Sunday, February 12, 2006

Dorben, entry 4 ---25th thru 27th Mirtul, 1377--- To the goblin caverns

Adventure Journal of Dorben Wainfoster

-25th Mirtul, 1377, Year of the Haunting

---Today has been a fairly uneventful day of travel. Our little troupe is a good day’s travel north from Zolven’s tower. We are currently, and presumably only temporarily, short one member. Young Euphestas needed time to add some new magic into his spellbook and Zolven’s library seemed as good a place as any. He plans to rejoin us at his first available opportunity.

Aedron led a few of us on a hunt to bolster our provisions for the road ahead and found us a truly impressive sized bull elk. One shot from his bow was all it took to practically drop the creature in its tracks. A good clean merciful kill. I led our little hunting party in a short prayer, thanking the creature’s spirit for giving up its earthly body so that we might eat and be strong on the path before us. Even with two people skilled in the process, dressing out the carcass took the better part of an hour. Truly, it was that big. I only wonder at what might have been the span of its antlers had we taken the creature before it shed. I would have been honored to carry a dagger with a grip made of this stag’s horn, truly honored. It was a good hunt.

Aside from providing us with what should turn out to be a good tenday worth of food and an impressive sized hide, our hunt also turned up something that put our party on alert. Little Sa’d disappeared from our sight momentarily when he fell into a feline print. I am not exaggerating; all 2’ 8” of Sa’d fit within the span of the print and its depth was such that he could lay flat and be below the level of the turf around him. From all indications the print was that of a truly great cat. From the clues at our disposal we guessed the creature’s size as significantly larger than a warhorse and perhaps twice the weight. Its trail seemed to be heading west which made me quite happy, despite the prospect of goblins and falling temperatures that we were traveling north. We had already planned on setting night watches but now we are doubly determined to do so.

By my Lady’s grace, I will write again soon.

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-26th Mirtul, 1377, Year of the Haunting

---The first part of today was spent finishing the processing of the abundance of elk meat provided from yesterday’s hunt. Another half-day’s travel north and we have made camp. We came across the trail of that same cat again during our ride. The beast seems to be winding back and forth in what we believe to be a hunting pattern. We hope to avoid direct confrontation with the creature but if it should come to that, I pray that we emerge victorious. I am only just getting to know these good folks and would like to continue our relationship.

By my Lady’s grace, I will write again soon.

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-26th Mirtul, 1377

---Evening addendum. Well, actually very early morning but still effectively the 26th for all practical purposes. We were awakened some time during third watch by Sa’d yelling that the horses were running off and Nia was riding after them. We all rushed from the shelter with what little weapons and armor we could seize at a moment’s notice. We emerged in time to see the last of the horses break free from the picket line and race away. Even with my limited understanding of equines I could see that the animals were terrified and trying to get AWAY from something. Sa’d was just mentioning hearing something snuffling at the west side of the tent when I turned in the direction opposite the horses’ flight, looking for what might have scared the horses. Yes, the horses were running almost directly east. At that very moment the west side of the tent partially collapsed and we caught only a fleeting glimpse of something quite large and white dashing away. It took us only moments to realize that the bundle of food we’d hung from a thick overhanging branch had been snatched. For myself, I consider the loss of the food a small price to pay for avoiding a physical confrontation with the beast. Nia has ridden off in quest for the horses. Unfortunately, she is on the only horse that didn’t run off so the rest of us have no choice except to return to our bedrolls and wait.

By my Lady’s grace, I will write again soon.

************

-26th Mirtul, 1377, Year of the Haunting

---It is approximately two hours past dawn. Nia has just returned, thankfully unhurt and with all of our horses. We’ll be on our way again as soon as she has rested and eaten a bit.

---We arrived at the village by late this afternoon. I have yet to learn the name of this little hamlet but there is at least an inn. We had no problems obtaining rooms and stabling and finding a local who knew something of the goblin problem. It turns out that the local headman has already contracted with a group of adventurers to deal with the goblin problem. We determined that we would simply stay for a day or so to see how this other troupe makes out. We were chatting with the locals when we were interrupted by screaming from outside.

Rushing out into the street, we quickly ascertained the source of the locals’ alarm. There was a huge white cat with six legs strolling down the main thoroughfare just as casual as you please.

Luckily for us, the creature did not seem to be violent. Well, at least not violent towards us at the moment. It just strolled up to us, sat down on its haunches and started sniffing and occasionally licking Aedron and myself. Considering its size and obvious abundance of razor sharp claws and teeth, talking seemed a fine option to say the least. It soon became clear that the huge feline understood some Common and its ears absolutely perked up when Aedron spoke in what I believe he said was Ulutuin. With some slight amount of understanding, we tried to convince the cat to move out of the village so that the villagers might feel free to leave their homes once again.

We seemed to have the cat convinced to leave the village when an inadvertent comment on my part about avoiding the local livestock so as to avoid panicking them, led to a short side trip. Evidently, Kitty wanted a snack and decided to help herself to one of the cows in a paddock not far off. Not that the other cows noticed. The snow cat moved so quietly and swiftly that I am convinced the only reason we saw it happen is because we were looking directly at the cat. The rest of the cow herd simply went about their business, never noticing that one of their own had gone away. Looking back, it occurs to me that the bovine taken was a good choice to be culled from the herd. Not as strong or as healthy as those left remaining.

We then followed the snow cat as it loped out of the village. The cow was barely a few moments repast. After it was done eating, the great cat turned its attention rather intently upon us. It continued to have a quizzical look on its face when Aedron or I spoke to it. It seemed to me that perhaps it could not figure out why we couldn’t understand it. I noticed that the fur of Aedron’s new hide armor shirt matched the pattern and coloring of the great cat almost exactly and therefore might carry a scent the cat found familiar. It also occurred to me that perhaps my time spent in the form of a tressym kitten in my younger days might have left me with some residual “cat scent” of some type that the snowcat might relate to. I know for a fact that I still retain the purring, so why not other leftovers? Is it possible that all felines of magical nature are in some way related? Or perhaps they share some common pheromone that lets them recognize one another? An interesting conundrum, possibly worth later research, but it has little to do with the situation at hand.

Eventually, we were able to establish some slight communication with the cat. Mainly, if we said something incorrect she wore an exasperated look and if we said something correct she would gently lick us. Yes, by feline standards we were all quite well bathed by the time we figured out what it was that Snowcat wanted of us. (I did eventually get the correct… um, angle to establish that our new acquaintance appears to be a female. And until we are able to establish actual communication, the name Snowcat, although far from original, seems as apt as any and will do for now.) We established that she wanted us to follow her and retrieve something. She seemed quite impatient so we agreed to do our best to do as she asked.

Snowcat led us back through the village but outdistanced us quickly. We knew the direction it was heading so we stopped at the inn to collect our packs and other equipment but decided against taking the horses. They’re not war trained mounts and just the smell of Snowcat’s tracks had put them off before. Actually getting them to follow in her wake would probably be more than we could ask of our beasts. Snowcat soon came bounding back and dropped a half foot long piece of ice at our feet. It only took a few moments to realize that the ice was not melting at all. Snowcat seemed to agree when we asked if this was possibly payment for the cow she had consumed. So we turned the ice over to the innkeep and indicated he should look to make contact with a trader from the south if he wished to get the best money for his new trinket. That taken care of, we set off with Snowcat in the lead. This time, she kept a pace that even I could maintain in my armor.

Our journey went on for at least two hours until we found ourselves some good distance north of the village. The region had become somewhat more rocky and hilly as we traveled. Snowcat stopped as we entered sort of a large ravine in the hills; too small to be a valley really. She seemed to indicate the need for a more quiet approach from there on. She led us along the ravine to the entrance of a grouping of three smallish cave mouths. From all indications they appeared to be a goblin warren; presumably the home territory of the goblins Zolven sent us north to deal with. Snowcat indicated that what she wanted was inside the caverns and it became obvious why she needed our assistance. She was simply too large to go inside.

We moved cautiously into the caves. Aedron had to stoop slightly as the caverns weren’t quite seven feet at their peak. They were at least wide enough for two or three goblins to move abreast easily. Speaking of goblins, it wasn’t long until we started encountering dead goblin bodies here and there. Presumably, these were the result of the invasion of the adventuring company hired earlier by the village elders. We found no dead of any other species. Further in, we started hearing the sounds of combat further ahead. We continued on, being careful of the side passages so we didn’t leave our rear flank open. As the sounds of combat got louder, we became more cautious.

Rounding a sharp bend in the tunnels, we spotted a light ahead. Since we didn’t want to be spotted, I closed the cover on the continual flame compartment in my cloak pin brooch. No need to advertise our approach after all. Me clanking along in full armor generally does that well enough despite my efforts to the contrary. I do find myself wishing on occasion that I were graceful enough to make do with lighter armor like my companions. But then again, if that were the case I might not have received the beautiful armor I’m now wearing. All in all, I’m well enough satisfied with the slow and slightly clanky method I suppose.

The combatants in the cavern ahead didn’t notice our entrance into the area. They were quite intent on one another. What we saw when we turned the corner was a group of four adventurers, three humans and a dwarf, facing down a tribe of a dozen or so goblins. The dwarf and one of the humans appeared to be the fighters and the other two humans looked to be a cleric and a mage. Ah, now, it was the mage who proved to be the point of interest. He was holding a chain leash that was secured to a much smaller version of our new acquaintance the Snowcat. It would seem that Snowcat was a momma and didn’t take kindly to these cads kidnapping her kitten and using it as some sort of attack beast. I have to admit, the addition of a six-legged lion the size of a horse would seem like a good idea to round out the attack force of a small adventuring company. They just chose the wrong beasty to leash is all.

As I said, the two groups of combatants were so completely intent on each other that we were able to move ourselves into advantageous positions. They didn’t really acknowledge us until Kaliki began singing to encourage us. The looks on the adventurers’ faces did not seem pleased to see us. In fact, these adventurers did NOT look like the type who would surrender their prize easily, if at all. One of the goblins cast a spell that negated the light spell already in effect; plunging the entire cavern into absolute blackness. We soon heard the other adventurers’ cleric casting a light spell but it only sputtered for a moment and then faded. I thought I heard Aedron whispering something but I had lost track of him as we maneuvered into position. The next thing I heard was the mage giving the cat the order to ‘Guard!’ which didn’t sound encouraging.

I made an attempt at negotiations, assuring this other group that we did not intend to steal their contract or glory. We simply wished to leave with the snow cat and they could carry on as they wished with the goblins. I opened my continual flame brooch again to provide light and was even nice enough to cast faerie fire onto the goblins in the shadowy illumination where I last remembered seeing the one I thought might be their chieftain. I pointed out that I’d just made their job easier and asked if we might leave with the cat now, if you please. Unfortunately, the cleric turned out to be a Tempite and of course would hear NO negotiations of any kind of surrender in the midst of battle. One would expect little else from a priest of the war god I suppose. It most likely did not help matters that a goblin had cut the throat of their dwarven comrade just before the lights went out and their human fighter also claimed guidance from the lord of battles. Ah well, let it not be said that an adventurer’s life is ever boring.

When the faerie fire fell upon the goblins, one of them babbled something in their strange little language and the whole bloody tribe scampered off into some sort of a side cavern we couldn’t really see. A stone wall dropped down to cover their retreat almost immediately. The adventurers seemed to blame us for the loss of their quarry and set upon us. I almost missed it when the fighter moved behind me in the shadows and attacked me from behind. At almost the same moment, the cat moved and attacked Nia rather viciously. She answered its attack in the most interesting way; by jumping upon its back and holding on like a champion horse tamer on an unbroken steed. We gave the adventurers one last chance to save themselves. They had no idea how outclassed they truly were. We offered them quarter and they returned us steel. I had to show the human fighter my back as Nia looked to need healing. I moved in and gave her the healing blessings of Selune as Aedron defeated their mage. Perhaps “defeated” is too mild a word. Let me clarify. Bellowing that the mage should have turned over the cat’s freedom to him, Aedron split the mage from collar to crotch with a single blow of his great axe. That greedy selfish fool of a spellbinder was dead before he even knew the axe had cut him, let alone before he hit the floor.

Meanwhile, Nia had been doing her best to knock the cat out without actually hurting it by using a sap. I would guess she was thinking the same thing as me, that Snowcat would NOT be forgiving if we delivered her a dead or even badly injured kitten. I realized when I got close enough to heal Nia that the cat looked to be showing some of the signs of a charm spell of some type. I suppose I must have said it out loud because I thought I heard Meg say something like “Oh, really?” as she moved forward. She cast something that broke whatever enchantment was upon the cat and it just stood there as if in shock for several moments. The priest and fighter were not about to stop in the middle of combat so we had no choice but to defeat them.


So goes the life of an adventurer. By my Lady’s grace, I shall write again soon.

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