Jesse Pickard joins us for the first time this week. Welcome, Jesse!
Thorfinn, a young priest of Elhona, was was enjoying the sluggish winter sunrise after visiting the market in Sing’jar, the largest community on the west coast of Vastlaan. The kale was good this year, and there were some nicely wintered squashes in his satchel bouncing on his hip as he made his way east to the church. The sound of town became drowned out by the cries of crows and gulls fighting in the air overhead, followed by shouts. Thorfinn looked ahead at the horizon: figures…marching. Hundreds of figures with torches and spears, growling and shouting violently: orcs!
Orcs would over-take the church well before he got there. Thorfinn spun on his heel and sprinted back to town. “Grab the children! Get to the dock! Orcs are attacking! ORCS ARE ATTACKING!” he screamed. Panic…chaos, screaming children and crying mothers…pushing onto the boats…then the rain and the swaying for a day suffering under a bitter chill that left him and all the other townsfolk that escape stiff and cranky with the inability to move their fingers or even get warm huddling together.
Thorfinn barely made it off the boat, slipping on the planks and falling onto the wet cobbles on the beach. But the clouds were breaking and the sun was rising again. He received food from the market and gladly slept in the hay at Drafter Crushton’s ranch. The refugees were brushed out of the stables the next morning, and rangers lead them into the ruins. Gunjor Tinwiddie, the butcher from Sing’jar, took on a bravado that befitted his large belly and callous attitude, and bossed people into a group. Thorfin could see where this was going. Before Gunjor could give him a turn of shouting and clouting about being a weak orc lover that let their town be crisped to cinders, Thorfinn ducked behind a large boulder and hiked in the opposite direction.
He found stark, plain beauty of the island as he hiked through the ruins. The food could be conserved, he did not need to exert himself, and there was plenty of time to reflect, meditate and pray. Sing’jar and its sacking was a shocking trauma, and he woke up easily. The time alone helped him find some peace. It also strengthened his resolve to help those in need. This island started presenting mysteries to him: how, with such a rocky landscape, do they raise cattle? How can they live on salted fish for so much of the year? Who were the dwarves and giant(s) that lived here previously?
The questions drifted between the horrific images slowly fading in his mind after about four days when Thorfinn saw a dust cloud billowing into the air about half a mile before him. He raced up the side of the hill he was climbing to the ridge: to his east was the remains of a dwarven statuary and below him was an impressive rock slide grinding to a halt, pinning some bugbears into the dry creek-bed below. Little shouts to made him look carefully: two halflings jumped for joy and smacked their hands in a high-five. The neighing of horses drew his ear next: on the adjacent ridge, a fighter and five rangers on horses split between two heading down the to the creek bed and three leaving down the opposite ridge. The fighter did not see Thorfinn or his wave, and started limping away from the scene.
The halflings and the fighter made their way back to an ancient coluseum, and through some giant, rotten wooden doors with rusty ironwork, some cook fire smoke drifted. Thorfinn walked through the ajar doors and everyone looked up at him. “Hello! My name is Thorfinn, a priest from Sing’jar.”
And immediately, a dwarf, a halfling, and a tall human started bickering about who this guy was. Clearly, they didn’t hate each other too much. Maybe there was hope with this group of refugees?
A pretty dwarven woman hopped off a ledge and said, “these know-it-alls get on my nerves, so I’m going to town. To the pub. You coming with me?” And before Thorfinn knew it, he was following a spunky dwarf, followed by a the sullen fighter who waved off his offers of healing, trailed by the chatty human and argumentative halfling.
Thorfinn had not been back to town. Clearly, the master of the guard there was an authoritarian jerk wad, and the overall greeting to the refugees was tight-lipped. The group rolled into the Axe and Sparrow, and a large, wrinkled old half orc, Antsy, greeted them and served them some water. Bickering. The less argumentative halfling (there were two, that’s right) Laminon, tried raising the spirits of the pub with a song, but the patrons were busy and preoccupied. The argumentative halfling went up to the town square to practice his mime routine. The scene sucked at the pub, and Thorfinn headed out to the street.
In a moment, he discovered a church of Chauntea, surrounded by refugees of Sing’jar. They were pleading and badgering the three acolytes outside the door with their needs. Just inside the door, the priest, a huge shouldered farmer and probably ranch hand, was biting his tongue while pushing a refugee out the door. He glaced over to Thorfinn, gave him a nod and gestured him inside and shut the door. Thorfinn glanced behind him to find Kevbin has been shadowing him the whole walk and snuck in as the door closed. Our priest complained grumplily these refugees weren’t giving anyone a break, there were too many of them, and they were tearing up his lawn to make stupid little charms to be blessed. Grass is precious on this barren island, why don’t they open up their eyes? They need a leader to get them settled into the ruins, he said.
Back to the pub, they agree they need some money, they need to collect a bounty. These bugbears—now that’s a threat. The priest was flabbergasted that they encountered so many. Apparently the master of the guard isn’t doing his job. Kevbin proposes, let’s approach Drafter Crushton as merceniaries against the bugbears! And to the ranch the return. Drafter greets them at his desk, filled with maps and a half finished meal, looking engaged and eager-eyed.
“Good afternoon, gentlemen! Nalliffan, these are your charges?” And Nalliffan nods, as Drafter continues, “you people seem to have weathered the last few days better than most. You’ve actually defeated some bugbears! This is a problem we want your help with: why don’t we outfit you with some weapons and in return, you be our bastion against the bugbears since you’re the closest to them.” Yes, and opportunity arrives! And in minutes as they are passed swords, bows and quivers from the armory, a horn sounds, the sign that a ranger is in need!
Charging on horses through the ruins, they bring up short at the entrance to the coliseum to see a ranger prancing his horse around a pair of bugbears, a horn in his hand. As a skillful rider, the ranger has stayed out of reach, and the bugbears are mad and thrashing their spiked clubs at him. Our team leaps into action with accurate arrow flights, magic missiles and a flanking tactic. In a minute, both the bugbears are dead and blood from one’s neck has sprayed half the party.
“I’m not making any more soap!” shouts Kevbin, “no no no more soap! Let’s render these guys into oil so we can burn the rest out of the beastiary!” And up race the dwarf, the dragonborn, and the halflings to carve and render the bugbears, preparing for their next battle.