Summary of Loot: 1 x Pentacle with Jerbeen Head??, 10 x rations, a certified check for 475 gold to be shared with my companions.
Mission Status: In progress; resting at Wrangler’s Rest in Winnowing Reach. Leveled up to Level 2!
When we returned to Eliza I was relieved to see she was safe. I was a bit worried, for we did not disguise her well! Yet she was unharmed and in much better spirits. I wanted to rest also; I needed time to better prepare as our journey was proving to be challenging! However my companions were eager to continue, and so we did…
We had barely progressed down the road when a fury of fire bats descended upon us! We attempted to fight them off, all of us exhausted from our previous battles. I lobbed a flame ball at them but it flew past! I even saw a handaxe sail through the air and I had no idea who had hurled the weapon! Huitaca tried to attack but became overwhelmed by the bats and she fainted! Almost in an act of desperation, Mavry began swinging her weapon above her head in frustration at the swarm and suddenly poof, they went up in smoke!
“Let’s please rest!” I pleaded, as I tried to help Huitaca up; I could not heal her as I was nearly sapped of magic. Reluctantly everyone agreed and Katya repeated her warning.
“We should always stay off the roads!” she exclaimed exasperated.
That’s when, from the wooded area, emerged a Vulpin. For a split second we all thought it was Frey returned, but it soon became clear from the way this Vulpin dressed she was someone else. Her clothes were much fancier and she was very beautiful. She asked us, “Have you seen an axe anywhere?” It was her axe!
She introduced herself as Copper Robin and did not disclose much else. But she seemed interested in our journey as we explained to her why we were on this dangerous road and she decided to join us! She did try to aid us in our battle so I was certainly happy to have another helpful friend come along.
Thus we all made camp together, Katya camouflaged our area and I used the power of the forest to grow vines and flora to make it seem as if this structure was long here. Once we were satisfied with our camp, we ate our rations and rested.
Each of us took turns to keep watch and mine came well past twilight. Alone I stared off in the darkness, I could barely make out my hands just in front of me! The night was nearly suffocating and I badly wanted to produce flame to keep me company, but even I am not that foolish. Suddenly I heard a “crack!” My head swiveled around in vain. What should I do!? I stepped cautiously into the dark and then immediately retreated back. I cannot go out there alone, I thought cowardly. Then I murmured a spell silently to create the smell of a skunk, -again, the second time in less than a day did I cast this spell! I figured if it was a person they would either run or at least give away their location by reacting to the stench. Sure enough, I heard sniffing somewhere in the blackness.
Frantically, I ran towards my companions and I woke Mavry who can see much better in the deepening night. She was irritated being awoken so early but when she heard the twigs snapping her ears immediately perked up and she peered out beyond the campsite. “It’s another Mapach! Wait here,” she whispered and then disappeared. All I could hear was some rustling, some jangling, a frustrated sigh and what sounded like a curse in Mapach. Mavry returned with a satisfied smile and said “Problem solved!” as she patted my shoulder. I didn’t bother her for much more information as she immediately fell back sound asleep. I felt relieved and somewhat foolish for being so scared. I looked up at the moon at last revealing itself from the clouds and quietly told myself, “I will be better than this.” I don’t know who I was talking to, maybe Nestor. Maybe to no one.
The rest of the night was uneventful and I ensured before we left camp that I memorized enough spells to ready for the next challenge. Following Katya’s advice we stayed off the road and we arrived at Winnowing Reach at last!
Eliza was so excited to finally return to her merchant cart which was right smack in the center of town. Many people were watching us, mostly out of curiosity as we were an unfamiliar group of travelers. Eliza rummaged through her things and began offering us an assortment of random items. We were mostly uninterested if not bemused at her odd collection so she started to get a bit emotional, wanting to repay us for our help. Thus I immediately grabbed an object, a pentacle with a Jerbeen head on it. I have no idea what I am going to do with it but it stopped her tears and that made me happy. As we chattered and Eliza handed out more weird stuff, a shadow descended upon our group. A large Corvum with a big billowing cape stood before us.
“Walden Krane,” he introduced himself, “I am the Magistrate of Winnowing Reach.”
He was insistent in bringing us back to his office and soon we found ourselves circled around his desk. Walden Krane wanted our help.
“Susan the Sorcerer needs to be stopped.”
“Who is Susan the Sorcerer?” asked Huitaca.
“A Hedge – who is quite like your friend over there,” he nodded in my direction. His bright, dark eyes appraised me in a manner which was not to my liking.
“Ok…” Mavry said, “And what do you want us to do?”
“Take care of her,” he winked. “I will pay handsomely.”
“How much?” smirked Copper Robin.
They bargained as my uneasy feelings grew.
“She must be stopped; she must be the reason why Ashbarrow was destroyed! She summoned those fires with her magic!” he charged.
“How can you be sure?” I piped up, a bit angered by his accusations.
“Because magic is dangerous and should not be dabbled with,” he paused then asked, “What do you do?” His voice was suspicious. “Are you a librarian… or something?”
“Yes…” I felt the danger in admitting my magical roots and I added, “My parents are very important in Alderhart.” As if mentioning my parents would somehow protect me.
“Who are your parents?”
I immediately fell silent, not wanting the Corvum to know anything more about my parents and thus possibly endangering them too! Mavry interjected, “Can we have a moment to discuss as a group?”
The door was barely shut closed, when Copper Robin turned to us all and said “So how do we make off with the gold without harming the Hedge?” I was so relieved we were all on the same page. No one was out to hurt Susan.
We concocted a plan together, agreeing that we should investigate and not harm Susan the Sorcerer unless she does prove to be a threat. Once we informed Walden he was clearly ecstatic, despite his stoic demeanor and even showed us the certified check for the bank at Alderhart to prove his request was legitimate.
As we left, I will admit a childish rage took over me and I murmured a spell that cause a little downpour in Walden’s office. I’m positive he noticed. And I’m sure if Nestor or my parents were with me, they would have been disappointed.
Walden told us to meet with two of his militia members, Winslow and Finny, who knew the general whereabouts of Susan. They were two Sprigs stationed at the granary, in the northern section of Winnowing Reach.
“Whooooo wants to know?” asked Finny, when I questioned him.
“We are surveyors, wanting to perform a survey…” said Copper Robin.
“A census on Hedges!” chimed in Mavry.
“Ohh good idea,” said Winslow.
After a bit more convincing they finally told us that we can find Susan, south, deep in the Mapach Woods in a smelly swamp. As we were about to leave, Walden reappeared.
“I forgot to tell you. When you ‘take care’ of Susan be sure to bring back her amulet, it is always around her neck,” he murmured to us. “I will pay more.”
After some negotiating he agreed to an additional 25 gold each for the amulet and then as abruptly as he arrived, he left.
We traveled south together, my thoughts deep on what had just occurred. Could Susan possibly be dangerous? Could she be the reason behind Calamity overtaking Ashbarrow? No way, I would counter but then I would be unsure. Is this what Nestor was talking about in his note? Is Susan the evil that exists?
I was so lost in my head that I barely registered the smell from the swamp until I saw all my companions holding their noses.
“Ugh it reeks!” exclaimed Katya. “How are we going to find her?”
“She’s a witch right?” said Huitaca, “I might know a way…”
Then Huitaca began to do a combination dance/call that I can’t even begin to describe, but far in the distance you could hear an accompanying response. I assume this is a secret dance and song that only witches can ever know. So we followed the song deeper into the stink, when we came upon a clearing.
And as if by magic, the odor was gone and was replaced with the most wonderful aroma of cinnamon! In the center of the clearing was a charming cabin and we could see through the window Susan, leaning down and giving a hug to her cute pet beetle! Susan was an older Hedge, she had a crown of leaves that looked like it was growing out of her head and around her neck was her “amulet” which was just an ancient ocarina! I was immediately charmed! She is no demon sorcerous! I knew it!
I ran up to the door and knocked. When she opened the door the smell of cinnamon was nearly overpowering. She cheerfully welcomed us after we introduced ourselves and barely seemed concerned that a bunch of strangers just appeared at her doorstep. We huddled into the small cabin.
“So Walden, this Magistrate of Winnowing Reach, is concerned about Calamity? He should be!” she agreed. We did not inform her that he wants her dead, as we still needed to investigate her, although it was becoming plain that she was no true threat.
“I summoned a vision,” she offered, “A terrible vision near the Scorched Grove. Although my vision was not totally clear. I need to create a potion to try to further investigate, can you help me?”
Perhaps it was her warm smile, or her equally warm welcome that caused us to all agree to help. She gave us a laundry list of things she needed.
“I need either of the following, bullrush root, the shed tail of a swamp lizard or a feather covered in muck!” Quick thinking Huitaca immediately plucked one of her own feathers and began to cover in dirt.
“That should work!” Susan smiled, “Then the second thing I definitely need are the spleens of some frogs!”
So myself, Katya and Copper Robin headed out into the swamp to gather frogs. The rest of my companions stayed behind with Susan and her beetle Normal.
Those frogs were impossible to catch! Though they were small and seemed squishy enough we couldn’t land a blow! I swung my quarterstaff several times only to just fall flat on my face into the mud. Neither of us were having any luck when suddenly the ground began to move beneath us!
A large, belching toad surfaced, angry at our disturbance. It lunged at us and hit Copper Robin. She was knocked nearly unconscious by some kind of poison when it grabbed her with his long slimy tongue. Katya and I both attacked. My flame actually did some heavy damage and I saw the toad stumble and nearly drop Copper Robin when Katya delivered the final blow. I immediately healed Copper Robin, as Katya skillfully removed the giant spleen.
“This should work,” Katya remarked gravely, hefting the large spleen onto her back.
We returned silently to the cabin. Susan was thrilled with the giant spleen and immediately got to work. Mavry also seemed pretty pleased with herself as she produced in her hand an exact replica of the amulet Susan was wearing! She is so crafty! Susan was impressed too!
“Your ocarina, looks just like mine!” she played a little tune on the instrument.
In her giant snail cauldron the potion swirled. And from it produced a lesser demon who seemed confused as to why he was summoned. Susan tried to ask it if it knows anything about the fires when it suddenly attacked me! We immediately countered and my flame finished it off! I can feel my spells grow stronger since just a couple days ago when I had started this journey!
Susan was a little disappointed that the potion didn’t work but she was still grateful to us for our help and gave us two healing potions for our trouble! We decided we should warn Susan that Walden is coming after her.
“Walden wanted us to ‘take care of you,’ wink, wink,” I exclaimed, “You should be careful!”
“He wants you dead,” Mavry said plainly.
Susan simply looked curiously at us and said “Why would he ever want to hurt me?” And shrugged it off, as if it were of no real concern. She did not seem afraid at all.
I am still thinking about her reaction now, as I am trying to sleep at Wrangler’s Rest in Winnowing Reach. We had returned without trouble and Walden was waiting for us. In our hands we carried the ocarina. Susan had liked Mavry’s work so much she willingly traded her amulet for the new instrument. We tried to convince Walden that it was cursed, but he still insisted so we reluctantly handed it over.
At first I was worried that Walden had Susan’s amulet. What did he want with her old ocarina? What can he do that will harm her? But then I think of Susan, her independence, her fearlessness in taking on challenges and her dismissal of Walden’s threat. She is strong, and maybe like Walden said, I am like Susan. Well… maybe not yet. But seeing someone like me, stand firm against the likes of Walden, gives me hope.
The moonlight is filling my room, enveloping my cot, as I try to rest. My mind is swimming with all the events that have occurred these past couple of days. I can tell my magic is growing stronger, as I continue on this journey. Even in the darkness at least for tonight, my fear is lessened and my sense of purpose grows.