70. The Hunter In The Dusk

Morning Bell, Kemendu, 8th of Gurthweni – 52/11°

Talo gets to bed as soon as he can. After exercises and prayers the following morning, Talo makes a visit to his pony in the stables to see how things are and to make good on anything he might owe for Peony’s housing and food. He then makes his way to the blacksmith’s to see if he can get repairs done on his plate and pays for them up front. The dwarf then takes time to wander to the guard house to see if he can get any reports about the surroundings and provide a warning about the wererats mentioned by Zelmar.
Talo wanders into the stables to find Peony is fine but without a proper stable hand available she could be better, still she’s fed and watered. The dwarf cleans out the stables and pays the 5 silvers owed then moves on to the blacksmith, wandering the almost deserted streets of Lands End through the cold drizzle that’s succeeded the mists of yesterday.
The blacksmith takes the plate with a tut and the shake of his head. “What have you been doing with it? Two days, two gold. I’ll bring it over to the Iron Crown when it’s ready.” says the dwarf.

The next morning Gildor tells Kradorn and Talo, “Thanks you for allowing me to put your books in the Library at the keep. Those books and manuals will help us all.”

Gildor marks the potions Heal for the one he thinks is a healing potion and Oily for the one that is oily and slippery.
He sees Cynan and after hearing the Library is okay with him he states, “Thank You Lord Cynan. I think it will help us all.”
Gildor says to everyone, “Before we go to Harnanca I’d like to do some things. I’d like to check with the dwarf merchant we met in the other village. See if I can purchase a horse with riding gear and saddle bags. Identify the ring. This may take a couple days though and I’d prefer to travel with you than on my own. May I suggest we finalize our stuff here in Lands End and take what we want back to Harnanca. While there I can scribe spells for 7 weeks while the rest of you secure more of the area around Harnanca for farming and such. After 7 weeks we can all then go to the village and investigate it. This could also give some of you a chance to learn about
Mining and Engineering from the manuals if you want. It keeps us together and strengthens our party. Gordon can learn the spells he wishes also.”

“I need to grow stronger” Kradorn says with a slight grin. ~or lighten my gear~ he thinks wandering the streets looking to lighten his load of gear. Potentially letting the pole axe go, should someone offer more then 50g. As he travels he samples the food as he passes by the carts. Making his way back to the Inn as the day ends to rejoin his companions. His thoughts turn to travelling north. A deadly archer has always been his goal and mindset with his life. Always practising his personal abilities, continuous improvement in his own skills.
Now that he has learned of magic, he know his own abilities could be improved upon.

That morning after they decide their path Gildor checks to see if there are horses for sale and if so he purchase one with the necessary gear and saddle bags then secures 3 days stabling fees.

There are no horses in Lands End, they were few and far between before the events of the last few weeks, now there are none and with few prospects of any appearing in the near future.

Gildor then looks for the dwarven merchant from the other city to see what wares he might have or if he can be enlisted to find items of interest for him.

The merchants won’t be coming to Lands End until there are more people but there are plenty looking to hire adventurers to venture into Cadbaria to exploit unexplored houses and hideaways further into the Cadbarian countryside itself, 5 gold per day plus 10% of any plunder recovered.

Gildor is looking for magical bracers of armour, boots and cloaks of elven-kind at reasonable prices. He eats a good lunch and then starts his process of identifying the ring.

The only place where Gildor might find such things is Brastanga’s and he just laughs at the foolish elf.

The identify spell preparations take Gildor into the early hours of the next day and his spell reveals that the ring is a Ring of Warmth, crafted by northern dwarves centuries ago. How it got in the hoard of a troll buried deep beneath the earth is anyone’s guess.
After the spell is complete the elf collapses onto his bed exhausted and wakes after Mid-morning Bell on a chilly, frosty day.

Mid-morning Bell, Galendu 8th of Gurthweni – 39/4°

Talo is still sweating from the rigours of his exercising, when he notices an injury on Gordon. “Ah! Lad, sorry! Not sure where my head has been.” With that, Talo blesses Gordon to full health. Talo mentions Gildor’s vigour during his identification spell and goes to check in on Gildor to see if there is any aid he can lend.

Gildor wakes as Talo knocks on the door, “Come in.” Gildor stretches and yawns. “I slept like a log.”

Talo peaks into Gildor’s room slowly. Seeing the elf awake he smiles broadly, “Mornin’!”

“Ah, Talo good to see you my friend. Where you able to look into the prayer I mentioned called Find Traps? I think it might be prudent to see if we can get that prayer cast over the all the books before we utilize them?”

The dwarven cleric begins nodding at elf’s inquiry, “I have in fact heard of such a spell. Unfortunately, Clanggedin does not grant such blessings to his priests. I wish I could be of more assistance.”

“Let’s go meet up with the others so I can share what I have learned of the ring.” says the elf.

As Gildor gets dressed for the day, Talo bores his with incessant talk of the turning tide against evil and a retelling of the battles they went through, in spite of Gildor’s attendance in combat.

“Tis ok Talo if you are not gifted that prayer. I will see if another can do so for us then.You forget my friend I am more than a swordsman and must chose when to battle wisely. My arrows, spells and request to Saphiria have slain foes as well”, replies Gildor. “But I’m not keeping count my friend.”

He leaves out the fact that he hasn’t killed anyone by his direct action that he knows of.

Back with the others Gildor chats privately with everyone but Talo, subtly, “Perhaps at Harnanca there are dwarves that can help Talo control his rage. His blood lust almost seem unnatural to me. While I am scribing spells at the keep perhaps there is some training that can help the dwarf.”

Once with the others Gildor says, “I was able to identify the ring as one of Warmth. I don’t presume to assume the ring is mine and should be best used by someone who might need it or want it. While I can use it and it might help me should a cold trap fall on me, we can all use it if hit by a could spell or if we travel north to a colder climate. Does anyone else want the ring?”

“There are plenty of merchants looking to hire adventurers to venture into Cadbaria to exploit unexplored houses and hideaways further into the Cadbarian countryside itself, 5 gold per day plus 10% of any plunder recovered”, adds Gildor. “Perhaps if this is on our way to the Village Gordon is interested in or on way from Harnanca to the village we could kill two birds with one stone. The merchant Gordon and I talked to wasn’t here and won’t be until it grows a bit more and I wasn’t able to find any horses here.”

Gildor take time to love on Saphiria as she comes back to roost near his room. He gives her some treats he saves from his meals he orders each day and really connects mentally with her to strengthen their bond. Praising her and loving on her. “You are a great companion my dear. You help make my life better. You must be safe above all else my dear and protect yourself while staying out of harms way.”

“Well if everyone is finished here, Harnanca it shall be. It will be good to check on the keep and drop off the donations we have obtained.” Cynan prepares to leave Lands End bidding farewell to the townsfolk but reminding them they are not far away if they need help.

Gildor says, “Very well Cynan. Harnanca it is. I just need to go to the bank first and get some water then I’ll be set.”
Gildor drops off the 4 100PP torcs adding them to his other coins held in the vault. This leaves him with a few coins on his person and some gems. He fills up his water skin with 2 more pints of water and is ready to join Cynan on the trip to Harnanca and he guesses the rest of the gang too. “Saphiria we are heading home my dear. When we are ready to go you can scout ahead a bit. Go get a meal before we go if you want but make sure it’s wild game and stay connected to me.”

Hearing of the plans to return to Harnanca, the dwarven war-priest gathers up all his equipment and valuables. He then packs, feeds, and waters Peony, and readies for the trip back to the keep.

Midday Bell, Galendu 8th of Gurthweni – 39/4°

It’s midday by the time everyone is ready to set off, Talo has collected his plate and Peony the pony and Kradorn his horse from the Iron Crown’s stables.
Saphiria returns to Gildor having caught nothing that morning, all she spotted was a giant lizard and didn’t fancy finding out who would be who’s dinner.
Cynan’s message is received by the guards on the gate, (Gildor is sure he hears one of them whisper “Cheeky bugger.” under his breath) and as it opens a pale, sickly figure runs over to the party before they pass through the gates.
He is a human of medium height (5’2”) and weight and has a look of having lived for a very long time shielded from the sun. He is very pale, almost white skin. His clothes are old and used and he isn’t carrying any weaponry or wearing any armour. He has dark brown hair cut at shoulder length and brown eyes.
“Good morning lord Cynan. My name is Kalam. May I talk to you, please?”

“Good day to you Kalam, of course you may. What is it I can do for you?” Cynan is curious about this pale fellow and awaits a reply.

“While unknown to you, I have been a recipient of your valorous campaign against my captors the mind flayers. I didn’t know it at the time, but there was a major commotion which I used to escape. You see, I was one of their slaves and have been underground serving them for the past 15 years. When I escaped and found my way to the surface I learned from the dwarves about you involvement. I have you to thank for my freedom. I have a proposition for you and your group. I wish to repay your gift with my services. I found out that you have a base of operations in this forsaken land and you are about to leave Land’s End. I wish to travel for a time and there is safety in numbers. I would like to travel with you. In return, I will share the danger that you may face on your travels, if you can provide me with a weapon I can use. I also offer my services as a weapon-smith for when you visit your castle, assuming you have at least the bare minimum supplies to operate a forge there. I was an apprentice to a duergar weapon-smith in addition to the combat arena where I was frequently sent to fight.”
Kalam finished his speech and calmly waited for an answer.

Kradorn looks to Cynan, dropping his reigns and moves to the back of his horse. Digging through a bag and draws out a tightly wrapped bundle. Pausing for a moment to catch his breath and emotion. Turning back to Kalam, extending the bundle to him.
“This was a great weapon of great elven warrior and my friend. Treat it with respect and honour.” Kradorn says sternly. “This is the Sword of Zelmar. By your life and deeds.” his hands letting go.
“You should find some better clothing for our journey.” Kradorn continues.

Kalam took the sword and tried it in both hands, having a few experimental swings with the blade with both arms, making it clear that he was ambidextrous enough to be wielding two weapons. Yet, the more experienced warriors in the group may have detected that while the skill is there, there is a slight feeling of being off balance when observing his movements, probably indicative of not full proficiency with the sword he is using. After a while he stopped and handling the blade with respect, handed it back to the one who gave it to him.

“I believe I would not do justice to its reputation, nor would it serve me as well as its former owner. The length of the blade feels wrong to me. I am used to shorter blades and I believe it is crucial to have weapons you are as efficient in their use as possible when facing danger, as I am sure was the case for this fine blade and its owner. I thank you for the offer, though. As for the clothes, I can do better if you accept me in your group, although I would prefer spending my money on acquiring a proper dagger. I am afraid I cannot do better than that, as I don’t have many funds, other that what the dwarves paid for my services as a weapon-smith since my rescue. What is your name?”

Gildor says, “I was saving this for the keep in case we encountered a hero that could use it.”
Gildor grabs the mindflayers chain mail and tosses it to Kalam.
“This may fit you and if you’re going to be working with us you’ll need it. Trust me I know”, Gildor says half smiling. “Stay to the back of the group and no heroics or even that armour won’t save ya. Perhaps Kradorn can train you with the blade?”

Kalam grabbed the chainmail. “It is a gift that will be put to good use. I will accept, if I am accepted by Sir Cynan. Concerning the blade, I will accept such training if it is offered and I will be honoured. However, please don’t be offended if I chose to forgo using it until I have gained proficiency with it. I have been trained in gladiatorial combat which is a close contact sport that favours shorter blades for which I have also specialized, so if you will allow me some time I will go to the shop I have been working until now and will purchase a short sword to compliment this armour and better utilize my specialization to that specific kind of blade. In due time if I am offered tutelage I am sure I will gain proficiency to use this longsword as well. May I trouble one of you for a small loan of 10 gold pieces? All my possessions have been left back underground and although I have been saving what I had been earning here, so far I have gained 2 gold pieces which is barely enough to cover the cost of a proper dagger. I will need the loan in order to purchase a proper shortsword as well. I will repay you by forgoing any share of any future treasure until what I owe has been covered.”

“I am happy that out of all this misery some good has come that you have earned your freedom, indeed we are returning to Harnanca. You are welcome to join us and stay or go as you please.” Cynan slips his dagger from his belt and hands it to Kalam, ” tis not a shortsword but perhaps this will suffice until you find something better.”
Cynan senses no evil about the man but neither does he radiate a sense of good either.
Cynan turns to Kradorn “Perhaps if you wish when we return to Harnanca we can hang Zelmar’s sword in the great hall in remembrance of him, although I know he will not be forgotten, his spirit will then always be in our sight”.

Gildor says,”Aye Cynan that would be nice to have in the keep.” He looks at Kalam. “I’m Gildor and I have a Dragon friend you can see later on so don’t be alarmed and don’t touch her my new friend our you will surely burn yourself good.” Gildor mentally tells Saphiria. ~A human is joining our group my dear. Kalam is his name~

Hand over his heart, Talo bows his head slightly, exposing the crossed axe tattoo on his scalp, “Welcome, Kalam. We are blessed to have you!”

“I thank you for your gifts, all of you and for accepting me in your group. If you will wait upon me a bit more, I will go now and purchase a pair of boots for travelling. Is this all right?”

Nodding to Kalam, and wrapping the sword. Securing it to his horse.
“We can hang it the hall.” Kradorn replies the Cynan “A place of honour would be fitting. The hall of fallen heroes.”
As they wait for Kalam, Kradorn realizes that he hadn’t gotten supplies for the journey. Making haste he collects food and water for the journey, as well as some grain for the horse.
“I can show him the use of a longer blade. I think Cynan is more skilled than I with a blade though.” Kradorn adds.

~

Gildor decides to go ahead and pull his funds from the vault to take to Harnanca while Kalam gets sorted out.

While at the vault Talo informs the overseer that Gombur’s funds should be shipped to his nearest of kin due to his death. The dwarven cleric cannot finish the conversation due to being overcome with emotion.

The dwarven banker is sorry to see Gildor and Talo take out their savings and tell them to be careful on the way back home, there are also sorts of unsavoury characters about.

Kalam returns to the general store and with his last 2 gold buys a pair of fine looking (though slightly big) pair of walking boots. The dwarf in the shop throws in an extra pair of thick socks to pad out the boots.

~

Kalam, Talo and Gildor return to the gates and the party pass out of Lands End just after midday. The going is still slow, even carrying only his plate Talo is slow and there’s no way Peony could carry him and all his equipment. Gildor isn’t much faster laden with bags, books etc. and even Kradorn’s riding horse is slow carrying the fighter and all his equipment.
Around a bell after setting off, they encounter a dwarf patrol moving back towards Lands End before dark. They’ve meet nothing on their patrol but some wild herd animals and a small pack of wolves shadowing them.

Mid-Evening Bell, Galendu 8th of Gurthweni

The party move up along the western coast of the Lands End peninsular and climb up onto the moors just as the last of the light is dying in the west. A few minutes after darkness descends something chitinous and pincered scurries out of the undergrowth at Kradorn and his horse, followed by several others of its kind.
“Scorpions!” calls out Gordon walking behind Kradorn. Five of the 60cm long monstrosities race towards the fighter and his horse.

Kradorn kicks his horse to move it away from being surrounded then leaps from its back. Reigns in one hand and sword in the other. Knowing the horse and himself lacks the knowledge to fight together as one. What a thought to use his new pole arm from the back of the horse and crush the arachnids from a distance. But it is a fleeting thought weighing his abilities.

Gildor says, “Kalam stay or get behind us.” Gildor tries to cast mirror image to help protect himself.

Six Gildors appear around the original.

Kalam avoided being in the front line and focused on not getting hit by the creatures and perhaps confusing them.

Talo is quick to dismount after the scorpions, swinging with his axe, he tries to dispatch them.

Cynan draws his blade and moves to place himself between the most vulnerable and the scorpions. Being wary of the stinger as well as the claws.

Five large scorpions come scuttling out of the undergrowth on the party’s right, racing past Kradorn and around his horse to disappear into the scrub on their left. Kradorn struggles to calm his horse and the fighter has to hang on to keep the animal from fleeing. The party look at each other puzzled for a moment and then it becomes all to clear why the large scorpions weren’t interested in them.

Crashing out of the undergrowth emerges a giant scorpion, it has a green carapace and yellowish green legs and pincers. The segmented tail is black, with a vicious stinger on the end. It is at least 3m in length with pincers a metre and a half long. There is a bitter smell associated with the scorpion and the horses and ponies in the party rear and try to bolt at the creature’s sudden appearance. It has in one giant pincer the remains of a large scorpion which it drops immediately and charges at Talo, the nearest party member.
Kradorn’s horse is rearing and fighting to get away and Peony is trying to flee too, slowly dragging Talo after it in a battle of strength the dwarf can only loose.

Kalam continued doing his defensive manoeuvre in his attempt to avoid getting hit and confuse the creature as well.

Gordon casts Colorspray at the giant scorpion before angling off to try and approach the creature from the rear and hack off its sting with his axe.

Gildor says, “Flank the beastie. Kalam, stay behind someone.” Gildor tries to stay clear of the beast giving Gordon, Kradorn and Cynan more room to manoeuvre around it. Once they have its attention he tries to cast magic missile at it.

“Curses untrained horse.” Kradorn grumbles thinking he needs to find one that is trained or try and train this one. Yanking off the saddle bags and pack just in case then tying the horse as securely as possible. “Easy there, stay here you will be safe.” Kradorn says calmly to the horse.
Turning with sword and shield he moves in eliminate the scorpion with haste without getting stabbed by the nasty tail.

Gildor adds “We might want to watch our backs in case the little ones return for some reason. Saphiria, keep a watch in case those small ones return please.”

The firedrake reminds Gildor that it hunts by day and can’t see in the dark.

The arrival of the giant scorpion has shocked the dwarf. The surprise is not long-lived as the tug-o-war with peony commences immediately. “Aah!! What? No, Peony, please! The bug is THIS way! You are not making this easy!”Abandoning any hope of succeeding in the pull, Talo rushes to the nearest branch or sturdy bush and ties off the frightened pony away from the battle. The cleric straightens his helm with a huff and casts an orison calling forward his spiritual axe to appear above the scorpion.

Gordon’s Colorspray goes off as intended in what passes for the scorpion’s face and the creature is startled for a moment but there is obviously more to its hunting prowess that just its multitude of beady eyes. It snaps a giant pincer just over Talo’s head, seeming to still sense the dwarf’s movements and another right next to him as the dwarf ties Peony to a convenient bush. The scorpion’s sting whips out at the dwarf and strikes him high on his back. The curved tip slides across Talo’s plate leaving a splash of venom and then embeds itself in his shoulder. The wound is minor with most of the venom spent in the initial strike but Talo feels fire spreading from the puncture wound.

Cynan charges in fearlessly but his blade skitters off the monster’s formidable armour even after putting all his strength into a second mighty blow.
Gordon meanwhile rolls under the monster and readies his axe and shield while Kradorn ties off his panicked horse and then moves back towards the fight.
Gildor’s Magic Missiles slam into the scorpion one after another, leaving three glistening green wounds. The monster whirls around to face its attacker giving Talo time to cast Spiritual Axe and slam the ghostly weapon into its body. Unfortunately the attack seems to do little damage against the carapace, itself as tough as the dwarf’s platemail.
With the scorpion distracted, Gordon is able to get a good hit on its tail but his axe just bounces off. Cynan’s sword slams into the creature and cracks its carapace but the wound is hardly mortal. In return he has to parry and dodge both pincers and the darting stinger. Gildor holds back with his next Magic Missile, hoping the fighters can bring the giant down without any more magic. Talo hits again but to no effect and so does Kradorn, his sword sliding harmlessly off the scorpion’s armour. Cynan saves the day, Fiondruine-Aingeal burying itself amid the monster’s eyes and boiling its tiny arachnoid brain instantly.

The giant lies motionless while the party recover and Talo tries to look at the damage the stinger did to his right shoulder, which burns horribly and is starting to swell. Gildor takes a quick look around but can find no sign of the other scorpions.

Kalam remained alert for the return of the smaller scorpions.

Gildor scolds himself for asking Saphiria to scout in the dark, “I’m a dummy. Sorry my dear just stay safe. He tells the others, “Be on the watch for the other scorpions to return. Talo needs mending.” Gildor moves over to help the dwarf out as best he can to draw out any poison if able and under the guidance of Talo. “Do you know any prayers that can cure the poison? Maybe between drawing out the poison and any prayers you may no we can keep you moving toward the Keep. We should keep moving a bit anyway so we aren’t close to this dead scorpion and if necessary make camp for the night if we can’t get all the way to the Keep.” Gildor helps Talo out as much as he can while they stabilize him and if they move on either to camp or get to the Keep.
Gildor says after getting Talo situated, “Good job friends. Kalam I’m glad to see you didn’t do anything foolish and stayed safe and alive.”

Cynan looks at the wound that Talo received. “Let us look at that wound Talo and deal with it before it can fester.” The paladin quickly examines it then calls on Ringheru as he focuses on the wound in the shoulder. Once he has dealt with Talo he will clean his blade of the scorpions ichor. “If you are ready to proceed Talo, let us be on our way, the day waits for no man not even you”. Cynan grins at Talo as he says it.

The cleric raises his axe over head in celebration before he winces at the wound. Talo sucks air between gritted teeth as the burn comes to bear. Looking over his shoulder at the wound, the dwarf’s eyes roll as he sees the poison around the puncture. “Mrrrrrr…..” is all he can muster. He then calls upon Clanggedin to delay the full effects of the poison as much as possible. (Slow Poison) “This spell will last about five hours. Cynan, how far from Harnanca are we?”
Talo eyes Cynan through a grimace as he tries with the help of Gildor to clean the wound. “HAA!! The paladin has jokes! hehehehe… It’s cuz I’m slow! I love it! hahahahah…” Talo is wiping extra poison off with a rag from his first aid kit awkwardly looking over his shoulder. Jumping from Gildor’s painful assistance, he continues, “Gildor, push around the outside. That’s right… maybe we can get more out with a small flame in a bottle and then holding the bottle up to the wound.” Talo pauses, “Speaking of waiting. I think I need to ditch this plate for something lighter. Peony is still sweating a downpour over there just from the books. Poor little guy grunts and moans when under my burden.”

Sheathing his sword and wondering if he needed to be looking for a more powerful sword that can at least scratch a giant bugs shell. Collecting the reigns of his horse stroking its neck talking softly to it. Glancing back at the healing magic occurring while he tries to calm the horse.
“Would it be better that you rode, till the poison is free from your body.” Kradorn asks Talo.
Kradorn pauses in thought then grabbing his poleaxe. Leaving the horse tied again he tries to remove a section of shell. A piece that would work as a shield. With a little work of course.

Cynan’s prayer heals the small puncture wound completely and reduces the swelling to nothing but a red patch. Talo’s prayer seems to reduce even that and by the time Kradorn has hacked off a segment of scorpion carapace big enough to build a shield from there’s no trace of the wound on the dwarf.
The party set off again and somewhere between Midnight Bell and Silent Bell pass the southern edge of the Siur Frith without encountering anything more dangerous than something furry scampering about in the undergrowth.