I am finally ready to leave Artus Farm.
I have retrieved my chain. It’s like the patchwork quilt of chainmail. I feel like a hobo. But, Lilykai Kodel’s mother taught her manners, or rather threatened her very existence if she didn’t use her manners, so I am fully capable of accepting the repairs graciously and offering genuine thanks to Sennewig. He looks completely miserable to show me his work. But truly, without more replacement materials there was no way this was going to work out any differently. So we’ve got chain, swaths of leather, and I think chunks of pots and pans flattened and melded in here and there. Oh well, throw a coat over it and nobody will ever know.
They fix a huge, huge breakfast and have a send-off for me. I eat a lot. I wrap up some sausages and pancakes and slip them into my pocket for later as I’m running (this will now and forever be known as replenishing the “food pocket”).
The Artus’ do some trading with my next stop, Hausen Hold. A dwarven mine in the side of one of the Griff Mountain peaks. They provide some more detailed directions than my map holds. But there seems to be some friction here. They don’t give me any specifics other than the dwarves don’t fully trust them or think they’re cheating them or something and Rollo doesn’t think they are completely honest in business. Nobody tells me any details, just don’t believe everything they (the dwarves) tell me. Rollo is actually uncharacteristically bitter. I will definitely be keeping my eyes and ears open.
I thank everyone profusely.
I shake Phaelen’s hand specifically and look him in the eye with that “I’m watching you” look…..he seems unimpressed.
Algen is nowhere to be seen
Whipper refuses to be put down, so Bathilda takes him off me.
About half of them in unison say “Thank you for your Service”. I don’t visibly grind my teeth.
Oh it feels good to be out and about again. And fit. And healed. I start heading North across the valley and then east. I find the path they described and start making really good time. Run through lunch by pulling my breakfast sausage/pancake rolls out of the food pocket. Yummy…cold…food. Hey, I’m making time so it’s fine by me. About 6 hours since I started I stop for a bit to get my bearings and a snack of cheese. Wolves start howling to the south of me. Better get moving, I have no interest in fighting a pack of wolves so soon after a week of recovery. Soon after I lose them, or at least don’t hear from them at all anymore. Around 4ish before sunset truly begins (although the days are getting shorter) I start looking for a place to camp for the night. Off the path about 20’ I see what I think is the perfect place. A treefall with a nice size trunk that will serve as a sort of barrier and protection from the weather. As I near the area the ground below my feet seems to melt away beneath me. I barely manage to keep my footing (dex roll!) and slide straight towards the pinchers of a Ground Locust. (do a “oh shit” roll…ok not really, although that should really be a thing)
Ground Locust. OK. I didn’t think these things were real. First off, when we were kids my father would tell my brother and I to “watch out for the Ground Locust” when we went to the woods to play. We assumed it was one of those crazy Elven (Lily’s half elfness comes from Daddy) wives tales he used to keep us out of trouble. I mean I have portrayed a Ground Locust many times while jumping out from behind something at my brother and making him scream like a girl. Scared the crap out of him so many times! And now I’m facing one down, right here, right now. Somehow I feel like fate is playing a huge joke on me. I can almost hear it saying “not so funny now, is it!”
(For the record. The “Ground Locust” is actually an Ankheg from the early D&D monster manual, my GM invents local names, made up names or something the locals would call things……I have made sure to never look upon the monster manual or try to meta game what he’s describing. It actually keeps things rather fresh and exciting for me that way)
This looks like a huge cricket crossed with a walking stick that stole the face of a praying mantis. As I’m sliding towards it I manage to draw my sword just in time. I take a few swings but the sword isn’t biting into it very well. Then this ugly bastard clamps down on my blade and shoots some substance out of its mouth that immediately starts to dissolve my coat, shirt, and chain! Acid! (Lily carries a Ranger issued long sword, ranger issue long bow, and wears chain shirt under regular shirt and the hard leather Ratik Ranger Coat that is also issued by the Corp)
Quickly I slam my free hand into this thing’s face…kinda like you do a bad dog to make it release…and it works! The bug lets go of my sword and arm and starts to back away a bit. Instinctively, I drop my sword and draw an arrow (Under the early rules Lily is obviously proficient with the bow so she has a quick draw skill) I let fly and just as it opens its mouth to spew the next dose of acid my arrow flies into it’s mouth, skewers it’s brain and the thing instantly drops. I stand there a few seconds with my next arrow drawn and ready……sweat trickles down my face, my heart is slamming into my chest and I’m fighting the tremors that want to erupt in my hands. I hold…..bow taut, arrow ready…waiting to see if it is really dead. Finally I cannot take the stress anymore and I send my arrow into it’s skull. Thunk. It sinks deep and not a quiver from the beast. It must be truly dead. I release a shaky breath and realize my sleeve is still smoldering. Jerking out my water skin I try to wash the remaining acid off with little affect. Finally I just pull out my dagger and cut away the sleeve and jerk the decomposing coat, shirt and chain clean off. My lower arm and hand is slightly burned, no more than when I get too much sun in the summer and my salves seem to ease the pain and start the healing process (first aid!!) I watch as my sleeves lay on the ground and slowly smoke and sizzle until there is little left of them.
I am underground and I don’t like it one bit! But since I’m here I should take a few moments to look around and see if any other hapless travelers have succumbed to the monster’s trap. Part of a Ranger’s job is to recover remains or personal effects if possible from any victims in the wild. At the end of the run we turn in the belongings to be identified by family members or to serve as identifiers for those reported missing. I get paid a fair wage and given an allowance for anything I might need to obtain on my run. Combine that with the fact that no person will charge a Ranger a fee for staying with them and providing meals; provisions and equipment needed are given free (or they can send a receipt to the capital for reimbursement). I really have no need to keep any loot I find. It’s much better in the long run to return it to where it belongs, it will do me no good in the forest, the only thing it will do is slow me down or make too much noise.
Which is exactly what I’m thinking as I push over a pile of animal bones and uncover a skull with a helm on it. The workmanship on the helm is incredible, and clearly Dwarvish. My grappling hook is Dwarvish and I recognize the style. It just so happens I’m heading towards a dwarven hold so I can probably deduce that this is where our poor fella came from. As I’m not so gently trying to knock the skull from the helm (I think showing up with a decapitated skull is in bad form when trying to impress strangers) I completely overlook the huge chest until I’ve practically fallen over it. I open the chest and it is full. I mean full, full, full…like 10,000 coins in it. And they too are dwarven in design. Copper and a bit of silver. OK, so I’m getting the picture here: Dwarven Hold sends courier with chest to Artus farm for trade, never shows up because he fell in here. Artus farms don’t get paid hence they don’t trust the Dwarves (as per Rollo) and I bet if I were to talk to the Dwarves they would tell me that I can’t trust the Artuses because they will take your money and claim it never arrived. This is how feuds start I think. And the other thing I think is that I’m going to have to somehow get this heavy fucker out of this hole and up the mountain. And I thought killing the Locust was hard, that wasn’t shit compared with what I’ve gotta do. I could just take the helm and tell them about the chest……..but somehow that doesn’t seem nearly as heroic as showing up with the whole bit. And that’s what I’m all about…heroics! Ok, well, maybe not. But I might lose this place once I’m out, or someone comes and steals the goods and it remains unaccounted for. Showing up with the whole thing supports the truth of the story more than anything else.
In truth this little stop is more like a diplomatic thing. The Hold isn’t within Ratik’s borders, but we’re trying to encourage trade and be good neighbors and all that blurb. Basically, if the hordes start coming back again these guys are our best chance of warning and allies. So we’re trying to make friends here. Which all boils down to one thing: I gotta get this heavy fucker out of the hole.
I have never been so happy to have excelled in Ranger Banyon’s “Use of Rope” Class (yes, that’s really the name…no, it’s not a really good name) We were taught all kinds of things beyond making knots “If you want to just make knots you should be a sailor!” (say that with some small pieces of gravel in your mouth and you’ve got a perfect impression of Banyon) And today I am so happy for all the variety of things we learned, like pulley’s!
OK, I’ve closed it up, tied it up, got a proper branch and now it’s just up to me to pull it out. Looks like I’m the pull in pulley! (OK, yeah, that one sucked) Alright, it’s up and out of the hole….and dangling above it….huh. I really didn’t think this all the way through.
(Here I have to roll intelligence and rope tricks and I think a bit of dex, and definitely strength. Drag the chest to middle of hole, secure rope all around it….like a present ribbon if you must know. Then comes rolling to get it over a large enough branch and pull it up and hold on. There were like 6 various rolls for this little maneuver. And then to top it all off I had to roll a d20 and not roll a 1 in order for the rope to not break! Do you know how common it is for me to roll a 1? VERY. And do you know how intimidating it is to hear your GM say “Roll a d20 and just don’t get a 1” VERY. But I did it, take THAT random laws of dice physics!)