Jesse Devonshire Character in Legends of Elohey | World Anvil

Jesse Devonshire

Jesse Devonshire (a.k.a. "Beefriend")

Druids seek to preserve the natural order of life. Your friendly neighborhood Druid, Jesse, is the guy you call if your rutabagas are going nowhere this year, or if a swarm of bees have taken up residence in your attic. He's a great listener, gets things done, and doesn't ask for much in return.

Physical Description

General Physical Condition

Human male, 6'1" tall, 240 lbs,. He is athletic, muscular, ruggedly handsome, and carries himself like a personal sports trainer.

Body Features

He obviously spends a lot of time working out.

Facial Features

Brown hair & eyes, keeps his hair and whiskers very short

Identifying Characteristics

He has no tattoos, piercings, nor any other body decorations.

Apparel & Accessories

His basic style is brown leather and exposed muscle.

Specialized Equipment

  • Boots of the Cat (land on your feet taking minimum damage from any fall). Jesse has been wearing these but hasn't taken a fall lately.
  • Druid's Vestment (over armor, one extra Wild Shape per day). Jesse has been wearing this as a kilt. He dons the vestment like a bathrobe, ties on a belt, and then pulls the top off of his shoulders and lets it hang down the back. (I assume it doesn't have sleeves.) In order to get the benefit, he has to be wearing it after he has used up his two innate Wild Shapes per day.
  • Pending GM Approval: Wooden Lamellar Armor (based on the Japanese design of hard bamboo sewn onto supple leather) I would like to lampshade the glaring flaw that Jesse shows a lot of skin yet has 4 points of armor. I would like to say that Jesse bought a magical Armored Vest that gives all the benefits and liabilities of wearing Wooden Lamellar Armor, but it can be donned and doffed much faster. Some magical armor smith passing through Aquitaine thought everybody would love it, but everybody thought it looked dumb, compared to Bracers of Armor+4, which can be worn in addition to real armor, or worn by mages. Except Jesse loved it.
  • Druidic Alchemist's Atlatl (hurls potions, clubs heads) and Splash Weapons (in belt pouches, Acid, Alchemist Fire, Tanglefoot.) Jesse stored these under the bench seat of the beer wagon. He will pull them out when he runs out of spells (like tonight) or if we have to fight in a barn with flammable hay everywhere (like tonight).
Shortly after midnight edged into Grolm 9th, 575, Jesse noticed a single bald cypress seed (a tiny, beige little thing that looks kind of like a deformed shelled walnut) tucked inside the band around the crown of his hat. This is a suspended spell, loaned to him by the Naiad of Arjory Pond after she was impressed by the young druid:
Although it was cast at 12th level, once Jesse triggers it, despite costing him no Spell Points at all, it will operate within the limits of a 6th level caster's work: if used as a bow, it will fire six times; if used to form a bridge, it will stretch up to 60 feet long and last for up to six minutes, plus give Jesse's allies a boost or Jesse's enemies a penalty equal to Jesse's Wisdom bonus in regard to bridge use.
The spell must be used up before winter 578.

Mental characteristics

Personal history

Synopsis: He gave up the magical life for oneness with nature, and never looked back.

Gender Identity

100% Male


100% Hetero. Jesse would gladly engage in casual sex with someone who shares a genuine mutual attraction, but he does not encounter such a person often. Women in the big city of Aquitaine whom he met were either fully absorbed by their careers, or believed that sex only should occur after a commitment, or believed that casual sex is fine as long as they were getting paid. All of those attitudes were a turn-off to Jesse's simple viewpoint.   The situation hasn't arisen as to what Jesse might do or consent to do in Wild Shape animal form.

Intellectual Characteristics

Perhaps having roots in Jesse's upbringing, he is a very attentive listener. His normal human empathy is finely honed from dealing with his stoic father his whole life. He closely reads people like books, the same as he does to animals and plants. To him a conversation is give-and-take whether he is telling a tale, or listening to one. To him a person's emotions and body language are as important as words, (and books can never equal a live speaker.) Jesse feels a genuine love for all living things, so what townspeople take for an extroverted personality is really a desire to communicate more deeply than most. It is not that life alone in the wild makes him crave conversation with townsfolk; on the contrary, he is engaged in just as much conversation with the flora and fauna as any tavern bard in town is with patrons.However, Jesse does have those times when he needs to back off from the bustling world and listen to his own wants and goals and needs.

Morality & Philosophy

Jesse sees any situation as a growing organism, and prefers to use subtle prods to make things develop as he prefers.   If a natural area (or town) has a responsible guardian (druid or otherwise), then Jesse respects the guardian's authority, unless the guardian is shown to love power more than responsibility..

Personality Characteristics


Jesse is going for True Neutral, but leans toward Good.He likes to see all living things prosper and not suffer, but predators and prey need to balance each other or they both suffer in the long run.


He prefers to eat only what can be eaten without killing aplant or animal, but it can't be entirely ignored that MotherNature made some plants and animals pretty darn tasty. Heexercises for stamina and strength every second day, andmakes sure to eat a healthy druidic diet whenever possible.   He bathes more than most, using herbal soaps he makes from ashes and fats and herbs.


Contacts & Relations

Low Level Contact with Aquitaine's Sheriff Balor and the SNAFU Guild.

Ruggedly athletic Druid protecting Nature. If chins could kill, he'd be a walking danger zone. Character portrait created by Chip Malinowski using City of Heroes.

View Character Profile
True Neutral (with Good tendencies)
Date of Birth
Jesse does not know his birthday. His father never celebrated it.
Athkatla, Capitol city of Amn
Current Residence
Male, very
Brown, short
Skin Tone/Pigmentation
Brown, tanned
6' 1"
240 lbs
Known Languages
Common, Kayam (Druids), Aptupian (Sylvan Creatures), Elvish ((replace with either Fa'lain or Coirili as player prefers!))

Articles under Jesse Devonshire

20210911 The Loose Ends
Grolm 13th, 578

I looked all over but couldn't find Master Farvald Kerner's little seed. He always leaves one behind when he dies. I sent a few messages to Bruthasmus in case he found it. (He found it last time.) Miro had the idea to plant the seed in holy ground and water it with holy water, and maybe he will grow back a little good, or neutral, or at least less evil this time. My speed-growing his seed last time didn't help him much at all.   Still, he will be glad to hear I succeeded with his "let's kick all the demons out of Sarsaparilla Ranch" plan. Or extraplanar creatures, or whatever you want to call them. Those Ministry Scholars, they have another word for EVERYTHING. I have half a mind to ride down to the south end of Warden Road and find the Ministry's Scholarly Alchemist Building, or school or whatever, and tell them what loose cannons they are.   Wrong Way keeps reminding me that that will have to wait. I have too many responsibilities now.  
  • I need to save the Cavate. Figure out who is still living there. Plant some mycorrhizal mushrooms. Bring some pollenating insects. It needs a non-hostage-based water supply, too.
  • And that Lone Pine just outside the cavate, it needs a source of water too.
  • I need to check out that weird kind of rock and make sure it is not bad for plants or evil or anything.
  • I need to check in with the SNAFU Posse at the guild house regularly to see if they are doing alright with their quests and plans.
  • I need to attend the regular Druidic Council meetings on the holy days. And I need to pay more attention when I do show up. There are a lot of skills I need to sharpen to handle situations like MFK and Ministry Alchemists. I'll bet some Druid besides myself has heard of them.
  • And I need to check in on Purgatory Gulch as it repopulates. Make sure the animals left behind have caretakers in whatever farmers and ranchers come back. And starting now, every farm is a ranch, and every ranch is a farm.
  • But I'm not the only one with responsibilities.   The former residents of Purgatory Gulch are having a trial for Lucky, who was one of the surviving instigators of the whole mess of playing both sides, the Ranchers and Farmers, against each other progressively worse each year for TOO LONG.   If I find any time, I have an idea that I could do some experimenting in the "Port of Alchemy" in Aquitaine. Rent some workbench time. I'll bet of all people, I could make a lotion or potion that gives me thick skin like Dagnabbit when I'm not Wild Shaping myself. And there was that other old idea I had, "Jesse's Farm Boy Feet", a lotion that will make your feet as tough as if you were wearing moccasins. I'll bet that would be popular if I made a big batch of it. It might work on hands too.   Lots of ideas. But I only get one day at a time.

    20210828 Big Finish
    Grolm 13th, 578

    I said we'd make short work of all those demons possessing the cows, and I was... exaggerating a little.   Eventually, we, the SNAFU Posse got the job done to make the world safer for Ranchers and Farmers alike. And both of them took a massive beating from their little mistakes toward each other that added up to heartbreak for all of them.   I should go chronologically.   Sephia and I basically decided to go meet up with Bruthasmus, basically. He was in the middle of exorcising the demon out of Faith Harnel, the ranch hand. If you are not a cleric, that's a two-person job, as Lee Chung and I found out earlier. So, I shouted out for Lee Chung.   Uh, then I ran around a bit. There was something with another blood cabbage I planted out away from the commotion. It has been a REALLY long day. Gave it some clean water. Went in the building and saw totally desecrated herb gardens. Must fix that. Oh, Lee Chung found me and gave me two bottles from the Baccheri Caravan that were fine enough to hold genies and demons and stuff like that. Wrong Way gave me some beeswax to seal them up. Ready.   The Hell-Princess-Cow-Lady who I guess was running the show after we bottled her boyfriend who was leading the Army of Evil was in the building I heard. (Oh, we should like bury that bottle for a thousand years or something.) But out comes this Hell-Woolie-Sheep-Ram with bonus evil glowing armor and weapons. Easy enough. Sephia handled that. That seemed to finally reach the end of the supply of demon-possessed cows and bulls and sheep and rams.   I got in there with Bruthasmus exorcising Faith and Mystery and Justice and bottling up the demons and stuff.   Then it was time to sweep the building. Found a desecrated herb garden. Gotta clean up that. Found two hot chimneys and evil markings on the ground for making more hell-bovines I guess. Gotta clean up that.   She's gone. Retreated. We'll call that a win.   We all searched around all over to make sure it was all over.   I found my hat and fun boots.   Princess and Chica got back together again. Yay. They have a few surviving ranch hands. Yay. And Princess has the deed to her ranch. Yay. And I think Miro gave them back the skull of their grandfather, I think. Long story about that. So, yay?   The three really evil demonly weapons (Fun, Games, and that glowing Shepherd's Crook that that last Hell-Ovine had) all disappeared from where they landed on the battlefields. Maybe they fade away when their owners die or become powerless. I hope so.   We got into the wagon to check on all the loose ends.   Whew!

    20210814 Mark your calendar. I put on a shirt.
    Grolm 13th, 578

    Ok, so, remember I had used the skills I learned at the Druidic Gathering last year to transform my shape into that of a large beast, my recent friend, Dagnabbit. He's like, something like a wooly rhinoceros, so I was BIG at this point.   Well I smelled my friend Miro, the magician, well, not really, kinda like a Stormborn magician, but more of a sailor. If you've met him, you know how hard it is to put a label on him.   So, anyway, he's all wrapped up in this lasso with thorns that glow a little evil green, so that explains everything. He got into a fight with one of the Hell-Hands, a Ranch Hand who got possessed by a demon, and he or she used his or her lasso, which was also possesses by a demon, or enchanted, or whatever it is they do to make all their stuff hurt a lot.   So I chew on it. I have good teeth for chewing fibrous plants.   Snap! He gets himself free.   So there are other Hell-Bovines still needing a severe smashing. I can smell them and hear them pretty well. I'd prefer to call up my friends the Oatman Crawler scorpions who were having a really ON day earlier, but I'm a huge piece of furniture with horns now, and I already called in pretty much all my favors for the day, so hitting them with my head is the plan.   Oh, wait. There was that time I tried to trample the Hell-Bovines and my friends were right there next to them and I wound up hurting everybody. And Farvald died again. That was sad. I do NOT want to repeat that again.   And, honestly, it seems like Farvald dies like twice a week ever since I met him. I don't know how he got so unlucky. But I'm sure I can find his seed and plant him back to life again like last time. Where was that? Yipes! I think it was by the evil gate to hell over by the barn. I need to search there and find his seed before Miro and Bruthasmus play some practical joke on him.   Oh, what's that I hear? One of the Hell-Bovines just scrammed away from the puppy pile. I'll call her Moo 1 just for simplicity. You and Wrong Way know the routine by now. Head down. Full speed charge. Blam! Problem solved.   Uh oh. There's a Vampire cabbage between my toes! Poor little guy. It works for Farvald and is just looking for some demonic rump roast to sink its little fangs into. I pick it up in my mouth. I can find some butt for it to kick.   How about that other one I hit earlier who ran off? Let's call her Moo 2. I can smell her tracks going off that way, south west. Mmm, walk this time, fast walk. What do you call that when you have four legs? Not gallop. Trot? Whatever.   Hey, there's a kind of a... place with, uh, well, cactus of course, grasses kinda. Oh, there's a word for it. It will come to me. Wrong Way probably knows. Ok, grass, cactus. Moo 2. That way. Rock. Big rock. Somebody maybe wanted me to think that Nature and Brother Wind shaped it like a human skull, but nice try, no, somebody did a little hammer and chisel here and there on this huge piece of pumice, or lava, or... There's a word for it. I'm sure there's a word for this kind of rock. It will come to me.   OK. STOP. That's enough thinking like a beast of burden (and down-smacking).   I stop and focus.   I return from my wild shape to human form. I'm Jesse again.   Darn it. I'm barefoot. My fun boots are back there near the evil portal to hell. I hope that's still closed again like I left it. I really need to make an alchemical ointment that makes the skin of your feet as tough as moccasins. That would be great. I could sell that and make a business in Athkatla if I could hire a local alchemist to keep mixing up batches after I develop the recipe. And at that point I'm buying Wrong Way a great big piece of honeycomb full up with honey. He's such a good friend.   Stop it. The human brain is working, but there are all these thoughts I haven't been thinking while I was in beast form.   I stop and focus.   I'm carrying a vampire cabbage in my arms, and walking looking for Moo 2. She is in such trouble when I find...   Found her. I can see her right over there.   oh.   She's on all fours munching plants. That seems pretty un-demon-ey. Anticlimactic too. I don't have any beef with a normal cow. Oh. Haha. Word play. What, does the plant life here dispel demons? Or the big stone skull? What were these ruins? Duh. Temple.   Ooh. Temple = Clerics, nine out of ten times. Clerics can sometimes dispel demons. We really should have brought Padre. And a weather cleric who can make it rain in the desert. Focus. Moo 2.   Oh, and there goes the vampire cabbage I almost forgot I was carrying. It got Moo 2 right in the face. She's like ten times the...   Come on, Wrong Way, let's separate those two.   Ew, ok, I've pulled *most* of the vampire cabbage away from the cow. No more fangs on it. On either one of them.   Ok, if there was any demon left in Moo 2, then it would have attacked the vampire cabbage, not run off like that. Well, it's a cow on a ranch. Best to leave it.   Now this battered and bruised vampire cabbage; maybe if I plant it on this holy ground or next to anti-demon plants or whatever right here in the ground , it will be less... well, it was never demony in the first place, just carnivorous. I wonder if there are rats to eat around here. Pretty much nobody cares if a rat gets eaten. Or a housefly. That's pretty much their missions in life.   Focus.   Get a cleric from this ancient temple to dispel the demons. Easy to get their attention. I... Am I really going to do this? Ok, yes. I'm taking off my kilt and unfolding it so more of the Druidic animal patterns show. It's really a Druidic Vestment. I'm putting it on my shoulders and tying the belt around my waist. There. I look official now. Blea. Serious bleah. I'll do a little chanting about how much I want to bless this ground as a Druidic Grove. That should get some clerical attention. I can't believe some people dress like this all day.   Oh, look, a baby scorpion! It's crawling over to... Hmm. Kinda a sign from Mother Nature. Kind of leading me by the nose ring, but I'll take it.   It's crawling over to the big stone skull in the middle of the ruined ancient building, with two blue glowing human skull-sized human skulls except they are glowing blue and sitting in the eye sockets of the big rock skull aimed right where a halfling cleric or maybe kobold cleric, et cetera would be able to officiate.   Still no cleric popping out, not even the ghost of a cleric.   Sephia is over there shooting arrows at the cow formerly known as Moo 2. That won't last long. I know I can't convince her to stop. And I know she will figure it out before she has hit the COW with enough arrows to do serious harm. I mean it's a COW after all. And arrows are only like three feet long, if that much. They hurt somebody my size, but...   Focus.   "Hey Sephia, what do you do with blue glowing skulls in a temple?"   Didn't catch most of her reply. Something about a gift or give or something?   Oh, of course. Sister Water, would you pour a dozen gallons of pure drinking water into this skull thingy? That's the best gift of all in a desert like this.   Hey, they talk!   Want me to solve a puzzle to pass through the Gate of Wisdom? Oh, I could really use some more of that, but Miro and Sephia are much better at puzzles than me. These two thespian voices coming out of the skulls don't sound nearly cleric-ey enough to be who I'm looking for.   I should go back to bashing evil cows. I seem to be good at that.   Let's get the SNAFU Posse back together and see what everyone has learned. Even with a human brain again, I'm just too worn out and scatterbrained to figure out for myself what's the next step.   Wrong Way thinks a man who is not too proud to ask for help is... What's the word? It will come to me. Well, he is buzz-buz-buzzz. You know what I mean.

    20210717 Smashing Good Time
    Grolm 13th, 578

    Again, head down, horns out, charge, a little to the left of Bruthasmus this time. (That last time was sad when I hit all my teammates accidentally.) Wrong Way says I should maybe run curves around instead of charging through the middle of the dogpile with my friends in it. He's usually right about these things.   Pop! Bowser is not in a fighting mood anymore.   Glowing horns? Meet my non-glowing horns. Pop!   I think I smell fear. I run a bit to the South. Stop. Wait for it.   I give my deepest roar and stomp my hooves like an angry bull. Hell-Bovine, I'm calling you out.   Speaking of calling, "Hey, Brother Lightning! You understand my when I'm speaking Dagnabbit-language, right? You remember when I asked for some favors and you said, 'Ok but only six today,'? Now would be a great time for the sixth one. Right there by those two Hell-Bovines.   KA-POW!!   I charge! One of the smoky Hell-cows runs away. The other? Pop!   My friends are somewhere over there... with hell-cows circling them.   Alrighty, let's get up to ramming speed and... Pop! There goes the Northwest one.   Pop! There goes the North one.   Pop! There goes the Northeast one.   Wrong Way is enjoying riding my back and watching the devastation. He wants to do that again.   OK!   Let's get up to ramming speed gain and circle the other way, and... Pop! There goes the Northeast one a second time.   Pop! There goes the North one from the other side this time.   Pop! There goes the Northwest one.   There's that smoky one that didn't run away. Re-Pop!   Such a stress reliever to smash your forehead into bad things and they go away. I feel so much better.   Almost all the demon-possessed hell-cows and hell-bulls are down or at least hurting now. Close to rescuing Sarsaparilla Ranch from the forces of evil.   So much easier when you just think simple.   It's sad that MFK isn't alive to see this, but it won't be long before that will clear up. I'll find the seed he left behind again. Maybe this time, I can raise him right and make him a little more neutral. I'll just plant him and water him and no Plant Growth Magic this time.

    20210619 Megafauna Are Us
    Grolm 13th, 578

    Well, I didn't make quick work of the remnants. And we didn't all live happily ever after... ...yet.   But it does feel good to be a Dagnabbit.   What is a Dagnabbit? Some kind of megafauna beast of burden that the Orcish tribes occasionally see. They call them something starting with an "I". I spent days riding the one named Dagnabbit. Picture a wooley dire elephant or bison and a unicorn, and maybe a rhino or hippo having a freaky three-way one randy spring afternoon. The love-child of all that would look like a Dagnabbit. So anyway, I got used to him well enough to pull off a Wild Shape and sort of borrow his size and shape.   Wrong Way, the dire bee, my best-est buddy in the whole wide world loved the idea because he didn't want to be flying in all this smoke and smog anyway, and he can ride my shoulders much more easily.   What do you do when you are a Dagnabbit on a battlefield?   Smash.   I didn't have very good vision, which as I said about the smoke earlier, no one else did either, but the sense of smell is incredible. I smelled a pair of Hellhands, (those of course are ranch hands who have been possessed by evil demons from hell) not far to the East. Some people think you need to know the location of your target to charge. Not when you are a Jesse, you don't.   Full on gallop through the smoke. Head down. Ramming speed. There's Rye Hess. He's stuck on my horns. Now he's under my feet. Now you see Harp Hess. Now you don't. I come to a stop.   Which direction next? Wrong Way is loving this. I smell Harp back there and a couple more Hellhands further ahead. I seem to be between two glowing magical bales of hay. Hey, maybe those are food for an evil demon cow (or army of them) that evil bull Methurg was trying to summon. Oh! That's a whole thing! Master Farvald was supposed to do a ritual that would banish all the demons from this Sarsaparilla Ranch. I wonder how far he got on that? It was like his #1 thing.   There's so much to remember when you have a brain the size of a walnut.   A coyote howled! Very scary, but that must be Miro! He's friendly. You know, friendly fire, like that. Sounds (and smells) like he wants some help smashing a Hellbovine up north there.   Full on gallop through the smoke. Head down. Ramming speed. There's a Hellcow on my horns. Now she's over behind me. Here's Miro the dire coyote. Oops!! I hit his magic lightning spell. Here's Bruthasmus carrying Master Farvald. OOPS!! How do I stop?!?   What have I done?!? I shift back into my normal human form. What happened? I'm naked. I'm on the ground. I'm feeling TERRIBLE! I just trampled Miro and Bruthasmus and Farvald! I ruined everything! I've got to go south... way south... Morordor... stick my head in a hole in the ground and cry.   Wrong Way is here. It's not so bad. Except when it is. But it's not so bad. Miro and Bruthasmus are hurt but alive. Master Farvald is dead again, but that happens like every week since I've known him. He grew back from a seed last time he died. I wore his robes, and Bruthasmus took his bones and seeds, and I called for Mother Nature to bless the countryside with massive fertility, and he grew back. But I'm out of favors that size. I need to pay it forward with Mother Nature before I can do that again. Maybe he finished the ritual he was working on to banish the demons. Anyone see? Did anyone see if Farvald finished closing the gate to Hell? Anyone?   I pick up Farvaldd's robes. Miuro says he will choke me if I put them on again. A little bit of normalcy is nice. Wrong Way found my cowboy hat. Good ol' Wrong Way. I'm starting to feel better. I think the smoke and fog are getting clearer.   The gate looks closed, but the bales of hay are still pulsing with colorful magic light. So that's not good.   Bruthasmus wants to smack another Hellbovine because that's the only thing we know of that will definitely help the situation.   Miro pulls out his magical Whappy Stick to Whap! some healing on us.   I know ritual magic like portals to hell are very picky about stuff. That's about all I know about them. I go to move one of the magical glowing (and flaming because somebody set this one on fire, but it's not turning off the portal to hell anywhere near fast enough just by burning it) hay bales - while I'm Wild Shaping into Dagnabbit again.   Head down. Insert horns into bale. Lift and separate. Leap forward. Flaming straw goes everywhere! It's Saint Jesse's Fire all over. And it doesn't even hurt that much.   Who's that? A Hellcow! Full on gallop through the thinning smoke. Head down. Ramming speed. There's a Hellcow on my horns. Now she's over there ahead of me, resting in that other flaming bale of hay. It looks like it does hurt that much.   Up North, Brathasmus is shouting something. Something smarmy, I'm pretty sure. Full on gallop through the bushes. Head down. Ramming speed. There's a Hellcow on my horns. Now she's under my feet.   I keep stampeding. I've been hit by a Whappy Stick. There's a coyote bounding from my butt to my shoulder, leaping off the longer horn. Pirouette. Backflip. Stuck the landing. Running ahead.   More hellbovines way up ahead.   Wrong Way is laughing in my ear the whole time.   I may have messed up a lot today, but it does feel good to be a Dagnabbit.

    20210508 Wrapping Everything Up

    Now it's all the downhill slide, I'm certain. Just tying up the loose ends now that the head of the Demonic forces is stuck permanently in a genie bottle and MFK is somewhere banishing his evil forces from the ranch forever. Hopefully his ritual works for that; I already talked about how Lich's don't feel in any hurry to finish things, apparently, so the ritual is probably an "untested recipe" as alchemists and chefs say.       Then it will be pretty easy to convince the farmers and ranchers that they need to form a peaceful settlement where they are all on the same side (and demons from hell are on the other side) where every rancher is also a farmer (managing the food supply for their herds) and every farmer is also a rancher (developing fertilizer for their crops).   Let's see, how did the next several seconds of battle and investigation go down? Oh, yeah. Remember when I said, "Maybe there's someone up in the hay loft up that ladder in the middle of the room"? Well there was, but the ladder was nowhere down here to be seen, but this someone didn't need a ladder. He was a barn cat. A really big-boned, hopefully well-fed, barn cat. You know the difference between a Unicorn and a Dagnabbit? (About two tons of muscle.) Well, it was about the same way for a regular barn cat and this barn cat. So, you know me, even in this manufactured home with the cut stones and cut wood, I asked Mother Nature to help me talk with animals. I should have asked his name, but it didn't come up organically in conversation. I lied and said I was a housecat who had been cursed by a witch in a swamp to lose my fur and take this human form. In real life that seldom happens, but everybody has heard a story like that. So why not start off our relationship with a lie? The CAT wanted his people back, by which he meant not kittens, but humans, the ranchers who gave him treats like rhubarb pie. (I am SO hungry, when was the last...?) Anyway, I said I would find them and bring them here so the CAT could guard them and keep them safe from hell-bovines, etc. How he got that big is not my problem as long as he is not demon-possessed, in my book. So, he liked my plan.   We couldn't figure out how the burnt rosemary-garlic smell got splattered onto the walls of some stalls, particularly without landing on the removeable partition between cells, but it must have been something evil and not good in any way. As long as we got rid of the demonic hoards, it probably wouldn't be a problem any more.   So we left by the South-ish door and I latched it behind me.   Lee Chung flipped up to the roof and I sauntered along the wall of the building. This fog was so thick even I couldn't make out much, but in Druid Camp you learn to deal with stuff like this. We found Bruthasmus at the corner. An arguably-evil cabbage attacked him, so - ordinary day for him. I tried to talk it out of fighting, but it didn't go for it, so - ordinary day for me. So, dead cabbage.   I asked Brother Wind to bless Bruthasmus with a light enough step to skip right over the brambles like they weren't even there. Brother Wind and I are good friends like that.   Around the corner where the door to the ranch house is (hopefully with CAT's "people" not too badly harmed inside) ... uh... oh, a lot happened. Lee Chung went in. A dire coyote ran out, (Miro hopefully). Zhang Sephia landed and we told each other what was going on. She said MFK was a "bad" guy, but I've thought about that. I wouldn't call him a "bad" guy, more of an "evil" guy. And those evil guys are such precious little pun'kins. They all have a plan to control everybody, and they all know all the evil plans that came before them fell apart, and they are all certain it was exclusively because the evil guys before them were all morons, not any other reason. They never get it that there are massive forces of Nature that stop people from controlling other people for very long. It's just not in their nature. But the evil guys just keep their heads down and keep thinking next time it will be different. Such precious little pun'kins.   So, here's what I'm certain will happen. MFK will banish the demons. Then he will try to control the farmers and ranchers again. Then either the SNAFU Posse will squish him down into a little seed again or maybe they won't. But either way, his arguably-evil Plant Army will wither over the following days because Miro has MFK's Stormborn-in-a-bottle, and no way will MFK ever ask a weather cleric to help him provide rain. So, I'll be in charge again, having to produce - let me think - I think I can summon 756 gallons of Sister Water a day if I ask no other favors. So, either way, MFK gets to sit brooding over his eggs for probably a number of months while Scaevola Aemula and I grow our cavate garden into a beautiful druidic grove and while the farmers and ranchers form an alliance, because the only thing that makes us humans change our ways is a humiliating defeat by a common enemy. And no way will MFK expect that the farmers and ranchers will be tougher to fracture next time. He won't learn to let the Druids handle everything. He will try again and fail again, and I will pick up his little seed again when he does.   I'm trying to remember if Sephia went in the building or flew off. Anyway, Bruthasmus showed back up again. He had taken a detour to pick up a badly injured Ranger Horn. He had cabbage tracks all over him. Maybe that's when the dire coyote ran out of the door. It was all really fast. Anyway, Bruthasmus and I compared notes and went our separate ways, him and Rowtag going after the coyote we assumed was Miro with a plan, and me and Wrong Way going with Ranger Horn to stow him in a soft pile of hay in CAT''s barn.   So, CAT in the barn of course made it known that Horn was not one of the treat-bearing people he wanted, but not an enemy at least. So, as planned, I stowed him in a horse stall to sleep it off safely. Then there was some kind of kerfuffle outside, so Wrong Way and I went out again, latching the door behind us. It sounded like there were more unfriendlies to fight out there.   Oh, and it snowed... along with the fog... and the smoke. So that's also a thing that happens in the desert plains nowadays. Interesting times.   I really wanted to summon some more Oatman Crawlers because they work so well out here, or Wild Shape myself into one, but Wrong Way suggested a Dagnabbit was what this fight needed. That's why now I am a two-and-a-half-ton wrecking beast headed to clean up the rest of the demon-possessed mess.   I'm certain I'll make quick work of the remnants.   Then, I'm certain we will all live happily ever after.

    20210424 Could be worse, could be indoors
    Grolm 13th, 578

    Where was I? Lee Chung had the boss thing in the bottle and the wax was solid and holding.   Remember the Hell-Woolie I bolted with Brother Lightning? He was still in a fighting mood. Long story short, I know, too late, Lee Chung, Wrong Way, three Oatman Crawler scorpions who were seriously on their home turf, and I knocked it cold. Bye bye, Baa baa.   I asked Brother Wind to bless Lee Chung with a light enough step to skip right over the brambles like they weren't even there. Brother Wind and I are good friends like that.   There was a really weird noise from the ranch house (which I had sort of turned into a farm house almost), and my thunder lizard plant spit out a live full grown griefgall recently, so trust me when I say this was weird.   So we ran to the door. I started first, Lee Chung finished first. I'm not proud, or tired. Lee Chung signalled, and we listened to the door. It sounded like a big sheepdog or something was in there. That would be nice, unless it was demon-possessed like the sheep and cattle.   We open the door. Complete darkness. It looked peaceful enough, but it wasn't too comforting.   Lee Chung slipped in one side, and I the other.   Still just as dark when you are closer as it was from far away.   So I pulled out the Rainbow Longbow of Happy Sunshine. Now we can see some stuff. Nothing we were looking for, but some stuff. like ten or a dozen stalls for cattle and horses. There's stuff in them too, but nobody we were looking for.   Maybe there's someone up in the hay loft up that ladder in the middle of the room.

    20210410 Udder Meyhem
    Grolm 13th, 578

    Ok, so Methurgh, the demon prince of the hell cows, or whatever title he gets, was down. One hell-sheep was defending his unconscious body, which by "defending" I mean attacking anybody who came by. I called my Oatman Crawler friends (large poisonous scorpions) to ruin the hell sheep's day, and Lee Chung applied his boot to the hell-sheep's head several times in rapid succession, and Wrong Way charged at the hell-sheep to sting it in the face during the few moments that Lee Chung's boot wasn't there. So, pretty soon hell-sheep goes night-nite.   I could tell Lee Chung was only moving at about half speed because he wasn't a complete blur. He must have gotten a deep whiff of the demon-prince's killer-musk. No problem. I asked Mother Nature to remove the sickness from him. That was easy. But I noticed that with all the Oatman Crawlers I was calling up, I was nearly out of favors.   That's when our plan turned to bottling the demon-prince-yadda-yadda into one of the Biccheri Family's finest leaded glass bottles, suitable for holding genies and demons and what-have-you. Lee Chung slapped a Holy Rose Wafer into Methurgh's big mouth and poked at some pressure points to make his unconscious body swallow. No smoke. He was resisting getting dispossessed. I volunteered the Rose Wafer he gave me earlier for protection from roaming demons. Still didn't work. While Lee Chung gives him a third, I'm thinking Rose Wafer Suppository administered rectally and keep stuffing both ends until they meet in the middle. And we are both like, "How many stomachs does a cow have; like four, right? This could take a while."   Then I think, "He's still holding the fiendish warhammer in his left hand - I mean hoof. That must be the problem." So I reach for his ordinary heavy warhammer with the usual glowing infernal magical runes crawling all over the handle and a dark mist rising from it whenever it moves.   Two of Wrong Way's hands grab my arm before I touch the evil warhammer.   Two more of Wrong Way's arms turn my head to the right so I can see another hell-sheep approaching in the fog. He's so practical.   No problem. I had called in a favor from Brother Lightning a few minutes ago, and he was waiting like, "So can I toast this guy?" I pointed to the fiendish Hell-Woolie and whispered to Brother Lightning, "Oh, yeah. That one."   BLAM! Toasty woolie. Not dead. Just hurt. One more favor from Brother Lightning to go before we call it even and I need to pay it forward to him again.   I turn back and Lee Chung has Methurgh's demony darkness in the bottle and corked.   The cork starts to rise out of the bottle.   He presses it down and holds it shut. I help, very concerned.   "Beeswax?" he asks.   I signal to Wrong Way the vomit signal and he spits out a big drippy soft ball of beeswax all over our hands and the bottle.   You see, giant dire bees secrete wax out of glands in their abdomens (bellies), but it isn't very useful in this state, so they chew it in their mouths like chewing tobacco until it is soft and - well - waxy.   Now we just need to let it harden. It's a dirty job. We have to do it.

    20210327 Arguably-Evil Plant Army to the Rescue!
    Grolm 13th, 578

    So, I asked Mother Nature to grow all the plants in the area into one huge thicket (with clear spots only where the non-flying members of the SNAFU Posse needed to go, of course). It worked! With a Bonus!   I hadn't thought about Bruthazmus carrying the remains of the Plant-based-Lich Master Farvald Kerner in his rucksack. The Evil Seed grew back a whole new body. Coincidentally, this was after I had asked a little Druid's Helper to go bring the whole plant army over here to smack some demonic hellbovines and hellwoolies. Just as the army was arriving, I managed to bring its leader back to life to direct the final (hopefully) battle in this war of hellish posessing demons versus unnatural (and a few barely-natural) plant monsters. Also, he's the only one who knows the magic ritual he was working on to ban demons from the Sarsparilla Ranch forever, or at least for now, and I am fully on board with doing that right now.   So my priorities were: Get the demon prince or king or whatever killed. Get the plant army over here to fight the HellBovine army, which was already here. (Oh, and this was after Sephia lured most of them away.) Get MFK's ritual going like real fast. Get me healed. I guess those are in reverse order of importance.   Let's see, what happened next...   MFK was now Naked MFK, so I gave him his head-of-the-arguably-evil-plant-army robes I had been borrowing since his death. I felt a little bad that I had sweated and bled all over them during the fight already. I brought NMFK up to speed. I grabbed and drank my last healing potion out of the pocket since it wasn't his anyway.   He cast a plant-healing spell on me and it worked really well! Sometime soon I need to ask Brother Sun to check me out and see if I'm turning into a plant or anything. Not the weirdest thing I need to look up when I get the chance.   Then the nearby HellHand, Mystery Mullins, attacked Formerly Naked MFK with that painful HellBrand thing that nearly killed Princess that time, and his green blood splattered all over his robes, and I didn't feel bad anymore because it covered up my blood really well. He won't even notice.   So FNMFK turns to me like nothing happened, and says I should Summon a Swarm of Oatman Crawler Scorpions on every mammal that opposes him here, or words to that effect. Smart guy!   So I start doing that, (bye bye Bessie!) and I find most of them are in the plant growth or on the other side of it, but I know where the mostest opposed-to-FNMFK mammal of them all is, the HellCalf Demon Prince. So I had to do some running to get to him. Oh, that's when I summoned the Druid's Little Helper to call the Arguable Evil Plant Army, not earlier like I said ... because FNMFK would want me to do that because he obviously couldn't do that because I saw he had turned into Really Furious FNMFK and was smacking Mystery and HellHands and stuff and then disappearing into the ground to heal himself and popping up again as fast as dandelions and fighting some more and disappearing again.   Cool trick.   Oh, so while RFFNMFK was gone healing underground, I signaled the well-fed Topiary Rex to come join us and grab a bite of HellCalf and I ran into my magical Fog Cloud. Are fog clouds supposed to get that big? That's another thing I need to look up some time.   So at some point in there Wrong Way found me and hopped on my back, and we formed a Two-Fisted Eight-Legged Justice-Machine like we used to when he was littler. It freaks people out, especially when you walk up to them in the fog.   And we covered the DemonKingCalf with angry Oatman Crawlers, which was not the worst thing that had happened to him today because Bruthazmus and Lee Chung and Miro were doing what they do best - damage and irritate bad guys at the same time. DemonCalfPrince had already lost one of his weapons. I don't know if it was "Fun" or "Games". (He names his weapons. Nothing insane about that, is there?)   Oh, and I noticed some arguably-tactical teams of blood-cabbages and briarseed children descending from the north to (hopefully) attack the remaining HellBovines.   So here comes the good part.   Miro complains that he can't see the DemonCalf leader of the HellBovines because of my plant thicket everywhere. I say, "He's right... there!" Lightning bolt. BLAM!   Miro put two spells together into one and did this:   ...except more lightning based instead of comet-based.   So... BLLLLLAAAAAAAAAAMMMM!   Methurgh, the demon prince of the HellCows is down.   While I call yet another swarm of Oatman Crawler Scorpions, I have to ask, "Is the play 'we kill him' or 'we bottle him'?"  

    20210207 BLAM!! Ouch!
    Grolm 13th, 578

    So we heard an unearthly deep voice come from what I think was that bull calf over there with what looks like a crown tattoo around the top of his head standing up on two legs next to the weird circle and magic sigils marked on the ground with the unearthly glowing portal gate hovering over it and the bales of hay arranged around it glimmering in the barely-existent dim light. There's something suspicious about that calf.   I pulled the magic seed Yiarra gave me many days ago out of my hat band, squeezed it in my hand, and willed the magic to activate. Out came the Rainbow Longbow of Brilliant Joyfulness fitting my grip like it was custom made for me. (That's just my name for it. I don't know what Yiarra would call it, but I figure now is the time I need it.)   I shot the Demon Calf with a bolt of purest light (which thankfully homed right in on him) and covered him in a bright lavender glow of faery fire. Try to intimidate anybody now, Prince Calf. I wonder if I could get pink polka-dots onto him. Hey, Miro called over another one of those low-flying storm clouds. Hey, Brother Lightning, what do you say?   BLAM!!   No polka-dots, but the King Calf is smoking now and none too happy, and I'd say he's significantly less confident than before.   Where's my arguably-evil plant army when I really need it? They are missing out on all the action. With a quick dance step, I slipped out of my magic boots and planted my bare feet on the grassy ground, concentrating on the plant army, if there was any way I could summon them.   BLAM!! (Ouch.)   The Royal Pain took it personally, charged, and gored me in the torso while I was trying to concentrate. What made him do that? I guess the old southern saying is true, "Mess with the bull; get the horns." I was running around one of those bales of hay, and WrongWay with his overhead view signaled me that the Demon Prince was circling around too and about to come into view. I was pretty mixed up and out of breath. I couldn't see very well, but I could feel through that portal there was a safer place next to Bruthasmus with grass and stuff. I concentrated on that feeling of being away from all this and stepped sideways. Or maybe I rolled.   It felt like I ripped through a gunny sack as I tumbled through the world and landed on the ground right next to Bruthasmus and Lee Chung. I have seen people Plant Walk plenty of times, but that was my first time, and I can tell I need training becasue that could not have been the right way to do it.   I remembered my SNAFU Posse companions Miro, Wrong Way, and Spiro were still in charging range of the Royal Calf. Only Miro was unable to fly to safety, and he had told me a particular quirk possessed by Stormborn like himself. I called for Sister Rain to form a dense fog cloud to the north for Miro to find safety. His Stormborn eyes (and no others) would be able to see through the fog.   BLAM! Ouch!   Two Hell-Woolies slammed their foreheads into me! Son of a sorry shipwrecked sailor! I'm down on the ground, and they are beating me with shepherds' crook staves which they clearly stole from the ranchers when they got possessed by demons. Ouch!   I used to wear leather armor, but it never did me much good, and it wouldn't have helped much against all this. Ouch!   Thankfully Lee Chung spins into view, silent until his foot smacks into the shins of the Woolies. Everyone is spinning, the ground is spinning, everyone is on the ground.   The sweet cool ground.   I did this all wrong.   I should not have underestimated the Woolies. I should not have underestimated how many lightning strikes it takes to knock out a Demon King Calf.   I should have transformed into an owl, surveyed from above, called down Jungle Plant Growth, Entangling grasses and weeds, Sleet Storms, and SMOG! Then with nobody able to charge anybody, we could sort out the good from the bad.   I left my magical Boots of Catfall and my nice western hat back on the ground closer to the magical portal. It's not like I can't live without clothing, just that I should remember where I left them.   Hey! The bales of hay are an offering of food for whatever he expects to come out of that portal! It has to be! If we set them on fire, whatever it is might be very angry at him. Either that or he plans to set them on fire just for mood or maybe as part of the ritual. Ok, I'm stumped on the whole ritual thing. Next time I get in the Library I'll have a lot of heavy reading to do.   Roll away from the tripped Woolies!   "Sister Earth and Mother Nature, please grow all the grasses, scrub, cacti, everything! Out that way, North and West, spraying out toward the ranch house. But please leave the fog cloud clear of any growth so Miro can run around in the fog. Oh, plus a 4-foot wide straight clear shot directly from here to the Ranch House / Barn. Sorry to be such a bother. Thanks!"   "Hey, Lee Chung, Bruthazmus, if y'all are heading to the house, the prince calf is about half-way there on the right. Slap him around for me!"   Sweet cool ground.   Ouch.

    20210213 Storming Sarsaparilla
    13th of Grolm, 578

    We all had different ideas of what to do to prepare ourselves for the final fight.   There will still be many injuries to heal and many loose ends to tie afterward, and animals and plants that will die if left unable to take care of themselves, and a very lonely heart to uncover again, but this will be our major offensive to free the Alfredo family from demonic attack, and to free the entire town of Purgatory Gulch from the terrors in the night and the day. The town may not survive, but at least it will be free, finally.   Princess Alfredo and the Hesters whipped up some special symbols that will prevent the Alfredo family security system from alarming abd warning all the Hell-Bovines who are living in the Alfredo family ranch houses that we are approaching and about to apply the boot of Justice to the butt of evil.   I probalby shouldn't have opened that alchemist jar labeled, "Happy". She's both an alchemist and a Pixie, I mean, Piskey.   Yeah, I did misplace Topiary Rex. I'm sure he will graze on whatever he needs. Hopefully no more.   But in Miss Melinda's secret hideaway and alchemist laboratory, we did whip up a batch of her "Undemoning Serum" and even planned out who is going to apply it to whom. Whom, right?? Yeah, whom. Same with Lee Chung's Holy Rose Wafers. The Hell-Hands won't know what hit them, and then when we get them un-demoned, they will remember everything that hit them, probably, but they will be free.   So, again, good sleep, great morning breakfast, no alchemy taste, which shows how good Lee Chung is, considering the equipment he had to use.   Whatever civies we could, we got out of harm's way, which is to say, Bruthazmus put them somewhere, I didn't quite catch where.   I wild-shaped myself into an owl again and flew recon over to Sarsaparilla Ranch again, because we didn't need me to be another horse nor a Dagnabbit., which would have been fun. I really hope that jar of "Happy" wears off soon. I think I'm feeling clearer already.   Sephia has been flying all her life, so she whooshed far to the east side of the Alfredo Ranch and set off one of the alarms. Whoa, that was like kicking over an ant hill full of demon-possessed cattle in full stampede mode. She drew away most of them.   As the rest of the Posse arrived at Sarsaparilla Ranch, I clued them in to the small amount of remaining hell-bovines, etc. maybe a dozen hell-sheep kept in place by two Hell-Hands, and a dozen Hell-Bovines with another pair of hell-hands. Miro used that magic spell that improves my human eyesight. Oh, I turned back to human form again, I don't know if I said that. I'm hungry again already.   We rode, we ran. I called the lightning. Pow, Hell-Bovines scatter. There's a deep voice, "It's all fun and games until someone loses their soul." It has got to be the big boss.   "Oh, really?" I think, "You think you can handle our troops? You can't handle the troops!"

    20210131 Finding hostages under every rock
    Grolm 12, 578

    Two nights in a row of good sleep is a record. I should write that down in my journal. I can't remember when was the last time I got that. Tonight is not looking that great, stuck in an alchemist's magical hut that apparently can move if you turn the wrong dial to who knows where. But travelling at night would invite battle with the roaming Hell-cows that are looking for us when they are at their strongest. Maybe I should write this down in chronological order.   Bull and Gore Hester were willing to try eating a Holy Rose Wafer . Holy Hotcakes! The demon-possession and the big horns on their heads shot out to get away from those Rose Wafers in their stomachs. We caught the djinni-like smokey demons in high quality bottles that the Baccherri Caravan left for us to find. Hey! Genie in a bottle! That suddenly makes perfect sense. So they were not evil anymore, more like Neutral, which is all good.   Then we decided to split up.   I know.   Miro and I went to Miss Melinda's formerly-secret hideaway, a place that I could find easily enough after Mother Nature transformed me into an owl temporarily of course. Easy to see from above.   Inside, we found chili peppers, something called "climb water" (?), and a whole barrel of large-grain sea salt. All valuable stuff, but probably only the salt might be useful for anti-demon home recipes.   The hideaway had a fireplace that totally screamed super-villain magic-talking-mirror on the wall, that kinda vibe. We didn't touch it. There was also a knocking sound like maybe Miss Melinda kept somebody tied up in the basement, or maybe some Big Bad Wolf tied her up in the basement. The grinning skull guarding the cellar door reeked of Trap.   I grabbed the candelabra, hoping a secret door would open up.   It didn't.   A magical trap went off instead, or so I'm told.   The next thing I know, Bruthasmus' arrow knocks the candelabra out of my hand. He and Sephia say that we were frozen in place for like hours and small change.   But we did get the door open in no time, geologically speaking.   Two guys were in cages in the cellar! Big Lui and Big Mauri! Last we heard, they had had second thoughts about the whole it's-ok-to-get-our-cows-possessed-by-demons-to-fight-the-farmers'-killer-plants idea, and they went out to fix the issue, according to their journal we found. They came here like Miro and I did and got caught, kinda like we did. They also said this talking calf wanted ownership of their land. That might be the demon-prince in the body of that young calf, leading all the others. Wouldn't it be great if we could just send him back to hell and the others would follow their prince? Then again, they are not known for loyalty to any one.   Miro found a cowhide map that could possibly help us out. I didn't get much chance to look at it, but it showed the local area.   I did find something very useful in this abandoned (?) alchemist's hideaway, 3 bottles of high quality Ginger Root Extract! Useful for: 1) All-natural male enhancement 2) Purifying the body and repelling evil spirits.   Oh, nad one other thing. After a LOT of searching odd (stolen) books and educational papers with various magical theories, I found a book on "Sealing off Outsider Planes of Existence", (and it was NOT written by Evil Seed), which sounds close enough to "How to tell demons possessing cattle, 'Goodbye,' and make it stick" to me.   Here's an idea: We need to load up the Hesters with Rose Wafers and set them on any other Hell-Hands. Nobody better than someone whose life was turned around to convince somebody to give it a try.   Uh, oh.   Where did I leave Topiary Rex?

    20210116 How to Undo HellCows?
    Grolm 11, 578

    Now we just need to undo the HellCows and prevent it from ever happening again. That's all.   We haven't uncovered the whole truth, but we got two half-truths. Now we just need to add them together.   First off, Topiary Rex does not do what you tell him to do for more than a few hours, sometimes minutes. He might be a member of the SNAFU Posse.   If a pollenating insect frequently shows better judgement than you do, you might be a member of the SNAFU Posse.   The Hesters told Princess and her in-law Lucky their theory that Lucky spent a week at Oatman Cavate with Evil Seed learning how to put little demons in cattle for the Ranchers to combat the grazing-proof killer crops which Evil Seed had made for the Farmers to protect their crops from being grazed by Ranchers. That's what we call, "playing both sides against each other", and is exactly what you expect from a person with, "Evil", literally right there in his name.   Lucky denied it, saying she had never been to Oatman Cavate, and a ranch hand named Coy could corroborate her alibi. The Hesters wanted to string up Lucky right there. Princess only wants to string up Lucky if such betrayal turns out to be true. Miro convinced them to just tie her up for now and give all the evidence to Scorpion, the gal who is the closest thing to the law around here, since Mayor Blaze can be counted out entirely. I talked with Lucky while we both snacked on delicious cornbread muffins glazed with Mrs. Lawful's Lemony-Sweet Truth Serum, which, it turns out, works really well. Lucky knew a lot about Evil Seed, and Seed's Journal might have some answers about how to stop the cows. Miro has that journal, and is probably going to be searching it for Lightning Control magic spells whenever he remembers he has it. Also, Lucky gave us directions to Miss Melinda's secret laboratory in the hills outside of town. Miss Melinda also played the "both sides against each other" card, but might actually feel some remorse and might tell us something or give us something to undo the hell-bovines, when we see her again. Maybe "... IF we see her again".   If firing an arrow from a bow while standing still feels really weird because you usually do it from the roof of a runaway stagecoach, the back of an angry bull, or while you are hurtling through the air, you might be a member of the SNAFU Posse.   Of course, Evil Seed's #1 goal was to repel all demons out of our area permanently. I'm personally on board with that 100 percent. After having briefly met him and taken over his business after his sudden disintegration, I believe that, "Let's teach Lucky how to get livestock possessed by demons just so I have some practice-targets for learning how to smack them back out again," would definitely be a color of paint in Evil Seed's paint-box.   Padre wants to rewrite the town ordnance to include something about not summoning demons and not growing killer plants to attack your neighbors. Another idea is, if everybody signed over their property to me, I would make every farm a ranch and every ranch a farm, and everybody would grow some crops especially for their livestock to eat and some food for two-legged people to eat and some to sell at market. It would be really easy.   There are so many distractions, I keep forgetting about that type of stone that fell from the sky and is either really magical or really NOT magical and sucks the magic out of magical things. We really shouldn't leave stuff like that just literally lying on the ground all over the place. Nobody around here seems to think much about it, but it could be really valuable for all the right or wrong reasons, and that is not something that lends well to keeping the balance of Nature gurgling along happily. Fortunately everybody else seems to be ignoring it for the most part.   So, the Hesters and Princess and Topiary Rex and I are going to that abandoned farm that Bruthasmus and I sort of adopted. I think it's called AyrShire Farm or something like that. We can have a spiritual retreat taking care of the animals and eating chicken eggs for one hopefully peaceful night. Maybe I'll plant my little potted fairy fan-flower shrub there.   The others will go to see Yiarra at Arjory Pond and see if she will take in yet several more refugees of Purgatory Gulch's great troubles. And maybe they will find Miss Melinda hasn't run off, or maybe will find she left some useful info before she ran off to nowhere.   Then we all meet up and head to Sarsaparilla Ranch, pick up the beer wagon, reunite Princess and Chica, perform the ritual in Evil Seed's Journal that kicks all the demons off of the property, plus do whatever Miss Melinda comes up with (if anything), then I can sign over the deed to them unless they are just totally fed up with ranching, which is pretty likely at this point. But they are totally going to have to promise to grow crops for the livestock to eat and don't let your cattle get possessed by demons again.   If a tumbleweed rolls past you, and you wonder if you should take advantage of your attack of opportunity, you might be a member of the SNAFU Posse.   If a cabbage rolls past you, and you are certain you should take advantage of your attack of opportunity, you are definitely a member of the SNAFU Posse.

    20210102 War and Peace, and Tense Negotiations
    10th of Grolm 578 ED

    "I have a dragon! ☺" - Last words of the finale of Galavant.   Wrong Way always used to tell me I was Neutral with Good tendencies, which is fine for a druid.   Now, he's saying, "just Neutral".   Part of me thinks that's what I'm going for. Part of me thinks that's not what I'm going for. Whenever I'm confused, I know I can consult my bestest buddy in the whole wide world, Wrong Way. But now he's the one confusing me, so I guess confused is where I'm supposed to be right now.   Speaking of, now that I grabbed an old hanky from the Higgins' ranch house, I can start diarying again, or journaling, or whatever.   So, when last I left off, Bruthazmus was possessed by a Banshee, like Miro thought had happened. It's easy to tell. She swishes when she walks. He lumbers.   It was Bull Hester and his lovely bride, Gore, whose dark magic made Bruthasmus that way. But the Banshee had no love lost over the Hell-hands couple, and would enjoy serving them a knuckle sandwich with no bread, so no problem after all.   So Miro went over to smack them with his lightning bolts and stuff. And I stopped at that spot in the cavate where your voice carries so well, and I shouted, "Prepare Topiary Rex for battle!", hoping somebody would do it. Then I sat down that potted plant I was talking about last time in it's yellow bucket on the stairway, and I jumped down five flights of stairs (which is a thing my boots can do for me, so no problem), and I ran half way across the biggest cave room in the whole cavate, which is where we assembled all the townsfolks/hostages we had rescued from the arguably-evil plant army. That's also where the main front door is.   That's also where Mr. and Mrs. Hester entered. You could also call them Mr. and Mrs. Devil-Possessed Ranch Hands Mutated into Mountain-Goat-like Green Glowing Creepy Monstrosities. I'm sure they would answer to that if you called it out across a crowded battle room like we were in now.   So on one side there was me, and Piera 'Princess' Alfredo-Alston (She's hyphenated by marriage. She used to be the Hesters' ranch boss now that Big Lui and Big Mauri are missing, presumed dead from battling the evil they helped to bring around here in the first place.) and Topiary Rex, the carnivorous plant the shape and size of a thunder lizard, and a half dozen Briarseed Babies, way too young to be on a battle field, but on the other hand, they don't gain intelligence just by growing bigger, so it's kinda even. We went after Gore.   On all the other sides, everybody else went after Bull.   Oh, except all the nearly-worked-to-death hostages. They were standing about all over, causing Miro to hold back on the lightning bolts, which probably would have sped up the whole process. So I think Sephia herded up the hostages, which didn't slow her down from shooting arrows at Bull much at all.   So, first strike, Princess walks right up to Gore and spits long thorny tentacles at her out of her mouth.   Yes, I wrote that right. I did not see that coming. Neither did Gore.   That kinda made my T-Rex attack anticlimactic, but I did it anyway. I know he's a plant, but he rides like an animal, the kind that can swallow a person whole, and then digest them with stomach acid, which also contains a paralytic poison. Add on a sharp rusty nail sticking out of him that would give you lockjaw, and he's the whole package. So, game over pretty quick, I figured.   And I threw a Briarseed Baby and hit Gore right in the face, I mean right in the face.   But he's a partially mobile plant grown onto a bamboo trellis shaped like a dragon or something, so he's only as strong as his trellis. So that became a problem when T-Rex accidentally bit his own arm/tentacle/vine/whatever and started to unravel.   And then Bull (remember Bull?) although he'd been hit by Everybody and his brother, he sees his wife get smacked by - not T-Rex, not my fast ball right in the face, but Princess' tentacles with thorns. Not blaming him; I still can't get that out of my head either. Even just the shear mechanics of how you would do that boggles my mind. So he blasts Princess, I mean just blasts her with thunder crackling hell fire right in the shoulder blades. Pow! She goes down, like flat down, like mostly-dead-and-getting-worse down.   Then things get weird. (I know, right?) Of all people, Miro and Gore and I all pounce on Princess, each trying to keep the others from attacking her so we can help her. And I'm like, "Wha?" And she's like, "Don't you touch her!" And he's like, "Huh?" So like when Gore's standing over Princess stabbing at Miro, I can barely give Princess the healing touch. And when Gore is stabbing at me, Miro can tap Princess with his Healy stick, which I may need to get me one of those if I keep hanging out with this crowd. And at some point I have to back off and ask Mother Nature to lay down on Princess that magic spell that keeps you just mostly dead and not slide into completely dead. And we're all like, "Huh?", "What?", "Who?", "First base!"   And then the green tentacles with thorns that Princess spit out at Gore... remember those? …either they jumped out into Topiary Rex's mouth or another one jumped out of his mouth, and now there are two of them, and I lost track of one of them, and it's probably about to strike now while I'm journaling. No. It's not behind me now. It's still waiting for the worst possible time to show itself. Well, Gore tells me it's a griefgall. Like any druid should recognize a griefgall. Wait, maybe it was Bull that said that. But anyway - whoever - its like I used to specialize in insects and arthropods, and then amphibians, and plants are like a whole different kingdom, a great big kingdom, but then I come out here to the wild west where the arguably-evil plant army gets dropped in my lap (and I had plenty other plans for what I wanted to do with my lap, thank you very much) by a moss lich they call Evil Seed who was in way over his head and basically tells me, "The job is to eradicate every demon and everything even close to a demon For-Ever, so thanks for volunteering; I'm going to Hobbitown to smoke the finest weed in the shire until you get the job done. Good luck with that," and now everybody expects me to know what in Mother Nature's Green Earth a griefgall is!   Well, the obvious part is that a griefgall is a plant that starts as a seed that gets planted down your throat. And it starts to pull the puppet strings inside your head for a while and makes you do what Evil Seed tells you to do - I mean what I tell you to do - and then at some point it grows too big with thorny tentacle vines and it jumps out of your throat which hurts a lot and then it bites somebody's face off.   So that's a thing in my life now.   So I go with the obvious again. I grab the griefgall, or ball of two of them, whatever, and I throw it up in the air and yell, "Pull!", and Bruthasmus and Zhang Sephia pepper it with arrows, and Miro shoots a lightning bolt at it, (a rare case of him making lightning go in the right direction like it should), and it's dead before it hits the ground.   And then we are left with: we all want to protect Princess and get her back together with Chica and live happily ever after, and we each want to do one more thing which no one else agrees with, but we all agree we want to protect Princess and get her back together with Chica and live happily ever after, so that becomes everyone's new priority number One.   A close or distant second place is getting all the humanoid (Is that racist? Like Lee Chung and I are nearly the only humans around here. maybe gentlebeings? sentient life forms?) freed hostages somewhere safe - safer - safe-ish.   So I pack up Topiary Rex and the Briarseed Babies in the nursery to heal up and make repairs and improvements to his trellis. And I tell him to wait and rest up until Wrong Way comes to get him. And Wrong Way tells us we should stuff the really good soil into the trellis and put a nice blanket over T's back so I could ride on him comfortably. That's Wrong Way, always thinking, always practical.   So there we are: like thirty nearly-worked-to-death hostages, the nearly-worked-to-death SNAFU Posse, and the nearly-beaten-to-death ranch hands from hell, (who turn out to be not so bad people when you get to know them,) and one horse.   We trudge to the nearest ranch, the Higgins' Ranch, Juniper Trail Ranch, the well-known cattle rustlers and probably horse-thieves' ranch. Yes, that one.   So Miro goes and knocks on the door. What luck he has. A voluptuous young lady halfling answers. Somebody needs to lock those two up in a room with about 45 minutes of privacy. (Wrong Way signaled that now I'm vicariously doing my thinking with the wrong head, but if you saw them, you would think the same thing with whatever heads you've got.)   The Higgins' make us an offer for a room for a price. We discover we have every moral alignment represented, forming every possible plan including buy, beg, borrow, or steal the rooms. So, to make a long story short (not gonna happen), I go to the door and offer my services as an alchemist. They told Miro they have a supply of leather with a vegetable-based stain on it which needs cleaning. I told them I could do that. They take me to their chef's kitchen. You know how most chefs don't like another chef cooking in their kitchen? Multiply that by two when the other chef is an alchemist brewing a leather-dye-removal potion that might explode if you do it wrong. Fortunately, many years ago my dad beat it into me that you don't do it wrong and let your potion explode on you. So, good potion. They didn't mention that the pieces of leather are attached to live stolen cows from other ranches that turned up in their barn, but that is probably what is happening here.   Then a big dinner, which we desperately needed, which Mrs. Higgins loaded with magical truth serum, except when Miro noticed and removed the magic to protect us, but it was still magically delicious.   Oh, and griefgalls! We didn't know how many of the hostages were implanted with griefgalls by Evil Seed, but it was more likely than not. Fortunately, I'm still wearing Evil Seed's robes and I'm still his chosen successor, so I just ordered the hostages to stand in a sleet storm that I asked Sister Rain to produce out front, so the ones that told me they would rather that I go do unnatural things to my back side - those ones were already free of griefgalls, and the others got chilled until the griefgalls jumped out of their throats and died of exposure fortunately before the humanoid (there I go again) hosts caught pneumonia.   All done. No more parasites. Now let's all go to bed in those rooms we rented. Sweet dreams after that scene!

    20201121 Evil Seed went to pot.

    So I was trying to get the deed to Sasparilla Ranch and get Princess to sign it over to me like Master Farvald Kerner wanted. It was like the first thing he ever asked of me, and that project hasn't made any progress yet, like none. I just... I lead a busy life. There are SO many distractions. But there it was in MFK's hand, the deed that is, and he gets hit by lots of arrows.   So he tells me, "Stop them all at once," or words to that effect. I think, "No problem," because usually a shiny object is enough to stop the SNAFU Posse, sometimes absolutely nothing at all does the trick, just wait for Miro and Chef to disappear and get into some mischief.   Then he said, to everyone, "Come to my room before those who would oppose me," or something like that. I thought, "I'm great! I already was in the room before the SNAFU Posse started opposing him. I'm Number One!" And next he runs back to this big creepy urn thing and says something mean while getting hit by more arrows, which I wouldn't think would hurt him that much considering his body was mostly replaced by plant vines. I figured he was going to throw the contents of the urn at the Posse and dissolve them away, or something worse. You know alchemists can make really awful stuff without even trying. I know. You have to try hard not to make something awful. But he got hit by another arrow and, Blam!, he went down and fell backward into the stuff in the urn. I knew he wasn't really going to die because liches always have a phylactery, as everyone knows, which keeps them not dead when they die.   But then he fell into the creepy urn, so all bets are off.   I ran over to him and saw he was decomposing fast. I grabbed him and pulled him out of there and laid him out on the floor, but it was too late. He'd already got a free shot. His body was just falling apart, and he didn't have much in the way of bones and humanoid parts in there at all. In the urn there was just some really really good potting soil by the look and smell of it. Maybe he just goes to seed and grows a descendant next spring like annual plants do. This guy is all messed up.   So I looked over the journal he was keeping, nothing about a creepy urn being a horrible way to go nor being a fun escape route to transport his body away to safety even little by little, so no explanation in there for any of what was going on.   You know? This was probably a big boon for the master plan to kick out all the demons and stuff out of the world. Get the liches and dryads and treants on the sidelines and give the job to a human, with a really low life expectancy, and then you'll see fast results. None of this experimenting for five years while the hell-bovine army gets stronger all the time.   Bruthasmus and the rest of the Posse investigated stuff too. What happened to Lee Chung? He's been hunting for dinner ingredients like forever. Oh, and Padre! He was in the magical holiness-focusing crystal for a really long time aimed at the distant hell-bovine army and set to extra-crispy and giving them all the hell he could manage, or the exact opposite, you know what I mean.   My life is so busy!   Oh, remember when he told everybody to come to his room? They did. Almost, but Sephia stopped them before they got there. "Everybody" was a bunch of Jack-O-Lantern dudes and stuff from the Arguably Evil Plant Army. So what do I do? Me talking plants into doing different stuff than what they were planning to do generally works out, so I figured I would do that again. I put on MFK's robe (which had a lot of his remains still on it, ew,) and grabbed the journal, and I stood in the spot where his voice echoed all over the place, and I shouted stuff like, "Everybody ignore the mammals. Let's get every able bodied plant to set out and get ready to attack the hell-bovine army at the first light of dawn! WooHoo!!" or something like that.   Most of the Jack-O-Lanterns were ok with that. They might even relish the idea of a good old fashioned slugfest.   Then the dinosaur walked in. Yes, MFK was buiding a massive thunder lizard out of plants and wicked alchemy. It answered the summons. And it was hungry. You have to feel sorry for a creature like that, built to serve and then only half finished, as long as it isn't trying to eat you. I grabbed that really really good potting soil and fed the beast a bellyful. He/she/it appreciated it. I should think up a name for he/she/it. Maybe "really big lizard", "magnus stelio maxima lacerti", "vere realiter magnus stelio", no, I need to work on that. So I sort of put it to bed back in its room. Ha, ha. Flower bed, get it?   In the next room I found the saddest little potted shrubbery in a yellow bucket. I gave it the bit of water that it was lacking and brought it along for the ride. This is what I do. It's good to get back to basics when life is so crazy.   Next room had people! The missing Mayor was there, and Princess! Forget about the mayor! I found Princess! Naturally I gave her the deed and the quill from MFK's room and got her to sign over the deed and the workman's comp form that Miro gave me. Whew! That scratched an itch that has been with me for a long time! Finally! So now she's free of the Alfredo property and all of its headaches and she can ride off into the sunset with Chica and live happily ever... Whoa! What happened to Chica? I think she was headed to the ranch house at Sarsaparilla Ranch to try to find Princess. This star-crossed couple is really having pains trying to get back together.   So I kinda un-hostaged them and brought all these poor disheveled townsfolk to the main room where the rest of the Posse was doing the same, finding captives and freeing them.   The singing cowhands showed up, with their mesmerizing songs, evil demon-possessed cowboys. There seem to be only two of them, on fiery steeds, of course, I say literally. Things got even more hectic then with everybody going in different directions, but mostly working to the same plan. Sephia and Bruthasmus fought them, and one of them got possessed, if I heard right. Miro and I went hunting for the secret concealed magically warded back door secret escape route. I asked Sister Stone to soften like clay, and Miro is good at digging, so we found it.   Hey, I wonder if I can remember that old, "Wisdom of the Owl" spell. It's a Druidic classic. It doesn't bust mind control or possession, but it makes it harder to get charmed and easier to break your mind free. Rowtag would certainly want me to try it if it would help out Bruthasmus.   I wonder if the plan is to fight the evil cowhands from hell or run from them?

    20201108 Pale Rider. Pale Ale. Coincidence? I think not.

    We were surrounded by three score of BriarSeed Children. I figured the BriarSeed Children came here to gather water for the nursery off to the east.   They did not do that.   I roused them with my enthusiasm, that they could do the thankless task joyfully this time, knowing that I would be supervising the building of an aqueduct so that (eventually) they would never have to do it again because Sister Gravity would be doing it for them. I figured they would thank me and sing my praises.   They did not do that.   One of them said that the "mammals" were made to do that, and he came up with the idea that they could go get some to do exactly that right now. Oh boy. I loudly praised him for his initiative and deductive reasoning skills. I pinned an oak leaf from the nearby Lone Oak directly to his chest and announced that this symbol made him the Leader. I considered that a passive-aggressive strategy, identifying myself as the kingmaker. I figured they would fall in line behind the leader who would appreciate my aggrandizement.   They did not do that.   The ensuing kerfuffle left plenty of opportunity for our SNAFU Posse to quietly step into the background, (into the cave we had seen earlier which I had been avoiding due to it screaming, "Baited trap!" at my eyes), and explore the evil-tainted cavate in apparent safety. I figured we would go straight for the Stormborn whose enslaved soul I was certain was the source of the water in this recent fabrication of a cave system.   We did not do that.   Not for a while.   We did find many of the townspeople forced to labor in a soot-filled room barbecuing the carcasses of the slain Hell-bovines (and who knows what else, or who else) into fatty compounds usable for fertilizer for the Arguably Evil Plant Army.   I other rooms, we found two plant nurseries, which was to be expected, but of course the near-entirety of the growing plant army remained out in the sunshine, forming a protective perimeter to fend off the Hell-bovine attack, much like the farmers of Purgatory Gulch planted carnivorous weeds at the perimeters of their farms to fend off the herds of ordinary cows and bulls all those years ago, which certainly led to this fiasco of killer plants battling murderous livestock.   Thankfully, underground crystals refracted daylight all around every cavern, allowing us to find also the "mammals'" sleeping quarters (behind a petrified wood door if I heard right), and the central massive Geode Cavern, certainly the main draw which inspired the devious Master Farvald Kerner, Alchemist Extraordinaire to lair here when starting up his Grand Scheme. Oh, and the floating Manta-Leaves that swam by in the air above me, those are pretty in the crystal-light. Fortunately, they are not territorial and are harmless.   In this Geode Cavern, I noted a butchery, a leather-working station, a smithy, two deep pools, and even a bit of a nursery, a whole "Circle of Life" (and death) set up in one huge showpiece of a room. And up in the back was stone-hewn stairway leading up to a star, a star, shining in the night, with a tail as big as a kite. No seriously, the grand royal suite up there really did look so sun-shiny that I literally cast Cloak of Shade on Wrong Way and myself to protect us from the scorching sunlight I expected to find.   A Stairwell in the stony back wall led up to what any narcissist would have to call, "My room", by which I mean, "his room", MFK's study. At the entrance was a carpet of oregano, which releases its delicious scent whenever trodden. Around the sides, among the several curtains of vines, were apparently grown (rather than carved) wooden statues of nymphs of all walks of life. I believe I saw the Spirit of Knowledge (a Teacher), the Spirit of Innovation (an Alchemist), the Spirit of Self-Reliance (a Farmer), the Spirit of Individualism (a Cowgirl), the Spirit of Freedom (a Pilgrim), the Spirit of Compassion (a Healer), and perhaps the Spirit of Tomorrow (a Mother and child). They framed and drew all attention to a platform which could only be MFK's laboratory work center with maps, so many alchemical supplies, three podiums with books like a journal and stuff, and a sort of pipeline of water rushing around in the ceiling. And the room bore exactly one Master Farvald Kerner.   I think he had been told (by the arch-mage or whatever whom I name Dark Serious) that I was replacing Scaevola Aemula as his employee or whatever. He also mentioned the fallen star , (but I think he called it something else), that had collided and scarred this land 100 years ago or whatever and upset the balance of Life and Death quite heavily onto the death side. Upset meaning: that's why we have a near-desert plain in the midst of the Longgrass Plains. I guess it's simple when you know the trick.   He also told me that he was feeding power to Padre, who was (he didn't say, "voluntarily", but I assume so, knowing Padre) summoning all of his strength, courage, holiness, fortitude, and willpower (and light, so much light, star light, sun light, every kind of light, so bright I saw it back in the Geode room, and, come to think of it, even before we entered the cave complex) to counteract the evil cloud of evil darkness-over-the-land that the evil Hell-bovine army had conjured up to allow their evil demoniness to run amok during the daylight as badly as it runs at night around these parts, which is - mighty badly. I had the idea that I could help Padre by giving him the small amount of holy beeswax that I was carrying, but MFK told me not to mess with him.   I asked my new buddy, MFK, a few questions to clear up our working relationship. I asked the classic priority question, if (crossbow to your head) you absolutely had to pick one or the other but not both nor neither: Should I benefit Farvald at the expense of the Cavate he has built, or should I benefit the Cavate at the expense of its Master, or should I flip a coin every time? (which is a cop out.) My buddy instantly decided that The Goal (I think he called it, or maybe The Work, or whatever) was more important than himself and the cavate put together. Good to know. He truly for certain wants me to keep The Work going and accomplish the grand Goal even if it means no more MFK and no more pretty cavate, final answer, no backsies, no do-overs. And if I'm confused by his commands in any way, I should ask my bestest buddy in the whole wide world. Right, Buddy? "That would be appropriate," is I think what my new buddy said.   I'm a little fuzzy on the next part. My new buddy, MFK, said really quickly and a little quieter that he wanted me to go talk to Princess, (the one Chica is still seeking,) who was at the time in the room down the stairs to the right, the Light Garden, I think, and get her to... There was something about a latch or a latch key, and her grandfather or maybe her grandfather's magic-like rune-covered skull (which Miro has or had), and get her to hand over the spirit of the territory. I tried to get him to talk louder. If you go all day with two blobs of holy beeswax stuck in your ears, you actually can forget they are in there, but everybody else seems to forget them even sooner. So, anyway, basically what he wanted me to do first and foremost is to get Princess Alfredo to sign over the deed to Alfredo Ranch to him. I'm pretty sure she is sick and tired of the ranch just as much as she is sick and tired of being a hostage to evil cows and plants and stuff. (Is it an hostage or a hostage? Whatever.) So, easy peasy, dangerously cheesey. Oh, and I think the deal was supposed to be the deed in exchange for safe passage to any place where nobody has ever heard of Purgatory Gulch. I figured that was exactly the way out that Princess was wanting in the first place, and I figured the rest of the SNAFU Posse would go for it too.   They did not do that.   They wanted me to go back with them and meet with my new buddy, the Master. I told them all about everything, of course. I'm not a secretive guy. I really wanted to get to Princess and get her out of here safely, which was a plan from way back, and I thought they were supposed to be sneaking out the stormborn first and confronting my buddy later, because that was a plan from way way back, but, no, Miro, stickler for legalese, needed what he called a "workman's comp" form signed by my buddy to keep the SNAFU Posse as part of the plant army officially, (which saved our lives a few days ago, although we did cause at least one head to literally explode, and more than a few plant deaths were involved, but that's actually a perfectly normal day for us). I was SO CONFUSED. And my Buddy told me if I was confused by his orders, I should ask my bestest buddy in the whole wide world.   That's when Wrong Way reminded me that we have been together through thick and thin, ever since he was just a little drone, and he is definitely my Bestest Buddy in the Whole Wide World. It was like a weight being taken off... or pants. At first he was certain I could get the message across better through interpretive dance like bees do, shaking your heinie to indicate distance. When that got nowhere, he was kinda ready to sting somebody. Then I forget who mentioned I need to get the deed first for Princess to sign it.   I traipsed up the stairs again and asked MFK if he knew where the deed to the Alfredo Ranch was, and could he sign a "workman's comp" form for me, so I could get my posse to go get the deed, so we could get Princess Alfredo, so we could get her signature, so he could take spiritual control of the land that the hell-bovines were using for their evil stuff, so he could spiritually and physically kick their butts. He pulled out of his filing system and showed me: the deed to the Sarsaparilla Ranch. <Facepalm> There is no deed to the Alfredo Ranch. It is a bunch of ranches that the family bought one by one. And that ranch is the closest piece to the cavate and a perfect place to start kicking the aforementioned hell-bovine butts which are in want of being kicked.   Oh, did I mention this? The Grand Goal is not just to smack this infestation of demon-possessed cows and bulls, it's to slam the door on every demon, every elemental, every deity, and lock them all out. I didn't hear him say, "forever," but I think that was implied. (At least, "for a really long time". Or maybe he meant, "... and install a toll gate so they have to pay us an exorbitant sum each time they want to come through," but I think he meant, "forever." I really should ask him which way he swings on that issue.)   Everything else but that finally made sense.   That's when he rooted his tree-root-like feet to the ground almost exactly like the classic Druid Entangle magic but going the other direction. I figured he would explain the foot-rooting thing.

    20201024 Crash with the Titans

    Best day of being heavily cursed ever!   Everybody insisted that I get holy beeswax in my ears and get my hands tied in case I wig out from SA's old bindey cursey thingy.   Wrong Way is as reliable as ever. I know he's worried about me, but I haven't had time alone with him to let him know it's all going to turn out alright. I've got it all sorted out.   1. Wrong Way will be Wrong Way. Scaevola will be Scaevola. Miro will be Miro. A lich will be a lich. And so on. 2. If and when I meet MFK, I will call him Buddy as much as is humanly possible to get him to think of me as family.   Yiarra and SA got in a loud fight about whether now is a good time to dope-slap MFK. Even a guy with wax in his ears could hear it. SA said like twice I think that when Yiarra was just a little sapling, that she got into a boat, planning to go somewhere away from the homestead, which I totally understand. So some demigod, male probably, didn't notice her and did some stuff and stepped all over her plan and she wound up here for now, Ajory Pond. SA thinks Yiarra's tree is too big to move now. Ha, ha. Tell a glacier it is too big to move next time you see one and see what it says.   3. I'll ask MFK a question or two about his principles and values. That will help me out with my plans and let him know I can be trusted because I care about stuff.   I'm wondering: if I took a bath in this weird dark pumice all around here and got good and dirty and dusty, would I lose my access to nature magic and the heavy bindey cursey thingy too?   4. I'm not a secretive person. MFK probably doesn't know that yet, but he will notice it eventually.   I wonder how big Scaevola's tree is. She said something that sounded really weird, but I think she meant that a piece from the heart of her tree is now bound with mine. Awwwww, shucks. I knew she could be adorable when she wants to be.   We actually slept through the night! I can't remember when that last happened. But in the morning, with a tasty cold breakfast and a swim, we saw that the ash cloud was still darkening the skies. Maybe it is thinning out a little, but maybe I'm just wishful-thinking. I would swear it was from a volcano if I didn't see it coming from the evil stampede of Hell-Bovines.   Miro and Chef and Wrong Way and I took horses to Sarsaparilla Waterfall. Wait, that's not the name, but it's close; that's a ranch. Miro finally got naked and was rewarded by finding a button from the missing Mayor's coat in the water. And the hidden way up was behind the waterfall like he predicted. I don't see why he ever wears clothes if his luck is so much better without them.   I found somebody's old slipper when I was looking for fool's gold or real gold in the waterfall. Wrong Way flew up of course and found Miro's way up, and a really weird leaf, not moss or fungus, but like a leaf modified by alchemy. Think of a sub-tundra rain forest fern growing on an old abandoned grave mixed with sad moss far, far away, like the southern continent kind of far away, and then you'll be imagining what this leaf looks like. It's that weird. I like it. I'm hanging on to it.   5. I'm regretting leaving my quill and scroll case back at the SNAFU guildhall. I'm going to have to write down all these steps if I'm going to remember them all. Writing my journals on the underside of my hat with berry dye doesn't leave much available space, and it isn't easy to read afterward.   6. I can be trusted to be Jesse, even when I'm not all Jesse.   Chef is very good at climbing. I don't know if he is any good at falling; that's how good he is at climbing. Miro and I lean the other way. I always land on my boots, so it's not that bad. Miro lands on his feet one out of every two times. At the top, the air was so thin that we were lucky that we didn't encounter any newborn kittens itchin' for a fight, because they might have taken us. Fortunately, Chef's cooking skills went unhindered, so we had a bit of rest and recuperation to help us make our way down into the canyon toward that Lone Oak next to the pretty cave of pretty shiny prettiness and the waterfall known as, "Oh please let me take a bath and get all this trail dirt off again!"   To the west side of the canyon is an area so far to the west that it will only get morning sun and not broil in the afternoon sun, where cultivation happens. They carry water out there every dawn and dusk. So sad that they don't know about aqueducts and modern conveniences. Nor how to make it rain when you ask for it.   If this whole place is going to be brought back to verdant growth, then the plant species need a boost of gentle but firm care to help them survive until the rainy season. This area really needs a druid tending it. The amateurs had good intentions I'm sure, but not enough gardening skill, not nearly enough.   I'm sure the Hell Woolies have tried to come down the mountain slopes from high above. They are sheep, right? Rocks? Puh-leaze! No problem when you are a flock of sheep ... to sneak up on the garden or the cavate from above. Someone's got to come up with a way to deal with that at some point. That's a weakness. Fields of killer cabbages won't stop hell-woolies for very long. Mountain goats; that would be worse.   I expect that lone oak tree has seen a lot over the years that could help me. Say, why is it lone? Why doesn't its acorns grow every year into saplings? Maybe there used to be, and some jackass cut them down? But I don't see stumps. It could only mean one thing. Another sexy dryad has moved her tree here. I must speak to her.   No luck. It's a boy. It did tell me that the waterfall only appeared after the great on-land hurricane ended. Evil Bingo! I win a prize. But, And, However, the ground fused only like 3 winters ago. I thought the Dead Zone and the crater was here with the glaciers or the early mammals, but maybe I should ask any of the townspeople if there was a loud Bang three years or so ago. Oh, and Lone Oak says there's a bushy treant about my size, who would probably be called Farvold by his friends if he had any, I'm guessing.   7. A friend will tell you the truth when you need to hear it. Get ready, MFK, you ain't never had a friend like me.   Miro and Bruthasmus head up the waterfall. Oh, the SNAFU Posse mostly got back together. Bruthasmus and Sephia were rather smokier versions of themselves. That (the waterfall part) has to happen because we have the contract that we work for SA and her plant army in exchange for: we get to defeat the Hell-Bovines, get revenge for the Stormborn, and get that thing to the Banshee's place like buried or whatever. That's the contract. That keeps Miro Miro without being too Miro.   Hey, wait a sec. If the source of the waterfall is taken by the pirate ... no more waterfall? All the plants die of dehydration and heat? Big problem, but if I could get my druid friends to move in here and bring rains it will be a much less evil source of water. But, yes, it would cause a drought in the short term. Hmm. I need to delay Miro until I get rains here. No, wait. See Step #1. The plants can trust Miro to distract Miro. Problem solved.   Say, I can ask Sister Stone to loosen up and live a little. That way Lone Oak can grow his roots out to the water supply so he will be fine until I get the druids adding some precious rain to this place. And sure enough, Plop! Right in the middle of my work. Bruthasmus and Miro take the fast way down from the waterfall. Sister Gravity is a harsh mistress, they learn.   Sephia says she hears wind chimes coming from the cave. It's pretty. But it's like Big city. It's too good to be true. Kick some sawdust and peanut shells on the floor. Give me the waterfall any day, any hot sweaty dirty day.   Uh, oh. They say Mother Nature shall judge the quick and the dead. We are now surrounded by Briarseed children. We weren't very quick. They have like three score, we are closer to three. Hey, somebody should be carrying water to the westward botanical garden nursery round about now. They don't know I'm in charge of this place now. I wonder how I could get that message across.

    20200926 Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Butternut Squash Soup

    Well, we busted our way out of the trap holding Miss Melinda the Pliskey Alchemist. And I managed to hang onto the Alchemical Apparatus she had built, so I expect I will see her again when she wants it back.   That's just about the only thing I managed to hang on to.   Everything went so fast. Maybe it's the lack of sleep. Like I wrote, we busted our way out, climbed down to ground level, and ran for the beerwagon. It's weird how sometimes Bruthasmus and Sephia can lay smack to a Hell-Woolie in a stairway, but then they try the same moves on Hell-Woolies in a field, and it's like a fire stick against a boulder. I got to Bear all, which I must admit always feels a lot better than walking around in human form. Granted I could use more combat practice, but even the old claw-claw-bite routine didn't make mincemeat of these Woolies this time. But between all of us, a couple of them did pass on to the great beyond, leaving this Will-o-wisp-looking thing escaping the wooly body. If one of us (maybe Miro?) could figure out what those things are (I presume some kind of demon or something), maybe we could figure out a way to smack them out of a Woolie without an axe.   So then we ride to what we hoped would be safety.... No, first there were the two human riders on horseback. Tall, dark, and creepy. Chica thought she recognized them, the riders, not the horses, at least I assume she wasn't calling the names of the horses, no guarantee.   Escaping from the Hell-Bovine army again, we still had no better weapon than knowing that stopping the import of garlic into the area would halt their expansion. There was a hint in those old journals that Big M&L knew a way to cut the tap-root on the bovine army, and maybe they are working on it right now. But we're not that lucky.   Then safety. Or rather pumpkin squash. I'm really surprised Scaevola Aemula had it in her to grow a giant barrel cactus (basically a pumpkin squash with attitude) all the way around the town of Purgatory Gulch like a fortress wall... in a single night. But I guess I should never underestimate what a woman or a hungry badger can do if she sets her mind to it.   So Miro got most of us through the cactus wall and into town, minus the horses and beerwagon. I guess SA couldn't keep the plant army distracted forever; they did come back and take all the people in town for preservation in what amounts to a fruit cellar off to the West. (At least I think she said the West. I wrote earlier about how I think the pumice or something might be mixing up her Ranger-Sense.) But she did keep all the riding animals and bees in town safe - almost literally locked up in a pumpkin shell. The permanent sunshine coming out of Jasper Chapel of the Sunbringer seemed to be the only source of light in town.   So it looked like we were going to go our separate ways and I might never get a chance to help SA out of her predicament. Dryads and Liches live a lot longer than humans do, even healthy ones. It didn't look like I would have time to write down my thoughts, and it didn't look like I would get a chance to talk it over with Wrong Way. My "thinking" was: We need to prune back the plant army as much as we do the bovine army, otherwise, one will overrun the other and cause the kind of massive suffering like when you have too many deer and not enough wolves. SA is the general in this army. The Jack-O-Lanterns can't run things like she can. And she has absolutely no heart in it. They will take a loss without her every bit as badly as the bovine army has from our interference. It might even cause more damage to the plant army than I intend because I know she is halfway drawn to serving revenge with fava beans and a nice chianti.   Over the last two days (or was it more) I called in every favor from earth, water, fire, and air, even Brother Bear and Sister New Moon. But I still had: (1) a walnut in my hat, (2) my wits, and (3) one big favor from Mother Nature. There's a Druidic favor that pulls curses and diseases off of an undeserving person onto a self-sacrificing druid. It's because we are tough and can handle bad stuff in life.   So, by holding her hand and expending my last dram of magic, I accepted her affliction, and took her place under the evil binding. Now she is free. I feel certain nobody is really prepared for SA to be free.   And what could it hurt? Whatever binding it was, it probably only worked on demons and half-demons, right? And the self-proclaimed "Master" SA used to serve wouldn't even know, right? He would keep ordering her around, and she could play along, until she's, like, "Nuh-uh!!" And he'd be like, "Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa?" It would be hilarious, right?   Turns out, it's a really smack-down evil binding. The "Master" figured it out right away and mentally popped out of his laboratory to push my face to the ground, (which is not so bad if you are doing it to a druid or a dwarf, if you think about it,) say something about how druids meddle, (or maybe how humans always meddle, or men in kilts maybe,) and seem really displeased by mentioning how much he is totally not displeased with the way the armies and the simple people and SA in particular are turning out, nope, meddling doesn't bother him at all, he's way too mighty for a little meddling to grow any stinging nettles in his poesy patch that he's been tending for so many years. He's quite certain I'll succumb to the evil binding much faster and more so than SA. He must be certain because he said so right before he disappeared again, right? What do you expect from a guy who only wishes he had Lee Chung's kind of fashion sense?   It's not that big a deal. A human my age only needs to wait out the clock another seventy years or so. It sounds like SA carried this weight a lot longer than that.   And then there's the plant-based-lich, who is less powerful. Master Farvald Kerner, I think. Does he know of the switcheroo? Maybe I can get SA to pull the rug over his eyes. And if he does figure out who has the binding (It's a shell game?) he might not be able to order me around. After all, the "Master" told SA to work for his lichiness, he didn't tell me any such thing. But, maybe I should pretend he does have power over me. If he puts me in her place as general of his plant army and makes me run things... Come to think of it, I might be able to run things better than he thinks. I know how to grow plants better than any lich. A druid running a plant army instead of a Dryad? I might even make his formerly evil plan go horribly horribly right.   Wait... Was the creepy singing coming from the creepy farm hands on their creepy horses? I hope so. It would be even more creepy if the woolies can sing.

    20200912 Love Birds in a Hurricane

    Scaevola Aemula and I got together again, and Wrong Way too. Glad to see him. I hardly got any time to talk about her to him, nor him to her for that matter. There's no time; this situation has been growing (or rotting) for so long that we need some swift action. We might be able to get some of the parties (Ranchers and Farmers and others) to out of the traps they've set for themselves. Some of them may already be trying. Big Mari and Big Louie might be at least mostly come to their senses. Now if we can find them before they get themselves killed trying to put back down what they called up.   At the Whippetal Ranch, there's that Pumice hill where maybe a falling star skipped. It could be chock full of magic materials, or anti-magic materials. Either way, more coveted than anyone around here seems to know. I wonder who has the land rights to it? The Alfredo family maybe? I wonder if it is interfering with Scaevola Aemula's sense of direction too? She does so much tree-hopping it could be dangerous for her to lose her bearings.   We sneaked our way to the Whippetal Mansion, depending on what you call sneaking. Chef got a Hell-Woolies' Halberd - in his hands, not in his skull, which is good.   We took the kinda secret servants' door to the cellar. It had all the usual stuff, a furnace, a globe stuffed with baby blankets, an empty prison cell, letters from Mia Alfredo to her cousin. Also some notes on how the Alfredo's kept Purgatory Gulch out of the Free Cities League. Also a disreputable real estate plan to buy up all the land suitable for a youthful team of meddling sleuths and their pet to investigate.   Big M and Big L might have been the powerhouses on the Rancher side. It seems Grandma Clementine Gnarlbeard of Corrient Farm was the powerhouse on the Farmer side.   It appears their was a War for the Storm. In this arid land, who controls the water controls the power of life itself.   Big M&L left a note for Princess to grab her little friend and Grandpa's decorated skull and head south... way south... Then keep going.   So we got all the way from the cellar to the attic before we found ourselves in a death trap. It's a shame I never have time to talk Alchemy with anyone who's interested in it. They are always fighting for their lives.

    20200815 Animal versus Vegetable

    Dagnabbit hauled the beer-wagon as fast as he could with 27 people loaded into it. The legions of hell-bovines behind us developed their charge into a full stampede, with only animal fury, with only one goal - to stomp us flat.   It began to appear that they would overtake us before we led them into the plant army. That definitely put saltwater on our soil if you catch my drift.   So the SNAFU Posse did what we do best: change the plan.   Sephia, already in the air, headed to the army of killer plants where we expected to find them. If she could find the lovely and disturbed Scaevola Aemula, she would bring them here.   Bruthasmus and Lee Chung (and Chef) jumped off the wagon to slow or stop the stampede.   Miro enchanted the wagon with a portable obscuring mist that hid us and covered our tracks, but we could see out of it. I've got to learn that one.   Miro tended the injured hostages while I tended Dagnabbit, who was of a mind to confront a stampede head on rather than tail first, but I (armed with a few apples from Miro's lunch sack) convinced Dagnabbit that we might yet outrun them, or at least delay the inevitable.   In our cart was Ruggerio Bisheri, captain of the Bisheri Caravan and father of Dachio, who sent us on this mercy mission.   Also, we had a feisty auburn-haired lady who, bless her heart, looked like she had visited Miss Clairol's Enchanted Hair Salon in Aquitaine one time too many.   We rode on the roads to the blacksmith shop a bit south of town and saw a signpost cactus painted with markings. I tried to run us past it close enough to read directions, and loud ringing of magical bells sounded in the air. Oh boy. They were on us again.   Fortunately the most direct path was off-road because Dagnabbit by birth and by the special shoes Frederico and I had built for him had a distinct advantage in rough terrain over any other hoofed animal.   When we got to town, we found it beset by a small portion of the killer plant army. We saw Sephia flying away with one of the living Jack-O-Lanterns called Lord Jack (not the one she had killed the other day, obviously). He did not see us. Her plan was obvious. She had led away the leadership of the plant army and most of its minions and convinced Scaevola Aemula that a small policing force was all that was needed in the town, and that the majority was needed to fight the evil stampede of hell-bovines. Of course Sephia knew that Miro and I could clean up the town in a few minutes.   Relying on my extremely recently forged credentials with Scaevola Aemula to support me, I took charge of the killer plant minions, as much as I could. Thank the Heavens Above and the Hells Below that these weren't the sharpest thorns in the brier-patch, because a number of them mustered to my commands. After a great deal of shouting about how they had or had not followed their orders correctly, I had them roughly lined up down main street.   That was all the Stormborn, Miro Teague, needed to summon a rare horizontal lightning bolt to fry the buggers. Lightning bolts are suppose to go up and down, not left and right, but I was not complaining.   Only several killer cabbages of the living dead remained.   Miro took to the advantage of the rooftops to apply more electric mayhem.   I led the disappointedly unfed Dagnabbit and the freed hostages to the joyful safety and food and water in the livery stables. Sadly Frederico's well-appointed caravan with many of the townspeople had already left. It appeared we were too late to save the town, at least in the short-term. On the bright side, the hostages seemed quite capable of battening down the hatches for their safety. I left behind all but my kilt and returned to freeing the town.   Padre's holy ground held back the undead nature of the killer cabbages. Miro's ball lightning rolled across Main Street cooking the cabbages as they shambled. Again, I knew for certain that (as a sailor) Miro knew what lightning was supposed to look like, and this was not that, but again, I couldn't complain.   Before Padre and Miro's faces I called on Great Grandfather Dire Bear to give me the strength (and the claws and the fangs) to take care of my fair share of the remainder of deadly vegetables by applying manual pressure to them one or two at a time.   As Sephia obviously had planned, Miro and I cleaned up the town in a few minutes.   In the scuffle, the Alchemy shop burned to the ground.   The SNAFU Posse assembled again and we shared our learnings of the day. The plant army was to take the townspeople to the northwest. The Hell-Bovines are created by a complicated ritual that requires a large fire pit, rosemary, garlic, a big cage, and a bit of time. There are several weaknesses in their process we could exploit to stop further creation of their hordes. Even stopping the import of garlic would hinder them. If only the undead plant army had a similar weakness. Apparently in both cases the humans (Farmers and Ranchers) who started this war are no longer in control of their own forces.   We decided that Miro and I should rest up for more catastrophes later in the afternoon while the Posse fed and questioned the rescued hostages. After my nap, I hope they will have more actionable intelligence for us.

    20200101 Jesse's Ancient History

    Jesse was raised by an elderly alchemist in Athkatla, Amn. (Maybe change that to Dublinshire?) From his earliest memories, he quaffed potions and practiced exercises and nutritional diets to make him grow up big and strong, knowledge of which came from an ancient book his alleged father said contained wisdom of the druids. Apparently it worked, for he grew up to have strength and vitality rivaling any men he knew. With his boundless youthful energy springing up from within, he longed for the beautiful and vibrant wild lands spoken of in the druidic tome. But the plants and animals of which he read could be only childhood imaginary friends, for his father embodied the exact opposite.The bespectacled elderly alchemist sought a dry intellectual life more fitting his own frail form, resulting in great magical prowess. And, the power-monger expected his boy to follow in his footsteps, combining the perfect intellect with the perfect body. Yet, sadly, the childhood playfulness and friendships from which most of the joy of life springs were not considered to be a necessary ingredient in this recipe. Instead, arcane study and spell casting and chemical brewing were meant to be his work and his play. What his father expected him to become, he was never told and never asked. In fact to this day he is uncertain whether he cares, for the two fought more and more through his teenage years, until finally he left, and set out to make a life of his own in those fascinating yet peaceful wild lands which seem to goon forever. Only years later, after learning more of nature, did he wonder why he had no memories of a mother, why his alleged father had never spoken of a wife, marriage, nor family. But that mystery may remain unsolved, for he has no intention of returning to the big city and the life he left behind. In his travels, he tried all the ways he had read to detect which lands were protected by druids and rangers, and when the trees of Haranshire told him of Oleanne, he realized that she could teach him much, and might be willing to do so.      Holiday in Aquitaine; The Swallowtail Butterfly Festival Initially, when Jesse wandered into the Mosswood and Tickwood forest areas, he met a bugbear Ranger named Bruthazmus who welcomed the help, although neither of them knew yet whether Jesse was just passing through or would take some responsibility for tending the area. Bruthazmus told Jesse of the Falconer, Shalelu Adosana and what the rangers use to signal a call for assistance, just in case they might need all hands on deck some day. Bruthazmus also pointed out some of the local kobold tribes and the big city of Aquitaine.   Jesse blessed a few farmers’ crops around Aquitaine this year. If the autumn harvest is better, his services might be in demand next year. But Jesse needed some cash in time for the festival if he were going to be able to buy some permanent ironwood from a merchant.  (He still doesn’t have enough clout with the Drionian Circle (who make the stuff) to score some.) So, he got himself a good bow and arrows and has been posing as a ranger guide-for-hire to help travelers safely arrive at Aquitaine. Jesse is coming to the Swallowtail Festival to buy a piece of permanently enchanted ironwood. It doesn't matter what shape it is in. Jesse can use the Druid Shape Wood spell to permanently form it into a utility knife that will never rust.   Near Aquitaine but not too near, Jessehas befriended a hive of bees a safe distance from town, learned how to avoid angering them, and learned to communicate with them. He is touched by their simple spiritual lifestyle and their sadly short lifespan. They guard this friendly giant's town clothing, and share their honey in exchange for his protection and his occasional providence of transplanted rare flora which they all enjoy. Only a few would be willing to die for him, but many appreciate his tales of the distant outside world far from their parochial compound. Only the queen remembers life before his arrival.

    20200801 Nightmare at Agoseris Ranch

    The Agoseris Ranch was absorbed into the Whippetal Ranch some years ago apparently. Whatever evil showered upon Whippetal thouroughly drenched Agoseris. But we didn't realize that until after we had thrown open the barn door. And then it was too late to change our minds.   We thought the plan was sound. Our wagon, though not the fastest on the roads, was better able to negotiate the rocky hillsides than any other, so we rode to the Agoseris barn directly, ignoring the long winding road which even herds of evil were forced to use. Lee Chung would infiltrate the barracks built for human habitation and free any hostages, then lead them to the wagon when the rest of us drew the attention of their captors. Then we would all gather at the wagon and ride back to town, leading the army of hell bovines (developed by the Ranchers) nipping at our heels straight into the other equally destructive, and equally evil, army developed by the Farmers, and the two would settle their differences, violently, preferably in view of the whole town of Purgatory Gulch, so they could all see that the "troubles" that beset them, growing year after year, were of their own making, and thus up to them all to stop.   Before we approached the Agoseris barn, we didn't know the scope of the evil that possessed this area. It had only been several days since the sudden appearance and equally sudden disappearance of the unnatural hurricane storm drew our attention. No time to amass an army, much less two, but this trouble had been festering for many years.   With our wagon parked at a rendezvous point northeast of the barn just into the rocky hills. Lee took to the barracks as planned and worked as silently as anticipated. I walked, in my normal human form, to the open barn door at the southwest corner of the horseshoe-shaped barn, and heaved the barn door shut on the cows and sheep, and locked them in. The rest assembled around the remaining open barn door at the southeast side. The central area inside the horseshoe shape of the barn was empty. Wait, cows and sheep comingling in the same barn? And letting themselves come home in the wee hours before dawn with no human intervention? Odd.   The plan was to attract the attention and the bodies of all the captors to give Lee free reign over the building, so Miro made some magical gestures at the nearby barn door, then he tossed a stone at it. The door rang and reverberated like an alarm bell. We had their attention now.   No shouting of cattle rustlers nor bandits. Only the cows and sheep wandered from the barn toward the door making the noise. Had we been mistaken? Was this just a peaceful, if odd, ranch barn full of innocent domesticated animals?   No, we had not. No, it wasn't.   The first cow, (let's call her Bessie), rose up on her hind legs and brandished a long sharp polearm weapon from nowhere I could see. The sheep and ram by her did the same. The rangers and Miro let loose arrows and other missiles.   I took a few steps to the door, feeling somewhat alone with so few plants in the dusty dirt around the barn. All the plant allies I could call had been trampled by many hooves into nothingness long ago, Then I remembered how the druids from the deserts would call on the elements to assist them. I asked, and Mother Earth started the dirt and gravel shifting like desert sands. No more hell-spawn animals could leave the barn by that doorway without great difficulty.   As the team continued to pummel the beasts, Brother Fire created a blazing bonfire in the doorway and lit the ground on fire for me. We were unable to slay those three, and there were hundreds in there.   Then the other barn door I had locked burst asunder with a stampeding herd of cattle and sheep intermixed. They galloped into the light of the barely risen sun. Yes, there were hundreds of them, stampeding. The angry herd turned our way, toward our standing battle at the southeastern barn door.   I'm not sure who was first to call the retreat. I think it was unanimous.   Sephia took to the air, finding the fruits of Lee Chung's labors running and limping toward the wagon with a half-dozen Hellwoolies giving chase to recover their captives. She of course had a thing or two to say about who should be allowed to win that race.   Mother Earth again came to my aid, kicking up the gravel and rocks in the stampede's way to slow them down and inflict more than a little pain on each one. But the herd was almost mindlessly charging headlong, directly at us.   Miro, Bruthasmus, Rowtag, Spiro, and even Chef with his meat cleaver did battle with the wounded-but-still-possessed-of-demonic fury Hellcow and the Hellram who was equally injured but not defeated. We pushed enough to get a view around the corner.   The remainder of the beasts in the barn were kicking their way through the wall to cut us off. And Brother Fire still raged at the door near us, blocking us to the north, but equally blocking the beasts. The only retreat seemed to be the open plains to the south, offering certain death under the hooves of the stampede.   If only we could fly like little Spiro and Rowtag. Then we could escape. But my favors from Nature were running short. I might never again see Wrong Way or any of the animal friends who helped me so much in these plains, like the little poisonous frogs who did so well in a swarm against the first solitary Hellbull we found, pouncing and leaping about in the mud left from the unnatural hurricane. Hmm... Maybe I could muster another favor or two.   I leaped at Bruthasmus' back, shifting myself, boots and all, into a poisonous frog. I granted him the favor of sticky hands and feet and strong legs. And Chef. Then I lept, onto the Hellcow's crown, then off, onto Miro's flamboyant hat. I would recognize it anywhere. The same gift to him, then, after just a breath or two, up onto the side of the barn, clinging and climbing to the roof.   Returning to my mundane human form, I called for the others, and made them aware of their new gifts from Nature. Between them, they had the fearsome Hellcow on its knees, but the Hellram was still fighting. They lept and climbed up on the roof with me as both stampeding herds were starting to come together at this corner of the barn beneath us, a bountiful supply of certain death.   With one second of peace, I had to try one unlikely strategy. I asked Sister New Moon, who is only up in the daytime, and who keeps secrets so well, to bless us and hide us from all animals. It is a simple request that every training druid learns, and a fragile one, easily broken. But would it be any use on these poor animals possessed by hell's minions?   It worked. They could neither see nor hear us, not while the newly risen Brother Sun hampered their demonic minds. That favor, I did not have to request. It appears to be a weakness of the hellspawn, if only a minor one.   So carefully, we crept north toward the barracks. Miro and Bruthasmus contacted Lee Chung, just under our feet, clinging to the rafters of the barn with several more humans, goblins, and even a dwarf whom he had lifted up into the darkness and momentary safety. Our distraction, though it had brought the wrath of well over a hundred head, had not cleared the barn of all the hellspawn. There were still many more than we could fight. Yet, we had the remainder of the hostages out of the building in just a few minutes with our ability to cling to the walls and be unseen by the captors, two feats which Lee Chung duplicated with no magic whatsoever, only his eerily silent and methodical movements.   Apparently, what humans (I assume) bargained for their herd animals to become possessed of demonic intelligence, dexterity, and rage were no longer in control of this situation. They were, in varying degrees, no longer stewards but prisoners of the herds they once tended.   Back at the wagon, Miro and little Spiro aided Sephia in totally bedeviling the posse of Hellsheep, who failed to recover their captives. A very full repurposed beer wagon then plodded across the rocky hills that early morning, pulled by reliable Dagnabbit in his protective horseshoes, carrying us back toward town... which still had its own troubles.

    20200727 Mapping the Whippetal Ranch

    [Other players' characters used without permission under the "Rule of Funny"; it's ok if it's funny.]   [Image of Tawny Owl GNU Free Documentation License: ]   Jesse the Tawny Owl returned in the blink of an eye, (geologically speaking), to the spot in the road where the SNAFU Posse was riding toward Whippetal Ranch. He scratched a word in the dirt in Kayam Runes. Blank stares. He points to the word and hoots, t'wit-t'woo! Crickets chirp. He makes the same hoot only louder and slower. Sephia facepalms. Lee Chung remains politely stoic. Jesse gives a little hop as it dawns on him. He writes over the first message, in Common, "FARMHOU...". Miro says, "You know I have a map, right?" Rowtag lands near Jesse and hoots. Jesse excitedly hoots at him a while, then looks at Bruthazmus. Rowtag shakes his head. Jesse hoots again. Rowtag slowly starts to hoot at Bruthazmus. Bruthazmus waits politely, with a smirk growing on his face. Miro lays his map down on the ground and tries to get one of the owls to take a quill with ink. Jesse hoots again. Rowtag makes the same hoots only louder and slower. Bruthazmus starts, "You know..." Zhang Sephia starts, "Isn't there a spell...?" Miro says, "Just point to the map!" Jesse gives a little hop as it dawns on him. He hoots out a musical magic spell. Miro tilts his head, "?" "There are five barns, two lakes, one silo," Jesse says in Common in a voice slightly higher than Mickey Mouse's. Jesse coughs and clears his little owl throat. In the deepest voice he can manage, he says, "Agoseris Barn is the most Northeast, and there's a waterfall in the northwest..." "Now we're cookin'," Miro says as he starts marking the map. "The waterfall is a little more to the right," Sephia adds. Bruthazmus and Lee Chung turn an inquisitive look to Sephia. "Don't blame me. Xifeng wanted to make sure Jesse was safe out there," she explained. Between them all, the map was completed in the blink of an eye, astronomically speaking.    

    20200718 Ok, I have a type.

    Dear Diary, Where to begin?   At the livery stable, Frederico and I made a set of wooden armored horse shoes to protect Dagnabbit's feet as we rode into the Dead Place in the hills to the Northwest of town. He (he?) was fine with my plan for him to pull the beer wagon to carry the posse and some supplies like an axle repair kit and hopefully carry back many hostages taken by the vampiric plants and their creator and his allegedly unwilling fiend servant.   Oh, and Frederico told me a LOT of the townspeople are planning to move away, like permanently, tomorrow mid-morning. I probably should have seen that coming since the mayor seems already to have done the same. That puts more pressure on us. Towns are like people; some are born, grow, lead a full life, and have a natural death; others are murdered. We need to stop a murder before brunch tomorrow.   Speaking of which, we had some good stew. Bruthazmus shared some holy honey from Padre's hives. It stuck to arrows nicely. I used it and some of Lee Chung's yellow curry to make some sunshiney war paint. I overheard Miss Melinda is a Pixie, or Piskey, or however you pronounce it; that makes her shop with its lack of stairs make more sense.   We made a plan. Brut and I would be the distraction hyenas up front, Lee, Zhang, and Miro would be the stealthy hidden hyenas approaching from different directions, and Chef would be the support hyena that adds unexpected help in the confusion. We would find the hiding fiend and her army and maybe the bad guy. We would smack them all seven ways to Sunday. It was a great plan.   Miro enchanted me with a spell called, "Brightest Night," which let me see very well in the dark night for about an hour. I must learn that one.   We rode there, and Team Longbow scouted it out. One way in and out unless you are a mountain goat with wings or one or the other. We executed the plan.   Brut and I started to consecrate the land as a druidic grove. (If you want to draw attention, do what you know how to do.) That's when I really missed Wrong Way to warn me when danger is approaching.   So there she was, General Scaevola Aemula, (I hope I'm spelling that right.) leader of the army of misfit plants in all her glory. She had all the power of a pit fiend and the grace of a dryad, and something kind of sad just behind her eyes. She had snuck away from her army and scouted and found us before they did. Talk about leading by example.   So Brut and I chatted her up a bit. We found out, yes, there's this guy controlling the fiend half of her, but he's not really that tough. Some demon summoner bound her and then like sold her like she was property to this vampire plant lich guy who forced her to do demony things when she wants to do dryady things. Her home base is south of Samakar, or Santacar; I'm almost certain it's Santacar, 18 days journey by tree-hopping. I should be able to find it. A druid tree-hopper can go about 5 miles in 10 minutes, but that's it for the day. She might be able to double that, hmm... Also, at some point she said the lich guy says he changed his racial character, so everyone shouldn't just do what their culture expects them to do. Progressive thinking for a Lich. Interesting.   And she had this brilliant plan. I could just transform into an owl and scout out the Whippetal Ranch at night with great big owl eyes. Why didn't I think of that? And she said they have developed a smokeless fire. I think they are trying to hide their forge and magic anvil that they are using to make halberds. Just my guess.   So I stripped to transform into an owl. I didn't want to offend General Aemula of course. She didn't mind! She had no problem with naked men. That's very rare around these parts. Maybe the Dryad side of her has the upper hand.   Then Brut checked with his Bugbear ancestors in a small ritual, which he thought told him that the plants would suffer if I went scouting now. That's so cute. I wonder if it ever actually works. That particular ritual was about as magical as flipping a coin. I could tell he wasn't calling up any actual natural or deific power, so one of his ancestors would have had to be checking in on him right at that moment and able to provide necromantic power to contact him. The odds are, like, out there, way out there. But Bruthasmus believes in it. I'd hate to disillusion him. It's a nice custom, and he might actually develop some clerical power if he researches and tries changing up the ritual a little. But that left me in a quandry, I couldn't tell him his beloved family customs are just a fairy tale, not in front of everybody.   But I could ask Zephia to do the scouting mission for me. She could do it better and faster anyway. She was literally born with wings. I transformed and flew up and asked Zephia to help. I didn't realize she doesn't speak owl, but it does makes sense now that I know. Rowtag and Xifeng could understand just fine. But, they didn't get a chance to translate the message to her.   (I wonder if I could ever transform part-way into an animal and still keep part human? I probably couldn't fly straight with a human nose and mouth on an owl instead of a beak.)   Then Zephia flew down to speak with the General. It seemed important, so I figured I should fly down and see if the General had any changes to the plan.   Bruthasmus reminded me to get dressed again. We did after all have an army of plant creatures closing in on us. (Armor is nice only when being attacked, but pockets are handy much more often. If I have to ask my friends the elements for some help, most nature spirits only recognize me with my mistletoe, or at least an oak leaf. At least I know Brother Lightning and the local tangle-weeds recognize me in my all-in-all, so I'm never alone outdoors.)   That's when I noticed a bald cypress seed stuck in my hatband, one with a sheen of rainbow colors. I immediately thought that Wrong Way must have tossed it there one time to warn me of danger and it got stuck. Then I remembered Yiara is a dryad of the bald cypress. Wrong Way must have gotten it from her. I'm certain either I am supposed to plant it somewhere and tend it, or I should use it to call on Yiara's power if I desperately need it. I'll have to get clarification from Wrong Way the next time I see him.   Eventually, General Aemula noted that the army of sometimes undead but always carnivorous plants was about to arrive. (She seemed a brilliant tactician, so I wanted to spend more time with her; you know, to learn more of her strategic positioning. And she has a nice voice, like root beer with vanilla.)   I asked if she could deputize us into her army before the rest of it arrives. That way, no conflict; everybody's on the same team. (There's an old Southern saying, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em, then beat 'em.") The guy who currently gives her orders would be ok with a Druid signing up, even though I'm born from the animal kingdom, but not the rest of the posse...   ...unless the posse contractually worked for me, a druid. Using our previously undiscovered super-negotiating skill, we worked out a contract in record-setting time. I blessed some of Miro's fine spirits (rum) so that they gave a full day's nutrition, and we drank to the verbal contract. The posse would work for me while (1) defeating the army of hell-bovines and hell-woolies, (2) getting revenge for the bottling of the Stormborn, (3) getting that thing that the Banshee wanted buried someplace to the right place, and (4) I think that's it. That's all I remember. It was very good rum.   When they arrived, the plant army accepted the General's news that we were on their side and there was nothing to fight here, with one exception. The enchanted Jack-O-Lantern, (who I thought were mostly made by druids to defend groves and things, but that's a mystery to solve later,) (and who I can only assume was a Seargeant, because he was pumpkin-based; whereas, if he were corn-stalk-based, he would be a Colonel,) was not buying it. He just did not want to accept what the General was telling him. He was insubordinate, which is not good for an army.   Zhang was the first to come to the conclusion that the insubordinate Jack-o-Lantern needed corporal disciplining. Or maybe the General signaled her; I don't know. It's amazing, both Zhang and Aemula can come up with a great overarching plan for the army and jump into the fray to get down and dirty too.   I'm a team player, so I shouted for everybody to attack the mutineer, and I ran to defend the General from the Jack-o-Lantern.   Calling the Obscuring Mists - Now I know why Druids who turn into bears or wolves love to do that first. It separates you from the rest of the world. It really makes you feel calm and safe to have no idea where your enemies and allies are nor what they are doing. You can ground yourself, think about the important things in life. I've been feeling a lot of deep drives lately. Usually I have Wrong Way as a confidante. I bounce ideas off of him and he tells me when I'm letting my lower nature overbalance my higher nature. Instincts versus reason. Animal urges versus enlightened self-interest. Classic.   I could tell by the explosions and thunderclaps that the posse had the situation well in hand out there. So, without any self-analysis, I opened up to Scaevola and told her all my innermost desires. And, well... It has been a long time since I have had any intimacy with a woman. It was very nice to say the least. But as always, we both had pressing responsibilities that wouldn't give us more than a moment to explore where these feelings could take us.   When the mists cleared, the mutineers had been dispatched, and the posse was still breathing.   The General told us that the rest of the plant army will be waiting the night then heading east to catch the first rays of the rising sun. The human "clients" (those farmers who hired the lichy guy) have work to do in the morning.   We better figure out what exactly that is, but for tonight, the posse has a particular set of skills. Scouting, mapping, forming a battle plan (of sorts), and kicking butt before, during, and after daybreak are among our particular set of skills. Let's see a plant army try that.   ...   ...   ...   There was a waterfall?!?!?

    20200704 Fireworks! Both a goddess and a woman.

    She's like a Naiad, a Treant, a Dryad, and a Goddess all rolled up into one! I've been wanting to see her for so long now, and she was everything I expected and much more.   Yiara said she is keeping three of the caravan survivors safe deep under water, but they are suffering from early stages of scurvy. Miro knows exactly how to cure that.   The guy causing all the trouble is one of those types that won't die for long if we kill him, like a lich or something. We would have to find his true-heart, or true-spleen, or whatever. Oh, and he has a problem with Marcos. I wonder how soon I could get a message to him.   Also, there is a she-devil working for the guy, but she would be perfectly happy if he woke up dead-dead some morning. She (or maybe both of them) are hiding in a dead-zone, like null-magic, or wild-magic, or something. There's a maybe crater Northwest of here. It seems to me like meteorites often bring wild magic, and some good steel incidentally, so you don't have to make it yourself from ore, or so I have read.   So she gave us a really good plan. (She has the greenest eyes with little brownish specks; they sparkle.) We will head to town first to get provisions. Then we will split up the party. Wrong Way will carry citrusy goodness back to Yiara to cure the sick. The rest of us will take on the Lich, the She-devil, and the plant army of doom in the magic-free zone, and hit them at night, when they are less powerful. Because, plants. And anyway, we will probably have to fight them in a cave or something, and Wrong Way is much safer in the air.   Then with them out of the way, we just have the hell-cow revolt to put down. Then the town and the Bisheri Caravan are safe.   Yiara tends a beautiful oasis and she knows like everything. I could spend a lifetime happily here.   Wrong Way had to burst my happy little bubble of dreams. He says I'm rutting out of season, and she's way out of my play-ball-league. I guess he's right, just because he usually is, but I'm certain I won't be able to even think about another woman for the rest of my life.

    20200509 Focus on everything at once

    We found a collection of receipts inside the old classic "scry-proof box". Miss Melinda Nakamori and ...   Oh, and somebody had gathered a "sympathetic magic collection" of nearly everybody in town. And somebody else wants it, badly. An alchemist could use it to find anybody from the town, a necromancer or demon-summoner could use it for much more nefarious purposes.   We don't know what will come from the Hell-Bovines not getting whatever they wanted from the mail stagecoach, but worst-case is invasion of the town by all of them. All of them. So that's a useful data point.

    20200425 Don't Stop that Stage Coach!

    Now Ranchers and Farmers notoriously argue about the proper uses of land and fences... and of course water. Nyads typically have something to say about the latter too. Without a strong King on the throne to make people stick to decisions on the aforementioned resources, we have the makings of an alchemical powder keg in Purgatory Gulch.   I hear tell Mayor Blaze hopes to hunker down until it all blows up and/or blows over.   Padre Cirino grabbed his travelling gear and Bessie, his... uh... well, she's a lot of things mixed together. I'm just gonna say she's his riding animal for simplicity.   He also helped me get Dagnabbit. He's... uh... well, he's a riding animal to me but not most other folks, from what I hear.   With the Mail stage coach arriving around noonish from the north, we figured we could explore to the south east before they arrive and then hear what they have to say. It was a sound plan.   And I'm finding my attention drawn to that Naiad or Dryad of Arjory Pond, Yiara. The more delays pop up before I can get to talk with her, the more my interest is aroused to find out what part she plays in all these strange recent shenanigans around here. Wrong Way is looking at me like he thinks I have more of a masculine interest in her rather than just investigating a mystery. I guess I might be mistaken to assume she hasn't settled down and might be interested in a young Druid's company now and then. I am aware that a lot of fellas my age make that mistake, but it is a fun mistake to make, so I planned to visit her in the afternoon. That was a sound plan too.   We tried to get the SNAFU gang together, which involved catching up with Miro south of town. He had found a guy everybody calls the Ranger, somebody (probably not Miro) beat up the Ranger and branded his forehead with a triangle symbol of the Whippetal Ranch. I think somebody mentioned Hell Bovines stealing the Magic Anvil from the Whippetal Ranch, which is all kinds of not good for anybody but them.   At Tarntaise Farm, I think it was, we talked to Klem and Jackson about rutabagas and rabbits. I blessed the crops and had to stretch my peaceful listening skills until I nearly broke my ears, but I got through it. He gave me an artsy craftsy wind-chime, which is nice.   Not nice is the brand new cemetary. A big old slice of hell and that-what-should-not-be. I got the strange feeling that Yiara might have checked out that sad sight and cried. I realized I have really got to go see her soon. And with that realization came the next obstacle. In short, vengeful ghost elf lady, somebody needs to take the Elvish Amulet back to the mountains, and everybody needs to get the Stormbringer out of the bottle he's stuck in, as in necromantically stuck in.   Oh, and then there's Braunvieh Farm which was razed and everybody killed or probably worse. We cleaned it up as best we could.   Our eyes in the skies found the mail stage coach had an issue with a cattle stampede. We did our best to cut them off at the pass. Your friendly neighborhood Harpy and I whipped up a few entanglements with all the weeds and cacti in the area. And there was some fighting. And there was some shooting. And the stage coach made it to town, just a little late and rough around the edges.

    20200411 Purgatory Gulch

    Around the Freecity of Aquitaine, a hurricane rained for days and days. Yes, an inland hurricane most unnatural. Someone is interfering with the weather. This must not be.   Sherriff Balor provided a paddy wagon and another horse-drawn cart to help rescue whatever may be left of the Bicchieri Merchant Caravan. The youth, Dacio Bicchieri, who rode all the way from Purgatory Gulch in the LongGrass Plains to Aquitaine for assistance, may be the only survivor. And his donkey, Trundlebutt, of course.   Chef!, Bruthazmus, Miro, Sephia, Lee, and of course Wrong Way. We donned our Oatman Valley Hats, or whatever apparel we had available, gathered a scant few supplies and two score of arrows as potentially a useful gift, and we headed our horse-drawn wagons West (along Warden Road at first) towards Purgatory Gulch, near the Lake allegedly watched over by the Naiad who negotiates.   Our convoy was lead by Bru & Sephia, with Wrong Way and myself in the middle (when he wasn't scouting ahead), and Miro, Chef, and Lee in Miro's wagon.   We found the low mesa where the caravan put up what appeared to be a last stand. The guards of the caravan, the Priestess Elf Lady with her bow and arrows, and the cool dude, Terabashi, had disappeared, leaving plenty of traces. A heavy rain had washed through the area, leaving the land on the low mesa fairly habitable. The remains of the caravan revealed that their valuable mercantile goods had been safely hidden in a shallow grave.   Wrong Way scouted and found the marinated and spiced jerky-dried ear of a wild Jack Rabbit, looking like it had been gnawed by something with fangs.   Suddenly a mournful, "Mooooooo," in the night revealed the presence of a fiendish halberd-wielding Hell Bovine!   Considering the surrounding wet conditions, I called upon my animal friends, and I welcomed the aid of a giant army of poisonous frogs and one giant frog who was an army of one. They were magnificently distracting as well as brave little fighters. If I recall correctly, Lee connected with the first hit, and Chef with the last as the Hell Cow finally succumbed.   Unfortunately, giant frogs eat giant bees when they get the opportunity, and in the confusion, this giant frog forgot for an instant that Wrong Way was on his team. I'll not forget to take that into consideration in the future when I choose my teammates. Perhaps I'll stick to the insect class or at least the phylum Arthropoda.   After the battle, what appeared to be tumbleweeds rolled up to the beast's corpse and began to drain its blood. I refer to these unsavory plants as Hell Cabbages. They are a problem for a later date, I hope.   The next morning, the body appeared to have been injected with marinade and perhaps buttered. Perhaps we are facing the dreaded... Anti-Chef!     In the morning, we made it to Purgatory Gulch. The town laid out from West to East as: The Church of Ray the Lightbringer, the General Store, Miss Bolinda's Shoppe, the Saloon and Schoolhouse (opposite each other), and last, the stables. We paid a fair price, 80 silver pieces, for the stablehand to take care of our tired animals. He mentioned we might chat with Miss Roselli Amour to get more information. We decided to split up to gather more information faster. I will head to the church to find what I can find.

    Cover image: by CB Ash