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Kuje
Great Reader

USA
7915 Posts

Posted - 13 Nov 2005 :  19:02:16  Show Profile Send Kuje a Private Message  Reply with Quote  Delete Topic
Day/Month/Year: 1st day of the 1st tenday of Mirtul in the year 1375 - The Year of Risen Elfkin
Time: Morning to Evening
Location: Headquarters of the Red Shields.
Weather: Warm and cloudy.


The new unit of the Red Shields has been called into the quarters of the commander. As she looked up from her logbook, she smiled and nodded. She is dressed in red and black cotton clothing and her long brown hair is pulled behind her in a tail. Her dark brown eyes and brown skin are hidden by her dark clothing. A few scars, from past battles, can be seen on the back of her hands and up her arms. The members of the company have placed wagers that the Commander has more scars on the other parts of her body but, so far, no one has been able to find out if she does or doesn’t.

"Good, good, all of you are here except for the two that have taken longer to get here. For your first two assignments, I'd like you to clear out a goblin warren in Phlan's ruins. Another of the requests that came our way was guarding a caravan of spices that is on its way to Shadowdale. I'm working on getting together a skirmish against a small group of Zhentarim that have been slaving not far from here and I expect, or hope, that all of you will have returned for that."

Ragnar Swifttongued, the half-elf bard of the group, listened to the commander with a half smile playing across his lips before responding, "Gnomes eh? Sounds good to me, never liked the tone-deaf little buggers. Think we'll have time to deal with them before the caravan leaves, Commander?"

"Aye, some of those burrow warders might be digging in the ruins as well. If you find them, deal with them. You should have time before the caravan leaves, if you don't slack."

"Stop messing about, my good natured friend," said Valentre. "If there are goblins, then we shall remove them. They are nothing but parasites as it is," he said as he looked at the rest of the group. "We should get our supplies and be off, the goodly folk are troubled!"

As Valentre looked at the commander, he said, "We'll definitely be back for the Zhents!"

Ragnar gave Valentre an amused look. "Well, who am I to argue with such conviction? Besides, I suppose it's time to see if that battle-song my teacher hammered into me really does work."

"Ragnar, you better have learned that well!" As Valentre scoured the group in front of him. "I just hope everyone can keep up! I do know how the halflings and humans lag!" Valentre said as he laughed. "These goblins are as good as dead!"

Caerlin raised an eyebrow and surveyed the group. "Lag eh? We shall see."

"I merely jest, Caerlin. The archer is right, we must know everything we can about this enemy before we move. And the warren should be fairly simple, they are simply goblins. I look forward to our journey with the Caravan to Shadowdale. I have wanted for awhile to set my eyes upon this grand little village that all seem to love."

Caerlin smiled at Valentre. "No offense taken. But methinks that a bit of seriousness would be good, since, as Ragnar stated, even though they are goblins, they should not be underestimated."

"Ah, my dear Caerlen, I believe Ragnar stated that a human kingdom once fell to goblins."

"Hmm... that does sound like a good idea I suppose, sort of like rehearsing your songs before actually performing them to people. I could use some sort of a crossbow or the like I suppose - I'd probably do more good from the back than out front, wielding this," Ragnar said, thumping the hilt of the rapier he carries at his side. "Oh, and Valentre, I've heard tales that simple goblins have led at least one human kingdom to its grave, so a little caution might be advisable." The last delivered along with a wink at the elf.

She looked at Commander Aurythe. "How long until the caravan is ready to leave for Shadowdale? I ask so we can be sure to have the warren cleared and return here in time for them to leave. And what information is there on the goblin warren in Phlan? Do you have an approximate number, and the size of the ruins? I wish to be as prepared as possible." She gave the commander a slight smile.

"Good questions, those. There are a few days before the caravan is ready. We need to finish packing the wagons. As for the warrens, our scout said that there are about ten to twenty defenders and they are west of the Well, in what used to be a two-story manor. There might be rooms, which the goblins might have hewed out, under the manor."

The female archer listened to the commander before saying, “Ten to twenty defenders? That shouldn't be too bad, but I would like to look over the reports if possible, Commander."

The follower of the Red Knight pulled out a scroll and pushed it across the desk. “The info the scout brought back is in there but it’s the same as I said.”

The tanned halfling stood and patted down the simple outfit he is wearing. He pulled his long black hair into a pony tail. "Well," he said in a deep tone," I think I will let all of you discuss tactics while I lag my way to the mess hall. It has been at least an hour since I last ate." With a twinkle in his green eyes he hops & skips obviously towards the Quartermasters area.

The female archer smiled as she watched Luie leave and shook her head. "Leave us to discuss tactics, eh?"

Valentre winked, "You are right, though, we should take care to plan this journey well, that way we can get everyone in one piece for our journey to Shadowdale. Do hin ever have enough to eat?" He shrugged.

"Ragnar, you do plan on keeping us entertained with that flute, correct?" Val looked around. "I wonder where my sister is? She said she would be meeting us. Ah well, late as always -can't trust the Teu'Tel'Quess."

Caerlin looked at Valentre. "You mentioned a sister? Does she have a specialty, or chosen profession?"

”Well, my former master and teacher, the great Luko Starlingvoiced, used to tell me "twas most entertaining to hear me attempt to play it." I think he was just jesting, though," Ragnar said with a slight frown creasing his forehead.

"So, if Ragnar here wants to use a crossbow, and our lovely young woman over here is using the bow, I supposed I will assume the point position. Now, that leaves us the halfling to wonder about," Valentre mused. "Do we have any arcanists or priests with us?"

"Shall we get everything together today, and leave for the warrens first thing in the morning? That will give us plenty of time to make sure we have everything we need, as well as give the other two time to arrive and be briefed on our missions." She turned to look at the commander again. “Unless you believe that it is imperative that we leave immediately, Commander?"

“Nay, you can leave on the morrow if you wish.”

Caerlin nodded at the Commander. “"If there is nothing else Commander, I would take my leave to ready my equipment?" As Commander Aurthe nodded, Caerlin gave a slight bow to her officer.

"So, my half-elf friend, shall we partake in some moondrop or feywine before we prepare? I would ask you to come along Caerlin, but I'd hate for you not to be prepared. But do feel free to join us!" He also bowed to the Commander before he asked, "Shall we?"

The female human in their unit smiled at Valetre as she picked up the scroll. “I wouldn't mind a cup myself, and I can go through what I have as easily in the mess as I can in my quarters."

“Some moondrop sounds fine by me,” the half-elf replied after he bowed to the Commander.

"Sounds good - we'll introduce the human and the hin to some of our better brews!" Valentre said with a chuckle. "Let's hope that it's not too strong!"

******************************************************************

The halfling requisitioned riding beasts with saddles, one light crossbow with two sets of quarrels, water & food for a tenday, a small bag of coal dust, a grapple hook, fifty feet of good strong rope, and three pounds of flour.

"You may never know when you need flour," he said to the male human Quartermaster. "Also some wax... for my ears." He gave no explanation to the Quartermaster about the last request and the male human just looked at him strangely as he marked the items in his logs. As the Quartermaster filled the request, he added two cure light potions that have two doses each.

The stable-boy once again watched the small hin count the number of horses. Then the hin stroked his chin before he turned to the young lad and looked him in the eye. "All horses? By the golden lockets of

Tymora it will take me most of the afternoon to climb into the saddle. hmm..." The hin didn’t wait for a reply before he led the horses away from the stables and towards the barracks.

Luie saw his companions pass him and go inside, while he was holding multiple riding reigns. One was between his teeth, and he mumbled, “Noumffune, Tanksssfurthuuffper.”

Luie helped the stable-hand tie up the horses outside of the barracks. Once he was done, he gathered up the remainder of the supplies that were not packed away in the saddlebags and entered the barracks.

Without pause the hin climbed the stairs to the third floor because that is where the new members have their bunks and he heard Valentre call out, "Luie - where are you going? Come join us for a tallglass of this marvelous brew.”

Luie yelled from the stairwell, "In a bit... almost don... oops, sorry about your foot, sir." Three heartbeats later, as everything heard a muffled scream of pain, Luie’s voice could be heard saying, "Sorry about that, hope there is not a scar."

Caerlin looked up, and raised an eyebrow at Luie's exclamation.

Luie didn’t want to waste anymore time, since he did miss the late morning meal. Before he left the third floor, he dry fired the crossbow a few times to make sure it worked and once he was satisfied that it was well oiled and in good repair, he set it and the ammunition on Ragnars’ bunk.

Luie took some time to check over the rope for any frayed bits and to look over the grapple hook but all of the equipment the company uses is in good repair or if it isn’t then it is replaced. Seeing all that was in order, he stored it underneath his bunk.

*******************************************************************

Valentre turned, left the commanders quarters, and headed north to the barracks where they could get some drink and fare. Caerlin followed Val and Ragnar out the door and walked behind them. They crossed the once grassy area, which has now turned to mud and dirt because all of the feet, and hooves, that have killed the grass. They say the hin leading the horses, or it actually looked like the horses were leading him, towards the barracks. The three of them stepped inside the barracks and entered the tavern on the first floor. The second and third floors were where the other mercenaries slept when they were in camp.

The tavern wasn’t packed but ten mercenaries sat around the circular tables. The walls were mostly bare but they were starting to be decorated with arms, helms, weapons, and other trophies that the company has won. The male human tavernkeeper, and the two female human maids, who are younger, are the only residents that are not part of the company itself and they stay in the settlement when all of the mercs are out on campaign.

Ragnar pulled out a chair at one of the tables and gestured for the attention of one of the two maids with one hand. He slipped his flute-case open, which he'd put down on the floor already, with his other hand. Caerlin sat in the chair that was against the wall, pulled out the scroll from the Commander, and started to read it.

"Caerlin, have you deciphered anything in particular or are you going to be a stick in the mud all night?" Valentre mused with a wink. "Where are those sweet breads we've ordered?

"We'll have to come up with a preliminary plan since we know that there are about ten to twenty goblins and that they have taken over a ruined manor. Any opinions?" Valentre stated as he began to take another sip of his tallglass.

Luie joined his unit by ‘hopping’ into a chair. “So, when do we leave? Do we have users of the Power? Where are the others? How can we tell they are with us and not some random adventure party? Where is the fare? Do you think the burrow warders are making room for more of their people or are they looking for something? Where is the ale? Who wants to go fishing? Since we are not leaving anytime soon. Mmmm… fish…”

Caerlin blinked a couple of times at the rapid-fire questions before she tried to answer them. "Well, we talked about leaving in the morning. As far as I know, no we don't have any spell slingers. I don't know where the others are, and that is a good question. The gobs could be doing either of those things and that's what we are going to find out. And I'm not much for fishing."

As the maid arrived with the fare she refilled of the tallglasses.

Foods here," she winked at Luie before she flipped the map out for the others to see. "Well, like the Commander said, they are in this manor house.” She pointed at the manor on the west side of the map. “They have seen ten to twenty of them only in the manor. The report says that the human female scout saw no patrols in the hour or so that she was there."

She took a sip of her drink and a deep breath to recover from the questions. "Whew", she said before she looked around the table, “This drink is very good.

"Well, with only four of us at the moment and we are outnumbered by quite a bit. I think that we should try to take as many out as possible from a distance. Maybe by taking up positions either around or inside this building," She pointed at the building just north of the ruined manor. "To try and take advantage of the wall that has fallen. We could also try to get around to the front of the building, using the well and surrounding buildings as cover."

Ragnar looked up just as he's about to start playing the flute. "It might be a good idea to scout the area around the manor for escape-tunnels and if we're really lucky, we can use one of those to take them from the back. Although I'm sure that you people are more experienced in military matters than me." He winked and turned his gaze towards one of the barmaids. When she noticed his gaze, she smiled back and started to sway her hips, to tease the bard, as she walked among the mercenaries.

"We generally are, bard, though you should pay attention as well!" Valentre chuckled. "You should also pay attention to the current plans and not the amenities of this tavern - she will be here when you return, if you return! And your chances of returning would be greatened if you paid attention!" Valentre smiled.

"So, master archer, what plans do you have for us? And Luie, slow down, they'll be time to talk on the road!"

Caerlin raised an eyebrow and chuckled. "Master archer? Not quite."

She scanned the report again, and frowned a bit. "Well, the report indicates that the scout didn't look around too much because the ruins are filled with beasties and she was alone so she feared for her safety. So Ragnar's suggestion is very valid as well."

She looked at the others. “I have given my opinions on a couple courses of action, but I am no way an expert on these matters. So the decision is really up to all of you." She indicated the rest of the group.

"Very well, I will take point and scout what I can. Monk, you should probably be up front when I announce the numbers. Caerlin, you should be able to snipe off goblins as they come forward. Ragnar, how good are you with that crossbow? As soon as our last member arrives, we should get ready to go."

"Really Valentre," Ragnar said, "I was just trying to get a refill. A man can drink and pay attention to details at the same time, you know. Actually, the drinking part is nearly a requisite if your relations came from across the Sea of Swords, right Caerlin?" He winked at the Illuskan archer.

Caerlin covered her snicker with a cough, and recovered with a twinkle in her eyes.

"But never worry, I shall pay attention to whatever plans we lay and remain sober enough to remember them tomorrow. I’ll also be sober enough to deliver a bolt to the head of any goblin that enter my sights. Incidentally, do you think they'll wear boots by any chance? I've been thinking of ways to use what little magic I have in battle."

"Boots? Hmmm... That’s doubtful, but one never knows. But I am sure you will find another use for any magic that you have." She smiled at Ragnar.

"Oh that magic is paltry and unimpressive I fear," Ragnar said as he smiled back at her. He then put his six-holed, fairly thick (one might even call it blocky), wooden flute to his lips and played a tune that is short, and simple, enough that he can do it one-handed. His other hand weaved a not too complicated pattern in the air.

”There, now we'll see what I can do."

Luie picked up a mug of ale and after he took a drink he made a face. As he arched an eyebrow, he said, “We should approach the ruins during the day. Once there we could scout around the manor and if we come across a small group, which is highly unlikely during daytime, we should take them out.” He took another drink and made a different face. “Preferably alive, so we can get some information from them and some type of magic that can influence their minds would be great. Information offered freely is better than information forced from a subject.” He put the mug back on the table and then scratched his neck. “And it is a lot less messy too.” He then reached for the meat & cheese and in less than a breath he proceeded to make a rather large sandwich.

Hmm..." Ragnar watched the halfling grimace his way through the tankard. "Something wrong with your drink, friend Luie?" He turned to Caerlin and winked. "Now, this will soon go away, but a pretty girl should have some adornments and I've always thought," he said before he reached forward and gently stroked her cheek. When his hand pulled back, a red-and-yellow five-pointed star seemed to have been painted on her cheek.

“No, no, it is good. It has just been a while since I had water.” He paused in the middle of his construction of the sandwich. ”Nice tattoo, Caerlin. So we have multiple ideas for one task? Just out of curiosity, am I the only one that can not see in the dark?”

Caerlin looked confused. "Tattoo? I have no tattoo...." She put her hand to her cheek and looked at Ragnar and raised eyebrow before she looked at her reflection in the back of her shield. "A star, eh? Hmm... At least it's something small."

"Ragnar, this way you can impress on the goblins that you are a master body art specialist." Valentre laughed.

"Do you think that will scare them away?" Ragnar chuckled. "Begone foul goblins, or the mighty Ragnar will mark you all with little pretty stars and hearts and moons and thingies!

"And don't worry Caerlin, it's nothing permanent. If it had been that I'd have put it on Valentre instead because I hear that the wood elves enjoy such things." He winked as his words came to an end.

Caerlin looked at him and laughed. "Well, I didn't figure it was permanent, but I don’t know... Valentre might get a bit upset if you put one on him."

Sitting nearby, but by herself for now, was a female gold who was listening to the unit as they discussed plans of action. She knew that all of them were the members that she was assigned to, but she had yet to introduce herself to them since they have been together for about a month and she was just assigned to them that morning.

He looked between his sandwich and the lone female gold sitting at another table. “Anyone else have an more ideas?” the halfling asked before he stood and reached for more cheese.

As Caerlin reached over to grab some of the meat and cheese before Luie ate it all, she looked over at him. "Nay, you aren't the only one who cannot see in the dark, for I am unable to as well."

"Do not worry about not being able to see at night, I will not let either of you misstep. Now, I suppose I should order another of these plates as you N'Tel'Quess haven't eaten all of my midday meal."

Valentre got up and headed towards one of the maids to order another plate.

“I think I should go get something as well,” Ragnar said before he also rose and walked towards the maid.

Luie gave Caerlin a conspiring smile and whispered in a loud voice, "Our plan worked! Soon he will bring us more food." He then let off a deep chuckle.

Caerlin winked back at Luie and whispered, "Nice job there, getting Valentre to go spring for more food."

"You know, I could still hear you - I have excellent hearing." Valentre smiled as he returned with the food and drink. "So, when we finally have the company composed, we will be ready to head out - well, at least after a night of rest or play!"

Caerlin looked up at Valentre with a smile. "I wasn't really trying to be quiet either. And yes, I believe that we will be ready to leave first thing, once our other members arrive."

The gold elf stood from the table she was sitting at and approached her new comrades. "Well met. I am Ithyria Roseshadow, and I will be accompanying you on this journey." Ithyria looked over the food and drink that was just brought back to the table. "Excellent, I am parched," she commented as she grabbed a goblet and sat next to Caerlin.

"Lady Roseshadow, well met. I thought that we were getting another member to our small company. However, I did not purchase enough food for all – I guess I'll be right back." Valentre smiled. "And Luie, try not to eat everything this time!"

"Muevw vwunt," Luie replied.

Valentre headed back to the maid and took more food from her.

Ithyria glanced around the table and assessed all the members. "So, when do we leave?"

Caerlin looked startled at the manners of the gold elf. "Greetings Ithyria, did Commander Aurythe tell you of our mission?" She turned the map so that Ithyria could see it. "I'm not sure how much of our plans you overheard,” she continued before she gave a quick explanation of the different ideas. "Is there anything you would like to add?"

"I heard your plans in full and I do not have anything to add. I feel, for now, that it would be best that we make sure our gear is in order so may depart at first light."

Ragnar returned to the table, carrying a mug of ale and a plate with some greyish mutton on it. "Well, something tells me I'll take my dinner in town today."

He looked at the gold-elf. “I'm Ragnar Braelithar, son of Aerinon Braelithar of Waterdeep. A pleasure to meet you - I think at least, so far I'm just going by appearances.” He smiled before he winked at Caerlin.

"Well met to you as well".

Caerlin smiled at Ragnar before she stood and whispered to him, “It had been a few years, before meeting you, since I have had any dealings with gold elves. I had merely forgotten how they can be."

She picked up the map and report before she turned to the rest of the group. "If we are done discussing plans, I think I shall return this to the Commander."

"Make sure that she knows that we are ready to leave soon."

Valentre turned to the lady gold elf. "So, my Ar'Tel'Quess friend, what is your specialty? I would assume from your pouches, that you practice the Art. If so, Luie and I will keep you safe as you rain fire upon our enemies,” Valentre said with a wink.

"You are astute for a wood elf." She smiled. “I do practice the Art and I have been assigned to watch your back. I’ll probably not do anything as grand as raining fire, however."

"So, any once else up for some dice? Or some cards?" the wood elf asked.

The gold elf stood. "Then if we are done discussing, I will retire to my room to prepare for the journey. I will see you all when Lathander spreads his dawn." Ithyria opened the chest at the end of her bed and made sure that she had all the gear she needed in the morning. Once she was done, she sprawled out on the couch, since the elves don’t have beds, that she used for Reverie.

"Well," Ragnar started as he got out of his chair after having finished his mutton-sausage. "I for one am thinking of taking a trip to the mages tower because there's a few things I'd like to look for. Does anyone care to join me? And don't worry Valentre, once I've returned I'll take you up on those cards. Knowing I'll have some money coming in will make my time at the tower more pleasant."

“No tower for me Ragnar. I think it is time for me to go fishing.” Luie placed the rest of his meal in a sack before he tossed Valentre a copper and called, “Keep the change!” His laughter could be heard as he left through the front.

Caerlin watched them both leave before she turned back to Ragnar. "Thanks for the invitation Ragnar, but I think I will return these to the Commander." She lifted the reports. "Then I’m going to make sure that we have everything we need for tomorrow."

He smiled at Caerlin. "I guess I'll go alone then." He nodded at the remaining members of his unit before he headed towards their chamber to change into his performer's outfit. Once he was changed into his more distinctive garb, Ragnar buckled on his sword belt, left the barracks, and entered the stone mages tower. The first floor was given over to rooms of storage for the company’s equipment. A large, and burly, male human sat nearby at the desk, updating the log book. Ragnar could hear others moving around, and talking over arcane theories, upstairs. Ragnar stood and listened to the arcane theories and discussions for a while before he shrugged his shoulders and returned to the tavern in the barracks.

She looked at Valentre, "Sorry, no dice or cards for me today."

The archer smiled at both of them before she headed towards the Commander's residence.

Valentre smiled as Caerlen left the barracks. "Well, it looks like I am alone in this wonderful establishment, except for the other members of the company that are eating here.”

Valentre headed to communal room on the third floor to sit in contemplation on the days ahead and to commune with Rillifane Ralathil.

Caerlin entered the room for a moment to remove some fetching supplies from her chest, before she left the room again.

Luie saw the two elves on the third floor and the halfling moved towards his bunk to meditate before he started to do forms. Once he was done with his forms, prayed to Tymora and then fell asleep.

********************************************************************

After Caerlin left the tavern, she walked to the Commander's office. As she walked, she looked around the busy yard. Some of the mercs were being taught or practicing their melee weapons. Others were off to the east side of the settlement practicing ranged weapons. Some of the mercs were guarding the settlement while others were getting ready to ride. A few of the users of the Art that reside in the tower were also discussing arcane knowledge plus war spells. The few that have settled here that helps keep the company running were also around.

As she arrived at the Commander's she knocked on the door and entered as the Commander called out, “Enter.”

She entered and handed the report back with a bow. "Thank you Commander, we have looked them over and made some plans. The five of us are planning on leaving at first light for Phlan. Is there an official in Phlan that we need to speak with before we begin our clearing of the goblins? And is the scout that made the report at base at this time, or is she out on duty again?"

“All has been arranged with the council, so just ride through and they will open the gate to the ruins. All of you have the seals that show you are members of my company. Yes, Synalee should be around. I’d try the barracks since she likes to sleep during the day and she’s a better night scout anyway, so I let her.”

Caerlin inclined her head. "Thank you Commander, but I believe then I will wait until eveningfest and speak to her at that time. I'm not sure disturbing a scout's sleep would bode well for my health." She smiled as the Commander laughed and nodded. "Is there anything else that you think we should know about this mission? It seems pretty straight forward, but that won't mean it is easy."

“Just watch yourselves in the ruins because they are still mostly homes of monsters and beasties that have taken them over. However, the manor where the goblins have settled has started to be cleared, so there shouldn’t be that many monsters that can kill you.”

Caerlin bowed to the Commander before she thanked her and bid her good day. After she left the Commanders residence, she walked towards the archery range while she unslung her bow from her shoulder. She looked it over before she began practicing firing arrows at the hide target.

The archer spent two hours doing this and about half of her shot made it into the target while the other half flew wide. Once she collected her arrows, she crossed the settlement and entered the stone mages tower.

She nodded at the thick, and burly, male Quartermaster as he sat behind his desk and worked on his log book. Once he looked up, she said, “Well met, I was wondering if you have some arrow shaft blanks, and maybe some hawk or eagle feathers?"

“How many do you need, young one?”

“Five blanks, and enough feathers for them.”

Once she had her items, she left the tower and made her way back to the barracks. She climbed to the third floor and saw that the gold elf and the wood elf were sitting on their couches. She grabbed her tools, left the room, and found a table by the wall in the tavern. After she sat with her back to the wall, and signaled one of the maids for a tankard of mead she smiled at the maid.

"Thank you, and don't worry, I will clean the shavings off the table when I am finished."

“Don’t worry about it. We’ve cleaned up worse.”

Caerlin took a small sip, got her tools out, and started to carefully work on an arrow while she waited for the others. As the archer worked on her arrows with skill she was surprised that she had, the short blond haired, and tawny skinned, scout stepped into the tavern with a yawn.

“Ale, Kolar, and keep it coming!”

Once the male barkeep nodded, Synalee crossed the room while she gave another yawn as she continued to try to fully wake. Caerlin waved the scout over just as Synalee grabbed her tankards and the scout joined the archer at her table.

"Well met, Synalee," Caerlin said as the scout sat down. "My companions and I are leaving to clear the ruins in Phlan that you scouted. I’ve read your report, and I was wondering if there is anything else you can tell me about them? How much of the north wall has fallen, the amount of cover from trees and bushes, and the like."

“All of the northern wall has fallen outwards onto the alley. There are some trees and you can use the other ruined buildings for cover. One tall tree, near the south of the manor, has grown up the most and it provides shade on that side of the manor. I did spot a group of cultists as I was leaving but what deity they were worshipping, I know not.”

After discussing the mission with Synalee, Caerlin asked, "How does one become a scout for the company? What kind of training is needed? What would I need to know before getting said training? And who would I need to talk to, to receive said training?"

“The Commander decides, of course. As for the training, you have to know how to find your way out of places, how to spot movement, water, and other obstacles, and so good hearing and vision are a must. Any of the scouts can train you, after the Commander puts your through her tests to make sure you will not falter. The knowledge of a ranged weapon is also useful, but you know how to use one of those already.” She paused to yawn again before taking a deep pull from the first tankard. “But otherwise, a scout just has to be fast and know how to run, move quickly and silently while not being seen, and listen and watch.”

Caerlin raised her eyebrow in surprise. "Cultists? About how many do you think there were? And where exactly did you see them? This adds a whole new aspect to the mission if they turn out to be of hostile intent." She looked serious as she thought about this angle.

“I saw about six of them and they are all male humans. They were east past the four-way that leads back to civilized Phlan. I doubt they will bother your unit but I was mentioned them, so you could be on the lookout for them.”

“Would you join me for eveningfest? My companions may be joining me soon, and they may have other questions as well. Unless, that is, you have duties to attend to." Caerlin respectfully inclined her head to Synalee, and thanked her for her time and patience with her questions.

“Aye? I’ll stay for now since I’m awake and I prefer the night anyhow.”

Caerlin signaled to one of the barmaids and when she arrived, she asked with a smile, "What is the fare for eveningfest? And I need another mead.”

“Roasted potatoes and meat pies or spicy sauce covered chicken and beef from Calimshan.”

After ordering, Caerlin cleaned her tools and carefully packed them carefully away while carefully wrapping her new arrows to put in her backpack later. As the maid returned with the order, Caerlin cleaned the shavings off the table, so that they don't end up in anyone's fare. During this she continues to talk to Synalee about becoming a scout, and about other issues that are occurring in the area. Synalee replied with tales of centaur clans to the northwest, about half a tenday away, have been raiding each other. She knows about a cave that leads down into the Underdark in the Dragonspine Mountains, which are far to the north. She’s also been asked to go explore the fringes of the small forest north of Phlan and look for tracks or signs of a beastie that has six legs. The rest of her information is about Hillsfar to the southwest and the constant fighting over that ruined town.

*******************************************************************

Luie took the long way to the command building and then looked over the duty roster. He saw that there was a sixth member, who is listed as elven thief, on the list to join their unit. However, that member has a question mark next to there entry.

He read that she was assigned to help the group with arcane dealings and to provide more use of the Art. A small note next to her name reads, “Art comes from blood. She claims the Sword Coast as her residence.”

Once he had the information he wanted, he left the mercenary settlement and made his way to the River. The halfling waded out a bit from the bank and waited until the fish swam between his legs before he scooped it out and onto the shore. He spent the rest of the afternoon catching fish, since most of the supplies and horses are ready to go at dawn.

After a nice day of fishing, Luie took take his catch to the kitchen. He left them there for the patrons of the tavern to enjoy before he retired to the upper floor.

*******************************************************************

Ragnar saw that Caerlin sat with Synalee, one of the five scouts of the company. The female human scout has short blond haired and tawny skin and she is drinking from two different tankards. Ragnar walked up to the table with Synalee and Caerlin and sketched a bow to them. He looked different from this morning because he's wearing his performing outfit, which is a loose, bright red vest over an equally brightly green tunic, along with snug-fitting hose that are bright yellow on his left leg, and a vibrant blue on his right leg.

He smiled at them and asked, "Mind if I join you Caerlin and Synalee? I promise there will be no face-painting tonight."

Caerlin chuckled a bit and indicated for Ragnar to take a seat. "Please join us. Synalee is the scout who made the report, so I was asking her some more about the area." She frowned a bit. “She told me that on her way out, she spotted some human male cultists, of unknown religion. They may or may not complicate our mission."

Caerlin signaled to one of the barmaids to bring Ragnar a drink and as the maid brought the tankard and Ragnar gave the maid a coin and a wink, the archer continued, "Interesting outfit you have there, my friend." She winked and smiled after those words. Synalee continued to sit and drink and it looked like she was starting to come fully awake now.

He smiled after he sat and enjoyed his drink. "Well you know, a bard has to be seen, and this certainly ensures that I'm seen."

Caerlin nodded and smiled. "Aye, you will definitely be seen in those."

He turned to Synalee with a friendly smile and she looked back at him with a small smile. "Cultists you say? Do you have any idea about which kind? Oh, and how d'you know they're not just looters looking for stones or something?"

“No, I don’t know what kind and because they were worshipping a statue that I didn’t get close enough to see.”

After Synalee left, Ragnar and Caerlin spent some time together in the tavern before she stood and bid him good eve. Ragnar joined his unit on the third floor and he was soon asleep.

For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet and excite you... Books are full of the things that you don't get in real life - wonderful, lyrical language, for instance, right off the bat. - Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

Scribe for the Candlekeep Compendium

Edited by - Kuje on 13 Nov 2005 19:55:07

Rinonalyrna Fathomlin
Great Reader

USA
7106 Posts

Posted - 13 Nov 2005 :  21:36:01  Show Profile  Visit Rinonalyrna Fathomlin's Homepage Send Rinonalyrna Fathomlin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Dang, if only I had the time to join. Looks like a lot of fun.

"Instead of asking why we sleep, it might make sense to ask why we wake. Perchance we live to dream. From that perspective, the sea of troubles we navigate in the workaday world might be the price we pay for admission to another night in the world of dreams."
--Richard Greene (letter to Time)
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Crennen FaerieBane
Master of Realmslore

USA
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Posted - 13 Nov 2005 :  22:15:17  Show Profile  Click to see Crennen FaerieBane's MSN Messenger address Send Crennen FaerieBane a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Wish you could - we are looking for another member! Unless that Elven thief did join us.

C-Fb

Still rockin' the Fey'ri style.
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Kuje
Great Reader

USA
7915 Posts

Posted - 13 Nov 2005 :  22:26:08  Show Profile Send Kuje a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by CrennenFaerieBane

Wish you could - we are looking for another member! Unless that Elven thief did join us.

C-Fb



Not yet. :(

For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet and excite you... Books are full of the things that you don't get in real life - wonderful, lyrical language, for instance, right off the bat. - Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

Scribe for the Candlekeep Compendium
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Mazrim_Taim
Learned Scribe

341 Posts

Posted - 22 Nov 2005 :  03:43:22  Show Profile  Visit Mazrim_Taim's Homepage Send Mazrim_Taim a Private Message  Reply with Quote
They found my character, unwilling though he he is to associate himself with beings he deems lesser than him

And if the PCs DO win their ways through all the liches to Larloch, “he” will almost certainly be just another lich (loaded with explosive spells) set up as a decoy, with dozens of hidden liches waiting to pounce on any surviving PCs who ‘celebrate’ after they take Larloch down. As the REAL Larloch watches (magical scrying) from afar. Myself, as DM, I’d be wondering: “Such a glorious game, so many opportunities laid out before your PCs to devote your time to, and THIS fixation is the best you can come up with? Are you SURE you’re adventurers?” -Ed Greenwood
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Kuje
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USA
7915 Posts

Posted - 17 Feb 2006 :  01:27:40  Show Profile Send Kuje a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Day/Month/Year: 2nd day of the 1st tenday of Mirtul to the 3rd day of 1st tenday of Mirtul in the year 1375 - The Year of Risen Elfkin
Time: Morning to Early Afternoon
Location: Headquarters of the Red Shields to Phlan.
Weather: Warm and clear.


Similar to Lantanese clockwork Luie woke an hour & a half before dawn. He made his way to the kitchen to have a cup of tea and once he was done, he started to get everything ready for the trip out of the compound.

Caerlin woke about an hour before dawn. She held her symbol of Mielikki and said a quick prayer for her, and her companion’s, safety and for their mission to be successful. Once she was done, she quietly packed her backpack, donned her armor and weapons, and headed downstairs. She had a quick breakfast of porridge and tea before heading outside to help Luie with the supplies.

Valentre was already awake as was the gold elf since they only need four hours of rest. He took care of all grooming issues - and then said his prayers to his deity for his swift feet and quiet actions. He looked across the shared room and saw that the gold elf was awake and ready to leave. Valentre stood and proceeded downstairs and outside to help his companions make ready to ride.

Ithyria woke at dawn and readied herself for travel. She went through her ritual that started with brushing her long hair and wrapping it up tightly about her head. Once she was done she gathered her things and prepared to meet her new companions. She stopped downstairs for a cup of warm tea and some toast before heading outside.

Ragnar woke shortly after sunrise, cleaned himself up, puts on a more somber outfit consisting of a brown shirt, dark blue breeches, boots, and a brown cloak, and went down to the common room in the tavern once he's put on his rapier, prepared a place in his sleeve for his katar, and put the quiver of crossbow-bolts at his sword belt. Once in the common room he ate a quick meal of ham, eggs, and fried sausage.

***********************************************************************

Luie waved Caerlin over. ”Nice day for a ride,” he said with a smile. He looked up at her and continued, “I’m almost done and I just need to finish with the last horse. I think I might have gotten enough supplies for the expedition but I did not take into account the other two members. We got only the four horses but I plan on riding with someone, however, if the sixth member does arrive then that person will need to bring there own horse.”

Caerlin smiled as she walked over to Luie. "Aye, it does seem like it will be a nice one. I am sure that there will be enough supplies, between all of us."

Valentre looked around at his companions - especially the Ar'Tel'Quess. "This is where we'll have our work cut out for us. I hope you all are ready. Goblins may not be fierce by themselves, but they fall quickly to a pack mentality. Let’s scout the ruins so that we may make a plan for our enemies swift demise. Do not worry, lady gold elf, since Ragnar has obviously volunteered his protection for Caerlin, or the other way around, I will protect you and make sure that your spells bring terror to this scum." With that Valentre turned to Caerlin, "What did the scout tell you about this tribe?"

“I don’t know much about the tribe but she did say that there are some trees and other ruins we can use as cover. There’s a tree that is taller then the others on the south side of the manor that provides shade to it.”

“Valentre, I never claimed to have taken a woman under my protection because it often ends in a sharp smack, as I'm sure the lady wizard will teach you soon if you're not careful," the bard remarked.

“I merely know that she will be of utmost importance to the success of the mission. I would never presume to one's bodyguard," Valentre said with a wry smile.

***********************************************************************

Once each member of the Companions of the Silver Wyrm had finished their morning actions, they mounted. Luie rode with Caerlin while the others rode by themselves. They passed through the compound and they left by the southern exit before they turned east. They rode through the mostly cleared countryside since the company keeps the beasties from getting to strong. However, they did see a pack of nine wolves the second hour that Companions rode. As they passed across the river on the ferry, Luie opened the saddlebags and handed a potion to Caerlin and Valentre while explaining that they are curing potions with two doses each. When they were an hour away from Phlan, all of them noticed the red-flame covered hound that was loping northward and away from the party.

Ragnar remained largely quiet for the ride, until they saw the red-flame covered dog. He pointed at it and asked, "Have any of you seen one of those before?"

Luie turned in towards the north since that was the direction Ragnar pointed. “No and I take it that that is not normal?” Luie relinquished his grip on Caerlin and put one finger in each of his ears. “Are we there yet?”

"You should be cautious because that flaming hound is a hellhound, and probably much more fierce than all of us put together. We should remain somewhat focused, don't you agree?" the gold elf said as she looked after the hound that is heading away from them.

"A hellhound? Apt name, I guess the big flames should've been a give away. But surely there's no risk of it turning up in one of the stores in town? It'd seem a bit inconspicuous, I'd think? Never-the-less, care shall be taken lady wizard." Ragnar nodded.

Caerlin half turned to Luie, shook her head, and rolled her eyes. The bard took up his flute and he started to play it until they reached the gates of Phlan. An hour later, the Companions of the Silver Wyrm arrived in civilized Phlan and passed through the guarded gates. They knew that the entrance to the ruins was to the north of the growing town and that they had to pass through the settled part to get to the ruins.

Luie removed his fingers from his ears and placed both hands on Caerlin’s waist before he leaned over to get a better view of Valentre and the town. A wooden road led towards the heart of civilized Phlan from the gate. Houses, shops, and only a handful of taverns and inns lined the main road.

Ragnar finally stopped playing and he rolled his eyes at Luie. "You know, I only played scales at first and the rest were all reels my master learned when he visited Luiren.” He favored Caerlin with one of his many winks. "Caerlin, I guess we'd better try and find that statue that Synalee mentioned and perhaps we can learn what kind of cultists we have to look out for."

The hin chuckled at Ragnar before he got a serious expression. "I’ve never been there, of course with music like that..."

"I will search up ahead for this statue that you are looking for - and the cultists that worship it. Unless you have become bolder, and you wish to do the scouting from now on?" Val said.

"So are we going to take the horses with us to the ruins instead of stabling them? Should we muffle their hooves... Wait, what? Cultists?” Luie said from behind Caerlin.

Caerlin spoke up, “Yes, the scout told me that as she was leaving the ruins, she spotted about six human male cultists just to the east of the four-way that leads back towards Phlan." She looked over at Ragnar. "She said that they were worshiping a stone statue, didn't she?"

"You can do the scouting and it's not a lack of boldness on my part. However, bards were not made to do things quietly you know," Ragnar said with a smile.

“I’m not surprised.” Luie rolled his eyes. “I like your plan Ragnar, and Val can scout and we will stay in the back to let the women protect us. And we can have a light snack too? It’s been at least four hours.”

Caerlin turned towards Luie and raised an eyebrow at him over her shoulder. "Let us protect you, hmm? And do you ever get enough to eat?" She chuckled and turned back around. "Well, shall we find someplace to stable the horses and get Luie something to eat? And when does everyone want to go into the ruins? Today, or at first light?" She looked up at the sky and thought that maybe they had hours of light left.

"I’m always hungry. I have a bottomless pit for a stomach.”

Ragnar looked up as well and saw the same. "How about we decide once Valentre returns from scouting? If there's not enough time to enter the goblin-lair then we can go look for the cultists, provided our wood elf friend finds it."

Caerlin nodded. "That’s fine with me if that is how everyone else wants to do it."

"Hmmm... sure. We could at least take in the sites near the gate that leads to the ruins and it’ll allow Valentre to find us easier."

"Very well, I will go ahead when the time is right. Ragnar, be sure to protect the women, that way you can be the hero of your own epics!" Valentre said with a smile. "Right, Caerlin, where about was this statute supposed to be at? I will go scout out the terrain before we finalize our plans."

Ithyria put her hand on Valentre's shoulder as he is prepared to separate from the group. "I will accompany you. You may need help if those creatures are what I think they are." She dismounted from her horse and handed the reins to Ragnar. "Will you please take care my horse? We Tel'quess are better scouts on foot."

Ragnar accepted the reins from Ithyria. "Certainly m'lady," he said, "I'll look after it as if the company quartermaster would make me pay for it if I lost it. Just be careful, I'd hate for me to become the group's most accomplished spellcaster. Tymora's blessing to the two of you."

Caerlin nodded at both of the elves, and relayed what Synalee told them of the cultists and ruins as she took the reins of Val’s horse. "Be careful, and may Mielikki guide your steps. But before you leave, where shall we meet again, and how long should we wait before we come looking for you?"

Ithyria turned to Valentre, "Shall we?"

Valentra and Ithyria broke away from the party and headed north towards the gates of the ruined part of Phlan.

Luie kept watch as the others talked about the cultists and he noticed one male human glance at them for a moment before he continued to walk along the right side of the main road. Caerlin looked around at the buildings that looked to be newly built in the last ten or so years as well as the many different men and woman. Ragnar looked around as well.

"We should probably get a bit further into town because there’s not much to see here." He turned his smile towards Caerlin, "Perhaps we should get our lovely archer a dress for the victory celebration?"

“More than you realize, my friend.” Luie settled back on the horse. “Just a moment Caerlin,” the small agile hin said before he rolled off the horse before he gave a beaming smile at her. “You can hit him now.”

Ragnar threw up both of his hands in a warding gesture. "There’s no need to get violent! I promise we'll get you one as well, Luie."

"Only if it has bells," the hin said with a laugh.

Caerlin stopped her horse, shook her head, and chuckled at the two of them. "Nay, no dress for me Ragnar, but a new shirt might be nice. On the other hand though, one for Luie might not be a bad idea." Caerlin continued to laugh as she reached down and helped Luie back onto the horse.

After the hin accepted her hand up and settled on the horse, he said, "How about a kilt with bells on it instead?"

Ragnar bowed in the saddle, a move that is somewhat spoiled by his tight grip on the reins. "Right, that's settled then. A nice not too opaque shirt for Goodmaid Caerlin, and nice dress with bells on it for our Tymoran friend. Bass or Tenor?"

Luie shook his head before he looked up at the blue sky. "It is a kilt!" He grinned, "Tenor." Luie motioned his hand towards some of the newer buildings on the right side. "How about further in that direction, I think I smell some food."

Luie took care to not fall off the horse as he stood on top of the horse and leaned over Caerlins' shoulder. With mirth issuing from his voice he said, "Hey, since we have the horses, lets ride past them and meet them at the entrance to the ruins."

Caerlin hung on to the horse, and looked up at Luie. "What are you trying to do, get a broken neck? Or worse yet, are you trying to break mine as well?" She then looks around to see what kind a spectacle they are creating and saw some of the residents staring at them.

"No, of course not, if I wanted to do that..." His eyes went a bit wide and he gave a sheepish grin. "Nevermind, I apologize." Luie turned to look at Ithyrias' horse and mumbled something to himself. His head then popped up over Caerlin's shoulder again. "So are you going to do it? Huh? Huh?" He then began to eye the mages' horse again. "I think I can..." he said as he rubbed his chin.

Caerlin looked back up at Luie. "So are we going to do what, meet them at the ruins? I don't know... It might be a good idea for all of us to stay together. And you think you can what?" She looked concerned by the scheming look in Luie's eyes.

"Well Ragnar, since you put it that way." Luie sat comfortably back down behind Caerlin. "We can still beat them to the ruins entrance and still get a midday meal."

Ragnar guided his own and Ithyria's horses closer to that of Caerlin, and Luie - taking great care not to spook the two-seated steed. "Luie, care to borrow the elf-lady's horse? It sounds as if it'd give Caerlin a calmer time of it. Not gallop I hope," Ragnar said. "Now be a nice halfling and we'll get you something to eat first. I'm sure there'll be a stall selling live herring in a bun or whatever the local delicacy is in Phlan."

"I think I will.” Luie said as he stepped onto her horse and it rolled its eyes at the smaller and lighter rider.

Caerlin turned a bit green at the thought of eating a live fish, and she looked at Ragnar. "What do you think about them going off by themselves? Do you think we should find them or just wait and hope they return?"

"We should intercept them before they head in. I don't mind Val scouting, if he was only a hundred yards or so ahead... but..." Luie scratched the back of his neck. "I have a bad feeling about this."

"That sounds like a good idea. However, maybe we should keep a certain distance, just to make sure that if something catches either them or us unawares, the other group will have a shot at responding? I know Luie may think otherwise, but I doubt my flute will be enough to scare away a group of cultists, or some goblins guarding their lair."

Luie looked over at the others. "I agree. Except for the part about your flute."

Caerlin nodded. "As do I. Well let’s head that way, and get Luie something to eat as we go through."

They finally came to an agreement and headed north towards the guarded and sealed gates of the ruins. One tavern/inn could be seen near the gates and it was called The Swinging Chain. Of course, since it’s near the ruins, it wasn’t as well kept, and clean, as the couple of places that the unit already passed. They also passed quiet a few stables.

"Well, Luie, you have the greatest experience when it comes to eating, what shall we have?" Ragnar asked the halfling.

“It being a port city, we could start off with some sholehe-ghalamkar. Filled with herbs, rice, and lamb meat, I think. Oh, I’ve seen some dwarves out there, maybe we can have some infamous dwarven drunken beef!” He rubbed his stomach. “I’ve heard that kobold was good eating. Especially when marinated in irongut ale.” Luie watched Caerlin for any interesting color changes. “Then there is always the old stand by, cheese and bread with goat eye stew. Dessert can be pickled eels and onions.”

Caerlin turned to look at Luie with a slightly pained look before she shook her head. "You can order any “delicacy” you wish. But I think I'll stick with a slice of beef on some bread. And I'll eat outside to keep watch for Val and Ithyria and that way we can go in together."

"Kobold?" Ragnar gave Luie a peculiar look. "I'll admit that stewed goblin brains taste a lot better than it sounds, but kobold? That’s not my cup of wine I'd say and I think I'll go with the beef and bread with maybe a dollop of mustard. Shall I go in and get the meal or does one of you wish to do it?"

“You can do it. It would take the barkeeper ten minutes to look down at me. And beef and cheese is perfect and it will be served to us faster since we are in a hurry.”

Caerlin shook her head at the two of them while she watched the street. "I think it would be best if you went in Ragnar. Luie and I will wait here and watch the street, and the door to the tavern/inn, in case you get yourself into trouble." She reached into one of her belt pouches and handed Ragnar a gold piece. "I'll buy this one, but one of you can spring for eveningfest." She smiled at the two males.

Ragnar accepted the gold piece as he gave Caerlin a bow. With a twinkle in his eye, he asked, "Are you sure you don't want a dress instead?" Before she could comment he hurried into the tavern/inn to get them their food.

“He sure does want to see you in a dress. Come to think of it, he wants to see a lot of folk in dresses. That is very...” he rummaged through a small sack on his belt before pulled out a small bit of sandwich, “...very strange” Luie sniffed the tidbit before he ate it and started to watch the street again but he saw no one that was taking undue interest in them anymore.

Caerlin watched Luie eat his leftovers, and turned back to watch the gates. "Aye, he seems to have some fixation with dresses." She shrugged. "I hope we didn't miss Val and Ithyria, I don't think we should have split up... Especially since they didn't say where and when to meet." She frowned a bit and shook her head. "Oh, I forgot to ask, how did your fishing go yesterday?" Caerlin turned back and glanced at the tavern/inn door, then behind her, then back to the gates.

"There’s no need to frown, they have not passed us. We are on horses and they are on foot. Unless they are taking a different entrance to the ruins, they must come in this direction." The halfling gave a distant smile, "It went well. Lady Luck populated the cool stream with plenty of fish for me. I am certain most of the people at the inn at well that night.”

"There was fish last night?" She frowned again. "The barmaids said nothing about it to me when I asked what was available. Ah well, mayhap another night." She looked at Luie. "Is there another gate into the ruins? Neither Synalee nor the Commander said there was, but maybe there is. How long do you think we should watch for them?"

"This is the only gate that we were told about, unless Val went over the walls and I doubt that, so they will be here soon. We can wait until it is three strikes of the bell before dark and then we will go in." Luie started to tap his foot. "Yup, any time now.... Ragnar will bring the midday meal."

***********************************************************************

Once Ragnar entered the Swinging Chain he walked straight towards the innkeeper and caught his attention by flashing Caerlin's gold coin. Once he had ordered the group's meal, he hastily added, "You haven't by any chance seen any strange looking folk sneaking out into the ruins lately, goodman innkeeper?"

“There’s always adventurers and others entering the ruins. Can you describe said strangers?”

"Hmm... I'm afraid not," Ragnar said. "I was told by a friend that she'd spotted some stranger-than-usual people mucking around a statue in there. She thought that I should keep my eyes out for them, but she didn't get close enough to get a good look herself. Never mind, though, if I don't bring this food out to quickly, the hin waiting for most of it will most likely use me for a meal next."

“There’s always strangers coming and going around here and through the ruins...”

Ragnar stepped out of the building carrying the bread and mutton in two baskets. "Well," he said. "Here's smoked rothé meat and freshly baked bread. Do leave more than one piece of each for me and Caerlin now, Luie," Ragnar said with a grin at the halfling, keeping a wary eye on Caerlin. "I asked the innkeeper if he'd seen anyone strange pass into the ruins, but it appears we need a closer look at those cultists if asking around is going to help."

“Sure,” Luie took a small bit even for a hin, “I thought that we were contracted for goblins. Are the goblins dressing up?”

Caerlin smiled and took a slice of both. "My thanks, Ragnar. Well, what is strange to one person may be completely normal to another. Chances are there are quite a few people who go through here everyday looking to make a name for themselves by clearing out the ruins." She took a bite of food and turned back to watching the street. "Whether or not they come back out is the real question."

Luie’s head nodded in agreement as he made enjoyment noises as he reached for another slice.

Caerlin watched the street and gate while she ate her food before she turned to look at Luie and Ragnar. "Why don't we go ask the guards at the gate if they have seen Val and Ithyria? That might be more productive than just sitting here watching Faerun pass us by. Then, if they have already gone in, we can stable the horses and go after them. I am sure the guards will remember if someone from the Company went through, since we have been hired to clear that part of the ruins."

“Brilliant idea. We have unique credentials giving to us with the Phlan City Council stamp on it. Let’s go!” With his horse in tow, Luie made his way towards the gate.

Caerlin smiled at Ragnar, "Shall we?"

"By all means," the bard saids with his mouth full of bread. "Lets."

Caerlin and Ragnar followed Luie as the two taller humanoids held the reigns of the horses. They stopped for a moment to allow the gates to be opened after showing their seals and once they were through the strong and fortified gates, the gates closed behind them. The sounds of locks and bars being put in place could be heard behind them.

Stretching to the north of them is what was once the main road through the larger city until the dragons came and burned the old city. The map that they have shows that after fifty, or so, feet the road turned into the four-way and the goblins are west of the four-way. The smells of rot, char, decay, and other smells wafted among the ruined buildings. Bones, coins, broken buildings, and other items could be seen littering the spaces between the buildings. Every so often the three of them also saw flashes of magic light up the ruins. And screams, grunts, cries, yells, and other sounds, in many different languages, could be heard among the rubble. Ragnar wrinkled his nose at the smell and kept a close look at the ruins nearest them.

***********************************************************************

Valantre broke off from the group to head towards the gates that are sealed that lead to the ruins. The gold elf followed after him and once they waited for the gates to open they entered the ruins. The gates closed behind them but they knew that the guards would open them again once they two were close enough for the guards to see.

Val stuck to the shadows and kept his foot steps silent as he headed south. Screams, grunts, moans, and other sounds filled the ruins and the two elves continued to see movement out of the corner of their eyes. Once he got to the four-way, he paused to better get a bearing on the place. He marked the passage from where they came with a piece of chalk.

"Ithyria, we are going to a not so nice place it seems and it might be best if you stay close and keep your footfalls light. Be prepared, though, we may have to move return to Phlan in a hurry if we run into trouble."

With that he prepared to head west towards the goblins since that would be the most logical move. Ithyria kept close and behind Valentre as he crept forward. She tried mimic his footing, and as she walked she began focusing her mind for the possibility of danger and the castings that she will have to perform if the two of them run into trouble. As the passed many different ruined buildings, some which look like they melted, and others that have just fallen over, they smelled death, rot, decay, and other unpleasant smells. The sounds of screams, cries, shouts in many different languages, battle, and other sounds could be heard as well. The two of them felt many eyes watching them and every so often they also saw flashes of magic that came from those that could use the Art and Power.

After keeping to the shadows, the two elves finally made it to the manor to the west and they entered one of the abandoned buildings near the manor. The wood elf looked across the road and noticed the tracks of about six or so goblins entering and leaving the manor. The tracks don’t lead in any one general direction and they led in all directions. Every so often he saw, through the shattered windows, a goblin head look out before it moved away from the opening.

"Should we try to sneak past, or do you think they will just leave us alone?" Ithyria looked around and back the way they came to make sure that they were not being shadowed and she didn’t see thing that was taking an undue interest in the building the two elves are using as cover. "What do you think we will find at the manor?"

"Well, my friend, that manor is our objective for this mission," Valentre mused. "We should go get the others before we attempt to enter the manor. Plus, I will be interested to see if the half-elf has bedded the archer yet." Valentre turned around and began to bring Ithyria back to Phlan.

Before they returned, they found the other three members of the Company standing at the four-way.

***********************************************************************

The two elves soon met the rest of their Unit at the four-way as the elves came from the west.

The bard raised a hand in greeting to the two elves and kicked his horse into a trot to cover the short distance between them. "Oloré, Ithyria and Valentre, have you found anything worth mentioning in this cesspool of a place?"

Caerlin moved up to the elves while she watched all around them. "Well met Val and Ithyria," she said as she pulled her bow off of her shoulder and readied it.

"Well met," Valentre said with a smile. "I’ve seen some goblins, but not too many - though they are holed up in the mansion down the avenue. With all of us prepared, we should be able to take the mansion. I suggest Caerlin and Ragnar keep your bows ready. I will try to draw their fire as I sneak to the mansion. Luie, are you up for a fight?"

"I’m ready. So what’s the plan? Does it involve the front door? Or does it involve the window near the shade tree? Burning the manor down?" the halfling asked.

Trips Cantorum, who is a black haired and pale skinned male human that that has been seen around the mage tower at the settlement, could be seen heading towards the Companions of the Silver Wyrm from the direction of the gates that led back into civilized Phlan.

Ragnar dismounted from his horse as he spotted Trips coming towards them. The bard pointed at Trips as he unstrapped his crossbow from the horse’s saddle, "Hey, I recognize that man, I think I sawr him when I stopped by the mage tower yesterday. Does anyone know him?"

Trips noticed the gathered group and he recognized that these were probably the folk he was supposed to be "Cooperating with to help clear the ruins.” He made his way over to them and waved his hand lazily in greeting while he spoke to the peculiar black raven that rested on his shoulder in a language that sounded like hissing and deep reflections of stone scraping against stone.

"I suppose all of you have come up with a plan already? Now if you don't mind, I'd like to be filled in on the current situation. If we must do this, let's do it quickly so I can get back to my studies," Trips said after his discussion with the animal.

Ragnar took his crossbow in one hand and leaned in to speak quietly to Caerlin in Illuskan. "Somehow, Ithyria seems almost personable all of a sudden, don't you think?" He straightened up and addressed Trips, with a glint in his eyes, "Well... we were thinking to take whatever guards they have by surprise by having the squad-member least handy with a sword make a diversionary attack on the main gate whilst the rest of us climbed the back wall. We were just about to give Ithyria here our well-wishes, but I suppose that you're a decent enough fellow to save us that bother and take care of her task instead, right good mage? Oh, and I'm Ragnar, the elven mage is Ithyria, and the wood elf that is no doubt shooting daggers at me with his eyes is Valentre. The halfling is Luie and if you have the time and inclination, you can discuss dress-patterns with him later, I think he likes bells. And the charming archer with the beautiful, brown tresses is Caerlin."

Luie nodded at the newcomer and at the mention of new clothes he tapped his vest.

"I say this once bard, and once only. If your foolishness and general disregard for this mission causes any single person harm, be sure that I will make the choice that is good for the group, and for the people of Phlan. Your incessant flirtations with the archer are becoming a distraction. If you two wish to bed each other, do so on your own time. We have come here to clear the warrens, and that we shall."

Luie put his hands around his own small throat and made a gagging face towards Trips. He stopped and then clapped his hands together and fluttered his eyes at the Caerlin. Luie stood proud while he gave a snappy salute that would impress a cleric of Tempus.

Valentre turned to Trips. "Well met, we'll have need of a level head and a sharp mind for this mission. If you are a wielder of the Art, then we shall have much use for you and thank Tymora for your timely arrival. Luie and I will move through the shadows to the manor and try to get inside. Ithyria has volunteered to help bolster the group that will prevent the goblins from running too far. You may choose which group you wish to join.

"Luie, are you ready for some entertainment? I do hope so." With that Valentre drew his blades and leveled the group a serious look. "We are on a mission - do not forget."

Luie flexed a small bicep, "I am ready Val to smite evil and take care of these non-cultist goblins." A quizzical expression passed on his face as he asked, "Er, which way are they? And what is with the explosions earlier?" He put his hands on his hips, "Who is shooting at you this time?"

Trips spoke in that strange language to his raven again before he addressed the group. "We can possibly gain a temporary over these goblins from the confusion that will be caused from us coordinating the two attacks at the same time. I would go with the group that is sneaking in from the back, but I'm not very good at sneaking. So I think I would be most effective with the group at the main gate. But if there is to be bickering, save it for the long ride to Shadowdale. I'm you all can work out any problems with each other during that long and hopefully relatively uneventful ride."

Trips bent his head lower to hear something that the raven on his shoulder has to say and then he leaned against the nearest building and pulled a small book from the inside of his robes and started to read it. Once he noticed the group again, he said, ”The plan seems sound, just tell me when everyone is going to be ready."

Luie watched the exchange between bird and master. He started tapping his chin wondering which one is in charge. "Does the big crow have a name? Can I pet it?"

Trips looked over at Luie and lifted a finger to gently rub the underside of the raven’s beak. "His name is Kaejax, and he doesn't like to be touched by anyone except his master. The pair of us are not one for getting our hands dirty, but unfortunately for me, I have to stay while Kaejax enjoys the quiet respite of the mage tower back at camp. If anything should happen to him, I would be deeply grieved. He has been a good companion and will be hard to replace." Trips gave the raven another affectionate nuzzle before he commanded to it in the strange tongue that only he and the raven seem to understand. The bird then took flight in the direction of the mercenary camp.

Caerlin looked at Valentre and shook her head before she said something in a language that only Luie doesn’t understand. "I'm not sure what has your breeches in a twist, but Ithyria and you going off by yourselves was not in the best interest of the survivability of neither you, nor this mission.” She continued in the common tongue, “Now... if everyone is done throwing insults around shall we do what we were sent to do?"

Caerlin raised an eyebrow and looked at the entire group. "Well met Trips. We should be done in time for your studies to have not been to badly put behind."

She turned to Val and Ithyria. “Now, would the two of you care to inform us where all the yelling and magical flashes are coming from? How concerned should we be about them?" Luie bobbed his head up and down in joyous agreement.

Caerlin turned to Luie and smiled. "I don't think that we should have a need to burn down the manor at all since that would be a little too obvious."

"Aw, but Caerlin,” the hin kicked a small non-existent pebble out of the way, "fire is good. Fire is my friend."

She turned to Ragnar and quietly spoke in Illuskan. "It seems that for some reason, your jests are not taken in the manner that they are offered. It might be wise to tone it down a bit, before parts of you are removed."

Now that Caerlin got that off her chest, she looked up through the ruins and saw that they had hours of light left. "Now, let's get this done before we lose anymore light."

Luie mumbled, "No one ever likes my plans. Fire is a good plan. We wouldn’t have to worry about the dark... and being cold." He shuffled towards a horse to conceal his mirth.

The bard smiled faintly before he answered, "Worry not Caerlin, my old teacher often chided me for my lighthearted view on life, and considering that he was a bard as well, that says a lot, I would think."

Ragnar turned to Valentre. "Shall I take that to mean that the elves of the wood do not take battle as something to jest about? Once we're back I think I will tell you some of the tales my mother's father told me of his time as one of the warriors of Rottesheim. But that will have to wait until after the mission, now I assume that you wish me to stay with those tasked with preventing an outdrawn goblin-rout, or do you think a bow and spellcaster at your back might come in handy? As you pointed out earlier, I am good at diversions. And should you encounter some sort of goblin spellcaster, my music might just be useful."

Valentre looked over at Ragnar. "As for you, my friend, and your incessant flirtations - keep them for after the mission, when we can all enjoy a good laugh and a good ale. Wood Elves know how to jest as well, but I do not want to lose focus whilst on a mission. Plus, if you and Caerlin do bed each other, then I can take up a pot on the racial makeup of your offspring!"

Ithyria waited until the bickering quieted down. “I believe that there are about a dozen or so goblins. They are running around freely doing their own thing so I am not really sure if they will contest our presence or not, however I feel it is always wise to be prepared. As for the explosions, we really did not get a chance to check it out completely.”

She turned to Valentre, ”I came along because I was worried about your safely because we saw that hellhound wandering around as we rode towards Phlan."

The female elf turned to the group. “So then, if we are done I suggest we make a plan. I can go with the main group or stay down to cause a distraction so the fighters can get inside the manor. It matters not to me. I feel confident enough with my spellcasting to stay out of harms way.” She folded her arms and looked at the others to make the decision as to how they should proceed.

Caerlin turned to Ithyria. "What does the building north of the manor, that faces the fallen wall, look like? Are there any windows that face that wall?” She thought for a bit. “If there are windows on the bottom floor then we could use them as cover as we pick off the ones outside. Eventually some of them will come to get rid of us." The archer slightly smiled. "Then we can capture one to find out about the lair, if any of us speaks goblin, that is. Or we could fire arrows at them to create diversions while the others go through the door." She looked at each member of the group. "Those are just ideas and it’s up to you."

“Right, Val and I shall sneak up to the tree closest to the manor. Everyone else can station themselves outside the manor door while Trips knocks on it; unless there are some goblins outside and then Ragnar can try to talk with them or at least play that awful flute to draw their attention. If possible Val and I could scale the tree and enter the manor to flush some out.” Luie changed his walking speed to get behind Val.

Trips looked up to address the group. "It really is too bad there are no visible goblins. I would like to have one captured and questioned before we go in, so as to ascertain whether or not the scout’s reports were correct. I am really becoming quite good at getting information out of those not willing to give it." He smiled wickedly as his stare became distant, as if he recalled a recent memory. "Yes, quite good indeed.”

"Luie’s plan sounds like a good plan to me," Ragnar said. "Although, if I am to talk to those goblins... perhaps Caerlin should get into a position where she can keep her bow ready to loose arrows on them without being spotted by the flat faces?"

"Perfect plan, Luie. Ragnar, if you could play the flute, perhaps the goblins, being the slightly unintelligent race they are, will come to investigate. You could perhaps parlay with them until we draw most of them out. Caerlin could then snipe them from the trees while Luie and I come out from the inside of the manor, where Ithyria and Trips could destroy them. Come Luie, shall we prepare to climb?"

“Five steps ahead of you... err make that behind you,” piped up the halfling.

"Right you are. Let's go see if goblins have a better ear for music than Luie," Ragnar said with a slight smile. The bard nodded to the two mages and Caerlin before he pulled his flute out of its case and eased the rapier in its scabbard as he made sure that the straps holding his katar in place on his left arm aren't so tight that he won't be able to wield it quickly. "Do one of you two want my crossbow?" he asked as he looked at Ithyria and Trips. "I don't think it'll be of much use to me if the goblins rush out to have at me and I don't run back to you if you want it when we are fending off goblins."

Caerlin nodded and adjusted the two quivers on her back, and loosened her longsword for an easy draw. "Sounds good, but one thing concerns me and that is that once any of us start firing on the gobs, any of us that are alone take a chance of being overrun and cut down." She looked at the group. "Watch yourselves, and don't under estimate them, just because they are goblins. May Mielikki watch over us."

“Almost there, wait a moment Val.” Luie stopped and stripped off his leather backpack. He placed it on the ground before he removed several items from within. Two small bags, the smallest making a clinking metallic sound, the slightly larger making no sound at all as it lay limp on the ground. He then removed a bundle of sticks wrapped with a chain. He picked up the small pouch and tied it off next to his sack holding yesterday’s lunch. Then he opened the limp bag and placed his hands inside and when he brought them forth he revealed a black dust. He applied the black dust over his exposed skin and underneath his simple outfit. Luie took the now empty bag and wrapped it around the bundle of sticks to muffle the chain. The black hin then put his backpack on a horse. He returned to the bundle and tucked it onto the back of his belt. “We can go now.”

Caerlin watched Luie get himself ready and she smiled. "Well, you are going to need a dunking in some water before we can take you anywhere. What are we going to do with the horses while we are clearing the manor?"

Luie turned around and stuck his tongue out at her. As he got some dust on his tongue, he made a different face. "Uh... hmm... not bad actually." He pointed off to the right, "You can picket the horses there, I think they are light warhorses... chances are they can take care of themselves."

Caerlin nodded, took the reins of the horses, and walked them over to where Luie pointed and picketed them. She returned to the others and watched all around her because of the sights and sounds that filled the ruins. "Are we ready then?”

Ragnar nodded and checked his rapier one last time, "Ready when you are. I'll try to get their attention, and once things start turning hostile I'll leg it in your direction while you pick them off one by one. All I'm waiting for is for the two mages here to get in position."

Once the others answered, she quietly moved into position and waited while she kept to the shadows. Trips positioned himself beside Caerlin while keeping one hand in a pouch at his belt.

The Company quickly headed back towards the manor and once there they started to take their positions.

Valentre entered the manor and he tried to quickly, but silently, to surprise the goblins that are enraptured by Ragnar. He saw the two goblins that Ragnar also saw.

Having done his last check-ups, and seen the mages get in position, Ragnar started to walk up towards the manor. He played an up tempo, and merry tune on his flute as loudly as he could while he kept his eyes open for goblin sentries and he saw two gobbo’s looking out towards the street where the movement of some of the party members could be seen.

Luie tucked his nunchaku in his make-shift belt, double checked his sling bullets and then his sack with his left over midday meal. He scanned the area that he is going into to spot anyone else there and once he saw that it was clear, he made his way to the tree and then climbed the tree with swift movements and grace. Hearing Ragnars' flute, Luie prepared to enter the window that was a few feet from him. Once inside he hugged the walls because there’s a less chance of creaking the floor boards and falling through them. He stood in room that was once a bedchamber but is now left untended and forgotten. A wardrobe, bed, nightstand, and desk filled the room. A closed wooden door, across the room, could be seen as well.

Trips began to move his arms in a circular fashion and his hands looked like they are shaping an imaginary ball. He closed his eyes as he spoke a word of power and directed his hands toward his feet.

Ithyria stopped and started to incant something while she moved her fingers. As she finished, a flickering set of arcane armor, that was shaped like leafs, covered her.

Caerlin quietly moved into position behind some bushes at the corner of the manor that faced the fallen wall. She made sure that she has a clear view of where Ragnar and the others are positioned and she watched the area. Caerlin noted the positions of the three goblins that she could see within a room that used to be a dinner area. She took the potion that Luie gave her and put it in one of her belt pouches for easy reach because she knocked an arrow and waited and watched.

The two goblins, which were looking out, started to move towards Ragnar while they carried their short spears.

Valentre drew his swords and started to engage the goblins. His attack cut the two goblins down before they could even scream.

Ragnar waved his rapier at Valentre and shot the wood-elf a grin. "You could have saved at least one for me. I've a girl to impress, remember?" He walked up to the two corpses and started to search their bodies for anything useful, like daggers or coins. After he found ten gold pieces, forty silver pieces, a small gem, a handful of shells, and a small gargoyle figurine, he said, "Now what do we do? Kick the door in and search the rubble for more goblins, or take Luie's cue and torch the place so Caerlin and the mages can do target-practice on anyone running out of it?"

Luie made his way to the door, once he heard Ragnar’s voice. He listened at the door for the sound of movement while he peaked through the keyhole that was built to human heights. He opened the door once he saw three goblins pass the empty room and he stepped out behind them. Two of them carried spears and the third carried only had a dagger.

Trips focused his attention on the two goblins approaching Ragnar and removed a scroll from his pouch but before he could use it, he saw that they were dead.

The female sun elf readied herself when she saw another goblin moving on the first floor of the manor in one of the rooms that the other members of her team haven’t gotten to yet.

Hearing Ragnar start yelling, Caerlin muttered under her breath in a coarse sounding language that had a lot of grunts and snorts. She said a prayer to Mielikki, and continued to scan the area, waiting for a good shot. As she watched, she noticed a goblin step out onto a second-story balcony and look around because of the noises. She pulled back her arrow and let it fly and as it entered the goblins small body, the creature gave a URK before it tumbled backwards to lie dead on the floor of the balcony.

The three goblins that have their back to Luie haven’t heard the stealthy hin.

Valentre smiled back to the bard, "Come now, you had your fun impressing your woman with your flute - I say we bust through the manor until we slay all of the foul creatures!"

"Good point, and I suppose Luie might get a bit upset if we set it on fire with him in it," Ragnar said to Valentre. Ragnar started after Valentre and the bard kept his rapier and flute in hand while he waved for the two mages and Caerlin to follow. The two men entered a room that was once a small study. A wooden door led further into the manor and it could be seen on the back wall. The shelves in the room once held items but the shelves have been stripped of the items. A tall wooden cabinet, that hasn’t been destroyed, could be seen on the left side of the room.

“Boo,” Luie said in a natural voice as he slammed into the middle goblin. His body hit the middle goblin and it tumbled down the stairs with a cry of surprise. Before the other two could attack, Luie connected to their bodies and they fell down the stairs. He smiled as he looked down and picked up one of the discarded spears before he spun and looked down the hallway that had another two doors off it.

Trips waited a few seconds and then followed Ragnar and Valentre with caution. He wanted to put as much distance between him and the goblins as possible.

Ithyria easily launched a missile of magic at the goblin that she spied from the rest and as it hit the goblin’s body the creature hissed in pain before falling over dead.

After her shot, Caerlin tried to blend back into the cover and she scanned the area to see if her position was noted. She notched another arrow and watched to see which goblin she should shoot next. As she looked around, she noticed a male human dressed in red and black clothing with a flaming skull on its robes standing forty feet away and he was watching the Unit as they fought the goblins. The human’s eyes passed over where Caerlin stood but it looked like he didn’t notice the archer since she is keeping to the shadows. Caerlin memorized the flaming skull symbol on the human’s robes while she watched the rest of her Unit. She turned away for a moment to look at the battle and once she saw that the two goblins were down, she watched the human move away from the manor and head northeast, back towards the four-way.

At a snails pace Luie moved down the hall. "Which door?" he breathed to himself. “Did all three share one room? Or did the dagger one have separate quarters from the other two?” He looked through the keyholes but all three rooms were dark and there were no obstructions when he poked the spear under the doors.

Caerlin watched the human as she tried to decide to take a shot at him and get some answers, or let him go and take a chance on him coming back, bringing reinforcements. Once he was almost out of sight, she looked around for any goblins that might sneak up on them from behind and then sighed when there was nothing left to see and the others were entering deeper into the manor. She grabbed her backpack, and slung it over her shoulder as she darted up to the others before they can get any further into the manor. She pointed at the human that is walking away from them.

"I think that the cultists that Synalee mentioned have found us. And there are at least two or more goblins still within. I have a feeling that getting out of the manor may be a lot harder than the getting in was."

Ragnar turned and looked back at Caerlin and gave his view of the matter, "Oh dear, not good..."

Valentre looked back with a smile, "Come now, I thought that you wanted adventure! We'll survive, else we'll end up in the forests of Arvandor!"

“Well see, that's the problem. I'm strictly a towns-person. There’s not much call for a bard in the middle of a bunch of overgrown shrubbery after all. Does anyone have any ideas on how to deal with this? Do we take out the goblins first, and worry later, or do we make a run for it?” Ragnar asked.

Caerlin looked around the inside of the manor, with her bow at the ready. "Well I think we should find Luie, and make sure he is okay, then finish the job we were sent to do. We will just have to really watch ourselves as we leave the ruins. Hopefully he was just curious, and nothing will come of it." She said a quick prayer to Tymora for good luck in getting out of the ruins.

"Well, let's find a way to get the halfling out without getting traps or held up with goblins in there. It seems we have weakened the goblins enough to the point where we can get together out here and access our situation, then make the best possible choice as whether to finish off the rest of the goblins and risk this new threat, or try to do something about it.

"That is, if the man brings reinforcements." Trips looked at Caerlin, "we don't know if he is hostile or not?"

"They usually are when they look like that!" Valentre smiled. "Come then, let's get Luie out and reassess the situation. Its better remove one enemy completely so that if we turn our backs, they will remain safe."

"Exactly, never trust a man in a gaudy dress," Ragnar said, "except possibly for a few halflings. Now let's go get Luie and whatever there is left of the goblins."

"Indeed, Ragnar, perhaps I was wrong about you," Valentre said as he nudged the bard. "Ragnar and I will continue into the manor. Caerlin, do you think you could defend the mages while we finish? You have one of the prettiest, keenest sets of eyes among us. Ragnar, shall we go play Quel'telia Yavon Ishta, or Kick the Goblin, as it is called in the Common tongue?"

Ragnar nodded at Valentre as Caerlin nodded and said, "I will do the best I can, but do you think we should really be splitting up again? I think we have been pushing the favor of Tymora so far, and maybe we should just stay together, the whole 'safety in numbers' thing, you know." She gave a quick smile to the others. "But I think finding Luie should be our first task. Clear out the upper level and then make sure this one is clear, and check to see if they have burrowed under the manor anywhere." She looked at the others to see what they thought.

"I think what Caerlin says has merit, but at the same time I can't help but feel that it would be useful to have a lookout keeping an eye on our exit to warn us if something comes up. Oh," Ragnar said and turned to Valentre with a grin, "complimenting Caerlin's eyes is my duty."

Luie was satisfied that there was nothing else upstairs, so he sneaked backwards facing the two closed doors. Once he arrived at the stair's railing he slid down it to the bottom floor and saw the three dead goblins he pushed down the stairs. He made his way towards the party since they are talking loudly and as he walked he kept an eye peeled in case any of the remaining gobs moved towards him. Ragnar and Val met the hin as the three of them came together in what was once a dinning room.

Luie waved with his free hand. "Fancy meeting you two here. Is everyone well? And what took everyone so long? And I think we should make more noise, I do believe the rest of the manor has not head us." He flashed a grin and then cradled the short spear. He jerked his head towards the base of the stairwell and the three goblin bodies, "Before anyone asks me, they fell down."

"Of course they did Luie, and if we've been heard, so much the better. That should mean that they're hiding in some overturned cupboard by now, trembling at the though of such mighty warriors as us," Ragnar answered the halfling before he spoke even louder. "Not to mention that it'll keep them unaware of the second squad moving in, I just hope the gobbos didn't spot their mage when he was watching the fight."

Caerlin motioned to the mages to come along, and walked into where the other three are, shaking her head. "Well, they definitely know we are here now," she quietly told the bard. "Unless one of them speaks Common, they will have no idea what you said, and chances are that they will have a trap or ambush prepared for us." She continued to watch around the area they are at, and up the stairs as well but she didn’t see anything out of the ordinary.

"Oh yes," Ragnar said with a mortified look and a much lower voice, "I forgot that goblins are not keen linguists. Stlarn."

"It is all right Ragnar, just one little mistake to hold against you for at least a meal or three." Luie waved a hand towards the upper story, "There are three doors upstairs. One door is the room I entered the manor by, as for the other two. I didn't check behind them. So we can finish checking the upstairs and then find the basement or finish checking the ground floor."

"No more than three? I guess that means I'll be forgiven before we've left the room with your pace of eating, then, Luie," Ragnar answered the Tymorian in a whisper.

“Only if you have a portable kitchen,” Luie chuckled.

"Let's do a sweep of the manor before we worry about the cultists. I just hope that it wasn't the cultists who brought the hell hound. That isn't good," Valentre said and he looked around the dilapidated manor. "And Ragnar, I apologize for overstepping my bounds with Caerlin." Valentre smiled and started off.

Luie blinked. “What? Everyone came inside because we are surrounded? Huh?”

The six of them turned and climbed back up the stairs. At the top of the stairs they looked down the hallway and the room that Luie came out of was the only one that had an open door.

Luie fished a coin from a pouch, "Left or right?" With a slight toss the copper coin soared through the air. "Oops," he said as the coin bounced off of his hand and rolled on the ground before it came to rest in front of the farthest door on the right. "Well now. Right it is then."

"After you Luie," Ragnar quietly said as he pulled out one of the daggers that he took from the goblins. "Does anyone have any talent for spotting traps, by the way? I have a little knowledge of how to dismantling them, but I usually need someone to point them out to me first."

"I tend to spot them after I trigger them. Does that count?" Luie remarked.

"I generally can find traps pretty well, and I’m mildly good at disarming them. However, I’m more used to the traps of the woodlands. Ragnar, it's up to you," Valentre said with a nod.

"Drat, I was afraid that you'd say that," Ragnar said with a grimace.

Caerlin smiled at Ragnar and quietly said, "Sorry, I tend to be like Luie in the fact that I find them after the fact." She thought for a bit. “I think maybe that is something I'll look into when we get back to camp."

The archer turned to Luie, "No we weren't surrounded at the time we came in here. I only saw one human male." She described the male human to Luie and continued, "But when we leave, I think utmost caution would be advisable." She turned to the others. "But we may have an element of surprise in that he may think that there are only four of us, as Luie was already inside. I'm fairly sure he didn't see me, but I’m not positive."

"Now, I agree that the mages don't count, Caerlin. But don't you think it’s a bit rude to point that out where they can hear you?" Ragnar said with a wink in the archer's direction before he shrugged and, with a somewhat uncertain smile, walked towards the right door and started to examine it. "Right, everyone keep clear in case they've rigged this with something nasty alchemical stuff that goes boom," he said in a quiet, soft voice. "Oh, and everyone stand somewhere where I can't see you, especially Caerlin. It's real hard to focus on something with those legs moving about at the edge of your sight."

Caerlin looked startled at Ragnar's response. "I never said, nor meant to imply, that anyone doesn't count."

Ragnar mumbled back at Caerlin, "Don't worry Caerlin, I'm sure they're nice enough. It's just that Trips seemed a little too keen on interrogating a goblin. And Ithyria looks a little too much like my aunt for me to be comfortable around her. I keep thinking she's going to sniff and say something nasty about my mother!"

"Cut the idle chatter and get this door open," Valentre said with a smile. "You had better concentrate or they're be none of you left to stare at those legs."

Ragnar answered with a whispered, "I'll have you know that I never stare, I ogle. And now you had better let me examine this door without interruptions, my dear wood elf."

"Don't forget my coin Ragnar." Luie got behind Caerlin’s legs, where he preceded to ogle. He nodded his head, "Hmmm."

Caerlin quietly made a disgusted sound, glared at the two elves and the hin and then stepped around Luie so that her back is to the wall opposite and towards the stairs a bit. She watched the stairs with her bow at the ready to make sure that nothing came up from behind the group.

Luie gave Caerlin a quick grin. "Nice boots," he said with a straight face before he proceeded to watch the other closed door. Caerlin rolled her eyes, shook her head, and continued to watch the stairs.

Ragnar started to examine the door more carefully, prodding it gently in certain places. After checking for a few moments, Ragnar did notice a thin piece of twine that ran from the door to a hole in the wall next to the door. "Right, there's a piece of twine here and it’s most likely some sort of trap. I'll see what I can do about it, right? Or does anyone else feel like having a go at it?"

Caerlin whispered back to Ragnar with a smile, "No thanks, the only go at I would succeed with is setting it off."

"I can try at it if you like," Valentre said. "I’ve had some experience with traps in the past. I'd be willing to give it a go, if you can afford to lose the opportunity to show off."

"You had to put it like that, didn't you?" Ragnar said before he started his attempt at disabling the trap.

A small click could be heard as Ragnar jiggled the twine and as he jumped back a small bolt fired from the wall and plinked off Caerlin’s chain shirt as she flinched, before it dropped to the floor leaving her uninjured.

Ragnar smiled sheepishly at Caerlin, "Erm. Oops?"

"Maybe next time I will just go ahead and try it myself, if I'm going to be hit by it anyway."

Trips had been standing at the very back of the group, taking no notice of the comments about "mages". He seemed to be preoccupied with a lengthy scroll in his hand, which he has been reading ever since the group got to the door.

Caerlin glanced at Trips, "I hope that scroll has something useful for us on it, and not just your research."

Ragnar whipped up his arm, holding one of the daggers that he looted from the dead goblins, ready to throw as he scanned the room behind the door. Once the door was opened, Luie tumbled into the room and through the spear thrust that came from a surprised goblin. The archer continued to keep watch to make sure that nothing came up the stairs and out of the closed door on the other side of the hallway as she waited to get a clear shot at the goblin that tried to hit Luie.

Ragnar threw the dagger that he held ready at the goblin and it entered the goblins chest, causing the goblin to stumble but not die.

Caerlin pulled back her bowstring and launch her arrow as she saw one of the goblins peek around the corner, down the stairs. Before it could pull its head back, her arrow took it through the eye.

As Val advanced to finish off the bleeding goblin, a light surrounded Trips and he was pulled away in a flash of light. Val’s two attacks cut into the last goblin as Caerlin whirled around with a startled curse.

"Well... it seems that his research must have been more important to him after all," she muttered under her breath. In a slightly louder voice she said, "Luie, you alright in there?" She pulled another arrow from her quiver and continued to watch the unopened door and the stairs while she waited for the hin to answer.

"Caerlin, I am just peachy." Luie set aside his spear while he retrieved his copper coin. "Is that all of them?"

Caerlin relaxed a bit, but still held her bow at the ready. "Hmm.... I think that might be all of them, but one never knows. Let’s search this one and the four at the bottom of the stairs, there may be something of importance on them." She turned to Ragnar, "Do you want to have a go at checking the other door? I'll stay here while you do that because there’s no need to tempt Tymora again." She gave the bard a quick smile. "We might also want to do a quick run through the rooms to see if there is anything that may be useful."

"Sounds like a great plan," Valentre said. "Next time allow me to disable to trap, the worst I could do is be as bad as the bard." Valentre nudged Ragnar. "Now, do we think we're going to run into those cultists outside or do we think we've met the only opposition?" he finished as he started to remove the ears from the goblin.

“We were only contract for the goblins and there is a good chance we did the cultist a favor. But we can always leave the same way I came in once we are done taking a look through this place,” the hin commented.

Caerlin poked her head into the room that Luie and Ragnar are in and took a look around. "Hmm... anything interesting in here? Oh, and there's another gob body out on the balcony," she pointed in the general direction. She looked at Luie, "Did we do him a favor.....or did we disrupt his plans?" Caerlin looked around the room again, “Do you think we should turn that banner into the council? It may have some meaning to the family that lived here, if any survived that is." She moved towards the windows and stopped before she could be seen from the outside and looked out one of them. She looked down on the front of the manor and the street that ran along it. To her right is the pile of rubble that blocks the street and to her left the street led back towards civilized Phlan.

"Bah, the cord was slippery and it was purely Beshaba’s luck and nothing else Valentre. But sure, go ahead and take a look at door number two," Ragnar answered the elf with a faint smile. "At least no one got hurt. Well, apart from the goblins at least." He walked over and retrieved the dagger that he threw, wiping the goblin's blood off of it on what it has as clothing. Ragnar examined the goblin's body for valuables, leaving this one's dagger alone. He found fifteen silver pieces, a small brass bell, a silver brooch with a jasper stone, a pouch of dried meat that is half chewed, and a battered death card from a talis deck.

Luie saw that this bedchamber was larger then the one that he entered by, which was to the right. This chamber, like the other, contained a bed along parts of the front and right walls, but it had four wardrobes spaced between the windows along the back wall, a desk, but no chair, along part of the left wall, and purple and green banner that has the image of a spear through Selune woven in the middle of it.

Caerlin entered the room and looked through the three drawers of the desk. Only one of them held anything and the item inside of it is a ten inch by ten inch oaken box. Once she lifted the lid, she saw a plain silver ring and a silver bracer that is etched with roses. Putting away the items she moved to the wardrobes and looked through them. The first contained shreds of rotting dresses. The second feminine pants, shoes, and shirts that were also mostly rotten except f

For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet and excite you... Books are full of the things that you don't get in real life - wonderful, lyrical language, for instance, right off the bat. - Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

Scribe for the Candlekeep Compendium

Edited by - Kuje on 21 May 2006 05:10:51
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Kuje
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Posted - 26 Mar 2006 :  02:36:17  Show Profile Send Kuje a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Day/Month/Year: 3rd day to the 6th day of the 1st tenday of Mirtul in the year 1375 - The Year of Risen Elfkin.
Time: Early Morning
Location: Wilds outside of the mercenary to the mercenary settlement.
Weather: Warm and clear.


After everyone was aboard, the barge was poled away from Phlan and then to the west. They kept shoreline in sight but out in the Moonsea enough that the barge wouldn’t get caught on any obstacles. The Companions slept the first night on deck and it was past dawnfry on the second day when the captain ordered the barge into an outlet so they could disembark and finish the hour ride to the mercenary headquarters.

Once disembarked and on the way to headquarters, Caerlin turned to the others. "Who wants to give the report to the Commander? Should we all go, or just one of us?" She looked around at the nearby landscape that was mostly rolling hills and grasslands. "Must remember to tell her about the hell hound, and the guy who was watching us in the ruins."

"I suppose I can give the report," Ragnar said as he winked at Caerlin, "I bet that you and Luie will want to come and make sure I give a proper report, too. But that's all up to you."

"Works for me," Caerlin said with a smile. She looked over her shoulder at Luie. "Would you like a wood box, or a steel one? I found two boxes at the manor, and you can have one of them if you like. And Ragnar," she turned back to him, "Can you tell if things are magical? I was planning on taking all the things that I found to the mages once we get back, but if you can do it, it will save them and us some time. We should also decide how we are going to divide up what we found as well." She looked between Ragnar and Luie as she continued to smile.

"I'm afraid not," Ragnar answered her. "I'm really good at figuring out the right direction, though. Might I suggest that we go see the mages first?”

“All right we can see the mages first then. Do we still have that banner?” Luie started to rummage through the saddlebags as he rode on Caerlin’s horse, but behind her.

Once they rode into the settlement, they stabled their horses and headed towards the tower to get their loot detected for magic. Caerlin turned to the group. "We should probably give the Commander our report first. I don't want to get in trouble after our first mission." She gave a quick smile, and handed Luie some rothe jerky, "I don't want you to pass out from hunger in front of the Commander, since you haven't had your morning meal." She winked as she chuckled.

“That is an excellent idea; I would of never to have thought to finish off all of your rations. As for seeing the Commander first, once again you are correct, we should not keep her waiting.” Luie ripped off a piece of jerky and his mouth quivered as he savored the taste. “Oh this is horrible.” He took another bite. “But horrible in a good way. Gereth, you might want to hand your jerky over too. You do not want to eat this oh so delicious... err bad tack.” The hin chuckled with a full mouth.

"Hand it over Gereth, he might bite." Ragnar grinned at the barbarian as he followed everyone into the Commander's office.

She sat behind her desk and frowned down at a scroll before she rolled it up and set it aside as the four companions entered. “Good, I see that the barbarian found you. I was worried that he might not be able to find you.”

Caerlin bowed to the Commander. "Well met Commander Aurythe. Yes, Gereth was able to find us, or we him," she said with a smile as Aurthye smiled in return. "We decided to come and quickly give you a verbal report of our findings, and we will have a written one for you as soon as we can flesh out the outline I have so far." She stepped back to let Ragnar give the report.

Ragnar gave the Commander a bow before he lunged into his report. "It was a fair morning when our intrepid company set forth upon the road to Phlan. The way there was largely uneventful, unless one counts the spotting of a fiendish canine creature with fire rising from its pelt, which Sanidine told us was a hell hound. While seeing such a creature did intrigue us, we kept our efforts to the task we'd been given and ignored it, seeing as it didn't do anything to hinder us in our travel.

"Once we'd reached the gates of the city we split up, with Sanidine and Valentre scouting ahead, whilst me, Caerlin, and Luie continued at a slower pace through the city. I stopped at an inn to enquire about the possible cult activity in the ruins, but since I had very little information, I was unable to learn anything.

"We later met up outside the gates, also meeting the second mage, Trips, whom I understand you had sent to align himself with us, into Old Phlan and proceeded to assault the goblin-infested house. This was done in the fashion that I valiantly created a diversion to um... divert the guards in front, whilst Luie and Valentre attacked from the rear, and Caerlin and the spellsingers provided ranged backup.

"This strategy worked without any fuss, though Caerlin spotted what we assume to be one of the cultists watching us. Judging by the mark on his clothes, which Caerlin has made a sketch of," he gestured for Caerlin to show it. "I think they may be Kossuthans.

"Once into the building we made short work of the remaining gobbos, despite Trips' sudden, and quite flashy disappearance as we were breaching a locked door, discovering a hidden cache of some quite fine weapons, armors," he demonstrated his point by pulling out his cutlass and placing it on the Commander's desk," and other items which we intend to let the mages in the tower take a look at once we've left our report.

"It was at this point that Valentre and Sanidine left us. Would it be out of order to inquire what task they have been give, Commander?

"Once we were certain we could make our way out of the manor without being assaulted by cultists, we made our way back to Civilized Phlan, meeting Gereth at the gates, thereafter reporting the events in the ruins to the City Council, and then securing passage back to the settlement." Ragnar turned to look at the others, "Does anyone have anything to add?"

“Sorry, at this time I can’t discuss why I sent them to Baldur’s Gate but I might be able to give you an answer in a month or so.”

Caerlin smiled with a slightly bemused expression. "Other than that the same man that I saw in the ruins was standing behind one of the councilwomen, I don't think so." She pulled the grey leather bound book out of her backpack. "We found this in the desk of the library in the manor house. None of us can read the language on the cover, so we brought it with us," She handed it to Commander Aurythe, "Mayhap you can?"

“Not I but take it to the tower and see if they can figure it out. It’ll give all of you something to do on your days off while we finish getting the caravan ready to head out.”

Caerlin inclined her head to the Commander. "How long until the caravan is ready to leave for Shadowdale? And is there someone here that could teach me how to find and disable traps? Granted we only ran into one or two, this time," she puts some emphasis on the last two words. "But I would like to be able to find them before I set them off," she added with a smile.

“I can always set them off for you. If you don’t mind waiting a few days for me to heal,” Luie commented.

Caerlin chuckled and looked at Luie before she winked. "Thanks for the offer, but I think it would be better if we found them without anyone having to set them off."

“But... but... that would take the enjoyment out of things.” The halfling chuckled.

“Ah yes, that reminds me,” Ragnar said. “Perhaps we should consider having someone set some traps in the manor and that would make sure that the things we left in it will still be there if we return. Now... are we off the see the wizards yet?”

After she watched the exchange between the Company with amusement and a smile, the Commander answered Caerlin. “It’ll leave after dawnfry on the sixth day and Reyalone is the best traps finder we have. Usually he’s not far from the archery range and he has a small tent set up against the wall of the mercenary building.”

Caerlin bows respectfully and said, "If there is nothing else, Commander?"

“Aye, go enjoy yourselves! Oh, and you don’t have to bow to me. I’m not a noble nor am I queen or any such nonsense. So, no more bowing!”

Caerlin smiled at the Commander. "Aye, I will try to remember that. Do you have any idea what the symbol on the man's robes mean, or should we ask the users at the Art?"

“I believe that they are followers of fire but I’m not sure and I will admit I don’t know much about that faith.”

Caerlin turned to the others, "Alright to the tower and then to get something for highsunfest?"

They learned that the book is written in low Netherese and it is about the fall of that once thriving nation. There is one spell in the back that allows nonliving objects to be preserved.

***********************************************************************

Ragnar lounged around the settlement and practiced his fencing, and, much to Luie's dismay, his singing.

Luie joined Ragnar in weapons practice and he started with his forms and stances before he followed up by practicing with his newly acquired hand-ax. Luie moved off to the range where he tested the good balance by throwing the hand-ax against some of the dummies. The hin entered the bathing room in the building where the mercenaries lived and he washed off his sweat and black soot before he left the settlement and camped not far from it where he could fast and mediate for the first day.

On the second day Luie discussed the caravan with the mercenaries and he learned that the ten wagons would head west for two days and then swing south until they reached the shore of the Moonsea. They would be loaded onto barges that would spend six days crossing the Moonsea before being unloaded on the southern shore before heading south across the northern Dales for another tenday or longer before reaching Shadowdale.

Caerlin trained with the male human in how to find and disable traps as well as how to open locks. She practiced her archery and spared with some of the others that use blades. Caerlin requested more arrow blanks and feathers from the quartermaster and once she had what she needed, she sat in the tavern with the others. While she was there, she traded the chainmail for a set of masterwork thieves tools.

Luie and Ragnar stopped by the range after Caerlin finished one of her lessons and the three of them discussed what they found in Phlan with her mentor. Once they were done, he agreed to take a user of the Art with him and the two of them would set some traps around the ruined manor.

"So who wants what out of what we found? Which one of the boxes do you want Luie?" she added with a smile as she started to work on one of the blanks with concentration but she knew she could make this one easily.

“The music box might have a decent tune once it is fixed but I think Ragnar would enjoy it more than I. How about the steel box? Unless Ragnar wants to describe everything to me?” Luie gave a brief grin. “And an always burning candle could be handy for anyone. As for this chariot thingy, err... I am not real good with horses.” Luie reached for a feather to examine, “I was raised in a monastery and I really do not need much. I just need some food, some shelter, a fire, even more fire, and a bard that tells bad jokes.”

"I've nothing against taking the music-box. And I'm not very good with horses, either, I'm afraid - perhaps we should exchange it at the tower for something else? I can get a healing potion there as well. Or do you want it Caerlin?" Ragnar started picking his finger-nails with one of the arrow-blanks. "As for the rest, I wouldn't mind the gargoyle figurine, or any loose gems we found." A twinkle lit up his eyes. "And I'll try to lower the quality of my jokes, Luie. You know what? When we get back from the caravan, perhaps you should talk a bit about how nice fires are in one of the inns in Phlan."

Caerlin nodded and chuckled. "Very well, the steel box it is. Do we want to keep some of it aside for a just in case party fund? Should we tell the mages about all the books that we found in the manor? They might find some of them interesting, or helpful for research. I would hate for all that knowledge to be destroyed by the ignorant gobbos and the other beasties that inhabit the ruins."

“Consider the box yours then. Mmmm… fire... It almost makes me hungry. We should store some away for a rainy day. It would not hurt to inform the mages about the hidden library and give them the keys to unlock it. They will be able to handle everything, maybe even magically trap it. Is there any information about the banner?” Luie stuck the feather through his tunic.

"I'd suggest that we go back with a few pack-horses and with one of the casters and carry away as much of it as possible. For all we know there might be something valuable among them. Oh, and I think I'll bring the scepter to Shadowdale because there's a pretty famous bard who lives there and perhaps she know more about it.”

Caerlin nodded as she finished making five more arrows out of the eight she hoped to make. "That sounds like a good plan, as long as we get back in time for the caravan. I bet that the blacksmith or the quartermaster will have some new door knobs and locks that we can purchase to replace the old one and that way we will actually have a key. I was going to suggest a wagon, but the pack horses will be much faster." She then got a mischievous grin as she finished her arrow, "Unless we can get one or more of the mages to teleport us there and back."

As the ever shifting Company of the Silver Wyrm was about to set out with the caravan, Auyeau joined them after she had a small conference with the Commander. This strange being has been at the settlement since it was founded and Auyeau spent most of her time helping the mercenaries relax by giving massages and pleasure since she is a cleric of Sharess. This pinked haired, green eyed, and paled skinned being has been gossiped about a lot since the mercenaries aren’t sure if she is male and female since her physical appearance contains both masculine and feminine features. However, everyone that has enjoyed her pleasure knows that Auyeau has female genitalia even though she has a masculine and feminine appearance.

Ragnar looked at the strange-looking person that joined them and a frown of confusion creased his forehead as he attempted to ascertain exactly what she was. However, his look didn’t take away from the warm smile that he gave her. "Greetings..." he started. "Are you the one that the Commander has sent to replace..." He turned to Caerlin and Luie, "Who is it that's being replaced this time? I've lost track."

Caerlin thought about Ragnar’s question for a bit before she answered, "I’m not sure this time Ragnar." She turned to the newcomer, "Well met, I’m Caerlin, and these two are Ragnar," she pointed at the bard "and Luie," she finished as she pointed at the halfling.

Ragnar winked to Caerlin. "Decent presentation Caerlin. The gestures were good, but the speech lacked a certain flair."

Caerlin stuck her tongue out at Ragnar as Auyeau smiled lightly as she watched Ragnar with her green eyes before she giggled but her giggle was quickly muted as she covered her mouth with her hand. "Sorry, so the rumors are true about this troupe and its high rotation rate? Aye, I’m someone's replacement I guess. Well met to you Caerlin, Ragnar, and Luie. If you haven’t heard, I’m Auyeau, a priestess of Sharess."

Caerlin smiled at Auyeau. "Welcome to our Company. Yes, we seem to have a high rate of replacements, but I’m not sure why." She shrugged before she got a mischievous look. "It’s probably Ragnar's fault."

Luie nudged Ragnar. “I knew it had to be your screeching voice. Stick to instruments.”

Ragnar grinned at the halfling. “Hey, they all left before I started singing. And you try fencing with a flute stuck up your mouth.”

Seeing that the newcomer has finally joined the Silver Wyrm’s, the driver cracked her whip and the caravan set off. Four other mercenaries, from a different Company, took positions around the front and middle wagons, which left the Silver Wyrm’s guarding the rest of the middle wagons as well as the back wagons.

Luie found a comfortable spot on the last wagon. He let his feet dangle over the sides while he kept an eye out on the horizon. Caerlin picked a spot near the middle of the caravan and she rode with her bow across her thigh. Ragnar placed himself between Caerlin and Luie but on the other side of the wagons from Caerlin. It was Caerlin that noticed and heard the three males that were hiding in the brush about sixty feet to the left.

Caerlin called out a warning about the three men as she nocked an arrow. She didn’t raise her bow as she continued to watch them but she was ready to fire if they try to attack.

Luie’s fascination with the clouds ended as Caerlins’ warning cut through the morning air. He snapped to attention before he scrambled on top of the wagon and scanned for her and once he spotted her, he took his cue from her body movement. He removed his ‘belt’ while he reached into a small pouch as he frowned. Instead of a smooth sling bullet he discovered a nice coin... and it felt like a gold one. As he fingered the coin, he thought, “Retrieve bullet pouch from backpack.” In a few breaths a whirring noise emitted from his sling as he started to wind it above his head.

The three ruffians soon fell back into the brush, since they decided that there were too many guards to try to take on. The rest of the day passed without incident until eveningfest when the sound of a horn rolled out from the south. Those from the North realized that it sounded like an orc horn.

Luie held onto his eveningfest in one hand while his other hand rubbed the back of his head before he pulled out his sling bullets and pocketed them. “It isn’t fair. Not fair at all. This horrible luck having an orc raiding party interrupt our meal.” Luie tucked the meal to his chest and his free hand formed a fist and he started to shake it towards the heavens. As his face contorted in fake rage, he silently screamed, “Beshaba!!” and he heard a dark snicker in response.

Caerlin looked up at the sound of the horn and she moved into a position in which she has a good view to the south and across the open grasslands that had sparse trees, bushes, and other vegetation, that was still partly lit from the setting sun. For now she couldn’t spot the orcs since it sounded like they were a couple of miles away. Caerlin turned and looked to the north and across more of the grasslands but there was nothing in that direction.

Luie moved nearer to Caerlin as he ate some bread. “How many do you think they are?” He continued to eat the bread. “Have they seen us or are they moving against someone else, you think?” He offered her some of the bread.

Caerlin accepted the bread from Luie with a smile. "I’m not sure how many there are but we should keep a close eye out for them, in all directions."

Ragnar moved closer to where Caerlin and Luie are. “Do you think they’d mind if I told them that their horn is a bit off-key? Hmm... Can I have some bread too?” Ragnar scanned the camp’s southern perimeter and the guards that have moved into place to protect the wagons that have been formed into a circle in the middle of the camp.

"That’s an annoying horn," came Auyeau’s soft voice from behind the party as she moved into view since she vanished for the better part of the day after the Company was introduced to each other. "Sorry about vanishing for so long after saying well met to each other but I got occupied. There’s no rest for the naughty, they say." She smiled as she stood there in her light gown. "I heard that you saw some human’s in the bush, but they were scared off."

Caerlin smiled back at Auyeau. "Well met again Auyeau. Earlier this day I saw three humans in the brush, but they didn't come forward to say well met." She added a wicked grin as she said that.

As the horns sounded again, closer this time, four orcs and the three humans that they saw earlier could be seen running forward to attack the camp. The humans now are wearing different clothing and a large Z can be seen on their tabards. As for the orcs, they seem physically different then their northern cousins but it seems that they have the same temperament, since they are attacking.

The leader of the other Company issued orders to his mercenaries to provide ranged fire against the attacks, leaving the Silver Wyrm’s to decide on how they want to get involved.

"Well met again indeed Auyeau," Ragnar said as he dismounted and loaded the crossbow that he's been carrying on his back. "Does anyone have any particular preferences as to how they want to fight those tuskers? They seem to be coming on quite fast, so we'd better decide quickly. My suggestion would be for me and Caerlin to provide ranged backup, whilst Luie takes them on up close. I'd have included Auyeau in the front-group as well, but she or he,” he cleared his throat,” seems a bit lightly dressed, so perhaps she or he should get some armor on and watch Caerlin's and my backs if these bandits manage to reach the caravan?"

"Oh, am I?" Auyeau looked down at the light gown that hung against her lightly pale flesh. "Hmm, for this I guess you are right." She shrugged. "I don't have the time to get in a more proper dress for this, so this will have to do!" She smiled as she winked at Ragnar and offered a small prayer to Sharess for protection against the attackers and as the priestess of Sharess finished her prayer, a light shimmering is seen around her as she is shielded by her deities’ divine magic.

Caerlin nocked back an arrow and took careful aim at the closest of the attackers. "Looks like they are moving against us Luie," she said with a slight smile. "Your plan sounds fine with me Ragnar," she finished as she released her arrow and after she watched it enter one of the orcs, she moved behind one of the wagons since it offered her some cover.

"Ah, yes once again the brave halfling shall charge forth bravely into battle. As soon as I climb upon this wagon to see if anyone else is charging from behind us." Luie ascended the wagon in a spider like fashion and he quickly swept his gaze across the caravan to make sure that no other orcs are attacking from the rear. Once he saw that it was clear, he ran off to engage the closest opponents without getting shot at by his own fellows.

”Do you think he’ll rage like a barbarian if we shout that they’re heading for the food-supplies?” Ragnar commented.

Auyeau pulled out her claws and quickly strapping them on so that she can be ready to defend and watch the backs of her companions.

"Normally I dislike combat, but since you asked me to watch your backs I think I can manage," her velvet voice could be hear as she said that in a playful tone. "Though normally people are watching mine!" She moved closer to the two she has been assigned to watch and she kept an eye on the bandits if they get past the front lines.

”Somehow that doesn’t surprise me,” Ragnar told her before he took careful aim and let a crossbow bolt fly toward the second closest orc and the bolt entered the orc’s arm as the arrow pierced through it’s armor. “And I’d be happy to oblige in that department if I didn’t fear it might ruin two days worth of winking at Caerlin.”

Caerlin shook her head in Ragnar's direction before she aim at the tusker that she wounded with her first shot and fired again. However, this time her aim was off just enough that it blocked her attack with its weapon.

Luie engaged the orc that is carrying a familiar looking fletched arrow in its body. He attacked near the wound by grabbing onto the arrow and drove it deeper into the orc’s body. As he was distracted with this orc, one of the others swung its short blade into the hin and a minor wound could be seen blooming on Luie’s arm. Ragnar fired a second bolt toward the orc that he's already injured but this time the orc’s armor kept the orc from taking any harm even though a bolt now stuck out of the orc’s armor.

Auy readied herself, seeing as how the orcs would be upon her soon enough. She took slightly distracting pose as she watched the orcs advanced towards her.

The orcs were now close enough that ranged weapons would be hindrance while melee weapons would cause more harm.

Caerlin dropped her bow and drew her sword as she stepped to the second orc that is attacking Luie. As her blade slashed into it, her blade cut deeply into it, ripping apart most of its chest and the body dropped to the ground.

The priestess of Sharess knew that she wasn’t that good at hand to hand fighting and so she decided to use everything at her disposal to try and tip the odds in her favor but she just wasn’t used to fighting rampaging orcs. "Oh, ruin two days of winking, my, my, we can't have all that time go to waste!"

“Quite right," Ragnar said as he dropped his crossbow and pulled out his cutlass. He looked around and stepped toward an orc before he swung and tried to skewer it.

Luie shook his wounded arm while he made an “ouch” face. The hin shook off his pain and tried to attempt to side-kick the orc that has an arrow in it but the halfling just stubbed his foot on the orcs chest and afterward the hin started to hop up and down on one foot from the pain.

Out of the blue, a different halfling rushed to help defend the four that are taking on the three orcs after he saw that the orcs were trying to kill the four members, except the orcs couldn’t hit that well.

When the orc that Caerlin attacked fell to the ground, she moved to the one that Luie kept trying to kick and she slashed into it and caused a second orc to meet their deity. She gave the new hin a quick look and said, "Well met,” before she said something to the orcs in their grunting and snorting language.

Auy glanced over at the new hin before the priestess turned her attention back to the orc in front of her. She frowned as she thought about what she would rather been doing but no, these nasty things decided to attack and ruin the peaceful evening. "I covered your back, boys, now that you know they are here, want lend a hand? I'm not the best at this sort of thing!" She lashed out with her claws at one of the two orcs that remain. This time her claws cut across the orc and left five marks in it’s now bleeding chest.

Moving in from the orc’s side, Ragnar attempted to thrust his cutlass through the orc's throat but his aim was off as he watched Luie fall onto his back before the hin tumbled towards the priestess, and unloaded two attacks on the orc that shattered its ribcage.

“Well met indeed, my fair lady', answered Sir William Ashford. “Please allow me to help you get rid off these most annoying stinkees.” After he blended in with the shadows, he positioned himself to the back of the last orc and Sir William slid his rapier into it before he pulled it out and wiped it clean on the body of a dead orc. As he did he mumbled, “Oh, how I hate this bloody fighting.”

The halfling glanced around, and William realized that his first introductions were too hasty, due to the battle with the orcs. He looked at the other mercenaries and said “It’s time for proper introductions, please allow me to re-introduce myself.” He bowed and swung out his cape. “Well met fellow mercenaries, my name is Sir William Ashford the Third,” he finished as he moved from one to the other and shook their hands or greeted them.

"Well met Sir Ashford. If you don't mind I will pass on the hand shake. And I will let our singing bard take care of the introductions while I go find some clean cloth." Luie almost winked at Ragnar but he thought better of it because he did not want to call any attention to Ragnars’ eye twitching disorder.

As Caerlin cleaned her sword, she says to the new hin, "Aye, unless you want more orc blood on you, I think I'll pass on the handshake as well." She gave him a slight smile to take some of the sting out of her words before she picked up her bow and slung it over her shoulder.

“Well, there’s no blood on my hands I’m afraid,” Ragnar said and then held a hand down for William. “I’m Ragnar ‘Swifttongued’ Braelithar, out of Waterdeep Dock Ward, and former apprentice to Luko Starlingvoice. Your fellow hin is called Luie, I do hope you’ve a smaller stomach than him or we’ll have to spend all our earnings on food. The brown-haired less with the bow and the northern accent is called Caerlin, and the mysterious lady with the claws is Auyeau, a priestess of Sharess.” He looked down imploringly at William, “Sir... and the Third... Please tell me you're not a noble?”

"You got out of it lucky then Ragnar!" The priestess commented as she looked down at her hands and then at her gown. "At least my faith protected me and this dress!" She took her claws off slowly and she wondered why Sharess prefers such weapons that make her followers get close to their enemy. However, then the priestess remembered that Sharess is mostly interested in cats as well and the claws make most sense.

"The Lord of Song stood by me, I guess," Ragnar said to Auy with a light shrug of his shoulders, before he went quiet as she turned her attention onto Sir William.

"What? A noble is traveling with us? Now that would be interesting if it is true." She smiled down at the hin as she looked him over for the first time because she was busy earlier with some big mean orc. "Ah, yes, you. I believe you made a pass at introducing yourself while we fought those raiders? When did you join us? I was sure I'd met everyone in this company at one point or another." She winked playfully at Sir William.

“I’ve only been in the company for about a month and I do believe that I will be traveling with all of you for awhile because Commander Aurythe put me in this unit as of last night. In fact, she sent me here to check up on all of you.” Sir William turned and looked at Ragnar. “You mentioned food? Is it the after eveningfest meal already?”

Seeing the group of five together, finally, a large burly man stepped across the camp and the closer he stepped, the larger he seemed to get.

Noticing a shadow descending over him; Luie got a quizzical expression on his face. “Did a bunch of dwarves just erect a wall behind me?”

The human stood just a couple of inches short of seven feet, and he has broad-shoulders, a thick-neck, and a barrel-chest. His body seemed a solid mass of muscle, which was the result of years spent at some faraway forge. It seemed that he was well past his thirtieth summer, but his exact age was impossible to tell. While the left side of his face was lined with the wear of decades of smiles and frowns, the right side was horribly scarred and it was a mass of red and twisted flesh from some long-ago burn. He wore a breastplate that was expertly fitted to his great size and it was still covered in trail dust. A leather sash stretched over his breastplate and it was marked him as a follower of Gond.

The huge man raised a hand in greeting. "Ho the company," he called out, his voice low and rumbling like the roll of gravel that signaled a landslide. "I'm called Addoc, servant of the Smithlord. If you be those of the Silver Wyrm, I've been instructed to join your company for a time."

Luie turned around to greet the Gondsman’s right shin. ”Well met Addoc,” the hin arched an eyebrow, “Are all humans from wherever you are from as tall as you?”

Caerlin covered her laugh with a cough before she looked herself over to remind Luie that she is not that tall for a human.

Ragnar looked up at the Gondsman and the bard greeted him with a smile and a, "My... you're a big one, aren't you?"

Luie nudged Ragnar. “I think that was supposed to be Auy’s line,” he whispered just loud enough to be heard by everyone within an arrow’s flight. Luie faced Caerlin before he stood on his tip toes and craned his neck up to look at her. "What?" he asked as he stared at her neck.

At Luie's display, Caerlin's composure broke and she started to laugh, in a low mellow tone. "Alright my friend, you win the day," she said between her laughs before she bowed to Luie. "Aye, we are the Company of the Silver Wyrm. Well met Addoc." She then turned to look at the wound on Luie's arm and she saw that it was a deep cut that was still leaking blood.

Ragnar grinned and gave Caerlin a wistful look. "Aww... does that mean you won't be doing any of that prancing, Caerly?" He realized that no one has replied to Addoc's introduction and the bard stood up, making the most of his slightly more than five feet of height as he craned his neck backwards to look up at the tall man's chest before he stretched out a hand in greeting.

"Greetings to you as well Addoc. I'm Ragnar of the Wistful Flue, and this is Luie the Chestthumper, Caerlin of the Flying Arrows, Sir William Ashford the Third, two hundred and thirty-ninth in line to the throne of Mulmaster, unless I'm lying at the speed of a galloping horse, and Lady Auyeau of the Sharp Claws, a priestess of Sharess. Hmm... Did I forget anyone? We've had such a turnover of group-members lately it's hard to keep track of everyone."

Having been studying the tall and attractive male, Auy didn’t say much until her head snapped up and she turned to face Ragnar. "Of the Sharp Claws you say?" She shook her head and laughed before she smiled up at the tall male. "The hin does have a point, you are quite, impressive. Though there is nothing wrong with being big and tall. And Auyeau will do, none of this sharp claws stuff!

“Aye, the turn-over rate of this Unit has me a bit worried. Is it just Beshaba’s luck or do you scare everyone off?" the barely dressed priestess asked in a playful tone. "Oh well, you are stuck with me for a bit I'm afraid, unless Sharess instructs me that my services are needed elsewhere.”

"I think it's the way Luie starts eyeing people once his food rations have run out. It can be very disconcerting, I must say," Ragnor quipped.

After the introductions, William looked around but there was no more traces of any more orcs or humans and the other mercenaries were stripping the corpses of the human Zhentarim of their items. Caerlin also helped in the searching of the bodies and all she found was the mostly leather armor on the humans, the short blades, the clubs from the orcs, and five gold pieces from around the Moonsea.

Addoc took the introductions in stride and he nodded silently as each party member was introduced. He gave a rumbling polite chuckle at the jests at his expense. Otherwise, he said nothing as he brought his gear over to the Company's camp and bedded down with them, but not before he took quite a bit of time to perform general maintenance on his equipment.

Luie wandered off and cleaned his wound as he said, “Better my arm than my neck.” He returned to the camp with a bandaged arm and he tried to encourage Ragnar to tell some stories or sing some songs.

Ragnar obliged Luie by playing several well-known Tethyrian songs on his flute, before the bard headed off to his bedroll. The halfling bedded down for the night after a brief prayer to Tymora. After Auy cleaned her deity's weapon and part of her gown she smiled at the group before she turned and tended to some of the members of the mercenary company.

The rest of the night passed without incident except for the small shadow that flew over the camp during the night. It was too small to be a dragon but to large to be an animal or night creature. All that anyone could tell about it was that it looked like it had stone, or grainy, flesh.

For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet and excite you... Books are full of the things that you don't get in real life - wonderful, lyrical language, for instance, right off the bat. - Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

Scribe for the Candlekeep Compendium

Edited by - Kuje on 21 May 2006 05:18:58
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Kuje
Great Reader

USA
7915 Posts

Posted - 26 Mar 2006 :  02:44:51  Show Profile Send Kuje a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Day/Month/Year: 7th day of the 1st tenday of Mirtul in the year 1375 - The Year of Risen Elfkin.
Time: Early Morning to Evening
Location: Wilds outside of the mercenary settlement on the way to Shadowdale
Weather: Above Average and Overcast


Luie checked on the wound to see that it has stopped bleeding but he still got a fresh bandage after he woke. Once the bandage was secured he had a quick breakfast as he enjoyed the sunrise while drinking a cup of tea.

Auyaeu could be seen coming out of one of the wagons and this time she was dressed in her tight fitting fighting leathers.

After Caerlin woke at first light she checked the camp and saw that all was well. She took her symbol and sat under a tree as she prayed to Mielikki for guidance of her arrows and path. After her prayers, she joined her companions for dawnfry. As she sat down she greeted each one with a smile and then looked up at the sky. "A bit overcast this morning," she stated to no one in particular, "it’ll be cooler traveling this day."

Luies’ voice sprang up from behind her, “You believe so?”

Caerlin turned to Luie and smiled. "Well, one can hope."

Having woken slightly later than Caerlin, Ragnar meticulously shaved off the few tiny beard-hairs that had grown out during the past day before he joined the group. "Sounds good to me, I don't like it too warm. Anyone got something other than bread at the moment?"

“All I have is a cup of tea,” Luie held the wooden cup up, displaying a fresh bandage. ”Would you like some?”

After waking up, William immediately started going through his backpack and removed some bread. “Ah, that fighting yesterday gave me an appetite.”

Luie patted his stomach before he sipped some more tea. “Bill, I am always hungry.”

The Gondsman woke with the dawn before he went about preparations for the day as he murmured prayers to his god. "My ol' da' always said that every group of soldiers had one who could whip up a feast with a great helm, a scrawny rabbit, and an old boot," the giant rumbled, pulling a slab of jerky from a wrapped package stamped with the Aurora's logo. "Have ye not requisitioned yours yet?"

“I already ate Ragnar’s boot,” Luie replied.

"Aye," Addoc rumbled around a jawful of jerky. "That's as may be, but had you one of those lads, you'd have at least had some type of sauce to go with it."

"I had no sauce but I did soak it in last night’s stew, which made it soft and chewy."

Ragnar looked down at his feet with a forlorn look before he sighed. “Aye, and those were genuine fake dragonskin boots. Has anyone asked the caravan master if she needs someone to scout out the road ahead?”

Auy slunk into camp and stood behind Ragnar before she purred out in her oddly velvet voice, which is a bit softer than the tone of voice that everyone has heard her use. "Good morning all, did everyone have a nice relaxing evening, once those pesky raiders left, that is. And why did you feel the need to eat his lovely dragonskin boots? Was the cook that bad?”

She slipped around the group and sat next to the tall human before she smiled up at him. "I hope that this seat wasn't taken... Hmm, so did you become that great cook who could whip up a lovely feast with such meager supplies?"

Caerlin started to chuckle as she enjoyed the antics of her companions.

"Not me," Addoc grumbled as he stuffed the last of the jerky in his mouth. "If my ol' mam didn't make it, and I couldn't buy it from a tavern or cart-caller, it didn't get 'et."

Once the meal was finished, the wagons were hitched and the mercenaries set out towards the west for another day of walking or riding. Caerlin spent the day speaking with members of the other Units and the slightly middle-aged female caravan master. Caerlin learned that the Dale is ruled over by Lord Mourngrym Amcathra and his wife, Shaerl Amcathra. The caravan will be in the Dale proper for four days to restock before heading back to the mercenary settlement. It is guarded by some paid troops paid for by the Lord and Lady but when war comes to the Dale, it has a citizen militia. Mostly it is just a farming settlement with a few adventuring bands that call it home. One group that she hears of is the Knights of Myth Drannor, which also sometimes guard that ruin. Another group she hears mentioned is Mane’s Band.

Caerlin also joined Miesker as the male half-wood elf moved through the open grasslands with the female human following his path and the two of them learned from each other as Caerlin asked questions.

Luie mingled among the three or four other Units and he listened to the gossip. A lot of it, it seemed, was about the Commander and he heard that she may, or may not, have been exiled from a Church on the Sword Coast for some heretic views or a liason between her and one of the leaders of the Flaming Fist of Baldur’s Gate. One of others, who is a male human, who claims to been with the mercenary company the longest, claims that she was a lover of Duke Eltan but they had a argument and she left the city.

Unlike yesterday, they had no encounters and the trip was peaceful but like yesterday, they soon made camp a few hours before the sun set.

Addoc's routine was much the same as the evening before – after he doffed his armor and brushed down his equally large horse, he checked all his equipment thoroughly, brushing away all the trail dust and checking the straps on his armor and shield, tightening the bindings on the warhammer he carried.

Once he was finally finished, he turned to the company. "If you've got any gear you want looked at," he rumbled, "I've some time before the light gets too bad. “Best to keep both blade and mind sharp, but yer mind will do in a pinch,' as my ol' da' used to say."

Caerlin looked up and smiled. "Thank you Addoc, I think I will take you up on that." She drew her longsword and handed it to him, hilt first. "It shouldn't be too bad, but it never hurts to check." She sat down, pulled her two daggers and laid them on her lap until Addoc is ready for them. She then started to check over her longbow, and her arrow supply and she saw the bow was fine but a few of her arrows could be replaced or refeathered. Caerlin got up and set her daggers on her seat before she slung her bow over her shoulder and picked up her backpack. When she returned, she retrieved her toolkit from her pack and began to re-feather the arrows. About an hour later she was satisfied that her arrows would fly straighter now that the feathers have been replaced.

“Well”, Sir William said, “If it’s no problem, please check mine too.” He handed over, hilt first, his rapier to Addoc.

Addoc performed maintenance on the party's weapons that were given to him. The giant squinted down the blade, eying its edge and checking for nicks before he settled down with a whetstone. As he carefully worked the edge to razor sharpness, Addoc rumbled, almost off-handedly "So, Caerlin, yer folk from Silverymoon or thereabouts, then?"

Caerlin looked up from working on her arrows, and raised an eyebrow at Addoc. "Aye, my father has a small farm on the edge of the Moonwood. What made you ask?"

The giant held Caerlin's blade in front of him with the blade pointing toward the sky. "That's the mark of Alyndriel, a smith thereabouts," he said, using one huge finger to indicate a mark on the blade near the cross-guard. "Does fine work from what I've seen of it. Of course, you'd have to be sure of yer craft t'use the unicorn hoof as yer mark anywhere that close to Luruar."

Caerlin smiled at Addoc's comments. "Well, that's interesting information, since I only acquired that blade less than a tenday ago. We found it in one of the ruins in Phlan."

The Gondsman nodded, his forehead wrinkling in thought. "It took quite a time of it getting back to the hands of a countryman, then. Some things got to do everything the hard way."

"Aye, some things do," Caer replied as she continued to smile.

For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet and excite you... Books are full of the things that you don't get in real life - wonderful, lyrical language, for instance, right off the bat. - Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

Scribe for the Candlekeep Compendium

Edited by - Kuje on 21 May 2006 05:20:55
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Kuje
Great Reader

USA
7915 Posts

Posted - 08 Apr 2006 :  01:06:19  Show Profile Send Kuje a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Day/Month/Year: 8th day of the 1st tenday of Mirtul in the year 1375 - The Year of Risen Elfkin.
Time: Early Morning to Evening
Location: Wilds outside of the mercenary settlement on the way to Shadowdale
Weather: Temperate and slightly overcast.


After having dawnfry again, the caravan headed towards their destination for another day. About midday, the ground around the last wagon erupted and eight medium-sized skeletons pulled themselves from the ground.

Seeing the undead crawl out of the ground, Ragnar grabbed his flute and he started playing an inspirational tune on it.

As she saw the skeletons erupt out of the ground, Caerlin dismounted from her horse and pulled her longsword before she moved towards them, and slashed at the one that is closest to her but her aim was off just a fraction and it passed through the chest cavity instead of hitting bone.

The attacks of four skeletons were absorbed by Caerlin’s armor and another two attacks were blocked or missed at the undead attacked the other members of the Unit. However, the claws of a seventh skeleton dug deep into Caerlin’s armor and into her body while the claws of the eighth skeleton dug two of its fingers into Luie’s leg, giving him a minor wound.

With a roar like thunder, the Gondsman pulled his gear-shaped holy symbol from its pouch and slipped from his horse. "By the will of the Wonderbringer," he intoned, charging towards the undead with his hammer in one hand and his god's symbol in the other, "let the dark bindings that have made you be undone!" As he moved forward, he felt Gond’s power flow into him as well as a little energy from the positive energy plane and it lightly harmed the skeletons.

Seeing the undead sprout forth from the very ground, William drew his rapier and blended into the shadows. He moved closer to Caerlin and planted his blade into one of the skeletons, making it stagger and almost return to its bone parts.

Catching Caerlin’s problem out of the corner of his eye, Luie yelled, "Use the flat of your blade or bash them with the pommel!" He was worried that she was swarmed by four of the foul things and he ignored the pain in his leg to go to her aid. He made a feint to the left before he darted between the legs of the skeleton that harmed him and he started to distract the skeletons around Caerlin.

"Ah good, well, no not really. What I mean is that at least I didn't squeeze into this leather armor for naught!" the priestess said with a dry laugh as she shook her head. "That reminds me," she reached up and began to pad herself down. Her movements were fast at first and then as she slowed down, she smiled obviously enjoying herself. "Now where did I place that?" After a moment of fondl... err, searching, the female produced her holy symbol and directed it at the undead as she channeled positive and divine energy towards them, which made all eight of them shatter into fragments.

When the skeletons shattered, Caerlin used her buckler to deflect most of the flying pieces. She turned and smiled at Luie, "Thanks for the help." Her smile then turned to a look of concern as she noticed the blood on Luie's leg. "Are you alright?"

Luie limped a little closer to her. "Not really. I think it left a digit in me," he spread the wound open, "I was right." The hin sat down with an “umfff” noise.

Caerlin looked at the wound before she dashed over to her horse and got some clean cloth out of a saddlebag. She returned to where Luie was sitting and sat next to him and bandaged his wounds. While was doing so, she realized that her leathers were starting to get wet with the blood that was flowing out of her chest.

Caer checked her own wounds and then smiled at Luie. "It looks like I need to work on myself as well." She took what clean cloth is left, and tried to bandaged herself but it was hard for her to see her chest and the wound was to deep, so the wound continued to leak blood.

Addoc turned from the skeletal remains and he looked looking a bit disappointed. Once he saw the injured pair, he dropped his hammer to the ground and knelt beside them. "Would the two of you object to a bit of the Smithlord's mending?"

“No objections from me; but, attend to Caerlin first. I can wait.”

Caerlin looked up from where she is trying, but failing, to bandage herself. "Thank you Addoc, I have no objections at all." She smiled at the cleric before she looked down at her clothes and sighed. "I'll have to clean the blood out of these soon, before they get ruined."

Addoc nodded slightly at the hin, and said his healing prayers over Caer before he healed the hin’s wounds.

After Addoc healed Caer, she smiled at the Gondsman a second time. "Again, I thank you and it’s amazing how one's own pain is ignored when a friend is injured."

"Aye, blood stains tend to run people off, or give them a bad idea about you. Let’s hope that there is time before our luck turns and more baddies head our way,” Auy said.

After the encounter with the skeletons, the caravan continued on and as eveningfast was being served, six small red-winged creatures with long probes flew out of the grasslands and attacked the mercenaries but only three of them started to hone in on the Unit.

Caerlin quickly strung her bow and her first arrow entered the first creature, causing it to flutter to the ground and flap around. William merged with the shadows again and planted his dagger deep into one of the creatures and his attack went right through it.

Luie whirled his sling real fast while he screamed, "They taste like chicken!" His bullet connected with the flying creature and the bullet hit with a thud, which made the flying thing veer off course.

Upon spotting the creatures, Ragnar snatched up his crossbow and sent a bolt their way as he muttered something about having bad timing for a musician. However, the sun was in his eyes, or something else distracted him, and his bolt flew wide and out past the flying creatures.

Auy lightly giggled as she heard what Ragnar muttered. "And in the company of women too, such language!" the priestess teased. “This time I think I'll let you men with the big weapons enjoy yourselves since the last time I stole all your enjoyment with Sharess’s power and the use of positive energy! Though, seeing these flying things does make me think that I've figured out the reason for your high turn over rate. You can't go three steps without finding something that wants to kill you! I swear, I've been all over this mercenary company and your, err our unit has the worst luck!”

"Too much talk," the giant rumbled, crouching slightly as he waited for one of the winged menaces to fly close enough for him to take a swing at.

Caer dropped her bow and drew her sword. "I hope that I can hit these better than those skeletons," she muttered under her breath. With a strong slash, she dug her sword into the bodies of one of the creatures, and split it in twain. William continued to use the shadows and he dagger attack entered another, which made it flutter to the ground.

Auy chuckled as she stood near Caerlin and the priestess was armed with only her claws. She kept back from the fighting but close enough to aid one of the members of her Unit should one of the attackers harm her party members. Addoc’s attack with his hammer was a little out of range because one of the injured flyers fluttered upwards at the last moment and in the back of his mind he began to wonder about some sort of suitable ranged weapon for a cleric of the Smith Lord. Luie made a feeble attempt at killing one of them and as he missed he thought, Oh, this isn’t good. Auy tried to hit with her claws but she wasn’t used to fighting that much, as she said. Ragnar’s attack on the flying creatures only seems to agitate them instead of killing them.

One of them attached its probing snout into Luie’s arm and it started to drink his blood while the other two just fluttered around the group.

“Tluin! I should have used a flyswatter instead!” Ragnar exclaimed.

Caerlin’s and William’s attack took out the two that were flutter around, leaving just the one that is attached to Luie. Luie winced and thought, “I’m glad that it didn’t attach itself to my injured arm.”

"Now you have a set," the giant rumbled. He let his shield and hammer slip to the ground before he reached out to the creature attached to Luie's arm and squeezed the life out of it with his bare hands, which covered his hands and arms and part of his chest with Luie’s and the creature’s blood.

With a face that was covered in layer of blood and just the white of Luie’s eyes shining through, the hin said, “Now I know how a Silverymoon mime feels.”

"I have a needle in case the wound needs stitched," Ragnar said.

“By Akadi, I am glad there is no wind. I might feel compelled to run...” Luie said. As Ragnar offered an arm to Luie in case the hin was wobbly from the blood-loss the halfling took the offered arm and his grip was weak. “...against the... oh, there is a rabbit in those clouds.” Luie passed out from the loss of blood and the hint of a smile on his lips vanished.

Caerlin glanced around and then ran to grab the nearest torch, which gave the healers some light as they ministered to Luie's wounds. "He's going to be alright, isn't he?" she asked before she mumbled a quick elven phrase under her breath.

”He’d better be.” Ragnar mumbled. ”I’ve been sewing on my own buttons for the past five years.” He looked at the two clerics in the group. “You’ve still got some healing magic left? Right?”

"Aye, I have some left." The priestess nodded as she moved over to the hin. She knelt down beside him and looked over his wounds and then she quickly put away the dressing she had pulled out and instead she used Sharess’s divine magic to heal the hin. She held her small hands over one of the larger gashes and the red-orange and grey energy flowed into the hin’s wounds. After the energy faded, the priestess cleaned away some of the blood and she saw that the bleeding has stopped.

For his part, Addoc turned from the scene and spat, trying to clear his mouth of the taste of blood. "Pfaugh! I was always told that the country was a restful place!"

The rest of the night passed peacefully and the camp got a fairly good nights rest.

For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet and excite you... Books are full of the things that you don't get in real life - wonderful, lyrical language, for instance, right off the bat. - Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

Scribe for the Candlekeep Compendium

Edited by - Kuje on 21 May 2006 05:24:48
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Kuje
Great Reader

USA
7915 Posts

Posted - 08 Apr 2006 :  01:09:20  Show Profile Send Kuje a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Day/Month/Year: 9th day of the 1st tenday of Mirtul in the year 1375 - The Year of Risen Elfkin.
Time: Early Morning to Evening
Location: Wilds outside of the mercenary settlement on the way to Shadowdale
Weather: Temperate and slightly overcast.


The members of the caravan ate a quick dawnfry before the caravan set off for another day. They knew, about highsun tomorrow, that the caravan would turn south until it got to the Moonsea. Even though Luie got healed and seemed to be better, the party found him in one of the wagons unconscious.

Caerlin turned to the two healers, "Why is he still unconscious? I thought he was better?" She turns back to Luie with a concerned look, and gently tried to shake him awake but the halfling just continued to snore and not wake.

Auy joined Caerlin and looked at her with a smile. "He did lose a lot of blood and all I did was stop the bleeding and renew a bit of his blood." She patted the hin’s chest lightly and she saw there were no broken bones or other wounds. "He has had little trauma from this and the other wounds and the poor hin needs to rest for a bit. Let him sleep since he isn’t dead and his serious wound has been taken care of and I am checking for others."

Once Auy saw that she was right about Luie, she checked the others and she saw that they were just mostly bruised or sore but none of their injuries were life threatening.

Caerlin nodded at Auy and smiled. "Alright, I'll leave him be."

The female human joined Miesker and the two of them visited the caravan master before they headed out for the day. Three hours into the western journey, a group of nine human zombies stumbled and shuffled towards the east but it seemed that they didn’t have any interest in the caravan, since they didn’t turn from where ever they are heading.

Caerlin turned to Miesker, whom she was shadowing again. "Should we intercept them, or let them continue on their way?" she asked him quietly. "Where would they have come from, and do you have a guess on where they may be going?"

He turned to look back at the zombies. “I’d leave them be if they are not bothering us. As for where they came from, I have no idea nor do I know where they could be heading.”

Caerlin nodded, and watched the zombies shuffle off before she continued to scout with Miesker as the two continued their dialogue.

Addoc brought his horse to a halt and he waited to see the reaction of his companions. "Fell magic at work in these lands," he rumbled, tightening the grip on his hammer.

"Oh, aye. But I guess that's what one can expect from a land contested by orcs and Zhentarim," Ragnar offered from the other side of the wagon as Addoc rode by. "But what if some fell and nasty-minded wizard is using them to spy on the road? Caerlin and Miesker would find them though, maybe.”

After camping, Caerlin and Miesker were returning to camp when male half-elf stopped and pointed at a fifteen-foot tall and fifteen-foot long brown furred and green stripped feline that was stalking through the grasses far to the north of the caravan.

“Tiger, strange that it’s this far south though.”

Caerlin nodded. "Aye, he is far south, but hopefully he will continue to stay to the north of us." She watched the tiger for a while, just to make sure and after killing something in the brush, it loped off with its carcass.

Seeing that most of the camp has turned it or is awake and dicing or talking amongst themselves, Caerlin was the last of the Unit to find her bed. Well maybe Auy was awake as well but if she was, she was off in a wagon or in someone else’s bedroll.

For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet and excite you... Books are full of the things that you don't get in real life - wonderful, lyrical language, for instance, right off the bat. - Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

Scribe for the Candlekeep Compendium
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Kuje
Great Reader

USA
7915 Posts

Posted - 08 Apr 2006 :  01:10:56  Show Profile Send Kuje a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Day/Month/Year: 10th day of the 1st tenday of Mirtul in the year 1375 - The Year of Risen Elfkin.
Time: Early Morning to Evening
Location: Wilds outside of the mercenary settlement on the way to Shadowdale.
Weather: Temperate and clear.


Caerlin woke as Lathander’s light filtered across this part of Faerun. After she checked on Luie to make sure he that he was alright, she sat under a tree and offered her morning prayers to Mielikki. Once done, she returned to the camp and grabbed some left over stew for dawnfry and visited the other members of the Company.

About two hours before they were to turn south, a large herd of about thirty rothe thundered around and between the wagons of the caravan, making Chauntea tremble and sending vibrations through the wagons and ground. The caravan had enough warning because Miesker sent Caerlin back with the information while he continued to follow the herd for awhile.

Before he sent her back to the caravan master, he told her that she could scout on her own once the herd has passed and he’d join her later to see how she did.

Caerlin nodded at Miesker before she turned her horse around and rode back to the caravan to give her report to Jelitha. As the caravan master thought over Caerlin’s words, the scout waited to make sure that Jelitha didn’t have any questions.

“Nay, all seems in order. You are doing well and you have my thanks,” the caravan leader commented a moment later.

Just as they were about to start turning south, two large spiders, that are at least twenty feet high and very large, raced to the northeast in pursuit of the rothe. A few of the members of the caravan were injured as they tried to get out of the way or stared in surprise as the spiders moved among the wagons.

Throughout the day Ragnar spent his time entertaining the rest of the caravan with his songs and not so truthful accounts of his previous journeys. When he needed a break, he checked on Luie and he saw that the halfling continued to breath and that Luie’s body twitched and moved every so often, like he was dreaming. As he sang and talked with the members of the caravan, he heard and listened to different tales they shared in return. These involved tales of a fallen city deep under the wave of the Moonsea. A few speculations about the Commander of the Red Shields which said she killed someone in Amn and she had to flee that nation and took refuge in Baldur’s Gate and she was a member of the Flaming Fist until she angered Duke Eltan over something. Once she left that city, she headed east and founded the Red Shields. He also heard about some-lizard like beings living far to the north of Phlan, in a ruined settlement that is surrounded by black trees.

Addoc did his part around the caravan, mending what needed his attention and riding guard. It also occurred to him that he isn't eating as well as he did back in the city, so he finally tracked down the cook, which happens to be a male human and a female half-moon elf, who are married to each other. Addoc rode next to their wagon, and he asked them questions about how to fix different fares.

Two hours before making camp, Caerlin spotted a female human with pale blond hair to her shoulders and pale skin that is dressed in a yellow and green gown. She seemed to be standing in the middle of the open plains, staring to the west and a little up towards the sky.

Caerlin watched the female for a few candlemarks, to see if she is noticed. The female human scanned the surrounding area to make sure that there is no one else around or that nothing else could be seen that could trouble. Once she saw that everything was clear and there was just a single female human standing in the middle of the grasslands, Caerlin slowly approached. The scout thought that the female human might be a little past twenty summers as she got closer.

Once Caerlin was about twenty feet from the female, she called out, "Hail, what are you doing out here alone?"

With a start, the female human turned and looked at the human. “Oh? Aye? I was just listening to the Akadi and her feathery whispers. I’m sorry if I startled you.” She laughed a soft laugh. “I guess it’s strange to see someone standing alone staring at nothing.”

Caerlin looked confused at the mention of the Akadi. "You were listening to what? And I apologize for startling you as well. Are you part of a caravan, or are you just wandering alone with the orcs, Zhents, and tigers in the area?" Caerlin gave the female human a small smile while she kept on guard and didn’t relax.

“Akadi. The Queen of Air. Mistress of that element.” She paused and smiled. “No, I guess you have no idea who I’m talking about. As for the caravan, no I am not with one. I am alone for now, aye. Orcs, Zhentilar, and tigers, you say? I have better be on my guard then.”

Caer nodded at the female. "Aye, we have seen all those and more in the last few days, so being on guard. I bid you safe journeys, as I must be on my way." Caerlin raised her hand in farewell, and started to ride back to the caravan to tell Jelitha and the others about the female. As she rode, she carefully watched around and behind her.

After Caerlin reported back, Mieskar returned just as the stew was finished and he nodded at the members of the Unit before he sampled the stew and waited for Caerlin to ask questions or discuss what she saw while out scouting.

Caer hailed Mieskar before she told him about the female that she saw out in the plains. She also told him, as he ate, that she made her report to Jelitha before she asked about his day, how far he followed the rothe herd, and if he saw the tiger again.

He grinned at her as he listened and finished his stew. As he put the spoon done, he said, “A strange woman of the plains indeed. I followed the herd for many miles until they finally stopped near a small pond and outran the spiders that took a few of them for dinner. Nay, I didn’t see the tiger though.”

Surprisingly, the night passed with peace.

For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet and excite you... Books are full of the things that you don't get in real life - wonderful, lyrical language, for instance, right off the bat. - Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

Scribe for the Candlekeep Compendium
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Kuje
Great Reader

USA
7915 Posts

Posted - 21 May 2006 :  01:17:40  Show Profile Send Kuje a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Day/Month/Year: 11th day of the 2nd tenday of Mirtul in the year 1375 - The Year of Risen Elfkin.
Time: Early Morning to Evening
Location: Wilds outside of the mercenary settlement on the way to Shadowdale.
Weather: Temperate and raining.


Caer checked the camp before she prayed to Mielikki after she ate her dawnfry.

Ragnar woke early the next morning and after he said his prayers to Milil and Sune he shaved away the few fuzz on his cheeks and took a sparing breakfast. Once he had eaten, he checked on Luie, telling the halfling's unconscious form, “You need to wake up now, it's your turn to take care of cooking supper today."

Auy woke shortly after first light and she slipped out of the bedroll. She dressed in her normal outfit before she checked on the halfling. "Ah, it seems I am not the first up and over to check on the little one, how does he look?"

Luie woke and disorientation set in as he began to roll onto his side, smacking his nose on a piece of plank and the brief pain washing away any fatigue.

“Ouch,” Luie mouthed. He took a moment to asset the situation and the noise issuing from his stomach could have woke the dead and some of the undead. He also had the incredible urge to water the shrubs in the worst possible way. As he saw the members in the wagon, he barraged them with questions. “Is it eveningfast? Why the concerned looks? Why am I in the wagon? Ragnar did you bring something for me to chew on?“ He crinkled his nose. “What is that smell... lavender... never mind.” Luie rummaged through his back pack and pulled out his hand ax.

"It’s dawnfry. We're afraid you'll eat the wagon. We guessed that you'd prefer it instead of being tied to a horse, and I'm afraid not, but you can always use the axe handle," Ragnar calmly replied to the halfling's barrage of questions. He winked at Auy, "I'd say he looks like most halflings - small, not pretty, but not as ugly as a goblin."

Auy laughed. "Well, I've met a few handsome goblins in my travels, but aye, they are not as ugly as those normal midgets you have to put down. And it seems he has managed to recover well enough from his wound, I almost think he forgot about it! He is talking normally, so it seems all is fine!”

“It’s this nose. No one likes the nose because it’s too small and pointed.” He rubbed it some more. “I think I fixed the pointed part. The axe is just in case I meet a critter while outside taking care of things. Well, if you can excuse me, I need to go. When you need to go you got to go, so I might as well go. Or we can all float off this wagon together if you want to wait a moment? And I missed eveningfast? No wonder I am starving."

"Well hurry up then. I don't want to wear my good clothes during this guard trip. And your nose is rather pointed, isn't it? Are you absolutely sure that you don’t have any gnomes in the family?" Ragnar told Luie as the bard reached out a hand to give the hin some help getting out of the wagon.

Luie accepted Ragnar’s help and the halfling’s free hand gripped Auy’s knee to hold himself steady. “I am orphan,” he said. “Come to think of it, everyone at the monastery were orphans.” He gave a quick tug and stood between the two.

Caerlin came around the end of the wagon with a smile. "Ah Luie my friend, I’m glad to hear you that you are up and about this day, I was worried." She offered him a hand to get down out of the wagon.

He waved at her. “No worries. Hey Caerlin guess what? I’m finally taller than you!” He took her hand as he hopped to the ground and instead of hitting the ground he latched onto her midriff. He gave her a brief squeeze before he finally landed on the ground. “Thanks for the help down. I did not mean to cause everyone concern,” he said loud enough for everyone to hear. “And I do not mean to be rude but, I need to go put out a small campfire, no make that a forest fire.” He paused for a breath. “And no priestess! I do not need help with that duty!”

Caerlin returned the hug, and she started to chuckle at Luie's words. "Aye, for a moment there you were taller."

Luie ran off into the wilds, swinging the ax at his side. Caerlin watched him run off and she turned to the others. "Well, I think that if we want any dawnfry, we should get it before he does."

”Aw,” Ragnar moaned. ”No hugs for the bard?”

Caerlin looked up at Ragnar and she continued to chuckle. "Well, you are up there, so with me down here, it does make it hard." She winked at him before she wandered off towards the fire.

Ragnar jumped off the back of the wagon and offered Auy his arms to help her down.

The priestess of Sharess smiled down at the bard. "Oh, for me?" she took his hand and accepted the help. "Why thank you, I think that is the first time anyone has actually done that for me." She kissed the bard on the cheek before she wrapped her arms around him and gave him a big hug that she held for a moment before she let go and winked at him.

After she smiled, she turned and swayed amongst the wagons and members of the company to find some entertainment or trouble to get into. Ragnar picked up his flute and he sent an appreciative whistle after her.

Addoc took a step back as the halfling rushed past. "Mind you rush back as well, lad," he rumbled.

The hin heeded the large Gondsman advice. "I will Addoc," he yelled as he scampered past.

As Ragnar watched the wagons throughout the day, he continued to make friends with the other members of the Red Shields and the caravan leader. He did his best to find out what they felt about the Zhentarim and like most of the company, they hated the Zhentarim.

Addoc spent the morning helping check the wagons for needed repairs and he helped repair the few splintered axles and warped wheels. After that was done, he spent the rest of the day riding with the cooks' wagon and he made conversation with Mrilinia, the female, and Eldarin, the male.

Towards late midday, they remaining members of the Red Shields that were with the wagons were asked to go investigate a large mound of brown and red dirt and rock that was a hundred feet to the north.

Glad for a change in the routine, Ragnar urged his horse on, riding to within three or four feet of the mound. He rode around it to make sure that there wasn't anything suspicious about it and the only thing that might be suspicious was the tall obelisk at the top of it.

For his part, Addoc remained astride his horse and he scaned the area for attack, ambush, or anything out of the ordinary. As the rain streamed unchecked down his dour face, he was beginning to like the countryside less and less.

Ragnar decided that the mound seemed safe and he dismounted and climbed up it to inspect the obelisk. Once he got to the top, he saw that the obelisk rose sixty feet towards the sky and written up and down and on four sides of the grey and red stone obelisk are runes and pictographs. He couldn’t read the runes but some of the pictographs show the sun, storm clouds, a female in anguish as a plant grows into her head, some snake-like creatures fighting humans, and other scenes.

Auy slipped up behind Ragnar and poked him with a finger on each side. "Boo!" She giggled from behind him. "So, I see there are some interesting markings on this big long obelisk,” she purred as she moved from behind him to inspect the stone obelisk.

Ragnar swung round, clapping a hand to the hilt of his cutlass. "Oh... it's you Auy." He gave her a sheepish grin. "Do you see anything that makes sense to you on it? That picture of the woman is disturbing to say the least."

"Aye, it’s just me, were you hoping it was someone else?" the priestess questioned with a coy smile before she turned to look up and down the odd structure. "You are correct, that picture is a bit... odd and disturbing." The female continued to look at the structure, runes, and pictographs but she isn’t sure what they represent nor what the runes say.

“I’m not hoping for anyone in particular, really. I just didn’t notice you coming.” Ragnar scratched his head and studied the obelisk’s pictures a bit closer. “Hmm... I’m in no way sure of this, and I may very well be more wrong than I was when I told Erlyra Drenor that her father wouldn’t be back for another hour, but... I think the pictures could be depictions of deific events and the history of Faerûn and you know,” he paused and made a kind of “big-area-of-nondescript-form” gesture, “the planes.

“You wouldn’t know if anyone on the caravan is good at drawing? I can probably describe the pictures pretty well from memory if I study them for a bit longer, but the runes will be harder. And a drawing would still be more exact than my memory."

"The planes?” Her eyes lit up with interest as she scooted over to the bard and she got right next to him and looked at where he was looking. She did notice the pictograph of what looked like a feline battling darkness while a full moon looked down on the two. Auy also saw another pictograph that she thought might be the inside circle of Sigil. "Someone good at drawing? Well, let me think for a moment. Will this rain ever quit? Oh! I know, Thethtos! A cute human that wiggles his fingers and uses the Weave! He is good at drawing! I know this because he's done a few portraits of me and others. Look at that!" she said as she poked the bard again as she pointed at the image of the feline that is fighting and the image of the possible inside circle of Sigil. "You might be right, that feline, if I am correct, is a very good goddess," she cooed as she pushed against the bard. "The circle might be a very nice city to visit, though I wonder what event it is tied too? I need to make sure we get those two pictographs.”

"Um... Like I said, I'm not really sure. I was thinking that perhaps we should ask him if he could copy the runes and pictographs so we can show it to someone that is more knowledgeable than us. I do hate unsolved mysteries." Ragnar looked up at the skies and muttered darkly at the rain falling in his eyes. "Not as much as I hate getting soaked to the bone, though, of course."

"Eh, this rain is a bit much. I normally like it, but enough is enough already! You mean to tell me that you don't like playing in the rain?" Auy asked as she wondered why Talos was tormenting them with all this rain.

"Well, it's preferable to swimming in the Waterdeep harbor or going for a miles-long race in the blistering sun, but yes, it is getting to be a mite much. Perhaps we should go look for your artist?" Ragnar stroked some heavy, wet hair out of the front of his eyes. "And a good hat."

"Aye, let’s find him."

To the south, they could see Luie and Caerlin ride into camp and they stopped to converse with the caravan master. The priestess turned and started to walk back towards her horse. Ragnar hurriedly got on his horse, riding the short distance back to the camp.

***********************************************************************

Luie finished with his business in the scrub and then went for dawnfry. After a quick meal, he chose to follow Caerlin from the camp because out of the entire group she might find something interesting. Luie took his makeshift belt with sling bullets attached to it. He placed some dirt and leaves inside the pouch and then tied the bag off tight so it will reduce the chance of the bullets ‘clinking’ together and the hand axe is tucked behind his back within the belt.

As he walked, he took local samples of the plant life and he added it to his outfit. Long-grass was entwined in his black hair, dirt smeared his face, and twigs stuck out from various parts of his body until he resembled a walking bush more than a small halfling.

Caerlin left by herself again as she scouted while the other scout moved amongst the wagons and outwards, since he is testing the young scout and trusting that she can spot trouble. The only thing Caerlin spotted this day is a ruined cabin that still has wisps of smoke coming from its burned walls. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed the walking bush/halfling as he followed her.

Caer slowly and cautiously started to approach the cabin and as she walked, she pulled an arrow from her quiver and knocked it while she kept watch around her. So far, all she could see was Luie trying to blend into the grasslands. She carefully circled the cabin at a distance, looking to see if there are any survivors or attackers. She saw booted tracks leading southwest and five bodies within. Two are adult humans and the other three are human children of various ages from toddler to adolescence. From the looks of the items in the cabin, the two adults were hunters and trappers, since she can see pelts from different animals, traps, bows, skinning knives, and other items to work the pelts.

Luie saw the burned cabin and the small shrub paused in the tall grass. His eyes focused on Caerlin and once she started to notch her arrow, he began to move. He squatted down and he slowly placed a hand on the hilt of his ax. He watched her for a bit and then let his eyes unfocused from her. Eventually she came to a halt after circling the smoking ruin.

“All clear,” He breathed.

Caerlin stopped at what's left of the wooden door, and she waited for the walking shrub to catch up. She hung her head and said a short prayer to Mielikki, Myrkul, and Bhaal for the family, the dead, and the death.

When Luie arrived, she looked at him with tears in her eyes. "What kind of man would kill small ones?" She shook her head, and looked around for some kind of digging tools. "Let's at least bury them as best we can, then mayhap we can get Addoc or Auy to finish their last rites properly. Then, I think we should get help to find out who did this, and why....I won't be able to follow the tracks very well yet."

He stayed silent because he had no answer. He waited for her to recover as he studied the inside and the five charred remains were difficult to see because everything inside was covered in soot and ash. He nodded in agreement before he entered the burnt cabin.

“I will retrieve the bodies that are scattered through the cabin and bring them out to a clear spot,” he talked as he walked to the remains. “Was the door barred from the outside? I couldn’t tell, but it looks like it was shattered from outside. I am about to start and whatever you do cover your mouth with a cloth to breath. Do not use your nose.” He chose to lift the largest one first. “If you want to start a shallow pit, take my ax. Churn Chauntea and remove her skin.”

Caer nodded and she started to look through her backpack for a cloth. Once she found one, she tied it around her face and used Luie’s axe to clear spot under a tree. After she got the hole dug, she helpped Luie.

"We need to be careful that we don't mess up the tracks as well. And we should get back to the caravan and let Jelitha and the others know, so they can be on their guard."

Once they finished about an hour later, Caerlin looked around and up at the sky before she breathed a shuddering sigh. She stepped away from the hole and did a quick search to see if there is anything that might point to who did this and why. All she saw were the tracks of booted feet that headed southwest and she thought they were made by humans. Furthermore, she saw that most of the tracks led away from the cabin, but one set, which is older, led towards the cabin.

Caer stepped into the cabin, and looked around for anything that might be out of the ordinary. She noticed, in the corner, half-buried under some pelts and furniture that fell over, a wooden hatch that probably led under the cabin. After a few moments, she stepped outside and turned to Luie. “Hey Luie, come help me with this hatch I found,” she called to him as he finished covering the grave.

Caerlin and Luie returned to the cabin and she carefully started to move the debris from on top of the hatch. He ambled over to her while putting his wet hair into a topknot. He helped her with the heavier pieces and after about a half-hour of work, it was cleared.

"Is it a root cellar?" he asked as he knelt next to the hatch. "If so, how come no one went into it to hide?"

"I don't know, unless they didn't have time?" Caer looked around the hatch to make sure that she has everything cleared. Once she saw that it wasn’t blocked, she checked for traps. As far as she can tell, it had no traps nor was it locked. She started to rummage in her pack for a torch as she asked, "Shall we open it, and see what's inside?"

"I thought you would never ask." He motioned her back as he proceeded to lift the hatch. "That’s the only true way to disarm a trap," he chuckled.

Caerlin gave Luie a smile as she took a step back and finished retrieving the torch from her pack. She lit it once she made sure that she was far enough away so that she wouldn’t set his disguise on fire. "Let's see what we can find."

A set of wooden stairs led downward for about thirty feet and the side walls, that look to be about six to eight feet wide, have been dug and chipped out of the soil and stone. A tunnel leads north and it disappears into the darkness since the light of the torch can’t reach much further from where the two kneel around the hatch. Caerlin and Luie only smelled the wet earth from where they are standing in the cabin. All they heard was a low mummering clanking that vibrated through their bones but they can’t tell where it originates because it fills the whole tunnel and back towards the dark part that their torch doesn’t light.

Caerlin stood up, put her backpack back on, adjusted her buckler and bow, put the torch in her left hand, and then turned to Luie. "Let's go. Do you think we should shut the hatch after we go down, or should we try and fix it so that it can't be shut on us?"

Luie started to remove twigs and leaves. “We should shut the hatch behind us. If someone follows us it might be possible for us to hear that hatch open again. I will go in front with the torch; you stay at the edge of the torch’s rear light. If something comes out to eat me, I suggest you shoot it. I can fight one handed.” He looked down at his shirt. “This is ruined.” He retired the shirt down to the ground revealing dazzling tattoos across the front of his body.

She saw green fields of clovers covering his stomach and a small white rabbit rested within the fields. Rising above the field tattoo is a fiery bird. Its tail feathers flame out, highlighting the rabbit. The bird’s wings outstretch upwards from his ribs ending at the tip of his nipples. A long flame covered neck snaked it way up from the center and between his chest, coming to a finish at a triangular head screeching silently skyward.

“Torch?” he asked.

Caer handed Luie the torch. "Nice tattoo, a phoenix?" she asked with a smile. "What do you think that noise could be?" She looked back down the hatch, "Do you think a bow will do any good? I was thinking that my sword would work as well." She looked back at Luie with a smile.

He accepted the torch with his right hand. “Aye, a phoenix is the actual name. I always referred to it as a firebird. As for the noise," he tilted his head toward the dark tunnel, straining his ears. “I am not sure. What I do know is you are very proficient with a bow; but, a sword could do wonders down there too.”

Caerlin shrugged, and pulled the bow off her shoulder. She nocked an arrow, and carefully followed Luie, pulling the hatch shut behind her.

"And don't forget," he said once he was half way down, "if all else fails... fire burns. Fire burns good." He play acted petting the torch as he finished climbing down.

Once down the ladder, they saw that the tunnel extended forty feet ahead before it turned to the left. He placed his left hand against the wall trying to get a sense of rhythm from the vibration and it flowed through the wall and deeper into his bones. "Giant clockwork?" he asked.

Caer quietly chuckled. "A clockwork? Why would there be one here?" She began to doubt the sanity of Luie and her coming down here.

He led the way up the tunnel and they made their way over the small pieces of rock that littered the tunnel. Every so often some loose soil and rock fell from the ceiling because of the strong vibrations but the tunnel seems well braced and secure with wooden supports even though the dirt and rock was damp or leaking water because of the runoff from the rain.

Looking down the left tunnel, which extended for twenty feet but was the same six foot width, they saw that it ended at a grey stone door that was closed. A large image of a gear could be seen in the center of door and ever so often it looked like it rotated to the right but that wasn’t what is causing the vibrations.

Caer stopped at the turn. "Mayhap we should return and get the Gondsman?" she quietly asked Luie. She warily watched the door, and the image on it as the image continued to rotate.

Luie’s head bobbed up and down in agreement before he turned towards her. “Let’s cover the hatch once we exit, and find me a new shirt.”

"I have one of my blue shirts ones in my pack but it probably will be too big, but you are welcome to wear it," Caerlin quietly told him as she started to back away towards the hatch.

"It is not a kilt, but it works for me. Besides I always liked the color blue." He followed her back towards the ladder.

Caer put the arrow back in her quiver, slung her bow back over her shoulder, and carefully started up the ladder. When she reached the hatch, she listened to see if she heard anything coming from above. Once she realize it was clear, she pushed the hatch open and climbed out. Once Luie is out, she carefully lowered it back down, and started to cover it. When they finished, she started to rummage in her pack for her shirt and once she found it, she handed it to Luie. "Here you go."

The halfling put on the shirt that was really to large for him and it draped around most of his body. “I feel like a drained blueberry or,” he flapped his arms up and down, letting the loose sleeves snap in the rain, “a bird! Caw! Caw!” After a brief giggle, he tied the shirt off in the appropriate places to make a better fit. He picked up the sputtering torch and doused it in the nearest water puddle. “I’m set. Let’s make some tracks.”

Caerlin and Luie rode back and stopped before Jelitha, who was looking north towards a large mound of dirt. Caerlin looked towards the mound, and watched the three members of her Company ride closer.

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“Wow. That has to be the second biggest ant hill I ever seen,” Luie leaned over towards Jelitha, “Has the mound always been on this route?”

Caer arched an eyebrow at Luie. "Only the second largest?" As Auy, Ragnar, and Addoc rode up, the two that went to scout rode into camp Caerlin waited for Luie to answer her question. The female scout turned to Jelitha and started to tell the caravan master about the cabin and what the two members of the Wyrm’s have found.

“Nay, that’s new as far as I recall. Most interesting,” Jelitha remarked. “If all of you wish to take leave from guard duty, you can return to the cabin or the obelisk and research or explore them.”

"I suppose it would be a teeny bit more important to find out what killed those people in the cabin, right? There could be brigands laying in wait for a caravan to pass by, for instance." Ragnar grinned. "I guess Auy will be happy to hear she gets to take a ride again."

The priestess gave the mouthy male a good elbow to the ribs. "That depends on whom I'll be riding." She paused as she turned and looked up and down the caravan to find the mage. "Riding with, that is."

"Ow," said Ragnar before he rubbed at his side.

"Aye," Addoc rumbled. "There's nought I can do standin' out here criticizin' someone's art, but someone ought to do somethin' t'try and find a little justice for folk killed in their own home."

Once she spotted the mage at the second wagon, Auy sauntered off towards the mage as her rain soaked dress moved with her steps. Auy stopped behind the mage and gave him a hug. As he turned around and smiled at her with warmth and interest, she said, "Well met, I was wondering if you could make some of your lovely drawings? Of course, it'll probably have to wait till this rain has passed, unless you can manage paint while you are wet.”

“Magic, my dear Auy, can do wonders. Now, my little kitten, what do you want me to draw?”

Auy nudged against him in response to being called kitten. "Oh, just some drawings if you have the time. There are some nice pictographs of deity encounters, planar places, and such not to far from here. It was Ragnar's idea for some one to draw them but I just supplied him with a name of someone who could draw them. Speaking of which, if it his idea, why did I end up tracking you down?" Auy shrugged as the wizard laughed. "I guess he thought that it might be better coming from me or something."

“Is that so kitten? I think you just wanted me to draw you some more. However, I’ll go look at these things and it looks as if the other members of your unit are waiting for you, so go with them, kitten.”

Auy glanced back at her companions as she rubbed against the mage as the mage smiled. "I guess so, besides, if I went with you I doubt any drawing would get done... at least any drawings of the pictographs.” She smiled and kissed the mage as he chuckled at her before she joined her companions.

“Go then, as I said you have my permission to decide to explore one or both places,” the caravan master said to those that stood near her.

The bard set off to collect his crossbow and some dried meat in case he'd get hungry. As he gathered his items, he thought about Luie and with a sigh, he gathered some more dried meat for when Luie would get hungry.

Luie moved away and he gathered his gear before he headed north to go look at the mound. As he gazed up at the very tall, for a halfling, obelisk, he saw that some of the images looked a little weathered but most of them were still preserved and easy to see.

Seeing that the others were leaving, the halfling quickly ran down the mound and jumped into the saddle behind Caerlin. After a bit, Caerlin half-turned to Luie. "I don't know Luie. First I find a lone woman on the plains, then a burnt cabin, and now a mysterious obelisk that seems to have appeared out of nowhere. I'm not sure I like all this mystery that seems to be happening." She seemed to be deep in thought as they continued towards the cabin.

Luie arched an eyebrow. “A lone woman on the plains? Did she have a pet rothe next to her? There might be a connection to the old obelisk and the burnt cabin. I wonder what is behind the door? Do you think it could be a monkey? A clockwork monkey built by an ancient race of mad Lantanese gnomes? Do you think the caravan will be safe without us? Is time for second dawnfry yet?”

"No, she didn't have a pet rothe. She said she was listening to the whispers of Akadi." Caerlin turned to him again, "An old obelisk? Jelitha said it was new on the route as far as she could tell. Are you sure you're not a gnome? You sure seem to have this thing about clockworks lately." She grinned at him. "I hope that the caravan will be okay, they have the other guards as well as Miesker, but we should probably be quick about this side trip." Caerlin started to chuckle a bit. "And I guess I shouldn't be surprised that you are hungry again, after being unconscious for two days."

After a bit of riding, they arrived back at the cabin.

Upon spotting the cabin, Ragnar stood up in his stirrups and scanned the area for any suspicious signs that might be there. "So, what do we do now? Make the graves deeper, or is there something in the cabin that should be looked into first? The corpses after all, hopefully, won't rise up and walk away."

The giant human motioned towards the cabin with a wave of his hand. "You all start searching around there and I'll do my best to make sure these folk's rest won't be disturbed." Addoc slipped from his horse and he began gathering large rocks from the plain to pile on top of the graves.

Caer slipped off her horse and she looked around and at the wet ground to make sure that nothing has been disturbed since she and Luie left. As far as she can tell there are no new tracks and the cabin and the inside looks the same. She helped Addoc cover the graves and as they worked she said, "Luie and I found a hatch that goes under the cabin. Once we opened the the hatch, we could hear and feel a vibration as we walked down the stairs and the hall. At the end of the hall, there was a closed grey stone door, which has an image of a large gear on it. As we watched, the gear turned to the right, but the vibrations aren't coming from it. We thought that you might be interested in it, and I'll admit that thoughts of self-preservation came to me as we watched the gear turn." She smiled after she finished.

The giant paused for a long moment, idly shifting a large rock between his hands as his scarred face crinkled in thought. "Hrm," he hrmmed, finally placing the stone on top of one of the graves. "If it's been turnin' this long, it'll turn a bit longer until we finish this task."

When the graves had been had been covered sufficiently to protect from the depredations of wild animals, Addoc retrieved his hammer from his horse and stood at the head of the graves, holding the heavy weapon over his head.

"Wonderbringer, you know I've no tongue for this sort of talk, but if you'll hear the words of one of yer own..." The Gondsman glanced about, looking slightly embarrassed. "We know naught about these folk, but if you'd give them a moment t' warm themselves by yer forge and make sure their knives are sharp as they make their way t' wherever they'r goin' from here... I... um... well, you'd have my thanks..."

The giant paused for a moment of thought, then brought the hammer down on the ground with a huge thud - once, twice, thrice. He nodded, satisfied, and before he could turn back to the group, he saw the dirt shift for a moment into the figure of a gear before the soil returned to normal.

He turned back to the group, still looking self-conscious. "So... shall we be about looking at yer door, then?"

Caerlin smiled at Addoc. "Thank you Addoc, I'm sure that your words were heard, and are appreciated." She pointed at the tracks of the booted feet, which are slowly fading due to the rain, that headed to the southwest. "I have a feeling that these probably belong to whomever did this.” She shook her head and droplets of water splashed from her wet hair. "I really don't understand why a person would kill children."

Auy nodded and smiled. "Aye, Caerlin is right and you are not alone because I have no gift for those words either. But, on the bright side, they have gone on to the realms of their deities and they are enjoying a different sort of life." Auy frowned at the rest of Caerlin's words that involved the killing children and the priestess of the cat goddess bit back a comment about what sort of beings would do that. She felt that there was no reason to bring up discussions about those kinds of beings though since she sensed that her companions were already saddened enough and it would distract them from the search to come.

At Auy's frown Caerlin nodded. "Aye, Luie and I found the remains of two adults, and three children." The scout took a deep breath. "One was just a babe and she was probably just learning to walk."

"Oh that is a horrible thing, at least the adults had had some chance to enjoy life and the pleasures it can bring, but the little ones..." Auy trailed off. "Well, all we can hope is that they are enjoying their afterlife.”

The scout turned and led the others into the cabin, and she began to uncover the hatch. Ragnar silently waited behind her and Auy joined them a moment later. Caerlin listened to see if she can feel/hear the vibrations that were present earlier and once the hatch was opened, they could be heard and felt by everyone.

Caer began to rummage in her backpack, and a few moments later she pulled out a torch and lit it. "Are we ready?" she asked as she looked at the others before she unsheathed her longsword. "And Luie, please don't ruin my shirt. Until we get to Shadowdale, that one and this one are all I have." She winked and gave him a small smile.

The priestess coughed suddenly as she over heard what Caerlin said and Auy smiled a small impish smile. She drew out her claws and equipped them, just incase she needed to move into battle with some awful creature.

“What? I can’t hear you because of all this noise,” he said with a mischievous smile. “I can take the torch and the lead to the door.”

Caer chuckled and handed Luie the torch. She put her sword away, and pulled her bow off her shoulder instead. "After you then."

Luie climbed down the ladder first and the others followed. As they looked around, they saw that the side walls, that are about six to eight feet wide, have been dug and chipped out of the soil and stone. A tunnel led north and it disappears into the darkness since the light of the torch can’t reach much further from where everyone stood. Everyone smelled wet earth and a low murmuring clanking vibrated through their bones and through the walls.

The hin took the lead as he said, and he followed the tunnel until they came to the door that Caerlin mentioned. They saw that the door was a grey stone and it was closed. A large image of a gear could be seen in the center and ever so often the gear rotated to the right but its rotations isn’t what is causing the vibrations and whatever is causing them, lies behind the door.

"So... I guess this is where you show us what you can do Addoc?" Ragnar said. He pointed at the door with his cutlass. "I'd investigate the door myself, but the last time I tried that Caerlin nearly got her shirt ruined by the dart that hit her."

The Gondsman harrumphed and edged past the rest of the group to get close to the door. "Traps and such aren't really in my line, lad, but I'll give it an eye and see if there's aught I can tell you 'bout it."

Addoc checked the door closely and as he did he compared the gear in it to the one that is on his holy symbol. He thought that they are connected, but at the same time there are slight differences in the teeth of the gears. He didn’t believe the door was trapped and he thought, possibly, that if the gear was turned the opposite direction it is turning, it might release the mechanism that kept the door shut. He listened to the vibrations to see if they resemble anything he's been close to during his time with the priesthood.

The giant tapped on the surface of the door with one huge finger. "I think there's a great engine past this door, unless I miss my guess. There sounds like some type of golem that might be Gondwork or the like. Gears against gears, hammer against metal..." He studied the door for a moment longer before he reached out to grasp the gear. "Ready yourselves, and we'll see what's beyond..." he rumbled over the noise as he turned it counter-clock wise.

Auy watched the giant with interest because she was surprised at how the large man tended to the small gears so tenderly and easily. "I'm as ready as I'll ever be! I've never seen or heard so many gears before and this place just feels odd to me." She looked back the way they came as she waited for the giant to open the door so that they can see what lies behind it.

Luie’s voice piped up right next to Addoc. “Right behind you. Give me a moment after the door opens and then I can be right ahead of you too. Of course the torch could be a problem.”

On hearing the large man’s words, Ragnar quickly took several steps back from the door, covering behind Caerlin. “Sorry, but I’ve a very sensitive constitution,” he whispered into her ear. “Let’s hope that Gond or Lady Luck stays with us.”

Caer looked over her shoulder with a raised eyebrow. "Delicate constitution, eh?" She pulled an arrow out of her quiver, and got ready as she whispered a quick prayer to both Mielikki and Tymora.

Luie flashed a grin to the bard. “Tymora is always with us Ragnar. And if your constitution is really that sensitive can I eat the rest of your rations?” He grinned at Caerlin and she shook her head as she replied, “I still think you are a gnome.”

"Don’t forget Luie’s large nose, Caerlin. And no you can't have my rations, besides, 'twasn't me that passed out from a little insect bite. I can hold the torch, though,” the bard remarked.

Seeing that his companions were, hopefully, done discussing things with each other, Addoc finished turning the gear. With a tug on a different part of the door that was shaped like a long gear, he pulled it open. Pale golden light cracked, and then spread, across the entrance as he did and he felt that the door opened with ease. Looking into the room everyone of the Unit could see a room inside of what looked to be what they thought of a large forge. Small to large beings that are square, circle, triangular, and other shapes could be seen moving around a large pool of liquid. Rising from the liquid, they saw an even larger being made out of the quicksilver that filled the pool. It looked vaguely humanoid and the moving creatures around it built and repaired different machines and themselves and the whole forge is what is causing the droning vibration.

"Sparks of the Great Forge," Addoc muttered. "This is a queer thing to find in a man's root cellar."

Luie let out a low whistle. "Yes Addoc, very strange indeed."

"Bhaal's Bristling Britches!” Ragnar exclaimed, his mouth wide open. “This makes the interior of Old Xoblob’s seem perfectly normal.” He looked more closely at the room and they realized it was circular and there were at least four more rooms off of it. "So, what do you think that thing in the pool is?"

The hin passed the torch to Ragnar. “Is it a threat? Are any of these a threat? I don’t think they are aware of us yet.”

Caer watched with amazement at the goings on in the room before she looked at Luie. "I'm very glad that we went and got Addoc before we opened the door." She watched for a bit more and then asked the Gondsman, "What exactly is going on in there Addoc? And are these things a threat to us? It seems that the family was more than just the trappers they first appeared to be."

Auyaeu blinked as she stared and watched everything that goes in the room with amazement. "Yeah, I can't say this is anything I'd expect to find in a root cellar. Well at least not a cellar in this place."

The priestess turned to the giant to see his reaction. "Do you have any idea what this place is for or what some of those things are?”

Addoc isn’t sure how to answer Caerlin’s questions since he has never heard of this place nor does he know a thing about it. Auy has a long forgotten memory surface and she said, “What are these things doing here? I've seen these things before and they are a race of beings called modrons. That silver thing is named Primus and it has something to do with them, though I'm not sure what. The modrones are they sphere shaped things with a single eye, wings, and two arms and legs. The duodrones are the square shaped things with the legs and arms. They are so organized it makes my head hurt and they have laws about laws about laws and more laws telling you about those laws. I remember why I had buried the memory of these things because they march across the planes for some unknown reason. If I remember right, their plane is Mechanus, which is filled with gears and metal creatures and it is a very ordered place.”

“That sounds a bit like the clerks at the palace in Waterdeep. Do you have any idea what they might be doing here, and if they could be responsible for the dead people?" Ragnar asked as he looked at the strange beings with a befuddled expression.

“Are we even sure where here is? It would not be the first time we’ve stepped through a portal. And the footprints Caerlin found were humanoid.” Luie watched the beings perform their tasks.

"This is all beyond me, lad," the Gondsman said with a shake his head. "...but I've a feeling that there's only one way to suss this out."

The Unit of the Silver Wyrms noticed that some of the strange metal constructs have started to realize that the five mortals are seeing into wherever this is but the constructs aren’t showing any hostile actions and the humanoid-like quicksilver being continued to shift and flow inside of the pool as it towered over the room.

The giant took a step forward away from the pack and as he did, he felt a slight resistance in front of him for a moment before it went away. "Ho, there, Servants of the Great Machine! We come here with no malice towards ye. D'ye say the same?"

“Well that is one way to find out if they are friendly.” Luie joined Addoc and he to felt the slight resistance and the hin stopped when he stood next to Addoc and he prepared himself for anything.

“The Great Machine, is that some kind of god to these creatures, Auy?” Ragnar whispered to the priestess.

"Not that I know of but it might be. I don’t know much more then I what I said earlier and what I do know, I learned from listening to tales. That name might be another name for Primus but I’m not sure. I'm not even sure that Primus is important, but his name sounds like it is.”

The three that were still standing in the doorway saw a handful of the metal creatures turn towards Addoc and Luie. The large quicksilver being shifted a little so that it looked at the human and halfling and a sibilant voice filled the room. “No malice towards you human and halfling. Welcome to the hall of Primus. Not many find their way here and surprised that you found a portal to my inner chamber. Where do you hail from?”

The priestess stayed near the back but she shifted her clothing a bit so that her faction and holy symbols could be seen. The first caused some whispers from the metal creatures and their buzzing language could be heard as they talked amongst themselves.

Auy smiled as she saw the stir her movement caused and she waved at some of the little metal beings as they discussed her symbol in their strange language. Her movement caused their discussion to increase for a few moments.

Ragnar stepped forward to address the being and he to felt the slight resistance that soon passed. "We're caravan-guards from the settlement of the Red Shields. You have our thanks for the welcome. Um... are you Primus, or is that someone else? And where exactly is here? All we did was walk through a door in a cabin in the wilderness between Phlan and Zhentil Keep."

Caer relaxed a bit and put the arrow back in her quiver. She leaned against the wall of the tunnel, glanced down the passageway behind the group, and very quietly mumbled something in Elven.

“So all of you hail from Faerun and many planar travelers have come from those lands. Aye, I am Primus.” The large being paused for a moment as the creatures passed in their speech before it continued. “You must have used a portal that the Artificers created and it hasn’t been used in many decades.”

The priestess of Sharess listened to Primus and she was surprised that it didn't speak up when she went on and on about the modrons and Primus. However, the men seem to be doing a fine job so far and she already spouted off enough when they first walked into the room.

"Artificers, sir?" the giant rumbled. "We're tryin' to find out about the deaths of some folk who lived above this portal, and they hardly seemed the sort of folk who you might set t'guard such a gate, much less create one..."

“I know nothing of these people that live above the gate that led to this realm on the outer planes. The Artificers, I believe that the people of Faerun know them as the Imaskari.”

Most of the Companions have no idea what this strange humanoid being is talking about but Caerlin has a dim, a very dim, extremely dim, recollection of the female mage mentioning that name in relation to a passage in a tome that some of the members of the Unit found in Phlan. Ithyria was going to research the tome some more, but she was sent off to Baldur’s Gate before she could and Caerlin hoped that the tome was still in the rooms back at the settlement.

Addoc nodded, even though he had no idea what Primus had mentioned. He took a step back towards the door without taking his eyes off the silvery figure. "Well, then, great sir, I thank ye for your knowledge, and apologize for our intrudin' on yer work. Is there aught we can do t'keep folk from bargin' in that door uninvited... again?"

“Lock it as it was probably locked before you opened it.”

Caer started from her thoughts. "Wait Sir... er, Primus... er", She wasn’t sure how to address this being. "If this portal hasn't been used in decades, would you have an idea of why it was so easy for us to find it? I mean, the hatch in the cabin above wasn't hidden, and neither was the door that Addoc opened. There shouldn't have any reason for it not to be opened before." She looked away and said under her breath, "Unless no one else was as curious about it as we were...."

“I’d have to say, human, that no one figured out how to open it or the magic kept it sealed and one of you learned how to unlock it. From what you told me, it sounds like it was buried and most likely forgotten except for whoever lived in the cabin.”

"I'm guessing that those people living there were something other than they'd seem if we'd met them alive, then," Ragnar said. "And since the good Primus here doesn't seem to know who they or their assailants were, perhaps we should see if we can follow those tracks?"

“The rain has been falling long enough that I don’t think the tracks survived.” Luie went back to watching the wondrous beings going about their daily routine.

Addoc raised his hammer. "Our thanks to ye, great sir, for yer forebearance, and our apologies for interruptin' yer work. With yer permission, we'll be takin' our leave from ye now."

“Aye, well part and I’d welcome you to this part of Mechanus another time for information and knowledge of Faerun.”

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Auy listened to Ragnar as she thought about some things. She glanced around at the metal room and the gears that were rotating and at the metal creatures before she moved over towards one and leaned down, causing to stare at her. She started to speak a deep, but heavenly, language that contained some strong tones and heavy timbers like breath through wind instruments. The modron blinked for a moment before it answered her in the same language.

While she has the attention of one of the modrons, she inquired about the march they do across the planes because the cleric doubted that she'll have another chance to find out what that is all about. Auy also inquired about her faction and if the modron knew any information about its members. Another answer came from the creature in that same language and this time the reply was a little longer.

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After the Company stepped out of the tunnel and back into the mostly burnt cabin, they saw Aris standing within and looking outside, they saw that it was late afternoon. This human mage has been seen around the tower of the settlement and he is traveling with the caravan. As usual, since this Unit seems to be where all the members are given a trial period, he has been assigned to the Unit of the Silver Wyrms by the Commander.

The Unit consisted of Ragnar, a half-sun elven bard. Luie, a halfling monk. Auyaeu, a priestess of Sharess. Addoc, a human priest of Gond, and Caerlin a human scout/archer.

For his part, Addoc took just enough steps to clear the tunnel after he resealed the portal before he sank down with his back against part of the ruined wall, his big knees framing a pale face. "Zeldan's Pavestones!" he spat, rubbing the back of his head with one big hand. "This may be too much for me."

Luie popped out of the hatch. “I never thought that Auy would hit on one those square things. I figured she would go for something more human...” His green eyes squinted at Aris. “This is interesting. Who are you again? All of us have seen you before, but I forgot who you were.” The halfling stood to the side to allow the others passage while he knocked some imaginary dirt from his way too big blue shirt.

From the other side of the hatch everyone heard the priestess sneeze before she looked around and climbed out. "Oh, was someone sent to check on us?" She blinked as she looked at Aris and she realized he was another member of the Company that doesn’t come to her for pleasure. "Were we gone that long?" the tall, thin, and attractive priestess asked as she smiled.

Caerlin climbed out of the hatch, and once everyone was clear, she shut it. "Well met Aris." She nodded to the mage, "So we have another member of our group?" She looked at Luie and Ragnar with a smile, "It seems that the Commander hopes that eventually we will find companions that will stay around for a while." She walked over to Addoc and sat near the Gondsman. "Aye, that was more than I could ever understand. But Addoc, this will be quite the report for you to give to other Gondsmen." Caerlin looked over at Auy and asked, "What were you saying to the machine? Did it give you any information useful to us?"

The priestess of Sharess glanced over at Caerlin. "Oh, nay, nothing useful to us and barely anything useful to me." She sighed lightly. "The little one didn't have much useful information or I was asking the wrong questions or phrasing them poorly. It’s been a few summers since I last interacted with something that orderly. Though, it was entertaining to do so! The next time I’ll have to stay longer but I did not want to get split from you, and everyone seemed to be rushing to get back to Faerun, which I can understand because planar travel is not for everyone.”

The giant human frowned. "Oh, aye," he rumbled, marking the air with an imaginary feather pen. ""To the Grand Artificer - Today I stepped through a doorway to another plane, spoke like a clothhead to its leader, and nearly soiled myself. How've ye been? Addoc Gondsmith""

"I wouldn't use that word Addoc," Ragnar told the priest as the bard grinned. "Although references to other more wooden materials certainly spring to mind. Of course, I can't say I was much more eloquent either. Master Luko would have had me perform scale-practices the whole night if he'd heard my stuttering."

Caer smiled at Addoc. "Bah, you did just fine in my opinion. I wasn't even going to talk to it, until I spouted off the nonsense about the door." She shrugged. "I didn't even cross the threshold, so if you were on another plane, you are one up on me. And, you can tell them that you have a personal invitation from Primus," Caerlin frowned and looked confused, "to come back at any time and talk about Faerun. That in and of itself should be worth something!"

Auy slipped up next to the giant and she got on the very tips of her toes and gave the big man a kiss on the cheek. "You did fine, the first encounter with something from another plane is amazing and confusing," she whispered before she slipped back onto her feet. "Besides, had you been too much of a clothheaded clueless, I think Primus would have been far less friendly and welcoming!"

Luie tapped Ragnar on his leg. “I would not write any ballads about this planar trip for a few months. The family that was protecting this secret paid for it with their lives. And whoever did this will be back and then they will be looking for the key.” Luie climbed onto Caerlins’s horse, “And one more thing, why do I have the incredible urge to change my name to start with the letter A?”

"As some of you might know, my name is Aris Wands. I’m an abjurer out of Waterdeep and if you are wondering what brought me here so far from home they are adventure, thirst for glory, and why not," he made a slight grin, "power. But enough about me, I’m pleased to meet you. No, I wasn't sent here to check on you and as you all know, the Commander sent me here to join you, which I hope would be a great honor."

Auy chuckled. "Aye, you have been assigned to the rotating group and our members change more often than the wind changes directions. So, it tis a great honor!" She furrowed her brow for a moment. "Well, it’s not that rotating members are a bad thing.” Her eyes sparkled playfully up at the Art wielder from Waterdeep. "Oh, and it’s a pleasure to meet you and I’m a priestess of Sharess and my name is Auyeau or Auy and I travel for the sake of traveling and seeing new things, new races, new sensations, and other things that might cross my path."

Addoc waved absently to Aris from his seat on the ground, but his gaze was still fixed on some point on the horizon.

The bard took in the words of the mage, and then let out a groan as he reached a hand down to help the huge Gondsman rise. “Beshaba! I can’t get away from those Siamorphe-addled nobles even when I’ve put half of Faerûn betwixt myself and ‘Old Splendors.’ We’ll be lucky if he knows how to tie his own bootlaces.” Ragnar grunted before he reached out a hand to Aris, “I’m Ragnar Braelithar of Dock Ward, but don’t get any ideas about lording it over me, we’re far from anywhere your family-name might count for much.”

After they finished their introductions again, since many members of this Unit have come and gone, the six of them started to return to the caravan.

As they rode, Aris asked, "So, what exactly did you find in the cabin?"

"A door," Ragnar answered, "and some weird quicksilver-looking creature and some talking gears. I'm sure Auy can fill in the details for you."

"I heard that all of you traveled to Mechanus? Interesting." With a pondering look on Aris’s face, he added, "Please priestess, tell me more. Ragnar, don’t worry, I do not look down upon you. I am proud of being a member of the Wands family, but that doesn't give me the right to patronize people and all of you are my equals."

"What more can I tell you? It was interesting and words won't do it justice especially if you have never had the joy of traveling to another plane. This one was very orderly and it contains gears, beings of metal, golems, and other constructs." She glanced over at the giant and then back to the new member. "But like I said, mainly you have to see it to believe it and now that we know where it is, we can go back whenever we want as long as the portal is freely accessible and stable.”

Aris smiled. "Actually I’ve had the joy of traveling to some of the planes but not to Mechanus. I will surely seek more knowledge about it in my studies and if it’s not to much to ask, I’d be grateful if you could tell me the whole tale about finding the portal and stepping through it and then returning."

Once they returned to the caravan and they picketed the horses they headed off in different directions.

Luie wandered off towards a small hill and he spent some time alone there before he returned to the camp.

Awhile later, Addoc walked towards the small fire that was started for the members of the Wyrms and he was carrying a pot and a few pans, a small satchel, and a larger satchel. The Gondsman sat on a stump after he covered the bottom of one of the pans with some oil. After he got some beef sausage cooking in the pan, he started to cook, in the pot, some corn, carrots, onions, and beans. He watched the vegetables and he tossed in some fresh chives and garlic before adding a touch of salt. When the sausage was finished cooking, he cut them in half and added them to the vegetables. Addoc finished off the meal by baking some black bread that was flat and round.

Auy shook off her wet hair like a cat would try to shake off water while she looked around and watched Addoc before she took the plate he offered her. "Sharess’s Fur, I know I said I enjoyed water and the rain but there is a limit. The rain has done its job so it should be gone but it looks like Talos wants to continue to drown us" she muttered. "It’s almost time to get out of the rain for a bit." She turned to look at the noble from Waterdeep. "So, how are you adjusting to the changes of the fare that Waterdeep has to the fare you find on the road?"

Aris looked at the sky and then set his eyes on Auy. "Aye, the rain is unfortunate, but it will pass, maybe. As for the fare, it isn't really a delicacy but it isn't bad either." He laughed and added, "I guess it will do."

After eating heartily of the meal, Caer turned to Addoc and smiled at him. "Thank you Addoc, that was a very good meal."

Still quiet after his few steps out of Faerun's dimension, Addoc accepted the praise with a nod and a quick half-smile. Seeing that everyone had finished their meal, Caerlin helped Addoc clean the dishes and utensils before they packed them back into the sacks that were then given back to the supply wagon.

Later, they went to sleep.

For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet and excite you... Books are full of the things that you don't get in real life - wonderful, lyrical language, for instance, right off the bat. - Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

Scribe for the Candlekeep Compendium

Edited by - Kuje on 21 May 2006 05:31:59
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Bakra
Senior Scribe

626 Posts

Posted - 30 May 2006 :  13:59:27  Show Profile Send Bakra a Private Message  Reply with Quote
My Lady,

It is always an honor and privilege to do field evaluations for you of the new recruits. I hope the information provide within will be a strategic importance on where to place this individual. The person I evaluated for the past few days is called Luie.

He hails from the North, I suspect from somewhere near Silverymoon. This hin is of undetermined stock, please allow me to explain. He's a young male halfling with several unusual physical features that can not place him into the known hin racial stereotypes. I'm only an expert in martial professions; however, my fellow Oghman in Waterdeep is an expert in all races that walk Faerun. His best educated guess is a mixed blood.

Luie of the North, as I said before, is a young male hin about 16 winters of age. He stands 3 feet & 5 inches, his hair is typical fair for his race which is jet black. He has a sturdy strong agile frame almost possessing double the weight of an average hin. This is all wiry muscle with no trace of body fat. His feet are hairy but very slender. He could possibly wear a small pair of boots if he wanted too. I suspect much of his training as a monk explains most of his physical features.

The training would not explain his slender feet nor his most distinctive physical trait which are his eyes. They are a deep forest green.

Heritage matters not to our small company but a beings fighting’s skills, reasoning, and the willingness to follow orders do. Luie has been trained by a sect of monks not familiar to me; his style is defiantly not Hin Fist or any of the other orders. My best guess it is a blend of many forms of martial arts. His other weapons of choice besides his body is the sling (he would make a good sniper) and the nunchaku (almost laughable to most of the veterans but I am well aware how efficient these weapons can be). He is more than capable of following orders, almost to the letter; he does have enough wisdom to think outside of the box. He also has the other typical characteristics of his race, which my friend has supplied to me at my request and only at the cost of Uncle Volo’s Bathtub Gin. It is attached at the end of this scroll and is only a mere 15 pages in length.

I notices that he seems to have bonded with some of the new recruits that he arrived with last month. It might be a good idea to keep them all together.

The only thing that could work against him are the tattoos on his chest. They are very flamboyant. They are being drawn up for you even as I pen this report.

This concludes my report on Luie.

Merry reading,

Cyan

P.S. There is now one less case of the above mentioned ale. But I guarantee it is well worth it. That stuff is horrible and I suspect Shane is going to use the brew to strip some paint of the temple walls.

I hope Candlekeep continues to be the friendly forum of fellow Realms-lovers that it has always been, as we all go through this together. If you don’t want to move to the “new” Realms, that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with either you or the “old” Realms. Goodness knows Candlekeep, and the hearts of its scribes, are both big enough to accommodate both. If we want them to be.
(Strikes dramatic pose, raises sword to gleam in the sunset, and hopes breeches won’t fall down.)
Enough for now. The Realms lives! I have spoken! Ale and light wines half price, served by a smiling Storm Silverhand fetchingly clad in thigh-high boots and naught else! Ahem . .
So saith Ed. <snip>
love to all,
THO

Edited by - Kuje on 30 May 2006 16:46:40
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Kuje
Great Reader

USA
7915 Posts

Posted - 02 Jun 2006 :  23:48:56  Show Profile Send Kuje a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Day/Month/Year: 12th day of the 2nd tenday of Mirtul in the year 1375 - The Year of Risen Elfkin.
Time: Morning to Evening
Location: On the Moonsea.
Weather: Temperate and clear.


One of the nature deities must have taken pity on this part of the Moonsea since the rain had left during the night and sunlight shone down.

Addoc tried his hand in cooking for the members of the Wyrms. However, the honey-cakes he tried to make for dawnfry were burned and the slices of ham were overcooked and rubbery.

Luie left the covered wagon and he stepped out into the early morning sunlight, “When did the weather get crappy?” he asked to no one in particular. When he smelled Addocs’ cooking, he immediately went to the large man. When Luie got some of the meal, he removed the burnt part of the honey-cakes with his blade before he folded it over the ham and the halfling would eat anything, it seemed, and so he returned to thirds.

Caerlin, after she helped Addoc clean up and put things way, rode off to scout while the other scout circled the wagons at a distance and every so often they met up, exchanged words, and rode off again.

Those that were with the caravan checked up on some things. Auy looked at the twenty different paintings the mage made of the items on the obelisk and she didn’t know what all of them were in reference to, but she knew of the few that she learned or guessed at.

Ragnar kept to his place in the caravan. He played his flute as he rode and occasionally he took a break to join Auy in looking at the paintings. As he looked at the twenty or more scenes, he tried to etch them into his memory as well as the songs he normally sang to help bring in coins.

Addoc worked with those that keep the wagons from breaking down so that there wouldn’t have to be long stops for repairs. Luie hovered near the rear of the caravan where he kept watch.

After Aris prayed to Azuth and he had his dawnfry, he asked for a tome about the Moonsea from the female caravan master. Instead, she pointed him towards Kynnelee, a female human descended from Illuskan blood, since she was born in the Moonsea area and she has spent her whole life here. He asked her some questions like what kind of monsters and beasties they might encounter, some geographical information, the recent history, and legends.

“Zhentarim, orcs, undead, animals both dire and normal, dragons of various colors, halflings near the settlements, lizardman in the swamps and marshes, goblins, will-o’-wisps, and around the Moonsea, different creatures like water trolls, pirates, hags, and naga. Some of the major cities are Phlan, Zhentil Keep, Hillsfar on the southern shore, the Sorcerer’s Isle north of Phlan, Dragonspine Mountains even further north, and many scattered ruins and the like from old settlements and those who thought they could rule the land they claimed as their own. Zhent’s attack the dales and the eastern settlements of the Moonsea all the time. Phlan is still rebuilding from being destroyed in the last dragon rage, a group of adventurers cleared the Sorcerer’s Isle not that long ago. The Graveyard near Phlan is still haunted with undead even though the clerics have been tying to clear it for years. Legends tell of the Bell of the Deep in the Moonsea and many claim to hear it ringing at various times. Others, who have been in old Phlan, have said they’ve found valuables in ruins.”

Surprisingly that day passed without any attack or encounters and the day was peaceful. It seemed that maybe the deities were looking out for their followers.

The large man tried his hand at cooking the eveningfest meal and it wasn’t as bad as his dawnfry. It was edible, at least, because he used some left over chicken that the merc cooks had already cooked. He added the chicken to last news sausage and vegetables and reheated the left over bread.

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Day/Month/Year: 13th day of the 2nd tenday of Mirtul in the year 1375 - The Year of Risen Elfkin.
Time: Morning to Evening
Location: On the Moonsea
Weather: Temperate and overcast.


Addoc found some tubars and wild potatoes and after he cleaned and diced them, he added sage and chives to them. As they cooked, he finished the dawnfry with some biscuits, since he was trying to make up for yesterday’s dawnfry. Aris woke, ate his dawnfry, and prayed to Azuth.

Around midday of the next day, which was overcast, Caerlin pulled up short as she noticed something shining and reflecting about a hundred feet west of her. As far as she could tell, it was white in color but a tinge of bronze could also be seen.

Caer carefully and slowly moved toward the object. As she moved, she kept an eye out and listened closely but nothing out of the ordinary could be seen or heard. She stopped when she got about twenty-five feet away and she was surprised by what she saw. After a few hours she returned and her saddlebags were bulging with some square, or rectangular, or rounded items that she didn’t have when she left earlier in the day. Many of the members saw that her horse was dragging a very tall bone that was curved like a rib and whispers from the members of the Red Shield’s followed after her as she rode past the wagons.

“What have you got there, Caerlin?” Ragnar called out as the scout rode past.

"A rib bone and some scales from a bronze dragon," Caer replied with a smile as she pulled on the reins to get the horse to stop. "I found them to the southwest. I'm not exactly sure what I will use the scales for, but I'm hoping to maybe get a good bow or two made from the rib. I would try to make them myself, but I think that may be beyond my current ability."

Caerlin got the horse moving again and when she was near the caravan master, she stopped and spoke with Jelitha for a few moments. As the scout talked she pointed southwest while the caravan master listened with a look of surprise before she nodded at something Caerlin asked. After the conversation was over, Caerlin continued towards the back of the caravan and she stopped when she got to where her companions are. With some help, she managed to get the rib into one of the rear caravans, since there was more room in them and then she set the scales next to the large bone.

Caer thanked the three stronger mercs that helped herr move the bone and scales before she returned to scouting.

Like the first night, Addoc cooked for his companions, he made a good eveningfast. During the day one of the mercs brought down a dear and Addoc was given some venison chops. He seared them in one of the pans while roasting some fresh corn on the cob.

***********************************************************************

Day/Month/Year: 14th day of the 2nd tenday of Mirtul in the year 1375 - The Year of Risen Elfkin.
Time: Morning to Evening
Location: On the Moonsea.
Weather: Temperate and raining.


With a growl, Addoc began to think he wasn’t cut out for cooking dawnfry as he burned another dawnfry. This time the biscuits were hard and the beef sausage was raw. Aris woke, ate his dawnfry, and prayed to Azuth.

For a moment Luie thought he had chipped a tooth on the biscuits and for a brief moment he thought that he might sneak one into his bullet pouch but he decided against it. When he noticed Addocs’ frustration, the halfling gave the Gondsmith some praise for taking the time to cook for everyone and once again Luie finished everything. Ragnar kept silent and he picked at the poor fare, reminding himself to introduce his mother to Addoc if the group ever visited Waterdeep.

"Aye, well... I figured that until I could find an innkeeper that would travel with me, it's best if I tried my hand at keepin' my stomach full of somethin' other'n dried meat an' hardtack," the giant rumbled. He paused a moment before he tried to bounce one of the biscuits off a nearby tree and it chipped some of the bark before the biscuit hit the ground with a thud. "Have to apologize to ya, though. Most of the time when an Gondsman experiments, the only folk who get hurt are other Gondsmen."

Caer smiled at Addoc. "It's alright. I've heard it just takes practice," she shrugged. "At least that's what my father would tell me every time I burned meals, which was most of the time." Caerlin helped Addoc clean up again before she rode off to scout.

Finally the caravan made it to the north shore of the Moonsea. As they loaded the wagons onto the barges that were waiting there, Addoc helped since his strength helped the loading go faster.

Ragnar found a Red Shield, named Aulezzur, that was at home on the water and the male human started to teach Ragnar some of the fighting techniques and skills to be a swashbuckler.

The follower of Gond smiled once he finished another meal of baked ham with chives and sage, a pan of lentil soup that contained the remaining chick, beef sausages, and vegetables from the earlier meals.

The barges headed south across the Moonsea and after midnight passed, a shout of shark was the only cry that the lookouts called. Once it had been ascertained that no shark attack seemed imminent, Ragnar walked up and asked the lookout if he was certain that it was a shark he had seen considering how the Moonsea isn’t supposed to have any as far as the bard could recall.

“Aye, it was a shark alright. I’ve heard tales of what they look like and it looked like what those tales say they look like.”

***********************************************************************

Day/Month/Year: 15th day of the 2nd tenday of Mirtul in the year 1375 - The Year of Risen Elfkin.
Time: Morning to Evening
Location: On the Moonsea.
Weather: Temperate and overcast.


Aris woke, ate his dawnfry, and prayed to Azuth.

A cry of pirates came from the lookout around late highsun and as his cry faded away, the sailors and mercenaries grabbed weapons and shields, if they had some, and got ready for a battle. At the same time four of the sailors moved towards the ballista and readied them by sliding home long spears and winding the cranks.

Not long after, a three-masted caravel could be seen heading towards the left side of the ship from the rear. Slowly it caught up and drew alongside and the mercenaries’ ship rocked sideways as the ballista were fired. However, the two spears went wide and around the pirate ship, allowing it to draw close enough that boarding hooks brought the two ships together with a clash of wood against wood.

The defenders were soon in a pitched battle with the twenty pirates and small groups of mercenaries and pirates flowed across the deck.

Luie stood a little in front of his companions that use ranged weapons and spells, making it so that any of the pirates would have to get by him first to get to the members of his Company and with a snap kick and a “HAI!”, the halfling’s foot slammed into the pirate and it spun the human around because of the force and the slippery deck and the mercenaries that were near, laughed as the pirate’s body flipped over the edge of the ship and into the Moonsea. A moment later, that shark from earlier dragged the mostly unconscious human under the water.

The male human pirate captain, who wields a saber and wears leather armor, cut one of the members of the Red Shields in half with a strong blow, leaving both halves of the body to fall away from the saber. With a grin, the captain looked around and stood his ground for now.

Seeing that Luie was being a body shield, Caerlin quickly strung up her bow and as she moved back a few steps, since she was near the wagons and the back of the barge, she plunked an arrow into the throat of one of the pirates and he fell to the deck with a “urk” sound.

Addoc raised his hammer and said a quick to Gond to bless everyone that fights with the Gondsman and when they felt the divine energy, it filled them with the feeling of strength of gears and metal.

Aris was with the female caravan master and he was oiling his crossbow and as the two ships were bound together, he stood and fired a bolt at a pirate and it entered the male’s arm, causing his arm to lose feeling.

Ragnar flourished his cutlass while he kept his katar in plain sight. As he stepped forward, a little, his weapon cut through the leather armor, after he blocked the pirate’s short blade, and Ragnar’s cutlass dug deep into the pirate’s chest, leaving a gaping wound that would kill the invader.

The other members of the Red Shield’s continued their own battles across the decks of the barges and they removed four of the pirates while taking no casualties.

Auy stayed further behind Luie and Caerlin and she asked her cat deity to shield her and Sharess’s warm purring feline feeling energy flowed over her.

One of the pirates hit Luie with his short blade in the halfling’s arm for a minor wound. The other cut across Ragnar’s leg and his cut caused the bard to have a small scratch. Ragnar quickly looked down at the cut and he when he saw that it wasn’t serious he looked back up at the offending pirate and glared at him. “Do you have any idea how much these trousers cost? I’m going to have to cut off your ears for that you know.” The pirate just sneered back at Ragnar as he listened to the bard.

Making sure he was not being drawn off from his companions, Luie decided to return the favor to the pirate. “SHOYUKIN!” he yelled as he delivered a powerful upper cut to the pirates’ groin and his attacked caused the pirate to scream as the human grabbed his groin and fell to his knees.

This time, when the pirate captain hit one of the mercenaries, the blade cut into the merc but it didn’t kill him and the merc glared back in anger.

Caerlin quickly dropped her bow and took two steps forward before she slammed her long sword through the chest of one of the pirates, causing his wound to gush blood as she pulled her blade out of his chest cavity.

With a roar, the giant waded into the fray in the direction of the pirate captain. He swung his hammer at any freebooter unlucky enough to come between him and the grinning murderer but most of them moved out of his way, letting him get to the pirate leader. Before the leader could turn to block Addoc’s weapon, the Gondsmith had slammed the warhammer against the pirate’s arm and chest, making the human stumble as some of his bones snapped.

The wizard shot another bolt and he killed the pirate that Ragnar injured. With a ferocious snarl, Ragnar feinted with his katar, before he revealed his real attack by swiping his cutlass at the pirate’s neck and the bard’s weapon cut deeply into that body part.

The mercenaries of the Red Shields held their own against the pirates that are attacking the other barges and the well trained mercs cut down three more invaders without being killed.

Auy stayed a little behind Caerlin and the scout heard the priestess call on Sharess again. As the cleric’s spell finished, Auy smiled as one of the pirates stopped and stared at the cleric with desire and lust, causing the attacker to just stand there stunned as his body reacted to the spell.

Luie felt the bite of a steel weapon in the same arm again and he finally realized that Caerlin’s shirt was being cut up by the pirates and he was lightly bleeding on it. “Drop you weapons and surrender!” he barked, “The battle is lost,” and he watched as the leader smirked before he glared at the remaining pirates to show them that if they stopped, he would kill them himself.

The halfling used a lesser punch and he knocked out the injured pirate, causing the body to fall to the deck. Addoc blocked the pirate leader’s attack by bringing his hammer around and clanking it against the long sword.

Caer looked startled by the effect of Auy's prayer but she shrugged and glanced around to see that some of the mercs where injured and instead of continuing the fight she went to them and helped them get comfortable or she bandaged their wounds.

"I'll send ye back to Umberlee, butcher!" Addoc thundered and his hammer arced towards the pirate captain with deadly purpose. Once it slammed into the captain, Addoc, and many of the others nearby, heard the captain’s chest shatter before blood flowed out of his open mouth and then his body fell to the deck.

Seeing that their leader has been killed the one that is injured threw down his blade and the other mercs quickly dispatched the few others on the other barges. At the same time, the pirate that is under Auy’s spell started to make sounds of pleasure. The cat priestess smiled as she watched the pirate before she gazed across the deck.

"Well, that was quicker than I thought it would be, which is good because there was less killing on both sides since the fighting is over and it looks like we might have gotten another ship. I wonder what the caravan master or our leader will do with it?” Auy remarked and she noticed the few cats that are on the ship start to wind around and between her legs.

Aris, with a disgusted look on his face, said, "What in the bloody Nine Hells did you cast on him?"

"Hmm?” Auy hummed as she continued to feel the felines around her legs. ”Oh, for shame, you asking a woman all her secrets," the priestess replied in a chastising voice. "Anyway, didn't you say you were from Waterdeep? I thought all the nobles of that city were familiar with such things, but since you aren’t perhaps you are to young to know about such things. So, I leave it as a divine secret of Sharess, until you can remove yourself from your parent's apron strings. Then... Perhaps... I can teach you about such pleasures.”

Narrowing his eyes, Aris said, "You presume much. I don't exactly know where you are trying to get with these assumptions but such a show isn't exactly a sight for sore eyes for a man."

Her normal smile and friendly eyes vanished as she glared at the human. "You are truly wet behind the ears and it’s good that you left your city when you did otherwise you'd be dead or some ones pawn or lackey. I've said all I am going to sat to you on this and about anything else for a while. If I were you, I wouldn’t speak to me again until you have figured out the offense you have given my goddess and me."

“I apologize if I offended you and your goddess. Still, you must understand that I have no inclinations towards males and a man loving another man may be not that uncommon in Waterdeep, but I’m in not interested in such things. Hence my reaction.”

The priestess started to open her mouth but she stopped short of saying anything since she did say she was done talking to this man for the day.

Luie pointed at some of the merc's. "You three," the halfling said as he motioned his hand at the company's new pirate captives, "Bind them please."

When he saw that the mercs were already starting to do that before he remarked on it, he started to head towards the barges railing. "The first order of business Auy is to secure the ship and to make sure that they don’t have any nasty surprise in the holds and we can check for possible prisoners." With a hop, skip, and a jump he crossed over to the pirate’s small ship. "Come on Ragnar! Let’s find you and Caerlin some new clothes!"

For his part, the giant began looking after the body of the Red Shield that was slain by the pirate captain. Addoc removed the mercs personal effects and arranged a piece of sailcloth for his corpse to be wrapped in. "D'ye know if he was praying man?" Addoc asked the other mercenaries. "Was he a follower of the Knight?"

“Aye, he was,” the caravan master answered from where she stood nearby. “If you could, store the body in one of the back wagons and we’ll return them to the settlement to be buried.”

Addoc nodded. "As ye say, ma'am. Will ye be taking charge of his effects, or would ye want me t' see that they make it back to his folk once we cross paths with those of my brethren?"

“Please, store them with the bodies and when we return to the Red Shield’s settlement, we’ll let the Commander decide or she might know who they can be returned or given to.”

Caer continued to help those that were injured and once she finished, she helped Addoc with the sailcloth. She grimaced at the bite she could hear in Auy's voice and Caerlin turned to Addoc. "Aris is not making a good impression on Auy at the moment."

"Aye. A good man lies dead, and they squabble like children fighting over the last piece of morning frybread," the Gondsman harrumphed. "She because she fears none will take her giggle an' swish ways and festhall magic seriously, and he because he fears some blackguard might wink an eye his way. For all their talk of visiting other worlds, those two seem the least worldly among us."

When Auy heard the Gondsman's comment, she turned and looked at him. "If you truly believe what you just said about me and why I am upset, you are not much of a priest as you claim to be, or you lack the understanding of what your god would find offensive and that worries me more than your clueless comments about my actions." Auy frowned and started to walk away before the normally happy priestess turned back and looked at the Gondsman a second time and then turned her gaze to Aris. “Thankfully I don’t worry about what you or that noble thinks and all that is important to me is that my goddess is pleased with me and how I follow her beliefs, and that I don’t have aid those who have insulted her or her cleric."

"An' she calls me thickskulled," Addoc snorted, not even looking up from his task. "I'll be a freckled firenewt if I mentioned my god or hers... It’s a good thing that your goddess is not so thin-skinned as ye, child," Addoc rumbled, still crouched over the body. "That said, if ye must take my words as insult, remember that they were never directed at the Dancing Lady. If y'cannot find the difference twixt ye and she, mayhap it's not I who lack the wit to tell what's offensive to the gods, aye?"

Aris took on a calm expression. "It's your choice but it saddens me that you think that and I never meant to offend you. Addoc, come, there still may be more threats on the enemy vessel and we may need you. I’ll help you tend to our fallen comrade when the ship is safe".

Addoc lifted the body of the fallen soldier in his arms and the giant shook his head. "Like me ol' dad says, a thing half-done is still undone. You go join the others, and I'll be along in a bit, once I've said a few words t'send this warrior's soul on to his rest."

The Gondsman carried the body to its place in the far wagon and after it was arranged, he quietly said a prayer to the Red Knight for a place at her tables for a fallen and faithful soldier, and another prayer to Gond for a sharp sword and good armor once he got there.

While Addoc placed the body in the wagon, Caerlin cleaned her sword and sheathed it. She crossed the deck and retrieved her bow and checked it to make sure that it wasn't damaged during the battle and it seemed fine.

Aris, a little shaken from what he saw, quickly followed Ragnar and Luie to the enemy vessel. "I guess it would be too much to ask to find some spell scrolls, or a spellbook, from which I could copy some new spells from."

"No problem,” Luie said.

Ragnar quickly followed Luie and the bard walked across the boarding plank and onto the pirate ship. “Oh this is just a small cut and I’m sure someone in the caravan will know how to fix it. Not that I’d mind a new pair of clothes, of course.” He winked for the first time since the beginning of the battle with the pirates. “Although I must say that if the blood gets washed out, I think Caerlin’s shirt would look rather fetching with a few tears in it."

“Then let’s find another pirate so he can rend the other sleeve,” Luie said with a quick grin, “Or were you thinking the chest?”

Luie moved to Ragnar and gave him a pat on the leg, leaving some blood on him. “Let’s head toward that staircase that leads down. Um... you got red on you.”

“As Princess Alusair once said, ‘Tis but a flesh-wound.’ And I think I’ll settle for the sleeve because Caerlin just might hear us talking after all. What do you think Auy will do to ‘her’ prisoner?” the bard wondered aloud as he scanned the deck for signs of non-surrendered pirates, which he didn’t see any and then his attention was drawn to a nice gewgaw that is a steel bracer chased with gold and set in the middle of it is a medium-sized onyx.

“I’m not sure but I think it will require a lot of rope,” Luie answered from where he stood near the top of the staircase and waited to see if anyone else was going to join them.

"Of course it will! He is a prisoner after all and we can't leave him free to run around the ship!" Auy replied with a grin as she joined the others on the pirate ship after she stalked off like a cat that has its back up. "Luie dear, do you know much about rope?" she added with a slight giggle.

He answered over his shoulder, "Just enough to walk across it like a spider. And I know how to escape a good tied rope. Also if you wet it down with oil not only is it flammable but it can deliver a wicked slap."

Caerlin walked over to the boarding plank and she waited for Addoc. As the two of them crossed over to the pirate ship, she looked at her fellow companions and she shook her head.

Luie began to descend and he paused to cup his hands over his mouth using the universal greeting for ship to ship communication. “Ahoy!” he yelled. “We have taken the ship, is there anyone down here who needs assistance?" He waited for any reaction from below and after listening to the silence for a few moments, he heard a faint female voice calling for help.

“Maiden in distress!” the hin said mostly to himself, “Or a big trap.”

”Well I sure hope for the first, it's my speciality,” the bard, who has been following right behind Luie after he pocketed the bracer that he noticed before, said. “I’m a lot better at dealing with those than I am with traps.”

Luie, Ragnar, and Aris saw that a hallway faced them and it had two doors off of it, one right and the other left, and another smaller staircase, at the end of the hallway, led down and that is where the voice is coming from. Auy followed behind them and Caerlin and Addoc brought up the rear.

Faster than a speeding arrow, Luie rushed down the hall and he paused to examine the second set of stairs while he peered down them and he saw that there were some light sources deeper in, since the shadows flickered from the lantern lights. “Don’t worry miss we are almost to you. Do you need healing?”

Caerlin tried to say something to Luie, but she stopped as the hin disappeared down the stairs. Instead she sighed, nocked an arrow, and opened the door on the left. Not quite that fast, Ragnar hurried after the hin and Aris continued to follow but he stayed slightly behind Ragnar.

The scout looked around the room to make sure that no one can come down the second stairs behind them or surprise them by coming out of the rooms and after a few moments, she stepped out of the room. As she crossed the hall and entered the room on the right, those that are with her saw that she carried a new bow. After a few moments, Caer came back out of the door and she nodded to the others.

“No one in either room as far as I can tell, but there are some chests and wardrobes that can be looked through later, and distributed fairly." She smiled, headed for the stairs, and started down them.

“Some, aye,” the female voice said and now that he is closer, he can hear her better. “But I’d rather get out of these chains.”

“Lady Luck is smiling down on you today because we can help with your current situation.” Luie headed directly towards the female voice and as he walked through the shadow and dusky hallway, he moved his head back and forth looking for keys, a jailer with said keys, or anything that might be a trap.

When he was near the front part of the hold, he saw a female human that is clothed in rags that once looked well made. Her dark reddish-brown hair is cut short. They could see that she was of average height and weight and she has tawny skin. Hanging, just out of her reach, is what Luie assumes is the key. Luie took the key and inserts it into the locks of the manacle and as he did, he waited for a shock or explosion. Eventually he opened the manacles as the female started to frown as the halfling took his time.

Holding his cutlass out before him in a tight fist, Ragnar stopped before the raggedy-dressed woman. “Fear not fair maid, thine rescuer is here now. Um... so what may your name be goodmaid?" He stuck his dagger into its sheath and held out his free hand to her.

“Lady Knight Auren of Damara. My thanks for the rescue and those blasted pirates were going to try to ransom me,” she remarked as she grabbed Ragnar’s hand in a strong grip and pulled herself to her feet with a groan from the bruises and soreness of being chained for so long.

“Well met. I’m Aris Wands, a wizard of Waterdeep. May I ask how did you get captured by these fools?”

“Stupidity on my part and walking into a trap set for me in Vassa,” she answered before she sighed.

Caerlin stopped at the bottom of the stairs and listened to what the female tells Luie, Ragnar, and Aris as she watched the hall and looked into the berths that made up the rest of the cargo hold. She saw that most of them were filled with sacks and barrels. "Lady Knight, do you happen to have an idea of how many pirates were on this ship?"

“About twenty or so but they all left to attack your vessels, I’m assuming.”

"If that is all there were, then they have either been dispatched, or taken prisoner," Caerlin told the Knight.

“Very good then and hopefully Tyr will give them the justice they deserve.”

Auy silently slipped up to and next to the Lady Knight. "Might
I look over your bruises and where you have been chained? Unless the ruthless pirates were tending to them, which it doesn't look like. I won't be able to do much here, but once we get back to our ship I can tend to them in a better fashion. Oh, and you will actually have a decent place to sleep this eve too."

“Aye, if you have the divine power to do so, then please.”

Auy nodded and whispered a few words to her goddess, hoping that Sharess would answer them and heal the female knight. The priestess felt Sharess’s energy spread through her and into the knight, who gasped. As Auy cast a second healing spell to remove the rest of the wounds, she felt the feline from earlier curling in and out of her legs. "There you go, that should hold you over enough to move around and until you get back onto the ship for some proper rest."

“My thanks, and my thanks to your divine patron.”

Ragnar waited for Auy to tend the Lady Knight's bruises before he held his arm out for her once more. "A pleasure to meet you Lady Auren, I'm Ragnar Braelithar, a bard out of Waterdeep. What do you say we go to see if we can find you any somewhat less torn up clothing on this blasted, unholy, and generally disagreeable pirates' barrel of a ship? Of course," he said, as he gave her his best wink and she smiled, "personally I don't mind your current look too badly, but us mercenaries are a lewd and largely ribald, perhaps even lecherous, bunch or so I've been told by people more staid than myself."

“Yes, and I’d like to find my armor and weapons, if they are stored on this ship, so lead on sir bard,” she remarked as she took Ragnar’s arm.

"You mentioned that you were going to be ransomed? To whom? Perhaps we are heading in the right direction to return you to your homeland or at least send word to your leaders that you are freed.”

“The pirates thought they could sell me to the Zhentarim since the Zhents have been trying to make inroads into Damara but for now they have been rebuffed. But if I was a hostage, they might have been able to get Gareth to agree to some of their demands.”

Caer waited until Ragnar and the Knight reached her. "There are two rooms just up the stairs and they may hold some of your gear. At least they have some clothes that should fit you."

“My thanks and I shall look.”

"Aye," the giant rumbled, pressing himself against the wall so the ranger could pass as she started up the stairs. "And once we've seen this place to be free of traps and such, we'd best be about moving what we can find to above decks. Better for our commander and the caravan captain to decide what's to be divided amongst whom..."

Caer paused for a moment. "Mayhap we should ask Jelitha first. From the little I've seen, it may take more than a few hours to move everything." She pondered for a bit. "I wonder what they will do with this ship, as I'm not sure that there are enough hands to sail it, along with the barges." Caerlin shrugs, "I'm sure that has already been decided, while we were down here."

“Do you think they will torch it? Or will they ask for volunteers for a skeleton crew? Either way, let’s explore the rooms and take things topside.” Luie pocketed the key and scratched his head. “Nice bow.”

"I doubt that they will torch it because a ship like this is valuable," Caerlin answered Luie before she smiled. "My thanks, I found it in one of the rooms above," she finished as she held out the oak longbow that is carved with images of unicorn horns, grain stalks, small rivers, and oak trees, so he could get a better look.

The hin peered at the bow but he didn’t touch it. “It’s... taller than me. No one was using this?”

"Nay, I had to do a bit of digging to get it out," Caer shrugged. "I have no idea why it wasn't being used."

Ragnar helped the former hostage up the stairs and toward the rooms above. “As long as I can escape hauling duty I’d say that’s a fine idea. Just remind me not to forget to add the bracer I found on the deck to the loot. And I suppose Lady Auren should get to pick out anything that is justly hers, along with some recompense for her poor treatment. Or what do the rest of you think?” He turned to the lady knight on his arm and she smiled at him. “Speaking of which, since I like the way it looks, I certainly hope this doesn’t belong to you?” He showed her the bracer he’d found previously.

“Nay, that isn’t any of my plate armor or one of my possessions. We need to look for steel armor that is silver-chased and etched with bloodstone gems. Oh, and my longsword that is etched with the same gems.” The female knight frowned. “Bard Ragnar, who are your companions? They have been rude by not introducing themselves.”

"Many pardons Lady Knight, I am Caerlin, this is Luie, Addoc, and Auy," Caerlin said as she pointed to each of her companions and the knight looked at each of them. "We are members of the Red Shields based near Phlan."

"My humble apologies, Lady Knight. I’m not being rude to you it is just that Ragnar is suppose to do my introductions." Luie flashed a grin at the bard, "he is so much better at it than I. Now if I wanted to be rude I would have mentioned the smell but you were a prisoner and I doubt if they let you bathe. Hold on a candlemark,” Luie took an exaggerated whiff of himself as the female human smiled and then laughed, "oh my, I am the one that smells. Oops." With embarrassment, the hin walked away.

“Like they said, Lady Auren, it is I that has been remiss in my duties. My heartfelt apologies for letting your delightful and pleasing guise distract me.” After seeing the knight smile again, Ragnar then called out after Luie, “Don’t worry, we’re all used to it by now.”

Caer chuckled a bit before she caught up with Luie. "Hey Luie, let's see if we can find you a new shirt." She looked at the one he has on, "and mayhap we can find me a spare one as well."

Luie stopped on one foot and then spun around on his heel. "I like that idea. Maybe they will have a kilt that is buried among all these items."

Once everyone was back on the first deck, they went through the rooms and as Caerlin saw, the rooms contained chests that were both opened and closed and wardrobes. The Red Shield’s could see, in the open chests, that they contained jewellery, gems, coins, armor, weapons, statues, clothing, spices, artwork, and a mess of other items that were stolen up and down the Moonsea. The wardrobes contained the same mess of items and everyone figured that the barrels and sacks in the hold, where the prisoner was shackled, contained more of the same.

"Do you think that these brutes had anything I could use?" Aris said, with a look that pointed out he wasn't expecting to find much.

Ragnar played absentmindedly with a silver necklace from one of the chests before he offered it to Caerlin. “I wonder if they worked for any of the city-states around the Moonsea? Perhaps we should go search the captain’s cabin? Come to that, we may find whether anyone else was involved in Lady Auren’s abduction.”

Caer took the offered necklace with a smile and she looked it over. "My thanks, Ragnar. A search for the captain's quarters sounds like a good idea." She turned to the knight since Caerlin doesn’t recall an entrance to such a room. "Lady, would you happen to know where the captain's quarters are?"

The knight frowned as she thought. “I never saw quarters for the captain but I did overhear some of the pirate’s mention a knot of wood that hides the door to the captain’s quarters. I believe it is on the main deck somewhere.”

"A knot of wood?" Caer thought about that for a bit before she smiled. "Well, I guess that means a search of the main deck." She started to search for the door and she called over her shoulder, “Is anyone else coming?"

“Arrr,” Luie replied, “Lets go see if we can find this wee bit of wood.”

Caerlin waited for a bit to see if anyone else was going to search with her and Luie. The two of them headed up the stairs to the main deck and they began to search for the knot of wood. Caerlin was the first to find the way to open the hidden door and she found it in the back wall of the middle portion of the ship.

Once she pressed it, after it was checked for traps, part of the wall slid open. Looking inside, they saw a wooden desk took up most of the right wall and on the desk are a tome, a bottle of black ink, and some pens. A medium-sized wooden bed faced them, since the door is on the left side of the wall, and along the wall where the door is, but to their right, is a cabinet filled with skulls and amongst the skulls are two semi-thick tomes like the one on the desk. A fairly tall stone statue of Loviatar could be seen in the corner between the bed and desk and scattered amongst the other furniture was more stolen booty but these items looked to be the choice pickings the captain claimed for himself.

"Maybe they should torch the ship," Luie said.

Caer looked in disgust at the cabinet, and she pulled the two tomes from it. She opened the first one and read a bit of the text before she looked startled. The scout opened the second tome and read a bit of that one before she crossed the room and stopped before the desk. Caerlin opened the third tome and she flipped through the pages and her look of surprise became a small smile of satisfaction.

"Nah, we could just get rid of the disgusting things, and have Addoc and Auy clear it out.” She looked at Luie. "Come look at this," she said as she turned the third tome towards Luie so he could read it.

“What do you have here?” Luie tried to read the tome but he struggled with it even more then she did and he looked at her when he realized it was written in a language that he can’t understand.

"I have no idea what those say, I can’t read that language. Does it say, 'One hundred and one ways to scrub your deck or how to keep the crows nest free of birds?'" Luie rubbed his eyes.

Caer smiled at Luie as she crossed the room and headed for the door. "Well, it's actually..." and she shut the door to the captain's quarters, cutting off her words.

While the others searched for the knight's gear and for the door to the captain’s chamber, Addoc took a moment to clamber back up the stairs so his head and shoulders poked above deck. "Ho, Captain!" he roared, his voice echoing across the water. "Found a prisoner, but no stragglers! Shall we start bringin' what spoils the bastards had up top to be gone through?"

“Oh, aye? Aye, bring what you can and I’ll send a few crew over to help or to see if they can sail the ship to Phlan, where we can port her until the Commander can look her over.”

Caerlin and Luie stepped out of the captain’s quarters a bit later. The scout crossed the plank and headed down the barge until she found Jelitha. Once she spotted her, Caerlin gave the satchel to Jelitha, reported what is in it, and then headed back across the plank to the pirate ship.

Luie took some gems from a small pile of treasure from one of the rooms. “I will be right back.” He stepped out of a room on the main deck and tossed the gems into the deep blue sea and he watched them sink before they disappeared with a flash of blue-green light. “Thanks for the help.”

Luie rejoined the others and after everyone dug through the items they managed to find almost all of the knight’s armor and weapon after she dressed in some leather clothing. Aris managed to procure a scroll that has a spell on it that seems to cause someone to become fearful. Luie and Caerlin found new clothing, which are a cotton shirt for her and another for Luie as well as a kilt. While Caerlin was elsewhere, Ragnar pulled out a brown silk dress that matched her hair and at the same time he found an extra cotton explorer’s outfit that is crimson and the edges are threaded with white, which is usually the clothing of Milil’s faithful. Following the feline, as it stalked across the deck, Auy found a small cat statue in one of the piles of treasure.

Addoc spent some time going through the weapons and armor and he noted about three exceptional weapons which are a dagger, a hammer, and a trident and two exceptional arms which is a partial set of chain and a breastplate. He noticed about three or four books. One of them is on the religious rites of Umberlee, another is a treaty on poison, and the other two are in languages that he can’t read. The Gondsmith took a large sample of different spices that he planned to give to the caravan's cooks and use for his own culinary experiments and when he saw that pepper was one of the spices, he took an overly large amount of it and a handful of wax candles. The Gondsman marked down some quick descriptions of the weapons and armor in his notebook, along with notes regarding the last few days' travel. He stashed away the books to show to the rest of the Company later for possible identification, and for decisions of dispersal or disposal.

“My thanks again,” she remarked as she sheathed her blade. “I’ll have to discuss what is going to happen to me with your caravan master since I don’t think she’ll put into a port anytime soon.”

True to her word, the caravan master sent a few Red Shields to get the ship ready to sail to Phlan. This would also allow the items to stay on the ship and they could be inventoried and divided amongst those who could use them, or they could be put into the treasury of the merc company for later use.

Once the ships were removed from each other, one headed north and the other continued south and the rest of the night was quiet and uneventful.

Not long after the ships parted, Caer searched Luie out, and she looked at him sheepishly. "Luie, I found this when I was putting my new shirt away." She held out his handaxe and gave him a small smile. "I guess I must have put it in my backpack at the cabin on accident. I apologize for keeping it."

Luie was moving his finger on the rail, making small imaginary circle. “Hmmm,” he arched a dark eyebrow. “Oh! The Moonbeam! I wondered where it wondered off to, no worries Caerlin.” He took the small hand ax and then placed in his belt. “If you ever need her, let me know.”

Caer smiled at Luie before she looked over the railing. "How many days will we be on the water? Hopefully we won't run into any more pirates, even though it can be well worth it."

“I’m not sure that the battle puts us behind. Hopefully soon we should make the southern shore, before the food supply runs out.” He tugged her down to his level and he whispered, “Between you and me I really dislike large bodies of water.”

Caer raised an eyebrow and she looked surprised. "You don't like the water? Well, this is only the second time I've been on a sea, and it wasn't bad at all." She stood back up and put her hand on his shoulder. "Just wait, this will be entertaining. Let's go find some eveningfest!"

"A full stomach drowns all irrational fears!"

She smiled at Luie and the two of them started to head off towards where eveningfest is being served and he skipped behind her, patting his tummy.

"For a monk, you sure do eat a lot," Aris said as he followed behind them.

“The other monks always described me as having an appetite of an owlbear.”

Caerlin stopped, raised an eyebrow, and then narrowed her eyes and looked at the wizard. "Eavesdropping on private conversations is not the way to make friends. Actually, if you are what you say you are, 'a noble of Waterdeep', then you should know that is a good way to get killed." She looked at Luie and smiled. "I've heard that owlbears do eat a lot, but I've never observed one to know for sure.” She gave Aris one more glare before she continued on to where the cooks are on the middle barge.

Auy smiled at her mage friend and the two of them found a secluded area where they could pleasure each other, since the priestess has some frustrations to release.

After eveningfest, Caer approached Addoc and the two sat near each other, quietly discussing something in whispers and at one point Addoc got extremely loud and excited and he moved Caerlin’s arm up and down while she looked at him in surprise and shock, before he lowered his voice back to a whisper. A bit later, they stood and crossed the barges by crossing the wooden planks that are set between then and the two of them stopped at the last barge and stood near the supply wagon.

The Lady Knight finished a discussion with the caravan master and she used a barrel to clean and wash her body and hair. Once she was dressed in the clothing she found in the pirate’s ship she crossed the deck of the barge and stopped near Ragnar.

“So, Sir Bard, tell me about Waterdeep. I’ve only heard tales of it and I’ve never been there since it’s far from my home.”

Ragnar looked at the Lady Knight. ”What is Waterdeep like? Well I guess that sets my schedule for the rest of the journey ’cross the Moonsea. For starters, it’s big. There’s a reason we call it the City of Splendors. Now, truth be told, the only parts of the city I know really well is Dock Ward, where I grew up. It’s smelly, violent, and ever-bustling with sailors from all over the Sword Coast and further afar, stroppy lordlings who think it’s entertaining to come down to where the poor folk live and see if they might find a gullible wench to tryst with, and let’s not forget the dockside gangs. But it’s not all bad, luckily. We’ve got some of the finest festhalls, inns, and taverns in the Splendored City, and they’re not all expensive either. When my mum and da’ wanted some time for themselves, they’d give me and my older sister some coin and we’d take the rest of the children to get something to eat at Cookhouse Hall near by the South Gate. Best darn stew in the North if you ask me, m’lady.”

Ragnar drew in a breath as she listened while she continued to smile. The bard then looked over at the others. “Please stop me if I go on too long now, mind. But as I said earlier, ‘tis a big city.” He turned back to Auren and she set her hand on his, while her smile widened. “Now a fine lady such as yourself would obviously not stay any longer than she had to, so I guess I had better move on to Trade Ward where I was ‘prenticed to an instrument maker who taught me how to carve flutes and other wind instruments before I found me a master bard to teach me something more to my liking. Now Trade Ward...

“The most obvious thing to tell you about it would be that if there’s anything you want, and I do mean anything short of mayhap slaves and one or two poisons. When I had time off from the instrument-making, I’d go walking down spendthrift alley, just taking in all the sights, and keeping a tight hold on my purse, for the pick-pockets are thicker than lice on a Luskan reaver. I could probably go on all night, but perhaps we can do a trade of information. I’ll stop for now, and instead you’ll tell me somewhat about Damara, which is a place I’ve only heard the vaguest tales of so far in my travels. And when you need to rest your voice, I’ll start up the old windbag again, aye? Or perhaps we can ask Mage Aris to fill in about the finer parts of Waterdeep?"

“Ah, so Aris is from there as well? Most interesting. Damara, well what to say?” She rubbed the gems on her armor. “As you can see, we mine bloodstone gems and it is a colder more rugged land. Awhile back, we beat back the invaders from Vassa because that land invaded us with a horde of undead, goblinoids, and other humanoids. Now Gareth has been rebuilding and Ilmater’s clergy is strong there. However, I do not venerate the one-handed deity and I prefer Tymora and the deity of travel.

“I’m not sure what more to say,” she remarked while her hand continued to rest on Ragnar’s hand. “Except to say that, from what I’ve been told, that the whole population that resides in Damara is almost the same as the population that can be found in Waterdeep. But most of the people in Damara are humans but we have some dwarven, gnomes, and half-orcs, and other races. There are a few cities and towns, but nothing like what Waterdeep sounds like.”

Hearing his name, Aris crossed the deck and joined the bard and knight. “Why of course but I would be honored if the lady knight would share some knowledge of Damara's settlements in exchange.

“As Ragnar asked, I will go over the wards where the nobility resides. Firstly there is the North Ward and it is Waterdeep's quietest ward and it’s also one of its wealthiest. It has a few notable landmarks like the Cliffwatch and of course, all the manors. The Cliffwatch is a sheer one-hundred foot cliff that gives a beautiful view of the countryside southeast of Waterdeep. But as you may well know, nothing is what it seems. The ward's activities shut down at dusk, but not really. It’s said that at that time the real activities start like scheming, plotting, and smuggling.

“My family's mansion is in the North Ward." He smiled before he continued, “I hope you don't mind if I brag a bit about them. House Wands is one of Waterdeep's most powerful magecraft families with strong connections with the Watchful Order of Magists and Protectors and that is where I studied magic for many years. The members of my family are scattered all across Faerun and its patriarch is Maskar Wands, an archmage of great power. He is my father’s uncle and I greatly admire Masker for his disapproval of the abuse of magic and for the advice he gave me through my early years as an apprentice. Well that’s enough about house Wands. Let’s move on to the Castle Ward.

“Castle Ward lies at Waterdeep’s heart and its set around the eastern slopes of Mount Waterdeep. This ward is home to the city's administrative buildings and buildings of state. Its more notable landmarks are Piergeiron's Palace and Castle Waterdeep. Piergeiron is the Lord of Waterdeep and he has reigned wisely and honestly since 1314DR. Another important landmark of the Castle Ward is its market and that is the largest open space in the city. As Ragnar said, I could go on all night but feel free to ask me about anything that you are interested in.”

“I think I got enough and that was quite detailed, my thanks,” she answered in an interested tone as the mage wound down. She offered another small smile and she nodded her thanks to Aris. At the same time, Ragnar felt her lightly stroke the hand that she rested her hand on. “As for the cities of Damara, I’m not sure what to say. They are small and they don’t compare to Waterdeep, or so it seems. Trailsend is a large city built around a castle and Gareth resides in Heliogabalus, which is Damara’s largest city because it is our major trading center. There’s, of course, many smaller settlements and they are mostly villages.”

Feeling the knight stroke his hand, Ragnar smiled at her and he twisted his own hand around to lace their fingers together. He gave a slight squeeze to the lady’s hand before he ran his hand over the back of hers with a gentle stroke.

“Hmm... Gareth... would that be Gareth Dragonsbane, the illustrious king of Damara? And a bit more interesting; from which of these pearls of civilisation does such a lovely creature such as yourself hail from, Lady Auren?”

“Aye, that would be Gareth and as for where I hail from it is a village in northern Damara called Helmsdale. I managed to escape from it before it was overrun by an army that invaded from Vassa.” She frowned and that is the first time any of them have seen her do that. “And most of my family were killed defending the village or fleeing the invaders and I was too young to save them...” Her smile returned as she sighed a sad sigh. “Enough of that though, they are long buried and I miss them, aye, but they are with the deities now.”

Ragnar let go of her hand and he put his arm around her shoulders, giving her get another gentle squeeze, which made her smile again. "So they are m'lady. But 'tis still a sad thing to have happened to them and to you. Is that why you were in Vaasa? To avenge yourself on those who invaded?"

“Aye, I was in Vassa for a time investigating something that I was asked to investigate and that was where I was captured, by my own stupidity. I got surrounded by a group of cultists and they sold me into slavery to the pirates, who realized that they could ransom me for even more.”

Hoping they were done with discussion for now, the Lady Knight put her arm around Ragnar’s waist, gave another nod in thanks to Aris, and then led the bard and herself off to a secluded area of the barges. Once there they started to do what Auy was doing, but they weren’t doing it to relieve frustration.

For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet and excite you... Books are full of the things that you don't get in real life - wonderful, lyrical language, for instance, right off the bat. - Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

Scribe for the Candlekeep Compendium
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