The plan is for the main body of the group to stay and “rest” while the tracker, the two warriors, Haya and I figure out where the shapechanger came from and what it was doing. I told Marsh that he was in charge while I was gone and furthermore that if I wasn’t back by lunch that he should come rescue me – no matter what. I think he thought I was joking.
The tracker wasn’t much to look at – I thought the soldiers had all armed themselves but all he had was a walking stick. Seemed a bit long in the tooth to be soldiering as well. I must have missed his name because I swear I thought they said he was called “Princess”. The two fighters looked so similar that I couldn’t always tell them apart – even though one of them was a woman. I hadn’t even noticed before on account of her hair was so short and she had the frame of a plow-horse. They were both even wearing the same green cape. Where the Hells did they get capes out here? When I asked if they were related they looked at me like I was crazy. There’s an old heroic tale about the Princess and the Twins – somehow I don’t think this is what it looked like.
Haya proved to be quite annoying. He rambled on and on about all the different alchemical magic he could do now that he had his formula book back. The tracker proved to be even more annoying though on account of he didn’t seem to be much of a tracker. He poked around with his stick and went so far as to sniff the air but I never got much sense that we were following and kind of trail. I was about to confront him about it when we heard the thundering of hooves – four men on horses. I hoped for half a second they weren’t charging at us until they drew their sabers.
I took one off their horse with my crossbow and Haya tossed a bottle at another that frozen him solid on the spot – it was quite something. He fell to the ground and shattered, not into a million pieces, more like into four or five pieces. Hot blood was steaming on his frozen flesh. The Twins stepped up and met the charge of the other two – which is pretty brave/stupid for people on foot to do against cavalry unless you have a spear or the like. I don’t claim to be a warrior of any sort but one thing I’ve learned is that fighting while mounted has more to do with your riding ability than your fighting ability. I think these two would have been well served to dismount, although maybe they’re crummy fighters too.
The fighting was over quickly, with one horseman alive but injured. A bit of light questioning revealed that these were bandits.
“Bandits? What on earth is there out here worth stealing?!”
On earth, nothing much, under the earth quite a bit it turns out. We happen to be in the area of a dwarfen sky-passage, which is what it sounds like. These folk stake out the area at a certain time of year and wait for the caravan from Carmin and Raster that rendezvouses with the dwarfs and buys all for their steel and silver. They saw us out here and their leader, the shapeshifter, decided to infiltrate and see what our business was – even though we were coming from the opposite direction they thought we might be the caravan coming to collect the dwarf goods.
“Do you use a codeword or passphrase or something?”
“Why would we? We all know each other.”
“Your leader charges forms right? How do you know whoever wanders up is him?”
“He can read minds so it’s easy.”
Interesting, I assumed that was just bold talk. Apparently I live in a world with mind-reading shapeshifters. Nothing terrifying about that in the least. I turned away from the wounded bandit to my companions.
“Alright, old man, you take these horses back to the others.”
“Whatever just go. When you get there tell Marsh to get half his men and head this way – they should run into hostiles so tell them to be prepared.”
“What about him?” asked one of the Twins, pointed to the wounded man.
They were shocked when I said to kill him. Two soldiers and a slaver and they’re squeamish about finishing him off, even though they just killed three men in combat? It makes no sense. Since they were being babies I shot him in the throat with my Bracelet. Twice actually, the first time he was just gurgling. The looks they gave me, like I had just done some vile. Why is it that the practical people are the ones that catch all the guff? Doesn’t seem right.
Even without our so-called tracker it was easy enough to follow the hoof-prints back to the bandit lair. It was quite a set up – stairs cut into the side of rocky outcropping going up a good fifty feet to a doorway. With two archer-nests on either side. Surely they didn’t build this just for a once a year caravan raid did they? But where did it come from? Did the dwarfs make this? Where did they keep the horses?
I used my Cap and Haya used a potion – we disguised ourselves as two of the bandits we had just killed, badly wounded. The Twins hid nearby while we staggered up, leaning heavily on each other like men on the verge of death. We called out pitifully for help as we approached the stairs – my performance was spot on but Haya was pretty bad, eventually I elbowed him to shut up and he took the hint and pretended to keel over, too hurt to go any farther. Men peeked out of the archer-nests and I waved at them weakly.
“We were attacked by soldiers. They took Nawa and Tarj but there are only ten of them – hurry and you can catch them!”
After some commotion and shouting the door at the top of the stairs opened and maybe twenty men rushed out. After a brief conversation where I gave them some phony instructions the bulk of them ran off – no more horses I guess. One of the ones left was wearing brown robes and took my hand gently.
“Let me help you my son.”
He did some magic rigmarole and I felt a surge of energy run through my body – it was very pleasant. He frowned –
“That’s odd, your wounds aren’t closing.”
“Maybe your god doesn’t love you anymore.”
At that point the Twins came out of hiding and Haya sprang to his feet with what I assume was some kind of deadly vial ready to throw. The two archers had come down to help but the others looked like non-fighting types. They looked ready to go for their bows but I convinced them that today was not a good day to die. We secured them in a lower cave where they had kept the horses – which had a winch that carried supplies up to the rest of the complex. It was quite a set-up indeed. I regarded the robed man.
“So what are you? A bandit priest of some kind?”
“Something like that.”
“That’s all I get? Usually you religious types never stop talking. Don’t you want to try to convert me to your bandit god?”
All he did was shrug. A few hours later half a dozen bandits, several of them wounded, came running back towards the lair – where I with my crossbow and the Twins with stolen bows were waiting to welcome them. After a couple shots they threw down their weapons and asked for quarter. A few minutes later Marsh and a company of his men showed up hot on their heels – looking only slightly the worse for whatever skirmish they had with the bandits. We rounded all the captives together and his men started looking through the rocky-hideout for weapons and supplies.
“You’re quite the operator Ela.”
“I have my moments.”
“Next we go see some dwarfs.”
Funds: 10,258 gold
Inventory: Ring of Many Garments, Bag of Tricks (rust), Cap of Disguise, Secure Pocket, Resplendent Diplomat’s Palette, Secure Paypack, Skeleton Key, Brooch of Shielding, Pouch of Magic Stones, Masterful Grey Gloves, Black Marketers’ Bag, Biting Bracelet (Endless Ammunition), Boots of Escape, Bracers of the Glib Entertainer, Ring of Animal Friendship, +2 Commanding Light Crossbow, Headband of Alluring Charisma +2, Manual of Quickness of Action, Bracer of Fire Resistance (10), Spear of Piercing Thunder, Handy Haversack, Amulet of Natural Armor +1, Cloak of Resistance +2 (2), Headband of vast intelligence +2 (2), Ring of Feather Falling, Spectacles of Keen Sight
Signet ring, noble’s outfit, candlerod (9), masterwork dagger, succubi carving, Domiel family ring, walking stick, masterwork playing cards, spinel and peridot holy symbol of Kralten, diamonds (14), silver crown, waterskins (6), trail rations (7), antitoxin (9), formula book, smelling salts (3), sunrods (3), thieves’ tools, tindertwigs (6), various and sundry inebriants and intoxicants
Silver ring, gold bracelet, gold and pearl pendant, gold ring, platinum necklace (2), mithril hair clasps (3), 4 small diamonds
Revenge List: Duke Eaglevane,
Piltis Swine, Rince
Electrum, watchman Gridley, White-Muzzle the worg, Percy Ringle
the butler , Alice Kinsey , “ Patch”, Heroes of the Lost Sword, Claire
Conrad, Erist priest of Strider, Riselda owner of the Sage Mirror,
Eedraxis, Skin-Taker tribe,
Kartak, Królewna & Bonifacja Trading Company, Hurmont Family, Androni
Titus, Greasy dreadlocks woman, Lodestone Security, Kellgale Nickoslander,
Beltian Kruin the Splithog Pauper, The King of Spiders, Auraluna Domiel, mother
Hurk, Mazzmus Parmalee, Helgan
van Tankerstrum, Lightdancer, Bonder Greysmith, Pegwhistle Proudfoot, Lumbfoot