The Chronicles of Etinerra

Destination Unknown V: The Return of the Froggers
Balto's Journal

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!”

Destination Unknown VI: Wyrmslayer
Balto's Journal

I produced the receipt showing the amount of gold we’d spent for the soup and jerky, so Mosby paid up. The frog farmers were glad to have their loss recompensed and they went their way and we went ours after a pleasant shared breakfast. Our road took us west along the road, paralleling the river as it ran across the grasslands my folk once travelled in their hordes. We took our lunch in a pleasant grove of trees, one of many that dotted the plains as the woods to the north faded out.

Midafternoon, the sharper-eared of us heard an eagle’s cry, and we made our way north toward the sound. Nann and Talvi scouted ahead, the rest of us cautiously following. Halfway to the woods, Nann hobbled her horse and went ahead on foot. As we came up, we also dismounted and hobbled our horses.

Nann and Talvi came back to tell us that several bandits had a hippogriff caged and were trying to move that cage to a cart. Anguished cries from the hippogriff (answered by an unnerving low bass rumble) convinced us to charge in and free the noble beast – Wikton and I were particularly keen to do this, but everyone agreed. Tasso and Luna stayed back with the horses (and Hollin) as the rest of us made our move.

Nann and Beth drew first blood, but Beth was hit herself. I went to her side to aid her as Boraen jumped at the bandits. Talvi ran to join him. Pyrea put a stop to the battle when she cast sleep on all the surviving bandits. Wikton began battering at the lock; Boraen tried to bend the bars of the cage to free the hippogriff. I helped Beth to her feet.

But then, clambering over the slope came a great green scaled beast. This was a fearsome beast, easily 50 feet long if it were an inch! Boaraen and the wyrm charged at each other, and the wyrm belched out a sickening green gas cloud. Boraen went down, and Grel and Wikton – who’d just smashed off the cage’s lock- reeled, retching. I cast faerie fire on the beast and prepared to charge in with my cudgel.And Fergus coolly stepped forward and shot an arrow into the wyrm’s craw, and straight through to its brain. The beast convulsed and rolled and perished. Boraen was too hurt to skin it.

This was an older wyrm, clearly, from its size, and the choking gas it blew out at its enemies over time weakened the bone structure around its nasal gas chamber. A well-placed arrow or spear could pierce the roof of the mouth and push through the cavity to paralyze or kill. Fergus’ arrow had hit perfectly. Even the hippogriff flew back to honor Fergus, wyrmslayer, before launching off with a screech to meet her mate.

As Wikton and Grel and Boraen got their strength back (with the help of some potent potables), Tasso, Luna and I took the arms, armor, outerwear, and scant treasure of the magically sleeping guards. Pyrea indicated they’d sleep until awakened, so Josef and Willie carefully carried them into the cage and locked them in. Josef, Willie, Luna, Tasso, and Hollin began to set up camp for the night.

And then it was time to investigate the lair. We found several gems, an ivory scroll case, a leather scroll case, a small gurgling flask, a headband, a gold seal, a primitive gold idol, a chain, and a chalice, as well as a great hoard of gold and silver. Perhaps a third of the gold pieces were from many centuries past, and it took us more than two hours to get the treasure out of the lair and up the narrow, stinking passage to the camp above.

Grel opened the leather scroll case to find a map, showing Southbridge and a set of ruins to the northeast. These ruins, a note said, contained the fabled Black Giant’s Eye. Wikton suggested that the idol may be bestial-made, possibly of an evil god. Pyrea looked at the scroll in the ivory case and determined it was a spell of confusion, which she kept. The potion, though, she could not identify, other than to say it was an oil. Beth sipped from it and then nearly bit her tongue off, which allowed us to realize this was an oil of sharpening, and Fergus asked to have it as his prize.

As we were settled for the evening, over dinner we discussed the further division of our spoils. A full share of the wealth was 75 gold pieces, 128 silver pieces, and 8 royals. Tasso and Luna were not in line for shares, but I gave each 25 gold pieces. We divided the jewelry – headband to Boraen, idol to Wikton, chalice to Beth, the seal to Grel, and the chain to me, and each of us took a gem. I got a huge topaz.

The next day dawned bright and warm, though the bandits still slept in their smallclothes in the cage. We decided to camp a few days, though Hollin fretted, to heal up our wounded. Pyrea put Boraen to sleep so we could treat him without interference from his dark side. Grel was able to bring him some comfort. I tended to Wikton, laying my hands on him twice to bring him the healing powers of the land.

The 19th day of autumn, as I returned from my solitary meditation, Nann pointed out to me a great winged black panther. It seemed to smell the skin of its kind, and was growling. I offered it dried sausage but was rebuffed with a snarl. I summoned the power to talk with animals, and asked it to explain. Old, long-dead, smoky meat – it would only eat that if it was half dead from hunger. Which it was not, so it would hunt its own fresh kill.

The panther demanded to know why we had the skin of one of its kind, why would we take the pelt? I explained that we had no fur – to stay warm or keep off the sun or fend off insects, we needed to make clothes. It lost interest and turned to go, as it was summoned – but I forestalled it. “Why,” I asked, “do your kind answer the summoner?” It looked at me queerly and said, “She calls, and I respond,” and It flew off to the northwest. I picked up the sausage, dusted it off, and enjoyed the snack

Wikton, Grel, and I together worked to heal Boraen. I think my ministrations made the difference, and the next day I tended his wounds again. On the 21st day of autumn, we woke Boraen and broke camp.

Grel's report

Jorann, I have much to tell you! This adventure is proving to be quite a learning experience. After the big battle with the were beast, it seems that Boraen was cursed with some strange anger issues. It is difficult to explain, but his reactions are stranger than ever. I tried to cure disease on him, which is how I know that it is a curse and not a disease. The reaction when I tried to cure him is of importance here as I myself was almost overcome by a divine force which seemed somehow familiar. When I had some time later, I prayed to Tangadorin for guidance. He revealed to me that this was a curse by a follower of the Dark God Mal???. He was an enemy of Tangadorin, and he warned me that if he learned of my existence, he would certainly destroy me.

We heard strange noises which turned out to be the cries of a caged Hippogriff. We fought the bandits who appeared about to do it harm, and freed it from the cage. Just then, a huge Wyrm crawled over the ridge and attacked us. It was a mighty battle, and Fergus gave it a mighty strike which killed the beast. Even the Hippogriff bowed to him before it flew off.

After we continued on our way, we met a group of men which escorted us to a camp. We were enjoying our rest when a group of froggers came to the leader and accused us of stealing their gold. Their leader asked us to answer these charges, whereupon we all claimed innocence. Their leader told us he would sleep on it and pass judgement in the morning.

Soon after a blind woman came stumbling into camp. She had been blinded and her ma had been taken. I summoned the power of Tangadorin to release her from this affliction. The guards and camp followers were greatly impressed with the power of Tangadorin, and the woman was overcome with emotion. I spent the remainder of the night telling her and anyone else who was interested about the glory and power of Tangadorin.

The camp leader was so impressed that he released us and gave Pyria a token to show that she had sworn that she was no enemy of the Southron Duchy.

We determined that the woman’s home was in the direction we were travelling and decided to accompany her home.