Posts Tagged ‘Elorian Campaign’

Time Goes By Pt. 3

January 25, 2020

After a few reluctant mouthfuls of breakfast, Mariel looked back up at the twins. Just in their happy, supportive presence, she was starting to feel more like herself. Her confidence and sanity were slowly regenerating and she found herself even smiling a bit.

“I truly am sorry that to interrupt your vacations,” Mariel said. “Where did the two of you go? Back home?”

“I went back to my order,” Dimitri said. “It was good to see some old friends and Mistress Callen.”

Mariel looked confused. “You didn’t go together?” she asked. The twins had been inseparable for much of their lives so any separation was curious. Perhaps both of them had gained more faith in Dina’s ability to control her curse.

“We didn’t,” Dina said, tearing a sausage in half with her teeth. “Fern and I went camping in Thorncatch forest.”

Mariel smiled. “You and Fern?” she asked. “Really?”

“Yes,” Dina said with a smile. “We finally decided to give it a shot.”

“It’s about time,” Mariel said. “It feels like the two of you first kissed ages ago. Did you enjoy yourselves?” Mariel was suddenly overjoyed. The young druid and werewolf had been making eyes at each other since they had met and Mariel had hoped something would spark. She had remained neutral but she had hoped desperately. She was also impressed that Dimitri had not stood in their way.

Dina nodded. “You know that Fern is hard to read but I think we both had a really good time,” she said. “It’s really nice to just get lost for a while, you know?”

Mariel blushed slightly and nodded. “I think I catch your meaning,” she said. “Would you two mind if I went back upstairs to clean myself up before everybody else arrives?”

Dimitri nodded. “I think we can hold down the fort until you feel that you’re ready,” he said.

“I never put much stock in being clean,” Dina said. “But do what makes you happy.”

Mariel almost laughed. “Thank you,” she said. “I’ll be right back down.” She stood up and put a few silver on the table before the twins could try to pay for her. She still had her dignity. She hurried up the steps. She had not expected her friends to arrive so soon but she was so grateful for the support. The six of them had been through a lot together and it felt good to have them at her back again. Especially at a time where she had completely lost her footing.

She came back downstairs later after bathing and reapplying her makeup. She had her bag full of magical tools and weapons at the ready, attached to her waist with a sash belt. Just making the change made her feel ready for action again. There was still a tension running through her but she felt less wobbly. She would confront this head-on with her friends like they had confronted so many monsters and villains. She had turned a demon to stone, she could do this. She could hold it together.

When she arrived at the bottom of the stairs, the twins were nowhere in sight but her eyes were drawn to the source of whoever was playing a hurdy gurdy near the fire. It was Asher Woodhome, of course. Asher was a world-famous traveling bard who had somehow stumbled into fame by accident. He was more focused on making and understanding music and its power. He was also the only other member of their party who was as fashion-forward and put together as Mariel. Most who met him thought he was self-centered but he was actually just distracted and overly thoughtful.

Sitting on the floor and meditating near Asher was Luther Stonestill. The old dwarf had left home at a young age and, according to him, had led a brutal and self-centered period in his life. He had joined a monastery to atone and had become a centered yet passionate monk whose whole body was a weapon. And yet, he just as often used his words to diffuse tense situations. He was slow to violence but quick to end violence when it began. He had become the de facto leader of their group and it was he who had called everyone together once again. She was glad to see him.

Mariel sat in a chair across from Asher and next to Luther. Asher stopped playing with a smile and a nod. Luther spoke without opening his eyes.

“Are you ready to investigate?” Luther asked, absolutely calm.

“I am,” Mariel said. “Shall we?”

“I thought you’d never ask,” Asher said, slinging his instrument over his back.

“The children are all outside,” Luther said.

“Let’s go gather them then,” Mariel said. “One way or another, we are figuring this out.”

Time Goes By Pt. 2

January 18, 2020

Mariel spent the following night in a fitful half-sleep, tossing and turning and getting up to pace and drink now and again. She knew it was not healthy but she was also not really in her right mind and wanted to be unconscious. She eventually did pass out in those achingly quiet hours before the dawn. Her mind had still been racing with possibilities but it had just shut down as she blacked out. Her dreams were full of faded scraps of memories of her parents. She woke back up in the late morning and everything was too loud and too bright even though the curtains were drawn.

She stumbled out of bed and nearly fell down, her legs wobbling and her head spinning. She had no idea if she was still drunk or it was sleep deprivation. It may have been both. She managed to keep standing and moved to her dresser where she drank directly from a pitcher of water. She rummaged in the dresser for something to wear. She got dressed in the streaks of morning light streaking from the edges of the closed curtains. She ran fingers through those crimson red locks and then slipped on the pair of flats that she usually only reserved for dungeons and battlefields. She was too unsteady for heels.

She stepped out into the hallway and headed for the stairs. She knew she had to at least attempt to eat something. As she descended the stairs, she heard the familiar chatter of the taproom, something she had gotten used to the world over. She put on a brave face, trying to make her expression pleasant but unreadable. She concentrated on changing her gait into more of a glide to cover up her nerves. As she reached the bottom of the stairs, she saw that two of the raucous voices she was hearing belonged to her friends.

Sitting at a table with sizable breakfasts were the twins Dina and Dimitri Briarhaven. They were collectively known as The Beast and The Blade. The two had been separated at a very young age. The more reserved Dimitri had gone on to take vows as a paladin of Lathander. Dina had been inadvertently saved from kidnappers by a pack of werewolves. In the attack, she had become a werewolf herself and barely escaped into the wilderness. It was many years later when the twins had been reunited. Dimitri used the powers he gained from his faith to help control his sister’s inner beast and she, in turn, had helped him loosen up. They became a great team together.

The two suddenly turned almost in unison to look at Mariel. She saw a brief hesitation in their eyes that showed concern before they smiled again. She realized at that moment that she had not only forgotten to put on her makeup that morning, she had also forgotten to take it off the night before. It was obviously no great sin but it was not like Mariel at all. Even in the midst of battle, she was put together.

“Quite a posh place you’ve found, Mariel,” Dina said with a wicked smile.

“She’s always held that particular skill,” Dimitri said. “Can we interest you in some breakfast?”

“I suppose I should,” Mariel said. “It’s honestly been a rough morning so far.”

Dina stood to give her a hug and Dimitri stood to take her hand and help her into a chair.

“We have fruit, cheese, and bread for you,” Dimitri said. “We can take things slowly.”

Mariel nodded and started to use a fork to put food in her mouth. She chewed mechanically and swallowed without really tasting anything. The twins tried not to stare at her.

“I’m sorry for interrupting your vacation,” Mariel said. “I didn’t mean to.”

Dina waved her hand as if she was blowing the words out of the air like smoke. “I was getting bored anyway,” she said.

Dimitri shrugged. “When Luther contacted us, he gave us a choice,” he said. “We chose to come. This is important and beside that, it seems like this is an interesting turn of events.”

Mariel nodded. “To say the least,” she said. “Everybody didn’t come did they?”

“Luther and Asher haven’t arrived yet,” Dina said. “Fern is outside.”

“Outside?” Mariel asked and looked concerned. “What is she doing outside?”

“Hanging out?” Dina said with a shrug, shoving a sausage into her mouth.

“She has too many ‘passengers’ and she’s filthier than usual,” Dimitri said.

“Oh,” Mariel said and went back to eating. Fern was a druid the team had found in a cave and she was much more used to the outdoors. She often had rats, insects, and snakes crawling in and out of her robes and often had enough dirt caked on her skin to actually grow plants out of. She was both touched and guilty that her friends were all arriving. She had not meant to ruin their good time but she was grateful to have the support. This mystery could mean nothing but could it could be the most important thing to ever happen.

Time Goes By

January 11, 2020

Mariel was walking down the streets of Carrena, every few steps she spun her parasol on her shoulder. It was a sunny day and she had a new dress and she was on vacation from adventuring. The rest of the team had scattered to the winds so Mariel was on her own. A lot of them had gone back to visit their families and touch base with their lives outside of fighting monsters and gathering treasure. Mariel had no family anymore. She was the tragic backstory type of adventurer. Her parents were magical researchers but had meddled with something wrong and they had detonated the tower they had lived in. Mariel had been flung across town and it was a miracle that she had survived at such a young age. One of her pointy ears had been singed off permanently which led to a lifetime of artfully arranged long hair.

Fifty years had passed quickly since they were just a blink of an eye for a young elf. Still, she could barely remember her parents’ faces and it had been a long time since she had been anywhere remotely near her home in the Bremid Empire. She had chosen instead to visit Carrena. She had grown up far from cities in her small town and she had gotten a taste for city life and especially city fashion while on adventures with her new family. They had been in Carrena the previous year battling a death cult down in the sewers. Not the best memories but when they had emerged from the blood and fouled water, the colors in the city had been so bright. They had hit several pubs in the city and had caroused for two straight nights on the King’s coin.

She had bought a new dress the morning they had left and she promised herself that she would return. Now she had paid for a week at the Deer’s Head and she was just having fun shopping and exploring the city. There were no dangers to confront and she was enjoying having some time to herself. She had spent her day reading a romance story by the famous Fountains of Umberlee’s Daughters. It had been so relaxing but now she was starting to get hungry again and there were no more snacks in her bag of colding. She also thought she could do with a glass or two of black wine. She was looking forward to the warmth of a good fire and a luxurious silk sleeping gown.

That’s when she saw it. It was a teddy bear lying in the gutter, leaned up against the curb like he had just been taking a little rest. He had certainly seen better days. He was tattered and burned as if the bear had been set on fire, flung against a wall, and then fallen into a bucket of water and stayed there for a while. The thing was, Mariel knew the poor gentleman’s name and she found herself whispering it.

“Mullo,” she muttered and a shiver ran up her spine.

She took her parasol off of her shoulder and held in front of her. She whispered a few words and she felt magic surge into the parasol. She looked through the thin silk which was her version of the Detect Magic spell. Through the veil of her parasol, the bear was lit up like a bonfire. The thing was radiating vast amounts of magic. The magic looked different from anything she had ever seen before. Every so often it would distort and then flicker as if it was not fully there. She reached into her bag and pulled out a pair of gloves and picked the bear up. Without a doubt it was Mullo. How had he gotten clear across the world? Was it the magic from that night?

She had not remembered when she had started walking again. She had not remembered when she had started crying. She had put the parasol away in her bag but she was still clutching Mullo. She walked through the taproom of The Wolf Moon and up to her room. She set Mullo down on the dresser and reached into the top drawer for her sending stone.
She didn’t think, she just poured her will into it and called out two countries over and deep under the earth.

“Luther,” she called out in her mind. “I’m sorry, I don’t want to interrupt.”

“Mariel?” Luther’s voice sounded in her head. “It’s no bother. You sound distressed.”

“I found Mullo,” she said, trying to slow her breathing.

“Who’s Mullo?” Luther asked. The dwarf sounded understandably confused.

“My childhood teddy bear,” Mariel said. “Magic brought him here. Maybe…”

“Maybe you could find them?” Luther asked. The question was patronizing or mocking but filled with the cautious hope that Mariel had not yet allowed herself.

“Maybe,” Mariel said. “What do I do?”

“Stay put,” Luther said. “Find out what you can while I assemble the team. We’ll be there soon.”

“I don’t want to interrupt their vacation,” Mariel said.

“This is important to you,” Luther said. “We’re a family. It’s important to us too. You’ll see.”

“Thank you, Luther,” Mariel said softly.

“No problem,” he said. “See you soon.”

Night Sparrow

December 30, 2019

She had been born Sierra Swiftwatch but she had shed that name when she was still a scrawny teenager. She had been awkward when she had been thrown out on the streets. She had been taken in by Holdo the Blind. The world knew Holdo to be a blind beggar priest but in reality, he was a legendary thief in charge of a secret band of criminals. His alter ego was the Typhoon, and when he swept in, everything was gone. Sierra went through Holdo’s brutal training and came out the other side transformed. She became the Night Sparrow, a minor goddess of pickpockets and cat burglars. She left her tag behind wherever she went but they still could not stop her.

It was a gloriously bright Grand Festival day in Corallen in the proud nation of Alscines and the Night Sparrow was smiling. Her daytime garb changed every day because she never wanted to be recognized. She wore a different wig in a different style every day and never wore the same outfit in a twenty-day period. She even tucked her ears away to look more human. Although, she had posed as a half-orc a couple of times. She was extremely careful as anonymity was one of her greatest attributes. She had looked into getting some sort of enchantment to change the color of her eyes but no go so far.

She found herself on that sunny day flitting through the crowd and cutting purses and picking pockets like it was nothing. She was a little bored. The guards were completely clueless and every so often she would hear a surprised noise as people realized they were suddenly broke. She chuckled to herself as she was dressed very posh in an upper-class outfit. Nobody would ever suspect it was she who was the shark amongst all of the little fishes. She could have murdered any one of them but it was not in her code to kill anybody. She was ready to inflict a few cuts or a knockout blow if it was ever necessary but she was definitely not ready to kill.

Well, she had killed Holdo but he had pushed her too far. He had been a cruel master and she eventually needed to cut herself loose. Holdo had objected and had tried to push their relationship deeper so she had pushed the dagger deep. Even though she knew it had been necessary, it had given her nightmares for months. In the light, she had felt fine but when shadows crept, she saw blood on her hands and his empty eyes. She had been haunted. She did not want that ever again. She shuddered.

She reached out for another money pouch but she felt a hand clamp down on her wrist. She blinked. This had not happened since her training, in older days Holdo would have beaten her for this. She had been thinking about him and she had gotten distracted. Damn her eyes she had gotten sloppy. She kept her eyes low and blushed and then she looked up at the owner of the hand. She saw a grim-looking man with a long beard in the process of going gray. His eyes literally flashed blue and she gasped. Fuck! It was a magic-user. It had to be a magic-user.

“Can I help you, miss?” He asked and then smirked, an eyebrow raising.

“Um,” the Night Sparrow mumbled. “My mistake.” She hit the man’s wrist with her knuckles and he released her as he cried out in pain. She sprinted toward the closest alley. She would disappear in a moment and burn this outfit so she would never be compromised. This could be salvaged. Everything could always be salvaged.

Her feet flew from underneath her and she hit the pavement hard, her cheek planted in the puddle of grease. Was it magic or just bad luck? She tried to scramble to her feet but she had a lot of difficulties. The grease was absolutely horrible and it was everywhere. She managed to push off of the wall but when she looked up the magic-user was there again. He did not look mad, though. He looked amused, he offered her his hand.

“Well, miss,” he said. “I wasn’t sure before but now I am. You’re exactly what I need.”

The Sparrow blinked. “What?” she asked. “What are you talking about?”

“Let’s get you cleaned up and then I’ll get you a drink,” the man said. “Then I have a job offer.”

Pantheon Addendum

November 23, 2019

The following are more minor deities of the realms.   These are mostly neutral parties that did not take sides in the conflict that broke the world.

Ogun, God of the Forge

Ogun was a lonely and solitary god, who did not speak to most of the other gods. The only exception was his rare talks with Ioun and her entourage as they engaged Ogun’s intellect. He used them to inspire new ideas. He was mostly preoccupied with his creations. He loved to create, spending every day at the forge to create for the sake of creating. However, when the other gods learned of him, they sought him out. They tasked him with creating magical weapons and tools for them. He decided to take neither side and created many magical items for the various deities and their followers. He also discovered the secret of making sentient weapons and items, a skill that has rarely been replicated. He used a lot of the same techniques to give birth to living constructs. Many of them guarded his forge against both sides and assisted their master at the forge. He is not a very skillful fighter and he lost his arms and face while guarding his forge in the final conflict. He was able to construct new arms, even better-suited for his tasks. He replaced his face with a mask of metal and stone. After the Final Conflict, he was locked deep under the world at its very center. He was content to build and destroy his own creations and never see the world again. Ogun’s worshippers are makers, happy to get their hands dirty in order to make things nobody has ever seen before.

Nami, The Iron Maiden

Nami was Ogun’s greatest creation, a perfect living construct that he meticulously created over years of careful creation. Left to her own devices (as all constructs were) she made the choice on her own to assist Ogun with his projects. She quickly proved herself to be the most capable of his assistants and in return, he infused her with greater god energy, a spark from his own being. She became the mother of all constructs, from that date onward having a hand in the creation of every construct created. She became a true love and companion of Ogun after spending a few years on her own, as suggested by Ogun to make sure that she was not merely subservient to his will. She eventually had a few of her own projects. She organized the defense in the final conflict and she was the one who personally crafted the replacement parts of her true love. She gladly went into exile with Ogun after the conflict so that they could both create together. Nami’s worshippers often crossover with Ogun’s. If the world’s remaining constructs could talk, they might reveal that they worship Nami.

Esho, the Goddess of Time

Nobody is quite sure how she does it but Esho maintains the flow of time and keeps it moving forward. An enigmatic figure, she was rarely ever seen by the other gods and never by mortals. Still, scraps of her story have filtered down through the years. She was most likely the first deity to form into being and was alone in the void before creation. She is self-sufficient, a total loner who never needed any companionship. She did not take part in the Final Conflict as she needed to be completely focused on her job. She also had no attachments to the others and did not want to take sides anyway. After the conflict, she disappeared and nobody could ever find her. She passed beyond the planes but still obviously maintains the flow of time. She has a few odd worshippers but she pays them no mind. She gets annoyed when magic users cast time-based spells like Slow or Haste.

Fear

A truly sadistic force of nature, Fear never took a proper name and never allied itself with any of the other gods. A true shapechanger, nobody knows what Fear’s base form is. Fear delighted in invoking its namesake in all mortal beings, keeping them all beneath its heel. It absorbed the world’s fears and grew very powerful. Before the Final Conflict, the good gods banished Fear to the Dream Realm where it bides its time creating nightmares. Any worshippers are absolutely insane.

Uzas, the Goddess of Trickery

The Goddess of Trickery is a more innocent version of the Cyric (Corruption) and a more stable version of Akanay (Chaos). She is also the twin sister of Laverna (Luck). She is the patron of those who rejects society’s rules and often society itself. She believes that the world is more interesting if you sew a little confusion and surprise to spice things up. Uzas enjoys playing pranks on people and drawing a reaction from the world around her and therefore prizes those individuals who feel the same. She also prizes individuality. During the Final Battle, she fled in fear along with her sister (although Laverna came back) and she regretted it. Nobody is quite sure where she went after the conflict but there are reports of pranks being played in the various heavens.

Lady of Pain

The mysterious Lady who presides over the equally mysterious City of Sigil. Nobody is quite sure what the Lady looks like as most look down or away when they sense her approach. She is surrounded by chains and strips of cloth that seem to have a mind of their own and swirl around her, hiding her from view. Also, people can kind of feel when she is around. Nobody is quite sure what she is or where she came from either. What little that is known about her or her wishes are communicated by six lieutenants that see to the day to day operation of Sigil. She is not a deity, or at least she does not wish to be worshipped as one. Anybody heard worshipping her is usually gruesomely murdered by the Lady herself. She is known to defend Sigil from any major threat. In fact, there is a rumor that the Lady easily defeated and vivisected a Tarrasque sent to dominate Sigil. It is best to just avoid the Lady when possible, get in and out of Sigil quickly, and make sure you follow her rules.

Possession

September 23, 2019

“Don’t do it,” a little voice in Renna head said but Karen was not really listening. Her eyes looked unfocused as she finished tying the gnome to a table. She swayed a bit and her unnatural movements might have scared the gnome if the guy was awake. She finished securing his wrists and ankles and then she walked toward where the knife was.

“Please don’t do this,” the little voice said. “You don’t want to do this. This isn’t you!” Once again, Renna disregarded the voice and picked up the knife. Something made her mouth smile but it was not her. This was not like her at all. She was a healer, not a butcher. All of her oaths and faith seemed to be lost in a fog. She raised the knife and prepared to cut. It had to be precise.

“Do not do this!” the voice screamed. “You can stop. You can stop now.” Renna shook her head and started to lower the blade. The gnome, Calba Halfstone started to wake up. He saw the knife and started to try and scream and squirm. He could not get away and all he managed to do was slide the knife’s blade against his skin, marking it. It was not precise. Renna frowned. This would not do. She tried to refocus on making the correct mark. That internal voice was screaming wordlessly in fear and frustration. It was kind of annoying.

She drove her elbow into Halfstone’s face, trying to subdue him. The blow made a sickening noise but Halfstone did not stop moving. So frustrating. She briefly contemplated using the knife but that was not what the plan was. It was at this point that Renna heard and then felt music surrounding her. Such pleasant music. She felt herself begin to fade, dropping to her knees. The voice inside was elated, cheering wildly. As she unwillingly laid down on the floor, she heard the gnome yelling something about a necklace. Renna was wearing a necklace. Was there a connection there? Then she fell asleep.

She had no idea how much time passed but when she woke up Renna was tied to a chair. She squirmed, trying to get out but the ropes were too tight. She flashed back to Calba squirming against his restraints on the table and she was horrified. What had she done? Somebody removed her blindfold and Renna blinked as the harsh light stung her eyes. It was a little like a hangover. Standing in front of her was Nika Beltloud and Calba Halfstone. They were her friends but she felt guilt stabbing deep to the core of her being.

“Oh gods,” Renna said. “are you alright, Calba?”

Calba crossed his arms across his chest. He was bandaged cleanly. “I’ll survive,” he said. “It got pretty close there, though.”

“I didn’t want to hurt you,” Renna said. “I don’t know what happened. I remember being taken captive by the Drow. Then I kind of remember being stuck down in a well and then I could see myself trying to hurt you.”

“It was the necklace they put on you,” Calba said. “It charmed you, filled you with a dark presence.”

“We’d release you but we’re waiting to see if it has fully left your system,” Nika said. “We don’t want to have to put you down again.”

Renna nodded. “I’m alright with that,” she said. “Keep me tied up. I’d be fine with staying this way forever.” A tear slid down her cheek.

“It wasn’t you, Renna,” Nika said. “We know it wasn’t you. We’ll make sure you’re better and then we’ll solve this Drow problem.”

“I hope this teaches you not to go off on your own,” Calba said with a smile.

Renna almost laughed but it came out half sob, half happy noise. “I was doing it to keep you two safe. The Drow are dangerous,” she said.

“See how that worked out?” Calba asked.

“We’re a team, Ren,” Nika said. “You can’t ditch us and we can’t ditch you. We’re stronger together.” She stroked Renna’s hair and Renna was grateful for the comfort.

“Where do we go from here?” Renna asked. She felt hopeful for the first time since she had been captured.

“We go to war,” Calba said. “We burn them down.”

Death and Rebirth of Love

September 14, 2019

Cappio placed Harro’s shield on his grave and wiped the tears from his face. He felt Annabel’s hand rest on his shoulder and it made the burden just a little bit lighter. He sniffled and then stood and finished wiping his face. He looked out over the hills of Harro’s homeland and then at Annabel and Zalania.  Zalania was hard to read because she was always wearing the mask from her home on the streets of Koshain. She also rarely talked. She usually let her fists do the talking. Annabel on the other hand was a picture of compassion, even though she was tall and willowy, she always looked motherly. She was a full three feet taller than Cappio and even had almost a foot on Zalania.

Cappio had worn his best clothes for the funeral. It just so happened to be a costume from his days as an actor. He rarely liked to dress up. In fact, most of their little crew rarely dressed up except for Harro. He rarely went anywhere without wearing his armor. He was a knight of renown before he had fallen in with them. After a while, Cappio had felt guilty about roping him into their criminal enterprises. Cappio was the conman, an ex-actor who had moved smoothly into telling lies for profit. He had convinced Zalania to accompany him as his muscle. She was a monk who had lost her way. Annabel was a street musician and mother of urchins. She had jumped at the chance for a better life and had sort of adopted Cappio and Zalania. She also brought along some of their urchins who often came in useful for schemes.

They had ripped off the noble who Harro owed allegiance to. Harro had pursued the trio, hoping to bring them to justice. He was like a wolf with a scent and would not let the trail go cold. He pursued them through three nations and even across the Crystal Sea. Then something happened that neither Harro nor Cappio had expected. When Harro arrested Cappio in the jungles of Oochar, the two of them had a chance to talk as they made their way. The two of them had fallen in love. Harro had seemed lost for a bit but forsook his master and joined the gang. When the fighting happened, Harro and Zalania were good to have around. Cappio used much of their take to show Harro the finer things he had missed while living under the heel of his master.

Life had been good, easy, and fun. Then something had changed. They got wind of a deadly plot from an evil cult and Harro begged the rest of them to help. The quartet was in the best position to do something and if they saved the day, there might be the biggest profit ever. Cappio had known this was probably not true but he also felt the tug of conscience and thankfully everybody else did as well. They had worked their magic and had stopped the cult’s ritual. Except in the ensuing climactic battle, Harro had been mortally wounded. They tried everything they could but Harro passed away. They had attempted a resurrection but it had failed. Cappio had to believe that wherever he was, Harro was happy and did not wish to return. He hoped they would meet again.

“What’s next for us, Cappio?” Annabel asked. “We have enough money left to be comfortable for a long time. We can take a break.”

“No,” Cappio said. “I don’t want to take a break. We’ve been living the easy life for too long.”

Zalania grunted and growled.

“What does that mean?” Annabel asked.

“It means that we should live by Harro’s example,” Cappio said. “We should be saving the world, not lining our pockets off of the idiot rich.”

“Why can’t we do both?” Annabel asked.

Cappio smiled for the first time in weeks. “Exactly!” he said, appearing almost like his old self for a fleeting moment. “Let’s save the world, shall we?”

“Where do we start?” Annabel asked.

“I have no idea,” Cappio said. “Maybe we should recruit somebody to help with that. We don’t have a lot of experience with this.”

“What do we need?” Annabel asked.

“Well, we do need more muscle,” Cappio said.

Zalania folded her arms across her chest.

“You are plenty strong, Z,” Cappio said. “We just need more. Maybe somebody magical, maybe somebody powerful.”

“I may know where to look,” Annabel said. “Do you want to go to Oskia?”

“It’s been a long time since we’ve been there,” Cappio said. “Let’s go.”

Pirates of the Crumbs

September 7, 2019

“You’re a coward,” Caelan said, staring hard at the back of Captain Frostgrip’s head. “Think of what we’re giving up if we don’t try. We need to follow up.” The sea was calm and the door was shut to the Captain’s Quarters so they had as much privacy as you could get on a ship out to sea. It was hot so the Captain had taken off his coat and Caelan had taken off her overdress that the Captain usually made her wear.

“When I left harbor,” Frostgrip said. “I promised your father that I would keep you safe. That section of the Crumbs is not safe.” He stayed at his desk looking over the maps and charts, scribbling down notes.

“Did you also tell him that you had turned pirate?” Caelan asked. “I doubt he would have approved of that.”

“You forget your place, girl,” Frostgrip said bitterly as he turned away from his work to face her. “You should be grateful. I brought you on as my cabin girl. You get your own room. That’s rare on a ship like this. It keeps you away from the rough characters below deck.”

“I don’t need your protection, Captain,” Caelan said. “I can take care of myself.” She raised her chin proudly.

“Is that so?” Frostgrip asked. “I have heard you feel very free to draw your knives on my ship.”

“I’ve never used a knife on anybody who didn’t deserve it,” Caelan said, folding her arms across her chest and looking away. The knives were tucked into the folds of her dress but she had cut hidden access points so that she could draw them quickly. She had a lot of practice doing so.

“I’m sure,” the Frostgrip said without much conviction. “Look, if it offends you to be among pirates, I can drop you off at the next harbor and you can find your own way. It’s not hard to book passage.”

“That’s not what I’m saying,” Caelan said after an exasperated sigh. “I don’t want to just be among pirates, I want to be a pirate.”

“I don’t think I’m comfortable with how into this you’re getting,” Frostgrip said. “I’m only supposed to deliver you to Suma-Jo.”

“And I’m supposed to make myself useful,” Caelan said. “If you didn’t have me, nobody would have gotten that one chest open last week.”

“I’m not sure I know where you learned lockpicking of all things,” Frostgrip said. “Nobility should be less criminal, no?”

“I did all of this back home too,” Caelan said. “That’s why I petitioned to train in Kusura in the first place.”

“Kusura!?” Frostgrip asked. “I thought we were headed to Suma-Jo.”

“That’s because that’s what I told my father,” Caelan said. “My skills are way more suited for one of the ninja schools but now I think I want to be a pirate. I don’t necessarily want to kill but high seas adventure and a life of crime are attractive to me.”

“No. If I allow this, I will never hear the end of it from your father,” Frostgrip said. “I can’t allow this.” He turned from her back to his desk as if that were the end of it.

“What are you going to do?” Caelan asked. “Throw me off the ship? I’ll just find another pirate ship. If you want to protect me then keep me here and show me the ropes.”

Frostrgrip sighed. “You won’t give this up,” he said. It wasn’t a question but a weary statement of fact.

“Never,” Caelan said. “A girl wants what a girl wants. I promise to listen to your orders.”

“We’ll see how long that promise holds,” Frostgrip said. “I guess I have no choice but to acquiesce. You know, if a member of my crew disobeys my orders, they get thrown into the sea, right?”

Caelan swallowed hard. “I guess I can live with that,” she said. “but no more dresses. I want to wear shorts or pants.”

“I’m sure I can find something more suitable for your new job,” Frostgrip said with another sigh. “I have a trunk belonging to my former cabin boy.”

“Great!” Caelan said. “Now about this mysterious island.”

Frostgrip waved in front of his face as if fanning her words away, dismissing them. “I am no dungeon delver,” he said. “There is so much else we can do safely and still profit.”

“We could sell the information to somebody at the next harbor?” Caelan asked.

“Yes,” Frostgrip said. “That is a much better idea. We can leave the danger for some other poor soul. If there is a treasure, we can take it from them down the line.”

“But shouldn’t we check that it’s there first?” Caelan asked with a sly smile on her face.

Frostgrip stroked his chin thoughtfully. “I suppose,” he said.

The Escape

August 17, 2019

Alvus Silverleaf and Berry Lampwick slowed to a stop in a clearing in the woods. Actually, they were forced to stop as Alvus had to catch his breath, not accustomed to running in the first place and definitely not up to it after being held in captivity for so long. If his captors had allowed him to sleep, he could have boosted his speed with magic but they had taken to purposefully keeping him awake and unrested in between tests. It had been two days since the last test and Alvus was exhausted so he could only look at Berry helplessly. She looked about worriedly.

Berry Lampwick was the best mercenary in the region for infiltrating hazardous buildings on missions. This particular jailbreak had been tricky but it was almost over. If they got a little farther away, there was no way they could track them fast enough. She was beginning to have doubts about Silverleaf’s constitution holding up long enough to get through the woods.

“Are you alright, Lord Silverleaf?” Berry asked, drawing her twin daggers just in case.

“Well,” Silverleaf said. “other than not sleeping for two days and being captive for two weeks, I’m fine. Not that I’m complaining, but who are you?”

“Berry Lampwick, sneak thief for hire,” Berry said. “Your sister hired me to come and get you.”

“Well, I’m not going to complain about somebody coming to pick my locks,” Silverleaf said. “Wait, you called me Lord Silverleaf?”

Berry took a deep breath. “I hate to be the one to tell you this but your father was killed when you were kidnapped,” she said.

“So he’s dead, huh?” Silverleaf asked. “I thought it would be a long time before I would take over. He didn’t deserve to go out that way.” He looked away so that Berry could not see his face. She could see his shoulders slump, though.

“I’m so sorry,” Berry said. “Your sister is waiting for you. We need to get you to safety.”

Silverleaf took a deep breath and looked back in the direction they came, clenching his fists. “You’re right but those people will burn,” he said. “As soon as I regroup with my sister, we’ll rain down fire on that place.” He was suddenly so much more tired than he had been a moment earlier.

“That place is obviously owned by the Heartsongs,” Berry asked. “Why did the Heartsong family kidnap you, anyway?”

Silverleaf paused from glaring back in the direction of the manor. “This is one of Lord Heartsong’s secret manors,” he said. “They have apparently been kidnapping sorcerers and keeping them in hidden locations. They are running tests to see what makes a sorcerer.”

“Involuntarily no less,” Berry said. “What a bunch of assholes. Do you think they have learned anything?”

“I was as uncooperative as I could be,” Silverleaf said. “but I have no idea what they have learned. If they figure out how to reliably make sorcerers, that will definitely not be a good thing. We have to stop them.”

“I might consider giving you a discount for helping out with that mission,” Berry said. “I’ll help you stop these kidnappings.”

A voice echoed from the edge of the clearing. “You’ll stop no one! You’ve crossed the Heartsongs,” the voice said. “Nobody does that twice. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Lord Heartsong.” Berry felt her body seizing up and she could not move a muscle. At the same time, a tall tiefling appeared standing dramatically on a stone.

“I will do more than cross you, Heartsong,” Silverleaf said. “I will see you and your gang of hoods hang for this.”

“Unfortunately, I am about to kill your halfling friend there and take you back to my manor,” Lord Heartsong said. “You’ll have to wait a long time to get your revenge.” He laughed loud and long.

Silverleaf grinned. “You dumb bastard,” he said. “You made a fatal mistake.”

Lord Heartsong walked toward Berry, a knife drawn to slit her throat. “I don’t make mistakes, Silverleaf,” he said. “You’re the one who is mistaken.”

“Fool,” Silverleaf said. “My sister sent this woman and my sister is a Silverleaf. A Silverleaf does not spare a single copper when something is important.”

A crossbow bolt sailed out of the woods and sank into Lord Heartsong’s arm. Berry Lampwick was suddenly free and she leaped up and sank a dagger into Lord Heartsong’s eye. Heartsong vanished in a puff of acrid-smelling smoke and soldiers emblazoned with the Heartsong symbol rushed into the clearing. Berry moved to protect Silverleaf while the other mercenaries rushed to their aid and started combatting the Heartsong forces. The battle was brief. Lord Heartsong should have brought more underlings.

“Come and help Lord Silverleaf to his feet,” Berry said after the battle was over. “We need to leave this place before that lunatic comes back with more people.”

Two mercenaries moved to lift up Silverleaf and help him as they moved through the forest. Berry led the way, making sure her charge was kept safe. Silverleaf actually fell asleep before they got back to the carriage on the road. Berry saw that he was safely tucked into a makeshift bed before climbing aboard herself for the ride back to Silverleaf Manor. The Lady Silverleaf would pay her handsomely but honestly, she was just happy to see the man safe. She had heard stories of how honorable the Silverleaf family was and was happy to help. If that meant staying on for a war against the Heartsong family, so be it.

The Cave Witch

August 3, 2019

In the morning, the town would burn the swamp witch. She was accused of poisoning the crops outside of town and leading several youths astray through her potions. Nobody knew quite who the witch was. Everybody else in the town of Canterstone had been born within town limits and had grown up there. Like many small towns, the citizens’ reaction to outsiders ranged from curiosity to distrust. Those tides could also change quickly and when magic was involved. The witch had just appeared one day on the outskirts of town in the woods. Nobody was quite sure when she had actually moved into the cave as a hunter had spotted odd smoke coming out of it one day and that was that. She had arrived, evicting an old bear, and set up a home and shop far from prying eyes.

Little by little, some of the townspeople came to timidly visit her cave. Some were merely curious and wanted to catch a glimpse of the witch. Others came to browse here wares and see what a witch could give them for a little coin. She had not been very interested in coin but seemed to be more interested in offering services for barter. While this was not unheard of in a small village, it was a bit peculiar for what was technically a shop. Local law enforcement also visited the little cave and shouted questions from the safety of the mouth. The answers they received were sometimes straightforward and sometimes less so. She claimed to offer only peace but her status as a mystery made people nervous. Children were told to stay away and they disobeyed as children are wont to do.

Then things had gone all wrong and the peace was broken. Some crops had withered unexpectedly, threatening the town’s food supply. So close to harvest was not the time to lose crops like that. The village had grumbled about it but the local druids had moved on and could not be called on to investigate. Suspicions grew as the farmers did not want to admit that they might have failed and ruined a bit of the harvest. After that, a few of the young people were found to be goofing off instead of doing their work for their families. The timing was off as people were already looking for an excuse. One of the wayward teens blurted out something about the witch in the cave and that was it. This outsider had turned against the town and it had to be stopped. They took her captive while she slept and then she was doomed.

They had tied her to a pole in the middle of the town and left her there. In the morning, they would pile firewood and kindling around her and send her to the Hells. She slumped against the pole bound and gagged and sadly resigned to her fate. She had no tricks to pull to get out of her punishment. Gavin Flintshade’s mind would not settle and sleep would not come so, while everyone else slept, he stepped out to watch the witch.

“I wish I could know whether you were guilty or not,” Gavin said.

The witch said nothing, being gagged. It was hard to gauge her expression as she was absolutely encrusted with dried mud and bits of grass and her long hair covered a lot. However, her eyes said enough. Her glare was at the same time angry and pitying.

“I don’t suppose I could ungag you?” Gavin asked. “Would you promise me no tricks?”

The witch seemed to consider this. After they had stared at each other for some time, the witch nodded. Gavin thought he must be crazy or bespelled for even thinking of doing it but he walked up and ungagged her. She spat from the taste of the dirty cloth that had been her mouth but otherwise made no moves.

“My name is Gavin Flintshade,” Gavin said.

“My name is Rina,” the witch said.

Gavin waited for her to finish before he spoke. “Just Rina?” he asked.

“I am only Rina now,” Rina said.

“You don’t seem too dangerous to me, Rina,” Gavin said.

Rina smiled, the mud cracking at the corners of her mouth as if it was a foreign expression for her. “Looks are almost always deceiving,” she said. “But I never meant any harm to this town or its people. I wished only to live in peace.”

“How many years have you lived out there?” Gavin asked.

“Many,” Rina said. “Many without incident.”

“Exactly,” Gavin said. “That’s what troubles me. That’s what makes me think the people here have rushed to judgment.”

Rina paused and thought of what to say next. “In the cities, they would have had some sort of trial,” she said at last.

“We’re not equipped for that here,” Gavin said. “and I don’t think anyone’s inclined to hear you out.”

“I beg to differ,” Rina said. “You are listening.”

“I’m just one person,” Gavin said.

“We are all just one person,” Rina said.

There was a long pause after that and then there was a crack of thunder and it began to rain. Gavin and Rina looked around at all the houses but nobody stirred or made a move to protect the witch from the rain. She was only going to burn in the morning, anyway. Gavin stood there struggling with his own conscience but as he watched, a transformation began to happen. The rain started to wash the mud from Rina and Gavin was not prepared for what he saw. The palest white skin came into view as the mud fell away. Her hair was revealed as a wig made of some sort of woven grass. This was no human. This was not even an elf. It was nothing Gavin had ever seen before.

“What are you?” Gavin asked, his eyes wide.

“You have never seen one such as me,” Rina said. “I am Drow.”

Gavin gasped. “I thought your kind was a myth,” he said. “Aren’t you supposed to have black skin?”

Rina shrugged. “We had jet black skin soon after creation but ages of life underground away somehow changed our skin,” she said.

“And all the vicious rumors about your kind?” Gavin asked. “Are any of them true.”

“I can only imagine what the humans and elves and other races have invented,” Rina said. “However, most of my kind are still bitter against the races of the surface. However, there are many like me who escaped to the surface for a more peaceful life.”

“And then it all got ruined,” Gavin said. “By my kind.”

“It seems so,” Rina said.

There was another long silence and then Gavin stepped forward and moved to cut the ropes restraining Rina.

“What are you doing?” Rina asked. “Don’t.”

Gavin looked up in surprise. “This is not fair,” he said. “I can’t let this happen.”

Rina shook her head and spoke some arcane words and disappeared and reappeared on the ground, the ropes going slack without her form to hold them in place. “It would be incriminating if they found the ropes cut,” she said. “Go back to bed, Gavin Flintshade. I will depart in peace.”

“Good luck,” Gavin said and backed away to go back to his house.

“Goodbye,” Rina said and disappeared into the night.


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