A Noble Cause for Mellem

Chaos at the Tavern
Uninvited guests show up for dinner

((Note: The encounter was taken from A Curse at the Old Inn by Michael Evans and is copyright protected. It is not my intention to infringe on that, so details of the encounter in this particular adventure log are intentionally vague. The 4e encounter was modified to fit our 3.5 game.))

I have been saying for some time now that I need a bow. It is ridiculous for any adventurer to limit themselves to only one type of weapon. Archers will find themselves in melee at some point and in great danger if they have no melee weapon. Fighters who limit themselves to a sword will find themselves useless in battles where they cannot get close to the enemy.

For me, I am finding I do not care much for the rapier I carry and dislike having to be face to face all the time when I must fight. Yes, I can cast spells, but I have learned mostly spells that help my party members, by healing or buffing them. What I would not give for a wand of fireballs!

Anya grins as she looks down at the words etched upon her parchment. Just the very idea of being a powerful wizard amuses her. She shakes her head at the notion as she sets quill to paper again.

Lucien is planning on returning to the magistrate’s office with the alligator head. The rest of us decided to go with him and followed him to the outhouse, of all places. It was there that he hid the alligator head as the smell of the outhouse would surely cover the smell of the carcass.

Anya bursts out laughing as she recalled the looks on everyone’s faces when they realized what he had done. D.W. said he was pretty sure that no one would notice the smell when they looked down the hole to see an alligator looking up at them!

The rogue had managed to hide the beast’s head under the outhouse, not inside like we had first thought. Once he had retrieved it, we headed back to the magistrate’s office. This time, the man was present.

Inside, we found a portly little man surrounded by piles of papers. There were piles of paper on every surface in the room and more on the floor in the corners. The walls themselves were covered in various animal heads and stuffed fish, mounted on wooden plaques. Kael cringed as he looked at them, then began chanting a blessing at each of them.

We greeted the magistrate. He did not even glance up at us until Lucien tossed the head onto his desk. The man looked up with aggitation, which quickly turned to delight as he saw the specimen. He traced the scars on the creature’s head with his fingers, excited.

Lucien told him we had solved the problems with the monsters in town. The magistrate looked blankly at him. When the rogue told him about the alligators and the deaths of the locals, the man continued to blink at us. He obviously was not up to speed on what had been happening in his own town.

“By any chance” asked Lucien “is the position of magistrate appointed??”

The man looked at Lucien and laughed, assuring him that the position had been in his family for generations. He looked confused when Lucien said to no one in particular that it explained a lot of things.

Since the portly fellow was still enthralled with the animal head, Lucien asked how much he would give them for the head. The two finally negotiated on 12 gold, a paltry sum. D.W. urged Lucien to take it as it was better than nothing.

While Kael and D.W. headed over to a bakery, I went searching for a bowyer. The blacksmith had no bows for sale, saying their bowyer had left town and suggested we try Pendleton as they had a very nice shop there and he knew the bowyer had specialty items as well. It was five days of travel by horse, he told us, but well worth it if we wanted the best.

Lucien and I were walking back toward the bakery when we spotted Dave heading our way. Embarrassed that he had no candies to give the lad, Lucien moved to hide in an alley. Dave asked me if I knew where Lucien was. With a huge grin on my face, I told him yes as I yanked Lucien’s arm, pulling the rogue into view.

Dave was delighted to find Lucien again. He had been passing out fliers to anyone who came within reach of him. When Lucien asked what the fliers were about, Dave frowned saying he had no idea as they forgot to tell him this time and he could not read them.

He asked if Lucien was his friend, to which the elf agreed. As we stood talking, the boy told us his old friend Rory had stopped writing, so he thought maybe he had stopped being friends. He added that he had not seen Rory for three weeks now and he had list written two weeks ago.

Lucien asked if Dave would mind if we looked at his letters. We waited until the others caught up to us, then went back to Dave’s house to look at the letters, hoping for a clue as to where he had last gone. Dave’s mother was there and we each introduced ourselves to her. The poor woman had awful eyesight with a milky veil on the surface of her eyes.

We only stayed long enough to discuss Rory with them and to read his letters. Turns out Rory had been a childhood friend to Davy and they had kept up their friendship through letters. Rory had regularly written every week for as long back as Dave could remember.

So it was that we found ourselves travelling to Pendleton. We had no issues on the road along the way and reached town late in the afternoon. Kael saw the animals to the stables while I went to purchase my bow and a quiverl of arrows. Then we looked for a tavern for a good meal.

The Cast Iron Kettle was a good sized building with a dozen large tables to settle at and several fireplaces to warm a person. We looked for a table and discovered Samhein sitting at one toward the back room.

He seemed pleased to see us, telling us it was about time. Back in Hodgeton, he had received word that we had gone to Farseek as I had left a message for him at the tavern there. Once in Farseek, he had found we had not returned to the inn so he figured we must have moved further north and awaited us here. His business had been completed and he was ready to adventure some more.

A largely endowed barmaid came to our table to take our orders. As she sashayed her way back to the bar, I realized all the males at my table were watching her, though some were more subtle than others. I cleared my throat loudly, grabbing their attention again.

Before I could speak again, a man came into the tavern with a message for the tavernkeeper. As the message was opened, all hell broke loose in the tavern. Several rifts opened up and a number of creatures came through them. People were screaming and running and creatures were attacking. It was utter chaos!

Kael raced to a creature as it attacked a commoner. The creature looked to have been a kobold, it’s flesh now rotting. I grabbed my new bow, notched an arrow to it to and fired it at the beast, but the undead kobold pulled it out with a laugh. I racked my brain for what I knew about undead and came up blank.

We all leapt into action, most of us going after the creatures. Lucien, however, was determined to find a way to close the rifts before anything more could come through. I lost track of events after that, as I tried to destroy the creatures with my rapier. Where many of my attacks would have felled a creature, it did small amounts of damage to the undead. I repeatedly pierced them with the rapier, doing my best to bring them down.

In the distance, I could see Lucien destroying something, though I couldn’t see what. Eventually whatever he was doing brought down the rifts, one at a time. Samhein was casting magic missile left and right and Kael continued to slash at the kobolds with his sword. I noticed D.W. continuing to fire arrows uselessly at them and wondered vaguely why he did not try the dagger at his side. Then I saw him touching an undead and causing damage and realized he was using the healing belt I had made for him. While the belt heals us, it harms the undead. Clever halfling.

Once the rifts were closed and the creatures were destroyed, Kael and I went about healing the common folk who had been brought down by the monsters. We were unable to save an elderly man and also found the messenger dead. At the very least, we were able to stabilize the rest of those who we could not get back on their feet.

Lucien inspected several of the creatures as a few were not kobolds and we didn’t recall seeing them before. He asked everyone around us, but no one had seen those particular beasts before. The rogue asked our group to remove the bodies of the creatures from the tavern, which I thought was a kind gesture on his part until I realized he wanted to loot them without an audience. Ah, well.

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Tiramisu
The cake did it

As we exited the sewers, each of us looked at one another appraisingly. I looked over at the halfling, telling him he had something on him. I started to motion to the rat tail on his shoulder, then began gagging at what was sticking out of his collar and waved my hand in an all encompassing circle. There was evidence over his entire body of his having been swimming in sewage. He laughed as he relayed I was not very clean myself.

Kael said he was going to find a stream to clean up in, then shapeshifted into his leopard form and raced toward the woods. Lucien still held the alligator head in his arms and was torn between the bath first or seeing the town officials for a potential reward.

D.W. and I had no such qualms. We mutually agreed to clean in the stream first, then head to the bath house for a more thorough cleansing. Without waiting for Lucien, we headed toward where the druid had disappeared. D.W. suggested we go upstream of Kael so as not to get his backwash, so to speak.

While he bathed, I kept a careful watch. I have often heard of thugs who attack individuals while bathing alone. Then he did the same for me while I bathed, though I had a feeling he peeked at me several times as I thoroughly scrubbed. The thought amused me. Once we were finished, we went to the bath house and steeped in the warm water until we felt clean through and through. D.W. seems much like me in preferring cleanliness over filth.

Since our bodies were now cleansed, it was time to turn our attention to our equipment. I purchased a Field kit and offered to clean D.W.’s things as well. He insisted then on paying for half. Normally, I would prefer to be somewhat benevolent, especially with my friends, but I did not have much coin to spare and found myself accepting his offer. We went to the room at the inn where I had been staying and went to work on cleaning and caring for our weapons and armor.

Once we were satisfied that everything was once again in good shape, we went to the Blue Goose Tavern to await Kael only to find him already sitting at a table. Since we have taken our meals there the last few days, we had expected to find Lucien there as well, but there was no sign of him.

The tavern was full, though not really crowded. A minstrel sat in a corner playing a lute and croaking out a song we had heard far too many times. I doubted he would earn much coin the way he was slaughtering the tune. No one else seemed to notice. Guess that is just a habit of the trade for me to critique others on their song and music.

A harried looking woman came to our table, her apron stained from various foods and little washing. We ordered the regular ale as we had not yet regained a full appetite after our time spent trudging about in the sewers. She seemed to take her time returning with the drinks and I was rather parched.

D.W. decided to share with us a most interesting cake he had found in his travels, something he called “tiramisu”. I regarded the delicacy with wariness as I was unsure exactly where he had just pulled the cake out of, since his pack was still upstairs. Still, the cake was an interesting confection and I decided to dismiss any misgivings and enjoy it.

We three devoured the entire cake in only a few minutes. At first, we took sparing bites, uncertain what it would taste like. I was startled by the moist layer of cake in between layers of cream. The halfling explained it was drenched in alcohol. Kael paused a moment as he had decided not to partake of heavy drinking, but the flavor drew him back into inhaling the treat.

A fit of giggles overtook each of us. Being half elf, I am not prone to lapses of decorum very often. I could not explain where all the laughter bubbled up from or how it overcame me so fully. I actually laughed to the point of there being tears in my eyes and my ribs were hurting.

We spoke freely of theaters we had been to, plays we had seen, foolish friends, books we had read and so much more, each story more entertaining than the last. Each tried to outdo the other with a more outrageous tale than the last.

Even when we tried to talk of something serious, such as where my beloved rogue Lucien was, none of us could stop laughing for more than a few seconds. We did manage to decide to go see the magistrate as we believed that was where Lucien last ventured to. Then D.W. told another tale.

Several more stories were exchanged before we remembered our purpose. As we began to move away from the table, Kael remembered an event that happened to him as a child and we sank bank into our seats chortling with delight.

D.W. ordered more drink from the passing waitress who told him he was cut off. He looked down into his cup to find it still full, a fact that sent us into another round of laughter. Someone mentioned we should go to see the magistrate, but we could not seem to stop the pattern of telling another joke or tale and laughing uncontrollably.

I do not have the faintest idea how much time passed before we managed to stagger from the tavern, still giggling. We finally arrived at the magistrate’s office only to find the door closed with a “Gone fishing” sign posted to the front of it.

In a most cheerful manner, D.W. walked up to a town guard asking where the magistrate’s favorite fishing hole was. The large man looked down at the halfling with a frown, telling him he didn’t know him and was not about to give up such information to a stranger, then shooed him on his way.

With a shrug, the halfling suggested we just look over in the stream where we had bathed to remove the sewage from ourselves. He laughed as he said the magistrate was likely finding lots of black crappies today. Somehow, I was certain he was not speaking of the fish.

As we entered the woods, a flash of light appeared directly in front of me and I suddenly found myself standing in a meadow. Before I could figure out where I was, both Kael and D.W. were beside me. We turned around in time to see the magical doorway disappear. Something told me we were no where close to the town of Farseek anymore.

Kael withdrew his weapon as D.W. pulled out his bow and quickly notched an arrow onto it, both prepared for a fight. I kept my hands free, choosing instead to evaluate my surroundings first.

The meadow was small and warm, with the faintest scent of flowers in bloom. I could see birds not far from us, swooping in and out amongst the trees. Here and there were the normal insects of Mellem. The weather was just like it was when we were in Farseek, so hopefully we were not far from there. Nothing seemed unnatural in the immediate area.

“Now what?” Kael asked as he scanned the horizon for danger.

“Well, I’m glad we stocked up on supplies last time we were at the mercantile” said D.W. “It’s good to prepare for emergencies.” He frowned at his own false humor. “Let’s look for tracks to see if anyone is around.”

Kael shifted into his leopard form, which he preferred most of the time when out of town. He started sniffing around on the ground in search of signs of humanoids. D.W. searched not far from Kael. I had no such skills, so I focused on looking for a trail or path along the edge of the meadow.

I came up short at the edge of the meadow as I heard something just in the trees. A delicate looking woman was standing there, wearing what looked to be a tunic made of vines and green leaves. She wore no shoes on her feet. Beside her stood a centaur with long black hair pulled back in a leather thong. They stood beside one another watching me with guarded eyes.

As much as I wanted to, I did not look back at my companions. I was fairly certain these two would bolt if the others came running. Instead, I quietly greeted them in common tongue with my hands held palm up in front of me to show I held no weapon.

The woman glanced up at the centaur, then nodded ever so slightly. He looked down at her, a soft expression on his face. It appeared to me that the two were more than mere acquaintances.

“My name is Barthello. We seek your help” the centaur said in Elven in a deep voice.

I looked up at the large creature, confused as to what I could possibly help him with, but kept my expression blank. Instead, I asked what he needed help with. The centaur looked over at the small woman and I could swear he blushed.

“Anamatrea and I are to be married. I gave her a bracelet that has been in my family for a great many generations as an engagement gift.” Crimson spread further upon his cheeks. “I was holding it in my hand, presenting it to her, when a bird flew down and snatched it from my hand.”

It was difficult to maintain a serious expression when I wanted to laugh out loud. The centaur went on to explain that he had raced after the bird and found where it nested. He simply could not climb the tree to fetch the jewelry and he would not even take a chance with his beloved’s life. Then he pointed toward the northeast to where the tip of a pine tree stood just above the rest of the trees in that area, telling me that was where the nest lay.

I told him that I would ask my two companions, of course, to verify they too would help. I had no doubt they would. Still, I was not their master and would not give their consent without asking them first. As expected, they both agreed, though Kael wanted to know if they were responsible for the portal that brought us here. I suggested we ask once we had the bracelet. If they were the ones who brought us here, they had the ability to send us back, in which case the locket would give us a bargaining aid.

As we finished dicussing the matter, we saw another portal open near where we had come into the meadow. This time, it was Lucien who emerged from the gateway, both swords drawn and ready to fight. He quickly spotted us and what looked like an expression of relief crossed his face as he made his way over to us. We quickly filled him in on what we knew.

We quickly made our way to the tree Barthello had pointed out. Since D.W. seemed to be the most skilled at climbing, he agreed to shimmy his way up the trunk. I watched his progress with trepidation, since he was such a small being, but he was surprisingly limber as he moved up the tree. While it did take a while, he finally made it to the top. He spent more than a minute up there before making his way back down toward us.

About ten feet from the ground, D.W. suddenly stopped descending. He climbed onto a thick branch and straddled it as he pointed behind us with a shout of warning. His bow was immediately in his hands as he fired off a shot into a large snake that was winding it’s way toward us.

Kael shifted into his half-elven form, yanked out a sling and flung a bullet at the snake. Lucien and I waited until the serpent was a bit closer before moving forward. I moved to it’s right as Lucien moved around to it’s left. We quickly took it down as a group.

Then D.W. spotted another one from his vantage point. With his directions, we once again managed as a group to bring the beast down. Lucien then cut the heads off the two beasts and shoved them into a sack in his backpack. I asked him what he intended to do with them and he said something about fangs and poison.

D.W. finished climbing down the tree and showed us the items he had found in the crow’s nest. Besides a sparkley bracelet, there were a number of odds and ends that sparkled and bright. Kael pointed out that crows liked anything that reflected sunlight like polished silver and gems. Looking at the items in D.W.’s hands, it looked like he was right about that.

We headed back to the centaur and his fiancee. They were relieved to find we had found the bracelet for them, though D.W. did not hand the item back to them immediately. He made it look natural as he shifted feet and moved slightly away as the centaur reached for it. D.W. then casually asked about the portals, wondering if Barthello knew who was responsible for them.

Barthello gave the halfling a long look as if analyzing him, then nodded. He asked us to wait for him as he needed to speak with his village elders before he could help us further. Then he held out his hand, palm up, to D.W. The halfling hesitated for the briefest moment, then handed over the bracelet. We watched the centaur and Anamatrea walk away.

Lucien glared at D.W. and hissed at him. “WHY did you give him the bracelet?! That was our bargaining tool!!”

D.W. sighed as he looked at the rogue. “Did it really make a difference? He either is going to help us or he isn’t. Do we want to start a war with a village full of centaurs if he doesn’t help?”

Lucien continued to argue for a minute. When he realized D.W. was not really listening to him, just nodding and saying “uh hunh” at the appropriate times, he finally gave up.

About an hour passed before we heard noise in the direction the centaur had disappeared. Sure enough, Barthello was returning to us. He was alone this time as he made his way over to us.

“I’ve spoken to the elders and they have agreed to allow you passage.” He smiled. “We have a way to return you home.”

He told us about a young centaur mage named Garanor who was most likely the one who created the portals that brought us here. The centaur assured us it was not the lad’s intent to do harm, quite the opposite. A moment passed, then he insisted upon our swearing a solemn oath to him that we would not tell anyone the secret he was about to reveal to us. Each of us looked at the other and nodded our assent, then gave our promise to him.

The centaur looked around intently before leaning toward us. He told us in a hushed voice that his village had a teleportation circle that went to a wooded area outside of Farseek. It was his belief that the young mage was attempting to create another that would bring them back here so that they could have easy transport back and forth.

Barthello smiled as he told us he was able to bring us to the device now and return us home. He informed us he too would travel through it as he needed to speak with Garanor to straighten the problems out. The young mage had the right intent, but was going about things the wrong way.

Barthello led us through the woods and skirted around the village he had told us about. A number of centaurs were milling about the edges of their village, curious about our group. I smiled at a young colt as he peeked at me from behind the safety of his mother’s flanks.

We finally reached a circle of trees with two leatherclad centaurs standing guard. They looked at Barthello who spoke with them quietly, then moved aside to allow us by. We moved forward to find a naturally formed stone platform with symbols carved into it.

Without hesitation, the centaur stepped onto the platform and disappeared. I knew he had gone first to assure us it was safe, so I immediately stepped up next. I found myself in a stand of trees. Once I moved out of that area, I could see it was basically sectioned off and hidden so no one would notice a traveller suddenly appearing there.

We thanked Barthello for his help in returning. He thanked us in turn for retrieving the bracelet, then pointed out the direction of Farseek, which was less than half a mile from us. Lucien walked with us only until the centaur disappeared from view, then told us he would meet us back at the inn shortly. He headed toward where he’d last seen the centaur.

Later, he told me he had shadowed the centaur to see where he had gone and seen him meet up with the young centaur mage. I then relayed to him the events of the day prior to meeting back up with him. He was perplexed at how we had acted in the tavern, especially with how silly I had been. It was his intent to find out what exactly was in the cake we had eaten. As to me, I was just happy that he had gone looking for me and that we had not lost each other.

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Monsters in my sewer - part 2
The team learns to work together

The sewer smelled nasty and after moving about down here, everyone sorely needs a bath. I have done my best to keep my clothes clean, but water drips from the ceiling and the floor is slippery. So far, we have all managed to stay out of the liquid filth flowing throughout this place.

Lucien is once again attempting to quietly sneak up on whatever it is down here. With all the liquid splashing through pipes into the canal, it shouldn’t be hard for him to stay quiet. He hopes to gain an advantage by moving ahead of us. We have refused to let him gain much of a lead for fear he will be the one surprised. I think he finds us irritating as we noisily follow at close range.

As we move through the tunnels, we find bodies that have been torn apart. Lucien eyes the remaining pieces to see if the bite marks look to match the ones we saw on Dave’s leg Monsters in my sewer – part 1 .He cannot be certain as he is not skilled in the subject. Still, he thinks this will turn out to be the same creature that attacked the youth.

Immediately ahead, the ledge we have been walking on comes to an abrupt end. Lucien approaches the edge cautiously, calling out to me to get up close to him. I look over to find that ledge too crowded and think it might be better if I simply jump to the ledge opposite him. Then I will have a clear shot at whatever comes out of the water at us.

Anya hesitates to ink the next paragraph as she is embarrassed. To put her humiliation in her story would make it known to all who might read it. Yet was that not the point of the journal? To keep track of all the events and learn from the past? Her face grows warm as she touches quill to parchment.

If only it were that simple. I do not need to look at Lucien to know he is angry at me now. In my attempt to jump, I slipped on the ledge and landed with a loud splash in the sewer water. Now the filth is not just on my clothing, but in my hair and all over my face. Something tells me that he will not be inviting me to share his bed this night!

Kael throws caution to the wind and jumps into the sewer waters. He later told us he simply felt he was better able to take a hit if something attacked us than Lucien could. If something did attack, it would focus on him, allowing the rogue to sneak around behind it. That might have been a good plan had everyone known that was what he wanted to do. Instead, he ran smack into the creature.

A good eight or nine feet long, covered in smooth scales and with a huge mouthful of teeth, the alligator rose out of the water snapping at Kael. In one bite, it nearly crippled the druid. He was stunned at the ferocity of the attack.

While I was struggling to pull myself out of the water on the opposite ledge, D.W. came up behind Lucien and fired off a shot at the beast. Thank Pelor for D.W. learning how to fire into melee without hitting his companions or Kael would not have survived.

I began singing a song I found to be inspiring in the face of battle, hoping my companions would take courage from it. Lucien fired off instructions to us all. Kael withdrew from the creature, falling back toward me so I could help him. I was going to heal him, but as I saw the alligator heading toward him, I struck at the beast instead.

As soon as the alligator was dead, I cast a healing spell on the druid. He thanked me as he felt the healing energy course through him, mending torn flesh.

Lucien looked down the tunnel, then down at the dead beast, and finally over to the bodies still floating in the waters. He wanted to make absolutely certain there were no more creatures in the tunnels. This time, he insisted everyone stay put so we could formulate a plan. He was through with our racing haphazardly forward without knowing where we were going and what everyone else was going to do.

After brainstorming a minute, we decided to use an appendage from one of the dead creatures. Kael was to tie twine to the appendage and toss the part ahead of him. We would wait a moment to see if anything attacked it before moving forward. If something attacked the appendage, it gave us just enough time to move into an advantageous position for the attack.

Poor D.W. had to swim for a while as we moved down the passageways. While the water came up to waist or chest level on the rest of us, it was just over the halflings head. We moved down the tunnels slowly so he could keep up with us.

At a bend in the sewer, Kael heard what sounded to him like a large rat screeching in pain. He listened a moment longer, but could hear nothing else over the sounds of water. He relayed what he heard to the rest of us.

Down several tunnels, we finally found more ledges. The halfling gladly pulled himself from the filthy waters to climb onto the stone ledge where he stood catching his breath. We gave him a moment before continuing down the tunnel.

Around the corner, the tunnel came to an abrupt end. It was a circular area with four pipes pouring their vile liquid into the canal. In the middle of it was another alligator. This creature was larger than the one we had previously encountered, at least three feet longer. There was heavy scarring on the flesh of the beast as it was gnawing away on something, a rat tail hanging out of it’s teeth. The thing looked at us with anticipation of it’s next meal.

We immediately moved into our respective positions. There was a steel ladder laying above the water, connecting the two opposite ledges. Lucien took up position there knowing the gator would have to pass under it to get out of the tunnel. D.W. stayed about 20 feet back from the ladder to avoid being swallowed whole. Kael moved just in front of the ladder on one ledge while I took the opposite ledge. This time, we were ready.

The scarred beast swam straight at the ladder where Lucien and Kael thrust at it with their swords. I began singing another song of courage to my companions as I watched. How I longed for a bow or some other ranged weapon! D.W. fired as best he could, managing to strike the beast once with an arrow.

Then the alligator moved closer to me, further from the opposite ledge. Kael moved onto the ladder directly opposite me from the beast. Now three of us were able to strike at the creature with our swords and take the beast down. It was not enough this time. Kael impaled it with his sword, right through the throat. Lucien then cut it’s head off. There was no mistaking the beast was now dead.

We grinned at each other over the animal’s body. It was the first time we had worked as a team. We returned to the sewer entrance in happy silence.

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Monsters in my sewer - part 1
Maintenance men are vanishing

We spent the last couple of days in Farseek so I could make healing belts for Lucien and D.W. Hopefully this will help them in combat. I have not seen the halfling take much for damage thus far, but he uses range as his primary tactic in battle. Lucien chooses an up close and personal fighting style, which leaves him open to major injuries. While I admire his bravery, I also fear for his safety. Thus the need for the belts.

In the local tavern, we were discussing how to go after the man who framed Lucien ( The setup). D.W. had been the one who saw the man and his guards mount up and leave Hodgeton. Unfortunately, he did not think to check the tracks. Nor did the rest of us think to go back to try to follow them. Now it is too late as too many have passed through that area and those tracks. Without any identifying marks, we won’t be able to differentiate one horse track from another.

During a pause in our conversation, we could easily hear the occupants at the table next to us. One woman was consoling the other over the recent loss of her husband. Both were older women with wrinkles to prove their passage of time.

“I’m so sorry for your loss, dear. It must be horrible for you.”

“Yes. I have no idea what I will do now.”

“All those disappearances. Somebody has to do something!”

Lucien leaned over toward me, asking me to use my talents to find out what was going on with those women. I smiled and told everyone at our table to be silent, then turned to listen more carefully. Lucien looked at me as if I were daft. I had known what he meant for me to do, but found this a better way to obtain the information.

“My husband was an honest man. I don’t care that he smelled. The work was honest and the pay regular. He earned a living for us.”

“Yes, I know. Agnes, do you think it’s a serial killer?”

“I don’t know. It seems we are running out of men here.”

At that point, Lucien turned to the women with a smile pasted on his face. I knew he was hoping to charm the woman. As appealing as I find him to be, the look he gave them was rather like a shark about to go after it’s prey. The women turned as one to look at him, then shook their heads. Agnes told her friend “Too young” with a sigh.

That tactic out the door, the rogue asked them pointed questions about the men who disappeared and where they were when it happened as well as what happened to the bodies. All the women could tell him was that it was men only, as far as they knew, and the men were basically maintenance workers.

Agnes gave her friend a look. “A few bums too, don’t forget.” She stuck her nose up at Lucien. “You know, homeless people. Hobos.” Suddenly she remembered a bit of gossip. “Oh, that one boy thinks a monster did it,” she laughed. “Says it attacked him and everything. Of course, he’s a bit stupid in the head, if you know what I mean.”

Her friend turned to us to say “She’s speaking of the town crier. It’s the only job the boy could get.”

Lucien does not take well to snobs. He feels the need to put such people in their place, especially when they treat helpless people harshly. It is one of the things I lo….really like about him.

He looked Agnes directly in the eye, “What exactly it is that you do to earn a living?”

“I don’t need to” said Agnes. “My husband earns our living!”

“Ah, then he worked while you sat at home and spent his money. Tell me, how will you earn a living now?”

As Agnes began sputtering, Lucien turned to his companions and suggested we go find the boy they’d been speaking of. I told him I would be out in just a moment as I wished to see if I could get more information on the situation from the bartender. When I stepped outside, I had no more information then what we had already obtained from the women.

It didn’t take long to find the boy. He had his arms full of pamplets and was calling out advertisements for some sort of entertainment. Obviously, people took advantage of his mental state for their own amusement. The kid was determined to do his job and handed each of us a pamplet. He grinned from ear to ear as we accepted them.

Lucien excused himself a minute as we listened to the boy tell us all about the place listed on the pamplet. He was very excited to have an audience of rapt listeners! I found him to be absolutely charming.

When Lucien came back minutes later, he had a small box in his hand. He asked the boy, who identified himself as Dave, if he could tell us about the monster that had attacked him. Lucien lured him into telling us in exchange for one of the candies he had purchased moments ago.

Dave was so excited about the candy, he promptly dropped his drawers to show us the marks on his leg where he had been bitten. We could clearly see the rows of teeth marks outlined there. Whatever had attacked him had one nasty bite to it. D.W. urged the boy to pull his pants back up quickly as we were in public.

The rogue wanted more details about the creature that had attacked the boy. He asked his questions in a gentle tone in the hopes of not frightening the boy. Dave could only tell him that he had not really looked at the monster, just turned and ran as fast as he could.

When asked the location of the attack, Dave promptly dropped his drawers again to point at his leg. Taking a deep breath, the elf rephrased his words. The boy pointed off in the distance telling us it was on that side of town. Lucien asked Dave if he could take us there. Immediately, the boy’s eyes welled up with tears and his lower lip began to tremble in fear. He didn’t want to as he was certain the creature would attack again.

Lucien smiled at the kid. The elf assured the boy that his halfling friend was small and slow and that the monster would more than likely eat him first before going after a tall person like Dave. The boy’s eyes lit up at the idea. With the promise of more candies, Lucien managed to get Dave to take us to where the attack had taken place.

It turns out the spot had been blocked up by the town since the incident had ocurred. A metal gate and many rocks had been put there. D.W. frowned, saying the town obviously knew about it and chose not to act. Kael suggested perhaps they were unable to deal with whatever the creature is. We were disappointed not to be able to seek it out.

Dave nodded to us. “They didn’t believe me when I said a monster attacked me, but they did that anyway.” Then he pointed just down the street. “I saw a man go in that hole and then heard him scream, but they didn’t block that hole cuz it’s for the sewer people,” he panted. “Can I have my candy now??”

Lucien handed the boy the box. Before he could even ask another question, Dave took off at a run, delighted with his treats.

We headed over to the hole Dave had told us about. It had a small metal gate over it and a ladder leading down into the sewers. Lucien lead the way, hoping to sneak quietly to get a good look at the place without alerting the creature to our presence. Unfortunately, we aren’t as quiet as the rogue.

The water in the sewers smells awful and is a murkey mess. I did not ever wish to see it up close, but had no choice in the matter. If my companions could manage it, then I could not be high and mighty about it and remain above. Still, it was quite disgusting down there.

Down in the canal, we found it dark and difficult to see well. D.W. has lit up a sunrod and wedged it between his shoulders and pack so as to keep his hands free. As he moved away, I realized we needed more light, so I have cast a light spell on my flute that hangs about my neck on a cord.

We tried heading down the east passage, but a gate blocked our way. After picking the lock, Lucien attempted to open the door, but it was firmly stuck in place, having rusted shut. He quietly led the way to the southward entrance and just had it open when something came tearing toward us, shrieking as it came.

Turned out to be a kobold, of all things. The little fellow was drenched in blood, though not it’s own. It came straight at us, as if fleeing something, and swung at us blindly. A few strikes from Kael and Lucien took the creature down. Neither of the two wanted to reach into the nasty sewer water to pull the critter out and check for loot.

<< Out of game note: We spent too much gabbing and eating, not enough time gaming, so log is a bit short this week! >>

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The setup
Lucien is setup

I am so angry, my fingers shake as I write this. What started out as an ordinary afternoon for us has turned into something entirely different. I won’t be satisfied until the perpetrator is flayed alive!

We had divied up the spoils of our latest encounter with the blasted hobgoblins. Samhein told us he needed to leave. Something was clearly agitating him, though he would not share it with us. He is new to the group and reluctant to divulge his entire life to us on our first meeting. < That would be my version of cynicism, if you do not know me well enough >

Anya slams the quill against the small writing desk she is sitting at. She struggles to pull herself back together before continuing. It would not do well for her readers to be pushed away by her lack of control over her emotions. She takes a deep breath before picking the quill back up and dunking it into the ink once more.

Samhein was reserved, but polite as he spoke his goodbyes to us. He said he would be interested in joining back up with us as soon as his other matters were settled. We told him the general direction we would head and that we would leave word in the taverns as to where we last headed. With that, he was gone.

We settled into the worn chairs around a square table a common tavern. Lucien sat facing the door, a habit I’ve noticed of his. Before this day, I found it a bit odd. Now, I am in full understanding. We had ordered our noonday meal when five men entered the establishment. A commoner was surrounded by four hefty looking men wearing garments identifying them as local militia. The commoner pointed straight at Lucien saying “That’s him! That’s the one that stole it!”

Lucien blinked in surprise as the four militia members surrounded him, ordering him to come with them. He rapidly fired questions at them as to what he was being accused of and by whom and so on, but they were in no mood to answer him. The largest of the men, who had a nasty scar on his face, made it quite clear he would brook no further questions. He slapped Lucien in chains on both his hands and feet, then escorted him from the tavern.

She glares back down at her parchment as she remembers the way the men “escorted” Lucien. There was nothing at all polite about how they pushed him about and made a scene of placing him in the restrainments. If anything, they had taken pleasure in their jobs!

Anya looks at the quill in her hand and realizes she has crushed the delicate quill. With a sigh, she looks through her supplies and withdraws another.

It is a good thing, though, that we did not choose to fight the guards. There were four more waiting just outside the building. Kael, D.W., and I followed quietly to make certain of where Lucien was being taken. Just inside the jail, two guards took up post in the doorway to prevent our entry.

What happened to Lucien inside the jail, I am not exactly certain. He was a bit vague on parts of it, in particular, the part about why the left side of his face is swollen and bloodied! He claims he “fell”, but my Lucien is an elf and fluid and graceful an…..

“Damn!” Anya utters the human swear as she looks down at the quill she just snapped in half. The parchment was now torn where she had jabbed the sharpened tip of the quill through in her anger. As it was the last of her quills, she would have to purchase more before she could continue. A break might be just what was needed, though.

Returning several minutes later with a fresh supply of parchment and a dozen quills (she decided she might need them to complete this journal entry), Anya sat back down to the desk to continue.

According to Lucien, he was brought into an interogation room where he was accused by a man claiming to be a Vicari. The man was gaunt and dressed in a black robe with a black velvet sash. He had boney fingers, Lucien told us, and stated that Lucien had stolen the amulet. His guards rifled through Lucien’s things and pulled out the Butt ugly amulet Lucien had obtained from the Sprite weeks ago. The so called “vicari” then left with two of the guards, including the scarred one. As he exited, he gave orders to throw Lucien into the jail cell.

As we waited outside, the man Lucien later told us was claiming to be Vicari and the militia that seemed to be protecting him vacated abruptly. D.W. quietly left without notice so he could track them. While he was doing that, I batted my eyelashes at one of the militia blocking the entrance to the jail. It didn’t take me long to charm him into talking.

The witless wonder told us how Lucien had stolen a necklace or something from someone very important and that he was to be executed. I choked down the bile in my throat to ask when and he responded tomorrow. Thankfully, Kael began asking questions as I felt faint at the moment. He learned they would build a gallows in town in the morning so the thief could be hung at noon. Thief"! I wanted to slap that stupid look from his face, but instead pasted a smile on my lips.

D.W. returned wearing a militia tunic matching the idiots in front of me. He looked ridiculous in the oversized uniform as it swallowed up his small frame. Luckily, the fools didn’t question him as he introduced himself as the newest recruit. Humans use a phrase of “hook, line, and sinker”. I think it captures the essence perfectly. Then D.W. deftly slipped me a second uniform. As he was talking to the guards, I grabbed Kael and we left.

Poor Kael did not expect me to pull out my dagger and trim his scruffy looking hair or give him a quick shave, but I did what I had to in order to change his appearance. He then put on the militia tunic and we headed back. I was babbling a thank you to the nice officer for helping me out. The dufus guard was still standing there and of course fell for a second new recruit that night.

Anya let out a huff as she thought about the morons who kept the peace there in Hodgeton. Not even questioning new militia recruits who just show up without identification documents or at the very least an introduction by their commanding officer? With a shake of her head, she returned to her writings.

There were two guards downstairs, but D.W. relieved one of duty for the rest of the day. On the ground floor, two more left as their shift had ended. D.W. looked over to where Lucien stood in a cell, then jerked his head slightly toward the remaining guard downstairs. Lucien quickly picked up the silent signal and shouted out in pain as he fell over. He writhed and moaned that he was dying. D.W. then insisted the guard run for a doctor.

I don’t know how D.W. did it, but his timing was beautiful as Kael and I were just walking in the door when the guard from downstairs ran up saying a doctor was needed. I told him I was a healer, so he let me in to look at his patient. We went down to the cell where I prepped to heal their prisoner. Kael then relieved the guard of his duty as well.

When we were at last alone, the four of us put our heads together and decided to pretend my healing failed and the prisoner died of poisoning. Kael and D.W. carried the prisoner upstairs. Truth be told, if I had not been so frightened that we would be caught, I would likely have been bent over laughing so hard at the entire scene. As it was, I cried to the guards about how I had failed so miserably and positioned myself so their backs were to the others. D.W. grunted out that they would bury the body for the guards as he struggled with Kael to carry Lucien outside.

The guards had been daft, but they also proved themselves to be lazy as well as they wanted no part of having to bury the thief’s body. As bad a day as we were having, Fortune also seemed to be on our side. Otherwise, those ridiculous schemes should not have worked.

While Kael and D.W. carried Lucien down the street a bit and out of sight, I went to the local stable to purchase some horses and a wagon to get out of town without Lucien being spotted. Whoever it was who had set him up may have left others to watch for him. I wasn’t taking chances with his being caught again. I also grabbed some more supplies and a tarp for him to hide under and place them all in the wagon.

Once we were back together, I insisted Lucien hide in the wagon bed while I rode one of the horses. When we were outside of town, we began discussing what happened and exchanging information. D.W. told us he had seen the boney dude (that’s what they started calling the imposter claiming to be Vicari) jump into a carraige. His two escorts tossed off the militia tunics, then one climbed on a horse while the other drove the carraige away. That was how D.W. had obtained the uniforms.

Everyone began talking at once. D.W. wanted to know what Lucien had supposedly stolen. Kael was asking who they thought the boney dude might be. Lucien wanted to know who the guy was who has supposedly identified him as a thief. I kept demanding to know who could hate Lucien enough to set him up like that. Chaos reigned for a bit. We had far too many questions and not enough answers.

When we were at last able to calm down, we stopped to relay everything we knew to one another. Lucien and I told the others about the Sprite and the Butt ugly amulet we had found. Dale, a former member of the group, had known who had the amulet, bu he was too honorable to set Lucien up. The only others who could possibly know Lucien held this item were both dead – the mage that had tried to kill us and the sprite.

Lucien had suddenly paused at that point. “Are we sure he’s dead? The wizard, I mean. We checked the sprite, but did anyone make sure the mage was dead??”

Anya sighed deeply this time. It was a bad habit of this group to walk away once a critter was downed. Rarely did anyone verify the creature, be it humanoid or otherwise, was actually dead. This time, it may have come back to bite them in the ass.

We all agreed that it seems the only plausible answer. I frowned at D.W. “Did it occur to you when you saw the guards toss down the uniforms that you could have used it as evidence to show the real militia that they had been duped?” D.W.’s mouth parted in surprise, at my anger or at the logic, I am not sure.

Lucien felt we should try to find the commoner who had pointed him out. That human might hold some answers for us. Kael surprised us by sketching a picture of the man. He claims he has no talent with it, but the drawing was very much a good likeness. With that in hand, I was determined to go see the magistrate back in Hodgeton and see about clearing Lucien’s name. I don’t want him to be a fugitive for the rest of his life.

We agreed that Lucien and D.W. would stay just inside the woods on the outskirts of town. They are to take my horse and the pony I purchased for D.W. and ride out if trouble comes. The next town over is Farseek and we will meet them there in the tavern if we cannot find them upon our return.

Kael drove the wagon team into town. Once there, he changed into his cat form. He felt my having an exotic pet might help intimidate or impress the magistrate, depending on what I needed to deal with him.

Turns out it might have been a little of both. When confronted with the evidence and tales of how his militia had been so gullible, the magistrate was embarrassed. Kael hissed and whipped his tail about for good measure. The magistrate then took the sketch I gave him with the promise that he would find answers within the week for me. I told him I would check back and that there had best be results. Then I insisted on his writing up a pardon for Lucien just in case another of his fools (militia) tried to confront Lucien again. I tucked away the document and left.

Anya placed the quill down on the desk, then stood and stretched out her cramped muscles. She groaned as she remembered what came next. While she and Kael had run that errand, D.W. and Lucien played gin rummy on a tree stump to pass time. As they did so, a pair of Ibixians discovered them in the woodland. There was quite a skirmish between them, with Lucien going down. Fortunately, D.W. seemed to really know what he was doing with his bow and managed to finish the creatures off.

Not for the first time that day, Anya found herself upset at someone attacking the rogue. She and Kael healed their companions (thank Pelor for a druid who knows how to heal!) and then they packed up and headed to Farseek. Anya decided it was time to use her skills and make some healing belts for her friends and offer better protection for Lucien.

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Got Mule?
Forgetting the mule hurts

We spent the last three days travelling on foot to the town of Hodgeton. Once we arrived in town, Lucien and Kael were able to make some much needed purchases. D.W., Samhein, and I sought out a descent tavern and inn.

After a good night’s rest, we all met at the inn for breakfast. We discussed our options for where we wanted to go next. The search for Rory Davis had not ended. It was just that we did not have enough information as to where he had last gone, just a vague direction. Plus we were short of coin at the moment, so our options were limited.

Someone suggested we get the mules from the stable and just head Northward for now. Each of us looked at the other. When asked who had stabled the pack animals, everyone looked at one another for an answer. Samhein had tied one up at the tavern and Kael left his at the mercantile. They each apparently thought the other had taken care of the poor animals.

We each went out to see if the animals were still there. The one mule was still outside the tavern, but apparently in a most foul mood. As Lucien reached to untie the animal from the post, it tried to bite him. Furious, he pulled out a sword and struck at the beast. Much as I adore the elf, he does have a dreadful temper.

The druid leapt to strike the rogue with the flat of his blade, hoping to deter him from harming the helpless animal. Lucien turned his anger toward the druid who then tried to grab him and hold him still until he could calm himself.

I was torn between healing the animal and healing the rogue. When I realized Lucien was hurt far worse than the mule, my decision was made. He glared at me as I laid my hands on him as he assumed another of us was attempting to battle him. The healing warmth flowed through him to repair his injuries, thus assuring him I meant him well.

Unfortunately, healing him only mended his flesh, not the temper. Lucien was livid with Kael for opposing him. He snapped at him that as a member of the same adventuring group, we are supposed to have one another’s backs. Kael calmly tried to explain that as a druid, he could not stand by and watch an animal be slaughtered without just cause. Neither was willing to compromise on the subject.

Kael used his ability to speak with animals to calm the mule as best he could. The mule brayed repeatedly at him, telling him he was unhappy and hurt. The druid spent quite a few minutes trying to calm the beast before leading him to the mercantile to locate the other mule. Even upon reaching the stable, the unhappy mule was still braying all his woes to Kael who paid the stable keeper to tend both animals.

On his way back, Kael spotted something suspicious down one of the streets. He did a double-take as he realized they were hobgoblins. That was the second time he had seen the creatures in a civilized town. Without further delay, he raced back to find the rest of us. Lucien gave him a look, asking if he was quite certain this time that they were hobgoblins. Kael glared back at him.

As a group, we headed to where Kael had seen them last. He glanced about quickly, then shifted into his clouded leopard form as he searched for proof of what direction they had last gone. As he neared a small house, he peeked inside the window with curiosity. The woman inside was startled and dropped the stack of dishes she held as she screamed!

Instead of waiting for Kael to locate the tracks, D.W. decided to head straight for a warehouse he saw a short ways away <metagaming>. Samhein and I moved closer to him in case he got into trouble, as he is prone to do.

A shutter on the warehouse was thrown open and I felt something bite into my side a second later. I looked down to see an arrow had sliced through my side and nicked me. Before I could be shot again, I hurried up to a pile of lumber to use as cover. Lucien flat out ran to my side to see if I was alright. While it was thrilling to see he cared enough to throw caution to the wind when he saw I was hurt, at the same time, I felt a tremor of fear that he would act so recklessly. The last thing I wanted was for my handsome elf to be injured on my behalf!

Kael found the tracks of the hobgoblins and saw that they were leading to the warehouse. He looked up to tell us, then realized everyone was in motion already. With a roll of his eyes, he raced to catch up with us. He moved around to the side of the building to try to find an entrance. Instead, he found another hobgoblin who sliced into him with a battleaxe. Kael let out a howl of pain.

Samhein cast a spell toward the open window and D.W. fired an arrow seconds before I cast close on the shutter. We waited for the culprit to reopen the window, but nothing further happened. Bored with the lack of activity, D.W. went around the opposite side of the building to see what he could stir up, a nasty habit of his. He did find trouble, but we were unaware of it as he had once again seperated himself from the group.

Lucien hurried around the corner to help Kael after hearing the leopard cry out. I moved around a huge crate to get closer to Kael. Once there, I saw Lucien attacking the hobgoblin. When Kael stepped back, badly injured, I made a snap decision to attack the goblinoid so it would not go after the druid again. Our efforts paid off as our enemy collapsed to the ground.

By then, Samhein had joined us. The main door to the warehouse was on this side of the building. Lucien barked orders to everyone to wait so we could go into the building as a group. He spotted D.W. at the back of the building and told him to hurry over to us. D.W. seemed unable to hear him and had a crazed look upon his face. Giving up on the halfling, Lucien gave the go ahead to us to open the door.

As soon as the door was opened, a spell of some sort went off at the doorway. Kael felt the need to sleep come over him, but just as quickly shrugged it off. He cast a spell of his own and moved into the warehouse with the bear he had summoned in front of him. The bear plunged forward to attack the first hobgoblin it could find.

The rest of us took on the remaining goblinoids, including the spellcaster who was hiding on a pile of crates. It was difficult to move about inside the warehouse, between all the crates and boxes, but we managed. In short order, we brought an end to the lives of this particular group.

Lucien muttered about the lack of teamwork as he looted the bodies. He made some pointed remarks to D.W. about his behavior and general remarks to the rest of us about our lack of organization. I just nodded at him. What else was I to say? He was right. We still needed to learn to act as a team.

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Need a bag
Lucien's search for a HHH

We arrived back in Thelamar once again, Kael having lost the hobgoblin tracks on the main street. He had frightened one poor woman by forgetting he was in clouded leopard form at the time. The poor woman ran off screaming before Kael could show her he meant no harm.

Lucien was getting tired of the weight of his gear and the coins he held. He went searching for a merchant who might have a Heward’s Handy Haversack. I went off to run a quick errand of my own. D.W. and Kael headed to the tavern to wait for us.

In the tavern, D.W. ordered a simple ale and sat down with it. Not caring much for alcohol, Kael tried to order water, but the tavern keeper would have none of that. He told the druid there was water outside in the trough if he didn’t wish to purchase ale. Kael cursed him in druidic, then asked for the cheapest ale. Even though the tavern keeper didn’t speak druidic, he knew he had been insulted. He bent down behind the bar to get an “ale” for the druid and handed it to Kael.

Suspicious of the ale’s color, Kael handed the man coin, then sat without drinking the fluid. D.W. chuckled as he drank from his own cup. I joined them minutes later, then Lucien came in, a frown on his face. He was unable to locate the bag he was seeking.

Over our noon meal, we discussed our failure to find the hobgoblins and our next course of action. Lucien asked where he might find the bag he wanted. We all agreed we would need to go to a larger town than Thelamar. I told him I was fairly certain they had them in Hodgeton, three day’s travel from here if we walked.

Seated at a table near us was a human dressed in black from head to toe. Even his hair was black, though it had silvery white strands along his temples. His eyes appeared black as well, with little silver flecks in them. He was unusual for a human. And he was talking to himself, speaking softly.

Lucien and Kael looked over at him with curiosity. They were unsure as to his state of mind, but decided to talk with him anyway, asking if he was alright. The dark eyed man looked back at them with a tolerant expression on his face. He shifted slightly and they saw a flash of fur disappear into his clothing.

The druid and rogue exchanged looks, then stepped up to the stranger to introduce themselves. They stared at him pointedly until he gave his name as Samhein. D.W. and I looked at one another, then joined them in the introductions. Realizing we would not go away, the man reluctantly asked if we wished to join him. We all sat down at once.

I do not know what came over us, to descend upon a total stranger like that and began interogating him about who he was and what he was up to. It may have been due to his odd appearance and we were intrigued. Whatever the reason for it, we acted out of character that day.

Samhein was clearly not appreciative of our questions, though he was polite about it. He in turn asked a few of his own, such as where we were heading and who we were. Someone asked him if he would like to join us. He pondered it a moment, then agreed.

Lucien, Kael, and Samhein went to purchase mules and some animal packs for the group. I later heard that Lucien tried to purchase an exotic pack to strap to Kael when in animal form. Whoever said that elves do not have a sense of humor would be astounded to meet Lucien. He has many wonderful qualities and humor most definitely is one of them.

Once we had purchased everything we would need for the next few days of travel, we set out on the road. Not much happened our first day. Both D.W. and Kael chose to hunt for fresh meat for our dinner. That was fine with me. I much prefer roasted rabbit to dried up trail rations. The life of the adventurer seems to be limited often to stale foods on the road. I struggle not to let the others know how much I detest those horrid, dry rations.

Kael, I have found, likes to travel in his clouded leopard form most of the time. Our first night in camp, I watched him to see whether he would sleep in the trees or not. While I knew him prior to joining this group, it was only in passing. I was disappointed to find he reverts back to his natural half-elf form when sleeping.

Lucien, on the other hand, has no need to revert to any other form. His body is quite delicious as it is. I take great pleasure in learning all I can about him. Especially his mind. He is not a simple man at all. While he may not be very charismatic, he has other ways of expressing himself and communicating. There is so much more to him than anyone realizes.

D.W. is quiet and very hard to read. When we camp at night, I notice he tends to lay down his bedroll a little ways away from the rest of us. He does not sit about the campfire and share of his past. I have never met set a reserved halfling before. It makes me wonder what tragedy he holds in his past, for that must be why he is so subdued all the time.

As to the new person, I will hold off judgement of the human for now. He is aloof most of the time. While most humans chatter incessantly about themselves or things of no consequence, he chooses to sit silently and watch us. When he does speak, it is usually to the critter he keeps hidden away in his cloak. I finally realized it is a ferret. There seems to be much love between the two.

During our second day of travel, we were trekking down the main road when a vine snapped at Kael. A plant, if you can believe it, reached out and grabbed ahold of the druid. Lucien tried to get around behind it to backstab it. Unfortunately, the ground proved to difficult to pass over. Samhein snapped off a few spells and D.W. outshone us all with his ranged attacks. I was pretty much useless. I really should pick up a bow in town.

The rest of our trip was uneventful. We reached Hodgeton in the early evening of the third day. Lucien headed straight to the mercantile where he tied up one of the mules. He tried to convince the merchant that his opal was very special and that the sovereign himself had owned it previously. The merchant laughed in his face. The rogue paid full price for the magical backpack.

Kael joined Lucien in the same mercantile, first having tied up his mule at the inn. He too purchased a Heward’s Handy Haversack. They headed back to the tavern for a good meal, forgetting all about the pack animals.

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Hobgoblins are like Orcs
In search of Hobgoblins

Now that we had established that everyone in our new group was ready to go, Kael led us to where he had last seen the hobgoblins outside of town. D.W. had a really intense look on his face. I get the impression he really hates this particular being, though he is not forthcoming with any explanation.

It was not long before Kael halted our group, saying this was the place he had seen the goblinoid creatures. We were now standing in the woods a ways. As we looked around us, we all spotted at the same time a creature trying to sneak up on us. Very quickly, D.W. let loose with an arrow while Lucien tried to sneak around it.

I was startled when I spotted a second one charging straight at the elf. Poor Lucien didn’t expect to sneak around a tree and come face-to-face with another of the creatures. Nor did he expect it to slice into him so hard with an axe. For a moment, I thought he would go down as it struck him several times. I raced to his side to heal him, but realized it would be better to turn the creature’s attention to me with an attack.

While Lucien and I were fighting the one creature, Kael shifted into the form of a clouded leopard and took on two others with help from the bow wielding halfling. Another of the beings joined it’s partners. Working in two smaller teams, we were able to take them all down.

As I healed Lucien, I looked over to see Kael had switched back to his half-elf form so he could heal himself. D.W. was undamaged and took off immediately to see if he could find more of the creatures. Before the rest of us were ready, he had managed to find more trouble.

Kael began casting a spell as Lucien and I raced over to help D.W. with the two beings that had come after him. A bear appeared next to one of them and attacked it. A glance over at Kael confirmed the bear was conjured by him. With four of us and two of them, we rapidly dispatched the beings.

Lucien examined all of the fallen creatures. Muscular, smelly, sloppiily dressed and with tusks around their mouths, it was easy to identify them as orcs. The rogue glared over at the druid.

“These are orcs, not hobgoblins. Don’t druids know the difference?!”

Kael’s head snapped up. “I know these are orcs, but what I saw earlier were hobgoblins!”

The two squared off for a moment. I was a bit concerned as I saw them posturing toward one another. The halfling walked between them to suggest we look around for tracks to see what happened to them, then led the druid over to where we first entered the area. Kael easily switched back to cat form. In the meantime, Lucien went to work at looting the creatures of whatever he could find.

It only took about ten minutes before they discovered the tracks they were looking for. We followed along for an hour or so before we found ourselves back in Thelamar where the tracks vanished on the main road.

There were several sudden screams as we approached. Kael lifted his furred head to see a woman shrieking in terror, then dropping her load of laundry as she raced in a different direction. It was then he realized most folks probably had never seen a clouded leopard before, especially running loose in town. He shifted back to half-elf form with a quick apology.

Unable to pick up the tracks again, we headed back to the tavern to discuss what we should do next.

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A simple task - part 4
The sage's dungeon

Dale reached down from behind Zephyr to lift him up. He could feel a heavy cloth binding under the bard’s shirt as he reached around under his arms to lift the young man. With a start, he realized the bard had breasts. “You’re a girl!” he shouted as he dropped Zephyr back on his….er….her rear end.

Lucien stalked his way over to Zephyr. He had little tolerance for anyone lying to him and determined to find out why he she had been hiding her real identity from the group. When he began firing questions at the bard, she promptly burst into tears, refusing to answer anything.

The halfling searched around for an exit, but kept coming back to the small platform. He looked over the design carved into the floor to see if he could figure out anything from it. Dale joined him in searching the platform. He stood on the design, looking for some sign of how to activate it. When D.W. looked at the steps again, he spotted musical notes on them. A theory popped into his head.

“Hey guys, I think I know how to get out” he told the others. “Remember the four statues? A rogue, a wizard, a fighter, and a bard? We encountered a trap requiring a rogue to disable it. The wand was the answer to the next room. I think it stood for the wizard. Then the creatures required a fighter. This must be the bard room. I bet the bard needs to play the notes on the steps.”

Lucien insisted the bard try her woodwind. She folded her arms in a pout and refused to move until he reached down for her ocarina. He told her if she refused to do it, he would try. She snatched it away from him as she told him that he was not to touch her instrument. At that point, the rogue withdrew his sword and told her if she couldn’t play her part, then she was of no use to him.

With a gleam in her eye, the bard stood up and smiled at Lucien. She walked over to the steps and looked at the notes. First she played the notes going left to right, but nothing happened. Then she tried playing them backwards with no change in the platform. Finally, she played them going down one side, then down the other. The design on the platform finally lit up and Dale, who had been standing on it, vanished. With a smirk, Zephyr raced to the transporter and disappeared from sight. The glow disappeared immediately after. With a snarl, Lucien raced up to the platform, but it was too late. The device was inactive again.

Dale found himself not far from the ruins where they had started the sage’s dungeon. Zephyr appeared beside him seconds later. She looked him right in the eye, then with a laugh, kicked him in the groin before racing off with a laugh. He tried to grab her, but wasn’t able to as he doubled over. As he stood waiting for the pain to pass, he could hear Anya calling Lucien’s name from the direction of the ruins. He shouted a greeting to her.

After a few moments, the halfling had another idea. He decided to try whistling the tune he’d heard Zephyr play and sure enough, the transportation device lit up again. The remaining members of the group all mimicked him and left the room the same way.

I was standing on the ruins puzzling over the rope when I heard Dale call out to me. As I headed over to him, I saw D.W., Valda, and Lucien each appear next to him. Dale told everyone that Zephyr had taken off. It was very clear that the males in the party were furious about the bard. I didn’t know who the female was or why she had such a vacant expression.

As we walked back to Thelamar, Dale and Lucien relayed everything that had happened in the dungeon. I was not surprised at Lucien being upset. It sounded like the group still had not learned to work as a team. Then again, the party members were not getting along well, so how could they?

We went to the local tavern and found a table large enough for our group. Dale sat down, but appeared agitated. He looked over at us with an unhappy expression upon his face. Nearly being felled so easily by the creatures in the sage’s dungeon had made him realize he was not as fully trained for adventuring as he would have liked. He had decided to go back to his mentor and train some more until he was truly ready.

As he finished speaking to us, he stood up and shook my hand saying he hoped to run into me again in his travels. He shook D.W.’s hand next, complimenting him on his archery skills. When he turned to Lucien, he solemnly told him he hoped to work with him again. Dale pointedly ignored the druid as she stretched out her hand toward him. I guess he had not found her to be a “pleasure”.

It was then I decided to tell Lucien and D.W. my reason for coming to Thelamar. While it was partially due to wanting to see Lucien again (can you blame me?), there was more to it. I had been with other advenuring parties but that had not worked out. I did not give them details, nor did they ask. I was still looking for the right group for me. Since I liked D.W. and Lucien, I was hoping they would accept me as a member.

I guess I should not have been so worried. The two of them welcomed me to the group, saying they could use my help and would appreciate my company.

After a short while, a young man came into the tavern and looked around. His eyes narrowed on Valda and he walked up to her.

“Are you Valda?” he asked.

“Ummm, yeah.”

He rolled his eyes as her speech seemed to confirm something for him. “I need to speak with you a moment. Alone.”

“Ummm, okay” she answered, then followed him over to a quiet area of the tavern.

We watched him speaking to her. Valda opened and closed her mouth several times without speaking. Finally, she nodded and walked back over to us. She mumbled something about having to leave, then vacated the tavern.

As the stranger started back toward the door, I called him over to us. I smiled at him and asked what he was doing around here. A grin stretched across his face as he recognized me as well. With a smile, I introduced him to D.W. and Lucien.

“This is Kael Liadon. He is a druid. I have run into him in my travels. He runs messages for druidic sects in this region.”

Kael gladly shook hands with the males and accepted their offer to join him. Of course, we asked what was with Valda leaving. Kael hesitated a moment over whether it was considered confidential or not.

“Let’s just say, she hasn’t exactly been acting like a proper druid should and some of the higher ups want to discuss that with her” was all he would tell us. It was enough to get Lucien and D.W. laughing.

Kael told them he could not stay too long as he was interested in finding out what the hobgoblins he’d seen nearby were up to. D.W. got a crazed look on his face and he demanded that we go after them. As Lucien reminded D.W., they still had to go see the sage about the rook. Reluctantly, D.W. agreed. I needed to pick up some travel supplies and told them I would meet them back here. Lucien told Kael they would be gone five minutes, so he said he wait there for them.

As soon as the sage saw the halfling and rogue, he immediately poured two cups of his special tea for them. He insisted they drink of it and watched them intently as they did so. Lucien was unable to stomach it. He spat it on the sage’s table. D.W. swallowed his in one gulp without issue. He handed the rook to the sage who glanced at it, then tossed it over his shoulder.

His throat still burning from the tea, Lucien reminded the old man of his promise to tell them of the expedition once they completed his task. The sage gave him a look as if put out by the request, then pulled out his tome. He muttered a bit as he flipped through the pages until he found what he was looking for.

“Ah yes, now I remember” he spoke softly as he tapped the page. “Everyone was looking over in Mossglove for caverns, thinking it had to be hidden there. Or they were searching in the Farthenvale Woods for some ancient ruins that held a hidden portal” he said quietly, as if to himself. “I think it was elsewhere. I am almost certain it was the Quiotton Quarry that Salvus took his team to. Yes, it has to be.”

As if remembering something, the sage went back to shouting his words again. He insisted that completing that one small task did not mean they were prepared to take on the search for the expedition. Many had tried, never to return again. He shook his finger at them as he went on to tell of some of the gruesome endings adventuring parties had met.

By the time D.W. and Lucien had returned to the tavern, over an hour had passed. Kael raised an eyebrow at them as they entered the building. He was impatient to get going. I had just returned and caught the same look from the druid, which was amusing at best. As a group, we were finally ready to go.

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A simple task - part 3
The sage's dungeon

Once the group was out of the gas and the nausea had passed, they put their heads together to figure things out. They batted various ideas about for a bit. D.W. suggested they place both items back on the statue and hope it reset whatever triggering device was being used, then take only one off and wait a moment to see if anything changed.

With the plan in place, Dale and D.W. stepped forward and tried D.W.’s plan. Sure enough, when they only took the wand off the statue, leaving the dagger in the other hand, the gas began to dissipate. It clearly fairly quick after that.

With a moan, Zephyr suddenly collapsed to the floor. Valda checked him over, declaring to the group that he was breathing. She determined it had to be the pois0on he’d come in contact with earlier A simple task – part 2

Lucien searched the walls for a way to deactivate the invisible barrier. It didn’t take him long to find a small triggering device that immediately dropped the barrier.

Dale led the way down the open corridor, stopping just inside the a bare room. As he stood, several gray creatures converged on him, striking all at once. Three struck him with their weapons at once, nearly felling him. Instead of backing away, he held their attentions while his allies attacked.

D.W. managed to hit one with his bow, but as he went to take another shot, the clueless druid stepped in front of him. Lucien managed to get up close to one and thrust at it with his sword until it finally fell. It took several minutes before they were able to take the creatures down.

As the last critter fell, the stone floor began to shake violently. The group watched with open mouths as the floor retracted into the base of the four walls until a small room was revealed down below. A set of stairs led down into the recessed room. In the center of the room was a small platform with four panels low to the ground.

D.W. looked over the device while Dale and Lucien chugged a couple healing potions. After some careful scrutiny, D.W. determined that there were oddly shaped recesses in each panel, each different. Lucien and Dale came to the same conclusion as they looked at the four creatures laying nearby. They quickly found each creature had a puzzle shaped amulet on a cord around their necks.

Once the pieces were inserted into the matching panels, the platform began glowing. Without a word to his companions, D.W. hopped onto the platform and vanished from site. Valda decided to follow his example and vanished just as quickly. Dale promptly followed. Lucien looked around him and remembered the bard still lay unconscious in the corridor. He swore angrily, then went back to grab the bard.

D.W. reappeared in the center of a large room. The corner in front of him held a small pool of some sort. To his right were several steps leading up to a platform, though he was too short to see anything on it. Behind him was a table with bags on it. What grabbed his interest was the area to his left. He could see work benches with shelves on them.

The halfling headed straight to the benches and looked them over carefully. They appeared to be a chemical lab, with various notes, beakers, preserved specimens, and so on. His eyes narrowed on the white ivory chess piece mixed in with the rest of the things. He pocketed it, then turned around to see Valda standing in the center of the room.

The druid wandered over to the steps to look in that corner, then looked down at the floor in front of her where there was a strange design carved into the floor. She was shortly joined by D.W. who was curious about the platform. He stepped onto the design hoping it would activate another transportation to no avail.

Dale was next to show up in the center of the room. Since he was facing the pool of water, he headed straight to it to investigate. It appeared to be deep, but when he stepped into the water, it was only inches deep. A strange sensation came over him as he stood in the pool. He looked down at his wounds to see they were closing up. He looked over to Valda and called her over, telling her to step into the water as well. Where she had previously been weakened by poison A simple task – part 2, she felt invigorated now.

D.W. had finished looking over the workstation and seeing the druid and fighter playing in the water, he too headed over to the pool. The halfling walked right up to the water and jumped in, intending to swim down and see where the water source might be. He landed on his belly with a splash and flopped about for a moment before realizing the depth was an optical illusion. Pulling his dignity back together, he stood up and stepped out of the water.

Lucien appeared next with Zephyr. He promptly dropped the unconscious bard on the ground, then glared at his associates. The table with the bags on his grabbed his attention. He stepped closer to inspect it.

A large assortment of canvas bags sat upon the rounded surface. Floating above it on a delicate looking gold cord was a plate sized piece of glass, turning as if a steady breeze blew upon it. As Lucien reached toward a bag, a pair of lips appeared on the glass. “Choose your treasure well, thief” it said to him. He hesitated for a second to look over the bags, then grabbed at them. As he did so, the floor underneath the table opened up to swallow the table and all it’s contents. Lucien leapt back out of reach of the pit with five bags in his arms.

The druid walked over to Zephyr and dragged him over to the pool in the hopes it would heal the young man like it had for her. Sure enough, he woke up with a start, looking around him with curiosity.

D.W. looked around him with a frown on his face. “We’ve got the rook. Now what?”

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