mean the great white wolf?” asked Beorth.

“He is not a wolf,” she said.

At that moment Chance and Jana came up behind their two companions.

“Oh me loving Bes! It’s an olf!” Chance said, and covered his mouth. “I cahnt believe it!” (45)

Jana sushed him.

“What is he then?” Kazrack asked.

“He is what humans would call a ‘blink dog’. He is as intelligent and sentient as you or I,” she smirked with the word “you”. “If not more so… He has just been infect by the same disease that is infecting the wolves and he is no longer himself.”

“You were attacked by the wolves,” Beorth said noticing, a healing wound on the elven woman’s calf.

“Yes, and Janx, was bitten badly. A few days later his behavior became erratic and then a day later he attacked me, and ran off into the woods. I have been following him since, and caught up once or twice. He seemed to almost know me sometimes, but then would run off. The last I knew he was near the settlement, but I could not follow him there. The last thing I need is for superstitious humans throwing stones at me.”

“What are you doing here at all? I have never known of elves in Derome-Delem,” said Kazrack.

She paused. “I am traveling abroad to learn of elves outside of our homeland,” she said. “But now must help my companion. I need to find a way to heal him.”

Kazrack lowered his guard, but the elven woman did not. By this time Jeremy came walking up and gasped at the woman’s alien beauty.

“We are hunting the wolves to put them out of their misery,” said Beorth. “But perhaps we can help you with your friend.”

“How do you plan to heal him?” asked Beorth.

“I’m not sure,” she said. “I overheard some trappers speaking of an old healer in the woods north of here. I was thinking of seeking him out, but even if he can help, applying any kind of treatment to Janx will be difficult if he does not want to be caught.”

“Do you mean the old hermit? We heard he consorts with goblins,” said Kazrack.

“Well, if that is the case, we should seek him out none-the-less – for such a thing should not be allowed,” the elven woman said.

“Well, your companion is a danger, so one way or another we need to take care of him. I hope you realize that if no cure can be found for him he is going to have to be killed, for his own good and for the good of the town,” said Kazrack.

“It will not come to that, but if it does I am prepared to do what I must do. What are your names?”
The party introduced themselves, including Ratchis, who Chance gone back to and awakened.

“Have you seen any goblins?” Ratchis asked.

“No,” she said.

“What is your name?” asked Kazrack.

She paused. “I am called Tirhas Tesfay,” the elven woman said, sheathing her short sword.
“Well, we will help you to help your friend, if we can,” said Kazrack. “If you help us with the rest of the wolves.”

“Agreed,” Tirhas said.

“One question, however,” the dwarf added. “Why didn’t you help us when your companion and the wolves attacked us?”

“I did not know who you were, or what your attitude might be. I wanted to observe you first,” she replied.

Now accompanied by the elven woman, the companions began to move northward. There was a but of discussion on how the blink dog might be captured, with little decided upon. Tirhas informed the party that Janx could “blink” at will and did not tire from doing it; also, no net could hold him. The best course of action would probably being trying to subdue the dog with non-lethal blows. However, they also considered perhaps trying to drug the blink dog by giving him food.

And so they marched on, Ratchis leading the way, followed by Beorth and Kazrack and then by Jana and Chance. Jeremy slowed his pace to match that of the elf in order to walk along side her, as she seemed to want to take up the rear. She seemed annoyed by him.

Chance leaned in close to Jana and whispered, “Ahve heard that elves have the power to charm men with a look. So, if you see me acting funny you have to do something.”

“Yes, of course she’d choose you to charm,” Jana said sarcastically.

“Why wouldn’t she?” Chance asked, offended.

Jana smiled.

Meanwhile, as Ratchis continued to look back and glare occasionally because the group chatter would not stop, as Jeremy tried hard to get through to Tirhas.

“So, you are a long way from home.” He said.

She did not respond.

“So how did you become friends with Janx?”

She did not respond.

“How does he do that disappearing stuff?”

“You would call it magic,” she finally said, with a flat tone that might have betrayed annoyance to anyone but Jeremy.

“It must be neat to travel around with a dog like that,” he said.

She did not respond.

“You have such lovely golden hair; did you know that?

She did not respond.

“Are all elves as pretty as you are?”

She did not respond.

And so they continued onward for over an hour, moving what was basically northward as they followed the sound of the river, still to their right.

After a time Ratchis lost the track of the wolves, but continued to move in the same general direction that they had been moving. It was then that he heard the sharp high-pitched voices ahead of the group. Holding a hand up so that the others would wait, the tall outdoorsman crept forward to see just beyond the brush, an unusual sight. A group of brown-orange-skinned goblins were marching in the party’s same general direction. There were over a dozen carrying what appeared to be wounded on litters. They were led by a tall goblin in a helmet and a chain shirt.

Ratchis crept back to the group and told them what he saw.

“We should take advantage of their weakness and slay them all,” said Tirhas.

“”Wait. They’re just going along their way – not bothering anyone – Can’t we just let them go?” said Jeremy.

“But they’re goblins,” said Kazrack.

“Exactly, “ said the elfin woman.

“I am in no shape to take on that number of goblins,” said Kazrack.

“But they are injured and unaware. We should be able to take them. We should be able to kill half of them before they even get a chance to react,” said Tirhas.

“This is the kind of foolish that led to Macolm’s death,” said Jana with a sigh.

“Yeah,” agreed Chance.

“They are vermin to be wiped out,” said Tirhas.

“But they may also lead us to the hermit, if he truly works with goblins, or may shed some light on the problem with the wolves. Better we follow them and learn what we can. They might even lead us to a goblin lair that might be a greater danger to the area,” said Ratchis.

“Good point,” said Tirhas. “We shall follow then.”

It was agreed, and Ratchis took his place back at point, keeping a good distance between him and the goblins and the rest of the group led by Kazrack following with the woodsman at the end of his vision.

They followed the goblins for another 25 minutes, when they suddenly turned away from the river rather sharply. Ratchis stopped to wait for the others to direct them correctly, but they took longer than he expected having been momentarily confused when losing sight of Ratchis. When he finally saw them he waved them in the right direction and continued to follow, coming to the edge of a huge clearing.

The clearing was at the base of a black stony hill and covered with thigh-high tall grass. The river was visible against a muddy bank that led all the way up to a wooden fort that the goblins were jogging into. The fort’s walls were 12 feet tall and did not seem to have any apparent towers or ramparts. The entrance was log double doors, with a sign of some kind over them. Ratchis could see some kind of letters or symbol above the door, but since it was 80 yards away could not make out the details.

The tall goblin was the last in and the doors closed. Ratchis crept back to the others and told them what he saw.

“What does the sign say?” asked Beorth.

“I do not know. I do not know my letters,” said Ratchis.

“What are we going to do?” asked Kazrack. “There is no way we an attack a fort of goblins and hope to win.”

“This could be the hermit’s place,” said Jeremy.

“Why would a hermit live in a fort?” asked Kazrack.

“We should watch and see what happens. Perhaps there will be more goblins coming and going,” said Ratchis. “I will make my way around and the clearing and see what I can see.”
“I’ll come with you,” said Jeremy.

Ratchis sneered, “Make sure you are quiet.”

“I can be quiet when I want to,” said the Neergaardian.

“Uh-huh.”

“In the meantime, we’ll make a camp,” said Beorth.

“And I’ll watch the front of the fort,” said Kazrack.


---

Ratchis and Jeremy crept through the tall grass around the west side of the fort, but could see not distinguishing features about it. So, they continued up the steep rocky hill behind it, crouched low, but still risking being spotted to get a perspective from higher ground. From there they could see a wooden building with a slanted slate roof within, and what looked like small garden plots before it, with trees and other plants. The small dark figures of goblins could be seen moving about occasionally. Unfortunately, the east side of the fort was obscured by the building itself. The way was too steep to easily traverse all the way around, so they climbed back down and crept back to their companions to report what they saw.

Ratchis took Kazrack’s place watching the front of the fort for any change or occurrence, while the others settled into camp; by this time Ra’s Glory was making its way towards its nightly rest in Anubis’ Realm.

“I don’t see how we are going to be able to do anything about this,” said Jeremy to Chance and wandered towards the river to wash up.

“Aye,” said Chance turning to Jana. “No way we can handle a whole fort full of goblins.”

“But what if this is where the hermit lives?” asked Kazrack.


“If he can help Janx I must find a way to contact him,” said Tirhas softly.

“If his is in league with the goblins I don’t see how we can get him to help. We may be forced to slay him,” said Beorth, with distaste.

“Or, he could be their prisoner, in which case we have to go in there and save him,” said Kazrack.

“We do?” asked Chance.

Jana smiled, but the dwarf frowned.

“Of course, we do. We cannot allow someone to suffer such a horrible fate, even if we had to die trying to save him.”

“I guess you’re right,” Chance acquiesced.

“Heh,” was all Jana had to say about that.

“But we don’t know if that is the case, and how will we determine if it is?” asked Beorth.

“We can wait until morning and see if goblins come or go or if anything changes and then make a plan,” said the dwarf.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Notes

(45) Elves are a rare sight in Aquerra, preferring their Kingdom of Tempestas - or isolated communities in various forests in Aquerra. While it is probable to see elves in more cosmopolitan places like Verdun, Haffar's Port or the cities of Thricia - Most people have never seen one, let alone spoken to one.
 

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