Monday, September 28, 2009

18 Kythorn 1479

It's over, we win.

So, we're up nice and early since part of the victory is that it has to occur by sundown. The orcs showed up not too late dragging sledges with cages - our stags, provided for, as promised. Oogrik took some time fiddling with cages and such, dragging out time to try and rattle us until I called out if he need more time or some help? Evil and I figured it would cost me, but so much FUN. He released the stags pretty much immediately. Aprilane can, at a guess, track a ghost over running water, so she took off along their trail. Of course the stags split up - well and it'd be too easy else - but we went with the larger group and managed them fairly easily. They ARE nasty, but the real trick is not letting them run away. Since Gnf's Tenser's was still running we decided to make nice use of it and took the heads instead of stopping to check antlers and Aprilane dressed each deer lightning quick and took the best meats, so as not to waste the entire creature (again, look at us, Bak Nur and Bak Fa in one, HA). We then ran after the other 2 - but knowing that Oogrik's bully-boys would have had plenty of time we kept an eye open for traps. They'd time for the obvious pit and the snare... and that stupid spiked log thing that I really should have seen coming. Ah well, Allyson's hurt me worse than that and I managed to nail myself with it the first time I tried that trap myself, so... We caught up to the other 2 stags and just as we were cautiously approaching, trying not to scare them off, there was a loud noise from off to one side - but it drove the stags TO us. I love it when THEIR plans work for US. Short work of those stags and a "thanks" to our assistants and we settled to decorate. Aprilane has some very VERY strange ideas on antler headdresses, but hey, it's her head. Lyra went more traditional and Allyson and Ugrun naturally went minimalist. I figured I needed to put that elf thing to rest so I went for the full flashy, gaudy, "I AM the big guy chief" get-up. Looked damned impressive, but kinda heavy and with a tendency to slide down into my eyes. We added to the effect with some nice face - and other obvious accessible body parts - painting in blood. That with that meats and the absolute filth we were covered in was more than enough proof and we got back to the starting point just at highsun or so - much to Oogrik's chagrin, he was genuinely not ready. And very much distressed at having to stump up 100gp as weirgild - that might buy us some mercy if we drop - well, everyone but me. I'm guessing he's still willing to gut me for a 100gp. We had a reasonable lunch - not a lingering one, given the time limit on the test, Oogrik can't delay too long or it'll be obvious he's cheating (though as Lurtma pointed out, rules are...fluid in this. She seemed amused at my approval of that, but hey, that means I'm not actually cheating and Allyson can't tell Mom, so there)

Anyway, we were pointed at a hill some 5 miles off with a standard on it. We had to run there, pick up a banner - each - and come on back. Easier said than done. Aprilane covered our tracks to make it harder for them to follow us and I managed to spot a couple of traps and one ambush - but 5 miles is a long damn run, especially at full speed and wearing the damned headdress falling into my eyes and... ok, I fell into a pit and it was some work to get me out. I slowed us down, no question - more even than the gnome with his little short legs I think. But we still managed to get close enough quietly enough to get the drop on Oogrik and his war party.

Oogrik stood up on the wooden platform with the 7 banners arrayed behind him. In front, on the ground, were 5 bodyguards or honor guards or whatever - burlier than average. And then scattered through the obstacle course of angled spike-walls, a few smaller, lesser orcs. But we opened up on them with a shot out of the heavens. Aprilane just let loose an arrow straight into Oogrik - and in deep, too. They hadn't stopped goggling over that when Gnf sent that fireball of his into a bunch of those lesser orcs and BAM. That's when the rest of us charged in.

It was a massacre - I mean, not REALLY, no one died, but.... Oogrik had clearly made a careful strategy that just didn't hold up. Not necessarily a BAD plan, but druid magic or no, not good enough. Holding his bodyguard to stay at the platform and not advance meant we could just pick 'em off at our choosing - and concentrate on HIM from a distance. He seems to have spent much of his druidical training in touching the beast within - and that's not much use against folks who won't get close. He decided to focus on Allyson and called her "an affront to orcs" and managed to land a couple of good shots at her. I stopped to heal her, but Gnf was able to bring his ass down anyway. Heh, and then disappear. Poor orcs had never fought gnomes before. Then Ugrun changed into that half-ram thing and just charged the nearest bodyguard - they pretty much came out the other side of the platform. Gnf thought that was so cool he threw a thunderball (still invisible, of course) at the 2 guards near him, knocking THEM under the platform and then jumped high overhead and onto the platform - coming visible mid-leap. They pretty much all surrendered at that point. (Gotta admit, that gnome is a bit reckless sometimes, but he sure has a good sense of the dramatic)

We grabbed our banners with flash and all and I checked over Oogrik to make sure he was all right - but mostly for a chance to give him a good hard pinch where no one could see it. So, we won and came back to a party. YEY. For which we were daubed with proper warpaint and no washing. Boo. But the food is good and the ale (or whatever) is strong and what the hell. Lungrik has made us honorary members of the Blackspear Tribe - with full travel rights, thank the gods who I hope are here in Abeir too - and gave each of us a black spear - magical and of great significance to the tribe, clearly. Trying to work one out for Gnf must've been a helluva challenge.

Several of the warriors were apparently impressed that a runty elf could pass Bak Nur (never mind that I couldn't have done it solo, like I would have had to normally - if they can't figure it out, I aint saying) and declared I was a "real orc" - naturally this came with the traditional slap your spine through your nose trick. What IS it with orcs anyway? But after all, years with Allyson have taught me how to brace for that so I don't fall over - mind you, my back still goes numb and I'm gonna be in serious pain tomorrow....

I did manage to capture Oogrik in a quiet corner and tell him that if he EVER insulted my sister like that again, I'd cut 'em off and feed 'em to him and then walk off smiling. Nearly as satisfying as Gaston. Tired as I am, I may stay up all night, gloating.

17 Kythorn 1479

From weird to worse - in other words, here in the frying pan it's damned hot. We reached the ford in the river mid-morning, nice and plenty of time to get across. However, there were these watchers on horseback sitting up on a bluff about a mile off from the ford - and they'd sent off a runner when we approached - but they did nothing else, so we continued on. I went over with the first wagon, so if need be someone who could keep things diplomatic was the first to approach. All in all the fording went well, a few wagons had to be tugged, but nothing disastrous - until wagon number 7. Too heavily weighted it got stuck beyond even the oxen's ability. Gnf spun out a Tenser's disk (maybe I was too hasty in blowing of rituals as a waste of time...) and we loaded some stuff onto the disk - along, naturally, with a few kids who couldn't resist - and lightened things enough to get it across. We were just prepping to do the same again when a dust cloud began down the road - a BIG cloud, with accompanying hoofbeats.

Orcs. Hundreds of them. Very primitive and tribal looking, although...somewhat more... organized for all that? Anyway, I opened the discussion by introducing myself to "Lungrik, chief of the Blackspear Tribe" as "Alfred, chief of the Sweetvine Tribe" and by virtue of a foot atop Allyson's no one queered my pitch. Naturally they were upset with someone crossing their lands and where were we going? I boggled a bit and muttered something about the city ahead, they wanted to know the name, was I going to the elf city? Sometimes there just isn't enough bluff in the world so I finally mentioned that we thought that the legends of twin worlds had landed us in this one - Abeir - which IS the name they consider this world and we hoped someone in the city could put us back. After the usual dismissal of elves Lungrik and his shaman were willing at least to concede that elves being bookish - clearly a ridiculous way to be - might know something. We were going to move on to negotiations for passage through or whatever when an orc strode forward from the back - a nice burly one with muscles for brains and demanded that the elf be shot on sight. Allyson of course came back with the usual "leave my brother alone" - although to give her credit, she did at least leave out the "baby" part of that. There followed then the usual explanation of how can a half-orc and a half-elf be related. Nine hells, why always such confusion? It's not that difficult. HALF, people, HALF. Anyway, this idiot - Oogrik - said that just because some orc had spilt his seed in some human woman didn't make her get an orc and Allyson pulled that whole "you only THOUGHT I was standing to full height" thing and snarled that she had passed Bak Fa - which sent a nice appreciative rumor - and Ugrun chimed in that he had passed Bak Nur and HE was full blood and stood with us, so there. (Ok, so he didn't say so there, but it's the same thing, really). Oogrik was unimpressed, saying the elf hadn't, couldn't and we should all be killed right now. Lungrik said the Oogrik wasn't chief yet - oh joy, it's the crown prince doesn't like us - and we would be given the chance to prove ourselves in Bak Nur. Oogrik was not pleased - Bak Nur, after all, gets you so much more prestige than Bak Fa - but the shaman soothed him by pointing out that he would be in charge of running the trials. Yippee.

By agreement, we would finish getting the wagons across and camp right here and the trials will be tomorrow. Ugrun says that the rite varies from tribe to tribe but is almost certain to involve fighting (duh, it is orcs) - in his case it was arena matches, but here.... ? 7 of us have to make it and if Allyson and Ugrun go to help us - though they do not need to, being "real" orcs already - they will have to go through as though they had never passed. We were still trying to figure out what MIGHT happen when the shaman showed up. Lurtma is apparently something of an intellectual - she reads books - and had some interest in the entire Abeir-Toril thing. She also wanted to know if it was true that Besk had wooed and won Mom and was impressed in him that he'd done so. Allyson pointed out that Mom had done Bak Fa and we kinda digressed for a bit to sort out when that might have been, completely boggling poor Lurtma so we pulled ourselves back together to explain what our legends said of the twin worlds. Once we'd done what we could to satisfy her on that, she gave us some information on the rites for tomorrow. Two parts - the first is the trial of the hunter - we go out kill some stags and bring back their antlers in obvious headdress-type fashion. The stags will be provided and they are apparently not your usual stag, but seriously nasty. On the other hand, I'm thinking, Gnf isn't going to need a whole lot of antlers to cover and Allyson and Ugrun can likely go minimalist... BUT - Second part is where things could really get dicey. Trial of the hunted - yeah, liking the sound of that already. We have to get somewhere/do something while they chase us. It's bad form to kill a man when he's down, but then, accidents do happen.... Therefore weirgild is put up ahead of time - she suggests 100gp as our contribution. She did warn - not that I needed the warning - that Oogrik would really go for me, the icky elf. Y'know, all the fables and such and half the folk in cities and such think of elves as exotic and even sexy so why the hell am I always taking grief over having elf blood???

Ahem, I did ask her if it was a loss of honor for the orc who'd fallen to be healed where he could be killed and she just stared at me. Even rephrasing the question didn't help - I gotta figure this means that as need be I can heal THEM without costing them any. Heh, Bak Nur and Bak Fa at once. 'Cause let's face it, I may be of service to the tribe, but a warrior? To sleep then, tomorrow will be.... Well, it will be, enough said.

16 Kythorn 1479

Well, things have taken a definite turn for the weird. This morning I thought I'd check in with May and her bone-headed swain and see if he could shed any light on what Queenie might do. (I do note with glee that May has passed beyond worry and moved into fury.) Anyway, bone-headed doesn't do him credit - there must be something thicker and duller than bone... He said he'd only really just started in with this nonsense, only been hearing about it for the past couple weeks maybe? She laid claim to all the forest on behalf on the "old ways", but he thought maybe she had something personal against Frodi. He mentioned that all he really knew is she had these... meetings, with a big bonfire and what he thought were herbs tossed on the fire after she was done speaking. He'd taken May - good thing, since what when on after those "herbs" started burning... well, she'd kill him if it'd been another girl. He did also mention that Queenie was very charismatic - not that he'd know THAT word or that his understanding of her charms doesn't seem to have risen to eye level. What little he did describe - the parts without hand gestures anyway - suggests she does know how to work a crowd... and certainly play off those particular charms. We were still trying to decide if all this meant she was going to send more after us or not when the question seemed to be settled by the arrival of a few dire wolves - except that these were odd - well, extra odd. No blue flickers or the sideways mouth-open trick or that, but green flickers (which caused some unfounded worry over disease) and they were more aggressive.

The weirdness continued through the day, but it took us a while to realize it. First Aprilane began to notice that the birdsong was...different. And then Lyra thought the spirits were different and Gnf that the magic was different and others who traveled this road before began to notice differences in the terrain. Nothing major, Even my pipes sounded different - the notes were the same, but the echoes weren't. We couldn't find a pattern to the changes and tossed about a bunch of theories. On watch that night Aprilane and I noticed (Allyson couldn't notice, she was too busy moving around to keep between us, as if she could keep up with me, silly girl) that the stars were in the right places, but the moon wasn't. It was shifted just slightly - like a shirt slipping off one shoulder. We talked to Max and Frodi and while Frodi was a bit upset, Max just yawned and said it was nothing, so we let it rest. Discussing it in the morning, Gnf gave it as his opinion that we had perhaps shifted into Abeir. Talk about weird. Ok, granted you can slip into the Feywild and (ew) the Shadowfell and this wasn't either case, but Abeir? That entire Abeir-Toril twin worlds thing is REAL? I'm not sure, but how can we tell? Anyway, we've decided the only way out really is forward, we'll push on and hope some..what do you call it anyway? reflection? twin? well, whatever of Silverymoon is there and someone there can shift us back.

I really hope we can get back.

Friday, September 4, 2009

15 Kythorn 1479

What a day. I'm so tired I can barely hold the pen. We arrived early, outside of Redspring and dismounted and all when I realized that the ah...nobility I was pretending too would almost certainly tip Estelle and I had NO idea how much or if I even had enough gold - and I seriously doubted it and I stood there dithering, feeling my beautiful bluff dissolving into goo. Finally Estelle took pity on me (great, I'm reduced to the fool boy being pitied) and suggested I write a song for her. I know it must've shown in my face before I recovered my composure and thanked her gravely. I've already got some ideas though - words are still tricky, but I bet I can do some nice stuff with wind sounds and maybe the 'griffs.

Anyway, Redspring isn't so much a town as a logging camp with delusions of grandeur. Got a stockade around it and a huge smithy bellowing smoke and running seemingly non-stop. I slipped the ring on, but spun it inside so no one would notice the seal and we headed in. The inn is the second biggest place in town - beaten only by the smithy. Named the Double Crescent and run by a dwarf named Frodi Nibbleheim - I suppose I shouldn't be that surprised to find a dwarf that follows Selune and yet it seems oddly un-dwarfish. Made Max feel more comfortable I'd guess. Frodi is a rat-faced man with BIG mustaches and an amazingly easy hand with a knife. Big inn, as I say, handling more custom by putting up a big pavilion tent over the innyard and setting out tables. Nice day, nice place to sit. More visible too. Especially there did seem to be a large orc-like looking fellow off to one side. We took a table near him and his lady friends. Pretty lady friends, my luck may be turning. Frodi asked what we'd eat and after 5 days Gnf just swore that it NOT be rat-bars. Made the serving girl - mouse-like maid called Lita - flinch. I wonder if she doesn't like coarse (although that was awful mild) language or if we should wonder what we ARE eating. We decided on stew and she and Urd - the serving MAN, who I'd swear to be her brother - brought it out. I started spinning the signet about so it was visible while watching the orc - once we got close, full-blood, no question - and his friends. The one was a shifter - never seen one face to face, but once you do, you know it. Pretty in a sort of graceful...I almost wanna say...slinky? kinda way. Cat-like? Though that impression might be from the periodic appearance of the bobcat - the ghostly see-through bobcat - at her feet. The other was human, dressed in the usual leathers of a forester - given the bow, I'd guess hunter - but she kept getting up and wandering the edges of the innyard and town. Nervous, running from something maybe - sure hadn't cleaned up recently, so on the run in a real hurry? Shied away from me pretty hard, but only to a certain distance, something going on there.

He was indeed our cargo, called himself Ugrun and introduced his companions - in a way that said they were going with him - as Lyra (the shifter) and Aprilane (the human). They mentioned that there's some trouble in these parts with a woman styles herself "Queen of the Beasts" who is proclaiming Redspring anathema and that they need to return to the "old ways". Right. I'm guessing this "queen" wouldn't know an old way if it bit her on the ass. "How dare they mine or cut down the trees?!" Hells, looks like they're keeping it within acceptable limits, not great, but not horrific and it's not like you don't cut down any, ever - how else would you clear out for new growth? Anyway, she's been stirring up the town, folks are kinda torn - they are sailing awfully close to the edge of overrunning the wild here, so.... Lyra mentioned that Queenie was a lycanthrope and definitely one of the bad ones, because she (Lyra) had seen her spell-plague some wolves - she gave 'em something, a bowl of blood maybe? and they changed some and there were these flickers of blue light about 'em, arcane seeming and they got more aggressive. More? It'd have to be more, wolves aren't much for aggression, but these were. Ugrun's friend who'd accompanied him from...wherever was set running and they chased him down and killed him. According to Lyra, this sort of thing isn't really an uncommon punishment, she was just appalled that he'd gotten no kind of trial or defense and with the spell-plague and all, the rules were broken. Who knows?

We'd gotten this far in the story when Aprilane sorta whisper-swore and ducked down behind Lyra and Ugrun's chairs, just as a largish fellow, blond and handsome in a kinda...well, useless way - the kind what trades on his looks, but can't count past 10 with his boots on - walked in. Aprilane murmured that this was Lenz, a consort of sorts for Queenie and she'd (Aprilane) shot him a few days back and well, there was grudge holding involved. Apparently her hiding wasn't good enough because Lenz glowered and took on that "I'm about to start wrecking the bar" look when Frodi shouted out that EVERYONE was welcome here, so long as they behaved - and after a pause (lovely dramatic timing too, Mom'd be impressed) - and EVERYONE could behave. Lenz took a seat and glowered into his ale - after ale, after ale.

Our discussion taking a while, I ended up going through ale after ale after...well, ok 2 is enough to send me privy-ward anyhow so I legged it through the dark taproom and noticed...well, my dream. Same taproom, same corner, same couple - I sorta staggered into the doorframe and leaned heavily against it while I eavesdropped. He wanted her to go away, something about the Queen, I guess and the old ways maybe? And she protested that she didn't want to sleep in the dirt and get leaves in her hair and so forth. He muttered something back and I skittered out to do what I came for and rush back, not to miss anything - damn near injured myself trying to run and button at the same time. I got back in time for him to give some "well, fine, if you don't love me I'll go eat worms" kinda nonsense and shove off - like my dream and there she was, as before.

Had to help her, didn't I? I figured amiable and mildly drunk was most like to get past her defenses and staggered over and plopped down by her with an open smile - and outstretched arms, which she neatly evaded, saying she was done with men. She was all but crying so I suggested she come on out and sit in the sunshine, let me buy her a drink. She pointed out that as a serving maid she couldn't do that (oops, shoulda noticed that) and that she meant it, she wanted nothing more to do with men. Ok, flirting wasn't the right way to go, so more amiable, less...uh, lusty. I suggested she could still enjoy the sunshine, linger at our table - when she frowned I promised her it was safe - my sister'd keep me in line. That drew the faint confused and amused look I expected and she relaxed, so I let it go and staggered off with a friendly smile and wave. I could only hope.

She did come out with the next round and managed a faint smile and allowed as her name was May, when I pressed her - Allyson glowering all the while, naturally. She'd barely gone back inside when Lenz tipped over his table in that ridiculous way that the big dumb ones have that they think no one notices is staged and declared that Redspring was an abomination and by tomorrow the Queen would have dealt with it - and moreover that this ale was pisswater - he upended his tankard and started to unbutton to prove his point when Frodi appeared outta nowhere - and he had a different point, one that Lenz was in no position to ignore. I think I rather like that dwarf - he did tell Lenz he'd cut it off and Lenz just shrugged - trying to be nonchalant, but well, let's face it, it's hard in that situation - and said it didn't matter, only a matter of time and he stomped off. Frodi - who turns out is (well, was) the mayor of Redspring caught the edge on that and rang the big bell outside the inn and doubled up guards and all.

We were just trying to figure out where we'd be useful when part of the stockade started creaking. We were rushing out and May slipped up to me asking me not to hurt him - he "was a good boy, he just fell in with a bad lot", why do girls actually FALL for that? I said I'd do my best, and she brightened, but I couldn't promise, which brought her down. I guess I shoulda just lied to her and said yeah, no worries, but....well, that just didn't seem the time to lie at all, y'know? Outside there were 8 badgers...but this musta been what Lyra meant by spell-plagued 'cause they just looked WRONG and let's face it, I know from badgers. They were digging away at the posts, so naturally Allyson sailed right in - 'cause she knows from badgers and she's got a LOT of grudge built up - but they were tougher than normal and then they did this...well, their mouths opened like almost sideways and just way too damned big and there was all this blue flickering and some kinda roar or growl and it just rocked Allyson back a second. Dunno that I've ever seen her scared before - EVER and that's more than scary enough for me. I tried to pry them away from the posts - I do know how to taunt badgers too - but they were determined and it took more than I'dve thought but we got 'em before they got the posts down and some guards came and helped us fill in and re-plant 'em. So we headed in to town to see what next and we got to the inn and Frodi was fighting off Lita and Urd, saying he'd taken them in, given them a place and they paid by betraying him? That was when they changed - wererats apparently - and we sailed in to help Frodi. None of us know much about were-anything except they're hard to kill, you either gotta use silver or hit 'em real hard, real fast. Well, real hard, real fast worked on Urd, but not so much on Lita, she started chasing Frodi to the end of the tent and naturally Allyson and Ugrun and Max started off to help - which meant I had to follow. Aprilane murmured something about a good vantage for firing and Gnf was worried about the gates, so they headed off. Well, we get most of the way into (under) the tent when the bystanders turned out to be not so much in the innocent line and yanked the poles, bringing the tent down on us. Managed to dive under a bench so I wasn't totally caught up, but Lyra didn't QUITE make it, I had to sorta yank her in - good thing she's none too heavy. Not so good, she's no stronger than I am, so shoving the bench forward with us under it, so we could get out of the tent without being easy targets was...challenging. We managed it, but there were an awful lot of weres waiting - and sorta berserk - no talking my way outta THAT and crowded up so close that drawing on magic just sorta leaves me open - and then THEY left my side open and... I was starting to panic - I was hurting bad, didn't look like I could heal myself, nor Lyra do so before they could skewer me good and I didn't know where the hell Allyson was and if she was ok, did she need healing and... well, not my finest hour, when Max zings in and takes them down easy. Found Allyson and Ugrun, both more or less fine - rather less than more, but ok - and heard a cry of fire and way more smoke than oughta be coming outta the smithy. They had a bucket brigade going, but it didn't seem to be helping and what with the bystanders being on the wrong side.... I thought maybe all the buckets weren't going where they ought? Then I thought to look behind me and sure enough, smoke coming outta the inn - so I darted in to make sure no one was getting stuck in there. I was just leaning over the bartop to check behind, make sure no one had panicked enough to try and hide out the fire when May's young man rushed in calling for her. I said I hadn't seen her, try upstairs and he rushed right up. Seems the girl might not have chosen as bad as it looked. Found her in the kitchen with the cooks, trying to put out the fire Lita set when she escaped, but it was clear enough it wasn't gonna work and Frodi was calling for evacuation. Stubborn girl was determined not to let it go, I reckon this town's all she's got and I had to tell her that he was upstairs, the roof was about to give way and if she didn't leave now, he wouldn't and he'd DIE. Complete with melodramatic emphasis - sweet enough girl, but a bit...well, yeah. It worked anyway and they went to help evacuate.

We were set to one flank to protect the wagons going and good thing, Queenie was throwing the lot at us. First more of those berserker types, coupled with some nasty spell-plagued bears. Enough of them that it was a bit tricky to keep 'em away from the road. Then, when we were still breathing hard from THAT, Lenz showed up with 2 spell-plagued cougars and himself in full "I'm a big scary were, fear me" mode (ok, ok, it IS scary). The hit 'em real hard, real fast was...ineffective. We were down to the just keep hitting him hard and pray for a miracle. Well, we don't need miracles, we just need time. Aprilane got off some NICE shots, Gnf through all his ka-BOOMs all over the place - there's some of 'em I don't think he CAN miss with - and Allyson and Ugrun waded right in - and DAMN but Ugrun can take it. That is one tough orc - by ORC standards. Anyway, with all of us on him - mostly, Max and Lyra were dealing with the remaining cougar - he was going down and unbelievable, one good push on the taunt and he went over. HAH. So much for that whole sticks and stones bullshit. *I* can make words hurt just fine, thank you. Y'know I don't even feel too bad about killing him - of course I'm not really sure he'll stay dead....

And we trudge on. I sure hope we get to Silverymoon without more excitement.

11 Kythorn 1479

Ok, so far beyond being in trouble. We start off in the morning and Estelle (the flight master) just sort of looks at Gnf and shakes her head. Gnomes don't really fit on um, grif-back too well. In the end we just sort of tied him in place on "Old Amos" - Old Amos looks kinda like the collier's mule - half asleep and totally bored. Of course, she made sure to mention that she was sure "milord" wouldn't be needing any safety straps... Allyson glowered but didn't blow it and Max, bless his instincts, just played right along.

Of course that meant I was going to be flying, gods know how far above the ground on a beast I've never ridden before without safety straps. Oh joy. THEN she leads me over to my mount - my fine high-spirited stallion mount. I figured it couldn't be that different from horses, right? You just elbow 'em hard when they crowd you and show 'em who's boss - and never EVER let 'em think you doubt it's you, even when - ESPECIALLY when - you do. Well, he tried it, I smacked him hard, it worked, but I neglected to take into consideration certain size issues - like if I shove a hippogriff back as far as I would a horse...the hippogriff's foot is still...nearby. Heavier than horses, these 'griffs are. I may not feel my toes for the rest of the trip, but I did manage not to scream.

AND the bloody beast tried to pull some tricks airborne too. Yanking back hard on the reins and threatening with use as fertilizer works as well as with horses, Tymora be thanked - I sure needed her help today.

Only 4 more days of this...assuming I keep ahead of the beast and don't crash to a seriously messy death - and if I do that, Mom is gonna KILL me.

10 Kythorn 1479

Weirdest dream last night. Saw a taproom and a couple in a dark corner, having a really...intense discussion. Fellow looked odd, almost animal-like, maybe that's what those shifters look like? and she...well, she seemed human or close to, but... Anyway, he was arguing something and she was protesting or such and he shook his head, shoved back from the table and stormed off. She sat there looking so sad and I felt like I just HAD to help her. Doesn't seem weird to tell it, I mean, why wouldn't I help a pretty girl? But...feels weird just the same.

We headed on to Turlough's in the morning and sure enough there was a job for caravan guards for us - well, sorta. The...client? whoever was doing the hiring anyway - wanted someone more experienced, but we were what was left. For some reason, no one seems to know why, the Plumbers and Cellarers Guild hired up some 10 mercenaries and a few other guilds picked up some - which is common, just odd to have such a rush. Anyway, we were supposed to go talk to Alden Goldsmith at his shop for the details. His shop is in the seriously posh end of town - the "we are so out of place with our dirty boots and cheap clothes" end of town. Not really all that surprising for a jeweler. What WAS surprising that the actual...hirer was Eldreth Deepwater. We have been chosen - yes, us chosen, as in he arranged for the other mercenaries to be hired out so that they had to "settle" for us - for a special secret mission. Sounds ridiculous, don't it? He figured we were the right..type. We're to escort a caravan of gold bars from Silverymoon to Waterdeep - but wait, you say, aren't we on the wrong end of this? Seems we're to pick up our REAL cargo in Redspring - a smallish town? midway between the Glimmerwood and the Evermoors. We're bringing HIM back, cleverly disguised as a caravan guard, to Waterdeep.

To identify him we have a signet ring - a hooded figure with a patched eye in front of what COULD be the Waterdeep tower (saw that coming up to the shop and that is something else indeed, never knew you could HAVE a building that tall) with bunches of arrows on the sides. Looked kinda orcy and Eldreth said we'd have no trouble spotting the guy, full orc, full civilized. After the other night, I can kinda see why you'd wanna bring him in quiet-like. Eldreth gave us some papers authorizing us as caravan guards from Turlough's - and gave us a couple extra...just in case. We contact some fellow named Dunstan Oredigger in Silverymoon - I'm thinking dwarf, myself. Eldreth then said the job paid 1000gp EACH when our cargo arrives in Waterdeep. 1000gp EACH. EACH. 1000gp of my own. What in nine hells do I spend 1000gp on??? Anyway, Eldreth said he'd front some expenses for equipment, so we got Gnf brewing up some healing potions - let's face it, I'm not that good a healer. And he said that to solve the problem of Redspring being some months foot travel from here, he'd arranged chits for tickets to fly on hippogriffs. Wow. Get ready, we'd leave tomorrow.

While the others checked armor and weapons, I went to chat up the flight master, arrange the chits, leaving time, see if we needed anything...see what the hell a hippogriff REALLY looked like, that sort of thing. Flight master turned out to be a she - pretty genasi she, that's what those swirling marks and such mean, yes? - so I chatted her up some. She mentioned it was odd us getting these pricey tickets - I guess I musta looked too much a rustic and I was worried I'd done something to blow Eldreth's secret and I guess I panicked. I just leaned in close and dropped to a whisper - always brings 'em in, figuring it's a good secret they're hearing - and whispered that I was in disguise. Anyway, she said she was going along too - it being a 5 day trip and someone had to see to the animals and the leather and surely "milord" wouldn't be handling that. I've REALLY stepped in it, but nothing to do but face it out like I meant it. So I flirted a bit, saying I was glad to have a pretty companion and she flashed the wedding ring that I SHOULD have noticed, so I recovered by pointing out that I could still enjoy the scenery.

I am in so much trouble.

9 Kythornn 1479

Yesterday's ...excitement has died down and the streets were quiet - well, as quiet as they get around here anyway. The guard is looking into the warehouse and all that, but I have a sneaking suspicion that won't go anywhere. I kinda hope not, in a weird way - if it goes that easy, then these guys were...well, evil but not um, super evil? And if that's the case, well, they didn't need to die...

But anyway, we spent most of the day shopping - and gawking. Helluva city, that's for damned sure. Anyway, I managed to offload that lantern we picked up as loot from the warehouse. "See things clearly", hells, I CAN see and what am I supposed to do? Wander about the fight with a lantern in one hand? Especially since talking our way OUT of fights doesn't look to be happening. Kinda think I got rooked on the deal, though, useless as it seems, had to have been worth more than THAT - but...well, I don't know what I'm doing and that's the truth. Nine hells, I can bargain well enough for the caravanserai, but well, here I'm just some back-country fool. At least it was enough money to stump up for a nice sword for Max.

Armed now with his shiny new scimitar, we headed for what is becoming his regular tavern - and there ran into his regular...friend. I may start calling the fellow Mad Dog for lack of a name, he's sure mad and there seems to be a dog... Anyway, he told Max that the dog said not to worry, it wouldn't change him, it just might make him stink. Kinda gives food for thought doesn't it? Then after a brief consultation with the invisible dog, he handed over 2 vials and said "oh, he says you'll need this" and then headed off. We looked at the vials - alchemical silver.

We were just pondering the ...potentials hanging on all that when a runner showed up from Turlough's - there's a job for us, show up first thing in the morning.

Not to worry, we won't change (or at least MAX won't), we need alchemical silver and suddenly we have a job? I got a bad feeling.