Dear Diary…walking in others’ footsteps

Alert: may contain spoilers for the adventure “Scourge of the Slave Lords”

Well, it was not quite as “shortly” as some of us thought. Ezekiel had the half-orc train for a week with Heiron and some of the others, so he’ll be more useful and less likely to die once we go back to the Pomarjch. (Glad we didn’t leave our horses tied up.)

The extra time did give Raven a chance to spar with his disciples and give them handy life advice, and for Ezekiel to pay off some sheep farmers in case the old tab gets eaten up (Keom has been keeping a diary of when the dragons get hungry, and exactly how much they eat. If raising dragons were a science, he’d be well on his way to codifying it). Ronhass says they’ve had some trouble with adventurers coming through looking for the “black dragons” to kill, but Master Osler gave them tip-offs so they could move their campsite. (He really is the sweetest old man.)

Lydia also found two ebony flies in her clutter, and showed us that she figured out how they work. Apparently if you say the right word, they grow up into the size of a pony and move around. It’s kind of horrifying…but also pretty cool to have a flying thing you could ride! Mikael and Lydia are going to hang on to them, to give them more options.

Ezekiel raised the last of the burned-up slaves. He seemed very confused for a while, but when he finally figured out what was going on, he decided to stay in Homlette and start a new life. After all, we can get him back to the Highport area…but he’d still have to find his way home from there, without getting kidnapped or killed by anyone. The blacksmith in town has been looking for an extra pair of hands, since it’s prime repairing season, so he headed down there. Hope it turns out well.

Elmo and I squeezed in some woods time. There’s been some shuffling of the humanoid dens since the Temple isn’t inhabited anymore. With no Queen to serve – or draw power from – it sounds like no one has set up shop there again…but it’s his job to keep an eye open and keep track of goings-on. We did run across a bugbear scouting party, but he said they were too far from the town to worry him yet, and we could track them back to their nest when the time was right. It felt good to sneak up on bugbears for once, instead of the other way around. How do things so tall manage to be so quiet? Do their feet muffle the twigs underfoot? Do they have ESP for where loose leaves and branches are hanging around them? Is it their gait?

[sketch of bugbear foot]

Oh, one other thing. Raven had a look at the daggers from the orc cave, and the experts decided they’re all poisoned. So…after he burned them and soaked them in water, they could be a decorative curio for someone with a fireplace to hang things over. He pointed out that the metal is a bit weak for serious use.

We’re finally all packed up, and Ezekiel says we’re leaving in the morning. Lydia can get us back to the temple area, but after that, we’ll be hoofing it.


First day gone as well as could be expected, I suppose. Our horses were gone when we got to Highport (no surprise) and our chest was dug up and gone…but I guess there wasn’t anything but money in it, so we’ll be fine (glad Ez kept the captured papers and such with him). Hope the horses have a nice, full life.

On examining the gates of the temple, I could see that parties came and went from all directions – but there was one route that seemed more heavily traveled. Horses went that way – but so did many, many bare human feet. We learned it heads in the direction of the Drakenscrab Hills, but the locals weren’t more informative than that…and we didn’t stick around to learn much more, either.

Agnar says the hills used to have gem mines, but that was ages ago.

Anyway, what they do have now is goblins. Goblins look much smaller than they did once upon a time, but they still have annoying voices – like a squeaky door.

About noon, I noticed a goblin watching us. I mentioned it to Ezekiel, and what does he do but go and talk with it. He and Raven went about twenty feet from us up the hill, and hailed it.

At first, he talked to it in goblin, so none of us knew what we was saying. Then they switched to Common, and the goblin finally ran off.

I guess he was trying to charge us a toll for going through their hills, and warning us that “giant things” had dug tunnels across the road up ahead. So Raven asked, what is we killed the giant things? Well, for that it had to go consult its chief. So while it was doing that, we had lunch and talked things over. Ezekiel said the toll for our party (no slaves “this time”) was “probably 500″…but it didn’t specify copper, silver, gold, or what. Raven thought probably copper, and Agnar said goblins are notoriously stupid.

Finally, a larger group of goblins showed up, and bartered with Ezekiel and Raven. They said there were “no more than four” of the giant things/”scent-worms,” but if we killed them we could have one free passage through “Red Hand Tribe” territory.

Ezekiel wanted to know, what about our trip back. Lydia asked whether that got us all the way to the city. Mikael wanted to know if he could keep one of the giant worms. Finally, we got everything sorted out (to goblin standards of sorted),  and kept following the road.

It wasn’t long at all before we came to the “tunnels.” They look like mole-hills, only the biggest of them are several feet high. If Bornthene were with us, he probably couldn’t even see over them. We all kinda looked at each other (and Mikael said, “I want one!”), and then Ezekiel took Mikael and Agnar as the vanguard to go and stir them up.

As soon as they started tramping on the mound, something broke through the surface and reared its head up over them, scattering dirt everywhere. Imagine a centipede…only the size of a wagon. Or a house. The world produces such varied and strange living things.

Heiron and I shot it down – and then its friends showed up. Mikael cast faery fire, and three of the monstrous bugs started glowing – waving their mireade legs like a horrifying forest.

Agnar started laughing maniacally and charged in, his sword flashing. Usin ran forward, too, his sword bathed in flame… Heiron didn’t tell me he had a second flame-blade sword in storage, or that he shared it… Anyway, maybe the fire riled up the worm, as it lashed out at him and knocked his sword from his hand – lighting some of the grass where it landed.

Well, that’s about the most exciting part of the fight. They weren’t nearly as armored around their mandibles, and Heiron nailed one between two plates of its shell or something. Agnar ripped the last one open, and knocked his sword on something.

While Usin stomped out the grass fire, Ezekiel and Agnar dug into the worm and carefully pulled out a backpack. It took a vial of holy water (all Ezekiel’s water is holy) before we felt comfortable touching it – the clasps are all corroded, and the leather has some holes digested in it.

I scanned the surroundings (just in case there were more than five of the beasties) and came back just as Ezekiel was pulling a sizable leather book from the pack. He and Lydia bent over it, not sure what it was, and Ezekiel was just about to open it when I stopped him. The trail sign for Beware was etched into the front cover – along with more decorative tooling.

Raven checked it for mechanical traps, and then Ezekiel stepped away a “minimum safe distance” and opened it.

Well…maybe much ado about nothing?? No exploding runes or anything…the book just seems to be an account of various natural environments, natural hazards and enemies, and the author’s adventures. The writing style is a bit hard to understand sometimes (looks like some of the books in Father’s library).

Some of the early pages talk about a healing draft that the author and a druid made from various herbs (lots of pictures!), and another section talks about him fighting gnoll tribes in some place we don’t recognize. Must study in greater detail later…but the last few pages have pictures of the giant worms we just killed, alongside the name “Ankheg.” Sounds like it’s best not to fight them alone.

Anyway, we reached a campsite without anything else to report. There’s a pit full of ashes, and from the footprints all around, it seems many parties have been by here in the past…some more like our size, some as large as sixty people.

Mikael recognized some of the herbs mentioned in the book as we came along, so he’s trying to cook up the healing draft. I don’t think it’ll make his arm grow back, but it does smell nice. Heiron is talking with Usin, telling him what he did right in the fight, and showing him how to adjust his stance to do better. I have not decided how I feel about this.


Saw goblins moving at a distance all through my watch, but as they didn’t bother us, I didn’t bother them. After dawn, a goblin came up – and after Raven said good-morning, it gave him a slightly sticky goblin ear, and told him to show that when we came back through to get a free return ticket. Raven gave it to me to carry.

Read something cool in the manual/journal last night! Tain (the author) says there’s a way for you and one other person to align your minds or something so that when you talk to each other, it sounds like birdsong or some other natural noise. I can’t wait to try it out with my friends! Might also come in handy, I suppose, if Mikael and I were scouting somewhere in the woods or something…


Raining this evening. Sure is handy Ezekiel brought the instant fortress.

We knew we were crossing into gnoll country when we came up on a group of them at the head of a ravine with steep rock sides. Their constant intermittent laughter is pretty annoying, but Ezekiel and Raven dealed with them so we didn’t kill them. (Just as well, I suppose, since they obviously have the advantage of terrain…and as I’ve been learning in my new book, gnolls can know how to make poisoned arrows from bad mushrooms.) Anyway, we paid them a handful of gold, and they let us through.

Ezekiel says one of them told him the “fastest route” to get to the city – cutting through the hills and following the angle of the sun. However, we don’t just want to end up at “a city” – we want the specific city where our enemies are, and our best bet for that is to keep following the caravan tracks…so we’ve continued following that line.

Tain’s journal has a recipe to use some plant called “greenberry” (with pictures) to make a dye that will make you virtually invisible in the woods. There’s also something about chanting and power from your deity, but I don’t quite see how they go together yet. Maybe if I knew the right questions to ask, I could see the answers.


Well, something of a wrinkle has come up. Good thing we’re not in a hurry to get to the Slave Lords’ city.

The rain had stopped when we continued this morning, and the track was pretty easy to follow. As we went on, though, I realized men were creeping up on all sides of us…easily out-numbering us, and soon flanking us as we followed the road. Not confronting us to collect a toll – surrounding and observing us.

I told Ezekiel about it, and what does he do but want to talk to them! Raven suggested he could drink a swig from the invisibility potion we brought from Homlette and go spy on them – especially if Ezekiel cast silence on something for him to carry.

We went with this plan, with Raven walking into the middle of us to make his disappearance less noticeable…and then Lydia made mumbling and waving gestures as he took the sip. Was she trying to make herself a target? I don’t know…and I guess so far it hasn’t been an issue…

Ezekiel held out a flask of holy water – it disappeared – and we kept walking…trying not to look like we were slowing our pace or anything.

Not too long after that, we heard crunching footsteps, and then Raven’s voice. He said they were wearing furs and skins, and armed with clubs and rough-made spears. That made it sound less like they were paid by the Slave Lords to harass us, but still not totally reassuring.

Then he said they were talking in a language that sounded Suluese, and we all looked at the one blonde in the party. Some of them seemed confused, others just determined – but of course he couldn’t tell for sure, since he didn’t speak the language.

In the end, Lydia volunteered to go try talking to them. Ezekiel cast protection from Evil on her first (we’ve had our fill of dopplegangers) and Raven tagged along with her, invisibly, just in case.

We watched her head to the rock the nearest group was hiding behind, and sit down. A bit later, a man stuck his head out, and a few minutes after that, she led him over to us, holding his hand. I guess when she keeps her veil up, her batted eyelids can make a guy to quite a lot of things.

Ezekiel talked with him – the man spoke Common, but not too well. He seemed concerned about where we were headed – were we going to the Slaver city? – and why. When Ezekiel told him, no, we didn’t want to buy slaves, we wanted to kill the Slave Lords, his whole body seemed to relax a little.

He said something that I guess was really lost in translation, and then asked who we served. Heiron said, “I serve St. Cuthbert!” and the man said, he serves the Deathknight against the Slave Lords.

[sketch of Ezekiel’s face]

Wish I could capture Ezekiel’s expression. He asked if he could see this Deathknight – but you couldn’t quite tell from his tone of voice whether he was afraid, or eager, or curious, stern.

The man said we’d have to talk to the chief, then the priest, then the Deathknight. Ezekiel said, if it meant we could work together against the Slavers, fine!

So the man led us off the road and up into the woods, along a trail that you’d think was made by deer or other forest animals. As we went, the other men kept filtering in behind and around us, and I tried not to grip my bow too obviously.

The village is at the top of a hill. The first thing that struck us as he led us in was that several of the huts were burned down, and we saw no women or children the whole length of the village.

We stopped before a rock covered with skins, where a man sat on top like a throne. Beside him stood a man with a staff topped with an animal skull.

“Chief Morag” (so our guide called him) welcomed us to the “Great Kingdom,” and said the flinds were responsible for the state of their village. Apparently those are like bigger-than-normal gnolls, and they kidnapped all the women and children and are going to “kill” them at the next full moon.

Before they had my interest. Now they had my attention. Ezekiel still wanted to meet the Deathknight, but he warned the rest of us that if it turned out to be who he feared it to be, that we should just run like crazy and leave him and Raven to their fates. I mean, it’s totally like Ezekiel to want a dramatic martyr fight, but that didn’t make it any more comforting.

Chief Morag, the priest (Koto?), and Ezekiel went off towards a cliff on the edge of the village, and the rest of us sat around and thought about things. There are about 30 men here (Lydia says about 32), so for these flin creatures to have bested them, they must have impressive numbers, or unusual strength, or both. Given the burned huts, it seems they attacked the village itself…but it’s hard to tell if the men were home to offer resistance, or off hunting or something. Must ask them when we get the chance.

When Ezekiel came back, his face was…that look he gets sometimes. I think Raven calls it his “Heironeous mood”? He told us, “We’re helping them!” and then he told the village chief, we can’t stay and protect you – like the knight did – but we can rescue your people.

Heiron piped up and said, yes, these people saved me, too – and patted Usin on the shoulder.

Tonight, we prepare our spells and make our strategies. The next night, the chief says he’ll lead us by the secret way to the flin village.

Ezekiel is drawing shapes in the dirt and talking very fast with Raven and Lydia (yep, definitely a “Heironeous mood”). Mikael is sitting under a tree with Marie Ant-oinette and Buffy, probably pestering Obed-Hai about how he still doesn’t have a right arm.

I’m kinda worried that I really don’t recognize this term for gnoll-like creatures. Maybe if I saw them I’d remember them better. Maybe checking Tain’s journal will give me more insight…it’s true he uses some funny words for some of the plants.

Find the previous entry here.

Read the next entry here.

2 thoughts on “Dear Diary…walking in others’ footsteps

  1. Pingback: Dear Diary...battle plans - Kimia Wood

  2. Pingback: Dear Diary...armed and ready - Kimia Wood

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *