Zhang Sephia

Sephia Zhang

Physical Description

Apparel & Accessories

Badger's Quiver (20 arrows), Ring of Lightening/Leaping, Potion of Sanctuary, Backpack, Artisan Bow crafting tools, Souvenir Butterfly, Bedroll, 167 gems, Pot, Trail rations x 5, 50' rope, belt pouch with flint & steel, sewing needle, fishhook, belt pouch with 644 GP, torch x10, waterskin, Mt Alexandrite (worth 500g), waterskin, 50' twine, candle x4,  mess kit   +! reroll token

A young harpy out to explore the world.

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Articles under Zhang Sephia


Strike Team
13th of Grolm, 578

Jesse actually starts talking sense and we head to find the rest of the group before talking more with the skulls or heading into the green building. He is overly excited and heads off toward the barn in a dead run. I sadly don't fly that fast - and I am tired. It has been a long day and this Western way of rush, rush, rush without taking time to calmly ponder the situation and decide on the best method. I keep plugging along and I hear Jesse shouting about do I have rose wafers. I already used what I had, and I tell him that. Since he is obviously in need, I veer towards the barn to see if I can find either Lee Chung or some rose wafers somewhere. As I get closer, I can see a slime trail of dead and dying vegetation. It is like someone who is exuding death is just walking around and not thinking about the environment or the necessary balance of the world. I decide that perching on the corner edge of the bunkhouse and being above the coming confrontation would be the best place. As I am settling into place, I cast my gravity bow spell in order to do more damage to that armored thing. I draw back to strike my first blow and my bow string actually breaks. Apparently, it has been working even harder than me today. I calmly take out another bowstring and begin putting in correctly while watching what is happening below. It kinda looks familiar, but I keep my concentration on the job at hand - restringing my bow because it must be done carefully and with great precision so that it can help me in the coming battle.   I focus on my chosen target, aligning my energies and accepting that balance is necessary for the world to work in harmony. This enemy is not natural and therefore must be removed from the world. I take a deep breath and release the arrow and it hits and causes the enemy to stagger. It then looks up at me and while not exactly fear - it isn't anger either. It throws the weapon that it is holding, and it manages to hit the arm that I use to hold my bow. It stings some and causes me to drop my bow which lands on the enemy. It responds by yelling, dropping to all fours, and running due west. Not what I expected to happen at all.   I fly down and grab my bow and then go back to the roof and fire again at the fleeing monster. It is an abomination and should be removed from the world. I hit solidly and then it stops glowing: the horns, the armor, everything. I can't see it anymore and Xifeng is too far away to be able to assist me in hunting it down. It was going due west so I can hopefully determine where it is and get in another shot, though I have no clue whether I will hit or not. Perhaps the darkness is limited in some way or maybe it will begin to dissipate. Then on the other side I see the creature emerge, still heading west. I prepare the next shot. I can see that I hit it this time and then I see a glowing neon green ball of energy heading towards me. I drop to the roof and it flies over my head. I stand back up and shoot another arrow at the creature, but the arrow flies past it without hitting. I must find my balance again and focus. I need to kill this abomination. I take a steadying breath and fire with great purpose. I hit and it responds with another ball of neon green energy. I drop to the roof again and it flies over my head.   I see Xifeng swoop in and do an attack and then veer off suddenly. I know that she was coming in from behind and she should have been able to draw blood, but I don't think she did. I wonder if there is some shield spell in place? Then Bart is grappling the sheep to the ground and I can't get a clear shot. The rest of the team manages to capture the last of the demons and all is quiet. Why do I have a strong sense of doom?       Xifeng's journal   Cow must die. Cow is not good, I keep flying after cow and take my steel sharp talons to it over and over. It runs from me as it knows that I am mighty hunter. I strike again and again. Then a wild gust of wind - where could that have come from - swoops me a few feet away from my target and I miss one round. How does it run so fast? I fly faster than an arrow and catch up and slash at its eyes. I strike it again and it dies!! Now I head back to my mistress to see what trouble she has found.

Healer needed
13th of Grolm, 578

Now that all of the hay bales are on fire, I take a brief moment to check on the gate and it seems to be shutting down - at least it seems to be based upon my experience with campfires. The two axes that the demon prince was swinging around are laying on the ground beside the gate. I decide that I do NOT want to touch them to check on them and no one else should touch them either. I spare a brief glance and see that Spiro has his prey under control and I do not want to interfere with his kill. Continuing to glance around I see Mystery and Justice Mullins to the east and decide that is probably the best use of my talents. Xifeng and I fly over to be between them so if they decide to fire first and ask questions later, they will have to risk hitting their other half.   I walk up to them and see that they are choking on some of those griefgall seedlings! I send Xifeng to see if she can grab the one out of Justice's mouth while I work on getting the one out of Mystery. I grab it out, drop it on the ground and drive my knife into its cold, green, little heart. It dies and I flick it off. I check on Xifeng and she has managed to kill that one as well, but it looks like maybe one of the tentacles has managed to get into her beak. I rush over and tell her to NOT bite me and I take her into my wings, hold the hinge of her jaw and wrangle my smallest talon to see if I can snare the tendril and remove it before she chokes. Then she twitches and I think my talon might have actually pushed it further into her throat. Not good.   I take a firmer grip and manage to yank it out of her throat. I then turn and ask the two how they feel. Justice manages to hobble over to Mystery and then tell me that he doesn't believe in the orders they are being given as they do NOT follow the ranch hand code and it is almost as though they have something evil inside them. Since they have glowing horns, eyes, fingers I find that easy to believe. I still have two rose wafers with me, but no glass bottles. I hand them each one and they Xifeng and I fly towards the way Bruthazmus was going. I am sure that he needs help by now. I just hope that they are able to expel and keep the demons at bay. I don't find him close to the barn so Xifeng and I continue flying northwesterly - pretty sure that is the direction we felt him going. I focus on flying as hard and fast as I can once I see several different fights ahead of me. Xifeng falls behind some because she is a hawk - not a falcon.   I see Bull Hester in very bad shape and I know that I have a few rose wafers left. It is very sad that I do not know anything of the healing arts. Perhaps I should take some time when we are next in our guild hall to take some lessons or perhaps read a few books? Anyway, I hand him two and while he is busy eating one, I take a shot at the demon possessed cow that he is trying to kill. Somehow I miss, even though it is laying on the ground. Perhaps being demon possessed provides more help than I have considered. I prepare to shoot again, taking more time. This time the arrow goes in and I can hear the sizzle from here. I turn to make sure that Bull eats another rose wafer and he starts to get a little bit of color in his face. Bart rambles by and checks in, but I tell him that can handle it. I dig around in my bag and get out my last rose wafer and feed it to Bull. Maybe he will survive now? I take another shot at the cow, but I miss. I told Bart I got this and I have got this - eventually......      

Squeaky Toys?
13th of Grolm, 578

I am stuck inside this bedroom. Faith is making like a statue in the doorway, and I have tried twice to move him with no result. I call for help and Lee Chung responds by kicking the poor guy onto a bed. Not exactly what I expected, but maybe it didn't hurt him anymore. I am about to fly out of the room when we are suddenly in conversation with someone or something. She (it is very obviously a female) suggests that Lee Chung isn't a gentleman and should provide some kind of benefit to continue his existence. Lee Chung tosses some food on a bed and makes a dash for the other end of the house.   Then we begin to exchange pleasantries and she talks disparagingly about men in general and the meat mountain outside that I think we managed to at least render unconscious. She then invites me over to her room for tea and I fly over. I enter the room to see a HUGE female hell bovine dressed in khaki and very obviously thinking she is a princess. She has a tiara on her head! We begin to discuss the situation, but I am careful to not tell her anything that we have learned since we have been here. I even tell her that we were just investigating the storm and that is why we are in the area. I then pretend that her brimstone stench is too strong for me to stay in the same room, and I head out to try and find some lavender to counteract that. As I leave, I head straight out the door and enter the great outdoors and back into fog central.   But the fog is gone! I can see and hear a lot of commotion from my companions over by some glowing hay bales and head that way. Then I see a sheep and swing that way a bit so that I can help it - with an arrow or three. By the time I manage to fly there, it has already been involved in other shenanigans and I fly past it and head towards the hay bales on the southeast side of the circle and will tackle setting them on fire. I get the southernmost on fire and head to the northeast to the next one. I set that one on fire two and hear some agitated voices from the ground. Apparently, some of the briar seed children had other plans. Oh well. on to the next one. Fire and it is burning. Hopefully that will stop the circle from working!!   I turn around and see that Spryo is STILL trying to kill off one of the hell bovines so I fire an arrow that way, but I am obviously being tooo careful trying to not hit Spyro and completely miss. I take a deep breath and fire another arrow and manage to hit. It staggers some so it must be close to dead. I vaguely notice movement over towards the bunkhouse and see Lee Chung coming out with some others. Good - maybe he managed to handicap the princess - or NOT as I hear her yelling from inside the bunk house.  

Book, barn, and house
13th of Grolm, 578

I can still see that glow ahead and so I am going to head that way still. At least it is a destination since I can't see ANYTHING inside this fog. This is nothing like the wisps and cuels that I find around the mountains while I am flying. This is dank and dreary and no fun at all. Xifeng agrees with me.   As we get to the barn we are blinded by the bright lights coming out of the windows of this building. After giving our eyes a moment to adjust we can see the cage. It appears to be large enough to hold a medium sized bird. Actually, it looks like one we saw in the basement of the Alfredo house - but it has been changed a bit. Probably would hold a pisky nicely though. I can see dried blood on the convex floor of the cage and there is also a lot of damage to both the inside and outside of the cage. There are pieces of one or more halberds that look like they were trying to get into the cage. I look closely and see on the top of the cage buried in the metal a tip of a vampire bunny tooth that was being used to try and pry open the hook though they were too weak to make any progress. Maybe Ms. Melinda??   Moving on, I can see the book and it is glowing green but that is all I can see from this distance. Before I get any closer, I send Xifeng up to the roof to get a bird's eye view to see if there are any traps. Before we get to that point, she mentions that there are people on the roof. I send her to check and she tells me that the keeper of the scooby snax is up there - that must be Miro. Decisions, decisions.   Then I hear shouting and for sure I know it is Miro. He has found Chef and healed him enough that he can actually function. They make a plan to close the portal, find a kitchen - to get some new tools for Chef, and then go kill Evil Seed properly. Then I hear Bart yelling at me and we hatch a plan to close the book. Miro offers to jump into my arms and he will close the book, but I decline the offer. He and Chef move off while Bart keeps moving towards the book as do I.   I decide to fire one arrow into the book in an attempt to destroy it. I call upon the entire pantheon of my gods and fire one arrow into the heart of the book. It disappears straight into the book and my quiver rattles like it is in a high wind even though I am not. I tell Bart that arrows are not a solution and fly up to the roof to wait for him to come over and "deal" with the book. Jesse shows up and they discuss what to do with the book and all about Master Kerner being alive again and the best way to kill him for sure this time. About that time, Bart is attacked by a GIANT cabbage. Jesse tries to talk it down, but Bart has to defend himself from it's tentacles. I move over a little and shoot a lightning arrow into it while it is fighting with Bart and knock it unconscious.   I hear people talking on the other end of the barn and Jesse, with Bart in tow, are heading to the corner of the barn to go that way so I start along the ridge line. I finally get to the other side of the roof and I hear angry coyote - which means that Miro is angry. What would make him that angry at this point?? Maybe he has been possessed? No way to tell with this fog and I can't see his eyes which would be the only way to tell right now. Jesse starts talking to me and I really begin to understand how possessed by the lich he is. He actually thinks he has a good solution to the demon problem. I take the demon bottle from Jesse and store it safely in my pouch. At least this one isn't at fault for Miro's current behavior. Jesse will go after Miro to see if he can help and I will go inside the house to see what is going on there.   What is going on is a crossbow bolt heading straight towards me! With no time to dodge, I initiate my lightning step ring and take off across the shadowy recesses. I hear a woman plotting to take over the demon horde and is obviously in charge now since we have taken out the Prince. I turn to see the person who probably shot a crossbow at me and is now a bit scorched, but is still going to start a fight - while crying. I have to find out why and we converse for a moment. He has lost everything - except maybe his mother-in-law. He agrees to most of what I have to say, however he raises his hand to show a hell brand aimed right at me.   Snow, lots of snow, snow from nowhere and it has frozen the cowhand attacking me. I attempt to drag him over to the bed and lay him down so that he doesn't fall whenever the paralysis ends. I can't move him. Xifeng suggest pecking out his eyes or failing that stripping him naked and tying him up. I refuse to strip off his clothes and suggest that we use the bed covers instead. Bottom line, I am NOT getting this man naked.

Flying in a fog
13th of Grolm, 578

Events up to now: I took out BAA 012, 013, 014 and rescued an eleven teenager and Faylene - as well as a cart being drawn by four lapir. The cart is rather the worse from wear and I had to put the teenager on a lapir and send him towards the lake and hopefully help. Sent Faylene after him and I am hoping they will be okay Fairly sure that I saw something alive in a cage beside the barn before the fog closed in and I shot an arrow that way to maybe hopefully help whatever or whoever is in the cage. My gut is telling me it is Chef, but surely not.     I look around and all I can see if FOG. I know that druid is to blame and I am contemplating calling down a curse from at least seven of the gods. I can hear metal rattling ahead so we keep flying slowly towards that to see what might be there needing either rescuing or killing. Xifeng hops along and keeps a eye on the ground to look for a handy snack - fighting and flying does take a lot of energy.   Suddenly I hear a horrendous sound from in front of me. I am afraid that something is dying and Xifeng looks ready to bolt the other way. I attempt to calm her so that we can continue that way - we HAVE to find out what is gong on. IF only that fog would dissipate! Then I see a sheep to the left that is trying to hack its way through the jungle growth. I immediately fire an arrow and cause it some hurt. Xifeng takes heart when I shoot my bow and then attempts to help me, but I guess the fear or the fog or the feng shui is not helping her any and she completely misses the mark.   Since the sheep has something other than greenery to focus on, it slashes back at me and manages to open a slice on my left leg. I grimace and vow to make it regret that. Xifeng flies over to be ready for a serious swooping attack. I draw back my bow, but I am shaking with rage and my arrow goes into the ground. Xifeng is also incensed and spends more time screaming her rage than actually doing anything that will cause pain. I mean the eardrums of the sheep might have been stung a little bit, but I have got to get my concentration back. Perhaps this fog is affecting my mental state? I am normally a very calm and methodical individual.   I take a moment to check my impressions of the fog itself. It does not FEEL natural. The ash on the ground is black, not the white that it should be, the atmosphere is oppressive - more oppressive than you would expect from nature in action. Even the land feels tainted by the demons infesting it. I take a moment for a deep breath and focus on what is good and true and just and tell the sheep, "Die motherfucker!" and hit it with another lightning arrow. Xifeng swoops in and manages to hit the sheep with one claw. For some reason the sheep takes it personal and swings a shepherd's crook at me and manages to hit me - the same place of course . I attempt to put another arrow deep into this sheep to make it a carcass, but I think the fog is still affecting me as I miss AGAIN! Xifeng swoops in and almost takes a eye out to help the sheep see it's way to eternity.   Then the sheep actually uses its horns against Xifeng and manages to poke her back! Just as we were about to deal a killing blow, an electrical bolt sizzles through the air and takes the sheep down - well almost. I land and use my sword to deliver the merciful end that all foes vanquished in battle deserve - especially those who have caused us pain. Then I head towards my original destination to determine if someone needs saving - or killing.  

Battle of the bands
Grolm 10, 578

My entangle spell has tied Mister Bad Guy stuck in place - and it also tied Jesse in place. I then fire one of my lightning arrows at him, but I miss. I know that there is a bottle at the back of the platform that is probably important and might even be the stormborn that Miro needs. I suggest to Xifeng that maybe he and Rowtag should take this opportunity to snatch it. I shoot another arrow at him while Xifeng heads over to Rowtag to talk bird talk and hopefully come up with a good plan. This time it hits. The big pouty baby runs to submerge himself into a tub at the back of the platform and he actually orders Jesse to stop us. Jesse blathers on about what to do next and the bird duo grabs the bottle and carries it back to Bart. He snatches it out of the air and then it is suddenly deathly quiet. No singing, no water sounds, nothing. Then the crystals start to throb and from somewhere around Bart comes a banshee wail that lasts for a full minute. Then everyone else starts scrambling for things and trying to put the stormborne into a second bottle and no one seems to be doing anything really. So, I shoot an arrow at the crystals to see if I can use the lightning to break them.   I don't believe we managed to take him out that easily. Something else is going on. Bart suggests that I go check to see if the waterfall is still flowing so I fly back to the main chamber. There is no waterfall and the chamber has more of a sunset red glow. I glance down to see if the humans are still there in the huts but instead, I see around twenty jacks staring back up at me - as if I was a monster on the top spire of their temple! I race back into the lab and holler out, "Twenty jack with no waiting!" and then rush back out and fire off a quick arrow at the closest one. It spits back at me, but I know I hit it! I fire another arrow and that one falls to the ground without reaching my target so I do a quick loop-de-loop in order to dodge whatever it might try to throw at me. Jesse walks out and orders all of the jacks to go rest and await the great battle tomorrow, but for some reason, the one that I set on fire is still flying after me. Which is laughable since I am a natural flyer. I shoot another arrow at it and it sizzles nicely. Pumpkin pie anyone? It attempts to send a pumpkin seed bomb after me, but I am able - barely - to stay out of the way. In retaliation, I fire another arrow and it falls to the ground lifeless.   Bart hollers at me to stop playing around and come help the team to take on some giant cactus that looks monstrous so I guess I should go help, but by the time I get there, Jesse seems to have it under control. I fly back into the laboratory and ask in general if anyone has seen Chef. No one has since the battle started and I go over and do a heal on the Padre and then sit with him while Bart goes to release some of the humans and help them down the stairs. He promises to look for Chef while he is out and about. Miro is playing around with the items on the tables and then decides that it would be a good idea to go and tell the humans he found earlier about the fact they are free and can leave the caveat.   I am sure it has been at least a year that I have been sitting here and the Padre has not moved. I feel a hint of a draft and glance around, but don't see anywhere where the air could be coming from. I search around and find a few dozen candles, light them, and set them around the area. Then I watch to see how they react and the smoke seems to be heading towards an area at the back of the platform. I investigate, but I can't seem to find any opening. Then all of the candles go out and the crystals stop glowing - except for the Padre's eyes which do glow with a hint of Angelfire. I walk over to see if he responds to my presence and he starts blinking and asks what is going on. I suggest that now might be a good time to go find the others.   As we start down the stairs, we see the others enter the cavern. We notice that something is a bit off about Brathzamus, but I also notice that more than the Padre's eyes are glowing. I suggest that we shouldn't rush into anything, but Padre is convinced that the cows will attack once the sun goes down - and he might have a point. The others ask about a back door and I tell them about my suspicions and what I noticed about the wall at the back of the cave upstairs. Jesse and Miro both head upstairs to see what they can discover. I turn back to the Padre to discuss the whole glowing thing and then Bart goes over and hugs two people. Let me say that again - BART HUGS two people and then spouts off in what I think is elvish to them. They look like they have had a rough month which just got worse. There is a long conversation about being able to release the stormborn from the bottle.   Then Bart / Elven priestess walks towards the entrance and starts singing. Entering are two pale riders with glowing eye and horns. Now what do we do?  

Into the caveat
Grolm 10, 578

Surrounded - by 60 briarseed children! Not really bright enemies, but still sixty is a lot. Xifeng and I fly straight up about 25 feet and await developments. Jesse starts telling them to go water the plants and then gives one of them a leaf which turns into a free-for-all for the leadership leaf. The others agitate the crowd and get them fighting each other and then slowly sneak past them and then we are all inside the caveat with sounds of mayhem outside. We continue into the tunnel - probably made by magic - which has an unusual light. We come to an intersection and pause to decide on a plan. Miro is determined to bring justice to Farvald and can tell that there is water -probably the waterfall - down the northern path. Bart looks for tracks and says that SA was mostly using the western path. I mention that the waterfall was inside the cave where the humans were and that we had to pass it to get to the cave where Farvald is. I go partway up the northern tunnel and Bart goes into the western tunnel and we both track and listen to see which might be the best path to take as a group - unless we decide to split up.   The tunnel looks frequently traveled, frequently swept and tidied - might not be the best way to go if we want to avoid any confrontations until we reach Farvald. What I don't really remember is the lovely blue light and there are crystal flecks in the walls that bounce the light. I do remember the sage and mint scent in the air, but it doesn't seem to be as strong as it was the last time I was here. I am positive this was the path that led directly to Farvald. I go back to the group to report on my findings, but only Jesse is there. He claims he is waiting for Lee Chung to show up and we discuss some odds and ends - including the fact that the dead spot was made more obvious about three years ago. Chef is upset about the fact that Jesse keeps writing in his hat and wants to destroy it. To save his hat, Jesse sends him off to find Miro. I suggest that is probably not a good idea and we follow behind him in order to keep him safe. The path is dry and there is not the blue light that was in the other tunnels. It is a fairly wide tunnel and there is a hint of some spices in the air - and maybe grilling meat? Then around a corner comes Miro and Chef. Miro is excited because he found people. They were being forced to cook hell cow to feed everyone and then Miro tells us that a lot of the people are here from the town and are taking care of the baby plants and do various tasks on this side of the waterfall.   We decide to go back to where we started and then head west to go find Bart now. It meanders around and has occasional crystals in the ceiling to bring in light. It is a very busy looking tunnels with lots of tracks and not swept or tidied. Then Bart is strolling back towards us. He shares what he found down the western passage and after discussion, we decide that the best way to go forward is to leave the people where they are since they are at least safe - if not comfortable. We will go back to the crossroads and head north to see about sneaking into the Farvald cavern. Then there is a LOT of conversation about what to do and how to do it and what we should do first and and and. Finally, Bart convinces Jesse to go and present himself to Farvald and separates him from the group. He heads out and we all sneak behind him to follow him to Farvald. Jesse takes off and we are about to follow him when suddenly we are attacked by some small plants that fall from the ceiling.   One flies at me and I manage to not get hit and strike back and damage it at least a little as I get ready for its next pass. It tries to get in another hit and it is a laughable attempt and I manage to swing around and strike back with my staff. Then it apparently decides that enough is enough and turns to flee. I do not want it to have a chance to warn anyone else of our presence so I do a quick flying sprint and catch up and smash my staff through the middle of it and then turn around to check on my companions. Another one is limping towards me so I bring my staff down and finish it off and that completes the battle as we have now taken out the entire group that attacked us. I suggest that we head out to find Jesse and finish this once and for all.   The northern tunnel extends into a huge cavern with signs of modifications. There are several side paths and many working areas around including butcher shops, plant nurseries, leather-working, blacksmith. Ahead is the waterfall which splits apart to provide water for many different areas and then probably joins back together below before exiting the cave system. This is a lovely cave with lots of beauty, small pools, and it is filled with that beautiful blue light that is coming from behind the waterfall. We start up the stairs and have a quick whispered conversation to figure out who is doing what and I get entangle ready to use when we enter the home cave of Farvald. We all stay close to the inside of the staircase and as we get close to the top, there is Jesse. After a LOT of talking, Jesse turns around and leads us back into the cave of Farvald.   He starts babbling at Farvald and once they are distracted - I cast entangle which totally locks Farvald in place while he is holding the deed to WhipPetal ranch.

The path through
Grolm 9 - 10, 578

We manage the trip to Arjory pond shortly after sunset which was challenging since we had all the animals we had rescued from Purgatory Gulch - even the bees. When we arrive, the two dryads are arguing with Miss Melinda who looks like she would rather be anywhere else. Bart and Miro go over to the dryads and start talking at them to get permission for us to stay the night. After almost an hour of conversation with no results, I decide that I have been awake entirely too long so I grab Jesse and go over to the east side of the pond where Mr. Bianchi is. I find a nice tree and tie Jesse to it and try to make him comfortable and then bed down for sleep.   When we wake in the morning, it looks like it has rained some, but the sun is out though it is still dim. We discuss plans for a bit - after we plug Jesse's ears! The decision is that Bart and I will use fire arrows on any plant armies we find while the monk throws some flasks that should set things on fire as well. Miro and Chef will take Jesse and head towards the waterfall that Bart thinks is the back door to the bad guys area. We finally leave and head out and make it to the ridge leading to Oatman Canyon. There are four patches below us so I leave those for the flightless ones and zoom over to put a fire arrow into the middle of the patch to the right. It catches nicely though the smell is not pleasant, but I have never liked cooked cabbage. I glance back to see how they are doing with their cabbages before I move on to the next group. They seem to have it well in hand so I move on to the right and put an arrow into the patch uphill. As they begin to burn the ones downslope start to quiver and seem to be thinking about rolling away. Before they can take action I fire another arrow into the downhill patch and it begins to blaze as well.   There is another batch of cabbages to the north so I put another fir arrow into that patch and see them begin blazing merrily. I don't see anymore patches to the north and I think it might be a good idea to go south and check on the guys. I stay upwind of the smoke and try to stay on the ridge as I wend my way south. I see lots of burning cabbages and keep flying until I see a lone patch at the edge of the rocks and set it ablaze and then start heading north to meet up with the guys again. I run across another cabbage patch and set it on fire and then I feel like someone is watching me so I look around, but there is too much smoke to really tell. I can see some mesquite trees, but they are too far away to provide a good place to perch and rest. I close my eyes and concentrate on the feeling. I sense condescension or maybe it is judging my suitability for serving a purpose that is not my own. Either way - I don't like it.   Then I think I see jack o'lantern faces downslope and they seem to be tumbling downslope and when they hit the ground they are six vampiric pumpkins with carves faces. Bart fires two arrows quickly and I follow with a single fire arrow and hit one and set it on fire. Then five of them spit seeds at us and I do a quick diving loop to avoid the missiles and then I am falling to the ground. I wake up to the taste of rose and all of us look badly damaged. I eat three more of the healing crackers and at least can stand up. I comfort Xifeng who was obviously worried about me. Suddenly her eyes got swirly red and she raced after the last pumpkin that was running away and it disappears. Lee Chung pulls several healing potions out of his pack and we guzzle them down and are almost better - at least enough to continue.   Bart gets a message from Miro saying they will meet us at the waterfall so we start fallowing game trails that seem to lead in the correct direction. Thank Deity for breezes! Didn't somebody mention using cactus pulp to treat burns? Maybe in the Saloon or something? Of course that's assuming you don't get one of the "bad" cacti. But here I am trying to keep up a fast pace in midafternoon in the deeper areas of what is effectively a "solar energy pit". The air shimmers in the distance no matter which way I look. Mirages of water abound. I know they're actually tricks of boiling air. It still would be nice to get a Stormborn to make it rain for about fifteen minutes. Maybe some light wind to move the hot air away, too. Xifeng has been panting occasionally. To get cool air, Xifeng would have to fly up well above the clouds, and she's not comfortable going that far away from me. Not since I almost died. Xifeng also things something predatory is always in Bart's shadow. Or maybe not predatory, maybe it's a scavenger? Yeah, that suits better. One of the ones that will turn predator in desperation or just the right opportunity. Like a shrew, maybe. Next thing I know we are beside a mesquite forest, but not like any normal forest. There is one big tree in the middle of the "forest" and the other tress are almost doing a mushroom ring which is not okay. I suggest that we forget stealth and run to get past the abnormality and Bart agrees. Once we get past the mesquite forest we slow down and the monk informs us that he can smell that some briar seed children passed this way earlier. We continue following different game trails as much as possible and only veer off when there are none available as we continue to get closer to the cave. We go into stealth mode and approach the mouth of the cave where we can see a strange glowing crystal inside - that I don't remember. We check for tracks, but there are so many it is pointless. Bart says there are people on the other side of the tree and we go to find the other half of our party. They were about to go and find the source of the waterfall, but Bart and I arrived so Miro jumped into his backpack and the two of them went up to find the source of the waterfall while I watch over Jesse. He starts telling me what the tree has been telling him which includes the fact that the waterfall we are standing close to did not come into being until after the big rains ceased. Also that this area changed three years ago which was about the same time as a wandering treant helped him with a bad case of fungus. I can hear the occasional sound of a wooden wind chime faintly from inside the cave. There is really nothing else to do until Bart and Miro return so we sit down to eat some food and wait.   Then I notice that we are surrounded by briar seed children.

Out of house and into trouble
Grolm 9, 578

I help Bart to grab the dead woolie and cart it into the room the pisky had been held captive in. I overhear her and the druid talking about some device and how to transport it. I suggest that we don't have time for this discussion and we need to MOVE IT! Bart and I take the lead with Xifeng and Rowtag scouting ahead and reporting back. Bart heads for the door we can in by and steps to the side, I gather the others and head for the door, turning to face back the way we came to let Miro know where to head out. Then Spiro is racing towards Miro and there is a sound of singing that is very haunting. At the sound, we all race outside and get down off the roof of the porch. We land beside some curtained windows so we are probably not detected.   We rush to the east to get to safety as quickly as possible and happen upon a group of woolies on dinner break. They are looking at us, but not for us. They appear to have been listening to the song so I quickly fire two arrows at the lead sheep and hit it. Bart also hits it with an arrow and then they are rushing towards us making a horrible racket. The one we hit isn't really running that fast however so I am going to fly up and attempt to shoot it again. I fire two arrows at it, but I miss the first time in the dark, but then it's horns start glowing and paint a nice target so I manage to hit it with the second arrow. Sadly, that does not kill it, but it is at least incapacitated. Decision time, do I finish this one off? Or since we have observed that glow going out and away do I leave it on the ground with XIfeng to guard it and warn me if it gets up again and hit another target.   I decide to leave Xifeng guarding the one that is down and turn to fire two arrows at the one trailing the pack. I manage to hit it in the back with both arrows and it is now down. I don't want to kill them and let that weird glow getaway so I fire only one arrow at it to further incapacitate it and fire my second arrow at the next woolie in line to slow it down some. The first arrow hits the dirt beside the woolie, but at least I manage to hit the second woolie and slow it down a little bit. I glance back to check on Xifeng and she is still guarding the first one and maybe trying to make it more unhappy. Below me I see a poor little cactus attempting to fly and not making it. I fire at the two woolies that I had previously attacked. One is attempting to rush across the battlefield and Xifeng is holding on with one talon and attempting to scratch out an eye with the other talon. I can't tell if she is making progress or not. I manage to hit both, but neither goes down.   I decide that Xifeng and Spiro have that one woolie under control so I fire at the one that keeps tossing cacti at me. I hit it twice again so now it has five arrows sticking out of it. Maybe that will finally slow it down enough to get it taken care of. Then I notice Xifeng spiral up to me apparently deciding that she will leave the wet rain of Spiro's attack and get away to where the air is clear - or at least dry. I manage to hit that woolie with another arrow and shout down to the team that we need to hurry this up and get over the ridge as riders are coming. Then I glance over towards the house and now there is a herd of hell bovines coming to! Can this day get any longer!   Now there is a tumbleweed in the air so I fire back a couple of arrows, but obviously the wind has picked up and nothing hits. Xifeng dives down and the sheep dodges. Some of the arrows lodge deeper into the sheep and some fall out and there are some words exchanged between the two animals and I am happy that I don't speak their languages even though they seem to be able to communicate with each other on some level. Finally we are down to one woolie and it looks dead on its foot so, with a herd on the hunt for us, we take off running to make it back to the cart and hopefully get away from the danger on this farm.   We get to the cart, hitch the horses, and take off with Miro driving. We start to discuss our next steps and what we should do next. I have to reprimand Lee Chung for his inability to remember who is his superior. The way he thinks he can talk to me is beyond belief. He has been too long away from the homeland. The decision is made to go to Purgatory Gulch and pick up supplies and the people from the caravan and then head to Arjory Pond for the night. We figure that we can get a night of rest and be fully healed for the next battle - which everyone seems to think should be that cave with the waterfall inside. As we approach the town, all we can see is a barrel cactus - all that is left of purgatory gulch. We can hear a meaty sounding whack from somewhere but can see nothing else. Bart heads towards the cactus, but I fly towards the sound of the whacking. I am sure that it is the townsfolk trying to beat their way out of the cactus. I fly over and see Ms. Melinda, covered in cactus pulp, using a rock to try and beat her way in to where her tree and shop were located. I leave her to it and fly up and see that there is a hole in the top - not really big, but I could probably get in if there was a need to. I raise my voice a little bit and shot down into the town, but I can only hear some confused noises. I raise my voice some more and ask if anyone is alive. I hear Scaevola Aemula say no.   I think she might be inside and being her lovely sarcastic self. I ask her a bunch of rapid-fire questions trying to get to the bottom of what happened. She responds with rapid-fire answers and tells me that I shouldn't come down. When I question her as to why I can't, she doesn't have an answer and then I decide "oh, what the hell!" and spiral up, fold my wings, and then dive down through the hole, opening them once I am through the hole to land near the west wall of the chapel which has the most light inside the cactus. I go around to the door to go in and grab a candle or some other light source and see that the front door has been busted open - it looks like it was rammed by something big and I can hear bees. Once I get inside, I can see the candles at the end of each pew as well as the time-keeping candle next to the altar are all lit. I go to grab one of the pew lanterns and look around some. There has been fighting inside the chapel, but I don't see any bodies so I leave the chapel and head towards the saloon.   I find Miro, Jesse, and Ms. Melinda where her store used to be and I suggest that Jesse holler for his girlfriend. He says sure and then starts talking about Dagnabbit. I tell him that I am serious as she was talking to me earlier. He is shocked. I suggest we might be able to find some people in the schoolhouse cellar since there is no one in the chapel. Jesse is going to head to the livery to check on the animals. Lee Chung and Chef head into the saloon so I turn towards the schoolhouse to see if anyone might be hiding in the cellar. I open the secret door under the teacher's desk and start heading down and about halfway down, I start hearing weird noises. I can't see anything moving, but I can smell something cloying and thick. It makes me desperate to get into the air - like a half-mile up where the air is clear. However, I know that I need to continue on, and when I get to the bottom of the ladder it is DARK. But the crystals in the rock start to pick up and magnify the lantern light and I can see the same things I saw the last time I was here including a supply of continual light chips. I grab a handful of the chips and stow them in my bag to discuss with Miro. I then go back up the stairs to meet up with the rest of the group.   Chef has an idea to use the chandeliers as a means of sending fire into the plant army as they fill them with charcoal and honey, set it on fire, and then I carry it into the air above the army and drop it.

Haunted house?
Grolm 9, 578

We start to discuss what we should do. Our magic users need more sleep, but we need to get to the source of at least one of the problems and the farmhouse is closer than that whatever in the caves. Chica is determined to go and save her spouse and just knows that we can get in through the basement. We decide that the best thing to do right now is to hitch the cart, load up supplies, grab the magic-users, and head out. Since no one else seems capable, I go into the livery and grab a couple of sturdy horses and hitch them to the cart. Lee Chung starts bringing in supplies for the trip: feed for the animals, water, extra boots, cooking supplies, etc.   Once we finally get started, I fly point keeping a look-out for groups of anything vegetable or animal. Keeping in mind what the druid told us about the hell creatures being able to sense us rangers, I will stay just this side of the boundary around the farm and wait for the rest to catch up to me. There are sheep grazing on the hill below us leading down to the extremely large house in front of us. It is also obvious that there was some meteorite that hit here and maybe even a chunk of what is left making a small hill in front of the house. It looks like the east side if the normal entrance to the house so maybe Jesse's girlfriend was trying to trick us - or I could be charitable and think that she was either confused.   The others set off behind Chica while Bart and I stay on top of the hill keeping watch. They move slowly and try to circle around the first group of sheep, but Chef ends up on top of one of them. There is a lot of pantomime between Lee Chung and Chef and then Chef rolls off and gets under the sheep. Lee waits and then tosses a bundle of something over their heads and they mosey off that way and that leaves Chef laying on the ground - holding a halberd. While all of this was going on, Bart and I discuss if we need to intervene and the best plan we can come up with is to grab some rocks to be ready to toss. Since it doesn't end up being necessary, we keep watching while they move on down the hill. Then we notice a sheep that stands up and looks like it is grabbing for a weapon that it doesn't find. It then begins moving towards us and Bart knocks an arrow to get ready to fire. Since he refused to fire an arrow when the party was in danger earlier, we have a spirited discussion about that choice. The sheep wanders on looking for its missing weapon as we see the rest of the group disappear into the house.   I get bored and do a couple of quick fly rounds to see if anything is coming this way or if there is anything we need to be worried about on the other side of the house. Nothing weird or strange is going on outside. Bart suggests that we sneak up and get close to the house to see if we can listen outside a window. I keep an eye on the trees and brush to make sure that nothing is going to pop out and surprise us. Bart then turns to me and says, "Sephia, I see that it looks like there is a deck or porch built out above the first floor of the ranch house. There is what looks like a shuttered set of double doors that open out to the porch. We could scale the side of the wall here on the first floor up to that deck-porch, oil the hinges, open the doors careful and slow and get into what Chika said was the bedroom floor of the house. It would be a quiet way inside, and we'd surprise anyone on the other side of the doors." I respond that he can scale the wall if he wants, but I will just fly up and wait for him. I also offer one of my feathers for him to use in oiling the hinge if he has a good oil to use.   We figure it would be a good idea to listen at a window first so I pick one on one side of the deck, he listens at the other side. All I can hear is a bat up near the roof. We decide to try a different set of windows and all I can hear is quiet. This room is empty as well. I go back to Bart and we decide to go upstairs and enter to see what we can hear. I give him a feather and he oils the hinges and the latch and then we open it quietly and sneak in. From the door on the left we can hear whispering, the door on the right we can hear sounds of someone crying. Bart heads straight for the crying door and I follow but keep an eye on the left door so that we won't be surprised. That door opens and Miro steps into the hallway with wide eyes. I swoop over and grab him before he can cry out.   I carry him into the room with Chica and Bart and he starts babbling about Princess and south and hurry and journals and secrets and things. I can't get him calmed down enough and he finally just hands me the journals he found and tells me to read it for myself. I share the information with Chica and she says there is no way that Princess would have ever done what her brothers told her to do. We then discuss whether she would have gone north or west. North, the opposite of what her brothers told her to do and the location of that creepy tree guy in the cave. West, which is most likely the location of the pisky, Ms. Melinda. We all feel that going west and stopping the alchemist is the right thing to do first. Chica suggests we go up to the attic and get some necessary gear for the trip to Sarsparilla barn. Once we get up the stairs, we find a room that has a LOT of odds and ends and makes us think that perhaps a pisky has been kept captive - starting with the anti-pisky glyphs on the door that Miro discovers.   Suddenly Miro is talking to someone who is invisible. She appears and it is Ms. Melinda. We have finally found her and now maybe we can start getting to the bottom of all that has happened. She starts telling us about what has been happening, but I think she is not telling us the entire story. She is obviously making herself the hero - or at least not a villain. Then we hear the stomp of hooves coming up the stairs. Bart and I had meant to get set some snares, but we never made it. It is probably for the best as it would have made noise and got all of the others excited and after us. Now we have a chance to take out this one and give us time to get in hiding. I move under the workbench that is six feet above the floor and wait to pop out and use my lightning arrows.

Interlude in the Nightmare Cow Level
Grolm 10, 578

I can see a dark cloud rising behind us. We begin to discuss strategy and Miro has a spell that can camouflage the wagon while I will fly to the demon and attempt to send her off to intercept and fight the hell bovines and hell woolies. I fly up and over the ridge and fly towards where the plant army should be massing - leaving behind me chaos and confusion as the others attempt to drive Dabnabbit fast enough to reach the corner where Miro can cast the spell.   I fly over the ridge and as I circle around to see Oatman Pass. The army is on the north side of the slop and they are basking in the morning light. I see five walking jack-o'lanterns. 60 of the briarseed children walking in groups of three to five. I see two patch fields of rolling cabbages (200) and of course the demon. She is starting to stride towards a mesquite tree and everything else is following her. I spiral down and start talking to her while I am coming in. I am a bit excited and talk in common, but she responds in zuyan saying that unless I want to get everyone in trouble I should speak in the correct language. I switch to her tongue and I tell her about the hell bovines out and ready for attack since the sun is up and their power is weaker while the plant army is stronger. She tells me her master has assigned her a task today, but she also has a task to destroy the interlopers - which apparently are the hell bovine. She goes on to say that her master is trying to do good by saving the townsfolk who have somehow lost their neutrality status. They have orders to capture everyone there and take them to a safe place. If they don't get them out of town before the dark comes, then they will be taken for experiments. Even though the cows were the first ones changed, there were other experiments. The rabbits - which were a failure and the sheep - a success. Now, who can have sheep without a shepherd? She asks me where the herd is and I give her rough directions. She then requests me to drop off a bundle in the middle of the front of the herd. The two briar children who have become a giant seed will die and in their death, there will be planted the seeds of victory - and a beacon to lead the demon and her army - what isn't headed towards town - to them. I offer to drop off the bundle and then fly to town to work as an interpreter so that the townsfolk will be rescued - and I can go along to see the hideout of this mysterious benefactor.   I hear bells ringing and then I see the herd. I make a power dive and drop the bundle off where requested. I then pull back up and circle round to see if I can see the cart. I can't which means Miro's spell is still working. I zoom off towards town to assist with that catastrophe in the making.   As I enter the town, I see a Jack and some briarseed children and a LOT of cabbage rolling around. Each of the briar seed children is taking all of the doors off the hinges and the jack is just standing by the area where the big cookpot was set up. I can hear Ms. Roselli and children in the schoolhouse. I attempt to have a conversation with Jack. He either doesn't know much or I don't know how to pull the information out of him. All I can find out is that he honors his ancestor by obeying the master and doing what he says. He doesn't know how far away the master's place of safety is, he doesn't know how long it will take to get there, he is not really of any help at all. I leave him and go talk to Ms. Roselli. She flat out refuses to go to a place of safety and insists that the schoolhouse is the safest place around. She also will burn any fae that comes to close and keep everyone in the town below the schoolhouse. I hear them on the other end of town where they are unable to enter the holy ground of the church, yet they still keep trying to get to the door so they can open them. I go back to Jack and I see that they have set fire to Ms. Melinda's shop and the tree behind it. I take him to task for setting a fire and manage to convince him that he has disobeyed the master, dishonored his ancestor, and must go immediately to get further instructions. He leaves the briarseed children in charge and hovers in the air and we fly off to I am not sure where.   I fly further into the canyon and it is hot even with no sunlight. In the beginning, I see small signs of life, but they become fewer and fewer as we get deeper into the canyon. There are glossy black rocks and the air and land here are extremely dry. The strangest thing is that, while I can feel magic in my bones, this area turns magic into static - like a field of pine needles turn snow into small, random patterns. It feels kinda prickly and there is no way I can see that anyone or anything would be able to live here. Any magical or even living being would prefer to leave here soon after arrival. Jack is flying a certain path and avoiding certain things, but I can't tell why. Then we enter a natural tunnel and suddenly we are in an eerie, alien, perfect place with a waterfall to the north. I think that might be one that I heard last night and it seems to be falling without any source and drops like a sheet of crystal into a pool and then divides into other waterfalls and then into a small pond. There are four perfect lilypads with perfect glowing lilies on each pad. Small buildings appear to be random, but upon closer inspection, they are perfectly placed, and then I notice people. They are shackled and trying to avoid notice and each has a crown of flowers. Jack continues past them onto a path up behind a waterfall into a space carved into the walls of the canyon. I follow him and, as I get higher the falling water almost sounds like a chant. Then into the tunnel with smooth sides - almost like melted crystal. Now I can see that this master has figured out how to grow crystals that capture the sunshine and allow it to flow deeper into the tunnel. There are curtains made out of vines and living bamboo that should not be able to be grown in this environment. As we pass deeper into the area we discover sculptures that look like treant - almost. Some have books, some scrolls, some lanterns. They have freckles and maybe callouses so that they are true to life. But this is truly wood shaping - not petrified or people turned to stone or wood Past this gallery of art, I see a reading nook and the other side has a bed-chamber which will always get moonlight. The highest point of the cave which causes Jack to stop first and it is filled with the perfect amount of sunlight. He returns to his normal shape, bows his head, and waits. The last statue is not a statue, not a treat, it is a man who has turned into a plant - almost. He has tree limbs, twigs for fingers, a face like a potato, but with hair and eyes of a human. Just short of beautiful, a bit creepy, and no sure way to tell what he is trying to be.   I discuss the current situation with him, but he doesn't tell me who asked for help. He is convinced that what he is doing is the right and perfect thing to do to solve this situation. He is positive that only he can "protect" the people until he has managed to eradicate the infestation. After all, they consorted with demons and therefore they are in error. What he creates is perfect and therefore cannot do anything that is evil. After all, death is part of life and without death, there can be no life. He was very patient with my lack of understanding and refused to admit that there was any other way of looking at the events. I finally get frustrated and leave. I check the people in the meadow and do not recognize anyone so I fly back to town and fill in everyone else on what happened on my travels. We all spend some time exchanging information and making sure that everyone knows what the others have experienced. I follow Bart and Lee to talk to one of the ladies that wasn't too interested in being rescued. We enter the livery and see all of the rescued people working together - not happily - to make things safer, stronger, and more durable.   Bart starts talking to the lady with the orange hair and the conversation is not going well. Lee Chung convinces him to give her the half-hour she has requested and we feed the others and we start talking to the others to find out their experiences. They are happy to talk about her behind her back, in front of her face, and care not at all that she can hear. The first person I talk to is just a bit crazy. I listen to him for a while until I decide that everything that has happened has put him off his rocker. I talk to another person and they mention they had seen the mayor two or three days ago and even witnessed the mayor talking to one of the cows in a different language - and the cow answered him!! I then find one of the caravan members so I can tell them about the jar buried in crates outside of town. They also tell me that they had seen a pisky early on - but not in quite a while. I leave all of them eating and resting to meet back up with Bart so we can talk to the lady with the attitude. She is ready to fight and has a lot of justification for the actions her family has taken in this fight. There is an exchange of a lot of information and then from outside the livery we hear Jesse's girl........    

Entirely too many cows
Grolm 9, 578

We begin a planning session to determine the best approach using the map the children gave me and the map Jesse made from his nighttime flight. Rescuing people is our most important priority, but we would also like the chance to lead the hell bovine army directly into the plant army mid-morning. I finally suggest that we don't have enough info and we know that the town is probably going to be attacked in a few hours. Bart then suggSpiro out to scout Agoseris barn first. He reports that there are prisoners there and some other things that lead the group to decide to attack this barn first. The plan is to circle quietly around and send Lee Chung to circle around back and enter the barracks quietly and perhaps release prisoners, perhaps take prisoners, and get ready to help us as we enter from the SW doors as the SE door is locked by Jesse. We get in place and Miro sets off an alarm and through the open door, we see A LOT of cows and even more sheep. Every single animal on our side of the barn - around 50 or so - turn and start moving towards us. Four of the creatures, one cow and three sheep, manage to get outside through the narrow opening. Bart and I fire immediately. I miss. I fire again after the cow stands up and proves that it truly is a hell bovine. This time I hit and I send Xifang for another honey arrow. I fire again and then the cow makes an attack run at Bart. I switch to the next animal - a sheep this time which is already standing up and manage to hit it. Suddenly the door on the other side bursts open and the hell bovines and hell woolies start stampeding towards the south - towards the Suncup barn.   Bart yells "RUN!!" so I take off into the air and I circle up high to check on the hopefully free prisoners that should be heading towards the wagon. I see 15 people stumbling towards the wagon - followed by five hell woolies. I fire off a quick shot, but I hit a cactus instead. I send Xifang back for a honey arrow and then do a quick dive straight into the group of the woolies. I manage to tumble them around and give the humans time to getaway. The only downside is that all of the woolies have their attention fixed on me. Two of them swing at me and Xifang and miss and two run to the top of the hill and are unable to handle the sunshine. I take a small mirror out of my pack and flash sunlight into the eyes of the two down in the hollow. They are also unable to focus while the light is on them, but I can't keep the light flashing in their eyes. I attempt to land beside one and hit them with my sword, but I miss. Then I take to the air again and fire arrows. Sometimes I hit, but most of the time I miss. So I take turns diving them and driving them back and keeping their attention on me so that the former prisoners can make it to the beer cart.   Then it is over and we are in the beer cart and allowing dagnabbit to go where he wishes while we attempt to gather our wits. There are still more cows.....................  

Druids are weird
Grohlm 8

We enter the town and scatter to get the supplies as quickly as possible so we can get out again before full dark. I head towards the schoolhouse to chat with the kids. I run into Ms. Roselli as I am approaching and we get into a conversation about Miss Melinda and the mayor. She tells me that Miss Melinda has been missing for over a month. She MIGHT be at her workshop, but Ms. Roselli doesn't know where that is. She suspects that some of her students might know where that is if I can get them to confess to going where they know they aren't allowed. She is also sure that the mayor is dead because he has never been missing from the main street for a day before. Also, he would never miss the visit of the Scorpion since every time she comes, he provides her a fancy candlelight dinner on the balcony of his store. He never showed up so he must be dead and she suggests I keep my eyes open for buzzards circling. I thank her for her time and then ask if there is anything going on that I need to know about and she tells me about the fact that a lot of the people in town have decided that enough is enough and it is time to leave town and make a start somewhere else. The biggest issue, besides the fact that about half of the population is going, is that many of the families are threatening to take not just their children but all of the kids with them figuring that any place is safer than Purgatory Gulch - even if they have to be without their family.   We meet at the stew pot after an hour and start exchanging notes and devising a plan. We will head towards the dead land which might be a crater and attempt to draw the fiend out by using Jesse as bait. Then Bart can throw some honey out and I can start firing arrows with holy honey-drenched fire arrows. We load up the beer cart with everyone except myself and Bruthazmus. He heads west to scout the western opening and I fly north to begin scouting to see if there is anyone or anything that seems to be looking for us. I see rolling hills which appear to be mostly uncultivated and the further north I get the more ridgelike the hills get. I do see one area where there is a cart wedged between slopes to create buildings. As I pass the final ridge leading to Oatman Canyon and I can see a distinct barrier and now it is more dessert-like than anyplace we have seen before. The area appears to be unhospitable and then I see vegetation. Rows of vine-like plants that are planted in obvious rectangular patches. I have seen about 50 different patches and I haven't gotten deep into the canyon at all. One thing I have not seen is any type of light. Then I think I hear a waterfall. How can there be a waterfall? The outside of the canyon has some good places that would make a good camp and has the potential to make a good offensive position. No way could the cart actually make it over that so it is a good thing that it took the western pass. I keep flying to stay far enough ahead to scout, but not so far that I might notify the enemy.   I spiral back and get there just as Bart is talking about finding evidence of things that should not be in a dessert which is when I mention the waterfall I heard. Jesse paints us all with "War Paint" and we venture into the darkness. Jesse starts out to create a druid grove which he thinks will work as bait. Then a creature steps out of a cactus and begins talking to Jesse and Bart. Next thing I see is Jesse taking off his clothes and then he turns into an owl. He flies up and starts talking wildly. Both Xifeng and I ignore him, but Rowtag flies with him. Then suddenly, he seems to change his mind and flies back down to the ground and turns back into a human. Then I feel her attention on me and I hear her say: "This is not my place. MEN who think it is fine to tell me what of my abilities to use when, and how, and why, they tried to CUT ME OFF from my HOME TERRITORY! They put their nasty, disgusting instructions on me as if it were RIGHT for them to do so! I do not want to be here. I do not want to do any of this! You seem like a competent guardian of the wild. I will be honest with you: so long as MEN are involved, I do not think anyone can save me. I think I am doomed. I will never see my beloved home again. I will wither in this dry, shallow, stale place. But why would YOU stay where no one respects you, no one listens to you, no one treats you with courtesy? Where hardly anything even grows? If these are too stupid to follow your guidance if they are so determined to hurt me and loot what little of myself I was allowed to keep, well. To hell with them. Fly, guardian; leave them to their depravity; go back to places of real trees and good fruit."   I attempt to determine if there is something I can do to defuse the situation and decide that I should interact directly with her and get the guys to get back onto the cart. I spiral down and land between them and her and tell the guys it would be best if they were to get back onto the cart and let us girls talk. They all refuse to listen to me. Maybe I have spent too much time in the background and there is no trust in my ability to deal with a situation. I keep my mouth shut and let the guys handle it. Then slowly there is a huge silver dude with a pumpkin for a head, briarseed children, cabbages that will kill us, and the fiend now has a longbow. They seem to be talking about us and then I decide I have waited long enough and I fly straight up and fire one of the holy honey arrows at his back and it goes straight through him. He is smeared with the holy honey and is causing him a lot of pain very obviously. The cabbages are confused and Jesse runs up and attempts to get the cabbages under his control. Then the dude explodes. Right in front of me. Something hits me and it does hurt. Then the battle is over and Jesse talks with the treant and she is obviously trying to tell him something, but I can't make heads or tails of it. We start heading towards Whippetal farm and whatever may happen

Finally to the pond!
8th day of Fifth Month, Year 578

We get to Tarntaise farm while it is still dark. A low moon with some stars scattered across the sky like petals blowing in the spring breeze. However, the quiet is not the quiet of a farm at night. There is a stillness of danger in the air and possibly - death!   We dismounted in the yard where we were just hours ago and then Brathazmus says he hears something from the house. I question his ability to hear something that I don't, but he is a druid and a bugbear so maybe? I don't think it is polite to enter a residence without being invited and the silence is getting to me. I volunteer to fly around the fields and check to make sure that our perimeter is clear and that nothing else is approaching or fleeing. I do a big picture overview and can see the edges of the farm plots and where the wild brush begins. I can also see some twinkling gray or blue lights up north where that scar in the land was. I also can see scarecrows on poles in the fields, but earlier there were only two. Now there seem to be three? I decide to do a more detailed search and call Xifeng to me to fly above me and keep an eye ahead of me and above me while I fly close to the ground and try to figure out the details. I don't really see anything weird, but that third scarecrow keeps bothering me so I fly in a spiral towards it looking for anything weird, unusual, or not normal on the ground. At least I can trust Xifeng to let me know if I am about to fly into anything.   I don't really see anything happening anywhere, but that third scarecrow is really the only odd thing. I do a spiral around to see if there are any footprints or hoofprints, but there are four low bushy plants planted around the base of the pole. I land about five feet in front and I can hear breathing. The scarecrow is breathing, but it is fairly shallow and has little hitches like the person, because it is plain that it is a person now, is in pain. All I can really tell right now is that is is a man and there were several here on the farm earlier. I hear Wrong Way buzzing in the distance, but I need to deal with the breathing scarecrow. I move closer to the bushes to see if I can discover if they are harmful or helpful and suddenly they reach out with their sharp and spiky leaves and try to grab me, but I am happily still out of reach. Then from the direction that I heard Wrong Way, I hear plants start to scream.   I decide that my time is better spent on getting this person down from the pole and away from these bushes. I untie one hand so he can loop it over the top crossbar and then fly down to untie his feet. I get that done successfully so next up is to untie the rope around his middle. I slap him around lightly to see if he can hold on while I cut him loose, but he isn't really able to help me so I quickly hold him up and cut the ropes and then fly him over to the cart trail. I investigate his injuries and determine that he is unconscious and looks very badly beaten. He also looks sunburned and like he woke up at some time and tried to get down by himself. His nose is also broken. I attempt to stabilize him, but there is only so much I can do. I know the other members of the team can help so I haul him up into the air and head straight to the house hollering for help. As I am flying that way I see a stream of fire to the side and then I see lamps and the two humans with the bugbear. I land and turn him over to the guys and they go to work. Fortunately, Jesse has a healing potion but since he is unconscious Lee puts the potion into some cooking apparatus thing and we get it down him. Jesse also does a healing cantrip and his breathing is easier. He wakes but is obviously scared. We discuss what to do next and decide that he needs to be taken inside the house.   We take him to the master bedroom and then he begins to talk. The story that comes out is basically a synopsis of where everyone was when the banshee scream came and then there was a monster that comes up from past the roadside stand. He describes something that is blue and apparently has his wife mesmerized. He doesn't really remember anything after that except for being tied up somewhere and having trouble breathing. Miro comes in and whacks him with the healing wand and thwacks him and he is finally able to sit up and start talking. We start getting the history of the ranchers versus farmers battle. First, they tried to work with Ms. Melinda, but all she could offer was some suggestions about various plants to put on the border to work as a natural fence. None of those worked. He then tells us about a guy that the farmers hired who was working on a more permanent solution. Jackson told us that as things escalated there were no more conversations about whether it was a good thing to do or not and then there was a description of a plant that could hit the animals. Before we settle down for the night, we decide that the barn should be investigated first. I tag along with Jesse and Bart. I decide to stay at the door to provide back up with arrows. Suddenly, Jesse is being attacked by bunny rabbits?!? I fire an arrow but miss. They are very quick little buggers. Then Brathazmus roars and they turn and run back the way they came. Then we start dumping the beer out and set up traps to capture the rabbits if they come out again. We latch the barn door closed and head to bed - finally!   We are all awake by noon and get some food. After discussion, we decide it is time to head to Arjory Pond and talk to the naiad. We need to get her information so that we can determine if she can help us to fix the problem in this area. Jackson decided that the best thing for him to do was to pack up and go to the padre for shelter until we can rescue his wife. We head out and reach the pond about an hour later. We turn over the conversation to Jesse as he has an affinity with naiads. When we get closer, I can tell that there are more trees, almost like a fortress around the pond. It is also clear that she is actually a dryad. Jesse feeds us bits of information as they talk and she does seem to know exactly what is going on. The problem is a combination of Ms. Melinda trying to fix the balance and failing, the man hired by the ranchers, and a hell fiend that he brought with him. Apparently, there is a meteorite that has created a dead spot where she cannot see and she is sure that is where the hell fiend is hiding. She does, however, have three of the caravan members, but they are sick and need help from Miro. She suggests that we work on the hell fiend first as that seems to be the most dangerous. Also, she thinks I will be the most effective at fighting the treant, but we are not sure if that is because I can fly or whether I am just unusual enough to confuse the monster.  

It was supposed to be a quiet night
7th - 8th of Grolm, 578

While we are setting up the schoolhouse to prepare for a possible battle with hell bovines, Dusty and Sundown wander by and I check to see why they aren't in the schoolhouse helping us. Miss Roselli sniffs in disapproval and it is obvious that they don't want to antagonize her. They suggest that they will join Xifang on the roof and provide a better chance at spotting what might be heading our way. Of the other folk hunkering here with us: I put Miss Roselli downstairs with the children and three men outside in the root caller which is the primary means of access to the cellar. One of them has a crossbow and the other two have what passes for weapons in this area. The children are split into three groups of five with an older child in charge of each group to keep them calm and quiet (asleep if possible!) while the night passes. Upstairs we split into three groups as well so that one group can attempt to sleep while the other two keep watch. On the roof are Xifang and the orcs with coffee and hope of sleeping some by the time the sun rises. With everything as prepared as well as I know how to do, we settle down for what I most sincerely hope is a quiet night.   Ranger and I, along with two-thirds of the guys in the schoolhouse are keeping watch while the remainder are attempting to sleep. The moons begin to rise and there is a distinct lack of wildlife noises in the air. Sometimes I think I hear a faint moo, but as nothing else happens I am sure I was mistaken. Suddenly all of the lights go out. I cast a detect magic spell and find out to my surprise that my hat is magic. I ask if anyone might have a guess about what to do and Ranger suggests we wake the padre. He also thinks we should get Miro over here. I send Xifeng over to get him and then we hear a wolf howl. I turn with wild eyes to the room and ask what that was. No one knows. They have never heard a wolf howl. They turn to me for an explanation and I question why they don't know wolves since there are so many sheep in the area. They mention coyotes. I move to the back to talk to Miss Roselli and tell her to move the children to the back since the noise seems to be coming from the same side as the root caller. Then I go back to the air vent and ask Dusty and Sundown to check n what they can see. They check and then tell me there are two, maybe three groups with at least four in each group. Then there is a flaming crossbow that sets the tetter-totter on fire. In the flames I can see five creatures and something else. It has horns and a long blade, but is just a deeper shadow so I am not sure what I saw.   Xifeng returns and tells me that he probably got Miro heading this way. I am about to suggest that we wait for developments when we hear someone sawing the wooden shutters - on both sides of the schoolhouse. I check with Padre to see if he can use his light as a weapon and he says he can. With that an idea comes to me and I quickly lay it out for the group. Everyone in the schoolhouse will split into two groups and will keep whatever that is outside on the outside. Padre and I will go outside to fight. I quickly light a fire arrow and douse it in the Badger quiver so I can use fire arrows. I will fly up on the roof and just keep firing at whatever moves while the padre stays on the porch and uses his light however. As he walks out the door, he is attacked by a sheep?? Except it is ten feet tall, five feet wide, covered in black wool with ram's horns and using a shepherd's crook with nails through it. Padre dodges and I fire an arrow at it quickly. It looks offended and I take that second to swing with my sword, but I miss. It swings that horrible weapon at me, but it must be distracted by the fire I set in its fur and it misses me. He pulls back and strikes at me again. He misses, but I can tell that the aura from the padre is starting to bug him. I bet the guys are better off while they are wandering around laying down that false trail.   I swing at the massive creature and manage to draw blood - luminescent orange blood, but blood nonetheless. I turn to the Padre and ask if he can handle this by himself or if he needs me to stay and help him. He swings his weapon, a shovel with a sharpened edge, and misses. I don't think I can leave him alone with this fight though he encourages me to do what I need to do. I don't see the town taking the loss of the Padre well. I take another swing at the creature with both hands this time and manage to slice deeply into its side. It stumbles a bit but is still here for the fight. I ask Padre if he can use his light as a fireball or something, but he says no and suggests that maybe holy water would have an effect. I reply that it is worth a shot and he starts a spell while at the same time trying to hit the creature. He misses, but he was trying to do something different during a fight so maybe next time. The distraction was enough for the creature and it manages to hit me with that shepherd's crook. OUCH!! I swing at him and hit him again, hoping it will be enough to drive him back. He appears to be debating whether to stay and fight or make a break for it. Since he seems to need more help in making a decision, I slash him again and he starts backing up slowly while refusing to take his eyes off of me. At the same time, I can hear the sound of the retreat from all sides of the schoolhouse. I hope that those inside the building managed to keep the bad guys out.   We are left with small grass fires and minor wounds, though Padre seems to be more than a bit the worse for wear. I ask Miro to do some healing so the Padre can take over healing the others and I ask Ms. Roselli about the farms that might grow herbs, but she says they all do. When I ask about Ms. Melinda she claims to have not seen her in two or three weeks. Then she is ready to go and settle the children back down for the night since it is only midnight. I agree that it is for the best and remind her of our request for a geography lesson in the morning. Then Miro pops in with the knowledge tidbit about Scorpion found evidence that Ms. Melinda and the mayor ran off together and she had been playing the ends against the middle in the troubles. Both Ms. Roselli and I are shocked, but not sure what we can do about that right now. Then one of the ranch hands speaks up and lets us know that Ranger disappeared at some point in the battle. Miro sends Spiro out to see if she can spot the guy from the air. I convince him to go on to get some rest while we look for him.   I sit down and start trying to reshape my new hat to better fit my head and then Miro comes running in shouting about a problem. Apparently, Spiro couldn't find Ranger, but he did see all of the lights out at Tarntaise Farm and something that looked like fireflies at the new graveyard in the dead area. Once he delivers that information I bolt out of the schoolhouse and yell for the other guys to come together so we can share information and save the farm that is being attacked. After lots and LOTS of discussion we decide to grab a bowl of chili and head towards the farm.  

Afternoon at Purgatory Gulch
7th of Grolm, 578

We all get back to town and the stagecoach riders offer to buy us a round of drinks. Miro, Jesse, and I follow them into the saloon while Brathazmus stays to look over the stagecoach itself. Apparently there are some questions he has about it. The padre and Lee Chung head off towards the chapel. The padre to refresh himself and probably pray after the chaos of battle. Lee Chung will probably question that Ranger guy.   Inside the saloon, there is a disco light??? and the color scheme shows someone who had a repressed personality and I do use HAD very seriously. There is a pesky behind the bar and I ask for a Ginger Burst which is served in a stein. Jesse inquires about food and she thinks that she could make us some rabbit sandwiches since it is early and she can understand why we might feel a might peckish. He starts a conversation with Ms. Amore and she tells us about how every ranch tends to have a rabbit hutch around so that they don't have to kill a cow when they need meat for the stewpot. This brings up the whole cow conversation and she mentions that she has been closing up early since not a lot of people have been around - neither ranchers or farmers. They continue talking about the area and continue onto the "troubles" between the ranchers and farmers. She also mentions that there is a strict rule about not fighting inside the saloon. Then the stagecoach guys walk in and say hi to the lady. They mention they brought some things for her and offer to take it down to her storeroom. She declines and gives them the sandwiches the Jesse had purchased. They introduce themselves as Sundown and Dusty, two orcs. They tell us about how Scorpion, who is the tax collector for the region. However, she is coming here every three months and bringing money in instead of taking taxes out. Apparently she is trying to help build up the infrastructure so that the town won't die out - AGAIN. The closest orc tribe has told every group that has tried to settle here about how this just isn't a place to try and make a living, but they keep on coming in and doing well for a couple of years and then staying even when it is apparent that they aren't doing well - until they die out. At which point Ms. Amore comes back in and they quickly switch topics back to the troubles and helping us to navigate those waters. Apparently once you 'pick' a side you are fair game and doing work can be as simple as doing a season of picking or roping cows.   Jesse asks their opinion of the various ranches and we hear about Grandmammy Clementine at Corriente Farm and her penchant for sowing drama. They say that they will be staying overnight and ask about what we will be doing. I suggest we can stay at the abandoned farm we were at earlier and Jesse counters with the padre's church. Sundown gets up to go get another round and Dusty complains about how much he is talking. Then just as Sundown returns, Brathazmus walks in to join us. He says he will take a mead with coffee grounds. Ms. Amore refuses but sends him some Expressed Rage and a mug of mead. He combines them and drinks. Then Jesse catches Bart up on the conversation we had with the stagecoach guys while they also keep an ear open for Miro and the expected trouble he will bring. I ask what we can do to get ready for the oncoming cattle rampage since we know they will be coming. Then we hear a crack from outside and Bart starts walking outside to check on the noise and then we all hear Miro say "oops". We all get up and rush out and see the doors of the general store open a bit and Miro with a woman holding a wand. They appear to be ready to enter combat and we hear Miro yell "I'll keel haul the lot of ya....come at me you undead bastards."   Brathazmus asks Miro what is up, pulls out his weapons, and heads that way. I step back inside the saloon and tell Ms. Amore that there is trouble in the general store and that she might want to batten down the hatches. Wow, Miro is catching! Then I fly onto the boulder beside the store in order to have a bird's eye view of the battle so I can maybe see inside the store over the heads of the combatants and fire an arrow or at least watch for anything escaping. Scorpion takes aim at one of the undead things and Bart ambles to the back of the building to make a back door so he can attack from the rear. From here, I can see a swarm of the creatures heading straight towards Miro. There are snakes and scorpions in the mix and I can hear Bart smiting things behind the building. Miro begins backing up to give us all more room and suddenly three scorpions jump at him when suddenly Miro is there, but not there. Then Lee Chung starts to hit those same scorpions and manages to hit one. Chef then attempts to hit one and get knocked back. I fire an arrow into the group and the door and I can hear them sizzle from here. Then Scorpion attempts to do something, but it obviously doesn't work. Jesse steps in and manages to smack some around with his staff.   Another round of combat goes by with nothing very fancy happening, but the bad guys (or animals in this case) are not having a good day. Now the thunderstorm that Jesse created has entered the store and we can hear it doing something inside the store. I am not sure that Jaeke will be truly happy for us to have entered this particular fray. Then Lee Chung does another attack and now the street is clear. From inside the store, we hear another sound like thunder maybe. I leave Xifang on top of the boulder to keep an eye open for trouble and I fly down to look in the new back door. I can not see much, but there is debris around the entry hole. I can tell that Bart was here and I can see him ahead of me about ten feet in front of me. He appears to be having fun with a barrel so I walk up behind him to assist when I get a chance. I can also see hints of the thunderstorm when it has a lightning flash. I see a sidewinder coming up beside Bart to try and bite him so I fire at him and start making his day go from bad to worse. He starts running for the door and I swing at him as he is slithering by and end his life without damaging the body at all. I think there might be some uses for this.   I glance over to the saloon and can see the two guys from the stagecoach watching as we begin to clean up after the fight. Then they mosey on up and one offers some of his peanuts to Scorpion who is apparently not hungry. Then Padre runs up and starts talking about getting a talking bottle and undead creatures. He wants to burn them so that they can't be raised again, but Lee Chung wants us to search the bodies first to see if they found whatever they were apparently looking for. I refuse because they are dead after all and that is just gross. It is impossible to get that smell out of your feathers!!   Then Scorpion takes Miro off to look for something and the others start looking through the dead bodies to see what they can find. I fly down and go to collect that red sidewinder. I am almost positive that that is the same skin as what is on my hatband and I am guessing this skin can be used to make something interesting. I borrow one of Lee Chung's knives and gut the snake. It is rotten clear through and the sun is going down as I manage to finish pulling the skin off, then wash and return Lee Chung's knife. Then Miro starts yelling about the crazy lady wanting to go out of the town and look for the mayor. Lee Chung pops into the conversation to start talking about the information he got from Ranger. Which leads to a conversation about some book with personal items from almost everyone in the region. Apparently the previous person used a census book so they could find anyone who gets lost. Scorpion tells us that she has the book secured so that no one can use it for evil purposes. Then Jesse explains why we want to go see the niaid at the pond and how every time we are being sidetracked from going. A theory is tossed out that maybe there are two groups that are attempting to use nefarious means to attack others. When we bring the Padre into the conversation and he agrees that we have two different groups involved. I then suggest that maybe each side of the troubles has brought in a heavy hitter in order to end the problem once and for all.   Padre then suggests that we put everyone into the schoolhouse overnight so that we can protect the townsfolk overnight and then we can head out in the morning and maybe solve the problem tomorrow. Scorpion starts summarizing the situation and we all begin to work on getting everyone to the schoolhouse for the night. Miro disappears into the bar - supposedly to ask about who last saw the mayor. The Jesse calls in a couple of vultures to chat with him and they tell him about how strange the cattle are acting and that there are some small groups that are out and seem to be looking for something. They will meet up at the blacksmith shop sometime later - but not that much later. Miro tells us that the bartender will get everyone in town headed that way. Brathazmus is going to head out with the fighting Mollies and spend the night at the empty ranch we found earlier today - Braunvieh Farms. Scorpion manages to open the door to Ms. Melinda's and is greeted by a ball of acidic gas. Lee Chung and the Padre head to the church to move the beehives inside and bring Ranger to the schoolhouse. Then, one I mention that the cows are probably tracking Ranger, Jesse comes up with an idea to use Ranger to get the cows going around in circles.   We split up to get ready for the night of terror ahead of us.  

Purgatory 101

Team Ranger: You and your birds head into the General Store, a two-story yellow building on Purgatory Gulch's main street. The store itself is laid out with most of the goods attractively arranged on shelves BEHIND the long counter, the idea being that a customer will present their basket and list of desired goods, and the smiling human man in the vertically striped shirt and the clean green apron will whisk your basket away (empty) and return (filled) to settle up your total purchase price. The goods you could pick up on your own include some woven baskets and a variety of brightly colored sacks. Also on your side is a "hall tree" for people who want to put their hats on the shelves and hang their coats or their weapon belts while they shop. Civilized!   You could walk around the counter to stand on his side, of course. The gentleman mostly hides the flinch when he sees loose birds of prey. He is certainly happy to see the two people! "Good mahrnin'," "Welcome to Purgatory, ma'am, sir. I'm Mayor Blaze, but folks here call mostly call me 'Jaeke'. What can I do for you on this fine day?" He probably stood up from the rocking chair when he saw the shadows of approaching customers through the glass in his front door. On a table close to the rocking chair he has a kettle on a trivet, a small stein with lid, a book with a bookmark hastily inserted (the spine is away from you so not sure what it is he's reading!), and a dull gray-brown Oatman hat with a kerchief tied neatly onto the hatband. Hanging on pegs nearby are five more steins with lids, all about the same size as a coffee mug. On the countertop are a stack of five baskets, an old brass cash register, a flyswatter, a box of jumbled plain jugs (they probably hold no more than 2 cups of fluid, and were definitely made by amateurs), two heavy lanterns (unlit), and an extremely bent fireplace poker. There's also a polishing rag and a spray bottle more than half full of some kind of fluid. I glance around to see if she can see any signs of someone else being in the store right now - an apprentice or helper of some kind., but I don't see anyone! Granted: there are stairs on the western interior wall of the building, leading up to a second floor. I suppose there could be someone up there. But one mug in use, one rocking chair set in place, this is probably a one-person shop. Probably.   A grin spreads over Bruthazmus' face. He tips his hat a bit at Jaeke, then reaches up to the owl on his shoulder to give him a scratch under the chin. "Well, Jaeke, a lot of that depends on what you have. I had a bit of a spat with something ugly out on the longgrass and so lost an arrow or two. So I might be needing some fletching. Then some dried meat, trail bread, those are always nice. That is if that storm that hit the plains didn't slow down any supply caravans coming this away. What might you have?"   "Well then. Hmm." Jaeke thinks over his wares dramatically. But then, you might start to form the impression that Jaeke does everything dramatically -- that "dramatically" is his base state of body language. In another setting, he would have become the head of a theatrical troupe. "I want to be a smart businessman," he says, "but I can't rightly bring myself to take advantage of you good folks. You just want some good healthy chicken feathers. Not even the whole chicken. If you simply got to buy some, I recommend you visit a farm or a ranch and offer a couple of copper to pick over the henhouse while the hens are out eating. Most everyone around these parts has got chickens." Jaeke seems to catch himself being foolish. "What am I saying? Tell you what. You go on down to, hmm, Ayrshire could use the unexpected funds and no mistake. But that is something of a hike from here. Salers are going to be out working, you would have to search around for someone. Chiamina farmhands will all be out fightin' the weeds too, but they get noisy enough that you should be able to do business. I can give you directions there after we are all settled up here, no trouble." He looks inquiringly at both of you to see if his solution suits you before he will reach for a basket and start gathering Bruthazmus's other requests.   Bruthazmus nods thoughtfully. "That'll do. Thanks for that, Jaeke, much appreciated." He glances over at Zhang Sephia. "Man's got a nice store, don't you think, Sephia?"   I agree. " It is a nice store with a nice selection. Right neighborly of you to be thinking of saving our money. That is always a resource that there is never enough of. (light laugh) Tell me Jaeke, has then been anything odd or weird around here lately??   "Well," he says with a Sincerely Troubled expression, "that storm was a tetch odd, of course." His eyes flicker to look out his doors briefly as he thinks about recent goings-on out in the street. "Even with the padre and Miss Melinda bringing some of their resources to bear, we had four days of hard scrubbing to clear the grime away. Today has been my first day to set a spell, and that's a fact. Padre's been checking on the outlying farms as he is able. I spent what turned out to be the last week of the storm slogging from main house to main house, farm, and ranch, passing around some of my stores to keep folks eating. Almost lost my burro more times'n I can count." He looks Downcast for a beat. Then the metaphorical sun comes out as he raises his chin again. "Sure does my heart good to see folks come in across the grasslands! So long as you don't want stew spices, I can probably accommodate anything you need, or tell you a better place to get it. I've got some nice bunny jerky to sell you, Mister...?"   Bruthazmus nods. "Bruthazmus. Name's Bruthazmus and bunny jerky will do me just fine. How much would a couple of Geldarian silver coins bring?" He scratches the fur on his chin. "Odd you say? Well, I'm not one to judge, but over near Aquitaine, it seemed downright off-putting. How do you mean odd for here? It send frogs flying around on pigs?" Jaeke gives Bruthazmus a hard look in the eye for a second. He follows that up with a thoughtful look up to the owl and down the length of the ranger's coat sleeves. He makes up his mind about something. "You'll forgive me for sayin' so, mister, ma'am, but you two kind of advertise that you are not from around here. You need someone to take you in hand, give you the lay of the land, sort of thing." He sets the basket back down on the counter. "You expected anywheres at a particular time?" Bruthazmus chuckles. "Sorry Jaeke, I'm used to the prices back in Aquitaine. How much for the jerky?" He glances at his carved sign. "This is why I never put the jerky on the list," he says, "because the prices goes up and down about as wildly as a rabbit in the witch garden. This week's price is eight copper for a quarter-pound bundle. Eggs is always eggs, cheese is mostly cheese, but rabbits," he shakes his head in genial dismay.   Bruthazmus nods. "Fair enough then. A quarter-pound bundle if you please." He scratches his chin once more. "And, well, speaking of Aquitaine, we came out this way from there at the askin' of a young goblin boy. Seems his Da and their caravan found more trouble than they could handle out on the longgrass. Given the two-legged demonic cow we fought last night, I'd say it was a lot of trouble. Did a goblin caravan come back into town out of the storm? Or come through before the storm? We're looking to make sure they're safe and sound." Jaeke blanches. He takes in a careful breath. "Those poor souls," he says. "In that nasty storm." He presses his lips together tightly while he thinks. "No," he says at last in a firm clear voice, "I have not seen hide nor hair of the Bicchieri Caravan since late last winter." He reaches for the basket that he had put down when he was thinking of playing cultural guide. "I'll just get you that jerky and a loaf or two of bread, shall I?"   I glance askance at Bruthazmus and turn to the mayor. "Now then, calm yourself. We did not mean to upset you. We are simply trying to do our duty to the earth and the creatures upon it. We were asked by a young goblin boy to find his pa and we are determined to help the boy and his father. Would you be able to assist us in this endeavor? We are not here to ruffle the feathers of anyone - your mayoship included." Bruthazmus shrugs at Sofia “What? You’ll never know the answer until you start askin the question.” For a split instant there, Jaeke was about to blurt something out. He presses his lips together tightly again while he steels his resolve. "I hoped the storm had made the Bicchieri Caravan hunker down somewhere, not driven them off completely -- nor worse. I'll ask around where I can before the afternoon heat sets in. The chapel door's the only one to open if someone knocks during siesta." The lines around his eyes are still sharp -- this is a person who has committed himself to doing something frightening.   "But you could ride out to meet the mail coach, see if you can spot any wagons in the arroyo along the way. Or maybe they spotted something. The land around hereabouts will fool you -- looks like grass or scrub to the horizon, gentle hills, and right down the middle will be a deep trench in the earth. We have warned the stagecoach team more'n once about using the arroyo for a road. They reckon the steep walls help discourage bandits. They reckon as far as natural hazards go, even a flash flood would not dare to mess with the tax assessor on their rounds. Anyway, lapir can swim." Bruthazmus chimes in, "Lapir horses? Those are the black and white 'paint' horses orcs like. Good animals." Bruthazmus tilts his hat back on his head a few inches. "Though about the caravan. We found where they hunkered down, at least we think so. A little mesa south of here. We spent the evening there and wound up having a bad time with some sort of devil-taken cow. The thing walked on two legs and came at us with a halberd. Mind you, I like beef as much as the next person. But I'm not so fond of it when it stabs back. Ever hear tell of something like that?"   Jaeke replies "Yer talkin' the same burrow milk as Ranger," Jaeke says discouragingly. "We in the town proper pretty much try to stay out of the troubles between the farmers and the ranchers." He walks off into the shelves of the shop to fill the basket. I try to smooth things out again and ask about the Ranger. He fills us in on the history of the ranch hand turned blacksmith with one of his buddies. Bruthazmus pays for his purchases and we leave with two different destinations on the opposite end of town.   We stand outside the store and debate our next move. I remember seeing Miro heading south so we think it might be better to go north and find that mail coach. Bart mentions how weird it is that Jaeke thinks that it might have seen something when the caravan was to the south. Then he has a thought and suggests that we should talk to the naiad since she has a part in the farmer versus ranch battle. He also says that while we could probably talk to her just fine, it would be better to have both the druid and the stormborne around. Apparently Miro has something in his blood that forces him to use magic which will allow him to make a connection with the ruler of the lake. We figure it will be better to go together as a group and so we just stand in the middle of the street and wait for everyone to meander back to use. First to arrive is Jesse with another chap that he introduces as the Padre. We discuss the situation and decide to get a means of transportation and head to the stable. The Padra saddles his mount - which is just odd-looking. Then the stable boy brings out two mounts - ALMOST normal looking horses. The druid makes friends and starts to saddle his mount, but Bart almost gets his ear bitten off. The stable boy brings out an actual horse - albeit old and careworn. We all get together and head out to follow Lee Chung's tracks.   We catch up to him rather easily since he is walking and we are riding. We exchange information and determine that we are all interested in speaking with the naiad. We continue heading towards the Tarntaise Farm. We are almost there is the farm when the Padre notices Chef. Lee Chung explains the situation about the kobold and we get to the farm. There we see a sign showing what can be bought. Lee Chung and Jesse buy some Rutabega beer cheese soup and Bart gets an ale. I abstain since someone will need to have a clean mind. I suddenly remember that Miro will need food and order a jug of the beer cheese soup for him. That seems to be making the farmers happy.   Jesse opens the conversation casually by asking about any damage from the storm. He responds by talking about the rabbit hutches being broken - almost like they were damaged on purpose. When he inquires about our storm experiences, Lee Chung jumps in to talk about the caravan we are tracking. Then, just when he is about to say something, his dad walks back out with the jug of soup for Miro. He gets his payment from me and then he lets me know that the jug can be re-heated on a campfire and that under no circumstances can the jug be taken into the saloon. The son obviously wants to tell us something and just as obviously does not want to say it while his father is there. Jesse jumps in to save the situation by offering to bless the fields. The farmer takes him up on the offer and they go off to take care of his heritage rutabaga field.   Then Lee Chung asks him what he wanted to talk about and he gives us a story about a banshee or ghost haunting a local cemetery. Then there is a side conversation about time versus thyme and when we get back to the topic at hand, he tells us that they had gone to the local cemetery to check for anyone needing help when they saw a lot of dead bodies - not buried. He recommends that we check it out - if we are determined to do so - at noon since that is the best way to counter any ghostiness. We gather Jesse and head out towards town while waiting for WrongWay to bring news of Miro's location.   WrongWay appears and indicates that Miro is southwest and then Spiro appears and attaches to Brathazmus who feeds him. Both animals agree that we need to go west and Spiro disappears, but WrongWay has better directions for us to follow and we start heading towards Miro. Approximately forty-five minutes later we meet with Miro and I give him the food. He begins spouting information about what he has been discovering which includes that the blacksmith has been kidnapped along with his anvil, the person he is with has a magical fire poker, the brand on his face is not magic, and that there were a lot of wagon tracks and hoof marks.   We end up back in town and the padre gets the guy who he refers to as Ranger settled down.   I get up high enough into the clear, cold air. I can see the group as a small dot, though I doubt they can see me. I start spying out of the land and I can see various ranches and outbuildings. The canyon does look like it was smacked straight down into the land. I can see grasses and various animals grazing at the entrance to the canyon North and a bit east of a pond is a dust cloud that should be the stagecoach. There is nothing odd I see on my first pass, but I feel drawn to both the shiny and good to eat and I am seeing nothing that interests me. However, on the upper slopes of Oatman Canyon, there is a much larger farm that appears to be physically laid out to be in a defensible formation. They even have thorny bushes set up in place of walls. The most outstanding feature is the occasional glint of glass in a perimeter. There are several ranches with herds of cattle with ranch-hands around watching them. South and west of the canyon in another large ranch in the "badlands". It has large stone barns with on every east-facing slope is that design Miro showed us - te yellow triangle. No cattle are close to the buildings - except for one and there is a smoke pit active in that building. It strikes me as weird that most of the buildings don't have smoke or activity around them. There is one farm that looks to have cabbages growing - but they are in rows. In the far distance, I can see a hint of the Warden Road.   The direction the party is going is roughly the same as where we had the encounter last night and there is a scar on the land. That area appears to be dead with reddish earth and none of the muddy, dusty look the rest of the land has. I spiral down and land with the group just as they reach the edge of the scar. The priest stares in abject horror and Bruthazmus shares what he learns which amounts to this is BAD. Jesse takes a look with his druidic skill set and learns that something evil has sucked the life out of the entire area - even down to the microbes in the soil. Bart chimes in with a suggestion about a dryad being evil and Miro suggests maybe there is an undead blood born. Padre mentions that his mount refuses to walk into that area so Jesse and Bart volunteers to walk in. First, Jesse pulls up a baby cactus and holds it over the dividing line to see what happens. Nothing does so Bart joins him. Jesse re-plants the cactus and we head towards the center of this area which is also where the cemetery should be.   We move to the center of the scar and see some graves that are comprised of dirt and debris from a caravan. It is now mid-afternoon and the sun is beating down mercilessly. The graves on the west side seem to be higher than those on the east side closest to us. There are not really markers for the various graves, but there are markers of various kinds to indicate perhaps who was buried where. It almost looks like an earthquake, but yet doesn't. Jesse heads to the willow bough and Bart heads towards the bone to look for signs on the undead. Miro just starts poking things. I stand by observing to regain energy after the flight.   Them Miro declares that someone is going to die with strong intent. Apparently the storm we all experienced was created by a storm master sorcerer who was killed by someone who then grabbed their storm and put it into a bottle. Then we hear whispering from behind us with a voice that promises retribution. No one among us can understand what she is saying and then suddenly Lee Chung appears. I ask him to translate what the lady is whispering since she sounds very mad, but he can't hear her, and neither can I anymore. Jesse mentions that someone used an earth-moving spell to bury the bodies, which is a very high-level spell. Padre doesn't know anyone in the area that would be able to do that level of spell work. Then Bart pipes up with the information that all of the creatures that had been in this area were raised by a necromancer.   Jesse points at a small section on the lip of the scar that appears to greenish. I fly over and check it out and can see where this was an area where water had dripped and everything that had been safely in the water died once they dropped out of the water. I land lightly on the area. I do not see anything else in the area of note. I look back towards the group and suddenly see a ghost. I fly back down so I can hear what Lee Chung is saying. He seems to be arguing with her. Then she mentions the caravan and can see that the name means something to us. Then she appears to be giving him instructions. After a while, he turns and translates it. One, we have to release a storm and help the stormborn to move to the next life. Two, we have to take the pendant Jesse found back to the mountain so she can rest. Three, we must stop them.   She disappears and we help the padre finish up his prayers so we can head back to town. The is an argument about what might be causing this, but demonic plant-based seems to be winning. It does still appear that there are three different factions that are fighting for power in this region. We head back towards town to meet the stagecoach and see what stories it has to share. I fly up so I can check on the progress of the stagecoach. I also see a few other small dust clouds that are probably people working on their land. It is hot and the air shimmers, but it is not moving very much at all and I keep moving so I don't overheat. Xifeng makes a dive for a suslik but doesn't get it. I swing back around, but the group hasn't made it very far.   Then I see Miro rejoin the group. Why does he always run off?? Then I see them stop and start talking, then the padre heads off westward and as I get closer to them, I hear disjointed conversation about the farm and what is going on. I head out so I can fly high enough above the Padre's head so I can warn him of approaching danger. We get to the farm and the first thing we notice is that the rabbit hutches here were also bashed open. The group splits up to check various parts of the ranch and I fly up to do a patrol over the ranch house and a 15-yard circle around the farm to keep an eye out for problems.   The farm itself looks okay but does need to be tidied. As I start to fly a wider circle, I see the dust cloud from the stagecoach has gotten longer. And now there is another dust cloud that seems to be closer to the pond. There also seems to be something that captured the rabbits as they were attempting to leave. The more I think about the dust cloud from the stagecoach the more concerned I get. Once I see everyone gathering in the farmyard, I spiral down and share my concerns. We find out what Bruthasmuz discovered from the mules and we help him to get the barn fixed up for the helpful mules. While in there working, we find a few bottles that have writing on them to spray on plants and to NOT consume anything that has this potion added to it. Then we head out to meet the stagecoach just in case it is being attacked.   As we leave, I fly up and can see several dust clouds as the attackers are running at different speeds. I decide to fly ahead to get some information to take back to the group so they will know what is ahead of them. I can see a stagecoach and six-horse team with a driver and another person who is firing a crossbow. There is a stampede of cows chasing them! They are stuck in a ravine and no way for them to get out of it for a couple of miles. The driver reaches beneath the seat and pulls out something from under the seat and blows five, long, steady notes and then puts it back under the seat. I fly down and tell them help is on the way and then fly back to inform the group.   Padre heads out immediately and Bessie - in her flower hat - agrees with him. Jesse speeds out after the Padre and the others follow as quickly as they can. So much for getting there all at the same time. I stay in the air so I can keep all the different parties informed of the status. Jesse says he will cast entangle at a bend once the stagecoach passes. I say I can also cast that spell and move to the bend directly in front of the herd. I cast the spell, but it partially hits the side of the wall and I only catch part of the herd. I fly over the stagecoach and see that there is a person inside who has a wand. They are firing blasts of a red energy ray that is hitting the cattle and appears to be hurting them. I spiral down and land on the top of the stagecoach, tell them I am here to help, and start firing arrows at the cows. I send Xifeng to Bart so she will be out of the way. Not much she can do against a cow.   Then I hear Miro yell something about releasing something and a lightning bolt hits several of the cows and sets them on fire. The smell of rosemary and garlic fills the air. Then the halberds come out and I know our hell bovines are here. The stagecoach goes around a bend and rocks a bit. I hover and fire at the group of cows that have appeared out of a side canyon. I manage to hit from the air and set another one on fire. Then Miro sends a snowball into the same group and then Bart is suddenly riding one of the hell bovine towards the ones behind the stagecoach trying to stop the stampede.   I glance around the stagecoach and remind everyone there that I told them help was on the way! And then the battle is over. I bang on the roof of the stagecoach and tell them it is safe to slow down and my friends - who are mostly harmless - as we head into town.

Cover image: by CB Ash

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