Don’t Boggard That Flayleaf My Friend

The next night, after using the spells granted him by his demonic patron Zarongel to heal Reta, Poog says to her, “Lez find soma place to hidez and rezt up.”

It isn’t only shelter that the goblins need however. As Reta ponders, the growling and gurgling of all their empty stomachs can be heard.

“Let’s eat Slorb,” mutters Drubbus, eying the (late?) Chief Gutwad’s now quite bedraggled advisor.

Reta ponders for a moment the day when she will lead her tribe. Then in response to Drubbus she says flatly, “No. But we do needz ta eat. Drubbus, you go forage for some foods and take Mogmurch. Stayz together. Be quick and bring back enough for all of us. After we eat then we go to where we can rest and gain our strength backs up. The rest of youz, keep your eyes open and don’t wander.”

Slorb slinks up to them and says, “Bah! Dere iz plenty hof peeps in dis marsh we can take grub from. Dere iz da bunch hof boggards not far from ‘ere an’ we might be able to pik dem off. Boggard legs iz quite tasty yous nah. Thun dere iz some scrags we could burn hout closa to da shore. I’d say we go afta some fishermun but few spitz down ‘ere anymore, an’ dey usually spitz in massiv numbers an’ iz well armed. Dere may be da marsh giant or two we could lift some tings from too. I fink dere may be some furtha south.”

Drubbus gives Slorb a long, angry look. “Maybe youz kin live another day.” Turning to Reta he says, “Sounds like boggard legz iz on da menu, but I don’t think you should send just two only. Letz get the whole raid… such as we iz.”

“Yez, dat sounds deliciouz. Mogmurch, youz stay and watch da wumun and Slorb. Da rest of us will gets some fud.”

Reta gathers Poog, Drubbus, Chuffy and Slorb to her and says, “Slorb, draws us a map in da dirt to where we find deez bogards.”

Slorb obliges and with a stick he sketches out the directions to the boggard’s lair in the mud. It turns out they are not too far away on the banks of one of the many branches of the Soggy River. “Da boggards live on da banks hof da riva in da mud. Dere iz just one knot hof dem, though dey as da breedin pond fe dare tadpoles nearby. Those iz heavy eatin too but certainly guarded. Yous must be tricky about dis. Dey iz tough warriors. Dey iz dig frogs an’ can stay underwata fe da long bells an’ move through da marsh wiv ease. Watch da waters carefully so dey don’t ambush yous. Beware dare sticky tongues, an’ do not be frightened off by dare terrifyin croakin. If yous can catch one hof dem on jays, dat iz gonna be heavy eatin fe us all. But if dey cat-sh yous, thun dey iz gonna be da ones to as da feast.”

“Eyez doan wanna go hunting no smelly frogs, lez stay here an rest,” whines Poog.

Reta nods then screeches, “We sneak up to dare turf an’ chek one on jays. Kill it quik an’ bak we spitz. Lez go, yous iz wiv me,” she points to Poog, Drubbus and Chuffy.

Drubbus scowls at Slorb “We eats legz one way or other. Better not be sendin’ us on some fooley or sumpin.”

Reta leads them to where the boggards live by the river, sneaking through the marsh. When close enough she begins looking for one who may be alone and far away from the rest. They stick together though as they are low in numbers right now. Though patience is almost unknown to Reta, she has them wait for a good opportunity for she knows that rebuilding her tribe is of paramount importance and getting food for travel is the first thing they must accomplish.

Reta’s patience pays off. They come across three boggards squatting outside a muddy mound on the bank of one of the many winding branches of the Soggy River. They are dressed only in loincloths though they do have their crocodile tooth studded clubs are within reach. They seem to be squabbling over a roll of flayleaf that they are passing around to smoke.

The goblins are practically invisible and silent as they creep through the brush except for the Chuffy (oddly) who brushes up against some of the reeds causing them to sway. The boggards stiffen a bit and look over towards the bed of reeds.

Drubbus sinks lower into the grass and holds still. Reta glares at Chuffy and stands perfectly still, watching the boggards. Chuffy grins and shrugs, but says nothing.

Poog also comes to a standstill. Then he feels an attack of the giggles coming on. The only way to stop them is to concentrate on creeping forward without making a sound. He slowly places one foot down carefully not breaking any leaves or sticks and moves towards the boggards.

After a moment the boggards shrug and go back to passing around the flayleaf. The goblins are able to creep through the abundant underbrush up to within 30’ of them. Poog looks at Reta and mimes crawling forward by walking his fingers across his palm and then shooting them with his burning hands by wiggling his fingers towards them. Then he raises an eyebrow quizzically at her as if asking her permission. Reta smiles wide and evilly as she nods agreement.

Poog pushes past the reeds and runs up to the boggards to catch all three in a fan of burning flames that erupt from his splayed fingertips. Two of them are singed and they yelp in shock and surprise. The third ducks just in time as the flames roar over his head and back. The boggards blink, shocked. They see that the last of their flayleaf was burned up as well! Shock quickly turns to outrage even as Chuffy’s dart and Drubbus’ slung stone hurtles past them. Drubbus grumbles a long string of explicatives as his sling stone sails pathetically wide of the mark. Reta sprints toward the nearest of the boggards but stumbles just as she reaches them and her attempt to slash him with the Gorge of Gluttons goes far astray, cutting off the tops of some nearby reeds that fall all around her and the boggard.

Poog looks at his smoking fingers and then shakes them like he is shaking off drops of water. He then shakes his head and giggles and starts shooting firebolts as he backs away from the enraged toad-men. The first one singes the nearest of the boggards who had ducked from his initial blast of fire. Chuffy’s second dart hits another boggard at about the same time. Cackling, Reta swipes again at the boggard in front of her and this time draws blood. Drubbus throws his sling down and kicks it in the mud. “Hey!” he says to himself, scooping up the oozing filth. He charges the boggard in the middle of the group and smears the vile mess into it’s huge, bulging eyes as it attempts to get up, thus thwarting its attempt to grab its weapon. With a frustrated croak it dives off the bank into the Soggy River. The other two boggards are able to take up their clubs as they get to their feet and the one injured by Reta takes a swipe at her. Reta jumps back and then lunges in again, slashing at him as he gets to his webbed feet, once more drawing blood. The boggard swings wildly at Reta but comes nowhere close to hitting. The remaining boggard on the bank has similar bad luck against Drubbus.

Poog’s second firebolt goes astray, but Chuffy’s dart hits the one now floating in the river off the riverbank. The dart sticks right above his nose, the boggard swipes it off and then dives beneath the water. Reta slashes her chosen victim a third time, once more drawing blood. Drubbus, swinging his scythe, also manages to scratch the other boggard still on the shore.

Reta says, “Killz this one, we only needz one!”

Drubbus yells, “Everyone help Reeta!”

The boggards finally begin to get in some blows of their own. Drubbus is hit but the blow is absorbed by his dirty hide armor. Reta, however, is hit hard in the gut. She realizes that another couple of blows like that one and she will be food for the boggards rather than the other way around. Then the boggard in the river lets forth a loud and horrifying croak. Chuffy visibly quakes in response to it.

Poog screams his outrage at their combined impotence and hunger! He shoots more firebolts at the wounded boggard. Chuffy hits the one in the water with another dart. Having had enough of Chuffy’s darts it dives beneath the surface and swims away. Drubbus hits his foe again with his scythe, inflicting another nasty gash in its rubbery hide, causing it to dive off the riverbank and disappear beneath the river as well. Reta also hits again and the last boggard staggers away from her croaking in fear and trying desperately to retreat to the riverbank so it can dive away.

Poog sends another firebolt careening after the last boggard but it zips past the creature’s head. Chuffy’s dart catches the boggard in the throat and it falls dying in the mud of the bank, its webbed hand reaching out only inches from the water as it gurgles and dies.

Grinning evilly, Reta looks around to be sure the other two boggards have indeed swum off. Licking her lips she says, “Letz gets this ‘ting back to camp so we’z all can eats it!”

“Do we need ta lug da whole ting back? Or jutz da legs?” Drubbus ponders, his lack of initiative toward anything not involving violence, food or sex asserting itself. “N’ what did dees dudes have over here any wayz?” He wonders poking around where the boggards were squatting.

Reta stops and looks at the dark hole. “Maybe we’z can bring some’ting else back with us too. Letz see what they have in der hole.” She then steps up and peers inside.

“Maybe dey gotz more boggardz in dere! Don’t poke the hornets nest ya eeget!” Drubbus hisses.

Reta sees that the interior of the round mud hut has three reed cots and lots of reed baskets and clay pots. Right by the cots are three suits of boggard sized leather armor and skins. The hut is about 30’ in diameter in the middle of which is a fire pit with a hole in the thatch roof directly above it. The muddy floor is covered over in places with reed carpets.

Seeing that there is no immediate threat Reta and the others search the hut and find that the baskets are full of salted fish and beetles, enough for the goblins to survive for days. In one basket they find what seems to be three ounces of flayleaf that the boggard’s had collected. They also find an escape tunnel under one of the carpets that undoubtedly opens on the other end beneath the Soggy River.

“Can weez livez herez?” asks Poog?

Reta lets out a “skreetch” of excitement. “Takes da food, quick. I gots da leaves.” With that they hurry out and return back to camp with their spoils. She passes out some fish to the others on their way back and munches on a dried beetle herself.

“But Retaz, whyz we can’t stay here?” Poog persists.

“Cuz da udder two boggards got away, an der be more somewherez, maybe.” Drubbus grumbles. “Best get away wid whot weez got.”

Reta responds, “We needs ta feed da females… and Slorb. And dis place is too small for all of us. Come on… lets go.”

Reta leads them back the way they came. Upon their return they find that Slorb has managed to get the goblin women and Mogmurch to put together some makeshift huts and a spiked fence.

“I sez dat Slorb keeps lookout for the daytime! We need some rest after all this hubbub!” Drubbus grumbles. “An’ I think weez done plenny for a night. Letz crash now an find some shelter tomorrow night!” He then picks up a handful of flayleaf and brings it over to some likely she-goblins. “Hey, lookie what I brought back for ya.”

Poog says, “Yez I jest wanna sleep.”

While contemplating his options, Chuffy unconsciously pops a boil on his face. After momentarily rubbing the pus, he sucks it off his fingers.

“Yessss,” Chuffy whispers.  ”Rest now, find new home when dark comes again.”

Meanwhile the goblin women and Slorb have crowded around Drubbus to get their hands on some of the flayleaf.

Mogmurch eats all the food he can, and sneaks some into the shadows for later. After that, he grabs some of the leaf to smoke. It almost crosses his mind to wonder about their shelter, but the thought dances out of his head almost as soon as it entered. Besides, shouldn’t their new leader, Reta, be doing something about that? Mogmurch does spend some time thinking on that. He doesn’t like Reta being leader any more than he liked Slorb (and Slorb’s still making problems!) – but he’s pretty sure he couldn’t take her in a fight so he doesn’t challenge her.

Poog goes off to sleep as he needs his rest for tomorrow.

Reta also chooses not to partake of the flayleaf.

Chuffy is sad because he missed out on the flayleaf. He approaches Slorb with outstretched hands. “Me wants some if you’s can spare.” He eventually gets a roll of flayleaf for himself and pretty soon he and Drubbus, Mogmurch, Slorg and the goblin women are able to get quite stoned before they crawl into the makeshift huts to sleep through the day.


Rova 21st

Later that evening, Jethrik slips away from his companions after having a few drinks to muster up his courage. He catches Ameiko in the hallway just past the bar as she returns from the wine cellar and demurely holds up a small wooden box to her, blushing furiously.

“Why Jethrik, how kind.” She smiles warmly down at the gnome. She opens the box and sees the enchanted strings within, an enchantment that she easily discerns after a few moments. “This was very thoughtful, what do they do my friend?”

“They are samisen strings. Once a day they can tune themselves. With the time you save from tuning, maybe you can play one more song a day. At least, that is my hope.”

She leans down to kiss the gnome’s cheek. “Thank you Jethrik. I will treasure them, and will use them this very night.”

Back in the common room, Jharad nonchalantly hands a leather tied scroll to Koya. “I thought of you while we were in the city,” he says with a mischievousness grin. “I know you are fond of maps; this one depicts our exploits in Magnimar. I hope you enjoy it.”

Although it depicts the streets and buildings they visited in Magnimar, it is less a map and more an artful caricature with small footprints showing their path from inn to bar to brothel with plentiful notations describing their colorful events.

“Oh how thoughtful of you. Thank you Jharad. I may even be able to forgive the many years you were away and didn’t write.” She grins and kisses him on the cheek, though she has to stand up from her chair to do so. She sits again and peruses the map. “Tsk, tsk. I see you’ve all been very naughty in the big city.”

Jharad says with a deadpan tone, “Keng started it all,” and takes a drink of ale.

Keng snorts.

Jethrik looks hurt. “I helped!” he whines and stifles a smirk.

Toshio says nothing in reply to their words, but tries to conceal his amazement – they’re actually proud that they started trouble and are trying to get credit for it!

“Okay boys, I don’t want to hear about all your whoring and drinking. At least not until we discuss more important business,” chides Ameiko. “I’ve handed bartending duties over to Jorgi. Follow me to the private dining room.” She leads them all into the same room where Rokuro’s letter was found and read. Sandru and Koya are right behind her, followed by Toshio, Jharad, Keng, Jethrik, and Zeyala.

When everyone is gathered and the doors are closed, Ameiko begins. “As we discussed before, I am determined to travel to Brinewall Castle to discover whatever great family treasure my grandfather, Rokuro, placed in the warding box he hid there. This is of great personal concern to me, as I am the last of the Kaijitsu family. Almost a quarter century ago my grandfather and all the inhabitants of Brinewall Castle and the surrounding area disappeared. No one knows what happened to them and the whole area is believed to be cursed and so avoided as Sandru told you before. For that reason I have accepted your assistance. As they say, there is safety in numbers. That, however, means that a larger caravan is needed for this expedition and so I have invested my own fortune in this. In addition to Sandru’s covered wagon, Koya’s wagon, and the supply wagon, I have purchased a second supply wagon and a horse train. With Koya’s help, Sandru has also hired two new drivers: Henric and Zandu. They will help Bevelek and Vancor. We still need to purchase provisions however and I am hoping that I can appeal to you – for my funds have come up somewhat short, I am ashamed to say. I was able to put up 1,400 gold pieces, but more is needed.”

Sandru interrupts to explain, “We still owe Das 100 gold for the repair of Whispering Shrike. Also, the journey will take a little more than two weeks. I estimate that we will need almost 200 gold worth of provisions just to get there. Finally, we’ll owe the drivers 10 gold each for their month’s wages. So if you are able to help with this, we’d appreciate it.”

Ameiko says, “Of course I will make sure that you are reimbursed and then some for your investment, and it is my hope that there may be things of value to salvage in Brinewall – but first we need to get there. So if any of you are able to help fund this expedition please speak up. Otherwise I will have to spend some time looking for other investors, and then they will get a cut of any salvage.”

Jethrik digs around in his wallet and dumps out what ever is in there: 262 gold and 6 silver pieces as it turns out.

Toshio responds quickly, saying, “I will cover what you need.” Realizing his response was sudden and could be interpreted in ways other than he intended, he tries to clarify by saying, “Of course, I don’t mean to cut any of you out of the investment.” He turns to face Ameiko and continues. “I only meant that you have my full support in this, Ameiko.” He finishes with a bow to her, in the manner of their families.

“Not so fast pretty boy,” snarls Keng. ”Mistress, I will buy as many shares in the caravan as I can with 50 gold pieces.” Looking at Jharad and Jethrik he says, “Might as well buy in and profit eh?”

Jethrik suggests, “Why don’t we all put in equal shares for the rest? If anyone is short, I’d help cover it. Gentleman’s terms, just a handshake, no interest. I don’t want to see anyone cut out!” He beams at the others.

Sandru nods in agreement. “Yes, it would be best, I think, if everyone had an equal stake in this venture. Well, excepting the four drivers who are getting paid for their work.”

“That sounds fair,” agrees Zeyala.

Keng shrugs and mutters, “As long as I get my fair share.”

“Good idea. That should stop any bickering. How much would each of us need to come up with?” Toshio asks.

“Well, that’s an excellent start. And although I don’t have much of a gift for numbers and ledgers, I do have one business question.” Jethrik rubs his chin studiously. ”How are we going to make a profit? I assume we have a load to carry somewhere?”

Our profit will not be from plain trade,” Toshio says. “Our profit will be what we can acquire through our exploration and the salvage of Brinewall. Isn’t that what’s intended Ameiko?”

Keng nudges Jharad and says, “Our profit will be whats left over that goodie-two-shoes doesn’t give away.”

“Ahem! Let me clarify the standard arrangement,” says Sandru, who then recites from a scroll that he unrolls a complex list of how many shares each person gets for their contribution to the caravan (starting with 1 share for each 100 gold invested) and for their roles and duties, as well as compensations for injuries (for instance two shares for being blinded) and punishments for things like shirking one’s duties. He ends with, “Everyone must agree to perform their allotted tasks. Most importantly, it is best if every member of the expedition swears a legally binding oath in the name of Abadar or even Asmodeus to obey the party leader, Ameiko, and not to knowingly or intentionally bring harm to the party either directly or indirectly.” Having finished, Sandru rolls up the scroll and looks to Ameiko with a smile.

Ameiko nods gravely. “That sounds reasonable to me. It was under the same conditions that I set forth on various expeditions when I was younger. Well, younger than I am now.” She grins. “Does this sound fair?”

Keng tries to follow Sandru using his fingers to count, he quickly loses count and squints and hunches his shoulders letting out a low growl. He slaps the table and stands up and shouts, “So I have to have 100 gp to buy a share or I get nothing?” Wildly he looks at Jharad for help!

“I’m already blind,” says Zeyala with a smirk. ”Those were the quickest two shares I’ve ever earned.”

“I could drink myself blind,” Jethrik adds, “but I’d prefer not to.” Turning to Ameiko he adds, “I don’t think I followed any of that. But if it all means that we’ll be compensated fairly for our investment and for our work and risk, I’m in. I don’t know the ins and outs of contracts, but I know you and I feel that I am learning about my new friends. I fear no deceit. Money I may lose, but I don’t care to leave my friends behind so long as I have the strength to follow.”

“I have no problem serving the Kaijitsu family, as my family has in the past,” Toshio says. “And the shares arrangements are agreeable, ‘though I can’t claim to have them memorized. To avoid arguments later, when things are shared out, I would like to know how much money each of us should put in as an investment. It seems an equal investment from each of us is best, but I’m open to other options.”

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to make things confusing,” says Sandru. “In short, each of you will receive a share for every 100 gold you invest, as well as a share for doing actual exploring and recovering. Other duties any of you may take on, like mapping, will gain an additional share. So those who invest more will get more shares. Right now if each of you invested 100 gp, we should have enough for provisions and merchandise to keep us going for a couple of weeks.”

Toshio asks, “So, to clarify for Keng and I, should we limit ourselves to a single one hundred gold piece share? Or are we welcome to invest more heavily if we so choose?”

“Oh you are all more than welcome to invest as much as you wish. Any excess will be kept in a strongbox and will be used to purchase more supplies or saleable merchandise further down the road,” Sandru answers.

Jethrik is the first to invest. “I’ll pledge 200, unless someone needs me to help cover a share.”

Toshio is next. “I’ll match Jethrik’s two hundred.  As you said earlier, Sandru, it would be best if we all had equal interests in this.”

Keng digs out his money purse, hidden in his pants, and throws 500 gp on the table, “I want five shares,” he blurts, having no interest in the calculations of the others.

Jharad says, “My interest is to spend time with Koya, so I will buy in with intent to stay on for an extended length. Most likely beyond Ameiko’s quest. I will match my sister’s shares,” and places 50 platinum coins on the table.

“I will be content with three shares,” says Zeyala.

“Excellent,” says Ameiko with a warm smile at everyone. “I think we should write this down and bring in a notary to witness our oaths and signatures.”

Sandru says, “I’ll go over to the Mercantile League in the morning and have Sir Korvaski help me to write up a proper contract. Then we’ll come over here and everyone can sign it and swear their oaths to abide by it. Jasper, I mean, Sir Korvaski, is a paladin of Abadar and also a notary, so he can administer the oaths.”

“Very good. There is also a proviso I’d like to see added to the terms,” says Ameiko. “I think it would be a good idea if any items found along the way or in Brinewall that could contribute to the success of our venture if used should be given on loan to whoever can best put it to use. When the expedition is completed said item will be considered part of the general take at half its saleable value and may then be claimed by its user as part of his or her share, or purchased by them if the item is worth more than the shares they are owed. Is this agreeable to you all?”

Jharad nods his approval.

“Aye” says Jethrik feeling a little overwhelmed with all these provisos and who-so-for and party of the first parts…

“Aye,” growls Keng, but he can’t help but feel he got bamboozled.

“Sounds reasonable to me,” says Zeyala.

“That is agreeable” replies Toshio. He makes a mental note to get a ledger, ink and some pens or quills to keep track of all this stuff as they go along, also for keeping his own notes, journal fashion. Distressed by all the legalese brought on by the issue of money and shares, he mutters under his breath something about the love of money being the root of all evil.

Sandru overhears this and says with a smile, “You should take that up with Sir Korvaski, the paladin of Abadar.

“Hmm… well, maybe I will.”

“Now I would like to bring up another matter,” says Ameiko as she reaches over to a long silken bundle leaning against the wall. She places it on the table and unwraps it to reveal the wakizashi recovered from the Brinestump caverns. “Whispering Shrike has been repaired. Toshio, you have already stated that you are willing to serve as my retainer, but I am no noble, at least not anymore. Whatever titles or honors my family had were back in Minkai. Here I am content to be an innkeep and a singer of ballads.” Sandru smirks at this but Ameiko gives him a sharp look and he shrugs and looks away.

Ameiko continues, “Still, I cannot rest until I recover my family’s legacy despite whatever dangers may await. So I will accept your offer Toshio, and in return I would like to bestow upon you the Whispering Shrike. It is the perfect weapon for a bodyguard, as the wielder can take upon themselves some of the injury dealt to the one they guard. You need only touch the blade to the one you wish to protect and say in Tien, ‘May so-and-so be under my protection.” She walks over to Toshio and with both hands passes the Whispering Shrike to him.

Awed and delighted, Toshio accepts the sword in the same manner, bowing deeply as he does so. In Tien he replies, “It is my honor to serve you.”

He partially draws the blade, appreciating the quality of the repairs. Returning it to its scabbard, he tucks it into his belt. Bowing once more, he says (again in Tien), “Thank you very much. It is a splendid blade.”

Keng elbows Jharad and pokes Jethrik, “Now he will have a really big head.” He smiles but his tusks make it look more like a snarl.

Jharad replies, “Don’t fret my bulbous friend. The girth of your cranium could never be bested by one such as him.” He grins widely – guessing Keng has no idea of either the plain speak nor hidden subtext of his joke.

Keng gets a glazed look on his face and says, “Hey are you trying to trick me?”

Ameiko interrupts any further banter between Jharad and Keng. “I think we have concluded tonight’s business. Now for some fun!” She produces, seemingly out of thin air, a bottle of Oldlaw Whiskey. Setting that on the table she further produces a set of shot glasses and call out to Jorgi for some ale. “Tomorrow night we can give our oaths and I will lead us in a more formal toast to begin our venture. We leave the day after tomorrow.”

“With hangovers!” Jethrik calls out.

Keng utters, “One bottle? Where’s mine?”

Jharad downs the remainder of his ale and takes up one of the shot glasses.

Toshio takes a shot glass, but waits a bit, certain that Ameiko will make the first toast.

Ameiko slides a full shot glass each person at the table and each shot stops perfectly in front of them. Jorgi then distributes mugs of ale. When that is done,  Ameiko lifts her shot glass up and says, “To new comrades and new adventures.” She then downs her shot and takes a swig of ale.

“Perfect way to cap off the evening. Cheers!” Zeyala tosses back the whiskey and chases it with the ale.

Toshio echoes the toast. “New comrades and new adventures!” He looks mischievously at the others and says in challenge, “Okay, who thinks they can out-drink me?

Keng belches loudly, “Me!”

“Ah, Keng. I knew I could count on you!”

Ameiko says to Toshio, “I might be able to drink you under the table my friend, but I am not about to go up against him,” she gestures to Keng. “Be my guest though.”

Jharad grins at Toshio and stands up. Saluting the paladin with his raised mug of ale he says, “Good luck with that,” and heads for the door.

Jethrik uses mage hand to make Keng’s braids go up the half-orc’s own nose, causing him to sneeze thunderously. “Elf! What are you doing?” he cries!

“I saw that gnome!” says Sandru. “Don’t stir up the wrath of the Shoanti, especially when they’re having a drink.”

Jharad points at Jethrik with a stern look, “Don’t try and stir up trouble with a magus, comedian. You will get more than you bargained for!” At that point a small rain cloud appears above Jethrik’s head and begins to rain beer on him. Jethrik leans back with his mouth wide open.

Keng rubs his hands over his face furiously and looks back and forth between Jharad and Jethrik.  Then he picks up the gnome with one hand and sets him onto the tabletop and says, “Sing a drinking song for us, wee man! Our samurai and I plan to play a game.” Then he starts to clap his hands and nod his head.

Toshio almost makes a quip to Jethrick about music calming the savage beast, but he’s pretty sure Keng wouldn’t take it well. Instead, he shrugs and starts clapping in time with Keng.

After a moment’s thought Jethrik sings, “The Holy Ground” while Toshio and Keng down a shot of Oldlaw each time they shout “Fine Girl You Are.”:

Fare thee well, my lovely Dinah,

A thousand times adieu.

For we’re going away from the Holy Ground

And the girls we all love true.

We will sail the salt seas over

And then return for shore

And still I live in hope to see

The Holy Ground once more.

[Fine Girl You Are]

You’re the girl that I adore,

And still I live in hope to see

the Holy Ground once more.

[Fine Girl You Are]

Now when we’re out a-sailing

And you are far behind

Fine letters will I write to you

With the secrets of my mind,

The secrets of my mind, my girl,

You’re the girl that I adore,

And still I live in hope to see

The Holy Ground once more.

[Fine Girl You Are]

You’re the girl that I adore,

And still I live in hope to see

the Holy Ground once more.

[Fine Girl You Are]

Oh now the storm is raging

And we are far from shore;

The poor old ship she’s sinking fast

And the riggings they are tore.

The night is dark and dreary,

We can scarcely see the moon,

But still I live in hope to see

Holy Ground once more.

[Fine Girl You Are]

You’re the girl that I adore,

And still I live in hope to see

the Holy Ground once more.

[Fine Girl You Are]

And now the storm is over

And we are safe and well.

We will go into a public house

And we’ll sit and drink like hell.

We will drink strong ale and porter

And we’ll make the rafters roar,

And when our money is all spent

We will go to sea once more.

Toshio figures he’s going to lose this drinking contest, but doesn’t let the others know that. They’ll have fun watching him get plastered, and will probably joke about it for a long time. So even though it’s not what he’d usually do, in this safe, controlled environment he’s ready to risk it for the sake of morale.

Sandru shakes his head, “I think our friend Keng could drink enough liquor to kill a horse!”

“Neigh!” Toshio utters in reply.

“You jest,” says Sandru, “But I am amazed to say you seem as though you too could drink enough to kill a horse.”

Jethrik, meanwhile, starts up another song. This time, the contestants slam down their shots as they shout, “Lots of Fun at Finnegan’s Wake!”

Tim Finnegan lived in Walkin Street, a gentle halfiling mighty odd

He had a brogue both rich and sweet, an’ to rise in the world he carried a hod

You see he’d a sort of a tipplers way but the love for the liquor poor

Tim was born

To help him on his way each day, he’d a drop of the craythur every morn

Whack fol the dah now dance to yer partner around the flure yer trotters shake

Wasn’t it the truth I told you?

Lots of fun at Finnegan’s Wake

One morning Tim got rather full, his head felt heavy which made him shake

Fell from a ladder and he broke his skull, and they carried him home his corpse to wake

Rolled him up in a nice clean sheet, and laid him out upon the bed

A bottle of whiskey at his feet and a barrel of porter at his head

Whack fol the dah now dance to yer partner around the flure yer trotters shake

Wasn’t it the truth I told you? Lots of fun at Finnegan’s Wake

His friends assembled at the wake, and Mrs Finnegan called for lunch

First she brought in tay and cake, then pipes, tobacco and whiskey punch

Biddy O’Brien began to cry, “Such a nice clean corpse, did you ever see,

Tim avourneen, why did you die?”, “Will ye hould your gob?” said Paddy McGee

Whack fol the dah now dance to yer partner around the flure yer trotters shake

Wasn’t it the truth I told you? Lots of fun at Finnegan’s Wake

Then Maggie O’Connor took up the job, “Biddy” says she “you’re wrong, I’m sure”

Biddy gave her a belt in the gob and left her sprawling on the floor

Then the war did soon engage, t’was woman to woman and man to man

Shillelagh law was all the rage and a row and a ruction soon began

Whack fol the dah now dance to yer partner around the flure yer trotters shake

Wasn’t it the truth I told you? Lots of fun at Finnegan’s Wake

Mickey Maloney ducked his head when a bucket of whiskey flew at him

It missed, and falling on the bed, the liquor scattered over Tim

Bedad he revives, see how he rises, Timothy rising from the bed

Saying “Whittle your whiskey around like blazes, t’underin’ Jaysus, do ye think I’m dead?”

Whack fol the dah now dance to yer partner around the flure yer trotters shake

Wasn’t it the truth I told you? Lots of fun at Finnegan’s Wake

Tohsio… looks over at Kang and thinks, He’s still alive – awake. So he lifts another shot and tosses it back, daring Keng to match him.

Bleary eyed and drooling Keng takes another shot slams the glass down on the table breaking it and cutting his hand, but he feels nothing, he slurs out, “Thas all yoof got?”

Another round follows this one. At that point, after 14 shots each, both Toshio and Keng fall off their chairs, landing on the floor heavily whereupon they both commence to snore noisily. Ameiko rolls her eyes and asks Sandru to help Jorgi carry them to their rooms.

Jethrik looks over the rim of the table first at one heap of drunkard and then at the other. He picks up his shot glass and the bottle. After finding a comfortable spot by the fire and lighting his pipe he pours himself a shot. “I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.” And with that he savors the remainder of the bottle in slow sips.

Zeyala laughs in agreement as she lights her own pipe and finishes off her ale.

After Jharad leaves the room he strolls outside, walking the streets of Sandpoint to The Old Light. Finding a nice place to sit overlooking the Varisian Bay he lights his pipe and blows smoke rings out over the cliff face.

Rova 22nd Oathday

The next day finds Keng whistling a jaunty tune as he comes down into the common room for breakfast. Toshio, meanwhile, has to duck out the back door as he awakens to find himself violently ill. Throughout the morning he also notices that his armaments seem oddly tarnished – a sign that he has incurred the displeasure of Iomedae, for her servants must be ever ready to battle the forces of evil and not be passed out in their cups or suffering from hangovers.

The worst of Toshio’s hangover fortunately wears off by around noon, and he is able to seek out Sheriff Belor Hemlock so that he can request another leave of absence. Sheriff Hemlock is sorry to see Toshio go. He wishes him luck and warns him, with a chuckle, against engaging in any more drinking contests with the likes of Keng.

When Toshio returns to the inn, he finds that Sandru has brought back Sir Jasper Korvaski and that they have written up the contract and are ready to gather the member’s of Ameiko’s expedition to Brinewall together in the backroom of the inn to put their marks on the document and give their oaths.

Once everyone is gathered, Sir Korvaski presents them all with the contract for the expedition. He reads this aloud and passes it around to be signed (or marked as the case may be). He then leads them all in the swearing of a sacred oath in the name of Abadar, Master of the First Vault, who oversees such contracts. The contract stipulates:

  • Each investor will receive one share for each 100 golden sail or equivalent in value in goods, equipment, or livestock invested in this expedition.
  • Ameiko has invested 2,000 gold people and so shall receive 20 shares.
  • Sandru contributes his covered wagon and supply wagon that are together worth 800 gold so shall receive 8 shares.
  • Koya contributes her wagon so she receives 5 shares.
  • Jethrik receives 2 shares for his contribution of 200 sails.
  • Toshio receives 2 shares for his contribution of 200 sails.
  • Zeyala receives 3 shares for her contribution of 300 sails.
  • Keng receives 5 shares for his contribution of 500 sails.
  • Jharad receives 5 shares for his contribution of 500 sails
  • Ameiko, as the leader of this expedition, will receive an additional 1.5 shares.
  • All others who are involved in the search for and recovery of treasure will receive an additional share in anything recovered.
  • Another share will be given to anyone wounded, or two shares to anyone who loses a limb or who is blinded.
  • The mapper will get an additional one and a quarter share.
  • An additional half share will go to those who find hidden treasure or who disarm one or more traps.
  • Five shares will go to a general treasury for the caravan as an emergency fund.
  • Anyone who attacks a fellow member of the caravan intentionally and while in their right minds will be banished from the group and forfeit all shares.
  • Anyone who steals from another member of the caravan must make restitution and will be banished.
  • Anyone who shirks a task shall be fined one share.
  • Each member of the caravan will get one day off per week, unless they are ill or wounded and need to recuperate.
  • Anyone found hoarding food or drink shall be fined one share.
  • Everyone must agree to perform their allotted tasks. Most importantly, every member of the expedition will swear in the name of Abadar to obey the party leader, Ameiko, and not to knowingly or intentionally bring harm to the party either directly or indirectly.

Toshio steps up to be the first to sign his name (in Tien) and take the oath. Not expecting anyone to back out, he still watches as everyone signs and swears.

Jharad shakes his head and smirks at the uselessness of such a thing as written contracts but signs it anyway.

Keng also signs it.

Jethrik signs his name with a large and flourished signature.

Zeyala, Koya, Sandru, and Ameiko all follow with their own signatures.

Once the signing and swearing of oaths is done, Sir Korvaski informs them that before they leave he will be happy, for a small fee, to help them write up their wills, or to draft a liability waiver or any other business papers or agreements they feel might need to be made. As he is speaking, the barmaid Mirelinda has been filling everyone’s goblets with Corentyn wine, a sweet yet tart wine favored by Chelaxian nobles and those aspiring to such elegance in the city states of Varisia.

Jharad laughs out loud and says, “Hey Keng, if you die I get your stuff. If I die you can have mine. There done, that was easy!”

Kengs growls his acceptance.

“Thank you Sir Korvaski,” says Ameiko, “but I think that will do for now. Of course, if any of you feel the need to write up your wills please feel free to do so. For now, I would like to propose a toast.” She lifts her goblet. “To new and old companions, the successful retrieval of my family’s legacy, and the recovery of whatever treasures have lain lost and forgotten in Brinewall.”

Toshio drinks following Ameiko’s toast, but still feeling the effects from last night he only sips the wine.

Sandru takes out a chart from a leather tube and spreads it out on the table. It is a map of Varisia criss crossed by the various trade routes. “Now gentlemen and ladies, I’d like to tell you about our route. Now I pride myself on the speed of our caravan. We travel lighter than most and since we set out at first light and go on until dusk at a steady pace we should be able to travel up to 36 miles a day, at least until we enter the Velashu Uplands which I don’t know as well as the more civilized areas. Anyway, we’ll first head up the Lost Coast Road and follow the Kaspakari route inland to the village of Galduria, home of the Twilight Academy. If we leave first thing tomorrow we can get there by noon on Moonday. From there we’ll travel along Cinder Road on the western shore of Ember Lake until we get to Wolf’s Ear, about a day’s travel north. Yes, Wolf’s Ear is supposed to have once been a haven for werewolves and such, but the followers of Erastil long ago cleared them out. They’re still a bit strange there but we’ve never had any trouble with them in all the years I’ve gone up and down the Cinder Road. The Cinder Road will continue along the banks of the Lampblack River and then cut through the northern edge of the Churlwood until we get to Roderic’s Cove. That will take about four days and we will have to be very wary at that point, because as I’m sure you know the Churlwood is infested with outlaws and worse. Now I prefer to avoid Riddleport entirely as you will never find a greater hive of scum and villainy. Instead, I propose we follow an old track north of Roderic’s Cove cross country until it meets up with the Cyrusibakari route that skirts the southern Stony Mountains and then winds up into the Velashu Uplands. We’ll follow the route northwest along the Velashu River to a low pass in the Red Mountains and then due north into the Varisian side of the Nolands. Before crossing the Steam River we’ll find the track that leads to Brinewall. For the first leg of the journey, I’ve had our wagons loaded with provisions, materials for any repairs we might need to make, pickled herring to sell to the inland villages, and also fine wines and glassware for Roderic’s Cove. I also noticed that Jethrik has tried to sneak along a barrel of hard cider as well. If we get too thirsty we can buy it from him, and if not maybe he’ll find a buyer along the way. Any questions?”

“Did you find what I have between my ass cheeks?” Jethrik mumbles sarcastically.

After the meeting is adjourned, Toshio finds Ameiko. ”I found this in the city” he says, presenting the gold pick he bought for her. “I thought you might like it, and I thought it better to present it to you before I take up my new duties tomorrow. I hope you like it.”

“Oh Toshio! That is so lovely.” She smiles warmly and to Toshio’s surprise she pecks him on the cheek. She holds up the lute and says, “It’s funny because Jethrik earlier this evening gave me some magical strings for my samisen. Now I have a pick to use as well. I will certainly have to play my best tonight to show my gratitude for the thoughtfulness of you gentlemen.”

Smiling, Toshio says, “I look forward to hearing it.” He chooses to make no comment about the strings from Jethrik.