Week 6, Traveling to the Golden Fields
We left our heroes in Gorlach's domain, having just obtained the bronze eagle feathers necessary for Cantrel's cure. It's the middle of the night. As we work our way through the woods, David hears some quiet steps beside us. He passes word to Daewen, but she is unable to trace the follower.
Half an hour later, Pfusand notices a pair of glowing eyes near to the ground. We are pursued by similar hints and threats until dawn. Around then, Tom stumbles and collapses from exhaustion. (We've been marching, climbing, fighting, and taking wounds for 24 hours uninterrupted.) As the party rests a few minutes, we hear large forms moving in the forested gloaming. They pass by. Daewen searches for prints but finds none. Displaced branches confirm the huge size of the travelers, though.
We recover our breath and proceed. We leave the forest and find ourselves in a different valley than the one we entered by. Continuing, we find three of the large statues we encountered yesterday. We think they are three DIFFERENT statues, but Cantrel voices the uncomfortable idea that maybe these things come alive at night are rove about on patrol. We press on and soon get beyond Gorlach's range.
By the time we reach Mother Myrtle's, Cantrel is ailing somewhat. Mother Myrtle whips up the poultice using our eagle feathers, applies it to the arrow stub that still protrudes from Cantrel's back and chest, and, after the appropriate incantations, whips the bone out of Cantrel slick as you please. Of course, there's now a hole in him, so she throws heavy healing spells in immediately after. And he's all better ... almost. There's still the "blight" to get rid of. Nonetheless, Cantrel is profuse in his thanks. We now have a month to reach the Golden Fields and find the golden and purple flowers needed to end the blight.
Tom asks if Mother Myrtle could teach him a simple healing spell. She says it would take more time than we have available. However, she does recommend we all take the time to SLEEP. Sounds great. We sleep the rest of the day.
Next morning, Cantrel is feeling poorly from the blight and it takes the healers a long time to put him right. Meanwhile, Tom and Chris do some repairs and improvements on Mother Myrtle's cottage by way of payment -- fixing up the chimney, re-hanging the door and a couple of windows. At length, we take our leave and head southwest.
After about an hour on the road, Tom spots a large white vulture (or something like it) overhead. Probably Gorlach's other familiar, spying on us. Well, if Gorlach can still reach us so far out of his alleged range, we might as well know that now. And in any case, we don't want to be spied on. So we open fire on the vulture with crossbows and hunting bows. We wound it but it flies off. No lightning bolts hit us just immediately.
That afternoon, we meet six armed men on horseback. We get off the road to let them pass, but they pause and question us. Pity we don't know the language. Tom: (in Faen) "I'm sorry, we don't speak Hremish." At the same time, David: (in Faen) "We don't speak Faen." (?) Whether or not the soldiers understand Faen, they are understandably confused by these remarks. (As is the party; David's Faen is poor.) They also look with a certain amount of wonder at Daewen, Alag, and Pfusand. Eventually, they shrug and leave us.
We have not come in sight of a town by sundown. We camp out and eat well from a picnic basket provided by Mother Myrtle. Daewen, you may recall, lost her clothing in Gorlach's raid on us. Pfusand gave her the sleeves off her silk pajamas, but they aren't rugged. She had been going about in an improvised rabbit-skin bikini, but the adventure with the eagles has been hard on it. Accordingly, she improvised another skimpy outfit from the tablecloth packed in the picnic basket.
Next day, Wu gives Cantrel his morning healing and we set off. Around noon, we come to a small village. The only three places that don't look like private houses are a smithy, a place with a sign depicting a wounded bull, and a place with a sign of two crossed branches. Chris investigates this last place first. Inside, it looks like a meeting house. It's probably a country temple. There is an altar table with a pair of gilded crossed branches over it. At the back of the hall is a bust of a man in a rather Roman style. The place is deserted.
We try the other sign, which turns out to be the Gored Ox Inn. The barmaid is polite but incomprehensible. We try the smith. He speaks no Faen either. None of us can do anything with our tiny smattering of Hremish. Returning to the temple, Tom and Chris find a young man in a white robe, who also doesn't speak Faen. We decide to leave.
As we pass the Gored Ox again, the innkeeper pops out and hails us in Faen even worse than our own. We ply him with questions and learn:
This town is named Little Valley Oak, or some such thing.
The temple belongs to the god of woods and vines. (Something like Bacchus?)
The next town is 25 wi away. (A little further questioning reveals that this is a day's travel. This gives us a rough estimate of the length of a wi.)
Any local dangers? No, this is Thursday. What? Could you repeat the question? (I SAID the innkeeper spoke lousy Faen.)
There are no bandits on the roads at present, but there are some scattered wolves about.
The smith might have an old shirt he could give Cantrel. (Remember Cantrel's worldly possessions are down to his pants, boots, and a pair of nunchuks Tom cobbled up for him.) The innkeeper gives us a small clay tablet with a note for the smith written on it.
The next town down the road is Wolfboro, Wolf's Town, or Wulfburg.
We collect a shirt that the smith was using for a rag and proceed. We camp between towns that night, wash the shirt, and reach Wolfboro in late morning. It's about the same size as Little Oakley. It has another cross-branches temple, a general store, and a house with a blue bird on the sign in front of it. This time, the temple has no bust in the back, and the attendant is middle aged and wearing gray, but he still speaks no Faen. The house of the blue bird seems to be a doctor's house. The doctor speaks no Faen either, and seems puzzled at what a bunch of healthy people would want with him. Which leaves the store.
Considering our poverty-stricken state, the store might not appear very interesting. But remember that Cantrel is a thief. Also, the store is a trading post, and Chris has a very little money left. He uses it to buy some arrows and a bowyer's plane, while Cantrel shoplifts some nails from a nearby jar. (After all nails were mildly valuable back in the Jack, where Cantrel was born and raised. Remember the Jack?)
The next day is our fourth since Cantrel's operation. We have 24 left. We see some smoke over the next hill. On the other side, we find a large town or small city, straddling a river, with a wall and a guarded gate. However the gates are wide open and people are passing in and out freely. The guards are armed with swords and, uh, pole weapons unlike any we're familiar with.
The guards are understandably suspicious of this bunch of vagabonds, and don't speak any more Faen than anyone else around here. However, Tom summons up a little Hremish and, slowly, painfully, with many misunderstandings, convinces the guards that we are travelers from foreign parts (obviously!) and are just passing through. We are not beggars, but will work for our stay in the city. The sight of a little money and Tom's tool kit reassure them on this and we get in.
We're hobos, not bums. Wee.
Once inside, we stand around in the milling streets for a while, arguing if there is anything worth doing here other than just passing through or trying to accumulate a little useful information. After all, we have a time limit -- Cantrel's health. We decide that, if we can raise some money quickly, it would be worthwhile to stay here and stock up on armor and weapons.
We then spot a Faen. Tom approaches him and hails him politely. (Daewen and Alag tag along for verisimilitude but let Tom do the talking.) We learn several useful things from him:
Chris, Cantrel, and Pfusand go to the Briar Oak. There, Chris sings and plays lute with considerable success, earning six small coppers. Cantrel and the Mo Pi stage an arm wrestling contest in which Cantrel bests the Mo Pi. (He actually is stronger than she, but she would have let him win anyway, because they are setting up a scam.) A brawny fellow then challenges Cantrel to a second match. Cantrel bets a copper and wins. The fellow shakes his head in admiration, proposes a second round, and wins his copper back. Cantrel puts up three coppers and wins the final round ... honestly as it turns out, but he was prepared to use his TK if necessary. His challenger laughs uproariously and buys Cantrel a beer.
The next challenger takes on the Mo Pi, who wins the first round. She starts to lose the second, but this time Cantrel really does use his TK to cheat. The Mo Pi's rounds won us a large copper each, and another free beer, this one for the Mo Pi.
Chris, taking the hint, starts gambling with his performance profits. He doesn't believe in games of chance any more than does Cantrel, though, and uses his Dicing talent to make the pips come up right. He is careful not to win too spectacularly.
In the last round of the evening, Cantrel meets and defeats a sulky, sore loser, winning one large copper. The group then leaves the inn. Cantrel, scouting a little ahead as is his habit, is assaulted by the sore loser, with a club. Very unfortunately (for the sore loser), he didn't connect on the first blow. Cantrel parries with his nunchuks, then dashes the club from his opponent's hand with a karate blow. The guy is about to lunge at Cantrel when Daewen hops in out of nowhere, standing on the thug's shoulders and holding a knife to his throat. He gives up and they walk away.
However, the encounter has given them an idea. They go mugger-hunting. Daewen takes out the silk sleeves that Pfusand gave her from her Mo Pi robe, and, together with the picnic cloth, fobs up a rich-but-disheveled costume. She then borrows some coins from Cantrel and goes walking down the dark alleys near the inn, jingle, jingle, jiggle, jiggle. Cantrel skulks along behind.
Sure enough, an uncouth sort in loud clothes assaults the little lady. She and Cantrel shred him in about twenty seconds. Daewen relieves him of his small sword and Cantrel takes the three purses he was carrying -- probably none of them his own. They held one eagle and four large coppers, total.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.