We reached Heller’s Hills today a few days ahead of schedule to intercept Tanara Aluation, which gave us time to explore the community. We saw such sights as the one street and the crazy guy who harangues passersby (passerbys?) and the taxidermy bear outside the lumbermill. And that’s pretty much the extent of what Heller’s Hills has to offer a curious traveler. After checking out the one street and the stuffed bear for a second time Martialla and I were sitting on barrels outside the general store drinking distilled fruit brandy from her flask.
“How is it that you always seem to have booze?”
“It’s a magic flask, it refills itself every day.”
“No. I’m just a good scrounger and I plan ahead. There actually is such a thing as a mug that fills itself but its weak watery beer. I’m not sure why anyone would even bother.”
“Most likely because they have a serious drinking problem. You’re magic, why don’t you make something like that that conjures up good alcohol?”
“That’s not how it works.”
“It’s never how it works. Magic is the worst.”
Martialla summoned an illusionary hand giving me a thumbs up “You got that right lady.”
The excitement really ratcheted up a notch when a kid came by rolling a hoop with a stick.
“You be careful with that hoop kid, it will stunt your growth. Mess with that hoop too much and you lose the power to imagine because you’re staring at the hoop all day – turns your brains to mush it does.”
The kid deftly used the stick to flip the hoop to his hand “I’ve never seen you before, who are you?”
“Strangers, come talk to us, we’re luring you over.”
The kid shrugged and walked over “Okay.”
“We’re in town for a few days, does anything interesting go on here?”
“Well, Old Man Gwetting was killed by the hillfolk.”
“Hillfolk eh? What’s their problem?”
“I dunno. They sent word to the bailiff about it to see if he would come out and kill them but he said there was a war on so there’s no men to do anything about it.”
“There is a war on but there doesn’t seem to be any shortage of violent men hanging around as far as I can tell.”
“That’s probably in the city though, people there are always killing each other. My ma says that cityfolk are all murders and drug addicts and women of loose morals.”
“A wise woman your mother. Where could we find these hillfolk?”
“In the hills.”
“Of course, how silly of me.”
“You’re not going to go out there are you?”
“Someone has to don’t they? Can’t have murderous hillfolk running around scaring the sheep and molesting the scarecrows. Don’t worry about us kid, my friend and I are great warriors.”
The kid made a face like tasting something bad “You don’t even have lances. Or armor. Plus . . . . you’re girls.” The whispered the last part like it was a great secret.
“Correct on all counts, but when all you have is thin gruel it does no good to bite a snake.”
“What does that mean?”
Martialla turned to me as well “What does that mean?”
“It’s an expression” I said defensively.
After telling the kid to go home and help his momma Martialla and I went out to the “estate” of Old Man Gwetting which consisted of a shack and a pig pen and a second pig pen, so you know, it was a pretty nice shack. There was a very much not old man there shirtlessly doing something with hay and a pitchfork – his sweaty muscles rippling in the sun. This was the great-great-great fifth nephew Gwetting or some such who told us that his antecedent had been out by the Blue Ridge gathering mushrooms when the evil hillfolk set upon him and bludgeoned him to death.
Martilla and I made our way out to the Blue Ridge and made contact with the wicked hillfolk. They didn’t look like Kostelos – they looked normal – but they spoke a dialect of Kostelos that I was able to understand pretty well. They claimed that the old man had been grabbed by two elfs and taken up in the higher hills – which of course is where the real bad people are. If I’ve learned anything it’s that the lower elevation you live at the more civilized and less awful you are. Martialla and I headed up the trail they indicated.
“Full blooded elfs? What do you think we’re really going to find up there?”
“Nothing, probably the old man just wandered off and fell in a crevasse. Old people are forever falling in crevasses.”
It was starting to get dark by the time we were coming upon an outcropping where there appeared to be the ruins of an old temple, nothing much left standing but a couple of walls.
“I’ve never understood why religious types build in hard to reach places like this, what’s the point? Don’t they want to be where people can come and give them their money for their God? Hey, what is that?”
That turned out to be an alchemist’s vial thrown at us which exploded with a burst of some kind of freezing liquid that splashed all over us, which was quickly followed by a second. We spotted two figures in the shadow getting ready to hurl more vials at us through windows (or maybe just holes in the walls) of the front face of what was left of the temple. Martialla turned herself invisible while I used a Feather Token to create a tree and got some cover. The people in the temple tossed a few more vials but the path was so narrow the tree blocked it almost completely and they gave up.
“That wasn’t a very kind greeting.”
The voice did indeed sound like the mellifluous tones of an elf “We don’t get many visitors up here, come out and we’ll give you a proper welcome.”
“Did you kidnap and old man for some reason?”
“Yes. You want him come and get him. How long is that tree going to last?”
“Forever. Well, this isn’t a good place for a tree so it will die in a few months but I mean it’s not magic, it’s a real tree so it’s not going anywhere.”
“That’s going to be really inconvenient to get around.”
“Can’t you just float down to the ground with effeminate elf magic?”
“Come out from behind that tree and we’ll find out together.”
“Martialla are you ready yet?”
I heard her voice coming from inside the temple “Yeah, I’m ready.”
I activated the Lion Tattoo for climbing and shimmed up the tree, switching to lion balance to get a good firing position. I saw the two elves in the temple looking around wildly for Martialla. One of them threw down a flask that turned into a giant centipede and the other drank a potion that made him grow. Have you ever seen a ten foot tall elf? I have now. It’s . . . odd. I’m glad I wasn’t in the mix with the massive centipede, I hate those things even when they’re tiny, but it wasn’t much of a battle. A giant elf with a massive spear seems intimidating but a molten glob of metal to the face changes things in a hurry. After the fracas was over we found the old man’s body looking emaciated and exsanguinated in equal measure.
The elfs both had lean-tos set up against what was left of the crumbling walls and looked to have been there for years. They had notes and books that indicated they were looking for some way to turn themselves into vampires, which I have to assume is why they’re here instead of whatever magical land elfs are supposed to live in – elfs don’t like vampires so much. I think where they live is to the west across the sea. We found a few more bodies including what looks to have been a tax collector with a Bag of Holding full of gold. We piled the bodies together and burned them along with the notes and books before bedding down in the lean-tos for the night.
“Why would an elf want to be a vampire? Don’t they already live forever? Is there just weird stuff like this going on everywhere?”
“You were the one that was bored.”
“Meaning what exactly?”
“Maybe if we just took a few days to rest and do nothing this wouldn’t have been here.”
“What, so I made it happen somehow?”
“Maybe. The world is a strange place, who’s to say really? Maybe if you think about something enough you bring it into existence. Maybe the Gods are just waiting for ideas to make real.”
“Poor people think about food and money all the time but they don’t get it.”
“Oh no, it only works for bad things.”
“That much sounds accurate at least.”
Hair regrowth progress : .0435%
Funds: 747 platinum, 70,296 gold
Inventory: Wig of Alluring Charisma +4, Enchanted White Pathfinder’s Gear (effects as Iadaran Dress Uniform) Pocketed Scarf, Wrist Sheath, Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion), Ring of Protection +2, Assortment of Fake Signet Rings, Bag of Concealment, Belt of Giant Strength +4, Versatile Vest, Ring of Sustenance, Silver Chain set with Moonstones, Gold and Emerald Ring (2) Black Marketers’ Bag, 852 Garnets, Campfire Bead, Expedition Pavilion, +1 Human Bane Endless Ammunition Light Crossbow, Deck of Curses (two cards used), Blue Dragoncloth Dress, severed hag head, Ring of Urban Grace, gold necklace with jade pendant, Feather Token (tree) , white squirrel fur slippers, +1 Human Bane Dagger, ivory combs, Bewitching Gown, masterwork lute, Grappling Scarf, Wyvern Skin Robe (Robe of Arcane Heritage), receipt, Bag of Holding, tax collector’s badge, Calastar (Superior Riding horse, Horseshoes of Speed, Endless Feedbag)
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, Forsaken Kin, Law Offices of Office of Glilcus and Stolo