Perfectly Legitimate Adventuring Party

So some of us really can hit the side of a barn.
The shorter you are, the higher you fly.

We were honestly pretty pooped out by that fight, so while I wanted to head on, the others called for a break and a bit of a snooze, especially for Al and Maul (who needed to boost the spells before we hit anything else). So we split the snoozing, and Mel and I spent a few hours listening to weird creaking noises in the topiary. I wouldn’t have put it past it for some mucking great Jolly Green Giant type to come out, but nothing really happened. Poked Maul and Es, then rolled myself into my blanket and tried to grab some shut-eye. Not a hope. No sooner had my dreams got to the good bit with the gorgeous silk dress when a pile of yelling woke me up to find Es and Maul whacking the hedge and being dragged into it. Even the grass was against us!

Maul managed to haul Es out of it, but those thorns were nasty! I yelled for people to use fire (Es has a rather nifty wand of that type) as I shot into the mass of branches. Said branches grabbed again for Es, but Maul threw herself in front and got caught instead. Al had taken a while to wake up, but was now casting a pile of genuinely helpful spells – Maul started growing faster than a baby orc introduced to solid food, and the critter (some sort of malicious plant) copped a weakening spell that finally helped us take it out. To be honest, Maul looked pretty well done in, and only just managed to cure herself, then the rest of us that needed it (Es in particular looked fairly battered).

And seriously, I was pretty sure that if we copped one more nasty attack, we were going to be a pile of dead things, and much as I admire this lot, I was not going to heroically stand around and get turned into hobbit-burger. There’s only so much a small thing like me can take! The others seemed to feel I was being unreasonable, but there are sayings about dead lions and live dogs, and if given the choice, I’m for the barking.

We settled down for the rest of the night, which luckily passed without further incident. Es plucked some of the vine bits to make a tea with, and then we headed out of the hedge maze into the open fields beyond.

There, we saw a house, a barn, and a pile of places where there used to be trees. Es was very upset by this, and started cursing damned Dryad-killers and filthy types using Science to try and change Nature. In front of the barn was a cart, complete with an ox, and as we walked across the field, we discovered the ox wasn’t the only living being there. A lady gnome came out of the barn, took one look at us, and ran back in. Then, oh great – the sounds of spellcasting going on.

I had no intentions of being front and centre when the fun began, so I ran around the side and hauled out the old trusty crossbow. Maul decided to cover the door with a foggy cloud everywhere, and Al made a pile of weird sounds that sounded just like a horde of ravenous starving strangers were trying to make their way in, (trying to fool the wretched gnome). I saw the door open (just over the top of the cloud), but I couldn’t tell if something was coming out until Mel threw a dagger into the fog, and that little miss came shooting UP AND OUT, firing as she came! Seriously – she was up in the air firing down at us, and some people don’t have a lot in the way of ranged weapons! I shot back – damned well, I should add, but the git had added a shield of some sort to her magical repertoire, and the arrow just bounced off it. Stuff this – I ran around the side of the barn and into the open door. No, I wasn’t entirely stupid – had a good look around inside before reloading the crossbow.

The gnome cast a couple of scorching rays at Mel. One hit her, the other hit the ox which bellowed and started getting away. Poor Mel, trying to get into the fog cloud, stood on a rake and the handle hit her eye. Al also headed into the barn, as did the others, and Mel and Maul guarded the door while we checked around to see if there was anything a) dangerous b) interesting or c) valuable. Then once more we heard that bloody gnome’s voice starting up the spellcasting. Mel and Maul ran out to try and stop her, but we’d misjudged her actions – the barn doors slammed shut and weren’t going to open for anyone for a while!

I dived for cover, figuring there might be something in the barn we missed. I was right – a small back door! Suddenly there was a WOOF from the roof – not Roderick, but some sort of fire spell that caught fairly quickly, and made exiting the barn a fairly high priority. Al threw her acid spell at the door. I decided that the hinges were close enough in make and model to the old Temple’s side door ones, and gave them the old Secret Fast Exit gesture. it worked. The door flew open, I fell out, and rolled aside just as a crossbow bolt hit my lovely new armour. Luckily, the new armour was up to the challenge, and the bolt bounced off.

And it was on for young and old! She fired at me (honestly, just because I hit her) and the shot was more than just a bolt – a pile of green burning fire flared over my chest. I shot back again, and grazed her, then Al tried the blowgun with the centipede poison. Es made a mighty shot which then did hit the side of the barn. The gnome unleashed some sort of spell which got Maul and felled her – but only asleep. I swear that half-orc snores worse than Al! Speaking of the mighty Al, she managed to make her way to me, and I dipped my next bolt in her centipede poison and readied it. The bloody gnome was firing off the magic missiles AND the filthy language, and infuriated Mel so hard that she grabbed one of her rarely-used spears, and with the power of a woman wronged behind it, flung it at the gnome with such power! It hit the gnome hard, then fell back to the ground, while I unleashed the bolt and hit. In fact, we were all suddenly in the groove, firing and hitting brilliantly (although Mel’s next spear throw lacked the accuracy of her first).

I was worried that the gnome would have another nasty spell to cast, so held off firing until she did something. And then, after a few seconds, I realised she wasn’t doing anything – she was hit with acid, sling shots and a spear, but she was just hanging there, in mid-air, bleeding… We’d killed her! Mel’s mighty spear throw had done for the gnome! Hooray! Mel pulled her down on top of me, and we took stock of our situation.

And there, in the house, was a letter

So we headed back to Kym’s Harbour, and off to Northport to get things identified and to continue our search for Argenius Lat.

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Home Stinky Home

After an uneventful night in the Bleakfield inn, we returned to Kym’s Harbour, where we found that again there was an event of some sort in the offing. This was quite different to all that business with aspirants – all very arty and full of knights reciting poetry, singing songs, etc. Apparently all making our will saves against nausea induced by competitive romantic poetry, we made our way to the harbour, where we found a tengu ship sailing for Northport. Mel & Maul offered to work their passage, and for a small expense we travelled back to Northport.

First, we visited the local stables to stable Hoatie Wallace, and to introduce him to Al’s (slightly neglected) combat-trained pony… Bluefish.

Once Cog recovered from his sudden fit of mirth and/or despair, we went to see Skrark. He was not entirely thrilled about what Chirreep was up to – clearly, he would rather we had brought her back – but he was glad to hear that she is safe, and paid us the rest of what he had promised for the search task.

We then headed to the Grand Bestiary to make some enquiries about Lady F, the goings on in Bleakfield, and Beneglom Crungle. Hi Wenton! Long time no see. Doesn’t Abigail look great?

We inquired of Wenton about “Lady F”, who to our knowledge was working in plant-based spellcraft. “Floriane”, he said, “and she had a sidekick, Lettucea” (so that’s who “L” was). She had had an island where she worked, but which has since been cleaned up. There are records of course, but they have been sealed, and we will need authorisation from Fizzleton Gummidge to view them.

Floriane was reportedly “normal looking human/half-elf, medium height, pointy nose, straggly hair, a bit green”… and a bit egotistical, even by mage standards. We made an appointment in two days time to meet with Fizzleton about getting authorisation to view the sealed records.

And in the mean time, we head to the Academy to get things identified, and sort out who gets what. Al was the main beneficiary this time ‘round: a darkwood heavy crossbow, and bracers of armour, as well as carrying the party’s newly acquired (and hopefully not very used) Wand of Magic Missile.

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Pretty fly for a dead guy

Feeling fairly battered and bruised from the encounter with fungus-zombies, and in desperate need of recharging our spell-batteries, we settled down for a night’s rest, not far from the really-I’m-sure-it’s-properly-dead-this-time tree.

“Rest”.

We were interrupted in the middle of the night by some very aggressive tendrils. An assassin vine made a grab for Es and dragged her into the hedge, Al slept through quite a lot, Maul was grappled then embiggened (after Al finally woke up), Mel was entangled and stood there trying unsuccessfully to move… but eventually, we dispatched the vine. And then got the remainder of a very twitchy and paranoid night’s rest.

As dawn broke, thin and misty, we made our way the rest of the way through the maze, whereupon we found ourselves a farmhouse, surrounded by some fields and crops. Beside the farmhouse was a barn. Nearby, we spied some holes in the ground, where it appeared trees had been uprooted, and wagon tracks near the holes leading away across the fields (in the general direction of the village… now we see a way to the farmhouse that didn’t involve the hedge maze). We also saw some dead bodies in the field. To prove that we really do learn from experience, Al set to work liquifying the bodies (“splish, splash, I was taking an acid bath…”). We’re not getting zombied from behind again by being “respectful” to the “dead”.

As we headed towards the barn to check it out, we saw a cart out front of the barn with an ox harnessed: it looked like someone had been loading the cart. And then that someone came out of the barn, saw us, and ran back into the barn. This fell neatly into our unprofessional assessment of “suspicious behaviour”. As did the spellcasting noises which then began emanating from inside.

What followed was a somewhat jumbled and unusually three-dimensional fight in and around the barn: our assailant was a gnome hovering 50 feet in the air, firing a heavy crossbow at us, who then locked some of us inside the barn and set the roof on fire. This was followed by a ground-to-air firefight outside the back of the barn (those of us inside had got out by now, and those outside had got around). Several more rounds passed: she sending acid arrows, a sleep spell, some magic missiles, and crossbow bolts as us, while we sent spear, crossbow bolts, and acidic rays at her. A few more shots from us, and a few more… until finally Cog realised that she hadn’t done anything for a while. We paused, and just looked. There she was, still hovering. Turning gently in the air. Dead, but stuck in the air with a “fly” spell.

Oops!

We weren’t about to leave her up there (again, less about respect for the dead, more about the looting). So we snagged her with a grappling hook, and managed to drag her half-way down before the fly spell wore off, at which point she fell on top of Cogs.

The barn was well on fire by this point. Deciding it was neither worth trying to put it out nor to sift through the ashes afterwards, we searched the house. We didn’t find anything of much interest at first. A few valuables. Some coins. And a major plot point journal!

So, that’s what was going on. It seems Lady F had already left town, but the trail should still be fairly warm, and we have a notion that we will learn more about her – and whatever has been going on in Bleakfield – if we can pursue our investigations back in Northport.

We returned to town, and to the inn, to tell everyone what we had found. We also gave them the news that that Lady F appeared to have moved on. Naturally, this was greeted with dismay – there is little doubt that time has run out for Bleakfield’s bounty.

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Totes Amazing
Everything is so F&#(ing GREEN!

That night, we started our trek up to the estate house. Did I mention that the whole bloody thing was surrounded by a hedge maze? No? Let me tell you about it…

We left Wallace back at the Prancing Pig because it wasn’t really his scene. That, and he’d had quite a few windfall apples and was sleeping the sleep of the completely stuffed full. Es agreed to join us, so we readied ourselves with the usual weapons, quiet footwear and such.

We snuck up to the edge of the maze, then Mel hopped up on Maul‘s shoulders to survey the maze and try and work out a way through. Which was all well and good, until us shortarses found ourselves beset by a tentacle – and a fungal one at that! I fired the slingshot (so I didn’t have to get too close, and besides, I had a feeling they were more vulnerable to being hit with a blunt object than to a pointy one). It didn’t make much difference – I really need to practise more. Al cast her usual armour spell, but the bloody tentacles got through it and hit her, leaving her looking a little violet around the gills. We all flailed rather ineffectually, except for Es who showed her value by blasting the beastie with a jet of fire. Mel then got her act together, and applied Roderick with aplomb, splitting the Magic Mushroom into pieces of toasty fungus. Al was in a bad way, though, and I’m not sure if Es didn’t get a face full of spores or something because she wasn’t really very with it from then on. Suddenly rather less animated than she had been before.

We traipsed a bit further into the maze, and came across some poor soul’s remains, with rotting clothing and no obvious cause of death, and currently all grown through with grass. In fact, after a quite short distance, there were bodies in the hedge, in the grass – I felt like I was in the hedge around Sleeping Beauty’s castle or something. Then, ahead, a tall dead tree stood in a small clearing, with green shelf fungus coming out of it. Death_tree.jpg The whole thing stunk – and I don’t just mean the whiff of decomposition and mould coming from the area.

Then there was a “Whuff”.

We all held our breath, and moved back, out of range of the spores that started flying out. Something struck out at us – I fired the trusty crossbow, and I know I’ve never fired better, but the rising dead thing just took it like a normal bolt. And then suddenly we were in it, totally. Not only was the dead thing after us, but so was the fungus on the tree, AND EVERY BLOODY DEAD BODY WE’D PASSED!

Shit.

Es used the fire on the tree, and didn’t that flaming look good! Mel and Roderick smote the armoured thing and we cheered as it split asunder, but the other plant zombies whacked and hit and it was NOT good. Luckily, once the big guy was down, a lot of them lost their inclination towards live flesh, and a great number turned on each other and saved us a lot of trouble. Maul struck the tree-fungus a great blow, and reduced it to spores (and I have to tell you, holding breath during a fight is damned difficult). I was firing with accuracy and attitude, but against these things, it made not a great deal of difference. Es has a great club (or should I say an awesome club), which did great damage. There were a few close calls in the heat of the battle – sometimes you just have to fire and hope that if you miss the bad guy, you don’t hit the good girl. Al’s acid was applied diligently, and Maul – I don’t understand that girl. I could swear she took at least one huge blow that would have dropped a normal fighter. Must be something in her orcish blood. Es, Mel and Maul seemed to do a lot of waving their weapons in the air – must be some sort of ritual in these cases. For a bit there, I think the spores had us all confounded, waving our weapons like a bunch of clients in the local cathouse. Then, in a concerted effort, Es, Mel and Maud hit out together, and the last few creatures exploded in a cloud of bones and bark.

From the body under the tree, and from the odd bits of creature around us, we scavenged up a plate armour set (in pieces, and in dire need of cleaning and resetting), and some minor, damaged pieces of jewellery. I feel that the experience has been beneficial as well, but now is not the time to dwell on that. Onwards!

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Go West and the joys of Bleakfield
The birds have flown and the donkey's name is WALLACE!

We found ourselves once more at the Inn at the Crossroads, but we weren’t as welcome as last time, due to the Inn being full. Seems that a local knight by the name of Sir Agatha the Kind was resting there with her entourage. Well, it didn’t take Chireep half a second to start with her Oh but Arabella is so brave, Mayor’s daughter did she save song. As it turned out, Sir Agatha was looking for a squire and was actually on the lookout for Arabella, the songs having spread as far as we’d hoped (and payed) for them to. So Arabella now has a sponsor, and Her Ladyship is happy to take on Chireep as well! We wished them well, and then went to sleep in the barn with Wallace, who was glad of the company. Of course, I made sure I had the cleanest straw to sleep on.

We headed on to Kym’s Harbour, and managed to get a decent night’s sleep for once. Restocked the goodies, got the treasure valued, and Wallace had a nice grooming and his hooves polished. Best of all, it turned out that the shiny mail shirt that fits me perfectly is a mithril shirt! And the cloak is a Cloak of Elvenkind, made for a halfling and even with its authentication stamp on the maker’s tag, so I scored bigtime! Alas, this now means I owe the rest of the group a fortune, but we’ll worry about that at the next divvy-up of the funds.

Anyway, because we’re a pack of gullible idiots we support each other in our endeavours, we cast around for word of Argenias Lat for Al’s sake. Word soon filtered through that he (or at least his goons) had been last seen heading west, towards Bleakfield. Irori only knows who the hell is in charge of naming places on this forsaken piece of crap … So it’s off to the west for Fun and Adventure! Yay! Thank goodness we don’t have Chireep with us to sing about it on the way. I don’t think I would have coped.

So we headed west, and after a couple of days, made it to Bleakfield. Pretty little village, with a decent pub (The Prancing Pig). We ran into another visitor there, a lass by the name of Esmeralda, who is looking into the changes in the farming practises of the locals. Es is rather fond of dryads, and is rather distressed that a great number of them have had their trees cut down around Bleakfield. Also, the name used to be accurate – rocky soil, poor drainage, fine for trees but not so good for crops. Now, it’s a green paradise. Fruit plantations everywhere, glorious green grass (which Wallace adores) (and doesn’t drop dead from), and it’s all happened in about a year – which Es is very suspicious of.

Apparently this all happened when a Lady of Quality arrived in the village a year ago, and took up the old farmhouse on the hill. (Not so much of a farmhouse as a small estate). Anyway, she’s got her own team of southerners, and she tends to keep to herself. Of course, this now demands investigation by a bright, intelligent team of adventurers – so we asked Es to join us.

And that night, we decided to head into Her Ladyship’s house. Of course, that started with getting there, which I will detail in the next post.

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Our a-maze-ing adventure
Or, wherein we learned to show less respect to the dead

When we left our valiant adventurers last time, we had just begun our journey into the giant hedge maze between us and Lady F’s farmhouse, wherein we encountered a giant tentacled mushroom thing. As a result of those tentacles, Al was feeling a little off (you guessed it – poisoned again). After dispatching the flailing fungus, we continued our trek into the maze, and some way in Maul noticed something that looked like a body, poking out through the wall of the maze. Mel asked Roderick to investigate (“lots of dead smell ‘round here!”), then investigated further, but the body didn’t seem to be going anywhere, and plants had already grown up around it. Based on what we had observed so far, this either meant it had been there a while, or maybe five minutes.

Maul & Mel pulled the body out of the hedge, whereupon we were able to identify it as definitely ex-human. Es determined that it had been dead about a week. We examined it, and couldn’t find anything interesting about it, nor could we figure out what had killed it.

We left the body otherwise unmolested (a choice which would come back to haunt us – almost literally), and continued on. As we trudged further into the maze, we saw a couple more bodies. They all seemed to have been locals, not adventurers or other noteworthy characters. And on none of them was there any sign of violent death, except for scratches on the bodies as if they had bumped into the hedge.

The next thing we found In the maze was something completely different (“It’s…”)… a dead tree. Or so it seemed – the trunk broken, bare limbs, and covered in a lot of shelf fungus. And slumped at the base of the tree was… someone in full plate armour. Maul & Mel began to pull the body away from the tree, and there was a phwump. Shit – spores! Why so much fungus? Why? (Yes, I know, high humidity, lots of organic matter, circle of life, yadda yadda yadda). And then the body in plate armour grabbed at Maul.

We began to fight the body and the fungus tree – not too bad, right? – and then ten (yes, ten) bodies came shambling out of the maze from various directions. Damn. In retrospect, Al’s unlimited Acid Splash spells were probably a better option than “respect” for those dead bodies we’d encountered. Noted for future reference. Fool me once, surround me with zombies. Fool me twice… guess I got out of the zombies alive.

Maul killed the armoured zombie, and with something of a team effort we killed the tree fungus… after which the surrounding zombies (which had already done a fair bit of damage to us) started turning on each other. Quite a blessing really, as the damage had mostly been dealt to us by them, and now at least someone was dealing damage to the zombies. Al attempted to fire off a bunch of acidic rays, although the nearby hedge plants caught far too much of that damage. It wasn’t pretty, but in the end, all the zombies went down.

There’s one more problem with fungus and zombies (apart from the smell): after looting everything, the one and only good thing was a suit of masterwork full plate – its rather beaten and shabby surface still lighting a gleam in Maul’s eye.

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Evenin', Squire!
Farewell to Arabella and Chirreep

While staying at the inn at the crossroads on our way back towards Kym’s Harbour, there was a bit of a bustle outside. A Someone! A Someone in Fancy Clothes (possibly missing a bit of the bustle?). Lady Sir Agatha the Kind!

It seems that word of our recent adventures had exceeded preceded us, and Sir Agatha, who had heard of Arabella’s heroic deeds, had come to seek her out (Chirreep did not miss her cue to sing the song of heroic Arabella). There followed a conversation in which it was duly established that Arabella is indeed heroic, and that we had done hardly anything to help – indeed, that she had saved us, we would have been in deep poop without her, etc etc.

Unfortunately, Sir Agatha and her entourage had booked out all the decent rooms, so we’re staying in a pile of hay (speaking of being in deep poop)… and with thet, Arabella and Chirreep left the party and set off with Sir Agatha. We know Skrark won’t exactly be thrilled that his daughter is off adventuring instead of coming home, but at least she has some muscle looking after her (and presumably she’ll be looking after the muscle, too).

And so the next morning we headed off to Kym’s Harbour, and after an uneventful trip we arrived safely.

The first stop, on returning to something we might consider calling civilisation (it certainly smells more like what we usually call civilisation), was identifying items: a mithril shirt, masterwork cold iron longsword, potion of true strike, handy haversack, and elven cloak. Most of these items seemed most suited to Cog, who thus ended up owing the rest of the party at least five hundred gold pieces and half a kidney… each.

Next stop, we decided to sniff around for word of Argenias Lat. It seems he is known in the area, and some of his goons have recently been seen heading to the west to a place called Bleakfield. So, I guess that’s where we’ll be headed! But first, we took the time to go and meet the tengu in the docks, and had a chat with them about getting a message back to Skrark. Confident that word of his daughter’s relative-safety would be on its way to Skrark as fast as any could reach him, we found out what we could about Bleakfield. Bleakfield, so it was reported to us, is a farming town about three days to the west of Kym’s Harbour. As it was now afternoon, we asked Skrark’s cousin for his recommendation of a decent place to stay the night along the road. His recommendation was that we stay at the Prancing Pig. We’re always pretty happy to spend the night in an inn if it is a member of AAAAA (All Alliterative and Assonant Accommodation Association).

And what luck! While spending the night at the Prancing Pig, we met a botanist by the name of Esmeralda (“call me ‘Es’”), also heading towards Bleakfield… because she had heard that people in Bleakfield may have been doing extremely unnatural things to the plant life. Some dryads had gone missing from the forests further west of Bleakfield, and the dryad’s trees had also gone missing. That’s some pretty twisted dryad-napping. Chatting with other folks around the inn, it seems Bleakfield has recently achieved some notoriety, on account of doing a lot better with their farming than they used to. Winning vegetable prizes, etc – something no-one would ever have expected to happen in Bleakfield (which used to be aptly named).

Sure enough, as we walked towards Bleakfield, we found the surrounding terrain rocky and inhospitable, but as we crested the last rise overlooking Bleakfield, we saw… green, lush, and totally anomalous. People growing apples, vegetables, green grass. Everything was clearly unnaturally productive.

Not wanting to draw excessive attention to ourselves, we offered to work for food, and the local farmers were happy to have us, since they now need assistance picking fruit before the trees collapse under the weight. Apparently up until a year ago, it was barren, and then a certain “Lady F” settled in town, who offered to help everything grow if she could have a farmhouse. Asking about the farmhouse, we were told it was “up that way”, but that Lady F and whoever she keeps at the farmhouse “don’t really like visitors”. And since they had helped the town so much, the townsfolk are very reluctant for us to disturb them.

Inquiring more into the recent history of Bleakfield, we learned that It took a few months from when Lady F settled here for the change to come over the fields and crops. But since then… well, everything (apart from the suddenly prolific agriculture) has been suspiciously normal. No obvious changes in the town or the populace (apart from those changes attributable to their bounty of produce).

Wouldn’t it be great if we could leave “well enough” alone? Perhaps, but only if “well enough” didn’t have a distinct reek of creepy and wrong and perversion of the natural order of things. After dark, we headed out to lady F’s farmhouse. Even had the villagers not told us that Lady F liked her privacy, we would have got the message soon enough, as we encountered a vast hedge maze at the entrance to her property. As we began to find our way through, Mel stood on Maul’s shoulders to have a look, but as she did so, a tentacle went whistling over Al’s head. “Oi! A… pretty large mushroom with tentacles (?) just took a swing at me!”

And then it took another swing – four tentacles! – and OUCH. Al was not feeling too great (distinctly weak and wan) after that set of hits… what the hell is it with Al and being poisoned? Fortunately, Maul and Mel managed to dispatch whatever-the-hell-that-was in fairly short order, and with that… we headed further into the maze.

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And then there were four...
... plus Wallace, of course. Wallace. Not Hoatie.

After our night in the barn, we all felt a lot better… except that Chirreep seemed to have a bad reaction to the spider venom, so Maul stayed behind to care for her. Cog reassured the farmers that Chirreep & Maul would be no trouble – and certainly the 10gp donation seemed to convince them of this.

With Mel, Arabella, Cog and Al feeling much refreshed, we set out for the village, to tell them about the spiders we had discovered, particularly the fact that they appear to be custom beasts for tourneys. The villagers were pleased to be able to put a face (or at least, a collection of eyes, fangs and pedipalps) to the mysterious disappearances, but clearly wanted someone (anyone? anyone?) to go and put a stop to the one that had got away… and any others that might be lurking in the vicinity.

So off we went. This time, we blazed the trees on the way into the forest so we could find our way out again. We found the area where we had encountered the spiders yesterday, and found the carcass of the dead spider, but no other signs of spider activity. Mel asked Roderick to track the spider… which he did exceedingly well! Roderick found the trail of ichor, which led into deeper and darker parts of the woods. Where we began to find skeletons. One or two cow skeletons, at first. We headed down into a ravine, encountering an increasingly noticeable smell of death…

… and then Hoatie Wallace stepped on something that seemed like a log, and a large chunk of tree fell on us. This deadfall was far too true to its name: leaving all four of the humanoids among us decidedly the worse for wear, and Wallace not even up to that standard. At first, fearing that whoever set the trap might be upon us quickly, we hid up the side of the ravine. While we watched, saw some kind of creature came down the ravine, found the donkey, then ran back up the ravine after hearing a metallic noise issue from one of our party. We followed its trail up the ravine, and Cog (searching carefully this time) found two more traps – one of which was disarmed by Cog (with a shiny point for a reroll), and one of which was disarmed by Mel throwing a branch into it.

Shortly after the third trap, we saw a pair of big eyes – with a brightly coloured body behind – peering at us from behind a log… spider! Cog shot his crossbow (and missed), the jumping spider leapt into our midst, and the battle was joined. The spider just missed Cog (which was just as well), then with a whack from Arabella, and a whack from Mel, the spider was down. With some handy sword-work, the peacock section of abdomen was removed to be adapted as a shield decoration for Arabella, because nothing says “squire” like a shield made from the brightly coloured carapace of a vanquished enemy.

But that wasn’t what we saw running along the ravine earlier, and spiders aren’t known for setting complex traps. Searching further in the direction the earlier creature had run, we saw… something like a nest? Al (with an excellent Knowledge roll) figured out the nest belonged to an ettercap (spidery humanoid, gets along with spiders, keeps spiders as pets, generally solitary).

As we were all more than a little shaken from our earlier encounter with the deadfall, we decided discretion was the better part of valour: Cog lobbed an alchemists fire into the nest, which duly burst into flame, and immediately we saw the ettercap heading off into the forest and up a tree. Three of us took shots at it, doing quite a bit of damage, whereupon it dropped down out of the tree and out of sight. We began to follow, then (fortunately) happened to notice it hiding waiting to ambush us. We pretended to be fooled until within range, then let fly with our ranged attacks – crossbow, acid, etc… and off it runs, again. It wasn’t looking good, but it was still moving.

And it turned out to be a close thing for Mel: this time, while we were again in pursuit, it surprised us, and its attacks brought Mel almost to the brink of death… but that was its last chance: Roderick gave a big bite, and the ettercap bought the big one.

The ettercap itself had no loot, but searching the bodies around the nest, we found one corpse which was wearing a nice cloak, and a nice longsword, and a rather spiffy very light chain shirt (all halfling sized), as well as an (empty) potion bottle marked “healing”. Searching the ashes of the shelter, we found several dead spiders, and charred remains of a scroll case. Let it go! Let it go! Scrolls never bothered me anyway…

Returning to Wallace, we aided him to recover, and we dragged our sorry selves back to the village (while Arabella dragged the ettercap along with her peacock spider shield-to-be). The villagers were thrilled to hear that their vanishing cow problem was over, and agreed to write a glowing reference letter for Arabella, as well as telling her tales at the next market day.

And with that, we need a rest. Back to the farmhouse, where we’ll spend a couple of nights in the barn, before we get ourselves back on the road to Kym’s Harbour, there to identify our loot and to try to find the trail of Argenias Lat.

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Spiders are supposed to eat insects

Before leaving Bridgeford, we discussed with Chirreep & Arabella if they’d like to come along with us, because we need to find Argenias Lat and dissolve him slowly in acid take him before the appropriate authorities. They said they would, and Chirreep also agreed to contact her father (and tell him especially all about the wonderful, amazing, talented, handsome, incredible Arabella, who is definitely never going to give Chirreep up, never going to let her down…)

We also discussed with the mayor the idea of finding someone in Kym’s Landing who can repair the bridge. He liked the idea, and has sent us with a letter, along with the commission to offer up to 400GP for the work (but try to get it for less, he says… yeah, after what we went through with your ogre nonsense, we won’t try that hard).

And with that, we crossed the ford (which, with considerably less water flowing, was much less eventful this time), and returned to the inn where we had stayed on the way out from Kym’s Harbour. What could possibly happen?

As we were about to turn in for the night, a businessman (named Rory) from a nearby village came to tell us that his village has a problem: cows keep going missing. Sometimes people stay out to watch the cows, and they have gone missing too. This has been going on for years, and they’ve lost lots of cows, and cows are expensive. They’ve lost about one every few weeks. The village was to be found a bit out to the west – half a day detour… so naturally, after an uneventful night in the inn, we set off with Rory.

On arriving at the village, we found that it is surrounded by forest, and the villagers let the cows graze in the forest… and that’s where they go missing.

So we wandered into the forest… literally, just wandered. Not so much as jotting down a map or marking trees or anything. And just like that, we got lost. After our best survivalist (the half-elf) managed to get us even more lost (Mel!), we sent Chirreep up a tree to see if she could see any sign of where we were. Chirreep managed to spot the sun, but we couldn’t tell where she was pointing, so Al walked a little way away from the tree to identify direction. Which worked very nicely right up to the point where Al was attacked by a giant peacock jumping spider.

This drew all of the party away from the tree up which Chirreep had climbed. No sooner had we done a bit of damage to that spider, than it jumped away through the trees… but then we noticed that Chirreep had stopped singing. “Um guys? I’ve found out what’s taking the cows. It’s a spider.”

We all headed back to help, to find a rather panicked Chirreep making her way down the tree as fast as she could go without falling… and then the spider that was pursuing her down the tree managed to fall out. At which point, a swarm of baby (where “baby” means “only the size of toads”) spiders fell off the big spider’s back.

Between a sound burst from Maul, some handy sword-work from Mel, and then using torches to burn the swarm of spiderlings, we managed to dispatch the big spider and disperse the swarm (albeit with a few escaping), then made our way out of the forest and found ourselves a farmhouse. The farmer seemed unsurprised by our mention of spiders taking the cows, thanked us for helping with the problem, and offered us their barn for us to sleep in. We gratefully accepted, and Maul settled down to care for a tengu who is very, very much the worse for wear.

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Maul's scribblings, part 7(?)
Towards. and beyond Bridgeford.

Walking to Bridgeford, we found a man called Galain who also wanted to be a knight. He hurt himself, and was going home to Bridgeford. The girl who went missing is his brother. It is very sad. He has also broken his leg. That is worse.

I hope it will heal. I have done what I can to help it be fixed, but I am not sure I did good enough. Legs are the worst bones to break, I think. You cannot move if you have no legs.


I asked a farmer who was helping Galain if there was a bridge toll at Bridgeford. The farmer said yes, but the bridge was broken, so we would have to cross without paying a toll. Nimbus must be smiling on me.


We have made it to the broken bridge, and the small bird is here too! We have also found her friend. She is Arebeller Arabella of the Pigery Piggeries. We are very lucky that the bridge is broken. Nimbus is smiling on us greatly.

Mother river, I will be happy to cross your waters.


Mother river, you are strange in your blessings. I did not like crossing these waters. I am cold and my scrolls are wet.


We have come to Bridgeford, and the men of the town have told us what happened to Isabella. She was playing in the grass, and an ogre snatched her away. It was strange to them. I have not met an ogre before, but as large as they are I do not think they would snatch girls for fun. Maybe it was a dare between ogre children? How big are ogre children? I will ask an ogre if I see one.

Cog the small has gone to talk to the mayor about his son (Galain), and his daughter (Isabella). I hope his lead tongue is lucky today.


Cog’s lead tongue was very lead today, and now we have to leave town.


Maybe Cog is not so unlucky. He says that the mayor does not care about Isabella being rescued by us. Maybe the mayor says it is because Cog asked for payment, but Cog does not think that is the reason. The mayor also looked only disappointed about his son having broken legs. I am scared for both of the mayor’s boys and girls children now.

(o)
/|\

We were chased out of town by the Mayor’s men, but we were able to leave towards the hills where the ogres are. We do need to save Isabella, but I do not think us going to save her will change much. If she is dead, she is dead. If she is not dead, she will still be not dead for a while. (orc saying)


Chireep was telling us about the rules for being a knight, and Mel and I thought of a thing. The rules say that a person who does not get squired at the parade of squires can become a knight if they do a “heroic deed”, which is what Arabella wants to do by saving Isabella.

But if the Mayor knew his son would not do well in the parade, and wanted a heroic deed to be waiting for Galain at home, he could make one happen. Galain being broken legged meant that he could not do the heroic deed made for him, which would make the Mayor very upset.

If that is what has happened, then I do not like what the mayor has planned. I do not know if Arabella should take the fake deed for herself either. I think we should find the ogre that the mayor is working with, and make them take Isabella back to the mayor themself. It will be a trick that shows another trick. I think Nimbus will like it.

Me, Mel, Cog, Al, Chireep and Arabella have gone to find the ogre. Nimbus, grant us luck.


HERE IS MY CLEVER PLAN:
“Hello ogre I have bad news”
“Ogre grunt”
“The boy who was supposed to fight you is very sick and he cannot come”
“another grunt”
“Do not worry if you take the girl back to the mayor right now he will give you more gold as thanks”

It should work, as long as Cog’s tongue is working well today.


It did not work.

We found the ogre and the girl! Yes, the ogre was paid by the mayor to kidnap the girl! Then two more ogres came, and they fought us. I feel strange killing them, I know that they wanted to eat us (they said it a lot), but maybe they were just hungry and stupid. I could have taught them a lot if I was not protecting the small people in our group. We took one ogre’s head, and the other one ran away. The first ogre (his name is Gnashtooth, I like it!) also ran away, he was scared of us and the other ogres, and was worried about Galain’s broken legs.

Gnashtooth was a nice ogre, and I would have liked to use my plan with him, but we have another plan now. Arabella is going to use the ogre head we have as proof of her heroic deed. We will also have to find Gnashtooth’s friend in town, Jared (a jungler? I did not understand) and tell him that Gnashtooth is not hurt. This is important, or Jared may spoil our plan.


We met Jared, and he is a jester! I do not know what that other word was supposed to be.

The bad news is that Jared brought Galain with him, but Galain’s leg is still broken. His head is also cracked, and he should not be on his horse. I will have to care for him more when we get back to Bridgeford (if they let us in), but now we have to kill the other ogre (not Gnashtooth, which is good).

I should say what I mean: Jared (Jaryd?) has agreed to tell a story of Arabella and Galain’s bravery together when we get back to town, but we will need two ogre heads to tell the story. One head for each of the heroic deed needers. In Jaryd’s story, the two worked together to kill the ogres and save Isabella. Cog did not seem to like this story, but I had to remind Mr. Lead-tongue that without the Jester, we would not be allowed back into town in the first place.

Forgive me Nimbus, talking down to Cog feels good.

We now have ten and one people in our party. Me, Mel, Cog, Al, Chirreep, Arabella, Isabelle (who is riding with Cog, for some reason), Galain, Jaryd and two of the Mayor’s men. I hope that is enough of us to find and kill the ogre quickly, before Galain gets hurt more.


The ogre found us. We have killed it. Galain got hurt more.

The ogre surprised us on a small divide, and threw rocks at us from above. Mel and Arabella ran to opposite sides of the divide to try and climb at it, while it threw more rocks. Cog helped Isabella shoot the ogre (I do not know if I like that) and Almaz made it trip onto us with a spell. Galain then did a stupid thing and swung his sword at it. He killed it, but fell off his horse and broke his leg more. Now he is barely awake. I am scared for him.


We have come back to Bridgeford, all ten and one of us. Jaryd has sung a song that makes us all sound like heroes (mostly Arabella and Galain), and Chireep is singing along very well. Isabella is safe (although I do think the only times she was not safe was when she was with us [by which I mean Cog]).


I have done all I can for Galain, but his leg is shattered and there are no better healers in town. He will walk badly for the rest of his life, and he will never fight as a knight. The mayor is not happy about this, but the will of stupid men is not very strong against the will of broken bones.

That should be an orc saying. I will tell it to an orc someday.


Now that we have found Chirreep, and Arabella has a heroic deed of her own, we have tried to persuade Chireep to go back to her father for a little while. I do not know if it worked. Small folk are very stubborn sometimes.

The good news is that we now have a friend (of sorts) in Jaryd, and we might be able to ask him about the sorceror that we still have to find. That will be for some other day. Today I must clear my mind and cleanse myself.


I forgot to ask Gnashtooth how big ogre children are! Silly me.

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