Who Do You Want To Be Today?
Gurtrud assumed his elven form and stepped out into the hallway and saw Morvelus and an elf that he didn’t recognize also entering the tavern hallway. The place was unnaturally quiet. He recognized Morvelus and his initial reaction was that perhaps this was all his fault, but he saw the confused look on his face and realized that he too couldn’t remember anything. The elf was saying, “I don’t understand. Where am I? Do you know what has happened? Please, my name is Amra. I’m a…a…I can’t remember anything, could you please help me?”
Morvelus said, “My head is splitting. I feel like I just woke from an week-long drinking contest. Perhaps the two of you were involved in the same?”
Gurtrud added, “That would not be mete with my function so your assumption is unfounded. We must seek answers elsewhere.”
“Hello, is anyone there?” A voice called out from another part of the tavern. The three of them headed into the common area to discover a odd collection of individuals who introduced themselves to the three.
Ruak and Morvelus looked at each other and at almost the same moment and Morvelus said, “The battles…” and Ruak added, “…a red and blue uniform.” And then they shook the cobwebs from their heads as the memories flitted away unable to be held onto.
Amra smiled when she saw Tavious, “I recognize you. But I don’t recall your name.”
Tavious replied, “Tavious, and yes, I recognize you as well. We have been looking for each other.”
Amra seemed a little unconvinced as if that didn’t seem like the entire story, but it was close, she could feel that much was true.
She approached Dúlinnor, “Sir, is there anything that you need?”
Dúlinnor answered, “Amra, correct? I’m not sure why you are referring to me so formally, but you are among equals, friends, here.” It nagged at him however that perhaps she was not incorrect to refer to him that way. But he wasn’t any sort of noble, was he?
She answered, “Of course, sir.”
Toombs walked up to Gurtrud and shook his hand, “It is good to see you again. I remember being in a town called Canterbury with you.”
Gurtrud returned the strong grip, “Yes, it was a fine battle. Good people.”
Amra asked, “Do you know why we don’t have our memories?”
The group that had awaked first then explained what they knew of Dr. Mirabilus and the various theories of why they might have lost their memories. How they had been accused of kidnapping the villagers because of being witchbreed and then finding the elven camp and the sacrificed villagers.
Quinth concluded, “We have now returned to find that it seems that everyone in the town is missing with the exception of you three.”
Tavious added, “We’re not sure of that. We need to do a more thorough search.”
Ruak added, “Even animals seem gone.”
Dúlinnor, “But only the domesticated animals. If you listen you can still hear the birds and insects.”
The party paired up and searched the village more thoroughly to confirm that everyone had indeed disappeared. All the people and all the domestic animals. There were a few signs of struggle, some overturned chairs and tables, but no bodies and not blood.
In a few places they found a remnants of the darts that the elves had used to incapacitate the villagers before.
At first the group wondered if the people had been ushered into hidden caverns, but looking at tracks determined that people had come into the town but not left.
They did find in the center of the town a series of glyphs and sigils made in the ground. Morvelus was the first to find them and he examined them first and told the others about them. The symbols were written in an elven hand and had been used to create a mystical portal or gate of some nature.
Gurtrud opened his divine senses to the portal and could tell that there was a faint taint of evil present, but that it was slowly fading.
As Tavious approached, The Voice spoke to him, “Ah…sacrifices…if you feed it, it will open again and you can follow through…give it life and it will open to you….”
While The Voice was speaking to Tavious, Gurtrud’s senses reeled with an overwhelming sense of evil such as he had never felt before. He was nearly doubled over in pain, but as quickly as the feeling came it was gone again.
Gurtrud added, “I think that this portal is something that we should leave alone. It is a thing of evil that we should not tempt.”
Ruak suggested, “Should we try to destroy the runes?” He was rubbing at one of them with his webbed foot as he said this.
Morvelus cautioned, “I’m not sure that I would suggest that. You might lose something if you break a mystical seal.”
Ruak quickly stopped what he was doing.
The party decided to collect some supplies and then seek out the orc shaman Jaky to see if she might have any insight as to what had happened. They also picked up the money that the missing villagers were no longer using being pragmatic or otherwise inclined to take things that weren’t bolted down.
Arriving at the orc shaman’s hut they found her tending to her herbs. After catching her up on what had transpired at both the elf cave and back at the Red Oak settlement she slumped against the side of her hut, “An entire village gone? How is that possible? Gods!”
Tavious, disguised as William Dare, suggested, “Perhaps you should go somewhere safe? These swamps do not seem to be safe to any of us anymore.”
“I appreciate the concern and for yourself I would agree that heading to Garl’s Town would be the wise course of action. But the swamp has kept me safe all these years and I trust it to continue to do so. This is my home and I will not leave it.”
She sold Ruak a batch of Assassin’s Blood that she had recently brewed up and then the group headed for Garl’s Town as she had suggested.
Three days later they arrived at the city gates and were met by the city guard. Again Tavious disguised as William Dare presented his case as the sole survivor of his devastated town. The guardsmen sent the party to speak to the watch captain who assured them that they would send a detachment to investigate including mages in the group since there was clearly foul magics involved. The party asked if they could speak with a wise man on the matters at hand to get more insight into what had happened and the captain indicated that he would try to make an arrangement and would send a runner to the inn that they chose to reside at when he had secured an audience for them.
The group then settled in at the Tower Inn a reasonable establishment near the city gates that was well known for catering to visitors and providing a decent rest for a reasonable rate. Tavious, as William, was immediately greeted by the proprietor as he entered and the two started to discuss recent happenings. Tavious almost slipped up in his disguise but covered his error with the story of his town being attacked by the elves. The innkeeper, Baleen, shocked, had heard of nothing similar in all his years as an adventurer before he lost his hand nor as a barkeep since. After a quick meal a few of the others decided to see if they could find out anything on their own.
Amra went to the temple district and the first and largest temple she saw was the temple to the Church of Universal Truth. She considered heading inside and making her devotions there but looked around and saw that this city was large enough to support other smaller temples clearly dedicated to the individual gods within The Church. She continued to search the district to see if there was a temple to the Lover and was delighted when she found it. The building was beautifully crafted with open pillars and stained glass in the higher reaches that caused the light to dance across the outside and inside of the temple. The temple was filled with fresh flowers and the sound of music.
She was greeted by young acolytes and when they saw the pierced heart symbol that marked her as the Lover’s matchmaker she was quickly brought before the high priestess.
“It is an honor to have you among us, Matchmaker,” said the high priestess, Julian. Julian was a beautiful young elven woman with flowing white hair. She wore a silver gown that both marked her station as a leader, but led on to wonder about her sensuality. Her white cape billowed about her like a cloud as she moved.
“It is I who am blessed to be among others who are in love,” replied Amra.
“Is your visit one of business or pleasure?”
“I have recently come from the nearby village of Red Oak,” the priestess nodded in comprehension, “but I bring bad tidings. Everyone in the village is gone. They have disappeared without a trace. My traveling companions and I woke up in the village with no memories. Though a few of them woke before the people had disappeared and the say that a group of elves who practiced foul sacrificial magics must have been involved in the disappearance. The mage with us feels certain that there is dark magic involving a portal that is involved as well.”
The high priestess crossed her heart and quietly murmured, “All is love.” before continuing, “What a blessing that you were not taken as well. The Lover must be watching out for you. Clearly she loves you as no other, though she loves us all equally. I have heard of something perhaps similar though not in these new lands. It was in the old kingdoms.” She paused in thought.
“Yes, it was in Old No Jaw…but I can’t recall where. And also a town in the south of the Hell Hound, in the lands of Morgania. I believe that we can find the name of that town if you are interested as if I recall correctly there was a shrine to the Lover there which was lost when the town disappeared and so it was noted in our church records. If not here, then surely in the records in Morgania. However, I think that you will find that the information about the disappearance of those villages is more scanty than what you know. From what I remember nothing was discovered or known as to what became of the missing villagers. As you say, they just vanished without a trace. You seem to have more information in this instance.”
“How horrible! Was this very long ago?”
“Not too long ago. Perhaps within the last year or two.”
“Thank you for sharing this with me.”
“To share is to love and to love is to share,” the priestess smiled, “I wonder…might you do us a favor while you are here?”
“Of course, what is it?” Amra asked.
“We have a wedding about to start and I was going to perform the ceremony. But, as Matchmaker, it would mean so much to the couple if you would do us the honor of presiding over their marriage.”
“Oh! I’d love to. Do you think they wouldn’t mind?”
“Of course, not, they will be delighted! Come let’s get you ready.”
While Amra was gathering information about the vanished towns and was performing the marriage ceremony, Dúlinnor and Toombs set about looking to see if there was a local thieves’ guild. They wandered throughout the poorer parts of the city offering occasional beggars an alms for any information and inquiring at taverns that looked promising. Eventually they found a lead. One beggar offered a passphrase to use at a nearby tavern. Using it there, they were told of a safehouse and another passphrase. As they made their way to the safehouse they were walking down a dark narrow street when a group of four thugs intercepted them.
“So, we hear you are looking for thieves? Well, it appears you have found some. Now how about you hand over your belongings and perhaps we won’t slit your throats,” said the lead thug. The others snickered as they all held out their clubs menacingly.
Dúlinnor replied, “We’d be glad to pay you for your services. We don’t mean to cause any trouble. We’re thieves ourselves, come to give our respects.”
The thug said, “Thieves eh? Well, why didn’t you say so. In that case we’ll only take most of your money. But all of your clothing and gear for being such fools as to wander about our town uninvited.”
Dúlinnor continued, “Look there’s no reason to be an ass about this. Just because your mother lay with one to birth you doesn’t mean you have to act like one. My friend Toombs and I are willing to pay a fee as traveling thieves or the like, but we want to speak to someone who has half an ounce of sense…if you know anyone like that, that is.”
The thug bristled at the insults, “Oh, now you’ve done it. We’re going to have to take all your money after all. And, I don’t think we’ll be nice about it. Boys, I think we should rough them up a bit as we get their goods.” He seemed to be addressing not only the three with him but someone behind Dúlinnor and Toombs. The two of them looked behind themselves to see that an additional four thugs had snuck up on them surrounding them. Any thought of taking them out in a nearly fair fight of two on one had been dashed now that the odds were four to one.
Toombs rolled up one of his sleeves, whether it was in preparation for the fight or as part of displaying a series of tattoos was unclear, but then in a quiet voice asked, “Are you sure you wouldn’t like to reconsider your position?”
The thugs’ attitude immediately shifted, “M..m..master Toombs, we didn’t mean to insult. Please accept our apologies for a simple misunderstanding.”
Another added, “Yeah, we was just havin’ a bit of fun. We didn’t mean any harm. You don’t need to tell your boys anything about this.”
Toombs glowered, “Maybe and will and maybe I won’t, but you’d best be taking more care in choosing your marks. Now, it looks like perhaps you aren’t as ignorant as you first let on. Are we to believe that we might get some actionable dox from you or will we be seeking out your bosses?”
‘What are you looking for?”
Toombs looks over at Dúlinnor encouraging him to tell the story. Dúlinnor explains, “We’re looking for a man going by the name of Dr. Mirabalus. We were told he came here from Red Oak to get supplies a little over a week ago. He would have been dressed as a well-to-do gentleman, middle-aged human as we understand.”
One of the thugs nods, “I know the guy you’re talking about. He was staying at the Brass Bell and as you say was purchasing supplies and what not. We were tailing him in preparation for a good fleecing as he looked a good mark. Him not being from around here and tossing foreign gold around rather freely.” A downcast look fell on the thug’s face.
Dúlinnor prompted, “But, something happened…”
The thug nodded sadly and he made a sign to ward off evil, “Right before we were going to make our move a group of The Fey’s men came up to him and escorted him to the docks. I didn’t hear everything they said but I heard them say something about Le Fey,” again he warded off evil, “needing his services and when he protested saying that he was needed elsewhere they made it clear that it wasn’t a request he could refuse.”
Toombs asked, “Did you follow them?”
“We started to, they were headed in the direction of the docks. But one of their escort noticed us and alerted the others and then one of them started casting spells so we high-tailed it out of their vicinity figuring that a mark lost is better than a life.”
Toombs nodded in agreement. The two of them agreed that they needed to get the information back to the rest of the group and left the thugs with a warning and their thanks for the information.
They arrived back at the inn shortly after Ruak was walking away from a group of beastmen whom he had been sitting with.
Toombs asked, “New friends?”
Ruak croaked, “Ha! No, I was asking if they knew anything about disappearing villages and they didn’t. They seemed to think that all their troubles could be blamed on a group of extremely wealthy gnomes who apparently run this town…and if they can be believed secretly run all the towns along this coast. They’re logic–who else could afford the magic to pay for something that could make an entire town disappear.” Ruak cocked his head quizzically.
Toombs looked thoughtful as if, while he didn’t know whether to believe the beastmen, he might be thinking that they likely had a point underneath their discontent.
The group had gathered and was comparing their notes, drinking and eating. Quinth got up to use the outhouse. While he was there a drunk started banging on the door telling him to hurry up as he was about to get sick. Quinth grabbed the moss and finished up his business as the drunk pleaded more loudly. Quinth was still attaching his buckles as he opened the door and the drunk pushed past him. Quinth did his best to dodge out of the way, only to find that doing so put him off balance and landed him straight into the waiting arms and blade of a woman who had been waiting for him. The drunk had been setup. He felt the blade press gently into his throat as the woman’s strong arms held him firmly. The smell of daisies filled his nostrils and immediately a memory returned to him.
He was lying on a hillside with a beautiful woman by his side. They had just finished a picnic and walked through a field of daisies and she had made a crown from the daisies that was still in her hair. Suddenly they were talking about something …and now she is running away. He is chasing after her, but then they are attacked by goblins warg riders who carry her off and leave him bleeding in the field.
She whispered into his ear, “If you struggle, I will slit your throat.” He recognized the voice, Margary Eyre, the woman from his memory, but he could not recall any more about her. “We are going to walk back into the tavern and you will do what I tell you or you will die a quick death.”
The “drunk” had recovered and was pulling out a weapon of his own and walked ahead of them as they headed back into the tavern.
At about the same time a group of soldiers walked into the tavern. The lead soldier held in his hands a group of billfolds that he was examining, comparing the images on them to the faces in the room. After a moment, he pulled out a gold coin and holding it up said in a loud voice, “A gold coin to any who will assist us in apprehending these renegade witchbreed,” pointing to the group of heroes sitting in the corner. The other soldiers had drawn crossbows and clubs while he had been speaking.
Amra stood up and quickly moved over to try to reason with the leader, “Kind sir, I do believe you have us mistaken for some other renegades. Surely we can clear up this matter without resorting to violence. Who is it that you are looking for?”
Flipping one of the images around so that she could see a likeness of herself the leader of the soldiers barked, “You girl! We’re looking for you!” He laughed, “Sure we can avoid violence, just toss your weapons over here and have your wizards lie on the ground with their arms held behind their backs and everything will go smoothly.”
As he was saying this Tavious noticed Quinth entering the room with his captors and was about to blast them when Quinth warned him off. Tavious sent a mental query to his friend, “Are you injured?”
Quinth replied, “I’m fine for now, but she’s got this dagger lodged in my neck and one wrong move and I’ll be bleeding out. I don’t think she means to actually kill me. I recognize her from my past; but, I think she may be part of this group that is here to capture us.”
“You’re the one with a dagger in your neck, what is your call?”
“If you can create a distraction I think I might be able to break free.” Their mental communion over Tavious made his plan.
Tavious called out, “If any of you think about attacking us you will regret it as will your children and your children’s children.” As he said this he held out his hands and the entire room started shaking with a minor earthquake. A few of the locals who had seemed ready to assist the soldiers now started ducking under tables and quietly ducking out of the room.
Quinth took advantage of the disturbance to throw his head back into Margary’s nose causing her to lose her grip on him and the dagger at his neck. He pulled his own sword as he tumbled away from her towards one of the few locals who was still considering siding with the soldiers and who had pulled a dagger to stab Morvelus. Glancing back at Margary, she tips her hat and mouths, “Next time,” as she slips out the back door.
The leader of the soldiers called out, “Take them!” The soldiers were rushing into the room, some of them firing their crossbows and taking up positions behind the furniture others coming to engage the party. The leader swung his mace at Amra and would have caved in her skull had she not been tripped by one of the bar patrons who was trying to grab her. The leader pointed at Morvelus, “Dorothy, the wizard, quickly!”
The soldier’s own wizard moved closer to the group and calling out arcane verses fire burst from her hands engulfing the group in front of her. Quinth was protected by Morvelus who took the brunt of the blast. The bar patron was instantly killed with the withering blast. Gurtrud was only on the periphery of the blast and so only suffered a minor burn.
Tavious turned his attention to the leader and blasted him with an eldritch bolt trying to distract him from Amra. While the rest of the group retreated to a side corridor to regroup and avoid the hail of crossbow bolts.
Tavious soon follows the others down the corridor to avoid the bolts. Dividing his attacks between Dorothy, the soldier’s wizard and their leader, he and Quinth are able to take down their wizard first. Then with a growl filled with rage, pain, and triumph Gurtrud rushes out from the corridor to attack the leader. Gurtrud transforms into his draconic form and lets loose a breath of pure lightning. The bolt smashes through a remaining bar patron who had yet to flee, two of the solders and finally slams into the leader knocking him off his feet, staggering him. Tavious, seeing an opportunity, cloaks himself in shadows to conceal himself from the waiting crossbow bolts and also rushes out to attack the leader. Gathering up the shadows and flinging them at the leader, he saps the leader’s life force though the process of doing so steals a bit of his own. The leader down but not out howls in rage and yells, “Kill them all! No prisoners!”
A fusillade of bolts flies in the direction of the party and nearly kills Gurtrud but a divine glow suffuses him as the wounds almost instantly close and he growls back, “Not today!”
Quinth leaps from his current foe, climbs over a chair aiming his sword at the leader’s chest says, “We’re not dying today!” Then knocks him out with his pommel.
Seeing their leaders captured, the remaining soldiers begin running off.
As the dust of the battle settles, a quiet sobbing can be heard as a bar maids cradles one of the dead patrons in her arms. Beyond saving, the woman in shock, Amra is only able to guide her to a table off to the side of the room as comfort.
Some of party gathers the two soldiers that they had knocked unconscious and bring them to one of the guest rooms, while the rest of the group helps to clean up the common room. Questioning Dorothy and the leader, the group is able to discover that they are mercenaries hired by people working out of a boat docked in the harbor. They were to capture the witchbreed and bring them to the boat. They were given the pictures and told to expect that they would be capable combatants and likely would have mages amongst their group. Each of the pictures is on paper that carries a symbol that Morvelus and Ruak recognize as belonging to Bretonia as more flashes of memory return to them–memories of being in the Bretonian army.
One of the bar maids interrupts the interrogation to warn the party that the city guard is about to arrive and that if they don’t want to answer a bunch of questions and get detained for disturbing the peace, even if it does turn out to be temporarily, they might want to leave the prisoners here and not be around when the guard arrives.
The group heads to the wharf district and rents a room in a discreet inn, tending to injuries and studying and praying. A few questions quickly determine that there is a Bretonian boat in the harbor and so the group discusses options regarding their next plan. Tavious offers that he could easily sneak aboard as one of the mercenaries, to determine where or if Dr. Mirabalus is on board…or perhaps he could take everyone onboard as faux prisoners.
Ruak cautioned that any decision was ill-met without seeing what they were up against and advised that they should scout the ship first before coming to any decision.
Morvelus, recovering from his near-death experience, thought that the ale in this inn was lovely and sparkly and that a good rest was the most important decision to be made first. All agreed and they decided to make plans in the morning.
– 02/20/2015 –
Cast: Tavious, Quinth, Amra, Ruak, Morvelus, Dúlinnor, Gurtrud, Toombs