Part 40-43 – A Friend Found

From where I was finally able to see him we found that we were almost directly beneath a platform in a tree with some competent looking guards. Brought back memories of when we dealt with goblins in trees and rescued the girl. Seemed like a bit of cosmic symmetry. So we backed up as quietly as we could and made our camp a short distance from where Shojin was being held in some weeds and brush that were taller than me, not that that says much. Then we waited. At first light I’d scout the camp from above and from there we would make our rescue plans. Fayne and Z were going to take watches, and coupled with my babies that should have been sufficient for all of us to get a decent night’s rest.

And I think she came to me again in the night. I had a weird dream of darkness and caves but it’s all hazy and I don’t remember much, but when I awoke I knew just how to make use of the pile of stuff we’d picked up in the orc village. It also suddenly occurred to me that we never got anyone’s names from that awful place. I hoped that they were doing alright and had made it home.

Also, Z was back looking like she was brimming over with nothing but darkness. So back to normal I guess. Her hammer looked different but in the best most terrible ways. Now at some point in the night I’d taken her stuff out my pack and I guess I pee’d on her holy symbol. I couldn’t remember why so I didn’t say anything. Just welcomed her back and gave her these gauntlets we’d gotten. I couldn’t rightly say what they did, but I worked my way around the group and had a couple items for everyone. It was always the same. Hand over one or two or in Gnoman’s case three things with some quick instructions. I also took one of the scrolls and asked her what color she wanted the flames, she looked as confused by my asking as I did in the asking. She said what she liked, I used the magics in the scroll and the head of her wicked hammer, that I was a little afraid of took on a sickly glow as they flames, flames I knew didn’t actually burn anything, surround the head and the light played off the big red gemstone that now adorned its top. It almost looked wet, which was weird.

Gnoman was given a sword, a potion and a scroll, but to the best of my knowledge he couldn’t use scrolls. The only thing I could say to him was you’ll know when to use it. For the lute-like thing I gave to Ezrella the instruction was simply play it and it does stuff. I also gave her a pile of gems because I’d heard somewhere that holy types needed those for bringing folks back from the lady’s door.

We’d also found a pack of what looked like playing cards, but I knew they were something much more interesting. At least I hoped they were. I kept those back for Shojin, because I just knew deep inside that maybe they’d work best for him.

I did a quick once over from the air of the camp and relayed everything I saw back to my companions. It was a large clearing with a not quite river cutting the camp almost in half. There were about six buildings but I dared not get closer and compromise our position in the woods. As I was coming back into towards our camp was when I fully caught sight of all the guard towers that surrounded the camp. Well damn, that added a wrinkle to all of this.

Once I was back Ezrella was still just strumming on the thing and with a smile said she had an idea and so she and I headed off closer to the camp to get a closer look at things. I took Shojins want and the tusk he kept tied in his hair along with the cards. I had no idea what if anything I could get to him but I knew I wanted to be prepared. As we moved like liquid shadows closer and closer towards the clearing ahead, it seemed like we narrowly missed a patrol, but try as we might we couldn’t figure out how we missed them. As we were still in the high weeds right at the edge of the clearing and near enough to see that Shojin was being made to chop down trees.

Ezrella strummed on her instrument and let out an audible gasp. Apparently she’d made me invisible. She is about the best thing that has happened to our group. She said she’d meet me back in camp and slipped off through the weeds. Seemed like she was at home amongst the high weeds and trees. I envied her that. I haven’t had a place like that in a really long time. The closest I’ve come in recent memory had nothing to do with the place and everything to do with the people. And then that got broken.

So if I was invisible I was going to make the most effective use of it. I made my way across the clearing, past guards, over, under and around obstacles, until finally I was near enough that I could reach out to touch him. At this point I saw that he was tethered to someone. They were working on the same project and the little guy was fetching stuff that Shojin needed for the next task.

I said something quietly that I hoped would not alert the nearby guards. He chuckled and that did get the guards attention, so he faked a coughing fit. Ok then, it was to be yes or no questions. Through a series of questions I’d learned that they kept him in one of the buildings across the camp. I’d also gotten him set for a jailbreak of sorts to take place in the evening. I also tucked the packet of cards into his waist and that was when the instructions came. Shuffle these as you can and just throw one when you find yourself out of options. He didn’t have any pockets so I couldn’t give him his wand, but I was able toss the tusk up into his open, billowy rags that comprised his shirt.

I made my way back to the group to let them know what I’d found out and we started making our way to the end of the camp with the buildings that would house prisoners. As we were moving through the brush quietly Z’s hammer caught on a dead log and pulled it down into the weeds next to us, which would not have been a problem were it not for the guards in the tree almost on top of us. They made some bird calls that were answered by another of the raised platforms and a group in the camp which proceeded to start heading our way.

As they got closer the guards in the tree shouted down what they heard and I knew I only had a moment to act. I made the invisible hand I’ve used to cause trouble from time to time and put it ground level with the fingers spread out. I moved it in a direction away from us in the hopes that the guards would think it a small animal, when I’d moved it to the edge of its range I just let the magic dissipate. The guards seemed sufficiently satisfied. I smiled. It felt like I was finally figuring myself out.

Time came for the workers in the camp to have dinner or go back to their cells, not sure which. Yes or no questions was maybe not the best idea. It really limited my options for understanding of what was going on. But no matter, as soon as Shojin was across the bridge he saw something that caused him to change the plan we’d worked out. He shrank before my eyes, dropped the bracer things he was wearing and as soon as they were gone, was back to normal size. He threw one of the cards from the pack I’d given him and it was on.

This 2 headed nasty looking ogre just sort of popped into being where the card landed. Clever boy. And that was when everything started popping off. As we hustled to make it to where Shojin was we had a decent distance to cover and he was under fire almost immediately. And then we saw ANOTHER FREAKING GNOMAN. Oh damn, I knew what it was like to have him on our side, but didn’t really want to deal with that. So many questions that I wanted answered, plus questions I didn’t even know how to ask. I’d revisit it later if I remembered.

Our Gnoman was suddenly wreathed in flames, quaffed the potion and stalked off to meet the guy he recognized. So it was to be Gnoman on Gnoman violence. This was going to be interesting, but there were so many people that we needed to deal with I wouldn’t be able to sit back and just enjoy the show.

Shojin was just path a bridge that was a couple hundred yards ahead of us. So we worked out way into the battle as only we can. Fayne was picking off people almost as fast as she could pull the string back on her bow. Ezrella brought out a unicorn to wreak some havoc. Not a real one mind you, but it was the form her spirit weapon took this time. I liked how she was changing it up but kept it on theme with every use.

I took potshots with my little hand crossbow as I closed the distance and had the birds help whoever looked to need it. And then I had an idea. The new trick that let me change my appearance, also changed the appearance of my clothes. I used that to make a pattern like the little bridge and hugged up against it as a bunch of guards came running through. Apparently I missed it when our Gnoman dispatched the other because he came running up covered in blood and fire with death burning in his eyes into the mass of guards. This right here was in line with the story we’d first heard of Gnoman. And by the gods it was the most beautiful and terrible thing that I had ever seen.

Apparently we’d made enough noise to attract attention from what had to be the officers barracks within this camp and a sound rang out that I recognized. A sharp whistled on the cooling air. Oh hell no. Through the doorway of the officers barracks stepped the familiar form from our time in Dillard. Whistle around his neck and clipboard in hand. We locked eyes from across the camp and I yelled out to him that I hoped he remembered my promise. He smiled and started throwing fireballs.

All throughout this there was an old man, the man that caught Shojin’s eye on his way back I would later find out. He was throwing around magick like it was nothing and with each spell he cast there was a golden spectral blade that appeared in his hand for a moment. Fireballs blasting into the various buildings. It was absolute chaos and things seemed to be turning in our favor. I hate it when it feels like we’re winning.

That was when the Dwarf in armor covered in spikes burst through the wall of building the whistle bitch had come out of and he was making for a beaten and bloodied Shojin. Before he got there, for good measure whistle bitch threw a fireball of his own right on top of Shojin, who went down. Ezrella brought him back. This back and forth with Shojin’s life went on for what felt like minutes as Gnoman charged across the open area to get his newest victim. But before he could get there the Dwarf dropped onto an already prone Shojin and proceeded to use the spikes on his armor to just start shredding the flesh of Shojin. I was too far away to do anything useful. I’d come all this way and this was how the rescue would end. With Shojin dead. As the dwarf was standing back up, he was met with Gnoman charging him and pushing him back.

Ezrella had directed some bit of the connection to her god into the Whistle Bitch’s face and he just crumpled to the ground in a heap. Small victory I guess. Felt hollow. But, there was the old man, who didn’t carry himself like an old man striding over to Shojin. From the distance I was I couldn’t hear what he said, but I saw him stick out his hand and Shojin rose back up from his position on the ground healed. I just smiled and cried a little. But that would have to wait as there were more guards coming. And so the battle raged on. Gnoman eventually dispatched the dwarf and set to on the guards while we were just doing what we could not die anymore. We’d had enough death amongst our ranks today. We were together again and this was not how our tale ended. As the dust settled and we saw all the dead all over the camp and the state of ourselves one thing was clear. We won. We saved him. It started to lightly rain, which was a good thing because some of the buildings were still on fire. Where in the hells was Fayne’s bear?

PayDay’s Journal 36-39 – Still Searching

Harvesting dragon parts is not easier. It’s gross and bloody work but when it’s all said and done, we’ve collected a fair pile of bits and bobs that we can hopefully use later or at the very least sell for some kind of delightful profit. We retreat up the hill a bit as we are trying to decide what our plan forward is, and there is a familiar hand like shape receding into the mist only to be replaced by the single ugliest person I have ever had the misfortune to meet on more than one occasion. Of course. It had to be Gnoman. I didn’t have time for his I don’t remember you nonsense so I immediately went to task of trying to get him to work with us. I think I even offered him money. I didn’t care so long as he would be willing to work with us. He accompanied us down into the village and I slid into Shojin’s face because I couldn’t think of anything better to do at the time.

Apparently this was all it took to get the orcs in the village to come back out of their hovels to see what was going on. A trio of what I took to be elders gathered and with much pointing seemed real interested in us now. The only problem was that that Gnoman was the only one who seemed to understand them. It seemed that we had slain their jailer (whatever they said didn’t translate all that well) and they were nothing short of impressed with what we had done. So they were, I don’t know, heralding me as their tiny savior. The weird part was the longer I wore Shojin’s face the more inclined I was to help them.

They were afraid of something that was still in the domed structure in the middle of their village. Whatever it was is what was keeping them from fleeing as soon as the dragon was killed. They gave us a hovel of our own for the evening and Ezrella chose to sleep inside with Fayne, Z, Gnoman and myself while the boys slept outside, which worked out because he was a creepy lecherous dwarf, but I didn’t trust myself around. His crazy was too much like mine. Nothing good could have come from that, but it might have been fun.

We used our standard practice and used the bear as a big furry doorstop and we bedded down for the night.

Munnin woke me up pecking my forehead which wasn’t all that weird. When we locked eyes and he said “You must follow”, yeah that was weird. And he just kept saying it. I was just trying to get him to keep it down when he flew into the most ruined corner of the tiny building we were in and just smashed right through the wall. Where he flew there was a purple radiance in his wake. Weirder and weirder. I thought about trying to wake the others, but I figured this was something the lady wanted me to do so I just followed Munnin. It was deep in the night and with him not on my shoulder I should not have been able to see as well as I was able to at that point. I tried to flex my magical muscles and there was no effect.

Now Huginn was there and telling me to follow. And they both wanted me to head into the domed structure. I owe the lady my life and she’s done me no wrongs up to now. She’s cryptic and only helps me succeed in looking insane, but I do as she asks. So I did my best to be as much like a shadow as possible and I snuck inside. From the outside I would not have guessed that it went as deep as it did. There were two paths, a narrow one with steps that looked like it was sized for people and there was the large dirt and loose stone path that was clearly for the dragon. I chose the big path so I could reduce the chance of being snuck up on.

Descending the path every once and a while there were small rooms off the sides, and they were all filled these large round barrel things. The tops of all of them were sealed in some way. I didn’t try too hard to open any of them, because I wasn’t sure what was inside or how to do it. I heard a soft but steady rhythmic noise as I travelled ever downward.

Eventually I found myself at the bottom and the floor leveled out. I crept around the final corner and nearly soiled myself. Another dragon. As big and as black as the one we’d slain and pacing a large room. There was a row of tables along the far wall and at each table was a small dragonish looking person and I don’t completely understand what they were doing. I just knew it couldn’t be good. But none of them seemed to notice me so far so I moved closer. As the dragon paced the room and seemed to inspect their work the people working at the tables were casting spells on eggs. Really big eggs, and all of them had a metallic gleam in the low light. A sickly light passed from their hands to the eggs and seemed like it was infusing them with…something. Were they corrupting these unborn things? It seemed that after a bit of imbuing them with energies malignant they were placed into another of those large barrel container things. And there were more of those things all about this room. It was countless eggs and all for some purpose that I still didn’t know.

I moved closer still and the dragon looked my way. I thought for sure he’d seen me or maybe even smelled me. I was finally close enough to see that there was something wrong with the eyes of the dragon people. They were inky black voids. There was no light there or signs of life. I also noticed that that there was something off in the way they moved but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. I saw that there was a door at the far end of the room and wanted to find out what was on the other side. I studied the path that the dragon took and moved as quickly as I dared so as to avoid being found out. I made it to the door and of course it was locked and the dragon was starting back towards me. I was quickly running out of time and for the first time since I’d entered the room the dragon paused and sniffed the air. I had to hurry. I worked at the lock as fast as I could and it seemed like the lady was smiling on me because as soon as I opened the door and moved through it I found myself back in my bed with Munnin pecking me on the head. I flicked his beak and called him a jerk and went about telling the group about the dream I’d had. When I went to wake Z, I pulled back the blanket and she was gone. In her place were a multitude of spiders and her holy symbol. Fayne tried to picked it up and got burn for her effort. I rolled it all up and put it in my pack. I guess we’d look for her after we found Shojin.

We readied ourselves to face the dragon below and bid farewell to the trio of guys we’d worked with. I hope they find what their after and I wouldn’t mind working with them again sometime. Ezrella wanted to travel with us it seemed, which worked out because we needed the help. And I led the group back down where I’d been in my dream. But it was different. Still too paths, still going down, but the dragon’s path was far more worn down than in my dream. As we came upon the rooms the containers were gone, however we did find a golden egg in one of the rooms under a layer of dirt. It was making a soft noise and drew me to it. I carefully wrapped it up and placed it in my pack, but got the impression that it would have been fine almost independent how I treated it. I’m starting to think it’s a dragon egg. I’ve no idea what we’ll do if and when it hatches, but I couldn’t just leave it there and knew Shojin wouldn’t either. I had hopes that he would have a better idea what to do with it.

As we continued to descend the place was empty and covered in a thick layer of dust. We rounded that final corner and instead of finding a dragon instead found almost nothing. No dragon or empty-eyed dragon people. It was pretty anticlimactic. We did however find one of the containers. It had some markings on it in a language that only Gnomann seemed able to decipher. It was something like “do not open until this amount of time has passed” but the amount of time made no sense and it wasn’t clear if it was days, months, years or something longer. If this thing was filled with more eggs there had to be hundreds of them. I set about trying to open it, and it was simply a matter of being willing to pay the price for working the locking mechanism. Eh, why not.

And… I was thrown across the room. And the eggs ruined before our eyes. So, we left. Not what I’d intended but my main goal was to help the orcs. We headed back up and as we neared the entrance heard the cries of battle from outside. Since wearing Shojin’s face had worked for helping me feel heroic, I had an idea to seem more fearsome in battle and slid into looking like a slightly smaller Gnomann. What we faced were a quartet of hulking bipedal dragon things. They were formidable foes but were ultimately no match for our many shenanigans. And these guys were hauling a small fortune amongst them. Just a massive pile of…stuff. Gems and gold and weird little statues, but also a couple of scrolls, a sword and this thing that looked like a lute but had like forty strings, and a gnarly looking flute pipe thing. And some other random stuff that we’d probably find a use for. All in all it was pretty amazing. We collected it all and told the survivors in the village that we had dealt with all the threats and they should all return home.

Strangely as were interacting with the people in the village it seemed like the years they all wore seemed to fade away. There was some strange magic at work in this place. The people rejoiced and ran off and we were proud. This was quite possibly the first time we had done an honorable, heroic thing. We save these people and it felt great. But it was missing something. We were missing something. So we checked our own wounded and set off back the way we came. Shojin wasn’t here and never was. We needed to find his trail and get him back. So for the third time we made our way back to what was becoming our basecamp there by the road a days travel from Dillard and set up camp for the night. We’d get started first thing in the morning. It was time for Fayne to earn her keep. She was not a good ranger.

Morning came and Fayne claimed to have found a trail. My patience was wearing thin at the time it was taking to find Shojin and I was mean. But we made good time and after a short bit of travel we found Shojin’s wand and I nearly started crying right then and there. We were finally on the right track and I had to believe that we were closing the distance between us.

I pushed Fayne harder and harder to get us there as the day wore on and finally we were deep in the brush and we found a discarded pack and signs of a struggle. Good, that meant he didn’t go quietly. On the ground we found the tusk Shojin kept tied in his hair. Damn. They were trying to limit his options. I resolved in that moment that I would kill all the people responsible for this and I would stop at nothing short of the total annihilation of anyone who stood in my path.Fayne was saying something about finding a unique boot print that had a very distinctive cut in the sole and she had a bead on the direction it was travelling. Almost as if on cue four human, I don’t know what they were, came out of the brush. They bore the emblem of some burning eye on their person and were fairly clean which spoke of funding. Didn’t matter, they were in our way. I wanted to keep one of them alive but Fayne ignored my request and put an arrow through the last of them after we easily dispatched the first three. She noticed that his boot had the same distinctive mark she had found and that he would lead us back to their camp.  

I got snippy about interrogating a dead man and she clarified that his tracks would lead us there. Ok, that made sense. It wasn’t long before we found ourselves nearing a open area and could hear the sounds of people being ordered about. As night was nearly upon us, off in the distance I saw a man in rags chopping down a very large tree. A gangly orcish man. Finally, and at last, we’d found Shojin. And there would be hell to pay.

PayDay’s Journal 33-35 – Missing

He’s gone. Shojin’s gone. He said he’d take a watch and come morning he was just gone. And we were off on our search for him. I was probably putting too much pressure on Fayne to find him, but I didn’t care. I needed Shojin. I realized as soon as he was gone that I loved him, but not in that way. He keeps me even. He gives me balance. He makes me try to be a better… me. And Fayne says she can find him, but by the gods she is awful. We find a spot of blood just outside of camp and like the top notch tracker she apparently is she licks it. She licks it. What kind of idiot licks random blood on the ground? Well, moral of the story you shouldn’t do that. She started to feel weird and it only got worse as we tried to continue picking up Shojin’s trail.

In her somewhat addled state, Fayne was…let’s call it less than at her best. But she tried, more from my prodding than anything else. I couldn’t properly articulate why I needed to find him, only that I did. So even if her health seemed to be slipping, she led us off into nearby trees and on the trail she claimed was his. And then things got weird, even by our standards.

It wasn’t long before we stumbled upon a quartet of travelers on a mission of their own that was also steering them to Highbreeze. There was a dwarf who seemed to be a little touched with madness. I liked him even if he was an abrasive jerk. There was a goliath who may have suffered from some mental impairments. There was the one who like me enjoyed time in the shadows, but was honorable in his own way. Finally, there was this elven lady named Ezrella. She looked like a total bumpkin and the more I got to know her the more true that seemed. She also smelled faintly of graveyards and she could say some really dark stuff sometimes, but in all my travels and in all my life this was the first person I had ever met that truly wanted to help all those that she met. It was sweet in it’s own way. She was clearly going to need protection. She healed Fayne, but when she found out what had happened she said she wouldn’t do it if Fayne continued licking things on the ground.

Like most meetings our first almost came to blows and was stopped short because a greater threat presented itself. From the direction we were more or less travelling came the sounds of a fairly large war party. The group appeared to be comprised of orcs of a couple different sizes and these coal black things that weren’t exactly dragons and they weren’t exactly dogs but they were sort of dog sized dragons. After a short but difficult altercation with the bigger threat, we agreed to join forces for as long as our interests intersected. I used a new thing the lady taught me to show these new people what Shojin looked like, but kept having to tell people that he was taller. I found that every time I was using this power to slip into a new face I kept having to tell people that the face’s bearer was taller. But no matter, as I was showing this the dwarf got it out and set about attempting to pleasure himself in one of the dragon dog things death wounds. Fun fact, their innards were acidic. Our new friend Ezrella refused to heal him because he was an idiot. I was beginning to like the code she lived by and she was maybe less bumpkin than I realized.

After the dwarf got the burning in his loins under control, we set off in the direction the party had come from in the hopes that it would continue to bring us closer to Shojin, one step at a time. The badder guys than us left a path that was pretty easy to follow. They were clearly not trying to be subtle in the least. Eventually we crested a hill and expecting to find where the group had come from we saw… an empty valley. And then one of the new people tripped and fell down the hill and vanished out of sight. Like he was there and then he just wasn’t. Which was freaking weird. So we opted to just head down the hill at a more controlled pace in an attempt to find him. The whole thing stank of illusions. We had to be getting closer to him. This seemed like something he would do.

As we moved down the hill we passed through an invisible barrier. It didn’t feel like anything but some pressure in my chest and looking around, it seemed that others felt the same thing. As we moved down the hill, we saw a village inhabited by orcs. They all seemed to be pretty downtrodden. Misery was their only expression and it jumped out pretty quickly that there were no children playing or working with the adults. As we approached the camp the orcs quickly retreated into the hovels that were in various states of crumbling and ruin that comprised this village But as we got closer village was a much to generous term for what lay before us.

Not that it mattered as we didn’t get much time to look around. At the center of the village was an earthen dome that I imagined mirrored the illusion over this valley. It had a massive entrance on the side facing us. Way bigger than a person I was not enamored of whatever needed an entrance of that size. But joy of joys we almost immediately found out.

Now, quick aside Ezrella had done some travelling before she met with us and had encountered a couple of cultists early on. These encounters had affected her deeply or at least deeper than we could have known because she just starting yelling at the heavens at a volume louder than her size should have generated as a dark shadow of immense size came streaking from the opening that concerned me. It was a dragon. A dragon. Oh crap. I thought we were dead for certain and when the thing responded to Ezrella’s taunts, I was certain we wouldn’t be seeing Shojin, let alone anyone, ever again.

And the fight was on. I made the decision that this would be the battle that I made an entrance of some magnitude into. So I dropped the glamor that was concealing my nakedness beneath my cloak and rode into battle on Fayne’s bear as naked as the day I was born. I won’t be doing that again. I was going for this whole visual thing, but I think the performance of it all was lost on the great black beast.

We fought for what felt like hours and the dragon nearly took down a number of our newly grown travelling group. But this was not to be its day, for in the end we emerged something like victorious. We’d won. An no one died. It felt far too easy. And that terrified me, because anything worth doing was worth the challenge. This couldn’t possibly be the end of things. And there was still the matter of the orcs. And still no Shojin, but we were closer. We had to be. I needed us to be. I so badly needed us to be. I was barely holding it together at this point. It had to get easier from here.

PayDay’s Journal 30-32 – Another history lesson

So the lady told me another story. On the western side of Minn’s Teeth a group of smaller kingdoms and city states banded together to protect their interests and defend the mountain range. The alliance called itself the Teeth’s Guard and consisted of delegations that include the Dwarves, Dragonborn, Dr’oban, Halfling and Goliath peoples. I saw her tale from the eyes of the Dro’ban. He was… kind of a prissy little thing.

Now this group was heading east to Highbreeze for the coronation of Petrus of Marey the first. Ha. Mary’s Peter. The House of Marey was looking to curry some favor with the other kingdoms of the continent and were convinced by this jerky tool Farrellu of Conton, the lawkeeper of Highbreeze, to invite each kingdom to send a delegation to the event.

In response to the invitation the Alliance each sent someone such that the delegation consisted of both diplomats and security forces, except the Dragonborn. The Dragonborn, in a move most curious asked the delegation to make contact with the son of an Elder on the Dragonborn Council who was last known to be residing within Highbreeze proper. After making contact they were to ensure that he attended the coronation as the official representative of the Dragonborn Council, and then bring him home to ascend to his ailing father’s position on the Council.

As the Delegation made it to the city it was decided that the first order of business would be to follow the leads they uncovered in finding “Molt” who was rumored to be spend far too much time in a Dwarven Tavern. And this tavern was freaking amazing. On the outside it looked like it was carved out of and into a giant boulder, almost a miniature mountain. The inside was so Dwarven you could almost smell the beard oil and all it was missing the sound of someone hammering on a forge in the corner.

Upon arrival at the tavern, several of the delegates made contact with Molt. After a few drinks, they attempted to convince the wayward Dragonborn to join them for the coronation which erupted into a brawl that spilled out into the streets of Highbreeze. That said, you need to understand that Molt was a disgusting being. In everything I saw of him he puke or pissed or soiled himself whenever and wherever he happened to be. And he was brash and abrasive just gross. But nobility I guess so whatever.

After a short scuffle in the streets, the group was able to subdue Molt and as luck would have it, this made me like them more too, the Highbreeze guard came to intervene.

The guards were convinced to send them on their way, showing the how to get to the entrance to the High House District of the city. With little regard for how to behave themselves in proper company in the city, several of the delegates openly made a joke about how they were not there to assassinate the new king. The guards, rightly so and unsure of how to take it, did not take the joke the way it was intended.

The High House District was accessed by means of this platform that was raised and lowered by means of some magick. The district itself opened up before the party and the sights and sounds and wonderment surrounding them caught most of them by surprise and despite the guards desires and attempts to promptly escort the group to the house of Conton the party took in the truly awe inspiring view from the High House District.

On arriving at the house of Conton, the delegates were introduced to the Lawkeeper Ferellus, the Half Elf head of the house of Conton, and ushered into a great reception. Ok, so this guy, this guy here was the same guy who sprung us from jail in Dillard. He looked the same. Same robe, same ears, same face. I’d remember that asshole anywhere. Now if this was truly at the time of the Coronation of Petrus the first, then this was at least a couple hundred years ago. And this guy looked exactly the same, which was more than a little troubling.

Once in the reception proper, a reception that appeared to be held in their honor, which given their low stature in the grand scheme of the world proper, small talk was made. Soon after, the son of Ferellus, Roget, infamous playboy and erstwhile vagabond made his way into the reception and for the first time since he agreed to join the delegation Molt seemed at ease, conversing with his old friend and fellow reveler. I think they totally banged.  

Roget begged the party to join him in the spa in the rear courtyard of the Conton Property later in the evening.

One of the Dwarves in the party spent his time using his gifts to investigate the area. Also, he flicked his nipples a lot. Like a lot, a lot. Like ladies get paid to let you flick their nipples this much a lot. Also his nipples smoked. It was weird. Also, he was drinking almost non-stop when he wasn’t flicking his nipples. I bet he knew how to have some fun.

Finding what appeared to be Ferellus’ personal study, he found that the primary knowledge kept in the study related to the many forms of magic found throughout the realm and in the process stumbled across a small hidden alcove that appeared to hold the personal spellbooks from a multitude of spellcasters from throughout the realm and they didn’t know what to make of that. Someone’s personal spellbook was essentially an extension of themselves and the sheer volume of volumes present made them wonder as to the whereabouts and well-being of the owners.

As the party returned to their rooms to ready themselves for the evenings revelry, iit was discovered that many of the political delegates had been assassinated in their chambers. While inspecting some of the bodies the party was ambushed by magic wielding assassins and a battle ensued destroying rooms and setting the mansion ablaze.

For reasons that were entirely unclear to the group, a dark figure began pressing down the hallway towards the fray. As the halfling paladin began to engage (and I have to say this paladin somehow sucked at their job worse than Z), was revealed to be Ferellus himself wielding magical with incredible prowess and almost singing the refrain of “It didn’t have to go this way.”

As the battle raged on the assassins were quickly dispatched through some clever trickery and a giant sized Goliath (I think you had to be there for that to make sense). Eventually, the Dwarf with the nipple fetish and the super pris Dr’oban joined the halfling in the hallway and appeared to defeat Ferellus as he split himself into four entities, one vanishing through a hastily made portal and the other three, looking identical, falling dead to the floor.

As they were falling to the floor, the familiar sound of guard footfalls rang out in the in the hallway and they arrived just in time to see their master, dead on the floor and in triplicate. Seemed and ironic end to what I assumed was a paper pushing lawkeeper. As they were rounding up the group, I got the impression this was not the last time the lady would show me this group.

PayDay’s Journal 26-29 – Things are going great

So there we were all just about dead piled into an orcish leaders room with a bear against the door like a big, furry doorstop. We took some time to rest and recover and in the process of recovery also worked our way into a chest in the corner of the room. Z seemed obsessed with just smashing it open and despite her best efforts she only really seemed to make a dent in the floor. Once opened, it was like the best thing that had happened to our group since getting out of jail. We found a quiver of six bolts that I would come to discover resized themselves when I had the quiver on to fit my hand crossbow. Later on I learned that the each of the bolts did something different when fired and would eventually return to the quiver. Some came back sooner than others. It really all depended on exactly what they did. There was also a pretty decent wand in there that Shojin claimed.

When we were done finding new stuff to better ourselves, we set up our first watch and that was when things got… real. I waited until everyone was asleep and I apologized to Shojin for the thing I did with the orc bodies next to the road. I know he never would have known but it bothered me. At least it did until we talked about his philosophy and why he was willing to fight some orcs and not others. Since he was willing to share this somewhat secret part of himself, I felt it only prudent to do the same and so I told him my real name, Violet Underbough. I also told him the truth about where I came from.

And then there were the noises from the hallway. Looking over the bear and through the keyhole we could see orcs that looked similar to those we had killed moving around in the hallway. In addition to that the bodies that had been in the hallway were no longer there.  But the “patrols” never seemed to move closer to the door to the room we were in. As such, when it came time for Z and Fayne to take over on watch we let them know what was up and caught some shut eye.

After what for us passed for a good night sleep, I offered to do some recon. I sent one of my babies down the hallway just slowly walking on the floor while I looked through her eyes. What I saw made no sense. The patrol of orcs in this place was looking more and more suspiciously similar to the dead orcs from the prior day. Although day is a relative term in this case because time was just sort of blending together the longer we were down in this place.

Ultimately it didn’t matter because one of them appeared to hear me and then they all started moving down the hallway towards our refuge. Well crap. We made some hasty preparations and locked the door to buy a little time for ourselves, but undead strength pounding on the doors was quickly closing that window of opportunity. When the door finally opened we functioned like a well-oiled automaton.

Which is to say, we were clunky and pretty much tripping over each other and only just barely successful. Gods but we are awful. And when it was done, some of the bodies started to get back up forcing us to kill them again. Which forced us to put them down again and once that was done we began to systematically dismember the bodies, although it looked like little more than crazy people cutting up dead things and piling them in the corner. And with that we put the bear back in front of the door and hid out in our little refuge with a pile of orc parts in the corner. Totally normal, for us anyways.

After a short rest we were again on our way out to search of what lay at the heart of this place and so off we went. I took point and was assessing the first room we came across and when I didn’t find anything I simply crossed the threshold and the next thing I know I’m falling. I am not good at my job. And it was as I was getting up that I found myself beset on what felt like all sides by some both seen and unseen attacker, and my attacker was a big blue and white spider that kept moving appearing and disappearing. And as I’m down in this hole fighting for my life all I can hear from above me is Z calling out “Don’t hurt it, I want it as a pet”. Yeah, I have a lot of choice in the matter as the thing is quickly making short work of my on my lonesome. Shojin was making his way to the ground near me as the thing finally bit me and I slipped into unconsciousness.

When I came to everyone was more or less in the pit I’d fallen into and I was confused as to what was going on. It didn’t matter though, eventually the spider was dispatched and I was left to heal myself, again. Of all of use being terrible at our jobs, Z seemed to be about the worst of us. She was more bloodthirsty than that Gnoman character we knew and all he seemed to know was killing, killing and more killing. Since nobody seemed interested in helping me now that I was conscious, I climbed up out of the hole we had fallen into told the lot of them to piss off and went back to the room we were using for a base. Once there I locked the door, put myself in the chest we’d opened and locked the lid from the inside. I needed time to recover before I did anything else. I wouldn’t get it but it was what I needed.

I’d just fallen asleep when I heard someone trying to open the door to the room my new home was in. Great, more things that would try and kill me. I just kept still and quiet and hoped they would leave me alone. They didn’t. It wasn’t long before what started as someone messing with the door turned into someone beating the door and working to force it open. And as loud and disorganized as it sounded it had to be my “companions”.

Once the door had been forced open, I could hear them talking and looking for me which after a short time turned into someone trying to open the chest I’d taken refuge in. I said nothing. When they couldn’t get it opened then started shaking it. I still said nothing. They picked it up and shook it. I said nothing and tried to hold still. Then I heard one of them talking about seeing a patrol that was both near us and heading towards the entrance to this damnable crypt. And I remembered.

I remembered how we all met on the road to that tiny town not so long ago. I remembered that punk with the whistle and our time in jail. I remembered our trial. I remembered the brothel and our time on the road to get to this point. There was one thing that was constant through all of that. Us. We were who we were. For better or worse and warts and all. But through it all I remembered that feeling of betrayal with that stupid spider. Z and I would hash this out at some point, but not if we died before hand.

So I popped the lid opened and moved towards the door. As I was passing through the door to the room, it looked like they were still figuring out how they were going to fix it. I moved quickly and quietly towards the entrance behind, but not to far, the guard patrol that had just exited. Next to the stairs leading out into what appeared to be nighttime, there was a lever that looked like it should work a portcullis gate thing. I pulled the level and it did lock us in. Which is better maybe than knowing these guards were going to come back and beat our half dead selves the other half of the way.

This got me thinking, how long had we been in here? It was starting to feel like days, but without the sun or moons it was impossible to know just how long we’d been here.

This next part is a little disjointed because a lot happened in a short period of time. I voiced my anger at how things went over the stupid spider and threatened to leave. Things escalated quickly to the point that Shojin snatched up one of my birds and we then got into a war of spells while I kept telling him to return my bird. When it was all said and done the only thing that ended our conflict was the intervention of Fayne and offers to ride her bear. I of course accepted. But I also made it clear that if anyone messed with my birds again, I would make them suffer. I then popped my bird into that place between places I can keep them sometimes and then brought it back on my shoulder. I also let Shojin know that I could have done that the entire time. What I didn’t tell him was that I was just trying to give him the chance to be decent. So, everyone but Fayne appeared to be angry at me at this point. I probably shouldn’t have told Z to sleep with one eye open. It was petty. So we rested again, trying to get ourselves back into something approximating fighting shape.

And then we went further inside. Skulking down hallways and through secret doors we found ourselves faced with a mystery in the form of what looked to be a cavern at the bottom of a well. It was apparently night as moonlight found its way into the room around us. Gods but we had been in here for so long.

From what I can only guess was the bucket at the top of the well there came a soft chuckle. As we started to move into the room to investigate, A hidden gate slammed into the floor behind and between us, separating the group in half. Just great. This was exactly what we needed. Fayne was stuck outside with her bear. Not that it mattered, because at that moment the… thing was upon us. It looked a bit like a glowing, floating head that just kept giggling like an idiot. Also, the bucket was it’s helmet or hat or would it just have been armor if it was just a head surrounded by bucket. I don’t know. It was just really weird.

It didn’t matter though, cause this thing whatever it was was trying to kill us. But the odds being what they were and us getting kicked all over creation at this point led us to be somehow so way victorious. And to the floor fell what appeared to be a really big gem. Z and I both went for it, but I got it first. Some malevolence presence within the stone felt like it was pushing its way into my mind. I was able to overpower it, but realized I wanted nothing to do with this.So I dropped it back to the floor and having some small idea what was going on with the stone resolved to convince any people that regardless what happened or where we ended up that Z was possessed by an evil spirit wherever we ended up.

The bigger take away from this encounter though was that this dungeon could go to hell. I was just done and said as much. I informed the group that I was leaving and they could come with me or stay and I didn’t really care what their choice was at that point. If I never saw this dungeon again it would be too soon. Everyone else followed me out the door and towards the road where this terrible stopover took place taking solace in the thought that things could not get any worse.

PayDay’s Journal 23-25 – Slippery when greased

The next day I was up and ready to go before anyone else and ready to make Shojin keep true to his word. Gnoman was just gone. No note or anything. He just left sometime in the night. It wasn’t all that surprising and I had a feeling we would likely be seeing him sometime down the road. I did feel a little bad about how I treated the bodies, but what’s done is done. Shojin was awakened by me just sort of right in his face. He freaked a little. After everyone was up we were off to find out what was going on with the orc raiders. Fayne was able to pick up their trail and track them into the brush. We eventually came upon a recently used camp that was in line with all the signs of those we were chasing down and as such we moved off into the trees.

After moving into the deeper forest for some time through the trees into a deeper part of the woods we came upon a stream and that’s when things got weird… or interesting. Matter of perspective I guess. Things certainly did get more fun. As we approached the stream, we heard some rustling in the bushes on the opposite side and since we were tracking orcs. That was when we came upon what I can only describe as a big, dumb bear. It came lumbering out of the woods and Fayne seemed fit to pop a blood vessel with excitement.

It was never worth writing about at length because it was annoying and just seemed like the kind of obsession someone with a childlike intelligence would have, but ever since meeting her she would not shut up about making friends with a bear, and it looked like she might just get her chance. It looked hurt, like it had maybe met up with the orcs we were looking for at some time prior to meeting us and seemed to have a little trepidation at this frantically gesticulating dark elf, but while it may have been wary of her intentions it just observed her. Eventually she healed the bear a bit and that seemed to make it a little less concerned with her being a possible threat and it was just about then that the orcs that had hurt the bear came out of brush.

Things happened really fast at that point. Shojin seemed to lose his mind and go into some kind of blood rage. Fayne positioned herself between the bear and its attackers and Z seemed like she was in the mood to hurt something. I had the misfortune of not crossing the stream with my companions before the fight, and due to it being nearly as deep as I am tall I kept a healthy distance from the fight and fired some crossbow bolts and a few choice spells at the baddies.

We ultimately were able to dispatch our foes fairly quickly, but not without the damn bear getting even more hurt. Fayne continued to insist that this was a sign of something or other and they were destined to be best friends. After the last orc finally went down Shojin just lost it. For all his talk of a decent burial for ocr-kind or whatever he just beat the corpse of the last one to fall with his staff until long after the wood cracked. We just kept calling out to him and he either didn’t hear us through the fog of war or something far more personal was at play.

Eventually I’d had enough and told him a stupid joke laced with a little arcane energy and he fell down laughing, and that should have been the end of it. However, since he was still not in control of himself he rolled down the bank and ended up almost completely submerged in the water and starting to drown. So I dropped the spell and wouldn’t you know he got up barely breathing and went right back to work beat the bloody pulp that used to be an orc to an even bloodier pulpier mess.

Eventually he just sort of wore himself out and we were finally able to continue on our way. I guess he fixed his staff and we never really talked about what happened. Tracking the orc led us to a path that appeared to follow a patrol circuit around a valley. Figuring either direction was just as likely to get us there, we picked a path seemingly at random and off we went.  

A short while later we found ourselves outside a crypt or mausoleum that was built into the side of a hill. We extinguished the outside lights and then end up in a situation where we were luring orc guards away from the door and helping them meet their god. Eventually this attracted the attention of those inside the crypt and we made our way inside.

After a bit of sneaking around I had the lay of the land down so to speak and had discovered what seemed to be an orc in a position of authority, there was a small miscalculation and we ended up once more in a fight for our lives, which was a perfect time for Shojin’s magic to develop a mind of its own and when it was down to just us and the Orcish Taskmaster, the floor became greasy and some of us had the good fortune of finishing things out firing our spells and crossbow bolts from the floor.  And it was not without paying a pretty hefty cost. We were all various degrees of beaten and bloody and the bear was very nearly dead.

PayDay’s Journal 22 – Really good at the wrong things

So I was back from the dead and I told my friends a story of family and was just trying to sleep, I mean almost dying does that to you. And we were just there trying to rest after the events of the evening. And it all went sideways again. There was shouting coming out of the woods from the direction that the orcs had come and we were tired of being beat all to hell by things in the woods.

I wanted to move to the city. Maybe open an inn or a brothel. I can have some fun too I suppose. But that’s neither here nor there. We had much more pressing matters to attend to. Whoever was shooting at us out of the trees. We moved into the woods and worked to try and engage and in the process, from somewhere out of the trees came an arrow right into Shojin’s shoulder. Some bipedal, humanoid was shooting out of the darkness. It was one thing to go down in battle protecting my friends and it was another thing altogether for them to shoot my friends.

I went ahead and had Muninn harry my newest foe who had already taken a shot from feign and knew then that death has a toll and a death knell was ringing. And down he went in a heap. This was when we found out that there were two others, who hadn’t clearly seen what was going on. Another of these night time terrors shot at us from the cover of the trees and was dispatched nearly as quickly. And this would have been about the time we heard someone call out from off in the distance… in common. Crap.

So now it came to just being quick. Z was encouraged to just thump the last guy with her hammer, which she did and we then took a quick second to clean up the scene and called out for those in the trees to reveal themselves. At which point we found ourselves in a standoff of sorts for a brief moment with what appeared to be… farmers. By the gods, what madness was this?

It seemed they were out hunting the orcs that had raided their camp earlier in the evening. Sounded familiar to what we encountered. We convinced them that it was the same orcs that killed their men that we in turn also killed. And that we could bring one of their bows as proof of their killing the farmer Zeb’s man. And somehow they bought it.

Feeling a bit guilty about being kind of amazing at fixing a crime scene I volunteered us to hunt these orcs down that Shojin seemed to be developing a violent feeling towards. He was willing to hurt them, but at the same time felt they were worth a proper orc funeral pyre. I could not reckon those two disparate thoughts, let alone that he was willing to inflict any sort of violence on anyone or anything.

Before we were able to do anything, one of the bodies was missing and we tracked it off the other side of the road and it was pointing off into the trees. Almost directly above it was a Raven that just sat there laughing at us. At least that was my take away. This had to be another sign from the lady. I refrained from running off into the trees again when Shojin gave his word he would go with me in the morning.

I confronted him about his ideas for the treatment of these orcs, something about slaver’s and their treatment of the woman who raised him, and after some exchanged words, he committed himself giving them a burial befitting his people. Which seemed unrealistic and ridiculous to me but thankfully once he established that he didn’t have time to give them a proper send off he was forced to just put some stones on them outside of the camplight. And with that we were ready to turn in for the night. But I had a simple thing to do before I turned in for the night.

I snuck off into the trees and made three of the four orcs smell like fresh carrion. Just helping the natural processes deal with some trash was all, and it wasn’t like Shojin would ever know.

PayDay’s Journal 17-21 – Goblins on Patrol

Alright, so running off into the woods didn’t work out. Shojin and Fayne caught up to me and started trying to bring me back to camp right before I passed out. I woke up back at camp and tried to get them to all understand the story the lady told me.

Sometime in the distant past, I have no real way of knowing how far in the past as the Lady never said anything about when it was, it just like a deeply old story, there lived a Tribe of Goblins unlike those we know in the world today in a jungle valley surrounded by mountains to the south of The Golden Wastes. They lived in a state of isolation from the rest of the world, mostly due to geography and were deeply connected to nature in an almost spiritual way. They called the valley home and they called the tribe family, because the valley was their home and sometimes in very literal ways, other members of the tribe were family. They revered the world around them and the spirits of nearly everything from the elements to the animals.

At the time of the story I was told, the valley was in a drought unlike any drought it had been through for generations. Now, life was hard for the goblins on a good day living so isolated from the world, but the idea that water is life, was an almost mantra of the tribe. Not every member of the tribe was a magic user but every magic user in the tribe knew how to magically make water and in times of drought they were called upon to provide for the tribe. It was their way and it was how they made it through.

Focusing in more and more, the story centered on two members of this unnamed tribe of goblins. Two brothers, Paak and Grit, were worried by the lack of their father’s return from a patrol in the valley. It seems that all members of the tribe when they are of a certain age are required to perform patrols of the valley. These patrols followed a well worn path that made a large almost pointed oval around a majority of valley. Typically taking three to five days, depending on what difficulties were encountered along the way. This patrol filled two functions, the first was to keep the valley safe for the tribe from any predators that roamed the jungle and the second was in helping to provide meat and leather for the tribe through hunting various animals encountered.

Since the story the lady told was from the perspective of the brothers, I will adjust my retelling here to be from the perspective I saw it through.

~~~

Dad not coming back wasn’t normal. He was one of a select few that would go on solo patrols. It wasn’t because he thought he was that good. He didn’t have to. The tribe treated him that way. About the only time he would travel with any sort of companions were when he was showing someone newly of age to patrol the ways to make it from start of the path in the village to its end back in the village coming from the other direction. He could easily protect himself easily as well as he could protect the members of the tribe.

The elders refused to let us leave because of the need to make water for the tribe since both my brother and I have the ability to fill the basins used to contain the water we need to live. The thing that pushed my brother and I to a point of haggling over being allowed to leave and the elders finally agreed to allow our departure after I agreed to use one of my few daily spells to make water for the tribe prior to departing. I could not in good conscience leave without doing the tribe this service based of the the way the elders were speaking of this drought. Our normally brightly colored home was muted and browning and it was only fair.

Before we could leave though we caught word that the patrol immediately after our father’s came running back into the camp earlier in the day and word around camp was that something scared them. My brother and I insisted on talking to them to get some idea of what was going on in the valley. And this proved to be an almost entirely useless endeavor. All they would say was that there was some noise that scared them. Nothing more than that. A noise they had never heard before and that they were unable to describe. REally though, who runs from a noise?

And so, no more enlightened we headed out in search of father. He took the higher path and knowing how long he had been gone it made sense to take the lower path. A few hours into our trek we came across the first of many of the tribes pre-made campsites. Each campsite is made roughly the same. A clearing of about 30 paces by 30 paces with a fire pit in the middle. On a tree near the edge of each of these clearings is a platform for sleeping and is reachable by a bit of climbing.

As we settled in for a short rest and to eat, I noticed something, a slight tremble in the earth around me. There one second and gone the next. My brother and his…companion Nocht didn’t seem to notice, but Nocht never seemed to notice anything. Before we moved on from this camp, we checked all the brush around the camp for signs of our father and found some tracks leading off deeper into the trees. It made sense to leave some means of finding our way back to the trail. I told my brother we should do muddy handprints and his solution was to just make a bunch of mud, pile it on the back of his companion and just be anything but quiet as we worked through the trees.

And that was problematic because not long after we lost sight of the path we were ambushed by jungle cats of a size and ferocity that we had never seen before. The elders would talk of a strangeness in our valley home when a drought would be upon us and that sometimes animals out of legend would come near the village. Now while these cats got the jump on us, I was able to call upon my ties to the warrior and fought valiantly with an image of father to help us and all of this despite my brother’s best efforts to stop us. I mean who thinks that the best course of action after shooting a cone of flame into the dried-out foliage is to follow it up by making a sleet storm to put it out at the expense of everyone’s footing?

So after a completely unnecessary bunch of falling on our faces were finally able to best the beasts and drag them back into the camp. We started to alternate between field stripping the meat and firing bolts of fire into the in the hopes that the camp would see and return the mark in kind. It was a kind of agreed to call and response. This call and response and meat cleaning went on into the night and eventually my fire was responded to with two small pops of fire to which I responded with three, which was met with four. Stories are told of a time when the call and response lasted all through a night into numbers that were nearly uncountable.

Eventually, we slept in the tree with Nocht curled up at the tree’s base. Partway through the night I was awakened by the tree shaking and after my initially being concerned that we were once again under attack I discovered that it was once again Nocht up to his shenanigans waking me up again. So I did the one thing I always did in response to his waking me up. I peed on him. After that I was able to get back to sleep and slept peacefully until the morning when I awoke to the most delightful foot of my brother rubbing on my face. I hate my life some days.

As we made our way further down the path we felt the tremor I had felt the prior day and saw off in the distance some movement in the trees. A lot of movement, high up in the trees. My brother decided this was a good time to go for a bug ride, the silly fool, and so he searched for a minute and called on the spirits to make a bumblebee big enough that he could ride on. He flew straight up in the air to a point well above the trees and he came back reporting that he was not able to see what was moving the trees only that whatever it was had to be either really big or really powerful or possibly both. None of those options were all that appealing but forward was the only way to complete our patrol and possibly find our father.

So onward we went, and when we finally got closer to the next camp the trees ahead of us shook violently and were pulled back by the powerful force to reveal the terrifying visage of a lizard the likes and size of which we had never seen before. It stood on its hind legs and had tiny forelimbs pulling back the trees and screaming with a roar that much like its appearance was something so outside of the normal and we were so scared. But this thing made a noise that was terrifying and new so we believed that this must be the thing that killed our father.

And what once again ensued was a comically terrible battle. And while the three of us did the best that we could it was neither easy nor fast and it seemed as though we were going to lose when this giant beast finally scooped me up into its mouth and was proceeding to eat me. It was in this moment of great peril that my brother charged in and in a feat showing his great  connection to the spirits ran in front of the terrifying beast and once again loosed his fiery spread directly into the massive beasts stomache and chest. Burning a hole through its skin and causing its insides to no longer be inside. Or so he said. I was too busy falling and trying not to die to really notice. What I did notice when I freed myself from the things jaws, was the clearly dead, and not by my brother’s hand, father sliding out of the beasts insides and onto the dirt with the beasts insides.

Father at last. My heart sank. He was such a strong man and to see him felled by such a thing made no sense. He was easily as strong as my brother and I put together. I was angry and happy at the same time. Angry that this thing killed him and happy that we had finally found him. I resigned myself to the task of putting him to rest and nothing would be more fitting to mark his grave than the top part of the skull of the thing that ate him. My brother thought this was the perfect time to question father on what happened. We argued over whether it was the right thing to do and I finally walked off angry, but as soon as I heard my father begin to respond I was right at my brothers side. My distaste for it aside, this was going to be the last time I could see and talk to my father and I was not going to miss it for anything.

We asked my father a series of questions that left us more puzzled than before. It seemed that this beast may have been the thing that killed him, but it was not the why. There was something else. Something different and something more. He asked that we protect the tribe, and we vowed that day to protect the tribe to our dying breaths. But the thing that broke us was that he said he was proud of us. Two sons of many children. It almost broke us.

When he was done, we heard a voice calling out from the tree. A female goblin voice asking if it was safe to come out. Coming from our village we knew everyone and this was someone we didn’t know. That made us question everything she said. We made her come down from the tree so we could see her and she was an older looking goblin. But we had just lost our father so we didn’t have a whole lot to say to her so my brother took to cleaning up the camp and I just turned my back on her.

And with that I went back to working in silence on cleaning the skull and digging a hole and preparing a grave and it took most of the rest of the day. And it was exhausting and it was rewarding and I felt a great sense of pride of finally laying my father to proper rest. In the process we did find my fathers things which included all of his fetishes, walking stick, dagger, ring, shield and bow. My brother and I split these things between the two of us made a campfire and settled in to eat. We finally decided to question this new person.

She said that her name was Imirth and that she came from outside the valley to the north. This made no sense as we had never had contact with anyone or anything from outside of the valley. It seemed that her tribe did not stick together and she was all that was left. They had over time scattered to seek out their own ways in the world and eventually she got tired of the solitude and struck out looking for a new place to call home. When she arrived in the valley her first experience was in seeing our father running away from something, she claimed not to know what. What he was running from mattered less than what he was running towards and that happened to be the beast we’d only recently killed.

I couldn’t understand how why she wouldn’t help father but she claimed that she arrived as the thing was swallowing him and at that point it was simply too late to do anything to help. My brother, and his somewhat warped sense of humor reformed his spiritual companion to resemble the beast that we’d felled, only smaller of course. The only difference was that any time he remade his “friend” after he fell in battle he would come back with a new white feather on the top of his head. He was up to four or five now. I don’t really know because I never really paid all that much attention.

We decided to settle in for the night and even without completely  trusting Imirth, we invited her to share the platform with us. It would be cramped but she appeared to easily be old enough to be one of her tribes elders and it only seemed right. Plus, keeping her close would make it easier to keep an eye on her. I was awakened early the next morning by something hitting the tree. I hate Nocht in the mornings.

Having paid our final respects to our fathers the path forward was the only way. We did still have our patrol and hunt to finish and we would be needed back in camp to help with the production of water for our people. So we set off down the path and continued trying to get a read on this new person. I just had trouble believing her story because it made no sense why anyone would travel over the mountains unarmed, appear to be both old but in great health and was unable to do anything to help our father avoid his fate.

As we traveled down the path and were nearing the midpoint of our patrol we heard so much noise directly ahead of us. It appeared to be some sort of army or maybe a whole tribe of dog men. We’d heard stories of things like this from the tribe elders, but it had been so long since they had been seen in the valley that it was the elders being told by their elders about how their elders had seen them sometime in the past.

And there were so many of them. Some of them looked dead, which was an affront to the spirits. Some of them looked healthier and stronger than the rest. And then there was the leader and his pet. The leader stood easily a head taller than those he barked orders too. He wielded a three-headed flail that look like smaller metal versions of his people’s heads. And from the eyes and mouths poured something smoky. And when he commanded his troops the sound felt like it was touching my soul. But there was also the matter of his pet. His pet was the single most abominable thing I had ever seen in my life. It had the body more or less of a wolf, and was covered with a white patchy fur. The rest of the patches were made up with scales and along the beasts spine were these protrusions that poked up out of the fur and looked lizard-like in appearance. And then there was the matter of this things tail. It was like that of a scorpion with the same sort of stinger, but it was covered in the same patchwork of fur and scales like the rest of its body.

Before we even had the chance to process what we were seeing Imirth took off running towards the gathered enemy force calling over her shoulder to not close the distance to her and that she had a plan. As she ran away from us I could have sworn I heard her counting off her steps as she went. When she was far enough away to do whatever she was planning, the goblin just sort of melted and in its place was a beast that looked like the thing that killed our father, only it shone so brightly in the sun that it hurt to look directly at her. She then turned and opened her mouth and out came a blast of icy air that even as distant as we were still felt a little chilly but did not real damage to us. It did however destroy a majority of the opposition.

While we were getting ourselves set up and our new enemies to close the distance my brother made some more giant bugs after a cursory look around. Four giant size mantis, and it was just as ridiculous as it sounds. It was also kind of amazing. They were instrumental in holding the dog-men off of us while we tried to contend with the scorpion-tailed lizard wolf. Imirth help with that as well, while my brother and I worked on picking off the various dog-men who tried to approach. We knew that if we could thin their ranks before they were able to close to melee range we would may have a chance at survival. We were mostly right.

It didn’t take long for the battle to begin to swing in our favor. A few lucky shots from the bugs and some focused effort on the scorpion wolf saw the enemy ranks thinning out, but there was a cost. It was after the leader closed in after the last of the bugs were killed and the scorpion wolf went down that Imirth was looking a little worse for wear. She had been taking a beating that would have easily destroyed both me and my brother and not once did she cry out or complain. But, that would change when she was finally struck blow by the leader that took her out of the fight.

What happened next happened so quickly that I may have some of the parts mixed up and there was a small bit of this that I was unconscious for and had to rely on my brother telling me what had occurred. He had used father’s staff to cast a regenerative spell on himself at some point in the battle. That was a key component. It was down to us and the leader and it had just hit my brother in the face and he crumpled to the ground, but as it came in on an attack, the attack that would lay me out, I was able to retaliate with my father’s shield at the same time to make him feel a little bit of pain. This in turn was apparently enough to take him down. And so everyone was just laying there bleeding out into the dirt. Except for my brother.

The spell he’d cast on himself, brought him back from the brink almost immediately and he then went to some efforts to try and bring me back, and his fantastic story has him hitting me with father’s shield and using the jolts it made as some life-giving current. Ridiculous, I say, but I owe him my life. As we were preparing to use whatever means we could to help Imirth come back from the brink, she coughed and said weakly that she was ok.

I was happy to be alive and furious a this new revelation. I had a bunch of new questions for her. No, she didn’t know these things were here, but it made sense that father would retreat from this many opponents. No, she really couldn’t have done anything to help him. Yes, she was truly sorry about that. But there was one question that gave me an answer I didn’t really expect. What did she want from us? Home. She wanted a home. She was lonely and she wanted friends and a home. She wanted nothing from us beyond that and she said she could do something that would help us. And with that she sat down, crossed her legs, shut her eyes and it started to rain.

I naturally assumed she was one of the great sky spirits. She laughed and said no. What followed was an explanation of what she was. She was a silver dragon. But everything else was true. She was just looking for a home and to not be lonely. And if she could help with our water problem, then all the better. As much as we wanted to just say yes, right then and there it was not our decision to make. Something of this importance would need to be brought to the tribe. And the elders needed to see this for themselves. She offered to carry us back to our village if we wanted but we still had a job to do. So we cleaned a couple of those dog man skulls, to make some fresh bone helmets, and worked on setting up a camp. We were all beat, battered and very nearly dead. My brother again reformed Nocht into a new beast, this time a Mantis. And now he clung to the underside of the platform as we slept. And he woke me up again. I would kill him someday and not think twice about it.

The next day as we were on the path Imirth remained quiet unless we spoke to her. I think she felt guilty about keeping secrets from us when we met and I also think she genuinely meant it when she said she wished she had been earlier to be able to help father.

We came upon the next patrol around midday and we shared a meal and a story. We told them to be careful up ahead because we had seen more on this patrol than ever before. They thought we were making a good portion of it up but did offer to pay their respects to father when they made that camp. Something about that portion of the story must have rang true. Imirth asked if she should show them what she showed us and we told her no, that was for the whole village and not just a patrol.

We encountered nothing else on our patrol and made really good time getting back to the village. Every night there is a gathering overseen by the elders to honor the spirits and we arrived as it was beginning. We asked the elder if he would indulge us a chance to address our people. Seeing that we were carrying our father’s belongings he nodded solemnly. We regaled them with the tale of our adventure. From the jungle cats to the beast that slew father to the army that appeared to be possibly moving to invade our home. If there were more of those scorpion dogs or leaders with the crazy flails (I kept it by the way) then we we in trouble. But when the talk turned to our new friend Imirth, we asked everyone to back up for a brief demonstration and we promised that it would be both worth it and an answer to all of our prayers.

Imirth went to the center of the gathered people, sat down cross legged and the goblin form slipped off of her, replaced again with her silver dragon form, and in that moment it began to rain. And how my people cheered. I told Imirth to go ahead and look like a goblin again to help push things along. I explained that she was unique in that unlike the rest of her kind she did not want to strike out alone in the world. She wanted a home. She wanted a tribe. And so I asked the elder who in turn asked my people, could we give her a home? They all said yes, and Imirth, protector of the jungle has been with my people ever since.

~~~

Shojin just looked at me slack jawed and questioned my grasp of geography. Fayne looked like the embodiment of confusion at my tale. All I could do was say that it’s what the Raven Lady said to me, because it was true. And with that and my story told, I just kind of passed out. I was glad to have a second chance at life and that my first death didn’t take. It was not a death that anyone could really be proud of.

PayDay’s Journal 16 – Travel arrangements

So with the decision finally made, several options lay ahead of us. We could make the journey in less than a fortnight by river on an almost round about way. Speed of the river had its privilege, or we could take the journey by land and have it take three times as long. Of course we tried the boats first, but I had the bright idea that maybe we could trade our services as guards for the journey.

First boat was a bust. The captain was just not interested in anything I suggested, which was fine. Plenty of boats in the harbor. Second boat wanted to assure us that river travel was safe and that while he wouldn’t give us a free ride, he would charge us a meager fee for a fast, safe journey. I was becoming a bit disheartened but that only ended up making me all the more determined to find a way to make the journey fast and free. We had to have something go our way at some point.

But… it was not to be with the third boat we approached. I haggled and haggled and haggled for a ride, but it didn’t matter. This guys barrels of whatever he was hauling eliminated any room he had or something of the sort. I was so frustrated at the third rebuff that I said “river be damned, we’ll just walk”.  And so we began our journey, on foot once again after a day of haggling down at the wharf. It was almost nightfall and we should have stayed at the inn another night and left in the morning but I didn’t care and I just wanted to be done with this town.

So we began our journey along the main road south to Highbreeze as the sun was setting on us. We finally set up camp when it became so dark I couldn’t see anything and it was clear that if we continued I was just going to slow us down. Our camp was set back from the road just a little bit for the sake of safety. Ha. Safety our in the open.

At some point in the evening and I no longer remember who’s watch it was, we were beset by a small warband of orcs. This fight was over almost as quickly as it began as we fought as ferociously as we could, but it didn’t seem to matter. These orcs were able to get the upper hand on us early in the great battle and I am sad to say I never saw the end of it. Because, despite my valiant efforts to the contrary, I was hit by an orc’s wild attacks and I succumbed to the damage.

As the light faded from my vision and I was fading into the darkness a soft voice called out to me. A familiar voice. Where did I know it from?

“Pay attention little one, it is time.” The lady said to me. It felt like she was whispering in my ear, but was somehow also inside my head.

I couldn’t speak.

“Rest, and listen. I hope that you are able to take the message to heart. There are several tenets for your service to me. The first is that those who choose to cheat death are an abomination and not to be tolerated. The second is that you are my will in the world and your…function in the great order, is to help those that need to meet their end do so at the appointed time.”

She paused for a moment.

I still couldn’t speak, but a thought occurred to me. What was the importance of these tenets?

“Let me tell you a tale to help you understand.”

The next thing I knew my eyes were open and I was sitting up as I watched what I believed to be the lady calmly walking into the woods adjacent our camp, her raven hard cascading around her shoulders.

I still had questions and she didn’t look far enough away that I couldn’t catch her if I hurried and there was only one way to find out. So I got up and started running with Huginn flying ahead of me and Munnin on my shoulder.

PayDay’s Journal 13-15 – It started with a big, sticky mess

With only a few minutes to prepare we did the one thing that we’ve come to be pretty good at. We made an awful plan. We found one of the darker doorways of the street and Shojin conjured up a pretty good looking false wall. This gave us a prime vantage point to view the rat pack of thugs that we were waiting for. And we sat. And we waited. And we waited some more. I mean, that was it really. We were going to lie in wait behind a conjured wall and “get the drop” on the bad guys. That was our brilliant plan. Seemed like an alright idea at the time.

While we were waiting a group of guards approached from the opposite direction. Now by travelling companions and I have a distrust of the law in most “modern” cities and Dillard was one of the worst experiences in our travels, so we immediately had a distrust of these folks. I had a bit of a test in mind and thought I would use some of the… talents I’d acquired while we were in town recovering from being prisoners. In a green not found in nature and bright to near  glowing degrees, across three of the cobblestones in the path of the guards I scrawled “Beware the Rats”. Now my thinking here was twofold, first I thought it would be an indicator of whether the guards were even aware of the situation. Second, I thought it would be a litmus test of sorts for the guards stance on said situation. The one I would later find out was the leader moved some dirt over top of the word Rats. To me that meant they were aware of the situation. My hope was that it was laziness that they just let it go on. Later, Shojin would reveal to me that in that moment he knew the guards were on the take. After that the leader of the guards went inside while the rest of his men waited outside.

Eventually the pack of five “bab dudes” finally came round the bend and stopped in front of the tea/coffee/neither place and the guy in the sling who appeared to be the leader waived them off. Finally confirmation that these were the jerks we agreed to deal with. The sauntered down the street and seemed confused that the bread cart that had been waiting in front of The Velvet Saddle wasn’t there and said something about charging the old man double next time. Well damn, we were the reason that poor man was going to suffer, but only if we failed to deal with the problem at hand. Three of the Rats went into the Saddle after greeting the guards in the street while the other two took up posts in the street as something of a guard.

Damn, they knew about these guys. That complicated things. But we gave Valorie our word, and that had to mean something. So Shojin and I sprang into action of a sort, while Z and Fayne just kind of hung out where we had been hidden. Z, coiled like a snake ready to pounce and Fayne looking on the verge of a nap.

We crept down the alley to a position just past where the bread cart had been. Shojin conjured up the image of a bread cart. I conjured up the smell of fresh baked goods. This attracted the attention of one of the guards who meandered over to investigate our wares. Well, Shojin’s wares because at the time I was hiding behind him. They exchanged some words and it was going well until that guard reached out for some bread and his hand passed through it. Then it got weird .

I popped out from behind Shojin with my hand and fingers spread wide and shouted “Ta Da”. The guard looked downright flummoxed by this. I went on to explain that we were “Half and Half” and we were doing a little testing of our upcoming stage performance. And… the guards were having none of it.

At this point the upset and confused guard began to draw his sword so I asked if he would like a little coin for his troubles, and made a hand-sized coin and just sort of lobbed it his direction. He greedily pocketed it, but it seemed to have little effect. All the confusion attracted the attention of another guard and I tried the same trick with him but again to no avail. Now there were two guards and a bunch of commotion attracting the attention of everyone in the street, and at that point it seemed like it was about eleven to four. Those were terrible odds, but we thrived under terrible odds.

Shojins solution to the guard being upset was to put him to sleep, which cause another one to freak out. And at that point it was on. I made a beeline for the door to The Velvet Saddle while the rest of my crew handled the street. I know that Shojin won’t kill, but he will certainly do some crowd management. As I ran headlong into the Saddle, I heard an unmistakable code, “Oh, I’ve made a big sticky mess!”,  that Shojin and I had worked out beforehand when we were discussing ways our abilities may be able to combine in new and more inventive ways.

Once inside I saw the leader of the guards and the leader of the Rats in polite, albeit confused conversation. But I didn’t have time for that. Knowing the code and what it meant I did the one thing I knew would be the most impactful, or supposedly impactful, and set fire to the thick and sticky webbing that now filled the alleyway. Or at least reached the door. I was never really clear on how much of the alley it covered as we were not mathematicians.

Either way I yelled back the predetermined response “Sorry!” and focused on the people inside the Saddle. This is when fortune smiled on me and coming down the stairs was the unmistakable Gnoman who appeared to be finishing up with the last bits of outfit organization after visiting one of the madam’s ladies. I called out to him and he looked confused as all hells and I focused in on the task at hand.

I got Huginn to work as a distraction and proceeded to start working my way through dispatching my opposition. Huginn took that opportunity to call out to Gnoman, who finally seemed to shake from his confusion, and jumped into the fray on my side. Which, after everything I had heard made me happier than I could have hoped to be.

While I was working my way through the various Rat thugs Gnoman focused in on the guards leader, but he was nothing like Simple had described. He seemed like he was barely able to hold his own, let alone be the wild man killing machine that he was made out to be. I knew Special was lying.

Then a hole just sort of appeared in the wall like an extra window and I caught sight of a terrifying looking Z, eyes aglow, with a weird (no other way to describe it) look about her face and eyes. It was about this time that I heard a Thunderous roar outside and the sound of glass shattering and people screaming in the street. Then an arrow came streaking through the door dispatching one of the Rats. I guess Fayne joined in instead of taking a nap.

Gnoman and I finally finished with the group inside and heard a lot of noise outside as Shojin, Z and Fayne sounded like they were freaking out. One of them had heard the sound of approaching guards and were trying to clean up the alley to help make it look like we were not to blame. Fixing a door broken off its hinges and busted windows and walls. But there was a wrinkle.

One of the guards had been pinned under one of his comrades in one of Shojin’s webs and was still squirming trying to get free. If we were going to spin this situation to our advantage, we could afford no witnesses and it pains me to say this because he deserved better but we killed him in the street where he lay. Does our killing him make us any better than his own corruption? Were we still the good guys? I’m still haunted by his death but I have come to accept that it was him time. The lady helped with that.

When the guards finally arrived, and there were so many, we told them a tale of how the Rats had shown up, engaged in conflict with their comrades and we joined in just trying to help and that the Rats were responsible for the missing people, shaking down the local businesses and also for fighting with the guards. We were paid handsomely (at least it seemed like a lot at the time) for our troubles and we decided at that point that we needed to get as far from Dillard and our stupid quest to tell people the trade routes were open. We would help people as we could along the way but it was finally time for use to make our way to the grandest city in our part of the world, Highbreeze.