Entry 20 Part 2: Riloth 19th the 17th

Illunia 21 - Edgewater

"Hey, wake up!" a voice shouted in my ear.

I opened my eyes to see a small child holding a bundle of rags.

"I need you to Clean these," the boy said, the word Clean tinged with some reverence making his meaning clear.

I looked around the room, taking in my surroundings before answering groggily, "I'm sorry. I can't help you, I don't know that spell."

I was still in the medical tent, and everyone was going about their tasks around me.

"What kind of Wizard doesn’t know Clean?" he asked, throwing his hands up and dropping his rags in disbelief. "Do you do your laundry by hand? Or do you have servants for it? Do they know Clean?"

He looked over my clothes. "Oh, I see. You just wear dirty clothes. Smart. I need to get my mother to let me do that. Alright, I guess I should go clean these like my mother—"

"Samuel Aaron Baker!" a stern voice shouted across the tent interrupting him. The boy froze, his face a mask of terror and his eyes looking at me pleading for rescue. "Tell me you did not just wake up a wizard to ask him to do your chores for you. Tell me, because if you did, and he doesn’t kill you, I just might!"

I jumped to his defense, rising from my cot, "Ah, no ma'am. He was sent to wake me by Seeker Daulf. Thank you, Sam." I’d been known to bug my father’s colleagues with questions to help with my own work when I was his age—to my fathers eternal frustration—though I never woke one of them up to ask.

His tension melted away into relief, and he ran out of the tent before his mother could question my lie.

"I don't normally condone dishonesty, but there are times a white lie can do more good than the truth. That was well done," Daulf's voice said from behind me.

I turned and saw Daulf standing behind me with his ever present smile. He was decked out in his full battle kit, which had been stowed after that first battle against the goblins. "I was just coming to get you anyway. I’m about to go into the town to help convince the mayor to let our people in and I’d hoped you’d accompany me."

Why is this Seeker set on keeping me around? Does he suspect what I am? If he does, why aren’t I already dead? Why does he want me to follow him? Hmm, I can probably just ask that last one.

Cautiously, I asked, "Why do you want me to accompany you?"

"Dangerous times are upon us, and I hoped I could recruit you to help see these people to safety." He let out a sigh, "I will be honest with you. My duty as a Seeker is to report back to the Tower for a new assignment, but I feel I am needed here and I think we can help each other. As Illunia’s Chosen I am given certain"—he paused, choosing his word carefully—"privileges, and can choose my own assignment. But, a sufficiently ranking Tower Mage could order me back if it is deemed I’m not pursuing the interests of the Tower. Accompanying a Stormcaller back to his shipclan after a tragedy is technically a task within my purview, and will give me the freedom to do what needs doing. And in the meantime, you can help me with these refugees."

That’s plausible, but could he be lying? He doesn’t seem to lie, but that could just mean he’s good at it. I guess until Trish figures out someplace for us to go, I don’t have much choice. I don’t know who killed my parents, but from the description of the attack on Landing and the timing, it seems likely it’s members of the same dragon cult. From Trish’s summary of events, Daulf is quite capable of protecting me from them if they show up again.

After thinking it over for a moment longer, I decided. If Daulf was going to kill me, he would have by now.

"Alright, I’ll travel with you—for now. I have no plans besides finding my ship, and I don’t even know where that is."

Good job Tal, that wasn't even a lie. I congratulated myself, fighting a smirk from appearing on my face.

"Excellent,” he said, handing me a hard biscuit, “You should eat quickly, we are leaving to meet the mayor shortly."

Daulf went to check on the status of some of the patients who had not required his magical healing. He always seemed willing to use his powers on those who needed it, but he reserved it for those who would not recover—or would be permanently disfigured—without his aid.

I looked over my clothes. They were filthy and I smelled terrible.

Samuel Aaron Baker was right. I am dirty. How did I not realize how disgusting I'd gotten? Is that blood?

I smelled the stain and almost threw up.

Ugh, goblin blood.

No longer hungry for breakfast—well, lunch, it was rather late—I left my biscuit on my cot and ran to the river to clean up. By now, the water had cleared up and settled from the stirred up river of mud it had been. After a quick dip, and wash of my clothes via beating them against a large rock on the bank, I walked back to camp a little more presentable than when I left. All the while thinking, I really need to learn Clean. The air was warm, even this far from the Great Lake and its sweltering heat given off by its steaming waters, so the damp clothing was not a burden.

"Hey!" a voice came from beside me, causing me to jump. "Sorry! I thought you knew I was here," Trish said, walking into view. "Okay, that's a lie. I wanted to see if I could scare you. You’re pretty skittish."

She’d replaced her cloak with a brown woolen one, and had supplemented the travel clothes from our first meeting with a sturdier pair of boots that looked suspiciously like those issued to the Landing soldiers. In addition to the cloak and boots, she had "acquired" some armor; she wore a leather brigandine over her shirt, and leather bracers. Over it all she wore a dark coat that looked to have recently been in the wardrobe of some noble lord. It was tailored for a man, but fit perfectly over the armor. I saw no signs of her throwing knives, but I suspected she had more than a few hidden on her person.

"Sorry—Wait. Why am I apologizing? You scared me!"

Ignoring me, she went on, "So, what's the plan? I heard you’re going to meet with the council of bigwigs in town."

Sensing I wasn’t getting an apology, I recounted my conversation with Daulf, and my thoughts on the cultists being the same group that attacked our camp.

"Hmmm, that’s smart. You get to stay near him in case some cultists try to murder you, and I get to stay near him in case he gets cold at night," she paused to think of the merits of my plan. "I bet if I track down the ship I used to sail on, we could get him to take us to it. Then I’ll seduce him and drag him along to a life of high crime on the seas. I'll captain my own ship, and sail across uncharted seas. And, uh, you can be our cabin boy."

Glad we were on the same page, mostly, I said, "That was almost exactly my thinking."

We walked along the riverbank back towards the camp and the road to town to find Daulf for the meeting. The bridge was not the marvel of Stoneweaver construction of the Bridge of Three, but one of human design. It was made of large stone bricks and built in three sections, each an arch raised only a few dozen feet above the presumed waterline. The arches each spanned a hundred-foot gap between the stone brick pillars supporting them. With the water gone, the foundations were visible as massive stone blocks anchored to the river floor. While not as amazing a sight as the seamless dwarven bridges, its construction was a marvel all its own. Seeing the bridge up close made the mayor’s threat to destroy it ring all the more hollow.

A group of soldiers had gathered in a circle, and visible above them stood the tattooed head of the stranger I’d helped rescue from the bridge. Closer up, I could see that he was wrestling a group of four equally shirtless soldiers. Wrestling isn’t the right term from what was happening, it implies there were a lot of holds, and a back and forth struggle between two men trying to gain advantage over one another.

This was no fair exchange.

The soldiers charged the man in pairs and trios hoping to tackle the giant, and he picked them up in ones and twos and launched them over his shoulder, or knocked them to the ground with a well placed knee. One of the soldiers saw me and got the man’s attention. The stranger’s face lit up and he waved to me over the crowd. The soldiers took advantage of his distraction and charged him, but even distracted, their tackles failed to move him.

I looked at Trish, "You know anything about this?"

"Nope. No intel on this," she said, smiling. "Good luck."

I walked towards the big man, uncertain of what to expect. The crowd parted for him as he walked to meet me. On the way he recovered his strange club, lifting it effortlessly. He walked with it resting on his shoulder, the closeness of the razor sharp obsidian blades to his face making me squirm.

"Theral?" he asked once we were close enough to speak without shouting.

"That's me—I guess," I said, mumbling the last part to myself.

He gestured to himself, "I am Bearskin. I am debted to you. You saved me." He spoke slow and haltingly, as if he had to think about each word before saying it, but his pronunciation was correct; his accent was a little unusual, but I too had an unusual accent—a blend of my mother’s shipclan accent and my father’s strange accent—so who was I to judge?

"There's no need, all I did was spot you, Daulf and the soldier did all the—" I paused, remembering that they hadn't actually pulled him up, "—holding of the rope."

"No, the clam men told me," he said, gesturing to the armored soldiers, "You saved me. I am in your debt. I will assist you until it is paid."

Oh no, what am I going to do with this guy? He seems less likely to kill me than Daulf, but equally capable of it. Maybe he can kill Daulf! No, he seems like a good person, despite being a Seeker.

"Look, you don’t owe me anything, but I don’t think I can stop you from following me." Maybe a door frame might slow you down a little, I thought, stifling a laugh. "I’m running late for a meeting. Do what you want."

"Lead on," he said, and followed me to my meeting with Daulf.

I arrived at the base of the bridge with Bearskin and Trish in tow. Daulf was meeting with Mobear and discussing the plan when I arrived.

Seeing us, Daulf stopped his conversation and welcomed my group, "Ah, there they are. I see you met Bearskin and cleaned up a bit. Good choice. I think we are all set. The plan is to ask nicely; if the mayor refuses to let us in, we will detain him and enter anyway. His authority to keep us out is dubious at best. Edgewater is a town under the governance and protection of Landing, and with the current state of the city, Captain Mobear here may very well be the highest ranked official left of the city. Though, I hear Barion escaped before the fires broke out. We don’t want to take over, we just need them to provide some essential support to these refugees."

After receiving an affirmation of understanding from each of us, he set off across the bridge, followed by Mobear.

"I guess we are going with," I said to Trish and Bearskin and we set off up the bridge.

The bank opposite our camp was lined with docks for fishing and trading vessels. The trading vessels docked on the southern side of the bridge, and the fishing to the north. With the water gone, the docks loomed high above the dry banks and the boats sat crooked in the drying mud. The bridge brought us into the town among the docks. The area around the docks was deserted, the burly lumberjacks Mobear reported had been acting as guards were gone. Our group made its way through the abandoned section of town. The smell of fish—which had lingered after the disappearance of the water—faded, and the buildings changed from warehouses to shops as we got closer to the center of town. Out of the dock district, people could now be seen milling about, going through their days; without fail they fled or closed their doors at the sight of us walking down the street.

The road led us to a packed market square. The crowd was focused on some activity in the middle. Daulf and Mobear tried to push their way through politely, but the crowd refused to part for them.

"I can help," Bearskin said, in his slow deliberate manner. He walked through the crowd, heedless of those impeding him. As he pushed people aside, they shouted, but when they turned to see who’d so rudely shoved them, they grew very quiet and made room.

With Bearskin’s aid, our group made it to the center of the market. There, near the well that the market square was built around, three men stood arguing while the townsfolk looked on with concern.

A burly man of average height with a thick beard and short black hair held a woodcutter’s ax while yelling at a smaller well-dressed man, "Something dangerous is happening, and there is an army outside our gates, and you want to turn them away? How long have they been out there?"

The subject of the tirade tried to seem disinterested in what the burly man had to say. He stared off to the side, as if waiting for him to finish, but flinched at telling times. Despite his noble attire, he failed to project the air of assured confidence you found when interacting with nobles.

"I have told you before Tobren, this is my town. I will say who we let in and who we do not. You are lucky I even let you back in after you gallivanted off into the forest after I expressly forbade anyone from going."

The third man, who had been standing silently for the exchange, approached the smaller man and punched him square in the side of the head, knocking him out cold. "I'm so tired of everything about you, you small-minded, insignificant, pit stain of a toad!"

The assailant was thin and wiry, with lean but broad shoulders. He had brown shoulder-length hair and a deep olive skin tone of someone who lived and worked outside. He wore a thick leather jerkin and high boots, all dyed forest green and had two small axes at his waist and a quiver and unstrung bow sticking up over his shoulder. The bow was longer than any I’d ever seen, standing a hand taller than its bearer unstrung.

The first man, Tobren, grabbed him as he moved to kick the downed man, "Roland, stop! I won’t say he doesn’t deserve it, but you can’t kill him."

Roland relented, and said in a reluctant tone, "I wasn’t gonna kill him, just kick him a bit. Let's find that army he mentioned."

During the confrontation, our party had continued towards the trio unhindered in the spectacle.

"Now why exactly would you be needing an army?" Mobear asked. "It so happens we are in need of some refuge and have a small army to spare."

The two men turned to see us.

"Captain Mobear I presume?" Tobren said, looking at the rank insignia on Mobear’s shoulder. "I'm so sorry for the greeting you must have received, our mayor—"

"Former mayor," Roland interjected.

"That is still to be decided. I'm very sorry for the greeting you must have received by Mr Pitsmark," he continued, gesturing at the unconscious man who Daulf had begun inspecting on the ground. "My friend here and myself just returned from rescuing some of our townspeople who were trapped out at the lumber mill. The woods have become a dangerous place. We defeated a malevolent druid at great cost and unblocked one river, but we fear the threat is still out there."

Roland cut in, "Ey, Bilieth’s foul corruptions have infested the woods, and I've seen evidence of an army mustering somewhere in the north."

Daulf stood up from his inspection of the downed man, satisfied that his life was not in danger.

He spoke, looking to Tobren and Mobear, "I think if the citizens of Landing were allowed inside the town, the Captain here would have a vested interest in helping you with any potential threats, don’t you agree?"

Tobren smiled, "Great, I was hoping to not have to beat around the bush. If you are willing to help us investigate and defend against these threats, your people are welcome to occupy the dock district—we aren’t using it. If you need any material aid—" he paused, looking around and then at the unconscious mayor, "—I suppose you can talk to me about it and I will see what we can do."

After that, the camp was quickly and efficiently broken down, carried across the bridge, and reassembled in the waterfront district. Warehouses were unloaded, their contents put into tents, and the refugees were housed inside the large buildings. Carpenters from the town came out in droves, and assisted in building partitions inside the large buildings to provide privacy to the refugees. The buildings were largely used to store and dry lumber from the mills, so material was not lacking.

Once everyone had settled, Daulf retrieved me from where I’d been assisting in the relocation of wares.

"I have been invited to a meeting with the Captain and Tobren, who seems to be the interim leader of this town. I would like you to accompany me."

Not having a good excuse, I acquiesced and set off with Daulf. We passed Bearskin and Trish assisting in the transfer of goods. Well, Bearskin was assisting, doing the work of five men—or a plow team. Maybe the work of five men and a plow team. As I passed, he was pushing a twenty-foot fishing boat down the road atop rollers while fishermen frantically raced to keep up transferring logs from the rear to the front of the procession.

Trish was supervising. When she saw me walking with Daulf, she gave me a questioning look, her hands reaching into her jacket. I allayed her concern with a wave of my hand. Undeterred, she slipped away from the work crew and disappeared into a nearby alley. I tried to track her progress, but quickly lost sight of her.

The central square of the town had been transformed while we worked. Captain Mobear’s command tent had been erected in the center near the well, and soldiers ran in and out of it with orders. The market stalls had been pushed back, and the majority of the Landing soldiers had picketed their tents in their place.

Daulf knocked on the tent pole outside, ever the gentleman.

"Come in!" came Captain Mobear’s voice from inside.

A table sat in the middle of the tent, with maps of the town and its outlying regions spread out atop it. Roland stood pointing to the map indicating where he had seen signs of enemies or strange creatures.

"Good, we can start," Mobear said as we entered. "Roland was just updating me on his recent foray into enemy territory. To put it succinctly, servants of Bilieth had dammed the Meena River and corrupted the life in the forest. Roland here led a group out and ended the source of the threat, but its warped creations remain. Based on the events at Landing—which I have filled them in on—it is likely there is a similarly malign force behind the Fess River stoppage. We have just been discussing the possibility of an exploratory force to investigate."

They were discussing patrol routes, perimeters, and scouts, and I sat on a stool wondering why I was there at all.

After twenty minutes of strategy that I failed to follow, a woman’s scream followed by the loud crash of metal slamming on metal came from outside and broke through my inattention. Daulf and Roland were the first out the tent, with myself and the rest close behind. A townswoman lay collapsed in front of the town's well. Trish was already at her side when I came out of the tent, likely listening through the tent walls. The well was large, over five feet in diameter, with six pulleys set around it to lower buckets. The clank came from the slamming shut of the heavy metal grate used to prevent people from falling in.

The woman was crying hysterically while Trish tried to console her, "M-m-m-m-monsters!" she sobbed.

At the word everyone drew their weapons—except for me, who had none. But, I did hold my hands up in front of me which I’m sure was very menacing.

"Light," Daulf commanded me without looking.

Looking around, I found a rock large enough to anchor a Light to. Light required a target to anchor it on, or it would remain immobile after summoning. Targeting it on a person is the easiest, but anything can serve as an anchor if I have time to focus and don’t mind spending the Will.

I handed Daulf a broken piece of paving stone, a Light floating two feet above it. He took the stone, thanking me with a nod, and threw it down the well.

From the well came a shout, "No! You fools! They are coming!"

That was not at all what any of us expected. The tension lessened, and we looked to each other in confusion. Daulf and I approached the well, and leaned over to see two figures, one quite close and the other fifty feet down, backlit by my Light shining through the water below.

When they saw our faces peek over the edge they yelled once more, "Quick, throw us a rope! The Forsaken’s creatures are coming!"

Moving quickly, Daulf and Tobren threw two buckets down the well and tied the ropes off. The two figures scaled the ropes in short order, and threw themselves over the edge of the well to lay on the ground panting. Below, I could still hear activity coming from the well. I looked over the edge once more to see dozens of small shapes scaling the walls, silhouetted by my Light.

"Close the grates!" I yelled, moving to do just that.

Just after the grates were shut, the creatures reached the top. The disfigured greenish brown faces of a dozen goblins appeared against the grate, screeching as they banged and pulled against the metal bars. The men—and Trish—around the well stabbed at the creatures as they sought a way out. But for each one that fell, another rose to take its place. The creatures’ feral clawing succeeded in opening the gate, and I gathered my wits enough to act.

"Stand back!" I shouted.

All veterans of battle, Trish, Daulf, Mobear, Roland and Tobren stepped back without question.

I had a brief moment to marvel that these people had listened to me so quickly.

I formed the construct in my mind for Lightning Bolt and aimed it into the center of the mass of goblins. With a crack, the blue-white lightning shot from my hand and disappeared into the grate. Each goblin let out a squeal in shock and, as a group, they released the grate and fell down the well.

The sound of the falling goblins colliding with those still climbing echoed up the well as the stunned goblins fell to the bottom. Roland took the opportunity to string his bow and stand atop the edge of the well.

"Get some locks, and secure all the wells in town," he told Tobren, as he shot any goblin he saw begin to climb. Mobear and Tobren ran off to see to the tasks while Roland manned the defense.

That left Daulf, Trish, and me to deal with our new guests. The two figures, now visible in the light of the day, revealed themselves to be dwarves, clothed in torn rags and covered in wounds old and fresh. They laid on the stones of the market square muttering praises to Torc and Bild while recovering their breath.

The one with the longer beard spoke when he finally noticed us all surrounding them, "You must prepare, a battle is coming."

A note from TK523

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Bio: Aim for perfection, but don't try too hard.

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