When I came to it felt like waking from a fever, only I’m stumbling down a road instead of writhing in bed. Come to think of it, I haven’t seen a good bed in ages. Straw bedrolls and halfling inns can’t compare to a proper mattress. If only we’d encountered less pressing evils, I could slip away in search of spas and concubines…I digress.
My companions seemed similarly dazed, Rooke most of all. His eyes lacked the light of comprehension, his manner still, scarcely breathing. I thought perhaps he’d been possessed again. No matter. Layla and Elythia pointed out that the halflings were no longer with us, a fact more vexing than Rooke’s spiritlessness.
We tried to remember what happened. Someone called it a “verdant dream” – was it one of the others? Our recollections were scarce. Hralf was definitely there. Demons plotting against us. The women soon convinced Musushi to attempt to “reconnect” with the dream, but his druidic fumblings came to naught.
The dwarf started bleating about beer and taverns. We all blathered similar notions before setting off in the vaguely familiar direction of the halfling village.
Rooke followed, dimly.
The walk was surprisingly pleasant. The sky was certainly clearer. Approaching the village I could see the burned stockhouse being rebuilt, the halflings milling around town with purpose.
Until we were spotted.
A halfling child pointed and before I knew it, we all had more little ones hanging off each leg. Adults soon joined the gleeful throng, with bewildering applause. Thankfully that confusion didn’t last too long – one of the elder halflings stepped forward and offered a welcome. His explanation of the atmosphere only sparked more confusion.
Apparently Hralf had been skipping around town for about ten days, literally singing our praises (if somewhat twisted, and strangely rat-centric) to the entire town. How? The halfling could not answer our questions, but told us we were just in time for a celebration in our honor…so there was that.
As part of the festivities, the halflings were to hold a boar riding contest. Ever brash, Musushi enrolled; the more enlightened of us think better of the wasted effort. Rooke hardly seemed capable of offering a thought either way.
We had time to fill until then. A round of provisioning started with Vari the bead merchant. Fora modest fee of 5 gold she appraised a blue gem I received from Scala to be worth 400 gold; I snatched at the chance to come out 395 gold ahead. Layla’s baubles suffered lower appraisals, but Elythia’s drew actual ire. Scala had given her some sort of pearl that seemed to contain a figure with it. The sight of it horrified Vari, who through terrified tremors demanded we leave.
The runaway princess had other ideas. She greedily pressed the shaken old woman for details, probably miffed that a commoner dare reproach one of
belongings. In desperation, Vari told us that the pearl contained a stolen soul and begged us to leave with it. We obliged. Layla tried to detect evil within the pearl, but could not read anything inherently evil about the pearl; the soul inside was beyond her reach, however.
After, I looked through the wares of the local blacksmith and came away disappointed with the heft of halfling weapons. Unearned haughtiness shone through the blacksmith’s way with apprentice and customer alike, but my words knocked him down a peg. I agreed to have him alter a lovely, ornate, but practical, buckler for my purposes, only 270 gold.
Lastly we haggled with the potion seller, but the lazy sod hadn’t whipped up any new health potions since we last saw him. Musushi contrived to buy a poison and its antidote. The latter is just as well, as for all his victories he always seems to teeter on the edge of calamity.
Before the boar riding contest the was some fuss about a play being prepared by the halfling children. Layla was christened “troll killer” but the rest of us fared rather poorly, in favour of the dwarf’s damned rat. The rat’s “smelly sidekick” reacted with typical bluster. Elythia despaired about which child might be playing her, seemingly desiring a portrayal fit for a princess, rather than whatever she is now. Pride may be her downfall. My pride mightn’t appreciate my own low place in the tale, but discretion demands I let my bravery go unheralded.
The boar riding seemed farcical and thus Musushi was in his element. We were charged 10 gold to watch, and I took 2/1 odds for Musushi to win (100 gold) and 3/2 odds for a mount of more than 20 seconds (25 gold). Naturally, he won doing something he wasn’t supposed to, but which wasn’t expressly disallowed. After surviving the mad scrum at the start, he got his hand on a hog’s tail but couldn’t gather it in. Cue his druid roots called up to entangle the boar, and hold it in place. The halfling competitors tried to take their own advantage, but Musushi’s cheat won him the day and me more gold. He has his uses. I just pray that I’m long gone when his tongue writes the inevitable promissory note that his exploits can’t cash.A great feast followed, and the children put on the play they’d prepared. Elythia identified the child playing her, and made a point of prettying her up. I drank my way through it with equal parts amusement and bemusement, as did Layla and Musushi. Rooke, as he had virtually since the we came out of the “dream”, sat practically catatonic.
The party was forcefully pooped a couple hours in, however, by the rude entrance of Estalian goldcloaks. A why was quick in coming, or at least as quickly as a man round as he is tall can move. This rotund debt collector had come to enumerate Odisvalk’s ancestral debts. Musushi threw a petulant cabbage, and he and I approached His Corpulence and cohort, but the big man was undeterred from the reading of his massive scroll.
Hralf suggested we let it go and leave. Apparently the halflings are no strangers to these debt collectors. I took to considering my cups, but Layla took to one of the goldcloaks. She chatted to the fellow, amiably enough. She found that Estalia was calling in their debts, but with view only to themselves, not any particular threat. We probably won’t need to head there, at least not soon.
For where we will go, we decide on Brondoriand. It seems many halflings have been heading there in hope of better times, since supplies are running low after the stockhouse fire. I thought to squeeze some useful reward out of Hralf or the other elder, but nothing is offered. I suppose they’ll have to cede much to the Estalians.
We left the litany of leverage and found the crew at the trading post. An ornery Crosby tells us they’ve bought some furs, finally, and they’re all three itching to leave. A sickly Stenwall agreed to take us to Brondoriand if we crewed his ship, so we have both passage and destination. One hopes a change of scenery will do the captain good, allow him to get some rest. We novice shipmates will need steady leadership.
Walking back to the hall, Musushi and I considered the possibility of ransacking the Estalian ship, but Layla put her foot down. A overcautious little goody-goody that one, but useful.
I picked up my buckler, and we spoke with Hralf one last time. He wouldn’t be convinced to join our trip south, so we said our goodbyes. As we left, we passed a pile of gold and assorted offerings to the Estalians. The debt collector was still reciting his debtor’s litany, his goldcloaks were dozing on their feet, so all that spotted me pilfering a couple of small pouches was the disapproving gaze of Layla Larroque. When we got out of the hall she set off in a huff, as I found myself 500 gold richer and in possession of a small wand and flute. I considered offering her the wand to head off a lecture.
The voyage has been uneventful, and even with our crewing duties we can get a touch of rest and relative leisure. Land and likely life threatening danger beckons.
Land – fishing village. Buildings of rotten wood, frayed rope.
Approached elves digging a grave.
Varnil, male – missing eye, boils on face, no teeth.
Floro, female – healthy enough.
Burying their son.
They need medicine and healing services. Layla saw similar conditions back in Gemoor, so she has gone off with the couple, to help Varnil and presumably others. The rest of us have retired to the ship.
Varnil recounted a tale from traveling merchants he had met in Heldelion. They had traveled past farms further west of there, and claimed to have seen walking corpses, withered crops, etc. The Spellbound, employees of the wizard colleges, took the merchants away but not before they’d spilled the beans to Varnil and his friend McKeed. Mckeed may be worth talking to if Varnil is incapacitated.
Note also that the local wizard, Teclis, has been absent without reason for a few weeks. He may have gone “for one of the spiral towers”, one of which, if I understand correctly, may be in Heldelion.
Heldelion and its westerly farms seem to be our next target. McKeed and Teclis may be worth seeking out, if possible. I recall a lovely elven magistrate that might be worth seeking out as well, though I forget where exactly she resides. Whether she happens to be in Heldelion or not, I think we can get something out of the wizards councils. As I recall from court, they weren’t particularly shrewd negotiators.
If only we could take the ship inland. Rest while we have it.