On their journey south, the Dracholt party discovers some contraband, and some conflict arises.
Cast of Characters
Goliath Paladin – Red’s Husband
Lawful Neutral Paladin of Devotion tied strongly to Goliath’s tendencies for meritocracy. Thinks magic is cheating, and has a personality loosely based on Ron Swanson from Parks and Recreation.
Nick “Pyro” / “Gandra Nox”
Human (Gold Draconic) Sorcerer – Tyrone (older teen girl)
Vigilante-type that masquerades as a Dragonborn-esque creature “Gandra Nox” in order to keep himself safe.
Kobold Warlock – Mort/Blackwold (new DM candidate)
Peddler of fallacies and miracle cures that found a dragon’s scale while helping dig out sewers under Dracholt. Now proclaims the wisdom of the Blood Dragons in loud, Born-again Evangelical style.
Half-Elf Rogue – new player Red’s friends knew
Kildrak Dankil of the Silver Flame
Dwarven Cleric – new but experienced player McFadin knew
When Nick awoke, the world swam before him, everything a sickly shade of green and the marks from the strange mushrooms having not left him. He could barely stand, but as he stumbled, Aldin steadied him and another rush of divine magic set it all straight. The green lifted, and what remained of the welts faded. The sorcerer steadied himself before waving hello to Crux, who began to help the others tear down camp.
The little white kobold smiled; he said he had taken the peasants back into the ruins of Blackshire. They looked too much like walking corpses to have done very well in the nearby town. Crux figured the townsfolk would had attacked the refugees on sight, so it was better for him to leave them to set their town straight again.
As Crux regaled them with the story, they group trudged on, following the road towards Roselake, although after the sun had reached its heights and had begun to set again, they came across a wagon on the side of the road. It sat in the ditch, both wheels broken and the prices beginning to be grown over with moss and grass. In the center of the back of the wagon, a lonely chest sat, nailed down and locked.
Crux moved to the fore, readying a blast of eldritch magic for the lock, before McFadin stopped him. The rogue extracted an elaborate lockpicking kit from his pack and had the chest open with barely the flick of a wrist. As he opened the lid, the group gathered around, but all that was inside was a sack of some strange powdery white substance.
“It’s highly illegal,” McFadin srated as he closed up the bag again. “But it should be very valuable.”
“That? That’s worth nothing more than a good time!” Crux asserted, his statement answered by quizzical glances.
“What?” Kildrak mused. “That is worth almost fifteen hundred gold peices!”
“Just a thousand,” Aldin corrected.
“I could carry it until we get to town,” Nick offered.
The kobold screwed up his face, confused by the vastly different estimates. “Well, how about we split it.”
The others agreed, although Nick backed out of the deal. Now that the other four could agree on what to do, he did not want to be caught carrying such a thing if he did not have to. Thus, stowing the quarter portions in their packs, the group continued on and came to Roselake as the sun set.
Aldin bid the others ado as they walked into town. After the last incident in town, hr preferred to stay off in the wilderness as ways, so no one would bother him. The others, wanting a better place to sleep than the ground, headed to the inn, although as Kildrak, McFadin, and Crux bought drinks Nick snuck out the back.
In the alley, he cast a spell transforming himself into his vigilante alter-ego Gandra Nox before galavanting away, blindly turning a corner to run bodily into two large men. They both glared down at him before their faces scrunched in confusion.
“Wha’ the hell are you?” one sneered.
“I am Gandra Nox, protector of the people! I am here to bring back the golden rule of the dragons!” Nick announced hautily with a grin before his tone dropped into a deathly serious snarl. “What are you doing skulking about the alleyways at this hour?”
The man screwed up his face and looked back to his cohort before bursting into laughter: “Kobold must’a knocked up one o’ the tavern wenches!”
“An insane kobold!” the other man howled back as they both turned to leave.
Nick glared, but a set of golden coins flicked into his hand. “Now wait just one moment!” he cried. “I can make it worth your while if you can inform me of the whereabouts of any evildoers.”
The men stopped, one casting a glance over his shoulder before quickly about-facing and reaching for the coins, which Nick closed his hand around with a toothy grin. “…Goldfoot,” the man stated flatly after a moment. “He likes to rip people off. Lives in the big city down south.”
“Thank you for your service, kind gentlemen,” Nick sneered back, the coins flicking from his hand before the others caught them. “Now be on your way.”
The two began to laugh again, and once they had gone, no matter how hard Nick looked, he could not find any other vagabonds in the alleys and streets. The town had gotten rather quiet, after all, so he returned to the tavern, stealthily slipping in through one of the back windows before dismissing his illusion. As Nick headed down the stairs to the main tavern, he passed Crux, who was struggling up the stairs with a pitcher of wine almost as big as he was, and found Kildrak at the bar with a mug of ale. Otherwise, a few of the peasants sat around the room, so Nick drew out his instrument and began to play, singing songs about the gallant Galdra Nox.
Once the darkness of night had fully descended and most of the peasants in the tavern had long gone to sleep, Nick and Crux crept out of Roselake and through the tall meadow grass, following the path Aldin had left in it. Earlier, Nick had muttered about obtaining the seals as he had been on the way to bed, and the drunken Crux had stumbled out of his room and excitedly offered to come along. Thus the kobold wove unsteadily through the grass with Nick toward the shadow of Aldin, who sat cross-legged in the grass. The paladin was nearly motionless among his possessions, a small wooden bowl and a stick of incense near his feet. His breathing was so shallow that he looked like a statue, but a soft humming noise reverberated from his chest, the tone so muted it almost faded on the breeze, but as Nick and Crux drew nearer, it began to sound almost as if there were words buried in the hum. Nick tried to listen closer but froze as the drunken kobold broke the near-silence with a loud hiccup.
Aldin rose from his place sitting in the grass, bleary eyes scanning the surroundings before locking in on Crux: “Demon!” the paladin howled, charging forward with thunderous steps even though he was nearly naked.
The kobold let out a yelp, his hands waving frantically around as he cast a spell, his retreat quickly turning vertical as he ran up the side of the one nearby tree to hide in its branches. The goliath came after him undeterred, a spark striking in the air as he lit the grass about the bottom of the tree on fire.
Taking advantage of the distraction, Nick slunk up behind Aldin as the paladin swept up nearby sticks to build the pyre higher. With a whispered word and a small gesture, Nick cast a spell which let his fingers grow, morphing into long black, hooked talons that would make snatching the seals all the easier, yet as he reached about for the chain, Aldin swung about. A large hand clasped around Nick’s wrist and lifted the sorcerer into the air.
A halo of light wrapped Aldin’s fist, and Nick was pummeled into the ground, a large bruise beginning to form on his shoulder. As the paladin roared and pinned Nick into the dirt with a knee, the sorcerer conjured a gout of flame that bathed Adlin in fire, singing his skin and burning what little clothing remained into ash. Meanwhile, from the tree, Crux frantically cast a spell to douse the flames at the base of his tree before conjuring a firework, which shot up into the sky and exploded into the shape of a golden ox.
“Goldran Ox, the vigilante should save us!” Crux announced triumphantly before turning back to the fight below him. He frowned for a moment before casting another spell, its magic scooping away the dirt at the bottom of the tree. The kobold shifted his weight forward, and the large trunk began to topple, landing with a crash that whipped branches against Aldin’s head and shoulders. Still, the goliath did not even seem to notice, landing another punch square on the sorcerer’s chest as Crux cursed; Nick looked like he was inches from passing out.
Aldin wound up another shot, a smaller blast of fire that sprang from Nick’s fingers burning a track along the paladin’s shoulder, but before he fist could fly, a torrent of water appeared out of thin air, dousing Aldin and Nick as though they had been momentarily teleported beneath a giant waterfall.
“What’s going on?!” Kildrak demanded as he trudged towards them through the grass, his silvery flame-shaped magical focus still glowing faintly from the spell.
Aldin shook his head, and his eyes seemed to clear. He squinted down at the bloody and bruised sorcerer beneath his knees, and his brow furrowed all the more.
“What were you doing coming out here?!” he demanded angrily before standing up and brushing himself off, his skin faintly glowing as it knit itself back together and the burns faded.
“Coming to check on you!” Nick shouted, decent power in his voice even though he still swayed unsteadily, even from his place lying on the ground.
“Like last time we were here?!” Aldin snarled incredulously before the rustle of the trees informed him of Crux’s presence. “And you?!”
The kobold smiled a toothy grin, but it was Nick who spoke up: “You almost killed me!”
“You shouldn’t have been sneaking around in the shadows!” Aldin howled. “You looked like demons! One of you even had giant black claws!”
The two glared at each other before Crux pulled at Nick’s sleeve. “Let’s leave him be and go back to the tavern,” the kobold said with a sly smirk.
“I’m sure they did not mean anything,” Kildrak offered, as Nick and Crux started to head back toward the tavern. “Are you alright?”
“Fine,” Aldin growled, “but they almost weren’t.”
“Aye,” the dwarf responded, shaking his head. “I’ll make sure they don’t come back; whatever they were doing.”
The next morning the tavern awoke to a loud bang bang bang on one of the upstairs door. Nick nearly fell out of his bed before scrambling to the door, poking his head into the hall to find Aldin’s shadow falling over him.
“Where are they?” the paladin demanded, his voice a snarling growl.
“The seals, that enhance magical powers? Where are they?”
“We didn’t think you would be able to guard them!” Nick blurted.
“I was guarding them plenty well from you… We now?”
“They belong to the whole party,” Nick stated, trying to close the door, only to have Aldin slam his hand against it and stop its progress.
“They belong to the Court Mage,” the paladin returned.
“I need more sleep.”
“We need to start traveling to get to Dracholt by the end of the day.”
The other doors down the hallway began to open; Kildrak, McFadin, and Crux all looked down at the other two. “What did I miss?” McFadin chuckled to Kildrak, drawing a concerned look from the dwarf as the argument’s volume began to increase.
“The little lizard and the wizard went and bothered him last night,” Kildrak answered quietly. “He thought they were demons and beat the wizard bloody… aaaaand, it sounds like they stole the seals from him…”
“How do we know we can trust you with them?!” Nick demanded, his shouting cutting Kildrak off. “Magic is cheating, right? What’s to stop you from destroying them?! I’ll carry them now!”
“How can I trust you?” Aldin roared. “What’s to stop you from running off with them? Give them back to me!”
“Aldin was doing just fine before,” Kildrak offered.
“No!” Nick snapped. “I’ll carry them!”
“I’ll take them!” Kildrak interrupted. Before either of the two could respond, the cleric stepped forward and thrust out his hand.
Aldin looked at the dwarf in silence for a moment before the rage drained out of his face and a smile curled across his lips. “I’m perfectly fine with that,” he stated, a triumphat look creeping into his eyes as he turned back to the sorcerer. “Nick?”
Nick frowned, what to say turning over and over in his head before he finally sighed: “Fine.” He removed the seals from about his neck and handed them to the cleric, who carefully stowed them in his travel pack.
“I still need more rest,” Nick insisted after a moment.
“No,” Aldin retorted. “We’ve already wasted plenty of time.”
“Only if we can rent a cart I can sleep in,” Nick sighed.
Having rented a cart and two horses from a local peasant, the party slowly trundled along the road, Nick snoring loudly in the back. They had been lucky to have completed the transaction after the peasant had implied Crux would have a better time riding a large dog than a full-sized horse, the kobold casting a spell that had blinded the man. Crux had only agreed to undo the effect after the peasant had submitted to his demands of apology, although McFadin had to explain it first. Still, the kobold had then gone to analyze the man’s business failings without even missing a step, offering to potentially help the man since his stables were remarkably empty, although the peasant simply admited that previous people who had rented the horses had simply never returned.
Still, it was better than when Nick had implied, for all of a moment, that Aldin should simply pull the cart to save them money. Kildrak and McFadin had stared wide-eyed at him for a moment before shushing his commentary and proffering the money for the horses; thankfully the goliath had not heard. The situation was tense enough as it was, and now the cart rumbled down the road, Aldin silently trudging along beside it as the others just watched him.
After hours of silence, a voice cut through the air. “Stop there! You have to pay the toll to pass,” a burly man flanked by seven similarly scruffy ruffians announced.
Aldin’s pace slowed only slightly, bringing him forward to tower over the thug: “It would be better if you just got out of the way.”
The thug stepped aside, watching the heavily-armored paladin pass before stepping in front of the cart again, although his face twisted into a frown as his gaze passed over the group again. “Hey! They’re the ones nicked the stuff out the wagon!”
“Here,” Aldin answered, the thug spinning on his heel to catch the small bag thrown at him. “You can have it back.”
“Where’s the rest of it?!” one of the thugs demanded, the ring of steel announcing that swords had been drawn.
One swung at the paladin, his strike only clattering off the chainmail before the flat of Aldin’s blade knocked the wind out of him. As he stumbled backward, Crux chanted a strange invocation, and a red light filled the ruffian’s eyes, and a crown of metal thorns appeared on his head. He rounded on his friends, cleaving a giant gash down one’s spine as Nick and Kidlrak released gouts of flame that turned most of the others to lifeless humps of crackling, burnt flesh. Of the few remaining, McFadin easily dispatched one with an expert stab of his rapier and Aldin pushed another back, the thug’s stumbles leaving him in range of his mad cohort. The red-eyed ruffian ran his sword across his fellow’s neck, leaving only one other of the eight standing, although he quickly fled.
Grinning at the carnage surrounding the mind-controlled thug, Crux snapped his fingers, and the spell dispersed. The man realed for a moment, clutching his head in blood-soaked hands before his eyes locked onto the gore.
“What have you done?!” Crux shouted. “Have you gone mad?”
“You killed them!” McFadin piled on, and with a howl, the thug collapsed into a blubbering wreck, cries of horror and sorrow raking the sky before they were cut silent again. His own blade slid across his throat, the thug collapsed into the pile of his fallen companions.
Aldin and Kildrak stared at Crux and McFadin. Aldin shook his head. Kildrak sighed. Nick crawled back into the wagon, and his snoring could immediately be heard. Crux and McFadin only shrugged, so the silent trudging began again, continuing all the way to the farmlands just outside the city of Dracholt.