As we got up to leave, the old lady said she could offer more. “If I were to have something of your mother’s, I could get a better idea of where she might be” she croaked. I had a think. My flute was the first thing that came to mind, but that was only a replica to remind me of my mother, it was my father that gave it to me. Then I remembered the trinket I had hanging from my belt. Two toy soldiers tied together, one with its head missing, had been hanging there since I set off from Kennrylatin. It’s a silly thing, but it’s probably the only thing I know my mother gave to me, back before we lost her. I offered them to Old Mother Basket and she said she could see what she could find before Melech came back to return his book. We bid her good day and she said we were welcome back anytime for more tea.
The walk back to the stream was fairly brief, but along the way, we realised that there were perhaps more brambles this way than there should be. Were we on the edge of the corrupted area already? Maybe we’d not been oblivious before and it was, in fact, spreading fairly rapidly. The brambles soon cleared to leave light forest and a rocky shore as we approached the stream.
We continued where we left off before meeting Old Mother Basket, continuing upriver. It was still late morning at this point and we still had plenty of the day left for exploring. Suddenly, after about half an hour of walking, I heard a yelp from behind me, Baldwin had been attacked by one of the rocks! As we turned we could see a grey worm-like creature that had clearly been hiding nearby. I thought I recognised it from one of the books I’d read but had more pressing concerns such as it trying to latch itself onto Baldwin. Baldwin struck back against the creature’s torso, landing a hit, but it took this opportunity to wrap the tentacles around its mouth onto Baldwin’s shoulder and sunk its beak deep into the flesh. Baldwin shook it off, but looked worse for wear, with a gash trickling blood down his arm. Melech started muttering arcane incantations, firing the now familiar missiles of magic from his fingers, hitting the creature true and Beiro rushed past me to join the fray as well. I got my flute out and started playing in an attempt to inspire Baldwin toward triumph, given his more precarious state. While playing, I walked forwards and in one swift motion, returned the flute to its pocket, drew my rapier and tried to stab it in the beast. My combat skills are still new and fairly untested and my inexperience meant I made my stab in between movements, missing it’s twisted form. My song of inspiration for Baldwin was enough though, and his next blow struck the creature in it’s assumed face, cleaving its beak in two. As it slumped to the ground, we nervously glanced around, checking that there wasn’t any other danger hiding with the rocks on the shore, but it seemed as though we were safe.
The creature was a grick, something I’d read about in a tome in the Kennrylatin library. They are typically underground beings, occasionally seen on the surface. Solitary hunters, hiding and waiting for prey to come to them. Remembering these details, I informed the others and started searching the local area with Beiro to see if there was a lair nearby. We didn’t find one, which indicated the grick was fairly new to the area, but we did find a freshly chewed deer carcass, which meant the beast had had an ample last meal. We came back as Melech was helping Baldwin tend to his wounded shoulder. “It’ll just need a short rest,” he said, so we sat down and chatted for the next hour.
During our rest, we ended up on the topic of trinkets. I mentioned the toy soldiers had been a somewhat silly keepsake, but I’d probably miss them. If they were to be useful in finding my mother it would be for the best though. Baldwin said he had something kind of similar and he took out a small notebook, followed by a pen. Writing in the notebook, he showed us that it would not accept any ink, any page would just stay blank. He wasn’t sure why he keeps it or how he got it, he just found it in the bottom of his bag one day and has just left it there. Melech said he had a withered goblin hand and just kind of shrugged.
Once we started up again, we were walking for only about half an hour before encountering a clearing by the stream. A large fortified building stood in the middle of it, three-stories tall complete with arrow slits. It looked like a relatively recent build, with the outer walls showing no sign of decay or coverings of ivy. I said we should find out if anyone’s home and cautiously walked over to the front door, making sure to not look like a threat that anyone inside might attack. I thought I heard Beiro behind me, but when I turned Melech was holding him by the shoulder. I reached the door to find a large brass knocker. I knocked three times, the knocker booming with each hit. “Hello?” I said, rather boldly. Nothing. I waited a minute. Still nothing. I made an illusory pink teapot appear near one of the top floor windows, to draw the attention of any inhabitants too far up to hear the knocker. Still nothing. Baldwin came over and pushed the door to find it unlocked. We tried the knocker again, then decided to sit down nearby for a short while to see if the owner was out and might return soon.
After a while, Baldwin grew restless. There was no sign of life from inside the house and he wanted a poke around. I was against the idea. This seemed like someone’s house and you don’t just go rifling through someone’s belongings like that. We gathered at the front door again while discussing this and despite my protests, Baldwin wanted a look and pushed through the door. Beiro went to follow as well, going where the action was to be. Melech stayed behind, but it seemed he was intrigued as well. “We might as well go in now. We don’t want to leave those two idiots to their own devices in there” Melech reasoned. “Yeah, I think at this point I’d rather go in to try and diffuse the situation if we do find the owner,” I responded, talking myself around in the face of the evolving situation. We turned to go into the house but were greeted with the of Baldwin wrestling with a suit of armour, fending off a floating sword.
We stood there, kind of transfixed for a moment. “We should just get out of here,” Melech said “try again with a plan”. “No, I think we’ve got to deal with this now, I don’t think Baldwin’s one to back down from a fight”. We needed to send in the big guns. I picked up my ukulele.
“Beiro, Beiro, it’s time to rage,
release that beast, from its cage,
get in there, kick that armour’s ass,
do it now or face my sass”
and as I strummed the final chord I smacked him on the butt. Reflexively, Beiro ran into the house, but instead of going for the armour, he grabbed Baldwin around the chest from behind. Baldwin tried to fend off the elf barbarian, wanting a clean fight against the armour, but couldn’t wriggle free and was dragged onto the grass outside. The armour and sword didn’t chase us out the door and “Ok”, said Melech “Now let’s think about this. Enchanted armour and the like are typically defence mechanism for the houses of wizards, so now I’m VERY interested”
We decided to assault the keep in the morning and set up camp outside, in an easy position to see whether anyone did eventually return. In the morning we had our breakfast and readied ourselves by the doorway to the building. I started playing a little war-song for Baldwin as he was the first to enter and I was glad to see that it seemed to be pumping him up nicely, imbuing him with bravery for the battle ahead. He opened the door and quickly hurried in, but was met by the sword halfway down the entranceway, not leaving much space to fight.
As we all crowded in the entry corridor, Melech told me to step back, he needed to cast a spell and could only shape it so much. I did as he asked and as I did so he let out a ripple of electrical energy, which didn’t seem to affect Baldwin and Beiro. Baldwin gave the sword one final clash and it shattered, shards of metal falling to the floor. This gave Beiro the opportunity to push past and start attacking the now cornered suit of armour. I saw my opportunity to dart in as well and went for a jab with my rapier, but the blow glance’s off the armour’s…armour.
Now cornered, however, the armour wasn’t due to last much longer. Both Beiro and Baldwin were landing direct hits and it was taking damage from Melech’s magic too. It was started to slow, shifting in jerkier movements. Finally, I leaned in and grabbed it by the helmet visor and using it to steady myself, drove my rapier into the gap at the bottom of the chest plate. As the sword drove through the magical energy holding the armour up, it dispelled, causing the suit of armour collapse under its own weight. Still holding the helmet aloft, I tossed it over my shoulder. With no other immediate threats, we were now free to explore the reception room that we had ended up in and it didn’t take us long for us to notice the giant painting. The one with a human and an elf, heroes, that match the description Baron Ramsgate III had given us.