Lands of Katagma

Baldwin Rumwald's Notes [16] - Back in Westpine

We continued north at a slow pace. After a few hours Beiro stopped and informed us there was a clearing up ahead. I began to argue with Melech about what our approach should be but Amafey told us to be quite.

Approaching the clearing there were several orc corpses and a fallen tree. The tree was weird looking and maybe capable of walking. It was probably what killed the orcs.

Suddenly I heard heavy stomping heading in our direction. The others fled from the clearing back into the woods. Bloody cowards… Especially Beiro, isn’t he supposed to be able to fight?

Into the clearing came a short humanoid with huge boots and a red hat. He threatened to cut me down, I doubt it! While I did get knocked down, only temporarily, by a dishonorable kick to the shins, I was soon up fighting again and the red hatted midget was soon dead.

It seemed that another one of them had entered the clearing. With assistance from spells cast by both Amafey and Melech, Beiro and I made short work of him as well.

We discussed what to do next before deciding to camp for the night further back in the woods. Before leaving though Beiro and I decided to take one of the pair of boots. Melech objected to it but we were carrying them so what could he do…

Melech and I setup camp while Amafey and Beiro headed into the woods to forage and collect firewood. When I went to look in my bag however something was off. My mess kit was gone! Melech checked his bag and found that his ink had been split all over it. Seems the Fey were up to their usual pointless tricks.

Amafey and Beiro returned and we informed them about the happenings. It was decided I should call out in Sylvan and try deal with the situation. So I did and there was a sudden blue flash before I was slapped across the face! Giggling followed and what ever it was fled back into the woods. I wasn’t amused, now having nothing to eat my dinner from. Amafey played some music and sang in Sylvan. Presumably to try attract the Fey again. It was a good performance but I was glad it didn’t work as I was in no mood for more of the Fey’s tomfoolery.

We turned in for the night with Amafey taking the first watch. I was awaken a short time into my sleep by some sort of commotion. Going outside Amafey was looking rather perturbed. Amafey informed us that the Satyrs from before and come to the camp and maybe tried to abduct her. At this point I was rather tired and was pondering if Amafey’s abduction might have been the preferable outcome. Trying to shake such ideas from my head I mumbled something about being more careful before going back off to bed.

The next day we continued north, the thorns were growing even thicker and made for slow progress. After some hours we hit what looked like a thorn wall. There were orc corpses stuck in it at points. We followed the wall before coming to an opening. An archway of kinds into what looked like a maze.

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Amafey's Notes [16] - Briar and Pain

As we proceeded Northwards, hacking our way through the thickening brambles, the forest grew darker and ever more sinister. Even though we knew it was only mid-afternoon, the little amount of light now filtering down through the trees gave the impression of an impending dusk. We were getting closer.

After several hours trawling through the undergrowth, Beiro stopped the group. Whispering, he passed back the message there was a clearing up ahead. It looked like a felled tree had opened a gap in the canopy. We approached with caution, although I had to shush Baldwin and Melech as they started bickering about something behind me. Reaching the edge of the clearing, we could see several orc corpses, along with what looked like the felled tree. Something clearly being fishy, we started investigating. The orcs all had the warpaint we had seen before, although had been clearly slain, covered in cuts and bruises. The tree, however, was the most curious item in the clearing. It looked humanoid and as though it could’ve walked on a pair of feet, unlike Old Mother Basket’s tree which had walked on its roots. The whole clearing was also covered by heavy footprints, perhaps by the tree, but maybe something else?

Before we could come up with any other theories, we started hearing a heavy stomping echoing throughout the woods. It appeared to be heading in our direction, so all of us, except Baldwin, scattered into the undergrowth. As we waited and the stomping grew closer, we saw a rustle in the undergrowth from which emerged a rather short man but wearing large iron boots. He had a long unkempt beard and wore a large red hat. He was also carrying a menacing looking sickle. “I’m gonna cut you down to size!” He screamed, seeing Baldwin in the clearing and started clomping towards him, but at that point a handful of rays of fire skidded out from the undergrowth into his chest, followed by a javelin hitting him in the leg. Baldwin met him in the middle and landed a couple of hits of his own.

I was weighing up my options when our foe, now clearly incensed further by the pain, kicked Baldwin in the shins. The sound of metal on bone rang out in the clearing and Baldwin was immediately on the floor, not unconscious, but obviously in a lot of pain. Then I realised, the boots! I moved forward out of the undergrowth and started to play, but at that moment, another one of these creatures had entered the clearing. I wasn’t sure if anyone else had noticed him yet, so I turned my attention on him instead. Playing a rhythmic dance tune, I started heating the metal of the boots, causing the newcomer to hop around involuntarily in time with the music.

My decision was shortly verified, as it only took another barrage of fire from Melech to take out the initial threat. Having been alerted to his presence by the cries of pain, Beiro and Melech switched to the newcomer and started attacking him. I took my bow and arrow out, firing a shot into his chest and using the bowstring to keep the rhythm of the heat metal going. This assault took its toll and Melech shortly landed another killing blow with three more rays to its face. As the angry creature fell, the forest grew quiet again and it seemed as though no more danger was imminent.

As we could see it was now getting dark, we agreed to back up a bit, making camp a little way to the south where it had seemed to be safe. Beiro and Baldwin decided to keep a pair of the iron boots as a souvenir, much to Melech’s annoyance. We soon found somewhere sensible to make camp and Beiro and I set off to find food, while Baldwin and Melech set up the camp. There wasn’t much wildlife to be found and, while we managed to take out a couple of pigeons, most of what we brought back were mushrooms and berries. As we returned to the camp, Melech seemed uneasy. “There’s something about” he said, when we returned “Baldwin’s mess kit is gone and my ink’s been spilt all over my parchment, ruining it” Playing devil’s advocate a bit, not wanting a night of worry, I proposed alternative ideas “Maybe Baldwin just forgot his mess kit and your ink became uncorked in your bag?” Melech saw through my ruse in an instant. “We’re in the Fey woods, we should be on our guard,” he said sternly. “I don’t think they mean us any harm though, it’s just usual Fey trickery” Baldwin piped up. “Maybe try calling out? Preferably in Sylvan?” I suggested. “You know Sylvan, don’t you?” Baldwin said plainly. “Ah yes, but you also have a crown of friendship, so surely that’s the better bet?” I countered. “Fine,” Baldwin said gruffly and, taking off his hood to reveal the crown spoke out “Fey friends, reveal yourself!” At that moment there was a flash of blue and a smacking sound as something slapped Baldwin across the face. Whatever entity was responsible for it giggled and flashed back into the undergrowth. I did my best to suppress my own giggle at this sight. Baldwin sighed. I then tried enticing them out again, playing a song in Sylvan and made what was probably my best performance to date…to a crowd containing just our party. We clearly weren’t having any joy, so the others turned in for the night, while I took the first watch, agreeing to keep one eye focused on our equipment.

It must have been about half an hour later when I heard a rustle from the undergrowth. I picked up my bow and turned to see where it had come from, then lowered it as I saw a humanoid figure approaching slowly. “Hello there!” I called out quietly “Hello! It’s good to see you” came a voice back and as they came into my vision, I could see it was a Satyr, one from the other day in fact. “What brings you this far North?” I asked, “I thought this was a place for misery, not joy and mirth”. “We heard your performance, we wanted you to come and play with us again” he responded, cheerily as ever. “I…errr…well, thank you.” Something was off. I didn’t feel like they meant me any harm, certainly not directly, but, I felt like it was important I went. I also didn’t want to mysteriously vanish and leave the camp unguarded either though. “Let me wake up one of my friends, let them know where I’m going“. “Oh, don’t worry about that,” he said calmly and I noticed the two others that we had danced with before appearing from the side. I felt a calming voice in my head tell me it was fine, I should just go with them and it almost took me, but I shook the idea off. I made a move towards the tent and one of the satyrs reached out as if to grab me. I ducked out of the way, reached into the tent and found Beiro’s leg. Shaking it I hissed “Beiro, wake up, I need you to take watch” “Wha-?” I heard groggily from the tent “There are some satyrs here and I feel I should go with them, I-” and, at that point, I turned around and realised they’d all vanished. “What’s going on?” Beiro asked, emerging from the tent, now more awake. “There were…satyrs…here, they…” I stammered, now perplexed by what had happened. Melech stirred “Wha..? Is it time for my watch?” he muttered. “What’s going on out there?” I heard bellowed from the other tent. Gathering my half-asleep companions together, I explained what had happened and, despite no-one else actually seeing the satyrs, they all believed me. Melech chastised me for being so ready to go with the satyrs though and he was right, going off on our own here would be dangerous. I just…perhaps my curiosity almost got the better of me again. It wouldn’t be the first time.

Despite shaking my way through the rest of my watch, the rest of the night passed without incident and we continued North once again. After a couple more hours hacking slowly through what was a torrent of thorns, we hit a wall of briar that seemed all but impassable. Hacking at it didn’t seem to make a dent and Melech couldn’t get it to catch light either. Looking down the wall, we caught sight of another orc corpse, the briars growing around it. “I’m starting to think we might not be doing the right thing here” Melech muttered, “the dryad looks like she’s stopping the orcs coming through the forest.” I nodded slowly “I can see where you’re coming from, but…I think the forest might have been defending itself before. These corpses were here before the briar grew around them…” “Perhaps you’re right. Well, let’s start moving our way around to the East, we might find an opening” Melech suggested. “That seems…optimistic, but its worth a go” I mused. East makes the most sense for where we want to go next too” I said. So East we went and it wasn’t long until we did indeed find an opening “well, fair enough” I said, surprised there was such a convenient entry point. We peered inside and saw that the briar walls went inwards and stretched out into a maze of paths and corridors. The corrupted dryad had laid out a den and we’d have to enter it to find her…

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Amafey's Notes [15] - Chasing Bars

As we approached Westpine, we saw the woodcutter who would had borrowed the cart from, but when he saw us he glared back briefly, turned and went inside. Similarly, children playing were scooped up by their parents and taken inside. By the time we reached the square, no-one was to be seen and a deathly quiet had swept over Westpine

“I’ve got a bad feeling about this” I muttered quietly. “Might be because we’ve got the ex-bandits with us” Baldwin suggested, “maybe we should go to the tavern, see if anyone’s there and work out what to do next…”. Checking the tavern, it still remained vacant, a layer of dust beginning to settle on the various surfaces. We gathered in the bar, whilst Baldwin found a mug and poured himself some ale from one of the taps. “I think I should go out and announce Old Mother Basket’s death, although I’d appreciate the back up in case things go horribly wrong.” I looked over at Baldwin, he obviously wasn’t bothered about going anywhere, feet up, quaffing his drink. “I’ll come” Beiro piped up. “Yes, it’s probably best if I come too” Melech followed up. We left and set up in the square.

I took my ukulele out and strummed a large resonating chord “Villagers of Westpine, the hag has been…err…removed. You shall no longer have to worry about, umm, deals and … trickery”. I was struggling to find the words and was not evoking any response. I played myself a little song to psych myself up before trying again. I thought back to the first time I played in Westpine, another strong performance that must have brought out most of the village. I started playing some of the songs that had gone down well that night, to try and draw people out. As I played, I saw a child appear at the window of one of the houses, smiling at the sound of the music. I winked at them, shortly before they disappeared and the shutters slammed shut once more. Then, from another part of the village, we heard a yell. “Begone servants of Mother Basket, you bring nothing but misery!”. This was an in, at least “We are sorry for any misfortune we’ve caused to your village, but Old Mother Basket is dead. We have killed her. She manipulated us too but was a curse upon the forest and we have removed her”.

The front door of a house on the other side of the river slowly creaked open. A man in his mid-40s or so cautiously poked his head around the door “Is it true? Is she gone?” He asked, with a slight crack to his voice. “Yes! I implore you to believe us! We, unfortunately, have little proof, but I can recount what has happened”, I responded. The man looked deep in thought for a moment, then nodded, “OK, I believe you, come inside and let’s hear what you have to say” and beckoned the three of us over to his house and inside. It was a simple abode, but a little larger than any of the houses in the village. “Are you the leader around here, say, the village elder?” I asked. He chuckled “How old do you think I am? I don’t know about elder, but…yes, people tend to come to me if they have any concerns. My name is Arthur”. “My name is Amafey Craftwolf and these are my companions,” I said, gesturing to the others “My name is Melech” “Beiro”. “Pleased to meet you” Arthur responded, “Now, you were going to tell me about what happened to Old Mother Basket and your part in the disappearance of Warwick and his wife?” “Warwick?” I responded, surprised that Arthur knew about the demise of our hireling. “That was the name of the owner of the now abandoned tavern,” Arthur said woefully. “Ah, that is an … unfortunate coincidence. “ I said, quite surprised at the fact. Arthur leaned his head quizzically “How so?” “Well, let me explain everything”. I then told the stories of our adventures, as chronicled so far in these pages. I didn’t leave out any details, much to the protest of Melech and he and Beiro left half an hour into my storytelling.

“Well, you certainly are a good storyteller,” Arthur said cheerily as I finished the story a couple of hours later. I blushed a bit “It’s kind of my thing” I said quietly. Arthur stood up, beaming “Well if you’re to be believed, the village owes you a great debt if there’s anything we can do to repay you just let me know.” “There is one thing,” I said slowly, ready to put my previous plan into action “The hirelings that have been with us. I think their Warwick dying has told us all that things might be getting too dangerous for them. I was hoping that, well, they might be able to take over the empty tavern?” Arthur tilted his head up, thinking, “you mentioned they used to be bandits, yes?” I gulped, maybe I should’ve spared some details of the story “Yes, but I believe they were victims of circumstance. They’ve been nothing but helpful and trustworthy since joining us” Arthur nodded sagely “Yes, ok, maybe they would be a good fit to get the tavern up and running again”.

At this point, a bugle sounded from the centre of the village. I started up, worried about any incoming danger. “Is that a village signal of some kind?” I asked. Arthur shook his head quickly “not one of ours”. We peaked cautiously out of the window. There, in the middle of the square, was a knight, wearing the colours of Steward Dreven. He was holding up a sheet of parchment and at that moment began to read from it. “Citizens of Westpine, the steward requires your assistance. If you are capable, you are to arm yourselves and report to Springgate. Norcragden has fallen and the orcs threaten are bearing down on own civilised towns. Any militia assembled at Springgate to repel them will be remunerated appropriately.” He put down the scroll, turned his horse and headed back along the road at a gallop.

“That’s…worrying, we’ll need to work out where our little group stands on this,” I said, turning back to Arthur. Arthur nodded, “I do imagine we’ll need to have a village meeting about this, I’ll arrange something within the next couple of hours”. I bid Arthur farewell for now and headed back to the tavern. “Ah, Amafey” I heard as I entered the tavern. Melech was leaning back on a stool, next to Baldwin and Beiro, all sat a separate from the hirelings, “we were just waiting on you before deciding what to do next. I presume you saw and heard the announcement too?” “I did, also, Baldwin, you’re going to have to pay the hirelings for that beer, I got them the tavern” All of the hirelings did a double take, clearly surprised my little plan had worked. “What beer?” Baldwin said as he tossed the mug back onto the bar with a clatter.

Turning back to the matter at hand “So what was the plan?” I asked the others, who’d already had a little time to discuss. Beiro grinned, “I think we should go and kill some orcs” Beiro doesn’t like orcs much. Baldwin shrugged, “I think we should go back to Coombesgate, but I don’t want to get involved in this war.” They were clearly leaning towards being done with the forest. “Well, we still need to deal with the Dryad, I don’t want to leave the job half-finished, the village could still be under threat” I countered, trying to convince them to finish the job “We killed Old Mother Basket, they’ll be fine, unless they get invaded by orcs of course” Baldwin countered. Melech raised a finger “actually, I’m with Amafey on this. We’ve got much to learn about the forest and we’re not exactly front line soldiers if we did end up in a warzone”. “Speak for yourself” quipped Beiro.
Then I had an idea. “Hang on, Baldwin, have you got a map of the barony?” He shook his head, “No, but…I might be able to sketch something in the dirt?” We headed outside. A few villagers were now milling around but were now fervently discussing the mounted visitor to pay us much heed. Baldwin started sketching out a few locations “So, we’re here, in the West. The dryad is somewhere north of us, Coombesgate is to the east and Springgate is north of that.” I started pointing north of Westpine. “Let’s say we deal with the dryad. We don’t need to stick to the roads, do we? We could cut cross-country, eastwards, and see if we could catch the orcs from behind. If we could take out this supposed war chief of theirs, the army would suffer and we’d be hailed as heroes.” “That…might actually work,” Melech said thoughtfully. I turned to Baldwin, “What do you think?”. Baldwin shook his head “I still don’t want to get involved, I think we should head south, get out of the way”. Melech rounded on him “There’s every chance that these orcs could reach Coombesgate and tear everything up there. Do you think they’ll stop?” He was getting agitated. Not flaming eyes, shaking ground agitated, but still clearly miffed at Baldwin’s current attitude “This is a good chance to get the better of them. You saw how idiotic Dreven’s men were back at Coombesgate. If they’re even slowing the orc army down, our efforts should have a profound effect, especially if we can get the jump on them.” Baldwin sighed, “fine, let’s get moving then”. I looked over at Beiro, who was staring at the map on the ground. “Sound good to you, Beiro?” I asked “Err… yep!” He said, looking back up. There were orcs in the plan, that was good. We headed back inside to gather our things, say goodbye to the hirelings and set off.

I approached Neddie with the coin purse I had for the party and started counting out silver and gold from it. “So, I guess as we’re saying goodbye, we should pay you. 5 days for 5 of you at 3 silver pieces a day would be 75 silver, or 7 and a half gold”. Melech cleared his throat “there are four of them” he said pointedly. “Well, I thought it was only fair to give them Warwick’s share between them” Melech wasn’t having it “This is the party funds and I’m saying no, they’re already getting a tavern out of this.” I looked at Baldwin “I’d rather not give them anything, but whatever.” I sighed and handed over 4 gold and 20 silver. Then, as the others started to leave, I took Neddie to one side. I rummaged in my coin purse and produced twenty gold coins. I handed them to him “This is from my own funds, I want you to have a good start at the tavern. You’ve been a great help to us and I’m so sorry about what happened to Warwick. Neddie pushed my hand back “No, you shouldn’t it’s fine. We’ll be fine. You really shouldn’t”. He’d changed, a week ago he would’ve scooped that in an instant, yet here he was, refusing several weeks worth of washes. I opened his hand and deposited the coins inside. “I insist. Get the tavern up and running again and we’ll all come back for a drink sometime. Tell you what, consider this a request to make sure the village stays standing too, ok?” “Err…yeah, ok, sure” he grinned weakly. They probably wouldn’t last that long if the orcs got this far…

Melech cleared his throat again loudly from the doorway. I quickly scooped up the rest of my things. “Right, I…errr… best be off” I stuttered, realising Melech probably saw all that anyway. Neddie offered his hand and I shook it, followed by Kia hurrying over and giving me a big hug. As I left, silent Gregory gave me a nod and One-eyed Dennis…winked, I think. The tavern should be fine in their hands, right?

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Baldwin Rumwald's Notes [15] - Back in Westpine

We headed back to Westpine and entered the tavern. The back door was still unlocked. Having had enough of all the messing around I just settled down for a few pints of ale. Amafey, Beiro and Melech headed out into the village to locate the village elder or something like that.

The bandits stayed behind and drank as well, looking rather dejected. I left them alone. I hope to soon be rid of them. After a while Beiro and Melech returned to tavern and joined in he drinking. Amafey was with the village elder telling him of our defeat of the hag.

Some while later we heard a commotion outside. A man on a horse wearing the barron’s colours had arrived. He began shouting out a message about the Orcs having taken Norcragden and that the villagers should prepare. Old news to us.

He left as quickly as he had come and I returned to the tavern. It seemed Amafey had finished telling our story to the village elder. The elder had agreed to Amafey’s plan of giving the tavern to the bandits.

We discussed what to do next. I had wanted to return to Coombesgate. The hag had been killed after all and there wasn’t anything left to be gained here. However the others insisted that we stay and deal the corruptions. I was about ready to split from them but Amafey promised there might be some gold in it for me. Never wanting to miss the opportunity to earn some easy coin I agreed to stay with them awhile longer.

We headed back into the forest and headed north in search of the dryad.

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Amafey's Notes [14] - A little death around the pie

After catching our breath following the frantic battle, calm returned to the clearing. I thanked the hirelings for their help, particularly against the tree, their assault had probably saved my life. The others had started looking for anything of interest in the house and I warned the hirelings to wait outside while we cleared anything dangerous from inside. As it turns out, there was very little of interest inside the house. All of us searched thoroughly, under and in every nook and cranny and didn’t turn up anything of much use. Even using my song which resonates with any sources of magic picked very little up, except the house itself and a pie on the windowsill. I did a small loop outside the house and didn’t find anything unusual there either, except some recently upturned earth, perhaps a couple of days old.

Checking the walls inside and out did not lead to any clues as to how the roaming cottage functioned and it seemed rooted in place where it was at the moment. Baldwin suggested maybe it was just a perception thing, making you think you were somewhere you weren’t. Now that Old Mother Basket was dead, we weren’t likely to find out and it wasn’t going to go walking off on its own. As for the pie, something was very suspicious about it and my curiosity kept bringing me back to it. I considered using the identify scroll but remembered what Melech had said before about the fact it might struggle with the hag magic. As it started to rain outside, I told the hirelings it was safe inside now, but to avoid the pie. Melech offered everyone a cup of tea and didn’t seem too shifty about it (not that the hirelings would know to suspect anything), so we all warmed ourselves inside as Baldwin started digging through the earth (we shared the same suspicions and he had been kind enough to volunteer to investigate).

After a little time inside, Baldwin reappeared from his digging, looking quite wet and muddy. “As I thought, it’s the innkeeper and his wife. They were missing their clothes, so I suspect old mother basket just kills them, then makes the scarecrows as warnings”. As he was explaining, I looked over and caught Neddie about to stick his finger in the pie. “Hey! What did I say about that? Stop it!” I called over. The hireling looked back at me a bit crestfallen, “Oh, it looks good though, could we at least have some rations, it must be well past lunchtime by now…” he said. Beiro stood up. “I will find some food” and marched out of the house. Baldwin watched him then turned around and said “I should probably go with him..” and followed Beiro out.

They reappeared about an hour later with, in addition to more than enough berries and plants to supplement our rations, the corpse of a chunky boar. Beiro looked very pleased with himself. I could see the hirelings with their mouths agape, both impressed and drooling slightly at the thought what it’s going to be like to eat. Unfortunately, it would still need a fair amount of preparation, so it wasn’t going to be a boaring lunch. We agreed to head back to the Fey Friend’s house for the evening and take a much-needed rest after having got Old Mother Basket off of our backs. I took one last look at the pie, but before I could decide what to do with it, Baldwin came over and hurled it out of the window. The contents scattered on the grass outside and it looked…pretty much like a normal meat pie. Still a mystery. Oh well, I definitely wasn’t going to eat it now.

As we started travelling back, the slightly smouldering tree waymarked our previous battleground. There was no sign of the tin soldiers. It dawned on me that I never saw the body of the first one that Baldwin and Beiro had slain and had been much more concerned about chasing after Old Mother Basket to see what happened when I slew the second. It was possible the enchantment was gone and they’d returned to normal and I started searching in the tall grass. Maybe they were not lost to me after all! After explaining my thinking, the others started searching too, but we were searching for some time with no luck. I started to get a bit frantic, they must be here somewhere! They’re the only thing I’ve got left of my mother’s. Absent-mindedly I strummed at my ukulele, slowly forming words about our epic battle with the tin soldiers. I’d just gotten halfway through the second verse when Melech called out from 5 feet to my right. “I’ve found them!”. He handed them over, but as he did so, I grabbed his arm and pulled him down to give him a peck on the cheek. He looked perturbed, although he might have been going bright red for all I know. “Thank you Melech” I said, relieved. I looked down at the soldiers and noticed that, in addition to being torn apart, one was warped and slightly melted and the other also had significant gashes in it (including a big hole in its chest). These will indeed make for a good story. Our search concluded, we continued onwards to the mansion and arrived without further incident.

Back at the mansion, I poured another round from the dwarven ale keg and passed it around to everyone. Baldwin started carving up the boar and made particularly short work of it. It wasn’t long before we had a roast boar and mushroom (they seemed to grow in abundance around the house) stew ready for dinner, with the rest of the boar stripped and cooked for cold meats the next day. For the rest of the evening, we drank, were merry and exchanged stories. That is, except Melech, who sequestered himself to read in some quiet corner of the mansion.

As the next dawn broke and the morning mist slowly lifted, we met up in the front room to discuss our next moves. “As much as it pains me to say it, we need to sort that dryad out” I pointed out. “We also need to check to see whether those scarecrows are still there” Melech suggested, as we worked through our ‘to-do’ list. Baldwin then spoke up “That’s on the way back to Westpine, we should tell them they don’t have anything to fear from Old Mother Basket anymore”. It was a sensible suggestion and it gave us a good starting point to venture deeper into the forest from, in our search of the dryad. All in agreement, we packed our things together, locked the door and headed back along the stream.

It wasn’t long before we reached the scarecrow’s spot on the river and there they were, still alive, still moving, still creepy. I laid out the plan, “Let’s set ourselves up to attack from range, they won’t be able to attack and even if they do start moving, then we should have an advantage”. Everyone nodded and we clustered in a line on the far edge of the river. “On my signal!” I called out and loosened an arrow right between the beady eyes of one of the scarecrows. Almost immediately, it unrooted itself and started hopping in our direction. Another volley of arrows followed, as the scarecrow’s partner also sucked itself out of the ground. They went for the middle of the group, I couldn’t quite see who for exactly, but their advance was short lived as I heard an incantation from Melech and a burst of fire. Even in the damp air, the straw burnt quickly and it only took a couple more knocks to finish the scarecrows off. A job well done, we marched on to the next pair.

We started our fight with the second pair in much the same way, with a similar effect. I remembered what Old Mother Basket had done, hurling insults to inflict damage, and I thought it was worth a try. As one of the scarecrows was bouncing towards us, I started singing:
“You could while away the hours
Conferrin’ with the flowers,
Consulting with the rain;
And your head you’d be a scratchin’
While your thoughts are busy hatchin’
If you only had a brain.”
As I finished, the scarecrow flinched and looked stunned for a moment. Success! I tried again, as others fired their arrows “Can’t you hear me? What’s wrong? Straw in your ears?” This time there was no reaction. It needs some work.

As this was going on, the scarecrows dived into the middle of our line again. I didn’t have a good view again, but as one of the scarecrows fell, I saw another body hit the floor. “Warwick!” I heard Neddie yell out and a vengeful flurry of arrows took out the remaining scarecrow. As it hit the floor, the other hirelings gathered around Warwick’s body on the floor. “Warwick, wake up!” Dennis was yelling, trying to shake him. I looked over his shoulder to see a massive gash in his chest, eyes wide open, but clearly not breathing anymore. “He’s dead!” Neddie spat. “I…I’m so sorry” I stammered, “I thought after…Old Mother Basket and….everything else, that this wouldn’t be that dangerous. We got careless, I’m so sorry. If you feel you want to part ways when we get to Westpine, I understand, we might be getting you too much over your head.” Neddie sighed “It’s probably best that we do, this adventuring lark is not for us.” “We’ll rest here for a while, I’ll leave you be while you mourn poor Warwick” I said quietly and let them be.

We rested for a time as the hirelings buried Warwick’s body and built a small cairn to mark it. Melech made some more tea, but this time a glint in his eye told me he was up to something. I felt like I owed him after finding the soldiers and we were unlikely to see the hirelings much more again, so I walked over and whispered in his ear “just this once”. All of the hirelings were really starting to like tea and they slowly drunk, all holding their mugs staring into space. As we slowly got ready to move off again, I approached Neddie with an idea, “I know if you’re not travelling with us you’ll need some way to make a living and you don’t want to be going back into banditry, especially not with us around.” I winked “The tavern in Westpine will be in need of a new owner, we can talk to the people there and see if we can set you guys up running it?” Neddie pondered it for a moment “Well, maybe, but it’s not exactly something we’ve done before”. I patted him on the shoulder “I’ll see what we can do”. How hard could it be to run a tavern?

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Baldwin Rumwald's Notes [14] - Boar Feast and Scarecrows

I searched the hag’s house but found nothing of real interest or value, other than a suspicious looking pie. Outside we found what looked like a set of recently dug graves. I decided to dig out one of the graves to determine who was buried there. I was sad but not surprised to the body of the tavernkeeper. The other graves were likely his wife and other missing villagers.

I returned to the cottage to find Amafey and Melech still busy investigating its contents. Beiro and I decided to set out for a hunt. It would pass the time and help restock our rations. After a while we came across a boar and easily took it down. We returned triumphantly with it to the cottage.

By this time Amafey and Melech had finished what ever they were doing and after some discussion we decided to return the fey friend’s house. Amafey however kept bringing up the damn pie, like it was something important. I certainly wasn’t going to eat that. Not wanting to waste more time at the cottage, I picked up the pie and throw it out the window. That was that and we set off back to the house.

A short while into the journey Amafey insisted that we return to where we had killed the tin soldiers and attempt to find them. When we got to the location they could not immediately be seen. They must have shrunk back to their original size. We eventually found them after quite a bit of searching, a bit more damaged than before.

We arrived back the house and I set about butchering the boar and then roasting it. The evening was then spent eating, drinking and relaxing. The next morning we got up and came to an agreement that we should head back to Westpine.

On the way it was decided that we should kill the scarecrows to make sure they wound’t be a threat to anyone else. The first pair went down easily enough, though we discovered they could move. The second pair were equally easy to kill yet somehow one of the hirelings, Cheating Warwick, managed to get themselves killed…

We let the other hirelings bury him and discussed with them about the end of their service with us. About time really, I had never wanted to hire them in first place. One of Amafey’s crazy plans. She had a new one now! To give the bandits a new life as tavernkeepers, after all the old one was no more. I tried to object, stating that the Tavern wasn’t our to give, but no one was listening.

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Baldwin Rumwald's Notes [13] - Final Flail

I let loose with a few arrows hitting the hag, before drawing my sword and moving in for the attack. The hag threw to the ground two toy tin soldiers, which turned into two full sized ones. She then moved as to retreat away from us. Amafey began to play one of her tunes and one of the tin soldiers began to glow. Beiro and I, with help from the hirelings arrows, made short work of the tin soldiers.

I looked up to see Melech pursuing the hag. The hag reached out touching a tree before vanishing. Amafey cast a spell in an attempt to reveal her, but to no avail. Melech pulled out a scroll of see invisibly and using its power directed us after the hag.

As I ran in the direction of the hag I heard a commotion behind. The tree that had been touched by the hag had become animated and was attacking the others, knocking out Melech with a heavy blow. I turned around and ran back to engage the tree.

The hirelings had manged to hit with a few arrows and Amafey was playing music again causing the arrow heads to glow. This set fire to the tree and it began to lashing out wildly. I moved cutting at it with my sword. The tree was badly fire damaged and crashed to ground under my blows.

Amafey had revived Melech and we began to seek the hag again. Melech couldn’t see her anymore but we set of in the direction we had seen her going. We enter a clearing and we saw the hag’s house up ahead. She was standing in the doorway, so naturally I drew my bow and shot an arrow at her. It sail through her, just a bloody illusion. Never mind her tricks won’t work forever.

A number of scarecrows were directly in front of the house so we split up to go around them. Amafey and I, along with a few hirelings headed to the right, while Beiro, Melech and others went left. As we got closer to the house the shutters slammed shut. Beiro approached the front door and attempted to gain entry but the door proved too much for him. Melech kindly assisted with a spell and we gained access, seeing the hag in the now open doorway. Feeling a sudden surge of surety I fired off an arrow before charging into the house. The hag was blocking the way preventing the others getting an angle of attack. I gave her a shove back into the cottage before moving in for the kill. The others followed and we soon had her cornered, inflicting heavy damage upon her.

Suddenly the hag somehow managed to move through the wall! I wasn’t going to let her get away and sprinted back out the house and around the side. It seems Amafey had been standing directly where the hag had try to exit through the wall and had blocked her getaway.

I swung my flail landing a heavy blow, shattering the hag’s skull all over the wall. NICE.

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Amafey's Notes [13] - Ding, dong, the witch is dead

With the battle now commenced, I decided we needed some music. Inspiration came to me and I started playing to spur Beiro along, coming up with a new song called “I need a Beiro”. If only I could think of a way to make it more generic, maybe it’s something I could play in taverns. As I started playing, as well as seeing Beiro start focusing, one of the tin soldiers started glowing red hot. It lashed out at Beiro and made contact, leaving a clear burn on his flesh. “Sorry!” I yelled, worried that I had put us at a disadvantage. Baldwin, Beiro and the hirelings made short work of it though, as the heat seemed to be weakening the metal as well.

As the others were attacking the tin soldiers, Melech was trying to get after Old Mother Basket, but as I looked over, she put her hand on a tree and disappeared. “She’s gone invisible” yelled Melech, clearly recognising the spell and fired off a couple of spells into the remaining tin soldier. “Dammit!” I cursed, stepped up to behind Beiro and cast faerie fire where we had last seen her, but she was gone.

Melech threw open his bag and pulled out a scroll. His eyes glowed white as he read it and then pointed through the woods “She’s making a run for it!” And started giving chase. The remaining soldier had shifted in my direction, so I went to hit it, landing my blade right in the middle of its chest and thrusting up to the hilt. It went limp, the last of the magical energy dissipating. With the foe dealt with, I started following Melech and could hear Baldwin, Beiro and the hirelings giving chase. Beiro’s fully enraged form stormed past the both of us, but as he passed the tree Old Mother Basket had touched, it swung around with one of its boughs, narrowly missing Beiro’s. Melech and I saw this and dodged out the way of more incoming branches. “Avoid the tree!” I shouted to the others but breathed a sigh of relief as we’d gotten clear. I didn’t even finish my breath before the tree pulled itself out of the ground and started pursuing us, swinging wildly. Caught off guard, one of the branches slammed Melech in the side of the chest, knocked him clean off of his feet and onto the ground, unconscious. “Shit!” I started muttering, as the tables seemed to be turning against us. Yelling out to Beiro and Baldwin, “we’ve got a situation here!”, although they had now gotten quite far ahead of us.

The hirelings were still off to the sides and following my direction, fired a volley of arrows into the tree, a handful of them embedding themselves into the bank. I remembered the song from before and started to play, focusing on the metal arrow tips. Sure enough, they also started to glow red hot, like the tin soldier, and started to set the bark alight. The tree was clearly in pain and lashed out towards me, but I rolled out of the way. I now focusied on retrieving one of the potions we’d found at the Fey Friend’s house from the top of my backpack while maintaining the song. Willing it to work, I dumped the contents into Melech’s mouth. I smacked him in the side of the face as he opened his eyes. “Wha-?” “Oh thank goodn- GET UP!” I yelled, now redoubling my efforts on the song. The arrow heads flared again, sending jets of fire through the tree, now thoroughly engulfed in flame. At this point Baldwin returned to our position and swung his sword like a woodcutters axe clear into the side of the tree. The now desiccated trunk gave way to the sword and one swoop was all it took to tip the tree from its roots. All of us breathing a sigh of relief, Melech got back to his feet and looked around. “I can’t see her,” he proclaimed “although she was heading in that direction” “That’s the direction she came from before meeting me in the clearing, her house is probably that way” I reasoned. We dusted ourselves off, then hurried in that direction, keeping an eye out for any more killer trees.

Before long, we came across another clearing and, as expected, Old Mother basket’s cottage. Out in front was a garden with a handful of unclothed scarecrows. As we approached, we could see her standing in the doorway. “I’m not in the mood for visitors!” She cautioned. “Why did you feel the need to scry on us?” I shouted back, the jig clearly up at this point, but, even if she was going to respond, any response was cut short by Baldwin firing an arrow at her. It would’ve been a direct hit, but it passed straight through her form, the illusion fizzled and vanished. The door then slammed shut.

We spread out to stay clear of the scarecrows, with me, Baldwin, Neddie and Kia going right and the others going to the left. As we manoeuvered, we heard her screeching from inside the house “Is that horn growing inwards into your brain too, Melech, making you stupider by the second?”. I saw Melech wince, as though the words had actually hurt him. Beiro approached the door and tried to force it open, to no avail, but Melech’s knock spell quickly dealt with it, the sound echoing through the woods. From our viewpoint to the right, we could see Old Mother Basket by the front window, but also by the side window. As we saw her, however, she grinned and both sets of window shutters slammed shut.

I turned to Neddie and Kia, “Come with me around the back, let’s see if we can get in that way”. Before heading off, I put my hand on Baldwin’s shoulder, who was about to make a dash for the front door, said “You’ve got this” and cast Heroism on him. Around the back of the house, I deftly leapt over a crate with no trouble at all and started trying to get through the back door. I could hear the sounds of fighting on the other side, as the others had clearly now all piled in. I left the door to the hirelings and instead started trying to break through the window on the side. Unfortunately, rapiers don’t make particularly good siege weapons, so I made little progress there either.

Suddenly, Old Mother Basket bumped into me. She’d just come through the wall, using yet more trickery to try and escape from her predicament. Upon finding me there though, she looked as surprised as I did and didn’t notice when Baldwin came rushing back out of the front door and clattered his flail right into the top of her head, impacting her skull and knocking her to the floor, lifeless. The hag was dead.

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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…

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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.

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