Friday, January 17, 2014

PBM: Chapter 1: Arriving in New Phlan: Part 10

Splitting the Party: In which Donovan makes some new friends in the Slums.

GM

Rietta pivots on her heal, swinging the sword like it was a shiny, sharp-edged club, her tear-soaked face turning to look at the man and skeleton creeping around behind her.

Teldicia begins to back towards the door, whispering to Donovan, "I've really never seen her like this. She seems genuinely distraught over your friend's death." She stops, apparently thinking hard about something, then, "Of course, I've only known her a couple of weeks. Look, fight her or run, whatever you do I'll back you up. At this point, it looks like the little gang I had put together were all liabilities anyways..."

Donovan

"I respect your pragmatism ma'am. Your friend certainly has become a liability, and a danger to us all. I suspect some magic at work, given her very sudden change...which means I might be able to save her." Donovan begins casting protection from evil. "You should be ready to respond with violence if this doesn't work..." He takes a step closer to the ogress's back.

Frantiska

The sounds of hoof-beats ring off the broken cobbles outside as a beautiful, chocolate-colored filly canters to a halt in front of the near-collapsed building. A soft feminine voice can be heard speaking gently, presumably to the horse, in elven with a strong eastern accent, "A forest linnorm? You don't see those that often, Thistledown, let alone in the middle of a city." The rider dismounts gracefully and makes a slight adjustment to the angle of the bow stung across her shoulders, "Looks like a very clean kill too. Right between the shoulder-blades." Her hard riding boots ring out on the cobbles, almost as loud as the filly's hooves, as she paces off. "A male. Not very big though. Practically a hatchling. Must have been driven out of its nest by some predator," her voice sounds almost sad as she speculates on the creature's fate.

Hearing voices from inside she peaks her head through the gaping hole in the wall, scanning the area, not so much with her eyes, squinted against the dimness, as with her feelings. Sensing a strong presence of Evil from the structure, she whispers, "Wait here Thistledown," unslings her bow and readies an arrow, before calling out in the local trade pidgin, "Hello?! Who's in there?"

Donovan

Donovan, hearing the voice, and hoping that a distraction might defuse the situation, calls back, "An herald, a gnome, a druid, a maiden, a skeleton, a few corpses, and a rather upset oni. We're a might busy, but would welcome your company, whoever you are."

Frantiska

The rider circle around the room, moving to get a better view into the side chamber where the voices are coming from, hoping to get a good view of the described amalgam of people before entering. She takes care to stay away from the intact, but open, door to the back room and the immensely evil markings covering the floor within.

GM

As the distraught ogress spins, swinging the blade wildly over the heads of both the damp-druid and his skeleton, Donovan slips and lightly taps her on the back. For a brief moment, she is haloed in cold, white light.

The lady rider carefully makes her way in, scanning the area. She first takes in the gate chamber, the lines on the floor and the air between them seem to shimmer and pulsate with a dark energy, an otherworldly evil so strong that it feels as if her eyes are burning just to look at it. Tearing her eyes away from the portal, she sees the ogress glow, briefly, then notices a darker undertone, not nearly so strong as the gate, but similar in nature, as if some ancient darkness from another world was hovering over the oversized woman. Even as the light of Donovan's protection spell fades, it is clear to the rider's blessed sight that the ogress is contemplating some act or scheme of a truly abhorrent nature. The others, the middle-aged man who cast the spell, a gnome holding a small chest, a green-haired elf-maiden in a light sun-dress, a dark-complexioned man in damp, foul-smelling robes, and even the recently-animated skeleton, all show no signs of ill intent.

As the light fades, the ogress suddenly stops crying, almost instantly. She looks around, obviously confused by the wary looks and readied weapons of those surrounding her, then a cloud of smoke begins to rise around her, starting at her feet. Her form quickly becomes indistinct, smaller somehow, as if her body were sublimating to give the smoke its substance.

Teldicia waves, as the last of the ogress vanishes and the smoke begins to filter out through a large hole in the ceiling, a simultaneous greeting to the woman just walking in and farewell to the one escaping on the wind.

Donovan

Donovan stares, agape, for a bit. "Well, that wasn't what I expected that spell to do?" He looks at the spot where the ogress was standing to see if anything was left behind. Seeing nothing, he unconsciously flexes and whispers, "Behold my awesome power!" Then, so that the others can hear, "Does anyone know what happened?"

He turns and looks at the lady coming in with a bow pointed at his back. "Good afternoon, Madam. I would welcome you into our home, but I hope it is clear to you that none of us would choose to live in such a ruin. Rather, welcome to our recently found, monster-filled, ruin." He makes a sweeping bow. "I am Donovan Phillips Leitch, until very recently the Herald to the Council of New Phlan." He gestures to the others in turn, "The good gnome is Master Shudrigan Nishal Aribostos McPillflup, the lady here is Teldicia, the taciturn man in the soggy robes is called Sur, though we've not been properly introduced, the skeleton was just recently animated by Mr. Sur and will hereafter be called Herr Bonemeister, and the deceased minotaur lying on the ground was Gendry FitzTeldar, son of Teldar the Pirate King." He smiles charmingly. "Oh, and by walking through that door in there you can go to Hell, literally. I wouldn't recommend it."

GM

Teldicia also bows to the lady with the bow. "Welcome, eh? Why don't you put that thing down and help us out?" She waves at the bodies of the swordsman and the minotaur on the ground, then kneels down and begins peeling the armor and weapons from the man and handing them out. "Here. We need to get these two buried and then get out of here before some other slimy thing with claws come crawling in here..."

Frantiska

Seeing the ogre vanish, the rider lowers her bow, returns the arrow to her quiver, and steps into a shaft of light coming through a hole in the ceiling so the people in the other room can see that she is no longer threatening them. Standing in the light, she can clearly be seen as an elven woman, with very fair skin, long dark of hair worn covering the ears, and a slightly-upturned aquiline nose, wearing a black riding dress and boots, over which is a vest of fox-fur lined, spike studded, leather armor. She gives a formal half-bow, never taking her eyes off the other party. "I am Frantiska," she says in a manner that somehow manages to be curt and demure at the same time.

She walks cautiously into the side-chamber, and addresses Teldicia in Elvish, avoiding eye contact with the many males in the room. "I don't claim to be familiar with your local burial customs, but I doubt that they typically involve looting bodies and animating them." She glances around, keeping her eyes low. "I didn't mean to interrupt whatever strange congregation you have going on here, but I was passing through and saw the Linnorm outside. The kill seemed exceptionally clean, and I was hoping to congratulate whoever did so."

"Also, after you've dealt with the bodies, I suggest that you and your companions vacate quickly. I intend to collapse the building and bury that thing in the other room."

GM

Teldicia nods along as Frantiska addresses her, occasionally saying "mm-hm", but continues stripping the corpses. Finally she looks back and says in the Common tongue, "It's not polite to exclude people. How 'bout you repeat that in the trade speech so everyone else can follow too."

Donovan

Donovan chuckles, then responds in Elvish, "I'm afraid she does not understand you." He takes the backpack and the travel gear [sleeping bag, lantern, mess kit] from Teldicia. "The minotaur is the one who killed the creature outside. Sadly this man stabbed him in the back, as you can see, so your congratulations come a bit late. As for burial customs, both of the deceased were devout followers of Mask. Another of our companions, a priest who you just missed, claimed that the traditional burial rights of their faith involve stripping the bodies of all valuables and then entering them in a shallow, unmarked grave. I don't condone such behavior normally, but I try to be respectful of other people's religious decisions and last wishes for their remains."

He switches to common for the others' benefit, "Shaddup, this lady says that we should collapse the building in order to destroy, or at least bury, the gate in the other room. Think you can help with that? That also seems like a very convenient, and fitting, way to make a cairn for Gendry and Vinny."

"Lyra and Amara headed for the temple of Tyr, I guess. We still need to find someone who can drive the cart for us in the morning, and buy the supplies for the trip. And, I suppose, stop by the Clerk's office and get Lyra's mom to update our charter." He rolls his eyes at that last one, as if silently saying 'already?!'. "Amara's probably just going to have to do without that gift she wanted to get her grandmother."

Frantiska

Frantiska nods politely at Donovan's comments, but continues to address Teldicia, this time in Easting, having recognized the girl's accent. "I'm sorry, I wasn't aware that you didn't speak the mother-tongue. Language acquisition is a particular interest of mine, and I'd love to hear about your upbringing and what brought that about. Would you be willing to commune with me after you've finished up here?" Her face seems to brighten just at the thought of this.

She finally turns to Donovan, her voice lowering in volume, rising in pitch, and with an excess of uptalk--or rather, she mentally describes it that way and silently upbraids herself for it, to everyone else it probably just comes across as sounding 'insecure'. "It's very nice of you to take their religions into consideration. You mentioned getting your charter altered. I heard some people in the market talking about those too when I mentioned going into the city. What are the charters used for, and will I need to get one?"

GM

Teldicia mumbles something like, "sure...commune..." incredulously, then hands a pile of things to Frantiska, "Here, I don't think any of the rest of us will make much use of these., maybe you can. Consider them a gift from Vinny here..."

"So this trip you're preparing for," she addresses Donovan, "where are you headed? Anywhere interesting?"

The soggy-robed man walks over to Teldicia, leans down, and whispers something in her ear. "Really?" she says. "Alright, sorry to hear that." She pulls a roll of papers from her pouch and hands it to him. He waves a hand in the direction of the skeleton and it collapses back into a lifeless pile of bones. He quietly leaves, being careful to give Frantiska wide berth. As he walks past, you all feel a cold chill travel down your spines. Outside, the horse whinnies in terror.

"Well, guess I'm going with you guys then..." Teldicia remarks, watching him leave.

Frantiska

Frantiska takes the longsword from Teldicia without a word and runs outside to check on her horse.

GM

You run out to see Sur walking away up the street towards the gates. Thistledown appears to be on edge, but unharmed.

Donovan

As the elf-woman runs out, Donovan kneels down and helps Teldicia gather up the rest of the loot from Vinny's body. "We have a job from Aumry of Umber, one of the professors at the Training Hall, to escort his niece to Melvaunt to visit her ill grandmother, and while we're there pick up a large shipment of spell components to bring back. We'll need supplies for the trip anyways, so we should probably stop by Jerome's and sell off any of this that we can't use." He bundles the rest of the things up and starts walking out. "If you're up for the trip, we'd be delighted to have a traveling companion as lovely as yourself, and the professor is paying us 50 gold a piece plus a selection of magical scroll on successful delivery."

"Shaddup, come on. We'll head for the market to unload this stuff and stock up on food, torches, and other provisions for the trip, then we can swing by the council hall to get the charter revised on our way back to the temple to meet Lyra."

Frantiska

Fran pats Thistledown reassuringly, then walks back inside. "Alright," she says, again avoiding looking at Donovan or Shaddup, "you've had long enough. Everyone get outside and we'll figure out how to destroy this thing..."

GM

As soon as she turns her back, there is another scream from the horse, followed by the sound of clattering hooves and angry neighing.

Frantiska

Frantiska's nostrils flair as she pivots once again, sword at the ready.

Donovan

Donovan grumbles, "What now?", and runs out behind Frantiska.

GM

You all run outside to see the horse speeding away up the street, with four kobolds perched on her back. Or rather, one sitting precariously in the saddle, whipping the horse hard, and the other three hanging off the sides, and clinging to the stirrups for dear-life as they bounce along.

Frantiska

Frantiska sprints after the horse, shouting "Halt! Thieves!" at the top of her lungs. After only a few steps she haphazardly throws the sword aside, and begins to unsling her bow, knowing she can't possibly catch Thistledown. Skidding to halt, she fits an arrow to the string and draws a bead on the kobold holding the reins. She adjusts her aim, slightly ahead of the horse, watching for a change in direction, and begins chanting the words of an arrowflight spell.

Donovan

Donovan whispers to Shaddup, "You know, kobolds eat horses..." He checks to make sure everything he is carrying is stowed properly. "I'm pretty much tapped out for resources, except the scrolls Aumry gave us, but I hate to see a lady distressed." He sighs, "I guess the shopping trip will have to wait a bit longer," and goes bolting up the road after the horse.

GM

The kobolds get about a hundred yards away before the rider attempts to turn the horse hard to the right, towards an alley. Thistledown, going a good bit too fast for such a turn, bucks and kicks, knocking one of the kobolds on the side loose, then skids into a wall, crushing another and sending it sprawling to the ground as well.

Fran lets fly her arrow, lodging it deep in, in fact all the way through, the rider's right thigh, severing the femoral artery and simultaneously pinning the kobold to Thistledown's saddle. The kobold slumps in the saddle, either dead or passed out from shock. Thistledown starts to slow, but the last remaining kobold manages to grab the reins and climb them up onto the horse's neck, guiding her roughly into the alley and prodding her onward.

Teldicia comes jogging out of the building. "Horse thieves?" She runs up to Frantiska, "What's it worth to you to catch them?" Before waiting for an answer she starts sprinting after the horse, bounding like some kind of deer, easily covering ten feet with every leaping stride.

Donovan

Donovan sprints for the alley, pantaloons flapping comically, and trying not to step in anything too disgusting. He doubts that there is any chance he can catch a moving horse, or Teldicia, but they have to stop eventually, right? "Shaddup," he calls over his shoulder, "blow it! The house I mean."

Frantiska

Frantiska bolts after them, readying another arrow as she nears the corner.

GM

You all reach the corner of the alley, conveniently marked by the unconscious body of the two bruised and battered kobolds that fell from Thistledown's back. The fading afternoon light barely reached into the alley which is narrow, winding, and choked with refuse--older, abandoned stone ruins lined with numerous tents and lean-tos. An irregular trail of blood splatters and smashed tenements clearly indicated the path taken by the horse. A few angry beggars peek out from under collapsed tents. Teldicia kicks one of the kobolds over onto its back, revealing a large blood-red palm-print covering half of it's face.

Donovan

Donovan reaches the corner, huffing and puffing. Looking at the dark alley, he can't help but feel apprehensive. "Anyone care to lead the way?" he asks, drawing a thin stilleto from his boot.

Frantiska

Fran mutters under her breath, "Why are men such cowards?" and leads the way up the alley, keeping her bow at the ready. She carefully steps over the piles of refuse and broken tenements, and mutters a quick "Sorry", "Excuse us", or "My apologies", to the beggars she passes.

GM

The poor souls living in the alley look completely taken aback that anyone would apologize to them, even in such a perfunctory manner. They quickly clear out of the way, even going so far as to push aside some of the larger pieces of debris left in the horse's wake. When the three of you are about half-way down the alley, there is suddenly a tremendous "BOOM" from behind you--the ground bucks, dust and loose bricks rain down from the surrounding buildings, the remaining shanties are knocked flat, and the remaining residents run screaming out of the alley.

As the dust clears, you find you have a clear path. The alley, much wider now, dead-ends at a pair of large, barn-like doors, patched and re-patched with random pieces of metal and scraps of wood and crudely painted with a large red hand-print. The frightened neighs and whinnies of more than one horse, as well as the harsh, dog-like voices of kobolds can clearly be heard on the other side. The entire area smells like a slaughter-house.

Donovan

"Sounds like the gate is taken care of." Donovan sheathes his knife and pulls the hurdy-gurdy out of his pack. "They definitely know we're coming, right?" he says as he starts to play.

Her Daddy gave her first pony
Then told her to ride
She climbed high in that saddle
Fell I don't know how many times
Taught her a lesson that she learned
Maybe a little too well

Cowgirls don't cry
Ride, baby, ride
Lessons in life are going to show you in time
Soon enough your gonna know why
It's gonna hurt every now and then
If you fall get back on again
Cowgirls don't cry...

GM

The sounds of the kobolds' voices stop suddenly as the drone of the hurdy-gurdy starts up. The left-hand door cracks open and a small head, looking much like a jack-russel tarrier with horns, pokes out. "HEY!" it shouts in common. "Stop that racket! No solicitors! We're trying to plan an ambush for some adven..." He seems to notice Frantiska and her bow for the first time. "BREE-YARK!" it screams, which in this case means something along the lines of "Oh shit they're here" and tries to slam the door.

Frantiska

Frantiska quickly hooks her boot in the opening, then pulls with her foot.

GM

Frantiska deftly opens the door, pulling the poor kobold sprawling out into the alley. Inside you see a large pack of kobolds, three horses, and a man, hanging upside-down by his ankles in the center of a large brick and mortar building, the original purpose of which is long since lost. One of the horses, an old gray mare, is dead--eviscerated--a half-dozen kobolds armed with a variety of spears, axes, and short swords stand around it, painting their faces with its blood. The other two horses, Thistledown and one of the stout, shaggy ponies favored by the nomads to the north, are backed together in a corner, screaming in panic as a kobold advanced on them with a red-hot branding iron. The man, scruffy, crazy-eyed, confused looking, and wearing nothing but a loincloth, luckily a bound one, and a thick leather jerkin, swings wildly, trying to free himself. Standing just inside the door, between the three of you and the rest of the chaos, stand three more kobolds, apparently those preparing the "ambush", spiked clubs, more like rotten boards with nails in them, at the ready.

Donovan

Donovan keeps playing, trying not to gag at the horrible scene before him. He glances down at the kobold sprawling in the alley and stomps down on it in disgust.

Frantiska

Frantiska levels her bow sideways at the crowd of kobolds by the door, strings three arrows simultaneously, and fires at them point-blank. She then quickly knocks a fourth arrow and lets fly at the kobold threatening her horse with the branding iron. "Hey Ratface! Why don't you pick on something a little closer to your own size!"

Hrud

Shouts and the neighing of horses caused the barbarian's eyes to snap open. Something was off ... he was hanging upside down inside a structure unlike any hut or tent he'd ever been in. Small creatures scampered around and barking - quite literally - to each other. No, this was definitely not how things were when he went to sleep last night. Apparently the incredibly vivid dream about being attacked and knocked unconscious had been accurate (A little more advance notice would have been welcome).

He looked at a group of scrawny humanoids crowding the double doors across from where he hung. The stories of his people described a race of small. dog-faced creatures - Koobools? Cobalds? Something like that. That's probably what they were. They didn't seem to be aware that he was awake. Now, if one of them would just wander within his reach, he could ... do something to it. He'd make it up as he went.

Suddenly the door was yanked open from the outside ...

GM

The drone of the hurdy-gurdy continuing, Donovan curb-stomps the poor kobold sprawled at his feet, bringing the heel of his boot down on the creature's temple, knocking it out cold. Two of the kobolds by the door, seeing Frantiska standing there readying her bow swing their clubs at her, but she easily dances back out of their limited reach.

Standing by the dead horse, two kobolds heft javelins and let them fly at your party, but they clearly misjudged the angle, as the sharp points of the weapons lodge harmlessly in the wood of the right-hand door.

Another of the kobolds by the horse draws a short, rusty-looking sword and charges at Frantiska. His blow connects but the dull, old blade fails to penetrate the sturdy leather of her armor.

Frantiska lets fly her triple-loaded bow, catching all three of the foul-smelling little retches full in their little dog-like faces, dropping all three of them. As the sword-wielder closes with the three of you, Teldicia leaps backwards pulling several hefty darts from a pouch at her belt and throws one, which goes sailing wildly over the creature's head.

The kobold threatening the horses in the back turns and utters a stream of high-pitched obscenities, hurling a small knotted piece of string at Donovan. The sounds of his singing and the drone of his hurdy-gurdy suddenly distort, making them not only unintelligible, but, if possible, even more grating and annoying than before.

Two more of the kobolds that were painting their faces with horse blood lower their spears and charge at the door, but become entangled with the corpses of the club-wielders, the protruding hafts of the javelins, and the flailing swings of the swordsman, making their attacks just as ineffective as those of their peers.

Teldicia, now on firmer footing, throws a second dart, this one catching one of the spear-wielders cleanly in the arm, causing him to drop the weapon and double over in pain, scrabbling to dislodge the barbed projectile.

Teldicia lets fly a third dart, which buries itself up to the fletchings in the eye of the second spearman, killing him instantly.

The last of the horse-killers, spear and hand, runs over and plants himself near the middle of the room, raising a shield to guard against projectiles, and setting his spear like a hoplite expecting a mounted charge.

The last spear-wielding kobold in the center of the room shakes visibly as he watches his companions fall. With his eyes fixed on the door, he doesn't notice the inverted barbarian swing close to him from behind. The barbarian grabs the kobold's spear-arm, wrenching it around behind him. The big man then wraps his other arm around the kobold's face, gouging at the creature's eyes until it too passes out, and deftly grabs the spear before it falls from the unconscious creature's hands.

Frantiska, dodging wildly swinging clubs, spears, and swords from all angles, knocks another arrow and lets it fly at the kobold caster, but misses cleanly.

With more than half their number killed or incapacitated in the first volley, not a single useful blow landed, and the only path of egress from the building blocked, three of the four remaining kobolds, the swordsman and the two javelin throwers, drop their remaining weapons and dive to the ground, cowering and groveling in their horrible, yapping language.

Behind them, the last kobold waves his branding iron in the air with one hand, rattles a necklace made of horse's teeth with the other, glares menacingly at Frantiska, and screams in common, "Kill me then man-things! And may your heads never be uncovered for a thousand thousand days! May your roots wither in the dark! May your fleas and your lice shrivel and die! May the kings of gods and men rain their hatred upon your pates!"

Donovan

Donovan stops his playing, terrified by the horrible sounds coming from his instrument and himself, and tries to address the kobold leader, but all that comes out is "Garble! Garble garble garble, garble blah garble garble." He silently curses to himself, curses the kobold and his curses, then tries to make sense of that last string of curses the kobold spewed forth. 'Our heads will never be uncovered? We're not even wearing hats,' he thinks to himself.

He unceremoniously shoves the hurdy-gurdy into his bag and pulls his stilletto back out.

Frantiska

Frantiska rolls her eyes. "Cut the dramatics you horse-thieving rat." She knocks and arrow, and mutters a few words. Faint blue-white sparks begin to crackle at the tip of the arrow.

"May the Witch Queen grant you a swift death," she fires at the mouthy kobold with the branding iron.

GM

As Donovan babbles incoherently and tries to put away his useless instrument, Teldicia walks up beside Frantiska and, almost casually, kicks the kobold groveling at their feet, bringing the point of her sandaled toe up under the things chin, sending it sprawling backwards away from the two women, and, more importantly, the sword it had so recently been wielding. "You know guys," she says, "the guards at the gate said on our way out that these Red Hands have been causing alot of problems for the Council lately. I bet there's a decent price on that one's head," she says, indicating the apparent leader.

The barbarian swings again, bending at the waist and reaching down, or rather up, between his feet to grab the rope binding him. "Uga ketemu, kuwat gedhe-gedhe. Bisa mbebasake kula?" he says, as, bent full in half, but at least without the blood rushing to his head, he begins working at the rope with the point of the spear held in his other hand.

Seeing the barbarian freeing himself and Fran reloading, the two javelin throwers dive behind the horse carcass and hunker down, taking as much cover as they can. The kobold leader swings the hot branding iron in the direction of the horses, warding them off and back into the corner, lest the big warhorse get close enough to lash out with her hooves. He then jabs his open hand towards Frantiska, making clenching gestures and shouting strange syllables.

Frantiska suddenly feels as if something huge has clamped down on her chest, forcing the air from her lungs in a rush, spoiling the last words of her spell.

With a sharp snapping noise, the rope binding the barbarian's legs frays and breaks. He swings free, righting himself with the hand still holding the dangling rope, and drops to his feet.

Hrud

Finally back on his feet, the barbarian had a thought: These things look like dogs, I bet they don't like cats. Hoping to throw them into confusion, he meows mightily, thrusting the crude (even by his standards) spear at the creature waving the branding iron dangerously close to his steed.

Frantiska

Gasping for breath, Frantiska strains her brain, trying to figure out what the inappropriately dressed man is saying. She is able to piece out a couple of similarities and possible shared roots with the Thari and Netherese derived languages she has studied. Frantiska mouths silently "I dry shagged kuwat, gedhe-gedhe. A cat mbebasake the sphere? Kuwat?" She looks simultaneously appalled at the thought of 'shagging' anything, but also completely fascinated, not by the man, but by his words.

Still straining for breath, and finally coming back around to the task at hand, she forces her arms to draw back her bow again. Unable to breath properly, her hands shake as she fires two more shots at the maniac with the branding-iron.

Donovan

Donovan tries to speak again, but only produces more garbled nonsense. Shrugging, he walks past Frantiska into the building, knife in hand, and circles around next to the wall, trying to get a better look at everything while staying out of the line of fire.

GM

The barbarian leaps forward, making strange cat-like noises, and jabs the jagged-edged spear tip deep into the kobold's thigh. The creature gives a howl of pain, flailing wildly back with the branding iron, but finds itself held at length by the spear still stuck in its leg. As it tries to shake free to get closer to its new foe, losing a lot of blood in the process, Frantiska's arrow strikes it in the chest, causing it to topple backwards. The spear jerks free of the creature's leg with a spray of gore as it falls dead to the floor.

As the creature dies, there is a faint shimmer in the air above Frantiska, as a frumpy, red-brown hat with a single drooping white feather stuck in the band appears on her head.

Off to the side, still crouched behind the dead horse, you hear one of the two remaining kobolds call out, in broken Common, "You no us kill!"

Frantiska

Catching her breath, Frantiska runs across the room to Thistledown and throws her arms around the filly's neck.

Hrud

The barbarian steps over to his own horse and draws his broadsword, turning to see what the remaining two kobolds will do.

Donovan

Donovan tries talking again, "Garble...bargle...tergle...testing...testing...can you hear me now?" He breathes a sigh of relief and cautiously walks towards the dead horse, stopping to pick up the shortsword that the kobold dropped, figuring its a more intimidating weapon than his knife--though he keeps the knife ready in his primary hand, should it actually come to fighting. "Your leader and eight of your compatriots are down, dogs. If you would be so kind as to raise your hands up where we can see them, stand up, and slowly walk out here, we might decide to tie you up rather than cutting you to ribbons." He speaks in his best gruff, cutthroat voice.

GM

The kobolds stand up, visibly trembling, their hands stretched up as far as they can reach. They begin to walk around the horse, then, seeing a clear path to the door, bolt for it, running as fast as their very short legs can carry them.

Frantiska

Frantiska glances up, sees the kobolds running, and says, "Let them go. They're no threat now." She makes sure her horse is calm, then fixes her bow over her shoulder, draws the shortsword from the sheath strapped to her calve, and goes around cleanly executing the remaining wounded kobolds.

Donovan

The kobolds gone, or killed, Donovan turns his attention to the big, poorly dressed man standing nearby with a sword drawn. "Hallo, good sir," he says in a cheery voice, sheathing the stiletto and dropping his own sword. "That was quite the fine bit of dog-skewering. You know, we could use a good fighter like yourself." He walks up to the man, keeping his gate slow for fear of getting skewered by a sudden movement. "I'm Donovan Phillips Leitch, until very recently, herald to the Council of New Phlan. My, quite newly met companions are Teldicia and Frantiska," he gestures to the women in turn. "What brings you to Phlan good sir, and how did you happen to find yourself dangling inverted from yon rope?"

Hrud

Strange words fell from the stranger's mouth. Was that how they spoke here? Surely they would know his language - everyone he'd ever met spoke it:

"Matur nuwun kanggo teka. Aku Hrud saka Eraka. Aku nggoleki imam."

Donovan

Hearing the string of meaningless syllables, Donovan says slowly, half to the barbarian and half to himself, "Your name is Hrud? Your Eraka? And you're an imam?" He ponders a bit, "Well, I know that imam means a kind of priest." He stops advancing, and makes calming gestures with his hands, then speaks very loudly and slowly--because that always works. "I AM DONOVAN. YOU ARE HRUD? WHY...ARE...YOU...HERE?"

Frantiska

Frantiska watches the strange exchange between the men, then finally chimes in, "His language is strange, but it has a few similarities to ones I've studied in the past, especially that of the Gurri tribes and others of Imaskari descent. The first part sounds like he his calling you mature. He is definitely addressing you directly, but the word 'teka' seems out of place--I think it means something like "a puzzle" or "missing piece". Maybe he's indicating that he can't understand you. Hrud of the Eraka is definitely his name. 'Saka', interestingly could be used to indicate not only a tribe, but also the branch of a tree. In ancient Imask, 'saka' could also mean 'a healthy specimen' of something. Aku imam would normally mean "I am a priest", but I don't think that is what he means. 'Nggoleki' is definitely a verb, with priest as the object--his grammatical construction is highly simplified--but I don't have any idea what nggoleki it means..."

She continues to go around finishing off kobolds as she thinks. "Aku could also mean "I hold" or "I possess", sort of "my", instead of "I am", maybe he is searching for a missing priest friend or tribal shaman."

Hrud

Hrud felt a little relieved to hear them use his name. Perhaps these city dwellers were capable of learning, and not merely obnoxious backstabbing thieves as his people were fond of saying. Except for the little dog-men, he did not like them. And this one talking was kind of loud ... still, he had something to work with.

"Hrud," he said, touching his chest. Then pointing in the direction of the city, and putting his hand to his eyes, as if trying to see something in bright light or at a great distance, "Imam."

Donovan

Donovan, for all of his remarkable intellect, just can't grasp the idea that someone would not know the common trade speech, clearly Hrud must be hard of hearing, but his response indicates that speaking louder is succeeding. "FRANTISKA," he says pointing to the girls in turn, "TELDICIA." He makes sure his weapons are stowed and begins casing the room for valuables, muttering, much more softly, the words to his last remaining spell. "WE CAN HELP YOU FIND THIS IMAM YOU ARE LOOKING FOR..."

GM

You magic-sensitive vision draws you to the kobold with the branding iron, or, more specifically to the pair of bracelets he is wearing--two copper bands, one on each wrist, each about as wide as your thumb, and inscribed with a twining ivy pattern, both of which give off a surprisingly strong aura of abjurative magic. While you detect no other magic about him, save the lingering aura of his previously-cast spells, your looters instincts pick out some odd, sagging bulges in the, now heavily bloodstained, quilted vest he was wearing. Tearing it open, you find a small fortune in precious and semi-precious stones.

Casing the rest of the room, you find a large jar filled with copper coins stuffed in a corner behind a half-full barrel of pickles. You also find a few copper and silver coins in the pockets of the other kobolds, which all together, amount to a fair amount of change.

Hrud

It occurred to Hrud that the one called "Dawn of Man" must have weak ears, for he seemed to have trouble hearing his own words. Still, they seemed friendly enough. As the others poked at the kobold corpses, Hrud strapped on his leather armor.

Near his feet, he noticed the metal rod that the ... chieftan? Shaman? ... had been holding; of particular interest was at the shape on the end of it.  Were they trying to claim ownership of his horse?

Hrud noticed the other dead kobolds and the blood paint they wore. The barbarian had an idea. Dipping his hand into the dead horse, he walked over to his steed and painted a small circle. Then, below it, a larger oval (or perhaps a rounded rectangle) with two lines coming from the top "corners" and two lines extending down from the bottom. From one of the upper lines he drew a lone perpendicular line with a small triangle at the top, the other line was given what looked like a thick, inverted cross. Hrud turned to let the others see his handiwork, then smacked himself in the chest (failing to notice the broad bloody handprint left on his leather breastplate) and announced, "Jaran iku Hrud kang." Now, if anyone tried to steal his horse, they would be duly warned.

Frantiska

Frantiska opens up the grooming kit Teldicia handed her earlier and begins brushing Thistledown's coat, avoiding looking at Donovan yelling and tearing open the dead kobold's clothes looking for loose change and trying to ignore the fact that the poorly dressed man is painting his horse with the blood of another horse. She knew when she left Aglarond that she'd be dealing with people of low morals, but this was a good deal more barbaric than she had expected. Still, they had helped her recover Thistledown.

Continuing to brush her horse's mane, she says, barely above a whisper, "Thank you all."

Donovan

Donovan palms and pockets the pearls, figuring they'll be useful as spell components, and the opals, figuring that they're probably worth the most and will be a good down-payment on his spell research. He gathers up the other gems and holds them out to Frantiska and Hrud, "Here," he says, no longer shouting and hoping the barbarian will get the idea from his gesture, "I think these belong to you two." Pressing the gems into their hands, he begins walking around the room. He stops and momentarily considers eating a pickle, thinks better of it, then pulls the jar of copper out from behind the barrel. He then goes to the other kobolds, riffling through their pockets for change and throwing all their weapons into a large pile.

GM

Donovan pauses briefly in his work of looting, stopping to rub his temples as he feels the beginnings of a headache, a dull throb starting just behind his eyes.

Frantiska

Frantiska looks at the handful of gems, completely surprised at the generosity of these strangers. She briefly considers giving them back to Donovan, but figures that would be rude. Still holding them loosely, as if unsure what to do with such things, she speaks up, "Thank you so much. You help save my horse, and now this...How can I repay you?"

Hrud

Hrud looked at the shiny rocks. They were obviously not edible and didn't appear to /do/ anything ... maybe someone would trade them for food, possibly even a proper spear. Still, the ramshackle gear of the kobolds was better than nothing.

Donovan

Donovan takes off his glasses and works at his temples with one hand. Rising he addresses Frantiska, politely avoid eye contact since that seems to bother her, "If you really want to do something to repay us, my friends and I are leaving in the morning on a mission to escort a small girl to Melvaunt. It's about a three day trip, and involves crossing the Twilight Marsh, a notoriously dangerous place. If you have no pressing business, we would be quite happy to have an archer of your caliber along to help protect our small caravan." He gathers up the stray coins and shoves them in his bag and heads for the door. "I'm afraid I'm getting quite fatigued. Let's head back to the city-proper--we'll help Hrud find this priest he's looking for, get our paperwork updated, find Lyra, Amara, and Shaddup, and get some food and rest."

Frantiska

"That seems like a perfectly reasonable request, and a noble, if mundane, mission," she says, directing her words more to Teldicia than Donovan, "Thistledown and I would be happy to accompany you." Frantiska finally pockets the gems, picks up the shortsword, and leads Thistledown out of the building. "What about him?" she says indicating the barbarian. "He seems quite lost. If we don't find this imam he is looking for, are we just to leave him in the city?"

As she walks out, she hazards an attempt at addressing Hrud in something approximating own language, "Ayo Hrud, kami akan membantu anda menemukan imam." The words coming out slow and forced as she mentally translates as she speaks, hoping that her assumptions regarding the origins of his language are at-least somewhat correct. "Jika kita tidak menemukan seorang imam...apakah anda ingin ikut dengan kami untuk Melvaunt besok? Pria berambut putih sedang mencari prajurit untuk menjaga kafilah nya."

Hrud


The words were almost familiar ... but not quite. However, it sounded like the sharp-eared girl would help him in his search, but only if he stayed with them until tomorrow. One of the words sounded like a name, but not one Hrud was familiar with, "Apa Melvaunt? Bakal ana imam?"