Of murders, kobolds, and boredom
The Bard's Tale
Sharlot woke at her secluded campsite, and made her way back to the road. From there she turned south, headed down river towards Bandar Philia. She moved at an easy pace, sparing her horse, as she took in the surroundings. To the east, fields of corn and wheat alternated with grasslands and passtures between. The west was the river - at points just feet from the road, at others almost lost below a drop off or behind a copse of trees. She guessed that at this point it was still technically the lake, due to the width, but the flow became more noticeable as she moved farther south.
Around midday, she came across a small hamlet, where the workers were gathering for a midday meal. Sharlot joined them, and passed the time with some chat about the area. She learned that there was a village that was large enough to support an inn about 15 miles farther south, and Sharlot eventually decided to make for there. She arrived in the evening, in time to see what appeared to be the entire town going into the inn. It did not look like a joyous occassion, and she knew enough to approach the people tactfully.
Entering the inn, she saw a town in mourning. She was able to question some people enough to find out that a young woman had been brutally murdered the night before. The body was found that morning, and buried that day, and now the people of the village had gathered to remember and mourn. Sharlot played her lute for the memorial, soothing the grief stricken with her music. The inn keeper thanked her, and let her stay the night as payment.
After an eventful last few days, Durdeg, Mal, and Carta were ready to move on from the carnival. They went to the gathering area of the inn, where Carta's fellow knight Anders was eating a hearty breakfast. They joined him, and Carta and Anders discussed the status of Carta's new retainers, when they would meet again, and what to call their night on the town in Anders' memoirs. Carta's retainers joined them, and Boha and Bolda both requested funds for the household, while Lews wanted a wooden sword. With a promise for such a sword if he stayed with the others, the group split up.
Malcer upgraded his armor, going with an off the rack studded leather set. Both Carta and Durdeg needed some books, and went at different times to the bookstore near the inn. Durdeg picked up his previous order, the treatise on The Kingdom of Corellum. His companions would likely know most of this, although the book was easier than a long session of questioning. Afterwards, he went looking for components for his spells, wanting to trade his meteor rock. He found that it truly was a wonder, but that the blacksmith could not work it, so could not afford it. He joined up with Mal at that point, and they returned to the inn to wait for Carta.
Carta sought a practical book on heraldry for the region, as well as a book on war. The bookseller was cooperative, and said that he could find several such books. Way of the Warrior is the definitive treatise, and he had one buried around the back. The book on heraldric symbols would take a bit of digging up, but they agreed to meet the next day. Carta headed back to the inn, to meet with the group.
The trio reunited for lunch, and decided that they would take care of the kobold issue on the island. Their reasons for doing it may have differed, but the three were united in purpose, and set out. After making their way to the island, they found the cave, and moved in. Remembering their previous encounters, they were able to make it to the trap room. Once through, they were in uncharted territory. They moved slowly through the next chamber, avoiding some simple triplines, and found the flickering firepits of the kobold camp.
As they entered the chamber, the kobolds noticed their arrival. Although there were screams from many, the kobolds seemed surprisingly organized as a small group faced off with the adventurers, and the rest fled towards the back of the cavern. A large kobold, bearing the marks of a dragon on his face, rallied a number of kobolds to his side. He had four bodyguards that surrounded him, and another four basic warriors. Two more kobolds brought up the rear, one in robes and the other with a number of sacks and contraptions. They did not attack immediately, and a face off began. It was broken when Tigger, Mal's trusty snow leopard companion, launched himself at the closest kobold.
A battle began, as the kobolds immediately set upon Tigger. The beast found himself quickly surrounded, and took serious wounds from their short swords. Meanwhile Durdeg, who had been trying to flank the goblins, got too close to a patch of vines, and they came to life and ensnared him. A few kobolds took the opportunity to launch rocks at him from their slings, although only one connected for any notable damage. All pretense of holding back was gone, and the two sides threw themselves at each other.
Tigger was badly wounded, and had to flee from the fight. Malcer immediately ran in to cover his friend, but got close enough that the kobold with the contraptions was able to use it'sitems against him. He had already released a skunk on the group, and while it failed to connect with anyone in particular, the entire cavern had become a rather pungent experience. It's next trick was to throw a basket full of centipedes at Malcer - the creepy, crawling bugs successfully diverted his attention, and he spent most of the fight attempting to squish them before they could get inside his armor. Carta also came in close, squaring off with the dragon touched chief and drawing the attention of the nearby warriors. The robed kobold switched its attention to him, and began pouring fire from his hands at the knight. Carta used his shield well, deflecting most of the blows and magic coming at him.
With the fighting kobolds blocking the rear of the cave, the others quickly escaped. When they had all made it clear, the remainder started to peel off. The weakest of the kobolds had all been killed in the initial assault, leaving the chief, two of his bodyguards, the robed kobold and the kobold with contraptions behind. The sorcerer and inventor fled, but Durdeg thought quickly and pursued, hoping to get a prisoner. He caught the sorcerer, knocking it out with a powerful blow from his mechanical arm. The inventor fled, and the chief and his bodyguards also broke off to run. Mal finished cleaning the bugs, and Carta moved out of his protective stance, but they were too late. A battered chief escaped, leaving the sorcerer behind.
The group rested and recovered, waiting for the sorcerer to wake up. When it finally did, it screamed at them for invading its home and attacking its people. It claimed that they had not attacked people, and were just continuing to live their lives in this cave, hidden and protected by the monsters surrounding them. It even pointed out that they did not attack until they were attacked by the leopard. The party pressed, knowing that there had been deaths on the island recently. The kobold pointed them south, to what it called the 'bad water', as the source of the problem. When the party told them they would have to go, leaving the town, the kobold claimed that they had always been there. While this may have been true, the party knew that the short lives of the kobolds meant that forever to them could have been measured in decades, well after the town was established. In the end, they let the kobold go, after it promised that they would never see the tribe again.
After picking up the traps the kobolds had left, the group exited the cave. They decided to head south to look for the 'bad water'. Before long, they heard wild boar in the bushes, but immediately recognized that there was something off about it. They didn't have to wait long before they found the reason, as three giant beasts broke through the undergrowth. The boar were enormous - the largest of the three was close to seven feet tall at the withers. They saw the party, and immediately charged, appearing to be in a frenzy not explained by the season. Perhaps it was the presence of a common predator of boar, or perhaps it had something to do with what made them so large, but as they attacked, it was not the time to find out.
While Durdeg enveloped the creatures in light to separate them from the background, Carta stepped up to the biggest of the group. With its head down in preparation of goring someone, it was in the perfect position for Carta to grab the tusks and hold on. He was able to get a hold, and the beast started to rage. Meanwhile, Malcer called up the energy of the forest to ensnare the giant creature. With the biggest under control, and blocking the others from helping each other, Durdeg and V4 took one while Malcer took the other.
With Malcer and Durdeg doing the dirty work of taking down two of the beasts, Carta decided to use his strength and athleticism to wear the beast down - perhaps, even, to break it to his will. He swung up on the back of the beast, gripping with everything he had while avoiding the thorns from Malcer's vines. He was quickly thrown off, but he bounced back to his feet and grabbed on again. The second time, he was able to stay in place, and the beast focused all of its energy on dislodging him.
Malcer and Durdeg had finished off their beasts, and moved to help. While they tried to subdue it, the strain of the struggle, the thorns from the vines, and the attacks caused the beast to succumb. Carta was disappointed, but when Malcer butchered the meat and began to roast it over the fire, the smells of pork fat frying took all of their cares away. Taking what they could carry, and feeding Tigger enough that his belly was dragging the ground, they continued to seek the bad water.
Eventually, they started to hear strange noises - apes and tigers, which they thought were very unlikely to be in the area. They sought the source of the noise, and found a lone halfling attempting to drive away any predators with the nature sounds he knew. The halfling was frightened and hungry, and willing to give everything he had for assistance in escaping the island. The group agreed, taking the money he had and promising a ride out on the boat when they left. At this point, they were closing in on the bad water, and took the halfling with them.
They came across a pool of water, surrounded by the corpses of a large number of animals. The stench was intense, cutting through the lingering skunk smell from before. The animals looked to have died in pain, their bodies contorted and ruptured in places. As the group looked on in horror, another animal started to drink. It turned away from the pool as it started to convulse. Its skin broke apart, the bones pushing through, and it died in agony. The group felt a burning thirst, but used their waterskins to slake it, as they tried to figure out what was happening. As a skunk approached the water, they shooed it away, and heard a tiny voice complaining about ruining its fun.
A squirrel made it past them to drink from the water. As they watched, the convulsions set in again, but this time the skin did not break. The tiny mammal stretched out, getting larger by the second. Before they knew it, the squirrel was the size of a dog, and still it grew. It was taller than the halfling by the time it was done, and it scampered off into the woods. Carta decided to try to bless the pool itself - it was a long shot, but it paid off. His ritual took an hour, while the others kept any more animals away from the spring. When it was complete, a high pitched screaming came from the water, and a form rose up out of it. It was tiny itself, and the party caught a quick glimpse before it shook off the water and disappeared. It had the tail of an imp, a servant of the Devils of the Empyrean, although they could not see it clear enough to make a definitive decision as to what it was. But when another animal drank from the pool, it was unaffected. The group saw that the sun was almost down, and decided to head back to the camping site and call it a day.
The dread foe Paperwork
Sif woke in the morning, her path clear. Unfortunately, it was not a path she had ever wanted to take. She was responsible for the open house at the College, since the former dean was no longer with them to conduct it. Her duty as a cleric of Kolero was clear, even if she had changed her focus to magic. She must ensure the proper functioning of the church until a replacement could arrive.
The morning started fine. Sif rose refreshed and confident after a good night's sleep. Her confidence faltered when she arrived at the lobby to the college, however. She had had visions of a line of petitioners, each patiently awaiting their turn to impress the members of the college and get an invite to study with them. Instead, she found a small mob of the poorest of Geton and surrounding areas, hoping that Kolero would help turn their lives around.
While Sif would never be one to attempt to impose 'order' on a situation, she did think that being civilized was critical, and therefor arranged the people waiting in a way that she could easily see all of them. Before speaking to any of them alone, one particularly brave soul asked if there was any way they could get something to eat while they waited. The rest of the crowd looked to her, and it was clear that they were all hungry, and that maybe this was the reason they had come in the first place. She told them that Kolero would provide, but that He asks for his followers to show they are willing to work hard to get what they need. If they were willing to do so, they would be fed. There was some minor grumbling, but for the most part, the petitioners agreed readily.
She asked them to wait, and rounded up some of the professors. She tasked them with both arranging for some basic food for the people, and for tasks that the petitioners could do to earn their keep. While the professors were not pleased with being pulled from their duties to purchase meals, they were thrilled at having a group of people ready and available to perform the housekeeping duties that needed to be done. One of the professors showed her where the Dean had kept the college funds, and she spent far too large of a chunk of the money securing a decent breakfast for the petitioners. The petitioners were starting to clean the main floor of the College as the food arrived, and Sif arranged with the various professors to send them up as they were available.
Sif set up in the Dean's old office, and had the professors bring in each person individually. She had no idea if this was how it was supposed to be done, but since she was in charge, it was the way she planned to do it. The first person into her office was a farmer who had experienced failing crops for several years, and was no longer able to meet his obligations. He told Sif that he had been the victim of bad luck, as his soil was no longer producing properly, while the farms around him did. He was hoping for Kolero to save him, by blessing his fields and increasing his yields.
Sif was a city dweller, and so did not have much experience with crops, but she did know that the college had an agriculture department. She summoned her familiar, and sent it with a message to the agricultural professor, and had him join them. The petitioner explained again, and the professor laughed, telling him that he'd worn out the soil himself, and had to bring it back. Sif sat back and listened, as the professor went on about fallow fields and crop rotation, and was as lost as the farmer in a short time. She understood what the professor was saying, but it was a long way from what interested her, and she was glad to have the professor there.
When the professor finished, Sif took back over. She explained that the farmer could learn all of this, and more, and it would help to make his farm one of the best producing in the county. The farmer looked skeptical, but she pushed on. She told him about the agriculture department, and how they are always testing new methods of farming, and that if he attended the college, he could benefit from the most recently discovered techniques. The farmer liked the sound of that, but he still had a family to feed and taxes to pay. Sif countered that without learning, he would likely never be able to provide enough food for his family, let alone keep up on the taxes. In addition, the College could work with the local government on the taxes, allowing them to make it through the time they need to study. She offered him a place at the school, where he could learn everything he needed in exchange for him and his family doing work for the college, and a long term contract where they would tithe 10% of their crops to the League. They could also use the resources of the College, and the League in general, to get assistance in high demand times - everyone at the College is expected to pull together to help everyone else. Some of this work, she explained, would be helping to test various methods on his land, where both he and the college can benefit from it. The farmer had hoped for a different result, where the Father's power would simply make his farm right again, but agreed that he would give this his all. With a satisfied smile, she sent him to the agriculture department where they could enroll the man.
The rest of the day mostly followed this same pattern - a new petitioner would arrive, asking for the blessings of Kolero, and Sif would have to steer them to how they could help themselves. She ended up signing up two dozen new students, swelling the ranks of the college and providing much needed test lands and workers. She felt satisfied, yet exhausted, as the sun began to set. Even though she would rather have been with the rest of the group, exploring the world, she was at peace with the time spent as an instrument of her Father's will.
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