After we left, part 2

Alright, so it’s now been a little over a week since we left our friends. I don’t cry all the time but I still call Shojin Jenny. Something weird happened on the road heading south today. I saw something off the side of the road in the thick brush and trees.

“Jenny, what is that over there in the trees?”
“Please stop calling me that.”
“Jen-nay please.”
“I think it’s no man.”
“Ok, but what do you think it is?”
“Pretty sure it’s no man.”
“Sure, but what could it be?”
“The psychotic, amnesiac, sometimes friend we run around with. Gnoman.”
“Oh yeah, that makes more sense. Cause it totally looked like a man and you kept saying it wasn’t a man, but it really was a man. And it’s like the most murdery, manly man we know.”

We were not surprised when he didn’t know who we were. He was as surprised as he usually was that we knew who he was. As usual, he didn’t have any pressing business elsewhere so it felt good to have him travelling with us. Well maybe not better so much as just safer. He knows how to wreck shit and he never seems happier than in the chaos of battle.

The best part though is that since he didn’t remember us I was able to get him calling Shojin Jenny as well. Shojin is so pissed at me now.

But the mission hasn’t changed. We still think we’re looking for a ruined temple somewhere in the Golden Wastes. At least we think it’s there. It’s the only desert we know of on this continent. We have no idea what we’re going to find there. The dreams aren’t clear on that front.

I didn’t tell Shojin this but I woke up with The Egg in my arms today. I’m a little worried it’s the egg making me hold it, but it might be the lady trying to tell me something. She can be vague like that. Sometimes all I want is a straight damn answer. Did we even do the right thing leaving them? I’m constantly asking myself that.

Shojin made an observation today that really got me thinking. In all the time it took us to travel to Highbreeze from that Inn in Hammerfall we were accosted, distracted, abducted, and pursued over hill and dale at nearly every turn but we’ve made better time and encountered no obstacles since it became just the two, now three of us.

We’ve stayed somewhat clear of the road itself while still trying to keep it in sight since what happened with the horse cart guy. It’s still eating at me and I think it will for some time. I’ve killed before, and it feels like often, but that man wasn’t doing anything wrong. He was just trying to stop some “thieves” and it doesn’t matter that I was just trying to scare him. I killed an unarmed man in the street.

If I make it through what comes ahead, I’ll have to answer for that. I need to answer for it. “Actions have consequences”, my father used to tell me. I don’t know that I ever understood that before I rode off looking like a pickle. But I pushed these thoughts back when they come up. The mission has to come first.

As we moved into the afternoon we saw a shadow start growing on the horizon to fill our entire view in both directions. At first we thought it was a storm moving in from the south, which was weird because storms never came from the south. It wasn’t until we were getting ready to set up camp that we realized it was a massive forest, and by the gods now Shojin won’t shut up about trees.

I wanted to be upset when Gnoman finally punched him on the chin, but the quiet that followed once he’d been knocked out was a welcome relief. Just in case I sent Huginn and Muninn off to get a closer look and report back and now I think the Lady is having some fun with me.

They showed me what they saw and it made no sense. It just simply wasn’t possible. Whatever the forest was it was not nearly as close at it appeared. It was just simply massive. We’d get a better look at things tomorrow and possibly the next day, but something was off about the whole thing.

Gnoman caught me checking on the egg before I bedded down for the night. He said that it looked valuable. I told him simply that beyond measure. It stirred a bit under my touch. I still wasn’t sure what would happen if it hatched, but I hoped that the lady would show me the path forward with it. Maybe it would be a path to redemption, but I’m not sure I deserve it. We’ve talked about it as we walked and Shojin said that everyone deserves a second chance.

But there are some wrongs that can’t be righted. The man was just doing his job. Dammit, I don’t even know his name. He’s just the man that wouldn’t move.

I was awakened by one of the birds just as I started to have a dream that I think came from the Lady. I was dreaming of mountains and the sea and a little island that looked sort of familiar, but somehow also foreign.

I found the following note in Munnin’s beak.


Focus Violet. Focus. The destination may be shrouded in mystery but you cannot lose sight of it. Not until you know just what is at stake. So suck it up and stop feeling sorry for yourself.

It was in my handwriting.

After we left, part 1

From the time we heard the door click behind us and Z asking what was going on until we stopped to have something that could pass for a meal I had trouble stopping myself from crying. I so badly wanted to say goodbye. It felt wrong not being able to say anything to my friends about the Journey Shojin and I would be undertaking, not that it mattered because between the two of us all we really had was a basic geographic direction and a vague idea of a building we were looking for. 

South.

Ancient Temple.

We trusted those guiding us would give us something more to go on as we neared our destination, but we knew it was going to be some time before we reached it on foot. We also replayed the prior days events. I felt really bad about killing the man who owned the cart place and when we were back this way I would try to find some way to make it right. 

It seems like whenever Shojin and I are at our best, we cock up the plan and people die. I don’t think this is what the Lady wants me to do and I doubt whatever it is that Shojin now sees would want that from him. We try to be good people. We really do. Chaos just seems to manifest when we are around. 

Also, Shojin is an ass. Once I was finally able to compose myself I thought of something that would help get me over missing my friends and was only at most a week out of the way from where we were going. Ok, maybe it would have been more like three weeks, but still. He was having none of it. 

I said, “Shojin, it will truly make me feel better.”

And he said, “No time, Payday.”

So I said, “Shojin, it will distract me from missing our friends.”

And he said, “I can appreciate that Payday but we don’t have time.”

So I said, “Shojin, it will only be a short detour.”

And he said, “Payday, I know you. It will be at least a month. We cannot afford that delay.”

So I said, “Shojin, look into your eyes,” (I put on his face) ,”and deny yourself.”

So he looked visibly disturbed and said, “Payday, that’s really creepy, please stop. What you are suggesting now is weird and not even something I’d be into.”

So I said, “Shojin, if you truly cared about my mental health we would do this.”

So he said, “Payday, you are acting like a child now. We do not have the time.”

So I stamped my foot like a proper lady and proceeded to cuss him up one side down the other and called him everything but a half-orc.

But he was right. We didn’t have the time. I would just have to hope that I lived long enough to make it back to Dillard so I could see Clever again someday. 

Shojin wasn’t just an ass but he was a dumbass. For some reason, and he did try to explain the logic as to why, above and beyond the pile of loot we’d come across he left a bunch of his personal stuff behind. Some made sense, like his cloak. The stuff he left in the bag with no instructions or notes for the girls on how to find it, not so much. 

The one thing I refused to leave was egg we’d found when searching for Shojin after he was taken. It was likely near priceless to the right collector, but I couldn’t bring myself to leave it in anyone’s care but my own. It feels deep down like my future and the egg are tied together, but maybe that is wishful thinking. It’s probably just the guilt I feel over destroying all the other probably corrupted ones. 

Damn, I cocked that up without Shojin even being there. I don’t think I’m very good at this whole adventurer thing. But I’m trying. Every day I’m trying. I want to be better. I need to be better. 

And with Shojin at my side maybe I can be. Maybe we can be, but I worry we don’t have enough time. 

Of course I don’t even know if the dragon inside is still alive or what I will do if it hatches, but we’ll figure it out. It’s what we do. Maybe another pet? Maybe we need it to stop what we both fear is coming.

Side note, Shojin hates it when I call him Jenny. So I will only call him that moving forward. At least it helps take my mind off of missing our friends. I think he knows that.

Part 59-61 – A Crossroads

I am so sick of running. All we ever do is run from everything. After a couple hours it became clear that we weren’t being pursued and as the day came to a close but before the darkness overtook us, Fayne and Shojin went off into the woods to hunt something we could eat while Z, Ezrella and I set up a bit of a camp. 

Eventually they came back with a deer and Shojin looked like he got his ass kicked again. I would later find out that the ass kicking came from trees. Not like moving sentient trees or anything, but just regular trees. He is just straight up clumsy.

The night passed uneventfully although when it came time for our watch, Shojin and I exchanged the story of the dreams we’d had before our watch and that’s when it got weird. Aside from some minor trappings, it was essentially the same dream. All hot and sun and sand. It meant something. It had to. We kept it to ourselves because by the time we’d finished talking about it we found that our time on watch was coming to a close and it was nearing time to break camp and be on our way. 

Apparently we’d only needed to travel a little farther to see it. On the edge of our field of view there was what looked like a model town with such detail it was nothing but impressive from where we were. I wondered aloud how small the inhabitants must be. This was when it was pointed out that it was actually quite far away, and must, based on our direction and rate of travel be Highbreeze at last. 

Between where we were and where we were going there was a small village. Well more of a crossroads really that the road passed through. We got some strange looks when we came into town and then we did what we always do and somehow cock things up with a half baked plan. 

Shojin and I would pursue some means of speedy transport while the Elves just kind of meandered about the village. Somehow pursuing transport ended with us effectively horse thieves and meandering about the town ended with Z and Ezrella passed out in the tavern with Fayne throwing them back in the bar while the simple folk were pawing at the bear and calling it a pretty puppy. 

Due to the way we had worked on getting the horses and a wagon I couldn’t show my face in the tavern because there were people who would recognize me. I eventually found myself wearing the face of an elvish child between the kilted legs of the man attempting to pick up Fayne at the bar. I played like I was her kid and spooked the guy off. I let her know that we needed to run and that things had gone the way they do for us, nothing but pear shaped. 

She was not immediately on board with this, but time was a commodity we did not have in abundance so I went to find out what was up with the other two and finding them passed out worked enthusiastically to wake them up. For Ezrella I made something that stank appear in my hand and for Z I just smacked her across the face. Repeatedly. And once for good measure after she started to stir. Had to be sure after all.

I gave them the short version of our garbage horse thief plan and we were about to make our way out to what was apparently a Shojin waiting outside when he came crashing in and I saw them. Three random guys all emblazoned with the same random flaming eye symbol as the men who had taken Shojin and he was engaging them in solo combat. Time to try and save the day. 

After we dispatched the first two the third ran like a punk with Shojin and Fayne giving chase. They lost him in the alley that ran behind the building we were in and I found my way to the cart we were in the process of stealing. As everyone was finally, slowly making their way to the cart, the man who I can only surmise actually owned the horses and cart attempted to block our path. 

I tried to convince him that we had left money and that he could find the horses on the outskirts of Highbreeze proper, but wasn’t having any of that. When negotiating failed I tried to threaten him. How threatening is a child really? In my case, not that much. I cast a spell I was still figuring out just behind him at the ground, but I misjudged the distance. As we rode off I wasn’t sure if he was alive or dead, but I gave a quick prayer to my lady and asked for her to help him, if not to live, than to pass peacefully. He didn’t deserve what had happened to him. 

In my fear of being seen as a killer as we rode out of town, I slid into the look of the first thing that came to mind so I looked like me, but in a pickle costume as we rode out of town. That may not have been the most inconspicuous look we could have gone for, but it worked I guess.

We rode on for a bit and finally abandoned the wagon about two thirds the way to Highbreeze. We walked on and found ourselves outside an inn that also had a tavern. I just wanted a peaceful night not looking over our shoulders so I rented out the tavern for the night and all the rentable rooms for five days. I overpaid for everything but I didn’t care. We may not have earned it, but we definitely needed it. When it was finally time to turn in I asked Shojin to stay up for one more drink and one drink turned into a lot of drinks but it was then that we decided what had to be done. We left a bit of a care package in our room with a note (see below) and we gave the man working the tavern some more gold to ensure that it was all delivered.

I cried as the door to the inn shut behind us, but we had to do it. I just hoped that they wouldn’t hate us for running off in the night. We just couldn’t do the farewells and I knew deep down that we would meet again. Or at least I hoped we would. 

Fayne, 

So the Lady showed me something last night. Shojin saw the same things in his own dream. It has to mean something and we think it’s connected to the bond that we both share with our own mortality. We have something we need to check out. Something old and something likely very dangerous. I’m sorry we left without a proper goodbye and I hope you can forgive me. Just know that this is not the end. We will return but we need answers and it isn’t fair to make you help us literally chase our foolish half dead dreams. We need to do this on our own. We’ll send word to you when and if we can. Just keep following your path. I know there is greatness in you both and I don’t need the lady or her dreams to tell me that. This is going to sound hypocritical in the face of this letter, but there is strength in numbers. Stick together and you can overcome anything in your path. 

Despite her travels from across the world you know more of the world than Ezrella, Please look after her until we return. 

Tell that traitorous possessed bitch Z, if she continues down a path of blind devotion to a jealous god she will lose the only friends she has and die alone in a grave of her own digging. L cannot possibly want her clearly loyal servant to alienate the only people who have tried to help her on her journey. A dead servant is no use to a cause no matter how powerful she seems. Maybe remind her that standing alone on top of a pile of bodies is still standing alone. 

I leave you with a final thought, that there is a strength in friendship and that can help you  through even the darkest times and if our dreams are right then some dark and ugly times are coming for all of us.

So until we meet again… later bitches,

Payday

PS: Remember Loille, my mount deserves better.

Part 56-58 “A home of sorts…”

So as we were sitting down to breakfast Shojin finally stopped being an ass and screwing around with his stupid new bag long enough try and start something with Z. There was food thrown and threats and some spells. It was the usual sort of family crap we would get up to. I enjoyed it more than words can properly express. Except for the fact that Shojin just didn’t seem to care about anything other than being stuffed up to his shoulder into that bag. I got fed up with all the crap by the end of the meal and decided to just walk around the property. If this was going to be our new home, even for a little while, I wanted to have a solid lay of the land. Plus, it only seemed fair that since I made the food someone else could clean up the dishes and stuff.

The first thing I noticed when I stepped outside was that Gnoman was gone. It wasn’t all that surprising. This had been the longest he’d traveled with us and I was really just waiting to see how long it took before we lost him again. I hope he is able to find peace. It seems like all he knows is death.

I wasn’t paying the closest of attention to things as I walked from random feature to random feature on this farm. From the well near the house or the stream still overflowing from all of the recent rain and the pond in the middle of the property to the barn and the high weeds along the forested edge of the property. Well, stream, pond. Well, stream, pond. There was something not right about all of that but it just wasn’t coming into focus. Just seemed like a lot of water.

I decided to make my way across the stream, which for me might as well have been a river since it came up to my waist. It was fast moving and cold, which kinda felt good. I thought I might get swept away, and thought that would be a ridiculous way to meet my end. But then I got to the other side and thought about jumping in, floating away and hoping for the best.

I was just wandering around messing around with a stupid little spell I’m always casting, just trying to test the limits of what I can get it to do and I’d made a hollow metal cylinder that fit in my hand. Curious about how it would hold up, I dropped it to the ground and kicked it. It gave a very satisfying hollow, sound and that’s when I saw them at the edge of the trees, roughly a dozen deer. Well sort of some kind of monster deer. Just big and gross looking. I bet Shojin would eat them raw. As I saw them, they saw me. Awesome.

As some of them moved across the open ground in an attempt to confront me, I made a simple bell like thing to try and distract them away, which did not work. Good to know for future encounters. The stream was too deep for me to easily ford and I was essentially surrounded by either locked outbuildings on this farm or forest I was unfamiliar with. Good thing I’m small.

I achieved a tactically stealthy position in some tall grass and just hoped I was downwind from them, hoping that would help me avoid an unnecessary encounter by myself in the yard. As it happened, I was not downwind so I didn’t have much of a choice.

Eventually Fayne heard the commotion and between the two of us, with some timely intervention from Shojin we dispatched the beasts. Shojin looked like he’d been rolled down and I’d come to find out that there was some sort of basement structure consisting of a tunnel that led to the dry well and stairs leading into the dining room of the home. What weird shit were these people into?

Shojin now had some crazy dream about setting up a smoker and I was well and truly pissed because he didn’t seem to understand anything that I was going through or that his friends had gone through quite a lot to find and recover him safely. We did that right and we don’t do much right.

I followed him down into the underground tunnels and as he was trying to explain his grand plans for a smoker for the meat I tried to punch him in the crotch. I was so mad that my emotions made me miss, but I finally had his undivided attention.

I unloaded on him about what it meant to lose him and my growth while he was gone and what it finally meant to find him again. I get it, dying or at the very least coming so close that there isn’t much of a difference changes you. But I needed to get him to understand and he just wasn’t. So I slipped into his face the way I’ve done so many times now and explained to him that the face he was seeing was the reason I was angry and why I saved those half orcs, and why we slayed that dragon, because dammit we slayed a dragon and why we tracked his lanky ass through hill and glade for days just hoping to get him back. I told him that I love him like a brother and I’ll stand with him until the end, but he has to give me something to work with. And then I gave him a hug and I wasn’t really paying attention to which one of my birds decided to be a jerk and say there were too many feels.

My issue resolved, we decided to explore the cavern and see what we could see. Eventually we came to a corner and just past it was a doorway. We couldn’t get any closer due to the dog guarding the doorway. It was big and ferocious and smoke slowly rolled from its between the teeth in its massive mouth.

Shojin made a noise in the path behind me and the dog charged us and it was around that time that another lady like the one we’d fought earlier in the day came through doorway. Maybe they were sisters? By the gods, but we were so ineffective and the lady and her dog kicked the ever loving hell out of us and that is factoring in that at some Z and Fayne ended up down there trying to help. Ezrella was doing dishes or some crap. She’s just so precious some times.

Eventually it came time to make a judgment call that we were not going to survive if we continued this battle, so I ran. I yelled for everyone to follow me and as I ran through the dining room of the house I set the bookshelves on fire yelled for others to do the same. The hope was that the fire would help deter them from following us.

Whether it was that or something else, we were not pursued as we ran from the burning house. As we ran off into the afternoon sun as we’ve run off so many times before all I could think was that at least it wasn’t raining. That had to be something.

Part 44-47 “Midnight Run”

As the rain was coming down around us harder and harder we made our way to take shelter in what we took to be the officers quarters, even though the fightin had exploded a pretty big chunk of the building. I grabbed the whistle and clipboard from the bitch who caused us problems all that time ago in Dillard. It felt good to know he couldn’t trouble us any longer. As we entered and Shojin was conferring with the old man, I noticed that Gnoman was not with us, but I never really believed he’d be with us for the long haul. I knew he was just with us so long as our interests intersected. And harder and harder the rains fell. A search found nothing worthwhile except some stoves for warmth and as we were getting a fire started to ride out the storm in relative comfort a cry rang out.

“Help, help, I am being oppressed!”

It sounded like Gnoman was in trouble so I didn’t give it a second thought and head out the door in the direction the cry had come from. Across the small footbridge and around the quartermaster building. As we rounded the corner, Gnoman was on the ground and surrounded by four of the guards from the camp who likely came back in an attempt to get out worsening weather themselves.

We engaged with them and it was less than impressive because they were quite strong. The entire event hinged on Fayne firing the one magical arrow in her quiver that never seemed to have any effect at one of the guards with the end result being he was transformed into a falcon. Shojin promptly put it to sleep and threw it into the creek that was swiftly becoming a roaring rain fueled river. Eventually we were victorious and that was about when the small bridge we’d crossed got washed away. So we needed to find alternative shelter, but first The rest of us did a quick search of the quartermaster’s building and found Shojin’s boar hide cloak and some other bits and bobs.

While we were doing that, Shojin went back to the pen he’d been kept in and just threw himself down onto the floor. We were prepared to leave him there for the night but a survey of the sky gave me the thought that this was not going to just blow over and we needed to move, possibly to the tree stands that surrounded the camp. I forced Shojin to get up and move with us returning all of his gear that I was still carrying and before we could make our way to the tree stands we took a brief respite in the nearest building. And that was when we saw her.

A very pretty lady soaking wet and just slowly walking in the rain and it appeared that she was looking for something. As she got closer to where we were hidden it became clear that she wasn’t walking so much as floating just above the water, and something was just off with the whole look of her. Fayne tried to do something thought it wasn’t entirely clear what and the lady changed. Her entire look just changed to that of something withered and word and maybe a little dead and she looked like a right proper hag. And there was something, obscured by the gathering darkness and the intensifying rain, following behind her. Shojin threw another card out into the gathered water and it started to drift away but it was a brief distraction and we used that moment to run as fast and as far as we could.

Into the trees we ran putting more distance between us and them as we went. I chanced a look as we went and could not understand what the thing travelling with the lady was. It looked like one of the guards but also like Gnoman, but the both of them just sort of smashed together into one big, ugly, lumbering thing. And it looked like it could kill us with a minimum of effort. Yeah, definitely part Gnoman. So we ran, and we ran all through the night.

As the light of a new dawn broke so too did the storm and we found ourselves walking up what appeared to be an overgrown walkway or disused path. Somewhere along the way Shojin had acquired another falcon and he was, I don’t know, abusing it maybe. He had the poor thing by the neck just in front of his face and he was whispering some sort of gibberish at it and throwing it to go investigate much as I used my ravens. I couldn’t tell if nearly dying had driven him a little mad, it did when it happened to me, or if he was maybe changed more than I knew. I’d already seen him do some new magic and I’d given him my sword earlier in the evening when I returned his cloak to him.

Exhausted and soaking wet we rounded a bend and found ourselves before a small farmhouse. Shojin offered to scout with his new animal friend and again grabbed that poor bird by its neck shook it threw it into the door of the building after which he very proudly proclaimed that the door was closed. Had his near death experience was making him act stupid.

When we had finally made our way inside we discovered that the place was nice little country cottage and had only recently been lived in. The table was still set and the fireplace had only recently gone out and still had a hint of warmth to it. As we were searching in the vicinity of the table we noticed an overturned chair. Just beyond the chair was the body of what we could only imagine was the homes owner, complete with a hole in his chest where his heart should have been.

Z had a wicked grin as she crouched over the body and growled something out. The man opened milky eyes and began to stir and after a short while was upright again. Z gave him some instructions and told us he’d be watching the door. We were all so bone weary it sounded like a perfectly passable idea. We found some wood and stoked up the fire and made our way to loft above it. We all just crashed out at various places around the room and I took the middle of the big bed. Fayne and Ezrella curled up around me and we slept a much deserved sleep.

Until the undead homeowner woke Z up.

And we learned that there was perhaps another homeowner in the form of the lady that had been pursuing us and the thing that was travelling with her. As we all scrambled to get our gear, the monstrosity was pounding at the door frame trying to get at us. In the lady’s hand was a heart, which explained some things. We scrambled and struggled to deal with the lady and keep the big thing away from us, and eventually the lady got pushed over the edge of the balcony and she proceeded to just float there which added a complexity to the whole thing we’d not anticipated.

Gnoman focused his attention on the thing on the stairs which kept it off the rest of us, while well I don’t know what the others were doing. I was focused on the lady and eventually she fell to the floor below and didn’t move. Once she was dispatched the thing on the stairs just sort of fell apart into a pile of the parts that made it up.

Now my birds don’t eat but this was a big mess and I had an idea so I had them get to work on disposing of the remains while I made a breakfast for everyone. We found a magic bag on the lady and Shojin had the exuberance of a child as he was trying to figure out what was in it. I really wanted a quiet moment to talk with him and tell him how I felt and what he meant to me, but apparently that would have to wait. But it felt like for the first time since we started this journey, we were someplace safe and could finally just catch our breath for a bit.

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.