A Noble Cause for Mellem

Red Collar Road
Regrowth of a town and new additions

The first agenda for us in our new home was to figure out what we had for supplies and what we were going to need. We all needed homes, obviously, but some needs were more pressing – like food and water. Kael and D.W. organized hunting parties and pretty much spent every day out hunting all day long. When they returned, the town folk descended upon their catch to skin and butcher the animals. The tanner set to work on the skins for later use.

Kael would then spend time using his magic skills to grow the plants, vines, and trees into a thick barrier around the town in place of walls. He could only cast the spell once a day and in a limited area, so it had to be done daily. Over time, he had cast it enough times to create a thick barrier along the northern and southern sections of town, leaving a narrow gap in certain areas for us to travel through, if need be.

I spent the time helping as best I could, using my magic abilities to heal when needed, guarding town folk when they had to go outside the perimeters of the town, entertaining in the evenings to soothe the weary souls, and anything that was asked of me.

Andar Bellman was invaluable with his organizing all the town folk, even those without skill. Some of the folk were enlisted to help build a stepping stone kind of staircase, albeit a crude one, near the river. Another was created on the other side and a rope strung between to attempt to pass back and forth. We had plenty of fresh water there, but needed a way to access it since the river banks were high above the water. The second staircase had been built as we intended to have the farming fields on the other side of the river.

Those handy with an axe or saw were sent out to chop down trees, an architect began laying plans for buildings in town, the elderly kept an eye on the children, and so on. Those with a total lack of skills were put to use gathering kindling and dried wood, transporting materials from one workplace to another, and various other chores as they came up. No one was allowed to slack off. If everyone was to survive, we all had to pull together and help.

After a week had passed, we decided to make an excursion over to the city Kael had spotted on our travels. We desperately needed certain supplies that we simply could not do without. All of us hoped to find building supplies and such as the haphazard shanties we had created were awful and held together with ropes and vines. I had quite a few coin in my pocket and I was more than willing to help financially if I could. My mother had raised me with very little coin to her name and I knew how to do without and not complain about it. Our new family was in need and I could not turn my back on any of them, especially if I had a way to help.

So it was that Kael, D.W., and I set out with two wagons along with several town folk – a cook, a couple farmers, the carpenter, and a couple others. Their task was to get the correct supplies we would need in Kaldaran. As adventurers, we were well versed in fighting an assortment of creatures and bandits. However, we had no idea how to tell flax seed from grass seed, wheat flour from oat flour, aged wood from wormwood. That was something best left to those educated in such matters.

For the first time, D.W. actually started opening up to me. He told me little bits of his past, though nothing really solid. It was obviously something difficult for him, so I appreciated each part of himself that he shared, seeing it as a gift. He even told me his real name too, something I promised to keep to myself as I sensed it was not something he wanted everyone to know about. In turn, I told him more about my past and myself.

After three days, we reached a hamlet on the outskirts of the city. Oakdale appeared to be a farming community, which pleased our farmers to no end. They chose to stay for the night there to see what they could rustle up for supplies. We made plans to pick them up the next day on our way back from the city, which was only a mile away, and left them one of the two wagons. The rest of us continued on.

Uniformed guards were posted at the city gates. They pointed out their posted rules which required peace knots on all worn weapons and banned wearing certain armors (light armor could be worn, all other carried only). We spent a few minutes looking over the rules and tying down our weapons as required, then headed into the city.

We agreed to meet with one another early in the morning at the stables before heading home. While the other townsmen went off exploring, Kael, D.W. and I dropped off our horses and wagon at the stables, then asked the stable master for some info about the town. He suggested we take the city tour, so off we went.

It was pretty easy to find the tour guide as there were numerous signs pointing the way. Plus, it was a straight shot from the city gates to the center of the city. A well dressed guide took our fare, then helped us into a fancy carriage with “Peerless City Tours” emblazoned on the sides. The carriage was rather fancy with soft cushions for seats. The guide was spiffy in his coat tails and top hat. He spoke in a voice that carried easily to us, so we had no trouble hearing him as he pointed out shops, inns, eateries, districts, and anything and everything of interest.

When we arrived back at the tour center, we had a pretty good idea of where everything was now. I could see the wheels churning in the eyes of both my companions. They were eager to get done with our primary goal of purchasing town supplies so they could go off exploring things that had piqued their own interests. I could not blame them as I myself was eager to head over to the marketplace. We quickly, but carefully, made the much needed purchases of supplies, then agreed to split up and meet back in the evening at the Weary Wanderer tavern & inn. With the size of some of the purchases, it became necessary to purchase two more wagons and more beasts of burden to pull them.

Kael headed out on his own, choosing not to share his events with his companions. (Player Secret)

D.W. headed to the halfling section of town. He asked if anyone knew of a guide guild in the area and was told by a halfling woman by the name of Sarah Thimblefoot that her brother Fallon was a guide and in a guild. The brother would not be back until the evening for the evening meal. She extended an invite to D.W. to join them for their evening supper as it was a community affair for the halflings and he was more than welcome to join. He accepted the offer, saying he had to run an errand, but would return shortly.

I stopped in at a few of the shops in town to see what wares were available. Cities are known to have rather exotic goods and Oakwood did not disappoint in that area. After spending an hour just browsing the shops, I headed off to the marketplace with all the various vendors and goods. It did not take me long to find a number of necessities for both myself and our town folk. I went a bit overboard with shopping.

As I was making another purchase, a rather portly fellow made his way onto the assembly platform in the center of the market. He announced in a loud voice that projected over everyone that the auction was about to begin. Curious, I made my way closer. Then a group of people were ushered onto the platform by some brutish looking guards. One person was pushed to the front of the group, a thin man who looked utterly dejected. The announcer called out a description of the man’s abilities (a wheelwright, could easily handle a team of horses, knew his way around a stable).

It suddenly dawned on me that this was the “slave” market. Slaving was illegal in Mellem, of course. However, you could legally purchase the debt of an indentured servant. I knew all too well about that as my mother had been indentured and I too had been falsely indentured. It was, however, a way of life for some people.

The man was purchased for a surprisingly low price. My eyes rounded in astonishment as I discovered how cheaply the services of these people could be obtained. As another man was brought forward, my pointy ears perked forward at hearing he was an engineer. Pelor only knew how much we needed an engineer in our town to design a bridge. We desperately needed one to cross the river safely.

As the auctioneer called out for bids, I found my hand shooting into the air. I frowned when someone else raised their hand on the next bid. Before I knew it, I was in a bidding war, determined to purchase the services of that engineer. It was much to my delight to find myself the winner, though a number of coin lighter. I quickly paid the auction master, then turned to leave when a young woman was brought up on the platform. My hand found itself back in the air, bidding on another servant…..

When Kael met up with us, he had an odd expression on his face. To me, he looked upset, but since he was making an effort to hide it, I did not impose and question him on it. D.W. was in a good mood and shared with us that he had met some of the halflings in their district of the city and that he would be supping with them. It was easy to see that he looked forward to the event. He left Kael and I to order our meal without him as he headed back to see them.

I told Kael of some of the things I had been doing. Okay, perhaps I chattered incessantly, but I could not help it. The city was rather exciting to me. Finding so many things that one could purchase for themselves in the marketplace for so little money was a thrill. Add to that, we had several more people who would be joining our community as well. Thrilling stuff there, but he was not really listening. When we finished our meal, Kael told me he was staying outside the city for the night, that he’d meet us in the morning, then left the tavern. I went to bed dreaming about the things I had seen that day, a smile on my face.

D.W. made his way back to the halfling community of Oakwood City. He was not surprised to find the halfling women laying out a bounty of foods while the men socialized and admired the sumptuous delights. A couple of men were playing a rousing tune on musical instruments, children were dancing around the campfire, and most of them were engaged in conversation. Typical halfling community.

Sarah greeted him before pulling him forward to meet her brother. Fallon was tall for a halfling and rather lean. He shared a friendly smile with D.W. along with a handshake. The two chatted about their travels and being guides as well as several other topics. D.W. rather enjoyed the conversation. Actually, he enjoyed the entire evening.

In the morning, D.W. was already at a table in the tavern when I came down. Kael joined us in short order. We three headed over to the stables where our other townsmen from Kaldaran were waiting for us. So were the “slaves” as I had arranged for them to be delivered that morning. I had them ride in my wagon as we headed over to Oakdale to gather the rest of our people and supplies.

It only took a few minutes in Oakdale as everyone there was already waiting for us. The farmers were excited about the seeds and animals they had managed to obtain. Everyone was energized and eager to get home to start putting all the supplies to use.

As we headed home, I realized everyone in my wagon was silent and seemed fearful about what was to come for them. I had already given their status a great deal of thought. Without asking my companions, I was pretty certain I knew their outlook on slaves, even civilized slavery like indentured servants. So it was that I found myself offering freedom to these people. They would owe me for the money I spent to purchase their debts and by working to help build our town, they would earn their own way. If they agreed to stay at least until their debt was paid back, then they could have the choice to continue living in Kaldaran or leave to make their own way. With their word being given, I would release them of those awful red collars they were forced to wear and they would be treated no differently than any other citizen of our town.

D.W. and Kael were riding the wagon directly behind Anya. No sooner had they left Oakwood City than D.W. turned to his friend and said “I wonder how long those collars will stay on.” Kael grunted his agreement. Shortly after leaving Oakdale, the halfling gave out a laugh as he pointed to a collar on the road.

“There’s one.”

Moments later, it was Kael who was laughing as he pointed out “There’s two.”

And so it was, they nicknamed the road leading home Red Collar Road.

In the face of death, there is a renewed hope.

Tillday morning found D.W., Kael, and I sitting in the tavern in our usual fashion eating barley porridge, biscuits, and watered down ale. While the meal was not all that appetizing, it was good enough to energize us for whatever tasks lay ahead.

As was normal these days, Lucien was not present. He was busy racing around making preparations for our wedding, which was now only eleven days away. It was all a farce, of course, to draw Ethren to us as Lucien wanted to kill him. He had become the rogue’s enemy, not just mine, and Lucien intended to end his reign of terror over me. His intention by announcing our upcoming “nuptials” was to draw the half-elf out of hiding.

So all Lucien’s time was now being devoted to putting plans in place, sending out notifications to any place Ethren or his hirelings would see them, organizing the local militia in preparation for battle and so on. He would come to bed long after I had fallen asleep and rise before I was even awake.

Kael inquired as to our plans for the day. D.W. stated quietly that he needed to purchase a suit for the wedding. The druid told him he was planning to be part of the guard so would not need fancy clothes. He then turned to ask what I was wearing. I looked down at the well-worn clothes I currently wore and used for regular adventuring and told them it was not a real wedding, so this would do. The shock on their faces was almost comical. The next thing I knew, D.W. was dragging me off to a tailor to find a gown.

At the tailor, we looked over the meager selection of outfits and found little to our liking. D.W. eyed a suit, which was made for a large human, and then held up his coin purse to glare at it. The outfit would have to be drastically tailored to match his halfling body and truth be told, the material was not all that attractive. I whispered to him that I had another idea and pulled him from the shop.

Outside, I reminded him that I had some fairly good skills with crafting, including crafting magical things. If he would like, I could make him a shiftweave shirt that would appear to look like any five outfits of his choosing. His eyes lit up at the idea and we headed back to the tavern to sketch up the outfits he would like. When Kael heard about it, he too wanted to have an item like that. Over the next several days, I managed to complete three of the shirts, one for each of us. D.W. insisted I show him the outfit I planned to wear at the wedding and this time gave his approval to my selection.

Before we knew it, Boxing Day was upon us. The three of us sat at our usual table in the tavern to exchange our gifts. I gave D.W. a very small, drawstring pouch made of green velvet lined in green silk. I had seen him pull out a heart shaped stone from his pocket on occasion and caress it as if it held great importance to him. The stone would fit perfectly in the pouch. D.W. handed me a beautifully wrapped package. Inside was a silver necklace with a garnet on it to match the “wedding” gown I had shown him. Tears ran down my face as his thoughtfulness.

To Kael, I gave a small, leather pouch on which was engraved the druidic symbol he used on all his items. The pouch was attached to a leather cord for him to wear on his neck. The pouch he currently wore was horribly made and I wanted him to have something he could be proud to wear. He handed me a roughly wrapped package, inside of which I found a small crystal. As I looked up at him, he explained it was a crystal of least return which would allow me to draw my sword at a much faster speed than I was used to. I was stunned at his generosity.

Kael and D.W. exchanged their own gifts as well. The druid had given D.W. a necklace with a clear quartz crystal. He explained that he had found the crystal in his travels and had a jeweler turn it into a necklace. D.W. gave the druid a silver ring with leaves and vines engraved on it.

As we finished our exchange, Lucien entered the tavern and walked over to join us. He blinked at us as we each handed him gifts, as if he had forgotten entirely about the holiday. He admired the scabbard D.W. had given him for his sword. The look on his face as he opened the donkey statuette from Kael was laughable. I had only given him a field kit to clean his weapons and armor with. Just a couple weeks ago, I had given him his Boxing gift early, a very expensive ring.

Lucien quickly handed out his presents. For D.W., it was a pair of signal arrows and instructions to use them if he spotted Ethren or his enemies approaching. To Kael, he gave an old signal whistle and the same instructions. Me? He handed a pair of stones with holes in them, shriek rocks that make a horrible noise when thrown. The three of us exchanged looks of our own before thanking Lucien for his “gifts”.

The elf insisted on going over all his plans for the wedding day. He spread out a crudely drawn map of the town and pointed out where the guards would be located, where he expected Ethren and his men to come in, where the wedding party would be and so on. Then he went over every possible scenario he could think of for how the battle would go down. Our eyes glazed over and he continued for several hours to lay out instructions for us.

Two days later, the day before the wedding, Kael, D.W. and I were walking down the main street chatting when the ground gave a violent lurch. Both the druid and halfling were knocked to the ground, though I managed to somehow keep my balance. There were startled screams all around us as many others lost their footing. Seconds later, a blast of wind swept past us in a wave.

In an instant, Kael shifted into the form of an eagle, startling both D.W. and I as we had only ever seen him shift into a clouded leopard. He flew straight up into the air until he was a speck in the sky and hovered there for a moment to look around him. Off in the far distance, he spotted what looked like a mushroom shaped cloud of smoke, lightning spearing through it. A massive wave was emanating from it, rolling out in all directions. The wave came in an unnatural hue of colors of greens, blues, oranges and such. It looked to be demolishing everything in it’s path.

Kael dropped immediately back to the surface and shifted back into his half-elf form to relay what he had seen to us. He was fairly certain we had an hour before the wave would reach us. A chill ran down my spine as he described the devastation heading our way. As Kael finished his description, we heard horses galloping and looked up to see two centaurs headed straight to us. One we recognized as Barthello, who we had met weeks ago. The younger one with him must have been the mage he had told us about, the one who was trying to create a permanent portal back in Farseek.

“Good, we found you in time” Barthello panted. His words were rushed as he told us they had come to try to save as many of us as possible before the blast wave reached this town.

I began barking out orders to everyone around us. Barthello and his mage friend were to create the portals to the North side of town. Kael was to convert back to his eagle form and keep a watch on how close the wave was getting. D.W. was to help herd everyone in the direction of the portal as fast as possible. When he started to head to the opposite end of town, I yanked him around and sent him toward the portal side as I wanted him as close to the portal as possible. Then I headed toward the Southern end of town to get people moving.

While soaring above the town, Kael spotted another portal that had been opened Northeast of town. He could see Lucien on that side directing folks toward it and rushing any stragglers. It was clear the rogue was following the same plan as the rest of the group.

As Kael watched the approaching wave, he began to realize there was far less time than he had originally estimated. He flew back down to D.W. to tell him, then asked where I was so he could tell me as well. Just then, a wagon tore through town, coming to a rapid halt in front of D.W. Talista Davis, an old friend of his, sat on the wagon with Davy next to her. The boy was in shock and could only stare straight ahead.

Talista and Davey had been on their way to see us. She had hoped we might know something more on her beloved son Rory. Davey had wanted to come along and visit his friend Lucien, so had begged her to take him with her. Since it was only a town away, she had agreed. They were almost to Pendleton when they felt the shockwave and saw the wave behind them. They had no doubt Farseek was already destroyed, along with Davey’s mother.

Andar came running out of his tavern, several crates of liquor in his hands. He glanced at the half empty wagon and started filling it with crates. Talista urged him to hurry with his items, but was willing to wait if she could help out in that way. Looking at the horse drawn wagon, D.W. realized our mounts and wagon were still at the stable. He raced off to gather our animals and get them through.

Utter chaos ensued as the wave continued rumbling closer, a roaring sound accompanying it. Kael raced off to find me and force me to hurry with the others to the portal as time was running out. In turn, we both ran toward the portal, shouting warnings to anyone still trying to pack belongings and get them moving.

As we approached the magical portal, we could see the wave reaching town. For a moment, we stood frozen, watching it destroy everything in it’s path. D.W. planted his feet, still trying to get everyone through the portal. Kael and I each grabbed an arm and pulled our friend through. Seconds later, the centaurs joined us and collapsed the magic doorway behind them. Just before it closed, we could hearing horrified screams of anguish from those still left behind.

We stood panting and shaking as we looked at where the portal had been. So many people had not heeded our warnings, wanting to pack all their valuables or unwilling to leave as they would not believe such a catastrophe could strike like that. We had no way of knowing if Lucien had managed to go through the other portal in time. Nor did we know where that one was set to go. Our whole world had just changed in that moment.

Over the course of the next several days, we moved to the North. Kael was our guide, flying overhead and guiding us toward a massive lake. He had spotted a city of some sort quite a distance off. We discussed what would be an ideal location and he was sure he had found what we had agreed upon. The group of survivors needed a new home.

Barthello’s friend could not remember exactly where this was as he had been panicked when he created the portal. As we moved further along, he seemed more and more agitated. Even Barthello was a bit confused by his behavior.

The pace was slow going as we had several children and a few elderly people with us. We placed them on the few wagons we had while the rest of us walked. Without a large supply of food, we did not dare move them any faster. Fortunately, we passed a number of streams along the way, so there was plenty of water.

All told, there were about 145 survivors from Pendleton, including ourselves. It was a depressing number when we thought about how many had been living there. Not knowing how many made it through the other portal, we could only guess at how many had died.

The third day of traveling found us in a small clearing next to a river. Across the river was another clearing, this one a bit larger. We surveyed the area and decided this was the perfect spot for us to start rebuilding. It was decided to use the small clearing for farmland and the larger clearing for the town itself. A bridge would need to be built as the river banks dropped off sharply into the water. It took us over an hour to find a spot to cross over.

Andar Bellman began taking inventory of the goods we had managed to bring over with us as well as an accounting of the people. He took his task seriously and began organizing everyone. We stepped back at that point as he seemed to know what he was doing and we were glad for it. Being responsible for the lives of so many people was a bit overwhelming as we had never done so before.

I heard someone ask what we were going to call this new town. Would we call it Pendleton like the town we had left? Perhaps we could name it New Pendleton? Or should we come up with something else. D.W. cleared his throat and told them of a name that in halfling meant “renewed hope”.

And that is how the town of Kaldaran began.

Lone Venture
Just to pass the time, we team up with a lone dwarf

I woke the next morning to find the bed empty other than myself. Lucien was not in our room. Feeling the sheets beside me showed they were cold. He must have left a while ago. With a sigh, I rolled onto my back and stared at the ceiling a moment before finding the effort to rise. Once I was dressed, I headed to the tavern for breakfast.

I found Kael and D.W. seated at a table, finishing their meals. They informed me that Lucien was running errands and putting plans in place for the upcoming wedding.

I felt an excited fluttering in my heart at the idea of the elf preparing for our walk down the aisle until Kael further explained the rogue was looking at security and fliers to announce the upcoming nuptials in his effort to draw out Ethren. Of course, Lucien would only be interested in bringing the enemy to our doorstep in order to kill him. Ethren was enemy #1 in the eyes of the rogue after he had kidnapped me a week ago. Lucien figured if we pretended to marry, Ethren would come out of hiding to try and put a stop to it, thus giving Lucien the chance to fight him.

My appetite gone, I looked around the room to see who else was here. It was mostly the usual patrons with a few other townfolk I had seen before. Toward the other end of the room was a young male dwarf in a travelling style of clothing. A dwarven waraxe lay on the table in front of him as he ate his meal with a bit of gusto. He looked up and spotted me watching him. It did not seem to bother him in the least as he smiled at me before returning to his food.

Seated atop a barstool, one patron was becoming rather animated as he told Andar, the tavern owner, and another patron about troubles he was having. He was talking about orcs he had seen on his land the last few days. The man made it clear that he was afraid to return to his own property for fear of what the orcs would do to him. He believed they were responsible for several of his farm animals disappearing. Since his animals all had collars with his mark on them, it was clear to anyone they belonged to someone.

I realized Kael and D.W. had also been listening to that conversation as they both walked over to the man to ask for more information. The dwarf also stood at the same time to do the same. It took little prodding to get the man, Virgil, to tell what he knew about a couple small caverns nearby that he believed the unwelcome visitors were staying in.

As our group stepped outside to investigate, so did the dwarf. He looked each of us up and down in an assessing manner before nodding to himself.

“The name is Oscar Longdrink” he told us. “I believe we have the same intention of lookin’ inter the orc matter.”

I stifled a giggle at the dwarven accent as it would have been impolite. Still, not running into dwarves that much, I found it a delightful kind of sound. The man’s voice was deep and his handshake firm. Something about him seemed to make me want to trust him. Glancing at my companions, it seemed they were of the same opinion.

The dwarf explained that he was part of an adventuring group of his own. Several members had needed to attend personal matters such as visiting loved ones, so they were temporarily disbanded. Oscar was heading toward his homeland to visit his own family as well. He had stopped off in town for a good meal before heading out again.

So it was we trudged off toward the small caverns northwest of town. We soon found one to the edge of the forest. The dwarf and Kael both went in first to search. D.W. and I were content to straggle in behind in a more cautious manner. The first tunnel lead to a dead end with a small pool of water. In the next tunnel, we found a large spider with a bit of an attitude. We dispatched of the vermin as quickly as possible. There were no further tunnels in that cave.

Once outside again, we discussed which direction to go in next, then headed off to find another cave. There appeared to be several more, but none all that deep and none with critters in them. As we were ready to turn back, we found one more that had a slightly larger entrance than the previous ones.

This cave lead downward a ways where we encountered a couple orcs. They attacked the moment they saw up, which confirmed our suspicions that they were up to no good.

As we finished taken the first two down, we could hear the sound of more running toward us. Kael cast a wall of smoke up in front of us to help slow them down and give us a slight advantage. Sure enough, it worked. We stayed close together to provide protection to one another as we battled three more of them. When we were finished, all of us were still standing and all the orcs were down.

Further in, we found what appeared to be their cooking area. A goat was currently roasting on a spit over an open fire. The remains of another goat and a sheep were dumped to the side. We found a leather collar with an odd design embossed on it. After confirming the rest of the cave was empty, we headed back to town. The farmer, Virgil, confirmed the collar belonged to him. He was grateful for our help.

D.W. and Kael decided to buy Oscar a drink and chat with him a while more and exchange adventuring tales. Something told me the tales would get larger and more involved with each ale they downed.

Enough with the Hobgoblins
Once more, we find ourselves up against these annoying creatures

Still stunned by Lucien’s “pretend” proposal, I could only stand in the middle of the street and watch his retreating form as he headed off to the tavern. It took me a minute to realize D.W. and Kael had joined me, though they seemed to be enjoying this whole thing immensely.

“Let’s take a walk” D.W. said

The two lead me silently down the road, guiding me through the town until we found ourselves in the forest. They said little, just making idle comments about things we passed along the way. Their intent appeared to be to offer comfort through their companionship.

I was glad they were not trying to tell me things like “it’s all for the best”, a silly human phrase. D.W. is a halfling, so he would probably not have a habit of speaking human sayings anyways. As to Kael, a half-elf like me, he does use human phrases from time to time. Yet he seemed to understand my mood well enough to refrain from offering such things at the moment.

At we walked along, we suddenly spotted a couple hobgoblins not too far away from us. D.W. let out a growl at the sight of them. Unfortunately, they spotted us at the same time. Everyone sprang into action at the same time.

I yanked my flute to my lips and began playing a rousing battle song to inspire my comrades as D.W. whipped out his bow and began letting loose the arrows. Kael made motions with his hands as he uttered a spell. Before the hobgoblins could reach us, vines and roots reached up out of the ground to wrap around the legs of the beasts. The druid grinned as he watched the forest come alive and aid us.

From there, it was a fine display of tactics as my male companions maneuvered around the entangling patch to position themselves best for attacking. I stayed close to D.W., as is my usual habit. The halfling is quite good in battle, but I feel the need to watch over him as best I can. Kael likes to get close to the enemy and show them the business end of things, so to speak, though I do keep an eye on him as well since he does tend to get into trouble.

I was sorry that Lucien was not here as I think he would have been pleased to see our group using tactics and working as a team. It is one of his major complaints, that we charge ahead without thinking and do not work together. In this battle, we worked in tandem.

As we felled the first two, another pair of hobgoblins made their presence known. Once again, I wonder at the number of hobgoblin groups we have been seeing of late. I will address it to Lucien later and see what his theories might be.

D.W. moved away from me, bringing my focus back to the battle. He found a better angle at which to strike the enemy. I stayed close enough to aid him if need be, but moved forward to help Kael with the goblinoid creature he was fighting. Seeing me moving forward, he changed to his clouded leopard form and moved around the creature to flank it.

As quickly as it had begun, the battle was over. The three of us stood for a minute assessing our “work” before we looted the creatures for whatever we could find.

Kael grinned at me. “Feel better now?”

I gave him a heated look, hoping to wipe that foolish grin off his face. Of course, it only made him laugh instead. I found myself rolling my eyes at him. Then D.W. was facing me with what looked like a fatherly expression.

“Come on. You can’t avoid it. Let’s head back and find out what Lucien is planning now.”

On Bended Knee
Just when you thought you'd seen it all

Lucien escorted me up to our room at the inn. His face was a stone mask as he closed the door behind us. I waited for him to speak, but there was just silence as he stood waiting for me to say something. As the silence lengthened, he finally asked if I was alright. I wanted to tell him no, that I was hurting inside and out, to have him hold me and say everything was going to be okay. Instead I told him I just wanted to take a nap. When he asked if I wanted him to stay, I wanted to shout YES!, but the words came out as a soft no.

I had already made up my mind on our way back to town, as I rode with him, his warmth flooding me. Staying with him would eventually mean his death. There was no way around it. Once again, my hunter had caught up to me, this time in person. If he discovered how I felt about Lucien, if he learned we had been together intimately, he would turn his fury on my beloved elf. So the only way to protect him would be for me to disappear.

As Lucien turned to exit the room, I grabbed a small, wrapped item from my pack and thrust it into his hands. The wrapping was not very well done, just some cloth and twine to tie it together. He looked at me in curiosity, then opened it to see an antique gold ring with a black sapphire stone. The words “To Lucien with love” were engraved inside the band.

“What’s this?” he asked.

“Just something I’ve been meaning to give you” I told him. The truth was, I had purchased the ring as a gift to him for Boxing day, which was about two weeks away still. Since I was leaving him tonight, I decided to give it to him now.

He did not say anything more about the ring, just told me he was going to get something to eat as we had not eaten all day and it was now late in the afternoon. When he asked if I wanted something, I told him I was not hungry and in truth, I was not.

After he left the room, I lay on the bed crying until I was spent and fell asleep. Hours later, I woke to find it dark in the room. I managed to light a candle on the desk, then went about the room packing my things. Then I sat down to the desk to write Lucien a letter so he would know I left of my own volition.

“Dearest Lucien,
I know you will be angry at my leaving you, but please understand that it is for the best. He will never stop hunting me. It is for everyone’s safety that I have to leave. You do not know him like I do, how determined he is, how much hate he has inside him. He will harm you if I stay. He has killed others and no one can stop him. I could not bear it if he went after you. I would rather die than let that happen.
I love you,

I placed the note against the pillow, picked up my gear, then headed downstairs to see the innkeeper. He frowned at me as I paid him for our stay as well as another week’s rent. At first, I wondered what he was frowning at, then realized tears were coursing down my cheeks. I made an effort to smile, then left to see the stable master. When I couldn’t find him, I wandered about for a bit and found a copse of trees to hunker down in for the night.

At the tavern The Cast Iron Kettle, Lucien found D.W. and Kael laughing it up as they plied Carver with numerous ales. The halfling told him how they had a bet going as to how many ales it would take before Carver passed out drunk.

Twelve drinks later, Carver fell from his chair with a loud crash. Deciding they couldn’t just leave him there, his three companions decided to carry him to the inn next door. Lucien lifted his feet as Kael grabbed him around the chest. Not to be left out, the halfling stood underneath providing “butt support” and supervising the situation. At the inn, he moved ahead of them up to pay for a room for the fighter. Then he headed up the stairs to direct their efforts and open the door for them. They dumped Carver unceremoniously on the bed, only removing his plate mail so he could sleep.

Afterwards, the three headed back to the tavern where they each ordered warm meals to sate their appetites. They talked and enjoyed each other’s companionship before heading up to their respective beds. Lucien was surprised to find Anya not in their room, then found the note.

In the morning, the three met back at the tavern for breakfast. When asked where Anya was, Lucien told them “gone” and said nothing further on the subject. He simply glared down at his plate as he jabbed his fork into the food and ate.

Just as D.W. went to ask for more information about Anya’s whereabouts, two scruffy looking warriors entered the tavern. They quickly scanned the room, then both pairs of eyes settled on Lucien. The shorter of the two spoke quietly to the larger man. They strode immediately toward the rogue.

“Leave this one alive,” said the taller of the men as he pointed at Lucien and drew his weapon, “and kill all the others!”

At that point, everyone in the room sprang into action. Customers dove under tables, the bartender Andar ducked down behind the bar, and a scholarly looking fellow casually eating his meal stopped to turn and watch events unfold.

The taller warrior focused on Lucien, demanding to know where “she” was. Lucien felt fury as he realized the large man was referring to Anya. He whipped out his two swords and attacked the warrior. It didn’t take him long to realize the man had no real intentions of keeping Lucien alive. Every blow dealt by the warrior was meant to be a killing blow. If it hadn’t been for Lucien’s quick reflexes, the rogue would have met his death. Instead, Lucien focused his attacks against the warrior until he managed to strike him unconscious, the warrior’s blood soaking the floor from open wounds.

In the meantime, the second warrior had decided to start by killing the halfling. He struck D.W. with his sword without waiting for the small person to arm himself. That action was enough to spur the scholarly fellow watching the event into action. The man narrowed his eyes and muttered an incantation, then waved his hands. Immediately afterwards, the warrior was struck with a magic blast. As he watched D.W. and Kael turn to fight the smaller warrior, the mage cast his next spell at the bigger warrior.

The fight ended almost as quick as it had begun. Lucien narrowed his eyes on the bartender, telling him to get everyone out. Seeing the fury on the rogue’s face, Andar decided not to argue, simply ushered his patrons out of the building. The mage stayed as he felt it was his right to do so after having helped.

Lucien bound the large warrior, then snapped orders at Kael to heal the warrior enough to bring him to consciousness again. The rogue began interrogating the man without results. It was quickly made clear that the warrior would not cooperate. With a sneer, Lucien grabbed the man’s legs and propped him up against the table so that he was upside down. He then placed a rag over his face and soaked it with ale from their breakfast. Everyone could hear the man sputtering as if he were choking.

“Excuse me, what exactly are you doing??” asked the mage.

Lucien glanced at him. “It’s something I learned a while ago. Makes him feel like he’s drowning.”

The mage took a single step forward. “I believe that’s illegal.”

This prompted the rogue to glare at the mage. “For your information, this @*$#^ is one of the men who kidnapped my girlfriend and just ordered that everyone in this bar be murdered! If you don’t like it, LEAVE!”

The mage didn’t hesitate to leave the bar. Once outside, he hustled to find the local authorities and bring them back to the tavern as quickly as possible. They found the rogue still in the process of demanding information from an uncooperative thug.

The authorities quickly ushered the instigators to the local jail along with everyone else involved in the fight. Pendleton’s sheriff interviewed each person individually, leaving the rogue for last. When he was at last satisfied that the two warriors had started it all, he let everyone else go their own way.

D.W. and Lucien headed straight back to the tavern and sat back down at their table where D.W. pried his friend for more information about what happened with Anya and where was she now. The rogue reluctantly showed him the note she’d left him

Heading back to the tavern, Kael spotted two horses tied outside the establishment. He checked around and determined they must have belonged to the warriors. Since the two men were going to rot in jail, as far as he was concerned, his group now owned the beasts. Kael went through the saddle bags to see if there were any clues as to who the men were and found a folded up paper.

Note to Barker

Kael read it, then raced inside the tavern to bring the note to his friends and handed it directly to Lucien. The rogue scowled as he scanned the paper. He stalked over to the mage, who was now seated at the bar once again, and shoved it in his face.

“THAT’S why!!” he snarled. “Do you STILL think I was being too hard on those men?!”

The mage frowned as he read the note. Before he could open his mouth to say anything, the rogue had returned to his table to show D.W. the note as well. The halfling shook his head as he read it, then asked where they should start looking for Anya as she wasn’t safe.

Kael decided to go to the stables to see if Anya’s horses were still there and see if he could find out anything. He brought the two horses with him he’d confiscated to put with the rest of their animals. It took very little prodding to get the stable master to open up about what he knew of Anya. The druid quickly returned to his companions, eager to tell them what he’d learned.

Kael strode straight over to his friends and relayed what he’d heard. The stable master had seen Anya in the morning, a half-orc in plate armor her only companion. The two had been discussing something about a centaur and a portal as they prepped their mounts and rode away.

The three realized the half-orc must have been Carver and realized the portal and centaur were from back at Farseek. They made a short discussion of their plans and stood to leave. They gathered their things from the inn next.

The three made their way to the stables to gather their mounts and rode hard toward the town of Farseek, intent on catching up to the fleeing bard. It was on the second day of their travels that they spotted her in the distance.

Carver and I paid no attention to the riders approaching quickly from behind. There had been many folk passing us the past two days. It was not until they surrounded us that we realized who they were. Lucien dismounted his horse, told me we needed to talk, then was suddenly seated behind me on my own mount. He reached around me and took the reins from my suddenly shaking hands, directing the horse off the road and into the tree line.

When he pulled the horse to a stop, I expected him to dismount again, but he stayed atop the horse. This time, he did not allow any silence. He insisted I tell him about Ethren. I tried asking how he found out his name, but Lucien would have none of that. The rogue tightened his grip on me as he waited for an answer.

I swallowed with a suddenly dry throat as I tried to collect my thoughts as best I could. How much of my past should I reveal and what parts? He was focused on Ethren. How did he find out his name? Had he run into him again? No, he could not have. But how? And would telling him about the vile half-elf make matters worse? I felt his grip tighten on me again and decided to just get this over with.

“My mother had become a servant in Ethren’s home. Ethren’s parents were quite wealthy. They knew something was off about him, even as a child, but money can cover those kinds of problems. He would follow me about constantly and seemed obsessed with me for some reason. Then my mother died unexpectedly one day, just suddenly took ill and died the same day.”

I paused a moment, hoping he would let me stop there. His arm remained locked about my waist as he sat still, his breath warm on my neck. I sighed before continuing.

“Shortly after she died, Ethren claimed I stole several pieces of his mother’s jewelry. I did no such thing, but he convinced his parents that I had. He demanded that I pay back the value of the jewelry by working for them. I was forced to stay in a room in their home. He made me wear chains on my feet to keep me from escaping. A guard was with me at all times.

Slaves are illegal, but no one questioned how he kept me locked and chained. Like I said, money makes people overlook things like that. He enjoyed keeping me there." I shuddered as I remembered the way Ethren would watch me, running his hands through my hair or down my arms as if I were more than a servant – a possession.

“One day, someone in his household decided to free me. I ran as far away as I could get as fast as I could run. I tried to be unnoticed. I did my best not to draw attention. Somehow, he found me again. And again. And again. Sooner or later, he finds me, no matter how hard I try.”

Lucien eyed me as I looked back at him through long lashes. He reached up to touch my hair, allowing the long, pale blond strands to slip from his hand. Then he touched the sleeve of my silk shirt. I had managed to keep my clothes as free from dust and dirt as I could, a regular habit of mine.

“You can’t help but draw attention to yourself” he said. “Now let’s head back to the others.”

We returned to the group, who were now dismounted and milling about on the side of the road. Lucien dismounted and helped me down. He had me retell my story to the others so they would know the type of person they were dealing with.

I ended the tale with “That is why I have to go through the portal. Ethren has no idea about the centaur mage in Farseek or the portals he makes. It will take me far away from him and he cannot hurt me anymore.”

Everyone refused, insisting they could protect me from Ethren. Lucien made it quite plain that he intended to kill the half-elf that had been hunting me for so long. When I tried to argue with them, they ignored my protests, choosing instead to brainstorm ideas on how to draw him out.

“We need to do something to really piss him off” said Lucien. " Something that he won’t be able to ignore or send someone else to take care of." Lucien snapped his fingers as an idea hit him. “I have it. I’ll marry Anya!”

I was staggered as all eyes turned to look at Lucien with shock. Those eyes all turned to me next, to see how I was reacting. I just continued to stare at Lucien, waiting to hear him say he was just kidding. He was not joking. He was dead serious.

Kael and D.W. each poked Lucien in the sides, telling him he needed to ask me proper like. The rogue frowned at them, then turned to me and opened his mouth. Before he could get a word out, the other two shook their heads at one another, then smacked him upside the head.

“You need a ring!” they said in unison.

With another frown, Lucien grabbed the bag of gems from our group stash (we had not had the chance to sell them yet) and pulled out the first ring he could find. He turned to me again and started to open his mouth. Kael and D.W. as one smacked him upside the head again. The rogue turned to them, furious, and demanded to know what was wrong now. They pointed to the ground and told him it had to be done right. Any other time, I would have laughed at their antics, but not this day.

Lucien bent down on one knee, held the ring out to me, then spoke. “Anya, will you pretend marry me?”

My jaw hit the ground as I stared at him in absolute horror. I did not even see Kael and D.W. smack the rogue again as I was already running to my horse. I mounted instantly, but before I could turn the horse around, Kael was snatching the reins and doing some druid thing to tell my horse to ignore me. Damned druids and their “speak with animals” nonsense!

Several minutes of arguing passed with me snapping at the druid to let me go and D.W. giving Lucien step-by-step instructions on how to properly propose to a female. The rogue could not understand my anger, he explained, as he obviously would not want to marry me. That only made me angrier. He tried explaining we had only known each other a short time, but I was no longer listening. Blasted druid kept a firm grip on the reins and my stupid horse refused to budge anymore!

Lucien finally had enough and simply declared us engaged. He then insisted we head back to Pendleton to talk to Barker, the larger of the two warriors who were imprisoned there. He told us it was the best way to get word to Ethren about the pending marriage. I kept arguing against that, positive the best way to deal with the matter would be to go through the portal instead, but the others would not budge on the discussion.

A wonderful idea hit me, a way of letting Lucien off the hook and making him safe from Ethren. I smiled and told the others “Yes, let us go back to Pendleton!”

Everyone turned now to stare at me with a “hunh??” I smiled and told them it was perfect. We go back and see Barker, then stage a breakup between Lucien and I. Barker would report back that we were no longer together and Ethren would no longer have a reason to go after my friends and Lucien would be safe. I thought it was brilliant.

Anya glared down at the parchment in front of her. She supposed men were not as bright as women after all. Her plan was perfect. Leave it to the men to screw up a perfectly solid plan like hers. They never even gave it a chance! With a sigh, she dipped her quill into the ink and set to writing more.

Carver had other business and took his leave once he was satisfied that I was remaining with my companions. He continued riding in the opposite direction while we headed back to Pendleton.

In Pendleton, our group went straight to the jail to see about speaking with Barker. The sheriff was nowhere about and the guards could have cared less about someone visiting the prisoners. We went right down to see Barker.

I was extremely nervous as I still had not come up with a way to break up with Lucien. It had to be done the right way so it was clearly over with, but without insulting the handsome rogue or his pride. How do you do that? Just say “it was great, but I am not the right person for you” and walk away? No, it has to be believable and yet not hurt him in the process. Nor did I want Barker to be able to make fun of Lucien either.

Standing in front of Barker, who I knew to be a cad, I decided there was no good way to do it and feelings would be hurt regardless. I prepared to say the words I knew would make Lucien angry. As I turned to him, I found my mouth gaping open once again. He was on one knee with the ring in his hand. Before I could utter anything, he had already asked me to marry him and was slipping the ring on my finger. Then he stood and kissed me passionately. I knew it was for display only, to make sure Barker had something to report back to his master, but damn could that elf kiss!

Barker snarled a death threat at Lucien, then called me a filthy name and lunged at me from the door of his cell. Kael casually reached over and slammed the man’s arm into the cell door. D.W., not to be left out, asked loudly when the big day was. Smirking, Lucien replied back “Two weeks. I don’t want to wait.”

With that, the rogue grabbed my hand and pulled me out of the jail. He grinned at me with a dirty look in his eye. “Now, that will bring Ethren running!” he said as he headed toward the tavern for a celebratory drink, leaving me standing there gaping at his back.

Personal Possessions
The kidnapping

After Lucien had turned in the hobgoblin ears (see Another Warehouse) and collected the reward from the merchant for protecting his warehouse, he headed to the Cast Iron Kettle tavern. It was more crowded than normal this early in the morning as he sat down at a bar stool waiting for the rest of his group. He ordered a drink to pass the time.

As he sat nursing an ale, he noticed the person next to him was a half-elf with long black hair pulled back in a braid. Bedecked in chainmail, gauntlets, boots, and a hefty looking sword, it was a good guess that he was a fighter of some sort. His face was not pretty by any means, pock mark scars indicating he had suffered a terrible disease at some point.

The individual reached into his pocket to pull out a figurine of an elven woman standing demurely in a long, flowing gown. It appeared to be made of a delicate clay painted white with yellow and silvery trim and highlights. The half-elf caressed the figurine as if lost in thought.

Noticing Lucien eyeing the figurine, the half-elf turned to him. “Beautiful, isn’t it?”

Lucien eyed the fighter with suspicion. “Why would you openly display something valuable like that?”

The half-elf narrowed his eyes at the rogue. “How much would you think it’s worth?” He then handed the figurine to the rogue to appraise it.

Lucien took his time looking over the figurine. He realized the gold colored paint was real gold and the silvery trim was actually platinum paint. The figurine was a lot more valuable than he first thought, probably around 2,500 gold.

“Where did you find this?” Lucien asked.

“In a store window, sitting on a shelf. Would you believe they gave it to me for only 20 gold?” He shook his head in annoyance. “So many people just don’t realize the value of what they have. They don’t pay attention to their own possessions.”

The half-elf’s tone became angrier as he snatched the figurine back from the rogue. “Some men covet things that don’t belong to them. They try to keep it for themselves even though it is not theirs to take. They only wind up marring the beauty, spoiling it!”

Lucien leaned away from the angry half-elf, bored with his mad rantings.

The fighter glared at the figurine in his hands. “One does what one must to protect that which belongs to them. If one cannot protect it from the filthy hands of the inferior…..” He slammed the figurine into the counter so that it burst into tiny fragments and dust, then looked straight into Lucien’s eyes as he hissed out his words “…then one is left with no other choice!”

With that, the fighter stood and stormed out of the tavern. As he made his way out, Lucien was surprised to see at least half a dozen individuals get up and walk out with him. It dawned on him that they had been there to protect the fighter’s back. He was suddenly glad he hadn’t throttled the crazed half-elf like he had wanted to do.

Across town, D.W. and Kael had gone to the local temple of Pelor to find a cleric. The first one they spoke with smiled at Kael in a way that made his skin crawl. The druid asked if someone could cure diseases, as he was fairly certain that’s what was making him ill. Another cleric came out from the back rooms to help. He held his hand out, palm up, with a delicate “A-hem” as he waited for a donation for his services. Kael placed a few coins in the priest’s hand, then more as the priest continued to stare at him. When a hefty pile sat in the elderly man’s palm, he finally nodded his consent to perform the task.

From there, the two headed back to the tavern where they found Lucien glaring into his cup. D.W. tried to climb up the high bar stool to sit next to the rogue. Kael watched with glee for a moment before reaching down to pick up the halfling and plop him on the stool. The druid then took the seat next to him.

D.W. could clearly see Lucien was upset about something and asked “What’s up?”

Lucien frowned at him. “This jerk comes in here, rants at me about beauty and value, then smashes a figurine into the counter and left.”

“Wow, that’s weird.” D.W. looked thoughtful. “Any idea what it was about??”

Lucien shook his head at him. “No clue.”

Samhein entered the tavern, then headed straight to the group. He explained that he had to leave to take care of some things and didn’t know when he’d be back again, to which D.W. responded “AGAIN???”. The sorcerer smiled at him and gave his apologies before leaving.

The halfling looked around and asked Lucien where Anya was. The rogue frowned at him saying he thought she had been with the two of them at the temple. When he realized she had gone off on her own, he decided to go looking for her, concerned that she might run into the crazy half-elf fighter and his friends. He was certain the man meant to cause trouble.

Kael, D.W., and Lucien headed first to the blacksmith as Anya had wanted to exchange her weapon once she was back in town. The blacksmith assured them he had not seen a lovely blond-haired half-elf, nor any other woman in his shop that day. Confused, the three went to the bowyer to see if she’d gone there instead, again to no avail.

As the search spread over time, they became worried. Four hours into their search, they found a woman sweeping her porch who said she’d seen the bard. She told how a couple of men held a blond half-elf woman as a black haired half-elf had struck her, then trussed her up. He threw her up on his horse like a sack of potatoes, her belly across the pommel, then rode off with her. Numerous men rode away with them. The woman pointed down the road in the direction they had gone.

Furious, Lucien snarled at her “…and you did nothing? You didn’t report this?!”

The woman blinked in astonishment at him. “But he said she belonged to him. Men can do what they want with their women.”

He opened his mouth to shout at her for her acceptance of such treatment, then something clicked in his head. “That’s what he meant!!”

Kael and D.W. exchanged looks. “What who meant?”

Lucien snapped “The thing of beauty, of value! He was talking about Anya!! We need to go after her!”

Just then, they spotted a rider racing toward them from the same direction the half-elf and his men had gone. Not thinking straight, Lucien determined that the rider was probably part of the kidnapping group. Without further thought, he reached up and knocked the rider down as he tried to pass them.

The half-orc rider fell to the ground with an expletive and jumped to his feet ready to fight. He demanded to know what the heck the rogue had done that for. Lucien looked back at the person wearing full plate and realized his mistake immediately. He didn’t look at all like the men he’d seen in the tavern earlier.

“My mistake. Sorry,” he muttered. “My girlfriend has been kidnapped. I saw you coming from that same direction and thought you were one of them.”

The fighter nodded “Okay, don’t blame ya then. I saw it happen and knocked out the last one in line. They were in such a hurry, they never even noticed me joining them.” He tilted his head toward the road. “Lost them down the road about an hour and a half’s hard ride that-a-ways,” he said. “I came back to see if I could find someone who can track them from where I lost them.”

“I’m glad someone did something about it!” Lucien gave another glare to the woman who had gone back to sweeping her porch.

“I can track” Kael told the rider. “Just take me to the spot.”

“I’m going to need a fresh horse” the half-orc told him.

Everyone went to the stables quickly where the half-orc, who identified himself as Carver, traded in his horse for another. D.W. grabbed his pony while Lucien saddled up Anya’s horse to ride. Kael shifted into his clouded leopard form as he could move as fast as a horse that way.

Riding swiftly, Lucien and Carver raced down the road toward the place Carver last saw the kidnappers. Lucien didn’t care if he left D.W. and his slower mount behind, his concern for Anya overriding his concern for his companions. The halfling instead pushed his mount faster to try to keep up as best he could. Kael hung back with the scout knowing the others would have to wait for him as he was their tracker.

Once they’d reached the spot where the kidnappers had disappeared, it didn’t take Kael long to pick up the tracks leading through the woods. Within short order, he came to a halt as the smell of wood smoke and meat cooking reached him. They crept forward slowly until they spotted a house in amongst the trees. The building had several windows with closed shutters and two doors that they could see from their vantage point. Two fancy topiary bushes stood to each side of the double doors in front.

One by one, they moved toward the house, separating by no more than thirty feet from each other. Carver charged the front doors and slammed into one. At that moment, the topiary bush next to him chose to slam into him. He was surprised by the magical brush attacking him, especially when it wounded him.

It didn’t take long to realize both bushes were magically animated plants with some strong attacks of their own. Everyone focused on destroying the topiaries as quickly as possible. Once they were demolished, it was time to work at the doors. Lucien finished wrecking the one door Carver had previously bashed, then Carver dashed through it.

Inside, there were two ruffians who had been waiting for everyone to enter. Carver had made so much noise bashing the door earlier that they couldn’t help but hear. They flung javelins at the fighter. When the rest of the group joined in the fray, the ruffians switched over to swords, but it didn’t save them from Carver’s greatsword or Lucien’s wrath.

Once the ruffians were dispatched, the group began searching the other rooms and finally came upon Anya, unconscious and bound in a back room. She had been stripped of her gear and armor and beaten quite thoroughly. Her face was a mass of bruises and cuts. Two handprints adorned her neck where someone appeared to have been choking her.

Lucien and Kael made quick work of untying Anya, then Kael cast a healing spell on her. D.W. added a heal from his healing belt to finish removing the bruises from the bard, then quietly left the room to give her a moment to gather herself. Kael asked her if she was alright. She replied in a soft voice that she was fine.

Lucien asked why the men had kidnapped her. She refused to meet his eyes as she asked “Don’t you know??” Then she mumbled something about not remembering much.

The rogue knew she was lying to him, but decided it was not the time or place to argue. He was barely able to hold down his anger at what they’d done to her as it was. Instead, he instructed Kael to take Anya out of the building as he intended to torch it. He fired instructions at Carver and D.W. as he quickly rifled through cabinets and any containers he could find. When he was finished, he had them set fire to the place.

When he was at last satisfied that the building would burn to the ground, he headed the group back to the horses. They had found two out back of the building which they confiscated in payment for their efforts. Even with the extra horses, Lucien placed Anya in front of him on his horse.

Once back in town, Carver, D.W., and Kael headed straight for the tavern for a meal and drinks. Lucien shoved a handful of gold coins at D.W., telling him to buy as many rounds of drink as the fighter wanted as thanks for his help rescuing Anya. The rogue then escorted Anya to their room at the inn and quietly closed and locked the door behind him. It was time for some answers.

Another Warehouse
The hobgoblins strike again

We split up once we were back in town. D.W. and I headed straight for the local bath house. Dealing with carrion crawlers is a messy business and rifling through the carcasses in that cavern leaves a foul smell on you and your clothes. So our first choice of business was to get clean. From there, we headed to the bowyer to replenish our arrow supply.

In the meantime, Kael and Samhein headed straight to the Cast Iron Kettle tavern for dinner as it was late in the afternoon by the time we reached town. They found Lucien sitting at the bar nursing a clay cup of liquid. He glared at them as they questioned his whereabouts earlier in the day. Lucien told them he had been finding our group work, then asked why he had been unable to find them. As they moved closer and he caught wind of them, he urged them to take a bath before speaking with him again.

When at last, all of us were together in the tavern, Lucien told us how he had overheard a merchant talking about troubles at the local warehouse. The owner of said warehouse was trying to find people to protect the building from a group who had already attempted a couple times to break in. Each time, they had been interrupted. The owner feared they would succeed next time and he would lose all his merchandise.

Certain the owner would pay well to protect his goods, the rogue went in search of the owner. The merchant was relieved to find an adventurer to help him out and was receptive to negotiations for a “fair” fee. He made it clear he would pay well to have the “problem” disappear without questions. Lucien agreed to his terms and went back to the tavern to await the return of our group. He was a bit miffed to find we had gone off for a short adventure of our own without him.

Lucien gave each of us a pointed look as he finished his story, as if to chastise us for our misdeed. I swear he would have made a wonderful schoolmarm, the way he is scolds us for things!

Since we had several hours left before we had to head to the warehouse for guard duty, D.W. and Samhein headed to the inn for a nap. Kael chose to wait at the tavern as he wanted to listen to the locals chat and see if he could pick up anything of interest. Lucien and I went to the inn for a “nap” of our own, though we did not get any sleep.

Once we were all feeling refreshed and back together again, we headed over to the warehouse and set up a makeshift camp. We quickly set up the watch assignments, being careful to make sure our spellcasters would get enough sleep to regain their spells in the morning. Our first night passed without incident.

The next night passed quietly until the sun was just beginning to rise. Kael was on watch duty at the time when he heard something riling up the horses in the local stables. He slowly crept toward the sound, hoping to catch whatever it was off guard. As he approached, an arrow struck him in the side from the farther side of the structure. A hobgoblin dressed in chainmail stood there, a nasty look on his face as he reached for another arrow.

Kael let out a shout to wake the rest of us up. Before we could get to our feet, he had cast a spell and created a wall of black smoke between himself and the goblinoid being. It did not take too long before the rest of the hobgolbin’s friends joined him.

D.W. began firing and Samhein began lobbing magic missiles at them while Kael decided to fight them face-to-face. Lucien chose to sneak around the creatures as best he could for a tactical advantage. I tried to fire my bow at the enemy, but apparently still need a lot more practice. Instead, I dropped my weapon and grabbed my flute to play some inspiring music for my companions.
Four of the hobgoblins were easy to take down, but two seemed much tougher. Those two nearly felled Kael with their attacks. When I saw he was in serious trouble, I made my way over to him to cast a healing spell on the druid. With the boost to his health, he was able to jump back into the fray and help finish them off.

I looked over to see D.W. deal a coup-de-grace to the goblinoid nearest him, then Lucien deal the same to the one next to him. As Kael stepped forward to deal the killing blow to the one by me, I found myself blocking him, telling him to leave that one alone.

When all the others had been dispatched, I quickly explained my reasoning for not killing the one. He was obviously not a simple soldier, judging from the garments he wore, and might just be able to give us some information. My thought was that this was the third time I had either seen or heard of a warehouse being “attacked” by hobgoblins. Rather than continuing to run into them, we needed to find out what was going on.

Kael found some ropes and bound the hobgoblin, then I cast a healing spell, enough to bring him back to consciousness. Lucien stood behind him, placing his swords in a crisscross against the enemy’s throat. They began questioning him, coaxing him to answer through torture.

With horror, I realized I had just talked my comrades into torturing another being. I found myself running to a lumber pile to rid the contents of my stomach in a violent rush. D.W. made his way over to check on me as I spewed my last meal all over the ground.

In the meantime, Lucien and Kael were too focused on their interrogation to notice anything was wrong with me. They asked several pointed questions, but were only met with hostility from the enemy. When they told him they knew many methods of torture that would be extremely painful and could make his death very slow, he laughed at them and called them pathetic fools. Then he threw himself forward onto Lucien’s blades before the rogue could react.

When I returned and found the goblinoid had killed himself rather than reveal anything, I found myself again bent over and getting sick. More than anything, it was embarrassing to show how weak I was in front of my fellow adventurers like that.

Just then, Kael dropped to one knee as he suddenly felt ill himself. He found himself suddenly weak and his hands felt shaky. We looked over the weapons of the enemy, but saw no evidence of poisons. I used my healing skills on him with no effect.

After putting our heads together, the only thing we could come up with is that we had fought some undead creatures several days back. It was possible he had contracted a disease called filth fever from them as it was known to happen.

Lucien cut the left ears off each of the hobgoblins before we left, proof for the merchant who had employed us to resolve the matter with his warehouse. The rogue headed straight to the merchant to collect the money owed to us. Samhein headed to town to run a personal errand, a regular habit of his. D.W. and Kael headed to the church to see if they could figure out his illness and possibly cure it. Me? I went to see about exchanging my rapier for a better weapon as I was dissatisfied with how it was more of a skewer than a sword.

The things we do for a few coin

Shortly after speaking with the mayor, everyone had gone their seperate way to pass the time. I watched each of them head off in seperate directions and have managed to figure out some of what they do in their spare time.

Samhein likes to browse the various stores, seeking out interesting tomes and objects. While at times he sits incredibly still, just watching everyone around him, his mind seems to be constantly in motion. When he shops, I think he looks for things to expand his knowledge. He also has a keen interest in dragons of all kinds.

Kael usually heads straight into the forests with his herbalist bag. I know he gathers herbs whenever he can. Something else I have witnessed is that he will stop and “talk” to animals every now and again. One time, I spotted him playing with a rabbit, racing back and forth alongside it as if the two were racing one another. The hare did not appear to be frightened by the druid and in fact looked to be enjoying the game. At times like that, the druid has an almost childlike innocence to him, yet I have seen him in combat when he is quite fierce and know not to be fooled by appearances.

D.W. is an oddity. I have known halflings and none I have met are as serious or intent upon a single goal as this one. He becomes half crazed when we come across hobgoblins and his mind focuses solely on the task of destroying them. Nothing will sway his mind when it comes to that particular species of goblinoid. As to what he does in his spare time, I still have not figured that out. He will sit at the tavern with a mug of ale for a bit, but when I turn back to look at him, he is gone. Then I do not see him again for hours, sometimes days. While he does laugh at times and jest now and again (plus that whole Tiramisu incident), most of the time he has his defenses up and will not let you in. It makes me wonder what happened in his past to make him like that.

Lucien is another matter altogether. He is a rogue, though that classification does not suit him entirely. One thinks of a rogue as a thief, but he is not that. Nothing is stolen by him from honest people. I have seen him be very gentle and benevolent with the less fortunate folks in our travels. More than that, he is very gentle with children. In front of everyone else, he has a rough demeanor, but it is not the real Lucien they see. Alone at night, we talk at length of the world around us and he proves to be quite intelligent in his discussions. Whatever he lacks in charisma, he more than makes up for in charm.

As for me, I sit here writing in my journal for the moment. I am considering seeking out a blacksmith and seeing if I cannot exchange the rapier I use for something a bit sharper. It was useless against a group of undead we came in contact with not too long ago.

While I am scribbling down my notes, the barmaid Polly has made several excuses to come to my table, most often to refill my mug. Since I am drinking water, I know it is not for hope of my purchasing more refreshment. She sighs often, not so much as if bored, but more as if lonesome for someone to talk to. Realizing that is likely the case, I set aside my writings for now to chat with her.

The second my quill was set down, Polly came right over to top off my water again. I smiled at her and found she was a chatterbug when given the chance. She told me all about events around town and a good deal of gossip. What she had to say was actually very interesting. One subject grabbed my interest in particular and I was eager for my companions to get back so we could discuss it.

Everyone but Lucien returned after a short time. I told my companions about a local cavern where there was supposed to be a small amount of treasure. Polly had told me there were some giant worms in the cave and since the local folk were not adventurers, they had not been able to get at it. She had told me they had not thought to ask anyone to clear the cave for them as it just was minor compared to other things. With my coin purse being somewhat empty of late, I was thinking it would be a good way to make some quick money. My fellow adventurers agreed.

We walked around looking for Lucien for a short time. Since he did not turn up, we finally decided to handle it on our own and left for the cavern. It was not too far from town, perhaps a half hour of travel. Polly had given perfect directions. Everyone paused at the entrance to prepare ourselves before entering.

We were a little disorganized at first. Kael could hear something and forged ahead too far while trying to pinpoint the sound. He was a bit irritated with us when we headed down a different tunnel. Our group still needs more practice in working together, I guess. When I ran smack into a carrion crawler and let out a yelp of surprise, the druid immediately shifted into his clouded leopard form and raced over to help me.

Samhein, D.W. and I used our ranged weapons to fight the wormlike beast while Kael chose to fight it face-to-face. The crawler smacked Kael with it’s tentacles and the druid found himself parylized. While he stood frozen in place, the rest of us took down the creature.

I walked over to Kael and could not resist the urge to pull on his whiskers. D.W. patted him on the head as I made fish faces with his muzzle. Too bad Lucien was not with us as I imagine he would have had a bit of fun with the frozen druid as well. When at last he could move again, Kael snarled at me. Since I know he would not hurt me intentionally, I could only giggle.

We found a second crawler in another tunnel. Once again, Kael found himself paralized as he raced up to the creature. He had decided to distract the beast, knowing it would give the rest of us the opportunity to attack from a distance. This time, I behaved myself and did not pull on the druid’s whiskers as he waited to be able to move again.

Once we were certain both the crawlers were dead and there were no more to be found, we quickly sorted through the disgusting piles of carnage in the cavern for the treasure that was supposed to be there. It was not a pleasant task. Ah well. That is the life of an adventurer!

Forest Webs
Missing people and webs in the forest

The Cast Iron Kettle seemed the appropriate place to break our fast the next morning. Our group sat about a wooden table digging into the bread and eggs the tavern keeper, Andar Bellman, had set aside for us. I guess he was still feeling indebted to us for our help the previous night, for the meal was far better than the usual porridge we were used to for morning meals.

As we were finishing up, a gaunt looking fellow entered the tavern and looked around. He was wearing a scholarly looking outfit, which seemed a bit out of place in this place. After looking about for a moment, he walked directly to us with a quick stride.

“Are you the ones responsible for last night?” he drawled out.

Lucien’s eyes narrowed as he prepared for us to be interrogated or blamed for something, the way our luck had been going thus far.

“That depends on why you are asking.”

The gaunt looking fellow introduced himself to us as Samuel Parthens, the mayor of Pendleton. He proceeded to tell us, in the most painstakingly slow voice I had ever heard, about troubles they had been having of late. I had to keep poking D.W. who was nodding off as he attempted to listen. I believe it took the man at least a full minute to utter a single sentence as he drew out each word.

In summary, several town folk had gone missing. The road leading Northwest out of town crosses a bridge, then the road had a fork in it. He told us the road to the left of the fork had some sort of webbing in the woods.

When the mayor was done talking, Lucien asked what we might gain for a reward. The man had to ponder the answer for a bit, then said we could have any belongings of the victims if they had no relatives who would inherit it. Lucien stared at the man in stunned silence. Mr. Parthens then said he would come up with something else as well.

We agreed to help them out with the problem and headed to where the mayor told us they had seen webs. As we approached the bridge, we spotted a monstrous spider spinning it’s web amongst the trees. Samhein spoke an incantation and two magic missiles flew from his finger tips and smashed into the spider. Another spider dropped down from the trees and headed toward us.

Lucien strode forward with his weapons drawn, but before he could reach the first spider, it spit out a sticky residue that pinned him in place. I had not known spiders could spit that substance and from the look on the rogue’s face, he apparently did not either. He struggled with the webbing attached to him while the rest of us took the spiders down.

We discussed the creatures for a minute and whether these were the cause of the missing townsfolk. I pointed out that there was not a lot of webbing here, like the spiders had just reached this area. The mayor had told us it was after the bridge and to the left of the fork in the road. It sounded to me like we needed to search a bit more. Everyone agreed and we proceeded further along.

After another few minutes of travelling, we found the area the mayor had been talking about. There was a lot of webbing in the woods there and it seemed to be concentrated in one area. Unfortunately for us, a narrow strip of river lay in front of it. I myself have not learned to swim. Judging from the way everyone else eyeballed the water, they did not have any skill in it either.

Kael switched to his clouded leopard form and attempted to swim across. He found himself holding his breath as he paddled furiously to get across without much progress. I am quite certain I looked ridiculous as I attempted to doggie paddle my way. Lucien stunned me as he strode into the river and swam directly across to the other banking.

As we were trying to get across the strip of water, several spiders dropped from the trees and began attacking us. Samhein and D.W. had not yet attempted to cross, so were in perfect position to use their ranged skills against the creatures. With their attacks distracting the vermin, we were able to finish crossing and join the fray.

As the last spider dropped, we heard a horrible screech come from the center area of webbing, then a beast came racing toward Lucien and I. The creature was almost humanoid in shape, with arms and legs, but looked more like a cross between a human and a spider. It was revolting to look at. Everyone focused on the single creature and it did not take long to kill it.

For just a moment, while fighting it, I thought I heard it hiss at me that we would pay for killing it’s pets. I chose to keep that to myself as the others would think me mad. Obviously, a creature like this could not speak the common tongue.

We approached the webs with caution. Many cocoons were attached to them with partially eaten humans inside. I wondered if we should bring the bodies back to town, but the others assured me we should leave it to the town to take care of them. Since the creatures were now dead, the townsfolk could safely pass through here again.

When we returned to town, we went right to the mayor’s office to tell him what had transpired. The gaunt man sighed deeply with tears in his eyes. He told us he would have to see to the bodies and then speak with their families first. Then he would find us to give us our reward for helping them out.

The mayor was good to his word. After speaking with the families and dispatching people to retrieve the bodies, he sought us out. He handed over a bag of coins with gratitude for our help.

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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