(The continuing tale as told from the perspective of hammer of the gods, the one, the only, Einarr Forgehammer…)
As I searched the bodies of the cultists, and removed their red robes for potential use in infiltrating the Temple of Elemental Evil, I noticed that they had a tattoo of a red-shaded skull on the base of their necks. This is the symbol of Iuz, the demigod of pain, deceit and other evil things. He was involved with the original forces of the Temple.
We settled for the night, taking turns at the watch. During my watch in the middle of the night, I checked on Kendalk and noticed that his condition was rapidly deteriorating. His breathing was becoming more labored and his pulse thready. I relayed this to the others in the morning (27 Flocktime). On a hunch I investigated the back of Kendalk's neck in the location of the tattoos of the cultists. To my horror, I found a beetle in the shape of a skull with reddish highlights and 10 legs. Creepy.
We debated for what seemed like hours about what we should do. I swear that non-dwarves cannot make a damned decision ot save their lives. OUr choices boiled down to Labernum, the Gold County seat where Countess Kyoven Ryavelle ruled, which was a days ride to the north east or Littleberg, which was 2 days ride due north across the lowlands and through the forest. My admittedly non-expert opinion was that it would be better to take the 2 days and avail Kendalk of the better services that would likely be in Littleberg, rather than risk not finding anyone to help in Labernum. We agreed that it would be best to send Kree and Alina with the horses, while we followed, albeit more slowly.
As we were getting camp broken, I noticed that there was rain coming…and more ominously that the river was fast rising. As with the discussion in procuring aid for Kendalk, the others in the party were wishy-washy on whether it was better to try to swim the enormously wide river and scale the cliffs of doom on the other side, versus the more sane path north across the lowlands at a quick pace to the higher ground at the wood line, a mere 2 hours fast march. Taking control, and clearly stating that dwarves sink, we set out at a fast pace north towards safety, across what the ninnyie referred to as a "flood plain."
Just after we started out, one of the party noticed humongous, spindly legged humanoid came out of the river to climb the bluffs that they had wanted to try. I was vindicated once again for my foresight and determination.
Using my determination, fortitude and incredible stamina to push the long-striding taller beings to maintain a soul-crushing pace to keep ahead of the rain across the swampy ground, we reached the woods safely in the early afternoon. As I suspected, the woods appeared to be above where a flood had reached for at least a century. We were on solid ground and safe. We quickly found a game trail in the woods and followed it as it was heading generally north.
Soon after we entered the woods I heard an owl-like hooting to the east of the party. Shortly after there was a matching hoot to the west. This repeated again, very suspicious. Soon after, and owl dropped a snake on Trastor. He screamed like a wee lass, throwing it off himself. It slithered off into the forest. We proceeded further along the trail and once again heard the ominous hooting of the owl pair, east then west. Again and owl dropped something on Trastor, once again eliciting a girlish scream. This time it was a weasel that scratched the back of his neck. Oh what a sight seeing him dancing around trying to get the wee rodent off his back. That barbarian fellow smacked him in the head trying to help. Being of smarter disposition, I urged everyone to get beneath the canopy of the trees, thus mitigating the ability for the flappy bastards to drop more critters on our collective heads. As I was doing this, I could swear, as is the wont of most dwarves, that I could hear laughter to the north.
Soon after the barbarian fellow gets clobbered with horse dung that was contained within a leaf. This was quickly followed by a hornet's nest, fully of stinging little beasties. They were mad as hell and started stinging him repeatedly. Calling upon Bleredd to aid in our time of need, I attempted to burn the little stingers with the sacred fire of the forge. However, the silly bugger moved at the wrong time and it was he who was burned, not the hornets. We quickly moved away from the nest, and again I heard the laughter. Calling out that this was not a laughing matter, and would ye please stop, we were then confronted by one of the wee faerie folk. She insisted that we were trespassing on her territory and insisted upon the donation of tribute. We all did so, as we were not in them mood to have a plague rained down upon us. She told us that next time she would appreciate honey if we wished to pass through her realm.
We were then able to make better time through the old growth forest. Farther north we noticed markings on a few of the trees. We thought that it looked like rut markings, but with coarse brown hair in the scrapes. Near one of the trees, as dark was soon approaching, I noticed there were old rotted boards and shingles, indicating that there was perhaps some shelter nearby for us to rest for the night. I soon found a barn that was partially collapsed, but with an area protected by the fallen roof that was dry and cozy inside. Within the enclosure, I found some old iron tools, which I sacked up for future use in the smithy. Wanting warm food and drink, I made a fire from the dry wood.
During the night, again fortunately while on my watch, a frightful sound came rushing down the path towards our campsite. I knew this frightening sound be the howl of the fearsome owlbear. Yelling for the somnolent bastards to get their arses up, I fired blindly with me crossbow, trying to buy time for them to rouse. I hit it, of course, which only served to piss it off mightily. Waking faster than others, as ranger-types sleep lightly, Rardem adds his bow to the fight, hitting it with one of his two arrows. I fire again, but am bumped by one of the party members, which causes me some fear that I might hurt others instead of the owlie bear (that's my story, and I am sticking to it!). The odd thing that I notice, is that the owlbear has a spiked collar and old gauntlets on its arms. The tooling on them is old and scratched, but looks to be of excellent workmanship.
Finally Barbie gets into the fight, with a massive swing…and a miss, but the bard makes it flee. My friend the rogue shoots it in the back. Of course, this pisses Owlie off again and it comes roaring back at us. Rardem shoots and misses, then fires again, hitting it. Barbie swings again, recovering his composure, and slices it cleanly with his greataxe, taking it down. The bard puts it to sleep and we drag it over and tie it to a tree. I investigate the scrollwork on the collar gauntlets, and notice that is elven work, but very old. I memorize the patterns so I can sketch them later. I talk the party into not killing it, as it was likely a trained owlbear and it was only protecting its territory. I believe it not to be evil and it would be wrong to just kill it. Soon after it wakes and takes a swing at me. I jumped nimbly out of the way and it injures itself badly. I call upon the blessing of Bleredd and heal this creature in need. I tell Trastor to try to talk to it in Elvish to see if it will respond to commands. It responds to his commands, but not mine. After telling it to "hold" it calms down.
I decide then to investigate the area, knowing that we likely were close to its lair, and thus it was only trying to protect its territory and not just kill us for no good reason. I find that in the back of the barn, there is an entrance that looks like a lair. Aleff and I investigate the lair, finding a nest with 5 eggs in addition to a gnawed log that has some honeycomb remaining. I take the comb in case we run across the faerie again. There are also lots of rags, some broken barrels and other detritus. We find a nice silver service that is likely worth about 15 gold. Inspecting the eggs a little closer, 3 of them are brown, one is white, and one is white but with iridescent blue speckles, like sapphires. I take the special one, knowing that the owlbears do not exhibit object conservation. They will watch the nest if there are any eggs in it, but they will not notice if there are fewer than there were. I swear Aleff to silence, as the others will not like us leaving the eggs and the owlbear. As we are looking in the nest, we find some gold, gems, and a skull with gold teeth. At least we got something out of this encounter.
We decide to leave the owlbear to its home, but not with out some moralizing about how it could kill others. I argue that it has lived here for a long while already and is likely to have belonged to the elves that previously lived in the area. I suggest that we can likely earn a reward by letting the elves know that it is alive and well and where it can be located. They acquiesce.
We continue our journey north to Littleberg (28 Flocktime), finally reached the edge of the forest, transitioning to high plains with rolling hills and tall grasses. As usual, Trastor draws unwanted attention when the ground erupts around him and insectoid limbs flail at him. He is slashed, grappled and then it spits acid at him, injuring him further. Trastor breaks free. Aleff attacks and misses, but his courage gives me inspiration. The Mantis-creature grabs Kef, and I hit it with a bolt of lightning, allowing her to escape its clutches. Barbie swings his mighty axe, but only cleaves the air near it. Aleff mumbles something, but nothing appears to happen. Rardem enters the fight, missing as the mantis dodges, and then just barely nicking it with his followup shot. The Mantis stumbles while swing it claw at Rardem, a resounding crack coming from its now broken claw. I swing and miss, not anticipating it stumbling. Kef shoots and scores a hit, distracting it and allowing Trastor to cleave its thorax from the rest of its horrid body. With one mighty swing the fight is over. I heal both Kef and Barbie.
That night around the campfire, I show them the egg and let them know that it was one of five. They kvetch and gnash their teeth, but done is done.The fire shows that the speckles are indeed real sapphires. I indicate that we should be able to sell the special egg for a tidy sum in Littleberg, but secretly hope that we it will hatch something special.
The following day (28 Flocktime) we traveled across more rolling plains, the tall grasses swaying gently in the sun. After a short rest around midday, there is an odd sound coming from around a hill in front os us. Suddenly we see a sheep stampeded coming towards us, herded by several dogs. Quickly following the sight of the sheep, Trastor sees a bouncy fin cutting through the turf. BULETTE RUN!!! he yells. Yes, there is a dreaded landshark quickly approaching. It scoops up a sheep whole right in front of us. We try to navigate out of the flock of sheep, but it like jumping across an alligator infested swamp on their backs. Trastor falls, dragging me down with him. Kef tries for the edge, but also takes a stumble with the little sheep bastards causing havoc. Rardem, being more nimble amongst the sheepies, gets out and fires at the landshark, hitting but causing little visible damage. I rear up roaring the battle cry of Bleredd and smite it a mighty blow with my greathammer, causing a crack in the armor of its leg. Everyone else is stunned by my prowess with the hammer and miss the target. In fear for its life from the holy wrath of a cleric of Bleredd, the bulette grasps me in its fearsome jaws and flings me about like a dog with a chew rag doll. It tosses my near lifeless body aside to confront the others. Kef, fearing for her lifelong friend hits it with an arrow, Rardem, in fear for his hide, misses with his shaking arms. Aleff mumbles something again, but nothing appears to happen. Barbie, fumbles his great axe and cracks the head.
Fortunately for the party, over the hill rides a knight in shining armor. At least it seemed to glint in the bright sunlight. He lowers his lance, drives his heels into the flanks of his steed, and skewers the landshark. The tremendous impact unseated him from his saddle. Seizing the opportunity, Kef again hits it with an arrow. Rardem, regaining some of his will, hits it, but only a glancing blow. Barbie swings at it ineffectually with his broken axe. Recovering his feet, the knight draws his magnificent sword, slashing twice, snicker snee, snicker snack. The landshark is launched back ten feet, falling dead in a peal of thunder. Of course, I witnessed none of this, being on deaths door.
The knight, one Destin by name, and an adherent of Pelor says "this is all his fault. His plan was not sufficient and he is abjectly sorry for the harm that has befallen us." He lays hands upon my lifeless form and heals me fully.
(Thus ends this installment of the adventures of Einarr and his supporting troupe…)