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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PayDay’s Journal 17-21 – Goblins on Patrol

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

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

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

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

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

~~~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~~~

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

PayDay’s Journal 16 – Travel arrangements

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I couldn’t speak.

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

She paused for a moment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?”