The Runelords will Rise

Ghouls...very dangerous

We had been enjoying good ale at the pub as Joeske distributed our new items, and gold. My fine new magical elven leaf armor is not as heavy as my old hide, and should make my movements in battle much easier. As we were finishing our ales, the Sheriff came to us in hushed tones.
Given our reputation of taking care of odd problems, he came to us with a dilemma. A few days ago, two men were found dead, and their companion was found raving mad standing in the middle of the road. Given the men’s reputations as con artists and tricksters it was not a stretch of the imagination that they had finally been caught and pushed for one of their many misdeeds. What brought them to the Sheriff’s attention, and now is that just this morning two more bodies were found in the sawmill. That got our attention.
We all saddled up and headed out to the sawmill. It was upstream and was a necessary, but known nuisance for its neighbors. The previous few nights it has not been running, but the previous night it ran all night causing quite a stir; when the morning shift came in to start, they found the bodies. Soon as we arrived Morfin and I started looking for clues. One of the victims, Banny Harker, was found pinned to the wall by having the tool hanging pins bent over his ankles and wrists, and in the middle of his chest a 7 pointed star had been carved. Also his face has been peeled off with a sharp knife, and his lower jaw removed. Josek commented that by removing the lower jaw the spell ‘Speak with dead’ became useless. This corpse would be telling us nothing.
The other corpse found was the daughter of the local general store owner, Katrine Vinder. Our own Tyrell had gotten into trouble with him when he had been in a compromising position with his youngest daughter. Now list oldest daughter lay on one of the machines, her head split in two by a splitters ax, and the same star carved into her as well. Rumors told that she and the man would meet here for late night trysts. The sound of the machines would drown out the sounds of their lovemaking. Something found them here last night.
After a closer examination of the bodies, I found that each had a series of claw marks, and not claw marks made by any animal I knew of. It was as if a human had grown those long claws. Not a pleasant thought. We also found a terrible stench clinging to the girl’s fingers. Looking closer we found a foul, undead substance under her fingernails. She had scratched and clawed herself at her assailant. She went down fighting that was for sure.
Despite the number of people who had been in the sawmill that morning Morphin and I were able to find a set of tracks leading from the dock into the mill, and back out again. This could mean one of three things. One, the creature came to the mill on a boat, tied up, killed them, and then took the boat on down the river to escape. As no boats were seen near the crime, it did not seem likely. Two, the creature, most likely an undead, had walked down the river to the dock, climbed out, killed them, then went back the way he came. Three, and the most likely to me, was that it was on the other side of the river, walked through the water, and up into the mill, then went back the way it came.
While the others were arguing over how they were going to search the other side I turned into an Eagle, which to my surprise startled everybody EXCEPT Lexi. In my winged form, I was able to soar above the trees, and search out the other side of the river without dealing with a boat or other means of transportation. After about fifteen minutes, I spotted the same footprints coming out of the marsh and going in. I couldn’t’ track it from there. I flew back to my companions. I started to explain to them what I found until I realized all they were hearing was the squawks and screeches of an eagle. Hating to have to do it so soon, I changed back into myself, and gave them my report.
We needed to examine the other bodies. Thankfully, they were being kept in the cool basement of the barracks. While the others went and got more information, I went to look more closely at the bodies themselves. Just as our sawmill victims, their jaws were missing, as well as their faces. They too had the seven pointed star carved into them. After closer examination, I found that they too had the same claw marks as our more recent bodies. This did not bode well.
After recapping what I found, with what my companions had found we headed for the local insane asylum. Telchar had found that the seven pointed star we had seen was actually an ancient Thesalonian rune. A local scholar, and former adventure lived in town was able to tell him about it. We were going to have dinner with him later tonight. Lexi and the other’s found out that the place where the con artists were killed was the ancestral home of Lexi’s beau, Aldern Foxglove. That bit of news seemed to pale Lexi, but I chose not to comment on it. It is safer for all of us that way. I also learned that the charlatin’s had a companion, Grayst Sevillam who had survived but had been driven mad. He was currently at ‘The Saintly Haven of Respite’, better known as Habe’s Sanatorium. Thinking it was our best option, we rode to the sanatorium to speak with the survivor. We were not sure what we were going to find. It was not a good place to be.
Erin Habe, the owner, had been studying the poor man. The man had contracted ghoul fever, and was slowly succumbing to it. We did manage to get some information out of him. He had been told to give Lexia a message from “His Lordship.” Soon as he did so his transformation was complete. Thankfully Telchar was ready to smite the thing should it turn aggressive. None of us seemed to be pleased with how Habe had been treating his patients, but we couldn’t punish him physically. Let us just say if he continues to do more harm than good he might get his ledger called due.
When we got back to town, someone was raving about ‘killer scarecrows’ near the Hambley Farmstead. We chose to investigate them despite it been near nightfall. The first scarecrow we ran into was a goul and did not last long. The next Telchar chose to just stab it. Unfortunately, there was a man inside it and Telchar nearly killed him. Thankfully, Joesek reacted quickly and kept him from dying. Once he was off the pole, and Telchar had apologized, Joesek and I examined him. We found that he was in the final stages of ghoul fever. He was not long from this world and there was little we could do for him. Joesek offered him last rights before sending him to his god as painlessly as possible. This put us on alert the whole way to the far. As we neared the far we heard odd howling, and rustling in the fields. We made to charge into the barn, but all the horses but Traveler and Starshadow started to balk, Morphin’s horse even bolted, once he was off it.
We discovered why when we got inside. In the far corner was a group of ghouls and what I learned later to be a Ghast, that let off a stench you would not believe. If you were not strong of constitution, you would be heaving your dinner for a while. Hoping to stop them from advancing too quickly cast a spell to entangle them in waist high weeds. Great try but it only managed to catch my companions. Thankfully they really did not have to move because we beating the crud out of those things when they advanced. Morfin and I took on two of the ghouls, while Telchar, Tyrell, and Bagheera took on the ghast and other ghouls. Thankfully, Morfin and I both have Elven blood so the paralyzing effect of the ghoul’s bite did not affect us, unfortunately, Tyrell was not so lucky. He would have been a goner if not for Telchar turning those things to mush.
The battle done we must hold up in the barn and wait for those things to come to us. The thick grain of the fields makes travel through them at night not just dangerous, but surely a death sentence. I heard the undead howls and unsettling sounds linger.

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Hiring my new apprentice

Father,
With the assistance of our cleric I have drafted a contract to hire a new apprentice. I know what you’re thinking, and yes, our cleric helped draw up the contract. I have done the research and found out that the average wages for a trained apprentice is approximately three silver pieces per day. Knowing that there is no way under the mountain that I could get a decent assistant for that kind of wage, and frankly not wanting what I could get with that kind of pay, I have made the contract for one year at five hundred fifty gold pieces for six months. This equates to roughly three gold per day, which I feel is quite fair.
I hope that you can find a qualified individual. They must be a skilled armorsmith capable of repairing, maintaining, and building masterwork armor. They will be paid the flat fee of 550 gold for the six months, with the potential for an extended contract should they prove reliable.
They will have full use of my forge, as well as my sleeping quarters upstairs, but meals and entertainment will be up to them.
Additionally, I have laid out the following scale of charges: For the city guard repairs and purchases are at a 10% discount; Members of my inner circle are given a 40% discount; any adventurers from outside the area will pay full price.
If anyone from the home community, should they pass through Sand Point, will be given a 20% discount, and should they stay at the inn of Ameiko Kaijitsu the discount will be bumped up to 30%, after all, Ameiko has been very kind and generous to my friends and I would be remiss not to repay that kindness.
I look forward to meeting the candidate you send, as I am sure, with you weeding out the applicants, that the most qualified person will be sent.
Please give mother my love, and if she could send some of her famous jams, it would make the trips on the road a little more pleasant.
I do have a bit of good news, with the assistance of Lexi, I was able to get my hammer repaired. Oh, and on that note, please tell Thronlir that I received the children’s practice hammer he sent, and I will make sure to express my gratitude the next time I am home.
Your Son,
Telchar

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Home Again
Joscek

Home again.

My teacher an elder finally left that evening aobut nine pm after a nice meal by cook. He was generous and after I had paid my tith and paid off the rest of my entrance fees, about 300 gold royals, then he only charged me the base fee of 150 per casting for remove desease on my son and myself and he had come out to our home to do it instead of us having to suffer the indignity of packing up the family and going down to the church for all the world to see like some common laborer’s family.

He is rather fond of cook’s basted roast with her secret sauce. So for the price of a meal he checked out the whole family and pronounced only Macek and myself infected and gave us some ways to clean the stall and shed of the evil vapors that Simon and his son had brought to our home.

I told him about the swallow-tail festaval and about the raid of goblins that we suffered through and the bigger raid we stoped, and about the death of Lonjiku Kaijitsu. My wife and he were very interested in my opinion of Ameiko and if she would be able to keep the Kiajitsu glassworks open. I told them that I did not think she would stay with it. That if the right buyer came that I thought she would sell. I also told them about offering to help her sell the place or find a manager while here in Magnimar.

He finally left and we put the children to bed. The two youngest had fallen to sleep while I was telling my story but Marcek had stayed up listening and he even had a couple of guestions. Not particulaly insightfull but I hope he will grow into it. Racholin had use to tease me some about my expectations of our children but not any more. I think she is begining to see the truth that if you do not push them they will end up just being common, or worst Malingerers or spindthrifts.

Poor Racholin, I am afraid the ripeness of youth has turned into the fullness of maturity. Not that I have ever seen her unclothed, she is not some uncouth streetwalker wantonly displaying her wares, but I did feel some extra padding that night in the darkness while she was performing her wifely duties. I am very fond of her though and feel myself lucky to have someone such as her by my side.

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Family & Friends

After saving Sandpoint I took some time to myself to spend with my family. I was homesick for my my mother’s home cooked meals. I missed talking with my father and helping him with his work as a hunter and guide around the forests and roads around Sandpoint. I even missed my older brother and his hunts with father, or on his own. I love talking with him about my latest adventures and he… it seemed to enjoy the tales.

I returned home injured, and in the back of my mind scared. I seriously almost had died a few times, but with the aid of my companions and friends I had just barely made it back alive. I decided not to tell my family about my brushes with death, but I know they knew.

With my one injury mother’s healing hands and TLC is what I really needed to restore my strength with proper bed rest and her rabbit stew.

I rarely ventured into town for the next few days, preferring to help out around home, and hunt with my father and brother.

It was a relaxing time spending almost two weeks with them before I ventured back into town a few days before weeks end to catch up with my friends and see what they all have been up to, yet keeping to myself as always, remaining quiet unless spoken to, unless making fun of the dwarf.

These are my companions, my friends and it is my duty to protect them from dangers ahead while out on the road exploring… sometimes maybe even at the cost of my own safety. It’s a rush, but it’s the life I chose to protect the ones I care about.

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HOME

Joscek rode his horse into the small yard in back of his house and looked around. The small stable and shed looked in good repair, the herb garden looked weed-free and tidy. The gravel path to the door was freshly raked and the overall impression was a neat and prosperous home.

He nodded to himself in satisfaction. Impressions were critical. He did not want his neighbor’s tongues to wag about how the Winter’s must be slovenly, or putting on manners. He also had business and church associates that came over from time to time, as well as family members, and he wanted to show off his wealth and family in the best light.

As he dismounted off traveller, a gangly youth trotted out to collect the reins and Joseck was shocked to see it was Marcek, his eldest son, come out to get the horse as if he was some common stable hand! Joseck pulled in the reins and quickly walked his own horse into the stall and started stripping off the animal’s tack, his good mood evaporated in an instat replaced with cold anger.

“Where is Simon and his son?” Joseck choked out past his teeth trying to hold on to his dignity. “I will severly dock his pay for this outrage! How dare he let you come out here and do his job!”

Marcek catching the sudden shift in mood, struck out his little chin and said in a poor imitation of an adult voice. “They were both feeling very ill so I sent them home about an hour ago.”

“You sent them home! Did your mother know about this decision? It is a good thing to take care of the people that you employ but people will also take advantage of you if you are not carefull”

Joseck wanted to scream and tear his hair out. His son had walked out in plain sight of everyone and tried taking the reins of a horse like a common Boy! Was he never going to learn a sense of propriety, Joseck wondered! The boy was almost nine for Gods sake!

His hands were shaking so badly he had trouble finishing tending the animal, all the while giving his Son a stern talking to about propriety. That his son had to constantly guard his reputation. That one day he would be a Lord of the Realm, or a Merchant Prince, and he would not want to be known as the Lord of the Teamsters or the Prince of Stable-hands!

He then helped his son wipe the tears off the boy’s face and straighten the boy’s clothes. “You must always show the world a gentlemanly exterior but you must also be carefull to not put on false airs.” Then Joscek straightened his own garments. The kid gloves were a complete loss. He waded up the delicate, ultra-soft gloves that were now smudged and stained with sweat and gave them to his son. Then he and Macek steped out of the stall back in the the view of the rest of the world.

“You and Simon can buy me new ones.” Then he remembered the boy’s comment from earlier.

“You said Simon and his son were both sick?”

Macek nodded, then choked out in a weak, little voice. “Yes they had red blotches on their face and arms that iched badly, and they were sweating badly. They also seemed to be kind of staggering and some of the things they said did not make a lot of sense. It got worse and worse till they could hardly walk so I sent them home.”

Joseck frowned trying to remember the little bit of healing magic he had picked up in his studies and then more recently with that druid woman Rosalia. "Some plants, or toxins could caused some of these sypmtoms but he could not think of any that would cause all of them. Sounded like some type of disease.

Glacing at his young son he got butterflies in his stomach. Squatting down he put his hand on the boys shoulder to look in his eyes. “Macek I need you to go tell your mother that I will be late, I better go check on Simon and his son. Tell her I will be back in an hour or so and we can have the official home greeting then. I will send word when I am on my way. Tell her to send down to the local stable the hire someone temporarily. We can afford the expense.”

He then saw his son into the house got Traveller resaddled and then headed over to Simon’s house. The older handyman lived in a small tenement building about a quarter mile from Joseck’s with his wife and two sons and their son’s wives. He rode up to the tennament building got off Traveller and walked into the entrance and was immediately struck by how quiet it was. He had been here before and remembered hearing the sounds of babies crying, children shouting and people talking…. life. Now silence. Cold fear crept into his stomach.

Walking up the stairs to Simon’s rooms he found Simon’s son….Ricek, Racek? Dead at the top of the stairs. Bright red pustules covered his face and arms and he had bled out of his nose, mouth and around his eyes. His arms and face had been scratched bloody from the itching.

Stepping around him he went to the door or Simon’s rooms and knocked on the door. Silence. Opening it he went in and found the rest of the family all dead. All within the last few hours. Running out of the rooms Joseck checked the rest of the tenents who lived there. He fould several more dead and other rooms where it looked like others had fled. Hurrying out the door to the tenement building he closed it and then went over to his horse, pulled out a sheet of vellum, pen and ink and drew the symbol for the evil eye and then pinned it to the door with a dagger.

He got on Traveller and galloped up the road toward the temple district. He needed to let the churches know and get someone better qualified to check his family. While riding he absently scratched his arm.

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You can not replace a friend, but you can add another to your life

“Would you pull yourself together?”
Meadow glared at her mother. “What is that supposed to mean?”
Her Mother peaked around the hanging bunches of herbs to look at her daughter. “For the past several days you have been moping around her like your world ended.”
“Mum, Autumn is dead. She was killed due to my stupidity.” Meadow tore down a couple bunches of herb more forcefully than she intended.
Her mother rolled her eyes, “It wasn’t your fault. She was doing what she was told.”
“Yes what she was told, what I told her to do; so it is my fault she is dead.”
“Why must you be so stubborn!” Her mother picked up her backed and follow Meadow to the workbench. “Medda, what was the last order you gave her?”
“What does that have to do with…?” Meadow looked up from where she was separating the herbs.
“Just answer the question.”
Meadow looked back down at her work as she spoke, “I gave her the order to defend Morfin.”
“And what did she do?”
“When the creature appeared she tried to take some of the creature’s attention away from him long enough for me to stabilize his condition. “
“And after that, did you change her order?”
“No, because she was already attacking the creature. She was attempting to provide a flank and distraction so that the other party member could get into position to kill it.”
“Was she doing anything that was contrary to her own training? Or contrary to any of the times you have ‘spoken’ to her?”
“My magic doesn’t’ last long so we didn’t get to speak much, but she considered part of her pride, pack, group, her family.”
“And what do animal groups do for each other?”
“They support each other by helping hunt, rear cubs, protect each other from outside predators, and are there for each other.” Meadow didn’t look at her mother as she continued to bundle the different herbs into sachets for healing kits.
“In your opinion, was Meadow doing anything against her nature, did she do anything that she wouldn’t have done for her own family group?”
“Technically No, but I didn’t want her to die. She was my friend, and I didn’t want to lose her.” Meadow started to tear up.
“No one likes to loose someone close to them.” She reached over and smoothed a lock of Meadow’s hair out of her face.
“But I miss her so much. It is like a part of me is missing without her here.”
“You can never fill that hole, but you can help heal the wound it leaves.” Her mother picked up the sachets Meadow had made and put them in another basket.
“How? I don’t know a spell or magical herb that can heal wounds of the spirit.” Meadow sighed, and wiped her face, leaving dirty streaks.
Her mother licked her lips, not sure, how her next statement would be taken. “Would it be possible for you to acquire a new companion?”
“What! Oh no, I am not replacing Autumn like a lost toy. She may have been a fire pelt but she was special to me.” Meadow spun and shouted at her mother.
“You can never replace Autumn. She was your friend, and you loved her. That kind of thing cannot be replaced, but you can share that love you had for her with a new friend.” Her mother could tell she was starting to get through to Meadow, but it still was a dangerous place to tread. “Medda, you have been miserable since you lost her. The only time I have seen a smile on your face is when you go to the pasture and play with that horse Starlight. I know you ‘talk’ to him a lot.”
Meadow blushed at the comment. Sadly, it was true, she found that she could turn into a pony and talk to the horses in the pastures and not have to think about her lost friend. When she was with the horses she felt like she was part of something more, and not quite so lonely. The only problem was the evenings when she had to go back to the Inn. She could not take Starlight into the inn with her. At night, she had nightmares, and had no one there to give her comfort. Her bed was always cold. Given her hero status she could easily get human companionship, should she want it, but it did not interest her. They would leave in the morning, and she would still be alone. “Yes he and I talk a lot.”
“What has he said, if I may ask?”
“He has told me stories of his adventures. He did mention several inns to not visit in Magnimar because they don’t take care of their stables well.” Meadow tried to steer the conversation on another direction.
“Anything else?” Her mother gave her a look knowing what Meadow was trying to do.
Meadow sighed and continued as she slowly shredded the blooms off a dried medicinal flower, “Just that he liked me, and my herd mates. We are not his old herd, but we smell and act like members of his old herd. He was missing his old mistress, and herd mates but he knew that his new herd mates would feed and protect him better than his captors would.”
“Care to translate that into human concepts for those who don’t speak animal?” Her mother smiled, with a slightly teasing smile.
“He misses the cleric and her group of adventures, but as much as he misses them he knows me and my friends will take good care of him in the future.” Meadow smirked a little, “Plus he has a feeling he might be able to wheedle extra sugar cubes out of us. “
“Thank you.” Her mother smiled, “Now, if you won’t listen to me, would you at least listen to him, yes he is a horse, but he has given you the animal’s point of view here. Autumn is gone, yes, but you need a new companion. No one human, except maybe another druid, is going to understand you better. You need one in your life; you are not whole without one.”
“But it won’t be Autumn.”
“No it won’t be Autumn, but it could be someone even better.”
“Alright” Meadow sighed.
“Good that is settled.” Her mother picked up the full basket to head back into the house. “So how do you go about getting a new companion? Is there a shop in Magnimar you can purchase one from?”
“It’s not that easy. I might need a little help from some of my friends.” Meadow picked up her own basket and followed her mother into the house.
“Why is that?” Her mother asked out of curiosity.
“I have to spend the night in the forest in full meditation completely defenseless.” Meadow said matter of factly, with a slight smirk on her face.
Her mother’s only response was the dropping the basket of the herbs in shock.
--
“Thank you for coming out her with me Telchar.” Meadow set out her items to begin her meditation.
“I couldn’t very well leave you all by yourself out her in the middle of nowhere.”
“I do appreciate the help.” She sat herself down and prepared to start her meditation.
“Anything I need to know while you are doing your… thing?”
“Don’t interrupt unless my life is in serious danger. This means unless an animal is about to bite my head off, do not hurt them. My companion will come to me, and do me no harm.”
“Understood, see you tomorrow lass.” He gave her a minor salute as she closed her eyes.
-
Meadow was not sure how long she had sat there when she opened her eyes. She realized she was in her mind garden. It was something her mentors had talked about. It was Meadow’s safe haven in her mind. Hearing laughter, she got up and followed it. She walked past roses, herbs, and all manner of plants. She heard birds chirping, and the wind blowing. It was a nice place. She followed the laughter to a small garden where a girl about the age of six or seven danced and bounced around a small ornate fishpond. She wore a white dress, and had wild flowers in her hair. Soon as Meadow stepped into the garden, the girl looked up and said “Hello.”
“Hello, to you too. Who are you?”
“I’m your guide, inner child, spirit friend, whatever you want to call me. If it would make you feel better, call me Medda. It is what your mother calls you isn’t it? “
“Yes it is, but what is your purpose here? I was supposed to call my new companion.”
“And you are but you must find the right one, and they must choose you too. Come, I’ll show you some of those who like you, and would like to be your friend.” The little girl, Medda, offered her hand to Meadow. Not sure, what to make of all this, Meadow took her hand.
Little Medda led her out of the garden, and down the path to where there was an opening in the hedge. “ Brutus lives here. He saw you in the forest a few times. He thought you would be a nice person to know.” Meadow looked into the opening of the hedge to see a thick forest and inside munching on the grass a smaller than normal Elk. It was not that he was puny to say the least, just was not as big as the other Elks Meadow has seen in her life.
“I don’t think Brutus would fit in with my herd. My herd likes to travel in dark small places, and he wouldn’t like that.”
Medda shrugged, “Ok. You are right that he would not like to go into those dark places. Just keep him in mind if you need him. He isn’t a bad guy.” Medda led Meadow away from there and to a walled in garden with lots of lush green plants. Inside was a Gecko the size of a small pony. The sight of him made Meadow jump back in surprise. “Problem?” Medda asked.
“No not really. I just recently ran into a cousin of his ridden by a goblin. Bad memories of those things, though that battle was made interesting by his climbing the walls.
“Ok, Seth will be on the possible list. He is really good at climbing as you well know, and has a nasty bite.”
“Anyone else want to be my friend?” Meadow smiled at the girl.
Medda snickered, “There is Arthur. I told him no already because as much as he wants to be your companion, he needs to stay at home on the farm.”
“And just who is this Arthur?”
“He’s right over there.” She pointed to a stonewall. They stood on a convent bench and looked over the wall. On the other side was a nice farm and there sheep everywhere. In the midsts of them was a 300-pound Ram.
“You mean that Ram wanted to be my companion?”
“Arthur knew you from one of the farms you visit often. He doesn’t have a problem going the places you want to go but his horn, no matter how massive just wouldn’t stand up to the foes you will be facing. He might be too tasty of a mutton snack for someone them.” Medda hopped down from the bench.
“You do realize that isn’t very reassuring.”
“Hey I am only telling you what you tell yourself.” The little girl grinned. “Now onto our friends.”
Medda showed her a few other possible. There was an octopus, but we do not go in the water that much. A goblin Dog even volunteered but since none of us could even touch it to heal it without breaking out in a rash, it was out. Even Boar was interested in joining us but it did not like the idea of helping out our rogue. Wolverine, Bear, Owl, and even a Ridding dog were interested but none seemed to call to Meadow. She was beginning to feel a little hopeless.
Medda finally showed Meadow to a garden that over looked a small pond and a few trees. Just as Meadow going half way to one of the trees she heard a roar and the biggest cat she had ever seen came charging at her at full sprint, and just as it got near her it jumped over her and landed by Medda. Meadow let fly with quite a few explicative. Medda was laughing the whole time.
“What in the blazes was that?” Meadow looked at the large cat that Medda was currently climbing upon.
“This is Hercules. He is my companion.”
“What is he? He isn’t like any tiger I have ever seen.”
“He isn’t a tiger, let’s just leave it that he is a large cat.”
“He has got to be about 900 pounds! His paws are as big as my head.”
A little forcefully, “Leave it that he is a LARGE cat.”
“Alright, alright, so why did you bring me to see him?”
“I didn’t. I brought you to see him.” Medda pointed to a fire pelt who was currently drinking from the pond. It looked up and came binding over to them. Soon as he was near enough, he started purring and rubbing up against Meadow. “See, he likes you.”
Meadow started scratching him as she used to do Autumn. “What is your name fella?”
“He calls himself Bagheera.”
“He is a good boy.” Meadow scratched his belly, ears, and that one spot that cats loved to be scratched at. To be honest, Meadow lost track of time as she played with him. Yes, he reminded her of Meadow but his personality was different. While Meadow loved to play little tricks on you Bagheera loved to chase, pounce and wrestle with you. He would stay, heel, and follow a lot of the same commands Meadow would do. There was something about him that made Meadow feel…better. She even transformed into a firepelt herself and played tag, and chase with him until the sun was setting into the pond. It was past nightfall before Meadow found herself curled up on a patch of soft grass with Bagheera next to her sleeping for the first time peacefully.
-
Meadow opened her eyes to find herself stiff, but still in her meditation position. She slowly made her way back to her feet.
“Oh awake not are ya!” Meadow heard Telchar’s voice from nearby. “Looks like you have found your new friend.” He gestured to the mound of fur next to her.
“Oh…OH!” Meadow jumped back quickly, “This must be Bagheera. He’s my new friend.”
“He has been by your side for most of the night.” Telchar stretched, and he began pulling up camp. “I assume now that you have your new cat, you want to head back to town?”
“Sounds like a plan, unless…” Meadow got a mischievous look.
“What?”
“You wouldn’t want to do a little hunting on the way back. Catch a few rabbits for a stew tonight?” She reached down and scratched the cat’s ears. “I think Begheera would like to try out his new powers.”

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Meadow's Journal

I do not care what people think about Autumn and me. She was my friend. I have known her since was a kitten. I mourn her as I would one of my fallen comrades. She is not allowed to rest in the churchyard but I feel she deserves a nice place to return to the earth. There is a semi-circle of trees near my mother’s house. She may rest there and her moral flesh may feed the majestic trees. She is free from suffering and pain. She was a good friend.

The other may have looked upon me as odd, when I asked to take her body back to town, but I did not care. Telchar and I were able to keep Starlight calm while we loaded his back with the goods and treasures. I then transformed and allowed them to load items upon my back. It was slow going heading back to town but we were able to make it before I transformed back. People talk about being a little gray pack pony carrying things around. I was one for a while.

I couldn’t speak with my companions while in that form but I could speak with Stairlight. He is not a bad guy. He reminds me of some of the fighters I once knew. He was chosen by his mistress a cleric to be her mount. She took good care of him. He liked when she would give him apples, and brush the burs from his mane and tail. I don’t think he was vane, but he did say that a freshly brushed tail swatted flies better than a matted one. He called me herd-mate. I think that is the closest animal word to friend. He likes my company, actually all our company. Star Light likes to protect his person, and the herd mates. He likes his job. He wants to protect his herd mates. We protect him, he protects us. Simple life as we know it. He does not like whips. Whips equal pain, and bad things. He still does not care for ropes much, but when used as he knows them to be a good thing, he will not flinch as much. He is a big boy but he is skin and bones. It will take a while before he is back to his old weight but a couple weeks in the apple orchard with the tall grass will do him wonders.

I hear of the others talk of the treasures we have found powerful rings, wands, and weapons. The treasures I want are my new hide armor, my finely made scimitar, and I want Star light. I know he could never be the companion that Autumn was but he could at least be my friend. He is not a bad guy to have in a fight given the number of dead goblins near where he was being held. One good kick with those plate size hooves could certainly cave in a few heads.

When we get back into town, unload our spoils, and report our findings to the church I seek out my mother. No matter how filthy, bloody, or grubby she hurries us and gives me a hug and kiss. I have not seen her in 3 or 4 days. The last she heard was that danger was coming and we were going out to stop it. She is no fool. She knows that it could just as easily have been me not Autumn that came home draped over Star light’s back. She keeps telling me I am my father’s daughter, all stubborn, strong, and fierce. She hugs me, and brings me back home so she can treat my wounds herself.

It is not that I am seriously wounded, I have a few small scratches, but mostly I am tired. The long march back to town carrying all the treasures was tiring for both me and Star Light. He had been taken to the Inn’s stable and given a big meal, and a good grooming. Both of which sound good to me, clean off the thick grime that is casing me, a big warm meal, and a nice comfortable bed. I spend that first night with my mother. It was she that comforted me when I woke from my nightmares reliving the death of my friend. I can see in her eyes that she can now see I am no longer the little girl she thought me to be.

I am awake before dawn preparing things to care for Autumn’s burial. Carrying a shovel and pick, I make my way out the grove of trees, and begin to dig her grave. I do not ask other’s for help with this as I feel it is my duty to care for her this way. She is very heavy and I cannot bring her here myself. If one of my companions will not help me, I will find one of the farm hands to help me. I say a druidic blessing over her grave and leave her to nature’s will. I am not ashamed to say I watered the soil of her grave with my tears. She will be sorely missed.

I go about my days doing what needs to be done. I see to it that starlight is brushed, and my prayers are said. I try to get back into my old life, but that is not who I am anymore. I have seen things that are unbelievable. There is darkness out there that is destroying the peace of nature, and it must be stopped. Nualia was a part of something bigger, and much much darker. I cannot hide away in Sandpoint and hope that it doesn’t come there. This darkness will invade everywhere if someone does not stop it. After all that has happened it will be us, that stops it.

I sit and talk with my friends about what we should do next. Affrin wishes to sell our treasures to get gold to finance our next adventures. We need better weapons, which that fight with that blinking out of nowhere thing showed us with much clarity. We have gotten a few items that will benefit us in our travels but we need much much more. I do not care to travel to big cities but Magninar will have the items we need. Scrolls of cure light wounds spells would serve us well, as well as possibly a wand. Affrin and I both can heal well but having those options would be very handy.

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Loss

Father,
It is with a heavy heart that I write to you today. I can barely bring myself to write these words, but my hammer has been defeated. I was fighting a great evil, once disguised as a friend. The priests daughter, Nualia, now more demon than angel hit us with a lucky shot, more specifically, she hit me with a lucky shot. I heard her mumble, felt a tremor in my hands and then the hammer that you and I spent so long crafting, my right of passage, my connection to the mountain, lay in shards all around me. I had no chance to grieve, I could not mourn, I could only fight. As you taught me, I have held on to every spare weapon that I could lift, and with my hammer Ironheart scattered around me, I pulled out my longsword, then the heavy flail, and I beat my foes into submission. Perhaps I can work with Alexi to mend my shattered hammer, and perhaps it will work again, but I know that until I can once again bring it to the heart of the mountain, it will never truly be whole. Until that day, I will continue to fight, to learn every weapon at my disposal.
Please do not tell the others of what has happened. I do not think I could handle the ceaseless teasing and torment.
Life on the outside has been interesting these last few weeks, between the goblin attacks, a psychotic tumbling monk who chose to embarrass me one too many times, and a bug bear with a raging…sense of murder, I long for the simple tunnels of the mountain. I can’t, or shouldn’t, complain, I suppose, but still I do miss mom’s cooking, you just can’t find good Dwarven cuisine. Could you ask mom to please send a batch of her famous cookies with the next trade caravan?
I have also been watching Alexi work, and while I have no interest in learning magic, I think given a little more time, I can learn to craft magic armor on my own. That could become handy in the future.
Please give mother my best. And not a word of Ironheart to anyone.
Your son,
Telchar

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Explorations of trouble

After our battle with that gecko ridding fatherless son, we had to find a place to hold up. It is only logical; we are exhausted, and wounded. We need a den to hide in for the night. We could stay in the little room with the bugbear or we could find somewhere else defendable. The small room’s door could be locked but that place was beyond disgusting. We decided we would have more room, and a little better place to see if someone was to come, if we slept in the goblins barrack’s upstairs. After we burned what they considered bedding, we laid out our bedroll, set up a watch and went to sleep.

The night was uneventful, thankfully, but as we were re gearing, preparing to go, Morfin heard humanoids marching, and talking. Goblins were coming towards the main gate. We quickly devised an ambush. Morfin, Tyrell and Lexi went to the guard tower that over looked the main entrance. Meanwhile, Josek, Telchar, Autumn, and I took our places at the main gate. I said a word of guidance to each of us, and we waited.

The goblins came to the door, expecting it to be open. I was prepared to try to make them think we were their companion, except the dwarf decided to taut them. Oh well, soon our archers were raining death down upon then. After they struck the door a couple time we pulled it open and took them in melee. Autumn started ripping them to shreds, and Telchar turned them into Goblin goo. They did not last long.

Not wanting to leave any bodies for others to find, we stripped them of anything valuable then tossed them over the side, and into the water 80 feet below. It was eerie that it seemed like ‘something; was coming to the surface and pulling the bodies under to feed upon them. Yeesh! With that threat taken care of, we headed back below. The other rooms in the hall we had found earlier were to a ‘nursery’ for the harem, and tunnels into the dark of the underground. I sent Autumn with Morfin to watch his back. It is good thing I did because in a cavern that seemed to be part of a sea side cave some weird extra planar squid thing dropped down and attacked them. We all hurried forward to help, but it did not live long.

With the thing dead it left an us a choice, we could A, continues looking around, or take a path that Morfin had told us had reliefs to Lamashtu around its doorway. The last time we had seen something similar we got our backsides handed to us by a floating fairy light. We were not taking any chances this time. Joesek prepared a spell of silence to stop any possible spell casters in the room. Considering we smelled incense, and heard a woman complaining why Ripnugget and the blasted bugbear were late to services it was safe to say that we had at least a cleric in there. Silence would keep them from doing anything too nasty spell wise. I again asked for guidance on everyone. Hey, what could it hurt? There are times when just a little more focus could mean the difference between life and death. The Telchar and Tyrell opened the door, Josek got his spell off, and it was on.

Inside, was indeed a cleric, a fighter, that pain in the backside monk that kicked Lexi’s butt before, and two dogs that did not look right. I held to the back so that I could heal if necessary and protect Lexi. Let us be honest, our fighters, and our bad ass puddy tat were currently taking out their mage, who’s to say they would not want to take her out. That stupid monk tried though, and knocked her on her butt. The battle was brutal. Autumn nearly died twice, and I did not look good either. Autumn is stronger and more agile than I am but we are about the same size and weight. We can each take a couple hits but still it hurts. Last time the bear’s endurance saved the Telchar’s life, and this time it saved me. Ultimately Morfins, because it meant I could get over to him and stabilize him from dying. He was bleeding out on the floor. I thought we were done for until the monk was blinded. We were able to take him down, and turned on the fighter and cleric. We finally got the upper hand and the cleric cast an obscuring mist in order to escape. All I could think of was “THAT WAS MY IDEA!” If we ever got into position where we had to get out of trouble, quickly that was the spell, I was going to use, but yeesh she used it on us. I tried to follow her but went ass over teakettle down a set of stairs. No serious injuries, other than to my pride from the fall. The cleric had gotten away but her fighter companion was still there.

Turns out this ‘companion’ of hers were actually a hired mercenary bodyguard. He was being paid handsomely, the equivalent of 25 gps a month, just to protect her. I know people who do not make that much in a lifetime, and he was paid that to protect her! Good grief, but it turns out that it was in our favor. The person was named Orik, and he did not care what the reason was he just wanted to be paid. We pay him some gold, and he will fight for our side. His contract with the cleric was voided when she left him to die. I got a funny feeling that he may have a little score to setting with that woman. Long story short, he provides us with information about the place, he keeps his gear and his life, and we all benefit. Beaten and battered we may still look around to make sure are truly safe. Thankfully our new ‘associate’ can tell us when we are heading into trouble and how to avoid it.

While Josek writes up a contract with Orick, I take a seat on the temple stairs and reflect a little. With each day, my spells are getting better and better, and I learn new things. Each day I see, hear, taste, and feel things so much clearly. Without trying, I can hear my companion’s whispers, and with a little effort, I can hear the sounds of a bow being drawn, or a key being turned in a lock, or feel a mole digging beneath my feet. All those things are wonderful, but you ever try to get a good night’s sleep with a dwarf snoring 15 feet away? Or hearing your friends’ nighttime whispers while on watch? There are something’s I did not want to know about my companions. Gives me the shutters thinking about it.

Autumn is growing rapidly. I have known her since she was a kitten, and now she is fully-grown. She is no longer the small cat but now a cat that is the same size as I am, and probably even weighs more than I weigh now. Her paws are bigger, and she is much strong but in strength and fortitude. Sadly, she has lost some of her kitten grace. No longer had the ‘large house cat’ size she once was that allowed her to dart between people’s legs, she now is one big pile of strong muscles. Oh, she is agile just not that of her kitten self. Those canine teeth of hers would not surprise me if they were not short swords unto themselves. I would NOT want to get in her way.
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Businessmen
“ I am just a Businessman.”

Those words were still ringing in my ears as I finished writing out the contract and gently blew on the paper to help the ink dry. As I went through these steps I glanced over at the newest member of our team, Orik. He was a big, rough-hewed man. Hugh knotted muscles. Hands so thick and callused they looked like they belonged more on a clay golem than a human, obviously a fighter; and till a little while ago he had been doing his best to try and kill us.

He said he had been hired as a bodyguard for a priestess of Lamashtu but when she fled, leaving him to our tender mercy’s he surrendered, and offered his services to us. A very pragmatic fellow our Mr. Orik. He seemed forthcoming enough. He told us all about what had been going on and that she, the priestess, had been planning on attacking Sand Point. I studied him closely during all of this and could not detect any holding back, or lying on his part, and I am a very good judge of character. He was under the impression that her plans were now foiled. I was not so sure. I had some experience with fanaticism. She would look at it as losing a battle not the war.

Anyway we were not in a position to turn away experienced fighters, especially ones that had such recent information about our enemies and we were deep in enemy lines, very hurt and depleted of all our magics. It had been a very close call, this last engagement.

So here I was drafting a contract for him to sign, hiring someone who had come within a whisker of killing us all just minutes before and trusting to my God that by putting it in writing and having him make his mark on the document in front of witnesses that this would hold him till we got out, and I would probably sleep well with him in the same room with me because I have faith in my God.

“Your not a businessman sir, I’m a businessman!”
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