Vita est ludus
The thin line between fantasy and reality...













Tarrastra Adventure 8

On the road from Oakrill, the party stops for lunch. Yoshi shifts restlessly, and then says that he must get something off his chest."I have to tell you," he says, "that I feel we, as a party, should not be acting as impulsively as we have been, especially about spying on people who might be innocent of any wrong doing, such as Old Nell. I think we learned a lot more from Caelesti just being honest with Old Nell!"

The others are surprised at his qualms. "I think that enquiring about someone is okay and very different from spying," says Carric. "Besides," adds Caelesti, "it's fun to watch what other people are doing." "And we learn important things," points out Nessey. "We certainly learned something from following Old Nell up the hill that night. I mean, some kind of ceremony was going on and it didn't look very nice."

"Now, now," says Yoshi. "Just because someone pays alms to an evil goddess does not necessarily imply that person is herself evil. We shouldn't assume!"

"But didn't Núadu's temple in Rowansmeade seem to think the temple in the tomb was an evil place?" asks Carric.

Yoshi waves his hand dismissively. "That still doesn't make Old Nell evil," he says. "Hasn't she treated us honorably, in spite of all our spying?"

After further discussion, the party agrees to "enquire" in future, rather than "spy," unless they know in advance, "for almost certain" that the person or persons in question are up to no good.

This led to further discussion about whether Corum Trimble was "known" to be up to no good. The answer was "no" - but that further "enquiries" should be made about him in Meadowbrook.

After lunch, the party continues along the road for several hours, when Carric's eagle, Tan-kuran, screeches and repeatedly stoops at something 50' off to the right of the road. When the party investigates, they find an elf with an arrow stuck in his neck. Carric examines the corpse and finds that the elf had been slain that morning but has no armor, weapons, or equipment. Two depressions next to the body appear to be from knees, possibly from when the slayer looted the body. Tracks of booted feet head north.

The party decides to follow the tracks, while they are fresh, and come back later to give the poor fellow a proper burial. The druid follows the tracks, followed by the rest of the party. After about three miles, the track veers to the right. Ten feet away from where the tracks stop, the party finds two tiny dead fey, with cricket-like antennae and dragon-fly wings, each slain by some sort of piercing weapon. Carric and Caelesti search their memories and identify the fey as "grigs". The tracks return to where they had veered and continue north. The party discusses what the meaning of this could be and concludes that the creature had been carrying the dead grigs and, for some reason, decided to toss them away.

When they descend into a marshy area, the tracks are easier to follow, but unfortunately, four nasty creatures take notice. A reddish brown in color, they each have 8 jointed legs with pinchers, furry bat-like wings, and long pointed "noses." They fly up to suck the characters' blood. Only Carric is afflicted: Caelesti, Yoshi, and Nessey all manage to slay the creatures without being injured, but Carric unsuccessfully tries to pull his attached stirge off, and it sates itself on his blood before flying off on its own.

Caelesti embraces Yoshi with gratitude for saving her and gives him a big "thank you" kiss. Yoshi receives Caelesti's embrace with characteristic modesty and fatherly indulgence. Perhaps he is more embarrassed than he lets, however, because the monk immediately explains to his companions that he "always makes a point to be tolerant of unusual customs."

Meanwhile, Carric is complaining that he feels weak and "drained." When asked if he needs to stop and heal himself, he straightens, puffs out his chest and says, " I think I can go on. I think I will heal slowly over time... though it might help if Caelesti could kiss my wound..." The ever generous Caelesti takes the hint, saunters over to Carric and kisses his wound quite tenderly. Carric brightens, saying, "Oh, I feel much better now!"

The party continues on, with Carric tracking in the lead. The ground rises a bit and becomes less soggy. As the sun sets, it becomes increasingly difficult to see the tracks, but the party manages to stay on course for few miles.

As twilight falls, everyone but Nessey notices a six-foot tall humanoid, with gray skin and gray hair, crouching in the shadows to the left and pointing a short bow at Caelesti. Caelesti, sensing that he is a fellow fey, runs up to him with a cheerful "Hi, love! What'cha doing?" Alas! The creature sends an arrow flying past her shoulder, as does another similar creature, hiding in shadows to her right. Both creatures pull out spiked chains and start swinging them. Caelesti pulls out her short sword and fells the first with a single powerful blow. She turns to the other in triumph, promising, "And you will meet the same fate!"

The second creature plays a cat and mouse game with the party, striking at Yoshi, tripping or injuring him, before withdrawing and seeming to sink into the shadows. Yoshi manages to keep sight of him throughout, but the rest of the party spends a lot of time wondering where he is. He fiercely slashes Nessey with his chain, and is struck back in return, before sinking into shadows again.

Finally, Carric has had enough, and casts a daylight spell, revealing the creature to the sight of all. When he attempts to withdraw, he is struck down by Yoshi and Caelesti.

Carric binds the wounds of the two creatures, which both Caelesti and Carric believe are an unfamiliar kind of fey. They each have gray skin and hair, dark eyes, geometric tattoos running up and down their arms, and a magical cold-iron armband, etched with strange runes. They wear studded leather armor and are armed with short bows and spiked chains. Their arrows are unique, adorned with unusual grey feathers. "These match the arrow that slew the elf," says Carric, grimly. One of them also has three vials of an inky black substance, which Carric detects is both magical and poisonous. "That doesn't necessarily mean it is intended as poison," he comments. "It might be applied externally and be safe for use that way."

Yoshi does a fine job tying up the two captives with rope and Carric strips off all of this gear, save for the armband. When he tries to remove the armband from the first fey, he finds that it is embedded in his flesh with cruel needles of cold iron. When he pulls it loose, the captive jerks and he dies with a spasm! Carric believes it is some sort of energy drain effect.

The party searches the cave where the trail ends, and finds two bedrolls, with miscellaneous other gear, and what seems to be the equipment of the slain elf. The adventurers agree to take ownership of any and all possessions that belonged to the grey fey, except the armband still being worn, and divide this loot later.

Nessey comments, "Of course we are only borrowing the 'nice elf's' stuff, because we have a duty, as a good party, to return his belongings to his next of kin." "What if we can't find his next of kin?" asks Caelesti. "Then we have a duty to try and to hold onto his stuff until such time as we might run across them," responds Nessey. The rest of the party agrees. Carric adds that we also have a duty to give the "nice elf" a decent burial and should return to that spot in the morning, after questioning the remaining captive.

Alas, during the night, the gray fey wriggles free of the ropes and pulls his "hide in plain sight" trick, eluding Nessey. She casts a daylight in the cave and alerts her companions, but he escapes into the night.

"I'll track him in the morning," promises Carric. Caelesti stamps her foot in annoyance. "I can't believe he got away," she exclaims. "We must buy some shackles, at the first opportunity, so this kind of thing doesn't happen again!" "I thought I did a good job tying him up," says Yoshi, blushing. "Don't worry about it, Yoshi," says Carric. "We'll get him tomorrow."

The next morning, Carric concludes that the gray fey has made a clean getaway: the hard ground has concealed his tracks. But, since the boot prints of the deceased fey match the trail that had led to the cave, most of the party takes some comfort in knowing that at least the elf's murderer had not escaped justice - except Caelesti. "I think the one that escaped is just as guilty of murder as the one that shot the arrow," she states vehemently. Nobody else is quite able to understand her point of view, but since it seems so important to her, they hear her out.

The party heads back to the main trail. When they pass where the dead grig had been found, Yoshi has an "ah ha!" experience and realizes that the gray fey had killed the grigs from a distance with his spiked chain.

As they approach the dead elf, four elves step out and surround them, bows drawn. "Drop your weapons, murderers!" commands Gil-rathan, their leader. The party complies and convinces him that they are not the murderers. Gil-rathan listens with interest to their description of the true killer and perks up when he hears the description of the fey in the cave. "Could they have been dark elves, the scourge of all good creatures?" he wonders. This was the first that any of the party had heard of "dark elves", but when they show him the cold-iron armband and drawings of the tattoos, he shakes his head. "No," he says. "I have never heard of such as these, but they were clearly not drow."

Together, the two parties mingle and share information. The adventurers return to Gil-rathan the belongings of his kin, the murdered elf, and tell him how to get to the cave where the gray fey were hiding out.

While all are talking companionably, Caelesti notices three strange creatures emerging from the woods. They are tall and roughly humanoid in appearance, with long spikes and needles sticking out all over their greenish bodies. The elves notice the creatures, as well, and immediately go on the offensive. "Beware," calls Gil-rathan. "Needlefolk!" The plant creatures move up and launch volley after volley of needles, concentrating their efforts on their hated foes, the elves. But, they are no match for the combined efforts of the elves and our valiant adventurers, who soon defeat them, with bow, sword, and fist.

XP: 562 each
Treasure: 500 sp, 130 gp, two short bows, two spiked chains, two studded leather, one rune-encrusted cold iron armband with long needles on the inside (Abjuration), three inky black potions.
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Copyright © 2009 by Brianna Sollandry <brianna at hambo dot com> Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu
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