Somarrian Hunt – Adventure Notes
July 8, 2021
The following transcript is a direct translation from the RPG session, in the player and DM's own words.
Mixed with a small dose of creative license spice from the DM filling in gaps where needed.
(*) Please forgive typoes: written and produced at Actoroke speed.
Darrell Judd “Torgrum Thorsvoldsomsen” – Dwarven - Barbarian
Denise Robinson “Claw” – Wilder elf – Druid
Gabriel Mondo Vega “Armando Equis Blake” – Human – Bard
Patrick Keeffe “Calsimeer Alderman” – Human – Cleric
XiaoWen Wu “Pansy Lightfoot” – Halfling – Rogue.
Hajra (Hunt referee, Pentavolo)
Lei (Sentient red breasted Robin)
Londai (Somarrian barbarian)
Premie (Heckler Demon)
Ush & Yogo (Proprietors of the Dotage Mill Café and Bakery)
Razin (Agent of Rahat—Granada ministerialis)
Sagacious (Wizard, Team Invisibility)
Sally (Goblin, Team Invisibility)
Armando, Calsimeer, Claw, Pansy, and Torgrum
EPISODE 5 BEGINS
Previously on Somarrian Hunt: Bang the Gong
Armando sang, Love to Hajra.
Enraptured by his raw emotional performance, she stepped out of the luxury box and flew like a delicate butterfly down to the Arena floor. Swooning, she gazed into Armando’s glistening eyes as Armando finished the emotional unfeigned serenade.
The song was soon over, but the romance was just starting.
Hajra wrapped him in her arms, taking the lead and they danced gracefully, gliding around the bonfire as the band of troubadours picked up the rhythm where Armando left off.
Once, twice they danced spinning and laughing around the bonfire and then… somehow… magic slowly lifted them. Propelled by Hajra’s gift of flight, the two lovebirds flew up and out of the Arena beyond sight.
Now on Somarrian Hunt, episode 5…
DINNER AT THE DOTAGE MILL CAFÉ AND BAKERY
TIMESTAP: 25:00 – 37:36
Hajra and Armando landed on the western shores of the Boyonogo river just below Sheol’s outer walls, next to a multi-level weather aged stone watermill that seemed to have been conjured from a painting.
A wood carved shingle with blue lettering hung clattering in the wind next to the main door advertising this was not your average dusty old mill.
The sign in big block lettering said, The Dotage Mill Café and Bakery.
The undershot mill was older than its current owners, older by a couple of centuries at least and had been grinding Somarrian grain long before Sheol graced the hilltop above, and when the current site of Gravers Dig was a favored watering hole for cape buffalo and other plains animals.
The robust stone foundation and earthworks were original, having endured many Boyonogo wet seasons and tumultuous run ins with orc raiding parties. The upper floors showed signs of recent renovations and were glistening with a radiant new white coat of paint.
The current owners, Ush and Yogo, a young targonian couple with three adolescent children, continued the time-honored tradition of grinding grain but rather than selling it at market, they had expanded and were now making baked goods, and, in the evening, they opened to the public for dinner.
The children, a boy eight, and two sisters, six and five were busy playing with Somarrian strange-foot frogs along the river, when they spotted Hajra and Armando flying across the river. The eldest son, Tanweer, stopped captivated and soon the two sisters, were also gazing at the remarkable sight.
The husband, Ush a tall wiry man in his early thirties, was wrapped in a crisp clean white baker’s apron with chef’s beanie, cocked to the side. He stood at the front door writing the evenings special in white on a black chalkboard.
His wife, Yogo was in the garden cutting fresh yellow bush lilies. She wore dinner evening attire, a knee length blue ankara floral dress and a matching long flowing scarf.
At the first sign of Hajra and Armando flying across the river, Yogo had joined her husband at the door, watching the peculiar sight of windwalkers passing over the wide slow-moving river. It wasn’t every day the family saw humans defying gravity in such a manner, flying between Sheol and Gravers Dig on business, but it was known to happen.
As a rule, the good folks of Sheol preferred to keep the hunters and adventure seekers of Gravers Dig at a comfortable distance, separate, far away from the craziness that seemed to happen there on an almost daily basis.
The Pentavolo demon cultists, of which there were many in Gravers Dig, flaunted their connection with the underworld, and were known to fly in such a manner, preferring not to get their feet dirty like common folk. Or at least that was the hubbub amongst the locals.
When the man and woman touched down in front of the café, the husband gave her wife a momentary nervous glance before heading inside.
Yogo waved to the new arrivals, “Welcome. Dinner for two?” she said.
“Your best table,” Hajra replied, “and please prepare your finest Aimilleuse red, the Rouge Vif.”
The couple’s three children came running, squealing with delight, enchanted by the flying people who had landed on their doorstep.
Hajra bent a knee to greet each, rubbing their hair and pinching their cheeks, “Hello, little ones.”
The mother stiffened at her touch, as if that minor connection to her children also caused her physical pain. “Please,” she said, “I have the perfect table.” She ushered them to the door and quickly inside away from her children.
The watermill was of course powered by the boundless waters of the Boyonogo river, (who some said was the largest river in Somarria). Contained within the stone was a compact madmachine of moving wood gears and large stone wheel that produced a seismic rumble sound, like that of a giant grinding his teeth when sleeping.
The place was immaculate with a minimalist attention to detail.
Rich aroma of baking bread and simmering meat assaulted their senses and immediately made Armando salivate, reminding him of his mother’s cooking.
Yogo directed the couple through the cramped, low ceiling interior to a small terrace overlooking the river. The cobbled patio was just large enough for a single two-person table and nothing else.
Armando held the seat for Hajra before claiming his.
The sound of slapping waters off the rotating wheel and the persistent grinding of wood gears drowned out the distant raucous music and spirited voices from the Ballbarians celebration that carried on the wind across the river.
“I take it, you’re escaping those loud barbarians?” Yogo asked as she lit the candle at the center of the table.
“Barbarians? You mean Ball-barians,” Armando corrected.
“That’s what I said, barbarians.”
Hajra gave Armando a quick head shake and he quickly took up her meaning, and let the madam have her barbarians.
The lady of the café brought stone dishware and cutlery, “Them young hunting guides been plastering bills all over town advertising the event. Screaming from every corner. Broadjoy and Hershold said, they were even paying folks to attend. Who gets paid to go to a party?”
“Guaranteed success, I suppose,” Hajra said. “Smart, if you have the money.”
“Waste of money,” Yogo sighed. “I am Yogo, the proprietor with my husband. Bless Artisan and welcome to our café. It’s small but you will find that it has large flavors. My husband Ush is the baker and cook. He trained in the Blue Moon institute of bakery & culinary arts and has dedicated his life to food and making people’s tummies happy.”
“She ain’t lying,” Hajra grinned broadly, “Best agege bread in all of Somarria. Before I forget, I’d like to place an order for a two loafs to go. And I want a bag of those beignets—the heavy bag.”
Yogo bowed her head respectfully.
Ush appeared carrying a round cutting board laden with golden delicious agege bread and a pot of tea and placed it on the table. He bowed low and retreated.
Yogo brushed her dress straight, “Our dinner menu this evening is lamb stew with dumplings and chlada fakya fruit salad.”
Hajra nearly squealed, “Their lamb stew is simply divine. Slay all the lambs, I don’t care.”
“Sounds scrumptious,” Armando said, happy to go along with the suggestion. Since taking his seat he had become distracted by the vibrant river vista. The wide slow-moving river and crisp breeze was an intoxicating backdrop for an evening meal. A family of otters swam past the mill as dragonflies darted low over the water, mosquito assassins, feasting upon the insects of the river.
“We’ll take the stew,” Hajra said, holding up two fingers. “And don’t forget the wine. Aimilleuse Rouge Vif. None of that Marn laced swill.”
After Yogo scurried away, Hajra took Armando’s hands into hers, “Charming, no?” she said.
Armando pried his attention away from the river and fell into even larger radiant pools—Hajra’s expressive deep brown eyes. Charming, he thought? Who was she kidding? Did she mean herself or the mill café? Who could argue either way, he certainly wasn’t?
“You have a wonderful singing voice,” she said as she tore into a hunk of bread. “Your bard training, are you naturally gifted, or did you have professional training?”
“I’d like to think I’m a little of both,” he said beaming, “University of Dorsang. Class of 39 with distinction.”
“With distinction,” she replied playfully.
She leaned close, elbows flat on the table, chin cupped in her hands as she enjoyed the bread, “What other gifts do you have?” she said speaking through a mouth of bread.
Gifts? His mind exploded. The word—gift—had so many meanings so many possibilities. The way it fell from her lips, it had a perky venereal seduction. However, maybe she was being genuine. Just a simple question. Was he overthinking the question? Huh?
Her eyes fluttered, just momentarily, expressive, and delightful. A playful smirk danced on the edges of her upturned lips. He was trapped. Hell yeah he was, like a Tunnel Terror victim in a cocoon. He could not tear his gaze away from her, as much as he tried. He couldn’t and wouldn’t. Like the Tongdao maelstrom of Pan Erindi, her power was absolute, and he was being inexorably pulled in and there was no escape for him. She would ask and he would tell her everything.
Armando calmed his nerves, helping himself to sweet bread, “I recently took the Apollo Creed.”
“Apollo Creed? I have not heard of this.”
“It goes like this”, he said standing abruptly. The act of standing, somehow made him feel better. He struck a dramatic pose unsheathing his singing blade. Raising it aloft he recited:
To Dorsang Isle
I pursue evil with a smile
Let those who thrive by doing wrong
Beware my power
“Apollo, as in the Olympian god?” Hajra asked.
“Yes. Indeed. I am a student of Apollo, the oracle god of music, song, and poetry. My creed duty is to seek out and destroy evil wherever it hides its dastardly plans.”
He hacked savagely at the air, mock dueling evil opponents. “My singing sword is Kara Oki. We are harbinger. Dedicated to the proliferation of good and the destruction of evil.”
Hajra coughed, eyes bulging slightly and took a quick sip of tea.
Armando sheathed his sword unaware of the affect his determined pronouncement had on his dinner date. He plopped back into his chair and shoved a hunk of bread in his maw. Reciting the Apollo Creed made him feel better.
For a couple of moments, the two stared at each other in awkward silence, chewing agege bread.
Armando poured himself more tea from the kettle, “You are a Pentavolo? What is--?”
“Hmmm…” came a voice from the doorway. Yogo remained standoffish in the doorframe, not wishing to interrupt.
Hajra motioned her quickly to come forward, insistent on the interruption.
“I’m sorry. We do not have the wine you requested. You and your companions emptied my cellar the last time you were here, and we haven’t received a new shipment since.” She held out a round bottle wrapped in rope, “We have a Mycanean red blend?”
“No, no. That simply won’t do,” Hajra said dismissively. “I can fix your inventory woes, since it was I who raided it clean.”
Armando beckoned Yogo for the bottle, said, “Good company can make even bad wine drinkable.”
“Nonsense,” Hajra waved Yogo back and stood, “I said I will solve this.”
She turned her back to Armando and the mistress of the mill and struck her two bracers together, rubbing them fiercely. And as she did so, she spoke, muttering low in some incoherent alien dialect.
“Premie,” she said loudly, snapping her fingers. She drew a pentagram outline in the air, “get your ass out here. Now!”
A puff of flash powder startled Armando and made him jump. Yogo let out a little shriek as Grey-black smoke exploded above the table secreting an acrid burnt popcorn odor.
Yogo coughed and scurried off the terrace, hiding behind the door frame like a young school girl afraid of the school master and his whip.
Armando pushed back from the table, sniffing, and fanning his hand.
A glowing white hot energy ball formed in the air. Red-yellow flames danced around it as it grew and intensified, seemingly fueled by the river wind.
“Hurry up,” Hajra snapped.
The smoke and flame swirled and then solidified into a small, two-foot cherub—an angelic toddler with white stubby wings. It floated bobbing slowly up and down in the air before Hajra.
The cherub of course was a human child, cute and adorable with plump roly-poly baby fat. And would have been the divine apparition of all that is good and sweet in the world, well, that is, if not for its head which was… on fire… and that head produced a loud, soul rending shriek. The sound a witch baby might make burning at the stake.
The cherub’s face was a conflagration of flame and pain.
Armando had once visited a historical wax museum while at university. This is how he imagined it would look if a wax figured burned and melted. The skin popping turning to liquid. Eyes boiling.
The poor critter let out a mournful wail, “Mommy!”
A piece of melted skin, like liquid porcelain dripped from the end of its nose onto the table, catching the linen on fire.
“Apollo, have mercy,” Armando cried.
Yogo gasped and ran forward, swinging a towel trying to put out the flame before it spread. Hajra pushed her back and slapped out the fire with her palm.
“Don’t worry, he’s harmless,” she said with a perfunctory wave. Immediately the cherub’s face melting fire disappeared with a suck and a pop.
The cherub heaved a heavy sigh of relief and slowly slumped like a ragdoll onto the table. “My life is a living hell,” he sighed. His voice… Armando thought. Didn’t belong to that face.
Armando handed the baby a glass of water and as he did so, he received a nauseous feeling in the pit of his stomach. The baby snatched the glass and emptied its contents over his head producing a torrent of hissing steam.
“Get off the table,” Hajra snapped, taking back the empty glass from the cherub, “you’re making a mess.” She shooed him off like an irritant mosquito.
The baby flew up once more, wings beating like a hummingbird. “This your latest victim?” Premie said jerking a thumb toward Armando.
“He’s my date if you must know. Now, please Shut up, this isn’t a social call. I need you to do me a favor.”
“What is that?” Armando asked, staring at the baby-winged-thing. For a baby, it had far too many teeth, he noted.
“That?” spat the cherub, “I’m not a that. I’m a heckler.”
“A heckler?” Armando retorted. Hecklers and ill-tuned instruments were the sworn enemies of bards everywhere. Baby or not, he hated hecklers.
“He’s my attendant,” Hajra said.
“She means slave.”
“Shut up and listen,” Hajra said, “Remember the Aimian vineyard, Chateau des Dragons? The one we visited last year.”
“Yeah—so,” he said bored. “What about it?”
“Go there, now. Get me a case of Rouge Vif and the a…” she thought for a second. “Manipulateur Special.”
“Am I paying for this wine or stealing it?”
“What do you think. And be quick about it, like your ass is on fire. And try not to kill anyone.” She gave Armando a pained expression, “Get in and get out with minimal casualties.”
The cherub held out its hand, “I need money.”
“Go!” she said and swatted him in the ass.
He giggled and poof! Popped out.
Armando studied his date momentarily as she returned to the bread and tea. Finally, he said, “Why, he seemed, um, rather discordant.”
Hajra slowly chewed the bread, “It's a sad life being a demon,” she said, “But he is my friend. He performs duties and minor missions for me, adequately, from time-to-time.”
“Oh, that’s nice.”
“Like a wizard’s familiar in a way.”
“You were kind to him. You treat him well?”
“I try to I suppose. I do my best to provide relief, remove some of the burden of his tortured, miserable existence.”
Now that the demon was gone, Yogo appeared with a large bowl of lamb stew and fruit, “we serve family style,” she said placing the bowl at the center of the table, “feel free to help yourself.”
For the next little while, the two helped themselves to the stew, trading occasional small talk between bites. Armando’s attempts to learn more about Hajra, mostly ended in her turning around the conversation on him. All he learned was that she was originally from Ardaya.
Armando was from Andalus and he got lost in the story of how he grew up there and eventually left his family.
A burning wood crate struck the floor hard, spilling bottles rattling across the terrace.
Premie was back, head a gulf of flames once more and shrieking in pain.
“Put it out! Put it out!” he said excitedly.
Hajra did as requested. With mystical energy control she doused the crate and the straw packing material before the fire could do any further damage. Only one of the wine bottles had broken spilling its contents when the crate smashed. “What a shame.”
The remaining bottles seemed in fair condition, Hajra noted inspecting them.
“Not the wine. ME!”
Hajra motioned to Yogo who was lurking scared in the door. “Open this please,” she asked, holding out a bottle. “The rest of these you may keep.”
Yogo stepped around the burning cherub, took the bottle and ran.
Hajra waved casually toward Premie, extinguishing the head melting flames.
“Where’s the Manipulateur Special?”
Premie pointed to an arrow protruding from his side.
“Chateau des Dragons installed better defenses, since last we were there,” The cherub said bemused, as he yanked the arrow from his ribs. “I’m fine, thank you for asking.”
Premie was covered in blood. And not just his.
“They had guards stationed in the cellar,” Premie said, “I emphasize, had. Dispatched. And a couple of other, you know, grape people.”
Hajra’s eyes went wide, “You didn't kill the vintner, did you?”
“No, of course not. At least I don’t think so.”
Yogo had returned lurking in the shadows with the wine in a decanter, afraid to approach.
With a frustrated sigh, Hajra clicked her bracers together and with a little pop. And just like that, Premie was gone leaving in his wake, a smoldering hint of burnt popcorn.
Yogo rushed forward hurriedly, poured two goblets of wine, deposited the decanter on the table and disappeared.
“Pentavolo are demon summoners,” Armando stated not as a question, but matter-of-factly.
“Does that bother you?” Hajra said, swirling the wine around in her goblet before drinking.
Armando took a sip of the demon’s ill-begotten blood wine. It was exceptional, no doubt about that. He was reminded of his religion studied in Dorsang, and the old philosophy, the lure of evil.
“Everyone should be loved, ” he said promptly. “And not simply good people. Especially the unlovable people need to be loved and this demon, definitely-definitely qualifies as a creature that is unlovable and hard to love.”
“Demons are a tool,” Hajra said. She seemed more interested with what was written on the wine bottle than what Armando had to say, “like your sword, or your mandolin. To be played. Used and discarded.”
“His life is not over, he is redeemable.”
Hajra filled her glass with more wine, “tell yourself what you have to tell yourself.”
TIMESTAP: 39:20 – 50:40
Following Brigthwyna’s “Wild Hunt” announcement, the arena exploded with pandemonium, the revelers celebrated wildly, cheering the news. Her pronouncement could not have been better received if she had given everyone a thousand torts and free beer.
The Ballbarians party did not slow, in fact it intensified, binge drinking, drug use, people got sloppy drunk, fights broke out, inhibitions discarded with clothing as people paired off and made love openly.
AN HOUR LATER
The Ballbarian crew, (minus Armando of course, who was enjoying a dinner date with Hajra), continued to celebrate while remaining safe behind the VIP ropes and barbarian bouncers who remained vigilant, keeping drunk ne'er-do-wells at a distance.
While the party had been Pansy’s idea and had spearheaded the effort, she was entirely preoccupied with Tofu and bee life, absorbing everything she could learn.
Torgrum, Claw and Calsimeer sat huddled, chatting about the evening’s events.
There was something off about Brigthwyna, that Claw couldn’t quite put their… claw on. There seemed to be a lot of innuendo and subtext in her speech they were certain most of the revelers had missed. “What do you think Brigthwyna meant, when she said, welcome to my pack?” they asked the others.
“She was speaking metaphorically,” Torgrum said dismissively.
Calsimeer shook his head, not so easily convinced, “I don’t know. There was a deeper intention in those words.”
“I agree,” Claw said.
Calsimeer’s eyes suddenly darted, tracking danger… moving…
Druid senses tingling, Claw spun in their chair just as Razin plopped down next to them.
“Target acquired,” Claw said with a hint of unease.
“You guys have been busy,” he said smirking, like a Tom cat arriving at a rat gala.
“Hello Razin,” Claw smiled, “welcome to the party.”
Razin nodded, “Calsimeer,” he said flatly.
“There has been some imbibing this evening,” Calsimeer quipped, “you should join.”
“Much imbibing,” Claw agreed, pointing to pile of derelict wine bottles.
“Perhaps I shall,” he said, clocking the VIP lounge, taking note of each Ballbarian: Torgrum, Pansy, Calsimeer and lastly, Claw. But no Armando. If he cared where the bard was, he made no mention of it.
“It appears you are doing quite well,” he said.
“Yes,” Claw replied enthusiastically, “We won. We won the tournament.”
“Victorious,” Calsimeer said, arms raised in triumph.
“We are the champions, my friend,” Claw sound proudly.
“Brought us fame and fortune. And everything that goes with it,” Calsimeer added.
“It’s been no bed of roses,” the elf followed.
“No pleasure cruise,” Torgrum muttered. There was the small detail about the hunt not actually being over yet, with three other teams still active in the field.
“Good,” Razin said rubbing his itchy palms together. “That is a great start. I assume then, we'll be seeing a return on our investment soon?”
Awkward silence. Drunk awkward silence.
“Y-e-a-h,” Claw said drawing out the filler word as their brain worked overtime to catch up. “A little. The interest I am certain can be repaid. But we need to make more money to cover the original outlay of expenses, it's true.”
“I believe there's going to be a special hunt in five days,” Calsimeer said. What this had to do with money reimbursement? Ahh… he was just stalling for Claw to say something more intelligent.
“Yes. Yes,” Claw agreed.
That wasn’t it.
“We’ve only received the down payment on our winnings,” Torgrum said. “There will be more coming.”
“Excellent,” Razin noted with satisfaction, “Our mistress, Malika Rahat’s vision of you in the anumians was correct. You would taste victory and fabulous success.”
Aggee studied the new arrival, remaining at a discreet distance to give his employers privacy He remained wary however, reading the situation, ready to respond, just in case this person was not a friend and caused problems.
The bouncers also watched warily.
Pansy noticed her companions were not alone, conversing with a stranger. Their body language no longer cool and relaxed as it had been. Claw and Calsimeer were sitting forward in their chair, listening to a man. Torgrum, remained laidback, drinking. That was his trademark response to everything.
The man shifted and she noted… it was… Razin.
“Ohhh!” she exhaled. Why was he here, she wondered? Money of course. Must be for the money. Wait… shit! She realized with swelling dread. I just spent all the money.
Her mind raced. What should I do? She thought.
Just then, Razin turned and Pansy locked eyes.
Guilt and shame enflamed her ears and neck. There was no avoiding the situation, so she joined her friends.
Razin held Pansy’s gaze until she sat. He then turned his business attention back to the elf. “Claw,” he said. “We tasked you to maintain expenditures and track receipts. I trust you have done this. I will not interrupt your evening festivities any further. However, first thing in the morning, we should meet to review expenses.”
An autonomic smile drew slowly across Claw’s face, “That sounds great. Let’s do that.”
Aggee stepped forward, wedging into the conversation, “I have all the receipts, organized and ready to review at your convenience.”
A cool wave of relief washed over Claw, “Bless you Aggee, you are my friend.”
Calsimeer shook Aggee’s hand vigorously, “You are definitely my favorite. Tell everyone.”
“Aggee, you definitely earned your tip from…” Claw looked around, “whoever's paying you.”
“That would be me,” Cal said happily.
Pansy opened a bulging purse of coins on her hip, accidently dropping a few on the ground. Aggee stooped to retrieve them and handed them back.
“Well done, Agge,” she said, pushing the chips and pressing more into his hand.
“No,” Aggee said, “You’ve paid me enough.”
“I insist,” Pansy insisted, loudly.
Razin reclined, happy to observe the awkward exchange between the friends. Claw, Calsimeer and Pansy obviously hadn’t tracked the receipts and had relied on this man servant to do so. Torgrum seemed disinterested. A dwarf disinterested in money was an oddity.
In the morning, Razin would learn how well this Aggee understood accounting. Would determine if he were trustworthy or charlatan.
But for now, Razin sat back and listened.
TIMESTAP: 50:40 – 58:35
The Ballbarians met with Razin the next morning, late morning, late-late morning since none of the ballbarians, save Armando, were in any condition to wrap their heads around finances and accounting and any other awkward conversations that might arise.
They met at the Three Sisters Taphouse, since that was the closest central point that also had secure private room.
The friends stumbled into a private room half-drunk, off the main dining hall. A couple of serving boys were busy, piling the central table with food and beverages.
“Hydrate,” Claw said through cotton mouth, sinking into a chair next to Cal. They downed a tall glass without stopping and beckoned a server for more. “I want all your water.”
Aggee had arrived early bright-eyed and bushy-tailed with receipts well organized.
“You sure, you don’t have dwarf in you somewhere?” Torgrum said when he arrived.
Food was served and Aggee insisted the others eat while he reviewed the receipts with Razin.
For the next little while, Razin and Aggee poured over each receipt in detail. And with each receipt, Aggee had an explanation and a story.
Five-thousand torts for the Arena was a sizeable sum, but Aggee quelched Razin’s objections with a fistful of alcohol sales, demonstrating the cost was covered.
“You paid, a thousand torts for bees?”
“Acrobat bees,” Pansy said, “What is a party without entertainment?”
“Why throw such an extravagant party in the first place?” Razin said, unimpressed, “Your job is to earn. Make money. Not spend it like drunken orcs.”
“The Ballbarians are a brand,” Aggee explained, “their name has value. The news of the Ballbarians exploits has spread all over Gravers Dig and Sheol. Everyone has heard of their record shattering hunt. And last night’s celebration. It’s the talk of the town. Brigthwyna appeared, toasted the ballbarians, welcoming them into her pack. Do you know what this means?”
Razin shook his head.
The rest of the Ballbarians, who had been quietly eating shifted their attention.
“Money,” Aggee said. “Lots of money.”
Razin wasn’t buying whatever Aggee was selling.
“Listen, Mr. Razin sir. Five nobodies fresh off the boat, is just another five nobodies fresh off the boat. Gravers Dig chews up gravers and would-be hunters faster than they can arrive.”
“We’re infamous,” Torgrum said, holding up a tankard.
“I’m famous, that’s my job,” Armando quipped.
“This is blarney politics,” Razin snorted derisively, waving his hands over the receipts, “All this money you spent, is what? Advertising. Purchasing you notoriety which you intend to leverage into what?”
Torgrum shrugged, “it gets us in the door. A seat at the table. Kickstarts a conversation. I’m a fucking dwarf, money follows.”
“Fine,” Razin sighed, “call me pleasantly interested.”
For the most part, Razin seemed pleased. But there were a few choices that rubbed his sensibilities wrong, shaking his head. “Nine-hundred torts on dogs?” he said.
“Hey! They are great dogs,” Calsimeer pointed out.
“Very useful,” Claw said.
“Useful, as in, not dying,” Torgrum pointed out, “Us not dying.”
The dogs who were sleeping curled up under the table, looking up momentarily. Dogs had a knack of knowing when their masters were talking about them.
Torgrum hammered the table with his fist, “they totally paid for themselves.”
Calsimeer nodded, “Yeah, they kind of did.”
“That's the reason we won,” Pansy said in defense.
Claw suddenly had the awkward realization, they’d named their two dogs: Rahat and Jabal. Seemed like a good idea at the time, but saying their name out loud now, in front of Razin, hmm… maybe the name choice wasn’t the best.
“Our dogs are wonderful and tantamount to the success of the mission,” Claw said, intentionally making sure they didn’t mention the dog’s names. “As you can see, we have proof of our expenditures. Horses. Dogs. Provisions.”
“You're doing well. Overall, you seem adequately furnished,” Razin admitted, “you have extra cash, which I think would be prudent to return that to Malika. Upfront expenditures complete. Money is starting to flow back. We can demonstrate the strength of her investments. What do you think?”
“Sure,” Torgrum said. “Better yet. Why don't we wait a few more days till the hunt is officially over and we receive the rest of our winnings, and you can return with even more money.”
“Yes,” Both Claw and Pansy said in tandem. “Let’s do that.”
“I think a little bit now,” Razin said pantomiming, pulling in a big fish, “and then more after the next hunt. Assuming you survive the next hunt.”
“No, no,” Torgrum interjected, “not the next hunt. What I’m saying, is, we haven't been fully paid for this hunt. If you’re patient until this hunt is officially over, we will receive the rest of the winnings for this hunt that we’ve already completed. Comprend?”
“A second payment then, will work nicely.”
“You're insisting on payment now?” Claw asked.
Calsimeer leaned closer, said “Any particular reason it is you who is delivering the payment to Malika Rahat and not someone else?”
Razin scoffed. “Malika Rahat does not travel,” he said sternly, clearly irritated by the insinuation. “I am an agent of Rahat—Granada ministerialis.”
Rahat was terrifying, Calsimeer recalled. There was no part of him that wanted to screw her over and in connection, not irritate Razin. “I did end up getting quite a bit back from the blunder with the healing potions,” he said.
“Oh yeah,” Claw recalled.
“I would be willing to part with some of that,” Cal continued, counting his purse.
“I can add in another five-hundred,” Claw said.
Razin drummed his fingers on the table, “How about we make this easy. Everyone give me half of your money.”
That simplified things alright. Everyone did as instructed and forked over fifty-percent.
DAGGER DEFINED, KINDA
TIMESTAP: 58:35 – 1:20:47
Razin for all his preoccupation with money and receipts was far more interested in something else. He pointed to Aggee, “Please, shut the door and make sure no one enters.”
Aggee nodded taking up guard at the door.
“Pansy,” Razin said, “this dagger you picked up.”
She starred momentarily, not knowing what to say. Finally, she managed a quasi-neutral, “Yeah.”
“I know you have it. Don’t worry, I’m not going to take it,” he said. “I’m not even going to touch it, but I would like you to put it on the table where I can take a good-long look at it.”
Again, Pansy eked out a rather uncertain, “okay.” She gently removed the dagger from the scabbard at her waist and placed it on the table before him, “here.”
Pansy slowly retracted her hand apprehensively, fearful of what might happen next. Would she be able to snatch it back, if Razin moved to take it, she wondered?
She looked up and was startled to find, Razin’s eyes were no longer human, but instead, glistening golden gemstones with faceted pupils.
He peered intently, eyes wide at the dagger keeping his hands below the table, presumably to not accidentally touch it. “Very impressive,” he said, cocking his head side-to-side, to see the dagger from all angles. “Very impressive, indeed.”
“It’s just a dagger,” Pansy said.
Razin laughed with boyish charm. “No, Pansy.” Razin said, his eyes refracting a thousand rays of sunlight, “Not. Just. A dagger.”
Pansy moved closer, conspiratorially, “Do tell.”
Claw and Calsimeer leaned over the table, giving the dagger a closer look for the first time, “Special, huh?”
“To be honest,” Razin said, “I can't tell anything about this dagger and that is what makes it intriguing.”
Pansy’s eyes flared wide.
“Really?” Calsimeer said, his imagination lit like cedar kindling, “you weren't able to discern anything at all?”
“Why?” Pansy said, looking about the table to see how the rest were taking the news.
Cal, having spent a lot of time with his master, Scheherazade, had witnessed some crazy mystical stuff and recognized the signs of high-magic. “Pierre what did you take?” he whispered sotto voce.
“Is it cursed?” Pansy asked, suddenly afraid. Pansy had been carrying it for the better part of three days. If it was cursed with foul magic, that influence would have surely affected her. For that, she had no doubt.
“I don't know,” he admitted. “I tell you the following, to show you our commitment to having an open and honest relationship. It's not in my interest to tell you this except that I believe, what I’m about to tell you, could be beneficial. Which longer term will help me, because I believe,” he stopped, leveling those golden gems at Claw. He continued, “You will not betray us.”
“What does that mean?” Calsimeer whispered in Claw’s ear.
“This dagger,” Razin said, “cannot be easily divined. In fact, the reason Malika Rahat sent me to Gravers Dig to find you, is because her method of tracking people failed.”
“You were tracking us?” Torgrum ejaculated, slamming his tankard outraged on the table.
“Of course, we were tracking you,” Razin said. “Don’t be naive.”
“Except you weren’t or you couldn’t,” Pansy said, realization dawning, “That’s why you’re here.”
Razin nodded, “This dagger seems to obstruct certain types of divination.”
“Oh nice,” Torgrum said, “Like it has an anti-big brother enchantment?”
“And, not just you,” he said pointing at Pansy, “This particular influence appears to be an A.O.E.”
“An, a-oh-what?” Pansy said.
“Area-of-effect,” The spellcasters said together.
“I don't know the limitations of the dagger, but it seems to hamper or prohibit to some extent the ability to track you, follow you, eavesdrop, or scry on you magically.”
“No one can find us, if we were hiding?” Claw said, asked, wondered.
“Pansy, you stole the dagger from an Aimian duelist, is that right?”
“Pierre de Clement,” Calsimeer responded for her.
“He's no longer with us,” Pansy noted.
“What happened to him?”
“Ask Armando he knows.”
“Sorry, what?” Armando said, suddenly paying attention at the use of his name, “I was basking in the afterglow of last night.”
“Tell Razin,” Pansy said, “what happened to Pierre and his friends.”
“He was eaten,” Armando said, and with that intro he dove into the story with great flair and a plum, explaining how the Atars had attacked and killed Pierre and his friends and then, how Hajra had her blade demon kill the Atars.
When the story was over and Razin had a moment to process it, he said, “Let me see if I got this right. It appears, Pierre de Clement had this ‘magical dagger’”, he used air quotes, “He might have come by it legitimately, or it was stolen, or something else—that part is unknown. This dagger prevented him from being followed or spied upon. And then, sticky fingers here relieved him of the dagger and shortly thereafter he was murdered. Does that about sum it up?”
“I didn’t kill him,” Pansy said defensively.
“Of course, not Pansy,” Calsimeer said. “In the dark of the winter, you just stole his coat.”
“And he froze to death,” Claw finished.
“He was an asshole, remember,” Torgrum said, coming to Claw’s defense. “The Atars did us a favor.”
“Aimians and Atars are natural rivals from the same island continent,” Razin mused, “they hate each other viciously.”
“See?” Pansy said, “They hated each other.”
“Pansy isn’t the only one here with a nice blade,” Razin said. “Torgrum. You have a new friend as well.”
“I do. Would you like to meet Fang?”
“Not up close and personal, no. But I would like to see what you got going on there.”
Torgrum hefted the double-bladed great sword on the table pleased to show off Fang.
When Razin was done studying it, he said, “Well done, ballbarians. You can keep these items assuming payments continue to flow on a steady basis, and you ultimately repay your debts in full with no lingering liabilities.”
“You never mentioned anything about liabilities,” Torgrum snorted, reclaiming his sword.
“Let’s hope, the de Clements are a lesser family with limited resources and clout. It would do none of us any good if they sent a Hound of Tindalos after you, or gods forbid Doomkarian assassin, or Black Mages.”
“All those things would suck,” Torgrum agreed, “I mean, it’s not like, a Fomorian demigoddess didn’t just kidnap a family member.”
Razin laughed, “Torgrum, you are right, you are infamous.”
He leaned back, “So, Ballbarians, what exactly do you intend to do next? Conveniently, no one can be snooping on us magically. Sadly, I don’t think your dagger keeps someone from eavesdropping the old-fashioned way.”
“Physically?” Pansy asked.
“Organically,” Torgrum replied.
“It certainly doesn't stop people from seeing you. Target acquired, eh Claw? I had no trouble finding the infamous ballbarians, and neither would any other interested parties.”
Claw looked around the table, “I thought we were going to participate in the next hunt, right friends?
“That's in a few days’ time,” Torgrum mused, “We have some time to kill. Razin, tell me, what is Rahat's relationship with the Cloudforge clan?”
Razin retreated into his thoughts, contemplative momentarily, thoughts clearly chugging through his mind. Had Torgrum hit upon something unintended?
A look of recognition passed between Claw and Rasin before he said, “Clan Cloudforge is one of the wealthiest families in all of Chaldea and Malika Rahat is the Merchants Guildmaster of Andalus. And as such, she has many business dealing with the Cloudforge Clan on a somewhat regular basis.”
“That’s very diplomatic and politically astute,” Claw replied.
“Malika is a businesswoman. She has no friends she only has mutual interests.”
“What's up with the Cloudforge Clan, Torgrum, why do you bring it up?” Calsimeer asked.
“My cousin, who is a member of Clan Cloudforge was recently taken prisoner here in Gravers Dig.”
“Who is your cousin?” Razin said.
Razin was momentarily taken back, a mix of confusion and interest mixed between his eyes and pursed lips, “Serakka Cloudforge?”
“I know who she is. Not personally. She is the heir to the clan.”
“Yes. She's been taken prisoner by the horned demigoddess that's running this outfit,” Torgrum said gruffly gesturing to the world around them.
“Brigthwyna,” Razin whispered.
“Ohhh, you said her name,” Claw said looking around the room, expecting the Mistress of the Hunt to suddenly appear, “Can’t she hear us?”
“Not with my dagger,” Pansy noted holding up her precious dagger, “I have the cone of silence.”
“I did not invoke her name,” Razin pointed out. “Gods don’t have the time to hearken every time a mortal utters their name. How would they ever get anything done?” Turning back to Torgrum,” You’re serious, about this kidnapping?”
“Can you tell me more about the situation?”
“Clan Cloudforge owns Gravers Dig. Maybe more, I haven’t actually seen the deed or a map. I do know it’s one of their possessions. One of their many real estate holdings. Brigthwyna in the past, before she was exiled by Emperor Kordaava, leased the land. However, since her return, she has reneged on payment and Serakka was sent to investigate and encourage said payment. And apparently, Brigthwyna took umbrage and she captured Serakka and her elite Dwarven Host guards. All have been imprisoned.”
“If this information gets out, there will be hell to pay.”
Torgrum was hoping to metaphor the situation, kill two birds with one stone: Save his favorite cousin and pay off their debts to Rahat. “If we could find a way to return Serakka to her family, the clan would be incredibly grateful, such that I think they would wipe out our debt to Rahat and then some.”
“I don't know what you're scheming,” Razin said, “If what you say is true and you have a viable plan to break her free. And, somehow, get her out from under the thumb of a demigoddess…”
Pansy and Claw wheezed, feigning a heart attack.
“Right,” Razin nodded. “And you would allow Malika Rahat to be associated with this endeavor, through funds and prestige, should it be a positive outcome, of course. That would certainly settle your debt.”
“We're working on. We need to have a discussion amongst ourselves, make some inquiries. Pansy and her dagger should accompany us on whatever inquiries we make,” Torgrum said winking playfully at his thieving companion. “You should be there Pansy, I’m just saying, given this news about your dagger.”
Razin grinned knowingly, “That would be prudent. Everyone stay within, say one-hundred and twenty feet of Pansy. Approximately.”
“Approximately. Sure.” Torgrum nodded. “Got it.
Calsimeer raised a hand, “Ummm…”
“Speak up Calsimeer,” Razin said.
“That begs the question: where does Rahat stand? You did mention earlier, there would be a boon for Malika Rahat if we were to return Torgram's cousin, Serakka to her rightful seat, being as she’s the heir to the fortune. How would Rahat react if her agents were to upset the individual who controls Gravers Dig?”
“That all depends on how it turns out. If Malika Rahat were perceived as having encouraged this expedition and Serakka was returned to her clan. This would undoubtedly help in bigger business affairs between the Merchant of Granada and the extremely wealthy and well-connected Cloudforge Clan. However, if this venture turned out differently and ended in abject failure Rohat would disavow any knowledge and would curse your souls.”
“I made up that last part. But you should not take upon this pursuit lightly.
“There is a degree of deniability there,” Torgrum stated amused, “Right? Yeah, we got it.”
“It all depends on whether it works or not.”
Calsimeer rolled his eyes, “I expected as much.”
“We're a small group of not particularly powerful individuals. To be frank. And frank says, ‘we need allies’.”
Everyone nodded, recognizing the wisdom of his words.
“Luckily, I have a line on that, that we should pursue quickly. Cosmo the Magnificent has a meeting room where we can meet someone with mutual interests.”
Everyone was still following.
Torgrum hesitated for dramatic affect. “We've met them.”
“Who, damn it?”
“What?!” Claw said coming out of their chair, “No way.”
“The one that we're going to hunt?” they shot out.
“Sagacious!” Cal shouted, “You mean Team Invisibility. And that, green skinned Sally?”
“He stole our referee.”
Razin was yanking his hand repeatedly over his head, the universal sign of, hey numbnuts, this is going over my head.
Torgrum stood up, “Here is how I’m approaching this. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. We know Sagacious has already taken action against Brigthwyna and gotten away with it. At least to this point.
Armando was shaking his head; this was a non-starter. “He’s got a huge bounty on his head. Every Tom, Dick and Harriot is trying to find him to collect that bounty.”
“That is the question,” Cal responded.
“Would you guys be interested in meeting him?”
“You know where to find him?” Pansy asked.
Torgrum nodded affirmative, “I know a way to get a message to him.”
“I mean, oh my goodness,” Claw said not knowing what to say or how to proceed.
Torgrum fell like a stone back into his chair, “you guys were all getting romanced and partying. I had chores to accomplish.”
Cal patted Torgrum on the shoulder, “Okay, okay, you were pulling your weight.”
“Speaking of which do we want to invite my new friend to this cabal cobble?”
“I was going to ask you about that,” Torgrum said, “She works for the person we’ll be taking action against. How confident are you in your relationship with her versus her relationship with her employer?”
Armando got introspective, retreating into his own thoughts. Wondering the same thing.
“That's an excellent question,” Pansy said.
“And one that I cannot answer distinctly at this point,” Armando had to admit.
Pansy was having difficulty with the plan. “This is extremely complicated and potentially deadly. I’d like to avoid a TPK if possible. A small goal of mine. I like to keep things thin simple and avoid getting demon girl involved.”
“Reducing the number of people to bare minimum.” Claw looked at Razin, “Maybe diamond eyes would like to avoid first contact, unless your itching for a fight. What skills do you bring?”
“I am going to leave the plausible deniability door ajar. Give you room to maneuver.”
“Thank you,” Claw said smiling, “much obliged”.
“Let’s stay agile, though, okay. Check in on a daily basis.”
“Where can we find you? At the good hotel?”
“The Good Hotel Sheol, yes, I’ll be there,” He said standing, indicating the meeting was adjourned. “Send a Gekkon—early and often. I’ll be pleased if you don’t die.”
After Razin was out of earshot and they were all magically protected by Pansy’s dagger, everyone gathered around Torgrum.
“Spill it, dwarf boy,” Claw said.
“We visit Cosmo.”
TARTU BY WAY OF COSMO
Our heroes moseyed nonchalantly over to Cosmo’s tower.
Torgrum entered first, as the tower’s magical defenses only allowed one client in at a time. Setting up a confidential sit-down with Sagacious turned out to be far easier than anyone had suspected, Sagacious was already waiting.
Who was more magnificent, Cosmo or his tower?
The Ballbarians learned that Cosmo’s tower existed in many places at once. How many and where, Cosmo didn’t say. One tower was in Gravers Dig, of course, duh. That’s how they got access to it. Another clone copy was in Tartu, a small frontier town in the Garnon Forest on a completely different continent, a world away.
Torgrum went first.
Cosmo utilized a series of gate spells in conjunction with controlled gate. When Torgrum exited the tower this time, instead of returning to Gravers Dig as he had before, he found he was in Tartu outside an identical appearing tower as the one in Somarria.
Next to arrive was Armando.
And finally, Calsimeer.
“Home,” Claw said romantically, breathing the fresh Garnon forest air.
A long table with six chairs had been set up outside the tower that sat in a small forest glen.
The clearing was alive with vibrant wildlife, birds and little forest critters running around playfully, chirping and carrying with almost human child behaviors.
Far overhead, somewhere around a thousand feet high was a colossal, truly enormous exposed root, that arced over the tower.
Claw arched their back arms wide, basking in the majesty of the moment, “This is a holy spot” they said reverently.
“The mother tree,” a voice said.
Everyone turned to find Sagacious gazing skyward. “Some say Yggdrasil,” he said. “This is Chaldea’s connection point to the Pearl Universe.”
“Friends,” Claw sighed in ecstasy, “This is the real deal.”
Sagacious motioned to the table, “welcome, Ballbarians.”
“Hey,” Torgrum said, delivering a Chaldea solute with his great blade, “We meet again for the first time.”
“Where is Sally?” Claw demanded.
“Hey, all y’all,” Sally said with a shit eating self-satisfied grin. She dropped her club on the table and kicked up her feet. “I really regret we didn’t get to fight last time.”
“What about them tricks that twernt tricks?” Cal said before she could load up a tirade, he knew surely was coming.
“We could do it again. Do it again,” she said in a singsong voice.
“Sally,” Sagacious said shaking his head, “no sally no.”
“Go, Sally, go?” she pleaded, enthusiasm building.
“You want to roll with another battle of wits?” Torgrum asked, happy to begin the negotiations with Sally’s head on the table.
“Nah,” Claw said, “We know who’s going to win that.”
Sally scoffed. “A battle of wits?” She smirked to Sagacious, “These monkeys think they won a battle of wits. I didn’t even use my club.”
“A battle of wits requires intelligence,” Armando said pointedly, “Cleverness. For which you have neither.”
“A-ha!” Sally said jumping to her feet, “I do have wits, you’ll soon see. For my club has wits for it is named thusly. I will bludgeon you over the head with wit until you bleed out your ears.”
“We would have to hit you back with a metaphor,” Torgrum said hefting Fang, ready to do battle if it came to that.
“A double-edged sword is something that could either help you or hurt you,” Sally said.
“Okay, okay. O-o-kay,” Sagacious said, “Please everyone, take a seat. Sally, cool your heels or you’re going back in the box.”
Torgrum put away his metaphor, “Let’s do business, wizard.”
“You’re naturally concerned about your cousin.”
“No shit, that’s why I’m here,” he waved a hand in front of his face, “see the concern on this chiseled chin? I’d like to get her back. I like her. She’s my favorite dwarf.”
“I can see that. She's a person with much capability one can tell.”
“I’m going to hit you with a metaphor if you don’t get to the point.”
“You figured the enemy of your enemy is your friend?”
“I was hoping you would approach this opportunity professionally, clear headed. Put off the awkward way in which we first met. Afterwards, I tried to reduce any further escalation. Rashidi is alive and well.”
“No thanks to you.”
“All thanks to me. I returned him alive and uninjured.”
Claw wasn’t having any of his high-minded explanation contrivance. “The ballbarians on this guy, though. Oh my gosh. Wow. Wow.”
“You received all your trophies and set hunt records,” he performed a slow clap.
“Bravo. It all worked out. Yeah for us.” Torgrum was tired of the small talk bickering and posturing. He just wanted to figure out how to get his cousin back. “Do you have an idea of where she's being held? Because I do.”
“Oh? Let us compare notes.”
“I learned from some fellow barbarians that Brigthwyna often keeps high value targets in the fey realm.”
“It's called the plane of Annwn.”
“You have information about this, Annwn?”
“It’s the Otherworld of the Celtic gods. I agree with the assessment of your Arushan friends. I believe they are correct. I don’t know for certain, but it would be my best guess as to where Brigthwyna would stash somebody as important as Serakka Cloudforge.”
“How do we get there?” Torgrum demanded.
“Can we go through Tartu?” Claw hoped.
“You could go to just about anywhere from Tartu, if you had the proper pathway icons. I don’t know which ones that would be.”
“Pathway icons? You got me there. Right over my head.” Claw rolled their eyes at the others.
Sagacious pulled out a wood token with an Anumian symbol on it. “With tokens like this, and many more besides. At the root in Tartu,” He said pointing up, “the veils to other worlds and dimensions are thin and one can walk to these other worlds, realms, planes and dimensions. All sorts of strange and wondrous places or just another Garnon clearings if you will. Not that Garnon clearings are commonplace mind you. But to do that you have to have these totem tokens that are tied to the anumian spirits and in the right combination—
“Oh my,” Claw interjected, taking full understanding, “which we definitely do not have.”
“Do you know somebody who would know the combination and how to get these tokens,” Torgrum asked.
Sagacious smiled, devilishly smug, “I know a different way.”
“See how he didn’t answer your question. I’m all ears says the one with the pointy ears.”
“I've never been there, nor shall I risk it now but if you are young and foolish, erm, or adventurous enough that you wish to attempt it. I know how to send you there. We should probably spend our time wisely on figuring out how to get you back.”
“Clearly we're five young and talented individuals having just won the Somarrian Hunt. However, one must admit that there was quite a bit of luck involved and if we're going after the prisoner of a demigoddess, in a fey realm unknown to us, I’m not really confident about our chances unassisted.”
Calsimeer didn’t trust this Wizard. So far he’d been more pain in ass, than ass assisted. “Sagacious,” He said “what are your motivations in railing against you know who? Why? Why why even help us?” Calsimeer remained mightily perplexed by the Wizards prior actions.
“I am her nemesis,” he said flatly without a hint of emotion.
“Good for you. What does that mean?”
“We are enemies from long time past.”
“How does one make an enemy of a demigoddess? Torgrum wondered.
“I want to tell you because I want to increase your trust in me but there are secrets, I am not prepared to share but I can offer you this, we have been enemies since before the rule of emperor Kordaava. In this world and elsewhere.”
Cryptic historical animosity wasn’t exactly reassuring or going to assist raiding the Celtic Otherworld.
“I mean, so am I,” Claw said disappointed and ill amused. “But yeah, okay, weeeee.”
“Here is how I can get you to Annwn, if you choose to go there. Annwn can be accessed from unholy ground of the Celtic god of the dead—Arawn. And, it just so happens that there is unholy ground near Gravers Dig in a cemetery to the west. In the center of that cemetery are burial mounds and if we go there, I can planeshift you to the plane of Annwn.”
“Ohhh, so that is what the graveyard is for,” Pansy mused.
“How do we get back?” Torgrum asked. Getting there was only half the fun. Jailbreaks required an exodus plan. “Especially, since you’re not coming.”
Sagacious held up a hand and a red breasted robin flew down and perched on his finger.
He motioned to Claw. The bird sensing Claw’s druidical openness, flew over and landed on their shoulder.
“This robin, can bring you back,” he explained.
The robin was a robin but more than a robin, Claw knew intuitively. “Hey little buddy. Hi! How is that gonna a work?”
The bird chirped gaily.
“Her name is Lei,” Sagacious said, “she can understand you and can cast magic.”
“I have myself a new little friend and we supposedly have a way back and now we just, JUST have to go to the graveyard.”
“Transportation needs acquired,” Torgrum said, hoping to keep the meeting agile, “Sagacious, what else do you know about this world and the unknown that can help us. Do you know if the Annwn is guarded? Is Serakka guarded?”
“I know nothing about the plane I’ve never been there.”
“Sorry,” Pansy cut in loudly, “what are we going there for? Getting something?”
“To save the dwarven princess,” Claw said exasperated, “You know, like in the fairytale.”
“She’s being held over there?” Torgrum growled. “Imprisoned.”
“That's the theory,” Sagacious replied. “To maximize success, I highly recommend that we conduct the ritual during Brigthwyna’s upcoming wild hunt when she’ll be distracted with the ecstasy of the chase.”
Torgrum liked the sound of not being anywhere around Brigthwyna and her primal chase. “Works for me—sounds good.”
Claw nodded, “That gives us a couple of days to rest up and prepare.”
“And do research,” Sagacious sagely advised, “Cosmo has a magnificent library, he will let you use. It would be a good use of your time to peruse hot topics such as Annwn, Otherworld, Arawn, Fomorians, Celtic religion. For starters. I recognize the scholarly type,” Sagacious nodded to Claw.
“I recognize a kiss-ass sycophant.”
“We need someone with investigation talent,” Torgrum snorted, “Not it!”
Calsimeer had remained mostly quiet, the thought of traveling to a strange and mystical Otherworld concerned him greatly. Worlds tended to be big, mostly, from what he understood. Where would they look? They could be there for months, years, a lifetime. He said, “We need to locate Serakka. So we're not just blindly walking around in the land of the dead.”
“What are you talking about? Sagacious said confused.
“Once we get to the plane of Annwn we have no idea where she.”
“Is there a map?” Claw asked.
Sagacious shrugged saying nothing.
Was he being coy? Torgrum considered the situation thoughtfully, wondering what Sagacious wasn’t telling them. Obviously, he knew far more about Brigthwyna, this Otherworld, than he was letting on. He asked, “Did the Tuatha go there?”
“The Tuatha Dé Danann?”
“Yeah,” Torgrum grunted.
“Oh! No no no no no. This is the other plane. We are not talking the fey realm. The Tuatha Dé Danann are enemies with the fomorians.”
“Would they be interested in an assist? A distraction? Something?”
“More attention brings other risks. Your best chance is for the five of you with the Prodigal Dagger as cover, slipping in and slipping out. If a fae were to accompany you, or someone like myself with substantial spellcasting capabilities, alarm bells would ring out. LOUD planar wide bells alerting Brigthwyna. Any chance of saving Serakka would evaporate.”
“Next step: Claw. Library. Research.” Torgrum said.
Cosmo the Magnificent turned out to be also quite magnanimous and allowed Claw entry to his private library. But since the library was inside his tower and the tower’s defenses only permitted one person at a time, they had to do research quickly and in solitary fashion. No assistance from the others.
However, to speed up the process, the magnificent Cosmo gave Claw a clockwork librarian assistant, who gathered all the books and tomes he had on Celts, which turned out to be quite significant.
Many glorious hours of research later, Claw returned to the Ballbarians with knowledge and notes.
“Annwn is celtic paradise. Beautiful and peaceful. Vibrant and bountiful with limitless food.”
Everyone listened as Claw offloaded what they had learned.
“Arawn is the celtic god of the dead. Annwn is his home plane, whatever that means.”
“Good news. Annwn is rather a small island, which helps since we’ll be searching for Serakka. I couldn’t find a map and couldn’t find any reference to prisons or city, towns, or a tower where our fairytale princess could be held.”
Armando found the information intriguing, “Why would they, Brigthwyna, hide Serakka in a place that's so nice and hospitable to us? Once Sagacious pierces the veil, tosses us over the fence, you know, there's no flaming pits or vaporous acid or carbolic particles or anything to stop us.”
“A terrible prison in paradise is still a terrible prison,” Calsimeer pointed out.
“If you’re looking for heat, Armando. I did find reference to a place on Annwn called, the Cauldron of Inspiration. It’s contained in a stone pergola—for you troglodytes, that’s like a large open-air pavilion. The cauldron, which is profoundly large, is contained inside attended to by Fomorian maidens who keep it warm with their breath. It’s all very transcendental and metaphysical.”
“Ohhh, paradise and maidens,” Armando oozed with excitement.
Claw dropped a bundle of papers on the table. I suggest on your own time, you read these. Acquaint yourself with the details of Annwn, Arawn, Celts. You can read, Torgrum? If not, maybe get Cal or Pansy--”
“I can bloody well read,” Torgrum growled, “I was raised in a clan in Saratof.”
FADE TO BLACK
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