Purple Cloaks

The Journey to Bowshot

I had been travelling with Thom for a couple of days before we reached a tavern we could stay in. We had been camping out along the tracks for the past couple of nights, so it was nice to find somewhere with a proper bed, a proper roof and with semi decent food. I hadn’t learnt much about Thom during our travelling. The only thing he had really divulged was that he was also heading to Baldur’s Gate, but the reason as to why he hadn’t made clear yet. I guess I never told him my whole story either. All I said was that I wanted a fresh start and to learn more about my magic. Thom didn’t question me anymore after that, so I didn’t question him either.

It wasn’t until we had left the tavern the next day that this journey began to get dangerous. By some miracle we had managed to avoid physical confrontation, which was great for me. I knew that my illusions were good, but the handful of times I had actually used my magic as a weapon I had done some serious damage and quite frankly, it scared me. But as we were travelling this day, confrontation was, apparently, inevitable.

As we walked along the path Thom stopped me and said that he could hear some sounds. I flicked my hand at the tree on our left, lighting up the area around it. That’s when a crossbow came from the bushes next to it and hit me square in the shoulder. I fell to the ground and could only wrench out the arrow and hold my shoulder as Thom ran towards the bushes. The sounds of grunting and swords hitting armour filled my ears until I heard a thud. Groaning, I pushed myself off the ground and began to stagger my way to where I could see Thom standing. Blood was dripping down my arm and I could feel it seeping into my dress. As I moved towards Thom I saw another shadow begin to move towards him. Without thinking, I flicked my hand wilding towards him and just as I realised what I had done, it was too late. It looked like a strong gust of wind was heading straight towards the bandit, but it definitely wasn’t a gust of wind. It was a Magic Missile. As it hit him he froze and began to shake violently. Blood began to trickle out of his ears and nose as he fell to his knees and then collapse to the ground. I stared at him in horror before shaking it off. I had seen the crossbow in his hand. This was the dick responsible for my bloody shoulder. Maybe me melting his brain was a step too far, but he really shouldn’t have shot me in the shoulder and then go after my friend. But I still killed him and I couldn’t stop the sick feeling in my stomach. As I moved closer to Thom I saw the body at his feet and the head that I assumed belonged to that body a few metres away. I glanced at him and felt a shiver go down my spine. It appeared Thom had also gotten a little carried away too. My mind reeled, but I had no right to judge. After all, I had just killed someone too.

Thom looked at me and then looked at my shoulder. I nodded once and reached into my pack to begin to bandage it up. Thom picked up the crossbows and bolts from the bodies before handing me one of them. Stuffing it into my bag I watched as Thom picked up the bodies and began to drag them behind the bushes. That was a smart move. We couldn’t really leave bodies in clear view on an open road. That would surely cause suspicion and probably mentally scarring images (especially since one of the bodies didn’t have a head attached to it). As we made our way back to the path, I flicked my wrist and the light I had set up in the tree disappeared, once again leaving us in the fading light of the sun. I think that was the incident that set our friendship in stone.

It was nice to know this guy had my back.

View
The Lumber Camp

Darkness had enveloped everything by the time we had reached the next town – Bowshot. We quickly made our way to the tavern, hoping greatly they’d have a couple of spare rooms. Having to camp out whilst knowing there were warm rooms would just be a kick in the teeth.

The tavern was quite when we walked in and Thom and I quickly settled down in a booth by the window, opting to have a little rest and check my shoulder before asking the barkeep if there were any rooms available. As I began to redress the bandage on my shoulder, Thom directed my attention to someone standing at the bar. He said he had just seen her pickpocket the man with the goatee and moustache who sitting at the table opposite us. From the looks of her, she was a half-elf like myself and I made a mental note not to get too close. The only money I had left was what I had earned from my street performances in Highmoon and I needed it to last me until we arrived at Baldur’s Gate.

I kept my eye on her as Thom and I settled into an easy silence and another pair of people walked in. Being attacked by bandits and then continuing our trek had taken it out of the both of us. The silence didn’t last long as a rather gregarious (and slightly tipsy) elf came and joined us. She introduced herself as Grelda and began to chat away aimlessly at us whilst pouring us wine from a flask she had with her. I returned her pleasantries, but Thom seemed considerably less than interested. Grelda seemed lovely, even if she liked to ramble a lot. The man she had entered with soon made his way over too. Grelda introduced him as Derrin with a fond smile on her face. He didn’t seem to happy to be there and just gave Thom and I a nod before sitting down as far away from the three of us as the booth would possibly allow. I watched him form the corner of my eye and frowned slightly. While Grelda seemed very friendly and chatty, this man was quite clearly the opposite and I couldn’t help but wonder how these two had managed to find themselves traveling about together.

Thom’s elbow gently prodded my side and I quickly looked at him before following his gaze towards the half-elf he had pointed out earlier. The half-elf who had pickpocketed the rich man with the ridiculous moustache and who was now being waved over to our table by Grelda. I felt Thom tense up next to me as she sat down at our booth, but I gave her a smile nonetheless and made a mental note to check my coin pouch when we left the table.

Grelda began animatedly chatting away to us when a drunken lumberjack staggered towards our booth. He slid in next to the other half-elf and leaned into the centre of the table, closing the distance between all of us before talking.

“Hello there. Would any of you like a drink?” he slurred, clearly very intoxicated and very creepy, so his presence was definitely making me uncomfortable. I shared an uneasy look with Thom, but to my surprise, it was Derrin who spoke first.

“No thank you. We’re good here,” he said in a gruff voice. Thom looked over at Derrin and nodded once before returning his stare to the drunken Lumberjack.

“Yeah, like this guy said. We’re good here. We’d appreciate it if you left.” The lumberjack looked over at him before raising his hands in the air and beginning to slide out.

“I don’t want to start any trouble. Just thought you all would be up for a little chat, is all,” he said, standing up and then patting his sides. “Have any of you seen my coin pouch? I’m sure I had it when I walked over.”

“No, I don’t think it’s around here,” Grelda replied, moving around so she could see around the table. The rest of us remained silent and I can’t speak for everyone else, but I wasn’t going to say a word to this man when he was in that kind of state. Luckily for us, he didn’t stay very long after Grelda’s reply and moved back to the table he had been sat at before. As soon as he was out of earshot, Thom leaned forward so he was looking straight at the half-elf across from us.

“Why did you steal his coin pouch?” he asked, his eyes narrowing as he stared at her.

“Because I wanted to. It did no harm anyway, it was empty,” she replied, squaring her shoulders, but otherwise looking quite bored about Thom’s accusations.

“The rich man’s coin purse wasn’t empty though, was it?”

“Me taking a couple of coins from him didn’t do any harm either. He’s got plenty of money. The odd gold piece here and there going missing isn’t going to shatter his world.”

“It’s illegal.”

“I know.” The tension was building and I began to shuffle in my seat. This definitely wasn’t what I thought would happen when we entered this tavern. I was just hoping to get some good nights sleep before we carried on to Baldur’s Gate.

“Derrin! Wouldn’t these guys be perfect for the job?!” Grelda exclaimed, gesturing to Thom and I with one hand, and the girl next to her with her other. “He said we’d need more people. Here are more people!” Derrin gave her a long side-glance before sighing deeply and then turning to face us all.

“The rich man’s name is Content Not Found: voitrem-remy-tirk and he’s offered me a job. But in order to complete it, I’m apparently going to need some help. Like we’ve established, he’s rich. He’ll pay us decently. All we have to do is head to a lumberjack camp not far from here and get some information. Are you guys in?” Despite it sounding a little like a sales pitch, Derrin looked thoroughly disgruntled at the thought of having to work with other people. Or it may have just been the fact that Grelda had kind of forced him into asking to work with us. Thom and I shared a look before both nodding at each other and then turning to answer Derrin.

“We’re in,” he replied, holding eye contact with him before looking at the other half elf. She shrugged and nodded, as if she was agreeing because she had nothing better to do.

“Right. We leave at sunrise. I suggest you all get some rest,” Derrin said, pushing away from the table and beginning to leave.

“Do you know if there are any rooms still available here? We really should have asked as soon as we came in,” I said, leaning so I could see if the barkeep was around.

“We got the last two rooms,” Grelda said, taking a sip from her flask. “But why don’t you girls share with me and the boys can share a room!” I nodded and smiled at her in thanks before looking at Thom and then Derrin. They shared a glance before both coming out with a resound ‘no’ and then Derrin walked off, up the stairs, not leaving it up for discussion.

“It’s okay, I’ll just sleep here,” Thom said, stretching out his arms. Grelda and the other girl both started to get out of their seats and making their way towards the stairs and I followed suit, but more hesitantly.

“What? In the bar? Are you sure?” I asked. He just smiled and nodded before waving me off. Giving him a small smile and wave, I moved to catch up with Grelda and the other girl, making sure I did a careful count of my possessions before we got there. Thom had seen her steal some money without being noticed and I wanted to make sure that I didn’t fall prey to her thievery.

The bed in Grelda’s room was big enough for two, so I ended up sharing it with her while Briss set up a makeshift bed on the floor. The room was plain and simple, exactly what you’d expect from a tavern like this. Only the bag in the corner of the room seemed out of place, but I could only assume that they were Grelda’s possessions.

“My name is Briss, by the way,” said the girl on the floor. I rolled over in the bed to face and her and smiled.

“I’m Alyona,” I replied. “And I’m sure you know Grelda’s name.” I turned to look over my shoulder and the older elven lady. “It was very nice of you to offer to share your room with us, by the way. Thank you.”

“It’s not a problem at all! I wouldn’t leave the two of you without a place to sleep. But tell me more about yourselves? Where are you two from? What are your stories?” she asked and I couldn’t help but laugh. This was turning into a sleepover very much like the ones I used to have as a child.

We spent a lot of the night getting to know each other, which is probably something we should have done before we all decided to share a room. But none of tried to kill the others in our sleep, so it all worked out okay. I found out that Briss used to live on the streets in Amn and was a bounty hunter there. She said she also did odd jobs to earn some money and I had a feeling she meant pickpocketing and maybe a couple of more serious thefts. Grelda turned out to be healer from Myth Dranor, not too far north from where I grew up. When it came to my turn, I told them about my parents back in Deepingdale and how I left for Highmoon to try and further my magic and maybe find some adventure. But that had been about five years ago now and the life of a street entertainer hadn’t provided much in the way of exciting journeys and escapades, so I had taken it upon myself to find more.

The sun was just peaking out above the horizon when Derrin knocked on the door to wake us up. Briss and I didn’t take too long after that wake up call to get ready, but by the time all five of us were downstairs and prepped to leave, it was definitely a lot later than Derrin had wanted it to be.

As we all followed Derrin out of Bowshot and towards the woods, a calm buzz of chatter settled amongst us. Thom and I fell into pace, more out of habit than anything I think, and began chatting about these people we had just met, but apparently felt so comfortable doing a job with. Grelda had also revealed that she used to be a teacher and was still a herbalist. Also, it was quite clear she fond of the drink. Thom expressed his wish to get rid of her when we had done this job and I couldn’t help but wonder if we would keep any of these people around after this.

An hour passed before we reached the outskirts of the camp. We all gathered, crouched, behind a group of logs while Derrin and Thom began to survey the lay out of the place. Derrin looked at the cabin furthest from us and identified it as the chief’s cabin – the one we needed to get in to.

“Remember, we’re here to investigate. That’s all,” Derrin said, looking around at all of us. When his eyes met mine, a shiver went down my spine. I suddenly had the feeling that something more sinister was going down here than he had initially let on. Derrin pressed his had against the logs, pushing himself up right, but then he paused and looked down at his hand. “These trees are dead. They were dead long before they had been cut down.” He stood up, peeling off a section of the bark. “Someone’s been poisoning the trees.” We looked up at him before looking at the bark. Something was definitely a miss here. “Right, I’m going to go ahead and see if I can find a way into the cabin furthest away.”

“I’ll go with you,” Briss said, standing up. “I’m good with locks. I can help.” Derrin stares at her for a moment before nodding curtly and the two of them make their way to the chief’s cabin, leaving Thom, Grelda and me behind.

All three of us stayed quiet, crouched behind the logs, trying to listen out for what Derrin and Briss were doing. It wasn’t long before we heard a loud thud, causing Thom to poke his head around the logs. The face he made wasn’t encouraging me that the other two were doing okay. It wasn’t until we heard Briss yelp that Grelda and I sprang into action and began to run towards them. I could hear Thom running behind us, his armour clanging with each movement.

A man, who was most likely a guard, was attacking Derrin and Briss and seemed to be dominating the fight. But as we got closer, Derrin managed to land a blow to the guard’s face, causing him to stumble back. The sound of Thom’s armour clanking stopped and I turned to watch him draw his bow, ready to take a shot. I smiled as I watched him release the arrow, but quickly frowned when I saw it fly over the roof of the cabin – miles off its intended target. Looking back at Thom, I saw what seemed to be a tear rolling down his cheek as he stared at the path the arrow had taken. Part of me wanted to go and see if he was okay, but I carried forward instead. There was probably a lot more going on than him just completely screwing up a shot.

I turned back round, giving Thom a chance to deal with whatever he was going through in private, and continued moving forward just as Derrin picked up the man and thrust him against the wall. His cracked loudly against the wood and the man crumpled to the floor as Grelda, Thom and I finally arrived to where Briss and Derrin had been standing. Grelda kneeled to the floor and placed a hand on the man’s head as Briss pulled out some rope from her pack and tied the man’s hands in front of him. Grelda’s hand seemed to glow and the man began to come around, looking a little out of it as he did so.

“I’m just a mercenary! Don’t hurt me!” he whimpered, raising his bound hands to cover his face.

“Talk and we won’t,” Thom replied, scowling at the man and drawing his bow at him.

“M-my name’s Greg. Like I said, I’m just a mercenary.”

“Tell us about the camp,” Derrin interjected. “How many other guards are there and where are they?”

“T-t-there are three guards, including me. I was just meant to guard the perimeter of this cabin. Brom is out with the lumberjacks. He shouldn’t be back for a while yet, and Leo is inside looking after the chief,” Greg rattled off; stopping to gulp at the arrowhead Thom had pointed at his face.

“What about the trees?” I asked, moving forward slightly. “Why are they sick?”

“That’s Leo. He’s been making a lot of potions to poison the trees. I don’t know why. I swear I’ll help you, just please don’t hurt me.” Briss seemingly ignored everything Greg just said and began to take things from his pockets. She pulled out a set of keys, smiling while holding them up for all of us to see.

“These could come in handy,” she said, gesturing to the front of the cabin, where the door was.

“We can still use Greg,” Derrin said, nodding to the still cowering man in front of us. “It looked like there was also a lock on the inside of the door and they won’t unlock it if it’s us lot asking them to.”

“Yeah, Derrin’s right. Better for Leo to hear a friendly voice,” I added, looking at Derrin. Thom just grunted and pulled Greg off the ground before ushering him forward.

“Let’s get this show on the road then,” he said, returning his bow to his back.

“You’re going to have to untie my hands if you want me to knock…” Greg said, holding his tied wrists out to Derrin, who merely frowned at him before conceding.

Briss reached around and put the lock into the door, twisting it until we all heard a click. Thom pushed Greg forward, with slightly more force than I probably would have used, and then his clenched fist hit the door three times. We didn’t have to wait long before the sound of footsteps could be heard from the other side. I smiled over at Thom, but that was perhaps a little too soon as that was when Greg took the opportunity and began to run. Without much though, I flung my hand in his direction and cast a Magic Missile at him. Greg fell to the floor instantly and I could a see a pool of blood beginning to collect around his head. My stomach sank and I brought my hand to my chest and grasped it with my other. I really needed to get a better grip on that one.

I turned around to see the shocked looks of the others, but before I could explain that what I just did was definitely an accident and that I had no intention of killing the man, a voice came from the other side of the door.

“Password?” they asked. We all looked at each other, panic clear on everyone’s faces. But that panic was quickly replaced with shock as Thom opened his mouth.

“C’mon Leo. It’s me. Just let me in,” he said, mimicking Greg’s voice perfectly. Thom looked around at us and his facial expression clearly indicated that he had absolutely no idea what he was doing. We didn’t hear anything from the other side of the door for what felt like an eternity, until the sound of keys jingling pierced the silence. Grelda moved forward, in front of the door, as we heard the lock click. The door swung open and Grelda lifted her necklace in front of her, mumbling some words as she did so.

A white light surrounded her, becoming brighter each second. Leo staggered backwards, raising his arm to cover his eyes. Derrin darted in front of Grelda, pulling his sword from his back and cutting the man as he pushed him backwards. Quickly, we got everyone into the chief’s cabin. I entered last, keeping my eyes on the building in front of us, just in case anyone decided to leave it and venture over in our direction.

Derrin and Thom dealt with Leo, tying him to a chair while he remained unconscious, as Grelda, Briss and I had a look around the cabin. Briss searched the bookshelves and found a book about poison, pocketing it quickly, she then came towards me. I had stumbled across a makeshift laboratory. Many different herbs and instruments were strewn across the benches and in amongst the mess was a note.

Tear at my skin, I will be the one not in tears.
Which room has no doors or no windows.
Around the wood but never in the wood.

“I think we should check upstairs,” Derrin said, double checking he had fastened Leo’s hands behind the chair he was sitting on, correctly.

“Good idea,” I replied, moving towards him and Thom. “But I think a couple of us should stay down here. Just in case anyone else tries to come in. I’ll stay, if you want.” derrin looked me up and down, his eyes lingering on my hands, which was perfectly understandable. He had just witnessed me accidentally fire a Magic Missile that was a little too strong, and kill someone.

“Yeah, I’m okay with that. That magic of yours will stop anyone in their tracks,” he quipped. I gave him a sheepish smile before moving towards the window near the door, so I could have a quick scout of the outside.

“I’ll stay with her,” Thom said, crossing his arms over his chest. “She’s got the magic, I’ve got the brawn. Plus, I’ll just alert the whole camp to our presence if I try to climb those stairs in my armour.” Derrin nodded sharply before gesturing for the other two to follow him.

As they began to head up the stairs, Thom and I stood in an amicable silence. I kept my position near the window while Thom hung back by Leo. The note from the laboratory began to bother me. None of us had really discussed what any of it could mean. Obviously, it was a riddle of some sort, but what would it do? Since we found it in the laboratory, the natural assumption would be that the riddles were for ingredients. Maybe they would make the poison that Leo had been using for the trees? Or maybe it was the antidote for the poison? Either way, we wouldn’t know until we worked it out.

A loud noise from the stairs stopped me in my train of thought. My head turned to the stairs, but all that followed was quiet mumbling. I made eye contact with Thom who just shrugged and then shifted his weight from one foot to the other. Turning back to the note that I held in my hand, I was ready to try and work this riddle out, but it seemed that we weren’t the only ones startled by the sudden noise.

Groans started to leave Leo’s mouth and his head began to loll from side to side. I looked at Thom, full of panic and I’m pretty sure my facial expression clearly gave across ‘what the hell are we meant to do?’. Leo straightened his head and looked back and forth between Thom and I before a sinister smile crept upon his face. The blood that had pooled in his mouth and gathered around his teeth, from Derrin essentially beating him up, definitely added to the whole aesthetic. Leo didn’t say anything for a while. He just sat there, smiling, and looking at Thom and I.

“You’re not going to get anything out of me,” he finally said, still giving us that creepy smile. “It doesn’t matter how hard you idiots try. I’m not going to say anything.”

“Oh, I don’t know about that,” Thom replied. He reached over and flicked Leo’s nose. “I reckon we can make you talk. If we really want to.” Leo laughed, throwing his head back dramatically before abruptly stopping and looking Thom straight in the eye and smiling again.

“I’d like to see you try, boy. I’ve been a mercenary for fifteen years. I know the drill. You’re not going to get anything out of me.” As soon as he finished his sentence, he spat blood into Thom’s face. Thom paused for only a second before slapping Leo round the face with enough power to knock him unconscious…again. I looked over at Thom and raised an eyebrow at him as I put the laboratory note in my pocket.

“What?” he asked, shrugging his shoulders slightly. “I don’t know my own strength, sometimes.” I didn’t have time for a reply before Derrin, Grelda and Briss made their way down the stairs.

“The chief was being blackmailed,” Derrin said, walking over to me. “These guys were blackmailing him so they could poison the trees. He has no idea why they’d want to do that, though.” Grelda made to speak, but before she could get in a word, Briss called out to us. She was standing by the unconscious Leo and was now holding something in her hand.

“It’s a note, I think, but it’s in code. I can’t read it,” she announced and then walked over to hand it to Derrin. “You guys should really rifle around in people’s pockets more.” I smirked and rolled my eyes at her comment. Routing around in other people’s pockets wasn’t really my calling.

“Okay, obviously we need to work this out,” Derrin stated, moving to the laboratory benches with Grelda and Briss and they begin to decipher the note. After quickly surveying the room, I walked over to Thom and lent against the wall next to him.

“I can’t believe you slapped him so hard he fell unconscious,” I whispered, unable to stop the smile from creeping up my face. Thom smiled back and did his best to conceal a chuckle. But all comedy was lost from the moment when Leo began to come round again. Thom moved forward and pulled his head back sharply by his hair. Leo hissed in pain, but didn’t react much more, apart from that.

“Start talking,” Thom whispered menacingly. Leo laughed again and it looked like he was going for a repeat of the spitting tactic he had employed earlier, but before he could, Thom leant into his cheek and licked it. The older man sat there in a stunned silence and I couldn’t help but feel a little creeped out too. “I told you to talk.” Leo maintained eye contact with Thom, which was a brave feat, especially when he was being as intimidating as he currently was. The mercenary opened his mouth to speak, but the snarl of his mouth made it clear that whatever he was about to say wasn’t what the man threatening him what he wanted to hear. Thom yanked Leo’s hand back violently, ripping out a clump of his hair with it. Leo yelped from the pain, but promptly clamped his mouth shut again.

I rolled my eyes and moved around the table, opposite where Leo was sat. Holding out my hand, I conjured some flames into my palm. Doing this was always entertaining for me. The fire never actually burnt me, but I could always feel a warm tingly sensation where the flames were. Turning my head, with the fire still crackling in my hands, I saw a look of pure terror in Leo’s eyes. Thom didn’t miss how the older man recoiled at the sight of my illusionary fire and quickly went back into interrogation mode.

“So, you feel like talking now?” he asked, towering above the man. I moved my hands closer to Leo’s face, causing him to shriek and lean back farther. “Who are you working for?” Thom questioned.

“I don’t work for a particular company,” Leo said quickly, his eyes fixated on the fire in my hands. “Like, I said, I’m a mercenary. I just get hired out by people. But the man who owns this camp is building something. My boss doesn’t want it built. That’s all I know.”

“Why do I find that hard to believe?” I asked, leaning forward even more. Leo tried to pull back further, but he had reached his limit.

“I’ve been in this business fifteen years,” he snarled, still staring at the flames. “What I’ve said is already too much. You’re not going to get anymore out of me. I’d rather die.” Looking up at Thom, I shrugged slightly and he did the same. I pulled away and disenchanted the fire, but I couldn’t stop smirking when Leo visibly relaxed.

“Hey, you two! We’ve deciphered the note,” Briss called, waving us over. Thom and I walked towards them, Thom throwing the clump of Leo’s hair that he pulled out onto the floor.

Derrin held out the note for us to read. The initial writings looked like a bunch of random squiggles to me, but written underneath it, in what I assumed was Derrin’s handwriting, was the decoded message.

The wood must fail. I am sending you 50 gold. Good luck.
The Seawood Company

“Who’s the Seawood company?” Thom asked, looking around at all of us. I shrugged my shoulders and pulled the note from laboratory out of my pocket.

“I have no idea, but I really think we need to find out what this is meant to mean. If we can save this wood, then it’s worth a shot. Especially if these men wanted it to fail,” I replied as I walked back over to the laboratory.

Grelda followed me and we both set about filding with everything we could find in there. She held out two vials fulls of murky liquid that she said was the poison used on the trees. Wordlessly, I took them from her and managed to extract the components of it. The poison was made from horse blood and an extremely poisonous fungus that I had never seen before. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted some vials containing the fungus and grab a couple of them as I returned the riddles to my pocket. Grelda and I begin to start searching for anything else that could possibly work as an antidote for the poison, but were quickly distracted by the sound of Leo yelping and then gargling before silence.

Turning around, we both saw Leo slumped back in the chair he was in with a slit across his throat and blood pouring down the front of his clothes. My eyes darted to Briss who was stood in front of him with a bloody knife in her hand and blood on her face.

“What?” she asked, holding her hands up as if she was perfectly innocent. “He spat blood at me! What else was I meant to do?”

“Maybe not kill him?” Thom retorted, shaking his head slowly before he made his way to the door. I wanted to say something too, but I was in no real position to judge.

Slowly, we all followed Thom out of the chief’s cabin and the first sight we saw was Greg’s dead body lying on the ground. I avoided looking at him and stayed behind Thom as we approached what appeared to be a totem pole in the centre of the space.

“Well, that has to be the worst lumberjack carving I have ever seen,” Derrin said, staring up at it as he placed his hands on his hips.

“Oh, so that’s what it’s meant to be,” Grelda commented, nodding as she looked the carving up and down. I made to move past it, but before I could even take another step, everyone was distracted by the sight of Thom trying half heartedly to climb the totem pole. We all stood and watched for a couple of minutes as he managed to get halfway up before losing his grip and falling down to the floor with a loud thud.

Turning on my heel, I walked towards the door of the cabin that none of us had even thought of entering earlier.

“Shall we check this place out?” I asked, my hand already resting on the handle.

“We were here to get intel, nothing more. Remember?” Derrin said, gesturing with his hands for us to leave.

“Yeah, but surely Remi would prefer it if we manage to save the camp that he wanted us to investigate, right?” Derrin paused for a moment, staring directly at me. Thom moved to stand next to me, also ready to open the door. “Fine,” Derrin finally relented. “But we’re not staying for much longer. You two go have a look in there while the rest of us deal with Greg’s body. We can’t just leave it out in the open.”

I twisted the handle and pushed open the door of the cabin. We both stepped through and shut the door behind us without much thought. A lumberjack was stood opposite us, looking very confused as to our presence. He had his jacket half on and was just staring at us while we stood in front of the door.

“Who are you?” he asked, pulling his other arm through his jacket sleeve.

“We’re inspectors,” Thom lied, making a lot of panicked eye contact with me and his voice was obviously hesitant, but the man in front of us didn’t seem to pick up on that as he visibly relaxed. They engaged in a conversation that I soon tuned out as I began to look around the room we were in. There were several beds lined up along the walls and standing next to one of them was another lumberjack who was not wearing a shirt. He caught me staring at him and I couldn’t help but smile coyly back at him. We exchanged a handful of flirty glances before Thom started to pull me out of the cabin.

“Well, while you were busy flirting with Mr. Shirtless over there,” Thom began as we started to walk back to the chief’s cabin. “I found out that Leo and his little friends had been separating the lumberjacks into different divisions. Plus, a lot of them have started to be let go from the camp.”

“Oh, good intel collecting. But still no clue as to how we can reverse the effects of the poison,” I stated as I opened the door for us. “And he was a very attractive man. I had every right to flirt a little.” From the corner my eye I saw Thom roll his eyes as walked toward the others.

They had placed Greg in the seat next to Leo, so they were sitting around the table. Honestly, it all looked a bit weird, but I wasn’t going to say anything. Where else were they meant to put the body? I stood next to Thom as he relayed the information he found out to the others, and I couldn’t help but stare at the lab. There had to be a way for us to reverse the effects of the tree poison.

“Hang on a minute guys,” Thom said, halting the conversation and drawing my attention back to them. He knelt down to the floor and picked up the corner of the rug.

Pulling it back in a dramatic fashion, he revealed a trap door underneath it. Derrin walked over and yanked open the door, revealing a small set of stairs and a very thin man at the bottom of them. He was hanging off the railing on one side and was squinting up at them, using his hand to shield his eyes.

“Who are you? Are you here to rescue me?” he asked, slowly beginning to climb the stairs.

Derrin held out his hand to help the man up before replying, “We’re friends of Remi’s. Yeah, we’re here to help you.”

“Okay, great. I’m Periss. Remi sent me and my partner here to find out what was happening. Have you found Missy?”

“No, we haven’t yet,” Derrin replied and helped the man sit down at another seat of the table. Periss looked around the two dead bodies who occupied the other seats and he seemed grow even paler. “Tell us what you know,” Derrin requested, taking a knee in front of the man.

Everything he told Derrin were things we all already knew and halfway through his speech, I pulled out the note from the laboratory once again. Briss popped up next to me, as did Grelda and we all began to work on the riddle.

“Wait!” Briss said, pointing to the first line. “‘Tear at my skin, I will be the one not in tears’…that could be onions!”

“Yes!” Grelda cheered and then pointed at the second line. “And this – ‘Which room has no doors or walls’ – that could be mushrooms!”

I smiled at both of them before looking at the third line and saying, “This last line – ‘Around the wood but never in the wood’ – that’s tree bark!”

Following my exclamation, all three of us hurriedly made our way to the laboratory and concocted a paste out of the three ingredients and then added it to the vial of the poison that Grelda picked up. As soon as the paste made contact with the murky contents of the vial, smoke efferfessed from it and it began to turn a deep purple. Grelda took the vial into her hands and after a moment or two looked at Briss and I with a smile on her face.

“This will heal the trees. We did it!” she exclaimed. “I’m going to go give this to the chief. He can keep the camp going now and he won’t have to worry about his daughter!” With that, she ran up the stairs and Derrin made his way over to us.

“As soon as she’s back, we’re getting out of here,” he said, looking primarily at me.

“Yes, sir!” I replied, smiling at him.

As soon as we made it back to the tavern, with Periss in tow, we headed straight upstairs to the room Derrin knew Remi had rented out. The room was nice and surprisingly neat. There nothing out of the ordinary there apart from the fact that he had an array of jewels just lying on his dresser.

“Thank you so much for returning Periss to me! Shame that you couldn’t find Missy…but not to worry! I’ll have someone locate her,” Remi said, reaching for his gold pouch. “So, how much do I owe you? One hundred gold, was it?”

“Make it one hundred and fifty,” Briss said, crossing her arms over her chest and she stared Remi down.

“Now why would I do that?” he asked, still holding his gold pouch. “Unless you have more information for me?”

“They were poisoning the trees,” Derrin added. “One of the guards was a mercenary, hired by an outside company called Seawood. He was poisoning the trees so that the wood would be useless.”

“Okay then,” Remi replied, smiling. “One hundred and fifty gold it is!” He counted out the money quickly into Derrin’s hands before bidding us goodbye and ushering us out of his room.

While we stood in the corridor, Derrin divvied up the gold between us, ensuring we all got thirty gold pieces each. By some sort of silent agreement, we all began to make our down to the bar. As I was halfway down the steps, Derrin grabbed my arm and kept me behind as everyone else walked past.

“Alyona, would you mind checking out this axe for me. The chief gave it to me while we were talking to him. It seems like much more than a usual axe,” he asked, holding it out to me.

I ran my hands over it, studying it and feelings its marking before replying, “It’ll never dull. Quite fascinating really. It used to belong to druids that lived near Cloakwood, actually.”

“That’s great, thank you,” Derrin said, quickly taking the axe back from me, but still giving me a small smile.

“You know, Thom and I are heading south to Baldur’s Gate. Both you and Grelda are welcome to join us if you want. I’m sure they’ll be plenty of work for you down there.”

“I’ll have to talk to Grelda, but I think we might just take you up on that offer,” he said, smiling at me again before we both made our way down the stairs.

The bar was now full of people as evening had approached. Being around this much hustle and bustle was greatly appreciated. It gave us all a chance to go by unnoticed – we could all relax. Briss and I were chatting and everyone else in our little group seemed to be getting along surprisingly well. That was when the very attractive shirtless lumberjack from earlier walked in.

He came over and began to talk to Briss and I, when we found out his name was Shard and he actually lived in the town. Later that night…well, let’s just say it was a very interesting evening.

The next morning, Briss and I left Shard’s house and met up with Thom outside the tavern. I was happy to see that he was joined by Derrin and Grelda. After we all checked that we had everything, the five of us began our journey south to Baldur’s Gate.

View
The Gnome and the Goat

The wind was horrendous as we walked down the path. My hair was going everywhere and everyone seemed to be having a hard time with it. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t manage to keep hold of my tent and just had to watch as the wind carried it down the path behind us. We all continued walking for about an hour before it began to get dark around us.

“What’s happening?” Grelda asked, looking at the sky as dark clouds began to gather.

“I have no idea,” Derrin replied as he followed suit and looked up at the sky. “It’s only midday and the weather was fine just a minute ago.”

Even though we were all confused and very much tired from walking against the wind, we carried on soon enough came across a farm house. All of us clambered up to the door and Derrin knocked, rather loudly. A man peeked his head around the door. He looked us up and down before opening the door wider and let all five of us step through.

We were stood in the living room of the house and it looked a lot nicer than I would have expected a farmer’s residence to. The tables and chairs looked ornate and very expensive. I hadn’t realised we were simply staring at his house until he stepped in front of us all, tankards of water in hand. We all took them, giving him thanks before gulping down their contents. Grelda mumbled some words before her tankard began to glow for a couple of seconds, then she drank from hers. Thom looked over at me and I raised my eyebrows. We didn’t have a doubt that she was drinking wine instead of water.

“The weather took a very quick turn for the worse,” Grelda stated in between swigs from her tankard. “Is it always like this?” she asked.

“No, not usually,” the farmer replied, crossing his arms over his chest as he looked at the five of us. “It’s been awful for about a week. This happens the same time everyday, like clockwork. It always comes from the east.”

“What’s in the east?” Thom asked. The farmer’s gaze drifted from us to the floor and the ceiling.

“Just fields…a lot like mine,” he replied, still avoiding eye contact with us all.

“You’re doing pretty well, aren’t you?” Thom said, placing his hand on the back of one of the dining chairs. “For a farmer, I mean. Not many farmers I know would be able to afford this kind of decor…or have this much food in stock when it’s not harvest season. What’s going on?” The farmer looked up at Thom and held his gaze for a couple of seconds before sighing heavily and sitting down on the chair next to him.

“There’s a wizard’s towers towards the east. A couple of generations ago, all of the farmers around here made a deal with the wizard. If he kept our lands fertile all year round, not just during harvest season, we’d provide with food. It’s been good for the past forty years. Not a single problem. Then, last week the storms started. We haven’t been able to farm our land. but there’s hardly anything we can do about it. The wizard swore the farmers to secrecy and if he can mess with the weather like that, I don’t want to know what he’d be able to do to us. My grandfather was one of the farmers that made the original deal. I’d ask him to go and talk to the wizard, but he’d not very well.”

“Is your grandfather here?” I asked, looking around the room.

“Yeah, he’s in the next room. Just through that door. He’s asleep though.”

“He won’t be for long,” Thom mumbled, heading straight for the door and bursting through it. The rest of us followed quickly behind him and saw a startled old man, clutching his bed sheets as he stared up at us.

“Who are you? What are you doing here? Where’s my grandson?” he asked, eyes flicking between us.

“We’re here to help,” I replied soothingly, kneeling beside his bed. “We’ve just spoken to your grandson about the wizard tower towards the east. It seems that they’re the reason behind this funny weather that’s stopping your grandson from farming. We want to stop that for you two – for all the farmers here.” The man relaxed his grip on his bedsheets and began to lean back into his bed. “Is there anything else you can tell us about the wizard?”

“The wizard, eh? His name is Lamistan Kuris and he’s a gnome. Can’t say much more about what he looks like, we never really saw him after that first deal. All we did was leave the food and money at his door. I do remember him not being the most moral person I’ve ever met – he was far more concerned with his work and was obsessed with knowledge. He was an elemental wizard, I believe, but he delved into many different kinds of magic. None of the other farmers would be cheating on the deal. I trust them. So there’s no real explanation for why he’d do this.”

“Okay, thank you! We’ll do our best to make sure everything gets back to normal,” I said, getting up from his bedside.

“But be careful!” the old man warned as we were about to leave the farm house. “He’s very fond of animals and has a lot of pets. Oh, and try not to ruin the deal for us. We need this.” I smiled and nodded at him as the five of us began to file through the door.

In the next room, Derrin and Briss wasted no time in jumping into monetary negotiation with the farmer. Apparently fixing this deal for them was going to be quite strenuous for us, based on how much money they were asking for. Surprisingly, he agreed with a nod of his head before walking towards the door to see us out.

“Hey, can we have one of your goats too?” I asked. He turned his head to look at me, confused, before facing me completely.

“Why?” he asked.

“Yeah, why?” Derrin repeated, looking at me like I was crazy.

“The wizard likes pets!” I shrugged. “Look, just pay us half the money now, including the goat and then when we’ve fixed the problem, we can come collect the rest. That way you’re sure we’ll get the job done because we’ll want the rest of our money and we won’t worry if you’ll pay us or not.” I looked around the room to see everyone else in agreement, before returning my gaze to the farmer.

“Okay,” he replied, that sounds fair to me. We all followed him outside, where the rain had eased up, but the soil looked infertile. “Here,” the farmer said as he picked up a goat and handed it over to Thom. You can have this one. Look after him, alright?” Thom strapped the goat to his back and noded before we all made a move. I waved goodbye at the farmer and jogged to catch up with the rest of the group as we began to head west, towards the wizard’s tower.

After an hour of walking, we arrived and came face to face with a ten foot high stone wall. It was covered in ivy and had a stone archway with a wooden prominent in the centre. The wall seemed to surround the tower which was also covered in vines and had only one window. The large copper dome at the very top of the tower was making very loud whirring noises, which was in great contrast to the silent cottage attached to it. There was no door that led into the tower, but there was one which would allow us to enter the cottage. The closer we got to the wall, the less visible the cottage became and our attention became drawn to the five statues doing various poses that stood in front of the wooden gate.

Thom moved forward and tried to push on the door, but nothing happened. There wasn’t a handle or anything else that we could grab hold of to try and open the gate. Grelda moved closer to it and ran her hand over the carving that was there. It appeared to be the outline of someone doing another pose, just like the statues were. Surveying the area, I caught Grelda mimicking the pose from the corner of my eye and I couldn’t help but smile when nothing happened and she returned to her normal stance, frowning heavily.

“Hey, everyone, why don’t we try and mimic the poses that the statues are doing?” Grelda called out, moving to stand in front of one of them.

“We’re not dancers, Grelda. Why would we do that?” Derrin asked.

“We don’t have any other ideas, do we?” I replied, following Grelda’s lead and standing in front of the statue to her right. Once we were all in front of a statue we began to imitate the poses of the statues. As soon as we had, the gate slowly began to swing open and we all walked through, into the ground of the tower.

The gate closed behind us, leaving us in a vast garden. Most of the plants there were dead or close to it. Derrin and Grelda began to pick some of the plants that were the better side of withered before we all walked toward the cottage doors. We had barely taken three steps before a loud rustling could be heard and the source of it was clearly an animal. Two grey wolves jumped out from behind a large, dead bush and began to close in on us.

“Be careful everyone,” Derrin called out, pulling out his sword. “These wolves are very territorial and quite clearly pissed. They’re going to be vicious.” He ran forward and brought his sword down, slicing the leg of the closest one before Briss threw a dagger at the other, missing it but she continued towards it anyway.

Grelda took a couple of steps forward, flinging a pellet at the same wolf Briss had aimed for, but it just seemed to bounce off of it. Flicking my wrist, I cast a Magic Missile at the same wolf that Derrin hit. The wolf staggered back slightly from the impact and blood began to trickle from its ears and nose, but it stayed conscious and began to bear its teeth. An arrow whizzed past my head and then past the head of the wolf. Looking over my shoulder, I saw Thom shed another single tear before putting his bow away and drawing his sword. The goat still with him bleated loudly and that was the last thing I heard before the second wolf clamped its jaws into my side.

I screamed loudly as I hit the floor and the blood began to gush out of the wound. Before it could get in another bite, Derrin jumped in front of me, slicing the wolf with his sword and then his axe.

“Don’t worry, Alyona. I’ve got you,” Grelda said as she knelt beside me and hovered her hands over my side. I felt a warm tingly sensation around the bite before looking down and seeing no trace of a wolf or blood. Grelda stood up and offered me her hand. Taking it, I whispered her a thanks and looked directly at the wolf that bit me before mumbling the incantation for Nightmare Eruption. The wolf’s eyes glazed over as it began to live its worst nightmare. It shook its head back and forth rapidly as its breathing became laboured before it let out whimper and convulsed as it fell to the ground. “You scare me a little bit,” Grelda whispered, still standing next to me.

“Honestly, I scare me a little bit,” I replied and gave her a small smile. Thom ran past us both, cutting off our conversation, and plunged his sword into the second wolf as it was about to attack Derrin. He just in another hit just as Derrin landed a blow with his axe prior to backing up a couple of paces. Thom followed suit and the wolf’s fur was now matted with blood as it continued to get closer to us. Briss threw another knife at it, missing again. But Grelda, lunging forward and bringing her staff down onto its head, landed the final blow. The wolf howled and fell onto its side, landing in a small pool of blood.

We all stood there for a second, breathing heavily and listening to the continuing sound of the copper dome humming as if machinery were present. Derrin moved forward, after another couple of seconds and began to skin the wolves. Thom then began move the corpses around, hiding them from view. This was definitely a good idea, considering last time we left some dead men sitting around a table. Briss, Grelda and I moved forward and began to help.

As soon as the wolf carcases were hidden away, we moved toward the cottage door. Thom rapped his knuckles against it, but there was no answer. Without hesitation, he kicked it down, turning it into splinters.

“You do realise I could have just unlocked that, you know?” Briss pointed out as we walked in. “It would have been just as quick and definitely a lot stealthier.”

“Noone’s jumped out and attacked us, so I say no harm done,” Thom replied, shrugging his shoulders.

The room looked like any other small cottage, with a table and a small kitchenette. But what drew all of our attention was a set of stairs that appeared to lead to a cellar. With little discussion, we all went down and at first glance it just looked like a normal cellar. But then Thom drew my attention to the far corner.

“Is that an operating table?” he whispered, taking a step closer towards it. “Why are there runes carved around it?” As I moved towards the operation table a loud squeak came from the other side of the room. All of stopped where we were and stared at the giant ornate fireplace that stood on the opposite wall. There were intricate carvings along its mantle and it seemed like a fire had never been lit there. Thom walked past me, towards the fireplace and called out into it. Before any of us had time to give an exasperated sigh or tell him that was a stupid idea, three giant rats emerged from it.

The first rat lunged straight for Derrin, but missed him as Derrin stepped to the side. Briss had the second rat biting at her feet while Thom drew his sword and cut the first rat in half, spilling blood and its guts everywhere.

“These rats are semi-sentient,” Thom said, turning to look at the third rat which had its gaze on Grelda and me. “They worship the King That Crawls. He usually follows decay.”

“Good to know,” Briss replied, shoving a dagger into the head of the rat at her feet. It squealed before falling on to its side and blood began to seep out of its wound. As the third and final rat began to make its way over to Grelda and me, I thrust my hand forward and cast a Magic Missile at it. When it hit the rat, blood immediately began to pour from its nose, eyes and ears at an alarming rate before the rat fell to the ground into a pool of its own blood. I made a mental note of the fact that I’d now killed four living beings and couldn’t help but be concerned about this. This really wasn’t the kind of thing I had imagined doing when I decided to leave Deepingdale.

Walking over to the operation table, I held out my hand and then placed it on the runes. Immediately I knew these runes were out of my league. This kind of magic was way beyond me. Derrin appeared next to me and picked up the instruments that were placed sporadically along the table.

“I think these instruments are more magical than surgical,” he said, handing them over to me. I took them from him and placed them in my bag. If they were magical, I would have a look at them. Plus, you never know when they’d come in handy.

“This fireplace has been here for about fifty years,” Grelda said, her hand placed atop the mantle piece. “I think it’s always been used for this – for the rats.” A small silence settled between the five of us as we thought about what that meant. I looked between the lab table and the fireplace as a sinister shiver went down my spine.

“There’s another room,” Briss said, moving behind Derrin and I and through a doorway. We silently followed her and all came face to face with another door that had runes carved around it.

“There’s no point in trying to unlock it, Briss,” I stated as I saw her reach for tools. “It’s magically locked by the runes, and before you ask, no I can’t unlock it. We still need a key.”

“Grelda found the store room!” Thom called out from behind us. Derrin, Briss and I walked out of the little entrance way and watched as Grelda exited another room with several bottles of wine in her arms.

“Can someone help me put these in my bag?” she asked, a smile firmly affixed to her face. Derrin sighed heavily before walking forward and helping her and I couldn’t help but giggle quietly.

After walking back up the cottage room, Thom pulled open the other door, which we had assumed would lead to the tower. Walking through it, we entered a living space. All in all, it looked quite cute. The walls were lined with bookcases and there was a coffee table stood on top of an ornate rug in the centre of the room. Sat upon the coffee table was a keychain with dwarven runes on it. After looking through his book collection and taking three illusionary text books from his library, I scooped up the keychain.

“Guys, this is the key for the room downstairs,” I announced, dangling the key on my index finger.

“We can deal with that later. I think we should find the wizard first, try and get this all sorted,” Derrin said, moving towards the door that stood on the far side of the room. Nodding in agreement, I watched as he attempted to open the door. “Locked. Briss?”

“Don’t worry, I got it,” Thom said, kicking this door down in the same fashion he had the front door. As we began to follow him up the stairs, I saw Briss roll her eyes dramatically and couldn’t help but smirk.

The first thing I saw when we entered the next room was a large four poster bed, clearly indicating that we were in the wizard’s bedroom. There was still no sign of the wizard and while the humming had grown slightly louder, it still was quite a while off. The rest of the group had busied themselves snooping around the bedroom, when Grelda pointed out the map of the Sword Coast the gnome had displayed on the wall. I stood next to her and studied it as she did.

“It’s quite accurate, you know. Not outdated by any standards,” she said, rocking onto her tiptoes as she stared at it. “Would it be wrong of me to take it? We’re all traveling around this coast, but none of us seems to have a map of it.”

“Yeah, it’d be wrong,” I replied. “But you’ve already taken a good portion of his wine collection.”

“Good point. I’ve already crossed the line. Might as well keep going,” she quipped before taking the map off the wall, folding it and putting it into her bag. I laughed as she did so, shaking my head slowly. Grelda was definitely growing on me.

“Hey, Aly,” Briss said, walking towards me with some shoes in her hands. “Can you do an arcane check on these for me? Do they have magic?”

“Sure!” I placed my hand upon the shoes and raised an eyebrow before looking back to Briss. “They’re definitely magic, but that’s all I can really get from them. Sorry.”

“Don’t worry about it. That’s all I really need to know,” Briss replied before stashing the shoes in her bag.

“So, there’s no door here and I have no idea how to move up this damn tower. Shall we go have a look at that room downstairs?” Derrin suggested, gesturing to the door we had just came through.

We all climbed back down the stairs, to the cottage again before heading back down to the cellar and passing through the doorway. I unlocked the door using the runes on the keychains and as soon as I crossed the threshold, the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end. An uneasy feeling began to settle upon me and the further we walked in, the clearer it became that this was intended to be a prison.

There were four cells, but none of them had bars and only two of them had something inside of them. In one, wind was continuously beating against an invisible wall and in the other, bricks were assembling and reassembling. On top of the cells were more runes and around the corner from them was a large carved out stone button.

“Guys,” I said, staring at the runes above the cells. “These cells are meant for the four elements.” I moved my eyes to the floor and saw veins in the ground that traveled from the cells to the centre of the room. “These veins in the ground,” I pointed them out on the ground. “They’re draining the energy from the elements and taking it to the centre before shooting the magic upwards.”

Grelda moved toward the veins in the ground. I watched as she walked to the spot where the four veins from the cells converged into one and then raised her staff to stab it.

“No!” I screamed, but as her staff hit the vein I collapsed and everything faded to black.

I could feel a dull throbbing in my head and I blinked a couple of times to focus my eyes before moving to sit up. Someone’s hand grabbed my elbow and steadied me and I looked in front of me to see Grelda with an apologetic look on her face.

“I’m so sorry, Alyona! I had no idea. I’m really sorry!” she kept apologising, frantically.

“It’s okay. I just…this place make me feel uneasy,” I replied, my hands shaking. Thom reached out and, along with Grelda, helped me to my feet. I wrapped my arms around myself in an attempt to stop my shaking, but it didn’t work. Derrin walked towards me, giving me a soft smiles before gesturing to the stone button from round the corner.

“I think it was last used about three days ago, two or three times. It must open the cells. But I think it’s blood locked. It’ll only work with the wizard’s blood,” he said as Briss jumped up and grabbed the gem that was lodged in the space above the cell for the air elemental. She walked over to me and held it out.

“What does this do, Aly?” she asked. I took the gem from her and frowned heavily. I was getting nothing. My senses felt dulled and I didn’t feel in touch with my magic. Quickly, I passed it back to briss and shook my head, trying to clear it.

“I think that gem binds magic, Briss,” I replied, wringing my hands together. “It made me feel dull and disconnected and it would explain why it was above the cells. It would make it a lot harder for the elementals to escape if they were weaker.” She nodded twice, turning the gem over in her hands before putting it away in her pocket. As soon as it was concealed, I began to feel a lot better.

Moving towards the air cell again, it seemed like a little of the elemental was able to escape, but the main body remained trapped in the cell. I then walked toward the cell containing the earth elemental and saw that the same was happening. Except, this elemental began speaking to us. Between each time it began to assemble itself, it would break the sounds of the bricks hitting each other with the words “trapped” and “Seawood”. Looking back to vein and the continuously ascending tower of magic, I began to move to exit the room.

“I need to see how high this magic goes,” I called over my shoulder as a form of explanation for where I was going.

As I moved back through the doors and up the tower, I could still see the magic being forced upwards – even when I reached the wizard’s bedroom. Looking around again, there still seemed to be no way up, but the magic was still ascending. Briss walked through the door and moved to stand next to me, also looking around the room.

“The magic is still going up. There has to be a way to get up there. We definitely missed something,” I said to her. She nodded and then her gaze locked on the wardrobe.

“Did we check behind there? There are usually things hidden behind wardrobes,” she stated, moving towards it.

“There are?” I asked, following her and moving to the other side of it. We pushed it forward slightly and saw nothing behind it. Sighing heavily, I continued to look around the room. We definitely missed something.

“Hang on a minute,” Briss said. I looked over at her and saw her staring at the floor beneath the bed. She looked up and met my gaze for a moment before shouting, “Urine!” She ran past me, grabbing the chamber pot and then proceeding to run back down stairs. I stood there for a moment, in stunned silence, before slowly following her back down stairs. There was probably an explanation for that, but I wasn’t entirely sure if I actually wanted to hear it.

As I re-entered the room with the cells, the smell of urine was overwhelmingly strong. I looked over at Derrin for explanation, but he simply shook his head at me before turning to Briss.

“Blood, Briss! It has to be his blood,” he said to her, looking thoroughly frustrated.

“Well, it was worth a shot!” she replied.

Thom let out a single laugh prior to throwing an exasperated look at Briss and saying, “Was it? Was it really?”

“Okay, forget whatever just happened here. The magic is still going upwards, so there has to be a way up. We missed something in his room. We need to look again,” I said, ushering everyone out of the room and up the stairs back to the wizard’s bedroom.

We all began to search again, sifting through his drawers and going through his clothes. It wasn’t until Derrin looked into the mirror that we found out what we had missed.

“The candle on the table isn’t appearing in the mirror,” Derrin said, pointing towards the mirror where, just as he said, there was his reflection, along with the table and everything that was sat upon it apart from the candle.

Without hesitation, I sparked fire from my hands and set the candle alight. A ladder appeared from the wall next to the mirror and a hatch opened up in the ceiling. We all shared smiles between us before climbing up, bringing us up on to the second floor.

It looked like we were standing in a very cluttered laboratory. Papers, sketches and books covered every table surface possible. What looked like prototypes and scrap pieces of metals were scattered across the tops of the papers and every now and then a pile of tools and what appeared to be rejects lay across the floor. We set to work, looking through anything and everything we could get our hands on in the space – which honestly wasn’t hard considering how much stuff there actually was. Grelda and I were busy flipping through a pile of papers when Briss broke the silence.

“Guys, I think I’ve found a pressure plate,” she said, moving some books aside and standing on one of the stone tiles. It sank down, but nothing seemed to happen. She frowned slightly and stepped off of it, looking down around the stone plate.

“And I think I’ve found a note that is of significant importance!” Grelda declared, brandishing a piece of parchment in her hand.

Kuris,
You must work faster! We don’t know how close he is to completion. If you can do this, and control it, we will provide you with another.
A..P.

I shared a look with Derrin and then Thom. This was the first time the initials A.P. had been mentioned, but since the earth elemental had mentioned Seawood earlier, it wasn’t a huge leap to assume that whoever A.P. was, they were working for them. But this was the second time we had stumbled across the Seawood company. It could just be a coincidence, but I wasn’t so sure about that.

“I think that we may have to match the gnome’s weight on this pressure plate to get it to open,” Briss announced as she quickly began to move books onto the plate. One at a time she added them until another ladder appeared in the wall and a trapdoor opened up above. She stood up, smiling at us and looking very proud of herself.

Thom made to climb up the ladder, but as he reached the trap door, a giant sentient ooze landed on top of him. It pushed him back, knocking him off the ladder and onto the floor. The goat that was still strapped to his back bleated in surprise as they both hit the stone floor. The trap door closed and Briss backed up so she was standing next to Grelda, but Thom was still trapped under the ooze. We could see it trying to injest him already, which was unsurprising considering that oozes live to injest any form of organic matter.

Derrin jumped forward, stabbing it with his sword. A small blob of it flew off and dissipated. Briss pulled out one of her daggers and threw it at the centre of the ooze. It recoiled off of Thom and a large clump of it fell off and died. Grelda stood beside me and tried to attack it with her Morning Star, but missed, hitting the wall behind it instead. Thrusting my hand out in front of me, I cast a Magic Missile at it, managing to hit it well. Just under half of the ooze dissipates and dies. I stood my ground and watched as Thom stood up and tried to stab it with his sword. He missed and I saw him cry. Again. In fairness, this tear could have been from the extensive injuries he just acquired, or he could just not have the ability to keep himself together – which was looking more likely. Derrin pulled his arm back and went to stab the ooze with his sword, but missed. Luckily, he managed to pull his axe from its holder and land a hit on it. As he did so, Briss pulled out another dagger and threw it, lodging it in the ooze. Grelda shrieked and ducked for cover under the table we were stood beside as I cast another Magic Missile in its direction. Another chunk of it flew off and died, leaving only half of it left for us to deal with.

Thom, after apparently pulling himself together, managed to land a blow on the ooze with his sword. However, this is when the ooze decided to split into two. Half of it stayed near Thom while the other began to make its way over to Derrin. Derrin stabbed it with his sword, pushing it back and forcing it into one blob again. Briss sidestepped behind Derrin while throwing a dagger, hitting the ooze and killing part of it again. Looking down, I saw Grelda get up from her hiding place and try to attack the ooze too, but she missed and did I. Thom shouted something unintelligible and plunged his sword into the ooze, pushing it back. This meant it landed on Derrin.

The ooze’s acid burnt his skin and he recoiled, moving backwards trying to get away. I could see the burn marks on his skin and his screams were terrible. He made his way next to me before collapsing at my feet. Briss yelled at the ooze, trying to intimidate it or something, but it didn’t work. Grelda knelt next to Derrin and began to heal him as I cast a Magic Missile at the ooze, still trying to attack him. It did the trick as when it hit, the ooze completely dissipated.

I knelt next to Grelda and watched as she continued to heal Derrin, who was already looking better. Briss and Thom joined us and once Derrin was all patched up, Grelda moved on to Thom and the goat strapped to his back.

“Everyone okay?” Grelda asked, looking around us all.

“Yeah, I think we’re all good,” Briss answered, already moving to pile the books onto the pressure plate again. “Maybe this time Derrin and I should stealth up first. Just to make sure nothing drops down and almost kills us.”

When Derrin and Briss gave us the all clear, Thom, Grelda and I followed them up. The mechanical hum was very loud here and it was very obvious why. Were had reached the copper dome of the tower and were standing in a circular room that had a giant piece of machinery in the centre of it. As we walked around it, Thom knocked into one of the levers, setting off a chain reaction of magical pyrotechnics. A small gnome appeared from behind the machinery. He pushed his glasses further up the bridge of his nose as he looked us all up and down.

“Who are you? What are you doing here?” he asked, moving towards us.

“We’re inspectors…from Seawood,” Briss lied, looking at the rest of us with wide eyes.

“Really?”

“Yeah. A.P. is busy right now. They sent us instead, to see how your progress is coming along.” Kuris frowned and dropped his hands down to his sides before smirking.

“I’ll give you credit for trying,” he said before sending a Magic Missile straight at me. The force knocked me back into the wall and then I fell to the floor. Grelda immediately ran to my side and began to heal me as Kuris turned himself invisible and attacked Derrin. Grelda helped me up from the floor and as I went to cast, Briss pulled out the gem she took from the cells – incapacitating both of us. Kuris became visible again and Thom tied him up with some rope and we all converged around him.

“Tell us everything,” Thom snarled in his face. The wizard cowered and tried to recoil from him before spilling everything.

“Seawood were giving me elementals to experiment on,” he said, still trying to move away from Thom. “They wanted me to ruin the land, but now mess with the sea. I don’t know why, I swear. There’s a drawing of A.P. over there, on the desk.” I moved toward the desk Kuris gestured to with his head and picked up the drawing of A.P., stashing it in my bag.

“We should release the elementals now,” I suggested, turning around to the others. “I think they’ve been cooped up long enough.” Thom nodded and then pulled out a knife, cutting Kuris’ hand and collecting some of the blood in an empty vial. He then stood up and we began to make our way down to the cells, leaving the others with Kuris.

Once down in the cells (which still smelt like urine), we wasted no time in throwing Kuris’ blood onto the stone button. The cells immediately opened and we watched at the air and earth elemental exited and began to take a humanoid form. The air elemental embraced me and then the goat before fleeing the place and as he left, my cloak felt lighter and now had a new, magical tinge to its colour. I watched as the earth elemental smashed into Thom and then the goat before following the path of the air being and leaving the place.

“Did we just get blessed?” Thom asked, weighing his shield on his arm.

“I think we did,” I replied and looked at the goat, still strapped to Thom’s back. “I think the goat did as well.”

Walking back up to the cottage living area, we were greeted by the sight of Derrin, Briss and Grelda arguing with each other around a bound and now gagged Kuris. They barely paid Thom and I any attention as we approached them, but it wasn’t hard to grasp what they were arguing about.

“We should just kill him,” Briss said, gesturing to the tied up gnome. “He’s caused more trouble than he’s worth. I don’t see why you’re not all for this!”

“Hey,” Derrin interjected, raising his hands. “I’m down for whatever, as long as we make our decision quick. I want to collect our money.”

Grelda sighed loudly before saying, “I don’t think it’s our right to punish him. Let’s just hand him to the villagers and they can do what they want with him.”

“They’d probably just kill him anyway,” Thom interjected. “There wouldn’t be much difference to us killing him now and us handing him to them.”

“We could always just take him with us to Baldur’s Gate?” I suggested, not entirely up for adding another number to my kill count. But it wasn’t like I could really do much damage while Briss had the gem out.

“Yeah, then we can hand him over to the Flaming Fists when we get there. He won’t be our issue then,” Derrin added, nodding at me before picking up Kuris. “Could you take the goat from your back, Thom? While we’ve got the goat, let’s make him useful.”

The five of us began the walk back to the farmhouse, with Kuris still bound and riding the goat, which was being led by Derrin. Everyone stayed back with the gnome and the goat as I knocked on the door, ready to collect our money. The farmer answered promptly and smiled when he saw me.

“You don’t have to worry about not being able to farm anymore. I do believe that we have sorted the issue. The fields should be fine now,” I said, smiling and then held out my hand.

“Thank you so much,” he replied and then glanced down at my hand before holding out a pouch. “Yeah, here’s the rest of your money. Oh, and you can keep the goat. His name is Bernard.” I took the pouch and quickly checked its contents before smiling at him.

“Thanks! That’s very nice of you…”

“Stanley,” he said, filling in the blank.

“That’s very nice of you Stanley. If the five of us are ever in the area, we’ll be sure to drop by,” I replied as I began to walk back to the group. “Have a good harvest!” I called over my shoulder and we began to carry on towards Baldur’s Gate. “Apparently the goat’s name is Bernard,” I informed the group and fell into step beside Briss. Thom frowned and shook his head slightly.

“No. I was thinking we could call him Todd. I think it suits him better,” he said, smiling fondly at the goat as it plodded behind Derrin.

“I can’t believe we now have a pet goat,” Briss mumbled, rolling her eyes.

“For some reason, I’m not surprised,” I replied and smiled at her and Thom.

“Neither am I!” Grelda exclaimed, popping the cork on one of her wine bottles.

View
The City of Baldur's Gate Pt. 1

Many yawns and lots of stretching accompanied the sounds of us packing away our tents and gathering our belongings, but anticipation and excitement was also palpable. This was to be the last leg of our journey. Today we would reach Baldur’s Gate. While I was excited to finally reach one of the most famous cities along the Sword Coast and be able to perform there in the Wide, I was also very glad that we would be getting rid of Kuris. Once he was gone, Briss could put away the gem and I’d stop feeling so dull and out of touch with everything. Since I had been unable to practice many of the spells I was still working on, I had time to research a couple more from my brother’s old spell book. I now had a couple of more spells in the works and was very excited about getting to try them out properly.

As we began the final stretch of our route to Baldur’s Gate, everyone seemed to be in higher spirits than we had been before. It also seemed like Thom had grown very emotionally attached to our new pet goat – Todd. However, this good mood didn’t last long. When we began to walk through another region of farmland, an Ankheg appeared in front of us and reared up, showing its full height. The sight of the Ankheg shocked Grelda (who was already heavily under the influence of alcohol, unsurprisingly) so greatly that she collapsed onto the floor in front of us. I knelt down next to her and gently shook her in an attempt to wake her up, but she was pretty deeply into an alcohol induced stupor. Placing Kuris next to her, I ushered Briss over and she put the gem in Grelda’s hand as we moved away, allowing me to actually use my magic while still incapacitating the gnome.

I tried to cast a Lightning Strike at the threatening Ankheg, but missed. Lightning managed to hit around it, but not the actual beast itself. Half of the daggers Briss threw managed to hit, lodging themselves into its fleshy underbelly. The Ankheg screeched in pain and then bent forward, grabbing the person closest to it. This happened to be Thom. Its pincered ripped through his armour, biting straight into him and it began to drip acid on to him, injuring him further. Derrin ran forward and made to stab the creature with his sword, but somehow managed to trip over, hitting the floor before he could land a blow. Thom tried desperately to remove himself from the Ankheg’s grip, but his attempts were futile. As I watched this all unfold, I cast a Magic Missile towards the beast and actually managed to hit it this time. One of its antenna fell off and Briss tried to throw a dagger, but it fell short. Derrin pulled his axe from his back and managed to land some very good blows before trying to follow them up with his sword and missing.

“For God’s sake!” Thom yelled as he managed to get enough weight behind his sword and plunged it into the Ankheg, piercing its armour and causing it to shriek. As it did so, I pushed both my hands out in front of me and muttered the incantation for a spell I hadn’t really used before – one that I was still working on. The ground seemed to split beneath the Ankheg and it dropped to the floor, flailing and screaming, believing itself to be falling down. Thom seized this opportunity to free himself and jumped out of the jaws of the beast whilst jumping past my illusion. The ground had most definitely not torn itself apart beneath the creature and I couldn’t help but smirk slightly as I made a mental note to keep working on this Phantom Chasm spell.

Briss threw another knife at it, managing to once again lodge it in the Ankheg’s underbelly. Unfortunately, that’s when the Ankheg realised that the phantom chasm beneath was just that. It rolled itself over so it was no longer on its back and then it made a move for Derrin. The Ankheg’s pincers missed him by a hair’s width, but some of its acid landed on the ranger, burning him greatly. He managed to get away and got himself up the nearest tree, safely away from the beast.

The next thing I knew, Thom was running past with Todd tucked under his arm. He placed the goat in the Ankheg’s eye line and waited until it lunged towards it so he could fire his crossbow. The bow pierced its armour and wedged itself in the animal, stopping it from grabbing Todd. With a flick of my wrist, I cast Nightmare Eruption at the Ankheg and watched at writhed around for a couple of seconds before it curled into a ball and died. This was moment Grelda finally came round.

“What did I miss?” she asked, frantically scrambling to her feet whilst keeping the gem tightly in her fist. “Is it dead already?…why do I have the gem? Why is Derrin in that tree?”

“We’ll explain on the way,” I said as Derrin climbed down and began to take the Ankheg’s armour. Thom ran towards Todd and began comforting the goat, who didn’t really seem that stressed, while Briss ran around to collect her daggers. Once we gathered our belongings and place Kuris back on Todd, we once again walked towards Baldur’s Gate.

It was two hours before we arrived at the gate of our destination. A couple of the Flaming Fists stood guard and stepped in front of us as we approached. They appraised each of us carefully before one of them spoke.

“Why are you here?” he asked. There was a small pause, where it was clear that no one really knew how to answer his question, before I took a step forward and replied.

“I’m an entertainer,” I said and flicked my hand to my saide, conjuring some sparks and coloured spirals to appear from my fingertips.

“You’ll do well in the wide,” he replied as he nodded at my little trick. “A lot of the performers hang around there. It’s a good spot. The circus is also in town. You might want to check it out.”

“Thanks!” I was about to step through, when I caught a glimpse of the bound gnome sat on top of the goat. “Oh, we also have this gnome here with us. He was doing some very amoral experiments on some elementals in his tower. We managed to subdue him and free the elementals, but we thought we’d hand him over to you to decide his punishment.”

“Right…okay,” the guard said, eyeing the gnome wearily. “Follow me.” He lead us all to the nearest Flaming Fist outpost and took Kuris into custody. “I’m going to need to take down one of your names. Just in case there’s a further inquiry.”

“Uhhh.” I looked around at the other, who studiously avoided my gaze and sighed before replying. “Alyona. My name is Alyona.” The guard scribbled my name down on the piece of parchment before dismissing us. We all left the outpost and the gem Briss had been using the keep Kuris subdued crumbled in her hand. I felt about ten times better when it broke, although I was slightly disappointed it had. It would have been a useful thing to have around.

“We should head to the Three Kegs and get some rooms if we’re going to be staying here a while,” Derrin suggested as we made our way into the heart of the city.

“You guys go ahead. I’ve got some business to take care of first. I’ll pay you guys back for the room later, if that’s okay?” Thom asked, slowly breaking away from the group, taking Todd with him. I nodded back and then watched his retreating figure for a moment and then moved to catch up with the others.

“I completely forgot that Thom had some business here,” I commented, walking beside Derrin.

“Yeah, I didn’t ask when you two mentioned you were heading here. I probably should have, now that I think about it,” he replied.

Laughing I shook my head slightly and said, “Don’t worry about it. I think we were all a little caught up with what was happening. I’m just here to do some more performing. I learnt all I could back in the Dalelands.” He nodded and smiled at me, holding my gaze before looking straight forward again and giving directions to Briss and Grelda.

It wasn’t a hugely long walk to get to the Three Kegs, but once we entered it took us almost as long to make it to the bar. The tavern was packed with people and noise was very close to unbearably loud. Derrin charged forward, moving people out of the way and managing to clear a path to the bar that Briss, grelda and I followed. The four of us stood at the bar, waiting to catch the barman’s attention, but it was again quite a while before he made his way over to us.

“What can I do for you?” he asked, wiping down the part of the bar we were stood at.

“Do you have any rooms free?” Derrin asked and leant forward so he could hear the man’s answer over the hubbub of noise that filled the room.

“I’ve only got three rooms left, mate. 2 gold pieces a night.” Derrin looked back at the three of us and I shrugged my shoulders while nodding. There wasn’t really much else we could do and from the amount of people in here, I half expected to have to share a room with someone. As Derrin dealt with booking the rooms, I turned to ask Briss if we would be sharing, but found her missing from my side. It took me a while to locate her amongst the sea of people in this room, but when I did I was not comforted by the look on her face.

“What did you do?” I asked and frowned at her.

“Nothing!” she exclaimed and looked scandalised at the accusation. A little too scandalised for my liking. “I’m going to go ahead and assume we’re sharing a room. Have you paid yet?” Rolling my eyes, I reached into my money pouch and handed over what I owed to the barman, along with Thom’s share too.

In my peripheral vision, I saw Grelda way slightly before leaning on the bar. There wasn’t a doubt in my mind that her dizziness was wine related and I definitely didn’t think she should be in this hot, cramped bar any longer than necessary. Looping her arm through mine, I began to lead her to the stairs as Briss flanker and Derrin collected our room keys.

“Come on, Grelda,” I said. “Let’s get you to bed. You need a lie down.” We were just at the foot of the stairs when a man wearing what looked like a very expensive jacket and a guard stopped us from moving. “What’s going on?” I asked, looking at the two of them, feeling very confused.

“She’s the one that took my rapier,” the wealthy man said and pointed accusingly at Briss. Sighing heavily, I looked over at her and raised one of my eyebrows. Grelda rested her head against my shoulder rather than get involved in whatever was going to go down here. That was probably a smart move. She was in no real condition to be dealing with this kind of thing right now. Briss met my gaze briefly and then proceeded to pull the jewel encrusted rapier from behind her back.

“What? This?” she asked, feigning innocence. “I found it earlier when we entered the tavern. No one was around to claim it…so, you know…” Leaving the sentence hanging probably wasn’t the best idea and definitely didn’t help build any integrity to the lie. The guard didn’t seem to buy any of it and wasted no time in taking the rapier from her and returning it to the man.

“I suggest you leave this place and don’t come back. I’ll know if you do,” the guard said and began to usher her out of the tavern. I watched this with wide eyes, unsure of what to do or even if I should do anything.

“Don’t worry about it,” Briss said over her shoulder, appearing far too calm and at ease with this whole situation. “I’ll meet you and Derrin outside later.”

Derrin and I put Grelda to bed in one of the rooms and made sure she was comfortable before dumping our stuff in our respective room and then made down to Briss. I was still quite in awe about how calm she was considering she now couldn’t get into the tavern where she was meant to be staying. As we exited, we saw Briss leaning against the wall of the stables.

“I’ll just climb in through the window later,” she said and smirked when I nodded, suddenly understanding her composure earlier. “So, where to first?”

“I need to find somewhere that can do something with this wolf pelt,” Derrin said, looking towards the direction of the marketplace we had passed earlier.

“And I need to find somewhere to sell this crossbow that I have. I really don’t need it and I have no idea why I picked up anyway. Plus, I need to find a messenger post so I can send a message to my parents. I said I’d let them know when I made it to Baldur’s Gate,” I added.

“Right. I have some jewels I want to sell. So how about we head to the marketplace first, see what we can get rid of there?” Briss suggested. Derrin and I nodded in agreement and then the three of us were on our way.

It didn’t take long for Derrin to find someone who could make some nice fur gloves (which he said he would be giving to Grelda) from his wolf pelt. Not far from there, a man bought my crossbow for three gold pieces, which was more than I was expecting it to go for. briss had yet to find anywhere which would buy her jewels for a good price, but many people had told us that the Counting House was her best bet.

“Why don’t you two head there while I go to the messenger post and send a note to my parents. I’ll meet you both in the Wide in about an hour?” I suggested. As soon as the other two sounded their agreement, I split off and began to made my way to the messenger post, which was inconveniently back near the gate we had come through not even a couple of hours ago.

The messenger post wasn’t that busy when I arrived and I managed to write out a quick message, letting my parents know that I’d arrived safe and even found some travel companions en route. The cost of the raven that was to deliver the message was a little more than I would have liked or even expected, but it was a big city – I should have known. Walking back down the streets towards the wide took me a little longer than I expected (I had taken a couple of wrong turns), but I ended up in the large open space just after the hour mark and saw Derrin and Briss warming up to do what looked like some form of acrobatics act.

“Thought we’d join you with this whole performance thing,” Derrin explained as he pulled his arm across his chest to stretch out his muscles. I smiled at them and nodded before taking the spot to their left. From where we were standing, we could see the circus that the guard had mentioned was in town, but nothing else was really happening around there. There were no lights or noise coming from the tents, which wasn’t really surprising – it was nowhere near showtime.

Pulling out a small wooden box from my bag, I placed it on the floor in front of me and then took a good couple of steps back, giving me plenty of space. Usually I would begin my acts by doing some sort of rally speech to gain people’s interest. However, from the amount of noise and hustle in this place, I didn’t think that would work. My best bet was to just jump straight into it, so that’s what I did.

Throwing my hands into the air, fire leapt from my palms and began to collect above my head. It moved in a controlled circle above me until I moved my arms out. That’s when it flared outwards, just above the heads of the crowd that had gathered before turning into snowflakes and falling upon them. The crowd erupted into applause and began to throw change into the wooden box. I was setting myself up to another round of illusions when someone in the crowd started to vomit. That was as good a sign as any to call it a day with the performing. Derrin, Briss and I gathered our things and began to make our way back to the Three Kegs.

“So what did you guys get up to?” I asked as we walked. derrin and Briss exchanged a look but didn’t say anything. “What? What happened?”

Before briss could say anything, Derrin butted in and exclaimed, “She punched a beggar in the face!” I turned to Briss, waiting for an explanation but she just looked straight ahead, not acknowledging me until I coughed pointedly.

“What?!” she cried, throwing her hands in the air. “He punched me first…metaphorically, when he tried to get some money off me.”

Laughing and shaking my head, I decided not to give a comment her actions. Briss would be Briss and she’d punch beggars if she wanted to. There was no stopping or reasoning with her.

It was starting to get dark by the time we reached the Three Kegs and the hustle and there definitely weren’t as many people inside. Derrin and I left Briss outside as she began to climb up the building after I pointed out which window was our room. We sat down in a booth in the bar, deciding to wait for Thom to get back before spending time in our rooms. I leant against Derrin, feeling very tired from the day and just wanting someone to rest on. He stiffened slightly before relaxing and leaning back in his seat then taking a deep breath.

“It’s been a tiring day,” he whispered and I could feel his breath on me.

“Yeah, it definitely has. A lot of traveling and errand running,” I replied, matching his intonation. That’s when a small child appeared at our table, looking intently at Derrin. I moved off him slightly so I could exchanged a very confused look with him.

“Hello?” Derrin said, leaning forward onto the table. The little girl just stared at him for a moment before handing him a folded piece of parchment. “Who gave you this?” Derrin asked as he took the parchment and began to unfold it.

“The posh man with the beard,” she replied in a high pitched voice before scuttling out of the tavern. Derrin looked over at me and it was clear we were thinking the same thing.

“Remi,” I said and Derrin nodded then looked down at the note.

Tomorrow. The Blushing Mermaid. I have a job for you.

We didn’t have time to discuss what it could mean or why Remi didn’t just come find Derrin and speak face to face before Thom walked through and clocked us immediately. He dumped his stuff onto the table and then looked at the two of us.

“I have a job for us. It’s in the Underdark,” he said, looking completely serious and very stern.

“Ummm,” I replied as I looked at Derrin and then returned my gaze back to Thom. “I don’t think we’re quite equipped to handle going there yet, Thom.”

“No, we’re definitely not ready. The Underdark is serious business. None of us would last three seconds down there,” Derrin stated. I nodded my agreement and studied Thom carefully before he sighed and sat down in front of us.

“Yeah, you’re both right,” he sighed, not making eye contact with us. “I guess we should wait a bit. Try and train ourselves up so can be prepared. Maybe do a couple more jobs before we venture up there.” Derrin made a noise of agreement and the three of us sat in companionable silence for a moment before I stood up.

“Right, well, I’m going to go and check on Briss. She’s hiding away in our room because she can’t come down. It’s a long story,” I said whilst I looked at Thom. “I’m sure Derrin will explain. See you boys later.” I climbed the stairs quickly and walked straight into my room to see Briss sitting on the bed, playing with one of her daggers. “You alright?” I asked, closing the door behind me.

“Mhmm, just a bit bored. It sucks that I can’t leave this room unless it’s through the window,” she replied. Nodding, I looked around the room. It was pretty basic with just a bed and a desk with a chair that had an oil lamp placed upon it. I could imagine being stuck in here would drive anyone crazy.

“Hey, didn’t the guard say the circus was in town? Why don’t we go see it?! My parents used to take me and- they used to take me all the time! I loved it!” Briss looked at me for a second before nodding once and then making her way to the window.

“I meet you outside,” she said and threw leg over the window sil. Smiling, I turned around and hurried my way down the stairs. I briefly registered the site of Thom and Derrin sat opposite each other with some shot glasses at between them, but disregarded it as I reached the door. It had been ridiculously long since I’d been to the circus and I was way more than a little bit excited to be going again.

The two of us made our back to the Wide where torches had now been lit so they stood out against the darkness, lighting the way to the circus tent. There was a more palpable atmosphere of excitement as people began to follow the path and make their way to the ticket stand. Briss walked alongside me, clearly not as excited for this as I was. As we followed the crowd, I was practically bouncing on my toes with each step. It really had been a while since I’d seen a real performance. Banners hung atop the ticket stand and above the entrance to the main tent reading ‘The Grand Waterdeep Circus’. We joined the end of the queue for tickets and as we waited, some acrobats flipped and jumped, entertaining the crowd as they waited. But we weren’t waiting long. Within five minutes we had reached the front and a halfling wearing a red suit leant forward, smiling at Briss and I.

“Two tickets? That’ll be fifty silver pieces each,” he said, holding out his hand for the money. There was only a slight hesitation on Briss’ part before she handed over the silver pieces, whereas I handed over the money with much more gusto than was probably needed. “Thanks,” he replied, giving us two ticket stubs that had a strange red, glowing ink. “Enjoy the show!” I smiled at him and said a quick thank you before I dragged Briss into the main tent and got us seats as close to the front as I could possibly manage.

“This is going to be so good!” I squealed as I settled down in my seat. Briss frowned at me slightly and opened her mouth to say something, but I shushed her before she could as the lights had dimmed and music had started to play.

The ringmaster stepped into the centre, a single spotlight on him as he began talking, doing the usual introductory spiel that was meant to gain everyone’s interest and have them on the edge of their seats with anticipation for what was yet to come. He was stout, dwarven man who wore the traditional black top hat and red and white suit and had a twisty moustache, not unlike Remi’s.

Once his welcome speech had finished, he disappeared into thin air, causing the entire audience to gasp. But his disappearance didn’t keep our attention for long as almost immediately after, a woman with long black hair and a floaty red dress took to the stage. Slow, ethereal music began to play and she started to dance and twirl some ribbons as she did so. When the music began to increase in tempo, she let go of the ribbons and they began to twirl around her of their own accord. I smiled in awe and clapped along with the rest of the audience as she moved her hands, causing the ribbons to twist into shapes and perform complicated movements around her. When the music came to an end, she grabbed the ribbons and took a bow while the audience applauded and cheered.

She glided off as the acrobats from earlier flipped and cartwheeled their way onto the stage. We watched as they balanced on tight ropes, juggled flaming torches and knives as they did so. Every trick they did was met with applause and cheering, it was clear that out of the two performances, Briss preferred this one. While I found the acrobats extremely talented, the ribbon woman was my personal favourite of the two. Their performance ended with them jumping from the tight rope and landing on each other’s shoulders. Briss stood up and cheered loudly along with everyone else and I couldn’t help but laugh at her.

Once the acrobats had retreated backstage, three animals swooped over our heads. Briss and I hastily ducks before looking up to see three griffins circling the tent. They did loops in mid air and would swoop down and pinch a little food from people’s laps before landing in the centre circle around who I assumed was the griffin tamer. Applause once again sounded throughout the tent and the tamer threw his hands out to his side and bowed as the griffin’s stuck their front left legs out in front of them and did the same. The rest of their act had the tamer had the griffins fly through flaming hoops and in various formations, which was all very impressive but the act that followed the griffin tamer had the whole tent in awe.

A man with long brown hair and simple robes took to the centre circle. He greeted the audience in a similar manner to the previous performers but then began to start telling jokes. Now, the phrase ‘telling jokes’ is used very loosely. Nothing that he was saying was funny and a general atmosphere of ‘what on Earth is going on?’ was most definitely discernible. The sounds of people whispering to their friends started to grow louder; even Briss and I shared a look of pure confusion. That was, until the head of a giant red dragon erupted from the ground, swallowing the comedian whole. I sat, staring at the head of the dragon with wide eyes and my mouth hanging open. Briss dragged me down to the floor and everyone else seemed to have crouched or was panicking in some shape or form. Everyone was screaming and half of the crowd were up on their feet, ready to flee the tent. That was when the dragon disappeared, turning into a cloud of dust and revealed the comedian standing unharmed, wearing a much flashier suit and a huge smile on his face, looking thoroughly pleased with himself. There was a beat of silence before the room burst into cheers and everyone was on their feet. I couldn’t stop the smile on my face as I applauded and looked on in awe. That was some next level magic and I so incredibly impressed.

“Oh, that was good,” Briss commented as she clapped along with everyone else.

“I know, right?! It was incredible!” I replied, clapping even more enthusiastically as the illusionist took a bow and then began to walk out of the ring. Everyone took their seats again and the noise from the illusionist had barely died down when three drow walked in.

They were carrying bows and arrows, and seemed oblivious to the obvious mixed reaction they were getting from the crowd. A lot of people had fallen silent at the sight of them, whereas other people’s attention (namely Briss’) seemed to have peaked considerably. One of them had a blue flame scar across his neck that lead down onto his collar bone. It was clearly a spellscar. Two of the drow stood towards the right of the ring, small planks of wood held above their heads, while the third (the one with the spellscar) stood towards the left, bow and arrow poised. He began firing rapidly, hitting the blocks of wood every single time. The rest of their act followed the same sort thing. They were very good and clearly immensely talented archers, but it still couldn’t top the illusionary dragon. From Briss’ insanely tight grip on my arm throughout the entirety of their time in the spotlight, I had a feeling it was probably her favourite.

Following the Drow, two Goliath’s walked on carrying swords and shields and my eyes widened at the sight of them. They undoubtedly the largest creatures I had ever seen and their skin was blue with white tattoos covering almost every visible surface. They both acknowledges the crowd with a small nod before they began fighting. The entire bout was tense from the get go. One would have their sword on a path straight for the other’s heart or neck, when it would get impeded and then they’d both be back on a level playing field. It couldn’t have lasted more than ten minutes before coming to a shocking conclusion. One of them managed to get his sword to the other’s neck and then sliced right through it. His head rolled along the floor as his body fell to its knees in front of his opponent. Loud gasps echoed throughout the tent and I grasp Briss’ arm in horror, unable to take my eyes off the sight before me. The horror felt by everyone soon turned into amazement and even a few laughs could be heard as the detached head opened its eyes and then began to laugh. The Goliath that had decapitated his friend picked up the head and placed it on its rightful place on the body before proceeding to help his friend up. As they bowed in front of the applauding crowd they had incredibly large smiles on their face. We had obviously given them the exact reaction they had been looking for.

Passing the Goliaths, on their way to the stage, four Tieflings made their way forward carrying balls and batons in their hands. Their brick red skin seemed even more vibrant under the circus lighting and they all wore matching black leather clothing. They each raised their right hand in the air before jumping straight into their act. The batons and balls they had been carrying were suddenly engulfed in fire and they began juggling them. Every now and then they’d toss one to each other or do a complicated series of spins while the balls and batons were in the air before getting into position to catch them again. They were essentially juggling fire and it was as impressive as it sounds. As the crowd applauded the end of their act, they each held up their right hands, exactly like they had previously, and walked off.

There was a brief pause once the Tieflings left, and I was about to turn to Briss and ask her if she thought that the performances had finished, when a man wearing a floor length, hooded black cloak appeared in the centre. The cloak was black, but if you looked close enough, it seemed to be covered in stars like the night sky. It also spread in a large circumference around him, making it look like he was ascending from the darkness. I stared at him, thoroughly confused because I was absolutely positive that he hadn’t been there a second ago. But if he had simply walked on, surely we would have seen him? He smiled out at the audience before pointing at random people and describing objects that they had apparently brought with them tonight with an eerie amount of detail. It was very funny watching the shocked and confused faces of the people he was pointing at. Then he pointed at Briss.

I felt her tense up beside me, but I couldn’t help but giggle when the words that left his mouth were, “Magical gnome shoes.” Briss gave me a harsh side glance as I tried to stifle my giggling, but I just couldn’t help it. “They’re quite fashionable, really,” the hooded man said. “But they’re definitely not your size.” With those final words, he flicked his cloak behind him, revealing his legs and a pile of all of the objects he had just named and described. Laughing at the thoroughly disgruntled look on Briss’ face, I stood and applauded along with the rest of the audience.

Briss made her way back to her seat and glared at me before saying, “Shut up.”

“What?” I replied is as much of an innocent tone as I could muster. “It’s funny. Why do you even have them here with you?”

“Well I wasn’t going to leave in the room, was I? I already left the other gnome I took there.”

Before I could ask why leaving them there would have been such a terrible idea (or why she had taken some of Kuris’ clothes), the ringmaster appeared once again. A huge smile adorned his face as he began the his closing speech.

“Thank you all so much for attending. I hope you had a truly magical, mystical and entertaining evening. We are the Grand Waterdeep Circus and we bid you a goodnight!” he announced before a cloud of dust enveloped him and when it cleared, he was gone.

Loud chatter started from the audience as everyone began to gather their things and leave the tent. I turned to Briss with a huge smile on my face and grabbed the tops of her arms.

“Wasn’t that brilliant?” I asked, letting go of her so we could both stand up and make our way out. “I do love circuses. Everyone is so different. But that illusionist though. The dragon he conjured was simply amazing!”

“Yeah, it was,” Briss said as we walked out of the tent. “Why can’t you do that?”

“I haven’t gotten quite that far with my magic yet,” I admitted, looking to the ground. “One day, maybe. I mean, that illusionist must be so powerful! He must know so much.” We continued to walk back along the lighted path that had lead us to the main tent, but before we passed the ticket stand I caught sight of the ringmaster chatting to people as they left. Smiling, I grabbed Briss by her arm and pulled her over towards him. “Hello, sir,” I greeted, beaming down at him.

“Hello there,” he replied and smiled at Briss and I. “I hope you enjoyed the show. What was your favourite act?”

“I liked the Drow,” Briss answered as she subtly removing her arm from my grip.

“And I loved the dragon illusion. It was so realistic!” I said enthusiastically. “One day I hope my illusions can be as great and as on a large scale as that one.”

“Oh, so you’re an illusionist too?” he asked and twisted his moustache thoughtfully. I nodded in agreement, a little excited to see if this was going in the direction I thought it was. “Well in that case, please show me what you can do. I always love seeing new talent!”

“Of course!” I replied and took a couple of steps back, away from him and Briss. “May I borrow your hat?” I asked. The ringmaster looked a little taken aback by the request, but reached up and handed his tophat to me, nonetheless.

Smiling, I took it from him and then proceeded to throw it high above my head. As it twisted in the air, I muttered incantations under my breath and raised my hand. A starling flew out from inside of the hat and caught it in its feet. I dropped my hand back to my side, the starling continued to soar above the heads of Briss and the ringmaster and stardust appeared in the wake of its wings and floated down towards the ground. It flew in a circle above everyone once before four robins flew out from the inside. They were barely visible in the low light, but every so often one of them would fly into a patch of light from one of the torches.

A small crowd of people from the audience had now gathered, watching my illusionary birds circle above them – the starling scattering stardust above them as the robins weaved their way between each other. As the birds completed another circle, one of the robins every so often would spin rapidly, creating brightly coloured sparks in the sky. But upon the completion of this second circle, I decided it was time for the finale.

I clapped my hands once and all of the birds ascended higher into the air. Once it started to get hard to spot them against the night sky, I clapped again and they all turned and flew straight down towards me. The five birds were gaining speed fast, but I didn’t take my eyes off them and kept my expression calm and serene. It was about a foot above my head when it appeared that the robins had hit an invisible wall. As soon as they made contact with it, they disappeared and turned into a thin cloud of smoke that covered the circle which the birds had been flying in. When the starling made contact with the wall of smoke, a bright white light flashed and snow began to fall as the smoke began to fade.

Catching the ringmaster’s hat, I smiled and looked at the crowd in front of me who all had snow falling around them. The ringmaster and Briss began to applaud which then prompted the rest of the crowd to follow suit. Giggling, I put one arm across my front and the other behind my back before taking an elaborate bow. It had been a while since I had done a proper performance. I had forgotten how good it felt. I flipped the ringmaster’s hat in my hand as I walked over and then handed it back to him.

He placed the hat back on his head and gave me a toothy grin before saying, “That was quite the performance, young lady. What’s your name?”

“Alyona,” I replied. “Alyona Ashbrow.”

“Well, Alyona Ashbrow, you’d get along brilliantly with Thildance, our illusionist. Should you ever want to join, there’s a place for you here, with us.” I shared a glance with Briss, unsure of what to do or say. Joining the circus would have been amazing. I would have gotten to learn so much more magic and get to travel while doing so. That was the whole reason I left Deepingdale in the first place. But then I met these guys and even though I hadn’t known them very long, I felt like I could call them friends. I couldn’t just leave them now. “Don’t worry about declining right now,” the ringmaster said, quite obviously sensing my hesitation. “You can come find us tomorrow or even next year. They’ll always be a spot for you. But for now, why don’t you and your friend take these backstage passes and a programme so you can keep track of where we are.” He reached into his inside pocket and pulled out three pieces of parchment, all decorated the same as the tickets we had received and all had the same glowing red ink. He handed them to me and smiled before saying, “You two better hurry off now if you want to say hello to the acts. They’ll be wanting to get some sleep before an early rise tomorrow. I expect I’ll see you around, Alyona.” The ringmaster waved us off before turning to strike up a conversation with another member of the audience.

Briss and I grinned at each other and turned around to make our way behind the main tent, showing the passes to the staff that stood around there. As we rounded the corner we saw what was essentially a campsite filled with differently decorated caravans and some smaller tents that followed the circus colour scheme. One of the caravans was a deep red, the same colour as the dragon that had been conjured earlier. Smiling, I bounded up to the door and knocked on it three times. I could hear the sound of rustling the other side of the door, but I didn’t have to wait long until it swung open to reveal the illusionist from earlier. He looked down at Briss and me, seemingly a little surprised to see us here, before smiling and stepping out from his caravan.

“Hello ladies, nice to meet you. I’m Thildance. I take it you were in the audience of this performance?” he asked. I barely had time to nod before he carried on talking. “Wonderful! I hope you enjoyed it. How did you manage to get backstage passes?” He nodded at the papers still in my hand.

“Oh, the ringmaster gave us them. He also offered me a place here at the circus after I performed for him. I’m an illusionist too, you see,” I said quickly, the words rushing out of my mouth. Thildance raised an eyebrow before looking me up and down with a scrutinizing gaze.

“You must be good…or at least show some potential. Lugbat doesn’t offer positions to just anyone. He also doesn’t just give out backstage passes willy nilly,” he commented, smirking at Briss and I. “I did mention to him I was thinking of taking on an apprentice. I’ll gladly teach you some tricks of the trade. What was your answer to his offer?”

“I didn’t actually give him one,” I replied. “But I think it’s going to be a no. I have some prior commitments.” Thildance nodded and sighed heavily through his nose.

“But you will be around tomorrow? If you have some time, I can at least teach you a little something and it’ll give you a chance to see the circus life. Maybe it’ll even change your mind!”

Laughing, I nodded and looked at him before smiling and saying, “Yes, I’m around tomorrow. I’m not sure you’ll change my mind, but I might as well let you have a go!” He clapped his hands loudly and smiled broadly.

“See you at eight, then! I may teach you a ritual, I think. Oh, would you both like me to sign your backstage passes before you leave?” I nodded enthusiastically, holding both of the passes for him to sign.

Once he signed them and waved us goodbye, Briss had spotted a caravan that was so completely black it almost blended in with the sky. Immediately we knew it belonged to the cloaked man that had managed to pinch people’s belongings – including Briss’ gnome shoes. Briss practically dragged me over there before she wrapped her knuckles against his door. The sound of various locks being undone before the door sung open to reveal the thief himself. He leant against his doorframe and smirked at the sight of us.

“Ah, gnome shoes. How did you manage to get a backstage pass?” he asked, looking at Briss with far too much amusement.

“My friend impressed the ringmaster,” Briss replied shortly. “How did you manage to take all of those things without anyone noticing? It was a pretty packed room. Did you use magic?”

“Impressed Lugbat, eh?” he repeated, looking me up and down. “Well done, and I’m a thief. Plain and simple. No magic involved.”

“Do you know anything about a thieves guild?” Briss asked and I couldn’t help but look at her with a little confusion. She really was bombarding this poor man with questions this evening.

The thief stopped leaning against his doorframe and held eye contact with Briss for a little longer than necessary before saying, “What makes you think I’d tell you even if I did?”

“I’m a thief too,” Briss responded in a very matter-of-fact way. The man smirked at her and took a step back into his caravan.

“Prove it.” As soon as the words left his mouth, his door shut again and the sound of locks clicking into place filled the air.

Briss, resilient and stubborn as ever, pulled her lock picking tools out from her pocket and set to work. In my opinion, it didn’t take her long at all to break into the caravan. She made picking the three locks on that door look almost effortless, but as the door swung open the man was nowhere to be seen.

“Not bad,” said a voice from behind us. We both jumped at the sound and turned around to see the thief smirking at us. “There’s a shop near the Helm and Cloak. You’ll know it when you see it. That’s where you’ll find the information on what you’re looking for.” Briss nodded at him and made to walk away, but grabbed her arm and looked back at the man.

“Would you mind signing our passes, please?” I asked. He chuckled quietly before nodding and taking them from me.

We made our way around the rest of the acts, having small chats and telling them how much we enjoyed their performances, before getting their signatures and moving on. I had to practically drag Briss away from the Drow before we finally left to head back to the Three Kegs.

As I entered through the front door, Briss began her climb up to our room. The bar area was still quite busy, which surprised me considering it was now rather late. It wasn’t incredibly noisy, but there was a lot of drunk laughter and the sound of tankards hitting the table. A distinct amount of noise was coming from a booth to my left and when my gaze wandered over to there, I was shocked to see a completely drunk Derrin with a half passed out Thom, and Grelda, who was only slightly more drunk than usual. Sighing, I walked over to them with the full intention of getting them up to bed as soon as possible, but Derrin spotted me before I could instigate my plan.

“Alyona!” he cried, raising his tankard in the air. “You missed it! More people came and found me! They asked me to do another thing where we can all get paid. We have to go to the Helm and Cloak tomorrow at a time that is after one but before three. I forget what that number is.” His words were beginning to slur and he was leaning very far forward across the table to talk to me. I couldn’t help but laugh at him. It was very odd seeing Derrin in this sort of condition. “Oh and there was a very handsome man in the corner who offered us an assassination job.”

“You may not want to say that one so loud,” I said to him, glancing at the people around us. They didn’t seem to be paying attention, but I had a feeling that if they had been I could spin the ‘drunken story’ excuse and they’d buy it.

“It pays soooo well. We have to be at the Blushing Mermaid by noon tomorrow. Explain more then. I’m very sleepy right now.” When he finished that sentence, Derrin laid his head on the table while his hand still clutched his tankard. I rolled my eyes and then looked to Grelda who was smiling a little too broadly at the sight of a passed out Derrin and Thom.

“We should probably take them up to their rooms now,” Grelda said, standing and moving to put Thom’s arm over her shoulder. “I’ll take this one. I think I’m sharing a room with him anyway. Will you be okay taking Derrin to his room, Aly?” she asked.

“Sure thing,” I replied and pushed Derrin back do I could sling his arm over my shoulders and half lift him. He was a lot heavier than he looked. Grelda had Thom all the way up the stairs before I had even made it to the foot of the steps.

Eventually I got Derrin into his room and put him on his bed. I removed his shoes, but left it at that before returning to mine and Briss’ room. While I would class Derrin as a friend, I didn’t think we were comfortable enough with each other for me to do anything other than that for him, yet.

Briss was already asleep on the floor when I got into our room and as I got into bed, I made a mental note to insist that she have the bed tomorrow night and to tell her about the other jobs Derrin had informed me of.

As the sun began to stream through our window and onto my face, I shuffled around on the bed and began to stretch awake. It took me slightly longer to get ready than usual to get readys I moved around as quietly as possible, so I didn’t wake Briss. I left the tavern before anyone else in our group woke and assumed that Briss would inform them where I was. Raising a hand at the barkeep as I left, I began to head to the Wide so I could spend the morning training with Thildance.

I walked straight through, past the main tent towards the backstage area Briss and I had visited last night. No one stopped me or asked why I was there and I couldn’t get over how different the place looked during the daylight. The thief’s caravan stood out much more now and a lot more people were out and about. Different acts were stood in the open space outside their caravans, practicing their performances or just socialising with each other. Thildance was doing the same as I approached him. He seemed to be formulating different coloured smoke into patterns. Stopping a couple of metres away, I watched the smoke for a minute or two before coughing pointedly.

His head turned in my direction and the smoke stopped as he said, “Ah, Alyona! Good to see you. You’re right on time. Shall we get started?” He gestured to the wooden bench just in front of the caravan and we both made our way over to begin my training.

A good portion of the morning was spent by Thildance teaching me a new ritual that would allow me to understand any language for a given period of time. I practiced continuously for two hours, with Thildance occasionally correcting me on my pronunciation or how much of the ingredients I was using. At around twelve we stopped and I was very thankful. I was beginning to get a bit tired and thought I should probably leave to meet up with the others soon, but Thildance took me to what looked like the main campfire circle where all the other acts had gathered and were eating lunch. He passed me a plate and ushered me forward to where the food was on display and slowly began to put some on my plate.

I had been sat, eating and chatting with the performers for a while before Lugbat came round and sat down next to me, clearly happy that I was there.

“Alyona! Is it just my wishful thinking or have you taken up my offer for a position here?” he asked.

“No, I’m sorry,” I replied, giving him an apologetic smile. “I’m just here to practice with Thildance for a bit.”

“I won’t lie and say I’m not disappointed. But while we have you here, why don’t you show everyone else some of your illusions?”

“Okay, why not?”

I set my plate down next to me and held my hand out so my palm was facing upwards. Fire appeared in my hand, just like I had done at the lumber camp. But, instead of using it to get information out of someone, I muttered an incantation and a phoenix began to form from the flames. It soared up above and began to fly around, just like a normal bird. Then it was joined by what looked like another phoenix, but instead of being made of flames, it appeared to be ice. I looked over at Thildance and saw him muttering spells under his breath as his hand moved in front of him. Smiling, I turned my attention back to my phoenix and started to make it cause fireworks every time it flapped its wings. Thildance countered with his ice phoenix causing snow with its wings. We carried on like that for a good ten minutes before Thildance’s phoenix burst into a snow cloud and mine went out like a giant firework. The rest of the performers clapped and laughed at the little impromptu show they had witnessed and I laughed and took a bow along with Thildance.

“Are you sure you won’t stay?” the ribbon lady asked.

“I’d really love to, but I’m travelling with friends and I promised them I’d help with some jobs they have lined up. Speaking of which, I really need to head off to meet them now.” I stood up and gathered my things as everyone else began to say good bye. “I look forward to seeing you all soon. I don’t know how long we’ll be staying in Baldur’s Gate, but while we’re still here, I’ll be sure to drop by.”

And with that, I left and began to make my way to the Blushing Mermaid. The whole walk there I was thankful that I hadn’t told any of the circus members where I was going, because I was pretty sure that along with being quite a dodgy tavern, it was a brothel. I saw Derrin, Briss and Thom standing outside the very likely to be brothel, talking animatedly as I approached them. Thom was the first to see me and he gave a small smile before drawing the attention of the other two to me.

“Good. You’re here,” Derrin said as he turned towards me. “You’re going to be the one doing this, okay?”

“Doing what?” I asked and looked at everyone else.

“The assassination. It’s going to be you. You’ve got the magic. It’ll be very hard, near impossible to trace it back to you. You’ll be fine. Also, we’re apparently meant to be meeting Remi here, but I’m pretty sure you were there for that bit. I know what you’re thinking – what if the man we need to assassinate is Remi? Don’t worry, it isn’t. We thought it was for a moment, but the portrait just looks similar to him. It definitely isn’t Remi. Are you okay?” The sheer panic on my face was probably what prompted that last question. They wanted me to kill a man for monetary gain and I couldn’t quite deal with that.

“I’m not sure I’ll be able to do this,” I said as I stared at the sign of the building.

“You can. It’ll be fine,” Derrin said, putting his hand on my shoulder in what I assume was meant to be a comforting gesture. But he was persuading me to kill a man, so I wasn’t too sure how I felt about it.

Thom tied Todd to a post outside and then there wasn’t much more time for discussion before everyone turned and entered the building. The scene before us was like that of any other tavern I’d ever been in. There was a bar and some tables scattered around the room and people were talking loudly while drinking and apparently going about their day. Thom and Derrin made their way to a table close to the bar while Briss and I decided to hang back and sit somewhere a little further away. There was a corridor to our left that seemed to have considerably dimmer lighting and I pointed it out to Briss. She looked over at where I gestured and nodded before making eye contact with Derrin. He nodded once and then him and Thom walked down got up from their table and made their way down the corridor to the right.

Briss and I began to walk down the dimly lit left hand corridor, but as we walked further all we could see were other rooms with people milling about in them. In one there was a man facedown on the floor. He could have been dead or unconscious, we wouldn’t have known the difference. We carried on looking around and saw nothing else but locked accommodation rooms.

“There’s meant to be a cellar, isn’t there?” Briss asked me as we turned the corner and saw a dead end.

“What?”

“A cellar. That’s where all the prostitution happens. Not above ground in the tavern-esque area,” she explained, like it was the most obvious thing in the world.

“So what you’re saying is that we should be looking for an entrance to a prostitution cellar?”

“Yeah, pretty much. My bet is that it’d be behind a bookcase.”

We turned around and made our way back to the main entrance room to find Thom and Derrin and possibly a bookcase. I looked into the room that had the unconscious/dead man in and he still hadn’t moved. His odds weren’t looking so great. Entering the main room, we saw that Thom and Derrin had made their way back too. We headed straight towards them and Briss began speaking immediately.

“Did you see any bookcases?” she asked. Derrin and Thom shared a completely befuddled look with each other before nodding slowly. “Good. Show us where it is. I think that’s where we need to go.”

“That’s where the prostitution cellar is,” I whispered, enjoying the confusion on their faces.

“Right…” Derrin said as he looked between the two of us and then Thom before turning on his heel to lead us to this bookcase. We followed him in relative silence, now looking around this dimly lit corridor. It seemed to be a mirror image of the left corridor, so much of the sights were the same. Except when we reached what would have been the dead end, there was indeed a bookcase. Briis looked very proud of herself as she walked up to it and began pulling the books off of it. Eventually she pulled one out that caused the shelf to slide to the right, revealing another set of stairs that undoubtedly led to the prostitution cellar.

We stepped inside and began to make our way down. The air was a lot staler and it smelt like dick. It was just generally gross and the further down we got, the worse it seemed to get. Before we could enter the main room, a man sat on a wooden chair, blocking our way. He observed the four of us carefully as we walked towards him.

“I need a ten percent cut of whatever these two are paying you, ladies. Those are the rules,” he said, giving us a smile that was for too creepy for my liking. But we didn’t have much of a choice other than to give him money. Otherwise we’d cause a scene and that’s not what we wanted to happen. Briss and I handed him one gold piece each, completely unconcerned with how cheap that meant we were to him. We were hardly going to give him a substantial amount of money.

It didn’t take us long to find the room we need to be in. Amongst the sea of rough looking rooms and people walking around half dressed, there was one door that appeared far too well kept and didn’t seem to have the smell of dick around it, almost like it was cleaned regularly. I wish I could have said the same for the other rooms.

Derrin took the lead and knocked on the door, giving me a pointed look as he did so. I frowned slightly, still not completely comfortable with what was about to happen and I wasn’t entirely sure I’d even do it. But as the door swung open, we saw a man who did look an awful lot like Remi, but it clearly wasn’t. His clothes were also expensive and it was apparent he had a lot of money.

“You must be Derrin and his group!” he said, taking a step back so we could all enter. He shut the door properly and turned to face with a huge smile on his face. “My cousin, Remi, said that you would be the best people to contact for what I need doing.” I glanced over at Derrin who shook his head slightly at me and then engaged in the conversation.

“So Remi recommended us…and you’re related to him?” Derrin asked, double checking all of the facts.

“Yes, like I said, he’s my cousin. Can’t you see the resemblance? I’ve been told we look very alike.”

“Yeah…” Derrin looked at me with wide, confused eyes for a second before returning to a neutral facial expression to talk to Remi’s cousin. “What do you need us to do?”

“Now, there’s something that I want. It’s in the Woods of Sharp Teeth and you all seem to have the skill set required to get it for me,” he said and put his hands into his pockets. “It’s a blue gem, that I’m looking for. So what do you say?”

“Why do you need this gem?” Briss asked.

Remi’s cousin turned to her and smiled before replying, “I like special things and this gem is a special thing.”

“Special things?” Briss repeated and then reached into her bag to pull out the gnome shoes. “These are special. As you can see they’re of great quality and they’re magical.” I watched as Remi’s cousin stared at the shoes for a minutes before nodding to himself.

“They are very nice. I’ll give you five hundred gold for them,” he offered. Briss’ face lit up and she practically threw the shoes at him.

“Deal!” Remi’s cousin walked over to the table in the room and pulled out a leather pouch before throwing it at Briss.

“While we’re on the subject of gold,” Derrin interjected. “How much would you be paying us for this?”

“Two hundred gold each.” Yes, this man definitely had a lot of money. This entire family was the probably the type to throw money at everything.

“We accept,” Derrin replied quickly and shook hands with the other man. “We have some other things to take care of first, but we shall return and let you know when we’re going to set off.”

With that, we left and made our way out of the cellar. As soon as we reached the other side of the bookcase, I sighed appreciatively at the smell of fresh air. Then I turned to Derrin and began quizzing him as we all made our way out of the Blushing Mermaid.

“So the man you were speaking to last night wanted us to kill Remi’s cousin.” I stated. Derrin merely nodded and pulled the door open for Briss, Thom and I to walk through. “But obviously we aren’t going to do that. So what are we going to do. If we don’t kill him, they’re probably going to get someone else to try.”

“Don’t worry about it. We’ll figure something out,” he said and knelt down to help Thom untie Todd. “There’s another job I want to look into before we do anything. Once we’ve found out about that one, we can way up our options. Also, while we’re here, we should probably do some digging about the Seawood Company.”

“Yeah,” Thom agreed, holding on to a bit of rope that was attached to Todd as some form of makeshift lead. “We’ve run into them twice now. I’m starting to think this isn’t really a coincidence.”

“Right then,” Briss said as she walked over to a beggar on the street. “Hello. Can you tell us where we’d find out about the Seawood Company?”

“Seawood? They make boats I think. Try the docks,” she replied and then held out her hands, hinting at some payment for the information. But Briss had already walked away before she could get around to actually asking.

“To the docks!” Briss announced, leading the way there.

It wasn’t as long a walk as I anticipated and as we reached the docks, the smell of the sea and sight of fishermen unloading the boats greeted us. We walked over to the ship closest to us and got as close as we could so we could talk to them.

“Hello,” I said, smiling and taking a step forward onto the boat. I barely got another word out before I roughly pushed against my shoulder, sending me tumbling back into Derrin.

“You don’t board a ship without the captain’s approval, missy,” said one of the sailors as he leaned threateningly over me. Thom stepped in front of me and pushed the man away before saying something that I didn’t quite catch and then getting pulled away by Derrin.

“Now is not the time to be starting a brawl, Thom,” Derrin warned. He had one hand around the top of Thom’s arm and the other on my shoulder and we all began to move away.

“Okay…round two, I guess,” I said, pulling away from Derrin and moving towards another group of sailors.

I could feel the other three stood very closely behind me the entire time I was talking to the sailors. Maybe they were just trying to make sure they could hear everything they were saying, but I kind of knew they were there just in case I messed up again.

The sailors told us that the Seawood Company made ships and that a lot of the ships at the dock had been made by them, but recently they were having trouble acquiring wood because a lot of the lumber camps were becoming soul providers for another company. They were also kind enough to point out where the Seawood Company offices were in the business district. We all thanked them and then began to walk away, heading towards the Helm and Cloak. Derrin started talking as Thom lagged behind with Todd.

“That’s odd – really odd,” he said.

“What is?” Briss asked, walking on Derrin’s other side.

“Lumber camps never produce wood for a specific company. I used to work for one a long time ago. That’s not how things are done.” We carried on walking in silence for a couple of minutes, everyone mulling over what this information could possibly mean, until Thom caught up with us. He had Todd walking along with him and then another goat under his arm.

“I’m just going to drop off this goat. I’ll meet you guys at the Helm and Cloak,” he said before walking off without giving us a chance to ask any questions. Derrin, Briss and I looked at each other, all of us very confused and then carried on.

As we walked, I spotted a pet shop and ducked in quickly, looking at their birds. I had always wanted a pet to travel around with and one that could possibly help me with my performances would always be a bonus. The woman in the shop pointed out a beautiful phoenix that stood on a perch in her shop window and I felt my heart melt whilst looking at it, but it cost ten thousand gold and there was no way I’d be able to afford that. Instead, my attention was drawn to a sleek, black raven sat on the counter. It was twisting its head, looking at me curiously and then when I smiled at it, it went on hopping around the counter, looking for seeds again. That was the bird I left with (and he was much more affordable than the phoenix).

“What are you going to call him?” Briss asked as my raven flew ahead of us before turning around and then landing on my shoulder.

It nuzzled me as we continued to walk and I smiled at him before replying, “I don’t really know. I didn’t really have a name picked out. He was more of an impulse buy, really.”

“How about Edgar?” Derrin suggested and he reached to stroke the raven’s back.

“Edgar…I like it.” I smiled up at Derrin and watched as he held my gaze for a couple of seconds before withdrawing his hand and then looking at the ground.

But then all of our attention was drawn to the large tavern in front of us. People were moving in and out of it at an alarming pace and it was making so much noise we could hear it very clearly from where we stood down the street. It was about twice as busy as the Three Kegs had been when we had first arrived. the three of us stood there for a moment, just watching it all and as we did, Thom arrived at my side. We had arrived at the Helm and Cloak and I didn’t think all of us would manage to get in there easily, let alone accompanied by a goat and a raven.

View
The King That Crawls

Brooke – please feel free to elaborate!

After hearing of a missing sewage worker, Alyona, Briss (and some others) head down beneath Baldur’s Gate into it’s complex sewer system. Once below the city, they find a curious Treant youngling feeding on the rich nutrients of the city’s waste.

They befriend the sentient plant and head into the network of stinky tunnels. After some bloody scraps with rat hordes the group stumble across a hideous rat creature made up of several mismatching bodies. He scurries away into the sewers and the party chase after him.

This leads to a climatic battle which resulted in the apparent death of the creature’s mangled body but it’s spirit seems to escape.

The team recover the barely conscious body of the missing sewage worker and return to the surface to return him to his family.

View
The City of Baldur's Gate Pt. 2

“Well…that’s certainly more busy than I thought it would be. Maybe only a couple of us should go inside,” Derrin suggested as he stared at the tavern.

“Good plan. Why don’t you and Briss go inside and find out about this job. Thom and I can stay out here and watch the animals. Plus, we can think of a way for us to get down to the Wood of Sharp Teeth. Yeah, we can go it alone, but I think we might be able to travel with the circus. They’re heading south anyway and this way it’d be cheaper for us. All we’d probably have to do is help out with set up and some odd jobs as payment for the food and shelter they’d be providing us with,” I proposed, looking around the three of them.

“Yeah, good thinking, Aly!” Briss said and she nodded enthusiastically, but that probably had more to do with that fact that she got to spend more time with the Drow than it being a more convenient way for us to travel.

Derrin and Briss fought their way into the Helm and Cloak while Thom and I stayed outside with the newly acquainted Edgar and Todd. We watched them play fetch together for a while until a familiar face started walking towards us.

“Oh, hey Grelda!” I said, smiling at the woman as she approached us. She looked a lot better than the last time I had seen her, but she still had her trusty wine flask tied to her belt. “How did you know to find us here?”

“Derrin mentioned something about this place this morning. I’m sorry I couldn’t join you, I had…other business to take care of,” she replied coyly. “Are Briss and Derrin inside?”

“Yeah, we thought we’d stay out here with these two instead of trying to make our way into that,” Thom explained, gesturing to the highly over populated Helm and Cloak. “But I think we should probably go and talk to the circus. It’d be more productive than just waiting around here.”

“Why do you need to speak to the circus? Oh, don’t worry, I’ll get Derrin to explain it to me when I find him and Briss. you two run off and talk to the circus now. I’ll let the other two know where you are,” she replied and then began to make her way inside. A street performer began to approach us, playing his lute and clearly wanting money. Thom and I rolled our eyes before walking away with Todd and Edgar, and heading to the circus.

Lugbat was milling around the front of the main tent, chatting to various different people when we arrived. He smiled at me and waved as I walked past him. Returning the smile, I gestured at Thom, silently asking if he was okay to come in too. Lugbat nodded and then held up a finger before finishing his conversation with the woman and walking over to us.

“Is this one of your friends that you’re traveling with?” he asked, leaning forward and shaking Thom’s hand.

“Yes, this is Thom,” I replied as Edgar flew down and landed on my shoulder. “Actually, sir. I have a favour to ask. I know you offered me a position here and I declined, however, my friends and I will also be traveling south at some point and I was wondering if we could all travel with you? There’s only five of us and we’ll do whatever work you need us to!”

Lugbat looked Thom and I over before nodding and saying, “Of course you can. There’s always room for you here, Alyona, and your friends too! Why don’t you go and talk to Thildance, see if he’ll still mentor you. Plus, it’ll be beneficial for you to show Thom around if you’ll all be around with us for a while.” Nodding and barely able to contain the smile on my face, I nodded and waved at him before dragging Thom towards the circle of caravans and then straight to Thildance’s. I knocked on his door, eagerly bouncing on my toes just like I had the night of the circus and when he swung open the door, he looked very surprised to see me. But before he said anything to me, his eyes darted straight towards Thom.

He frowned slightly before saying, “It’s really good to see you Alyona, but – and I don’t mean to be rude – why is your friend dressed as a man?” My head turned back and forth between him and Thom, who looked shocked and a little bit scared. He met my gaze and I stared at him, wide eyed and more than a little bit confused. “Oh…” Thildance interupted, clearly seeing that neither of us had anticipated this moment or that I didn’t actually know that Thom was a woman, apparently.

Thom looked around us, desperately searching for something, before saying, “Griffins. There are griffins over there. I’m going to look at them. Right now. Talk to you later Alyona.” I had never seen someone leave a conversation so quickly and with so little eye contact. He…or I suppose she, walked straight towards Peith’s (the griffin tamer) caravan and began to pet the griffin’s, leaving me with Thildance.

“Well, that was a very strange encounter. Not one I thought I’d be having today,” Thildance said, staring in the direction Thom had walked. “Anyway, what brought you both here today?”

“Ummm,” I tried to reply. Honestly, I was still very thrown off by the beginning of this conversation and I don’t think I had really processed much of what I had just been told. “Well, I just spoke to Lugbat. We’re actually going to be travelling with you down to Nashkel and I was wondering if I could still learn some stuff from you?”

“That’s brilliant! Of course you can and there’s not time like the present. Go ahead and show me the ritual I taught you earlier.”

We jumped straight into some more training, but all the time I was perfecting the language ritual, I couldn’t help but think about the Thom revelation. There really was a lot we didn’t know about each other, despite the fact we had been travelling together for a while now. We really needed to have a conversation sometime soon about all of this.

After a couple of hours doing more training with Thildance, we left his caravan and everyone began to gather around the circle that we had been in this morning and eat some lunch. The other performers seemed very surprised to see me again, but Lugbat and Thildance happily explained the circumstances and they all seemed excited at the fact that our little group would be joining them. We all sat and chatted very much like this morning, except Thom came and sat down next to me and began eating lunch with us. I introduced her to the rest of the performers and everyone started getting to know her, but she already seemed to be pretty friendly with Peith. However, during the entire time Thom studiously avoided making eye contact with me, no matter how often I tried to catch her gaze so I could send her a ‘you have a lot of explaining to do’ look.

The explaining happened soon after we had left and told them all we’d probably start staying with them some time soon. As soon as we were out of sight from the performers and staff, Thom stopped, let down her hair and then began to take off her armour. She gave a sigh of relief before finally looking at me and giving a sheepish smile.

“Sooo, I should probably start with the fact that my name isn’t Thom – it’s Theresa,” she began and we both carried on walking. She had her armour gathered in her arms and I could feel her eyes on me, waiting for me to say something. I merely noded, which prompted her to continue. “Thom is my brother’s name. I…well, I used his name so I could get into the army and fight in the war. They wouldn’t let me before – just because I’m a woman, which I wasn’t going to stand for.” I couldn’t help but nod in agreement at that bit. “Then, circumstances changed. I had to go home, but there wasn’t a home to go to. I swore I’d find who did it and tried to rejoin my squadron, but they were gone and then I met you. You’d first seen me wearing my armour, being Thom and there really wasn’t a way I could not be him without arising more suspicion. Then we joined up with Grelda, Derrin and Briss and I was too far in to reveal this now. I mean, Grelda already knows. She knew from the beginning. We’re both elfs, she was always going to know. But the other two don’t. I’d prefer it to stay that way.” As she finished her little speech, I met her stare and gave her a small smile and nodded. There were still a lot of things she hadn’t quite clarified, but I had a feeling that would all probably come with good time. Plus, I had no right to pry into her personal life and ask she reveal all when I hadn’t done the same. Albeit, no one had asked why I had wanted to come to Baldur’s Gate or apparently wanted to know anything about my family, but still – I hadn’t willingly given up the information.

“I won’t tell anyone, Theresa. I promise.” Smiling at her properly, I reached forward and squeezed her shoulder gently. “You know, when we get back to the Three Kegs, I can plait your hair for you. It’ll be easier for you to keep up that way, under your helmet.” The woman smiled at me before nodding slowly.

As we walked back to the Three Kegs, we stayed in a comfortable silence. It was nice to see Theresa so relaxed; the sight was quite foreign to me. But she probably hadn’t taken off her armour in a while – probably since we had joined up with Derrin, Grelda and Briss.This was probably like a breath of fresh air for her.

Walking into the tavern, we saw grelda sitting in the corner accompanied by a surly looking man. His hair was dark and his smile was getting increasingly more flirtatious as he leant in to talk to Grelda. Theresa and I shared a glance before returning to the booth that she and Derrin had occupied last night. As Theresa put her armour down in the seat next to her, I made her turn to the side so I could begin plaiting her hair. I did two simple braids and then pinned them to the top of her head, like the milkmaids did back home. As I finished pinning the second one up, Grelda’s giggling accompanied by a man’s chuckle resonated throughout the tavern. My head shot up and I saw Grelda lead the man up the stairs, presumably to her bedroom.

“Ummm, can I sleep in your room tonight?” Theresa asked. “I think Grelda’s going to be very busy tonight.”

“Of course you can,” I replied and then made to stand up to head to the bar. “Fancy a drink? This round’s on me. You shouldn’t probably put your armour back on too. We don’t know when the other two will be back if Grelda’s already here.”

We had been drinking and chatting for about ten minutes before Derrin and Briss ran in, looking out of breath, very flustered and were carrying something bundled in cloth. They stared at the corner where Grelda and the man had been previously situated before looking at us.

“Where’s the guy that was in that corner?” Derrin asked.

“The ruggedly handsome man with very attractive features,” clarified Briss, leaning on our table.

“Grelda took him upstairs,” Thom said and waggled her eyebrows at the other two.

“Yeah, I wouldn’t bother her if I were you. She’s very busy right now,” I added and smirked at them.

“Well she’s going to have to not we busy because we need to talk to him.” As Derrin finished his sentence, he turned on his heel and began to make his way to the stairs, quickly followed by Briss, who shouldn’t have even been in the tavern right then, but it seemed that the barkeep didn’t even notice. “You two need to come with us, as well. We don’t have much time to explain. this needs to be quick.”

Sharing a confused, slightly startled glance, Thom and I gathered our bags before following Derrin and Briss up the stairs, heading straight towards Thom and Grelda’s room. The noises coming from there made it very clear what they were doing, but Derrin stepped forward and knocked on the door anyway. Silence followed before a very annoyed Grelda shouted, “What do you want?!”

“The job’s done!” Derrin called through the door and then began to usher us all into his room before Thom or I could ask what the hell was going on. “We warned Remy’s cousin about the assassination attempt. He’s going to meet us down in Nashkel the night of the circus’ first performance there. So, we can still do that job for him in the Woods of Sharp Teeth before we see him again. I’m assuming we are travelling with the circus?” I nodded at the pause in Derrin’s little monologue before he carried on. “Great, so after we told him to get out of here, we went down to the morgue and got a head.” Derrin paused again, taking a deep breath before gesturing to the clothed bundle in Briss’ hand. “It doesn’t look anything like Remi’s cousin right now. That’s where you come in Alyona.” Briss placed the cloth bundle on Derrin’s table and unwrapped it, revealing the head of a corpse as promised.

I stared at the bodiless face and pursed my lips before nodding and saying, “Yeah, I can give him a moustache.” I tried not to dwell too much on the fact that this was a dead man’s head in front of me and did what I had to do.

Once the head looked sufficiently enough like Remi’s cousin, I wrapped it up in the cloth again and made to hand it to Briss, but then Grelda’s door opened and we could all hear the two of them talking for a little while before the man clearly said, “Tell your friends I’ll be in the alley a couple of streets over, in the direction of the Wide. Write to me, Grelda.” His footsteps sounded throughout the silence and as soon as he was clear of the stairs, we all sprung into action.

Derrin, Briss and I ran after the man as Thom blacked Grelda’s path and I assumed told her what was going down. We jogged down the street, dodging past people as we ran and looking into alleyways trying to spot the man. I tried to keep the head as protected as I could and not knock it against things as we jogged, but luckily the third alleyway we looked into had a tall figure standing in the shadows. All three of us came to a stop and slowly approached him.

“We have the proof,” Derrin stated and gestured to me with is hand. The man stepped forward and I got a better look at him. He was, indeed, very handsome. Go Grelda. He nodded at the parcel in my hands and Briss walked over to me and began to unwrap it. The man winced and frowned heavily as he stared at the detached, moustached head before he nodded and reached into his bag.

“Here you go. Here’s the money,” he said and handed the coin pouch over to Derrin. “I’m going to go now. I won’t be seeing you.” With that, he turned on heel and walked until he disappeared around the corner.

Derrin counted through the money in the coin purse, gave Briss and I fourty gold each and took the same for himself before handing the pouch to me and saying, “Give Thom and Grelda their share when you get back to the tavern. I think Briss and I should probably reattach the head to its body.”

“Yeah, good plan,” I replied as I hand the head to Briss and took the coin pouch from Derrin. Quickly, I waved my hand over the stranger’s head, making him once again look like himself before sending Derrin and Briss on their way. My walk back to the Three Kegs was quick and happy. I really was quite glad we’d managed to avoid assassinating someone and actually bypass Remi’s cousin being assassinated all together, but somehow still managed to get paid for it. It was good work on Derrin and Briss’ part, but maybe conning an assassin wasn’t the best. But what was done was done.

Entering the Three Kegs, I saw Thom and Grelda talking to some people by the bar and quickly made my way over to them and gave their share of the money before I forgot. They introduced me to the people they were drinking with and we all stayed there with them for half an hour, just talking and drinking. I’m pretty sure Thom was trying to hit on one of the girls, but she didn’t seem to be getting very far before Derrin and Briss returned. Derrin nodded at me and began to head up the stairs as I followed him and everyone else did the same. We all walked into Derrin’s room and he shut the door before he started speaking.

“So, I’m thinking we travel with the circus until we reach Beregost he suggested and sat down on his bed. “There’s a guy there who’ll be able to do something with that Ankheg armour in the corner and it’s close to the Wood of Sharp Teeth. We do the job for Remi’s cousin and then catch up with the circus as they reach Nashkel. When we get there, we’ll send Edgar to Remi’s cousin, whose name we should really have gotten, or he’ll send a message to the circus and we’ll have a meeting place and time. Sound good to all of you guys?” No appeared to have any qualms as we all nodded at Derrin’s proposal.

“If that’s all,” I said and began moving towards the door. “I’m going to go to bed. We’ve only got these room for another night and then we’ll be camping out with the circus. Better a good night’s sleep before we’re sleeping on the ground again.” We all retired to our rooms after that, getting ready for a long day of moving our belongings and finding out what working for the circus would mean exactly.

The next week passed very quickly and the majority of the time, we were all at the circus grounds. Well, apart from Grelda who spent the week training with the Flaming Fist, surprisingly. For some reason she had decided to try and join up and was now, technically, one of them. So as the rest of us helped the circus set up every night, sell some tickets and look after the animals, Grelda was bonding with her fellow soldiers and not drinking. That was probably the biggest shock of all. Thildance had also taught me another ritual that would allow me to prevent eavesdropping in a room or small area. It took me a bit longer to learn, but after about two days I had it down. I also took to performing in the Wide during our free time and would even perform for the people in the queue for tickets, much like the acrobats had when Briss and I came to watch the show that very first night.

All in all, the week had been quite calm and uneventful. Even leaving Baldur’s Gate wasn’t as hectic or stressful as I imagined it would when you’re traveling with a large number of performers with animals and a lot of equipment. But then came night fall and the peace was most definitely disturbed.

The rest of the circus were sleeping peacefully in their tents or caravans. The five of us had set up a small campfire close to the forest edge – quite far away from the main circus camp, so we could talk and laugh as loud as we wanted without waking anyone up. Edgar was perched on my shoulder, occasionally We must have been talking for about twenty minutes before the sound of rustling came from the tree line.

“Guys,” Thom said, standing up and beginning to slowly back away. “I don’t want to alarm you, but there are fire beetles over there. Two of them. I think we should put out the fire and go.” Quickly, Derrin lept forward and made to stomp out the fire, but he stopped as he was about to, staring off in the opposite direction of the fire beetles. On our other side a behemoth that was beginning to make its way towards us. There wasn’t enough light around for us all to see what was going properly, so I clicked my fingers in front of Edgar, making him glow and sent him to sit up in a near by tree. We could all now see a lot better and it was very clear that we weren’t going to be able to run away from this one.

Grelda moved forward first, running towards the behemoth and attempted to cast Astral Condemnation at it, but it didn’t hit. Quickly, I cast my guardian blades (a spell I had only really just learnt, but now was as good a time as any to see how it would fair) and thrust my hands out in front of me, casting Nightmare Eruption straight at it. The behemoth staggered back slightly and screeched before shaking its head and moving towards me. Derrin tried to slice it with his axe, but the metal simply bounced off its skin. Behind me, I heard the sound of Briss screaming in pain and as I turned to see one of the fire beetles spitting acid on to her, the behemoth hit me.

It only glanced me, but it was enough to make me stagger back and almost fall over. As I gathered my balance, my guardian blades moved from my perimetre and sliced into behemoth, making it screech again. The behemoth ran away, this time heading for Grelda. I made to move towards her, but Derrin pushed me back and nodded towards Thom and Briss who were holding off the fire beetles. I watched as Thom ran forward and stabbed the beetle that spit acid at Briss and he then dodged out of the way of the other that tried to spit fire at him. It then turned to get me, but I side stepped out of the way and watched as my guardian blades dealt with the threat. When they finished slicing into it, I waved my hand and set a Magic Missile in its direction, knocking it back and causing it to start bleeding externally. From the corner of my eye I saw Briss throw a dagger straight into the head of the fire beetle that had attacked her and it fell, crumpled to the ground. Thom then jumped out in front of me and lodged her sword into only left, killing it before throwing it to the side.

The three of us took a moment before turning around and seeing Derrin and Grelda fighting a huge behemoth, and they weren’t doing terribly. Grelda was throwing fire at it as I ran forward and raised my right hand. Mumbling the incantation, a parade of lightning fell of the sky, hitting the behemoth, toasting it with each strike. When the lightning stopped, Derrin moved towards it and stabbed it with his sword before slicing it with his axe. He had enough force to pierce through the scales this time and the behemoth roared with pain as it lolled from side to side. Thom then ran forward to join the fight and lodged her sword straight into its side before the behemoth turned and clamped its jaw around her arm. She screamed out in pain as Grelda continued to throw more fire at the creature. While I watched her Sacred Flame land and burn the behemoth, I something that I had been working on and only really had enough power to do maybe once every so often. But there was any time to call for him, now was it.

Taking a step forward and a very deep breath, I clenched my fists and tapped into my magic before saying, “Oh Sir Cadogan!” I could see the others giving me a very strange look as they continued to try and fend off this behemoth. “I could really use your help right now.” A thick cloud of smoke appeared next to me and as it swirled, it grew taller until it was at least two heads taller than me. It grew more condensed and then began to take humanoid form. Armour became more clear and so did a face and arms before suddenly the smoke became flames.

“All alright, Alyona? What seems to be the problem?” asked the man of fire, or Sir Cadogan as he usually was referred to.

“Well, there’s behemoth over there..” I replied, gesturing to the rather hard to miss monster that was thrashing around, trying to lash out at my friends.

“Right. Of course. I’m on it!” Sir Cadogan replied as he glided over to the monster and began stabbing at it with his weapons, which were also made of fire.

I smiled and then cast another Magic Missile in the direction of the behemoth, but as I did, Derrin stepped in front of me and it hit him in the back of the head. I screamed out of sheer shock and ran over to him as he fell to the ground. He was already pretty beaten up, but now blood was starting to trickle from his nose and I began to panic. Luckily Briss’ aim was still on point as she managed to land a couple of daggers into the beast. It also looked pretty beaten up and seemed to be on its last legs.

Grelda moved over to Thom and healed her arm before rushing over to where I was knelt with Derrin. As grelda began to heal him, Sir Cadogan jumped and floated above the behemoth before striking a blow to the creature’s head. As it thrashed around, disoriented and injured, I threw my hands out in front of me and cast Nightmare Eruption at it. It roared even louder and blood began to seep from its eyes as it charged towards me. Its sense of direction seemed to be very askew as it only clipped my side, knocking me backwards slightly. But the slight glance was enough to set off my Guardian Blades which promptly planted themselves into its chest.

Sir Cadogan glided over to us as I reached down and helped Derrin up. Grelda had patched everyone up okay, but he looked like he was still in pain.

“All okay now, Aly?” Sir Cadogan asked as he put his sword back in its sheath.

“Yeah, I think we’re good. Thank you, grandpa Charles,” I replied as Derrin put his arm over my shoulders so I could take some of his weight. We were definitely going to have to talk about that later. I felt so bad.

“Right-o! Call me whenever you need me, Alyona. Don’t be a stranger!” Sir Cadogan said before bowing and then disappearing into thin air.

“So that fire warrior is you grandfather?” Derrin asked while he stared at the space Sir Cadogan had previously been occupying.

“Technically he’s my great-great-great-great grandfather,” I replied as we waited for Thom, Grelda and Briss to finish clearing up our camp fire. “He was a knight in silver and was blessed by a fire warrior during one of their expeditions, so now I can summon him to help me as a fire warrior. It’s a pretty good deal. Well, kind of. He’s essentially another one of my illusions, but having the family connection is nice. The stories my father and my b- my uncle Bailey tell about him are brilliant.”

Thom, Grelda and Briss made their way back over to us as I called down Edgar from his tree and removed the light spell from him. We all made our way back to the circus camp, a little bruised and very tired.

View
The Dragon in the Dungeon

Brooke – please feel free to elaborate!

After leaving the sprawling city behind them, the party head south to the famous Friendly Arm Inn with the travelling circus. After a merry evening the party rest and head out the next morning to the Wood of Sharp Teeth.

They find the ruined temple that their contact (F.N.) described to them and descend into its crypt. The group fight a number of Kobold cultists who have taken up residence in the crypts. Eventually the group track down Sek (the leader of the cult) and slay him and his companions in a heated battle.

The drama isn’t over however, as the group head deeper into the ground, leaving the crypt behind as they enter an ancient cave. There they discover a wounded, young white dragon. Negotiations go well until the dragon realizes he has been robbed. An epic battle takes place resulting in the triumphant slaying of the dragon by Thom.

The group leave the forest behind in the early hours of the next morning and and return their findings to the Friendly Arm. They then head south in the tracks of the Circus and arrive at Beregost. here the group do some selling and Derrin sells her ankhegg shells. Derin also get’s the Dragon’s hide worked into 5 thick, scaly rucksacks.

Finally the group head further south with e Circus to Nashkel, to meet N.P.

View
A Private Invitation

Brooke – please feel free to elaborate!

After meeting with F.N. in Nashkel the party are invited to a mysterious island. F.N. has payed for a boat and crew to escort the group on their journey. The day long trip however turned sour around sundown when the crew turned on their passengers. When the scuffle was over and Briss was nearly dead, the party stood victorious. With some careful casting by Alyone the group were able to steer the boat to F.N.’s island by dawn. On their arrival he greeted them as Feldaquin Nearsight.

View
Easter Special

After attempting to start a beach party, the group stumble upon an underground tunnel system where the spirit of an old chocolate maker and her old pet rabbit lose, leading the children of Featherpeak Island into the tunnel system. After safely trapping the old lady and her pet rabbit into an ornate egg, the group throw a pretty sweet beach party.

View
Old Crypts and Old Friends

Once the group met Quinn, they go with him to the family mansion. After looking around the family museum and learning a lot about their family history, they finally see what Quinn has been working on – an airship.

After this revelation, a wounded messenger interrupts their conversation and it is apparent that an attack is being staged on Featherpeak Island. In the midst of this battle, the familiar face of Alkalis appears, saving Alyona’s life. After clearing the observatory they were in, the group head to the family crypts where Quinn had been kidnapped and taken to. After getting past the various puzzles in the crypts, they find Quinn in a room with A.P, but have no time to question him as Alkalis appears once again, kills A.P, sends one last smile toward his sister and then jumps out of the giant hole in wall before disappearing. Tiffany then appears, helps the group onto the now functional airship before giving them one last mission – to defeat Seawood and save Featherpeak island.

View

I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.