*The Idol of Kesh – Part 84 – Blood for Blood*
Reinhold’s sharp voice roots the goblins in their tracks.
“You are really going to let them get away with that? Two humans with one lucky shot scare away some of the best men in Ma Ten Copper’s tribe? I can’t believe it.”
“That was no lucky shot!” they protest. “They are picking us off like … like… like human farmers.”
The adventurer draws his scimitar and raises it for the goblins to see. “By this blade I swear I will avenge our comrade! I am not a little coward who runs away when men are called to fight! I will not betray this noble warrior! I will take blood for blood! Who is with me?”
The goblins hesitate. Cowards? Not them, surely.
“Who is with me?” Reinhold repeats sternly, and the goblins shuffle closer, shrugging.
“We are with you. But what do we do? They have all the advantages.”
“No…. we only need to keep them occupied. Before long they will try to flee or counterattack, and then the advantage is with us.”
Reinhold quickly sketches a crude tactical map in the dirt, assigning firing positions, and the goblins, who have no better idea, take up their roles in the plan. He himself sneaks closer to the fallen leader to grab his bow.
It is not easy to sneak up on a fortified hill. The wizards see him and shoot. But Reinhold knew what was going to come and was ready. He ducks at the right moment. The arrow – one of Alma’s, he notices – misses and whistles into the underbrush. He uses the time they take to nock another arrow to cross the open stretch to dead Wild Eye and take cover by his side.
Now Reinhold has a bow, too, and eleven arrows. Not the world, but enough to keep the wizards on their toes until Phoebe and Harmony can catch up.
The besiegers and the fugitives exchange a couple of arrows, but both sides stay in cover and nobody gets hit.
Then Reinhold notices that only one of the wizards shoots arrows. The other one shoots with a sling. Both defenders seem to be concentrated on the southwestern part of the hill. That may present an opportunity to surprise them after all, as originally intended.
- Take one of the goblins and try to outflank the wizards
- Outflank them alone
- Stay put and keep them pinned
*The Idol of Kesh – Part 85 – Bush War*
Reinhold shoots two arrows up at the enemy and waits until an opportune moment arrives: right after both of them have shot and need to reload. He quickly taps the closest goblin – Shifty – and signs for him to follow. To his credit, the archer reacts immediately, and the two warriors veer off to the right.
Keeping low between the bushes and trees they run east until the hill levels out, then turn north and circle back to ascend and reach the murderers’ camp from the east-north-east – hopefully surprising them from behind.
Meanwhile, the sniper battle between the goblins and the wizards keeps going on, with the wizards keeping up a slightly higher rate of fire. They seem to be counting on failing morale on the goblin’s part if they lose another one or two of their number.
Finally, after several shots whistling uselessly away, one of Merrick Oblington’s slingshots find their mark. A glancing blow rings Shorty’s helmet, and the goblin sits down for a timeout.
Beefy stays down as well for the moment.
Quiet resumes, only broken by the nervous stomping of the horses up on the hill. The goblin’s horses have wandered away from the scene of battle.
Reinhold crawls close to the hill’s crest, as quiet as a mouse.
Shifty is less stealthy and creates a scratching noise as he seeks cover behind a tree trunk.
Reinhold freezes. Did the wizards notice?
- Peek carefully
- Peek quickly
- Wait without a move
- Storm the crest
*The Idol of Kesh – Part 86 – Camp Site*
Reinhold holds his breath. Then he slowly crawls up again to peek over the crest.
As he raises his head, Merrick Oblington is looking right at him, slingshot ready.
“The fool!” he shouts to warn his partner, and whirls his weapon.
Beside him, Webster Rothery turns around with his bow. No… with Harmony’s bow.
On the hilltop there is an almost circular trough. The murderers are right where they should be – on the opposite side of it, in cover againt arrows from below. But the goblin’s mishap alerted them.
The horses are also in the through, the whole herd. The stolen loot and the Idol of Kesh are piled up in the middle of it all. Clearly this place was their intended camp site, where they not only laid in ambush, but wanted to sleep for the night and recharge their magic.
Reinhold takes all of this in in a heartbeat and remembers to duck in time. Oblington’s shot misses wide.
“Fool? Me?” he wonders.
Reinhold would like to use that moment when Oblington needs to reload to come over and show the bastard who’s a fool. But there is Rothery to think about, and the masterful shots he has shown already. He would have the first shot. The goblin is frozen in indecision.
Reinhold has been seen, so surprising the murderers from behind is off the table.
Rothery will either wait for him to reappear and shoot him, or he will take his glaive and come knocking, with Oblington laying down support fire.
- Move sideways for another go
- Shout to activate the goblin
- Wait, with the bow ready
- Talk to the wizards
- Other idea (comment)
*The Idol of Kesh – Part 87 – Mexican Standoff*
Reinhold quickly slithers back down a bit, then crouches and sneaks onwards to the right. He expects the bad guys to watch half the trough, the eastern half, but he will strike at them from the northwestern edge – they won’t see that coming!
Lucky for Reinhold, the goblins take heart again and resume shooting, so the wizards’ attention is split between him and the shots whizzing their way. He also succeeds at sneaking to his new position without a betraying his movements.
Bow ready, he ascends the rise and peeks over the crest.
Merrick Oblington is just reacting to a shot from below and returns fire.
A pellet from his deadly sling hits Beefy in the head, breaking his skull. The brave goblin warrior falls, never to rise again.
From the other side, Shifty shoots at Webster Rothery. He misses, embedding his arrow in a saddle. Webster returns fire, grazing Shifty’s shoulder with his shaft.
Now Reinhold has time. Both his foes need to reload. Merrick is the worse traitor, in his eyes, so he lets fly at the big-nosed goon.
The quick-witted villain enjoys the favor of lady luck, though: The avenger’s arrow misses his ugly mug, if only by an inch.
Shorty is down in the bushes. The hill belongs to just four warriors, who all have to reload or go into the infight.
- Shoot at Big Nose
- Shoot at Big Guy
- Rush Big Nose
- Drop behind cover
*The Idol of Kesh – Part 88 – Battle Royale*
Reinhold quickly nocks another arrow and raises his bow to aim at Big Nose. His enemy has already put another shot in the sling and whirls it around his head.
Initiative for the round goes to the baddies.
Merrick shoots at Reinhold.
But he is nervous. The shot arcs toward the avenger, but scores only a glancing blow.
Webster shoots at Shifty, but his arrow borrows into the tree – Shifty remains unharmed.
Now Reinhold lets fly. His arrow hits true and wounds the wizard’s apprentice in the thigh. Dark blood sprays on moss and weeds, but Merrick manages to stay on his feet.
Shifty shoots at Webster – and misses.
Shorty sends another arrow high up here, but that doesn’t come close to anyone.
Again, the baddies win initiative.
Webster drops the bow and rushes Shifty, striking with his maul. Shifty is hard pressed and has to retreat before the onslaught.
Merrick sends another pellet at the unflinching Reinhold – and misses wide. Nerves!
Reinhold, deathly quiet, sends another arrow whistling across the hilltop. True and good — the steel tip breaks through Merrick’s reinforced jerkin, emerging bloody through the little man’s back.
With a look of disbelieve, Big Nose lightly touches the fletching on the straight shaft sticking out of his chest. He coughs …. and crumples to the ground.
Alma and Uko are avenged.
Shifty swings his axe — and hits true! The axe hits Webster’s arm and opens a deep cut.
Shorty shoots again, scaring a flock of birds.
With renewed energy, Reinhold wins initiative in round three over a shocked Webster Rothery, who can hardly believe that his accomplice should be struck down so shortly after their moment of triumph at the digging site.
Reinhold sends another arrow his way, wounding the hulking warrior in the shoulder.
Shifty yells a warcry and hacks again. But Webster defends and only receives a cut. Still, he is gravely hurt. He swings his maul and breaks Shifty’s head like an overripe melon.
Then he ducks behind the selfsame tree that the goblin used as cover and limps away, leaving behind all the loot, all the horses and even his own backpack, bow and glaive. He is running for his life!
- Hunt the murderer
- Secure the loot
*The Idol of Kesh – Part 89 – Hostage*
Webster limps away between the bushes, and Reinhold lets him go. He walks over to Merrick’s body and makes sure the fiend is dead.
Then he checks the loot and finds not only all of the valuables that the duo took, but also several private things from the adventuring party. Even Alma’s glass marbles. She just had them in case she found someone dumb enough to trade them for something better. For all her bluster and flashy appearance, she was poor, and she had quit acting because the only actresses that made it big were the ones who married big. Alma hated the idea. She wanted to make it on her own. And now he had led her to her doom.
Shorty comes up the ridge and looks over to Shifty’s broken body.
“I want our share of the loot,” he says without blinking. Not an overly sentimental bunch, the goblins. Comes with a high mortality rate, is Reinhold’s guess.
He sighs. He does not want to kill the little guy, not after all that blood today. It is enough with the killing. But he also can’t well give him five parts of the treasure. That was never on the table.
He tries to sound friendly: “The old deal is off, Shorty.”
Shorty pauses, then gets restless and fingers his bow.
“What’s the new deal?”
Not sentimental, goblins.
They have to be, between the humans and the orcs. And he has lost all his pals inside half an hour. Not the moment to insist on the old deal.
Reinhold points: “See those rings? They are elven. You can take ten of them. Then be off.”
Shorty starts to protest and grabs an arrow, but Reinhold interrupts him: “What do you think will you keep of the other things? When you get back, the others will rob you blind. The rings are small. Take them and hide them well.”
Shorty pauses, then nods.
He selects ten of the rings, tries to nab an eleventh, but Reinhold clicks his tongue, and he puts it back.
“See ya around, hooman.”
“Not if I see you first, goblin.”
The goblin gets lost, grabs the horses of his dead comrades and rides south.
Reinhold won’t spend the night here. Not with Shorty and Webster knowing where he is. He starts packing up the stuff.
Meanwhile, down south, Harmony wakes up.
A spell comes to her.
A defensive antimagic spell. Not worth a damn to throw at the killers.
“Curse you, astral plane.” she says.
“What’s up, Harm?”
“I needed an offensive spell.”
The others look concerned. “You didn’t get one, then.”
Harmony slowly starts to crawl out of her saddle nest.
“It was all for nothing.”
“Not quite,” says a rough voice.
Cadwaladr, the stranger from the woods, grabs Ursula’s arm and hooks a vicious sickle around her neck. She sees one of her dreadlocks cleanly cut off by the blade.
“Nobody move. I have an offensive spell,” he says.
He still has his hard eastern accent, but less pronounced than when they met last time. He still has his soft hat and beard, but he looks a bit strung out and fanatic.
Phoebe very slowly reaches for her axe.
“What do you want, Cadwaldr?”
“Cadwaladr!” he corrects her. “Stop moving, fancypants” he snaps, as Oswald shifts his weight. “I have an offensive spell!”
“What do you want, Cadwaladr!”
“I followed you all that way. I lost my friends to those double cursed tree people. I had to take a long detour and I am really pissed off. Stop moving, I said!”
Oswald raises his hands. “Calm down.”
“I come all this way to get that artifact. Now you don’t have it. Bad luck. But you have other things. What you took from the witches. Lay out your weapons and all of your things. Or I cut her… ” he indicates Ursula with his head, but does not take his eyes off Oswald “… open.”
Ursula can’t move. That sickle has got her good. Where did that bastard come from all of a sudden? Does he really have a spell ready? And what kind?
Harmony is still on all fours between the saddles. Oswald looks to Phoebe. The distance is not great, but an attack is a big gamble with Ursula’s life.
- Do as he says.
- Talk, stall for time.
- Grab his sickle arm.
- Split his head.
*The Idol of Kesh – Part 90 – Opening*
Phoebe and Oswald hold on to their weapons, but they know they can’t take Cadwaladr before he slits Ursula’s throat. They are playing dumb, stalling for time, and carefully try to flank him.
“Why are you doing this?” Phoebe asks, and “Why don’t we join forces? You get an equal share in the loot!”
That last remark gets him. He spits back: “I don’t want your loot! I want the Idol of Kesh! Everything else is just trinkets!”
This gives Harmony the opening she needs to get ready and move her hands to weave her spell. But where? Cadwaladr has the blade, and he says he has an offensive spell to unleash. Harmony can only guard against one threat. Her spell, the Warding Loop, is usually against magic, but warding just might buy some little precious time against a blade as well.
“Enough of this!” Cadwaladr hisses, deadly silent. “Lay down your weapons before I count to three or suffer the consequences. One, ….”
Harmony, Phoebe and Oswald are ready.
- Protect Ursula and attack Cadwaladr
- Protect against magic and attack Cadwaladr
- Lay down the weapons and surrender
*The Idol of Kesh – Part 91 – The Axe Speaks*
Harmony slowly weaves a Warding Loop around Ursula’s neck and activates it with an arcane word.
The sound of her voice is all the signal Phoebe needs. She was strung like a bow, and now she explodes at the Easterling, axe raised high, and Oswald follows her lead to sweep in from the side.
Cadwaladr gasps a spell at them while trying to slit Ursula’s throat. The blade catches on some odd obstacle, it does not touch the adventurer’s flesh. Ursula takes the hint and quickly wiggles out of the sickle’s deadly embrace while Cadwaladr is otherwise engaged.
What Cadwaladr’s spell does is it spawns a rat. A big, fat rat appears right in Phoebe’s face out of nowhere. But Phoebe is not the kind to shy away from a rat, and she’s angry as well. She has lost too many friends on this mission to let some mystery man claim another. Phoebe passes a WIL-save with advantage and swats the animal aside before she strikes at the opponent hard and true.
Cadwaladr is too slow to duck aside, and the axe bites deep into his torso.
Then Oswald stabs him for another deep wound in the side.
Gravely hurt, and his spell spent for naught, the man realizes he has miscalculated. Outmatched and without another ace to play. Even fleeing won’t likely save him, as the wood’s cover is too far away for a quick dash.
Cadwaladr falls on his knees, drops the sickle and cries for mercy.
- Cut him down
- Spare him
*The Idol of Kesh – Part 92 – Shorty*
Phoebe has had it with people who try to slit her friends’ throats. Her axe falls, and Cadwaladr’s story ends right there.
Cleaning the blade, she looks to the others.
“Thank you, Harm.”
Harmony smiles. “Spell gone for today, though. The whole night wasted for nothing.”
Ursula rubs her throat. “From my end, it was worth it.”
Apart from Cadwaladr’s sickle and crossbow they find a sewing needle, a wine bottle, and eight gold pieces in his possession, and share it quickly by drawing lots. Ursula is pleased to own the sickle now – a permanent reminder to watch her back.
They leave the body lying on the ground and saddle the horses Phoebe brought.
Phoebe lays down the plan: “We have to find Reinhold. He follows Oblington and Rothery with four goblins. He’s going to try and keep them from sleeping so they don’t get new spells. We have to get to him and help him before either the magic men or the goblins turn on him.”
The adventurers head north at speed.
Phoebe, Ursula, Harmony, and Oswald thunder along the tracks that Phoebe already knows and pass the goblin camp without stopping. They follow the track until they meet the goblin Shorty as he is leading the horses of his fallen comrades south.
Confronted with four armed hoomans in full gallop, he makes a break for the east and races off into the woods.
- Go on to find Reinhold
- Get Shorty
*The Idol of Kesh – Part 93 – Reunited*
The party lets the lone goblin go and soon crosses the road – still devoid of traffic. They have no problem following the thrice-travelled track of the apprentice wizards and stumble upon the killing ground with two dead goblins, looted, and several arrows sticking out of trees here and there.
“Yo! I am up here!” Reinhold shouts, as he spies the group from the hilltop.
The others lead their horses up and find him already packed up and ready to go.
“I was going to move south any minute now.”
He indicates Merrick Oblington’s dead body. “Got that bastard. The other one escaped, but he’s wounded and left a trail of blood. I doubt he’ll get far.”
Harmony goes pale. “I want to see his body too.”
Reinhold hands her her bow and quiver: “This belongs to you. He went that way. But I’d say we get these items back to town, collect our just reward, and leave Big Guy for the wolves.”
Phoebe thumbs her axe. “The wolves won’t get him. I say we hunt him and we bring him to justice.”
Reinhold sighs. “I understand your position. I do. I felt the same way. But now I killed Merrick and it feels good in a certain way, and I would do it again. Yet Alma is still dead, and all this treasure is out in the open with no-one protecting it but us. Either way, we should stay together. If you guys want his blood, I’ll come with you and drag all these horses and all these coin. But if we get this silly Idol to the boss we won, and Alma and Uko and Basil didn’t die in vain.”
Oswald is not convinced. “We would have more chance without an army of horses. Leave them here.”
“As you wish – but then I will remain with them to guard them.”
— Go hunt Webster together
— Go hunt Webster, leave the treasure with Reinhold
— Leave Webster to the wolves
(Given the Death of G+, one more replacement venue for this show besides the MeWe group here: https://mewe.com/join/maze_rats_2_-_the_idol_of_kesh Namely: A discord server here: https://discord.gg/VyBWnGw )
*The Idol of Kesh – Part 94 – Going West*
As they discuss their options, the adventurers realize that hunting Webster is impractical. Taking the horses with them, they will warn him of their approach. Leaving the horses, they risk their mission. In the end they decide to let him run.
Harmony glares into the woods, hoping against all odds to spy him hanging around, but it is not to be. Mr. Rothery is gone.
The team binds the horses together and leads them down the hill and closer to the road. The bodies of the the fallen goblins and the wizard apprentice they leave to the elements, or to Shorty, should he decide to come back and pay his comrades the honors.
As they approach the road, there is still nobody in sight. No traffic at all between the goblin village and the deep goblin country in the east.
The goblin village is the foremost trading outpost for the exchange of human and goblin goods. It a sizable village, almost half a town already, where goblin and human traders meet.
“The quickest way back to Woodbridge will be through the goblin village and along the road to the Old Mine and the Cunning Cock,” says Phoebe. “The quiet way will be north through the Darkwood.”
Reinhold is all for quick travel. “They won’t stop us much, they will just have a lot of questions, and news will travel fast. But not as fast as our horses. I say we take the road and get to the Cock in one and a half days.”
Ursula shakes her head. “Along the road, there are bound to be robbers. We are five, and we are tough, so most will just let us pass. But that many horses may convince some fool that we are worth shooting. Let us be smart, go through the wood, even if it takes us three days.”
“Don’t forget the wood is where this centipede got Mort, back when we went to save those girls from the dungeon.”
Ursula makes small eyes and growls. “No worries, I won’t likely forget who ran away that day and left Mort alone.”
— Quick, open route: Along the road
— Quiet, slow route: Through the wood
*The Idol of Kesh – Part 95 – Madman*
The day passes uneventful. The party meets no goblins and no humans in the woods, and animals of all kinds avoid them due to the sheer number of horses they lead with them. They have a veritable herd of steeds, and in the wild there is safety in numbers.
As the sun goes down they look for a suitable place to rest for the night, and find a hill with a clearing on top. They approach the site, only to discover a rock formation with a shallow cave – inhabited. A human hermit lives here, dirty, with shaggy hair and beard, and stark naked apart from a rough fur cover that he wears around his shoulders. In the cave mouth he has built a good fireplace shielded from the elements. Inside the cave he has erected some kind of idol not completely unlike the Idol of Kesh, but made of crude granite blocks.
As Reinhold and Phoebe ride into his clearing, the hermit jumps up and down and breaks into a wild, unintelligible rant, waving his arms and brandishing a primitive stone axe. Harmony watches the spectacle from the treeline, fascinated with the antics of the madman.
— Attack him
— Speak to him
— Show him the Idol of Kesh
*The Idol of Kesh – Part 96 – Spirit of the Stone*
Phoebe and Reinhold try to reason with the hermit, but they don’t get him and he doesn’t understand them. Harmony, however, notices a turn of phrase he uses that rings a bell. She picks it up and cants it right back at him, and his face brightens at once. He runs to her and tells her things pointing at Phoebe and Reinhold. His babbling is hard to get, but the general drift becomes clear to her based on her experiences as a prophet of the gods: The man wants the horses off his clearing; they disturb the spirit of the stone.
Harmony sees no reason to make the hermit an enemy. She slides off the saddle and picks up his talk. She gets him now: He is a guardian of the stone, tasked with care for the oddly shaped idol in his cave.
Harmony points at Reinhold and Phoebe: “Get the horses off the clearing. Over there should be a suitable area.”
Then she signals to the hermit that she is here to pay her respects to the spirit of the stone.
The hermit is delighted. While the others tend to the animals at a safe distance, he explains the details of his faith to Harmony. He is a toucher… to underscore his talk, he repeatedly grabs her shoulder or arm. She fights the urge to recoil from his smelly hands and suffers it for the sake of diplomacy, as he clearly means well.
She is able to communicate the need for a safe place to rest, and he assures her that under the protection of the spirit of the stone, no evil can befall them or their possessions. They should just keep the horses away from the cave; all sentient species are welcome at the mouth of the cave where they may pray or rest, but make no music and don’t dance.
Harmony needs a good night’s sleep to regain a spell. The others have hardly slept and already feel the exhaustion catching up with them. A night of sleep is tempting. But how far can this shaggy guardian or his stone spirit be trusted? Is it safe to sleep and regain strength?
— Trust in the spirit of the stone and sleep (100%)
— Keep watch through the night
— Find another place to rest
*The Idol of Kesh – Part 97 – How to Train Your Golem*
The adventurers do not hesitate: They trust the weird man and accept his hospitality. In the morning it becomes clear: The decision was right. The adventurers spend a wonderfully relaxing night and awake much refreshed. They pay their respect to the spirit of the stone, thank the hermit, and continue on their way.
Harmony is surprised as the spell “Attracting Golem” comes to her. Attracting a golem… these creations are usually made of clay or of metal, notoriously seldom out in the wild. The spell should work really well in the right area, but in the Darkwood it could take ages for one to come. She is tempted to cast it right away and safe time.
However, having a golem lumbering after them has benefits as well as drawbacks. It will be strong, but it won’t be silent or quick. And which is the nearest golem? Is it the silver statue down in the ruins? Another statue somewhere else in those ruins? Slow or fast? There is really no way to tell without trying.
— Attract Golem
— Wait for later
*The Idol of Kesh – Part 98 – Shimmering Light*
Harmony casts the spell. She feels it resonate and knows that right now, somewhere, a golem woke and starts to make his way towards her. She sighs. She does not have much luck with immediately actionable spells recently.
The adventurers continue on their path to the west and encounter nothing remarkable the whole day, excepting a half-eaten carcass of a deer, but with no clear hint about the predator. They go on and cross the creek that flows down towards the goblin village without challenge. In the evening they look for another place for the night and make camp. It takes a while to notice, but as the darkness creeps out of the wood, Oswald notices a strange light not far to the north. He leaves Reinhold to watch and moves towards it to check it out.
He finds something odd: A shimmering field floating in the air between two trees, quite like the portal that Merrick created to steal the idol, only this one is not horizontal to fall through, but vertical, like a normal door. A portal… to where?
For now it just floats there, doing nothing. Maybe Harmony could attune herself to it and find out more, but she needs to rest to get a new spell. Maybe he could experiment with it?
– Test it, try to look through if safe
– Wake Harmony to identify it
– Let her sleep and identify it come morning
– Stay away from it
*The Idol of Kesh – Part 99 – Threat*
The group guards the portal through the night without incident.
In the morning, Harmony wakes up and receives a spell… Soothing Clay.
A healing spell, very versatile, for body or soul.
They all go over to take a look at the portal. It is hard to see by daylight, almost invisible by the sun’s glare, but it is there. Harmony concentrates and attunes herself to the magical energies.
“It leads east. Way east,” she says. “It is permanent until actively dispelled. And I believe it was created by an orc.”
“An orc? You mean, this leads into orc territory?”
“Created by an orc… so, not necessarily, but possible.”
Food for thought. Orcs are the stronger and meaner cousins of the local goblins. They live for war, it is said, so they are formidable foes, but they are not common in this area, and none of this crew have ever faced one.
Phoebe mulls it over. “We should find out where it leads. What it is for. It may be one of many. There could be preparations for an invasion underway.”
Reinhold shakes his head: “You can’t be serious. We are on our way home with loot and with the Idol of Kesh in our possession, and you want to start a sidequest to mess with orcs?”
Phoebe weighs her axe. “Think about it. What does this portal do here? What is it for? It may be a threat to Woodbridge. We should find out what we can and report it to the army.”
“We can only report anything if we survive. Let us tell them of this portal. Let the army handle the rest.”
– Scout through the portal
– Return home
*The Idol of Kesh – Part 100 – An Order*
They discuss their options, until a majority develops: a majority that favours Reinhold’s arguments. Phoebe shrugs and accepts the wishes of her crew. “Homewards, then.”
They take note of the position of this portal, then ready the horses and move on towards Woodbridge.
The whole day they meet no problem. Once they spy a larger gang of goblins working, driving a mine into the ground and carrying off what they dig up. The goblins are not quiet, and the group has no trouble evading them. Again, they make a note of the position on the map. Who knows, it may one day become a worthwhile adventuring destination.
The night passes without incident and they prepare to start the last leg of their journey. Then Harmony’s golem shows up. It is a brutish-looking clay man with wide shoulders and a low center of gravity that tramples through the underbrush and stops in front of the elven mage, waiting.
The golem carries no weapons or equipment.
Harmony has to give the golem an order by writing it on a piece of paper and putting it in its mouth. She has to be precise, for golems don’t tend to offer much in initiative or independent thinking. But she can change the order later, if needed.
She scribbles something useful:
– Follow us
– Protect the Idol of Kesh
– Protect [names of the group]
– Kill Webster Rothery
– Something else (comment)
*The Idol of Kesh – Part 101 – Sleet*
For a moment, Harmony thinks about Uko and considers sending the clay man after Mr. Rothery. Then she takes a deep breath and remains more practical. She makes a list of all the members of the group and orders the golem to protect them.
He closes his mouth around the parchment and looks at them all in turn. Then he waits.
They resume their journey, and the golem follows them on foot.
As they travel, the weather takes a turn for the worse. It grows cold, the sun is blocked by fat clouds, and the landscape is attacked by heavy sleet. Shivering and cursing, they continue on their way.
On the negative, they get cold and wet and the sleet stings in their eyes and faces. All rolls are at a disadvantage.
On the plus side, every sensible person and every animal hides from the bad weather, so they meet no-one and, come evening, arrive unchallenged at the Cunning Cock.
They have a choice to make: Find warmth and shelter and a good keg of beer? Or press on into the city and go directly to “The Peaceful” to discuss what happened? Or go to the army and tell them about the murderer on the run and the portal in the woods?
– The tavern!
– The wizard!
– The authorities!
*The Idol of Kesh – Part 102 – The Peaceful*
They press on and ride towards the city, crossing the bridge and presenting themselves at the gate. The guards take a look at them and wave them through, hardly leaving their warm and cozy watchhouse.
Between the houses, protected from the wind, it is warmer. With raised spirits they ride on to the house of Mundy Fairie, “The Peaceful”. Phoebe knocks, and a footman answers. “Open the gate and let us in,” says Phoebe. “And better be quick about it. We have a lot of horses here.”
The footman stutters, surprised and out of his depth, but the butler steps forward, takes a look at the situation at hand and orders the man to comply at once.
Roughly fifteen heartbeats later, a gaggle of servants is busy leading horses into the courtyard. Then “The Peaceful” himself appears.
“What are you doing here?” the Archwizard demands, his head turning red in anger. “Didn’t I order discretion?” He gets loud: “Do you have any idea what will happen if—”
Then he notices that his minions are missing.
“Where are Mr. Rothery and Mr. Oblington? What happened? Come inside at once, all of you. Richard, you handle the animals and the luggage. Nobody leaves the premises.”
The wizard disappears in the house and barks at two women to provide dry shoes and a place for the sodden coats. The adventurers shuffle in, with the golem behind them.
“Ms. Hicks. Explain!” he demands, looking surprisingly intimidating despite his small size.
— Be orderly and factual
— Be loud and aggressive
— Be quiet and diplomatic
— Blame him
— Attack him
*The Idol of Kesh – Part 103 – Reliable Beyond Compare*
Harmony step forward to explain. She stays calm and lays down the relevant issues of what happened one by one, fact after fact. That is the language the Archwizard likes. He calms down and focuses. Where Harmony wasn’t present, she asks Phoebe to provide details.
In the end, “The Peaceful” thinks it over quietly for a moment.
Then he addresses the group: “You did well, you were much quicker than anticipated, and reliable beyond compare. I am deeply sorry for the losses inflicted by my agents. We will speak about these incidents and about their dependents, if any, again tomorrow.”
“For the time being, I ask you to keep everything about the temple of Kesh a secret. Please tell everyone who asks that you found some buried artefacts and sold them. I shall compensate you directly, so you do not have to discuss this in detail with interested buyers.”
“You leave this house and return tomorrow to receive your pay as agreed. You may keep one horse each, if you desire. My staff will not remember the past hour, so do not refer to anything that happened here this day.”
Harmony gulps. She is no friend of meddling with memories.
The others look to Phoebe for guidance, and she nods: “Until tomorrow, then.”
They each take a horse – you do not reject such an offer – and leave to find shelter for the night.
The next day they visit the Archwizard Mundy Fairie again. They are led into his study and receive thanks, and 3680 gold pieces, which they decide to split evenly, for 736 gold pieces each. In addition, Phoebe receives a bonus of 600 gold pieces to use as she sees fit. She sees fit to divide this evenly for 120 gp each.
So they conclude this adventure with 856 gold pieces plus a horse each.
Basil leaves an estranged ex-wife who receives 400 gold pieces, and two children, who receive a stipend of 20 gold pieces a month until such a time as they reach their fourteenth birthday.
Uko leaves no one to mourn him, except his friends.
Alma leaves two parents who receive a one-time payment of 400 gold pieces, to be delivered by Reinhold, her last employer. He dreads the prospect, but decides to see it through, and throw in 100 of his own gains to boot.
Mundy Fairie is also interested in the items they stole from the witches.
Each of these gets them between 40 and 80 gold – except the truthseer’s stone, which is too pedestrian for an Archwizard, and the Hare’s paw of resistance, which Reinhold decides to keep.
They all reach level 3.
Phoebe, Reinhold, and Oswald train for more combat prowess.
Harmony receives a second spell slot, and teaches Ursula to get one as well.
The archwizard reminds Phoebe of his earlier offer: “There is another delicate mission I will need good people for. I will be in touch.”