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Max_Writer

Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 2nd Edition: Redcap's Rampage Session Two - Peasants Home

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Monday, October 31, 2016

(After playing the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition scenario “Redcap’s Rampage” by Christopher Perkins from Dungeon Adventures #54 Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. with Katelyn Hogan, Collin Townsend, and Ashton LeBlanc.)

Arya had left the Dragon’s Flagon Inn in Luskwald on the 8th of Fireseek, 592 CY, when Leon Chamberlyn had rushed out of the building, having sensed evil. She decided to go with him as she didn’t think the man could take care of himself. He led them west through the woods and the freezing, falling rain for almost an hour. Some three miles down the road, the forest that surrounded Luskwald ended and the road continued west through the plains, though a second road split from it, heading north. Where the road split were the ruins of a stone and wooden house that lay partially collapsed.

Both of them were very cold and miserable by then and so they spent the night in the remains of the cellar of the house where it was somewhat warmer.

* * *

It was a clear and cold on the 9th of Fireseek, 592 CY, though the rain turned snow had left an inch or so of precipitation on the ground. They were both very hungry. They noticed a signpost where the roads split they had not noticed the night before. The sign for Luskwald pointed back the way they had come and had no indication of the distance to the village. Another sign pointed up the road that followed the edge of the forest. It read “Armskirk - 10 miles.” Leon was intent on heading west, despite being terribly hungry, and Arya, feeling like the man was a little too much, decided to follow the northern road that led to Armskirk.

She reached it a few hours later, close to noon. It proved to be a small village with a temple prominent on the hill in the center of town with the rest of the buildings arranged on the lower portion of the hill. The temple had a symbol of a lightning bolt upon it and appeared to be defensible with strong outer walls and arrow slits instead of stained glass. A tall steeple had a shining brass bell atop it. The town was probably twice the size of Luskwald.

The inn was called The King’s Shield and was a quaint establishment of two stories. She found a nice little taproom and talked to the older man who was in the place, learning his name was Samuel Croaker. She asked about a dark-haired woman with green eyes who was also a sorceress. Though he knew a lot of women with black hair and a few with green eyes, he knew of no sorceresses. However, he had heard of some kind of sorceress who lived in the Flinty Hills though his story was very vague.

The innkeeper’s wife was a gentle lady who asked Arya all kind of questions as to where she was from and what her name was.

“Have you eaten anything today, honey?” she asked at one point.

Arya had not and the woman looked at her with pity and offered to get her a meal if she would help around the inn for a couple of hours. The elf, not proud and very hungry, was willing to do that and, after her work was done, they fed her and gave her some ale to fortify her. The food was good and filling.

Noting her bow and arrows, Samuel offered her five gold pieces if she could bring him some a side of fresh venison. She said she could try. When she asked about a whole buck, he offered her 10 gold coins for good meat.

She learned the temple was dedicated to Hieroneous and was also used as a garrison for some of the Duke’s men in the vicinity, the only garrison within 20 miles, according to Samuel.

She went to the temple on top of the hill and met with a priest there. He was a middle-aged gentleman with light, thinning hair, cut short, who seemed quite friendly. He wore blue robes and a long sword on his belt. She asked about her eye and the man examined it and changed the dressing on it, tending to it and using some healing herbs on the wound. He was, unfortunately, unable to heal her damaged eyeball. He noted that in some of the bigger cities there were powerful priests who could cast a spell to actually grow back her eye. He asked what god or goddess she worshipped and she noted her goddess of choice was Ehlonna.

“Huh,” he said. “There was a ranger passed through here. I think he worshipped Ehlonna. His name was Blackwood.”

“I don’t know a Blackwood,” she said.

“If you can find some priests or priestesses of Ehlonna, maybe they’ll have a quest or something for you to do if you don’t have the money,” he said. “Or if you could help them in some way, they could probably help you back.”

She thanked the man and left.

She hunted for deer near the forest on the southern road that day. She managed to track down and kill a good-sized deer and drag it back to the village. Samuel was quite pleased and sent for the butcher. The two men took the deer to a rack behind the inn, bled it into a bucket which the butcher kept, and cut and dressed the meat. He asked the girl if she wanted any giblets or organ meat and also counted out 10 gold coins, noting there was a general store in the village. She asked him to wrap up a few pounds of the venison and he was happy to oblige.

She went shopping, replacing the gear the orcs had stolen, and was given a free meal at the King’s Shield that night. While she ate, she thought she overheard that the next town down the road from Armskirk was called Warrington. She spent the night in the common room of the inn, which she actually had to herself.

* * *

On 10 Fireseek, 592, Elriya and Tarmak had their breakfast at the Dragon’s Flagon Inn in Luskwald.

Arthelion had left that morning with his garnet, claiming he was going somewhere to spend the money. The others in the group were scattered around the village. They were unsure where Noiree or Kilb were either but assumed they were somewhere close.

That morning, the two also talked to the peasants and former slaves. They made sure to get the dozen people two meals per day and a place to sleep at night but it was starting to cost them. The people were also anxious to be returned to their homes, if at all possible. All 10 adults and two children told them where they lived and they finally took the time to learn their names.

The little boy and girl, each of them no more than 13, were Robertus and Idamay. Robertus was from a village called Archmouth and Idamay was from a town called Warrington. Another was a merchant named Tybalt Rice from Womthan, the capital of the duchy. Four of them were from a village called Troutberk and claimed they had been taken by the orcs when a large band of them had attacked the village some months before. They were Betsy the Gemsmith, Petur the Fletcher, Gaufroi Rapidmantle the Leatherworker, and Libbe Aphrah, a poor housewife. They weren’t sure if Troutberk had survived the attack. Another woman, Tatty Royse, had lost her husband and told them she was from Armskirk, as was Rulf the Butcher. Aimery Smith was the smith of a village he named Calmornock and Percyvell Sharp was a beekeeper from the village of Windrip. The last of them was a tax collector from Womthan who had been traveling in the area when he’d been captured by the orcs.

Tybalt Rice noted his family would reward them if they saw him safely back to Womthan. They learned from him the road that ran through Luskwald was called the Old Border Road and it didn’t see much use as it was a secondary road populated with tiny villages near the dangerous border of Nyrond.

Everyone wanted to go home, even the Troutberk people, who were unsure if the village had survived the attack. They wanted to go home if the village was still there.

Elriya questioned them at length and though none of the villagers knew where Luskwald was in relation to their own village, most of them had heard of it. She learned Troutberk lay on a river with woods across the water from it. Archmouth was the same way though there was a large stone bridge there that crossed the river. They all knew the forest was called the Gentle Birch Forest, which they learned from Coryston was the forest Luskwald lay within. Coryston also described the forest as vast. They learned Warrington was between two forests: the Shadow Forest and Hollow Butternut Woods. The Hollow Butternut Woods was also familiar to the villagers from Calmornock.

After talking to the people in their charge, Tarmak began fiddling with the red box they’d brought from the underground temple. The red box was approximately 12 inches long, six inches wide, and four inches deep. It was made of a strange red metal and was surprisingly well-preserved. Although shaking it revealed there was something within, no seam or method of opening the box was visible. The top was monogrammed with the letters JC in Flan lettering and the underside of the box contained four dials, each of which contained six Flan runes.

He tried different combinations and, surprisingly soon, found the combination of “ANYA” caused a “click.” He turned the box and, when he lifted it by the top, the lid pivoted back. Within was a small pouch and a long, ivory wand decorated with symbols and markings of vines, leaves, and flowers with stylized urns or pots on either end. When he opened the small pouch very carefully, he found it had a small amount of dust of some kind in the bottom. He guessed there were three small pinches of the stuff.

He closed the lid of the box with the items within and turned the dials on the bottom. The seam seemed to vanish, the box shut so tightly, and it was again impossible to open. But he knew the combination.

It was around noon when Arya entered the inn, having come back from Armskirk that day. She had a backpack and gear once again and carried a small, bloodstained piece of cloth around something. She went to Coryston and asked him for something to replace the cloth with.

“What?” he said. “What’ve you got in there?”

“Meat,” she said.

She opened it up to show him the venison.

“Oh,” he said. “Why do you need a new one? It’s just going to get wrecked with the blood from …”

She shrugged and went to Tarmak and Elriya.

“Where were you?” Elriya asked. “Where’s Leon?”

“Leon went finding trouble,” Arya said. “And I’ve been in a town called Armskirk. Nice people.”

“That’s where the butcher’s from.”

“Well … butcher?”

“And one of the women. If you know where that is, we can place them back.”

“You want some food? I killed a deer.”

“How long did it take you to get from Armskirk to here?” Tarmak asked.

“It’s about 10 to 15 miles,” she said. “Half a day. Leon went on some other path. I don’t know where he is now. I’m sure he’ll be fine. He seems able. A little reckless.”

“Were there any towns over there?” Elriya said.

“I heard something about a Warrington being somewhere nearby. But that was just talk. Who knows?”

Tarmak and Elriya realized there was only one person in the group of former slaves from Warrington. Then Laird Donavan Yanek arrived at the inn. He was a portly fellow with a well-trimmed beard and mustache.

“What?” he said. “I thought you people were going to go to the ruins today.”

“Um … our party seems to be out of sorts right now,” Elriya said.

“All right. I’m not paying you until … until … until they’re cleared out.”

“What?” Arya said.

“What?” Laird Yanek said.

“Who’s cleared out?” Elriya said.

“The ruins. Until the ruins are cleared out.”

“Oh.”

“You find out what’s going on.”

He went to another table and sat down and Coryston brought him lunch.

“What’s he talking about?” Arya asked.

“Well, we can get the butcher, the wife, and maybe the two kids,” Elriya said to Tarmak.

Arya looked on, confused.

“We could just take them all with us,” Tarmak said.

They discussed returning the former slaves. Arya took some of the venison to the dwarven innkeeper and he said he’d cook it up for them if she wanted. They soon smelled bacon and then venison. Elriya suggested they see if the peasants would go to Armskirk but when Tarmak talked to them, they were afraid to travel alone. None of them had any weapons or skill with arms and they feared getting lost or attacked. They only wore makeshift cloaks and light clothing as well. Though it was probably warm enough for them to travel during the day, weather permitting, they would probably freeze to death at night. They also had no money.

Elriya finally told the confused Arya what they were doing, trying to get the former slaves back to their homes. She noted they didn’t know where any of their homes were, however, making it more complicated. Arya suggested if any of them were from Armskirk or Warrington, at least they would know the way. She asked if there was any money left over from the money Leon brought back and Elriya noted they had some gold but taking care of all the people was making it dwindle quickly.

Tarmak suggested taking them all to Armskirk and giving them a few gold coins each. Elriya suggested people there might know where the other villages were. Tarmak pointed out there was a temple there as well.

Arya remembered coming from central Nyrond, from the southwest. She remembered going up a road that went through a swamp before she reached another village with a fine stone bridge, woods on the other side of the river from the village proper. She remembered the village had been called Archmouth and she had passed through it, following the road along the river, the forest on the opposite bank, until she reached the burnt out remains of another village. There were few buildings left and the wooden walls had also been burned to the ground, leaving only a few standing here and there. She had no idea what the name of that village was but there were no people there. She had taken shelter there that night in the remains of one of the homes. She related all of that to them.

They discussed it with the villagers and, when Arya described the burnt-out town, those from Troutberk guessed it had been their home. Young Robertus recognized Archmouth from the girl’s description of the stone bridge there.

They decided to return to Armskirk with the Tatty Royse and Rulf from there. They also took Idamay, who was from Warrington.

They followed the road back to Armskirk, passing the ruined house and heading up the road to the village, following the tree line. Arya left them to hunt once again. The road soon curved away from the forest and they saw Armskirk on the lone hill on the plains. They found the King’s Shield Inn, passing a blacksmith and a weapon smith and armorer on the way. They also saw the temple of Hieroneous on the hill.

Tatty Royse and Rulf the Butcher were happy to be home. The people of Armskirk were both surprised and happy to see the two, though when they learned Tatty’s husband had died as a slave at the hands of the orcs, they were very sad. Samuel Croaker was especially happy to see Rulf as they had been friends. Many villagers came to the inn that night to see the man and Rulf told his tale of how the adventurers had rescued them from the orcs.

Tatty Royse was very quiet. She had been pretty broken by the entire ordeal.

“What are you three called?” one of the villagers asked. “What’s the name of your group?”

The three didn’t really have a name for their group.

They learned over the course of the evening that Tatty and her husband had been traveling west to the next village, a place called Windrip. When they asked about Warrington, people in the village didn’t know where that place was. Idamay was terribly sad. She wanted to go home though her parents were dead.

“I told you we should have brought all of them!” Elriya said.

“I wanted to bring all of them but we walked out with only three of them!” Tarmak said.

Arya rolled her eyes.

They had a good dinner and found the ale there was 5 copper coins for a mug, a little more expensive than in Luskwald.

Some of the other villagers helped Tatty Royse back to her house and told the adventurers they would try to help the broken woman. Rulf was actually one of two butchers in the town who worked together in the butcher shop so he expected to return to his home and work soon.

Arya asked Samuel where Warrington was but the innkeeper was unsure. He did know it was not on the road which ran to Windrip and then curved back down to the Old Border Road, the same one that ran through Luskwald. However, he pointed her out to a well dressed man in a red jacket sitting in the back smoking a pipe. The man was heavyset and had a finely clipped and combed red beard, the edges of both it and his mustache curled upward. He wore a crumpled red chapeau on top of his head. A fine, fur-lined cloak hung over the back of his chair. A mug of ale was on the table in front of him as well as numerous pieces of parchment, a ledger of some kind, and an ink bottle and quill. He seemed to be writing. A leather satchel stuffed full of more paper was on the floor by his chair.

Arya introduced herself to the man and learned he was Bartleby the Mapmaker, a cartographer to the Duke of Womthan.

“I’ve been sent here to make new maps!” he roared.

The man didn’t seem to have a soft voice but spoke loudly all the time.

“Oh,” she replied. “Would you mind making me one?”

“You realize, of course, that it would take several hours and my time is very valuable!” he said.

“Do you have a spare then?”

“Again, it took me several hours to make the map and my time is very valuable!”

“How much do you want for one?”

“For 10 gold coins, I can show you a map of the area with everything that I have found on my journeys.”

“Just to show me?”

“No no. You will be able to keep a copy of the map. For two gold coins, you can look at the map for as long as you want, this evening. But I will require it back.”

She asked to think about it and he noted he would be there for several days as he was still making the finishing touches on his maps. She talked to the other two and they discussed purchasing a map, especially when she found out that ink cost some eight gold pieces a bottle and there was none for sale in the town.

The three went to the man and paid him 10 gold coins for a map of the area. He gave them a finely crafted map which not only showed towns but various ruined buildings and other structures. They found the villages of Armskirk, Windrip, and Luskwald and saw that Archmouth, Calmornock, and Warrington were all further to the east on the other side of the Gentle Birch Forest where Luskwald lay. They saw Troutberk was also listed. Two other small woodlands were marked: the Shadow Woods and the Hollow Butternut Woods. The Flinty Hills were far to the north.

“Warrington’s way over here,” Tarmak said.

“Yes yes, Warrington!” Bartleby said.

“Do you know about Troutberk?” Elriya asked.

“Troutberk, yes, I was there,” Bartleby said. “Nothing left. Burned out ruins.”

“Where is Womthan?” Tarmak asked him. “Not the duchy, the town. Because a couple people are actually from Womthan.”

“Womthan’s that way,” Bartleby said.

He pointed to the map. On the left side was an arrow, pointing to the west that was marked “To Schukendale - 40 miles.

“Maybe 200 miles,” Bartleby said. “That’d be my guess.”

Tarmak whistled. It was a long way.

“Is Archmouth a bigger city?” Elriya asked him.

“No,” he said.

“Is there a big trade city around here?”

“Armskirk’s the biggest town in the area.”

Elriya asked Samuel Croaker how often caravans passed through Armskirk. He admitted it was not very often as they usually followed the Old Border Road while only a few came through to Armskirk.

“I’m going to go hunting,” Arya said.

She left the inn.

The other two saw Bartleby go up the stairs to the second floor just before they went to bed. He had rented the large room above. They decided to spend the night in Armskirk and head back for Luskwald the next day. They spent the night in the common room. Three other travelers stayed there that night. One was a cobbler and the other two were farmers looking for work from some village past Windrip.

* * *

Arya had the luck to take down a massive buck that night. She dragged it back to the village, taking it to the butcher shop, which was closed by the time she arrived around midnight. She took it around the back of the flat-topped building and noticed a ladder to the roof there. The building itself was stone with a parapet around the roof and almost appeared to be built to help defend the town. There were a few racks out back for bleeding out animals and the like.

She tied the buck onto one of the racks and slit its throat, getting one of the buckets hanging on the back wall of the building and catching the blood. She ended up sleeping by the back of the building, using her winter blanket to keep warm.

* * *

The 11th of Fireseek, 592, was cloudy and overcast. Arya awoke that morning when Rulf the Butcher touched her shoulder tentatively.

“Excuse me,” he said. “Excuse me. Is this yours?”

“The big buck?” she said. “Yes.”

“Yeah. Wow! That’s … wow! We’ll prepare it for you if you give us some.”

“Sure.”

The other butcher showed up shortly after and they got to work on preparing the meat. She headed back to the inn.

At the King’s Shield Inn, Tarmak and Elriya were eating the complimentary breakfast of cold meat, cheese, bread, and watered-down wine when Arya came into the place, yawning. Idamay was there with the two. Arya gave the venison to the innkeeper on the condition he cook some up for them.

“I’m never going to get home,” Idamay said sadly.

“We know where your home is, now,” Elriya said.

“Where?”

“It’s …”

The Halfling showed her the map.

“We’re here,” she said, pointing at Armskirk. Then she pointed to Warrington. “And it’s over there. We’re going to take you there.”

“That’s a thousand miles!” Idamay said.

“Actually, it’s only about 40.”

“My feet hurt!”

Idamay looked at her shoes, which were too big for her feet. Elriya looked around and spotted the traveling cobbler eating porridge nearby. She asked him how long it would take for him to fix up Idamay’s shoes so they would be tight around her feet. The man examined the shoes and gasped, looked at the woman, gasped, looked back at the shoes, and gasped again.

“Were these made by Otto Bellinek?” he finally asked.

“Yeah,” Elriya said.

“He’s the most amazing cobbler in the land! I can’t believe these are Bellineks!”

The man was quite flustered by it and Arya was confused as to why.

“It won’t take much,” the cobbler finally said. “Here.”

He had some cloth in his poorly-made satchel. He pushed some into the toes of the shoes and gave the rest to Elriya.

“Wrap her feet in this,” he said. “That should take care of it. They’re Bellineks. They won’t fit? That’s impossible. No no. Did you steal these?”

“No, we bought ‘em from him,” Elriya said. “He lives in Luskwald.”

“I know! I aspire to be half as good as he. Otto Bellinek is the most amazing cobbler in all the land. He … his shoes make your feet feel more comfortable. He’s amazing! But if you’ve got shoes that don’t fit her, that’s very suspicious!”

He narrowed his eyes and looked at the Halfling.

“He does not sell shoes that don’t fit perfectly!” he went on. “Did these - did they kidnap you, little girl?”

“He was definitely heartbroken over it,” Elriya said.

The cobbler pointed to his eyes, then to hers, and then back to his own. Tarmak explained they had been in a rush to get shoes for people who had been slaves of the orcs and the shoes were just what Bellinek had laying around. The cobbler took him at his word. Then he leaned close to Tarmak.

“I don’t trust that Halfling though,” he said. “Keep your eyes on her!”

He watched the Halfling carefully.

Arya left, returning to the butcher to ask them how long it would take to dry some meat for her. They told her they could salt it but that would take a few weeks. They also said they could smoke the meat, which should only take a couple of days. She wanted about enough for three weeks and they were fine with that. She returned to the inn and told them she was getting food smoked.

* * *

Tarmak ran back to Luskwald that day as he was very quick. He learned nothing had happened the night before. The curse was apparently lifted from the village. He paid for the eight remaining people to stay for the night. He also told the four people from Troutberk their village was gone. He asked if they wanted to stay in Luskwald or wanted to be taken to another town. Betsy, Petur, Libbe Aphrah, and Gaufroi Rapidmantle all wept at the news. They had suspected such, but had hoped they were wrong. He showed them on the map where Troutberk had been.

The four were thinking about staying in Luskwald. Gaufroi was a leatherworker and thought about setting up in one of the abandoned houses, though he didn’t have a good water source. After some short discussion, they decided they would ask Laird Yanek if they could have one of the houses, preferably the one not filled with broken glass, and use it for their own and try to set up some kind of shop there, perhaps. They had absolutely no money, however. But they had gotten to know some people in town.

Tarmak also realized Arya had been hunting deer and the like and the hides from that could possibly be used by Gaufroi to start his business.

Coryston heard the conversation about Troutberk and Tarmak guessed the word would get around town fairly quickly.

Tarmak quickly found Percyvell Sharp, who he knew was from Windrip, and brought him back to Armskirk by that afternoon. They continued on to Windrip, arriving by dark. A little larger than Luskwald, Windrip had perhaps 30 buildings and stood on the plains surrounded by farmlands. It was very windy in the village. The place held a tavern and inn and once they arrived, Percyvell told the man he lived a half mile from town.

The house was north of the village and very small. Percyvell noted he had been snatched by the orcs some five weeks before when he was out looking for seeds for more flowering plants. They found the place very dusty and obviously unlived-in, but intact. The food in the place was rotten and Percyvell had to throw it out, opening the windows to air out the house. He did have plenty of honey and the two built a fire in the living room and then sat at the table and ate honey out of a jar and talked. They closed up the house after that and he offered Tarmak his room up above. He also gave the man five clay pots filled with honey from his store in the basement and thanked him profusely, telling him if he was ever in Windrip, he would have a place to stay.

The tiny loft was warm and toasty as the chimney ran up one side of the room and put off a good deal of heat. A small bed with a straw tick was in the room a small stand next to it.

* * *

Also that day, back in Armskirk, Elriya noticed Bartleby the Mapmaker spent a lot of time in the taproom drinking ale and drawing or revising maps. She crept up the stairs and tried to break into the most expensive room, which actually had a lock on the door. She found the lock too much for her, however.

The doors to the other rooms all had latchkey strings hanging out, pieces of leather coming through the hole in the door over the latch within. They could easily be opened from either side but if the renter wanted privacy or security, he could pull in the leather string to “lock” the door. She peeked into one of the rooms and saw there was a narrow bed with a straw tick, chamber pot, tiny stand with pitcher and bowl, chest with a key in the lock, and pegs on the walls. The room had a window and shutters, both closed, but was very cold. She found the chest bolted to the floor and empty.

She thought about the architecture of the inn and realized there was probably an attic space up above somewhere. The roof was above the second floor and without gables though most of it was flat.

She really wanted some ink. Theft seemed to be the best way, to her, to get it.

Arya left the village and went looking for wild vegetables that day. She found a few wild potatoes and onions, returning with them that evening around dinnertime.

Elriya watched Bartleby the Mapmaker carefully during supper that night. The two and Arya were the only ones staying the night in the inn. A few locals were there for ale and to gossip or play darts early in the evening but left shortly after suppertime. Bartleby ate a substantial supper of venison, as did the women, who were not paying for their dinner due to the deal Arya had made with Samuel for the meat.

“I suppose I shall be moving on tomorrow,” they overheard the mapmaker say to the innkeeper. “I suppose everything is in order here. I will spread the word of your lovely inn!”

They learned he was heading for Windrip and then back in the direction of Womthan. He told the innkeeper he had started at the far side of the Duchy of Womthan and was traveling back towards that city, mapping the border area as he went to make a new map for Duke Finelann for “defense of the realm!” He talked loudly and long about his mapmaking expedition and his closeness to the duke.

Samuel complimented Arya on the venison.

Bartleby, an hour or two after dark and having smoked several bowls of pipeweed and talked to the local villagers, gathered up his maps and notes and tucked them into his satchel. He bid the two women good night and went up the steps to his room, candle in hand.

Elriya jumped up, crossed to the stairs, and slipped up the steps after the mapmaker. She saw the man draw forth a key from his money pouch and open the door. He slipped into the room and closed the door behind him. She heard the key turn in the lock. She crept to the door and listened at it but could not hear very well. The door was obviously solid.

She crept back down the stairs. Arya watched her from across the room, the elf ranger making sure all of her items were on her person in case they had to beat a hasty retreat. Elriya crossed to the kitchen and pushed open the door, peeking in. She saw Samuel and Amanda cleaning up the kitchen for the day, hanging pots and pans back on the hooks from the ceiling. Amanda took cold meat and cheese and opened a small door in the outside wall, putting them into a box there. Elriya guessed the little door probably led to a small chamber or box attached to the building to use as refrigeration - at least during the winter. Samuel put a bar on the back door.

The fireplace in the room was straight across from the door on the back of the building. She guessed Bartleby’s room was directly above it.

She slipped back into the taproom where Arya watched her with interest.

Samuel returned some time later and asked if they needed anything else. When they said they didn’t, he bid them “goodnight” and went to the front door, pulling in the leather latchkey strap. He didn’t bar the door, though one leaned against the wall next to it. He left, going into the kitchen, which they knew connected to a small room he and his wife lived in.

Elriya crept back into the kitchen. A fire roared in the fireplace, obviously recently stoked by Samuel or Amanda. Pots and pans hung from the ceiling near dried herbs, spices, and dried meat. Part of the counter actually had a stone top for cutting. The kitchen door opened and Arya walked in.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

Elriya looked at her.

“I was … just checking on their fire,” she lied badly. “It seems to be roaring pretty well.”

“Oh … kay, but why?” Arya asked.

Elriya went to a pump and drank down several cups of water. Then she announced she was going to bed, leaving the kitchen. Arya realized the Halfling was planning on waking up soon but didn’t know why. She gave the Halfling a suspicious look.

The two bedded down. Arya lay there, watching the Halfling carefully. She was tired but able to stay awake. She was still awake a couple hours later when Elriya got up, looked at the elf, picked up a chamber pot, and crept out of the room. Arya heard her urinate and then she returned to the room and put the chamber pot back down. She crept back out of the room.

* * *

Elriya crept into the kitchen and found the fire had been reduced to red hot coals that glowed and pulsed in the darkness. They were still obviously very hot and so she took the cauldron, turned it upside down, and put it atop them. She figured that would protect her well enough.

She climbed up into the chimney, starting to sweat immediately from the heat from the fire. She clambered up and didn’t find any connection to the room above at first. She thought she heard someone in the kitchen below not long after she began her ascent.

* * *

Arya got up not long after Elriya left the room. The taproom was empty and the latchkey chord still pulled in, so she looked into the kitchen. No one was there either and the bar was still on the back door. The connecting door to the innkeeper’s room was closed as well. The only other place the Halfling could have gone was up the chimney, but that would be stupid, if not completely insane.

* * *

Elriya had never climbed up a chimney before and it wasn’t pleasant. She felt like she’d been climbing for some time and guessed it was going to go all the way to the roof. She’d expected the fine room to have a fireplace and then found a connecting chimney, obviously above the second floor room. She looked down into it with irritated eyes and could see the glow of coals. The flue was open. However, the chimney was very narrow and she wasn’t sure she’d be able to climb down it.

She climbed back down.

* * *

In the kitchen, Arya heard debris falling down from the chimney, landing in the coals and bouncing off the cauldron, which she noticed was sitting upside down in the fireplace. She wondered what was creeping into the inn from the roof so she took out her bow and nocked an arrow. Then booted feet came down and landed on the cauldron. Elriya leaned down to exit the fireplace, saw Arya, and stopped. Arya sighed in relief and lowered the bow.

“Why the hell are you in the chimney?” Arya hissed at the Halfling.

“I’m trying to steal ink from the cartographer,” Elriya said.

“Oh. Okay. I thought you were trying to steal from the innkeeper.”

“No. He’s a nice guy.”

“Do you need help?”

“Do you mind greasing me up?”

“What?”

“I’ve got to fit through this hole in the chimney and it’s really tight.”

“Can’t you just pick his lock?”

“I tried and I wasn’t able to.”

“Oh, that’s where you went. Okay. Okay.”

They found a little jar filled with lard. There was not a lot as Elriya had hoped. Arya helped her put it on her shoulders and hips. Then the little Halfling climbed up the chimney again.

* * *

Elriya scuttled up the chimney again, getting to the attached chimney to the room. She climbed into the tight little aperture and wedged her way in, feet first, sliding down to the fireplace just above the coals. She could hear a light snoring. She peered into the good-sized room and saw a large bed to the left, Bartleby sleeping in it. The door was directly across from the fireplace. A wardrobe and dresser were to the right and there were a few hooks on the walls, one of which held his fur cloak and another which held the man’s satchel. A chest was at the foot of the bed and a small nightstand with a single drawer was by the bed, a bowl and pitcher atop it.

She stepped into the room and stood very quietly.

She quietly moved to the chest of drawers. The three drawers were filled with extra clothing, undergarments, and the like. Nothing of value was in the piece of furniture. She crept to the chest but found it locked. She tried to pick it without luck. The lock was simply too complex.

She crept across the room towards the nightstand and heard the man suddenly snort and stop snoring. She dropped to the shadows beside the bed.

“Is somebody there?” he asked.

He looked around but didn’t seem to see anything. He leaned over, obviously listening. Finally, after what seemed like a very long time, he lay back down and, after about five minutes, she heard him start snoring again.

She stood back up looked at the nightstand. A pipe and a pouch, probably filled with pipeweed, was on top of it. She slid the drawer open. Some pocket items were in the nightstand, as well as two keys. One was large and one was small. She guessed the smaller one went to the chest and she took it, creeping to the foot of the bed. She was halfway there when the snoring got louder. She stopped a moment and then crept on.

She fit the key into the lock on the chest and opened it up. Within was a belt pouch, boots, and saddlebags. She quietly searched the bags. She found paper, journals, and 11 bottles of ink. One of the saddlebags held 10 bottles of ink while the other held only one. There was a great deal of blank pieces of parchment and a couple of dozen quills. She moved one of the bottles into the bag with a single bottle and then took two bottles from the other bag, sticking them in her pouch. She stole a couple sheets of parchment and two quills. She also took one of the eight leather bound blank books.

She crept back to the fireplace and climbed into the chimney again but slipped, falling back down onto the coals. The lard on her had dripped down onto her legs and feet and the flames licked at her as she almost let out a scream. She had been badly burned. She pulled herself back up into the narrow chimney, wedging herself through the tiny one. Then she fell again, dropping down onto the cauldron, flopping out into the room, smoke coming from her boots.

Arya ran to the Halfling woman and patted her down, putting out the smoldering fire on her feet and legs. Then she picked up the Halfling and headed out of the inn through the taproom, putting the leather latchkey back out through the hole. She carried Elriya up the hill to the temple.

The temple was dark and she laid Elriya down and knocked on the front doors. Eventually, she saw a light from within and the door opened. The priest was there, holding a sword in his hand. He looked at her suspiciously.

“Yes?” he said.

“I need some healing,” Arya said. “My friend is unconscious.”

“Well, bring her in, bring her in.”

He opened the door and she carried Elriya into the church. The priest looked the Halfling woman over, his lantern hanging from a hook nearby. Elriya was partially burned and covered in soot. Her shoulders and hips glistened with the lard they’d spread on her. She still wore her mask and black clothing.

“What happened to her?” the priest asked.

“Uh … I don’t know,” Arya lied.

“Why are her feet burnt? Why is she covered in lard? Just tell me what happened.”

“I really don’t know. She gets herself in trouble all the time.”

“How did you find her?”

“She was laying down on the kitchen floor.”

“The kitchen floor? Where is this?”

“In the inn.”

“Why was she …?”

“I don’t know. Maybe she was getting water and got caught.”

“How did you find her?”

“I walked in. Heard a noise.”

“This all sounds very suspicious. Well, she’s in no danger. She’s just knocked out.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes. Yes.”

He looked the Halfling over more carefully.

“She’s unconscious,” he said again.

“Okay,” Arya said.

“She also has these thieves’ picks in her pocket. What’s this about?”

“I don’t know her that well, okay?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Does it really matter that much?”

“We’ll keep her here for the night and look after her.”

“Okay.”

He picked up the Halfling and took her out of the room. He returned a short time later.

“We’ll take care of your friend,” he said.

“Okay, I’ll wait,” Arya said.

“You can go,” he replied.

He opened the door to let her out into the cold.

“I can sleep in the pews, right?” Arya asked.

“No,” he said.

“Why not?”

“You may go.”

“Okay.”

She went out and he closed the door behind her. She settled down by the side of the church, covering herself up with her winter blanket.

* * *

The morning of the 12th of Fireseek, 592 CY dawned cold and cloudy again, though it had not been as cold as it had been the night before. Tarmak had honey for breakfast with Percyvell and then took his leave of the man, walking back to Armskirk and arriving in only an hour or so.

When he got to the Shield’s Rest, he was greeted by Samuel, who asked if he wanted breakfast for three copper pieces. The innkeeper noted they still had venison from the day before and he was going to make some eggs to go with it. Tarmak sold him the pots filled with honey for two gold coins and breakfast of eggs and venison.

There was no sign of Arya or Elriya.

“Do you know where my friends went?” he asked Samuel once he’d eaten.

“No, they were gone,” the innkeeper said. “Though someone was fiddling in the kitchen. Somebody was messing with my cauldron. I don’t know what was going on there.”

Bartleby the Mapmaker came down the steps loudly.

“Ready for my breakfast, innkeeper,” he called out. “The breakfast of Bartleby the Mapmaker!”

Tarmak got up and headed out the door. Bartleby waved at him and he returned the wave as he left, going to look for his friends.

* * *

Elriya woke up. She found herself in a clean room in a comfortable bed. She was only wearing her underclothing. Everything else was gone. A tall man with thinning brown hair sat on a chair next to her bed. He had a lightning bolt symbol on his amulet and wore blue clothing. Two men stood by the door, both of them heavily armed and wearing chain mail.

“Hello, are you feeling all right?” he asked.

“I feel like I fell off a building,” she said.

“Ah, could you tell us what happened?”

“Yeah, I was at the innkeeper’s and I went to get up and get some water. Relieve myself. There was a coal that had fallen onto the kitchen and I stepped on it and crashed into some pot or something. I don’t know. Hit my head.”

“You didn’t have any head trauma, actually. That’s interesting. You had some trauma to your body on the whole. You could probably see the bruises if you lift up your shirt. Your feet were apparently on fire, which was interesting as well. Why were you covered in lard?”

“Why was I covered in lard?”

“It’s still on your shoulders.”

“I mean, I must have fell in the lard in the kitchen.”

“Ah. Interesting. All right. Very well. Thank you.”

He left the room.

* * *

Arya sat by the church and wondered what to do about Elriya. Then she saw the priest exit one of the doors towards the back of the building, walking past her without noticing her, heading down the hill towards the inn.

* * *

Tarmak had gone by the butcher, the blacksmith, and the weapon smith and armorer. He was a little surprised at the number of old men hanging out in the latter two buildings, playing checkers and gossiping. He noticed a priest of Hieroneous heading down the hill and going to the inn. He stopped the man before he went in.

“Have you seen an elf or a Halfling?” he asked the man.

“I have,” the man said.

He walked into the inn. Tarmak followed him and asked him where they were at.

“I’m sorry,” the priest said.

“Where are they?” Tarmak asked. “You said you saw them.”

“The Halfling is part of an investigation,” the other priest said.

“Investigation?” Tarmak said.

The priest looked over his shoulder.

“There you are, Samuel!” he said to the innkeeper as he came out of the kitchen. “Anything odd happen here last night?”

“Well, now that you speak of it, Nathaniel,” Samuel said.

The innkeeper related the story of the cauldron upside down on the fire and the lard all being missing from the kitchen. The priest asked if the lard jar had been knocked over or if there was a mess. Samuel said there was not, just the missing lard and the cauldron. He noted they were frying a lot of bacon that morning to get more grease and offered the priest some.

“Interesting,” Nathaniel said. “Interesting.”

Tarmak left and headed up the hill to the temple. He saw Arya sitting by the front door of the temple on the ground, her winter blanket wrapped around her. She looked bothered and sad.

“What happened?” Tarmak asked her.

“Well, you know how thieves get,” Arya said.

“And you brought the thief to Hieroneous.”

“I did not realize who he was.”

“The priest of Hieroneous.”

“I just knew that she was unconscious and could have been hurt or maybe even died the next morning. So, I did what I thought I could. You weren’t around so I couldn’t just take her to you.”

“Hm. Do you know where she’s at inside or …”

“No, except for wherever he took her last night. It was some room. I don’t really know where.”

“Hm. Guess we’ll just wait around for that priest to come back.”

Nathaniel returned shortly, walking up the hill.

“Good morning,” he said to them. “Good morning.”

He went around the side of the temple towards an attached building they assumed were his quarters.

“He seems too happy,” Arya said.

They caught the man before he entered the building.

“Yes, can I help you?” he asked.

The man looked at the holy symbol around Tarmak’s neck.

“Are you a priest?” he asked.

“Yes,” Tarmak said.

“I don’t recognize …”

“Priest of Fharlanghn.”

“Fharlanghn! Fharlanghn. Ah yes. We don’t have many of those around here. Surprising. You would think traveling priests would be more common in Armskirk. But can I help you?”

He looked at Arya.

“Ah,” he said, obviously recognizing her. “I might need to talk to you.”

“I’m still looking for the Halfling,” Tarmak said.

“Yes, yes,” the priest said. “She is a person of interest at the moment and I have to question her about a certain incident.”

“Interest in what?”

“I’m … not sure yet. Some very strange things happened at the inn last night. The stories are not quite matching up. You know how that goes. And so as the lawful priest of this town, I need to find out what happened. So far, we haven’t had any complaints of being robbed, but finding out the truth is important, wouldn’t you say?”

“I would but you see that Halfling is in my charge and I was out of the town for the evening.”

“In your charge? What do you mean by that?”

“She’s traveling with me.”

“Oh, yes.”

Tarmak explained how they had escaped from the orcs and he was taking one of the former slaves home to Windrip. The priest seemed unfamiliar with the town but once Tarmak explained it was the next town up the road, he recognized it.

“That’s right,” he said. “That’s right. I never can remember the name of that town. Yes yes. Well, something happened at the inn last night. I just want to get to the bottom of it.”

“Hm,” Tarmak said.

“You understand, of course.”

“Yes.”

Nathaniel turned to Arya.

“Perhaps you could explain to me what happened,” he asked.

“Not much to my knowledge,” she said.

“Hmmm,” he said. “Of course. Of course. Understandable. But, anyway, I must talk to your friend. I haven’t gotten her name yet. What’s her name?”

“Uh … Elriya,” Tarmak said.

“Yes yes. I haven’t gotten her name yet. I haven’t talked to her quite to that extent. But, just trying to get to the bottom of what happened. Perhaps it’s nothing. Perhaps it’s just mischievous pranks.”

“She does do that from time to time.”

“Yes, well, a spell will let me know. So, if you’ll excuse me.”

He bowed his head slightly and went into the building.

* * *

The bed was very comfortable and Elriya was lying there, dozing, when the priest returned.

“Ah, Elriya,” he said.

“How do you know my name?” she asked.

“Oh, that’s not important. I’m going to cast a spell which … you must tell the truth. If you lie to me, you’ll react … it will not be pleasant. It won’t hurt you, but you’ll be very uncomfortable and I’ll know that you’re lying. All right?”

He pulled out a large emerald, ruby, and diamond. They were too large to possibly be real and she guessed they were glass. He touched his holy symbol and said a few magical words, gesturing briefly. The gems disappeared from his hand. She didn’t feel anything.

“Do you know how much that was worth?” she asked.

“Were you doing anything illegal last night?” he asked.

“Did you just─”

“Were you doing anything illegal last night?”

“Did you just destroy that?”

“They’re fake. They’re fake. Were you doing anything illegal last night?”

“No.”

“What happened?”

“I went into the kitchen. I was getting some water.”

“Yes. Continue.”

“And I fell.”

“Continue.”

“Because of a coal.”

“How did you get lard on you?”

“I just have fallen into it.”

“Hmm.”

The priest thought a moment.

“Hmm,” he said again. “I need you to lie to me now. What’s your name?”

“What’s my name?” she asked.

“Yes, please tell me your name. A false name. Say Finkelbottom - whatever you want to say - just don’t tell me the truth.”

“My name’s Elriya.”

“Tell me something that’s not your name.”

“My name’s Elriya.”

The man sighed.

“All right, let’s try this again,” he said, leaving the room.

The man returned after a minute or so with more of the large, fake gemstones.

“This are glass,” he said, showing her the stones. “These are not worth the glass they are used to make them, by the way. See, glass. They’re garbage. Oh wait. See? I have a spare diamond.”

He flung it violently at the ground and it shattered like glass.

“What?” she said. “It’s still expensive to make glass.”

“No,” he said.

“It’s such a waste.”

“I can get a bag of these for a copper coin. They’re garbage. It’s like the leftovers.”

“Why?”

“Because, I need them to cast a spell. It requires this to cast the spell. Now, what I require of you: I want you to lie to me when I ask you the next question. If you don’t, I’m not going to believe anything that you say. Understand? Thank you.”

He cast the spell again.

“What’s your name?” he asked.

“Arya─” she started to say, then grabbed her head as if in pain.

He looked at her quizzically.

“Interesting,” he slowly said.

“Don’t make me lie again,” she said quietly.

“Interesting,” he said, turning to the guards. “Hold her here.”

He left the room again. He was back in a few minutes.

“Look,” he said. “I know the spell didn’t affect you.”

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“You know what I mean,” he said. “It didn’t affect you. You would have known if it affected you. It wouldn’t cause you any pain, per se. Perhaps discomfort. Not what you did. Now, we found, on your possession, some vials of ink and some paper and quite a substantial amount of gold. Now, there’s a priest outside who says you are in his charge. He’s a priest of Fharlanghn, so not completely honest, but sometimes they can be. I understand that. If you tell me the truth now, I’m willing to release you to his charge so long as any and all items that were stolen are returned. Are we of an understanding? I will not have crime in my town.”

He stared at her.

“I’m willing to overlook this,” he went on. “This time. So long as you place yourself under his charge and he is willing to accept any and all responsibility for you in the future.”

“That’s fair, it’s his gold,” she said.

“What did you steal?”

He pivoted his head and gave her a sideways look that seemed to say “I will know if you are lying to me. Don’t lie to me.”

She thought for some time.

“You’re thinking far too long about the lie you’re going to tell so I need you to tell me the truth,” he said, frowning. “What did you steal? Was it the gold?”

“No,” she said.

“Was it the ink? Was it the paper? Was it the silver dagger? We will be questioning everyone in the inn and will find out.”

“It was the silver dagger.”

“It was the silver dagger. Interesting. Anything else? Because the only other person staying at the inn, I have found, is some mapmaker or something, whom I will be asking to search his belongings to make sure he is not missing anything, like a silver dagger. Or ink and a pen and paper.”

“The gold is me and the priest’s.”

“The dagger?”

She thought on it.

“Don’t think about it!” he said. “Just answer me!”

“The dagger I stole from the orcs,” she said.

“The orcs? Okay. I don’t care about that then. What of the ink and the quills and the paper?”

She thought on it again.

“The notebook’s mine,” she lied. “I just … I ran out of ink to write in it and … the cartographer wouldn’t give me any.”

“Very well,” he replied, obviously not completely believing her. “We will be questioning the cartographer as well. You may wait here until we find out the truth … because the truth is all.”

He stood up and left the room. The two guards remained in the room with her.

* * *

The priest exited the temple once again.

“Oh, hello,” he said. “Still here? You could probably wait at the inn.”

“Hm,” Tarmak said.

They followed him to the King’s Shield and they entered the place.

“This person, this cartographer who’s been staying here for the last several days,” Nathaniel asked. “Is he still here?”

“Oh, he just left about 20 minutes ago,” Samuel said.

The priest frowned.

“Dammit,” he said. “Okay. Very well.”

He looked at Tarmak and Arya.

“You sure there’s nothing you want to tell me?” he asked.

“I told you everything I did,” she replied.

“You did tell me everything you … did,” he said.

He walked out of inn.

* * *

Nathaniel the priest returned to Elriya’s room.

“Very well,” he said. “I’m going to assume that you also stole the quills and the paper. The rest will be returned to you. I do not have anyone actually claiming to have been robbed. But this town is under my protection and I will not have thieves. Are we of an understanding?”

“Can I pay for them?” she asked.

“Pay for the … no. No. The ink will be returned to the cartographer when he returns or else I’ll have it sent on to him. I do not allow thieves to buy their ill-gotten gains.”

He quietly spoke to one of the other men and he left the room.

* * *

At the inn, Tarmak and Arya had sat down to see what would happen next. A man arrived with a tabard with the symbol of Hieroneous upon it.

“Are you the priest of Frarlang?” he asked.

“Fharlanghn,” Tarmak said. “Yes.”

“You’re to come with me,” the man said.

“Okay,” Tarmak said.

He left with the man, who took him back to the temple. The priest of Hieroneous introduced himself as Nathaniel and shook his hand. Tarmak introduced himself as well.

“The Halfling Elriya is guilty of theft,” Nathaniel said. “She confessed to it. However, in deference to the fact that there is no complainant, I am putting her in your charge. Literally in your charge.”

“She was already in my charge, but okay,” Tarmak said.

“She was a traveling companion. Now she is in your charge. If she is found thieving in the bounds of Armskirk again, you will both be punished for any of her crimes. Is that understandable to you, sir?”

“Yes.”

“I don’t wish to hold it against you. You seem like a fine fellow. But I will not have crime in my town. So … I have also confiscated two bottles of ink, two quills, and two pieces of parchment from her that she confessed to have stolen. You will watch her and make sure she does not thieve again. Is that agreeable? Can I have your word on it?”

“Yes.”

“Very good. I’m sorry you’ve had to be a part of this. You might wish to talk to her about the evils of thievery.”

He left Tarmak.

* * *

The priest returned to Elriya’s room and told her she would not be charged for the healing spell he cast upon her although she was now under the charge of Tarmak of Fharlanghn.

“Should you break any laws, you’ll both be punished for it,” he said. “If the law calls for your hand to be chopped off, his hand will also be chopped off. If the law calls for you to be fined for something, he will also be fined an equitable amount. If you are jailed, he will be jailed. If you are to be executed for a crime, he will be executed for a crime.”

“Yeah,” she said.

“You really should take this more seriously miss. We could have had you locked up and confiscated all of your property, but you’re a stranger here and certain people in the town seem to like and respect you and your comrades. So you are free to go.”

He motioned to a guard, who went to the wardrobe in the room and brought her all of her items. The priest removed the vials of ink, the paper, and the quills. The guards left to give her privacy to gear up. She soon left the room and found Tarmak waiting for her in the next room.

The two walked back towards the King’s Shield Inn.

“Damn elf,” Elriya muttered.

Tarmak casting a healing spell on the girl on the way.

“At least there’s good priests in this world,” she said.

“Just the next time you want to steal something, don’t get caught,” Tarmak said. “And don’t let the elf take you.”

“I didn’t tell her to take me anywhere!” Elriya said.

They found Arya at the inn, eating breakfast. After they ate, they returned to Luskwald with Idamay. On the way there, Tarmak told her about certain gods of law and justice that she should avoid, at least if it was due to the Halfling getting into trouble. Arya paid little attention to it. Elriya told her to simply not trust any priests except Tarmak.

“I was just trying to help,” Arya said.

They also explained to her what the priest had said about Tarmak being in charge of Elriya while in Armskirk.

They arrived at Luskwald around noon and picked up Robertus and Aimery Smith. Tarmak gave Tybalt Rice and Geffrei Foregrain five gold coins each in the hopes they would be able to find their way back to Womthan. Then they continued on east from there.

Archmouth proved to be only about five miles away. It was a quaint little town on the other side of a solid stone bridge marked with symbols and runes. The craftsmanship was superb and the bridge in good shape despite its obvious age. They asked around town about Robertus and it took them the rest of the day to find his great aunt, who lived near the center of town. She was older but more than willing to take the boy since his parents had died in slavery.

The older lady rewarded them with a pie.

“Here’s all I have,” she said. “You can have this. It’s a blueberry pie. Thank you so much for bringing my nephew back to me. Oh my goodness. Oh.”

“Wait, what if I want to come with you and be an adventurer?” Robertus cried, clinging to Tarmak’s tunic. “Can I come with you and be an adventurer?”

He lowered his voice to a whisper.

“Please!” he hissed. “She’s so old!”

Tarmak explained to the boy he needed to stay with his family.

“But adventure!” he cried out.

“Oh Robertus, come on,” the old woman said, taking him by the ear. “I don’t have any boy’s clothes, but we still have your mother’s clothing. Let’s put you in a dress.”

“No! Please! No!”

The old woman closed the door.

It was close to dark by then so they stayed at the River Rook Inn, a place with the sign above the door showing a river with a chess piece, a rook, standing in it. The food and drink were good and the innkeeper read poetry and history aloud in the taproom in the evening. Though not a bard, the man apparently aspired to be one.

* * *

The 13th of Fireseek, 592 CY, continued cold and overcast. They headed east that morning to the village of Calmornock, some five more miles down the Old Border Road. The people of the village were so happy at the return of Aimery Smith, the only smith the village had had, they had a great celebration. The adventurers were told they could stay at the local inn for free and there would be a feast that night. People were very happy about the return of their blacksmith.

Tarmak considered taking Idamay back to Warrington but remembered the last time he had left the others alone and the bad things that had happened.

There was a feast at the inn that night. The building was long and built more like a feasting hall than an inn. There were no actual rooms but anyone who wished to spend the night there could stay in the taproom for a small fee, which was waved for the adventurers. They were plied with ale and even wine that evening and not allowed to pay for anything. The locals were also impressed with the fact that an elf was with the party, something most of the people had never seen before. Much to her discomfort, they pointed and stared at her.

Locals wanted to know the names of the adventurers in order to spread word of tem far and wide.

* * *

It continued cold and cloudy on the 14th of Fireseek, 592 CY. Warrington lay some 10 miles down the road past Calmornock and they arrived at the place before noon. The small village had stone walls around it and everyone in the village appeared to be armed. Even the children had knives on their belts. The locals seemed very cautious of outsiders. Idamay told the adventurers she looked forward to getting her knife back and Elriya gave her the silver dagger they’d gotten in the Scar. Idamay hugged the Halfling girl with tears in her eyes.

They eventually located some cousins of the girl who said they would take her in. There were more tears when they parted from the little girl. She said she would miss them and asked them to write her.

“Tell that paladin … tell the paladin to write me … please,” she said.

She cried some more about that. She ran into the house but soon returned with a piece of paper.

“Please give this to Leon,” she said.

It surprised them the little girl could write and once they left the house, they looked at the note. It read “I luv you Leon, Idamay” with several hearts on it, one before and one after her name. The exterior read “To Leon.”

Elriya found the local provisioner actually had ink and quills for sale so she purchased some.

“See how much easier that is to buy the stuff instead of shimmying up a chimney and trying to get back down?” Tarmak said to her.

“He had plenty of it,” Elriya said. “He wouldn’t have missed it.”

They figured they could reach Archmouth by nightfall and so headed west again.

In the mid-afternoon, they were on the road between Warrington and Calmornock, approaching an old, ruined tower that stood to the north of the highway, when four men stood up from the ditch on either side of the road some 20 feet ahead of the party.

“Stand and deliver!” one of the men shouted. “Give us your money.”

They wore rags under their leather armor and each of them had a small ratty-looking shield on his arm. Each had a long sword on his belt and held a spear in his hand.

“Go home,” Arya called.

“Not without your gold!” the man shouted.

“Go get a job.”

“Don’t make us get rough!”

“Okay.”

“Give us your money and you can go by!”

“Put that bow down!” another called.

“No,” Arya called.

“They’ve had enough time!” the man on the right said. “This is your only warning!”

He flung his spear at Tarmak and it struck the priest in the gut. It seemed to surprise all the bandits.

“We’re not playing around!” another man yelled. “Now give us your damned money!”

“By Istus, Bob, that was a great shot!” one of them said to the man who’d flung the spear.

Elriya rushed the man who’d flung the spear.

“Look out, Bob!” another man called. “That child is running at you!”

“It’s a kid,” Bob said. “I’m not scared.”

Elriya stabbed Bob in the right hand and he let out a scream.

“It hurts!” he cried.

He glared at the Halfling woman as Tarmak started to chant.

“Gadzooks!” one of the men yelled. “They’ve got a wizard!”

Arya changed her target to the front man on the left but the arrow flew high over their heads. Then Tarmak stopped chanting and touched himself in the chest, casting a healing spell.

“He’s casting on himself!” another man cried out. “I’m so scared.”

The man in front of Elriya drew his sword as two of the bandits flung their spears at Arya. One of them scratched the girl as it flew by her arm. Another man flung his spear at Tarmak but it missed. The man with the sword swung high as Elriya ducked to one side. Arya shot the man who’d flung that spear that had hit her, the arrow striking him in the chest. He fell with a shriek.

Two men drew their swords and rushed at the priest and the ranger, both of them missing completely. The man near Elriya also swung wildly and didn’t connect with the Halfling. Arya stepped back from the man and fired at him but the arrow slapped against her arm and she dropped her bow. Tarmak, next to her, swung his staff but the bandit blocked the blow with his shield. The man cried out in pain from the blow.

Elriya stabbed the man she faced and he fell with a gasp.

Tarmak swung at his opponent once again but the blow was too high. Arya drew her dagger and stabbed at the man she faced but missed. Elriya ran up behind the man fighting Tarmak and stabbed him in the back. He fell with a confused scream. The last remaining bandit rallied.

“You killed my friends!” he cried out, swinging wildly at Arya and missing the elf.

Elriya tried to flank the last bandit but he watched her so she rushed the man and stabbed him in the side.

“No!” he screamed. “No!”

Tarmak charged the man as well, bringing his staff down on his head. He went down like a house of cards.

Tarmak went around to the bandits and bound their wounds, stabilizing each of them before he cast a healing spell on himself.

They searched the men and found each had a spear, long sword, shield, and leather armor. None of them had any money in their pockets. They decided to examine the tower and see if anything was within. The floor was dirt and the doorway was very low, only about five feet in height. Stone steps went up to the remains of a second floor but they could see sunlight above. The place didn’t have a roof.

A search of the ground floor revealed a spot where the dirt was disturbed as if it had been dug up and piled back. When they dug it up, they found a small chest. Opening it revealed four money pouches and a few worthless odds and ends. There were a few coins in each of the coin pouches and a quick tally revealed a total of 36 copper coins and 12 gold coins.

“So, uh, four for each of us, right?” Arya asked.

Tarmak suggested keeping the copper in the party treasure and dividing up the gold.

Elriya climbed up the stones steps to the cobblestone floor above. She found the corpse of a man in fine clothing who had been stabbed several times, his clothing covered with bloodstains. She searched the man and found a good-sized opal tucked into his cheek like chewing tobacco. She guessed the man had been a traveling merchant and had been murdered by the bandits.

They gathered the men’s spears, swords, and shields in the hopes of selling them at some later time.

Tarmak noted he could run back to Warrington while the women watched the bandits. He returned within a couple of hours with a few men from the village who came to collect the bandits. They told them about what happened in the attack and the body that was found. The constable and men from the village took the body and the four men back, the body for burial and the men for justice.

The three returned to Calmornock that evening and spent the night in the inn. They sold the swords, spears, and shields for a few gold coins. Arya purchased a short sword in the village as well.

* * *

They returned to Luskwald by noon on the 15th of Fireseek. Elriya got Betsy the Gemsmith to appraise the opal and learned it was worth 90 gold pieces. Tarmak found that Tybalt Rice and Geffrei Foregrain were still in Luskwald and so gave each of them five more gold pieces to help them survive until they could find a way back to Womthan.

The three of them went to Armskirk that afternoon.

Arya picked up the smoked meat, keeping about a week’s worth for herself and giving a week’s worth to Tarmak and a week’s worth to Elriya. Tarmak talked to the butchers and purchased the hides of the two deer from the men for five gold coins. Rulf the Butcher noted they had been kept in the upper room that was ventilated so they were not rotten at all. Tarmak bargained the men down to four gold coins, even though Rulf told him the one deer had been called The King of the Forest due to his size.

They returned to Luskwald that day by nightfall. Tarmak found Gaufroi Rapidmantle the leatherworker and gave him the hides. He was most gracious, telling Tarmak he was still getting his chemicals and materials together to get to work leatherworking.

The two rooms at the inn were open that night so Elriya and Arya shared a room while Tarmak took the other room himself. The cost was two silver coins per night, but it was nice to sleep in a comfortable bed for a change.

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