Lands of Katagma

Amafey's Notes [12] - The Scry of the Gyger

After finding the innkeepers’ scarecrows and Old Mother Basket knowing to find us in the house the morning after we returned, I was starting to suspect something was alerting her to what we were doing. I asked the Satyrs if they had heard of Old Mother Basket, but said her name in a very deliberate, slow fashion, allowing them to stop me if the name was cursed in some fashion. They didn’t stop me but as it turns out knew little of her specifically. I played them a song about what we had learned about Old Mother basket and they brushed it off as a common tale and just not to trust little old ladies in the woods. Perhaps her influence had not spread this far south and these parts of the woods were untouched.

Melech asked whether they knew where we could find the unicorn. “We would be happy to tell a friend,” they said. We all glanced over at Baldwin, who was wearing the crown. He took a moment to realise what was going on, then cottoned on and asked if they’d tell him. One of the Satyrs happily bounced over and started whispering in his ear. I couldn’t make out most of the words, but did hear Baldwin say “I do trust them”. Following the exchange, Baldwin passed on the message that the unicorn was to be found in a sunshine dappled glade to the south, deeper into the woods. We would find it there if it didn’t find us first, but would only appear if we were pure of heart.

It was mid-afternoon by this point and we had a unicorn to find, so we bid farewell to the Satyrs (much to the chagrin of our hirelings) and continued further into the woods. Most of us had been pacing ourselves with the drink, but the hirelings were a little…wobbly. Nevertheless, we carried on through the woods until we noticed a sparkle on the ground. Upon closer inspection it was as though a large sheet of glass had been laid in the woods about ten feet wide and extending out in both directions perpendicular to our current path, carving a path through the woods. Looking along this glassy path, we could see a very large snail in one direction with the most beautiful ornate looking shell, likely the cause of the trail. “That’s a Flail Snail” muttered Melech “their shells are worth a fortune”. “It’s big, I imagine more trouble than it’s worth, at least right now” I pointed out. “Agreed,” said Melech in turn. “Is it’s trail sensitive? can we touch it?”, I queried, but at that point, I heard a light tapping sound behind me. Turning around, Neddie was poking the trail with a stick. No reaction from the snail. “Better safe than sorry,” I said, backed up and took a running jump over it. I think I misjudged the distance because I came down on about the last foot or two of glass with a mighty crunch, shattering the portion beneath my feet. I whipped around. Still no sign of movement from the snail. I breathed a sigh of relief, just as Beiro came careening over the trail as well, just about clearing it. At this point, it seemed pretty obvious we were in the clear, so Baldwin and Melech just wandered over, leading the hirelings, making a slight crunch with every footstep. Baldwin leant down and picked up a shard of glass, examined it briefly, then stashed it in his pouch.

We soon came across a sunshine dappled glade and there, as if waiting for us, was a unicorn. Melech approached first and greeted it. A moment passed and he turned to us “It’s…telepathic, although it doesn’t understand common”. With a prod, Baldwin stepped forward, again wearing the crown, and started talking in Slyvan. “We have been sent by a hag to claim your horn, yet we mean you no harm. These ones have made a deal and we were looking for alternatives to release them from it”. When he finished, he dropped into a thoughtful look, as though acknowledging information. After a couple of moments he turned back to the rest of us “it says the deals are not as rigid as we seem to think, we’re not tied down by anything, only what we believe she can offer us.”

Melech started speaking in elven “Can you give us any guidance on how we might defeat her?”. His expression told me the unicorn had understood this time and was giving its response. Melech related what the unicorn had said “The unicorn is aware of the trouble she’s caused in the Northern woods. She draws her power from trickery like I would draw mine from the weave. She will take any advantage she can get and make elaborate plans to protect herself if she thinks she is in danger.”

“Is she drawing power from the dryad?” I asked as my first question, in Sylvan. “Not…exactly”. A smooth airy voice said in my head “The corruption of the dryad is a symptom, not the cause.” “Can the dryad still be saved?” I asked hopefully. “Unfortunately not, I believe she is too far gone, at this point the best thing for the forest is for her to be destroyed.” The voice said woefully “We were hoping to trick her through the wording of the deal, Do you happen to have like a drinking horn or a French horn you own?” I asked. The unicorn whinied, as though laughing at my question, the voice entered my head again “I’m a unicorn, I have no need for such things, besides where would I keep it?” Fair point.

“Is there some way she could be tracking us?” Melech started asking, seemingly with the same concerns I had had earlier, but then suddenly went pale, as if he’d suddenly realised the answer to his own question. He looked back at the unicorn and then a couple of moments later made a sudden movement towards it. The unicorn disappeared. There was another voice in my head, but it wasn’t the unicorn, it was Melech. “I think we’re being spied on, Old Mother Basket could’ve used your trinket to scry on us.” A lump formed in my throat. I’d been so blind to trying to get information on my mother that I hadn’t even thought the trinket might be used against us. “I…what do we do?” I responded mentally. “Stay as before, don’t let her know that we know and if you want to discuss anything privately, let me know, she shouldn’t be able to scry on these messages.” The message back said. “Is there any way we can know for sure?” Melech paused “I think see invisibility can be used to see scrying orbs, I gave you a scroll for that, didn’t I?”

I perhaps could’ve been more convincing, this was all quite sudden. I cast the spell and started to look around as if trying to see the unicorn through the trees. Nothing, no unicorn and no sign of a scry. I bent down to go through some things in my bag, then I saw it. An ethereal orb, just out the side of my vision, clearly following me. I signalled Melech. “Did you find something?” Came the voice “Yep, there’s some sort of orb following me” I responded in kind. “As suspected, in which case we need to be careful”. We made a vague show of frustration that the unicorn had vanished then made camp in the glade for the evening.

After an uneventful night, we traipsed back to our woodland home to work out what to do next. After pondering things for about 10 minutes, I heard the sound of shattering glass and Baldwin swearing. He’d found a glass ornament from the Fey Friend’s collection that could’ve been modified to look like a unicorn horn, to at least give us a reason to find Old Mother Basket again. On trying to remove the horn looking bit, however, he’d shattered the whole thing. We needed a different excuse. “Look, I think I should go and talk to her, I’ll see whether there’s anything else she’d take instead. If she gets mad it’s only one of us in trouble”. Melech looked a little confused about this sudden suggestion, then slowly started to realise what I might be doing “Yes,” he responded, “it’s worth a try”, then mentally “what’s the plan then?” “I go, as I say, to Old Mother Basket and tell her what happened and ask whether she has any other suggestions or options. Then, instead of staying here, you guys follow about 10 minutes behind. Don’t tell the hirelings what’s really going on until I leave”.

I made my way out of the house, along the river and past both sets of scarecrows, turning off and finding my way to where I was sure Old Mother basket’s cottage was, but…nothing, just an opening in the forest. I stopped, looking around. Either I was mistaken or we’d solved the mystery of the roaming cottage, so now what? I elected to wait and see if she showed up, she’d obviously know I was here. If I turned back I would run into the others and any chance of further chicanery would be out of the window. About ten minutes past and I heard a tussle in the undergrowth. Turning, expecting to see the rest of my party, I breathed a little sigh of relief on seeing Old Mother Basket hobbling out of the woods towards me.

“What are you doing out here on your own dear?” She called out “Oh, I’d come to find you, I thought your house was here though?” I responded sheepishly “Oh no, it’s just a little further along. Now, what was it you wanted to talk to me about?” “I…well, the unicorn got away and I think it knows our intentions, we won’t be able to catch it now.” “Too bad, I guess you’ll need to find another”. She was already seeming less kindly, impatient at whatever I was trying to pull or at the very least our lack of progress in the unicorn matter. “To be honest, I…I’m not sure I could even if we did find another. It’s not in my nature. Is there not some other favour you require?” “I asked for a unicorn horn, are you saying you don’t want to hear about your mother? Are you saying you want to break the deal?” “I…no..I do, I just, isn’t there anything else I could do? Can we not go back to your house to discuss this?” “We shall only meet in the cottage if you have something to offer and that doesn’t seem to be the case” “but…you said we were welcome to come for tea at any time”. At that moment, a twig snapped behind me. Old Mother Basket looked over my shoulder and smiled “Your friends are here”.

I turned. They were spreading out behind me and Baldwin already had an arrow notched. There clearly wasn’t any more chance of parlay. In a flash I drew my rapier and stabbed towards Old Mother Basket, but misjudged the strike from the suddenness of the situation. I backed up and started playing for Baldwin, who then struck true with not one, but two arrows. Old Mother Basket shimmered and her kind old lady exterior vanished, revealing the most reviling of hags, with sagging skin, long bedraggled hair and wiry fingers. Despite taking the arrows, she made a wide toothy grin, reached into a pouch and drew out my two soldiers. I grit my teeth, fully expecting a horrible curse to fell me, with the power of one of my treasured possessions. With a snap, she split it in two and threw the pieces on the ground, took a step back and from the ground grew two full size soldiers, nightmarishly similar to the toy, right down to one missing its head. I actually breathed a sigh of relief at this, as a child I’d had a lot of make-believe fights with these guys (it’s how the head incident happened), time to make those real too. “If I ever do find her, my mum’ll enjoy this story” I thought to myself with a slight grin. Beiro stepped forward to attack them and the hirelings fired a barrage of arrows, landing a handful of hits on the soldiers. Then, with a mutter, a gasp and what I’m sure was a flash of blood, Melech cast a spell I hadn’t seen before. A great explosion engulfed both the soldiers and Old Mother Basket, but Old Mother Basket emerged unscathed, with yet another toothy grin. Her own spells weren’t to be used against her…

Baldwin Rumwald's Notes [12] - The Unweaving Begins

Sadly the drinking and dancing had to draw to a close as we needed to continue on and find the unicorn. The satyrs seemed genuinely sad that we had to leave. Before doing so we had another attempt at asking them some questions. This time we had more luck. They had never heard of Old Mother Basket but did give us possible location of a unicorn. They only told us because I was wearing the crown and thus could be considered a friend.

We headed south in search of the glade in which the satyrs had said the unicorn dwelled. A short time later we came across a large glass like trail across our path. Looking up the trail I saw an enormous snail. Melech informed us it was a Flail snail.

I jumped across the trail and pocketed a shard of glass from it. Could be useful at some point… We headed further south and came across the glade the satyrs had described. A unicorn was grazing seemingly unaware of our presence. I approached and spoke to it in Sylvan using the crowns ability. We had a lengthy discussion about the hag and her mission. The unicorn lead us to concluded the hag was probably not actually as powerful as we had assumed and was instead largely relying on trickery and cajolement.

Melech suddenly has an epiphany about Old Mother Basket and via magic message informs us she is probably scrying upon Amafey and by extension the rest of us. It explains how she always seemed one step ahead! We hatch a plan between us using Melechs message ability. We really have no choice but to kill her.

We staged an attempt to kill the unicorn which was actually a cover for Amafey to cast a spell revealing and thus confirming the scry. We would continue to pretend to be doing Mother Basket’s bidding while actually maneuvering in to kill her.

We headed back to the fey friend’s house pretending that we were returning for the night in order to set out again on the morrow to hunt for another unicorn. We openly discussed our predicament with the unicorn to keep Mother Basket misinformed of our true intentions. In morning Amafey, as planned using message headed out alone to find Mother Basket. The idea was for Amafey to distract her with a true but diversionary tale about not wanting to kill a unicorn and seeking a different agreement.

We followed about fifteen minutes behind and approached the spot where Mother Basket’s cottage was meant to be. The cottage was gone but Amafey was there speaking to mother basket. We hadn’t been stealthy enough and Mother Basket spotted us ruining our chances of a surprise attack!

Well nothing left to do but fight.

Baldwin Rumwald's Notes [11] - Not so Motherly Basket

We arrived in Westpine in the late afternoon. We returned the cart we had hired to the carpenter and paid him his dues. We inquired after the tavern keeper and his wife and learned they had locked up and left in the past few days. He said he knew nothing about the reason, but his body language gave away that he was lying.

We headed over to the tavern and found it was indeed locked. Amafey, Melech and I headed around the back and found another door. It was also locked but Melech used one of his spells to open it. We search the tavern thoroughly but find nothing unexpected, though it was obvious they had packed up and left in a hurry.

We decided the best option was to head to the Fey Friend’s “house” even though it would probably be dark before we got there. This turned out to be a bad idea. As we neared the Fey Friend’s house we were beset upon by a swarm of bats. I swung my sword around trying to hit them but to no avail. The hired bandits took the brunt of the biting. The bats with their hunger sated flew off. Beiro, in some kind of crazy, ran off after them. He did return a short while later, proclaiming victory. I wasn’t so sure.

Some of the bandits were quite injured so it took a while longer to get to the house. On the way we saw a new pair of scarecrows. We gave them a wide birth, wanting to avoid further trouble.

I unlocked the front door and we entered. After quick scan around the house I was satisfied nothing was untoward. We ate dinner and then tapped one of the casks of ale. It wasn’t too bad a drink.

It was getting late so I went upstairs to sleep, as did the others. The bandits took the master bedroom between them, but I did managed to nab the bed in the second room.

In the morning I cleared out the larder of all the rotting food. Not a nice job but the smell was beginning to permeate to the rest of the house. As we ate breakfast and discussed our next move we heard a knock at the front door. I run up to the second floor to get a look through the murder holes. It was Mother Basket!

As I arrived back down stairs I found that Melech had let her in and was talking to her in the dinning room. I entered and stood in the corner as Amafey went in the kitchen to make tea. A rather tense conversation was taking place between Mother Basket and Melech. She was blatantly lying. I was tempted to call her out but Melech convinced me otherwise using his magic mind talking.

Amafey returned with tea and conversation turned to the favor owed to her by Amafey and Melech. She wants a horn of a unicorn! What kind of “Mother” is she? I had a very strong urge to slay her where she stood. But what if the others turned on me?

Beiro entered the room and mother basket took this as a cue to abruptly depart. Amafey tried to question her about the scarecrows but she swatted it aside with an obvious lie. Damn her insolence. Melech reworded the question to remove any possible ambiguity but she reaffirmed her statement with a curt response before swiftly departing.

We returned to the new scarecrows we noticed the night before. On closer inspection I noticed they wore the clothes of the missing tavern keeper and his wife. A sorrowful end.

Without any other plan and the vile power of Mother Basket obvious we had no choice but to seek out the unicorn horn. We headed south along the river bank. A short while later we heard the sound of pan pipes. Amafey whipped out her flute and began to play along. We found the source of the music in a clearing. A number of satyrs were joyfully playing and dancing. They greeted us and began handing around wine and ale. Never missing an opportunity for a drink I gladly accepted. An unexpected turn of events! We tried to ask questions of them but quickly gave up. They refused to talk of “dark” things.

Oh well, best get drunk and contemplate slaying a unicorn another time.

Amafey's Notes [11] - The Little Old Lady Comes for Tea

Our night on the road passed without incident, as did the next day. The cows near Westpine seemed content, certainly not under imminent attack from griffins when we passed them. We wound our way back to Westpine and as we approached, all seemed how we had left it. I was worried that by the time we came back it would be overgrown with brambles or under siege by orcs, but this was not the case. As we entered Westpine, however, we noticed that the inn, The Moody Cow, was closed and had been shuttered up.

Our first call of business was to return the cart to the carpenter. We could hear the sound of wood being chopped coming from the back of the house, so we brought the cart straight to him and handed over the agreed payment (10 gold pieces! I’m not sure I’m going to trust Baldwin and Melech’s negotiation skills in the future). He didn’t know the whereabouts of the inn’s owners, just that they upped sticks and left a couple of days ago. He said he knew nothing of Old Mother Basket, but there was something strange about his response.

Melech and Baldwin wanted to break into the inn to check for clues and I’ll admit I was also curious. We checked around the back and found another door, also locked. Trying to break in there would draw less attention. I was just about to ask if any of our new hirelings had any lockpicking tools when Melech muttered something and a large knocking sound rang out across the whole village. “It’s unlocked,” he said proudly, as a couple of villagers poked their heads around the corner curiously. We acted nonchalant until any hubbub about the noise died down, then turned the handle and entered.

We found ourselves in the kitchen and it was already clear that anything of importance had been taken and the owners had left in a hurry. A thorough search of the rest of the inn yielded no other clues as to why they left or their next destination.

Regrouping in the square, we discussed where to head next. It was mid-afternoon, so setting up camp in the village and setting off the next day was an option. I suggested we should go south, away from the corruption, in the hope of finding more fairy folk willing to give us information or otherwise aid us in doing something about Old Mother Basket. Baldwin wanted to deal with things directly, get to the house tonight, then find Old Mother Basket in the morning. We agreed to try and make it to the house that night, even if we might have a bit of travel in the dark.

We followed the trail to the hall, then followed the stream to the north again. Night set in when we were still a little way from the house, but we pressed onwards. Suddenly, the sound of wings and chittering filled the air, as a swarm of bats set upon Warwick, who had been right behind me in our marching order. A glance to my left showed a couple more swarms headed in our direction under the cover of darkness. The air was soon filled with the sound of wings, furious swinging of swords and various explosions from Melech’s spells. I used my rapier as a bat skewer but soon noticed that our new hires were struggling in the darkness, unable to see in the dark and unprepared without torches. I took out my flute quickly, started playing and as I did, fired little beads of light out the end, in an attempt to shed some light on the situation. With this, I yelled encouragement to our new friends, it was just a bunch of bats, after all.

We were just starting to thin the ranks of the swarms when they set off into the woods again, either retreating or just bored, I wasn’t really sure. Beiro chased after one swarm, still swinging wildly and disappeared into the woods. Looking around, Melech and Baldwin appeared to be unscathed, although our new friends had not fared so well. Neddie, in particular, looked in fairly bad shape, but he was still standing. Beiro shortly crashed back out of the woods and we decided to push on towards the house. In our haste, however, we almost ran into two scarecrows. Two scarecrows, right by the path, with the same creepy stare as before. A different place though. It might have been dark but this definitely wasn’t where we saw them before. Had they moved, been moved or were they new? We got our answer a few minutes later as we found the original ones a short way further. We skirted around both sets, although Warwick locked eyes with one and froze. He got moving again shortly, but seemed completely fearful, as though the scarecrow had jinxed him somehow. Eventually, we made it to the house, unlocked the door and proceeded inside.

After a rather torrid night, I felt like our hirelings would appreciate a drink and I was interested to try the Fey friend’s beer myself. The kitchen had an ample supply of mugs, so I tapped a cask and spread the beer around. The ex-bandits were sat in awe over the thought that we owned this place and gladly accepted the beer. As expected, the beer was excellent and as we all drunk the previous horrors of the evening faded from mind. We had our dinner and turned in for the night.

Over breakfast, we discussed what to do next. Melech and I were of the opinion to delay, gather information and inspect the dryad before revisiting Old Mother Basket. Baldwin disagreed again, wanting to tackle things head-on. The decision was taken out of our hands though as, at that moment, there was a knock on the door. Baldwin went upstairs to try and spy on who it was, but Melech and I shared a knowing look. “Who is it?” Melech called out, entertaining other possibilities. “It’s me!” Cried our a raspy, slightly withered sounding voice “Old Mother Basket!”. As though it would be anyone else. I went and opened the door. “It’s good to see you!” I said, acting my best to keep up the pretence of friendliness as long as it benefits us, “how did you know we were here?” “Oh, I pay attention to things that happen around here,” she said dismissively, “How come you haven’t come to visit your old mother?” “Oh, we only got back very late last night, we were hoping to come see you today” I replied, genuine this time as even Baldwin hadn’t suggested visiting her last night. I suspect she knew the last bit was a lie though. “Can I get you some tea?” I asked, keen to give myself space to think and interested in gauging how she reacted to being offered tea herself. “That would be lovely” she responded and I proceeded into the kitchen to boil a pot of water, leaving her with Melech and Baldwin, who had just returned from upstairs.

After brewing up some tea with some leaves Melech had provided and finding some cups scattered about the kitchen, I returned to find the situation had soured somewhat. Melech had been trying to grill Old Mother Basket and he was getting impatient about the lack of answers while she was getting impatient about his digging. I set a cup of tea down for her and she gave me a toothy grin, “Right, I’ve decided what the favour you owe me is”. I gritted my teeth, at least we’d know the deal now, but it was unlikely to be good. “I’d like you to get me the horn of a unicorn.” Crap. That was bad on several counts. First, I had no idea where we’d find a unicorn and even if we did, I would have no interest in bringing harm to such a creature. “Do you know where we might find such a creature?” Melech asked, realising she might be sympathetic at least towards the first issue. “Well, I have heard that a unicorn roams deep in the woods to the south, perhaps you should search there”. She might have sensed the trepidation in the air and she reminded us what got us into this mess. “If you get that for me, I might have some information that might interest you about your mother. Alive, might I say. I might even have some information about your origins”, she said towards Beiro as he entered the room and just looked a little lost. She got to her feet slowly, “Well I’ll be off, enjoy your new home” grinning and motioning around the house. “Err, one last thing” I piped up, sensing the opportunity to dig into a new suspicion “Have you seen any more scarecrows popping up?”. She paused, “no, I can’t say I’ve bumped into any” she replied, somewhat carefully and I could see the corners of her mouth curling into a grin. I think Melech saw it too “Yes, but have you SEEN any?” Old Mother Basket rounded on him “I meant what I said” she said abruptly, “now I must bid you good day!” And she shuffled quickly out the door, slamming it behind her with a surprising amount of force for a frail-looking old lady. I sighed with relief at her leaving. At least we knew what we had to do now…
We followed the river back south, along our now well-trodden path, but then continued south upon reaching the hall. If we reached the main river, we should be able to follow that right into the heart of the woods. As we pressed on the woods became thicker, but more luscious. No brambles, no sign of corruption this far south. Perhaps I had worried too much about the rate of its spread, we still had plenty of time to do something about it.

As we headed deeper, the unmistakable sound of pan pipes started filtering through the trees. On instinct, I reached for my own flute and started to play a response in harmony to the original tune. As I started up, the original music paused, likely surprised by the response, but then renewed itself. I struggled to keep up with the fast pace of the exquisite flow of the tune, being far more used to playing on my own. It was getting louder as we approached and I led the rest of the group towards the source of the sound. We came across a small clearing with a handful of satyrs, playing music and dancing. Upon entering the clearing, both I and the playing satyrs bought out music to a crescendo and finished the song.

“That’s some pretty good flute playing there,” one of them said. “Why thank you,” I said, curtsying
slightly, “it’s so nice to hear other music out here in the woods.” “Adventurers!” The others cried, seeing the rest of the party emerge from the trees and as if from nowhere produced full mugs of ale and wine and started handing them around. “Are you not afraid of the corruption in the north?” I asked. “Or seen any Orcs?” Baldwin added “Those are bad things! Drink and be merry instead” one of the satyrs said, handing me a mug of ale. I decided to take their advice, not worry for a bit and enjoy myself and took my turn to tell stories to the group. The atmosphere was infectious and despite being hesitant at first the others all soon joined in on the dancing and revelry. “See? This adventuring lark isn’t all bad!” I yelled at Neddie and his crew, still looking out of their depth out here in the wilds. It certainly made a change of pace and it felt like the best idea just to sing and dance and drink forever and not worry about Old Mother Basket or the forest dryad or Orcs ever again…

Baldwin Rumwald's Notes [10] - Notched Blade

After acquiring a new shield, longbow and some supplies I headed to the barracks to speak to Harvey Springman. He was however not much help. He couldn’t provide me with any information about the fall of Norcragden nor was he interested in helping out with the bandit issue. Not much of a “Captain of the guard”. I wouldn’t want to be in Coombesgate if it ever got attacked.

I head back to the Fallow Sow and settle down to an afternoon of playing cards and drinking. I managed to win a few games but the winnings were hardly worth writing home about. Beiro was also around, keeping to himself as usual.

In the evening Amafey arrived back at the Tavern for her performance. I noticed Smordin was now in the Tavern and headed over to talk to him about getting a sword made in exchange for the master work token. Beiro followed me over and between us we agreed to get a longsword made and that it would take around 10 days. I mentioned that I was also an aspiring blacksmith. Smordin seemed somewhat amused by this, I guess he didn’t think I would be any kind of competition. Anyway it’s not if I had the tools and more coin can be made by fighting these days. Smordin mentioned that Melech had wished him to translate some of Dwarven writing he had. As he didn’t seem to be about I offered to go get him.

After collecting Melech from upstairs we headed back towards Smordin’s table. Some of the stewards men were trying to curry favor with him. Presumably they wanted new weapons. Melech’s presence seemed to upset them somewhat. harsh words were exchanged and I half thought I would have to bash some heads in. Smordin however managed to deescalate the situation by stating he wound’t make weapons for any of the men if they caused Melech harm. The marched off and left us alone.

Not that interested in Dwarven fairy stuff I went back to drinking. It certainly was getting crowded it seemed Amafey was on top form tonight. Just after midnight I headed up to bed.

The next day we woke early and deliberated about what to do with the day ahead. I acquiesced to Amafey plan, I didn’t really have my own after all. Amafey and I first disguised ourselves before heading to the Notched Blade tavern. I wasn’t convinced of the need but it couldn’t hurt.

We got to the tavern and found the bandits. After a short exchange we convinced them to follow us back to the square where Beiro and Melech were waiting. We revealed who we were, they seemed genuinely surprised. Obviously not the most observant bunch. Introductions were made and a discussion ensued. After eliminating other options it was decided we would hire them as extra swords. I objected but was out voted by the rest of the group. I would have to keep a close eye on them.

We bought the required extra tents and supplies, loaded up the cart and set off back to Westpine. I was at the back of the group expecting them to turn on us once out the city. However the journey was uneventful and we made camp at the nightfall. The following morning we continued on to Westpine.

Amafey's Notes [10] - New Hires

I left Melech in the library as there were a few things I needed to do around town before the evening’s performance. I restocked on my dwindling ration supply and picked up a healing kit to try and avoid any more close calls. Baldwin had passed his old short bow onto me, as he was getting an upgrade, so I also picked up a quiver and a bundle of arrows. After being rudely turned away from using the barracks for some archery training, I returned back to Melech in the library.

“Did you dig up anything else?” I whispered, finding him towards the back hidden by a couple of towers of books. “Yes, actually” he responded happily, obviously at home here. “I decided to look up some past orc invasions and see whether the matching war paint has come up before. Well, it has, typically whenever there’s a particularly strong war chief, other orcs will rally under them, copy their war paint and follow under their rule. I think the same thing is happening again, hence why the orcs seem so organised.” I nodded, agreeing with the conclusion, then smiled wryly. “I think you mean orc-anised”. Melech just glared at me. “Anyway, come on!” I started, poking his shoulder, “Smokey’s queue is getting a lot shorter and I thought you wanted those notes translated.” Melech’s eyes lit up, “Oh, yes!”, he put down the book and followed me.

We found Smordin in the square with a handful of the steward’s men still queueing to get their swords sharpened. We queued up behind them, but it wasn’t long before Smordin spotted us and beckoned up forwards. “Good to see you lass! what do you need?” The soldier whose sword was next looked a bit disgruntled about having been queue jumped. “Well, we were hoping to bump into the others while we were waiting, as I imagine one of them will make the best use of your master work, but I’d like a couple of daggers if you’ve got any spare” “Sure, sure, I’ll see what I can find. You’re not getting these for free too mind” he chuckled. “Oh I wouldn’t think of paying anything other than full price for your handiwork” I beamed back. “I also have some notes in dwarven I was hoping you might be able to help with” Melech added, passing over one of the sheets of notes. Smordin took a glance at it while rummaging in his cart “I’m a bit busy at the moment to play translator, but…” he flipped the page upside-down and squinted slightly “come find me in the inn later, buy me a drink and I’ll see what I can do” he said, handing the page back. “Here we are!” Smokey exclaimed, pulling two daggers out and handing them over. “That’ll be 10 gold pieces”. I handed the money over, Melech and I both thanked him and headed back to the inn for the evening.

That evening’s performance was one of my best ever. Building on the strength of my previous performance at The Fallow Sow, I mixed old and new, fast and slow. I debuted “When last we left our heroes”, an improv storytelling exercise, which went down fantastically. I made sure my friends and I were all supplied with food and drink and a very enjoyable night of revelry was had by all.

We reconvened bright and early the next day over breakfast in the inn. It seems none of us had overdone it too much the night before. “I was going to go and collect those bandits from the Notched Blade before we go to Westpine” I proposed. “We should all go”. Melech said authoritatively. I countered, having already thought through this “Actually, I was hoping to go alone, disguise myself, just make sure we’re not being led into a trap. The fewer of us the better, as we’re all quite recognisable”, my gaze resting on Melech’s horns. I was also aware my golden eyes stood out like a sore thumb in more human areas too. “I still think I should come, it’s a bit of a rough area” Baldwin offered. I thought for a moment “As an old guard around here, they’re probably most likely to recognise you, although…if I did something about that scar with my disguise kit it would probably do most of the work of covering you up.” Baldwin agreed to my ‘changes’ and we set off towards The Notched Blade

Baldwin led the way, knowing his way around town. As we continued through the streets, I could see the houses getting smaller, more stacked on top of each other, leading to almost slums, people creating living space in any nook and cranny. The smell was getting worse too. We soon found The Notched Blade crammed between two other buildings and I could see why Drebky had warned us away from coming here. It was pretty much the definition of the word shady. I made sure my hood was pulled over my face as much as possible, nodded at Baldwin and we proceeded inside.

The inn was dark. Even mid-morning when it was bright outside, very little of the natural light filtered through. There was a grubby bar with an innkeeper, a small group that I immediately noticed were the bandits I’d asked to meet us here and otherwise it was empty. I guess even in a place like this, few people would be drinking quite so early. I pointed out the group to Baldwin and shuffled over.

Making my way over to the group, I prepared my best street urchin voice. “‘Ello there lads, I don’t suppose a lively group of adventurers asked you to meet them here”. They looked up “Maybe,” the one who had appeared to be the leader before shrugged, “what’s it to you?” “Well, they sent me to come pick you up, they’re waiting in the central square”. They looked surprised “they said they were going to meet us here”. “Change of plans,” I said, not thinking of anything better on the spot. The leader gave a bit of a shrug “Well, no point waiting around here all day. C’mon you lot”

We made our way back to the main square, with me leading the way, but Baldwin shuffling around at the back. I was aware he wasn’t giving these ex-bandits an inch and wanted to keep an eye on both our backs. “They hiring you too, then?” one of them asked me. “Oh, no, just gave me a couple o’ coin to come get you” I replied, keeping up the illusion for the time being. “They seem to be pretty liberal with their coin, I guess that’s a good sign for us” one of them reasoned. We found Melech and Beiro as agreed in the square, greeted them, then removed my cloak and smeared some of the make-up off my face, revealing my true identity to them. They looked genuinely shocked. “Sorry about that,” I said, returning to my normal voice with a cough “we just wanted to make sure we weren’t walking into a trap. That inn would be your kind of territory after all”

I introduced myself fully and then went around introducing the individual members of the group. After a couple of awkward stares at Melech, the leader went round and introduced the bunch of ex-bandits. His name was Neddie the Knuckles, the one with an eyepatch was called One-Eyed Dennis, another had a great big bushy beard and was known as Silent Gregory, the shadiest of the bunch was Cheating Warwick and the sole female of the group, a fairly burly lass, was known as Kya Black-Eye.

Introductions aside, we discussed our options. They weren’t open to going North to battle the orcs, accurately pointing out they could’ve done that already if they felt like getting promptly squished. They were also unwilling to turn on their own allies and take down the main bandit camp they had come from original, making a point of not wanting to stab their friends in the back. I’m not sure whether this is good or bad for us, not wanting to turn on other bandits, but hopefully not wanting to stab us in the back either?

This left the option of them accompanying us back to Westpine and the Fey Woods. “If we’re travelling we’ll need a tent. And food!” Neddie pointed out. Rations tend to cost us five silver pieces a day, meaning this would pretty much double the cost. I heard a voice in my head, “This deal is getting worse” Melech’s message said. I turned back to the bandits, realising this was an opportunity to renegotiate “How about 3 silver pieces each per day and we masked sure you get fed”. This seemed agreeable. “And what about the tents?" Melech pointed out “Lighten up, the situation is just two tents,” I said with a big grin. Melech sighed. It didn’t take long to buy what we needed and we set off back towards Westpine

Our journey was peaceful and without incident. No new bandits had set up in the copse yet and the skies seemed clear. Talking to the ex-bandits it sounded like they had taken to stealing from falling on bad times, struggling to find any other way to survive and put food on the table. They were all pretty young, I imagine most don’t last long in their old line of work.

As we set up camp for the night, it was quickly obvious they didn’t know what to do with the tent. Baldwin and I helped out, while Beiro scavenged some last bits and pieces for dinner. We’d realised he should be able to cover for himself and our hirelings, which should keep the costs down, although the rest of us would have to keep up our ration stocks for now. We turned in for the night, agreeing to pair up with one member of each party for each watch.

Amafey's Notes [9] - The Bandit Gambit

“What…err…how?” I stammered, trying to choose between all the questions I felt I needed to ask the innkeeper. “How long have you known about her?”. A vague timeline was starting to form in my head, I suspect old mother basket only moved into the forest after the Fey Friend’s demise. The innkeeper looked over at his wife who was now shaking her head furiously. “I…I’ve said too much. You should leave. You’re not welcome here anymore”. Realising that it was likely their own safety was in danger if they told me any more, I nodded reluctantly and left the three gold I had previously offered him. Beiro followed, but not before uttering his newfound catchphrase of “I’ll be back”, more confusing the innkeeper than anything else.

Back in the centre of Westpine, we met back up with Baldwin and Melech, who had acquired a cart from the lumberjack for a daily fee. We agreed between ourselves that we were likely to be five days. The rest of the current day and the next travelling to Coombesgate, a full day in Coombegate to do all that we needed to do and two days travel back to Westpine. We put the painting into the cart and set off down the road.

A couple of hours into our trip back to Coombesgate, I happened to look up at the sky and saw two figures that appeared to be heading in our direction. I nudged Baldwin, “Do you think those are birds?” Baldwin squinted “Not sure, they’re a little way off, but they’re definitely headed this way” he responded, his hand reaching for his sword. I could see Melech getting uneasy too, his hand reaching into his robe. A low rumbling sound had started to our side and glancing over I could see a herd of cows shuffling quickly towards the treeline. “Quick!” I hissed, “Get into the trees”. The others set off at a dash towards the trees as I took a moment to cast the illusion of a large rabbit and I then pursued the others. After peeking out from the trees for a handful of seconds, we saw a figure swoop down and try to grab the illusory rabbit with a frustrated eagle cry when it found nothing. It’s big lion-like legs kicked off from the ground and took flight once again. Gryphons. Unusual to see this far south, they normally roost in mountains. We came out of the trees slightly to see them both heading off northwards, the other one with a cow in its talons. We carried along the road with one eye on the skies, but the rest of the day passed without incident.

The next day, we decided to try and make it the rest of the way to Coombesgate, although that would likely involve travelling into the night a little. We were also to pass through the copse where we were attacked by bandits before. We slowed and kept our eyes especially peeled and, sure enough, we saw signs of another impending ambush. Melech and I crept into the undergrowth on the sides, hoping to get the jump on our would-be attackers, although we weren’t as well hidden as we thought. One of the archers I was approaching spotted me, but I think he recognised me from before. “bugger this for a laugh,” he yelled, holding his bow above his head. A new leader had stepped out of the ferns by Beiro and Baldwin (who’d continued down the path) and we could see three other archers, in the same arrangement they had attacked us the few days before, all pop-up and look a bit confused. “Give it up boss, these ones aren’t worth the trouble” the one who had already surrendered yelled. The leader sneered at us “You can pass…THIS time” he said, trying to appear generous, but there was a hint of fear in his voice. Melech and I retrieved ourselves from the bushes and followed after Beiro and Baldwin, who had now passed the leader.

As I passed the leader, however, I turned to him. These guys would be attacking pretty much anyone travelling along this route, ourselves included, and we needed to do something to get rid of them “What are you doing with your life?” I said blankly. He looked taken aback, surprised by the question, but before he could respond I continued “would you be willing to work as mercenaries if we paid you?”. A voice crept into the back of my head “What are you doing?”, I looked over and saw Melech glaring at me, but I just winked at him. “Err…yeah, how much you offering?” the bandit said gruffly. “How much is fair pay?” I countered. “Err…five silver pieces a day,” he said. “That’s fair” I responded, “Each!” he said, somewhat triumphantly. I smiled “I assumed as much”. I paused, thinking how best we could use them, primarily to keep them from any more raiding. “If I were to give you 50 silver now, where would I be able to find you in two days?” I offered, off the road was better than nothing for the moment. “Well, I guess we’ll be in the tavern,” he said with a shrug. “Which tavern would that be?” “Well, the Notched Blade of course!” Not one I knew, but I’m sure I can find it, although the name alone gave me a rough idea of what I might find there. “And you’d stay off the road in the meantime?” I probed. “Well, we ain’t going back if you’re paying us.” he chuckled. I paused, of course, these guys were coming from somewhere “Back where?” I asked tentatively, knowing that the rest of a bandit camp might be harder to deal with. “Back to the boss. He gives us our jobs, posts us on the roads. Sometimes it’s the north or south ones leading out of Coombesgate, but it’s normally this one.” “How many of you are there at the camp?” I asked, he seemed to be very free with information and I was going to take advantage of this. “About twenty in total, including us.” I nodded “ok”. Reaching for my coin purse, I retrieved 50 silver and handed it over “I’ll see you in The Notched Blade in two days and there’ll be more where that came from”. As we all walked away, we could hear them all squabbling over the coin behind us.

We arrived at Coombesgate shortly after nightfall to find the gates closed, but after a short talk to the guards, Baldwin got us in. We made our way straight to The Fallow Sow to get rooms for the night, hoping my last performance there would give us the chance to stay with only the need to play tomorrow. Baldwin and Beiro stayed outside to watch the cart while Melech and I went inside to get the rooms. “Amafey!” I heard shouted cheerily from the bar as I went in “Well if it isn’t my favourite bard!” There was a twang from the current performer as he missed a note. I smiled widely and walked over “Hello again, err… I’m sorry, I never actually got your name last time” I said sheepishly “Ooo, don’t worry about it, busy times and all. It’s Drebky by the way” he responded with a grin. “Well, Drebky, I was hoping you had a few rooms available for me and my friends in exchange for a full performance tomorrow evening” “Oh, of course, play like you did before and that’s more than ok” he said, slightly stary eyed at the prospect of how full the bar would be again. “Is it possible to get four rooms?” I queried. “Err…yeah…actually, one moment.” and he walked back and yelled into one of the back rooms “Ma! Have we got four rooms spare?” The voice of an older woman rasped back “No!” “Err, how many have we got spare?” “Two!” He came back to the bar a little embarrassed, “Only got two rooms I’m afraid, is that ok?” “Oh that’ll be fine” It’s still a freebie, we could probably just about cram into one room if needs be. He handed me two keys I thanked him “I’ll make sure to put on a good performance tomorrow” and winked at the barkeeper.

As I turned to gather the others, I found Melech engaged in conversation with a familiar dwarf. “Smokey!” I exclaimed. He turned to me and beamed “Amafey! Good to see you returned ok, holding up well?” “Yes, yes” I responded “We had quite an adventure, but we’re all in one piece. How about you, no trouble from any bandits?” “Nope, no trouble” “You didn’t encounter any?” “Oh I encountered them, they didn’t cause me any trouble though” and he winked. “Join me for a drink, I want to hear all about your stories” Melech and I agreed, just as soon as we’d brought our stuff into the inn. Baldwin offered to stay to guard the painting, although I think he just wanted some time to himself. We exchanged stories with Smokey for most of the night, agreeing to leave the various bits of business we had to the following day.

I went to order more drinks and while the barman was pouring them, I realised I never asked about my mother around here. “Does the name Lafrey Brightwood sounds familiar to you? She’s a performer, like myself.” “Lafrey, Lafrey”, Drebky pondered, “Y’know, I think I do remember someone by that name when I was a child. In here occasionally. She was one of my father’s favourites. She was very good, not quite as good as you, mind.” “I…err…thank you. I was hoping to follow in her footsteps” I said shyly, blushing deeply. “Well, I think you’ve already surpassed her,” he said, passing me the mug of ale. I looked down into it, quietly said thank you again and hurried back to the others.

I only made it halfway before starting to shed tears. Everything was getting too much. However well I was doing, my mother wasn’t around to see it, I wasn’t able to make her proud. All I was doing asking around was reminding myself she hasn’t been seen in years and I’m unlikely to ever see her again. My only lead so far was from an old woman who, as time goes on, seems to be transpiring to be an evil hag.

By the time I made it to the table, I was clearly a mess. “You alright, lass?” Smokey asked tentatively “Yeah, I…I’m just poking too much into information about my mother” “Ooooooook, well I think it’s about time for bed”, clearly not wanting to be part of my breakdown. Beiro and Melech looked at a loss for what to do too and we sat there pretty much in silence until I finished my beer and went to bed.

In the morning we headed straight over to the baron’s residence. We knocked on the door and the peephole slid open revealing a pair“Yes?” A voice attached to the eyes said. Melech stepped forwards, “We’re here to see the baron, we have something he’d like to see,” he said authoritatively. “Do you have an appointment?” The voice said, tinged with disdain. “He is expecting us” There was a sigh “I can’t just let anyone in, the Baron is a very busy man” “And he’ll be even busier berating you if you don’t let him know we’ve got what he’s looking for.” There was a pause, then with a sigh, the voice responded: “I will check with the baron” and the peephole slid closed. It was at this point that I had a minor revelation “We need a team name!” Melech looked at me incredulously. I continued “If we need to tell people who we are, what would we say at the moment? We could all introduce ourselves if the situation suits but we need something snappy!”. Melech just shook his head and turned around. At this point, the door opened and a body that we presume belonged to the voice we heard appeared. “The Baron will see you now,” he said.

As we entered the main hall where we had had the feast the week before, the Baron came out and greeted us. “Greetings, good to see you’ve all returned! Is that it, can I see it?”. Melech and Baldwin started to unroll it but as they did I piped up “It wasn’t to be found in the hall you directed us to, we faced many other trials and tribulations in order to retrieve it. I was hoping you might be able to increase the compensation in kind?” The baron looked slightly taken aback “The reward was for the painting, not the effort to retrieve it. You knew the pointer was nothing more than a tip-off and you accepted the quest” “Fair enough” I said, backing off quickly. It had been an optimistic question and I didn’t want to leave with nothing. The others had now unfurled the painting and the Baron stood back and admired it. “This is even better than I imaged! Look! There’s Uster and gasp that’s Taelakir” he nudged Beiro in the ribs “I’m part elf you know”. I could see Beiro glancing up and down the Baron’s portly body, then nod cautiously.

At that moment a man came running in. “Sir, I have urgent news,” he said, breathlessly. The baron turned to us “Excuse me, this is terribly rude, but I have to take this and he and the man went into the next room. As he was away, a couple of servants arrived and started rolling up the painting. I asked about making sure we were going to be paid before letting the painting out of our sight and the servants assured us our payment would here shortly. Just after the servants left with the painting the baron returned. “Oh, have they taken it?” he said, disappointed. We nodded “Oh well, we’ll get it framed and on display before long and ..ah, here’s your reward” and sure enough, at that moment a servant appeared with a big coffer filled with gold. We hefted it into the cart for the time being. “Now, if you don’t mind…” the baron started but was cut off of by Baldwin. “Orcs. We saw some in the Fey woods, organised ones, all with the same markings” he said, knowing this was something the baron needed to hear “Oh” the baron said, only seeming a little surprised “Is everything Ok?” I probed. “Yes, I…well..” He stuttered but quickly regained his focus “I suppose I can confide in you strapping bunch of adventurers. Norcragden has fallen. They orcs are currently held back at the river crossing. “Are you looking for more soldiers?” I asked, thinking about the bandits “can you pay them?” “We can’t really afford that, although any militia that joins the front lines would be more than welcome. Don’t worry, the steward’s men will hold the orcs back”. He seemed pretty confident of this.

Following our meeting with the baron, we distributed the reward and split up, agreeing to meet back at the tavern later. Beiro and Baldwin wanted to go shopping, but I took the opportunity to grab Melech. I’d been wanting to see if the library had any information on hags or anything else to build on what we’ve learned. Melech agreed this was a good idea and we both made our way over. Between us, it didn’t take long to turn up a handful of stories referring to hags. In pretty much all cases they were brokers of deals, much like Old Mother Basket. Unfortunately, in most of the deals we read about, the other party didn’t come off so well…

Baldwin Rumwald's Notes [9] - Back to Coombesgate

Melech and I met up with Amafey and Beiro outside the Moody Cow. We loaded the painting in the cart and set off along the road back to Coombesgate. A short way out of the village we noticed a pair of Griffins flying overhead. The cows nearby also noticed and began to run for cover. We decided to follow and headed towards the nearest coppice of trees. We managed to get to safety, however one of the cows was not so lucky. It screamed out as one of the Griffins grabbed it flying off into the sky. That might explain how the local farmers cows have been going missing!

We cautiously left the coppice before continuing along the road. The rest of the day was uneventful and when night fell we set up camp. The following morning we were off again hoping to reach Coombesgate before nightfall.

In the afternoon we approached the wooded area where we had been attached by bandits before. We didn’t want it to happen again so it was decided that Amafey and Melech would scout along the edges while me and Beiro continued along the road.

As I dragged the cart cautiously up the road I saw some branches in the nearby trees twitch. Our suspicions were confirmed as Amafey came across one of the bandits hiding amongst the trees. At least one of bandits seemed to recognise us from before and called out that we were not be attacked. Presumably remembering their defeat at our hands before. I took this as a cue and hastily continued up the road past the bandits.

Amafey however seemed to be discussing some kind of proposition with the bandits. I waited for sometime up the road fretting about wanting to get to Coombesgate before dark. It didn’t seem very likely now…

After Amafey eventually finished it was indeed dark before we arrived at Coombesgate. Normally entry after dark is restricted but by a stroke of luck I knew the gate guard from my time up at Norcragden. He let us in and we headed to the Fallow Sow tavern. I guarded the cart and painting while the others organised the rooms. We stowed the painting and equipment in one of the rooms. I guarded it while the others went down for a drink. Not worth risking the painting now, someone else might have overheard something about it.

The next day we headed to the Baron’s residence with the painting. Initially they were reluctant to let us in or even inform the baron of our arrival. However after some persuading we were let in to greet the baron. He took us into a room off the main hall where we presented him with the painting.

While we waiting for our payment we discussed with the baron what we had seen the Fey Woods. He seemed concerned, especially about the orcs but it was clear there was something else on his mind. He revealed to us that Norcragden had fallen to a coordinated Orc attack. The Stewards men were clearly not up to scratch… We informed the baron that we would be in Coombesgate at least for a couple of days and proceeded back to the tavern with our hard earned coin.

We divvied it up the 400 gold between us. I had wanted to divide the rest of the coin and loot we had gained but Melech wanted to keep it together for now. A discussion for another time. With my new earned coin I set off to the shops to restock on essentials and get a much needed shield.

Baldwin Rumwald's Notes [8] - Ghost of the Fey Friend

We continued upstairs entering the landing again and started searching the rooms off of it. The first room contained a number of casks labelled in dwarven. After checking the casks over we determine they probably contained beer or ale. This suspicion was confirmed after finding a cask tap. Though the others and I rather relished the idea of tapping one we decided it was best to continue searching the rest of the house first.

We entered the next room which was full of bookshelves. Melech excitedly entered the room and began rummaging through the books. I followed him in and began to look around the room myself. As I got to the end of one of the shelves a force struck me flinging me across the room into a wall. I drew my sword and charged towards were I had been attacked. I slashed out at were I thought the enemy might be but my blade sailed harmlessly through the air.

Amafey cast a spell and the outline of short figure appeared in front of me. Maybe the ghost of the house’s owner? Possibly the Fey Friend? Amafey obviously had the same idea and began trying to persuaded the potential Fey Friend we meant no harm and wanted to talk. I moved to back up from the ghost, as I did it struck out but in a rather lackadaisical manner, missing entirely. As I got to a safer distance I pulled the crown from my bag and put it on. I used its ability to speak sylvan and attempted to reassure the ghost we were here to help.

It let out a wail and flew up disappearing through the ceiling. We ran back to the landing, up the stairs and began searching for it. In the main bedroom we found the skeleton of a dwarf. Evidently he had been dead for some time. Amafey called out to the Fey Friend and we heard a knocking coming from a dressing table in the corner.

We were able to communicate with the ghost of the fey friend using a single knock for yes and two knocks for no. This limited us to simple yes or no questions. Through quite a number of questions we were able to determine a number of things: The ghost was indeed the Fey Friend; he had died of natural causes; he wanted a proper burial; he wanted us to deal with corruption in the forest but was unsure of the cause himself; there were no more traps left in the house; we were free to take the painting and use the house as a base of operation.

Beiro and I wrapped the Fey Friend’s skeleton in some sheets before carrying it out to the edge of the woods behind the house. Beiro and I dug a hole while Amafey sourced rocks to cover the grave with. After a couple of hours we had completed the task and returned to keep.

A thorough search of the house had found a considerable sum of coin, some health potions and the key to the front door. I locked the front door before retiring to the second floor to sleep. It was rather late at this point.

In the morning over breakfast Melech informed us he had deciphered a recipe from Mother Basket’s book. It was for a tea that when willingly drunk takes one year of life off the drinker and gifts it to the brewer. I had drunk her tea! Anger welled up in me and I vowed to kill her if I came across her again. For now however we should stick to the task at hand and get the painting back to the Barron.

We removed the painting from the frame and wrapped it some sheets. Amafey and Melech carried the painting between the two of them and we set of back to Westpine. I made sure to lock the door on my way out and kept the key upon my person.

We arrived in Westpine at around lunchtime. Melech seemed particularly tired out by having to carry the painting and suggested we find a cart to make it easier. So we headed to the Moody Cow for some refreshments and to inquire after a cart.

The innkeeper seemed rather shocked to see us. Amafey noticed that the innkeeper’s wife, who was also present, was no longer pregnant and asked after the baby. The innkeeper stated the baby was fine, Amafey however was unconvinced and began aggressively questioning the fellow. Soon Melech joined in and started accusing him of hiding something. My pleas to leave the man alone fell on deaf ears. The innkeeper demanded that we leave. I acknowledged his request and made my way out of the inn in search of a cart. After all the man’s baby was his own concern I didn’t want interfere.

Melech followed me out and we made our way over to the lumberjacks house. The innkeeper had said Steve the lumberjack had a cart. I approached the front door and knocked. A rather gruff man answered the door, presumably Steve. He rejected my request to borrow his cart, insisting he needed it for his job before promptly terminating the conversation by shutting the door. A tad rude I thought but his point about needing it for work did seem valid.

Melech however did not want to take no for answer. Maybe still aching from having to carry the painting earlier. He knocked on the door again and noticeably more grumpy Steve answered. With an offer of coin and a somewhat intimidating tone Melech managed to convince him to rent us his cart.

Not sure how welcomed we will be in Westpine after today.

Amafey's Notes [8] - The Fey Friend

As we proceeded through the first floor of the keep, we came across a room full of crates and barrels. My allies’ first reaction was to make sure none of it was animated, hitting it with their staffs and swords before examining more carefully. The barrels appeared to be labelled with a dwarven script and made a glug sound when tilted. Ale! And probably high-quality dwarven stuff at that! I pointed this out and immediately joined the others in searching for a tap. I found one quickly but then paused. “as much as I’d love the idea of drinking some of this now, we do want to explore the rest of this on a clear head“ I sighed. Baldwin, also caught up in the mild excitement this had brought on, slowly nodded and we all filed out of the storeroom.

The next room we tried appeared to be some kind of library, with bookshelves lined with scrolls and the like “More dwarven script!” Melech called out, rifling through what was to hand. I stuck by the door, still cautious of any other magical traps and felt thoroughly vilified in this when Baldwin was thrown 30 feet across the room by some invisible force. He started back, swinging wildly at thin air but not gaining any purchase. Having ‘seen’ our mysterious attacker earlier in the day, however, I was prepared and cast faerie fire covering the corner of the room he was flung from. The sparkles fell and as they did so, outlined a humanoid figure shorter than myself, otherwise invisible, in the corner.

“Fey Friend!” I called out, jumping to some justifiable conclusions, the dwarven ghost being the previous owner of this building. “We mean you no harm! We think something happened here and want to help!” The ghost’s demeanour seemed to flicker, potentially shifting slightly to calmness and remorse, at least as much as I could tell from the faerie fire’s outline. “We just want to talk, we’re not here to steal anything!” Melech yelled from the other side of the bookcase. Baldwin backed away and the ghost lashed out in response, but almost absentmindedly at this point. Baldwin retrieved the forest queen’s crown from his satchel and put it on. Speaking sylvan, he spoke clearly “We’re friends of the Fey” and picking up on his lead I followed “Something has happened to the forest dryad, we want to help” also in Sylvan. The ghost’s aggression faded entirely and he started letting out an almost banshee-like howl and the swept upwards through the ceiling.

We turned for the stairs, “quick!” I yelled, “I can’t maintain the spell for long, we’ll lose sight of him if it fades!”. Heading up the stairs and quickly rushing through the array of rooms upstairs, we found two bedrooms, one of which contained a skeleton, and a study, but no other traps or sign of the ghost. Happy we’d seen every room, I called out again “Fey friend?! Are you here? We were hoping you might be able to help us help the forest?”. There was a bump from the master bedroom as the dressing table hoped up briefly. I headed back into the room and cautiously approached the table. Running my hand along the edge of the table, I whispered “Fey Friend, is that you? Knock once for yes”. One knock in response. I breathed a sigh of relief. We had found him and he seemed calm enough to converse. This was truly a unique opportunity.

“I…we want to know what happened here. Did you die of natural causes?” One knock, yes. No foul play it seems. “Dare I say, broken heart?” The other bedroom had been unused for far longer than any part of the keep. Two knocks in response. Ok, that wasn’t it. Changing tack, I asked, “Do you want us to help the forest?” One very clear knock in response. Melech came across “Look, we just want to check. Are there any more magical traps in the house”. A pause, eventually followed by two knocks. Thinking about my options for getting answers in this limited form of communication I asked if the hag and the dryad are responsible for the state of the forest. Three knocks. Either maybe or they don’t know. Most likely the trouble with the hag only kicked off after his death. “Have you been dead for more than a couple of months?” Yes “A couple of years?” No. Ok, that gives us a rough idea of when he died

“Do you want a proper burial?” Baldwin asked as we all started to crowd the table. One knock “be properly put to rest?” one knock again. Melech cut to the chase “Do you have any particular attachment to that painting?” he asked. A long pause. Eventually, there were two knocks and I could hear Melech and Baldwin exhale in relief. It’s been a while since the painting was my primary interest and I was here for writing inspiration more than anything in the first place, but it sounded like the others would be glad to finish this quest. I just hope that I can persuade them to come back to help deal with the forest. Possibly looking for an excuse to come back, Baldwin asked if we could use the keep as a base of operation. Another pause as a sense of impatience or anxiety filled the air. Then, one knock. We had the ghost’s permission to have the run of the place. Realising we should probably wrap this up while we still could, I asked if the dwarf had any special burial requests, any dwarven customs to follow? After a moment of consideration came two knocks “Ok, we will make sure you’re buried properly” and the others started towards the bed to retrieve the body. “Umm, one last thing?” I stammered carefully “we found what I’m fairly sure was your ale supply downstairs” A knock interrupted me “and, well, I know dwarven ale is of very fine quality. I don’t suppose we’d be able to have some?” With almost a sigh, the table knocked one last time. “Thankyouverymuch” I gushed “I will make sure you’re buried with the utmost respect”

Finishing our seance, we respectfully wrapped up the skeleton in the bedsheets and Baldwin and Beiro carried it downstairs, out of the house and to the glade at the rear of the house. I found some stones of various sizes from the riverbank and built a cairn by the grave. Leaving Beiro and Baldwin to their hole digging, I started searching the house for anything else of interest, turning up a sizeable amount of gold and a couple of health potions. Beiro and Baldwin finished burying the Fey Friend and as they came back into the keep it was as though a shadow had been lifted from the place. The search had also turned up the front door key, so we spent a night asleep on the top floor without any worries.

The next morning, Melech had an announcement “I’ve been reading that book Old Mother Basket gave me and I’ve found a recipe that’s might interest you. It’s for a tea, that, when ingested willingly, takes a year off the life of the drinker and gives it to the provider of the tea” “Ah,” I said, seeing what he was implying, exchanging a glance with Baldwin who suddenly looked a bit ill. “Next time we see her, maybe don’t drink the tea?” Melech suggested, smugly, as he hadn’t partaken the time before. “Well…”, I said slowly “if that’s what it takes to get more information, I can give up a couple more years”. I glanced over at Baldwin “At least I’m half elf, I had a few more to start with” I chuckled nervously. “We need to kill her,” Baldwin said. “I was just joking, sorry!” I said, only half seriously as I knew he was referring to Old Mother Basket. “Look,” Melech said “she’s tricking you and there’s some other part of the deal you don’t even know about. She’s getting the years for free” “I get what you’re saying” I responded “no more freebies, at the very least”

We turned our attention at last to the painting, ready to take it back to Baron Ramsgate. We were now all eager to get back to Coombesgate before dealing with the forest, wanting to resupply with equipment and information. The painting was huge, from floor to ceiling. Maybe ten foot by six foot and framed too, the canvas alone would probably take two of us to carry it. After carefully trying to manipulate it amongst ourselves, we got the painting clear of the frame, although the heavy staples that had kept it in place left their mark, and wrapped it up in the sheets from the other bed. With everything ready, we set off back downstream towards Westpine.

Surprisingly, we made it all the way back to Westpine without any surprises. Not being interrupted every half an hour or so meant the trip only really lasted us the morning and we arrived in Westpine at about lunchtime. “We can’t keep carrying the painting like this” huffed Melech, who had been helping me carry it, “We should see if we can borrow a cart from someone”. I nodded “The innkeeper at the Moody Cow might know who has one. I wanted to ask him a few questions anyway”

As we headed into the Moody Cow, I greeted the bartender warmly, but he did a double take, as though he’d seen a ghost. “You…you’re back?!” He stammered. “Well, of course, it wasn’t all happiness and roses, but nothing a dashing young group of adventurers like us couldn’t handle” I responded, with a grin. “Ah, err, well, can I get you anything?” “Ah yes, of course” I checked quickly with the others “A jug of wine between us I believe” and slipped him ten coppers and a silver.

As he retrieved the wine from behind the bar, I looked over and saw his wife sitting in her corner, no longer pregnant “Oh, has the baby arrived, birth all ok I hope?” “Oh yes, yes,” said the innkeeper. “Baby all well?” I followed, just trying to be a concerned patron. He paused mid wine-pouring “err, yes, baby’s fine”. I wasn’t convinced. “If … something’s up, we’re more than capable of going and finding some herbs or any other form of help if you need?” “No, No, it’s quite alright” busying himself with putting the now empty jug away. I leaned in “Are you sure?” I said, genuinely concerned that the baby was in trouble and he was missing an opportunity for us to help. “Yes, it’s fine, if you’d kindly stop asking, I frankly find it quite rude”

Melech stepped alongside me, I looked over and saw his eyes glowing red. “There’s something you’re not telling us,” he said angrily, his voice rising in volume with each word. I put my hand on his arm as the ground started to shake and the innkeeper started to cower away behind the bar, “Melech, there’s no need for this.” “You are hiding INFORMATION” continued Melech “you will tell us what has happened to the baby”. The innkeeper was gibbering in fear, clearly now unable to tell us anything even if he wanted to “Melech!” I snapped, squeezing his arm. The rumbling subsided. “Look,” I said softly to the innkeeper “Do you know anyone around here who might have a cart we could borrow” “err, Steve, the lumberjack, across the way,” he said quickly, still clearly very shaken. I turned to Melech. “Melech,” I said firmly “go with Baldwin, see if we can borrow the cart”. Melech grumbled and headed out.

Once he was out the door, I turned back to the innkeeper, who was still very shaken but seemed to have relaxed a little with Melech gone. “I’m terribly sorry about that, you’re right, it’s rude, we don’t need to pry about the baby”. The innkeeper shook himself off and came back to the bar. “That’s quite alright.” “Over the past couple of days, I’ve remembered I speak Tavern,” I said wryly, as I slid three gold across the bar “There were a couple of stories I felt were unfinished before.” “Oh no, no, no, don’t worry about that,” he said, guiltily shoving the gold back across “there’s nothing to tell!” “Really?” I said “No more news about the roaming cottage or those crimson riders?” “Oh … yeah! hoo boy, those crimson riders are a bad piece of work” he started babbling, clearly jumping too hard at the opportunity to change the subject. Beiro tapped me on the shoulder “He’s hiding something” he said to me in Elvish. “Well, yeah”, I responded in the same “but what? He’s clearly unwilling to tell us”. “He was shocked we came back ok, he knows something’s wrong with the forest. Maybe he has some involvement?” He was laying the cards down on the table, making things clear. Then an idea. The innkeeper is here, his wife is here, if the baby is indeed ill, then why are neither of them looking after it. Even if the baby is fine, it seems odd to leave a newborn child on its own. “What if we asked to see it?” I said to Beiro “If the baby’s fine, he should have no trouble showing us. If he can’t, then he has some explaining to do” “That might work” said Beiro

I turned back to the innkeeper and asked, now back in common “Sorry to come back to this, but err, I mean, if everything’s fine with the baby, would you mind if we could take a look at them?” The innkeeper glared. “This again? Look, you’re becoming far more trouble than you’re worth. I think you should leave” he said, pointing towards the door. The innkeeper’s voice was raising, but shaking, more confident that Melech had left, but probably unsure he could do anything if I didn’t leave on my own accord. There was a long pause as I stood there and narrowed my eyes at him. Finally, breaking the silence, I spoke up, strongly and evenly “Look. You and your wife are both out here, rather than looking after the baby. We’ve been in the Fey Forest and something is going wrong and you’re giving us every reason to suspect that your child is related ” He sighed “The child’s not mine, it’s Old Mother Basket’s”. It took all of the elven half of me to maintain composure and avoid a spit-take. The innkeeper continued, “My wife gave birth a couple of days and Old Mother Basket came to claim it yesterday.” I was already pretty clear how Old Mother Basket operated after our own encounter with her “What did she offer you?” I asked. “We…had never been able to have a baby before,” the innkeeper responded slowly “Old Mother Basket offered us the chance to conceive…as long as she had the firstborn”. I did not like where this was headed


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