A Noble Cause for Mellem

A beginning
A story has to start somewhere

Anya glares down at the blank parchment in front of her. She was uncertain how to start her story. To tell of the moment she had left her home was boring at best. Or to talk of the various things she had done until meeting up with the adventurers she was now with seemed inconsequential. One has to capture their audience immediately and hold their interest. Not an easy task, especially for a beginner.

She reaches down into her leather satchel and pulls out a weatherbeaten, leatherbound book and lovingly caresses the cover. It is clear the book is old, yet well taken care of. The young woman opens the pages carefully and looks over her entries. As she scans the pages, a soft frown touches her lips.

I met with Talista again today. She is still distraught over her missing son Rory. She continues to draw those horrible portraits of him on the fliers and post them everywhere. I doubt they will do her any good since she has not the slightest talent in art. The portraits are much like a toddler scribbling coal upon a parchment, but I have not the heart to tell her so. I met Rory some time back, before he began his first adventure. He looks nothing like her sketches.

As much as she doted upon her only son, I often wonder if he has stayed away a bit longer than intended only for a breath of relief from her smothering him with affection. Although it is not my place to judge another family, I cannot help but wonder.

The excerpt made her feel agitated, yet it intertwined with her current story. It was necessary to start here. She gently flips the page to continue reading. The next entry told of her meeting some of her companions there in Bellshank. They had come across one of Talista’s fliers after one of them had found an item of Rory’s.

After meeting them, Talista had her hopes up that they would soon bring her boy home. The adventurers had then gone back to where they had previously found a clue to his where abouts to search for him. When they returned, they brought the body of a boy matching his general description, only it wasn’t Rory. The group had made sure this time they obtained enough details about Rory that they would able to clearly identify him when they found him.

Since Bellshank did not yet have a temple, the group decided a simple burial was required. The young human male named Dale brought the body into the woods. He gave the unidentified boy a proper burial. Though Dale was clearly not a cleric, he apparently was a dedicated follower of Pelor and gave the body a descent funeral. Afterwards, he knelt over the fresh grave and gave a silent prayer to his deity to tend to the young soul. As he stood, he spotted Anya leaning against a tree, watching him with keen interest.

He was quick to explain that he had not been stealing, nor had he been the cause of death for the lad. Dale explained his actions in a rush, as if his reputation meant a great deal and he did not relish the idea of anyone thinking ill of him. He openly discussed what his party was doing in town, what they had previously been up to, and what future plans they had. The boy was eager to tell of his good deeds.

After some conversation, Anya set the fighter to a task in town. She had learned of a local farmer dealing with some manner of creature attacking his livestock. The two set out to dispatch the creatures that night. Dale praised Pelor with a shout, then quickly rid the farmer of his problems. He then asked Anya where he could find the farmers so he could assure them the creatures were gone and to assure them that Pelor had blessed them that night.

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Sprite
Sprite with bad taste

Days later, I ran into the fighter at the local ale tent. He introduced his new companion, a fine looking elf, as Lucien. I felt butterflies in my stomache the moment I set her eyes on him. I studied him from beneath my eyelashes, not wanting him to see how interested I was in him. He wore earth toned clothing as if to blend in with his surroundings. He constantly keeps an eye on everyone, looking nonchalant at the same time, and he has a rugged timbre to his voice.

After inviting me to join them, Lucien told me to order whatever I wanted for a drink. With a smirk, I asked for Elven Moondrop. The tavern keeper was elated to find a buyer for the bottle of Elven wine he had kept carefully tucked behind the bar. I let out a giggle, knowing how expensive it was for such a fancy drink. When the tavern keeper asked for the two hundred twenty gold, the elf hesitated for the briefest of moments before handing over two pearls in payment. It astonished me that he didn’t cancel the order, for clearly he had not known the cost of such a thing. Instead, he shared a cup with each of us before discreetly pouring the rest into a wineskin and tucking it away.

We talked for a while about various topics. Dale excused himself early to run an errand and then seek a bed for the night. Lucien and I sought a resting place and retired together.

The next morning, the three of us decided to head to the town of Thelamar, which wasn’t but a few days of travel. From what little information we had, it seemed that Rory may have headed there last. It has been difficult trying to pick up his trail as his mother is of the impression he went just outside of town. The family friend Bing had sent him to a simple cave southward where he couldn’t get into trouble. Now we are finding Rory may have gone in an entirely different direction.

We stopped at the well to refill our waterskins. As Dale dropped the bucket into the water, we heard someone cry out from deep within the well. A soft, feminine voice begged for help. Dale told her to hold onto the bucket and he would pull her out. He was amazed how little effort it took to winch the bucket up. When it reached the top, he was astounded to find a tiny being in the bucket.

Turned out to be a sprite of some sort. She cried as she told us how she came to be in that well. A thief had stolen her amulet and trapped her in the well. In a tearful voice, she pleaded an escort back to her home so she would feel safe. Dale plopped her in one of the saddlebags of his mule for her “comfort” on the trip.

The home she led us to was a cozy little cottage. The hairs on the back of Lucien’s neck stood on end as he eyed the building. He immediately began interogating the sprite and his suspicions rose with each evasive answer she gave. She tried to convince him that this was her home. He angered as he realized she had duped them.

While we stood arguing with the creature, the occupant in the cabin snuck up on our group. The stranger fired off a spell which instantly killed the sprite. We tried to calm him down, but he would have none of it. When he continued to try to kill everyone, we had no choice but to defend ourselves.

Lucien searched the cottage afterward, to find the amulet the sprite had spoken so fondly of. The only amulet he found was nothing to be admired as it was both ugly and crudely made. He pocketed the Butt ugly amulet with disgust, hoping to find an answer later as to why she had wanted it so badly.

We returned to Bellshank feeling ashamed for having been so easily mislead. Adventuring is not as easy as I had thought it would be. Find abhorrent monsters and kill them. Seek out evil and destroy it. Everything should be black and white, should it not?

Dale told me about his friend D.W., a halfling with red hair. He said they had not seen him around for the last couple days and asked if I would tell him where they had gone as they were heading to Thelamar. Since I needed to stay in town due to previous comittments, I parted ways with the two of them shortly afterwards.

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Foolish choices
Common sense fails

The afternoon, after having seperated from Anya, Dale and Lucien went seeking their other fellow adventurers. After walking up and down the streets of Bellshank, they finally found two of them – Josias and Valda.

Josias was a wizard who had taken an immediate dislike to Lucien which was quite mutual. Something about the mage was an irritant to the rogue.

Valda was a druid who seemed confused about her role as both an adventurer and as a druid. Just days before, the rest of the party had been obliged to stop her from killing a wounded bear rather than healing it. More still, she seemed uncertain of her role in combat.

The four headed out immediately after stocking up on supplies. They reached Thelamar without issues. After quenching their thirst at the local tavern, they seperated to see if anyone had seen Rory pass through. Josias lucked out by finding a merchant who had seen Rory and remembered him. The merchant was able to give details confirming it was indeed Rory. He even recalled that Rory had spoken of pursuing the Salvus Expedition. When Josias asked for further information on the legend of the Salvus Expedition, the merchant suggested Josias speak with the town’s sage, Foxcuss.

Not wasting any time, Josias went secretly to meet the sage. The old man he met up with shouted a greeting to him, then insisted the mage drink the tea he offered. Josias drank it despite the horrid taste as he listened to the crazed old man, shouting every word, tell of an old historical tome that had been left at the town’s former tavern just outside of town. He claimed it had a detailed history of Mellem and there were important details in the book.

Josias headed directly to the old tavern to see if he couldn’t grab hold of the tome alone. What he found was an old building with boarded up windows and an aura of transmutation about it. Common sense finally settled in and the wizard headed back to town to find his companions to help him with the task.

With the rest of the group in tow, Josias returned to the former tavern, telling his companions that he needed a tome from inside and there was an aura of magic about the place. He gave no further information, so the group opted to trust him and headed in. It didn’t take long to realize the task was not so simple as numerous objects came to life and attacked them. A large rug tried to swallow Dale whole as several chairs attempted to slam into him.

I never met the wizard, but found what little I knew of him to be disappointing. A wizard who didn’t simply use magic to obtain the book? One would think he could have used mage hand to simply reach out and grab the book without endangering the entire party. It is no wonder he met his end that day.

The fighter took on the objects while the rogue tried to locate the book. The confused druid watched for a bit before going after one of the chairs. Then the wizard chose to fight up close with his dagger. He repeatedly poked the rug that was slapping Dale until the rug noticed him and slapped Josias instead. He collapsed on the floor, bleeding profusely from his wounds. The druid saw him drop to the floor, but decided to continue fighting instead.

When the group finally managed to defeat the objects, it was the rogue who was first to the fallen wizard’s side. Unfortunately for the wizard, it was too late.

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A Simple Task - part 1
The sage's dungeon

Shortly after Dale and Lucien had left with their associates, I found the halfling Dale had told me about. What an interesting creature he turned out to be. He is very quiet, almost hesitant to speak. He has kind gray eyes and red hair. While I have only met a few halflings, he seems far too serious for his kind.

Since I would like very much to see Lucien again, I have offered to accompany D.W. to Thelamar. He agreed, so we left immediately. It was a rather quiet journey. I talked about some of the things going on around Bellshank of late and tried to draw him into conversation. His answers are rather brief, though he is not rude about it.

Not long after reaching Thelamar, we ran into Dale, Lucien, and Valda. It was then I learned they had lost one of their party members, a wizard named Josias. Everyone was upset, but it was the elf who held my interest. I suggested he walk with me so we could talk in private.

Dale updated D.W. on what had transpired. They both took a look at the tome, but neither could understand the strange writings inside. It looked like gibberish to them. They then went seeking the owner of the book. D.W. kept getting a strange feeling he was being watched as they made their way to the sage’s home.

Once again, the sage was shouting to them as if deaf. He was delighted at the recovery of his tome. Before answering any of their questions, he insisted the pair drink some of his special tea. Dale was unable to keep the vile fluid down, which the old man found amusing. He told them he would only tell them what he knew if they could pass his test. Only if they were worthy would they be able to handle what he knew. His instructioned them on his rules for the test and told them to see him when they were ready to leave. They agreed they would come back when they were ready to go.

On the way back to meet the others, D.W. again had the feeling someone was watching him. He spotted a figure skulking along behind him and devised a plan with Dale to see who the figure was after. In short order, they managed to catch the person. It was a young man claiming to only want to adventure with them as he was alone. << Really horrible intro of new character to game >>

In the meantime, Valda had gone to the public bath, an oddity for a druid, as she preferred the heated water to natural surroundings. While there, a scruffy looking man with horrid breath and missing teeth offered to scrub Valda’s back for her. He continued to harrass her as she quickly dried off, tossed on her blouse, and left with the rest of her clothes shoved under her arm. She headed straight for the tavern, hoping to find her associates there.

The three males were sitting in the tavern when a partially dressed Valda rushed in. On her heels was a naked, lecherous looking man who aimed straight for the druid, his hands outstretched to grope her. Dale took one glance at the wretch and cold konked him. Zephyr, the newest member of the party, helped him drag the unconscious man out of the tavern to toss upon the ground unceremoniously.

After supping, the four went their seperate ways to sleep for the night, agreeing to meet at the tavern in the morning. When the sun rose, they headed back to see the sage as he had instructed. He gave them each a potion to drink immediately and watched them carefully to see that they did so. He shook his head at their not even questioning him as to what the potion was.

The quest he gave them was simple. Find his missing chess piece, a white rook, and return it to him. Enter the hidden passage of the ruins but do not return the same way. Survive and come back to see him. Only then will he believe they were capable of figuring out the Salvus Expedition. If they could not manage this simple task, they had no business seeking out something as complicated as an expedition.

The foursome headed directly to the ruins as directed. They found what looked to be a well upon the flat surface. When they looked into it, they found it was a covering to a room 60 feet below the ground they stood upon. With some rope and a few unexpected falls, they managed to descend to the room below.

The entrance room held four large, marble statues – a rogue, a wizard, a fighter, and a bard. When everyone was finally in the room, several of the party had healed themselves with potions and such (the druid apparently forgot once again that she could heal).

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A simple task - part 2
The sage's dungeon

Journal entry 12-12-10

A simple task – part 2

When Lucien had separated from the group to walk with Anya, he told her of the details of the encounter with the animated objects. He had been extremely confused about the entire affair. How could a druid not put healing first? What made the wizard think he could battle head to head with magical creatures? And how did he get mixed in with such inept people?? The fighter seemed capable enough to him. He had not seen enough of the halfling scout to pass judgment yet, but the wizard and druid perplexed him.

Anya listened without interruption as Lucien spoke. She had no experience of her own to relate, so she simply sat quietly until he was finished.

The next morning, they were walking just outside of town when they spotted Dale, D.W., Valda, and Zephyr walking purposefully into the woods. Lucien decided to find out what they were up to, so he quickly returned to town to grab his gear, then headed off in the direction he’d last seen his group. Anya returned to town to run some errands.

As Lucien searched the area for his companions, he found their tracks at a stone ruin. Walking up the steps, he could see a rope that was tied to a tree. The rope led across the stone flooring, then just disappeared in the middle of the flooring about three feet in the air. Frowning, he lifted the rope and more of it came toward him. He cautiously approached the spot where the rope disappeared and could hear the voices of his companions from below.

Lucien stared at the flooring in front of him. Figuring it might be an illusion of some sort, he began feeling around with his hands and discovered a circular stone wall in front of him that was about three feet in height. He carefully climbed over the well shaped wall and, using the rope, lowered himself down. As he dropped below floor level, he could see his companions down below him.

With Lucien now among them, the group made their way down the only corridor leading from the entrance room. It lead them to an area with runes on the floor just before a set of stairs leading up into another room. They halted to allow Lucien to search for traps as the runes concerned them. He quickly located one and began dismantling it. Impatient, Dale decided not to wait. He stepped on the pressure plate Lucien was working on, which dropped the plate onto the rogue’s fingers. Lucien let out an involuntary shout of pain and glared at Dale who uttered a quick apology as he moved up the stairs.

Of course, stepping on the plate triggered something. They heard a loud creaking of metal and the sound of whirring gears in the room ahead of them. It didn’t sound good.

As Lucien set back to the task of dismantling the trap, Zephyr decided to follow Dale’s lead and darted across the same pressure plate. Once again, Lucien’s fingers were crushed, though this time he was sure it was intentional as the fool let out a girly giggle. Lucien cursed Zephyr for his idiocy, then returned to his task. D.W. stood patiently, allowing the rogue the time he needed.

Dale and Zephyr were amazed at the device in the upper room. A center pole in the room held a set of gears that sent blades whirling round it at intermittent heights and speeds. Approaching slowly, Dale searched for a way to slide under the blades, but saw that one of the blades whirled low to the ground and none allowed one to jump over them. Nor could he see a way to time himself and run through without being sliced.

Several minutes passed before Lucien finished. The room went silent as the gears came to a grinding halt. Everyone quickly made their way past the device in case it started up again. None relished the idea of being dissected by the blades.

Toward the end of the room, they could see a statue with two hands held palm up. Each hand held and item, one a dagger and one a wand. Two vents were in the floor a few paces in front of the statue.

Dale looked over the situation, then walked past the vents to view the items in the statue’s hands. As he passed over the vents, some form of gas seeped into that area nauseating him. He asked aloud if he should pick up the items, but D.W. advised against it. Seeing a small corridor to his left, Dale stepped out of range of the gas until he could settle his stomach again.

Zephyr and Valda grabbed both items from the statue only to be pricked on the hand by the two pieces. While Zephyr was able to shrug off the poisonous effect, Valda found herself suffering her health. , then replaced both, then took them both again. Things got crazy from there. They didn’t try thinking anything through, just chaotically snatching and replacing the items in random order.

Several times, Valda just stood there not having a clue what to do. Without Zephyr to give her specific instructions as to what to do next, the druid would just stand there saying “Ummmmmm, what should I do?” < The group aptly dubbed her “Lady Um” >.

D.W. attempted to break off one of the blades from the trap so he could cover the vents or wave some of the gas away, but they were well built and didn’t budge. In the meantime, Lucien headed over to see where Dale had disappeared. Turns out, there was an invisible barrier preventing anyone from leaving the room. They deduced the statue might hold the key to their release.

Since most of the group was nauseated and they weren’t getting anywhere with figuring out how to stop the gas, they finally decided to move out of the area of it’s effect and rest for a bit until the nausea passed.

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A simple task - part 3
The sage's dungeon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A simple task - part 4
The sage's dungeon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Are you Valda?” he asked.

“Ummm, yeah.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hobgoblins are like Orcs
In search of Hobgoblins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Need a bag
Lucien's search for a HHH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Got Mule?
Forgetting the mule hurts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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