Chapter 16 - The Great Combinator
wherein the ice has broken, ladies and gentlemen of the jury... Fearing pursuit by the villagers, Chonkorchuk races across the frozen Vydra, and into the woods. He knows these better than anyone, and hopes to make it to the burrow where he and his companions found signs of a bear being kept captive over a week ago. As he jogs northward through the woods, he is suddenly accosted by an interloper from behind. The man gives him a solid whack on the head with the hilt of his saber from behind, but the hermit is just able to turn away enough to avoid getting knocked out. The man is unfamiliar, but looks similar to the smugglers the band confronted in the woods near Yelizarov's estate – probably a member of Lionia’s band, Chonkorchuk surmises. He turns himself invisible and attempts to get away – getting the coins to Baba Yaga is his top concern. But the ground is covered with snow, and he is easy to follow. His pursuer attempts to push him down to the ground, and to wrest the cauldron of treasure away from him, but Chonkorchuk manages to maintain his footing, and keeps moving away. The man seemingly gives up the chase, and Chonkorchuk arrives at the tree above the burrow. He climbs up a neighboring tree, covers himself with eaves, and watches the clearing. Within the hour, Druvvaldis arrives. He was not so lucky. He was set upon by the same man, who similarly clocked him from behind, and then finished him off when he tried to run. When he came to, the flaxen shirt in which he was carrying his share of the loot from the warren was gone, as were the man’s footprints – it is not clear where he went. His familiar, in raven form, was looking for the other companions, and returned to find him unconscious, and woke him. Druvvaldis is uncertain why the man did not kill him, but he detected something familiar about his voice when he cursed after not being able to lay him out with a single blow from behind – he heard a lot of it until quite recently. Chonkorchuk is not surprised to hear that the likely assailant was Lionia – the double-cross appears entirely predictable to him. He is not sure why he did not try to kill Druvvaldis, but suspects that he has alerted his associates, and may be coming after the rest of the treasure, which he must secure at all costs. Plamen arrives soon after. He still limps, and is unable to run – hence his late arrival. But he was spared the assault by the pursuer, for reasons that are not clear. He feeds some of his magic berries to Druvvaldis, who recovers somewhat from his assault. Since the trio fears the imminent arrival of the smuggler band, they take care to wipe away the tracks leading to the burrow. Druvvaldis creates a new set heading to the Rys’ River, and then the party secrets itself in the burrow. At night, while Chonkorchuk keeps watch, the smugglers arrive. The companions’ efforts to conceal their location seem to have paid off. The hermit overhears them saying that Lionia surmised they went to the hermitage. They soon leave in that direction, apparently with harmful intentions. The rest of the night passes without incident, and in the morning, the party heads off in search of Baba Yaga. In response to Druvvaldis’ query about how to find her, Chonkorchuk states that she usually finds them, and he is proven correct. Within two hours after leaving the burrow, the lynx bounds up on them, though he is friendlier this time, and engages in a playful wrestling match with Plamen. His mistress appears soon after, as if from underground. She appears pleased enough with the takings brought by Chonkorchuk and Plamen, and mentions nothing about any particular amount she was expecting, though she dismissively rejects the copper pulo, and Chonkorchuk obligingly picks it out before turning over his camping cauldron full of only “pure treasure” to Baba Yaga, who demands to keep the cauldron as well. In response to queries about the nature of the treasure, she confirms that it was indeed stolen from her by Plamenka, who was able to capture it by enchanting the Kochmak warriors, and forcing them to fight one another (and to kill the villagers). She expresses satisfaction about the way she ended up (as a spirit bound to her warren for eternity), before she presses to find out when she is going to get the galumphing oaf and the young bride. The hermit promises both within the week. The crone then turns to Druvvaldis, and demands to know who he is, as she has never before met him. Druvvaldis tells his tale – about his people who were slaughtered by the Ritterheim Knights, and about the spirits who led him to this place. Chonkorchuk recommends him as one who aided the group’s efforts in recovering the pure treasure, and Baba Yaga offers to aid him against his enemies in exchange for his help in securing the other things she wants, perhaps by brewing a potion. Druvvaldis asks for a potion of fire breathing, but Baba Yaga suggests something subtler that may discredit the Knights (who she apparently also dislikes) – a potion of diminution, for example. Chonkorchuk seconds her, but Druvvaldis is unconvinced. The hag suggests that a potion of fire breathing requires components – such as the special sacks of a fire-breathing serpent. Her supplicant Chonkorchuk waves that off as an impossible task – where would they find one? How would they defeat it? But Baba Yaga answers that one never knows when such a beast might be around, and then mysteriously recommends that the companions be sure to bathe themselves before confronting one. She then flips a curious slimy but fragrant block to Chonkorchuk, and, becoming two, walks away in opposite directions. Having delivered the pure treasure, the trio discusses what to do next. In light of last night’s pursuers, the logical step is to track down the galumphing oaf. But where is he now being kept? Chonkorchuk surmises that the smugglers keeping him have left their hideout now that their cover is blown, though he does recall that Lionia paid off or sweet-talked Yelizarov into laying off, and that he also has a good relationship with Trofimov as well. In any case, looking in on the smuggler’s shack seems like the first order of business. The party crosses both frozen rivers, and, avoiding settlements, proceeds along the southern bank of the Vydra. They arrive to within a verst or so of the shack as the sun is setting. The companions set up camp, and Chonkorchuk sends forth the fefila, invisibly, to spy on the shack (and hopefully come back in one piece). Before an hour has passed, the fefila returns. It relates to its master, telepathically, that the shack is indeed occupied, by men similar to the one who apparently attacked its master in the woods the previous day. There is a one-handed bear among them, but Lionia is not. In fact, the people there seemed to be very unhappy with Lionia. Chonkorchuk shares the information with his companions. Lionia has likely screwed his other associates as well. Druvvaldis wonders whether he might be at home, but Chonkorchuk opines that he is likely far away, probably going westward (where the smuggled goods originate), and with armfuls of money.
- Baba Yaga's first task accomplished
- One-armed bear located
Character(s) interacted with
- Report Date
- 04 Aug 2017
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