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February 14, 2007

For starters

Alayi's Journal

I’d been living around Mossmantle for a while, having heard of some trouble with their supply caravans. When the town council made an announcement at the local inn, I made sure to be there to hear it.

Bandits have been attacking folk on the road between here and Varnar; they need to find out who, and put a stop to it! The council looked for volunteers, and I was quick to step up.

The others who wanted to help are a mixed bag; an elven Silver Flame paladin, a young human named Tomas, and a warforged. I thought about calling him Al, but he wants to be called Defender. Because he wants to defend someone. Thankfully, he chose the Silver Flame (Alune, I think. No, Alunys is it).

Although there was some talk of getting horses (or a wagon for the warforged), we walked out of town on our own two feet. “Getting to know you” talk quickly left me wondering about Tomas - he seems half juvenile delinquent, and almost proud of being warned out of town before sunset. Eventually, I scouted ahead of the others, leaving Fang to “track” Tomas. Better to keep an eye on him - and I thought I’d be watching out for the Silver Flame on this jaunt!

We agreed to continue walking past nightfall, partly in hopes of meeting one of the caravans, and partly in hopes of finding trouble before it found us. Tomas thought this was heresy. Apparently “people sleep at night” (I mused aloud if he wanted us to sleep so he could “share” our stuff). The Silver Flame passed her time in converting Defender... sort of.

Eventually, I was distracted by a glow off to the east; it seemed like a fire well off the trail, and I wanted to check it out. The others wanted to follow, but they were not very quiet! Alunys and I outpaced the rest quickly, and soon heard shouts ahead. Over a rise, the glow was brighter, and from the top of the hill we saw a barn and farmhouse in flames. There were local farmers throwing buckets of water at the structures, too.

When we came down to help, we asked about the owners of the farm, but no one knew where they were. When Tomas and Defender caught up, I asked the warforged if he could withstand the flames to check inside. Apparently warforged can be damaged by fire, but although he was willing to look, the places were collapsing in on themselves - too late! Alunys asked aloud if anyone knew what had happened, and an old man stepped forward.

He was from the next farm over; on seeing flames, he’d sent his son to call out the neighbors and come to the farm himself. As he got closer he saw a group of men heading north. Hmmm... we saw no one on the road, the group must be off across the plains, somewhere. Alunys began looking for signs of magic, but I pointed out that Fang and I make a business of tracking...

Fang had better luck than I, quickly scenting a trail to follow. We left the farmers to finish putting out the flames, and headed north to see who and why the farmstead had been attacked in the first place. Some four hours later, we reached the wood. Sure enough, these bandits were using the forest for cover.

Once inside the treeline, we came upon a low hill with a cave entrance half-hidden among some boulders. I called Fang, and we waited while the whole party discussed the best way to approach the situation (and Defender pulled out a sword and attached it to his arm. Hm). We had little in the way of stealth, of course, and before I knew what was happening Tomas was looking innocent as Defender strode across the clearing and down a narrow passage. Thanks for instigating this, Tomas!

I quickly followed, quietly as I could. Forty feet in and the passage widened slightly, finally opening to a rough cavern. On the far side the passage continued, but forked left and right. Defender fetched up here, unsure of which way to take. I tried using my skills to discern which passage was used - both, of course, although the right-hand side was the most popular. Fang was unsure, herself, as was the Silver Flame who was sensing for “evil”.

I decided to take the right-hand passage, and the others followed, so I emphasized to the warforged to stay with the Silver Flame. After many twists and turns, the tunnel opened into another larger cavern. This one had water dripping into pools, and mushrooms and fungi growing on the floor. A path was worn across the stone, leading to yet another tunnel, from which voices could faintly be heard. I told the others to wait, then sneaked across for a better look-and-listen.

Defender blocked the passage, conveniently enough, since Tomas still wanted to follow! I snuck up the passageway until I reached a curtain, pulled across the path. I muffled my torch until only a faint glow, then crept up to the curtain and gently lifted a corner. A small cavern was revealed, another curtain across the way, and several large purple mushrooms to each side. How lucky that I can see in very low light! Shrieker mushrooms, just waiting for movement or light to give the alarm!

I gently lowered the corner of the cloth, then snuck back down the tunnel to tell the others of my discovery. The Silver Flame was all for calling them out and attacking them openly, I was hoping we could sneak across somehow, and Tomas made a quick trip for himself in the hopes of finding a secret passage around the trap. Unable to find anything, he returned, and we decided to explore the left-hand passage instead.

Back to the fork in the tunnel, and Defender first in line with his torch held high. I warned him to stop quickly if he saw anything at all, so I could go ahead and check it out. I might have saved my breath; we were walking along when I heard “Oops” as he walked right through the tripwire, breaking it! A wood-framed gate crashed down from the ceiling, trapping everyone except Tomas. From up ahead, we heard another crash - and then a low growl.

Here came something - a large panther, with tentacles! It blurred and shifted as it growled at us, and then Defender stepped up and blocked the hallway. I managed to squeeze in next to him and shoot at the thing, but my arrow passed right through its body. Alunys was trying to shoot it, too, but her arrows went wide - Defender was in her way. He was quickly in combat with the beast, so I put my bow away and pulled my scimitar.

Unfortunately, I had to pull my bow again due to the trouble Alunys was having. I told Fang to stay back, while the warforged and the Silver Flame argued about the meaning of “defending” - he wouldn’t let her fight, although he was taking a beating. He even got hit by one of her arrows but it didn’t make him let her by! I started shooting past the argument and into the fight, even though I knew the displacer panther was only half-likely to notice. As Defender got more beat-up, I decided to ask Fang to trip him so we could fight, too.

It took a couple of attempts, but finally Defender hit the floor and I pulled my scimitar again. I heard the sound of the wooden gate opening, too, and hoped it was Tomas! But with no time to waste, I sicced Fang on the beast, and shifted into the fight. We traded blows for a short time, but then the Silver Flame told us to back up - despite that, Tomas suddenly tumbled through the battle and popped up behind the beast - and then Alunys began to throw fire at the panther.

Tomas was swinging and hitting it from behind, while also yelling that we were “leaving him” and calling the paladin names. He seemed to be surprised that she was throwing fire at the beast with him behind it. As she seared it with her spell, I finally got some shots in with my bow - and finally finished it off. While they argued over battle tactics, I pointed out that he was acting like a kid. Unfortunately, that’s what he is...

Posted by Kate at 00:54 | Alayi’s Journal

And next

Alayi's Journal

After a bit of healing magic, Defender walked right off down the passage again. Alunys called him back quickly - what about more traps? - and we ended up following Tomas who searched for traps, while Alunys searched for secret passages. I tried to talk to Defender about fighting tactics, but quickly realized that although he has lots of training, he has little real-world experience. The wars ended right after he was built!

I also listened for people coming to check the trap we’d set off; it only made sense that they would. Sure enough, Fang and I caught the sound of steps behind us; Defender quickly covered his torch. We all listened intently, and Alunys told us that someone had seen our light. She told us not to move, listened - and then told us to attack! I immediately dashed back down the passage.

Around a corner I ran into four armed guards. I decided to barrel right on through, unsure if there were more further up the tunnel. I took a couple of hits, Defender came up behind and killed one of my attackers with a blow, and I ran on up the tunnel with Fang at my heels and my sword and torch ready. Almost to the fork in the tunnel and I turned back, confident that we were alone. I was healing myself a little bit as we went, when one of the guards came fleeing toward me! I pulled my scimitar and smiled.

An arrow flew by, then Defender came running up, which spurred the guard on; he even got past me as I slashed at him! Fang and I chased him back up the tunnel and finished him off, then listened closely for anyone else coming. All was quiet, so I took his money and his club and we went back to the others yet again. They had finished off the other guards, so I replaced my arrows from their gear and we headed up the tunnel, searching fast before someone came looking for the search party. Alunys said she’d heard that the leader’s name is Darvin.

Finally, we heard voices, and saw a light. I told the others to wait a moment, then crept close. The passage ended, opening out to a larger cavern, and I saw that we were on a ledge above the cavern floor. The ledge was also barred firmly with wooden poles. No chance of getting through them without being noticed, I fear! In the cavern I saw wood tables, benches, and torches on the walls. There were about a dozen more human guards, and on the far side, I saw a group of peasant farmers imprisoned by more wooden poles in a pen. There were two passages out of the cavern. I listened to the talk, but it was mostly about dice and drinking. I realized that the furniture was made of broken-up wagons, and there were even wheels piled in a corner. We had our bandits red-handed!

I crawled back to tell the others what I’d seen, and discuss what to do. Back to town? Hide nearby and heal up? Ambush more search parties until there was no one left? Somehow get the farmers loose and armed, and hope for the best? Eventually, we headed back to the trap, hoping to reset it and hide the bodies and somehow get a little rest. I also tried telling ghost stories about the bodies to Tomas... but now voices were heard at the gate. No rest for the weary!

The voices were commenting on the gate being closed - apparently, they assumed the searchers trapped themselves, so they sent someone to get keys, and “nature boy”, who controls the beast. I peeked around the corner, and sure enough, the light was fading. We had a few minutes to decide what to do. Although we were still hurt, the consensus was to wait in ambush. Tomas was hidden under a pile of bodies, while Defender stood in the panther’s lair. Alunys and I stood up the passage, bows drawn.

Soon, we saw several people, including a druid with a bone-plated giant rat. They stopped when they saw the pile of bodies, then caught sight of Defender. Who said “Hey” and waved at them with his sword arm. While I stared in disbelief, the first guard quickly stepped back and whispered to the rest, and the druid began to cast a spell. NOW Defender chose to charge into battle! Alunys and I had to walk up to shoot with any chance to hit, after that!

Defender was plowing through the guards, and Alunys shot and killed another, but the druid cast a spell to summon three wolves to fight us. I sicced Fang on one, then shot the spellcaster - but he summoned three more. They pulled Defender down, Fang was bitten, and the other druid ran away with his rat-thing. We were left to fight the horde... which lasted longer than Alunys expected, making me realize this “nature-boy” must be Ashbound. Tomas killed a wolf, and the last guard ran away. We were still fighting the summoned wolves; I found out that the paladin can use her bow to bludgeon things, but Fang went down before her attacker dissipated.

I dropped everything to stabilize my friend while the battle raged around us. When I looked up again, I realized that Defender was down, too, and that Tomas had killed several of the wolves himself. He and Alunys dragged Defender while I carried Fang, and we made a run for the safety of the woods outside the cave. Somehow, we made it, with me covering our tracks all the way.

Tomas and Alunys spent hours figuring out how to fix Defender enough to wake him up, while I stood watch. As soon as the warforged was awake, I crashed!

Posted by Kate at 01:00 | Alayi’s Journal

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 at 01:02 | Alayi’s Journal