Tuesday, July 8, 2014

PBM: Chapter 2: Handle With Care: Part 11

In which the party meets a dwarf and gets on the road again...

Lyra
“Cheese? Oh! Frantiska!” Lyra’s eyes go wide and she hops up into the back of the wagon. Seeing Frantiska lying there still unconscious, she gasps and puts a hand to her mouth, tears streaming down her face. Between sobs she manages to get out “I … I should’ve … been here. I remember it, I remember it like I was there. The pack … surrounding her, the way … her blood … dripped from its jaws … as it tore out her throat. The sound of … the wagon … as it…. I remember … the bump…” She was practically hysterical as she sank to her knees, the elven bow clattering as it slipped from her fingers.

Donovan/Winona
Donovan continues to play his hurdy-gurdy, staring off into space for some time, until he sees the tell-tale ‘pop’—like a flash of white across the entire field of his vision. He stops playing suddenly and looks up to see Lyra and the others. He starts to stand, but finds the continued dance of colors and shapes disorienting. He grabs one of the supports of the canopy to steady himself and stands, blinking and shaking his head for some time, trying to dispel the strange sensation.

The tall, heavily-armored, white-robed priestess sets her crate on the back of the wagon, then extends a hand to the goblin, noticing the golden wheat symbol hanging around his neck. “A Chaunteite? Pleased to meet you Cheesy. I am Winúŋna Mdewakanton of Tyr, but you can call be Winona, and little Bunny here is…”

The halfling cuts in, “…Sister Ryesha, also of Tyr. You may call me Sister Ryesha.” She shoots a Winona a withering look, as if to say I have to put up with my superior having a pet name for me, but no one else.

Donovan finally clears his head, the strange visions mostly stopping, as Lyra breaks down crying. He hops out of the wagon and puts an arm around the girl. “I shouldn’t have shown you that, huh?” he says quietly. “She’ll be alright. Mr. Yamtwit’s,” he makes sure to put the emphasis where the goblin did, “butter is amazing stuff. Rant says the bones in her leg are almost completely healed…” He gives her a hopefully reassuring, fatherly pat on the back and stands up, looking slightly uncomfortable, unused to the role of comforter. “The important thing,” he says a little louder, “is that we’re all together again. Let’s not go popping off by ourselves anymore than necessary, shall we?” He forces a smile.

Winona drops to one knee with a loud clinking of mail and hugs Lyra, “Oh Dearie, this violence is all very new to you, isn’t it. Mr. Donovan’s right though, your friend will be fine. Besides,” she says cheerfully, “there are demons out there to kill.”

Donovan clears his throat and tries to sound businesslike, “Anyways, everyone, we’ve got another fifty miles to our destination. I’m sorry that yesterday was basically lost travel time, and for…everything else…”

Rye looks at both the old man and her senior sister as if they are both daft and shakes her head. She reaches up as high as she can and rests the bolts of cloth on the back of the big covered wagon, then half-jumps, half-climbs up beside them. “Hi,” she says to Teldicia, presumably the only conscious one still in the wagon, “I’m Ryesha. I guess I’m going to be traveling with you guys for a couple of days…” She carefully picks her way past the chariot, the crates of supplies, and the statuary and finds a nook to stash the sewing supplies in.

Yamtwit
Yamtwit shakes the priestess’s hand, “Yamtwit Cheeseater at your service.” He then turns back to Hrud, «Your new woman is all weepy. I don’t think even rubbing down with butter will cure that one. Whitehair has a good idea, we should get going if we’re going.» He points at the city-walls, not a hundred yards distant, the spires of the old cathedral clearly visible. «Lots of thieves and orcs about over there. Best to get moving before they notice your wagon.»

Lyra
Lyra’s sobbing eventually subsides. She wipes the tears from her cheeks with the heel of her hand, and stands back up. She places the scroll case with the remaining artwork near the statuary, then carefully carries the crate up to the front of the wagon with the rest of the food. She takes out one bolt case and leaves it up front, and sets the box of trade bars with the sacks of coins before returning to the back of the wagon, where she puts the other case of silver bolts near Rant and Donovan, before sitting down with the new bow across her lap, and the quiver of silver arrows and her quiver of normal arrows within easy reach. “Fourteen gold bars left. I wanted to get silver in case more wights come. Brother Rant, please tell Hrud he’s welcome to half the arrows. There’s also a scroll with two Restoration spells and a few gems from the council for the information. We still have one painting, minus the frame. Oh, and the Xvimlar at the end of the bridge are afraid of me.”

Winona
Winona stands up and looks around at the huge, covered wagon, laden with goods, and the many animals. “You look like a proper merchant caravan, Donnie,” she says addressing Donovan as Lyra scrambles into the wagon. She peers into the back of the wagon, then turns to the big filly, patting her gently. “Looks pretty crowded in there. If the horse doesn’t mind, I think I’ll ride.” Donovan shrugs and Winona climbs up on Thistledown. She takes a moment to let the horse get used to her weight and make sure it is calm, then motions for Donovan to untie her. “Alright, I’m ready, let’s go,” she says.

Hrud
Waiting for everyone to get comfortably positioned for the journey – at least as much as their current situation will allow – Hrud retakes the driver’s bench and, taking the reigns, gives them a gentle-but-firm snap, urging the oxen into motion once again.

GM
The sun reaches its zenith as your band begins to move again, the oxen resuming their slow, plodding pace as they pull the heavy wagon. The track from the north joins the main road running due east out of the city. The road here is much better than that you have previously traveled, beaten hard, free of sinkholes, and slightly mounded in the center from regular use, and wide enough for two wagons such as your own to run abreast. Ahead of you, you can see a few tired-looking peddlers, mostly with donkeys or push-carts, making their way towards the city. From their perch in the back of the wagon, Donovan, Lyra, and Rant have a clear view all the way to the big bridge less than a mile behind you, and can see the spires of the Xvimlar cathedral peaking up over the crumbling walls of the old city. You can also just make out the beginnings of a ruckus of some kind about halfway between your wagon and the bridge.

Bo
Bo looked around to make sure he wasn’t being watched, although in his current state of exhaustion there could be someone standing directly behind him and he might not know it. The dwarf slid out his picks and made quick work of the lock on the door. He needed a safe place to rest, but no place was safe out here. Unnoticed behind a locked door, he should be able to sleep. His sanity depended on it.
Inside the abandoned outpost, he chewed on some jerky. It had been ages since he had tasted decent food. Longer since decent ale. He had pouches and sacks full of tools, equipment, and geegaws. However he had yet to find anything of actual value. The surrounds were tough alone, especially for a dwarf. If he could just find the old Dwarven implements he knew to be hidden in the ruins, the trip would turn profitable.

He needed something to show for the loss of most of his funds, much of his hair, and the better part of his pride. It would happen. There would be a breakthrough shortly. After he slept. Everything would be better after he slept.

He never saw the orcs who were tailing him from a distance.

GM
Lyra sees a dwarf, or what she presume to be a dwarf, based on his short, squat build, standing directly in front of the door to an old, brick building. He looks around furtively, then begins fumbling with the latch—in broad daylight no less. As he stands there working at the latch, she sees a patrol of four orcs, clearly Xvimlar by their matching bright green tunics, coming around a corner and bearing down on him. He doesn’t seem to notice the orcs or the “ruckus”—which is everyone else on the road moving away from the orcs as quickly as possible—or else is deliberately ignoring them in his haste to get inside.

As the wagon continues to roll along slowly, Lyra sees the short figure disappear into the old building. The ruckus continues as the orcs push their way through the people on the road, clearly intent on the dwarf.

Lyra
Lyra looks between Brother Rant and Donovan. “There’s a dwarf trying to get into a building over there, and a Xvimlar patrol heading right for him.” With their party up to three Tyrrans now, that he seemed to be breaking into the building is probably best left for later. She half turned and looked past them, at the still unconscious knight of Selune. “Frantiska would’ve wanted to stop to help. If we show the swords and tell them that that one’s ours to deal with and to keep moving, it may not even come to a fight.”

Donovan
Donovan sits on the back of the cart, his hat pulled low to keep the sun off and his eyelids drooping from a long, sleepless, and overly eventful night. “Lyra,” he says, rubbing his eyes with the palms of his hands, “I think I’ve got a problem…I appear to be able to see sound…”

Donovan starts as Lyra’s apparent non-sequitur. “Orcs?” He rubs his eyes again and looks where she is pointing, trying to make his eyes focus on the action, rather than dancing pink and green swirl of her words. “Why do we always have to rescue people from orcs?!” He fumbles through the pile of things beside him and pulls out the green-bladed broadsword, twin to Lyra’s. “Fine…do you have enough juice to get us there in a hurry?”

Rant
Brother Rant turns and translates Lyra’s pronouncement for Hrud, his voice raised to carry over the sounds of the wagon. “If you two want to step in, I’m here to help,” he says with an unusual note of eagerness.

Hrud
«I’ll go, but I don’t want to turn the wagon around if we can help it.» Hrud winces internally at the thought of running over another person, even if it’s an orc. «Maybe you priests should stay behind?», he adds, looking at Frantiska. Taking up the Dwarven hammer, along with his short bow and the third Fang of Mace, Hrud moves to join Donovan and Lyra.

Winona
Winona looks rather disappointed as Rant translates Hrud’s remarks. “The Eraka is probably right…if your plan is to use the swords to avoid a fight, Bunny, Rant, and I should probably stay here…” She climbs off of Thistledown and ties the horse off to the wagon again. “I guess we’ll man the fort until you get back.”

Lyra
Lyra shakes her head. “Too far. Too soon.” She looks at Rant. “They didn’t question the sword when I had two Tyrans with me earlier, but I’d rather not press our luck. You and the sisters should remain with the wagon.” She takes up her quiver of standard arrows, and the elven bow before hopping down from the wagon. She runs off towards the city, Donovan and Hrud in tow.

“Wait, seeing sound? Since when?” There’s a difference between contacting a psion and someone who’s not. Surely she would’ve been able to tell….

Donovan
Donovan runs after Lyra, panting as he tries to keep up with her younger legs. “Since…about…five…minutes…after…you…contacted…me…last…” he gasps out between strides.

Lyra
Lyra slows to keep pace with Donovan. “I don’t have time to teach you control properly, but we can’t afford you being distracted right now. So here’s the short version of what I was taught: Thought is power. Power is control. Control is focus. Focus on the sounds, and the way it interacts with the light. You have to understand that conversion, to be the one making it happen, before you can control it enough to stop it.”

Donovan
Donovan’s head swims, either from shortness of breath or from trying to make sense of what Lyra is saying. He looks behind him to see if Hrud is keeping up, only to realize that the barbarian had overshot them by a hundred yards. “Let’s…just…worry about this…later,” he wheezes.

Yamtwit
Yamtwit sits astride his warg as she jogs down the road, thinking cheerfully about all the money they are going to make selling art in Melvaunt and trying to figure out how to make sure he gets a cut. He is a few hundred yards away before he notices that the wagon has stopped. «Huh!» he says aloud, startled. He looks back and sees the Donovan, Lyra, and Hrud racing back towards the city. «Are they daft? Did they miss the part about the city being full of orcs?» He groans and taps the wolf on the head, «After them Rast. Someone is going to have to patch them up…» The big wolf pivots and races after them at top speed.

Yamtwit catches up to the others and pulls Rast into a slow lope, “Why are you running AT orcs?!”

GM
Bo is roused from his brief repast by the sound of hammering on the door. At first just a rattle of the latch and a knock. Then a louder thud lower down, as if someone kicked it. Then a loud, solid BANG and the sound of splintering wood, as more direct measures are taken. From inside he can see the old, heavy, oaken barrier rattle on its hinges and start to bow inward in the center as the banging sounds continue. One nail falls loose from the upper hinge—it seems unlikely that the door will hold long under the onslaught.

Without, Lyra, Donovan, Hrud, and Yamtwit close the distance to the old outpost as rapidly as they can. The street has mostly cleared—the residents of the area clearly more concerned with their own safety than with watching yet another gang shakedown, as they can only assume it must be, between the zealot orcs and their prey—with a few people rushing for the bridge, but most ducking into alleyways or out of the crumbling arch that marks the site of the ancient gate out of the city. As the party runs on, they can see the orcs testing the door, then one of the creatures takes out a large, two-handed mace and begins pounding away.

Between blows, one of the orcs leans in close to the door and shouts, “Džudže, zaee deka se tau! Mace, saka egovata koa azad. Ako go predade ro e vetuvae da počeka do posle ve ste rtv da go eba vašot očte dupk!”

Lyra
“Short version of the story, we have swords that belong to high ranking Xvimlar, so we might be able to scare them off just by showing up. The bridge guards were practically tripping over each other to stay out of my way.” As the orcs ahead begin yelling, Lyra looks shocked. “They’re asking politely, for orcs, for him to open the door, but they’re going to kill him and do highly inappropriate things to his corpse, even if he hands over what they want. It sounds like he took some sort of ‘icon’ from Mace.”

Hrud
Hrud’s brow furrows as his brain works overtime, «Maybe we can … claim the Dwarf for ourselves? Take him with us?»

Donovan
Donovan stops at a corner a block away from the orcs to catch his breath and double-check his weapons. “You know, Lyra, we don’t know anything about this dwarf. Are we really going to go running off to save people every time we see a pack of orcs picking on someone?” Without really waiting for an answer, he begins casting a sleep spell.

Lyra
Lyra ducks behind the corner after Donovan, panting. She keeps her back to the wall as she strings the elven bow. “They said that if he handed it over peacefully, they’d wait until after he was dead to … copulate with his eye socket.” Edging to the corner behind him, Lyra slips an arrow from her quiver, nocks and draws. “So, yes.”

Bo
Bo’s exhaustion coupled with his deep sleeping barely allows him to realize what is going on and grab his hammer before the door crashes open. The sight of orcs causes a small adrenaline surge, and he stands, mumbling “what in bloody blue blazes do you want?”

Yamtwit
Yamtwit raises an eyebrow, “Threatening to skull-fuck someone’s corpse is being…polite? Yep, sounds like most of the orcs I’ve met.” He hops off of the worg’s back. «Rast,» he points at the orcs up the block, «rip their throats out. If you wouldn’t mind, that is.» The wolf snarls and rushes the orcs, baring her razor-sharp teeth.

Hrud
Hrud had hoped they could contain any fighting that was almost certain to occur inside the house, lest they draw the attention of even more orcs … right up until he noticed Dawn-of-man starting to cast and Lyra readying her bow. Realizing that things had progressed beyond the tipping point, the barbarian draws his sword and charges the nearest orc, trusting his companions to provide cover.

GM
As the lead Orc continues banging on the door, the others begin to yawn widely. As the door finally caves in the one hammering looks back to his friends to congratulate himself, only to find them laying slumped on the ground, snoring peacefully.

The door crashes inward with a loud crash and a cloud of dust. Bo looks out to see a single orc, looking rather confused, standing in the doorway, with three others lying on the ground around him. A moment later a very tall, muscular, leather-clad human crashes into the bemused orc, bowling it over and running a three-foot-long piece of sharpened, green-coloured steel through the thing’s gut. The orc stares, dumbfounded at the sword sticking out of it, gasps, and slumps to the ground beside it’s sleeping friends.

A couple of stray arrows clatter onto the road outside the door, followed by an unusually large, red-furred she-wolf which leaps on one of the sleeping orcs and tears out its throat with one snap of her oversized jaws.

The two remaining orcs continue to snore obliviously.

Bo
To himself: ‘This must be a dream. Orcs slaughtered before my eyes, with me not lifting a finger.’

Aloud: “Nice puppy…”

Bo looks out the door, hopeful. You know what they say about the enemies of your enemy.

Hrud
Hrud pauses for a moment in the doorway and, holding up a curious dwarven hammer which begins to glow, says in perfectly accented Dwarven, “Kom met me mee als je wilt leven.” He then turns his attention – and sword – to the sleeping orcs …

Bo
Valuing his life more than even his sleep, Bo grabs his backpack and follows the barbarian…keeping back from the large wolf.

Lyra
Lyra strides over to the door, stepping over a sleeping orc to retrieve the arrows, keeping an eye out for reinforcements.

Yamtwit
A brightly dressed goblin comes scampering up behind the barbarian and the wolf. “Rast desann!” he says to the wolf, who immediately ceases masticating the orc and sits down on her haunches. The goblin nods appreciatively at the quickly dispatched humanoids, then walks up to the dwarf, swaggering a little and sticks out a hand. “Well met, Mr. Dwarf!” he says cheerfully, “You look hungry. Can I interest you in some cheese?”

Bo
Etiquette dictates returning a proffered hand, so Bo tentatively shakes with the goblin. “The name is Bo, of the clan…well, just call me Bo. At your service, and that of your clan…er…tribe? Cheese sounds wonderful, but I have to ask what is going on. Am I dreaming? Who are you people? Where did those orcs come from? Is that your wolf?”

Yamtwit
The goblin shakes the dwarf’s hand, “I’m Yamtwit Cheeseater, of the tribe formerly known as the Scabeater. That is Rast,” he says indicating the wolf. He pulls a brick of ripe-smelling, blue-veined yellow cheese out of a pouch. “The cheese normally runs 8 silvers, but since you seem to be such a fine upstanding dwarf, and appear to be having a bad day, you can have it for the low-low price of only 5 silvers, 4 coppers…”

He cocks his head curiously at the dwarf’s questions. He looks around at the city, or, more particularly, at the large number of orcs and other people making their way back into the street now that the fight is over. “I think you must be dreaming if you did not notice that this section of town is basically owned by the orcs, and some thieves, and some fanatical cultists…but mostly orcs. I am a merchant. I sell cheese. My friends are also merchants, selling works of art. We were just on our way to Melvaunt to get rich by selling my cheese at their art auction…I think.”
He lowers his voice to a conspiratorial whisper, “As for where orcs come from. Well…when a boy orc hits a girl orc and holds her down to have his way with her…”

GM
Lyra checks out the orcs as she retrieves her arrows. The orcs are wearing matching green tunics, of much better quality than those worn by the orcs in the slums, and each has a black, leather hand hanging around their neck. You suspect that they are some kind of Xvimlay uniforms—perhaps lay-workers or the orcish equivalent of neophytes. Like most orcs, they do not wear anything below the waist save the skirt of their tunics and some hard, hob-nailed boots.

The one holds a large, two-handed, flanged mace. Two have broadswords, still sheathed across their backs. The last has a whip at its belt. All of them have daggers tucked into their belts—with no sheathes, such that you worry about them sitting down.

Lyra
Lyra turns back to the dwarf. “These orcs are from the temple of Xvim, and they were saying you took something their leader, Mace, wants back. That’s Donovan, and that’s Hrud, and I’m Lyra.” She gives Donovan a look. “Art merchants? Really?”

Bo
Bo politely declines the cheese. “Art objects? Do you have anything Dwarven? Are you on your way to Melvaunt presently? There were some texts there I thought I’d look into if I had the opportunity, and it seems I need help watching my back.”

Donovan
Donovan wanders over and looks at the orcs, shrugs when he does not see anything valuable, then nudges the tail of one’s tunic to cover its privates. Why do orcs never wear pants, he thinks. He bows, slightly, to the dwarf. “Pleased to meet you, Bo. I am Donovan Leitch, until yesterday the official herald to the Council of New Phlan.” He waves up the road leading back to the wagon. “Let’s start walking and we’ll try to answer your questions on the way. This isn’t the best place to hang out, obviously.”

He turns and starts walking, clearly expecting the others to follow, and begins explaining as they catch up. “Lyra, I mentioned to our Mr. Yamtwit that we were intending to sell our collected statuary in Melvaunt and pick up a shipment of other goods. Art merchant seems a reasonable summary of our current position. Officially, Mr. Bo, we are newly licensed and commissioned adventurers, working for the Council. Our current mission has us traveling to Melvaunt, presently, to take care of some business for a faculty member of the public Training Hall. The aforementioned artworks are some statuary, and an old chariot, that we obtained from what we presume to be a dragon’s hoard found in a tower north of the old city last night. I don’t think any of it is of dwarven make, but I am by no means an expert on the subject. As to what is going on…we, especially Miss Lyra here, have some issue with the orcs in town, especially those serving the god Xvim, and, seeing them nearing your position with clearly hostile intent, decided to step in and help. If you are going to Melvaunt, you are welcome to join us…” he looks at the goblin, and says, a bit more quietly, “we’re not exactly picky about traveling companions.”

Bo
“Pleased to meet you, Donovan Leitch. I would be happy to join your band of travelling merchants explorers. In my clan, I specialize in locks and other mechanics. I am on a search for lost Dwarven artifacts in the ruins of Phlan. Did you know they used to be quite the trade with dwarves in years gone by? Early Phlan was a trading outpost on the north shore of the Moonsea, set up to facilitate trade between the Elves of Myth Drannor (the most powerful elven capital of the time) and the tribes of Thar, Vaasa, and the Ride, as well as the Dragonspine Dwarves.

“I’m not sure how interested you are in all that. The info just slips out of my mouth sometimes.”

Frantiska
Back in the wagon, Frantiska stirs and groans softly, “Your fault…” she whispers. Images of the recent battle flash through her mind, the perspective is…off, somehow. She watches, as if over her shoulder, as the beast tears at her throat, but does not feel it, watches the wagon bearing down on her. Watches her body rolling and bouncing under the wheels. “It’s your fault…” she whispers again. Her cloak, somehow undamaged by the trampling, rustles, as if stirred by a breeze. “You made us go hunting…made us leave the others…” She moans, louder this time. An eyelid flutters. “Too rash…not right…you should find someone else…” An arm moves weekly, creeping towards her throat, fumbles with the clasp of her cloak, then stops. “You could have…saved me? Why didn’t you?” Her hand begins tugging at the clasp again, but is too weak to make any real progress. “I can tell you’re hungry…I’m no good for you like this…” She coughs. “Leave me alone…” Her eyelid flutters again, then she falls back into deep unconsciousness. As her arm slumps back down to her side, the clasp of her cloak comes undone.

Winona
Ryesha hears Frantiska stirring and waves excitedly to the other two members of her order from the back of the wagon, “Sister! Brother! Come, I think the elf-lady is waking up.” The three of them kneel around her anxiously, listening to the fevered ranting.

Winona touches her gently, “Frannie? Are you awake?” When he becomes clear that she is not exactly conscious, she turns to Rant, “Rant, what happened to her? Is there anything to be done?” As Rant explains, she looks back at the elven knight in horror. Ryesha begins crying.

“All that? The poor dear! It’s a wonder she’s alive,” Winona remarks. Rant goes on to explain about the goblin, the rub-down with butter, and the miraculous healing.

As he finishes the telling, Teldicia pokes her head in from where she’d been sitting, dozing on driver’s bench. “Everything okay back here?”

“Rant was just explaining everything that happened to you dears the last couple days…” Winona looks back at Frantiska’s body as she finally stops moaning and lapses back into unconsciousness. She fusses with the elf woman for a bit, trying to arrange the open cloak, the ragged remains of an ill-fitting dress, and the piles of junk in the wagon to make her more comfortable. “Bunny, these girls really need your help…” she says, waving a hand at the dresses Frantiska and Teldicia are wearing, or barely wearing as the case may be.

Rye, meanwhile, sits looking very closely at the heavy, black cloak that has just fallen from Frantiska’s shoulders. “What’s this?” she asks, gently pulling the edge out from under the unconscious woman as Winona tries to situate her. “What beautiful fabric…” she says softly and appreciatively, then gasps loudly as the cloak shrinks down to halfling size and lovely, black on black, rabbit-motif embroidery appears around the hem.

Hrud
Hrud glances around the room where the dwarf had intended to rest, looking for anything of interest that might have been missed. Then, following the others back to the wagon, he seems lost in thought, hefting the hammer in his large hands. Upon reaching the wagon, he asks Rant, «At your temple – do they teach the way of the hammer and the mace?»

GM
Rant sighs resignedly as Frantiska lapses back into catatonia and climbs out of the wagon. “Ya,” he says in response to Hrud’s question, “candhi bisa mulang sampeyan. Sampeyan uga bisa sinau ing sekolah. Aku uga aku bisa kanggo mulang sampeyan.” The last he says hefting his own heavy mace onto his shoulder.

Hrud
“Aku seneng apa sing arang-arang.” Hrud says, returning to the driver’s bench.

Lyra
Lyra carefully unstrings the bow and sits in the back of the wagon near Rant. “Four Xvimlar in matching tunics with black leather hands around their necks. Neophytes from the temple?”

GM
Rant nods, “Sounds right. We don’t have a whole lot of contact with the followers of Xvim, as you might imagine.”

Lyra
Lyra settles in to try to meditate, but only manages to nod off, before waking up with a start a few minutes later. “’s not … my crossbow…. Huh?”

Donovan/Winona
Donovan climbs into the back of the wagon, “Well, welcome aboard then Mr. Bo. We’re a little crowded in here right now,” he waves a hand at the unconscious elf, the crates, the statues, and the huge bronze chariot, “but if you know how to ride, you’ve got your pick of mounts.” He shifts some things around and sits with his legs dangling off the back, then offers Bo a hand up. “I’m glad to have someone else with an interest in history along. Here,” he says, handing Bo a block of cheese, “we already bought these from the goblin, they’re quite good.” He tries to make himself comfortable and then begins quizzing Bo on all he knows about Dwarven architecture and the old Griff-clan trade routes to pass the time.

Winona walks around the back, unties Thistledown, and climbs up on the warhorse. “Melvaunt Ho!” she yells, pointing up the road.

Rye settles down beside Frantiska, examining the cloak and running her hands over the fabric. “You want me to do what?” she whispers, her voice barely audible and seemingly directed at the cloak itself.

GM
A mile or two outside of town, the road begins to drift southward, away from the woods. Soon the road again bears directly eastward, running through open land near to the coast, with the waves of the Moonsea visible to your right and the woods growing more distant to your left. You pass a few peddlers and one mismatched band of armed men, most likely other adventurers, on their way to Phlan, and a couple of farmsteads, all with tall palisades and farmers who wave at your warily. Otherwise, the wagon bounces along undisturbed for hours as the sun moves in its courses above you.

As the shadows begin to lengthen towards evening, the ground grows wetter. The road is still raised and packed, but the land around you is spotted with numerous small, stagnant pools, and covered with clumps of sedge, milkweed, reedgrass, and sea oats. Runoff has dug small muddy trenches on either side of the road. The last farm you saw is at least an hour behind you. Clouds of midges and mosquitoes begin to swarm around your horses and oxen, occasionally scattering ahead of a darting hawker dragonfly or at the swipe of a tail. Stands of cedar, blackgum, and cottonwoods become more common as you roll along, and ahead you can see the dark line of trees marking the edge of the deeper swamp.

Lyra
Lyra jolts awake suddenly, for the dozenth time. Her heart was racing, and it took several long moments before she realized where she was. She rubbed her eyes with the heels of her hands, and then stared at the little crescent indentations where her nails had bitten into her palms. Just a bad dream. They probably think me even more of a child than they did already.

She looked around, switching between her human and elven vision, wondering if they would be able to find a spot to camp for the evening that was dry, let alone safe. She was getting hungry and hoping they’d be able to stop soon. She concentrated, trying to get a sense for how far they’d already gone. “How much further before we stop for the day?”

Hrud
«Should we camp outside the swamp and head in tomorrow?»

Bo
“Aye, there’s nothing good in a swamp..unless you drain it.” Bo starts making some basic plans in his head for the kind of equipment needed to drain a swamp, considers its proximity to the Moonsea, and discards the notion.

Yamtwit
Yamtwit urges Rast up alongside the driver’s bench and yells up to Hrud, “Kita lagi wis ing menehi.” He waves at the pools, bogs, and marsh grasses, “Sangisore wit punika Samsaya Awon sanadyan. We ngirim turu kene. Kurang kewan.” He leans over and looks under the wolf, then back at the donkey, “Aku kudu susu Rast lan Bobbers.”

Hrud
Hrud nods, hoping to be spared the sight of the goblin at work until after dinner.

GM
It takes about an hour, and some rather wet boots, but you are able to find a raised and relatively dry hillock close enough to the road to be accessible by your animals and the wagon. As an added bonus, several cranberry vines, heavy with ripe fruit, can be seen growing in a bog just a little north of the hillock. The sun, by this point, is starting to sink behind the mountains to the west. The apeliotes begins to blow in off the sea, bringing a good supply of clouds and the promise of night-time rains with it (though it looks to be nothing compared to last night’s storm).

Yamtwit
Frantiska stirs a few more times during the hours of the journey, but remains unconscious.

Once a place to camp is located, Yamtwit quickly goes about unloading the donkey and getting his gear set up. He takes a short, three-legged wooden stool, a bucket with a spiggot, a half-gallon mason jar, a small cast-iron pot, and stoneware butter churn off Bobber’s back, and quickly gets to work milking. First Rast, who is starting to voice her discomfort at having been ridden half a day with swollen teets, then Bobbers. He goes about the work with practiced precision, quickly expressing the two animals into the same bucket. He sets the bucket of milk aside to rest while he “borrows” fodder for the donkey and tethers her to a nearby shrub-willow, then pulls out a large wheel of cheese which he gives to Rast. The wolf growls, “Genbèfla pito mwenta,” before settling onto the ground under the wagon to eat.

With the animals thus taken care of, Yamtwit takes the bucket and opens the spiggot, pouring the milk into the jar, leaving the cream in the bucket. He then pours the cream off into the churn and begins cranking. “Can someone start a fire?” he asks, as he cranks, “It needs heat to clarify.” He then continues cranking, chanting something under his breath as he does so.

Bo
Bo wishes to make himself useful to this group, so he helps unload the wagon and then starts the fire the goblin asks for. Surely the process the greenskin is in the midst of could be done more efficiently with some type of automated contraption, if only Bo knew more about it.

And maybe an adjustable tripod for the goblin to hang his pot from….

Lyra
Lyra looks between the goblin milking his wolf and the cheese Donovan had bought. She turnes to Donovan, whispering in elven. «"Is THAT what you bought from the cheesemonger?"»

Donovan
Donovan climbs down, grabs the tarp and some poles, and starts trying to put up a tent to keep the rain off tonight. «It’s actually pretty tasty,» he replies to Lyra, «and he was able to mend Frantiska’s shattered bones with butter, so who am I to judge what animals he chooses to milk.»

Lyra
Lyra sighs. It’ll be too wet soon to set up the archery targets and practice, nor did she relish the thought of hunting down errant arrows in the bog. At least the cranberries should go well with cheese. Or green beans. Lots and lots of green beans.

Winona
Seeing Donovan fumbling with the poles and the tarp, Winona grabs a couple coils of rope and shows him how to use tension to keep it upright. Donovan looks a bit chagrined at the display of his complete lack of wilderness survival skills, then, in order to save face, blurts out, “So who wants first watch?” He silently congratulates himself on remembering this very basic thing that Lyra had taught him only yesterday.

Sister Rye climbs out of the back of the wagon, sporting a lovely black half-cape (after it had taken some time to convince her that Frantiska really had no desire to keep it or wear it), her arms laden with cloth, needles, threads, scissors, and the other tools of her trade. She spreads a blanket out on the ground under the tarp, smooths it flat, then lays out the supplies she is carrying. She takes out a rope, marked at several points from where she had been measuring Frantiska while she slept (so much easier than wiggling, conscious people) and a piece of charcoal, and begins sketching a pattern for a dress onto the cloth.

Yamtwit
“I will have to be up for a while, so I can help on the first watch,” Yamtwit says as he finishes churning the butter. He lays a piece of cheesecloth over a bowl and squeezes the buttermilk out of the solids. He then takes the solids and puts them into the pot, which he hangs from a tripod over the fire, adjusting the chain to make sure the heat is not too high. He thanks the dwarf for getting the fire ready, then sits stirring the melted butter and chanting late into the night.

Donovan/Winona
“Alright,” Donovan says, “I need to get up early to study my spells, so I’ll double-up on the last watch with Bo.” He starts sorting through their food-stores trying to figure out what to cook.

“I’m going to be up working on this for a while,” Rye says, “so I can help watch too.”

Winona begins taking off her layers of armor, “Alright Bunny. I guess I’ll double up second watch then. Rant you can take middle watch with me and Hrud so the conversations don’t get too boring, and Telly can take last watch. That makes three on each shift, so hopefully no one gets snuck-up on.” She lays her mail pieces of mail in the back of the wagon, so they will be out of the threatened rain. “And Amara, Sweety, You look like you’ve been cooped up in the back of that wagon too long, so you can stay with Lyra, Bunny, and the goblin.” She winks, “Don’t worry, we won’t tell your uncle that you were up late…”

Lyra
About 40 minutes into first watch, Lyra suddenly stops pacing, her head tilted to the side. She shrieks and starts carefully but frantically checking her hair, boots, clothing. “We have a problem. Psionic leeches, and they seem to be all over. And they’ll explode with psionic energy if touched.” She carefully nudges Donovan and Hrud awake, since they seem to be the ones most likely to provide a satisfying meal. “Get up carefully, or they’ll explode. I think if I teleport a short distance, a couple yards maybe, we can get them off safely.”

Donovan/Winona
Donovan groans, rolls over, then sits up. “I know Lyrathwen,” he says lackadaisically, “I forsaw these events ages ago, but such minor pests cannot possibly bother us.” He yawns and stretches, “Now, if you will please excuse me, my vastly superior intellect needs it’s rest.” He lays back down, rolls over, and goes back to sleep.

Sister Rye looks up from her sewing. “Exploding leeches?! Ewwwwwwww!” She stands up and begins shaking out her clothes—both the ones she is wearing and the one’s she is making.

Winona continues to sleep peacefully.

Hrud
Hrud, comes to his feet groggily, wielding his sword at …. nothing apparently. He sees the panicky young woman, hears her incoherent words, then notices the leeches. It takes a moment, but the barbarian finally realizes that if leeches are on Lyra, then they’re probably on him as well. Looking down, he finds that he, too, is being made a meal of. Dropping his sword, he begins to reach for them …

Lyra
Lyra grabs Hrud in one hand and Donovan in the other, and concentrates on moving them, but not the leeches, two yards away.

GM
As Lyra teleports Hrud and Donovan away, there is a small shower of leeches onto the ground near where the two of them were sleeping. They burst as they strike the ground, with a small, harsh sound, reminiscent of a nail striking slate, and a splatter of indigo-coloured ichor.

Donovan
Donovan is jolted awake again by the teleportation, “What what! Lyrathwen! How dare you touch my esteemed presence without proper authorization!” He stands up spluttering, “I am not some common curr to be petted and carried about by a mere child. No one shall displace my magnificence in space or time without my express permission! Do you understand GIRL!”

Donovan harrumphs and stalks back to the fire, his hair becoming matted by the rain. He kicks the sleeping Teldicia, a little to hard, and stands there, hands on his hips, until she awakens. “Girl! Rise and serve!” He glares down at the green-haired tiefling. “I command you to collect these vermin, by which I mean the leeches, not your worthless companions, so that my superior intellect may study them at leisure…”

Yamtwit
Yamtwit sits stirring the melting butter, paying little attention to things further away than his pot. He skims off the foam that forms on the top, collecting this in a small bowl (good over biscuits for breakfast), then continues stirring and chanting. When Lyra suddenly freaks out about leeches, he stumbles over a word and shoots her a glare as if to simultaneously say, You almost ruined my spell and I can’t stop to search myself.

He tries hard to ignore the people jumping and shouting and stripping and continue his important work of making butter. He continues stirring and chanting, carefully reaches his free hand into his pack and pulls out a small pouch of salt which he holds up for anyone who might want to use it to de-leech themselves.

Lyra
Lyra is on the verge of tears between the goblin glaring at her and Donovan yelling at everyone. She delicately lifts her skirts and carefully steps back over to where Rant is sleeping, bending over and gently placing a hand on his shoulder to nudge him awake. “Could … could you please tell Hrud not to touch the leeches, or they will explode?”

GM
Teldicia is awakened by Donovan’s kick, rolling away from the blow and springing to her feat. “What the FUCK Donovan?!” Hearing stammered explanations from several quarters, her brow furrows and a small handful of leeches detach themselves from her flesh and fly through the air, just missing Donovan’s face, and burst on the ground behind him. She quickly looks around the rest of the group, growls, “افتضاح. شما می خواهم فکر می کنم که زالو اش بازمی گرداند که ذهن را بیشتر قابل تشخیص است,” and then numerous leeches begin pulling off of everyone’s skin and flying out of people’s clothing to land in a large heap beside Donovan. “House that for rising?!” she says as a rock lifts up from the ground then smashes down several times onto the pile of leeches. She storms over to the wagon, “If you will excuse me, that headache is coming back…” She looks angrily at both Donovan and Hrud one last time, climbs into the back of the wagon, and is soon fast asleep again.

Bo
Bo awakens groggily at the shriek, hears something about leeches, and falls instantly back into a deep sleep.

Donovan
Donovan stands there for close to a minute, mouth hanging open in complete astonishment, before finally bellowing, “GIRL! COME BACK HERE! HOW DARE YOU DEFY MY EMINENCE, SLAVE! I command you to put those leeches back together this instant!” He stomps over to the wagon and begins banging on the side, “And how dare you leave my esteemed presence without permission! And how dare you make me soil my magnificent hands by banging on this wagon to get your attention! When we get back to the palace I will have you flogged, GIRL! … FLOGGED!”

When it becomes clear the Teldicia is ignoring him, he spins and begins shouting at Lyra, “Lyrathwen! How dare you cry in our superlative presence! Your mother, the queen, would be utterly appalled to know that you were crying! Wipe that snot from your face and go back to bed! AND THE REST OF YOU! BACK TO WORK!”

Lyra

Yelling at Lyra for crying just makes her cry more.