Posted by : David Guyll May 11, 2014

Cast
  • Augustine (3rd-level human paladin)
  • Jaya (3rd-level human bard)
  • Mouse (3rd-level gnome thief)
  • Visete (3rd-level human wizard)

As the night progressed Mouse found himself talking with the shadowy figure he had swapped poisons with a few hours ago. Despite being shadowy and a vendor of questionable items, he had a pleasant personality and was strangely very open about a variety of topics, which ranged from poisons, to just how delicious babies were, to the fact that he was a rakshasa.

It is important to note that Mouse had no idea what a rakshasa was. If he did then he might have been afraid, or maybe at least concerned, but if nothing else the conversation flow would have made more sense: after all they do love them some babies. Instead he asked what a rakshasa was.

The Rakshasa-To-Be-Named replied that it allowed him to, among other things, rotate his hands completely around. It is also important to note that Mouse had seen a lot of strange things in the past few days, including a massive talking spider-fey-creature with a human-face-mask that also enjoyed babies (maybe there was something to this whole baby thing), and he was also quite drunk, so when the rakshasa demonstrated his...talent Mouse not only took it in stride, but asked if he could show him how to do it: who knew when a spinning hand could be useful?

Rak laughed and asked Mouse if he was any good at handling knives, specifically throwing them. Mouse proudly boasted that when people were paying attention to him, keeping his distance was certainly preferable to getting up close and personal. Rak nodded in approval and produced a strange implement that looked less like a knife, more like a sharpened hook-cross, and asked Mouse if he was up for a friendly wager: his weapon against a hundred coins.

They went outside and found a tree. The rules were simple: whoever could hit the tree more accurately won. Mouse went first, planting his dagger squarely in a tree behind the one that they had agreed upon, and cursed under his breath, hoping that Rak was as many mugs deep into the dwarven ale as he was. Rak then threw his, and Mouse watched with a mixture of chagrin and amazement as it spun, curving around behind the intended target, dislodged his knife, and returned to the his hand.

Sure, it was fancy, but technically he did fail to hit any trees at all. Mouse considered trying to point that out, but it was clear that the throw was deliberate, and the last thing he needed was another enemy, especially one that knew how to use poisons and could throw like that. Besides, the rest of the gang was not aware of exactly how much cash they had on tap, which was enough that Mouse could easily slip him a hundred without anyone being the wiser for it.

To his surprise when he went to pay up Rak laughed gruffly, and told Mouse that he could have the weapon anyway. As Mouse tried to consider what angle he could possibly be playing, Rak leaned close and whispered that bad times were coming, he was heading east across the mountains, and that he should come with. Mouse was at a loss for words, and at his clearly puzzled expression Rak elaborated that Baron Hargrave had "gained" the employ of a certain shadowy assassin through the use of goldenroot poison, and that it would behoove him to get out of the region until everything settled down.

The fey are not like mortals. They do not die of old age, but at a certain point are...consumed by shadows. Thus, they tend to fear beings made of shadow, or anyone that can shape and wield them. If the Baron had gained the "loyalty" of such a creature, then it meant Jarl, or for that matter any fey in the region, was in a lot of danger. Mouse managed to compose a smile, thank Rak for the offer, and politely decline. He told him that he still had a job to do and friends that were counting on him. Rak again nodded, and said that if he should change his mind to make his way across the mountains to a place called Qasir. Mouse again thanked him, and headed back inside the tavern.

Augustine was in the stables, thoroughly drunk, with Whitestar. So, business as usual. He had not yet passed out—though not for a lack of trying—and was wracking his brain trying to remember just when or how he had gotten there, but a strange splashing noise was making it impossible to concentrate. Eventually he realized that it was Whitestar, who had been lapping at his mug. Augustine peered into it, saw that it was mostly drained, and surrendered what was left to the horse.

As Whitestar finished it off he wondered what a horse would act like when drunk. He expected that it would not be much different from a person, which is one reason why it surprised him when Whitestar's form melted away, revealing a man, thankfully fully clothed. He stared in shock, looking back and forth between the mug and his former horse: had Mouse put something in his ale, or was he hallucinating just one of the side-effects of dwarven booze? After all, he had heard that it was sometimes made from mushrooms. It was not until the man talked, addressing him by name, that he realized that he knew this person: a wizard of no small skill named Visete.

Then he passed out.

The next day, with everyone more or less sober, Visete was able to formally introduce himself. He was a friend of Augustine's who had been transformed into a horse by Hargrave after discovering that he had acquired a set of spirit-bound wolf-skin belts that allowed the wearer to transform into a wolf. He planned on using them to lead a team of his most skilled soldiers into the Great Forest, sniff out the location of Jarl, and kill him. This would leave no one in the region to oppose Hargrave, which was decidedly bad, so they had to find Jarl first.

Thankfully Fiona knew her way through the forest and, even better, the exact location of Jarl's home. It was an advantage, but not much, so they quickly packed their wagon, bought a new horse, and set out. Unfortunately the forest was less than an ideal environment for the wagon, so they had to abandon it shortly after entering.

They followed Fiona's lead, who was able to deftly tread through foliage despite most of the sun being blocked out by the towering trees. The trek went smoothly until Mouse glanced up and somehow spotted a well-camouflaged elf aiming intently for Augustine. He shouted a warning before darting behind a tree, giving Augustine enough time to step aside and narrowly avoid the shot. Augustine responded by heaving Mardral's hammer at the tree: the impact shook it violently, causing the elf to fall to the ground, but it gracefully rolled with the fall and came up standing before Augustine, sword drawn.

As Augustine tried to wrench the hammer free, the elf seized the opportunity and charged, but before he could strike the point of a blade erupted from his chest. The blade retreated, and by the time the elf crumpled to the ground whoever had delivered the strike had vanished, which probably meant that it was Mouse.

Jaya pulled Fiona behind a tree, scanning the boughs for any more snipers. There were several more, positioned as such to surround them in a wide ring: apparently they had anticipated where they were traveling.

Visete muttered words of power, channeling his will into a sphere of fire that he clutched in his hand. Once he felt that he could contain it no longer, he hurled it at a pair of trees where some of the elves were closely perched, but a powerful gust of wind blew it off course. It detonated some distance away, lighting a copse and some underbrush on fire. Another elf, dressed in white robes, floated into view, her robes billowing as if from a strong breeze.

Augustine moved to strike another tree: climbing them would take too long, so his only option was to try dislodging them, disrupt their aim, or at least to draw their attention while Mouse and Visete picked them off. A pair of elves realized what he was trying to do, but as they aimed for him Jaya whistled sharply, causing one of them to grunt painfully and accidentally shoot the floating elf. Despite the wound she managed a graceful landing on a thick branch, and with a wide sweep of her good arm she conjured a gust of wind that drew in smoke from the nearby burning trees.

While Augustine blindly swung about hoping to hit a tree, or preferably an elf, Visete carefully aimed where he remembered the robed elf standing and fired off a few bolts of force. Surprisingly he heard her gasp in pain. Nothing else happened, and by the time the smoke cleared the elves were nowhere to be seen. They scanned the trees for a few minutes, but when they neither saw anything or were skewered by arrows cautiously continued walking, and made it to Jarl's home a few hours later without further incident.

It was located in a deep bowl. Stone walls were erected between the thick roots of a mighty tree. There were several openings in the walls of various sizes: a door and some windows. They could see lights inside and smoke was issuing from a hole somewhere: it looked like Jarl was still home. He was tall, much taller than Augustine, with dark skin and broad shoulders. His hair was long and dark, and a pair of massive antlers grew from his head. Though he wore no shirt a thick, tangled beard covered most of his chest, and he was carrying a bow that was as tall as he was, but judging by his physique it looked like it would be an easy feat for him to draw it.

Visete explained everything: the baron, belts, and the Baron's plan. Fiona followed up with the fact that their daughter Brigette was in the clutches of a spider-fey creature, that also had a penchant for fey blood and dwelled beyond the borders of the Great Forest. All things considered he took the news surprisingly well, and agreed to come with them to see Madra if they would stand by him against the Baron and his men: they were the primary threat to his forest, so if they could defeat him then there would be less risk if he were to leave.

They decided to wait for the Baron to arrive and hole up in Jarl's home. There were no doors or shutters, so they stacked up some antlers beneath the windows, and then everyone but Jarl hid throughout the house. They hoped that when the Baron and his men arrived they would be too focused on Jarl to notice any other scents, giving everyone else a chance to take them by surprise.

The first encounter was relatively uneventful: a single wolf cautiously crept through the front door, sniffing about until an arrow from Jarl's bow pinned it to a wall, killing it instantly. From his hiding place Mouse watched it revert to the form of a well-armored human, wearing a fur belt.

The next attack was more heedless: a pair of wolves each burst through the front and back door, loping towards Jarl. As they cornered him in the den Visete lobbed a sphere of fire. It enveloped all of them, which was good, but it drew their collective attention, which was bad since he was woefully ineffective in actual combat. Fur singed and smoking they descended upon him, knocking him to the ground and wildly tear at him. So occupied it was easy for Mouse to sneak up and drive his sword through the back of one's skull, and as it reverted to its true form he could not help but notice the belt.

Augustine arrived soon after, armor clanging loudly as he thundered through the winding halls. The hammer would be too unwieldy in such close quarters so he had opted for his halberd, the length of which had the added benefit of allowing him to keep the wolves at bay. Visete crawled away from the wolves, hoping to get some distance, maybe find his ear that hard been torn off, and that Jaya or Augustine could reattach it. Jaya played a high-pitched note on her flute, weaving it around Mouse's sword: she expected Augustine to occupy the wolves while Mouse darted in, as they had done with the troglodytes a few days ago.

Instead, Mouse put the belt on, transforming into a normal-sized wolf.

Unsure what Mouse would do next, Augustine went on the offensive, hacking one of the wolves down, while Visete angrily punched a hole through another's skull with a word and a violent gesture. Wolf-Mouse leaped past Augustine in a blur of motion, colliding with the last wolf. They fought in a frenzy of teeth and fur, biting and clawing at each other, but in the end Mouse managed to overtake his opponent and savagely tear his throat out. With his senses heightened Mouse realized that he could smell the Baron close by, and overtaken with bloodlust he bolted out the door.

Curious, Visete picked up one of the belts, assuming that he would need to wear it for it to have any effect on him. However as he examined it, he could hear the spirit within whispering into his mind, urging him to don it, to give chase, to feel the thrill of the hunt, the kill, and the exhilarating taste of blood.

He did.

Behind the Scenes
Of course I put on the belt. How could I not? I mean, to be fair it worked out up until the point where Mouse ran off after the Baron, but I am sure he will be juuust fine. I wonder if this will open up a compendium class?

I also totally recycled the name Qasir from If These Stones Could Scream: hopefully if/when we go there, there will not be bleeding, tortured statues trying to rip us apart.

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