Kingmaker: Reborn by Jaywaii | World Anvil Manuscripts | World Anvil

Chapter 5

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Evergreen Plains

Moonday, Asmolan 14th, 108 6A

The woman that the Evergreen Company rescued introduced herself as Gaetana, one of the local hunters.

"You have my thanks," she told them sincerely. "Had you not shown up, I surely would have been torn to shreds by those thylacines."

"Don't thylacines normally hunt at night?" Cethin inquired.

Gaetana nodded to him. "Indeed. I've never seen this many active at once during the day. I suspect the increased number of bandits in the region has something to do with it."

"Let us take you back to Onestrio's," Davona offered. "It's not likely safe to travel alone."

"I would be grateful for the escort," the hunter replied.

Davona turned to Arina. "There's no need for all of us to go. I can help some of us while the rest continue our exploration."

Arina nods in agreement. "Good idea. Cethin, Jupus, and I will continue surveying the area, while you, Dante, and Minchdoya escort Gaetana back. After a few days of exploration, we'll return to Onestrio's and regroup with you then."

After parting ways, Arina, Jupus, and Cethin spent the next several days exploring the Plains. They eventually came across a grisly sight.

Jupus whistled. "Now that's gruesome."

Before the trio was a large field littered with sun-bleached bones. Cethin bent down, and sifted through them.

"Animals bones, of various sizes," the kitsune informed them. "Oh wait, this one looks human. And a few over there, too." He stood up, and dusted his hands off his pants. "But aside from the bones, there doesn't appear to be much else in this 'bone valley'."

"Good name," Arina remarked. "Let me note that down on the map."

As she began writing down on their map, the ground rumbled right in front of them. Before the Company could react, an enormous spider, as large as a pony, erupted from the earth! It emitted a trilling hiss as it bared its fangs dripping with viscous fluids.

The giant spider latched onto Arina, and sank its fangs deep into her abdomen, injecting strength-sapping poison. She turned pale from the sudden loss of both strength and blood.

"Gods, get it off me!" she cried out. Cethin and Jupus exploded into action to aid their companion. Cethin began casting a spell, and Jupus nocked his bow.

The spider reacted swiftly. It released Arina, and ducked beneath the Cethin's ray of enfeeblement and Jupus' initial shot from his bow. It skittered across the field towards its next target, and snapped its fangs at Cethin. The kitsune fell backwards, but managed to avoid getting hurt.

The Evergreen Company of them circled the enormous spider. Even Arina, who clutched her bleeding side, had her sword drawn. It felt much heavier than usual, and sagged downwards. The girl fought to ignore the pain and the weariness permeating her body.

Despite the spider's size, it proved to be annoyingly nimble, and the Company had a hard time landing their attacks on it. At the same time, neither did the spider have much luck inflicting further harm on the companions. The Company whittled the large vermin down hit by hit. Even Arina, bleeding heavily, was able to deliver some good hits.

After defeating the giant spider, Cethin tended to Arina's wounds, although the spider's poison was still affecting her. The poor girl could barely stand in her own armor. While she rested to regain her strength, the party went on to investigate the spider's lair. In it they found the remains of a man. On him was a silver amulet shaped like a stag's head, and a crudely drawn map with a red 'X' marked on it. Cross-referencing the crude map with their more professionally drawn map led them to believe that the red 'X' points to one of the southern parts of the Gnarlwood forest.

"Think there's any relation to the Stag Lord?" Cethin asked.

"Hmm, very likely. Best hang onto it," Jupus said.

Arina recovered from the spider's poison quickly enough, and the party continued their exploration for the next several days. They did not encounter anything dangerous, but something new did happen to them each day. Ever since they came to this part of the Evergreen Plains, after defeating the giant spider, the three were suffering harmless, but annoying pranks every day.

The morning after the spider attack, they had put on their boots, only to painfully discover that little bones from the spider's nest were hidden within them.

Another time, they woke to find themselves covered in leaves sticky with honey.

And another time, their hair and clothing were temporarily shaded with an obscene collection of colours.

"What the Seven Hells is going on?" an exasperated Jupus asked.

"Probably fairies, nothing too much to worry about," Cethin nonchalantly answered while checking out his newly coloured fur.

Jupus was boggled. "You know what this is about? Why didn't you say anything?"

"Well, you didn't ask?"

One night, the party heard wolves growling all around them. Their sounds grew louder and louder as if they were closing in on them. As the party started packing up, the wolf sounds reached a crescendo. Then, a loud fart sound erupted. As the party realized that it was another prank, they could hear faint musical laughter.

"This is getting really old!" Jupus yelled out into the night in the Sylvan tongue. A faint fart noise was his only response.

An amused Cethin provided more details on prankster fey. Considering how easily these fairies set up their pranks on the watchful adventurers, they may have powers that would make it very difficult to confront head-on. The only real solution that was available was to leave gifts for them. Traditionally, fairies would stop their pranks upon befriending them. For a moment, Arina and Jupus thought they heard faint laughter coming from Cethin's ring.

From then on, the party left out gifts of potions, gold, and jewelry each night in hopes to stop the pranks.

Jupus left out mostly bread and cheese. Cethin pointed out that those were not very useful gifts to fey, that they liked sweet things. "It's fine," Jupus said.

On another morning, the three found their weapons missing. After a brief search, they discovered that the weapons were each hidden in a different person's belongings.

"How did they do this without us noticing?!" an exasperated Jupus exclaimed. "This is unacceptable, we can't let people mess with us this way."

The party continued their exploration in the direction of the fangberry thicket that Donato pointed out to them when they rescued him. Aside from a chance encounter with a giant snake, which they killed easily, their journey was uneventful, though they still suffered daily pranks. It appears their gifts were not sufficient in impressing the fey. And they still could not detect them even after setting up watches.

The thicket was nestled in a low valley between two small hills. It was also covered by a gossamer blanket of webs. As the party approached, they saw plenty of fangberries, but also plenty of sharp thorns on their branches. The three waded into the thicket to collect the berries. While doing so, they received many cuts and scratches from the thorns.

"Ouch! I hope Onestrio appreciates these berries," Arina said as she cut herself again while grabbing another handful of berries.

"Wait, Onestrio? He didn't ask us for any berries," Jupus said. "You sure it wasn't Sabina?"

"No, she wanted moon radishes, which the others should have brought back with them. Wait, then how did we know about this place?"

"Wasn't it that trapper Donato? But he just told us about this place. I don't recall him asking us to collect any fangberries."

"You mean to say we're getting all cut up for berries no one even asked us to get?" Arina moaned and facepalmed. A streak of blood from her cut hand left a trail on her face.

"Maybe it had something to do with that Biaggio fella, the potion-maker. Something about adding flavour to the potions? Ouch!"

"Hey guys…" said Cethin fairly weakly. "I got… my share of the… berries…"

The kitsune witch held up a small satchel filled with fangberries, but he was swaying on his feet. The others could see that his fur was matted with streaks of his own blood.

Their attention was turned to a growing sound of chittering. Peering closely, they saw a carpet of thumb-size spiders emerge from the thicket, heading straight towards them!

"Nyaarh!" Jupus uttered as the swarm of spiders crawled all over him, being the closest. The gnome could feel their tiny little legs crawling all over him. Fortunately, their bites did not yet get through his armor and clothing.

Cethin stretched out his hand, and invoked burning hands onto the swarm. He burned a few off, but the swarm just seemed to keep growing. The party took one look at that, went "Nope!", and bugged out of the area on their horses and ponies as soon as they could.

The Company rode in the northeast direction. After a day's ride, they made camp, and planned to resume their exploration in the morning. During the night, they thought to use their fangberries as an offering to the still unseen fey. However, in the morning, their piles of fangberries were still there. However, they appeared to have been washed clean, and piled neatly on leaves.

"Oh, they're just fucking with us now," Jupus muttered.

Continuing their exploration, the party arrived at what was marked as Biaggio's hut on their map. It was a crude hut made of mud with a grassy roof. A light inside the window and smoke from a chimney indicated that it was occupied. Dismounting, the party approached and knocked on the door.

"Eh? Who's there? What you want?" a screechy old man's voice called out from within.

"Sir? We're the Evergreen Company, and we heard we might acquire potions here," Arina replied.

"Eh, business? Alrighty, be right there!" The door to the hut opened, revealing an old human man dressed in ragged clothing. His white hair and beard were scraggly and unkempt. "Name's Biaggio, whatcha need?"

The party introduced themselves to Biaggio. "Well, we seem to be tailed by some fey causing pranks on us. We were wondering if you might have anything that we can use to appease them, like baked sweets, or sugar water," Arina asked.

Biaggio chuckled. "Problems with fairies, eh? Yeah, they like to do that to newcomers around here. Well, I do know they like potions. Which I got plenty of. For sale."

The party members gave each other a look. "Of… course. By the way, we have these fangberries with us. Would you happen to need them?"

Biaggio's eyes perked up. "Hey, fangberries! Perfect timing, supply's been running out. I use 'em in my potions. Gives 'em a sweet flavour. How much you got there?"

"About three handfuls, all cleaned and washed."

"Ooh, nice and clean! Usually I just dump 'em in as is. Hmm, tell you what. You give me these shares, and about four more to fill up my supply, and I'll give y'all a 25% discount on all potions for da month."

"Hmm, well a month-long discount doesn't seem long," Arina said.

"Well, don't need to be a one-time thing. Every month, you give me seven handfuls of fangberries, you get the discount."

While the party agreed to this deal, Cethin had an idea, and snuck off. Out of sight from everyone, Cethin used his natural kitsune abilities to make himself look like Onestrio. He then came back, and everyone thought that he really was a tradesman.

"Onestrio! Surprised to see you here," Arina said. "Wait, where did Cethin go?"

"Oh, don't worry, I passed him on my way here," Cethin-as-Onestrio said. "He said he had to hurry back to the trade post for something."

Turning to Biaggio, the disguised kitsune said, "Hey there, Biaggio! Here to pick up some potions!"

"Eh, Onestrio? Surprised to see you here. Usually I bring'em to you," Biaggio said, peering closely at Cethin. However, he seemed to believe that this was the genuine Onestrio.

"Yeah, I had some free time, and needed the walk. So, got my supply?"

"Sure! Got the gold?"

Cethin froze. "Uh… not on me. Sabina should've brought it to you."

"Nope? And you sent your wife out alone with the gold? That's odd of ya."

Feeling a bit sweaty, Cethin backed off. "Oh, you're right. Must've misremembered. Nevermind then, I'll head back and wait for the usual shipment back at the trade post. See you!" And Cethin-as-Onestrio shuffled off in a hurry.

A few minutes later, a normal looking Cethin came back and rejoined the group.

"Cethin? I thought Onestrio said you headed back to the trade post?" Arina asked.

"Uh, yeah. Remembered it wasn't really that important, so… yeah."

The party let the matter drop. Arina bought a fangberry-flavoured potion from Biaggio. With night falling, the party made camp, and Arina left out the potion as a gift to the still unseen fey.

Her generosity would not go unrewarded. During the middle of the night, both Jupus and Cethin found their slumber interrupted as they were awoken by a sharp prick in their backsides. Upon closer examination, the cause turned out to be thorns from the fangberry thicket. Jupus swatted it away with annoyance, yet still shouted out into the night "This won't get to me!"

Nearby, Arina enjoyed a very comfortable night's rest.

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