A courtly matter
Business in high society

The rattling clatter of wooden wagon wheels and the clomping hoofsteps that pulled them served well to drown out the muffled conversation that stirred within the coach. The driver, blissfully unaware of the discourse between his three elegantly dressed passengers, continued on his way to the gala at the Castle District estate that his fare had requested. Upon entering, the ladies had drawn the curtains closed over the shuttered windows. The driver didn’t seem to mind, as the evenings were unseasonably chilly this late in the spring. His thoughts turned to retiring for the night following his next fare, as he was eager to get back to his hearth.

Within the coach, the woman in a lavish blue gown glanced herself up and down in her pocket mirror before deftly snapping it closed with a sharp click, and returning it to her clutch purse. “So, one last time, are we clear?” she asked, surveying the other two ladies with her, extending a finger to wipe some errant lipstick from one of their faces. She looked down disapprovingly at it as she smudged it between her fingertips before wiping it away on the bench seat beside her. “Well?” She asked again, her tone more insistent. “Yes, mistress.” The two replied politely in near unison. The younger, dark haired girl in a silvery dress shifted uncomfortably as she recounted her duties. “So, I am to catch the eye of the Duke’s son. Then, I must make sure he’s quite drunk before allowing him to take me upstairs.” The girl next to her continued, “And I am to slip away and disappear, and change into the house maid attire you’ll hide for me out back. Then, I gain the favor of the serving boy Dylon, the one who drinks and gets into bar fights. I lead him off and share this drugged flask with him”, she says, revealing a small leather bound vessel from her purse. “Before he passes out, I convince him to take me upstairs because I just must see the rest of the estate. Then, I bring him to the Duke’s son’s room…” and the dark haired girl finishes, “…and we kill the son, and plant the weapon on the drunk after clubbing him with a vase, or something.”

“Or something!?” The matron interjects with a scornful look. “I expect better than ‘or something’ from you. We’re professionals. And professionals have plans. If you want to improvise, join a theatre troupe. This has to go exactly as planned. You have to slip out that window and change back into your dress and find a way back into that party before she screams out that the Duke’s son has been killed. We’re being paid to make this look like an accident. Our employer doesn’t want any suspicions to be raised.” At this, the coach ground to a halt just outside the gates of the estate. As the coachman dismounted and moved to open the door, the matron took one last look at the girls and sweetly said, “And don’t forget to smile.”

The view from up here
Muggers in The Rafters

“You can see almost everything from up ’ere.” the scraggly dark haired man said. He sniffed in protest of his nose running from the cold, and reached up to rub it with the corner of his ratty sleeve before pulling his hood back down over his forehead. He glanced to the side, catching the eyes of his younger associate, before nodding his head in a gesture towards the streets below. “Ain’t nothin’ goin’ on down there that you canna see. It’s the best way ta figure out who ta work on.” His associate nodded in agreement, leaning forward over the creaky ledge of the abandoned rooftop that the pair had picked as their perch. “You mean like that one there?” he inquired, stretching his arm out into the chilly night air as he pointed towards a lone figure moving through the streets below.

The older man cracked a rotten toothed grin as he enthusiastically nudged his associate, nearly staggering him off their precarious loft. “See? You got a knack for this kinda work. Let’s git on it!” The pair clambered down from the building top and made their way across the rooftops, jumping and balancing along the rickety planks and catwalks that spanned the streets and alleys below. “Haha!” he chided gleefully as their quarry continued on their way, “The dumb bugger’s headed right down Keston Alley! Ain’t no one gonna see ’im down there! Good catch boy!” The young mugger eagerly trailed his mentor, his hood blown back revealing loose sandy hair that whipped behind him in the crisp winds that swept along the rooftops. His eyes gleamed in anticipation, accented by an unusually cruel grin that slowly crept across his blue stained lips the closer they came to the rooftops above Keston Alley. He’d stopped caring some time ago where his coin came from. These days, all that mattered was that he’d have enough to score another dose of Sannish. Besides, he thought to himself, what’s one less mouth to feed? In the end, he was probably doing someone a favor.

Tara: Rofellos' New Apprentice?
From the journal of Kadaav

I am starting to feel as though we have more on our plate than we can handle of late. Not only have we discovered yet another danger to Writh, but have acquired a new… liability. While visiting East Fork we gained the interest of a young woman named Tara. I have yet to be informed of her surname, if indeed she has one. She worked at the bakery where the 4 of us found room and board. Very helpful and curious, I myself found her intriguing and even allowed myself the pleasure of a short and somewhat awkward conversation with her. As mentioned in a previous entry, I was in a foul state due to being mobbed by curious townsfolk. What really peaked my interest was that she reminded me so much of my friend, KIra. Tara (even their names are similar) even has an affinity for odd hair colors and talking one’s ear off. And here I prayed that Kira was the only one with that ability. I invited her back that evening to show Tara how to make hair dyes but Rofellos had other plans.

Shortly after I retired to my hot bath, she visited Rofellos and asked him to teach her magic, which of course, Rofellos immediately agreed upon. And, OH, what a clandestine affair it was! How brazen of a wizard to sneak out in the middle of the night with a human girl of 15 summers into the woods! It certainly wouldn’t be smiled upon by the elves of his ilk. Hahaha, the roguish bastard!

I awoke early the next morning to discover Rofellos’ absence and waited for his return in his room to surprise him. I asked him how it went and he accused me of lacing my words with sexual innuendo. Since I had not done so intentionally, I can only assume that something “touchy feely” went down during Tara’s lesson. Why else would Rofellos be so defensive over an honest question?

As it turns out, Tara has a talent for casting and Rofellos offered to make her his apprentice once our missions were completed. As anyone with a brain could imagine, this did not sit well to a young woman seeking excitement but she begrudgingly agreed.

We departed East Fork shortly after and continued on our Journey to West Fork. Days into our journey, who do we find riding at our backs? Tara of course. Is she terrified into returning home by the horrors she has witnessed so far? Nooooo, she wants to travel with us and learn everything. Luckily, I can not teach her my eldritch arts nor do I intend to share the secret of how to acquire them. Rofellos, despite the problems she will cause for us, has a definite twinkle in his eye. He certainly enjoys having a pupil. Frank seems indifferent to her presence and Ali just sleeps. If she wasn’t obviously an elf I would swear she was a cat.

We shall see how our new companion fares. I have such mixed emotions over her joining us and she has a tendency to enter my personal space. I find it exceedingly uncomfortable but at the same time… exciting? I must remind myself that humans at her age are releasing pheromones relentlessly and I had best shield myself from them. I should probably also warn Rofellos. Maybe.


Of Kids and Kings
"Stop playing with that mummy right now!"

In the words of Phi: a journal entry…

I have discovered that I do not have a whole lot of patience when it comes to children. It seems to me that they are small, and vulnerable, and not all that bright. One would think that if you were told a specific site was haunted with the dead and that perhaps these dead could rise and therefore splatter you across the wall…. you wouldn’t go there. But no, I suppose children do not have a large allotment of common sense.

I felt my patience wearing very thin by the time we found the fourth child who did her best to irritate me to no end. I am thankful that Howl saw fit to disable her with a simple sleep spell. At that point I had been mauled by mummies, skewered by skeletons, shot with sharps, and fried with fire. I don’t think I was having the best of days, and it must’ve shown. Though I endavor to be an example to my team members at all times I admit also that my inner turmoil over Chiron’s apparent defection has me severely out of sorts.

I feel it would be best for everybody involved if I sequestered myself in prayer until I can resolve these feelings.

Howl and Calcifer play a game of "Does it burn?"
Phi, Cor and Marinara Sauce

Almost a month has pasted since Lt. Abbrams, Knight of the Silver Scale, introduced Howl and myself to our new companions. We now find ourselves in Fridgir, sharing an inn with the 5 Cromats we’ve been hunting no less. There were many adventures that brought us here but first, I feel I should introduce my new companions.

Cor Chalybus first struck me as your average cleric of St. Cuthbert; committed to justice and upholding the rule of law. My opinion of him changed quickly once I saw him interrogating (more like entertaining) a follower of Tiamat. Never did he raise a hand or threaten him with divine retribution, instead he told him of different paths he could take with his second chance… and they weren’t even noble ones. He is also respectful of other gods (even evil ones), and he does what is right for people, not necessarily his church. Not to mention he is great to have on your side in a fight! If he isn’t healing you, he’s fucking something up with his mace. I don’t think he was too happy about having to work with me at first, but he has slowly become more open and friendly.

to be continued

Oh Hell....
"Tiamat's tits!"

In the words of Phi: A journal entry….

Words cannot adequately express just how I feel right now. It has been a long, hard road that has lead us to where we are. To find out what I did tonight has me shaken to my very soul. I do not want to believe my friend Chiron is wrapped up into it all, but the proof of my own eyes sat close enough to touch for over an hour discussing plans to bring war upon Bahamut’s land.

I am at a loss….

(Here there is a splotch of ink, as of perhaps she had dropped the quill without care.)

To be continued….

Scarves & Scales

In the words of Phi; a journal entry…

            I am currently in a medium sized town named Kadith that sits pretty much on Clall Lake, more commonly known as the Rose Mist Lake.  I did not have much trouble finding my way to this place as the road is fairly well traveled and marked for passage.  There was some incident with a crocodile and a cheetah who both tried to make a meal out of my new war horse, Steel.  I provided ample reason for both predators to avoid doing such a thing and admit that perhaps I was too forceful with the crocodile; it did not survive the encounter with my mace.  I do not delight in killing animals, they are only here doing what is natural for them.  Still, I can ill-afford for Steel to be wounded, or for my mule Sassafras to be lame.

            I find it much easier to travel now that I have a stalwart companion in Steel.  He was expertly trained by the same family who provides all of the war horses to the Silver Scale Knights in Celebraan.  I know from working with my father’s horses that Steel is of excellent stock and his majesty and strength awe me.  Standing beside a 19 hands tall white stallion makes one feel quite small in comparison; I am careful that he does not step on me!  I make sure that I am up each morning as the sun rises to do my 5am workout and to take care of Steel and Sassafras before we begin our travels.  I know that the bond between us will be stronger the more time I spend caring for them myself, and I enjoy the work.

            Kadith, upon arrival, reminds me of home in some ways.  Though it is much larger then my birthplace it still has a community feel.  You can tell the roads are maintained, the buildings scrubbed with care of presentation, and the people are friendly towards travelers.  I easily found someone who directed me to Base Camp, an inn of some renown.  Once Steel and Sass’ were stabled I rented myself a room, bathed, and then settled in for some information gathering down at a restaurant called The Dig.  My current mission is to help the local magistrate with a problem, namely one ghost that has been haunting Kadith and stealing odd items from the town.  I’d assume it was just a petty thief, or perhaps some kids, but I was assured that they Mayor’s wife had seen the ghost.

            I admit that while I am good at speaking to anyone, I am not so great at asking the right people about the right things apparently.  I spent the first night in town laughing with the patrons at The Dig and really just scrubbing myself mentally of road grime.  Turning in around 10pm I went to bed no more enlightened about the Kadith Curse (as some had called it) then before I trotted in.  Tomorrow I will head towards the other side of town where all of the law offices and magistrate are.  It is claimed that the Kadith Curse seems to be more central to that region of town, and so that is where I will begin my search for further information.

5am in Kadith is a time of silence and solitude.  I groom Steel and Sass then went for my daily run.  It feels good to be under my own locomotion again, testing my muscles and trotting along at a good pace.  No one is around to watch me really, but I find that I miss the company of Jacob and Henry.  Those two are living in a life of luxury back in Celee, having more money than they know what to do with. I do, and do not envy them, but I still wish they were here with me…

Rose Mist Lake is as gorgeous as all the brochures and pamphlets promise.  I took a rout along the lakeshore just to get a good idea of what all the fuss was about and I was not disappointed, that’s for sure.  At one point I stood, silent and still, to watch a herd of deer approach the mists, pass into them and disappear towards the lake.  It is simple pleasures like these that I feel should not be taken for granted, as all too easily they are lost to more pressing matters.  As I run I speak to Bahamut in my thoughts and keep up a dialogue throughout; it is the best time for me to mentally go over the past, present, and future plans for my missions.  As always I pray for Chiron’s return and that I am guided towards finding him as soon as possible; he is ever first in my prayers and thoughts as well as the last.

The day has dawned bright and clear by the time I am showered and ready to depart my room once more.  I think the best way to start off is to resupply and thus have a good reason to move about town and ask all sorts of questions.  No one seems to mind my questions here as it is, and I am careful to be professional as well as friendly.  There is a Knight’s outpost here, but I was instructed to deliver a sealed letter to their commanding officer once I had handled the Kadith Curse issue. I’d really like to know what’s in that letter, since it was mentioned that this is my final test before I begin my proper trials. Ah well… time will tell.

The strongest of all warriors are these two — Time and Patience.

My day has started with the General Store and there was not much to be found there.  I picked up the usual things, rations, rope, etc… There I found out that I could commission a tabard for Steel and set off to the Tailor’s Shop.  I learned from the Tailor that the small temple of Bahamut had been trying to rally support from Celebraan to have a trained Cleric sent to help them with the Kadith Curse, and I believe that would indeed be me.  Returning to Base Camp I retrieve Steel and ride to the temple to check in.  Upon arriving I see there is a similar horse tied in front, though this one has some type of special barding attached to it; I make note of this and proceed into the temple.

Sitting with a priest, lost in conversation, I spot the man who must own the horse out front.  He too is wearing armor and seems rather agitated, gesticulating regularly and with fervor.  I wait quietly to be approached, eyes raised to the visage of Bahamut behind the alter.  It is not long before the armored man, who I am later told is Peter, takes his leave and the priest comes to sit by me.  I start by turning so that he can see my full face, tattoo glinting softly in the light; it amazes me that I can always catch just a glimpse of the effect.  He smiles broadly and we exchange names, and reasons. I am quickly thanking him for his time, receiving a blessing, and trotting out the door after Peter.

Turns out that Peter is actually the head guard for one of the major noble families who live in Kadith and they had just been robbed of a family heirloom.  It sounded like a typical ghost theft item and so I introduce myself to the man; he looms over me in height once I’m off my horse. Instantly relieved he sets about showing me where the theft occurred, answers all of my questions and then takes his leave so that I may move about the property unrestricted.  I am actually amazed at the amount of trust placed within me, a stranger wearing Bahamut’s symbol and nothing else to recommend her.  I admit it puffed me with pride for a moment or two that I could be that person; be working towards a goal greater then myself.

The item stolen was a small hand mirror, bejeweled and long in the family.  I look around the area is was sitting before going missing and note that the window is open and there are tiny, barely visible claw marks along the top of the dresser.  I admit to being quite perplexed, because from what I know, ghosts do not need to be “let in” and nor do they leave visible evidence of their passing.  It’s all quite intriguing, but in the end, I believe I have made no headway in the case and take my leave.  Amazingly as Steel and I turn towards the road I catch a glimpse of color on the wind. After a blink it is gone, but I am fairly sure that I just saw a scarf…fly… by…

Eyebrows raised I kick Steel into action and chase after the scrap of cloth as it disappears into the woods nearby.  Just as I am about to lose it I spot it again, floating along in a weaving path – ‘this must be the ghost’ I think.  Steel and I chase after it but I lose it amid the brush and tangle of trees.  Not to be easily discouraged I keep looking and eventually spot it, at rest, high in the crook of some branches.  Climbing up there I find, much to my sheer amazement, an assortment of what can only be described as “shiny knickknacks” tucked into a nest of fabrics.  A mirror fitting the exact description given to me but an hour ago rests upon the top of the pile, and I immediately figure what’s going on: someone’s pet raven has escaped and has been pilfering light objects from town.

Figuring that the best thing to do is leave everything as I found it, I head back into town to procure a chicken cage.  After a bit of research I’m given some good advice and set back off into the woods to put it into practice.  Setting the cage up with some wire, I pulled the mirror down from the nest and place it inside.  Then I wait.  And wait… annnnnd wait….  Not long after the moon raises full into the sky I sense some commotion up in the tree above and hear some odd squawking noises.  Whatever is up there has surely noticed the mirror is missing, though it doesn’t take long for the creature to notice as moon glints from the object.  It zooms down, lands by the cage and prances right in to retrieve the mirror.  Ah-ha!  I pull the string, slam the door and tie it to keep tension before rushing over.  What I find is downright perplexing. 

Not a bird at all, the small thing is making a big ruckus in the cage and flapping all about.  It seems to be some sort of bat with arms and legs and claws, but as it settles down a little I notice a horn. Squinting I peer at it and it peers back; I’m at an impasse…what on earth did I just catch?!  Deciding to figure it out later I ransack its nest, pull down all the cloth and the trinkets, stuff everything into a saddle bag and grab the cage.  Riding to town is fairly quiet, and the creature seems content to clutch the mirror in sullen silence.  By the time I make it back to town, settle Steel and get to my room I am so exhausted I fall to sleep with a prayer upon my lips and a holy symbol in my hands.

5am comes early today and as the door is knocked upon I am quick to call out that I’m up – no need for the Inn staff to have a look at my newest acquisition. Speaking of, the creature is awake and watching me with suspicion.  I can’t blame it, though I can try to figure out what “it” is.  I watch it, and it watches me, each trying to figure something out about the other.  It dawns on me that I have heard of something that fits this creature’s description, called a Huitzil.  It’s basically some type of dragon hybrid cross with a bird or a bat, and they are known to be harmless but avid in their love of shiny objects.  Bingo!

The Huitzil is not pleased to be in a cage and I cannot really blame him.  From what I’ve heard he had the run (or wing as it may be) of this town for several months as the Kadith Curse.  I leave to find him some food now that the market is open, and he glares at me from a soiled cage. One thing at a time little dragon friend!  After procuring several fruits I open the cage and offer it an apple.  Snatching it he zooms out of the cage, perching on my bed to watch me warily and eat.  I ignore him as best I can to look non-threatening and clean up the soiled bedding left in the cage.  Placing new stuff I try to tempt him back into the cage with a silver coin; he foils me by grabbing it from the side.  I try again with a gold coin, hiding it in the bedding – he retrieves that as well without going into the cage.

At that point I was rather frustrated and not knowing anything else to do, figure perhaps Bahamut’s visage might help. He is a type of dragon creature, so what could it hurt? Summoning my power I can sense my tattoo growing warm and outlining in shimmering silver color.  Completely forgetting the other fruit and his coins, the Huitzil inches his way to me, climbs onto my arm, hop-skips up, and begins….licking…my face.  Right on the tattoo – slurping and nuzzling me.  Well… at least he has stopped making odd noises and seems content.  I easily place him back in the cage, hand him more fruit and cover it with my cloak.

My next stop puts me and my saddlebags full of precious items and trinkets at the Magistrate’s Office where I explain the situation and offload the stolen items to be returned.  Figuring it best to return the mirror in person I head that way and am greeted almost like family, the gratitude is almost overwhelming.  I assure them that the situation has been handled, that the Kadith Curse was no more than a curious creature in love with shiny things, and am on my way to the Knights outpost.

My excitement mounts as I ride towards the outpost, sealed letter carefully tucked into my pouch.  I announce myself, am given an appointment and then spend the rest of the day finishing up some shopping and resupplying.  I dropped more fruit off for the Huitzel, but it seems to be sleeping the day away, clutching gold and silver pieces like favored teddy bears.  I kind of like the little guy, and it seems to me that perhaps Bahamut sent him to be a test upon my skills and patience. Perhaps I can convince him to stay with me as a sort of pet while I am in town, as I really do not know what else to do with him. He clearly cannot be released anywhere near other towns and I get the feeling that he really wouldn’t survive very far from the relative shelter and safety of civilization; he’s is quite young.

Eventually my time to visit the Knights has arrived, and after straitening myself up I head on in.  I am greeted by Lieutenant Abrims, a no-nonsense kind of Knight.  Presenting my letter I stand at attention, waiting as he reads.  After offering me a seat he asks me to please tell him what I had been up to in town and any previous experiences.  I really don’t know what he’s looking for in terms of experience, so I run down the general list of things that I had been doing or taken part in. And then, just like that he is standing and shaking my hand and telling me congratulations, I am now officially entering the Knights as an initiate!

I did it!  I mean, I really did it!  I keep my composure of course, but inside I am fairly bursting with happiness.  My next mission begins in two days and the Lieutenant tells me where I can go to get a uniform. I think he could have asked me to flap my arms and fly to the moon, and I could have powered my whole way there with exaltation. I can only pray that someday Chiron can share in this with me, as it was his dream also.  Unfortunately there has been no word from Celebraan in regards to his rescue, though I am told that in two days I will be embarking upon a mission that is relevant to it.  Right now it is enough, it must be enough. My search for answers, for clues, for anything… continues.

 I think I am the only person in the world who actually wants to go to Hell.

It is hard to beat a person who never gives up.

Pentagram Anyone?

In the words of Phi; a journal entry…

            Today I begin the day at 5 am, a time of pre-dawn mist and grey fuzzy chill.  Jacob and Henry are with me for this new regimen, something the Knights taught me to keep myself fit and able to be in top fighting shape.  The two have agreed to go running with me for no less than one hour. It is hard, grueling work; our gear must weigh an extra 50 pounds as we push ourselves that last few miles.  We walk, we jog, we run… but we never stop moving.  By the time we make it back to our rooms I feel I will collapse; my breath is short, my face red — the world spins.

            Then, just like that, the world is no longer spinning; I’ve had a bath, cleaned my armor and made preparations for the day.  This is the way of the Knights, to be prepared; always able to engage in combat at their finest. To say that keeping up with Jacob and Henry, wearing armor and carrying gear, was a heroic effort is to downplay the significance of my determination. I need… a lot… of practice. 

            5 am is our new way of life and though they grumbled, after three days of this we begin to see an improvement.  We are no longer staying up all night or partying endlessly; I have a simple meal with water and they’re following suit.  Perhaps it is to humor me, but three days is not so long and already Henry has been losing the sluggish reflexes, dropping the extra weight his leisure has leant. 

            Two more days of our 5am runs and we are seeing further results. I am encouraged now that I can keep pace with the two of them, even while singing marching songs and carrying everything I own.  We were taking this all for granted I think, jibing each other and testing our resolve.  But the proof is in the pudding as they say and they no longer complain about the early mornings; none of us do.

A pint of sweat will save a gallon of blood.

            Once I have recuperated from my crazy time in Celebraan and the insane method of my arrival, I am feeling hale and hearty.  I was asked to further explore the caves above and around the Temple to see what other information can be gathered.  Due to the time-sensitive nature of their mission the Knights tasked me with this before they left.  I am just now coming to realize how very lucky I am to have made it to the Silver City at all — travels usually take no less than 10 days.  How I ever managed to make it in three is beyond me, but I thank Bahamut for His blessing; my horses had swift hooves, my resolve did not waver, and stamina was in abundance.

            Jacob, Henry and I see ourselves as grand upon the plow horses we have borrowed from the farmers; their plodding hooves still faster than our booted feet.  We make our way into the forest, somber and watchful now that we’re back on duty.  Make no mistake either, for my companions and I know now that things have changed; gone is the light hearted laughter and jesting, we’re walking back into the very heart of sheer evil. The thought alone sickens me but I steel my resolve and press onwards.

            We make it to the cave location nearing dusk and decide it is better to make camp then venture into the caves.  Jacob moves off to find us some dinner while Henry and I set up; grooming the horses is my job, lighting the fire his.  I have been learning these things from them, things to do in the forest.  Like how to move and avoid breaking branches, avoid crackling leaves, see a trail, follow footprints.  I’m horrible at it, I will not lie! They can run circles around me before I even figure out where they may have gone and get me every time. It’s a game to us “Eye Spy the Phi.”

            That night is remarkably smooth and we spend it discussing my new interest in team tactics and learning how to work as a unit.  After the results seen from our running experiment, they are both more than willing to try it.  We pass the evening without incident.

            I wish I could say the same for the next day, for as we break camp at 5 am and get together our equipment for our run, we had no idea what lay ahead.  It took us many hours of diligent searching to find the caves the Knights assured me existed here.  One of my companions even found the draconic tracks from the team’s presence a week past.  To say he freaked out is a bit of an understatement, because to be sure, the claw marks alone were furrows into which I could farm wheat.

            It took all my resolve not to break down and tell them what had happened, that the strike team of Knights had landed here and been before us.  I so badly wanted to explain all of what I had seen and done while with the Knights, but have been expressly forbidden from doing so! It weighs upon me, this shallow deceit.  I have the feeling that there will be many things just of this nature that the Knights will wish kept away from general knowledge, so I must simply learn to live with it.

            After several hours of searching we found two caves roughly parallel from one another along a straight horizontal axis.  I thought it seemed a bit strange and the positions nagged at me for some reason.  Thinking about it as we went I was not as diligent as I should have been, and when a dog-sized spider leapt upon me I fear I may have shrieked.  But just a small shriek, and just enough of one to give me an extra burst of power to pulverize the nasty thing. Maces make good bug killing tools, let me tell you.  This turns out to be a good thing because we were attacked several more times by the eight legged freaks.  Henry especially hates animals and bugs now.  The guy really has gotten bitten, mauled, clawed, and flattened by many a creature lately.  I find his hatred a bit comical, but I’d never admit that to him.  Every time we’re attacked he shouts “I HATE ANIMALS!” and charges in. I think it’s good for him really…

            This whole spider hatred experiment went on for about an hour as the things dropped upon us, leapt upon us, or tried to stick us to their webs.  I am happy to say that I no longer fear them, not even the man-sized one who did its best to have me for lunch. A mace to the face provides all the answer I needed to that! We eventually made it through the sticky situation to walk into what seemed a store room of sorts.  Not much was here, though we did gain a bit of financial windfall from a small hidden crate.  I think I’ll pay someone else to get rid of the green spider goo plastered all over my armor… hmm….

            A few documents seemed to indicate that the room had not been used in a while and we stored those away for future reference.  Deciding we had time to find one more cave today we walked back to the entrance, wary of eight-legged missile projections from any angle; none came.  Right as we were about to break back into daylight, Jacob signaled for silence and then ducked back into the cave.  Having not stepped out yet I signaled for him to tell me what he had seen.  Holding up 4 fingers he then pointed to himself and then above. I pointed to my armor and he nodded, tapped my shield, then my weapon and his bow.  Large, armored, carrying weapons and ranged; I sensed a fight.  

            Outlining a plan to put myself and Henry together just inside the door with Jacob behind, we readied ourselves.  Counting down to three with fingers upraised Henry and I stepped forward, my armor and shield a bright beacon to see.  See they did, these creatures I now recognized as Orcs.  Immediate reaction was for them to reach for weapons, but we were ready and Jacob had his arrow loose before the Orc even had finished pulling free its sword.  One dropped and the other charged.

            I signaled to fall back into the cave farther, taking away their ranged support as the lone creature barreled up the hill to close with us.  Setting ourselves for the charge I timed his arrival and put the full force of my body and armor into the swing that would ultimately smash the creature’s skull in.  Dazed by the force of the blow the Orc was easy prey for Henry to finish.  Behind us Jacob drew on the secondary wave that had followed slower and exchanged a volley with them.  Henry took an arrow to the shoulder, falling back behind me as we had planned; Jacob avoiding the other.

            Charging, shield up, I slammed into the last two Orcs and was rewarded with a direct hit to one; its ribs shattering under my onslaught.  The other got a free swing on me and did its best to swat me aside but I am not so easily deterred once I have some momentum.  Now that one of the archers was down Jacob shot at the other but his aim was off, likely because he was trying not to hit me in the fray.  With one arm all but numb Henry took a chance at throwing his axe at the unwounded Orc and was rewarded with a yelp of pain as steel bit flesh.  The last Orc was as good as dead by this point, for my next swing, feeding off the reversal of momentum on the first, took him right in the face and slammed him against the far wall – he slid down it and did not move.

            I admit that I felt a thrill at removing these dangerous, evil creatures from the world.  I know of how they spread their hatred and violence, visiting it upon unsuspecting people of gentle nature.  The blood sprayed across my shield and the vigor in my veins all speaks testament to a deed well done.  Returning to my companions I braced Henry and removed the arrow from his arm as gently as I could; his curses could have turned my hair white!  Afterwards I blessed him with Bahamut’s power to close his wounds and bound his arm for comfort.  We decided that the night was best spent behind a closed door here in this cave now that we knew Orcs were in the area.  I am glad to report that nothing dared bother us.

            The next day dawned bright and early for us because during the night, on my watch, I discovered what had been nagging at me about the caves.  They seemed to be forming a pattern I knew well, and detest: the pentagram.  Tiamat’s symbolic 5 heads, pointed into an inverted five-pointed star pattern. I knew where the next caves would be. 

            I was correct in my deductions and we found the next caves with relative ease now that we knew where to look.  More spiders tried to snag us in one, but our previous experiences made it almost comical; Arachnid Assassins turned into Bug Bash.  They didn’t even really concern us at this point; we just expected them and started swinging when they showed up.  In this manner we cleared the cave quite quickly, found what we were looking for, took our notes and were ready to move on. It turns out this cave was being used for a source of water due to the small underground stream that fed into it.  Henry was almost eaten by some sort of water snake, but we managed to pry it off; he really does hate animals…

That makes four caves that have been discovered: the main Temple, the library I cleared with the Knights, a store room, and this water source. We’re missing one more and decide to look for it today so we can start on our way home at first light.  The last cave did not contain spiders, but it did contain what seemed to be living quarters for the higher ranking priests.  Since there were beds we camped the night, stood watch, and were not bothered.  In the morning we set up to return to Bettenshire.

Returning to civilization felt good and after setting my stuff down, showering, cleaning my armor and maintaining my weapon, I have time to reflect on what we’ve done so far.  Jacob and Henry are good companions to have along when there is a fight.  They are both willing to work hard and are eager to learn new tactics if it means we survive that much easier.  We work well as a team and I am glad to have their support.  I feel as though I am genuinely able to make use of the knowledge I gained while with the Knight’s strike team and we are quite fluidly incorporating it into our missions. This time out there were minimal wounds to heal, fewer prayers to be said, only a few bandages to be tied.

Be an example to your men, tactful and well-mannered in your duty and in private life.


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