PayDay’s Journal 12 – Made in The Shades

People were missing from the poorer parts of Town. There were animals going missing from the lands up north. Other jobs that seemed outside our wheelhouse of expertise. All these and more were available after things were set “right” in Dillard. We opted for the missing persons. Maybe it was because we’d all lost something on our own personal journeys. Maybe it was just out of some sense of duty. Probably it was really just about the gold. Gold buys stuff. We like stuff. It was easy math.

So we headed to The Shades. It was the poorest part of Dillard and was little more than a slum. For the most part the streets were quite narrow and it was easy to see why it was called The Shades.

On the widest of the streets, if street was really the appropriate term here, we were wandering almost aimlessly when we came upon a vendor with a little cart selling bread in the street. It looked like trash but I knew how Shojins belly worked. He bought some and I couldn’t bear for him to be unhappy with the taste. So I worked a little something and it seemed to make that bread taste like the heavens.

The vendor was happy with the sale and when asked about the missing people he didn’t know anything about it, but he did point us to one of the finer establishments locally, The Velvet Saddle.

The Velvet Saddle was a… well brothel.

We were met outside by what I at the time could only imagine was the madame of the place. She was hesitant to talk in the street but when presented with a little gold was more than happy to bring the lot of us into one of her rooms.

Of course that room turned out to be her office. She asked us to turn around and so I let Huginn help me see where the safe in the floor was, in case I would ever decide to come back later since it sounded like there was a good bit of gold in there.

Valerie, the madame, knew nothing of the missing people, but did seem to know about a group calling themselves “The Rats”, who were shaking down local businesses for protection money. It seemed that they travelled in packs of three and were due back later in the day. But first we needed more information.

So we travelled down the street to what appeared to be a coffee house or tea shop,  but upon entry was neither. Siefert the owner was more than happy to fill us in on the comings and goings of these “Rats”. It seems that they tried to collect from him but Samuel, the man mountain by the door, I would later find out was Clever’s brother, broke their leaders arm and had sent them scurrying off to the shadows.

While there we also encountered a man called “Clean Peter”, who tried to plie us with kind words and seemed to know more than he let on, but we never had the chance to find out. We were burning daylight and we needed a plan. So we headed back into the street for a return to the Saddle and to see if we could get anything more.

Before heading inside, I hung back and let Huginn fly and looked through him at the local surroundings. I was looking for groups of three and after a few minutes found a group that looked like it fit the bill, except that it was five, counting Mr. Broken Arm and I saw them coming out of what I would find out was “The Albatross”, some dump a few blocks away. We had precious little time to prepare. But we work best under pressure and love to test our mettle.

PayDay’s Journal 11 – Trials and tribulations

So a few days passed and I couldn’t stop thinking about what my dream might have meant. What did the voice mean about me serving her when the time was right? I also couldn’t shake the feeling that the dream was some sort of bad omen.

Now it’s funny but time seems to pass differently on the inside, our neighbors were taken away. We were able to suss out from the guards that they were taken to the capitol for “high crimes” since they were charged with assassinating a nobleman. We were laughingly told that our trial would be coming sometime soon. And what felt like an eternity later it did. But Shojin and I had made use of our time inside to formulate a plan for our defense strategy, once I talked him out of his ridiculous plan.

He fully intended to conjure the illusion of a box just slightly larger than himself and only say “Shojin isn’t here” when addressed by anyone in the room, which was beyond ludicrous and I told him as much.

Our plan was simple and multi-pronged and would rely on each of our unique skill sets. And to do that, for most of the trial, I would handle the speaking. While everyone was paying attention to me Shojin was going to provide “enhancements”.

And things went perfectly and according to plan. Mostly.

We were led into the courtroom and made to sit as the charges were read against us. The pathetic, little human piece of feces with his tiny little lady whistle was there too. The magistrate presiding over the matter was so short by human standards that he was almost my size, which is saying something. Where we differed in appearance though was that he was balding and had a mustache of a sort that says to a parent “this man cannot be trusted with your kids”. And his name was Steven. Steven! Ha! His poor court reporter, Madeline had a sadness in her eyes. I sometimes wonder what she is doing these days. But I digress.

After the charges were read I finally had the chance to stretch my powers of persuasion. I offered up our defense, but as I was offering our defense I peppered in a little of the language that people with my background would understand and while doing so I noticed that the trial artist seemed to Perk up as I was doing so, but nothing came of it at that point. My prime contention was that we were not shopping in the marketplace. Well Shojin was, but that little man with his little whistle really irked me. Even if he was shopping how does it help anyone to charge a shopping tax on those who are merely window shopping. That was an injustice I refused to stand for.

At a previously appointed time, when I was laying out for the judge a description of the clown who was falsely accusing us a small image of the town market appeared there in the courtroom for all to see and right there in front of the tiny versions of us was a tiny little clown. A jester if you will. Of the tiny little whistle man, Davison was his name, the little punk.

As I was in the progress of making my demand under the laws of the realms for satisfaction, a great sound erupted from the back of the courtroom and in walked a series of guards with reat Ravens emblazoned on their chests. (Was this as sign?) Followed by a man of some unknown but seemingly prestigious heritage.

And creepy Stevey looked shocked to see him.

The new arrival announced himself as Lord Ravenclaw back to assume his rightful place as magistrate of Dillard. He and Steven had a brief exchange and while that was going on nobody seemed to notice Shojin work a bit of trickery on Steven and talk him into going along with the newly risen magistrate.

As lord Ravenclaw was taking the bench to assume his rightful place as magistrate a beam of light from the window caught his cloak and there was the briefest flash of red. Quickly looking at my companions, none of the others saw this.

I tried to confront him once on the stand without outright saying anything but he feigned innocence. This red cloaked fiend, who had accosted my companion and betrayed our incarcerated acquaintances.He must be held to account. Maybe not in a room full of guards but I sometimes make poor choices.

His response to my saying that I knew who he was, was to take his cloak off, then his shirt, and an offer of everything else. Which was tempting as he was not a pain on the eyes. But I had my sights set on another much more Clever man.

We were ultimately acquitted of all charges and sent on our way. I still try to demand a trial by combat with my accuser, but was summarily denied and told not to try the courts patience. Slightly defeated we went on our way.

So we found something just north of a fleabag motel and set up shop there. Before I did anything else I ran back to the courthouse to let Clever know where we were staying and that I would love for him to come visit me…and bring the shackles. It was a fun week.

In that time the town of Dillard transformed into a place something akin to prosperous. There was a newfound life in the residents as they were no longer under the rule of constant daily taxation. Visitors and travelers came to town.

And postings went up in the town square looking for those willing to brave troubles for a bit of gold, but I’ll get back to those.

As we were preparing to set out again, in the name of progress, I bid farewell to Clever. I miss him mostly at night, and hope that someday I will see him again, and set out to finish one piece of business left incomplete.

Without the group’s knowledge I set out in search of our accuser and after greasing the right palms was able to track him to one of the most scummy, trashy bars working as someone who cleans up what patrons too inebriated leave on the floor. And I found him in the alley. Perfect.

I moved on him like I was his own shadow and when I was so close I could breath on his neck and he would feel it said simply “Boo!”. He was ass over tea kettle at that point from the sheer surprise of it all.

Now while I was recuperating, and as fun as Clever was I did pick up a few tricks from the story Simple told us and magic was no longer such a foreign idea to me. It seemed fitting to me that this little turd should have some little turds to keep him company so I told him as much and filled his pants with refuse.

He looked downright terrified at that. So I did the same to his shirt.

Now he was screaming and he ran back into the bar, but due to being just a dung covered mess, the barkeep or owner or bouncer maybe was having none of that and promptly threw him back out where he tumbled unceremoniously in a heap, crying.

For one final bit of good measure I went ahead and filled his shoes with more of the excrement I thought him to be, but he was scrambling out of his clothes at that point.

I insured that I had his attention as I had a simple message to relay. If he ever crossed my path again, I would kill him. Period. If he was smart he would develop a sixth sense and see me coming before I saw him and go a different way.

And with that I snuck off into the night with my new friend Huginn sitting on my shoulder. My companions and I were done being the victims of happenstance. It was time to be masters of our own fates and the following day we searched the available “job” listings to do just that.

PayDay’s Journal 7-10 – A “Simple” Plan

Alright, so that didn’t go exactly as planned. It went monumentally bad, but it sort of got us moving in the right direction. Towards the magistrate. And then came intake, and Clever. Clever was this seven foot tall hunk of amazing. He was huge and soft spoken and when I gave him crap about turning over my weapons, he picked me up and shook me and then proceeded to strip me of my weapons. I don’t even remember what he said at that point but I turned on the charm, or at least I tried to. After all our weapons were taken away, we were thrown into a cell in the basement of the courthouse to await our trial.

After the guards left we met our neighbor’s, the cells were all housing “guests” and came to find that we were well and truly screwed. The sour looking Gnoman across the way, not sure what he was but angry personified and quiet. There was Simple, he was a halfling like me and his crew, Thomas seemed dark and mysterious, Bree seemed to be an elf in the same line of work as myself and Trevor, Trevor was a bit of a bag of buttholes, which is to say Bard.

Simple told us of his tale of woe and how he and his band of fools came to find themselves behind bars. It, like some of the best stories ever started with a job. Nothing flashy or fancy, just a job. Turned out that in months past this town was run by the money lenders. Someday I’m going to run through and flip all their damn tables. Filthy bastards. But the money lender in this tale was one Yorick Stonehands. He had hired the group to collect on the debt of a Garrote Ravenclaw. He owed 300 gold or and item of equivalent value, but Yorick had an item in mind. Something called the “Turning Stone Armor”. And getting to this Ravenclaw was easily half the battle, and it sounded in retrospect, like it was not the easy half.

The first trouble they ran into was at the entrance to the gate community this Raveclaw lived safely within. There was a bunch of shenanigans with Simple and his “invisible hand” trickery (side note, I have to figure out how to do that) with the guards at the gate that likely if he really would have pushed things that hard in reality should have gotten his tiny trickster ass run through. But they persevered and when it looked like all hope was lost, sought a moment of performance. The recital of a tale.

And they told that tale for us as we waited in our cells. Turned out Thomas and Bree were an item and that Thomas used to work on the docks, but due to a union strike he was down on his luck. Which sucked. But his love to Bree seemed to get them through. Sounded tough though. So tough.

This tale and their holding up traffic seemed to finally get them through the gate. REally it just sounded like they annoyed the hell out of the guards. But whatever, not my story.

So they get through the gate and make it to the house of Ravenclaw. The guards don’t want to let them in but Simple does his tricks with the invisible hand and they finally annoy their way through and are made to wait in the guardhouse on the property for the lord of the manor’s return.

While waiting the engage in a bit of gambling with the guards, but that all starts to go south when everyone playing catches everyone else cheating but before that can even be sorted out, Gnoman decides to do a bit of sorting of his own.

He starts trying to sort some folks from their lives. And then it goes crazy. They kill everyone in the guardhouse in the blink of an eye, which sounds like a wild embellishment. This Gnoman is made to sound like the incarnation of death the way his hand axes chew through the guards and their captain.

This is the point where the story becomes less than believable but nobody stops Simple since he seems to be on a roll.Thomas who believes himself something of a “horse whisperer” heads off to the stables to procure horses to pull a carriage should the need for a speedy retreat be necessary, which seems harmless enough a task in and of itself, while the rest of the crew heads towards the house.

Along the way they find that there are some statues on display in front of the mansion, but when Bree stumbles on a branch they come to life and call out “Who goes there?” or somesuch. This party of murderous debt collectors throw up the illusion of the captain they just got done killing and when pressed for confirmation the bard imitates his voice, which is kind of awesome from a get away with something crazy perspective. It’s a shame that when that was happening Thomas had the same idea for an illusion with the old man that runs the stables. Why was this a bad idea you might ask? Well because the old man running the stables could see behind Thomas and see the other fake guard captain helping up his tripped “lover”.  Which was the beginning of things going from sideways to pear-shaped.

The old man called for some bruiser types to come out and beat the tar out of Thomas. Simple and the rest hurried up there to help clear out the opposition and Simple had the brightest of ideas that fire cleanses all, even a bad reception. So he torched the stables.

From here it was just about a jaunt through the house to look for the armor and after a bit it was found, but after checking the room for traps and upon opening the armor case, since calling to Ravenclaw to come pay his debt went nowhere, some statuary in that room promptly beat the holy hell out of Simple, leaving him battered and unconscious on the floor of the room the armor was displayed in.

After those with him had dispatched the displays they tended to Simple and got him back on his feet, but he was pissed. Like really, really, “just back from the brink of death” pissed. So while his group did what any group would do, search the house for items of value, he’d had enough of these shenanigans and had decided to just burn it all to the ground. So he was pitching lamps every which way setting the house ablaze. His group found the body of Ravenclaw in an upstairs room dead, and he had been for some time.

Now, if his story is to be believed, while all this was going on inside the house out on the property grounds Gnoman and Trevor were working as some sort of tandem death squad and they dispatched all of the remaining guards (I am doubtful of their over a dozen men dispatched claim) in the same intervening time.

Once done inside, everyone regrouped on the lawn and made their way back to the money lender who had hired them in the first place. When they got there and before their entry a man in a red cloak was seen exiting the building. When they went in, they found that the room was filled with guards and Yorick, who promptly fingered them for the job and off to the jails they went to await their “speedy” trial.

That was roughly a month or so prior to our arrest so we were told to expect a timely trial.

That night I had the strangest dream. It was dark and bone-chilling cold. There were black feathers everywhere and a cacophony of birds screaming in the dark. A voice called out to me from the darkness asking what I would give to be free from this prison. I said I would give anything. The voice seemed to laughed from all around me and said I need only pledge my service to her. I said certainly, whatever it took. She said that she would contact me again when the time was right, but that at that moment fate had a different plan.

I never got to finish the dream because in the middle of the night we were awakened by the sound of someone being thrown into our cell. Turns out that Fayne had mounted something approximating an escape attempt, an attempt she swore was going so close to perfectly that all the gods were smiling on her endeavor (hard to believe) when she was unceremoniously bludgeoned on the back of the head and dumped at the guards feet. She swore that the person who did it was Vessa, our traveling companion but that Vessa wasn’t Vessa. She was a man in disguise. A man with a red cloak. By The Three, what had we stumbled into?

PayDay’s Journal 6 – The marketplace

Well we arrived in Dillard, and within the first day we were totally screwed. We found ourselves in the main marketplace, and Fayne went off on some errand to try and find some smoked glass goggles because Drow for those that don’t know have an incredible aversion, almost allergy, to direct sunlight. It really hurts their eyes. While she went off in search of this Shiojin was looking for some herbs to season his food, and he did ask if there was anything that would make goblins taste better, because apparently that’s a thing.

As he was shopping this little pencil pushing turd was going around and shaking down the merchants for “taxes”. But being as I am, I know a shakedown when I see it and it infuriates me to see the masses subjugated in such a way.

As we worked our way around the marketplace this little fool had circled around behind us and was listening in and after Shojin made a purchase he swooped in to harass us. He wanted to see our shopping permits. We inquired about the shopping permits as we were new in town and had no knowledge of such a thing.

Z was having none of this and was preparing to squash this fool like the bug that he was but I made the mistake of staying her hand. While she was preparing to do this he was slowing raising what appeared to be a rape whistle to his mouth. He relaxed but still retained hold of his whistle.

I explained that we were only wandering the marketplace but had purchased nothing to which he pointed to Shojin having made a purchase and further explaining that we need a permit to even browse. This infuriated me and I was having none of it. You don’t shake down the populace. Period. But he had explained that he worked for the magistrate, which was who we were there to see.

I told him at that point he might want to go ahead and blow his little whistle. And so he did.

Now this is where I should probably point out that as we travelled Shojin and I had been discussing a plan to strike fear in our enemies that made use of his illusions. The idea was that if you could instill fear in your enemies then that would eliminate the need for a fight. Makes sense when you are a six and a half foot half-orc, but when you are just under three feet then there was some question as to what the final effect would be. But since we had never had a chance to test it, I figured why not. So I gave Shojin the sign to do it and he cast his spell, and anchored it on my clothes.

I looked utterly terrifying. Covered in weapons and viscera from prior foes. As the guards made their way through the crowd all of them and the whistle bitch, Davison was his name I would come to find out later, all cowered in fear, but still did some degree of their job and we were all under arrest.

Which suited me just fine. We would see the magistrate at the trial. Eventually.

PayDay’s Journal 5 – The Tinker

So Fayne and Shojin worked their ways closer to the old man and they were about as stealthy as a minotaur in a china shop, but I moved like greased darkness. They made their way closer to the old man but I held back. I didn’t trust the situation. I rarely do. And still I heard the whispers. Calling me from the darkness.

Next thing I know the three of them are talking with the old man in the road and I couldn’t hear what all they were talking about, but it seemed like he was some kind of a big deal. And maybe a merchant. He had a bunch of crap on the back of some poor donkey. So I crept closer and closer and he didn’t seem to hear me.

Finally I was close enough to say “boo” and he started swinging his cane at Shojin. Which was funny to me for some reason. The old man offered to trade us a meal for our story, so of course Shojin said sure. He was always ruled by his weird morality and his stomach. We found a clearing and set up camp near the road so that we were able to trade tales in some degree of comfort.

We regaled him with our tale of daring do versus the goblins and their boss and the reopening of the trade routes from the mountain and he sat there adding in all the oohs and ahs in all the rights places, which was weird cause our story was grand scheme of things not all that impressive, but he never let on. He humored us because it was the nice thing to do, or in retrospect it at least seemed that way.

And then we learned about him. He was something called a “Tinker”. A Tinker is a sort of revered travelling merchant/diplomat/storyteller who just sort of roams place to place spinning yarns and selling their wares. It was also considered both poor form and terrible luck to attack or cheat a Tinker, such was the reverence paid them. It was also like the weirdest yard sale of garbage on the back of that donkey, but he had some useful odds and ends and I was sure to purchase some potions.

So we set up a watch schedule and bedded down for the night. After we had all made it to sleep, that was when everything went sideways. We were beset in the night by a multitude of foes coming out of the trees. There were Gnolls surrounding us from what we believed to be all sides. Just Gnolls gibbering as they do and once we were all awakened, we waded into the combat like the heroes we believed ourselves to be. And. It. Was. Glorious.

The bodies fell around us like trees before a woodsman. Eventually we were so weary and battleworn, that the final Gnoll ran into the trees to try and escape our wrath. That poor Gnoll ran into the woods and smack into our friend from Hammerfell Vessa Ott who had been trailing us for some time. After dispatching that final fiend, she came strolling out of the woods and explained that Hammerfell was no longer the home that she wished that it could be and that she would, if we would allow it, travel with us. We were happy to have her with us, she was a pretty good pack mule after all.

So we finished the night with the Tinker and the next day bid him farewell and safe travel. A day and half later we found ourselves in Dillard. Things were finally looking up for us.

PayDay’s Journal 4 – We might be heroes?

Our return to the town with the fair maiden had us heralded as heroes. The town was so happy to have their stolen goods returned and to see a return to open trade that we were afforded no end of special treatment. I commissioned a hand crossbow, because I had an idea in mind for how I might mete out justice in the future. Shojin requested a fearsome cloak that might conceal his more Orc-like features, and that thing was truly hideous. It had a line of fur running down the top of his head and the boar hide used to make that infernal thing had been worked by the local craftsman until it was as soft as fresh linen. Z had gotten the local blacksmiths to test their metal with her undertaking, asking of them to make a hammer worthy of her goddess, Lolth. It was a hammer, a massive one. It was rounded on the one side and that side was made to look like the body of a spider with its legs coming around to the other side, the flat part where they met. It was a fearsome thing, and eventually she would wield it as though it were an extension of her person.

We were shown every courtesy and denied nearly nothing that was within reason. We were given the penthouse, such as it was at the Boar’s Head Tavern as our own little home away from home. And everything was going well until the captain of the guards returned home.

The captain of the local guard also happened to be the father of Vanessa Ott. Lassic or some such was his name. He was an old racist prick as we’d come to find out. He was so very grateful for all we had done for the village and for trade in general for the region he also needed us to fix a wrong the town had committed. He implored us to help them remove the town jail’s only resident. As was explained, about a month prior and in the dead of night Lassic’s assistant or deputy or whatever you call him Nofth was out one night returning from a late night journey to the outhouse he came upon a Dark Elf “lurking about”, there was a brief altercation and long story short a very unconscious elf became the towns prisoner. A prisoner because she was different and because the town had never seen one of her kind before. They distrusted her based solely off the stories they had heard, not because of anything she had done. They had no idea how to deal with her and so they kept her locked up.

And in that time, she refused to speak, ate only because she had no real choice and spent the rest of her time in quiet meditation. That is unless someone was to attempt to enter her cell. She would then fight like the caged animal they were treated her to be.

We were asked to apologize profusely for the towns transgressions and Z took the front on that. We invited her to join our merry band of fail. She declined and I didn’t blame her. Shojin had her gear and told her that she could get it all back if she joined us. Super tactful, I know, but I appreciated the attempt at motivation. I made him hand it all over and told her that she could join us or not. Her choice and we wouldn’t force her. But if she joined us, we could give her the chance to do something more. Something greater. But by the gods if I couldn’t have been more wrong. We suck so much. So, she requested a nice suit of studded mail covered in metal workings in a spider motif, tested her bow and checked her arrows. Oh yeah, and her name is Fayne.

And with that, we were off to Dillard to tell them of the return of open trade routes now that the issues on the trade route were dealt with. At least we thought they were dealt with and had no reason to doubt it at that point. So we started off on foot down the path to Dillard. And on the road we heard a clamoring and clattering from up around the bend in the path. So we asked Z to just keep straight on the path with the donkey we were given as a parting gift. Four travelers, one donkey. Some parting gift.

While Z was staying on the path the rest of us went sneaking off through the trees adjacent and worked toward the noise with our tasty dark elf carrot just tromping on down the road. And then we heard a small frail voice call out, “Who goes there?”

PayDay’s Journal 3

As the day drew on and darkness filtered in through the trees around us the forest was quiet, maybe too quiet. Z thought it was just good practice to have a little fun lighting the way with the straps tying the poor little goblin up. He made a nice lantern. Eventually, Timmy finally chirped up that his camp or fortress or whatever the hell goblins call their home was up ahead. We stopped and gave him the chance to offer up the trade that seemed in our, or at least mine, minds to be fair. Him for the girl, plus leaving the village alone. Seemed reasonable and nobody else had to die this day. However, his camp mates thought different and after making the offer, Timmy was promptly shot in the shoulder with an arrow for his negotiating trouble. He fell face first to the forest floor.

As he did, that was when we finally noticed that we had been led into a small clearing, still close to trees but with unobstructed sight lines to a trio of very large tree stands. Each was a large triangle about twenty feet above the forest floor. Each was also manned, goblined, whatever by a pair of goblins. All had bows aimed down at us. We were a special kind of screwed.

As arrows rained down around us, Shojin must have thought it a good idea, because he made a massive dragon’s head appear as if coming from around the leftmost tree, which really freaked out a few of the goblins. Mind you, it was just a head, there was no body to go with it. To protect himself after I dove for cover, he picked up poor Timmy, who it turned out at that point wasn’t dead as a makeshift shield. I fired pot shots from the brush while we got the situation under control. I wasn’t about to get myself killed by goblins. Now to back up his illusion he kept trying to light their platforms on fire. He finally got one, but by that time I had shot the pair on another of the platforms and Z had unleashed some of her holy hell. When the platform finally caught it scared the bejeezus out of the pair perched on it and they jumped rather than face the flames. The first to jump died on impact and the second died landing on the first.

Still cleaning up the trio of tree stands, we heard what sounded like a massive boar come crashing through the trees. Shojin made an illusory fire leap up in front of it which brought it to a dead stop causing it’s rider to fall. A massive hobgoblin that must have been billy. Z charged in and I gave chase. Shojin’s distraction allowed us to make short work of the “boss” and with all those responsible for waylaying the wagons to and from the mountain dealt with we could find the pretty lady, collect our bounty and be on our way. It should have been as simple as that. It wasn’t.

Turned out the pretty lady was a dwarven maiden by the name of Vessa Ott. She’d been taken captive in transit between the mountain and the Hammer Fall. Her uncle as it happened was the captain of the guard and responsible for the protection of Hammer Fall. He had made no attempts at rescue and she was more than a little pissed about it, to say the least. Who could blame her. Since the goblin raiders had been at their trade for some time, they had amassed a good smattering of junk/sundries and we hauled as much of it as we could back to town, and that is when things got really…interesting.

PayDay’s Journal 2 – Continued beginnings

During Z’s watch a boar wandered into the stable yard. She thought she could take care of things on her own. She could not. Shojin and I were roused from our slumber by the sounds of the fighting. I made short work of the beast with a well placed arrow and that was that. The tavern keeper was also awakened by the ruckus and offered to cook the beast for us free of charge. We took him up on his offer and since we had had most of the night to rest decided to get an early start on our investigation.

Near enough to midday we came upon a strange scene. There were obvious tire tracks heading off of the path and into the high weeds. Further investigation found the charred remains of multiple wagons and as we looked around further found some very crudely constructed hunter’s perches in the trees on one side of the path. While we were debating who would climb up to investigate further an arrow whisked past us from deep in the brush behind the tree stands. Since it was clearly some sentient beings and not just some sort of beast we began preparations for the conflict to follow.

Shojin, and it bears a little explanation here, refused to kill. Maybe in the most dire of circumstances could he be persuaded to alter his moral compass on that, but in the time since we haven’t seen anything to sway him. Not that he wouldn’t allow the rest of us to do the deed. Only that he would not. The other peculiarity of my comrade would be discovered soon enough and it was more than a little disgusting. But for now, and as always, his answer was to mystify the opposition. Illusions and sounds, sleep and charm. That was his stock and trade. And he was awful at it most of the time. Like really bad.

His solution when it became clear we were dealing with some sort of humanoid was to make the biggest treasure chest you had ever set eyes on. Gold spilling out the top and littering the ground around it to the extent that his magics would allow him.

My solution was to pour oil on the ground directly underneath his illusion. If whatever it was did take the bait, I’d set their asses on fire. Z, just watched us prepare with a look of mild bemusement.

Out of the brush came four very angry goblins and I did the first thing that came to mind. I yell “treasure yours”. And very quickly our plan began to fall apart. Two of the four were taken with the illusion and two were not. One of the two that was not appeared to be the leader of the group and was gibbering something at the ones confounded by the illusion. What followed happened very quickly.

Z and I tried to deal with the two that were clear headed and Shojin went to his bag of tricks and tried to put them to sleep. He got three of the four. The one he didn’t was the leader who ran off into the brush. We dispatched the two that remained and woke the fourth for questioning. It turned out that Z spoke goblin from her time in the underground before she started her journey. The how and why of that was still unknown to me at the time.

To make the interrogation, something I did have a bit of experience with from my time in the organization, easier we built a fire and Shojin hand roasted one of the goblins over the fire while the fourth watched on helpless. He told us the runner was Jim, he was Tim, and the one Shojin was roasting was Tommy. When he refused to answer more questions Shojin started to eat his partially roasted comrade which sent him into hysterics. I calmly slapped him across the face to calm him down and continued my questioning. I asked Shojin to talk a walk while we finished up our questioning and he went off in pursuit of onions to stuff his meal with. It still turns my stomach to think of all the things that man was willing to eat.

After some additional smacks about the face the goblin let us know that Jim would have run back to camp. A camp overseen by “Billy”, who was the boss. Billy was apparently enamored of late with a “pretty lady” who had become his newest play thing. I have little patience for a damsel in distress personally, but that’s because I refused to allow myself to become one.

Timmy, I only ever think of him as that, and as our adventures went on I often think back to him and wonder if there was a way to have made what happened play out differently, said that Billy would be happy to trade the lady for him and so we set off as the sun began to set in the direction of his camp. Timmy restrained in straps from the burned out wagons and on a short leash leading the way.

PayDay’s Journal 1 – A meeting on the road to sadness

The Fools' characters for the road to Highbreeze
Note from the Fools: The below note was found with PayDays Journal

If you are reading this that means that I am likely dead. I hope I died a good death. What follows is the account, best as I can recall of the my journey with a group that came to be more than friends. I came to count on these people, this motley bunch, more than I could my own family even after what I did. But I’ll get to that.

My name is Payola Dayoria, “Pay Day” to my friends, and I got my start in life as a petty thief. When I was young and first stepped out on my own I got arrested for stealing from the wrong person. While I was doing my time I was approached in the prison by a man. His name isn’t important. What is important is the choice he offered me. I could finish out my time and go free or I could work for his organization and get out by the end of that day. Since I was looking at another 10 years behind bars, I jumped at the chance. I sometimes regret that choice but it was and is a part of the life I chose. While I never found out the full depths of the “organization” and what it was into, while I was working for it, I did learn a few things. One, this was not a criminal organization, despite the trappings of thievery all around me and two, I was in this for life.

And the years went by. 10 years later I found myself still working for the organization, for gods and countries they would say, but I yearned for more. So I went walkabout. I just started to travel, see the sights that even with all my travel for the organization I never had a full opportunity to explore. I still looked for the odd score now and then, old habits and all that, but I was really just yearning for the youth my work denied me.

But that all changed on the road to Hammer Fall. Hammer Fall is a primarily Dwarven community and a primary trade hub for the realms. If it comes out of the mountains up in Minn’s Teeth it has to pass through Hammer Fell on its way to anywhere else. So it seemed to me that would be a nice place to make a bit o’ gold. My outlook was altered when on the road there I came upon a Half Orc and a Dark Elf also travelling the same path. They had been together for some time prior to our meeting and I was a little taken aback that they got along as they did.

Compared to me they were both Giants. The elf was easily nearly six feet tall and the half orc taller still. The Half Orc identified himself as Shojin, and right away I could tell there was something different about him. He was, for one thing calmer than any other orc or halfsie I had come across. It seemed like he was trying to escape his past. Who was I to judge, since I was doing the same thing?

The Dark Elf was Zeresnel, Zareznel, something like that. We only ever called her Z or something short like that. She was clearly decked out as a cleric of Lolth but I could tell from the look in her eyes that there was a fire, something almost like rage burning inside her. She wasn’t a stay on the sidelines and heal people kind of cleric. She was a get in there and smash it’s face kind of cleric. And she was really, really good at smashing the faces. Usually.

And so together, we three walked right into the beginnings of adventure together. As we came into Hammer Fall, I was acutely aware of several things right away. First that this was a town that was suffering. You could see it on the faces of everyone that we passed. This was a community that was struggling to get by. Second, there was a stillness in the air of something just waiting to happen.

We approached the Boar’s Head Tavern because it seemed as good a place as any to get the lay of the land. Taverns are about the best sources of information. Get most folks drunk enough and they will tell you damn near anything you want to know.  

The tavern keeper was a sad looking Dwarf. As I recall this we never really did find out his name. We took our seats at in an empty room and made our orders. Shojin ordered Boar, 4 legs worth. Now that may sound like a lot, because it is. This man could eat damn near anything. Why this one time…no, no, I get ahead of myself. The tavern keeper called to someone in the back that first order and our senses were then assailed by someone clearly taking it out on a boar. Those screams still haunt me. I ordered whatever they had as far as cheap wine went. I was no longer all that hungry. Z ordered some mead and a bit of boar herself.

While this was going on the tavern keeper inquired if we were there about the bounty. Bounties usually mean gold and gold makes the world go round. I said that of course we were but would love some of the specifics.

It seemed that all of the caravans from town were vanishing between Hammer Fall and the mountain and vice versa, thus never making it to or from the Dwarven stronghold in the mountain. We were interested in finding the source of the town’s plight (treasure and status with the townsfolk) but due to the lateness of the day after our meal, we would set out at first light. We were informed that there was no available lodging but that we could stay in the stables if we didn’t mind the smell of horses. We didn’t mind at all, since the cost was nothing and set up a watch rotation for the night.