This is season 2 of the Play by Poll #MazeRats game that started with “The Spider Pit” on Google Plus early in 2018. Player decisions are made by poll and comments, akin to a Choose Your Own Adventure story like the famous Fighting Fantasy books of yore.
First explanation was this:
The player characters for #IdolofKesh are the same party that starred in season 1, #TheSpiderPit – a group that was randomly created with dice rolls on the character tables of Maze Rats. They leveled up after successful completion of season one.
The character sheets are here: http://bit.ly/Idol-chars
Here is the map of Woodbridge and surroundings, with the “Cunning Cock”, the Inn where adventurers often gather, marked with a red circle:
The Rules System for Maze Rats can be found here: http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/197158/Maze-Rats?term=maze+rats&test_epoch=0
Anyone can join in or drop out at any time, the collection on G+ can be muted to ignore the adventure or have an alarm set to get all notifications for new posts.
picture credit: Dan Keck, public domain 0.
The Idol of Kesh – Part 1 – The Offer
The party has been back in Woodbridge for nigh on two weeks now. They have celebrated, they have told stories, they have been invited to beers, and they have bought new supplies. Uko has gambled and won, so his purse is the fullest in the crew. But pumped from their success and the glowing admiration from newbie-adventurers, and paying bills for food and lodgings, “Phoebe’s Rebels” are already getting restless and set their sights on new expeditions.
Scouts tell of wandering goblins up on the “dead giant”, and the army has started patrolling the trails. It would be a bit of a gamble for an expedition to check out the secret door in Mu’s Hall so soon.
Many looting crews have recently gone south to pick off leftovers from the Battle of the Claw, but that is in easy walking distance and the gains are few.
Zora Nethercoat has led a group into the Wight Hills and they have returned with an elven armor that had lain buried with it’s late owner still inside so there was an outcry from the more outspoken elven citizens of Woodbridge.
Several adventurers have gone east to comb through the overgrown elven ruins beyond the goblin village, although some of them have clashed with agitated goblin warbands.
On her latest trip to the market, Phoebe mulls her options as she suddenly bumps into someone.
Two people. One a fashion-victim with a prominent nose, the other one a hulking bodyguard-type bearing a maul and a crude shield that looks like a toy on his meaty arm.
“You are Phoebe, right?” the long-nosed fellow inquires. “Phoebe of Phoebe’s Rebels, the one who brought back the missing girls? The Phoebe with the bearded goblin and the elf in her gang?”
She looks them up and down. The Hulk presents a huge grin with a wide selection of missing teeth. Long-nose has shifty eyes and his hands are permanently feeling up and down his belt and pockets. As a former highwaywoman, she recognizes all the signs: These men are of the unlawful persuasion.
“Who are you?”
“We are but humble servants of the esteemed Archwizard Fairie. He would offer you a contract, if you please. If we may lead the way? It is but a short distance along this alley here. Our destination is a city house at the outskirts of The Hill. May I present this signet ring to validate our claim.”
The big guy snorts and mumbles to himself: “She won’t believe him, and why should she? She doesn’t know him, or me, or anyone. Got no reason to believe him. It’s stupid.”
Archwizard Mundy Fairie, nicknamed “The Peaceful”. A known name. He lives in Woodbridge but doesn’t work for the Count. The signet ring shows a complex crest of feathers and trees, but Phoebe has never deemed it worth her time to learn which crest is whom’s.
- Follow them
- Ask for a later appointment
The Idol of Kesh – Part 2 – Peaceful
Phoebe inspects the ring. It looks quite valuable, so maybe the men’s story is genuine. But she’ll opt for another alley. “Okay,” she says, “but we have to go that way, I have to check some stores first.”
They readily agree.
She checks out some storefronts and finally turns towards “The Hill” through another alley.
“Gentlemen? Lead the way.”
They comply and so they reach a rather well-built town house with three little spires that does indeed sport the crest with the feathers and trees, on a shield above the wooden door.
Big Guy knocks and a footman answers. He bows and lets them into a sparsely furnished, but beautiful anteroom, before leading them into a library with several shelves, a small table and several easychairs on a colourful southerland rug. Through the single window she can see a tiny garden with weeds tended by a woman.
Phoebe is impressed to see a wide selection of bound papers and, here and there among them, more than 30 heavy, leather-bound books. Each of those must be worth 200 gold pieces, so it seems shockingly extravagant to keep such riches in paper-form out here at the edge of civilization, and on open shelves.
“Take a seat!” a tiny, old man says. In his odd knee-length trousers and little jacket he looks like a butler, but as he strolls in like he owns the place and Big Nose and Big Guy defer to him Phoebe concludes that he must, indeed, own the place. This small human must be the famous master of the house himself – “The Peaceful”.
He orders another man – the real butler – to bring refreshments, greets Phoebe as “Miss Hicks”, and quickly explains, in the stilted language of rich old people, why he had her brought here by this odd pair:
“There is a certain artifact, just two days walk from here, but in a difficult place. I would have this artifact brought here, and since I hear of your spectacular success in the rescue of ten young women from a goblin dungeon, and of the skills of the people in your employ, I would offer you the contract for this expedition. We can discuss specifics if you agree.
I must warn: The artifact is magical in nature. Thus my associates here, Mr. Oblington (he indicates Big Nose) and Mr. Rothery (he indicates Big Guy), who have the necessary training, are capable of identifying and sorting out the magicks. But the area may see some other parties, goblin and human alike, so I am in need of experts in whatever else may be necessary to accompany them, lead and guard them if you will.”
The tiny man pauses, and as he leans toward her he is still short, but he suddenly appears much more powerful and much less frail.
“My associates will be your equals of course, not your masters, and they will follow your orders in matters of your expertise, just as you will trust them where it comes to their training. I trust you as a partner in a delicate mission. I must insist on complete confidentiality. I can provide a map. I can provide a description of the artifact. And I offer to equip you with horses and mules, and receptacles for the transport. I desire only the magical loot. I will consider myself in your debt if you deliver said artifact to my hands.”
As soon as “The Peaceful” relaxes, he is tiny and old again. “You and your associates may keep any and all mundane plunder you may happen upon. I expect there will be more than enough of that to compensate your team for their efforts.”
“Debt”, he said. And: “Expect more than enough.” Phoebe senses that there is more to be had, but the man feels that he is already investing a lot. He may expect her to accept on this vague terms, or he may just negotiate hard – after all, he seems to be filthy rich. The mission sounds rather straightforward, but why does he go to the trouble of looking for her, specifically? What connects his ‘artifact’ with her individual expertise?
- Accept the contract
- Demand additional payment
- Demand more details
- Decline the contract
The Idol of Kesh – Part 3 – Heritage
“I need to know more.” Phoebe says.
The Peaceful smiles. “Of course. And you are quite right to demand to know it all. Sadly, the current … climate in this city makes my proposal a delicate subject. The artifact in question is part of the cultural heritage of a people that once ruled these lands.”
He catches Phoebe’s eyes going wider in surprise.
“I see you already connect the dots. Let us be frank: I speak of the Elves. My own house, like many others, including our beloved Count’s palace, is built upon elven foundations. None of that has been a problem until now.”
The Peaceful becomes agitated again, and his energy rises visibly. He stands up and fetches one of the leather tomes:
“But unfortunately for me, the recent unearthing of a set of armor has made elvish things a difficult possession as there are fresh discussions about cultural heritage. This may remain a touchy subject for at least half a year – much too long. You will now understand why I must insist on complete and utter discretion.”
He calms himself and quickly returns to his proper state as a senior citizen. He sits down, stroking the book on his lap:
“Fortunately for you, that means that whatever mundane artwork or coinage you may find will find highly interested buyers – collectors who will be prepared to pay for the forbidden fruit, or elven cult leaders who yearn for past greatness.”
He laughs quietly.
“I will give you a map, and tell you everything I know about the artifact, once I hear a ‘yes’ from you. But I must be honest enough and admit that I sincerely hope you do not get _too_ rich from this expedition and seek early retirement – because there is another task I would set you after this one’s successful completion. And I expect that this second mission will be even more rewarding than this first one.”
“One of my people is an elf”, Phoebe warns, trying to decipher the book title.
“Not a problem!” exclaims The Peaceful. “Harmony Silverbirch is an outcast. Before she joined your party, she angered established elven clergy with her special interpretation of the old lore.”
Suddenly he stares at her with new intensity: “Are you not aware of that?”
“Oh, yes, yes, I am”, Phoebe assures him, a little surprised to find The Peaceful knows Harmony’s last name. And it is true – Harm has spoken of her problems at home, although Phoebe didn’t pay much attention to the finer points of elven religious disputes. She just liked Harmony, and that was enough.
“Fine, then.” All three of the men fix their attention on her, and the old man is suddenly very intense again. “Do we have a deal?”
- No deal.
The Idol of Kesh – part 4 – Dashing
The little Archwizard jumps from his seat and, pinning the fat book under his left arm, vigorously shakes Phoebe’s hand with his right. “Absolutely wonderful! I will make sure you will never regret joining my little enterprise!”
Now he spills all of the beans: The artifact he desires is called “The Idol of Kesh”, a holy icon of an ancient elvish cult, long gone. It is located in the remains of a temple close to the Crystal Lake, to the southeast of the goblin village that does most of the trade with Woodbridge.
The problem: These ruins practically swarm with young, starry-eyed would-be adventurers – and those are absolutely NOT welcome to loot the temple of Kesh.
“Be stealthy, be smart, be successful!” The Peaceful proclaims.
On her way home Phoebe thinks it through once more. The Wizard, for all his love of secretive ways, seems entirely genuine, and his offer of a follow-up-mission underscores this. She knows the others will be in, but she wants to know what Harmony thinks about this Cult.
Suddenly she stands face to face with Reinhold.
“Phoebe!” he says guardedly, taking in her outfit. She knows how he thinks, so she catches the disappointment flitting across his face. He had hopes for her to choose a more dashing, less practical attire. He himself has opted for dashing – he would still be the same annoyingly handsome classic hero, if he’d just shut up, and stop dressing so annoyingly foppish. And he has a new hat with a mighty feather in it, reminding her of Mundy “The Peaceful” Fairie’s crest – or some huge bird.
At his side, there is a young woman with golden, curly hair – and stacked out in a dashing wilderness ensemble in those fresh, modern fatigue-colors. She carries a longbow that is taller than herself. And she, too, is annoyingly attractive. She arcs her perfect eyebrows in an “Ahaaa! THIS is the great Phoebe, apparently!” and stares shamelessly, and also, ungraciously.
Phoebe looks him over. “Reinhold… who’s your sidekick?”
The young woman is offended, gasps, and turns away briskly.
“This is Alma, my new partner. She’s got a lot of talent! She has been with an acting troupe.”
“Talent… hm? An actress… I see. Makes sense.”
Alma is shocked: “How dare –”
Reinhold just talks over her: “Do you have any plans for … you know where? It sounds as if the road was too busy yet. I am loathe to wait too long, but I fear we must.”
“No, no. No worries. If I went, I’d speak to you about it – as promised. Not without you.”
“That’s a relief! You know… the company I keep sometimes…”
Phoebe looks at Alma, but he waves his big hands: “No, no, not her. She’s fine.”
Phoebe bites back a retort and nods.
“Well…. I’ll be seeing you I guess. Come, Alma.” He tips his outrageous hat and turns to part ways, with Alma glaring silent daggers at Phoebe.
- Get him on board
- Let him go
The Idol of Kesh – part 5 – The Old Mine
“Wait!” Phoebe calls after Reinhold.
“Listen … I have a new gig. I can’t tell you what it is, but if you….”
“Yeah! Cool. We’re in!”
Reinhold is happier than Phoebe has seen him in all the time she has known him.
“We are?” Alma asks.
“Don’t worry. If Phoebe goes, it must be good.”
Phoebe is not sure how to handle that remark, so she just tells him the time and place to meet: East of the Old Mine, behind the boulderfield. And to tell no-one.
“But remember,” she says: “I am the boss.”
He winks. “If you say so.”
At the Inn she meets her gang. As expected, they are all happy to have a new adventure waiting. Phoebe takes Harmony aside and asks her about the Idol of Kesh.
“Hard to believe there is one left,” Harmony says. “Supposedly, they were all cursed and destroyed when the Silver Empire fell and the Cult was forbidden.”
“Why was it forbidden?”
“It was said they trafficed with demons and ate babies. Nonsense, of course. They said that about everyone. The Iron Empire was rather hostile towards the supernatural.”
It doesn’t take them long to prepare, but still, it draws attention. Many a young adventurer wishes to join them, even without knowing where to. Alas, they turn them all down.
On the assigned morning they set out to the Old Mine. Even on the way there they already meet a happy Reinhold and a sullen Alma carrying well-stacked backpacks.
Oswald also makes a face. The wounds from Reinhold’s unfavorable opinions about him still sting. Uko high-fives Reinhold and bares his tusks as he gives Alma a jovial grin. Ursula just snorts as she sees Alma’s wilderness outfit, but Harmony points out the fatigue patterns to Uko and audibly calls them “moronic”. While Alma ignores them all as haughtily as possible, Reinhold does his very best to demonstrate to his former partners that he harbors no hard feelings about their decision to join Phoebe.
Character stats: http://bit.ly/Idol-chars
As they pass the Old Mine — the classic first venue for new adventurers — they see a four-strong adventuring party, all humans, prepare to enter the old shafts. Phoebe, Reinhold, Oswald, and Basil all were down there at one time or another. It is mostly empty, except for the natural caves farther back, which are dangerous, barely explored, but not worthwhile.
The youngsters quickly hide their gear and grab their weapons as the party of eight approaches. They all look down on their luck, with worn out and stitched clothing.
The leader hefts a crossbow, one of her guys nocks an arrow. His nervous fingers succeed on the third attempt. They try to look menacing, but are smart enough not to point their arms directly at Phoebe and her team.
“Hey! Turn back, late-comers! We were here first!” the leader bellows.
- Assure them you have other plans
- Ask them what they are doing
- Demand to know what they are doing
- Tell them to shut their ugly mugs
- Something else (comment)
The Idol of Kesh – part 6 – Secret Map
Reinhold snorts as he sees their poses, and Phoebe is pretty sure he’s going to say something about the odds of four beating eight. She also hears the quiet twang of Uko readying his crossbow.
She draws the rookies’ attention.
“Hey there. What are you up to on this fine day?”
Through gritted teeth, the leader growls: “None of your business.”
“You do know that there have been a thousand people through this mine. There ain’t anything in there worth fighting over.”
“You believe your thing. I believe mine.”
The stubborn woman slowly gets on Phoebe’s nerves.
“This mine is abandoned,” says Oswald. “I’ve been down there.”
“Maybe on the wrong spot,” Long-hair smirks with a wink, and the leader turns on him furious: “Shut up, Dig! Do you have to tell everyone?”
He shrugs. “I didn’t show them the map, did I?”
Turns out the four heroes have bought a secret map from a very trustworthy fellow in a harbor tavern.
“How much did he take?” asks Reinhold, this being his old trade.
“Fifteen gold. He wanted thirty, initially, but Odette drives a hard bargain.”
Uko and Reinhold exchange a knowing nod, which Dreadlock-boy catches.
“We know what you think!” he complains. “But he had a wooden leg! He couldn’t go down the mine himself. The map has to be real.”
- Voice doubts
- Wish them luck and leave
- Recruit them
- Rob them
- Ask to join them
The Idol of Kesh – Part 7 – Birds of Prey
“Well then!” Phoebe states. “May the fates favor you. You have your goal. We have ours. Let us part as friends and meet again to tell of our adventures.”
Odette nods. “We shall watch you leave.”
Not polite, but better than a useless skirmish. And at least she does no longer insist they turn back home.
Phoebe’s gang goes on eastwards until they pass out of sight, then turn south to meet with Mr. Rothery and Mr. Oblington.
The clearing where they would meet is occupied – but not by the two men and their equipment. On the clearing is a herd of fang geese, 17 of them, a carnivorous type of goose with vicious fangs. They hunt small game or wounded prey, but are not strong fighters.
- Wait and watch
- Scare them away
- Shoot them with arrows
- Attack them with blades
The Idol of Kesh – Part 8 – Dead Birds
The group finds itself a nice spot to see and avoid being seen. The fang geese run hither and tither, looking for scraps of food.
Indeed, from somewhere a carcass of some small bird is thrown amongst them, and the geese quickly tear it apart and devour it.
Only a minute later the same spectacle is repeated: A dead bird is thrown among the fang geese and they rip it to shreds.
Puzzled, Phoebe’s Rebels watch as the fang geese start acting strangely. They run in circles, stumble and fall. Some lie down and twitch. Soon enough, they all lie twitching.
“Poison. And a strong one,” says Uko.
Now something moves in the underbrush. It is Big Nose – Mr. Oblington. He investigates the geese and quickly draws his hunting knife to methodically cut their throats, one by one.
The Idol of Kesh – Part 9 – Crystal Lake
Phoebe stands up and walks out into the open, closely followed by Oswald, Reinhold and Alma. Basil is not pleased, but follows.
Harmony, Uko, and Ursula remain in hiding and watch the scene unfold.
Oblington looks up from the slaughter and wipes his knife clean on one of the geese.
“What’s going on? Need a new pillow?” asks Phoebe.
He stands up and sheaths the knife.
“Nay. Just tried a new method to get rid of the pests.”
He looks at Reinhold.
“I thought you said goodbye to that one?”
Reinhold puffs himself up. “Methinks the man derails too much. Did you just poison those birds?”
Oblington freely admits the deed and even presents a small sack with a white powder. “I’m an old vermin exterminator. You can take a vermin exterminator out of vermin extermination, but you can never take vermin extermination out of a vermin exterminator. Where’s the elf? She didn’t jump ship, did she?”
“Closely behind. Where’s Mr. Rothery?”
“Webster? He’s with the horses. I’m Merrick, by the way. Mr. Oblington is my old dad. The old wizard is the only man who calls me so.”
Harmony and the others come out, the big guy comes through the underbrush on the southern side.
Slowly the whole party forms up.
Merrick “Big Nose” Oblington and Webster “Big Guy” Rothery present their eqipment. They have nine riding horses – eight for the team plus one extra – and six mules for the loot. With Reinhold and Alma the party is ten strong, though.
Luckily, Uko is not fond of horses and elects to ride on a mule.
Either way, nine horses is a big investment! And the animals carry ropes, lanterns, oil, dry food, fresh water, and empty caskets and sacks. The party is thoroughly impressed with the funds The Peaceful is ready to put forward for the expedition.
Merrick produces the map: It shows the eastern tip of the Crystal Lake, southeast of the goblin village. It is a recent copy of a very old map, and marked in a priest script of the Silver Empire.
None of the buildings on the map have survived history, but the lake is still there, and still looks roughly like this.
The map shows three temples.
Merrick points: “The old man says it is this one – the one closest to the shore.”
Webster points to a bigger building north of it: “Huhuh.. if this is supposed to be the Crystal Palace, everyone has been looking for it in all the wrong places.”
Phoebe inspects the map and reminds the team that there is only one well-travelled road to the ruins.
“This is our spot. Question is: Easy road through the goblin village and ruins, or wilderness trails through the deep woods?”
The Idol of Kesh – Part 10 – East-southeast
The team sets out cross-country along a small trail that leads east-southeast. In the beginning, the trail is great for horses, with lots of small pebbles to walk on, and the group makes good headway. Then they enter the deep woods. The ground gets softer, and a trek of fifteen animals makes short work of the wild trail, turning it into something like a basic road.
Uko’s mule takes point, because he knows a bit about the goblin village and the goblin cemetary farther south. At several intersections, he steers them on a course between those known landmarks and in the general direction of the Crystal Lake. Alma is clearly nervous, this being her first foray into the untamed wilderness. But she keeps up her haughty demeanour.
To ease the burden on the horses, they take a short rest every hour. These pass uneventful, with nothing but peaceful wildlife and good weather.
“The old fool picked a good time!” Merrick says to Webster, and they both chuckle happily.
“How long have you been working for the wizard?” asks Phoebe.
“Oohh, he took both of us in about a year ago. He saw something in us I guess, and I dare say he was not wrong.” He chuckles and snaps his fingers to generate small sparks. “We seem to have a small talent for the magicks, although one would not think that from our ugly hides.”
They both chuckle again. Apparently, getting away from the city raises their spirits a great deal.
Just over two hours in, the group happens upon a small, dark shack, partly overgrown with moss and leaning against an old tree.
- Investigate carefully
- Call out to whoever
- Just move on
The Idol of Kesh – Part 11 – Mary had a pretty bird
Most of the team stay on the trail with the animals, while Ursula sneaks closer to the old shack. Uko, Harmony and Alma cover her with their ranged weapons. Alma strikes a pretty pose as she assumes a perfect archery stance. Harmony and Uko exchange a look and suppress a chuckle, but Alma doesn’t notice – she is intent on keeping an arrow trained on the shack.
Ursula moves with care, but doesn’t find any hint of trap or sentry. As she reaches the shack she takes a quick peek through the window, then a longer one. Finally she returns to the group.
“That is pretty odd. It has three windows and one door. There are two hammocks in there, a wooden chest, and a table. On that table there is a dead seabird. The bird is cut open, and it’s innards are laid out across the whole table. On the table is a bird’s nest, too. There is something in it, could be an egg.”
“Anything valuable?” asks Reinhold.
“No. Everything in there looks old and spooky. Except the dead bird. That’s fresh and spooky.”
Uko shrugs: “That sounds like magicks to me. Maybe a witches’ ritual. Let’s leave it and go.”
“Any weapons?” asks Phoebe.
Merrick speaks up, and sounds a bit more science-like than on the way: “Excuse me… are all the vital organs of the bird present?”
Ursula shrugs. “We’d have to check up close to be sure.” She smiles: “And I’d like to look into that chest.”
At that, Reinhold exclaims: “That’s my girl!”, and her smile drops. “Not any more,” she reminds him.
“No birds,” says Harmony. They all listen, and it is true: The wood is very quiet around here.
Reinhold breaks the silence. “Do the door or the chest have a lock?”
Ursula shakes her head.
- Go inside
- Look for tracks
- Call out
The Idol of Kesh – Part 12 – Nibble nibble gnaw
Warily, the group circles the house and investigates the door. It is a rickety thing, and Reinhold and Ursula can quickly ascertain that it is not trapped. Meanwhile, Harmony looks around the general area to see if she can find any tracks, but none present themselves. She elects to remain outside, and Alma joins her to cover her back.
Reinhold pushes open the door and steps inside. Uko follows with a wary look at a twig hanging above the door. The goblin looks over the bird’s carcass and takes stock of the organs. “Everything here except the heart and the brains.”
The rest of the gang crowds into the shack, except for Basil, who stands guard in front of the door, and the women with the bows.
“So if the heart is missing, what is this?” asks Phoebe, pointing at a heart-like organ.
“That IS a heart, but not the heart of a gull. It belongs to a bigger animal.”
Phoebe and Ursula look all over, but no bigger animal is to be found. They find, however, a bone knife, covered in dried blood, and a pile of smooth stones with runic letters carved into their sides, and a little skull with huge teeth.
In the nest there is a single egg, grey and spotted.
“Looks like you are right, Uko.” Phoebe points at the bone knife: “Witches.”
“Who cares what heart it is? Let’s look into that chest.”
Reinhold feels around the chest’s lid and looks for boobytraps. Nothing! Not even a fastener.
He opens the chest – to reveal some dried herbs, a hare’s paw, a stone with a hole, a tiny bottle with a clear liquid, and a container with a greyish-white salve.
“Disappointment!” Reinhold declares, sifting through the things, but Uko is not so sure: “Those could all be magical.”
Merrick and Webster come forward to investigate the things. They touch one after the other and murmur a spell they were taught by The Peaceful.
“Indeed, the paw is magical, and the salve as well. The stone and the bottle are not.”
Outside, a gust of wind picks up.
Alma draws and aims high. Harmony kneels, but let’s
“Oiweh, the witch is coming home,” wails Uko.
“WitchES,” says Phoebe, indicating the two hammocks and gripping her axe.
Merrick and Webster look at each other, worried. “That’s not what we are being paid for,” rumbles Webster, almost to himself, but audible to everyone.
“Dibs on that magic salve!” declares Reinhold, shaking the shield off his back and rattling his curved blade.
- Take the stuff and run
- Leave the stuff and run
- Try to hide
- Stay your ground
The Idol of Kesh – Part 13 – Wild Hunt
“Run!” the magicians shout.
Merrick grabs the hare’s paw and shoulders out the door. Webster wants to snatch the salve, but Reinhold beats him to it and pockets it with a grin. Webster grabs the bottle with the liquid instead and follows his companion. Phoebe grabs the stone with the hole. Ursula and Oswald go for the bloody bone knife, she is quicker, and he grabs the little skull instead. That leaves the grey egg for Uko, who pockets it carefully, while the others already bolt out of the door and run to the horses.
Basil guards Phoebe as she swings into the saddle, and so he’s the first to see it: “There! The bird!”
A bloated seagull lands right on top of the shack and glares at the party. It begins to shift and grow and change, and Alma lets fly at it. Her arrow misses the bird though, and it drops into cover behind the shack.
A human form on a long branch skims over the treetops – a woman dressed in black. She has a bow of her own. Harmony swings around to her, but she is first to take a shot at Alma. Her arrow misses the young woman by a handspan, but Harmony’s return shot goes wide as well.
“Follow me!” Phoebe shouts and sets off down the path into the thicker underbrush, where she hopes to loose the witch and the seagull. Merrick and Webster are right behind her, then Oswald, Ursula, and Reinhold, followed by Alma, Harmony and Basil.
Uko figures that his steed is slower than the others, and flees straight north on foot.
The seagull rises again, but no longer a seagull, more like a parody of a bird, an ugly hybrid of with feathers and claws. With shrill squeaks it follows the fleeing party down the trail. The woman on the branch flies higher up, and repeatedly shoots with her bow through breaks in the canopy. Once she misses. Once her arrow grazes Alma’s shield rim and hurtles sideways into the underbrush. Her third shot gets Oswald through the shoulder!
While the witch can shoot at leisure, Harmony and Alma have a much tougher time shooting back up from horseback. Alma can’t use her longbow at all, and Harmony can’t aim under the circumstances, ducking and weaving under branchers. The ground is not ideal either. The horses snort and sweat and roll their eyes, clearly afraid going at such a breakneck pace through the deep woods.
The strange seagull-devil flits between the trees, branches, and horses, and tries to get at Reinhold. She claws at him and tries to grab him, while he hacks at her with his scimitar, but both are unsuccessful. She just manages to grab his shield with one foot and pull, but he resists it, ducking deep over his mounts neck.
- Stop to fight
- Use magic
- Go faster
The Idol of Kesh – Part 14 – Blinding Glass
Oswald, wounded, falls behind, and Reinhold realizes that the creepy bird is going to pull him out of the saddle sooner or later, so he reigns his horse in and concentrates on the fight. Oswald, Ursula, Harmony, Basil, and Alma rally around him.
The witches don’t leave them time for forming up – the bird is upon him in a flash and takes him full on. It hits him square in the chest and throws him off his horse. Basil stabs his shortsword at the bird, missing by a mile.
The other witch shoots again – her arrow hits Basil in the thigh. Harmony fires back, missing her mark, and the witch flies a loop, cackling like a maniac, and preparing for another run.
“They are going to pick us apart! We have to do something!”
Alma readies her longbow, aiming high. “You worry about the bird. I worry about the witch,” she commands.
Reinhold prepares his shield. “I’m going to ruffle some feathers.”
The bird is back, but Reinhold gains initiative. It dodges his attack cleanly, and strikes with it’s claws. Reinhold suffers a bloody gash across his shoulder and falls down, swearing like a riverman. Ursula explodes out of her ready stance and hacks the bird open, spilling it’s innards all over Reinhold’s head. The mock-bird crashes to the ground, flapping feebly, and Basil ends it with a clean stab through the neck.
The witch returns, and Alma lets fly. Her arrow arcs high and passes by the witch to land somewhere in the forest. But the witch is in no cackling mood. She understands about the fate of her comrade, and she is going to let them bleed for it. She’s preparing a spell!
Harmony is quicker, though. She has her mirror out and speaks the ancient words of her people to release the spell “Blinding Glass”. A beam of pure light strikes the witch on her branch and burns her face. Searing pain runs through her, and her bow and quiver fall down into the canopy, but with an effort of will she still clings to her branch, veering wildly off course. Wailing and clutching her face she wobbles off into the distance.
Harmony lowers the smoking mirror.
“Let’s see how well you aim without eyes.”
The others stare, half shocked, half awed.
“You know what, Harmony?” says Reinhold, wiping the bird’s blood off his face, “I’m glad you’re on OUR side.”
The bird slowly transforms, sheds it’s feathers and takes on the form of a young woman, but still with the grieveous wounds she suffered in her bird-form.
Phoebe and the two mages return to the party, as Harmony removes the arrow from Basil’s thigh, while Ursula carefully extracts the dart from Oswald’s shoulder.
Alma and Reinhold cut off his bloodied shirt to take a look at his bleeding claw marks. Baffling to Phoebe, the bastard pulls off wearing even steins of blood and gore on his face like the perfect hero, and his hairdo looks as dashing as ever.
“We should have left their stuff alone,” she suggests sullenly.
“No way,” says Reinhold. “The way they chased us, and as birdgirl here had it in for me in particular, I bet that salve alone is worth at least a hundred gold!”
Phoebe rolls her eyes. “At least that salve isn’t reading our minds like that stupid skull.”
Merrick counts heads and says: “The goblin is missing.”
- Camp here, rest, heal, wait for Uko
- Camp, rest, heal somewhere else
- Go back to look for Uko
- Go back to hunt the witch
- Go on without Uko