Friday, June 27, 2014

PBM: Chapter 2: Handle With Care: Part 10

Splitting the Party: A fight in the woods...

Frantiska
Frantiska’s muscles tense reflexively as she rides, something in her is itching for a fight. Once they are about 500 yards ahead of the wagon, she slows Thisteldown to a canter and begins looking around expectantly. Trying to ignore the dull pain still persisting in her head, she focuses her mind, seeking for signs of evil in the forest.

GM
Frantiska hears a low growl nearby. She looks around trying to detect evil and her wariness is rewarded. From the woods to her right…and up, she senses something, or multiple somethings, desiring to murder her, quite particularly, a savage, ravenous kind of evil. Thistledown neighs and shies away, then Frantiska spots it…them. A half-dozen or more creatures stalk through the woods towards her. Looking like some horrible, black-furred cross between a wolf and a hyena with large bat-like wings sprouting from its forelegs.

Frantiska feels a strange sense of excitement coming from Kisakhavar, which seems to squeeze her shoulders like a reassuring hug—though not quite that reassuring given that it is coming from her garments. Her mind fills with images of her standing triumphantly atop a pile of dead flying wolf-things, her cloak flapping dramatically in the wind.

One of the creatures, waiting perched in a tree above the road, lets out a loud howl and springs at her.

Frantiska
Frantiska tugs on Thistledown’s reins, turning the horse headon to the lunging creature and draws her longsword—not her first choice of weapons in most situations, but better reach than the spoon. She watches the thing’s movements, preparing to stab as soon as it is within reach and clicks her tongue, commanding Thistledown to be ready to lash out with her hooves if the ones on the ground close.

Donovan
Donovan sits in the back of the wagon, staring at the ground rolling away behind them. Hearing the howl, he stands up and leans out to look around the side of the wagon, holding onto the canopy to keep from falling out. “Frantiska just rode that way,” he yells to the others, “how far away do you think that sound was? Should we go help?” He grabs one of the loaded crossbows, “Rant, can you ask Hrud if he can safely make this thing go any faster?”

Hrud
“«Hold on!»” Hrud slides his bow and spear out from under the seat, placing them in easy reach; he then snaps the reigns, urging the Oxen to close the distance between them and Frantiska.

Donovan
As Hrud begins to whip the oxen, Donovan realizes that maybe asking him to go faster wasn’t such a good idea. He clutches onto the canopy poles for dear life, hugging the loaded crossbow tight to his chest.

GM
With much howling and snarling, the creatures on the ground charge Thistledown snapping at her legs and hindquarters. The horse manages to dance away from most of their snapping jaws, even sending one flying into the underbrush with a well-placed rear-kick, but two of the creatures get through, one latching onto her foreleg with its jaws, the other tearing a great gash in her rump, ripping away a large chunk of flesh and hair and spraying Frantiska with her horse’s blood.

The winged one, meanwhile, flies strait at Frantiska, but misses as Thistledown dances sideways, avoiding the pack on the ground. The thing whips past Frantiska and she manages to slice deep into its side with her sword, cutting a jagged scar and causing it to careen into a tree. It comes up growling and begins to circle slowly, clearly waiting for an opening to get at the rider when the horse goes down.

As Thistledown screams in pain, the sound has a strangely deep, rumbling quality to it. A second later you realize that the rumbling is not coming from the injured horse, and is getting louder, much louder, and fast. Frantiska, and the pack of gnashers, look up to see the wagon barreling down the road at full speed, bouncing wildly over even the smallest rocks. There is a yelp of terror from the pack as they realize that nearly four tons of wood, steel, muscle, hooves, and horns are headed their way.

Two of the pack break off their attack and run for the woods.

Donovan
As the wagon bears down on the pack of creatures, Donovan leans out of the back and fires the heavy crossbow at the largest of the creatures. As the shot goes sailing off into the woods, he tosses the useless thing into the back of the wagon and grabs on tighter against the inevitable impact.

Frantiska
Frantiska screams almost as loud as Thistledown as the horse’s blood soaks into her cloak. She jumps off the horses back into the middle of the pack of ravening beasts and begins slashing wildly about with her sword, trying to drive them away from her horse. She then grabs Thistledown’s reins and tries to guide the horse off the road, keeping it behind her. As she does so, she begins praying fervently to her goddess: Selune! No, please! I can’t lose Thistledown. Not after everything else. Please Lady, if I have done anything to displease you, let them take my life instead, but please spare Thistledown.

GM
Two of the creatures vanish into the woods, running as fast as they can. Frantiska swings wildly, with her sword, keeping the beasts back just long enough to complete her prayer. She suddenly feels an upwelling of power and blue-white light spills out of her, surrounding Thistledown and curing her wounds completely.

As the wagon nears, Teldicia climbs up on the drivers bench, creeps out to the side, and takes a flying leap through the air towards the winged beast which has positioned itself so as to cleanly avoid being hit by the wagon. It cannot avoid Teldicia however, who lands on the thing’s back, her hands crackling with electrical energy and punches the thing several times in rapid succession.

Howling in pain and rage, the thing rolls to the side, pitching the green-haired girl and her stinging fists off of its back, then turns and sinks its fangs into her forearm.

The four remaining members of the pack, apparently too stupid to be concerned about the wagon bearing down on them, lunge past Frantiska’s defenses, piling onto her. Three leap up and bear her to the ground, while the fourth snaps at her, tearing open her throat with its powerful jaws.

As the beasts pull Frantiska down in the middle of the road, Hrud tries to turn away, but cannot. The wagon jolts as the oxen, plow into the gnashers, knocking them in every direction, then run right over Frantiska, crushing her. One of the gnashers is similarly caught beneath both hooves and wheels, and is trampled with many a horrible cracking noise.

As the wagon passes, Brother Rant rolls off the back and lays about with his mace, finishing off one of the creatures wounded by the charging oxen, and landing a solid blow on another. Thistledown, terrified by the passing wagon and enraged by the attacks on her and Frantiska lashes out with her hooves, beating the third one into the dirt.

The last remaining member of the pack, severely injured by both the wagon and Brother Rant, backs away wimpering—incapable of running due to a broken hind-leg.

The winged pack-leader continues to worry at Teldicia’s arm with its vicious fangs.

Donovan
Seeing Frantiska’s mangled body bounce out from under the wagon wheels, Donovan’s heart leaps into his throat, followed closely by his breakfast. He half-leaps, half-falls out of the back of the wagon, catches himself, then pukes a little. Oh gods! What have we done?! He tries to think, he could maybe help her with the rod of health, but there is that giant, winged dog-hyena thing tearing Teldicia’s arm off, and another one of the things still standing, if only barely. The sword? No, I suck at sword-fighting, I just got lucky with that zombie. A sleep spell? That’s only guaranteed to get the smaller one, which won’t help Teldicia. The scrolls?! He fumbles in his pack and tears out the shroud he took off the wight.

He rushes to stand over Frantiska’s body, hoping against hope that she isn’t dead, then looks at Teldicia. I can’t lose two friends in one day. Donovan growls out one of the incantations written on the shroud, his voice barely recognizable through the rage and the unfamiliar syllables. He finishes the last word then shouts, “Go to hell! You can’t have either of them!”

Hrud
“Frantiska!” Hrud, sick with rage and fear at seeing the elf dragged under the wagon with the beasts attacking her, leaps from the wagon and charges, determined to kill the large winged beast still attempting to savage her bloody, battered – and disturbingly still – form.

Yamtwit
A small creature watches from the woods as everyone leaps off of the wagon, leaving only Amara inside, drying out in terror with the oxen still charging down the road. «Rast look, a wagon, and cows,» the creature remarks to his companion, «and they’ve abandoned it. What a stroke of luck! Poor girlie though.»

The small creature turns and ties his donkey to a nearby tree, «You stay here and be careful Bobbers, there are beasties about.» He then climbs onto his companion, clearly unconcerned about the wagon outdistancing them. «Alright Rast, after them, and try not to run too bouncy this time, I don’t want to mess up the spell.»

There is a flash of fur as something large and canine, not too dissimilar from the creatures attacking the party, bursts from the underbrush, a small, brightly dressed humanoid on its back. «Right Rast, up alongside the driver’s bench, then keep it steady, and no snapping.»

The large wolf does as commanded, racing ahead to catch the wagon, the slowing its pace to match it, running alongside, just out of reach of the bouncing wheels. The rider on its back yells, “Girlie, we’re here to help!”, then stands up in the saddle and begins a calm, steady chanting.

GM
As Hrud leaps off the wagon and begins charging the winged creature, a massive wolf, a goblin on its back, springs out of the woods and races after the wagon. At the same time, Donovan complete’s his spell.

The winged beast opens its mouth, as if readying to snap at Teldicia’s face, then stops, its eyes and mouth both widening. It turns, as if fleeing, then springs at a tree, biting and snapping. It attacks the tree viciously, slamming into it with it’s whole body, again and again and again. By the time Hrud reaches it, the creature has smeared the tree with its own blood and brains, beating itself completely senseless, and is easily dispatched with a single blow of Hrud’s sword. Across the road, Rant drops the cowering one with a swift blow to the back of it’s neck.

When the goblin on the wolf finishes it’s chanting, the oxen immediately calm down and slow, to walk, and then to a stop. The beasts are breathing heavily and sweating, but do not seem the least bit concerned about the predator now circling them.

Yamtwit
«Thanks Rast,» The goblin hops off the wolf, «go keep an eye on Bobbers.» He walks over and pats the oxen, talking soothingly to them and checking to make sure they are not injured. He then turns and walks back to take a look at the owners. He eyes the crushed and manged body of the she-elf on the ground, the other she-elf with the torn arm, and the three well-armed men standing surrounded by the bodies of the wolf things. He waves, both in greeting and to show that he is unarmed, and walks up to the big barbarian. «Nice cows, but your women look like they need some help,» he says in Erakic.

Hrud
Hrud sees the goblin talk to the wolf, and then, to his utter surprise, come sauntering over and speak to him! The barbarian points his sword at the diminutive figure, then to the bodies of the dead wolves surrounding Frantiska. “«Yours?»” His muscles tense, anticipating the answer.

Yamtwit
The goblin’s eyes go wide, «What? No. I’m a simple farmer. I have no business with monsters like that?» He rubs the palms of his hands together, as if wiping something off. «But your women. I can help.» He turns and starts walking back to the edge of the woods, «Let me get some butter and I’ll see what I can do.»

GM
Brother Rant rushes over to Frantiska, he carefully shifts her onto her back, checks her breathing, her pulse, and carefully straitens her limbs, checking for breaks. He shakes his head sadly on seeing her knee, then quickly gets to work—washing the wounds with alcohol from a small hip-flask, and bandaging the worst of the scrapes, cuts, and bites.

Yamtwit
The goblin returns moments later, followed by the wolf and a donkey, and carrying a pair of water skins. «Rast, wait here.» The wolf steps in front of the donkey and sits down. The goblin then walks over to where Rant is working, «No, no, no!» he says in Erakic, presuming that everyone would be able to speak with the barbarian. «Don’t pour that slop on her. Use the butter!» He hands one of the wineskins to Rant. «Rub it all over. Only on the skin, mind. And don’t worry if you use it up, I can make more.» He walks around, bending down and looking at her closely. «You’ll probably want to take that dress and armor off of her in order to get to the wounds properly…»

Hrud
“«She’d probably rather die.»” Hrud mutters in reply, half to himself.

GM
Brother Rant looks at the goblin, eyes wide and face turning red. «You don’t treat abrasions and breaks with butter…» He harrumphs, turning back to the work of bandaging her wounds. «If she had dry skin, or a burn maybe….» He shakes his head, clearly flustered by the suggestion. «Thanks for catching the wagon, but please do not waste my time…»

Donovan
Donovan stands there for a moment, so amazed at the sight of the wolf-beast beating itself senseless against the tree that he completely misses the goblin until it is standing right in front of him. He steps away from Frantiska as Rant rushes up, and only then does he notice the goblin, animals in tow, walking around like he owns the place and speaking in what sounds like Hrud’s language. Since the small creature is not immediately attacking, and Rant seems to have Frantiska in hand as much as possible, Donovan rushes over to Teldicia. “Are you okay?” he says, looking at the bite marks on her arm.

Yamtwit
The goblin looks back and forth between the healer and the barbarian, clearly confused. «You want her to die?» He looks completely appalled. «She is your woman. Why would you not treat her properly. You are no better than gnolls if you do not treat your women well!» He stomps around and points towards Donovan, «White-head knows how to treat his woman at least…well…mostly.» The goblin throws his hands up in exasperation and walks over to Donovan, noticing that the man is clearly not paying attention to what he is saying. “Whitehead,” he says in common this time, “your barbaric friends are refusing to give your other woman proper treatment. Can you please explain to the one with the mace that he needs to tear her clothes off and slather her with the butter.” He looks appraisingly at Teldicia’s arm. “This one is fine. She just needs me to put my hands on her, no butter. Go help the other one.”

Donovan
Donovan’s eyes go wide as he realizes what the goblin is implying. He splutters a few times, clearly unsure of how to react, shakes himself, then finally says, “You actually think that would do some good? Not that I object. It just sounds impossible.” He looks at Teldicia and nods, “Heal her first. If you have power, show us, then we’ll take your recommendations into consideration….” Yeah, that sounds reasonable and authoritative, he shakes himself again. Crazy goblin. Butter? He looks over at Frantiska’s body. It’s worth trying anything at this point…and if it doesn’t work, there’s no harm, right. She’s not even conscious.

Yamtwit
“Okay.” The goblin whispers a quiet prayer and gingerly touches Teldicia’s arm. The wound mends instantly and completely. “Now,” he points at the battered body of the elf, “the butter, and quickly!”

GM
Teldicia smiles at the goblin and examines the clean, pink flesh on her arm. “Wow, that’s good work.” She saunters over the Brother Rant, “This goblin knows his stuff, do what he says.” She kneels down by Frantiska, “Here, you’ve probably never done this have you?” She begins removing Frantiska’s armor and clothing. As she opens the front of Frantiska’s dress, she looks up at Donovan and Hrud, “Rant’s the healer…but there is no reason for you two to stare. Avert your eyes!” She carefully pulls the tattered and bloody dress over Frantiska’s head, piling it under her head as a pillow. “Alright…what’s your name…come show us how to use this butter of yours.”

Yamtwit
The goblin saunters over, looking very pleased with himself. He stands over Frantiska, being careful not to touch her, “Just pop the top on the skin and squirt it on her, then make sure to rub it in good, there,” he points at the shattered knee and the surrounding area, “and there,” he points at her neck, “and there”, he points at a large bruise on her chest which might indicated a cracked sternum. He pantomimes rubbing her chest, “Make sure you rub it in reeeeeeal good, or the magic won’t work.”

Donovan
Donovan shrugs and turns away, I’d rather not see her like that anyways, he thinks. He walks over and looks at the dead, winged, hyena-wolf-thing, poking it with a stick. “Anyone know what these things are?” Hearing the goblin’s instructions he can’t help but peek back over his shoulder, more curious about how Rant will react than what Frantiska’s trampled body looks like under the dress.

Hrud
While the sight of a naked woman, especially an attractive elf, might normally trigger a physical response within Hrud, seeing the damage done to her first by the wolves, then by the wagon – a wagon that Hrud himself was driving – only brought pain to the barbarian. Emotional turmoil didn’t make things any less awkward, however.

Hrud liked it when the course of action was obvious: Is there an enemy? Hit it. Are you hungry? Get food. This situation was … a lot harder to figure out. He didn’t totally trust the weird little goblin standing before him, rubbing himself in a weird way. He didn’t feel comfortable standing over them as they worked to save Frantiska, either. He did trust Rant and Teldicia – or, at least, given the amount of time they’d been together, he trusted them enough to save Frantiska’s life. Besides, he could walk a few feet away and still be close enough to help out if treachery was afoot.

Following Donovan, he eyed the wolf that had appeared with the goblin. Maybe it was different than the ones that had attacked. Or, maybe, it was even more dangerous …

GM
The wolf that came with the goblin, now sitting very calmly right in front of the heavily-laden pack donkey, looks quite different from the creatures that attacked you, now that it is sitting still at least. Whereas the creatures that attacked you have taller shoulders and more muscular forequarters, reminiscent of the hyenas that occasionally appear in the grass sea, and dark, almost black fur—not to mention the bat-like wings on the leader—this one is sleek, muscular, and distinctly canine, with none of the confusion of the other beasts. It’s coat is tawny red, and it is large, much larger than any normal wolf that you’ve seen, almost as big as your pony. There is a spark of intelligence in its eyes as it stares at you intently.

Rant looks back and forth between Teldicia, Donovan, Hrud, and the goblin. “Whatever…” he says under his breath. He takes the skin, squirts a thick stream of the clarified, almost liquid butter onto Frantiska, lovely even in her battered state, and begins to rub the stuff all over her skin, with the practiced firmness of a trained physician. He works as efficiently as possible, keeping his head down so that his companions might not notice the redness suffusing his face on handling Frantiska in this way.

As Rant finishes, Frantiska’s skin is left oiling, golden, and gleaming, good enough to eat. For a while, nothing more happens, Teldicia and Rant both look at the goblin with an expression that says “okay, now what?” Then, ever so faintly, there is a creaking, crackling sound. Everyone looks back at Frantiska to see something moving beneath the skin of her leg. The leg straitens and the flattened knee begins to fill out, slowly resuming its original shape. Within about a minute, the wound on her neck has closed and the leg looks almost strong enough to walk on, almost.

Yamtwit
The goblin smiles and does a little self-congratulatory dance at his handywork. He then kneels down and lays his hands on Frantiska, healing the last of her cuts, scrapes, and bruises. «I’m Yamtwit,» he says in Erakic as he finishes his work. «Can I interest you fellows in some cheese?» There is an entrepreneurial gleam in his eye as he asks this. Frantiska lets out a groan and her eyes begin to flutter. The goblin steps back and admires his handiwork, or the person his hands were working on, not that it makes a difference.

Donovan
Donovan walks over, removes his cloak and lays it over Frantiska, hoping she doesn’t immediately notice the state she’s in when she wakes up. “Brother Rant, can you and Hrud move her to the wagon?” He turns to the goblin and offers him a hand to shake, “If your cheese is as good as your butter, Sir Yamtwit, then I would be glad to have some. So, what brings a skilled healer like yourself out into the woods? And with such animals in tow?” He looks at the wolf and donkey, only just now noticing the bulging saddlebags.

Yamtwit
Yamtwit scurries over to the donkey and opens up the saddlebags, taking out several large bricks of a ripe-smelling, pale yellow cheese. “Well, the cheese won’t heal you like butter, but it is delicious and filling and keeps well, perfect for travelers such as yourselves. You can have as much as you like for six silver pennies per brick.” He smiles broadly, and holds up one of the bricks of the cheese to donovan, waving a hand over it and pantomiming inhaling the aroma. “Smells nice, yes? You should just be able to detect the slight nutty undertones of the rennet.” He waits patiently for Donovan to examine it with the attentiveness of an experienced salesman.

Donovan
Donovan looks carefully at the cheese, then at the goblin’s face. “Six silver, for that rot? You must be mad! Look, it’s moldy! I’ll give you two for a brick.” He smiles broadly, clearly enjoying a break from the killing and the drama.

Yamtwit
“Two? Two?! Are you trying to insult me? Me, with a poor dying grandmother? Two?!” Yamtwit’s face also breaks into a giant, ear-to-ear grin, clearly in his element. “Two?!”

Donovan
“Twenty-five coppers then.”

Yamtwit
“What?! Two and a half? I’ve got a village to feed. Fifty three coppers.”

Donovan
“FIfty three?” Donovan’s voice rises slightly, with a note of feigned incredulity and anger. “I could buy a whole sheep for that! Three silvers a brick.”

Yamtwit
“Three?! It cost me four. I’d be ruined if I give this away for three! I’d starve. My village would starve. My POOR DYING GRANDMOTHER would starve.” The goblin throws up his hands, “Look at this again, this is high quality stuff. The best cheese north o’ the Moonsea. Hand crafted by poor goblin artisans from the finest, organically produced warg’s milk. And you want me to give it away for THREE?!”

There is a growl from the wolf, «Laying it on a little thick aren’t you?»

«Shut up Rast, I’m working here.»

Donovan
“Warg’s milk? Four then, and not a copper more.” Donovan rolls his eyes, “Teldicia, are you hearing this? Warg’s milk. who would milk a warg?”

Yamtwit
“Four? Are you joking? A goblin’s got to make a living.” He walks over to the wolf and lifts one of her hind legs. “Look, Rast here sprained an ankle trying to save your cows and you’re only offering us four?” The wolf makes big puppy-dog eyes and makes a clearly fake whimpering sound. “I could get better than four from an tongue-dead Orc. Five, final offer, I won’t take a penny less or may Lord Argentus strike me dead!”

Donovan
Donovan laughs out loud as Yamtwit brings the wolf into it, “Fourty-two coppers a brick.”

Yamtwit
“Done,” Yamtwit yells triumphantly. “One-hundred bricks of cheese, at fourty-two coppers a brick…” He begins unloading the saddlebags.

Donovan
“One hundred bricks?!” Donovan’s eyes go wide, “No one said we were buying in bulk. I’ll take one brick of your smelly wolf-cheese. Thank you.”

Yamtwit
“Just one brick? You haven’t even tried it yet. Once you taste this delectable dairy delight you will be begging me to sell you the other ninety-nine. Then, of course, I won’t. I’ve got customers from Phlan to Thentia lining up for this stuff! I’m back ordered for three years!” The goblin struts around, waving his arms dramatically. “This is your last chance to get in on this DEAL OF A LIFETIME! Act now and I’ll throw in six doses of MAGICAL healing butter for ABSOLUTELY FREE!”

Donovan
Donovan looks at the goblin steadily, “You already gave us the butter.” He sighs, “But you make a good point, you helped our friend, so I guess I’ll buy all of your stinky cheese…” He opens his backpack and shuffles through it, “Actually, I’ve only got 1 platinum, 3 gold, 1 electrum, and 5 silver pieces to my name.”

Yamtwit
“Fine, fine, fine. I’ll take the 9 gold as a down payment. You can have the rest on layaway…” The goblin takes the donkey’s reins, leads her over to the wagon, and begins stacking bricks of cheese in the back of the wagon. “That’s one hundred bricks, at fourty-two coppers a brick, minus the nine gold down. You owe me thirty-three gold, plus twenty-seven per cent annual interest. Plus a ten gold lending fee. Plus Phlan sales tax…” The goblin looks back at Donovan with a gleam in his eye, “Rast, Bobbers, and I will just have to stick with you guys until you pay up…”

Donovan
Donovan sighs again and mumbles, “Lending fee?” under his breath. “Alright Twit,” he walks over to the wagon, checks to make sure Frantiska is comfortable and climbs up, “welcome to the team I guess.”

Yamtwit
“That’s YAMtwit.” The goblin ties off his donkey to the back of the wagon, then goes and climbs on the wolf’s back. “So…where are you headed with your wagon and your cows?”

GM
Rant collects Thistledown and ties her off to the back alongside the donkey and Hrud’s pony. He then climbs up on the driver’s bench alongside Hrud, «So, the crazy goblin is coming with us I guess…»

Hrud
“«He just happened to be wondering in the woods when those wolves attacked?»” Hrud replies in a conspiratorial whisper “«Someone will need to keep an eye on our money, lest we get gobbed.»”

Donovan
Donovan stands in the back of the wagon, hanging onto a pole and sticking his head out to talk to the goblin. “We’re headed for Melvaunt. We’re carrying a shipment of statuary and other objects d’art from Phlan to sell there, and then picking up a shipment of alchemical reagents and spell components to take back for the Training Hall students.”

Donovan begins rubbing his temples as the headaches of the past day resume. Then screams, suddenly overwhelmed by bizarre sensations. Every creak of the wagon, bump in the road, neigh of a horse suddenly sends cascades of multi-colored light across his vision—pulsing in time with the sounds. The many background noises crash upon each other, like waves of color colliding, mixing, parting, growing and shrinking. He screams again and ducks back into the wagon, unsure of whether to close his eyes or cover his ears. He tries the later and finds that it makes no difference, save to make the colors have less of a reference. He tries the former and finds a brief respite.

He opens his eyes a little and looks around, this time in amazement rather than fright. Oh my gods…I can see sound! He sits down on the floor of the wagon and tears through his backpack, coming out with the hurdy-gurdy. He begins cranking and watches as the deep, steady drone appears before him as a solid line of dark blue emanating from the instrument. This is awesome! He begins to play and sits, completely fascinated for several minutes, experimenting with various tones, pitches, modulations, and melodies, watching the play of colors he is controlling. He pulls a bit of wax out of his component pouch and stops up his ears—coming to the realization that he can still experience the music without even hearing it. So, so awesome! He then brakes down crying, realizing that his audiences will probably never experience this…

For a while, at least, he is so caught up in the experience that he completely forgets the pain in his head, the presence of his friends around him, or the news from Lyra that he should be conveying to them.

Hrud
Hrud hears the music and glances back, only to notice Donovan’s … unusual preoccupation with his instrument. Leaning over to Rant, he asks, “«Dawn-of-man didn’t eat the goblin’s butter, did he?»” Glancing back again, he sees Donovan stuffing his ears while continuing to play.“«Possibly a mushroom from the side of the road?»”

Yamtwit
“Art dealers,” the goblin practically beams, “excellent! Fine cheeses and art go hand in hand, all we need now is a vintner and we could make a killing!” He rides along beside them happily, contemplating all the money he could make selling cheeses at fine art auctions…until he realizes that he just sold his entire stock to Donovan. “Hey! You played me! You just wanted all the cheese so that you could mark it up and resell it yourself, didn’t you?!” There is more admiration than anger in his voice.

GM
Once you are moving again, the going is easy. The path through the woods is hard-packed and relatively clear of debris, save for a few smaller branches knocked down by yesterday’s storm. About a mile from your campsite, not far past where you encountered the gnashers, the road turned almost due south, and now, judging by the smell, is beginning to veer back towards the river. Signs of travel increase as you travel further south, especially to Hrud’s trained eyes—the road becomes muddier and develops a distinct hump in the middle, the beginning of ruts from other wagons, their are more, recent boot-prints in the mud, and even the odd humanoid bone or piece of discarded, broken armor along the side of the road, indicating the site of raids by bandits (or worse). As the sun climbs higher, the day become hot, and muggy, the trees shelter the road from the sun and the worst of the heat, but last night’s rain turns into oppressive humidity.

Yamtwit
The goblin, riding alongside the wagon, begins fanning himself. “This is no good,” he says, “I feel like I’m in a dwarf’s forge or something.” He rides up parallel with the driver’s bench, «Do you smell that, Horse-man. We’re getting close to the river, which means we’re close to the Orc Temple. There is a bridge into the city there and lots of orcs. Can your cows walk not on the road?»

Hrud
«A field maybe, if it’s not too wet. A forest would be impossible with this huge wagon». Hrud thinks for a moment, «Are these the Orcs who shoot arrows into the city?»

Lyra
There is a sudden pop of displaced air near the back of the wagon. Lyra releases her grip on the two women in Tyran white robes, one a dark haired woman with a massive flail strapped to her back holding a crate, and the other, much shorter, priestess holding bolts of cloth. “My apologies for the delay. You might remember Sister Winona from when we arrived back at the city, and this is Sister Ryesha.”

Yamtwit
A colorfully-dressed goblin, riding a large red-furred wolf, circles the wagon and stops beside the three girls. «You have a lot of women!» he calls over his shoulder to Hrud. “Pretty Ladies,” he says addressing the new arrivals, “could I interest you in some cheese?…”

Hrud

«Apparently, they pop out of thin air around here.»