GM: Jim Dugger
Players: Mark Daymude (Mitsu the Monk)
Rachel Sandrock (Anya the Elven Wizard)
Jim Davenport (Dibly the Rogue)
Chris Kludy (Ventros of St. Cuthbert)
Mike Steiner (Bull the Half-Orc)
Two weeks have passed since Anya was delivered from death by the mysterious woman, Tursoq. I'd never seen such a miracle back in my home town and I was surprised more by the way everyone accepted that a dead person was alive and walking around again. True, Anya looks much the worse for wear, bruised, haggard, and tired.
I asked her about what she could remember of her experience but she was never able to find words to describe it. I guess you had to be there ?
I've spent my time earning my keep at the "King's" tavern, bussing tables, cleaning up messes, and generally trying to prove myself to Boccio, the tavern's master. It seems he doesn't own the establishment but runs it for someone else. I've asked around a little about who that person is with no luck.
Boccio is an odd fellow. Your typical tavernkeep is a portly fellow, cheerful to his fellow man, and welcoming to travellers. Boccio is bean-pole thin and about as old as dirt. He seems permenantly foul-tempered, though I've come to suspect there is a warm heart underneath. The rest of the workers at the King's wouldn't put up with him if they hadn't developed an affection for the old guy.
As Anya has rested and recuperated, we've all worked on training ourselves, honing our skills so maybe we won't have such a bad time of it next time we're in the wilderness. I've been picking up things here and there. I never had the patience to devote myself to a single task for long.
I wandered the docks for awhile and met Connelly, a seaman with bum legs. I supplied the grog for a couple afternoons and he showed me around how sailors use ropes, different knots, and so on. I think I could tie off a rope I'd depend on with my own weight. I think.
The rest of my 'education' seemed to be just roaming the town, talking to folks, more often just listening, sharing a copper or silver here and there. I think I'm getting a better idea of the players in town, but I'm going to keep at it.
Not long after we'd gotten back from the wilderness, my friends and I agreed that we needed more help against the monsters that seem to infest the lands around this city. I kept my eye out for just such a person.
It was in Polly's, a cheap water-front dive, that I spotted Bull, drinking and arm-wrestling with sailors. Boccob's wisdom, he was a strong brute, though it took a few minutes to get used to his face. Orc-blood rarely makes you more beautiful, though his bottom fangs gave him a nice menace. He could be very useful.
I started out watching and then laid some bets as the most burly seamen walked in to take care of this "challenger". I was up 50 gold pieces until Bull was beaten by some guy from the south with a handlebar moustache.
The crowd broke up and filtered out, leaving us alone in Polly's.
"You did pretty good there, friend," I began, drawing a chair up to his table. I signalled for two tall ales.
"Wasit ta you?" he snarled, rubbing the arm that failed him.
"Didn't mean anything by it. I'm going to take a wild guess here and say you're not from Endhome." Bull rolled his eyes and I knew I wasn't dealing with an idiot.
"Orc blood ain't nothing to be ashamed of, friend," I said as the ale's arrived with a slosh. I pressed a few coppers in the server's hand. I know they are a proud race."
"Too proud," muttered Bull as he accepted the second mug. I waited to see if he felt talkative.
"I'm a fine warrior. I've killed my share in battle. I've got as much right as the others. Bastard called me half-breed and butted me out," he groused. I wasn't quite following so I just looked interested and waited for him to continue.
"See I want this girl. She is strong and plump, just the way a girl oughta be, you know. She wants me too, but that ain't enough. Her sire won't let us rut until I prove myself."
"Ah, so that's why you've come here," I said, understanding. "All for the love of a woman. I know your troubles well, mon ami." Bull looked a little confused by the use of the word 'love' but I'd pretty much got the gist of it.
"Well," I continued, "I wouldn't go trying for glory around this town. I'm sure there are folks who need to depart this world, but your kind isn't going to get fair treatment from the powers above."
"I'm not stupid," said Bull coldly. We stared at each other for a long while and I like to think we came to an understanding then.
"Fair enough, just thought you might like a different way to earn your keep. But I can leave you to your drink and gambling," I said getting up and draining the dregs from my mug.
"What do you want from me?" he asked plainly.
"I have a little group together. We're working together to find some adventure, pick up some wealth, and bask in a little glory. Sound interesting?"
"How much gold?"
"I had over four hundred pieces of gold in my hands just a week ago. It seems to be worth my while."
"How much gold for me?"
I looked the not-stupid brute over. "We could sit here and haggle but I think there's only one fair way. You'd get claim to an even share of what we gain. We keep it for the group to better ourselves, but you'll be treated right. If you don't like it, you can take your share out in coin and depart as a friend."
Bull didn't seem to be too trustful, but after a time, he agreed.
I wasn't sure how he and Anya would get along, so I told him I'd find him when we were ready for our next foray for glory.
Back at the King's I met up with the others. Mitsu was pleased with himself. He'd found a compatriot of his Order of the Passive Voice. Apparently, a monk, Hamel, works in the Wizard's library and he was able to chat with the fellow for a time.
Ventros had spent some time with Phillippe doing good works for St. Cuthbert's shrine in Endhome. He didn't seem particularly impressed by the old priest and was eager to get back out into the wilderness.
Anya was back to full strength. She'd spent the day practicing her archery behind the King's and walking. I'm pleased to see her so healthy again. It was too soon to lose her.
Tursoq's bronze ring still lies in a small pocket of my shirt. Someday that ring will cause us great trouble, but not today.
We quickly agreed that we were ready to take on the world again. I mentioned that I'd found a warrior to bolster our numbers and the others were pleased. Still no mention of his heritage.
We thought about what we'd done before, ranging into the wilderness in an attempt to catch a hobgoblin raiding party heading for the caravan road. Ventros was fairly adamant that he didn't want to go wandering around like that again and I was only too quick to agree. I'd never been knocked around that hard.
We decided to hire ourselves to caravans for the first three or so days of road up from Endhome. At the end, we'd walk back to town, hoping that the hobgoblins would take the bait one way or the other.
Asking around the King's, we met Darvinia Silvio. Darvinia deserves a moment of pause. What a woman! She might be a bit plump for others, but she looked wonderful to me, full of life and a laugh, and filling out her dress wonderfully. From her silver hair (a family trait) to the silver rings on her fingers, she was a piece of work.
Luckily, Darvinia was mastering a north-bound caravan the next morning and was willing to hire us on for three days. We were paid few coins in advance, but that didn't bother us. We'd seen how much money the merchants were willing to pay for used armor and weapons.
Once the deal was done and Darvinia had to leave, I trotted into town to tell Bull. He agreed to meet us outside the northgate at dawn.
It was a large caravan of ten, tarp-covered, four-wheel wagons drawn by heavy horse. A lot of metalwork heading north to trade for cloth and cotton from my homelands. The wagons would be moving slowly under the weight, but that didn't bother us.
We met Darvinia's usual guards, the four Ross brothers from a village west of Endhome called Darby Downs. They ranged from 35 for Damiel, the eldest brother, to just 16 for Sean, the youngest. Apparently, they had four sisters still back at home too.
Sean was the talkative one. The others seemed quite content to watch the horses and the countryside. In just the first day I heard tales about the "Darby races", the promiscuity of Riverbend Sal, and their Dad had been killed by hobgoblins, leaving their Mum to lead the family. It's just my guess but I think Sean ran the Darby race, wished he'd slept with Riverbend Sal, and was just a bit afraid of the hobgoblins that had been able to cut down his father.
We also learned a bit about Bull, once everyone had met him. He is part of the Hooked Tooth tribe of orcs. Apparently the orcs accept half-breeds to a point. Better than some humans do, certainly.
Seems like Bull's tribe had suffered from the marauding hobgoblins as much as the humans had. He certainly had no qualms about killing as many "hobs" as he could get in range of his axe.
Our first day was quiet. Seems the much vaunted Endhome Guard could keep the peace ten miles from the city walls. We'd see how much further they were good for. I spent some time with Darvinia but was heartbroken to hear her talk about her husband back in Endhome. Apparently he's a goldsmith or something, I don't know. Darvinia lost a little of her allure when I realized that she was a wedded woman.
The way was slow, the spring rains continuing to sweep across the lands a couple times a day. What cobblestones remained along the North Road helped keep the wagons moving, but we dared not let a wagon stray from the hardened road or it would have been mired in the muck.
We drew the wagons to the side of the road as much as we dared and prepared to make camp the first night. Darvinia's cook, a short, hefty man named Sallus, prepared a spicy stew which tasted great. Unfortunately it was the last stew we were fated to have from his talented hands.
As Sallus was dumping the dregs into the ditch by the road, a horrid creature burst from the underbrush and mauled him, sending his body to the ground and bounding between the wagons. Anya and Ventros were on watch at that time, so they were the quickest to react, firing a crossbow bolt and flare of magic fire into the beast's hide. For better or worse, that stopped it and brought it back at us.
The first good look I got of the thing was startling. It didn't look like it belonged to this world and I hated to think it had come from the next one. It was a monstrous, deformed kind of man, but with bristles of spines on it and the jaws of a vicious animal.
The thing let out a blood-curdling howl as it leapt back at us, a sound so eerie that I've decided to call the thing a Howler. It charged back at Ventros and Anya but got distracted by Damiel Ross. It clawed and snapped at him, but he was able to duck and remain unscathed.
I unsheathed my rapier and ran to help out, even though most of the rest of my friends are better going toe-to-toe with a monster. I attacked while it was distracted, but missed, my blade sliding along its ugly yellow skin.
Damiel was not lucky a second time. The Howler grabbed him and slew him in grotesque fashion, tearing head from body. By this time, Bull, Ventros and Mitsu had surrounded the foul creature and I tumbled away, unable to hit the thing.
The monster bit Bull once before everyone's blades cut it down. The corpse smelled horrible and seemed to sizzle in the fading daylight.
Sean and his brothers took care of the fallen Damiel. They wept for him and gave him proper burial. We pitched in and soon both Damiel and Sallus lay blessed beneath the soil. Ventros spent time at the gravesides, praying for their souls and beseeching St. Cuthbert to watch over them.
Anya and Mitsu took care of the Howler's corpse. They cut some things off of it before tossing the remains in a ditch. Apparently some parts would be valuable to the Wizards at the Endhome Academy.
Morning came and everyone ate poorly and quietly, mourning dead Sallus' life and their own stomachs. Gantriel, one of the wagon drivers, took over cooking duties, but he was no Sallus. A light rain made the road slick and dampened the mood further.
We'd hardly begun the days journey when hobgoblins appeared, launching an ambush from the east hillside. Eight archers let fly and they killed one of the drivers before everyone could duck behind the wagons. Mitsu and Bull raced quickly up the hillside to engage them while Anya, Ventros, and I shot at them from the cover of the wagons. Bull slew one right off.
Tense minutes passed as opponents struggled to make a meaningful hit on the slick grass of the hillside. The hobgoblins were poor archers, but good at dodging arrows aimed at them.
At last, I got a sense of how they were moving on the hill and was able to slay two with well-placed arrows. Anya slew two as well. Finally, the rest broke and ran from us.
We gathered the dead hobgoblins and made quick work of stripping them of their gear. It would bring good coin back at Endhome. Bull recognized them as members of the Clawed Hand clan of "Hobs". They were one of the weaker clans, one with more to prove and more need of what they could steal.
Ventros looked to Bull's wounds and prayed to heal them. Bull has certainly shown his bravery and his skill with his battle axe and sword. He's just what we needed; someone willing to get up close and nasty with our enemies.
The rest of the trip was uneventful. After the third day, we parted company with Darvinia and her company. I was surprised when she gave me a peck on the cheek, though now it leaves me confused. I certainly won't be ignoring her the next time we cross paths!
We figured even with the looted gear we could walk back to town in two easy days. All was going well until I spotted a dead chicken in the middle of the roadway. This chicken had not been there yesterday.
Cautiously, I examined the chicken as Bull tromped through the brush on either side of the road looking for ambushers. The chicken was one of a local breed, likely stolen from one of the farms or homesteads that lie between the North Road and the coast. It had been stripped of its feathers roughly and not too well. Mostly likely died from a broken neck.
We found a trail of bootprints leading east to west across the road. After deciding that we would only scout this trail out and not attack anything we saw, we followed the bootprints. Bull followed them easily through the wet ground.
The trail ended at a small cave set in the eastern face of a hill. My curiosity getting the better of me, I snuck into the cave and followed its tunnel. The others followed behind, at a distance that their clumsier steps wouldn't give me away.
After a few bends, I found the heart of the cave, a large natural cavern lit dimly by the dying embers of a cookfire. Two large banders slept by the fire. I also spotted a pile of stuff against the far wall of the cave before sneaking back out.
I explained what I'd seen and Ventros decided to see if they were evil creatures or just
We planned quickly and I snuck back in to slay them in their sleep. I got close to the nearest one and still couldn't tell what sort of monstrosity it was. It was fur-covered but also wore patchwork armor.
I aimed my rapier and speared its heart, slaying it. Unfortunately, it made just enough noise to wake its friend. I yelled for help and my friends charged in to battle. Bull made quick work of the other waking creature.
Once the battle was ended, Bull could see them well enough to recognize them as bugbears, a particularly nasty humanoid. He could also see that there were three more unoccupied, sleeping mats.
“Let’s hurry and find anything of value before their friends get back,” I said to the others as I went to the pile of junk at the far wall.
As I heard the tale later, Ventros was watching carefully back toward the cave entrance but dust got in his eyes. As he was rubbing them clean, three bugbears snuck up on him and hurled javelins at him. Bastard was lucky to escape a salvo like that alive.
I didn’t realize we’d been attacked for some time, though I did get through counting quite a few of the coins before I heard Mitsu command my presence in the battle. I think I did hear Bull yelling some stream of orc curses that was stripping the guano off the walls of the cave.
I ran quick to the battle and saw Bull on the ground. Ventros and Mitsu were in the tunnel holding off two bugbears. Spotting an opening, I tumbled between everybody and came up behind the bugbears. Unfortunately my stroke was off and I wasn’t able to harm my enemy.
As I held them to the spot, Anya and Mitsu were able to dispatch the ugly brutes.
We hurried to gather up any valuables and get out of the cave. It was giving me the willies.
We made it back to Endhome without further incident and richest we’d ever been in our lives! Turns out a sword from the bugbear lair was an enchanted elven blade. Mitsu wisely counseled that we could sell it and use the profits to buy fine weapons for the whole party, rather than just one person.
Fievel the Weaponeer was pleased to get the elven blade from us and made us honest deals on truly masterwork weapons for myself and Ventros. We bought a mighty bow for Anya and found an enchanted battle axe for the valiant Bull.