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But now

Alayi’s Journal

I was pleasantly surprised to wake rested - no emergencies! I prayed, then healed myself and my wolf while we talked over what to do next. We felt some urgency to rescue the farmers, for we had no idea what the bandits had in store for them. We were too far away from the cave to see how many have entered and left since we’d escaped. So, we decided to hide near the cave and watch for a while.

After some time, four men came out of the trees and entered the cave; the druid was not among them. Defender immediately suggested moving over to that spot, hoping to ambush the next “patrol” on their way out. We managed to move without too much noise, then settled down; Defender insisted that the next patrol would be out within an hour. An hour was too long for Tomas; I had to chuck a rock at him to stop his whistling.

By the end of three hours even the warforged was losing patience! We were talking over a frontal assault on the screaming mushrooms when I decided to take a quick scout around the area in search of some other opening to the bandits’ cave. Fang came along; once in the brush, I think we both were relieved to have a little peace and quiet. Even better, we found a narrow cleft in another rock outcropping!

I climbed down the steep entrance a short way, listening in the darkness, but heard and saw nothing. Still, it was something to tell the others about, so we returned and I told them of my hunch that this was somehow the “back door”. Tomas was unconvinced, but in the end, we all went back for a closer look. Defender pulled out his everburning torch and climbed right in, while we waited at the top. Soon, he was back, telling us that the cave widened out to a deep pool of water.

Hmm. Now I was not so sure of my hunch! Warforged might not need to breathe, but... Defender decided to go back for a closer look, and we waited some more.

His next climb out had better news: the pool of water was deep, but fifteen feet under the rock it led to another cave, which had torches and buckets in it! A short swim would reach it, or a pull from a rope. Tomas immediately refused to consider the idea! He did promise to come back in the front way to provide a distraction, and I knew Fang would have trouble climbing, so I sent her with him while Alunys and I climbed down to the water with Defender.

We reached the beach with ease, following a new tunnel worn through the stone until we came to another cavern. This one had lanterns on the walls, but was full of boxes, not people. More loot, I guessed, and edged around to the opposite side to look out the door while Defender and Alunys had a look at the stash. The tunnel out of the cavern curved, so I followed it until I reached a door in the wall - and could see light at the end of the passage.

The other two caught up with me at this point, and Defender tried the door, but it would not open. Since all stayed quiet, Alunys looked under the door. It was dark. So, she knelt down with a torch and shoved it close, and we both looked and saw - boots! We got up fast!!

Then, as if the gods were watching over us all, the shrieking mushrooms suddenly went off.

We heard lots of movement in the tunnel ahead, and movement behind the door. We stepped back for Defender to bash the door in, but he couldn’t get enough momentum in the narrow tunnel to do it. As he headed off down the tunnel, paladin in tow, I pulled out a dagger and used the club as a hammer to try to wedge the door shut on its mysterious occupant.

Of course, as the warforged and the Silver Flame reached a room full of guards getting ready to hunt down Tomas and Fang, I heard something being drawn behind the door! I quickly dropped the club and put my dagger away, pulling my scimitar and swinging wildly as the door opened to reveal a man with a shield, wearing a chain shirt, and wielding a big sword. Defender and Alunys attacked the guards, who were yelling “Get them!” and probably very confused; then Alunys was backing toward me, trading arrows with someone in the room.

I had to focus on the man in front of me, despite hearing Defender screaming “You’re all going to die!” down the hallway, and Alunys cheering as she shot her foes to death. Thankfully, I was able to dispatch my opponent to an early grave, and take a quick look into the room behind him. Some twenty feet across, it looked like a bedroom, and it appeared empty, so I ran down to see what my comrades were up to.

The cavern was full of the bodies of guards, and Alunys, who pointed out the exit for me to follow Defender. I found myself on the other side of the shrieker cavern, ran through to the tunnel, and found Tomas and Fang and Defender and the rest of the guards, also dead. I greeted my big bad wolf who’d killed a guard herself, then Tomas gleefully stabbed the shriekers. We headed back to the main room, which I finally recognized from when I saw it from the displacer panther’s tunnel.

The prisoners were still in their cage, and I thought of the man I’d killed, so we checked his body - sure enough, there were keys! We gave the man’s longsword to Alunys, and found a locked chest in the room, but first took the keys out to release the farmer, Mevin, and his wife and sons. Although we’d seen no sign of the druid, we decided to wait out the night in the cavern and help get everyone home in the morning. Mevin hadn’t heard much while imprisoned, though he thought they were to be sold as slaves (which the druid was angry over - he didn’t want anyone taken from the farm in the first place).

Tomas came down to tell us that he’d gotten the chest open, and found bags and bags of coins to go with the stolen goods from the caravans. I was pleased to think we could give farmer Mevin a head start on rebuilding his home! As Tomas discovered a secret compartment in the chest and revealed a suit of armor emblazoned with the symbol of the Emerald Claw (yech!), and some potion vials, it dawned on me that we would need help getting everything back to Mossmantle.

While the rest stayed to guard the farmers and the goods, I decided to make a run for Mossmantle on my own. I left Fang behind to help guard, and swam out through the “back door”, hoping not to meet the Ashbound druid!

Thankfully, it was a quiet run through the nighttime woods, and near dawn, I was thumping on the door to the head of the town council. Garsay was already awake, and I quickly told him of our adventures. He agreed to get wagons together, and volunteers, so I curled up for a nap!

I was a slow trip back, but eventually I led the wagon train as close to the bandits’ cave as possible, and found that everyone was safe. It took the rest of the day to clear out the caves and send Mevin and his family home, but we all pitched in to help. We found ourselves hailed as heroes, and given the rest of the coins we’d found as a reward, and invited back to Mossmantle for a festival in our honor. It promised to be quite a party.

It took a couple of days for all the events, and I had a chance to get to know the Silver Flame a little better. Although I was worried that there were more bandits to find on the road to Varnar, Alunys had a more specific worry. She’d come to Mossmantle following a prophecy, that foretold evil falling from the sky in this place. She spent a lot of time watching.

And, midmorning after the festival, her prophecy seemed fulfilled! Something was sighted on the eastern horizon, approaching rapidly. It turned out to be a large airship, a ring of fire encircling it, and headed westward over our heads. There’s nothing but the Wood and the Demon Wastes to the west, why were they so far out of their normal routes? Tomas was jumping up and down with excitement, but I was worried about fire in the forest...

And as the ship passed overhead, we saw it lurch to one side, heard explosions, saw smoke. Defender was shouting at everyone to take cover, although it quickly passed us by. Trailing smoke, it descended over the rise beyond Mossmantle and crashed nearby. We immediately ran after...

Posted by Kate on February 14, 2007, 01:02 | Alayi’s Journal