I could no longer hear the sounds of battle. Still webbed in among these odd birds, I resigned myself to the idea that Beth would loot the corpses. Only the Death Dealer seemed likely to have any treasure, at any rate. Luna and Tasso quickly dispatched the creatures in the web with me, then set to cutting me out.
Boraen was fairly torn up, but he was more concerned about his wolf. Talvi had mostly shaken off the poison from the blade, with some help from Nann and an antidote Boraen supplied.
Grel walked over and tried to cast remove curse on Boraen, who briefly looked enraged. Boraen told us there were two Boraens fighting in him, now, the result of the werewolf’s dying curse, and warned us to be wary casting healing spells upon him. As Boraen went to skin the winged panther, Grel confided to us that he had felt a dark force within Boraen.
I looked at the werewolf’s body as we stripped him of his arms, armor, clothes, and treasure. This man looked very like the ones Boraen had killed as they lay in magical sleep – and Nann recognized his tattoos and weapons as tribal-made. A symbol was carved into his chest, but wounds and bruises obscured its meaning.
On the road from the east then came a company of soldiers. We quickly slipped into our travelling alter-egos – Lady Arrington with her best friend Beth, me as her father’s trusted advisor Grigo, bodyguards and friends and fellow travelers. Grel was annoyed with the subterfuge, but he kept quiet as the force drew up ahead of us.
Their captain hailed us. We answered with our cover story, and Boraen spoke up to say we had been fighting wildmen and their pets. The captain came forward to see the bodies, and she recognized the creatures as from the mountains (save the birds – those she’d never seen) but shecould not explain why wildmen would be attacking us on the road, unless they were bandits.
Pyrea/Lady Arrington caught the leader’s eye, and the captain declared we must all go to see Lord Mosby, her liege. We’d run afoul of a new regulation – all elves needed a badge to prove their provenance. Apparently, elves had recently attacked the Southron Duchy! And while we’d come from the opposite direction as the attack, no one knew who those elves were or why they’d struck. Boraen was in such a weak state, though, that the troop elected to camp with us a few days as he regained strength.
And so we settled in, recuperating from the battle. I called up nature’s balm and soothed the injuries of my comrades. Boraen brooded as he recovered, cast aside his hammer and began to hone again his broadsword. We stayed in character the whole time and a couple of Mosby’s men came to be good friends of Fergus, Willie, and Josef. It had been many years since my people had come through here, so Tasso, Luna, and I were made much of, as well.
On the 16th day of Autumn, we pulled up stakes and proceeded east. Midday, we came to a small camp of perhaps three dozen soldiers, and a couple of more permanent structures going up. We dismounted and left our horses to be corralled and cared for, and Pyrea and Wikton walked with the captain to Lord Mosby’s tent.
Boraen asked about and found a spot on the camps outskirts to set up camp. Asking, too, about local legends of lycanthropy, he was referred to a priest – or possibly Lord Mosby. Pyrea, just out from her interview and in receipt of a wooden badge, went back to Mosby’s tent and learned that charms or potions could be used to invoke such a transformation. Wildmen, the Southron Duchy’s bulwark against the orcs, used tattoos and scars in rituals, some dating back to the time of the Dark Ones – and perhaps the scars on the Wildman we’d killed were some such symbol. Pyrea was told to seek the Wildmen leader Bearman for more information.
I asked Lord Mosby’s guards about security, acting concerned for the safety of Lady Arrington and of our horses and goods. I learned their patrol routes and schedules, some details about local hamlets, where to beware bandits. Wikton, meanwhile, helped out at the forge, but he made no converts.
Early evening, striding towards Mosby’s tent, came a couple of the froggers. Mosby emerged to talk with them, and then came to our cookfire with two guards. The frog farmers accused us of starting a brawl and, worse, of stealing all the camp’s money! Beth admitted she could not hold her liquor and apologized, but swore we did not steal the coins. Pyrea as Lady Arrington acted offended by the accusations; still Mosby persevered and asked each of us in turn about the accusation of theft.
I was the last to be questioned. I denied guilt and cast aspersions both on the bookkeeping and the security at the frogger camp. I pointed out that everyone had been watching the fight, if not trying to break it up. I asked why we littlelings were always the first suspects – there’d been other travelers, that night, too, but wasn’t it convenient to have the three of us to blame? A good bluff can pass for innocence, I thought, and really the evidence was purely circumstantial – I’d made sure of that!
Mosby sighed and said he would render a decision in the morning, and left the two guards to make sure we didn’t leave. We ate dinner and sat around the fire, as I tried to figure out a way to further cover my trail.
Early in the first watch, before I’d even fallen asleep, Fergus and Josef spied a young woman, clothes in tatters and apparently blind, stumbling along the road from the east. Fergus, Talvi, and one of our guards went out to meet her; Josef and the other guard woke the camp.
The woman – Hollin her name – sobbed out that she just wanted to go home, back to Kenneburton – a village some 5 days west. The last thing Hollin had seen was a beautiful dryad who had stolen her husband, Jacques. As she came into the camp and settled by our fire, Grel came up and offered to cure her blindness. The cure worked, and Hollin stuck close to Grel as she settled in for the night.
Early the next morning, I asked if I could leave the camp to meditate in nature. I was allowed, but warned to stay in plain sight. So much for my thought of burying the evidence – not a great plan, anyhow, as I’d have had to go back before we left to retrieve it. So I meditated by the woods, Wikton by the forge, and Grel prayed near our cookfire and wandered through the camp talking of Tangadorin (to no avail).
Mosby walked over to give his decision. We were clearly good folk, he said, as shown by our care for Hollin. Mosby would repay the frog farmers, if they could give a proper accounting of their loss, and we were free to go.
As Luna and Tasso prepared breakfast, Grel said Tangadorin had told him that another deity, Malachai, had cursed Boraen – and a level 5 cleric would be needed to lift the curse. Wikton told us of his meditation, in which he saw a cage and heard an eagle screech – and his god hates cages, so perhaps it was a sign to release captives. He also told us his offer to bless the forge was rebuffed. Fergus mused about the feathers we had seen, pulled his out to show some of the guards, who were astonished how long it was. One guard remembered stories of hippogriffs, with feathers this large, mating in the forest before flying back to the mountains, and shared a bit of folk wisdom– “if you hear the call of eagles, marriage is in the cards!”