Deeds and Danger

Death's Door

"There's gold in them hills"; Fraternal guards, the benefits of careers in adventuring; Faeries, Fae, and shiny curios; Depressed ursines and geodesic homes; Bandits worth more than expected

Gozran 1
Day 35

My weary companions are settling into Oleg’s as if it was a second home. They grow accustomed to it’s creaky doors and damp earth, the hot stew and the footsteps of Kesten on the ramparts. They grow comfortable .

I grow restless. The wilds loom about us, and with every day like brambles and weeds they encroach upon the north. Soon this post will be no more than a figment of a memory. That is the way of these lands. But perhaps…

15 days ago Sir Francis grew restless as well. Not for the trail, not for the need to keep your feet moving underneath you. It is better that his hunger for glory and his passion for a dream drive him. He knows time should not be wasted. So with the others staying behind, I set out with him to the west.

We were joined by the brothers Soupson, guardsmen of simple birth from Kesten’s crew, thirsty for a taste of adventure, yet ignorant of the nature of the wilds. They will not be remembered, save by us…

We rode west, out into the rolling plains that are not crossed by the folk of Rostland. The days were dusty and uneventful, the nights cold and bleak. We kept a steady pace. We covered over 30 miles before circling back down to the south.

We entered the forest’s edge on the fifth day. In a quiet glade we came across an array of bear traps, haphazardly placed. After more investigation we discovered a body, crudely hidden under a pile of leaves. The flesh of the man had been torn appart by the claws of some huge beast, until he was nigh unrecognizable as a human. I spotted the tracks of a group of large creatures heading south.

Trolls. At least four.

I was hard pressed to convince Sir Francis not to make chase. Taking on a single Troll would be a true and worthy test, but four would be suicide. We would not even be footnote in history. I convinced him our time could be used better. Our plan had always been to circle back to the cave we had found. The cave with the veins of gold streaking the walls. Surely that was more important right now. Let us make haste to the cave and return to Oleg’s, then, better prepared and with more men, we could go following the tracks of Trolls…

We disarmed and collected some of the bear traps for good measure, they could provide camp defenses or be sold off. We headed out to the southeast, away from the tracks.

After 20 miles we started detecting odd occurrences. My boot laces had mysteriously disappeared, Sir Francis’ saddle bags were suddenly full of rocks, and the Soupson brothers’ swords had been switched. This region has a history of deep connection with the Faelands, and I sensed Fae trickster magic afoot.

There are stories heard from the mouths of grans to children in their beds at night, of the old rituals and superstitions to keep the Fae creatures at bay, and indeed these customs are still kept in the frontier villages of Rostland. An offering of coin, a shiny bauble. A bribe to the Fae to keep them away.

I asked Sir Francis and the others if we had any trinkets or gold to make an offering to the invisible creatures harassing us. After several calls for the creatures to reveal themselves, and after increasing our offering of gold and shiny glass marbles several times, we were greeted by two strange and beautiful creatures.

One, with the face and torso of an elven woman atop the body and legs of a huge cricket, introduced herself as Tyg-Titter-Tut. The other, Pervilash, was a flying serpent with the wings of a butterfly. Otherworldly though they were, they could speak with us, and told of of their troubles as of late with a bandit camp to the south west. As they spoke of a camp of roughly 15-16 men, led by an axe-wielding woman, clearing trees and building a fortress for themselves not too far from the Fae creatures’ glade, I knew we had found our quarry from weeks past.

After convincing the creatures that we had been sent south to explore these lands and root out banditry, they became friendly towards us and helped us with information about the surrounding lands. To the southwest lied the bandit camp, to the southeast a ‘sad bear’ made his home watching over an ancient ruin. Sir Francis made note of that, as it seemed eerily similar to the dream vision described by Jhod Kavken at Oleg’s post. Further southeast lay a great hot spring. To the northwest lay the body of a trapper the creatures had been forced to slay, though they were not forthcoming with the details.

We thanked them for their help and vowed we would return after the bandits were dealt with, but the creatures had another task in mind for us. Weary from days of boredom in the forest, they had hoped we would sing for them. I am certainly not an entertainer, but Sir Francis seems to always be up for a challenge. He asked for someone to call out a song, and the brothers suggested ‘My Gran was a Naughty Kobold’. Now normally this would not be a tune for polite company, but I’m inclined to think in retrospect it was the perfect entertainment for a duo of Fae. Sir Francis began with the verse, and before long we were all adding in a little something…

Sir Francis’ Verse:
Oh back when I was just a wee little lad
I’d sit on my old granny’s chair,
She’d tell me her stories of good and of bad
and she started to scream in my ear,
It was a terrible year…
because the kobolds attacked that very same night!

Chorus:
My Gran, My Gran, was a naughty Kobold
Though you might not tell just from lookin’
My Gran, My Gran, was a naughty Kobold
When all her suitors came CALLLLLLLIIIINNNN’

Soupson Brothers’ Verse:
My Granny would oft sit me down on her lap
To tell me of acts most deprav-ED,
Like when a young kobold did show her his ‘tail’
for that was the part she most savor-ED,
And down in the bushes it swished and it swacked
and none but her buttocks was sav-ED…

Chorus:
My Gran, My Gran, was a naughty Kobold
Though you might not tell just from lookin’
My Gran, My Gran, was a naughty Kobold
When all her suitors came CALLLLLLLIIIINNNN’

Well, needless to say, the creatures were positively delighted. They bid us return whenever we wished, but requested that next time we bring wine. Apparently they like wine very much, and I’m led to wonder where a night of drinking with the Fae might lead you…

We bid our farewells and made due southeast. We did not want to tussle with the bandits just yet, as we were not at full force, and figured if they were clearing land they must be hunkering down in one position, meaning we should easily be able to find them on our next outing. Instead we cut back across through lands we’d explored to make our way south to the cave we’d found weeks past.

When we arrived things were in much the state we’d left them. We had a pick and a sledge, but none of our party had any mining experience. It was all we could do to extract a medium sized vein of 80% rock and 20% gold. It would be useful at least in convincing Oleg to keep his eyes and ears open for any miners who might stumble through the post.

With our rations running low, we headed back north, arriving at Oleg’s after 12 days on the road. We found our companions still milling about, looking fatter from moon radish stew. Trastor had already begun imposing himself as mock emperor. For a man with such lofty ambitions I only wonder why he is content to only proclaim himself lord of Kobolds. Apparently he had requested a name change of the post to ’Trastor’s Landing’ and had requested the guards wear dragon emblems on their clothing. It is a wonder to me to see one so powerless, such as we all are, to have such delusions of grandeur. But is he just a sheep in wolf’s clothing, or is he really the wolf? Maybe, in the end, he will prove to be right…

Oleg said we could fetch a pretty penny for the bear traps. 400gp for the set and he could sell to the local trappers so we wouldn’t have to wait for a caravan to Rostland. As for the gold vein we recovered he could make much more of it than a mantlepiece decoration, but perhaps it would catch the eye of a potential prospector. Sir Francis seems set on developing a professional mining operation out of our find, and I don’t have the heart to tell him how these lands treat those who tarry too long in the wilds…

After a night of rest our party is still not ready to resume or explorations as a whole. Sal’s leg is still healing, and Antwer seems to have gained duties around the post, acting as amateur carpenter, healer, and assistant cook. This is better for him. He won’t last long in the wilds. I only hope that his position here becomes too important, and he is forced to stay and abandon this dangerous quest. For his sake…

But Francis and I are restless again. We could make one more range out to the further western plains before our band is ready to set out again, and we could cover more ground alone in less time. The Soupson brothers again are eager to join us. They have not yet tasted battle. If only we had known. If only we had been patient. They might have survived…

We set out west that morning – again across the bleak and desolate plains. I stayed 200 yards ahead to spot any approaching danger. Again we found nothing for many miles. We eventually past the point we had gone before, traveling over 30 miles out.

Then I smelled something on the air.

We had entered a small copse surrounded by scattered trees and brambles. The air was still, silent, heavy and dark. Leaves rustled slowly, tall grasses swayed. My arm shot up to halt Sir Francis and the others.

Gleaming yellow eyes peered from the undergrowth ahead.

And in an instant two hulking trolls had burst forth and were rushing at us full speed. Standing over twelve feet tall, behemoths with skin a shiny green and foot-long claws protruding from their fingers and toes. The Soupson brothers may have both simultaneously shit themselves.

An arrow was already flying from my bow as I tracked backwards to Francis’s position. But as the shaft struck deep into the Troll’s shoulder the wound seemed to instantly heal around it. You cannot fight trolls with conventional weapons.

You need fire.

I looked back to Sir Francis’s horse, the saddle bags containing the flasks of alchemists fire we had found in the tree beast’s stash.

I shouted ‘FIRE!’

Sir Francis shouted ‘CHARGE!’

But before he could even ready his lance the trolls were upon the brothers Soupson. With one terrible bite of it gaping maw a troll ripped the man’s head and left arm from his body. The other brother was luckier, with the second trolls razor teeth only gouging his shoulder. He remained on his feet with the look of a man who is no longer human, blind with rage and fear and grief.

And Sir Francis did charge, with his lance held low, but the Troll merely leaned out of his strike. Ten feet away, Sir Francis looked disappointed, unaware of his looming death from five foot-long claws.

But it could not be his time now. I could not let it. I lurched for the saddlebags and grabbed at the first bottle I could find. Lunging forward I threw an over hand strike at the ground between the two trolls…

And then everything burst into flame.

The trolls began writhing in agony. Flames rippled across their bodies and charred their flesh. Somehow Francis and I had evaded the blast. With the trolls flinging themselves to the ground and writhing madly trying to extinguish the flames, the remaining Soupson brother, his mind lost, began to furiously swing at the prone trolls. Poor fool, he was soon bathed in fire himself…

But we had created an opportunity. My bow was ten paces behind me, so I drew the sword off my back as Sir Francis circled right to charge the helpless beasts. His lance gouged open a Troll’s leg and he rushed past, the wound no longer stitching itself back together as the flames continued to roar. I approached the flailing trolls, careful to avoid their wild claws raking through the air, and began hacking down at any opening I could. As I hit an arm it felt as if I were splitting a log.

And again Francis rode his lance through the troll’s stomach, and this one now ceased to writhe madly, the flames still feeding on his corpse. We moved our concentration to the second Troll, and as we did saw that the flames on his back were beginning to subside. As quick as whip, ten claws were lashing out at Sir Francis’ noble steed.

Nothing I know save a horse could have survived such an attack, and at least Francis’ left leg was spared, but not the horse’s. It went down hard with muffled cry and a thud, blood pouring from it’s torn legs. My attacks lacked all finesse at this point, but it made no difference. The blows of my Greatsword left 6-inch deep lashes across the creature’s back until it looked like a butcher’s board.

But the beast would not die.

FIRE!’ I shouted.

And this time Sir Francis heard.

Reaching into the saddlebag one last time for our final flask of alchemist’s fire, Francis hurled the bottle over his head.

Now, I would never call Sir Francis sure handed, except with a lance of course. I’d seen him drop everything from maps to swords to spoons. But something was watching us that day, something needed us to survive. And dare I even think, that Erastil himself guided Sir Francis’ hand?

The beast burst into flame once more and ceased its attack. And in that split instant, in a flurry of motion, Francis grabbed his sword from where it lay on the ground next to his dying steed, and in one great arc of terrible force brought the blade over his head and down onto the neck of the struggling troll.

There was a fountain of blood as the trolls headed rolled through the grass to lay at my feet. I looked up to see Sir Francis, breathing heavily, near unrecognizable under the fresh coat of blood across his face and armor.

Now he has seen what the wilds truly are.

Dropping his sword he ran to his horse’s side. He began visibly sobbing. I quickly rushed over and handed him the blue potion I wore at my side. Feeding it to his noble steed the grievous wounds in the horses legs began to mend, until miraculously the beast was able to stand. Sir Francis ordered the trolls heads cut off as trophies to be brought back to Oleg’s, and I certainly obliged. I scouted the nearby area as Sir Francis tended to his horse and found what appeared to be a small stash the Trolls had been hoarding. There was a beautiful steel shield, an expertly crafted javelin, and a fine repeating crossbow of exquisite foreign make. I wondered what poor soul had brought these out into the wilds thinking they would protect him.

Returning to Francis, I was astonished to see that second Soupson brother’s body was still moving. He was breathing. With hideous wounds and badly burned, he was managing to cling to life. There was nothing we could do for him there. We had to get him back to Oleg’s.

Racing to get his body tied to the horse we took off at full speed. The sun was beginning to set as we covered the vast distance of rolling plains at a record clip. But what little had healed of the brother’s wounds were beginning to open up again… only five more miles….

In the end he died on the hill overlooking the post, only 200 yards away from Antwer and the divine magic that might have saved him.

We returned weary, covered in sweat and blood, and carrying the body of our fallen guardsmen. Perhaps better this way, than to live having seen his brother be torn apart in front of him, always feeling the guilt of not being able to save someone you love.

We held a burial on the field outside of Oleg’s, with a crude wooden cross serving as the only marker of a man who had once lived. How many years will it take before even that turns to dust.

But that is the way of these lands. There is no mercy in a wild beast. The trees, the earth, and the denizens that dwell here are all one being. And they care not for outsiders, and they don’t mourn the lives of men.

But, I cannot deny the extraordinary miracle that had occurred. This was not the outcome that was supposed to happen. Sir Francis and I, and bot brothers Soupson should all be dead, our bodies rotting in a forgotten copse as trolls gnawed on our flesh.

But something was at play in our great battle, some force unseen. Was it destiny? Born from our mission, from Sir Francis’ hunger for glory, from fate? Was it Fae magic? Aid from the creatures we had met, or some invisible outsider with a grudge against trolls?

Or could it truly be that the lord of mercy, watcher of the wanderers, Erastil has chosen Sir Francis for some greater purpose. That his hand was present in our victory. Is there a light of hope in this land of darkness?

I cannot know. And we must remain ever vigilant in these lands and keep our concentration on the task at hand. But I must admit, this day has changed me, and that which I ever believed was possible.

Forever.

May Erastil be merciful,
Rufus

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