“A Death in the Family”
The Further Traveling Journals of the Band of the Blessed Fountain
By Molliam Merryweather
[In which the band travels again to the city of Cauldron, nearly ruin Nickel’s birthday, break up a riot, grieve the loss of a valued teammate and resolve to seek their vengeance]
June 2nd, 316
Ham has received a letter from Arsekisser Ranloot (or whatever his name is), the high priest of the Temple of Lordly Might in Cauldron. It seems he’d been looking for Ham last week and just missed us when we returned home.
Apparently things in Cauldron have not been going well. Problems with taxes and corrupt city leaders and such. The Kordlings have been performing a number of charity works all around the poorer sections of town for the last couple of weeks to try to boost the folks up a bit. Not to mention boosting their temple attendances, I would wager. One group has even taken to repairing a string of houses damaged in the floods last season.
Well, according to that old orc Ranloot, Ham would make quite an impression if he were to come back up to Cauldron and pitch in a bit. While we may not have achieved true celebrity around these parts just yet, we have become standard fare in tavern tales from here to there, I‘ve heard.
Naturally Ham the Pious and Smelly figured that cleaning up after disease-ridden city-folk would be just the peach and thoughtfully volunteered us all to come and pitch in. And, no more surprising than that, Griffon had already given his eager approval and taken to preparing for the trip before anyone even thought to mention the matter to me.
Now, before I’ve even had opportunity to pound some sense into everyone’s heads concerning the wide disparity between “volunteer work” and “remuneration”, I find myself outvoted and faced with the choice of tagging along yet again…or sitting around a keep full of lumbering humans for days on end.
I’ve packed my basic traveling gear and am heading to the stable to meet the others shortly. I do intend to glower long, hard and with such conviction that the lot of them think twice before ever again volunteering us all to spend a week making absolutely no profit.
Also, Nickel’s birthday is coming very soon and we’ve essentially scraped all our careful preparations for the celebration. With luck we can make Cauldron the day before and have a proper barn-burner for her first birthday with us.
June 5th, 316
We’ve arrived very late in Cauldron without the slightest bit of trouble on the road and taken a room at the Drunken Morkoth Inn. No one has mentioned the celebration at all around Nickel, but she’s hardly a fool. She made no objection to us all splitting up to go shopping tomorrow, natch. A pox on our two thick-headed men anyway for ruining my plans for Nickel’s birthday. Shopping for gifts on her very birthday! I am truly disappointed in them.
Still, I have just the thing in mind for her now that we’re in Cauldron again. The underground market here is extraordinary, really.
But, for now, bed and sleep.
June 6th, 316 (Nickel’s birthday)
We’re risen early today to shop. Ham set off as quick as he could find his least mildewed shirt. Business at the temple of Kord taking precedence over birthday preparations, natch. Nickel and I are to go shopping together, at least until I can slip away. Griffon is already gone. As soon as Nickel can find her boots, we’ll be off as well.
To her credit, Nickel seems only moderately broken hearted at our lack of celebration. I can only hope we can manage something extraordinary to make up for our unforgivable failing.
Nickel is trying on every silk in poor Widdlefinster‘s shop. I’ve let Perry go wiggling about the lot of them, to her amusement. Can’t say I care much for clothing made from worm droppings, but to each his own.
Really, if Nickel thinks old Smelly Butt is going to be impressed by silks and such, she’s daft. If I were to advise her, I’d tell her just to toss a boiled leg of lamb in her pocket. That would bring old Hamidoc running, for sure and for certain.
We’ve met up at the Slippery Eel again. We’re well known and eagerly received there, at least. I managed to slip off from Nickel and meet up with a relatively discrete young fellow while she was pretending not to pick over old Widdlefinster’s silk undergarment selection. It was tough picking between the cloak and the ring, but in the end I decided on the ring. As luck would have it, it matches the one she already has near perfectly and she’s already mentioned her intention to procure a match eventually anyway. Together the two ought to give her a bit of magical protection to rival the proper armor she stubbornly refuses to wear.
Not an especially exciting gift, perhaps. But I find I’m more concerned with keeping our little ogre-baiter alive to see her next birthday. Which I hope we can manage to celebrate in a more appropriate manner.
Griffon is being a bore and refusing to let me see what he bought her. So, of course, I peeked. Wouldn’t dare call my myself a proper sneak if I didn’t, could I? To my complete and utter shock it was a cloak. And not just any cloak, of course. My wonderful Griffon had gone and somehow come into possession of the very same cloak I turned down for the ring. I’m ashamed to say I nearly got caught with my hand in his backpack when he caught me snickering over his shoulder.
I swear our little Nickel will be glowing in the dark once we’re done draping her in magical wards.
Ham, of course, was late. Hobnobbing with the over-muscled Kordlings overlong, no doubt. He did sneak me a peek, though. Probably just to show up Griffon. Still, haven’t really the foggiest idea what he showed me. It looked like a fancy stick (a wand, perhaps?), a bit of fluff and nice black pearl all wrapped together in some old rag. Couldn’t make heads of tails of it, so I’m guessing it’s a wizard thing.
Nickel isn’t showing anyone what she bought during her shopping, of course. If I were her, I wouldn’t either. Really, she has no shame. Red silk undies? Goodness!
A bit of news from Ham. Old Ranloot of the Temple of Morbid Bulk has bestowed upon us the inestimable privilege of cleaning flotsam from the streets the day after tomorrow.
Really. I feel such warmth at the thought of tipping my delicate hands to city-folk’s litter. Perhaps there will be dead rats and chamber pots cast loose by last season’s floods as well? One can only hope.
And if that were not enough…and, my goodness, could it ever be?…our beloved Ham of the offal bouquet was kind enough to volunteer us all to attend a demonstration at the City Hall within the hour. Apparently the local peasantry have a number of grievances to voice against their leaders. Naturally, as they cannot afford to hire proper thugs of their own, the lovable hunk of a half-orc Ranloot has extended to us the glorious opportunity of overseeing the affair completely free of charge. Ah, I find I am moved by the abundance of opportunities to exercise our charity to the point of furious nausea.
Bless our dear Ham. To have thoughtfully arranged such titillating entertainment on Nickel’s birthday! I really should return to him such favor as he has bequeathed to the rest of us. Perhaps a proper maiming? I have heard that religious types do so admire a faithful follower afflicted with some horrible deformity. The more horrible the better, I‘m told.
Indeed, I suddenly find the notion of so elevating Ham in the estimation of his peers quite an intriguing notion.
Well, goodness. Where to start? I suppose I should say at the outset that I’ve cause to wonder when the authorities will get around to banning us from the city altogether. It certainly seems that every time we hit the streets of this place something big and terrifying appears to tear the place up.
On arriving and sighting the angry, smelly gaggle of impoverished humans we immediately agreed to seek higher ground upwind. Taking to the roof of the building left of the City Hall we set about breaking open the small keg we brought along and making sandwiches. Really, it was a proper party up there until…who should show up? Why the very same merchant Maavu who was lucky enough to escape our attentions the last time we were in town.
While we ate, drank and awaited the chance to drag him quietly into an alley for questioning he set about making a rather impressive speech. Deriding abuses of authority, burdensome taxes and too damned many half-orc town guards seemed to be the general theme of his address. Truth be told, the whole thing was quite intriguing. I have to admit that Maavu seems quite the skilled orator, if nothing else. So much so that we all agreed it nearly made an acceptable bit of entertainment for our rooftop picnic.
Naturally, though, humans can’t seem to gathering together for a good barn-burner without starting a brawl on top of it. That Maavu villain hadn’t spoke for more than a minute or two before the aforementioned too-damned-many half-orc town guards blundered in to break things up. And Maavu was just getting to something about a paladin named Alek Tercival who has supposedly issued a letter of challenge to the captain of the town guard. What a stir that caused, I tell you!
While we all moaned our disapproval of the orcs turning out the party, sure enough some human pup pulls a dagger and starts yelling and cutting on one of those too-damned-many half-orcs. Wasn’t more than a breath of two before the whole crowd had gone after them all, and the human leading them, too. While we watched the crowd whip themselves up into a proper violent mob, we all noticed the two or three humans who started the whole thing sneak away through the crowd and disappear. It never ceases to amaze me how humans have such an impressive knack for messing things up.
Well, Griffon reckoned that ought to be the proper time for us to start throwing our Halfling weight around. By his estimations folks would soon be slaughtering each other like…well, a bunch of rioting humans. Nickel, to everyone’s surprise, jumped straight off the roof and headed for that guard sergeant. Bless her foolish little heart. She’s all about keeping things in proper order, that one. I noticed that Maavu figured he was probably going to be first on the list of heads to crack once the City Hall started churning out more guards. He had already started spinning magic.
Now, I already had the necessary amount of ale in me so as to be ready for a good scratch and tumble, but Griffon held us up to see what would happen next. I didn’t much care for that with Nickel already down there in the thick of it, but I was at least relieved to see him draw a couple of arrows across his bow.
Ham, though, wasn’t about to stand around with Nickel ducking her way through a mob of howling humans. He smartly produced another of card like the one he laid old Zenith the dwarf down with last month. Holding it up to the crowd he yells out at the top of his lungs, “Oi, all you bigfooted louts! Don’t make me come down there and start cracking kneecaps, ‘cause I’ll start with the women-folk!”
Naturally, that got nearly everyone’s attention just long enough for them to get a glimpse of that glyph. And, of course, rather than things settling down that‘s right about when they got good and hectic.
Several exciting things all occurred one on top of the other. Firstly, the hail of arrows that had been fired from the slits of the City Hall’s second story start plunking down around Maavu, who started and snatched a bottle from one of his pockets. Then Nickel managed to make it to the guard sergeant right in time for nearly the entire crowd to slump down on top of her for a nap. And if all that weren’t exciting enough, something big and windy flew out of nowhere and slammed right into Maavu, knocking him back a step. Not only was this Maavu fellow an impressive orator, he must have been a damned quick one because he had tossed off a handful of glitter dust before I’d even realized anything had hit him.
Now Nickel had been with us long enough to have learned to jump quick when things got interesting. I barely had time to get a bead on the whirling, windy…thing the glitter dust had revealed before she was tossing magic missiles into it. Even the human guard sergeant was quicker than me and had already started charging the thing when I finally got the ale out of my head enough to let loose my scorching rays at it. Of course, they didn’t seem to do any damned thing at all.
Instead of plucking arrows at the glittering bail of wind that was trying to beat the skin off Maavu, Griffon was yelling angrily at the archers in the City Hall to stop shooting at Maavu and start shooting at it. But, when the few stragglers in the crowd that weren’t snoring finally realized something exciting was going on and starting screaming and scrambling, he at last started tossing arrows at it himself. To his credit, he managed to land one good hit, which couldn’t have been at all easy considering the thing seemed to be more or less a big bundle of angry air.
Luckily, the archers in the City Hall were dreadfully bad and weren‘t hitting anything at all, even by accident.
Kord must have been feeling his oats today, too, because Ham called down a huge gout of fire straight out of the sky that must have burned the wind-beast terribly. Followed instantly by our good Nickel’s favored bolt of lightning the thing promptly dispersed and not so much as a stiff breeze seemed to remain of it.
Maavu of course manage to vaporize somehow and was already flowing down the street at a rather remarkable pace for a cloud.
We all stood ready anyway, though, but that honestly seemed to be the end of it. Finally the idiot archers in the building beside us stopped peppering the whole square with arrows so we jumped down to check on Nickel. Thank Olidammara, she was completely uninjured despite being right in the thick of things. Really, we’ve made a proper scrapper out of her, I think.
The human sergeant, Skylar Krewis, was quick to thank us all for our aid but set straight off to see to the other guards and check the crowd for injuries. While we fussed over Nickel that dastardly Maavu fellow appeared out of nowhere and started for us, but slammed back another potion and blew away when Krewis made after him.
In the end we were forced to suffer yet another round of questioning by every city guard with a title before his name, got patted on the head by half-orcs enough times to make even Nickel grumpy and were politely informed we wouldn’t be leaving town until this or that city official had a chance to thank us personally.
Of course, in my opinion, poor Nickel’s birthday had been completely and utterly ruined. We’d had to do all our shopping on the very day of it, which is hardly proper. Nickel didn’t even get the opportunity to lazy around all day while we prepared…in fact, we still hadn’t made anything resembling preparations, which was completely unforgivable. And, worst of all, we’d gone and practically tossed her into a human riot of all things, which should have moved us all to the most grave shame.
We are, without doubt, the most horrid, accursed and altogether appallingly bad group of friends and I hold Ham entirely to blame for it all.
Honestly, what Nickel sees in that burly, malodorous, roiling mass of terribly misguided motivations I cannot for the life of me discern.
Finally I managed to impart some measure of my disgust at Ham with a furious glare or two. In short order he begrudgingly suggested we retire to the Slippery Eel again. Honestly, with all of Hamidoc’s heel dragging, I’m really starting to wonder if he’s actually trying to scuttle poor Nickel’s birthday celebration. I really don’t think he could do a better job of ruining things if he had tried.
We swiftly set about getting ourselves seated at the Eel and started the ale flowing our way. Ham and Griffon immediately began nudging mugs in Nickel’s direction until she was well and properly inebriated, trying their best to deny her a chance to grow morose over her ruined birthday. Once I was satisfied our charming Griffon and loud-mouthed Ham had her properly distracted I flittered out the back door quick as a cat.
Getting the word out about a birthday celebration isn’t a difficult thing to do among Halfling folk, even scattered about in some sprawling human habitation like this. Free food, drink and fun isn’t something any respectable Halfling is about to pass up, nor allow his kin to miss out on. In short order I had hordes of decent folk shuffling swiftly off to the tavern. If everything went according to our hasty planning, Griffon should have already managed to arrange things with the innkeeper and a handful of Halfling cooks will have already taken over the kitchen.
When I finally caught a proper breath and dashed off back to the Eel myself I found that our two boys had been quite successful with loosening up little Nickel. Indeed, I was a bit miffed to discover the party in full swing already. Even though no one had even bothered to announce whose birthday the whole event was supposed to be celebrating in the first place. But, I suppose I can’t really blame anyone. It really was an exciting party.
Apparently Nickel had gotten something of a competition going amongst the two or three scattered Halfling wizards and dabblers present, herself included, against the gnome innkeeper and three of his kinfolk. The entire loft of the huge common room was filled with various sized balls of light in a multitude of colors, all chasing and darting about one another. What the rules of the game were I couldn’t hazard to guess, but it certainly was bewildering.
The folks loved it, of course, and the Slippery Eel was already filled with laughter, cheers and song. After taking a moment to let Perry gawk at the flying lights above our heads I found the boys and proceeded with kicking them both sharply in the shin. With their priorities correctly adjusted, they managed to get everyone’s attention long enough to actually announce Nickel’s birthday. Naturally everyone cheered her wildly and began tossing their hats, various bits of litter and, in some cases, tableware into the air. The innkeeper and his folk even started up a whole new game of lights by trying to inscribe good birthday wishes in the air before the Halflings could.
Nickel was flushed and grinning madly at all the attention, biting her tongue as she chased the gnome’s magic with her own. In the end the Halfling team won, though I’m sure the gnomes threw the game for our birthday girl’s sake. She really was fairly drunk by then, you see.
Ham was good enough to help her to stagger up onto the stage for her birthday speech, the smelly prigger. I can’t say I understood every third word she said, but she managed to get her point across to everyone else in the place, judging from the roaring laughter and hearty applause. Perhaps I hadn’t had enough to drink to keep up with the speech, but really I’d been rather busy up until that point.
In the end, after alternating between deeply serious announcements, slurred attempts at humor and some rather tearful proclamations (she really was quite drunk) she finally collapsed down onto her backside and proceeded to wail like a lost babe while the crowd awwwed and clapped. My lovable Perry was fairly cocking his head at all the odd behavior being displayed. Ham, bless his odious self, quickly escorted her off stage and offered plenty enough hugs and kisses to get her grinning again.
Next came the presents, which naturally reduced her to right back to blubbering. I’m proud to say my ring caused her to weep the most, though I was perhaps tempted to a bit of jealousy when she hugged and kissed Griffon a bit too much over the cloak he got her. Ham, naturally, got quite a mauling when he presented his gift. Enough that Griffon and I seriously considered tossing a bucket of water over the two of them before things got out of hand.
The odd bundle of items he’d shown me were the major components of a wand of webs, as it turns out. Something she’d likely mentioned to Ham specifically, as I’d never heard her speak of it. If you had asked me I would have assumed her current hobby was still enchanting armors and dragon skins, but it seems she’s jumped to wands now that the rest of us are properly outfitted.
The cooks in the kitchen timed their entrance perfectly, as the gift giving was done and Nickel had just finished showing off the various items. Once again the ale flowed and the remarkable culinary accomplishments of the older Halflings began circulating. For nearly two more hours we drank, ate and sang merrily. Through it all, though, I couldn’t help but become increasingly distracted at Ham’s demeanor. Honestly, as the party rolled on he seemed possessed more and more of some odd anxiety. In the end he was quite literally sweating and jittery. Before I could stagger over and demand an explanation for his disorder, I realized Griffon had been at his elbow most of the night. As opposed to mine where I would really rather have had him, natch. Trying my best to monitor the two of them discretely it shortly became obvious to me that Griffon seemed to be encouraging Ham about whatever had him in such a state.
Well, not to beat around the bush more than necessary, we all finally found out just what had Ham so nervous. Before I could get quite irritated enough to step in and demand to know what was going on with him, Ham finally climbed right up on the table and, in an oddly meek manner, called everyone to his attention. And, indeed, it seems all the instances and events that have cropped up to deter our celebration of Nickel’s birthday did in fact emanate from Ham’s foolishness. To my complete surprise Ham went about detailing how he’d accepted the invitation to help out here in Cauldron at the behest of the temple of Kord, knowing full well it would interfere with Nickel’s birthday celebration. He went on to confess that he had gone so far as to volunteer us all to attend the protest today for the very same reason. In fact, he listed a number of things he’d done in the last few days or so specifically to derail Nickel’s birthday party.
Naturally I was stunned to find that all the things I’d noticed hadn’t merely been stupidity on Ham’s part but, rather, completely intentional acts of sabotage! Nickel, of course, looked properly horrified. And who can blame her? What kind of person purposefully sets out to ruin someone else’s birthday? An unthinkable deed! Why, if we’d all been back in Littleton, or any other civilized Halfling community for that matter, I’ve no doubt Ham would have been dragged out of the place and tarred and feathered already!
But before the crowd could work themselves up into a proper tar boiling and chicken plucking frenzy, he finally explained why he’d been avoiding the party in the first place. That being because old Ham had made up his mind three months ago to use Nickel’s next birthday celebration as a platform for popping the question. Which is to say, to ask Nickel to marry him.
Well, if you think folks got themselves riled up at his initial confession, you can guess that this one properly stunned them all to silence. Even Nickel couldn’t do more than stare wide-eyed and open-mouthed up at him. Ham went on to stutter out how he figured Nickel would have to be utterly foolish to accept his proposal, considering how he’d behaved of late. But, the way he figured it, if she was kind and forgiving enough to accept his apology and his offer, why he’d just have to spend the rest of his life living up to her glorious standard of loving piety, wouldn’t he?
Well, I would say things were awful quiet in the Eel for all of two breaths before Nickel started out bawling all over again. Ham naturally jumped right down off the table and started begging her for mercy before she crawled up on him and started mauling him again. In the end, of course, she accepted and, again, of course, we nearly had to toss a bucket on the two of them to keep things in hand.
Well, enough of all that. I’m utterly drained and will pick up my notes again after I’ve had a drink.
At the moment Nickel and Ham are alternating between accepting the well wishes of this or that partygoer and gnawing one another’s faces. As for myself I find that I’m possessed of an absolute fury at Griffon for not warning me about this whole mess two days ago. And as far as the entire incident goes, I’m completely at a loss for how I should feel about it all. Naturally, if Ham and Nickel hitch up they’re sure to settle down in the keep and start making babies. I mean, folks just don’t go on wanderlust or adventures when they’re married. They build a house and start making babies who grow and up and have adventures of their own. One naturally precedes the other, that’s just the way of it. Rather the whole point of marriage, really.
And while I’m happy for Nickel in that she seems perfectly ecstatic about the whole thing, and for Ham who can only prosper married to a level-headed and hygienic Halfling lass like Nickel, I’m admittedly quite conflicted. I find I’m surprisingly heartbroken at the prospect of Griffon and I losing the entire second half of our little adventuring band.
And, really, I have to wonder if carrying on without them is even possible. Have Nickel and Ham effectively forced the entire band’s retirement? I can’t honestly say I can picture settling down myself, I’m far too young for that. And, while we’re at it, let me point out that Ham and Nickel themselves are far too young as well. What on earth has possessed them? A casual dalliance with a healthy buck who catches your fancy is one thing, but marriage? At our age? Unheard of.
June 8th, 316
At present we’re halted on the road for a bit. Nickel, Ham and Harken are kind enough to leave me be for the moment. I’ll take advantage of my exile to relate the events that have passed since Nickel’s birthday. Really, so much has happened that I am farther behind in my journals than I believe I have ever been before. And, Olidammara help me, I have found the loss of our beloved Griffon too difficult even to contemplate, much less write about.
Already I am overcome. I will rest a bit more before I write again.
I suppose first that I should mention the absolute tear that wrapped up Nickel’s birthday celebration before getting on to more profound events.
Naturally, being thoroughly drunk that night, and more than a bit miffed at being so out of the loop on things in our little band, I didn’t think nearly long enough before voicing my concerns over the proposed nuptials. And, naturally, things quickly degenerated into a proper snarl between Nickel and I over the wisdom of the entire arrangement. My point being that they were both far too young to expect to have children and still trot about the countryside having adventures and such.
It was then that I found, again, I was completely uninformed of the details surrounding the whole affair, as were the older and wiser folks at the party who also raised their tentative concerns. Ham certainly knew and Griffon at least suspected. But in the end I’m ashamed to say I practically forced poor Nickel to tearfully admit, right there before a bevy of her kinsmen, and at her own birthday party no less, that she was unable to conceive. Out of respect for her I won’t mention how she came about this knowledge or the circumstances surrounding it, of course. Still, it was quite a shocking revelation indeed.
Well, you can imagine the party’s descent into infamy didn’t cease there. No, I was far too drunk to let it lie at that. Instead I proceeded to point out that there wasn’t much use in marrying if you couldn’t even make babies anyway.
If I recall correctly, that’s about when Nickel slammed me in the face with a mug and we took our disagreement to the floor of the tavern.
Thanks be to Griffon and Ham’s dedication to physical exercise. I doubt any other two men could have pulled the two of us apart before someone had an eye gouged out or an earlobe bitten off. Honestly, I would never have pegged Nickel for such a dirty fighter. A day later and I’m still sitting slightly canted to the left after that parting shot to the kidney.
That is enough for now. Griffon weighs heavily on my mind.
As for the events that led to Griffon‘s death, and Ham’s for that matter, those occurred nearly the moment the boys managed to drag us out of claw range from one another. While Nickel and I were still stubbornly hissing and spitting, in through the front door of the Slippery Eel flew a young human lad crying for help. Thankfully that was enough to distract the two of us from our attempts to mutilate one another and Griffon dropped me to rush over there. It took a bit for him to calm the boy enough to get the story out of him, but it seemed that there was an inn on fire somewhere with some kind of terrible fight going on inside. Griffon wasted no time whipping us all into line and off down the street we drunkenly stumbled to see what kind of trouble we could jump in the middle of.
Really, I’m sure he more or less took advantage of the situation to get the two of us focused on something other than each other. And, to be perfectly honest, I was more than a little relieved that he did so. I’ve discovered that Nickel will bite if you piss her off enough.
We weren’t down the street too very far before we realized the annoying yelling we’d been hearing was the city guard raising the alarm. Warning of the fire, no doubt. And of course Minutea’s Board, where the entire ruckus was occurring, was nearly on the other side of the crater lake. When we finally did arrive we found the whole place wreathed in flames. This was the inn that the local authorities had apparently decided to house the half-orc mercenaries in. I know this because we found them were all outside hacking and bashing the outlying buildings to keep the fire from spreading. We were surprised to see the innkeeper get himself knocked on his backside for objecting. Those half-orcs were a bit shaken up, I suppose.
Of course, once the two giant fire spirits burst through the wall of the inn, I could hardly blame them. They were huge and towered high above even the orc-bloods, by more than twice their height at least. An absolutely terrifying sight under almost any circumstances. Unless, that is, you’re a drunk Halfling who’d just been roused from a bar brawl at a birthday celebration.
We were all rather spoiling for a fight, really, and making any kind of preparation for this battle was quite beyond us. It should not have surprised me at all that we suffered such losses and faired so very poorly in the end. When the first fire spirit thundered across the street to start burning one of the opposite buildings, we had simply less loose at it. I suppose we were just too drunk to contemplate the dangers inherent in fighting elementals.
I let loose with magic missiles and Nickel with her favored lightning bolts. I hit, of course, and didn’t accomplish anything at all. Nickel, for the first time that I can recall, missed. Griffon fired and hit as well but, like me, accomplished nothing. I saw all four of his arrows strike true, stick for a moment and then burn to embers. Ham, at least, had the wisdom to call down a curse on the second elemental while the rest of us pissed off the first one.
The elementals were as quick as we would have expected them to be, if we had taken a moment to consider it. The instant our first wave of attacks struck, or missed as the case may be, that first monstrous fire spirit turned and charged right at us. The second one was a bit closer and, despite Ham’s curse, nearly flew up the street to slam straight into him, knocking him back a couple of steps and setting his coat on fire.
I think at that moment the ale cleared our heads just enough for us to realize that maybe we had taken too big a bite of these two. I stepped back a bit and dropped a mage’s armor on myself while Griffon tossed his bow aside and drew his blade. Nickel dropped back out of the way, thankfully, and hit the first fire beast with another lightning bolt. That at least did some damage.
Ham, however, tried to call down some form of empowerment on himself and was struck again for his efforts. He kept right on chanting, though, even as he stumbled from the fiery blow. I have to admit I admire Ham’s stubborn streak. Even burning and twice clobbered he completed the prayer and began to grow before our very eyes until he was nearly as tall as a human. I could almost see the golden aura of power that surrounded him. He cut quite the intimidating image indeed, but it was all for naught. Before he could even draw his blade the elemental facing him drew up all the higher and slammed him into the street with both of its flaming fists. Ham didn’t move again after that.
Griffon, too, bore the wrath of a furious elemental. While I stood to the rear tossing off useless magic missiles, he sunk his blade into the terrifying flame-giant again and again, burning himself badly with every strike. Only once did he manage to cause the beast to stumble and roar with a strike of his blade. Mostly we didn’t seem to be doing anything but making it angrier.
Once I was out of magic missiles I knew we were in serious trouble. Losing Ham was bad enough, but I had no other decent battle magic other than my scorching ray and Nickel had just tossed her last lightning bolt into the elemental that had laid Ham low. I drew my blades and tried my best to flank the evil thing. I managed to dodge it’s clumsy swipe but even circling ten feet out from the thing I was scorched a bit. I was truly becoming concerned for Griffon who had already been struck twice. Like Ham before him, his clothing was burning where it peeked out here and there from his armor. Even his hair was smoldering.
Motivated more by fear for Griffon and Ham, I struck as swiftly and with as much precision as I could but only managed a couple of strikes deep enough to hurt it. And, like Griffon, every swing drew me close enough to the furnace of the creature’s body that I was burned. I noticed that Nickel’s last lightning bolt must have hurt the other elemental pretty badly, as it had lumbered down the street a bit to stand and stare at nothing. Looking back on it now I have to assume that Ham’s curse must have finally caught up with it.
But all in all the sad fact is that we had no more magic appropriate for the situation, really. And I had nothing but my blades, which only seemed to be of any use when I managed a truly deep jab. It was only moments after Ham fell that Griffon was struck a fourth time and flew back to land burning on the street. I admit I cried out in anguish when he didn’t move to get up again.
Then, finally, Nickel had collected her senses enough to remember her wands and she drew one to cast a mirror image on me. I’m sure she blames herself for Ham and Griffon falling, considering that particular wand could have given us just the edge we had needed in this fight. But, I can’t hold her accountable. We were drunk, all of us, and flew into battle like fledgling fools.
But, still, even with my mirror images distracting the fiery creature I wasn’t able to do more than scratch the thing a bit. In the end Nickel had thrown some kind of invisibility on both of us and I was reduced to stabbing the thing in the back of it’s legs for the next few moments. Nickel could only hang about invisible, ready with her wand. Truly, I expected I was as good as done for and had already sent Perry to scuttle off to a safe distance. I couldn’t retreat myself and leave Griffon and Ham laying there for the beasts to devour. I just couldn’t. And, as I was already badly singed and beaten, it was only a matter of time before the fire spirit’s random flailing struck me down with a chance blow.
At last, after what seemed an eternity, two clerics from two of the local temples came flying up the street. It would seem that certain clerics of the temple of Kord are more intelligent than a bunch of drunken Halflings and bring water wands to fight fire elementals. One quickly began drawing water up from the crater lake to splash the two elementals while the other set about tending to the wounded lying all around the street. Nickel and I took the opportunity to flee to our men and drag them to safety.
Against all our pleas to our respective gods, the cleric of Pelor confirmed that both Ham and Griffon had passed on. We were left to stare at the broken and charred bodies of our beloved teammates’ laying before us. Never have I felt such crushing despair.
In short order the overly bulky high priest of the Temple of Lordly Might came to whisk Ham’s body away. Nickel nearly flew into a tizzy until Asfelkir Hranleurth explained he was being taken to the temple. He went on to assure me that Griffon was going as well, to forestall my own hysteria. Until then I hadn’t really cared much for the celebrity we’d found after all our adventures. Being a sneak, attention isn’t something one seeks out typically. But as I stumbled after the hulking procession of Kord priests I found myself absurdly relieved that we’d become so famous that clerics drag us to their temples to raise.
Nickel and I spent the remainder of the night unable to rest, pacing fretfully about the courtyard while the chanting and wailing went on inside. By sunrise it was over. Ham emerged, a bit unsteady on his feet, and Nickel flew away to blanket him with kisses and tears.
I stood anxiously waiting for Griffon’s shy grin to appear in the archway. Despite all my objections of the previous night I found at that moment that all I could think about was his adorable grin. All my thoughts, my every breath, indeed, my whole being awaited his arrival. I could no longer deny what he had become to me and had already vowed to tell him once he returned to me.
How can I describe what I felt when Hranleurth came to offer his regrets? Griffon’s spirit had refused the priest‘s call.
We stayed the day as honored guests in the temple of Kord that day. Again, I’m sure Olidammara must be most displeased with all the association I’ve had with Kord’s muscle bound followers. And yet, they were most kind and seemed truly to lament our loss. I think Ham and Nickel sensed somewhat what I suffered and were kind enough to leave me to my misery. No doubt they made the most of the day in some passionate lavatory somewhere. I could only stare at nothing, contemplate nothing.
Arsekiser Ranloot himself came to see me again at midday. I was almost moved to some surprise when he told me that the merchant wizard Maavu had sent a messenger to contact us. The bastard had the gall to offer his condolences, if you can believe it. He’s asked us to come to Red Gorge and meet with him there. I really can’t imagine what fools he must believe us to be that he trusts us with his whereabouts. Had I not seen firsthand the devastation he can conjure up I’d simply turn over the letter to the local authorities and let them have at him.
But, no. I wanted to save that vengeance for myself.
High priest Arsekisser informed me that Harken Stonecleaver had come into Cauldron just that morning, asking after us. Locals had related the incidents of last night to him and referred him to the temple. At that moment he was meeting with Ham and Nickel down the hall. I went straightaway to the room where they had gathered and informed them that I was off to Red Gorge to kill Maavu. I didn’t particularly care if they followed or not, truth be told. But still, by the time my feet struck the cobblestones, I admit that I was relieved to have them at my side.
[Here ends the first part of these journals]
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