Holy water was such a blast last time, so I took advantage of our last day in Northport to stock up a little Let it not be said that Cogglefree Bridgewomble is a Halfling afraid to show his assets. Speaking of assets, I also got me a nice little pipe and a box of pipeweed in a waterproof container, and a silver dagger. (And a nice one it is at that! None of your Magic-Plated cheap rubbish for this little fellow!) Al complained bitterly about the weight of all the gold he was carrying, but declined my offer to spend it for him. I did, however, point him towards a reasonably-honest jeweller, who was able to convert it into a more portable form.
We hit Kym’s Harbour when it was getting ready for yet another festival – this time the Tournament of the Flowers. Apparently the idea is to dress up as a flower, and fight. Honestly, who decides on this crap? Well, we were just trying to restrain Mel who was going apeshit about the possibility of fighting, when a giant cactus bounced up to us and had to be carefully stopped from hugging us. I mean, those spikes were wicked, and not all of them were fake. Or soft. Or high enough that I wouldn’t be troubled by them.
Then the cactus starts squeaking at us. Yup, it’s Chirreep, in town with Arabella and Sir Agatha the Kind, who is running a team of junior knights and extras. We won’t go into the details, suffice to say that Maul has a rather large hat shaped like a lily leaf, complete with a plaster frog.
Ok, we will go into the details.
Maul was Lily of the Frogs, Al was a poisonous toadstool, Mel was a gladiolus (with Roderick as a Gladiolus Sword) and I was a pansy. And yes, I kept the costume. It was rather shiny, after all.
We got passage on one of the nice barges heading up the Princes’ River towards Black Lake, because honestly, who’d ride when someone else can do the work? For 20 gold pieces, we had clean cabins, reasonable food and even shared a few drinks with the crew. Wallace seemed fine with the trip, and was able (with Bluefish) to help out occasionally in pulling the long barge up the river. Luckily, at this time of year, there’s not too much current heading down to make the trip more difficult. Those of us who knew the score made sure our armour was off for the trip (although I slept on mine. Wasn’t going to get any nasty grubby fingerprints on that lot). Maul, though, was surprisingly nervous for a cleric who is up close and funky with the weather. Turns out she’s not keen on going against a current. Weirdo.
Blackwater Port is a trading town just where the river from Venarik’s Deep runs into the lake. And boy does it run in – black as tar and twice as nasty. Wouldn’t want to get caught in that lot. Probably full of dwarf fewmets. The town sells things from up the mountains – gold, other metals, and something called flatgoat. It’s a speciality item from Venarik’s Deep, made from … goat.
They import firewood, textiles (other than goat hair and goatskin) and foodstuffs (other than goat). We disembarked, just south of the town, and walked on it, looking for accommodation. There was a frontier style inn/trading post/etc owned by a guy called Vernon, who was willing to rent us a couple of rooms and didn’t even charge for killing off the fleas in them first. We hung around the inn for the evening, and I bought myself a warm cloak and some flatgoat after hearing how long the trip was going to be, and that even at this time of year, there was a good chance of snow. Some old guy in the inn warned us that travellers had been going missing, both newbies and more experienced ones – even the sorts that really shouldn’t be going missing because they knew what they were doing. We thanked him, and headed off to sleep.
Started up the mountains the next morning, when the light was just touching the tops of them from across the other side of the lake. It was quite steep and difficult, and took us until nearly lunchtime to get up to a rather large rock.
Only to spot that someone was waiting for us.
And his mate hiding up the side.
Pair of ugly looking types, big weapons, big teeth – and big friends. Seven all together. This was going to get NASTY.
The pair immediately up ahead threw javelins, but missed. I fired the old crossbow, but their armour was a bit tougher than I expected. So I hid behind Wallace – no point getting poked with holes when I didn’t need to. Maul cast a blessing on us, and Mel pulled out the longbow, while Al toughened herself up for the impending whack-fest.
Bugbears: “We’re going to kill you!”
Mel: “Well, we’ll make your asses into hats!”
Cogs: “So you’re going to make them into asshats?”
Javelins flew towards Mel and Maul, but clattered instead onto the rocks. I got my tanglefoot bag ready, and waited behind Wallace for them to get closer. Mel fired, a beautiful shot, and Al sent out the usually-trusty flaming sphere. Unfortunately, the front dude must have had “Avoid Flaming Sphere” going like crazy, because the blessed thing wouldn’t stick to him. The uglies charged – one of them straight onto my well-lobbed tanglefoot! But they decided Mel was the one to take out, and went for her. Luckily, they just bounced off her, but they must have confused her and Maul, because both of those worthy and large ladies swung their nasties and almost dropped them. Lots of hitting and swinging, but an awful lot of glancing blows and almost-hit-someone-elses. In fact, while he was stuck, my target was also the target of the flaming sphere, and if only I could remember that shimmy-wiggle he used to avoid it, I could give up the adventuring life and make my living dancing for money instead!
Then Maul made a huge and horrid noise at the bunch of them, and stunned the leader. Al took advantage of this to hit him hard, as one of the others actually landed a nasty blow on Maul. In fact, Maul and Al were taking a pile of damage, so I decided to use the stunned nature of the Leader dude to land a sneak attack on him.
Good – hit him spot on!
Bad – with the blunt end of the bolt, dammit! Barely scraped him!
I could have sworn it was a good shot, but no… Axes and swords and flaming spheres flew around, and slowly we managed to grind them down, bit by little bit. Finally, Al’s sphere latched onto one, just as Mel copped a couple of nasty hits. In fact, by this time, everyone else but me had been hit. S of course, I taunted a little.
Unfortunately the picture won’t embed here, but click on this for the sight I gave them.
Then suddenly Mel got her act together, charged at a guy who thought I’d make a nice target, and reduced him to mincemeat just in front of me. I was drenched in blood, and very glad I wasn’t wearing that nice pansy costume or any of my good robes. Al fired at the last guy, but copped a blow herself, so I fired off the trusty crossbow, and Mel got really pissed and went for them. Yup – more mincemeat.
We had the boss down but not dead, (I might have made sure of the others quietly), so we stood around him, and Maul used her positive energy to heal those of us who had taken a bit of damage (or a lot in Al’s case). Soon as the bugbear captain was awake, Maul hit him with a nice knockout blow, so we could take the time now to tie him up properly without danger of him dying.
We scored a masterwork morning star (which will do nicely for selling), a few gold pieces, and quite a few nice tanglefoot bags and thunderstones. Also an odd tube that magically makes things look a lot closer. Very pretty. We also got a nice sword, but I couldn’t make out what it was worth.
Then, question time. Maul pretended to cast “Zone of Truth” around the dude, and Al used her really scary look (which is really scary). The dude wouldn’t give out the info until that happened, but then he turned a funny shade of white and told Al that there were 9 other Bugbears, including the main boss, who exchanges the goods he gets from the travellers they kill for food and weapons from some human.
And then, we struck a problem. Maul wanted to release the bugbear. I wasn’t having a bit of it – last thing I wanted was some bugbear creeping up on us at night, or alerting the rest of his bunch to our presence. Al even offered to let the dude live – I worry about her sometimes. Maul wanted to know why I was so against her life-offer, and didn’t seem to understand that I care – I really do – when they call Wallace by the wrong name. Finally, Mel decided it by stating she didn’t want the bugbear creeping around either. The others capitulated, and I sent a crossbow bolt through his eye into his brain.
Al decided to sort out the other question, and took Wallace behind a rock to talk to him. Or something. I really worry about her sometimes. But apparently she can talk to animals once per day, so she asked Wallace what name he preferred.
And then came back to us with a huge grin, and said nothing more.