Before the sun was up I had chosen a fine steed from the stables and was heading towards Varshire at a steady trot – arriving in the tiny community just as the sun was rising. I’ve seen plenty of sunsets but very few sunrises in my day. The sun coming up over the horizon is a little more hopeful than the reverse, which is sappy but that doesn’t make it any less true. Well, maybe a little less true. The mighty wizard who gave up wizarding, Hellerhad, was making ends meet as a butcher – which was the only shop in this hamlet other than a general store of some kind. Although I think a general store is supposed to have more than post-hole diggers right? Otherwise it’s not a general store.
I’ve seen enough of the world to know that not ALL wizards are runty bookworms (just most) but I was still taken aback by the sight of Hellerhad. I’m no short woman and I barely came up to nipple height on this man – and he was broad as a barn as well. And while some of it was fat, most of it was knotty muscle. He was bald as an egg but had a thick droopy mustache that twitched when he moved his lips. It was uncomfortably reminiscent of the antennae of an insect grasping around. As I came towards his miniscule open air shop where he was whacking some poor critter to bits he ineffectually wiped his bloody hands on a rag.
“You’re up early My Lady. I don’t believe I’ve seen you around here before.”
“I’m new around these parts, newish anyway. I’m the Baroness’s cousin.”
“Never knew she had any kin. Does the Baroness’s cousin have a name?”
“Of course. Just to be sure I’m talking to the right butcher you’re Hellerhad right?”
“No one calls me that anymore, they call me Ox now.”
“Sure, but you know what I’m getting at.”
“I don’t like where I think this is going.”
“Don’t worry, I won’t hurt you. Now as I’m sure you know the Baron is off bravely fighting the barbarians of the hills leaving the Baroness to run things all alone in the world with only me her petite slip of a cousin to help.”
“And all the men up at the manor.”
“Sure but all the good ones are off fighting, those men are all rascals and mischief-makers, why just the other day one of them had the temerity to sneak a look at me while my bustle was askew.”
“Gods save us.”
“Indeed. My point is we all need to step up and do our part. And that includes you my fine bald friend. We need some magical advice, and you’re the man to give it.”
He shook his head stoutly “I don’t work magic anymore.”
“You won’t have to. Probably. We just need your wise council.”
He crossed his arms “And if I refuse?”
“You won’t. Because only a cad would refuse to help a lady in need, especially a noble lady, especially a noble lady who rules the land they live in. Only a real fen-sucked applejohn would do something like that. You know, a dyed in the wool harecop dunbeater of a bedswerver.”
He sighed dramatically “What do you want?”
I accidentally took the Kralten-symbol out my Bag instead of the Kozilek symbol “I want you to take a look at this and oh sorry, wrong one, I . . .”
He stepped back in fear as if I was holding a live cobra in my hand. I found this quite alarming, as you can imagine. Or maybe you can’t, how should I know what you can imagine?
“What? Is it cursed or something?!”
“Do you know what that is?!”
“No, that’s why I came to you, what is it?!”
“That symbol . . .” he trailed off breathlessly.
“Yeah, it’s a symbol for Kralten. Are you freaking out because of that or because it some kind of execrable magic that’s going to turn me into a donkey or something?”
He backed himself into the corner, his voice going hoarse “Where did you get it?”
“I took it off a dead Kralten lady.”
“You killed a follower of the Lord of Revenge?”
“No, not that one anyway. Actually now that I think about it I don’t think I’ve killed any Kralten people. Wait, were those people in Quillshire Kraltenites? I think they were demon worshippers or something. Although really what’s the difference between an evil god a demon lord really? I did have one Kralten guy thrown off a castle wall but I didn’t kill him personally. And some kid who was like the Kralten messiah or savior I kicked so hard his balls burst. Which now that I think about it may have killed him. A ball bursting could be fatal right?”
Hellerhad couldn’t even form words, he just shook his head oddly back and forth – not like a “no” head shaking, but more like he was trying to fling off a spider crawling on his face without using his hands.
“Get a hold of yourself man, is it bad magic or are you just afraid of Kralten?” I snapped my fingers in front of his face a few times. “Hey big man, seriously calm down, you look like you’re having a fit of some sort.”
In the end I resorted to a sharp slap across the face – I’m not sure I could have reached his face to slap it if he wasn’t halfway slumped in the corner. This finally seemed to bring him around, although he looked about as healthy as the carcass splayed out on his butchering table. I assume there’s a name for that. People have names for everything.
Hellerhad took a deep breath “I can help you. But I need you to do something for me first.”
“Of course you do, you’re a man. Be quick with it, I’d like to get on the road today if I can.”
“The children of the surrounding farmlands have been being lured into the woods by a satyr, entranced by its flute playing.”
“Just a normal satyr?”
“Uh, I guess so . . . yeah.”
“No problem. I killed a vampire satyr just the other day – so a normal satyr should be no challenge at all. Point me in the direction of these woods and I’ll take out this goat legged bastard and then we’ll be in business.”
I spent the rest of the day going around to different farmhouses and talking to annoying grief-stricken parents about their children being stolen away by the piper of the woods. Eventually I went into the woods and very quickly heard the sound of pipes being played and followed them to a sunny dell where a satyr was cavorting and gamboling about playing a flute of some excessively shiny metal.
“Oh hello there friend! Care to join me in my revels? My name is Colper and these are my woods! What’s your name pretty lady?”
I loaded my crossbow and shot him in the belly.
“OH GODS WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?!”
Turns out the kids were just running away from home and were hiding in Allene – the satyr had nothing to do with anything. I was pretty pissed off at this point because I spent my whole day on this nonsense. However when I got back to the butcher shop my previous anger turned into blind rage because Hellerhad was gone – he had closed up the place and scarpered while I was on his wild goose chase.
What a pointless day.
Funds: 995 platinum
Inventory: Noble’s Traveling Outfit, Animated Riding Coat, Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion), Dagger of Venom, Bracers of Armor +2, Ring of Protection +2, Light Crossbow, Fake Signet Ring, False Papers, Bag of Concealment, Belt of Giant Strength +4, Vest of Resistance +1, Ring of Sustenance, Gem of Brightness, Potion of Invisibility, Silver Chain set with Moonstones, Gold and Emerald Ring (2), Glove of Vampiric Touch, Platinum and Silver Holy Symbol of Kralten, Holy Symbol of Kozilek, Ruby (2), Black Marketers’ Bag, 879 Garnets, crystal necklace
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 Sheepskin, Lumber Consortium
of Three Rivers, Hellerhad the Wizard