Late yesterday afternoon a powerful storm rolled up on the caravan without much notice. I’m no weather expert, but it seemed pretty abnormal to me. In the course of a few minutes it went from being a fine sunny (a little too hot maybe) day to being black as night with menacing clouds and then a hard rain and fearsome wind whipped up. I feel like usually you see these things coming. Probably some idiot wizard messing with the weather. They do that you know. They conjure up some rainclouds to water their stupid garden and in the meantime that kicks off a thunderstorm that floods an entire village a few miles away. To say nothing of the unicorn hit by lightning bolts – those horns are like lightning rods you know. People have cruelly taunted me with the brand of murderer but I tell you mages kill more people by accident then my lies ever could. I wonder why they’re even allowed in the Kingdom. Why can’t we direct our prejudices at people that deserve them for once?
Turns out that circling the wagon isn’t just an expression – it’s what you actually do in a storm. Apparently you’re also supposed to do it when attacked also but in my experience when a wagon train is attacked everyone is dead and the wagons are on fire before anyone can circle anything. It was a pretty miserable night for everyone hunkered down under tarps and whatnot as the wind howled and threw tree branches at us, but I actually slept pretty well underneath a wagon. It’s a gloomy testimony of how accustomed I’ve become to the miserableness of my new lifestyle – the old me would have lost her shit if she had to sleep in the dirt under a wagon during a storm. I’m pretty sure a rat ran over me in the night and I didn’t even care. That’s where I’m at now.
The storm gave out sometime in the night but nobody was real chipper this morning – not just because of the storm but in part because they all had bad dreams again. They didn’t have the same bad dream, but it sounded like they were all variations on a theme – they were being menaced by a sickly looking canine monster that was nevertheless giant and terrifying. And who was commanding this gaunt vicious beast? None other than yours truly – although the dream version of me had a monstrous fanged mouth and weeping lesions all over the skin. This definitely seems like evidence that someone is manipulating people as they sleep helplessly. People were giving me dirty looks like I had done something – you ever have someone get mad at you because of a dream they had? Talk about some bullshit.
But as I said that was only part of the reason everyone was in a shambles. The other part was that someone was missing. The terrible cook’s young assistant Pulin Tarloon (sounds like the name of an old man not a teenager doesn’t it? But all old people were young once, which makes old sound names really weird to think about) was gone when they did the morning headcount. Everyone in the group loves this Tarloon character because makes a big show of being helpful and kind and all that, but it’s a sham. He puts on a polite and kindly act but I can tell he’s going to grow up to be a real asshole. I’ve looked in his eyes and I know his kind. The question is if I cared to do anything about it could his assholery be abated or is it inevitable at this point? And if you could be stopped what would stop it? Love? Ass whippings? Military service? Loving ass whippings in the military? What straightens out a young man who’s headed down the path of assholedom?
Some people were foolish enough to think that maybe he had wandered off during the storm, but talk about your wishful thinking. After a couple hours of searching the half-elf brigade found the tracks of the people that took him. Because of course he was taken. This spurred a brief debate amongst the caravaneers – the half-elf quartet (does that make it an elf duet?) was more than willing to go after the boy, but they wouldn’t without the say so of Madam Hücresel since she hired them to protect her investment, not go haring and scaring across the countryside looking for wayward proto-assholes. They’re shockingly professional and committed for an adventuring band. Maybe it’s a half-elf thing.
The young miss Hücresel was the most vocal of the proponents for sending the squad to rescue Taroon, she clearly has a little thing for him (I’d wager if that was allowed to play out in a few years he’d leave her pregnant and heartbroken) while the elder Hücresel clearly did not want to waste her resources – proving her to be a wise woman. It was equally clear though that she was going to cave to peer pressure until I stepped in.
“This is obviously a trap, why are were even discussing going after him?” All eyes turned to me “I mean these tracks are unmistakably left on purpose – even I could have found them and I don’t know anything about tracking or woodcraft.”
All eyes then swung to one of the nameless (okay they have names I just didn’t bother to learn them) half-elfs who looked more woodsy than magicky (they’re are all proportions of both) that I think was a male.
“They are very clear tracks.”
S/he reluctantly nodded after a moment “It’s very unusual to find tracks these clean, I only remember seeing tracks like this when someone was laying them down to teach me how to find tracks.”
I cocked my head “And there you have it. Tough luck for poor Tarloon, but there’s no sense in walking straight into a trap is there?”
Martialla has a thoughtful look “Well, if someone is setting a trap they’re already after us aren’t they? Ignoring it may not do much good either.”
I shot her a dirty look but she just shrugged – that woman has no sense of when to keep her mouth shut. We’re already going slow enough, we don’t have time for this wild goose hunt. Especially not for the benefit of someone who’s going to be horrible in a few years anyway. I wish more people were as perceptive as me, nobody would be all bent out of shape about finding Tarloon if they knew what he really was. As they continued to debate I became aware that a scarecrow with a pumpkin head had walked into the group and was smoking a pipe. No one else seemed to notice so I pointed.
“What the fuck is that?”
The scarecrow took the pipe out of its gourd “lips” and gestured “Don’t mind me, I’m just listening.”
There were some screams, several people moved away from it, and the half-elfs were ready to annihilate it, but it seemed harmless enough. It didn’t seem to have any reaction to be threatened by half-elfs anyway. After a few moments of everyone staring at it, the casual animated scarecrow told us that it had been brought to “life” by a local wizardess and was just curious what we were up to.
“I thought wizards used familiars for that kind of thing, ravens seem to be a popular choice.”
It nodded its pumpkin head “Sure, they can fly, but they don’t have hands do they? Plus I don’t shit all over the place.”
“How exactly are you smoking? You don’t have lungs. Or do you? Are there some human lungs in that straw chest of yours?”
“Of course not, don’t be silly.”
“Yes, because otherwise what’s happening here is completely serious. Look buddy, we’re kind of in the middle of something here so beat it will you?”
Its pipe flared as it took a deep drag “You’re a bit rude aren’t you? I just caught the end of what you were saying, but I think you’re the reason I’m out here. Someone was taken? My mistress is trying to find help in dealing with some people that like taking other people.”
“Do these people also spew violent deadly nightmares out of their heads?”
Have you ever seen a scarecrow look chagrined? I have now.
“Uh, no, that’s probably my mistress doing that . . . seemed like the best way to get someone’s attention.”
“Sure, like shouting fire in a crowd, smart. How was that supposed to work? Everyone is having bad dreams but it’s not like she was handing out directions. Why didn’t she just appear in the dreams and say ‘hey I need some help?’”
“I’m no wizardess but I guess it doesn’t work like that.”
I rolled my eyes “Of course it doesn’t why would magic ever work in a way that made sense? So who are these people who took our beloved assistant cook to lure us into a trap?”
“Trap? Why do you say that?”
“The trail they left could hardly be more noticeable, they want us to follow it.”
“Hmm, that’s interesting. They only go after people with magic ability for their rituals, so far they’ve restricted themselves to people that have nascent ability but haven’t learned to use it yet. Sounds like maybe they’ve changed tactics. Are any of you magic users?”
“Those four guards are.” I jerked my thumb at Martialla “And this one. It’s actually a surprisingly magical caravan for its size now that I think about it. “
It “chewed” on the end of the pipe thoughtfully “Hmm, so maybe they were hoping to lure them into an ambush to harvest their magic. That would be quite a step up for them.”
“And by harvest I assume you mean by ritual sacrifice.”
“Torture and then sacrifice.”
I nodded “Of course.” I turned back to the assembly “Alright, you folks go on ahead, I’ll rescue Tarloon and then catch up with you. And before you say anything there’s no reason to send the magic people because that’s who they’re after – they must have a way to neutralize them or they wouldn’t but putting the lure out there. I’ll go talk to the wonderful wizard and figure this all out. If you have anyone who can fight I wouldn’t mind some company, but I don’t see a reason to send the magic users.”
There was a surprising lack of push-back to this plan. Everyone seemed perfectly happy to let me risk my life for this little shit while they stayed safe and happy. Martialla did take me aside to explain that animated scarecrows was more of a witch thing than a wizard thing and reminded me that witches get their powers by forging pacts with the dark ones. Which I’m well aware of course. But I tell you I prefer and honest demoniac to a shifty wizard most of the time. At least with them you know where you stand – wizards? Who knows what they’re up to.
Funds: 47,040 platinum, 25,750 gold
Inventory: Hat of Effortless Style, Tankard of the Drunken Hero, Ela’s Dazzling Garment, Belt of Physical Might +4, Ring of Urban Grace, Black Marketers’ Bag (5), Tidy Trunk, Whiterock Family Ring (Ring of Binding), Ela’s Elegant Boots, Ela’s Extravagant Necklace, Brooch of Shielding, Headband of Subtle Misdirection, Antiquarian’s Monocle, +1 Glorious Undead Bane Short Sword, Ela’s Stately Greatcoat
Noble’s outfit (5) collegium ring, pocketed scarf, wrist sheath, signet ring (2) assortment of fake signet rings, silver chain set with moonstones, gold and emerald ring (2), garnets (700), gold necklace with jade pendant, ivory combs, tax collector’s badge, gold bracelet with ivory inlays, silver necklace set with rubies, gold earrings with jade inlays, silver and gold brooch, silver necklace with ruby pendant, disguise kit, covenant ring, tiny diamonds (26), Saryah Phidaner gown, masterwork thieves’ tools, onyx (55) personal signet ring, tiara, masterwork red and black long greatcoat, Turnbill blade of first forging (one of three), darkwood and platinum music box, silver bracelet set with bloodstones, platinum ring set with fire opal, silver and moonstone bracelet, holy symbol of Kozilek, dwarf journal
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, Jey Rora, Colonel Tarl Ciarán, Mayor Baras Haldmeer, Rindol the Sage, Essa, eyeless hag, Baron Saltwheel, Baron Harmenkar, Colonel Tarl Ciarán’s wizard soldier, Victor, Beharri, Cebuano, Mayor Eryn, Chimera Trading Company