Second Foray into the Brinestump Caverns

It’s still dark out when Toshio goes around to the others, waking each in turn. He notices the spot Keng had slept on is empty, and finds him waiting outside, already geared-up. “No breakfast for you, Keng? It’ll be a bit before the others are ready, even without a hot breakfast.”

Jethrik walks outside with a cup of tea. He lights his pipe and blows a long spiraling smoke trail. “Going somewhere so early? Ugh, duty calls, I suppose!”

Going back inside, Toshio makes sure the others are getting ready. “Can anyone here cook? You might not like what I’d do for breakfast, ‘though it would be nourishing.”

Over breakfast Zeyala announces, “Pharasma has granted me her blessings. Even before I completed my evening prayers, I could feel my powers growing, and that’s not all.  Watch this.” She begins rummaging around, and then finally asks, “Walthus, do you have an empty bucket?”

Proudfoot nods, goes upstairs to rummage around in his storage room and comes back down bearing a wooden bucket.

“Pharasma, quench our thirst,” she prays. With her chant, the bucket fills up with clean, pure water. “There’s more.”  She points to a plate with a loaf of moldy bread on it and says, “Pharasma’s blessings.” The bread becomes fresh as if it had just been baked.

Proudfoot laughs and says, “Bright, that’s defo a neat trick.”

Jethrik looks at the bread with a bit of uncertainty  ”Maybe so, but I ain’t eatin’ it.”

“Suit yourself,” says Zeyala and cuts off a slice.

Jharad happily eats his fill of breakfast, during which he commands, “Luz,” and tosses a lighted stone to Jethrik. “Ask and you will receive master comedian.”

A warm glow appears over Jharad’s head. “What a bright idea to study that!” says Jethrik.

“Can you set the rest of us up like that?” Toshio asks. “We certainly need the light. Except Keng, of course.”

“A caster may only have one light cantrip going at a time.” Jethrik shrugs “Which is why it’s good that Jharad has it available today.”

“Pity. Well, at least it’s something,” says Toshio.

“Actually, I don’t need light either,” says Zeyala. “You remember when we were rowing through the fog? You could see maybe ten feet? Fifteen? Then everything beyond is obscured? That’s how it is for me. I can see up to that rock,” she says pointing to the wall some thirty feet away. “Beyond that, its all fuzzy and impossible for me to make out.  However, to that distance, I see equally well in either light or darkness. Actually, there’s no difference for me. That’s why I was able to last as long as I did with Jharad when the lights were out. And I wasn’t overly relying on my other senses. I could see everything in that arena, though not much beyond.”

After a few moment she adds, “Pharasma blessed me with the ability to create water and purify food. I’m sure she would grant me the ability to cast light. I never thought of asking her because I never had a use for it. If you think it’s useful, I could appeal to her in my prayers to gain that ability.”

Toshio responds, “That would be useful, at least to some of us who don’t have such advantages.”

After they’ve gotten ready and eaten (he keeps things short, but waits until there’s enough light to see by), Toshio gets them to the boats. “Here we go again. No need to rush though. Let’s see what the marsh shows us as we make our way.”

As they head over to the boats they see that a white fog has rolled in almost lazily before dawn, and covers the ground as the world wakes up. The sun rises as they row, casting a slow spread of light that filters through the cloud and turns it to a red-gold as time passes. The mist recoils as if it was alive and remains as a stubborn thin blanket across the ground while the sounds of birds and animals begin to filter through the cool crisp air. The fog creeps and crawls, following the edges of twisted trees and stagnant water. (Adapted from Bits of the Wilderness: Into the Swamp, p. 30)

They find the caves easily enough through the fog with Proudfoot’s sure guidance. He warns them that even though they killed the giant spider that had been there another denizen of the marsh might have moved in so they should be on their guard. Jharad casts a new light spell on a new stone found at random just outside of the cave. Likewise, Jethrik is copying Jharad’s trick of using light on a stone and floats it around him.

They find the caves abandoned except for the rotting carcasses of the spider and the gecko it had been devouring the day before when they came upon it. The cave where the skeletons had attacked them is likewise empty and still.

At the shore of the flooded area, prodding its depths, Jharad says quietly “Toshio, we should investigate this pool before turning our backs on it and moving on. At least a couple skeletons had risen from its depths before.”

Jethrik replies, “Right. Good idea. Can you use your light and mage hand to do so? Keng, please keep watch on the other entrances. The rest of us will watch the water, in case anything stirs.”

Jethrik sends his stone below the surface of the water to illuminate it without reflecting the light. The pool of water turns out to only be 3 feet deep, and currently devoid of any skeletons or anything else of interest that can be seen by the light of the stone.

Jharad says, “I will check it out, cover me.”

“Wait,” says Zeyala. “A little insurance.” She reaches out and touches Jharad on the arm.

He wades out into the middle of the flooded area and carefully makes his way around the corner to see where it leads. He constantly probes in front and around him with the staff to check for sudden drops. He discovers that it soon ends in a cul-de-sac and so quickly returns to report and asks, “Jethrik, dry my pants if you would. I have not the skill today to perform such things.”

Jethrik snorts and giggles.

Toshio says, “I only see your lights… no threats. Let’s go on to the west. Standard order, please.”

Looking at the northward passage in the middle of the cavern Jharad says. “This passage most likely connects with the fork we passed before entering this cavern. That leaves the passage at the far side. What do you think, Toshio?”

Looking back from close to the western cave mouth, Toshio says, I agree. I think this is our next path to explore.”

Toshio leads them to the western opening. They find it leads into a narrow tunnel only about 5′ at the widest and roughly north for 40 feet. It ends in another partially flooded cavern and in the middle of it another skeletal samurai sits motionless atop a large jade and cherry wood chest.

Keng mutters to Toshio who is standing next to him, “I see another skeleton laying on the ground ahead. I hate those damn things. Perhaps we attack from afar to test if more will rise? If they do, you and I move just inside the cave for a flank attack while the others fight from the safety of the tunnel mouth.”

“Good thinking, Keng.” Turning to the others, Toshio whispers, “Another skeleton is ahead. We should cast any fortifying spells now. Keng and I will move left and right of the tunnel so the rest of you can hit it with blunt arrows. When it is close enough, Keng and I will intercept and flank it so it can’t reach the archers. If other skeletons rise, Zeyala can be ready with that trick she did yesterday. Questions or ideas?

When they are ready, Toshio moves to the right of the passage and lets Keng move to the left.

Jharad takes the lighted stone in hand he intones “Escudo” and a shimmering translucent shield encompasses him. Then moving in to cover Keng and Toshio he readies to fire at the skeleton.

Before Jharad can get in position the skeleton leaps off the chest and draws its decidedly non-rusty wakizashi. He points the tip of the blade at Toshio, as if issuing a challenge, and then slashes at him, cutting his left hand deeply.

In a fury, Keng hacks at the skeletal champion and takes off its right foot, causing the thing to limp but not otherwise impeding its continued efforts to kill Toshio.

“May blessings of Pharasma guide your hands!” shouts Zeyala.

Jharad drops his bow, draws his morningstar, simultaneously charging it with arcane energy, closes with the skeleton and proceeds to batter it with his weapon, releasing a discharge of electricity that crackles around the undead creature, causing it to spasm and clack its jaws.

“Somebody buy that guy a cheeseburger!” Jethrik quips.

Toshio swings his flail at it, intending to smite it, but the skeleton recovers from Jharad’s blow and ducks beneath it. It then thrusts its sword into Toshio’s stomach. The noble paladin falls, a pool of blood spreading out beneath him.

Jharad shouts, “Keng flank it.”

Keng shifts to his right, attempting to get around the skeleton. He hits it again, but fails to cut through its armor or break any more of its bones.

Then, incredibly, Jethrik sneaks in between Jharad and Keng and bashes the skeleton with his club in the knees, causing it to collapse to the floor and lie still. The evil energy that kept it animated dissipating at last.

“Golly,” says the gnome. He stands numbly, swishing his club back and forth practicing the motion of striking with it.

“Toshio!” shouts Zeyala as she moves to his side. “May your wounds be healed,” she prays.

Once more, at the touch of Zeyala, Toshio revives. “Toshio, take care! You are still wounded,” says Zeyala.

Toshio is eager to examine the wakizashi used to wound him so, but makes himself stay still. “Of course, of course. Thank you again. I’ll just wait ‘til you’re done. Unless someone wishes to hand me that keen-edged blade?” he says, gesturing to the wakizashi.

Zeyala applies another healing touch to Toshio. “You’ll probably feel better after you’ve had a chance to rest, but that should take care of you for now,” she says.

As Zeyala tends to Toshio, Jharad begins casting detect magic on the chest.

“Thank you, dear lady” says Toshio weakly. He pushes himself into a sitting position. “I feel terrible.”

Looking around he sees that the skeleton has been undone. “Good work, Keng” he says nodding in gratitude. “Thank you for covering me.”

Keng looks down at Toshio and seeing he will live says, “Let me know if you would like some weapons training. You’re actually supposed to block an attack.”

“Oh no, not at all” replies Toshio. “It was all an elaborate ruse, intended to open the way for your successful assault. See how well it worked?”

Keng laughs at Toshio’s excellent retort, glad he is alive. Keng extends his hand to help him up. “Let’s go make sure the elf doesn’t blow us up!”

“That was funny,” Jethrik says. “You said something funny! I landed a killing blow in combat.” He shakes his head. “What a day!”

Jharad comments slowly while concentrating on finding magical traps, “Yes it was quite a feat to see Jethrik leap into battle like that. Who knew its weakness would be the knees.”

“What?” asks Toshio, a bit confused for a moment. “You were the one to finish it off? Oh, well then… I’m sorry I missed it. Well done Jethrick. Please tell me how it came about.”

Standing back up Jharad says, “No magical traps that I can detect, though if I were making the trap it would be undetectable by that manner. Unless Killer here,” he motions to Jethrik, “has some more tricks up his sleeve I suggest Keng opens it. Unless Toshio would like to lull it into submission first, since that worked so well just now.”

“Yes, please!” says Toshio with exaggerated enthusiasm. “I’ll just set it up to… oh wait! Zey hasn’t enough healing power to save me from a monster like that chest. I guess you’ll just have to open it without my help.”

Keng growls, “You all are a bunch of women!” Keng then strides quickly over to the chest to throw it open. The rest of the party can’t see but he does grimace and cringe slightly as he does so…

Jethrik darts between him and the chest. “Let’s take the whole thing back unopened. The chest itself is valuable, so we don’t want to leave it behind.”

Toshio says, “Of course we’ll take it. But let’s take a few moments to explore its contents here – or rather, in the sunlight. But even before that, we need to finish checking the rest of these caverns.”

“Keng, Jethrik has a point,” says Zeyala. You’ve been asking about treasure. The chest itself could probably fetch a share amount of coin, as long as its not damaged.”

“Jethrik, if it’s trapped,” asks Zeyala, “what could happen if the chest is opened?”

“Anything.” Jethrik shrugs. “It all depends on how badly the owner wants to protect the contents, or avenge the looting. I’m thinking that whatever is in there is valuable enough that these guys,” he points at the skeleton, “stuck around after they were dead just to protect it. So who knows? Poison needles, powerful spells. Anything could be set to go off when the chest is opened. Safest thing to do is take it back to town and get a burg… locksmith to open it.”

“Fine…” grumbles Keng, “I will carry it.”

Jethrik, having made his point and not wanting to stay between a half orc and his treasure, turns his attention to the skeleton and its weapon. “Hold up the fancy knife,” Jethrik asks Toshio.

Toshio moves to pick up the wakizashi and examines it. “You joke right? This is a wakizashi, not a knife.”

Jharad puts out a hand to stop Toshio from picking it up. “Toshio, let me discern the blade’s powers and possible negative factors before you handle it,” he says as he directs his magical detection towards the object and its previous owner.

Jehtrik and Jharad both determine that the blade is emanating a faint magical aura of a type associated with abjuration magic. Abjurations are protective spells that create physical or magical barriers, negate magical or physical abilities, harm trespassers, or even banish the subject of the spell to another plane of existence. Gnome and elf both discern that not only is the blade enhanced for combat but it can also cast the spell shield other once a day when the magical command word to do so is uttered. The blade itself is of an incredibly beautiful design. It is etched with images of seven shrikes perched on a coiling branch that runs the length of the blade. Unfortunately, the blades hilt (Toshio knows it as a tsuka) has not weathered the passage of time as well as the blade itself, and when it fell to the cave floor it became loose. The resulting loose grip due to the broken pommel will hinder anyone who tries to wield it until it is repaired.

Nothing else of magic is detected in the cave, though the skeleton is wearing broken down masterwork kikko armor, the kind of armor Toshio had previously been wearing. A bronze key is also found on a chain around its neck.

“With a good deal of polishing – and a mending spell, that armor may be quite serviceable again,” Toshio says.

Jharad says, “Okay Toshio, you can pick the sword up now. The weapon is enhanced for combat and can cast the shield other spell once per day. The pommel is broken, but can be fixed by a simple cantrip.”

“I think ‘tang’ might be a more appropriate word” comments Toshio, already checking to see just what needs to be fixed.

Ripping the key off the skeletons neck, Jharad hands it to Keng saying, “See if you can beat the chest open with this.”

“Funny elf,” Keng says. But he does take the key and puts it around his neck. He also takes the first and middle knuckle bones from the samurai skeleton and put them in his pouch with the goblin chief’s.

“Keng, this was a samurai. Please don’t defile it by making trophies of its parts. He deserves better. It’s not a respectful thing to do.” Realizing he’ll get nowhere and not ready to get into a brawl or drawn out discussion, Toshio just shakes his head, wondering at the practices of foreigners.

Toshio finishes his examination of the blade (as well as he can in the dim light), sheaths it and tucks it into his belt in an easy, unthinking motion. “Let’s leave the chest until we check the rest of the cavern. It will be safe enough until we come back, and I don’t think we’ll be long.” Toshio also plans to get the armor when they come back for the chest.

“Agreed,” says Jharad and readies himself for further exploration.

They find that the northern tunnel out of the cave where they initially fought the skeletons goes on for about 35’ before branching to the right and left. The right hand passage curves around for 15’ and joins the tunnel they took south from the spider’s cave. The left hand passage continues for 20’ to the only unexplored cave. This cave is only 15’ in diameter. In it a number of glittering crystals protrude from an island surrounded by a pool of dark water of unknown depth.

Keng says, “Those crystals might be worth something.”

“Jethrick or Jharad, can you do that light trick again to plumb these waters? But be careful – I’m developing a dislike of such ‘calm’ pools.”

Jharad steps up next to Keng and floats his lighted stone out over the water and crystal island. “Go on Keng don’t be a woman,” he quips and smiles widely at the half-orc.

Keng snorts, “I can’t swim.”

Jharad lets out a loud guffaw at his friend, and then quickly quiets down. “Who would have known, given the way I have seen you dive into a mug of ale.”

Getting back to business Jharad asks Toshio, “Okay, what now?”

Toshio requests, “Jharad, check the depth with you light, please.”

Jharad steps up to edge, next to Keng and maneuvers the light stone into the water to test its depths.

“Jharad, can you also detect for magic?” asks Zeyala.

The lighted stone shows that the depth of this pool is 5’. It appears to be empty at first, but then there is a movement in the water as the light disturbs something in its depths. Before Jharad can respond to Zeyala, translucent watery ooze surges up out of the water in an attempt to engulf the feet of Jharad as he stands on the pool’s edge.

Jharad pounces and electrifies the ooze with his morningstar.

Keng begins hacking at it with his axe until it is nothing more than small quivering pieces that soon lie still. Then he yells, “Burn it!”

Jharad wipes ooze goo from his morningstar with a summoned rag then does a sweep of the cavern with detect magic. “I am not detecting any sources of magic in this cave, Zey,” he replies.

Keng wades over to the center island and starts filling his pack with crystals.

Toshio wades across and collects the crystals, careful not to fall in. “Let’s go back and get the chest.”

“With the chest and these crystals, we should have a nice little war chest,” Zeyala says.  ”I can’t wait to see what’s inside.”

Outside, once the chest is opened, it’s obvious that many objects (mostly fireworks and potions) have been removed from numerous slots in the chest’s well-lined interior – the handiwork of the Licktoad goblins. However, the chest still holds (what they later determine to be) five potions of cure light wounds, two potions of cure moderate wounds, three potions of lesser restoration, a ring of climbing, a wand of identify with 19 charges, a masterwork chain shirt, a masterwork cold iron wakizashi, 11 Desnan candles, and four skyrockets, in addition to 3,820 silver pieces, 421 gold pieces, and various pieces of fine jewelry that Sandru later tells them are worth 560 gold pieces in total.

The crystals collected in the cave turn out to be worth 20 gold pieces in total.

Jharad says, “I will take one of the moderate healing potions. That wand is redundant for me. I suggest we sell it. The cold steel knife also, unless Toshio needs a second one.”

“Before we split the treasure, I propose that we first set aside general items that benefit the group as a whole,” suggests Zeyala. “Like those potions. What do the rest of you think?

“I agree,” replies Keng. “I would like the climbing ring. We sell the rest and split it evenly.”

“Jharad, I’m in agreement about the wand. We definitely should sell that,” Zeyala says.

Jharad nods, “Agreed.”

“Agreed,” says Tosho. “And good thinking, but let’s do so in town.”

Jehtrik says, “Yes, I think we should all carry a potion of curing. Heaven forbid someone should need healing when you are not around, or perhaps even you yourself. I’ve already done well on the treasures” He pats his new chain shirt. “You folks get first dibs. Although, I really like the idea of these fireworks” Jethriks flashes a mischievous grin.

Toshio says, “I think I’ll need a strong healing potion if my luck doesn’t improve. Maybe a weaker one, too. I’d prefer to keep the cold steel blade. I’ll replace it with my own, normal blade. But I’m sure the cold steel will be more useful to us than just steel.”

Jharad looks at the cold steel knife and the magic one already in Toshio’s belt. “Do you really need both?”

Toshio responds, “Unlikely, but it is better than my current blade, and I don’t know that I can afford repairs to this one. Until it is fixed it is not a good choice.”

Keng snidely adds, “More isn’t always better but if it makes him feel better let him have his toys.”

“Mr. Proudfoot, would you like a lift into town, or shall we drop you at your home?” Toshio asks the halfling hermit. “We’re heading to town after seeing you safely to your home, unless you’d prefer to come with us.”

“Ay think I’ve ‘ad blewdy-nuff advente fe de past few days, ta dead much. Please juss drop me off at my place so Ay tinnie get some welt and tend ter me pets.”

Keng asks Proudfoot, “You crazy hobbit living out here all by yourself! Do you need anything fixed before we leave you be?”

“Nah, I’m sound. Ta fe ask’n. All ay want now is some peace and mumtip.”

As the boats are heading back to Proudfoot’s, Zeyala says, “Keng, I mean not to lecture, so please do not take this the wrong way, but I would ask that you show just a bit more restraint. We’re all excited to learn the contents of the chest, but trying to throw it open by brute force was risky and could have been potentially dangerous. The traps that Jethrik described should serve as warning. Think of how a fireball would render any treasure inside the chest, let alone those of us standing near it.

Keng rolls his eyes and keeps paddling.

“Then you disagree?” She asks?

“I take it one day at a time,” says Keng.

“Thank you for your honesty,” says Zeyala.

Drinking Rules

Price List

Core Rulebook

Ale (5%)

Gallon                                   2 silver

Mug                                       4 copper

Banquet (per person)         10 gold

Bread, per loaf                     2 copper

Cheese, hunk of                   1 silver

Inn stay (per day)

Good                                      2 gold

Common                                5 silver

Poor                                        2 silver

Meals (per day)

Good                                       5 silver

Common                                3 silver

Poor                                       1 silver

Meat, chunk of                      3 silver

Wine (12%)

Common (pitcher)                2 silver

Fine (bottle)                         10 gold

 

Adventurer’s Armory

Caydenbrew (5%)               5 copper/mug

Coffee                                    1 copper/cup

Corentyn wine (14%)          15 gold/bottle

Dwarven Stout (8%)            4 copper/mug

Grog (40%)                           2 copper/mug

Kahve                                     2 copper/cup

Linnorn mead (15%)           5 copper/mug

Mwangi coffee                      3 copper/cup

Oldlaw whiskey (40%)        20 gold/bottle

Rumboozle (50%)               1 siler/glass

Tea                                         2 copper/cup

Tea, ceremonial                  4 copper/cup

Tea ceremony set               25 gold

 

Unique Beer/Ales by gallon

Dragonbite Bitter (8%)        15 gold

Dwarfhead Stout (10%)      30 gold

Mead, elven (15%)              60 gold

Golden light, gnome (5%)   10 gold

Thudrud, goblin (6%)          2 gold

Pulsch brown ale (5%)       8 gp

 

Unique Wines by bottle

Frostwine (20%)                  40 gold

Aleeian (12%)                      100 gold

Garnet (20%)                        90 gold

Mushroom (12-18%)          20-135 gold

Spiderblood (12%)              150 gold        Suffer effects of spider venom

 

Unique Spirits by bottle

Frenzywater (80%)              15 gold          DC 15 Will save or as rage potion CL5

Moondrop (60%)                  220 gold

Kragg (70%)                         30 gold

 

There are 10.6 12 oz. mugs in a gallon

There are 5 5 oz. glasses in a 25 oz. bottle

There are 20 5 oz. glasses in a 100 oz. pitcher

There are 17 1.5 ounce single shots in a 25 oz. bottle

A standard drink: glass of wine (12%), mug of common ale (5%), 1 shot (40%) which are all equivalent to .6 fluid ounces of alcohol

Type of Alcohol and proof                        standard drink
Weak Ale or Hard Cider (3.5%) .75
Common Ale (5%)                           1
Stout (6%)                                         1.25
Dwarven Stout (8%)                                     1.5
Wine  (12%)                                        1
Mead (15%)                                      1.25
Fortified Wine (18%)                       1.5
Shot of Whiskey (40%)                    1
Weak             (30%)                                      .75
Standard (40%)                               1
Strong Spirits (50%)                       1.25
Second Proof (60%)                       1.5
Third Proof (70%)                            1.75
Fourth Proof (80%)                                     2

 

Note that small creatures treat each standard drink as double and Large creatures treat each standard drink as ½. So small creatures had best beware how much they have.

 

Beers                          3.2-4%

Ales                            4.5%

Porter                         6%

Stout                           6-8%

Sake                           14-16%

Wine                           7.1-14%

Fortified Wine           14-24%

Brandies                   40-43%

Whiskies                   40-75%

Vodkas                      40-50%

Gin                              40-48.5%

Rum                           40-95%

Absinthe                    45-74%

Poitin                          60-95%

Alcohol as Drug/Poison

Roll on the chart below each time a character has a standard drink, counting the other standard drinks that are still in the character’s system in that hour. If a save is failed, they receive the effects on the right hand column, moving down one rank each time a save is failed. It takes one hour for a single standard drink to leave the character’s system and for the character to move up an effect rank. If Dexterity reduced to 0 the character will collapse into a drunken wreck but remain in a bleary state of consciousness. If Int or Wis reduced to 0 the character passes out into unconsciousness. Those who fail a check by 5 become nauseated for an hour but can rid themselves of two drinks instead of just one for that hour. Once a character is no longer inebriated (suffering any effects of having missed a save) the hangover begins if a Constitution check (DC 10 +1 for each drink consumed) is failed. Those who fail the check get a hangover and will remain sickened for 1d4 hours, and will also be fatigued and receive 1d6 nonlethal damage from dehydration. A character that gets drunk at inappropriate times or three days in a row must start making saves Fort DC 15 to prevent a moderate addiction (as per the addiction rules in the Game Mastery Guide).

# Standard Drinks Fort DC Cumulative effect for each save failed
1 10 +2 Char,  -1 Dex, -1 Int, -1 Wis, Toughness, +1 morale bonus vs. fear,
2 12 -2 Dex, -2 Int, -2 Wis, Toughness, Sickened, +1 morale bonus vs. fear
3 14 -3 Dex, -3 Int, -3 Wis, Toughness, Sickened, +1 morale bonus vs. fear
4 16 -4 Dex,, -4 Int, -4 Wis, Toughness, Sickened, +1 morale bonus vs. fear
5 20 -5 Dex,, -5 Int, -5 Wis, Toughness, Sickened, +1 morale bonus vs. fear
6 25 -6 Dex,, -6 Int, -6 Wis, Toughness, Sickened, +1 morale bonus vs. fear
7 30 -7 Dex,, -7 Int, -7 Wis, Toughness, Sickened, +1 morale bonus vs. fear
8 35 -8 Dex,, -8 Int, -8 Wis, Toughness, Sickened, +1 morale bonus vs. fear
9 40 -9 Dex,, -9 Int, -9 Wis, Toughness, Sickened, +1 morale bonus vs. fear
10 45 -10 Dex,, -10 Int, -10 Wis, Toughness, Sickened, +1 morale bonus vs. fear; also must Fort DC 13 1/minute for 6 minutes or lose 1-2 Con, cure 1 save.

 


House Rules

This is where I am going to put the house rules that we come up with until they can be organized better.

Equipment

Weapons

Mace, heavy – 8 gp

Morningstar  - 12 gp

Pitchfork – simple 2 handed, 1d6/x2 Piercing, 10 ft. range increments, 1 gp, 4 lbs.

All flails – B&P

Armor

Kikko Armor – +4 Armor Bonus, +3 Maximum Dex Bonus

Spells

Atonement – The cost for deliberate transgressions will be 250 gp/drift point instead of a flat 2,500 gp and this may be offset or replaced with a task set by the priest casting the spell.

Chill Touch - This spell allows for multiple touch attacks. These can be held indefinitely but the spell is dissipated if another is cast and if the user touches anything else, even inadvertently, the spell will discharge one use.

Detect Magic – Cannot be used to detect supernatural abilities.

Mend – Can only use 1/day per item. Also, when casting the caster must make a Craft roll against the DC for making that item or have someone helping them who can make that roll.  Also, it will not renew the properties of consumable items – like thistle arrows.

Prestige Classes

Arcane Archer – The +1 enhancement granted by the Enhance arrows class ability is stackable with other existing enhancements (including those granted by the Arcane Pool ability of the Magus) up to a limit of +5.

The Kaijitsu Blossom

Once back in Sandpoint, Toshio gets a couple of rowboats from townsfolk who can spare them without losing income. He says to the others, “We haven’t much time, so be quick about your preparations. We need to be back at Proudstump’s before dark, and it’s a goodly row to get there. Jethrick, will you handle the shopping for Proudstump? You’re closest to his size. Maybe Zeyala can help you pick something fash…” He remembers Zeyala’s limited eyesight and decides not to finish that suggestion. “I’ll see you back at the boats when you’re done.”

“I’m sorry, Toshio,” says Zeyala. I didn’t catch the end of that.”

“I said I’ll see you back at the boats when we’re done in town” replies Toshio in an attempt to dodge her real question. Toshio is quite aware that Zeyala dresses in fine fashion. He’s completely unaware that she accomplishes that on her own and he’s not about to ask, for fear of giving offense.

As Jharad is attending to something in his pack he responds over his shoulder, “He was suggesting that you could help pick out something fashionable.”

“Hmmph” mutters Jethrik. “I’m at least 6 inches taller than Walthus.”

“Will you just…” Slightly frustrated with this bit of triviality and seeing a way out of his earlier gaff, Toshio turns to Zeyala and asks, “Will you please help him with Proudfoot’s requests? I have no eye for fitting such a one.”

“I’d be more than happy to help, if Jethrik will have me along,” she smiles. “However, I can’t be totally sure I can pick out what’s best for a halfling who lives in a swamp.  Perhaps something suitable for when he comes to town.”

Toshio smiles in relief. “Excellent. I’m sure you’ll pick what’s suitable.”

They get back to Proudstump’s home about an hour before sunset. Proudstump proves to be a fairly good cook, serving them ample helpings of catfish and dirty rice. He opens up the guestroom as well as bringing down the sheets into the main room for those who will be sleeping there. Though there are many disturbing croakings, hootings, and howlings heard from all directions throughout the night, Proudstump explains that many of those are just frogs, owls, and alligators and that they should pay none of it any mind. Aside from that, the night passes peacefully enough without anyone or anything disturbing Proudfoot’s shack. The next morning they are treated to breakfast, as Proudfoot poaches the eggs brought to him the night before.

After breakfast, Proudfoot offers to take them to see the shipwrecks. With two human sized rowboats they are easily able to accommodate Toshio, his four comrades, and Proudfoot. On the way he tells them that the wrecks have been there since long before he ever arrived in the Brinestump Marsh nearly five years ago. He guesses that they’ve been there for decades. The first site is the one just downriver from the Licktoad Village, the place where the Licktoad’s apparently found their first set of fireworks. They are disappointed to find that the goblins apparently burned it after finding the fireworks, as all that is left are charred timbers. What they do find is intriguing enough however. A fragment bearing the name of the ship: the Kaijitsu Star. Jethrik takes the fragment to show Ameiko.

The second site is also very close to another one of the inlets into the marsh, though much further south along the coast. Walthus points to a strange tangle of branches, and they see that it is in fact the moss-covered ribs of a wrecked ship. The ruined ship lies on its side, split down the middle and mostly sunken into the mud and murky water. A search of the wreck reveals it to be of a similar style to the Kaijitsu Star but larger. Though intact it appears to have been looted long before. As they are leaving, something catches Jharad’s eyes and he stoops down and picks up a verdigris-encrusted nameplate that reads Kaijitsu’s Blossom. As they gather around to look at it they hear sound of something (or rather several somethings) rising up out of the muddy waters behind them. Turning they see three skeletons, covered in weeds and muck, advancing on them. Their helmets and armor are broken and rotted but recognizably of the same style previously worn by Toshio. All three of the skeletal samurai draw rusty short swords of a similar make to the one worn by Toshio.

Toshio was considering the possible implications of the nameplates of the second wreck when the skeletons interrupted his thoughts. He quickly adjusts his thinking to the combat. “Keng, let’s flank the first. You take the right, I’ll go left. Try to maneuver so that the second two are blocked behind the first. Now we’ll see if these blunt weapons we bought were worth it!” Toshio finishes with a smile, genuinely eager to see what his flail will do against the skeletons.” To the others he says, ”Conserve your spell power if you can. We may have greater need. Walthus, stay back, and keep an eye out for other threats.”

Toshio notes the arms and armor. ‘At least they had good armor sense when they lived. Maybe I can check the tangs and stuba after the fight to get a clue as to who these once were.’

“I can make out two skeletons,” says Zeyala.  ”Are there others?  How far away?”

“Three skeletons! There are three!” shouts Toshio.

Jharad pulls a blunt arrow and fires it at the skeleton furthest from them, destroying it when the blunt arrow smashes its spine and causes the rest of its bones to collapse inert back into the murky water.

The two remaining skeletons attack Jharad and Toshio who ably dodge away from their blows.

Zayala stabs at the one attacking Jharad, though a spear proves very ineffective against skeletons as there is nothing to stab but bone. She runs behind Jharad, Toshio, and Keng, to see if she can get around to the other side of the skeletons.

Jethrik moves up between Toshio and Jharad and clubs at one; but the blow is absorbed by its armor, rotted though it is.

Toshio destroys the one that attacked him, shattering it with his flail. He slogs over through the mud to get behind the last one that is still attacking Jharad.

Keng also advances on the last remaining skeleton but is unable to find good footing in the mud and comes nowhere near to hitting it with his morningstar.

Walthus stays by Zeyala, axe held ready to defend her in case more skeletons pulls themselves out of the surrounding much to attack.

Jharad drops his bow and shifts over to flank the remaining skeleton along with Toshio. He draws his morningstar and swings down upon it but his attack is thwarted by its armor.

The skeleton strikes before Jharad can withdraw his arm and slashes him along the forearm with its wakizashi, leaving a painful though not fatal wound.

Zeyala moves to Keng’s side and touches him to confer divine guidance upon him.

Jethrik tries to club the last skeleton but finds that it is pretty agile and hard to hit.

Toshio also finds the last one a difficult target.

Keng however, smashes it to tiny splinters with his morningstar, after antipicating its movements as it weaved and dodged the blows of his comrades.

The fight over, Jethrik regards the nameplates of the ships. “So I had it backwards. They weren’t delivering a treasure. They were coming to bring one back to whereever they came from.”

“Are you referring to the tavern owner?” asks Jharad.

“Don’t you think?” Jethrik replies.

Keng looks confused. He gets his gear cleaned up and makes ready to move along.

Toshio says, “I don’t know. So far we don’t know where they came from, or which way they had been going. Ameiko has never mentioned any ships owned by the family, so I wonder if even she can tell us anything about them.”

Toshio sees if there are any arms and armor pieces that may be salvageable, or that may satisfy his curiosity about armor types but doesn’t find anything worth bringing back other than the three rusty wakizashis and the helmets, that might be worthwhile as curiosities.

Jharad recovers his arrow and bow, cleaning them both up. He then takes a few minutes to sketch a map of the area and wrecks. Afterward he says, “Okay, I am ready. Let’s go.”

“Agreed,” says Tosho. “Let’s get back to the boats and visit that cave.” he finishes cleaning his gear, hefts the salvaged swords and helmets, and then leads the others back to the boats.

Once back on the boat, Zeyala says, “Perhaps we came to close to these wrecks and disrupted the dead from their sleep. I’m glad to be moving on.”

Keng says, ” We should have burned them.”

Jharad laughs, “I think I am going to start calling you Torch.”

“Aye,” says Toshio. “And maybe we should get you some magical means of starting your fires on all these damp, rotting things.”

Keng nods and says, “Yes, that would be good.”

Saving Mr. Proudfoot

In the morning, Toshio ‘happens to be near’ the Rusty Dragon sporting his new banded armor and heavy flail. He gives Ameiko a friendly smile and a “Good morning, miss.” She smiles back and returns his greeting.

Jethrik shows up the next morning, slightly hung over, hoarse from shouting tavern songs and sporting a black eye and a hickey. He holds an artistically arranged bouquet of flowers out to Ameiko, “Remember me,” he implores. “Should I fail to return. And know that so long as I live my thoughts will be with you.”

“Oh Jethrik, you are so sweet,” says Ameiko taking the flowers. She bends down to kiss him on the forehead.

Jharad hands a bundle of arrows to the gnome and smiles at his black eye, “Here. Blunt arrows work better on skeletons. Have fun last night?

“Me?” Jethrik looks a little shocked. “I am a bard, I was working not having fun! It was the town that had fun!”

Toshio says, “You should take time to enjoy your work. You helped everyone else have fun, so why not you also?

Jethrik rolls his eyes. “You have no appreciation for what it is to be a performer!”

“Clearly not” says Toshio, amused by the strength of Jethrick’s response. “I’m sure I’ll learn more of it as time goes by and I get to watch more of your performances.”

Jharad gives the map he inscribed to Koya before they leave in the morning. She is quite pleased with it and tells him to please take care in the marsh.

Keng shows up looking bad assed in his new breastplate, greaves, helmet, and masterwork great axe.

Jharad smiles at the group, all adorned in their new gear. Stepping up to Keng with a grin he motions to touch the new helmet and says, “If you will allow, I think you will like this.”

“What are you doing?” Keng asks with obvious suspicion.

Jharad smirks saying, “Trust me.”

With a command word, “Cranio!” he touches the new helmet and its shiny newness is replaced by blacks, whites and shades of grey to depict a half-orc sized skull.

“Now you look bad ass.”

“I like!”

Despite the late night reveling, Zeyala appears refreshed and vibrant.  Her cloak is worn open, with her tattoos showing in sharp contrast to her new chain shirt.  Her face is veiled with a bright orange scarf, while a violet one adorns her left thigh.

“Good morning friends,” she says.  ”Thank you both, Keng and Jethrik, for your wonderful performances last night.”  Still smiling, Zeyala ask, “So, have we decided on a course of action?”

Toshio considers heading to the cliff that overlooks the marsh to get the view from there, but Jharad says, “What about tracking that creature from the bridge, to its lair? At the least we should see if there are any more of them to be rid of. Any more could be a serious threat to this area.”

Toshio says, “I think the road, to Ashen Moor, to the northern trail would serve us best to reach Proudstump’s cottage, eh? Do any of you know a better way? Anyone have ideas of how to approach Proudstump? He wasn’t very forthcoming with me yesterday.”

 ”I think what he wants is to have his foot fully healed.” Jethrik suggests. “And of course Zeyala needs to be careful in how she uses her arts. Its not an easy situation.”

Jharad says, “I suggest letting Jethrik approach him. After all they do see eye to eye.”

“Yes.” Jethrik growls. “I do feel I have a certain understanding where he’s concerned.”

Toshio says, “Yes, I think that’s a fine idea, Jethrick. You start the conversation. We’ll stay a few feet back so he doesn’t get nervous. If he lets you in or shows any sign of warming up, we’ll join you right away.”

They arrive at Proudfoot’s shack without incident. When Jethrik knocks, it takes a very long time for Walthus Proudfoot to respond. Just before Jethrik turns away to consult the others about what to do next he hears the creaking of the floorboards and a familiar and tired voice on the other side of the door grumbling and then asking, “Yis, oo is it?”

Jharad comments quietly, “He does not sound good.”

“Hello, Mr. Proudfoot.” Jethrik calls out. “Your visitors from yesterday are back. We thought we ought to check on you and we need a little more advice.”

Jethrik could swear he hears Walthus say, “Oh sod it.” Then the halfling hermit speaks up, “Bright, aren’t yous kind ter come all de way back e’yer ter check up ed me? Come ahead in then.” He opens the door to let Jethrik and the others in. He does seem to look a little better than he did the previous day, though still a bit shaky. “Ay am feel’n scutty. Would yous like ter ‘uv some tea?”

“Tea would be very nice, thank you!” Jethrik answers brightly. “You seem improved since last we saw you.”

“Well, I’ve ‘ad bags o’ sleep. Juss beun ly’n in bed sleep’n. Yous tinnie gather around de table in thuz. Sorry ’bout dat but I’ve only got de one chair.”

The dining room, such as it is, is to the right of the main room, but the table, being for a halfling, is low enough that the others beside Jethrik can simply sit on the floor beside it. Walthus bustles about in the pantry gathering tea and mugs and getting the pot boiling on the simple wood-burning stove. He offers to let Jethrik sit in the one chair. From beyond the other interior door in the main room they can hear the songs of birds.

Jharad sets up in back as he did before and breaks out ‘Wizard Chess’ for Keng and himself. They both put down their packs and commence to play while the others talk with Walthus.

“E’yer we bowl. I’ll ‘uv a kettle o’ swamp tea fe yous in juss a little while. So as yous tinnie see, Am scutty and juss need a few days more rest. ‘Ow did things bowl wi’ de goblins? Did yous find dem?”

“May I be of service?” Jethrik asks, “I hate to put you through the trouble. Although, I was noting the bird songs. It must be what drew you to this place.”

“Nah ta,” Walthus waves Jethrik back to his seat. “It’s nah up ther shute at all. Ay guess Ay should be up and about at this hour. Yous like me birds? Yis, Ay keep a few sparrows and uvver small pets in de uver room.”

“Perhaps when you are ready, you will introduce me to your pets,” Jethrik replies as he takes a cup of tea. He doesn’t know what swamp tea is, but figures that since it hasn’t killed Proudfoot it should be drinkable.

Jharad also accepts a cup.

“Thank you for your hospitality,” says Zeyala. “I would love a cup.”

Keng declines the tea.

Toshio also accepts tea. He checks the scent (as he would with any tea), as it’s not vile he tastes just a mere sip. Toshio is pleasantly surprised at the quality of the tea. He sips it contentedly, still listening and relying on Jethrick to carry the conversation and get Proudstump’s info about the map.

Jharad also smells the tea and then asks, “What is in this?”

Walthus answers, “Oh, its juss a tea made from some shrubs wi’ white flowers dat grer ‘ereabouts. It’s got some medicinal properties, so I’ve beun brew’n it fe de last few days.”

Walthus asks again, “’Ow did things bowl wi’ de goblins? Did yous find dem?”

Jharad replies from the back, “We killed them and burned down their village.”

“Short and to the point, hmm?” comments Toshio. “Maybe Jethrick can tell more, and also inquire about the map?”

“Ah, yes.” says Jethrik mourning the death of his moment. “That’s the story in a nutshell. If you’d like the particulars, I have composed a very entertaining epic of the days events…” he finishes more hopefully!

“Tar, but maybe some uver time. Wuz thuz sometin yous wanted ter ask me about?”

“Oh, yes!” Jethrik brightens. “Thank you so much for asking. Toshio, you were curious about that map, weren’t you?”

“Yes. Mr. Proudstump, we’ve acquired some additional information about the marsh, shown on this map. Can you tell us anything about these locations?” Toshio indicates the two shipwrecks and the cave.

“Oh bright yis. Thuz ay de occasional shipwrecks dat wash up ed de shore. Nowt tew special about dat, and o’ cose thuz ay caves ed de cliff. Ay dun kun anyth’n special about deez. Whuz did this map come from?”

Zeyala and Toshio both find it rather odd that the self-proclaimed “Warden of Brinestump” is being so vague about the map. Hosk certainly didn’t seem so reticent to talk about the marsh and its landmarks.

Jethrik answers Walthus, “It’s a copy of a goblin map we found in their camp. The caves and the shipwrecks are, in fact, special. We think that the caves hold undead. We were hoping you could warn us about the extent of the danger and if there are other creatures to be alerted to.”

“Oh thuz ay bags o’ frightful things in deez marshes. Mostly large snakes and giant bugs. If yous want undead, you’ll ‘uv ter explore de Bleaklow Moor. Not a gewd couple undead in de marsh, simply because thuz aren’t a gewd couple people e’yer, and na ‘uv beun.”

“I beg your pardon, sir? There are no good undead in the marsh because there are no good people in it?”

“Nah, nah. Ay arl bottle and glass, thuz aren’t any people so thuz aren’t any undead.”

Zeyala leans in and coyly says, “But surely the Warden of Brinestump knows all the ins and outs of the marsh. I’d love to hear more about these landmarks.”

“What’s ter kun? You’ve got yer wrecked ships e’yer and e’yer and some caves over e’yer.” He jabs his finger at the map. “Not much more Ay tinnie tell yous. Onna scutty dee i’d offer ter guide yous, but i’m dead not up fe any ‘ikes rite now.”

Jethrik persists in asking, “These undead would be warriors who were travelling on a ship that was lost here. Their armor and weapons would look unusual to us.”

At that moment there is a thump from the ceiling and Walthus spends the next few minutes cursing about all the damn rats and raccoons in the marsh and how he’s thinking he might need a cat or two to get some peace.

Jethrik looks up. “Perhaps my companions and I should look into that thump for you.”

“Nah need. I’ll check it out later.”

Keng looks at Jharad across the chess board and asks, “Do you understand a word coming out of that fat hobbit’s mouth?”

Jharad is about to answer then looks up where the thump came from. He nods his head in that direction to Keng and dissipates the chessboard. “How about we check it out just in case.”

Keng nods back to Jharad and silently gets up and moves to investigate the sound.

Toshio looks up at the ceiling in the direction of the thump. “A rat?” he asks rhetorically. He ponders what it could really have been, but doesn’t want to offend their host by challenging his claim – not yet.

“Sir, we were told that you were the ‘Self-Proclaimed Warden of The Swamp.’ As such we were hoping you could provide more information to us. Our purpose here can only help make your swamp safer. Your help could truly make the difference between life and death – maybe even your own.”

Toshio instantly regrets his choice of words. He hadn’t meant to sound threatening, though his words may have come across that way. Still, if the halfling feels in any way inclined to help, even if due to Toshio’s slip… He lets it slide and waits to hear what comes next, ready to apologize if he is misinterpreted.

Walthus is clearly taken aback by Toshio. He doesn’t seem so much offended as at a momentary loss for words. “Well I say! It’s not that I don’t want to help.” Then he sees Jharad and Keng coming around the table to investigate the noise. “Oh there’s nah need fe dat. It’s me own ‘ouse and I’ll check it out. Juss wait e’yer please.” Being closer to the door he darts out and heads for the stairs to the upper floor. “I’ll be rite back. I’ll call yous if Ay need elp. Ay think Ay tinnie take care o’ a little rat dough. Er evun a bigger one.”

Keng follows Walthus up the stairs, suspecting a trick.

Toshio lets Keng follow, waits a moment as he tries to decide what the best course of action is, and then follows Keng and hopes for the best.

“Well, we’re all on our feet! Why don’t we all come along?” Jethrik says with a bit more determination than lightness in his voice.

Walthus turns at the top of the stairs and sees Keng and the others following him. He looks quite affronted. “Wa’ ay you’s lot do’n? Ay invited yous into me ‘ouse fe some tea, but ay am not invit’n you’s lot ter come parad’n through me bedchamber. Ay think maybe teatime is over. Please go about yer business so ay tinnie go about mine.” He gestures towards the direction of the front door clearly inviting you all to take your leave.

Zeyala says to the others, “I think we better take our leave.  It is in fact his…”

Keng continues to move up the stairs to stand next to Walthus and gently lifts him out of his way. He says, “You aren’t looking well hobbit, I think you are hiding something.”

When Zeyala sees Keng grab Walthus, she pleads, “Keng, please put him down.  We have no authority. Toshio!”

Keng sets the squirming halfling  down and then moves past him into the upper floor to look around.

Walthus is outraged and begins to sputter. He opens his mouth to say something to Keng but then shuts his mouth. Keng sees that there is a hallway at the top of the stairs that turns to the right and three doors along it. All the doors are closed. Nothing seems out of the ordinary and no further sounds are heard. Finally Walthus regains his voice and quietly says, in a voice nevertheless choked with indignant fury, “Dead bright. Be me guest. Make sure yous bowl through all me rewms and all me things and find any rats er squirrels er raccewns er uvver beasts yous tinnie. Dun yous tinnie take dem wi’ yous whun yous leuv. I’ll wait yous downstairs until you’re done.”

Toshio doesn’t like the options, but he suspects Keng’s instincts are right. Having followed Keng up the stairs he embraces this choice, though it may bring offense. “Please forgive us. We will leave after we ensure nothing is amiss. You are our best hope for detailed information about our task, you are recovering from injury, and if something isn’t right we would feel terrible if we had left you alone in a dangerous situation” Toshio explains authoritatively. “If it is rats, we’ll be gone quickly after apologizing. If it’s more, we will deal with it, then leave you in peace.” He gives a nod to Keng, indicating for him to continue.

Zeyala follows Walthus to the settle. Toshio also stays with their host, not comfortable leaving Zeyala alone with him at the moment. Feeling like they may actually be intruding, he keeps quiet, waiting for things to resolve. He stands at the base of the stairs, not far from Walthus and where he can protect Zeyala if necessary. He suspects that he will soon be apologizing, but wants to keep her safe if things turn ugly.

Zeyala kneels near Walthus and says, “I’m sorry for this intrusion. Something is happening in the swamp and we need to know everything we can. It’s just that some of my associates have methods of their own to gather information.”

“Bright worever is ‘appen’n in de marsh is not ‘appen’n e’yer,” Walthus says grumpily and looks away pointedly from both Zeyala and Toshio.

“I’m sorry, Zeyala,” says Toshio. “But as I said, we have a concern and need for his safety. I’ll be happy to apologize and make amends if it proves to be nothing.”

As he is speaking, Toshio’s curiosity gets the better of him and he opens his inner awareness and finds that he is indeed in the presence of something or someone evil. Toshio tries not to show his alarm, and keeps trying to determine its source.

Upstairs, Keng, Jharad, and Jethrik search the rooms off the hall. The first one is a supply room full of tools, hunting supplies, and spare halfling-sized weapons, including three handaxes, a longbow, 40 arrows, and two small suits of leather armor. The second room seems to be a guest room, but sheets cover all the furniture. The last room would seem to be Walthus’ well lived in bedroom. No rats or other animals are seen, nor any more bumping or thumping heard. But the windows of Walthus’ bedroom is open and there are plenty of places where creatures from the marsh could get in and hide.

Keng growls, “Little runt is hiding something.”

Downstairs, Toshio feels that there is a single evil aura somewhere in the room. Walthus looks up and must have seen something in Toshio’s look for he says, “W’s wrong wi’ yous? Why are yous giv’n me a laughin’ look. Am de one be’n put out e’yer. Dun yous look down ed me.”

Upstairs Keng asks of Jharad and Jethrik, “Can either of you detect magic?” Keng looks out the window of Walthus’ bedroom. Keng sees that it would be very easy for an intruder, animal or otherwise to climb in with the windows open as they are. Though he also sees that the shutters can be closed and barred shut.

“I can,” Jharad replies. He casts a simple cantrip and begins scanning the room. He quickly picks up on the presence of magic somewhere in the room but it will take a moment to discern its power and to pinpoint its location.

“Whatever made that thump could have left through this window.” Jethrik looks out through it as well.

At just that moment, a lower panel of the northwest section of the bedroom wall is pushed out by something behind it. And it is then that Keng, Jethrik, and Jharad realize that the two bedrooms of the upper floor are both the same size even though the guest bedroom starts a bit further south on the hall.

Downstairs, Toshio responds to Walthus, “What? I’m not looking down on you or anyone here.” Raising his voice so the others can hear he says, “We should all be alert though. There is something evil nearby!”

Even as he speaks, Toshio pinpoints the aura of evil – and it is centered on Walthus!

Jharad replies as he spins around towards the new presence, “And I believe it just found us.”

Kengs turns and crouches, knife held mid-ready in his right hand edge pointing away from his thumb.

From out of a crawlspace behind the wall of the bedroom, another Walthus emerges. He is dressed not too dissimilarly to the Walthus downstairs, but this one wears a cloak and has an axe in his belt. Jharad sees that the faint magical emanation is coming from the cloak.

“Walthus?” Jethrik says loud enough to be heard throughout the house. “How did you get up here?”

Toshio looks at ‘Walthus’ (?) accusingly as he gets his heavy flail ready. “Are you sure you don’t have any more information to share with us?” Toshio is giving the clear, if unspoken, message that this is the time for ‘Walthus’ to come clean before things come to blows.

Keng sheathes his dagger, grabs the bedspread and leaps upon the hobbit-thing. He yells out at the top of his voice, “Let’s capture it!”

Walthus deftly dodges the bedspread as well as Keng. Like the goblin chieftain he is small and very agile. “Please dun! Am walthus! De real one!”

Jharad holds up his hand to Keng, saying quietly, “Wait.” Then to the upstairs Walthus he says, “What happened, tell us quickly.”

Keng backs down, gathering himself to be ready to grapple again if need be.

Downstairs the other Walthus lunges at Zeyala, transforming even as he does from halfling into a hairless, leathery biped with a face dominated by unsettling whorls and slits instead of actual features. He grabs her and whips her around so that she is in a headlock and facing Toshio. Three hollow tongues flash out from three different slits in its faceless head and sink into her neck and begin throbbing with blood. Zeyala’s eyes go wide and she almost screams but then passes out with a look of shocked incomprehension. The thing looks up, retracts its tongues, and says, in perfect Common, “Do not move Toshio. I can kill her before you even swing your flail.”

Upstairs, Walthus says to Jharad and the others, “Faceless stalker. I’ve beun ‘id’n from ‘im.”

“Well, that’s the other way…” not bothering to finish the thought, Jethrik starts moving down the stairs shrugging off pack and shield.

“Set her down and leave while you can, thing,” Toshio says with all the menace he can muster. “If she dies, you die. This is your only chance to live. Walk away.”

Keng looks at Jharad and asks, “What do you want to do wizard?”

Jharad responds, “Something has our friend, we take it out,” and with a smirk starts heading downstairs.

Keng has an idea, and so he climbs out the window instead.

The small faceless creature starts moving around Toshio, careful to drag the unconscious Zeyala between them. As it reaches for the handle of the front door it says, “Don’t interfere human. Once I am outside and put a distance between us I will let her go, but don’t make a move until I am clear.” It opens the door.

Upstairs, the real Walthus heads for the storage room to get his longbow.

Jethrik digs into the pouch on his belt removing a treat shaped like a bear and a feather. “Coochie coo,” he says, tickling the bear which disappears in a mist that rockets over to the shape shifter and attaches to its ribs. “Laugh damn it!” Jethrik mutters.

The creature immediately collapses into a fit of hysterical laughter, consequently dropping Zeyala.

Letting his anger take him more than he’d like to admit, Toshio smites the vile, treacherous creature with his heavy flail, hoping for a one-blow kill. As he swings he shouts, “You should have put her down while you could!” The blow hits the creature in the chest and knocks it against the doorframe but does not kill it.

Jharad vaults over the bannister to land in the middle of the main room. His hand brushes his dagger and it flashes with arcane power as he plunges it into the belly of the beast. Black ichor pours from the wound, but it still flails about, continuing its awful inhuman chortling.

Keng jumps out the second story window, lands hard but manages to roll to his feet without any major injury. He sprints to the front door, kicks it in and attacks the shape shifter who is laughing hysterically on the floor, burying his axe in its back. Yet still the creature continues to laugh and to attempt to dodge away from its many attackers.

On the stairs, Walthus comes down with his longbow strung and ready and an arrow in hand. He stops by Jethrik’s side but sees that there are too many others in the way to attempt to loose an arrow at the thing he called a faceless stalker.

“You’ve stolen your last life, creature!” yells Jethrik.

Toshio lays into the creature again with his flail.

Jharad stabs at it again, but this time it’s leather jacket blocks his blow.

Keng continue to beat upon the shape changer. He roars, “Now your face looks better!”

After Keng’s blow to its head the faceless stalker reels back and slumps against the wall. It waves its arm feebly to ward Keng, Toshio, and Jharad off. The fight has clearly gone out of it.

Toshio scowls at the thing. “Somebody please bind it. And don’t forget that it can change it’s size as you do the ties.”

Addressing the thing he says, “If you resist at all, you die. If you attempt to change shape, you die.” Toshio stays ready to finish the thing, just in case, but allows room for someone to move in and tie it up.

Toshio is glad nobody else got hurt, but the need to deal with another prisoner is inconvenient at best. As he contemplates what to do now, he says, “Who can heal Zeyala? Quickly, take my potion for her.”

Sandpoint may need a bigger jail, thinks Toshio. Or sturdy gibbets. I wonder how the mayor and sheriff will deal with these.

Toshio lifts up Zeyala’s head and pours his healing potion into her mouth, a little at a time, and messaging it down her throat. Zeyala coughs and sputters as the potion bring her back to consciousness. In her confusion, she yells out, “It’s not! Where?!”

Jethrik says, “I appreciate that it would be evil to kill this thing. But it’s also too dangerous to bring back to Sandpoint and too dangerous to keep in our care. I don’t see how we should deal with it.”

Jharad ties up the creature but says to Toshio, “I agree with Jethrik, bringing this back to Sandpoint would be a mistake. Just because it speaks clear Common, does not make it any less of a monster. Look what it tried to do to Zey.”

Toshio says, “It would have been easier if we had killed it, true. But it’s surrendered now, and that’s not an option any longer. Since we can’t drag it with us through the marsh, we’ll have to take it back to Sandpoint’s jail. That stinks, but I don’t see a better solution. Besides, what’s a little inconvenience to the like of us?” Thinking a bit more, Toshio adds, “The thing is badly hurt. I doubt it will try anything foolish in that condition.”

Looking at the halfling Jharad asks, “What can you tell us about this thing and what happened here?”

“Toshio, don’t be a fool,” Keng interrupts Walthus’ response, “This monster held Walthus hostage, tried to kidnap Zeyala, and tried to kill us. It deserves no mercy.” Keng walks over to cut its throat with his large dagger.

Jethrik sees the dagger, “No Keng! Don’t!” he impotently cries.

Jharad steps back to give Keng more room.

Zeyala calls out, “No Keng, wait! Despite what it did to me and what I’d like to see done to it, there are rules we must follow.”

“There aren’t no rules in a knife fight!”

Somewhat surprised at Keng’s attempt to execute the faceless stalker, Toshio interposes himself between the half-orc barbarian and the prisoner. “It is not your place to execute a prisoner, mercenary!” Deeply unhappy with the situation, Toshio makes a visible attempt to calm himself, hoping that Keng will also pause. “If anyone here has authority to do so, it is I.” He looks each of the others in the eye. “Jharad, finish binding it” he says curtly. His eyes show that he’s reached some decision. “I agree it deserves little mercy. If it hadn’t surrendered our jobs would be easier. But it did surrender, and we can’t kill our prisoners, no matter how inconvenient. We’ll take it back to town and turn it over to the sheriff.”

Keng’s eyes begin to turn red but then clear. He looks at Toshio and says, “You may have your woman’s way with this thing now but if it so much as breaths wrong I will kill it.”  He grabs his pack and walks out the door.

Jharad calmly responds to Toshio, “It is bound, though from what we have seen of its abilities they are of little use.”

Zeyala simply looks at Toshio and gives an affirming nod. She then asks, ”Other than me, was anyone else injured?” No one else, however, was injured in the brief fray.

Toshio warns, “Please do not do a healing that could make the thing a threat again. Not yet.”

“Don’t worry about that,” reassures Zeyala. “Though once we decide what we’re going to do, I’ll provide some healing for the real Walthus and myself. “

Looking once again at the halfling, Jharad says, “I believe you were about to share some information which may illuminate our situation.”

Walthus comes down the stairs to stand with the others, though he keeps his arrow nocked. He glances nervously in the direction of the creature, then looks at Jharad and begins his story.

“This th’n attacked me de dee before yestidee. Ay wuz out in me back gardun tend’n ter me snakes whun this th’n came over de wall. We fought fiercely and Ay managed ter wound it wi’ me axe. It wuz also bittun by me snakes, but not before it pinned me and begin drink’n me blewd juss as it did ter her.” The halfling shudders at the memory, and it can be seen that his throat too is marked by bites. “Whun me snakes bit it, Ay managed ter break away. Ay fled upstairs and ‘id in me saferewm. Since dun I’ve lain up thuz try’n ter recover. Ay could ‘ear it rummag’n around in de kun but it wasn’t able ter find me. Mostly it juss rested from its wounds and de snake venom as bright. Ay knew it wuz only a matti o’ time before it made a more thorough search and found me. Dun you’s lot showed up yestidee. Ay awoke whun ay ‘eard de sound o’ yer voices. Ay thought ay wuz saved. Ay would ‘uv called out but ay wuz tew weak still. Dun ter me ‘orrer ay ‘eard it speak’n wi’ me voice. Ay realized dun dat it must be some kind o’ shapeshifty. Whun yous left ay truly despaired. Ay tried ter sneak out dat night, but it ‘eard me and came up de stairs. Ay slates ‘id again and fortunately it wasn’t able ter find me saferewm, but Ay wuz more desperate than ever. Ay needed water and food, and it dun knew dat ay wuz about. This morn’n, while it wuz serv’n yous tea, ay saw me chance. If Ay could get out de window Ay could ‘ide and meet yous down de trail outi sight o’ me home and tell yous wa’ ‘ad ‘appened. Unfortunately, Ay got de window opun partway but fell back. Ay waited ter see if anyone ‘eard me, and whun Ay realized it wuz com’n back up Ay crept into de saferewm again. Ay would ‘uv leapt out de window but ay didn’t kun if ay could take such a fall in me condition. De rest ye know. Ay also dun like de thought o’ any cold-blewded kill’n, but dat th’n, once it slips free and Ay can se it can, wul try fe us blewd again. Ay don’t kun if it tinnie become bigger, but it could defo take ed me form er dat o’ yer gnome er maybe a dog er firkin. If yous take it into Sandpoint you’ll endanger everyone thuz. If yous let it bowl e’yer iddle try fe me again, er maybe iddle come afty yous. Ay vote yous ler rus finish it off.” He stretches the bow taught and aims the arrow at the most likely place for its heart.

From outside they hear the sounds of wood chopping…

Jethrik isn’t sure what to say (there’s a rarity) but he watches the creature closely and has a hand on the pommel of his rapier.

Toshio seems frozen, deep in thought. It seems a long time to him, although it was really only a few seconds, before he speaks again.

“Jethrick, please come with me.” He hauls the thing up and pushes it ahead of him out the door. Jethrik follows in respectful silence, knowing that some roles require solemnity. Toshio makes sure the door closes behind Jethrik. Jharad follows them outside, and though Toshio hears door open and close again and the extra footsteps, but figuring that they all have a good guess of what he has in mind, he doesn’t turn to check. Toshio just doesn’t want any others around if it would trouble them. He knows Jethrick would probably want to avoid it, but Toshio wants to use his credibility as an accurate storyteller. Otherwise he’d let Jethrick stay behind if he wished. Toshio sees Keng chopping the wood but ignores him, too, intent on getting the wretched task over with. Keng stops what he is doing and follows, especially since he saw Jharad tagging along.

Outside, Toshio tucks away his flail and draws his katana. Still moving the thing ahead of him, he guides it around to the back wall enclosing the real halfling’s garden. As he walks, he explains, “Not everyone needs to see this, and it’s my responsibility alone. I don’t want them troubled as I am. But I need one witness, in case any questions are asked. You don’t need to watch the actual deed. But I need someone to see that the thing wasn’t mistreated, and to verify the end.” He doesn’t check that Jethrick is keeping up, but assumes that he is doing so. Toshio continues at a quick pace, not wanting to give himself time to change his mind and not wanting to give the thing a chance to make more trouble.

When they are outside the garden, Toshio pushes the thing into a kneeling position. Without hesitation Toshio swings his katana and decapitates the creature. He pauses after the cut, and then looks to make sure the unfamiliar monster is dead and not regenerating, troll-like. “Dead, yes?”

Jethrik examines the creature to ensure the wound is not regenerating. He sees that it is not. “It was a difficult thing, Toshio, but a lot of people are safer for it.”

Keng, seeing that the monster is dead, nods his head. Turning to Jharad he says, “Pretty boy does have a pair.”

Jharad comments, “We should have questioned it first. Unfortunate.” He turns and walks back to the front door.

Toshio cleans his blade and sees that all but Zeyala and Walthus had come outside with him. Toshio shouts at them, “And who’s with Zeyala?! Are you all so sure that’s a halfling too with her?!” He pushes past them and runs in to make sure she’s still okay, as angry with the whole situation as he is with any of them for leaving her. It probably really is a halfling – he hopes.

In response to Toshio’s concern, Zeyala says, “I’m fine. I’m fine. Despite the encounter, my wounds are mostly healed,” she adds. “I’m fine to carry on.”

Toshio relaxes visibly. “I should have words with the others for leaving you, but right now such words would probably end badly. I am glad you are safe.”

Keng returns to the woodpile and continues chopping wood for Walthus. The pile is four times larger than when he started.

With the creature disposed of, Zeyala is free to call upon her healing power. Her wounds close over though she is still sore and feels tired due to the blood the creature drained from her. Though she had hoped she would be able to help Walthus, his current state is also due to blood loss that only rest or more powerful magic than she can call upon now can cure.

Walthus proves to be a much more gracious host than his imposter, as well as a grateful one. He takes the cloak off his back and offers it to whichever of them could best use it. He explains that it is a cloak that will enable the wearer to resist harm and that it can be adjusted even for you “big’uns.”

Jharad accepts the cloak from Walthus only to examine it closer to understand its specific magic in detail.

Keng, having finished replenishing Walthus wood and smelling food, reenters the house.

Jharad finishes examining the cloak and announces, “Yes, this cloak will help the wearer resist all sorts of spells, ailments, poisons, even assist in dodging environmental harm. This would be helpful for any one of us, but I suggest Keng be the recipient. He is, after all, the one we keep placing foremost in harms way.”

Smirking, to Keng he translates, “I just said you should have it because you get hurt more.”

“Pain is just weakness leaving the body,” Keng says with a feral grin showing off both his tusks. He does however take the cloak with a nod of thanks.

Toshio can’t help but come out of his foul mood a bit, hearing Jharad snipe at Keng like that then rub it in by “translating.” A slight smile graces his face as a chuckles escapes his lips.

Walthus also offers to make them lunch and tells them they are free to stay at his place as they search the marsh, even overnight if they wish. “I’ll feel a lot safer wi’ you’s lot around anyroad.” Finally, he informs them that by the shore he’s hidden away a little rowboat. He can take himself and maybe Jethrik and one of the larger folk, but that is all. He will be happy to take them over to the two shipwrecks which are both easily reachable by boat. The caves, however, he knows nothing about, though when he’s feeling better he tells them he’ll be happy to take them over to the cliffs.

Toshio muses, “Two ships and a cave. What say we work north to south? But, as nice as it would be to save the time, I’m not eager to split the party by sending some by boat.”

Turning to Walthus he says, “Your offer to guide us is very kind, Mister Proudstump. We will gladly take you up on the offer. However, I think we brought no supplies for overnighting, here or elsewhere. And we should let the sheriff know before we stay overlong.”

“As yous wul,” Walthus responds. He tells them they are always welcome to visit and he will help however he can.

Toshio asks Walthus, “Is there anything you need from town? We would like to return to your hospitality tomorrow night. It would be easy enough to bring things if you have need.”

Jharad comments, “We should grab another boat. Sounds like getting to the shipwrecks and maybe caves would be best by boat. We could row one from Sandpoint back to here by the evening.”

Toshio agrees. “I’m sure there is a suitable boat in town that we can use, so we can all get to the sites more quickly and without splitting up. Let’s also be sure to load up on provisions for a few days. And we’ll get enough so we don’t eat Mr. Proudstump out of his own home.”

“Yes,” agrees Zayala. “I’m sure there’s someone who could lend us a boat, or at least rent one to us.”

Keng thinks to himself, I hate boats.

Walthus does, in fact, ask for a few things from town – mostly new clothes and some other odds and ends for the house. He even offers the pay them the 10 gold that he estimates it will all cost.

“You can pay us when we get back,” says Toshio.

Jethrik

Jethrik in costume for his favorite role, the Prince of Cats

When is a performer “on” and when is his or her real personality shining through the performance? This perennial question has caused confusion and even distrust toward actors, singers, acrobats and all manner of people who make their living through the delight of others.

Jethrik rarely considers the question himself. Moreover, as a member of the gnome race, he is confounded by the human obsession with it. Illusion is a “natural” part of the gnome psyche, outlook and perhaps even physiology. Isn’t performance what a performer is? Isn’t imagination part of reality? Where are these divisions that humans insist exist?

If you ask, a slight shrug is all you are likely to get from Jethrik. He lacks any sort of formal education or religious instruction. In fact, his training in his given profession; comedian and oratory is rather spotty as well. His natural gifts of curiosity, insight, humor and powerful personality have served instead. His past is a collection of stories and jokes which may be about himself or things he picked up along the way. His indifference over accuracy and authorship is as pronounced as over his concern for the boundaries of reality.

Questions of his past, age and experiences are quickly answered. However, the responses are always one part truth, one part what he thinks the questioner wants and the rest a good story. The humans with whom he has travelled and lived have heard various answers ranging from his ouster from his royal past centuries ago to a hard scrabble past and a life no longer than that of a human’s. The more observant note that he appears to be a young adult and does not appear to have any professional skills. Further it’s noted that he rarely speaks, even to himself or when surprised, in gnomish. Some disapprove of his morality and lack of discipline (particularly with regard to money). However, none can criticize his manners or dress.

Physically, Jethrik appears to be a handsome, if unusual person. Standing just 4’6” tall and weighing just 42 pounds he is not physically imposing! Indeed, his expression and manner is one of delight and curiosity concerning all things around him, particularly people and animals. Hints of his being an adventurer break through in his bearing and show in his equipment, however he does his best to mitigate this. His chain shirt is worn under his adventurer’s outfit and a light rapier and dagger are worn casually when in town. On the road he will add his pack, bow, quiver and shield, but even these are adorned with scarves and colors.

Wide eyes are his prominent facial feature, one is brown and one blue. They peek up through tufts of blonde hair without malice or artifice. A small nose is perched above a mouth quick to break into an infectious grin.

Tales Are Told

Back in Sandpoint, the goblin is turned over to Sheriff Hemlock and locked up until an interrogator can be found. Jharad also returns his borrowed equipment to the garrison and puts on his own gear.

From there, they cross the street over to town hall to settle accounts with Mayor Kendra in regard to the bounty. She pays them, as promised, double on the previous bounty for Chief Gutwad’s head and for each goblin ear. She even counts the ears of the prisoner. The total comes to 1160 gold. In addition to that, they count out 167 gold and 329 silver pieces in the red chest and found on the person of the chief and in the secret stash that Jharad had located. The mayor also confiscates the four skyrockets, but she does give them 100 gold for them.

“I think this town has had quite enough fireworks for this season,” she says.

Of the other items there is a brief discussion as to what to do with them.

“There is nothing here I would like to keep,” says Jhard. “As for as I am concerned, it all should be sold and divided, except for the healing potions. They should go to Toshio and Keng.”

To no one in particular, Zeyala sighs, “I do adore this pin, but I am determined to explore beyond the borders of Sandpoint, and for that, I’ll need coin.” Reluctantly she places it with the other items to be sold off.

Jethrik also expresses his reluctance to sell the magic arrows or the masterwork chainmail shirt that can be cleaned and repaired.

“Although we agreed to share the wealth, perhaps something can be worked out, Jethrik,” says Zeyala. “It does seem a waste to just sell off something that can be put to immediate use, like those potions.”

“I’ll do my best to square the difference.” Jethrik says with a slight bow. “If nothing can be worked out, than…” he makes a show of holding back tears, “we’ll have to liquidate.”

It is agreed, then, to give the potions to Toshio and Keng, to allow Jethrik to take four of the magical arrows and the masterwork chain shirt as the major part of his share, and to take the red chest, hairpin, and fan to Maver Kesk, Sandpoint’s wild haired jeweler to get the items appraised.

Fortunately for them, Koya, Sandru, Daviren Hosk, and Ameiko show up at town hall to congratulate the conquering heroes.

Daviren makes an offer to “have a little talk” with their prisoner. He cracks his knuckles and smirks cruelly as he says this. “You see, I used to hunt the little buggers. That’s why there are no more Bonegrinder goblins around. Nothing left of them but the ears that I’ve collected, preserved, and nailed up to the rafters of the stable. I even inscribed their names on the ears, because writing down their names is one of the worst things you can do to them in their way of thinking. Yes, I know goblins well, and I’ll be happy to get your prisoner to talk and interpret his jibber jabber for you.” This offer to interpret for the prisoner is coolly accepted by Toshio and the sheriff.

Sheriff Hemlock then asks Daviren to take a look at the map on the back of the fan, as he might recognize the goblins scrawl and he also knows the landmarks of the Brinestump better than any other present. Daviren examines it and nods. “Yes, I think I can make sense of this.” Toshio suggests that Jharad work with Daviren to duplicate the map. That way Jharad can use his illusions to confirm the map’s/Hosk’s descriptions and ensure as much accuracy as possible. After that, the fan can be sold. With Hosk’s help, Jharad transcribes the map onto vellum.

Daviren also offers them tips on how to pickle the head of Chief Gutwad. “Too bad, you didn’t bring back the whole body. I should show you sometime, but long ago I pickled Chief Whartus of the Bonegrinder tribe after I did him in, and you can see him now in a large bottle back at the stables.”

Sandru looks over the items and gives his own professional opinion of their value. All in all, he believes they should be able to get 350 gold for the chest, hairpin, and fan. They should also be able to get 83 gold for each magic arrow, 250 gold for Chief Gutwad’s bow, and 19 gold for the six throwing stars found in the chest. As Sandru appraises these items, Koya takes care of any lingering bruises by calling upon her own ability to channel the healing power of Desna. She also uses her magic to mend the chainmail shirt for Jehtrik, though it will still need to be cleaned.

After the shares of the treasure are determined and the coins distributed, Keng, Jethrik, Jharad, and Zeyala go out to sell what they are going to sell, and to get Jethrik’s new chainmail shirt cleaned and polished. They agree to meet with Toshio and Daviren back at the Rusty Dragon after they learns what they can from the goblin.

***

Back in the garrison’s interrogation room, the goblin, whose name is Kavak, is not at all reluctant to tell Sheriff Hemlock, Toshio, and Daviren what happened the previous night. In fact, Kavak is nauseatingly ingratiating and a very bad liar.

“Hit all started da few weeks ago whun Scribbleface, that’s wot we call ‘im now, wuz found to as committed da forbiddun act hof writin. We drove ‘im hout into da swamp an’ tore down iz turf. That’s whun we found dat e had also bin stockpilin fireworks dat he’d recovered from da site deepa in da marsh. Our chief wuz intrigued, an’ so e sent hout five volunteers on da mission to retrace Scribbleface’s path an’ brin bak more fireworks. Dey found da wrecked human ship an’ brought bak from hit da chest filled wiv fireworks an’ da fan wiv da map hof da marsh showin where we could chek more. Da five goblins wuz sent hout again several days ha bit lata on an’ dey returned wiv several crates hof treasure an’ evun more fireworks. So we’ve just bin playin around wiv those fe da while. It’s da most wicked we’ve had in da long bells, an’ dey didn’t belong to anybody. Nor wuz we tryin to hurt anyone. Fe real, we weren’t!

“Well, last night an army hof skeletal warriors, dressed dig ‘im,” he indicates Toshio, “invaded our village. Our bravest heroes wuz cut down as dey fought bravely to save our bitches an’ childrun an’ borrow dem bells to escape. We did our fittest to hold dem off, but dere wuz too many hof dem an’ dey wuz too strong. Dey went door to door killin any goblin dey could chek. Before dey could kill us all, Chief Gutwad in iz yorkie wisdom realized dat dey had spitz fe da treasure. E ordered those hof us who remained to return to dem all da treasure stored in da village treasury. Da skeletons gathered hit all up an’ split. Dey must as returned to da caves to da south where most hof da fireworks came from.”

Kavak then begins begging and pleading to be let go. “Please, I neva did anythin to yous. I wuz just defendin me village an’ me chief. We Licktoads don’t mean any harm. We just dig fireworks! Who doesn’t!? An’ I neva evun participated in any hof da attacks on da road. Can I go now? Please!? Is it coz I is a goblin?”

***

Back at the Rusty Dragon, empty now as it is in the middle of the afternoon when most people are working, Toshio and Hosk relate Kavak’s story to the others. With Kavak’s story in mind Jharad makes a map with Hosk’s help that reveals four locations. One is the Licktoad Village. The second is a site downriver of the village that is the site of the first ship wreck. The third site is much farther off to the southeast of the village and is another shipwreck. The fourth site is a cave complex due south of the third site along the cliff overlooking the marsh.

Hosk looks at the map and says, of the third location, that it may be around the home of Old Megus. “She was some kind of swamp witch but it’s been a long time since she came to town. Many folk believe its because she used witch magic to turn into some kind of swamp zombie and now she’s stalking Brinestump looking for people to eat.” Hosk finds this a bit funny, but not too funny. “I didn’t know Old Megus and won’t speculate on what she may have done or what may have happened to her, but there are certainly some fearsome things in the Brinestump.”

Jharad smiles and says, “Looks like it is back into Brinestump for us.”

“Yeah, but undead samurai. I’m not sure that like the sound of that,” says Zeyala. “As for the goblin, it’s evil. Kill it or let it rot in prison.”

Keng says, “I like the idea of re-killin’ some undead!”

“So we may find the other five goblins, undead warriors in stylish armor, or both. Whatever is there, we’ll need to clear any threat to Sandpoint. I won’t speak for the others, but it seems we’ve got a good group already gathered that could address this – if they’re agreeable to going back into the marsh.”

“I can’t think of anything more foolish… I’m in,” says Jethrik.

“I’m in,” barks Keng!

Toshio is most pleased that they’ve all volunteered. “That’s good. Very good.” He tries not to smile as much as he feels like he’s smiling. “Then let’s get ready, and I’ll buy the first round of drinks this evening. We can figure out how we’ll split any of the treasure we may find over a few pints. Then we can rest up and start tomorrow.”

Jharad looks over at Keng, “Looks like more ale for us,” and smiles.

“Aye! Let’s have a drinking contest with pretty boy!”

“You mean Jethrick?” Asks Toshio, knowing full well what Keng means. “I think you underestimate him,” he adds, smiling.

***

Jharad goes to the jeweler to sell the fan, and then to Savah’s Armory to buy a morningstar, and 20 blunt arrows, 10 of them small sized for Jethrik. He also buys two trip arrows and 10 thistle arrows. At the Pillbug Pantry he gets a couple of healing potions. At the General Store he picks up a notebook, ink, and pen, silk rope, and masterwork bowyer’s tools.

Back in his room at the Rusty Dragon, Jharad gives thought to getting or making gifts for Koya and Shalelu. He can’t think of what to do yet for Shalelu, but for Koya, he makes a detailed map of “The Battle at Licktoad Village.” It graphically details the village and their fight.

***

Toshio heads over to the local armor smith and hopes there might be a suit of banded mail that would fit him. Although he doesn’t want to give up the family armor, he’s practical enough to accept the better protection. Not quite recalling what his teachers said about the weaknesses of undead, the looks for a heavy flail as well.

Toshio also checks the family home for any written stories he might share with Ameiko. In the library of his home Toshio finds a series of volumes written in the Tien language with Tien ideograms. It is a lavishly illuminated set of codices whose value Toshio can’t even guess. They are The Improbable Saga of Jinsen Tayago and His Astonishing War with the Oni, or more simply, the Tayagama. Toshio remembers that Jinsen Tayago was the hero of stories he was told as a child, this must be the original source of those stories. He had forgotten about them when he apprenticed himself as a paladin of Iomedae when he turned 13 and hadn’t thought about them since. Paging through a couple of the volumes, Toshio sees that there is more here than he will be able to take in in only a few hours. This original story is actually a cycle of 100 poems, though they have long since been converted into popular songs and plays, its episodes being frequent subjects of Minkai artwork, and many pithy bits of wisdom are actually drawn directly from this enchanting, if fanciful, legend. It tells the story of a whimsical and work-shy farm boy in the fantastical land of Nihon (a thinly veiled stand-in for Minkai), who is recruited by a kami to battle the hated one who, having conquered seven of the eight kingdoms of Nihon, are intent on ruling the eighth as well. Tayago nearly always prevails through humor, perseverance, and happy accident. The poetic cycle abounds with wit and high adventure, much of it obvious artistic and comic exaggeration. For instance, in the opening lines of the first poem, the kami so startles Tayago that he runs across a pond on lily pads, his feet never touching the water. (adapted from AP 49 The Brinewall Legacy, pp. 71-72 )

After shopping for the necessities, returning his old armor to the manor and again shopping (this time unsuccessfully for the story book), Toshio considers the ivory fan as he comes across it again in the shop. Toshio spends the money to buy the fan. It’s a good opportunity to please Ameiko, with the artistry of the fan itself and the story it can lead to. ‘Too bad I didn’t think to ask for this as a portion of my share in the treasure’ he thinks to himself as he shells out the money. He takes time to get it wrapped, and includes a nice ribbon from the local tailor (long enough to be reused by Ameiko is she so chooses).

He goes early to the Rusty Dragon to find Ameiko. “Hello. I was thinking of you, and how disappointed you seemed to miss our trip into the marsh. So I got this for you. It’s one of the items we recovered from the goblins.” After she opens it, he lets her look it over a bit, and then gently turns it to show the map. “It’s got this map on the back, which mars it a bit. I’ll get that cleaned off for you, of course. But I thought I’d show it to you first. All the adventure of this day seems to be tied to this map.” He lets her imagine what that adventure might have been, and what it might lead to before he says, “If you’d like, I could tell you our story. Or what there is of it so far.”

“You are so kind Toshio.” She graciously accepts the fan the Tian-Min way by taking it in both hands and holding it up before her. “I’d be very happy to hear it, Toshio. Please don’t change the map on the fan though. I like it just as it is, which is to say, part of the story.”

With her eager consent, Toshio relates the events of the day, highlighting the good choices made by each of his comrades and doing his best to make them sound heroic. He doesn’t neglect himself in the telling, but spins his role as one of support and guidance for the others, trying not to display too much ego.

“And so this fan, with it’s map, seems to be leading us on to new adventures. I’ll have to tell you of those when we return” he closes. “Of course, if you change your mind you could always come with us…” he adds hopefully, aware that she is unlikely to accept. If not, he says “Then I look forward to telling you what transpires when we get back” and goes to join the others in celebration.

“Toshio, I really don’t see any need for you or the others to return to the marsh. The Licktoads have been taken care of. And you were all very fortunate to have come back without any great harm to yourselves. Why go looking for any more trouble? Let the dead keep what is theirs. It is probably better not to trouble them.” Even as she says this, however, Toshio can tell that there is a part of her that does wish to go with them. He gets the feeling that she is speaking from her head but her heart is saying something else.

***

Coming downstairs into the main room of the inn in the early evening, Jharad sees Toshio speaking with Ameiko, and Keng sitting by himself. Jharad interrupts Toshio and Ameiko to buy two ales and sits down next to Keng, sliding one across to him. “Describe the best tasting ale or grog you have ever had, I want to show you something,” he says.

Keng nods his thanks and ponders Jharad’s question. Frankly he is uncertain how to answer, nor certain he trusts the elf wizard.

“Best tasting ale eh? Odd question. I like the Shoanti Fire Ale. Quenches the thirst and cuts the dust has a bite to it with wild Ashanti peppers.”

“I have a talent to make things taste… different. Better or worse, sweet or sour. Like most magic the change is not permanent, but will last long enough to enjoy food the way I want. I wish I knew the taste of your Shoanti Fire Ale, I would change this brew to match it. Magic is good that way. Or at least it can be. There exists, of course, bad magic. But I try and stay away from that.”

Jharad takes a sip of his ale, pausing before he says what he really wants to. Lowering his voice slightly he says, “I have a favor to ask of you. It is personal and I am entrusting you to keep this between us. I knew a woman some time ago when I was last here which I was rather fond of. You might call it a crush truth be told. I am not sure, however, that her feelings for me were matched. Or whether she will even remember me now for that matter, though I doubt either of our appearance has change in the last 30 years. When I do see her next though I would like to give her a gift… to show that I at least remember her. Since you seem to know her now more than I, I would ask your suggestion as to what that gift might be.” Looking into Keng’s eyes Jharad adds, “You do know whom I am speaking of, yes?”

Keng looks blankly at Jharad. He is not used to subtlety and isn’t following him at all especially with the big change in topics from ale to women. He squints his eyes and shakes his head and asks, “Are you trying to trick me again?”

Jharad cannot help but laugh out loud. After taking a moment to compose himself he says smiling, “Keng no, I am not trying to trick you. Simply put I am asking for your help. I like Shalelu and would like to give her a gift. Do you have any suggestions?”

Keng, caught with a mouthful of ale, sprays it out in a great mist while slamming his mug down on the plank table sloshing half it’s contents across the wood and blurts out a loud gaffaw, “You like her!?” Realizing he has shouted and is making a scene with three quarters of the tavern looking over at them leans forward and lowers his voice, “you mean ‘like her’ as in lay with her!?

Jharad attempts hiding his head as he brushes his hands through his hair. Cleaning up the mess with a quick spell he responds, “Elven relationships are much more… subtle than that. But for you, in essence, yes I like her that way. Now please, can we keep this a bit more quiet?”

Keng waves his hands as if clearing the air, “My apologies Jharad, It was the surprise of an elf asking a half-orc for woman advice that caught me flat-footed.”

Keng is quiet for a time sipping his ale. “She is a ranger and enjoys long periods of time alone in the wilderness living off the land. She likes things that aid her survival. I in fact am having a small leather pouch made with her family crest tooled in it and filled with some fishing line, tinder and flint as a gift for her.” Keng then looks at Jharad expectantly.

Jharad seems lost in thought for a moment then says, “A very nice gift, I am sure she will appreciate that.” Again he looses himself in thought and then drains his ale mug. Without a word he gets up then returns with two more. He sits and slides one in front of Keng as thanks and finishes out the night talking of killing goblins, defeating undead and other simple pleasures.

***

While shopping for armor and the healer’s kit, Zeyala also picks up a handpainted deck of Harrow cards from Magnimar for Koya. She also buys a small teakwood box to place it in and some fancy paper to wrap it. Zeyala presents the gift to Koya saying, “Thank you, for so much… for everything. I can never repay the kindness you’ve shown me, but please accept this as a token of my appreciation and our friendship.”

“Oh my dear, thank you so much.” She unwraps the present, opens the box, and flips through the cards with real delight. “You are so thoughtful. You can never have enough decks you know. Each one has its own spirit and expression.”

***

When the others arrive and they all sit down together for their supper Jharad says to them, “There are a few points I wanted to bring up regarding tomorrow’s foray back into Brinestone. First is that we might consider getting some blunt weapons. Swords and arrows are not weapons to be used against skeletons. Secondly I think we should return to the bridge where we were attacked by that dog-legged creature. It may be worth while tracking it back to its lair to see what items it may have collected from the less fortunate.”

Toshio is relieved to hear Jharad bring this up. He was feeling a bit ashamed of himself for not recalling his lessons on battling undead, and Jharad’s confirmation that blunt weapons are the ones to use puts him at ease. “Right you are. I’ve already acquired an appropriate weapon. I’m sure everyone will make sure they are also ready in that way.”

Jethrik laughs. His volume is quite surprising from such a small frame. “There are a few points I want to bring up, and the have nothing to do with the swamp! Drain your mug, wizard and worry about tomorrow when it comes!”

Toshio says, “Before you are all too sloshed, there are some points I wanted to discuss as well: the splitting of treasure, in particular. I don’t want us to be fighting or even grumbling amongst ourselves over silly things like money.”

“I propose that we split all coin and saleable items equally among us upon our return. Items useful to the party will be given to the person best suited to aid the party with those items. How does that sound to each of you? Do we need to add more detail to the arrangement?”

Jharad, already a bit drunk, raises his glass to Toshio, “To our leader, may he always… wait, may he never… damn, how does that go? Never mind, I agree.”

Toshio, seeing that the business items are finished, lets them go. He raises his glass in return. “Well said, friend” and drains the glass.

Growing more sober, Jethrik says, “I was happy paying for the items I got, but I can see the wisdom in your approach. It would work well should we continue together over some time. I guess I hadn’t considered that a possibility, but there seems to be a lot going on in the swamp. What comes after that I wonder? But I will go along with the consensus. I don’t want anymore than is my due, and I’m happy showing a friend some generosity.”

Toshio continues, “And of the saleable items, like that hairpin, if someone wishes to buy them, they can do so our of their shares, of course.” Jokingly, he adds “And if two or more want the item, we can duel for the right to buy it, neh?”

Zeyala joins in the merriment.  She orders herself a mug of ale and lights up her clay pipe.  ”I think it would also be sensible to set aside some coins that can go towards supplies that would be of benefit to everyone, namely potions and other means of magical healing,” says Zeyala.  ”Just my two cents,”

“Good thinking. Such supplies should come from our joint purse,” agrees Toshio.

“Ah frack it,” says Keng. “Whatever you bastards want to do is fine with me,” he yells out, “Barmaid more ale!”

Keng is clearly feeling the ale now and clambers up onto the plank table and begins to stomp his feet in a deep bass rumble reminiscent of horese galloping across the plains.  ”Hear my drinking song and join with me,” he bellows out to the tavern!

“The grass grows high

We harvest when its brown

Our throats are parched and dry

Drink boys drink it down

“The enemy draws near

We meet to knock them down

We Shoanti know no fear

Drink boys drink it down

“Women for the taking

They wink and pull their skirts down

For them there be babies making

Drink boys drink it down

“And when I lay cold in the ground

My days done my mates face frown

My lips no longer make any sound

Drink boys drink it down.”

He drains he tankard and throws it into the fire. “A round for everyone,” he yells and tosses a few coins at the barmaid. “Drinks more drinks! Tonight we celebrate for tomorrow we may die!”

Toshio joins in as well as he can, and loudly. But when it gets to the part about women for the taking he stops, not wishing to offend the good women of the company. Feeling awkward for the potential offense to the women, and awkward for stopping mid-song when he’d been boisterously involved a split second before. He lets it pass and continues just as loudly with the following verse (hoping everyone lets it go).

Zeyala claps along to Keng’s song. When he gets to the second verse, she laughs out, “Making babies, huh?  That’s something I know a thing or two about!”

“Don’t tell me you’ve little ones hiding somewhere?!” Toshio asks. “Ha ha! Lovely as you are, no doubt you’ve had your share of suitors!”

“No,” she laughs. “No little ones yet.” She winks and puts a finger to her lips saying, “You don’t expect a girl to share all her secrets?”

After everyone is done cheering for Keng’s hearty drinking song, Jethrik jumps up on a table and floridly elaborates the tale of our mission in the Brinestump Marsh. Strongly emphasized, the powerful wisdom of Zeyala, the wily tricks of our powerful wizard, Toshio’s authority and fearlessness in battle and Keng’s awesome power in dispatching hordes of snot monkeys.

Toshio always appreciates a good performance, and this is no exception. The nice light that Jethrick casts on each of them in the tale helps. Toshio leans back, sipping his drink, and appreciating the telling.

Jharad sits back, claps at both Keng and Jethrik’s performances and enjoys the rest of the night.

The Razing of Licktoad Village

Jharad offers, “I will stay here and guard the big hut if some of you want to search the other huts.”

“What’d you call them, Keng?” asks Toshio, settling down a bit (but not dropping his guard) now that the immediate fighting is done. “Snot monkeys? Not very nice to monkeys, but a good name for them. Where’s Zeyala? Jharad, I though you were with her! Everyone, let’s go find her… and stick together!” he finishes irritably.

Then Toshio sees that Zeyala has made her own way over to them, keeping beneath the huts and walkways as much as she can to stay under cover.

Now that they are all together again, Toshio says, “We’ve pushed our luck a bit. Still, we need to finish what we’ve started. Lets clear out that big hut the gobs were so keen to get into. Then we’ll go back in and clear those other huts.”

Toshio turns to Zeyala and asks, “Before we get started again, do any of you feel we’re pushing our luck too far by continuing? Do we need to head back now?”

“Toshio, my power is nearly drained,” announces Zeyala. “I can heal only a few more times, then I will need rest.”

“Understood.” Toshio looks around at the others, waiting for their responses.

Jharad says, “I think we should continue, as we are almost finished. This large hut seems to be the last of it.”

“We should try to get a glimpse of what’s inside.” Jethrik suggests. “At the very least, we’d have to report on it. At the best, maybe we can handle what’s inside.”

Keng agrees. “I just want to kill them. Unless there are a couple of squads worth or more in there I say we go in.”

“Alright. Let’s look around,” Toshio says. “There should be a better way in than through their front door – I don’t want to look like a hedgehog again!”

“Good idea… too bad we don’t have a large axe or something,” Jharad says as he is gazing at Keng’s bloody greataxe.

Toshio says, “Let’s not forget that there is at least one that made it outside the palisade and isn’t accounted for.”

Jharad mentions, “I saw a ladder at the back of the hut, but no door. My guess is that there is a back door there. I will check that out.” Jharad heads in that direction.

“Jethrik, let’s send you up that ladder on the other side of that hut to the roof. I bet there’s a way to drop inside from up there.” Toshio looks at Jethrik, then at the roof and adds, “On second thought, I’ll go myself. Last time you went up a ladder first it didn’t end as I’d hoped.” Toshio heads over to the ladder, saying to the others, “Keep the doors covered so nothing escapes.”

“I have to object.” Jethrik scowls. “Of the two of us, I am much more sneaky and much less of a favored target. You stay below and direct everyone’s efforts. You seem to enjoy it.” He adds the last part with a testy sniff.

Jharad muffles a snicker.

Once Toshio and Jethrik arrive at the back of the hut, they see that the ladder only leads up to where a door should be and not up to the roof. Toshio looks at the ladder and where it leads – apparently nowhere. “Jethrick, you were right. This does look like a job for you. Will you search for a hidden door where the ladder leads? It would be a good way to surprise them, don’t you think?”

“Well, there’s still the front door, isn’t there?” Toshio says. “Jethrick, can you unlock that door?”

“No.” Jethrick frowns. “I have friends in low places, but they keep their secrets. Professional and otherwise.”

Toshio continues, “Well, maybe Keng can smash it open. No pincushions this time – as soon as the doors give, get out of the way so their arrows don’t hit us. Then we’ll rush in to attack, flanking if possible. I’ll draw their attention – they seem to like me – and go full defensive while Keng hacks them to bits. Zeyala will be ready with healing, at our backs. Jethrick and Jharad, you support as you see fit, be it with spells, song, bow or sword.” Toshio thinks a moment and then comments, “Not much detail, is it? But it’s a sound plan. Anyone want to add anything?”

“Before we do anything, let’s move that ladder.” Jethrik suggests as he walks toward it. “Just because I didn’t see anything, doesn’t mean it wasn’t there. I don’t sneak professionally.”

“Good idea,” says Toshio. “If anyone tries to leave by the ladder, the drop may surprise them.”

Jethrik quickly retrieves the ladder.

“This ain’t no war party, it’s a ladies tea party!” growls Keng. He starts hewing at the door with his axe.

With nonchalant indifference to Keng’s efforts, Jharad suggests, “It is likely that whoever is inside has something big planned for the first of us to break through the door. I strongly suggest we use that to our advantage. I can ‘create’ more men looking like Toshio and have them rush through whatever opening we create. With battle shouts from all of you to lend credence to my images, they should believe it long enough to give us an advantage. Also I suggest we create a distraction and try to enter from two directions. The walls may be easier to hew through than the doors. That is usually the case.”

“Two directions may be tough, when we only have one axe.” Jethrick observes with a sarcastic snicker, “And one barbarian.”

Jharad continues calmly, “Keng, stop annoying the goblins for now. Let’s lend a little intelligence to this before we unleash your fury on the hapless monkeys.”

Not actually waiting for Keng to stop he continues talking with the others, “True Jethrik, but we may be able to distract them at their front door, which they will expect, while Keng hews in through the wall.”

“I agree,” says Toshio. “The extra images are a brilliant idea. I don’t think Keng will leave us time to make another entry point, though.”

At just that moment Keng breaks through the barred door.

Jethrik turns in alarm as he hears the doors crash open. “Oops.”

Jharad curses in Elvish, “Jukkete!” and begins casting. Pulling out a bit of fleece he commands, “Criar Homens,” and creates five warriors dressed like Toshio that clamber up onto the boardwalk and follow Keng into battle.

Keng kicks one of the doors open while taking cover behind the other in case any goblin archers are in the hut. There are no archers, just three shaky goblins with dogslicers lined up across the room and behind them, hopping up and down in fury on a rickety, five foot tall wooden chair with a ladder built into the side is Chief Gutwad himself, frantically trying to light a skyrocket and jabbering at his bodyguard . The walls of the throne room are decorated with numerous poorly preserved horse and dog heads, along with other trophies like broken weapons, brine-pickled bodies of brutally slaughtered furry animals, and other bits of grisly ephemera.

Keng bellows while he charges into the hut, “Time to die you great fat ugly bastard!” He charges the line of goblins bowling them over while he attacks Chief Gutwad. The goblins scramble out of his way, as much to get away from the multiple images of Toshio as to get away from Keng. Keng brings down his axe on the Chief, cutting the skyrocket in half and tearing through the chief’s chain shirt, opening a horrific gash in his side.

Chief Gutwad shrieks in rage and with almost superhuman agility (especially for one of his girth) hops down from the chair, grabbing the spear leaning against it and plunging it into Keng’s side.

Roaring, Toshio runs with the illusions to join Keng in the attack, making as much noise as possible.

Zeyala follows the others.

The three goblins in the chief’s throne room give way to the Toshio images. One of them runs through a door into an inner chamber, and another heads for the back wall where they open a secret door. The third follows the second backing away from invaders and waving his dogslicer in a futile attempt to scare them off, though it is obvious he is the one who is quaking in terror.

Remembering the plan, Jethrik makes as much “battle noise” as he is capable of, shouting and clashing his sword and buckler.

The multiple Toshio’s continue to menace the goblins, ensuring their route as Keng and Chief Gutwad trades blows but so far neither have scored another hit on each other as both are agile and trained combatants, though it’s clear that Keng is overmatched by the wily goblin chieftain and it is only a matter of time before Chief Gutwad lands another telling blow, while Keng is having a very hard time striking the small and quick chieftain.

Toshio slips past his doubles and joins the attack on Chief Gutwad, but he also finds that the chief is very difficult to hit.

Zeyala clambers up onto the walkway outside the chief’s hut.

Two goblins make it out the back of the chief’s hut, where there in fact was a secret door. The first had fallen just as Jethrik had predicted due to the missing ladder. The second leaped down on top of the first. They disentangle themselves and try to make it to the open gate, running under the walkways and past the stilts elevating the huts. They don’t make it far, however, as Jethrik and Jharad’s arrows cut them down before they are even halfway there.

Inside the hut, the images of Toshio fade away as Jharad ceases to maintain his concentration on them. They are no longer needed. Keng manages to land another blow, again tearing through the chief’s armor and hacking into the corpulent goblin’s bulk. The chief screeches and looks for a way out, spying the open secret door behind him. He backs away from towards the secrete room and inadvertently gives Toshio the opening he needs. Toshio’s katana separates the chief’s head from his shoulders.

“Before we celebrate, is anyone other than Keng injured?” asks Zeyala from the doorway.

Jharad moves closer to Zeyala, “Here.”

“Keng, Toshio, did either of you sustain any more wounds?” she asks.

“Here” replies Toshio. “I am still hurt.” he moves towards her. “Not more, but some of those little wound from the arrows remain.”

“They are just a scratch. Save your energy,” Keng says but nods his head in gratitude when she does channel her healing energy.

Keng utters, “The head is mine,” as he turns his attention to the corpse of Chief Gutwad. He cuts off the chief’s fingers putting them in his pouch for later curing. He then walks into the secret room next to the throne to collect the chief’s head. He also finds that the chief had another skyrocket by his throne, a very well crafted goblin sized composite longbow and a quiver of 11 arrows, half of which seem to be of exquisite manufacture as well. He also has two potions on his person, as well as the goblin-sized chain shirt that also seems to be too good to be anything the goblins could have made.

“Sure, Keng. You can carry the head,” says Toshio.

“Hey, where’d the other goblin go?” wonders Toshio aloud about the third goblin that had run through the other door in the throne room.

Still holding his gory trophy in his left hand, Keng strides into the other room, leaving a trail of blood. It turns out to be Chief Gutwad’s bedroom, though the bed is little more than a big, nasty pile of ratty blankets, moss, and foul-smelling animal furs. The walls of this room are decorated in a manner similar to the throne room. Keng sees the goblin tucked into a tightly curled ball rolled cowering under the bed. With his right hand he grasps the back of the goblin’s neck like a newborn pup, drags him out from under the bed, and carries him into the main room. He throws him onto the floor and says, “Anyone have any questions for it before I kill it?”

“You mustn’t kill a prisoner, Keng. Even a snot monkey prisoner,” admonishes Toshio. “But by all means, let’s find out what it knows. Has anyone some rope? We should bind it.” He considers for a moment then adds, “Not all means of course. We can’t torture it,” trying to head off that possibility. “Ask it what you will, though.”

Keng gives Toshio a questioning look at this and replies, “Why not? It’s a goblin.”

Toshio responds, “As a prisoner it’s no longer a threat. It wouldn’t be right to kill or harm it. We need to take it back to town. It can be tried there.”

Jharad, indicating Chief Gutwad’s head, says matter-of-factly, “I care not if you keep the head, Keng, but the bounties should be shared.”

Toshio says, “Agreed. And the ears of the others will be needed if the bounty is to be collected.”

Keng growls and say, “Is this some elf trick?”

“Elf trick? I do not think so,” replies Jharad. “We all contributed to this victory, the chief, in particular. If it were not for my illusory samurai scaring off the three guards and Toshio’s final blow it is likely you and I would not be speaking right now.”

“Perhaps Keng is right to claim the bounty on the chief’s head for his own,” Jethrik poses “but then it would be equally right to charge him our services as they contributed to his success. Isn’t that reasonable, Keng. Expensive perhaps, but reasonable.”

Toshio likes the direction Jethrick is taking. He quietly steps back (physically removing himself from the dispute since Keng is likely to take extra offense from him) and lets the others continue the discussion. He’s relieved that it has remained a discussion – he wasn’t sure there wouldn’t be blows when the greedy Keng didn’t get his way or all the money. Toshio takes some hope from this.

Zeyala sighs, “Unfortunately, we made no such agreement about the bounties before heading out. If Keng feels entitled to the bounty for what he’s killed, then who are we to establish the rules now? I unfortunately have the least to gain, as I did not use my spear once. But Keng, did we all not take an equal risk by coming here together? Although I did not slay a single creature, are my talents not worthy of reward?” she asks.

Toshio nods and waits to hear Keng’s reply. Toshio is also quite willing to leave the distasteful task of collecting goblin ears for the bounty to the others. Now that Keng has refused the initial four (and his gesture of goodwill), he’s not interested. It’s a bit of a conundrum, that the mayor and sheriff have condoned the collection as part of the bounty.

Keng growls and mutters.  He looks at Jharad and says, “Wizard! You are playing word games to trick me!” Then shakes his head trying to clear it, his dreadlocks and bones make a light rattling sound.

This is clearly not how the tribes work, he remembers, Shalelu warned me the civilized lands are strange with different ways and I must to adapt if I am to succeed in my quest.

A silence follows as he walks in a circle around the room muttering. Then he stops next to Jharad and says to the group, “Sharing is your way. It be strange to me. But as long as I am with you I will share.”

Keng turns to Toshio and says, “The prisoner is yours.” He then walks out of the room sits on his pack outside the chief’s hut and cleans the flesh off the chief’s finger bones while awaiting the others.

A nod to Keng is Jharad’s only reply. He walks into the back rooms looking for his belongings. He finds nothing in the bedroom, but there is another door to a room beyond it. It is there that he finds his own armor, sword, longbow, pack and other equipment. He also finds single beautiful red chest that is itself a work of art – if the mud and filth that encrust its lacquered sides are cleared off. When Toshio sees it he recognizes that the chest and its delicate etchings of cranes and frogs playing along a beach are of Minkai manufacture, like many of the things in his family’s manor.

Jharad takes an inventory of his equipment with his back to the chest. Over his shoulder he offers, “I can open that chest safely from a distance if you would like.”

“Please do so,” Toshio responds. “It’s best not to take chances when we’ve no cure for the poison needle it may hold.”

While Jharad does what’s needed to open the chest, Toshio asks, “Do you know of Minkai? That’s the land my family is from, long ago. The artwork marks this chest as being from there. I am eager to see what it holds.”

Once Jharad opens the chest, from a distance with his cantrip, they see that within its velvet lined interior are six masterwork throwing stars, silver and gold coins (329 and 112 respectively), a long hairpin with a red pearl at one end, and a gold-and-ivory fan depicting a gecko walking amid cherry blossoms on the reverse of which a crude map has been drawn (probably by a goblin). Not knowing the Brinestump Marsh well, the map is all but undecipherable to Toshio and Jharad.

Glancing into the chest, Zeyala says, “Ooh, a girl could live quite nicely on that. How do you think I’d look with that hairpin?”

Jharad returns a deadpan reply, “Dangerous?”

“Jharad, will you please detect magic on these items, and as we search the rest of the village?” asks Toshio. ”We’ll divide this,” he indicates the chest, “fairly back in town. For now, let’s check the rest of the village so we don’t miss anything of significance. The other ears can be collected as we go, too.” He makes sure the crude map is stored carefully so as not to damage it, and then closes the lid of the chest. ”Let’s get started. The sooner we get done, the sooner we can head back to town.”

Jharad responds, “I am afraid I failed to memorize that spell; odd, because I usually do. Let’s all move together. I will care for the goblin if you would like.”

Keng looks up at Toshio from where he is sitting and asks, “We done here?” Then he says to Jharad, “You still have the fire to call upon? I plan to burn this place down when we leave”

“With this hut, yes. Once we’ve searched the others we can head home.” Toshio hands the goblin over to Jharad and begins the detailed search through the village.

Jharad swaps the borrowed longsword and belt out for his own and dons his favorite worn overcoat. It is obvious by the way he takes care in dusting it off that he is a bit attached to it. He then tucks the borrowed longsword into his own belt and uses the now free one on the goblin. Cinching it around its neck, so that it does not choke it, he fashions a leash that Jharad tightly hangs onto and leads the goblin around.

Zeyala casts detect magic and focuses on the chest, its contents, and then the rest of the room. She finds that the chief’s potions and some of his arrows are indeed magical, but nothing else registers.

“Allow me!” Jethrik also casts detect magic on the contents of the box. Jethrik quickly discerns that the chief’s two potions are for curing light wounds. Five of the chief’s 11 arrows are magical, but they are of a moderate power and Jethrik is not yet so skilled in spellcraft that he can figure out their purpose. Nothing else of the chief’s is magical, though Jethrik notes that the masterwork chain shirt he was wearing would be suitable for himself if repaired and cleaned. The chief’s masterwork composite longbow however has too strong a draw for him. None of the items in the red chest are magical.

A search of the other huts reveals that the village is indeed abandoned except for the few goblins they already defeated. In the southernmost hut, Jharad finds hidden stash of 23 gold pieces and three skyrockets. Toshio notes that towards the northern end of the village and by the chief’s hut there is dried blood staining the ground and walkways as well as gashes and cuts in the walkways and on the stilts that elevate the village. There is nothing else of value in the village, and no other clues as to what disaster struck the Licktoads before their own arrival. Only their prisoner knows what occurred, and until they find someone who can speak the goblin tongue, he is unable to tell them what happened.

When they are done, Keng torches the village with some help from Jharad who uses his magic to light some torches. Then they head directly back to town. After the goblin is jailed, Toshio receives assurances from Sheriff Hemlock that it will not come to harm unless there is a trial that gives that result, and he also leave instructions that he and the others need to talk to it as soon as an interpreter can be found.

Sweeping the Licktoad Village

Toshio quickly draws his dagger and collects the ears of his kills. Returning to the others he says, “I think this would be a good time to return to town. Our resources are not fully exhausted, so we should be okay for the trip back. We can assess what we’ve seen and done, and come back tomorrow if needed. We should leave now (my recommendation), or press our attack now, but either way we need to do it right away. Comments?”

“I say we finish what we started,” Keng replies. Then continues with a sneer pointing at the ears, “Ah the samurai likes his trophies too, eh?

“I got them for you” replies Toshio, holding all four ears out to Keng. “I noticed there wasn’t time for you to get the other ears, and I don’t want you to end up disappointed.”

“I takes only what’s mine,” Keng replies with a wave off.

“Uhm… I’ll take ‘em…” mumbles Jethrik.

Toshio just tucks the ears into a pouch. Ignoring Jethrik, he says to Keng, “Okay. We’ll talk about money and the bounty when the fighting’s done.”

“How many goblins have been dispatched? A half-dozen?” asks Zeyala. ”Jharad, when you were here before, were their numbers much more than we’ve encountered?”

“Is anyone injured and how seriously?” asks Zeyala. She sees that Jharad looks pretty roughed up.

Jethrik gives a moment’s thought. “I still don’t see where we know what we’re dealing with here. Without knowing that, pressing the attack is terribly dangerous. Let’s withdraw, recover and scout some more.”

“I agree with Keng, and I suggest we do it quickly. No time for ears now,” says Jharad.

“Okay,” says Toshio. “There is an opportunity here that we’ll follow up on. Let’s take cover for a few moments, heal those in greater need, then renew our attack.”

“It seems that Keng and I can survive our scrapes, but Jharad is in need of something more immediate,” says Zeyala. “Before doing anything further, I think we should do so without wounds. Keng, Jharad, please gather around me,” she instructs.

“Good idea. Thank you,” says Toshio.

She once more calls upon her radiant healing power.

Feeling some urgency, Toshio encourages them. “Zeyala, have you finished with your healing? Is everyone ready? If not, let Zeyala know or ready your weapons. As Keng says, we should finish this, and we need to move quickly to do so. Okay, we’ll dash across and sweep through the huts, staying inside to reduce their arrows’ effectiveness. We’ll start there,” he indicates where he’d killed the two goblins, “and proceed hut-by-hut (counter-clockwise), and clear that big hut to the southeast last. I’ll charge in first – something about my appearance really shook the ones I fought. I don’t know why, but if it still works I want to take advantage of it. All set? Each of you please sound off with ‘ready’ if so.”

Jharad is the first to speak up. “Ready here. My magic is fading so I will support.”

“Perhaps you’re too pretty for them,” Keng says with a snort. He simply nods he is ready and hoists his axe to low ready position.

“Right behind you.” Jethrik adds brightly.

“I’m ready to go,” says Zeyala.

With Toshio leading they gather by the door of the first hut on their sweep, a ten by ten guard hut serving as a watchtower over the palisade with windows affording excellent views of the surrounding marsh. On the walkway behind them is the first goblin hut that Jethrik had already checked out upon first entering the village. Moving on they come to a short corridor with a door opening to their left, behind which is another goblin home. At the south end of the corridor, Toshio opens a door that opens onto a walkway between the palisade and another goblin hut. As soon as he opens the door, three goblins standing atop the roofs of the huts whose wall encloses the southern part of the walkway aim already lit Desnan candles at Toshio. Three small fireballs crash into the walkway and the doorframe, sparking, smoldering and hissing all around Toshio. He quickly closes the door.

“Toshio, maybe Jethrik and I can climb to the roof and provide supporting fire,” suggests Jharad. “There is not a lot of room for all of us in these tiny huts anyways.”

“There are three goblins on the roof over the storage room, shooting fireworks. Get bows or ranged weapons ready. Keng, let’s you and I climb up to the roof from the other side and charge them, leaping from this hut to theirs. That’ll get us up there with cover, and then we can disrupt their attacks while the others shoot them. And with a bit of luck we’ll catch them with some burnt-out fireworks instead of fresh ones. I’ll shout when we’re ready to charge. You guys pop out and start shooting them when you hear me.”

Just before Toshio and Keng leave, with the party centered around her, Zeyala calls upon blessings from Pharasma. A flash of glowing blue energy momentarily engulfs everyone in the burst and fades.

Jharad once again swaps to his bow and waits for the shout.

Keng readily follows Toshio liking the idea of climbing and jumping on the goblins.

With cover from the angle of the roof, Toshio looks to Keng to make sure they’re ready. ”On ‘three,’ okay? One… two… three!” He stands up with a shout as they charge at the goblins, ready to leap the gap and lay waste to them!

Keng is right behind Toshio and roars as well.

Hearing the roar of the charge, Jharad opens the door and steps out onto the walkway. Realizing that once Toshio and Keng are engaged with the goblins firing into their melee would be a mistake, Jharad once again changes weapons and moves to the door at the end of the walkway and opens it. “Come on Jethrik and Zeyala, let’s move to the storage room.”

“Lead on, Jharad,” says Zeyala. Zeyala follows along, and then casts guidance on Jharad.

Jethrik follows Jharad to the storeroom. “Following an elf into the closet,” Jethrik mumbles, “I’d best not think about that right now.”

Though probably not seen by Jethrik and Zeyala behind him, Jharad smiles at the comment.

Up above, the goblins have switched to their bows and directed all their fire at Toshio. Toshio doesn’t even make it to the first gap between the huts when he collapses from his wounds. The goblins run off across the roofs of the huts to keep their distance from their enemies.

Jharad decides to make sure Toshio and Keng are still advancing along with them. “Keng, all okay? Should we advance?”

Keng never slackens his speed and cries, “Toshio is down!” Then he makes the leap towards the goblins on the roof. He then drops his pack to gain more speed. ‘It’s clobbering time and I am is sick of these little green rats.

“I’m going up to check on Toshio,” says Zeyala.

“Yes, good. Let’s stick together,” Jharad replies and also climbs up.

Jethrik decides to try the lamest trick in the book… “Thank the gods!” he calls loudly, “the militia is coming must be 20 or 30 with two mounted officers!” He then uses his ghost sound spell to create the sounds of two horses whinnying and neighing.

Atop the huts the three goblins see Keng coming and loose their arrows at him before climbing down from the roof. In the goblin tongue the first is saying, “Oh narr! I da cavalry iz comin.” The second says, “Quik! we must get bak to da chief!” The third says, “Wait da minute yous morons. I don’t chek any horses. Someone’s tryin to use tricksy magic on us!”

Only one of the arrows hit Keng, and it barely did more than scratch his side. He reaches one of the goblins before he is able to climb over the side and scale down the wall of the hut. One swing of his axe and the goblin is flying in pieces over the side, raining blood and gore down upon the two goblins below who are, unfortunately for them, looking up at the spectacle with mouths open in shock and awe.

Zeyala crouches down beside Toshio and gently takes out the five arrows in his chest. She then lays her hands upon his bloody cuirass and sends her healing power into him. When he coughs and starts to revive, she exclaims, “I’m blind. What the hell am I doing on a rooftop?!”

“Ah, Ameiko?…” says Toshio, before realizing it’s Zeyala. “Oh. Thank you. I wasn’t sure where I was for a moment, and couldn’t… Well, thank you,” he finishes rather lamely, but with a smile at how silly he must sound.

“Toshio, we need to get off this roof,” says Zeyala. ”To keep you safe,” she says, as she casts virtue on him. She starts to climb back down from the rooftop.

Jethrik thinks, I came to dance, and I’m gonna dance. He leaps the gap and runs after Keng. He calls out to the goblins, “The barbarian is faster than you! Give up and we’ll let you live!”

Jharad also attempts to leap the gap but slips due to Toshio’s blood that had gotten onto his boots. Unable to catch himself on the edge of the next hut’s roof, he falls back onto the ladder, breaking it, and heavily into the mud beneath the elevated village.

“So, how are we doing?” Toshio asks as he starts to get up and recovers his katana. Hearing the crash of Jharad in answer to his question, he merely shakes his head and says quietly, “That bad, huh?”

Toshio makes sure Zeyala gets off the roof safely, then, holding her arm, brings her with him to check on Jharad.

“Jharad, I just fixed you up,” calls down Zeyala, “and now you go diving off rooftops?”

Toshio looks down at the elf amid the wreckage of the ladder and shakes his head in disbelief. ‘An elf made that racket and wreckage?’

Keng leaps off the roof back down to the wooden walkway with a mighty roar, “Gorum!”  He lands hard on the walkway. A plank even breaks under his weight. He runs down the walkway and tries to leap across to the walkway the goblins are now on, but he is far heavier than the goblins and doesn’t clear the distance. He lands on his hands and knees in the mud beneath the walkway. The goblins, however, are too busy yammering and banging on the locked double doors of a large hut to notice.

“Toshio, Jharad, please gather round,” says Zeyala and channels a healing burst. Feeling better, though not completely well, Toshio moves as swiftly as he is able beneath the huts and walkways looking for a position where he can loose his arrows at the goblins without exposing himself to enemy fire. Jharad limps his way over to Toshio and does the same.

Keng gets up, grabs the walkway and swings himself up onto it. In just three mighty strides he reaches the goblins and cuts the closest in twain.

Wide-eyed the remaining goblin screams and backs away from the double-doors of the large hut. He turns to leap off the walkway but then Toshio’s arrow is in his throat. He gurgles, coughs up blood, and falls face first into the mud.

Licktoad Village

It is less than an hour later, backtracking down the route taken by Jharad, that they come upon a filthy village surrounded by a crude wooden palisade sitting atop a low hummock of solid ground – the Licktoad Village. A wooden gate in the north wall of the palisades lies in shambles on the ground. Nearby, a large, algae-filled pool on the northeastern side breaks the palisade and allows a clearer view into the village’s interior, which consists of a collection of ramshackle huts connected by wooden walkways, all built on thick wooden stilts. Jharad does not remember the gate being broken down. In fact, he had barred it behind him when he left. Nor do any of them see any goblins.

“Hmm, this is not how I left it,” remarks Jharad. “Something has happened here, and recently.”

“I think we should take a closer look.” Jethrik says in a low voice. “I might have the best chance of getting close without being observed. One of the benefits of not being grotesquely lanky.”

Jharad says to Toshio, “I second that. If nothing else, I would like to look around to see if my belongings are still here.”

Jharad is looking around (not moving around) for a good place to cover the village with his bow. The towers look tempting, but too difficult to climb without being seen.

“Are you shittin’ me? We came all this way for this?” asks Keng as he looks around, seeing nothing but shambles. ”I will go with Jharad and watch his back as he looks for his gear.”

“Well I think Jethrik is better off taking a first look on his own,” Jharad remarks. “Up to Toshio though. I can cover him from the gate with my bow. It’ll keep me hidden and will provide me some cover.”

“C’mon elf. Boy Wonder is too busy checking the fit of his diapers. Let’s get your stuff and get outta here.”

“Agreed. We should check it out. There may be opportunities here, with or without goblins,” says Toshio in a quiet voice. “Wait a moment. It won’t hurt to have Jethrick scout it out first. Then we can enter or attack with better understanding. Let’s all take cover ourselves, and be ready to support Jethrick. Jethrick, don’t hesitate to come back at full speed if necessary, and give us what warning you can. Don’t sneak up on us even if you’re coming back quietly – we don’t want any accidents.” Toshio readies his short bow.

Jharad nods and takes up a position at one side of the broken gate. He signs with his hands, suggesting Keng join him and take position on the other side.

Keng pulls up then shrugs and stands where Jharad pointed with his axe held in the high ready position.

Carefully, Jethrik enters through the open gateway and moves to check out the elevated hut just to the right of the gate. He finds a ladder there leading up to a doorway. He sneaks up to peek through alightly ajar door. Jethrik only needs to push it open all the way to see if anything or anyone is inside. Before doing so, he glances back at the fire pit in the middle of the courtyard and sees that it is filled with the cremated corpses of goblins, perhaps a dozen or more. Jethrik looks over to where Jharad is peering around the gate and waves for the others to come in.

Jharad says in a low voice, “Jethrik wants us to move up to him,” and waits to follow Keng in.

“That’s our cue. Let’s hear what he has to say.” Toshio heads over to Jethrick, keeping his eyes sharp for threats.

“Told you,” Keng says as he swaggers into the deserted village.

Jharad chuckles as he follows the half-orc in.

“Good call, Keng. Good call. Thanks for being patient.”

While the others come in, Jethrik pushes the door open further and sees that the hut is abandoned. It is a typical goblin pigsty but there is no blood. The wooden shutters opening up to the outside are broken open, as though someone or something leaped through them. This is unlike the front gate, which looks like it may have been smashed inward. Jethrik climbs into the hut and finds nothing more than goblin rubbish and a door opening up onto the elevated walkway.

Jethrik quietly climbs down the ladder back to the ground level and moves over to his friends. “I didn’t see much, but I saw enough to figure it was safe for everyone to come this far. I think the goblins, or most of them were killed. The building is empty and the bonfire pit has a dozen burned goblin bodies. Still there may be some goblins coming back to check out the wreckage. Or there might be the victors setting up in their new digs. I couldn’t say. I could keep searching if you like.”

“Can anyone read tracks well enough to tell what has happened, or who did this?” asks Toshio. “Are these bodies the youngsters? Where do you suppose their warriors are? And yes, let’s scout together. That’ll keep Keng in temper.”

Jharad says, “Well the storage room I was held in is back there. I found Slorb close to there as well. I suggest we enter over there up the stairs or that door over there. The huts I went through were connected, we may be able to walk through them as a group and find out more.”

“Okay,” says Toshio. “And maybe we’ll find your gear as well. Another thing to watch for – they may have left behind a stash of fireworks. It would be great to get those out of their filthy little hands.”

Toshio leads them up the ladder. They enter a guard hut and find it empty. Exiting to the south they find an empty corridor with a door at the end and another halfway down opening into what proves to be yet another empty hut. They go to the end of the corridor and Toshio goes through the door and onto another walkway. To his immediate left is a ladder and across the way another hut. Toshio sees a goblin peering at him from the hut’s window. The goblin quickly ducks his head down when he sees that Toshio has noticed him. Toshio indicates to Keng that he saw a goblin. He moves back into the hut so they can consult.

“Toshio,” Keng whispers, “There is something wrong here.”

“Agreed,” Jethrik adds, “I’m not sure who, but someone attacked the goblins. And either they or the survivors control the village and they may be setting a trap for us.”

“What does the witch sense?” Keng asks.

“I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” says Zeyala.

“Agreed. But what? Can we capture that goblin for questioning?” asks Toshio in return.

“I say pull back and burn the whole thing down just to be sure.” Keng recommends.

Toshio says, “Okay. We’ve scouted the village, but what do we know? Nothing that will help keep our town safe. Let’s circle the village, keeping a sharp lookout. We’ll look into each hut. Maybe we’ll find some useful information or their firework stash. If we can capture or kill a goblin, fine. Then we’ll head back. We can come back tomorrow if needed. How does that sound? In any case, we mustn’t get caught out after dark.”

“But I thought the goblins sleep during the day,” says Zeyala. “I agree it looks like something has happened to the ones living here, but if there are any goblins left, maybe they’re holed up somewhere resting. Should we break off before learning anything?”

Keng sighs and shakes his head at Toshio’s ‘plan,’ “Toshio, we should burn the village. It does two things. It denies its future use by creatures that seek ill of your village and two, if there are creatures lying in wait for us it will flush them out. Let’s stop talking and start doing something.”

Jethrik chuckles, “Kinda hard to turn in ears when they are ash though.” Looking more sober, “And how would we start such a large fire with nothing but rotting, wet wood?”

“I’m sure Jharad has something we can use!” Keng responds.

Toshio appreciates the humor. “Yes, he always seems to pull something out of, well, nowhere. I’m sure he won’t let us down.”

Keng nods. “Jharad got any fire handy?”

Jharad snaps his fingers with a “Fogo,” and produces a small flame at the end of his index finger. Smiling, he snuffs it out with his other hand.

After thinking the situation over Jharad says to Toshio in a matter-of-fact tone, “We need to know what happened here and assess the current goblin threat. I suggest we get off this boardwalk and into those huts for cover and observe from inside as we search the rest of the west side. If we find nothing then we check the east side of the village. Our mission was not to assault the village, but things have changed now. We need to make a more thorough evaluation.”

Toshio lays out a new plan. “Alright Keng. Here’s what I want you to be doing. Break down the door to each room as we come to it. We’ll search each room. When we’re done with that building, you burn it. We’ll start with those buildings off to the side.  That one first, then the next, and then this third. Then we’ll start back here and work around that way. We’ve seen one live goblin, and there are probably more, so don’t get sloppy. Zeyala, how much healing power do you have? It could determine when we need to bug out.”

Zeyala answers, “Well, I had to spend some of my healing on the halfling, which some of you may have picked up on my reluctance to use it before knowing what we might find out here. Then I healed Keng, which was absolutely necessary,” Zeyala thinks aloud. “The healing I provided for Keng, that I can do a couple more times. That burst of healing energy, like I used in the shack, based on what I’ve been able to do before, less than a half dozen more times,” she says. “My curing touch is different than my healing channels. When I touch, it is focused healing energy on a single person. When I channel, all creatures within the burst are healed, friend or foe,” Zeyala explains.

“Questions?” Toshio asks. “Okay, let’s not give the goblins more planning time than we’ve had. Let’s start doing.” Toshio leads them over to the first building.

Jharad observes that the huts they are in are connected, “Toshio, these huts are connected. They need to be burned together after we have searched them all. If not, then we will be running from the fire as it chases us from hut to hut.”

When they arrive at the hut on the far northeast section of the village Toshio says, “Okay, Keng. Do it” motioning to the door he should break down.

Keng deliberately doesn’t kick in the door. He slowly and carefully opens it while standing to the side in case a ranged weapon is waiting within. In this way he avoids a barrage of small goblin arrows save one that sticks in his left arm, painful but not more than a serious scratch. The goblins all run out of the other door of the hut, down the ladder and out into the village courtyard below the walkway.

Toshio shoots one of the fleeing goblins but misses as they are too small and fast. “Alright. If there are two doors, we block both of them next time, curse it!” growls Toshio in frustration as he realizes there is a hut door right behind him.

Zeyala squeezes by Jharad and Toshio and into the cover of the hut. May your strike be true,” commands Zeyala, as a glowing yellow orb appears in her hand. She reaches out and touches Keng, the yellow light transferring from her hand and instantly bathing him with its glow and fades just as quickly. ”For luck,” she whispers.

“Thank you Zeyala,” responds Keng.

Keng isn’t about to go chasing after goblins – he smells a trap. He does say to Toshio, “Good idea. How about a pair of us go in from the back while the rest go in from the front?”

As Toshio moves aside, Keng opens the door to the hut behind him, but sees no goblins amidst the clutter of the long hut beyond the door.

Jethrik and Jharad loose arrows back at the goblins. Jethrik strikes true and wounds one. Jharad touches his bow, causing it to glow briefly with a blue hue, and then shoots at the one Jehtrik had just wounded and finishes him off.

The two remaining goblins return fire, both hitting Jharad, though they do little more than pierce the skin as he is now protected by a chain shirt and greaves. The goblins take cover behind the palisade.

Not being the greatest with a bow, Toshio drops it and draws his katana. Leaping from the walkway, he runs at the goblins. “Keng, with me!”

Keng, once again in a mighty rage, charges across the courtyard to the gate and splits the goblin to his left down the middle. The other drops his bow and tries to stab Keng in the back with his dogslicer but the half-orc is already spinning around to face him and he is forced to back off.

Zeyala rushes to Jharad’s side and confers the same blessing upon him that she conferred upon Keng.

Jethrik takes cover and does a little stand up. “Ugh, more goblins! I had to share a wagon with a goblin and his rotweiller on my way to Sandpoint… It wasn’t so bad, they were a really cute couple.”

Jharad jumps up, grabs the roof of the hut and scrambles on top to get a better view of the whole village.

The remaining goblin, seeing his comrade pulverized by the raging half-orc, drops his dogslicer and races down the trail. Keng gives chase. Toshio heads back to the walkway to recover his bow.

Atop the roof of the hut, Jharad looks around and sees to his alarm that two squads (of three goblins each) are climbing up onto the roofs to the south, and a third squad is gathering on the walkways ready to charge up the center of the village towards Zeyala and Jethrik.

Jharad calls out, “Incoming from South, 3 ground, 6 roof!” and moves just a bit closer to the 3 goblins on his roof. “Disfarcar,” he commands and throws colored sand that quickly turns into a vivid cone of brilliant color and engulfs the goblins.

Jethrik, seeing the goblins coming onto the walkway fire his bow at them but only hits a hut behind them and takes cover behind a hut. “These things don’t just breed like rats, they breed with them too.”

Zeyala casts guidance on Toshio and jumps down from the walkway and makes for the gate.

The goblin that Keng is chasing veers off the trail into a patch of brambles and attempts to weave his way through them, unfortunately for him getting caught just a little ways of the trail. Keng finds, though, that he will have to find a way to work his way over to the goblin to get him.

On the rooftops of the village the remaining goblin in front of Jharad and the three on the other roof loose their arrows at the elf. Two arrows hit and it is enough to bring Jharad down. He collapses and passes out.

The squad of goblins on the walkway loose their arrows at Jethrik but are unable to hit him due to the cover provided by the hut.

Determined not to leave anyone, Toshio sprints down the walkway to take cover around the hut on the western side. He shoots at the lead goblin down the walkway and wounds him in the leg. He looks for convenient huts, which may provide temporary shelter while the collect themselves. ‘Great! The only guy that can cast mage hand to pull a downed person to safety is the person down!’ reflects Toshio with strong irony.

Keng curses and then turns and runs back to village.

Tucking his bow under one arm, Jethrik takes a scoop of butter from the pouch at his belt and smears it over his palm. With his other hand he pantomimes walking across the grease. “Whoops!” he exclaims and his fingers take a pratfall. At this the butter disappears in a glowing mist and rockets to the roof under the goblins. All of them drop their bows and start windmilling their arms. One of them actually slips off the roof and a cry of pain can be heard from beneath the hut as he falls to the muddy ground below.

Zeyala calls to Toshio, “Is it bad?  Is Jharad still on the roof?” Not waiting for a response, she darts back toward Toshio and shouts, “Feel the warmth of my healing wash over you!” A glowing burst of healing energy erupts from her body, washing over anyone nearby.

Still watching the goblins, Toshio replies “Yes – to both! Jharad is stuck and unconscious on the roof.” before he can go further he feels the healing power flow from her and says “Good job! As soon as he’s down with us we’ll make our exit. Everyone take what cover you can until we leave. Think defensively!”

The goblin on the roof with Jharad leaps over him (for he has been healed somewhat and is starting to regain consciousness but has not yet stirred) and fires his bow at Zeyala in the doorway, hitting her in the side, though it is not a fatal wound. The goblin who fell gets up and runs beneath the walkways, joined by another who leaps off the walkway. The goblins on the roof of the other hut climb down and out of sight. The two still on the walkway to the south take better cover and fire arrows at Toshio and Jethrik but hit neither of them.

Toshio wounds the foremost goblin down the walkway a second time.

Keng, returning to the gate and seeing two goblins under the walkway just beneath his friends, charges into them and cuts down the first one with his axe.

Jharad rolls away from the goblin and stands. “Escudo,” he says as a magical sheen surrounds him.

Zeyala also retreats within the hut she is in and casts virtue upon herself. Zeyala calls out, “Is anyone injured?”

“Me,” cries Jharad.

Jethrik keeps behind the hut so as not to present any kind of target to the goblins.

The goblin on the rooftop with Jharad looses his arrow at Keng but the shot goes wide. He then wheels around to see that Jharad is now standing right behind him.

Down the walkway, the goblin that has been hit twice by Toshio retreats to the window of the guard hut behind him and leaps through it. The other goblin keeps firing his arrows at the corner where Jethrik had been.

The lone goblin facing Keng turns and flees, weaving beneath the stilts that elevate the huts and walkways.

Toshio is concerned that they’ll just be easier targets if they move into the swamp while pursued by the goblins. Okay, we’ll have to deal with these first, he thinks silently and quickly changes his plan. He drops his bow (again), hops down from the walkway, crosses over to a ladder and waits, katana drawn, outside the door of the hut that he believes other goblins may soon be rushing out of.

Keng reaches up and pulls himself onto the walkway and moves over beside Jethrik, who is sitting tight. Keng starts to climb up onto the roof of the hut to get the goblin with the bow.

Zeyala stays she has full cover, however, she is ready to attack the first enemy that comes within striking range.

Jharad looses an arrow at the goblin in front of him, hitting and wounding him.

The goblin on the roof looses an arrow in return but it bounces off Jharad’s magical shield. Panicked the goblin jumps to his death off the roof.

Jharad keeps low to give himself maximum cover from the goblins below as he finishes off the two unconscious goblins still on the roof. He yells out, “All clear on the rooftops!”

Over at the door to the other hut, Toshio strikes down the first goblin to open the door. The other takes his place and swings at Toshio. He doesn’t even come close to actually hitting him. In fact, he seems crazed with fear upon actually catching sight of Toshio. They begin trading blows.

Outside, Jharad runs across the roof and drops down to the walkway. Jharad peeks his head into the hut where Zeyala had taken refuge. “Can I get some heal… Ahhhhhh!” Zeyala almost hits him with her spear point but stops in time. She moves her spear away and again channels the healing energy of the gods.

As Zeyala channels, Jharad asks Jethrik and Keng, “Where are the goblins?”

Keng, his rage spent, is panting like a blown, broke down old dog; great raspy gurgling sounds coming from him. His eyes are glassy and rheumy. He tries to center himself using Shoanti calming breaths; slowly he starts to feel his breathing slow down.  His eyes begin to clear and his thoughts focus. “Jharad, the dirty little green snot monkeys are tricky cowardly bastards and won’t show themselves. They will be hiding in ambush awaiting us to come to them. They may have moved to block our retreat. We might be trapped here. Once we have rested and healed, let’s move forward together down the walkway. I will take the lead to get them to reveal themselves by catching their arrows.”

Jharad replies, “Yes, good. Lets take up with Toshio and move together through the huts, flushing them out to the big one in the southeast.”

Toshio manages to wound the goblin he is fighting, but it seems fanatically determined to keep fighting, though no closer to hitting Toshio. Toshio senses that the goblin is fighting in a panicked frenzy and has been since he caught sight of him. The goblins of course knew that human warriors might be waiting for them, so it must be something about Toshio himself that is causing this panic. Toshio continues the fight with the goblin, adding kiais and other shouts to his strikes in an attempt to further shake the thing’s confidence.

“Toshio!” shouts Zeyala. “My powers are nearly half drained.”

Finally, with a thundering “Kiai!” Toshio separates the goblin’s head from its shoulders. No other goblins can be seen or heard in the hut or anywhere else for the present.