Tales Untold

Aritaeus' Adventures - Chapter Two
The Goblins of the East

Dearest Father,

Gosh, where to begin? It seems our adventure has truly started in earnest. After our celebrations in the Broken Wheel, we informed the Hunt Masters of our victory and the Cook signed our writ, the oath that the Hands make to complete a given task. Admittedly he just signed a rough X, but the thought was there. As Olasha filled in our paperwork confirming us as true Hunters, I mentioned to Callidus how rare it was to see a Tiefling of the colouration I had noted in the young lady at the tavern as we were celebrating. Apparently she had also been killing giant rats, from what one of the patrons was saying. We never spoke to her, but as we talked of her, Olasha asked us to confirm some details about her, then asked us to remain on site for the next few days. I think she wanted all the Thumbs to come back from their trials before she dealt with the problem.

We were asked into a small meeting room, where four newly accepted Hunters sat around a table whom I knew the names of, if not claiming to know them as friends or even exchanging but a few words with them. We confirmed that we had seen the Tiefling with Olasha and another one of the Masters (a halfling I think), and apparently so had they.

There was a very powerful, strapping figure with long blonde hair wearing a heavy type of armour. He seemed the friendliest of the lot, and I knew him to be Aldrich Reinhardt, I believe he is in service to the Church of Lidia. There, too, was a very typical looking Dwarf. Lots of old leather, facial hair and such, a heavy red cloak carried over his shoulders, his name was Rurik Ironhand. Next there was a Dragonborn with blue scales, and I knew little about him other than his name was Alcherin. Finally, there was a woman who had something of an ill reputation, and I didn’t feel comfortable looking her in the eye. I had never spoken with her, but I believe her name is Baganaidd Feganiaeth.

Olasha was very keen to leave as soon as we entered, her job supposedly done, but I wanted to know why we were there. We had no idea. I thought I was in trouble after being late (thank you, Callidus) to our Thumbs Trial, but it was because we had a passing encounter with the Tiefling at the Crooked Wheel. Well, then two Silverplates walk in, none other than <male> and <female> themselves! I had never seen them up close before, but they walked in as if they owned the room. Well, then I REALLY thought I was in trouble, if the King’s own Guard were involved. They just wanted us to confirm the location of our sightings and the times, talking between themselves, before <female> wanted the others to take her to the same location they had seen her, near Little Mound to the east of Pylor. Apparently the others had gone out to clear a Goblin infestation (that sounds closer to a REAL test) and she was there, once again, helping.

The thing is, the way the Silverplates were talking, it didn’t sound like she was wanted for any wrongdoing. Only that she was very powerful, that she had escaped their custody, and that it was vital to King Lucien that she be recaptured, but getting that scant information from <female>, you would have thought I was asking her to admit her darkest secrets. The Silverplates truly take their business seriously, but with a bit of the Stormbreaker charm, I managed to get more than she had bargained to give, I feel!

After a carriage journey of a few hours, we arrived at Little Mound – or rather a short way from it where we came upon what was once a Goblin camp. A few festering corpses lay around, but it was nice enough. To be honest, Father, I was quite bored by this point. Once I knew that <female> wasn’t going to be forthcoming with information, I had Zanna prepare lunch. The Dragonborn manifested a replica of a dagger that this Tiefling had on her, and Callidus suddenly seemed interested. He said something about a maker’s mark from an artisan back in Pylor, who only worked for a criminal underworld known as the Clickers, and even then working for a high price. Callidus seemed taken a back, so too did <female> and the Halfling, whom I learned was named Alton Treeditch. Well, then my interest was peaked, especially when <female> then commandeered one of the Coachman’s horses and rode back towards Pylor. It felt quite rude, really. I am not used to being spoken to in that manner.

Alton then explained that the others had failed in their test to some degree, serving only to drive the goblins onto a neighbouring village, tastefully called Little Ditch. Wanting to make a good impression (and make amends for Callidus’ tardiness), I volunteered that we would help them in their task, and Callidus seemed interested enough to follow suit. Little Ditch was not too far away. It was clear from first impressions that the town was beseiged, but also informed that it was the Hands of Emrys who had driven the Goblins towards them. I felt it was important to make amends as soon as possible, and after speaking with the townsfolk, we agreed to drive the Goblins off.

The problem was, after sending Callidus and the strange woman off to scout the camp out, the Goblins were strangely organised. Unlike the common vermin we know in these lands, these Goblins were in camps. There were children, and pressing the others for detail, the previous camp had things like a smithee and other such items that showed they had technological prowess of their own. It gave me pause for thought, such an organised group of Goblins could cause a grave problem indeed. Therefore it didn’t enter my mind that anything would be wrong in destroying the Goblin camp, my first true taste of Heroism. I changed my clothes and had Zanna remain in Little Ditch for her safety.

We gathered the oil that the group had together, and a handful of villagers we inspired to assist us in taking up arms. Callidus and the strange woman were sent off together again, with instructions to burn down the camp with improvised incendry weapons made from the oil, as we awaited nearby.

We saw the first signs of smoke coming from the camp, and then we began to advance. We heard screams, so began to ran, thinking our comrades had fallen into some sort of incideous trap. But the screams were Goblinoid, high-pitched things. The camp was in disarray, a chaos of bodies of all ages and with no weapons, fleeing with children in their arms, terror in their eyes. They gave us all a wide birth when they saw us, running in all directions. My ran became a canter, then static as my mouth hung wide open. These weren’t raiders, this was a hamlet of peoples. Callidus and the strange woman were lost to their battle-lust, in fact it looked like Baganaidd had come too close to the flames and set herself alight. I could see Rurik in the distance, flaming oil in hand. I called out to Aldrich that this all felt very wrong, and he agreed with me. I knew I had to stop the attack, there had been a grave misunderstanding. I called on one of the cantrips I had learned at my time with the College of Magics and disguised myself with a few hushed words. In a heartbeat, I looked like one of the Goblins, a King of them no less. I made sure that the spell included uncut gems and tribal fetishes. Aldrich, understanding my intentions, made a show of calling upon his divine powers to bluster and intimidate. I told him he had won the day, and ordered the goblins that grouped around us to flee back to the East.

You see, it was a story Mother told me when I was quite young (I know, a story I haven’t read myself!) of an invasion force of Goblins that had intelligence. They came from the east in great numbers, and were blighting the land. It was only when the Hero, whose name I forget, reasoned with the Goblin leaders and exiled them back to their homelands. But the goblins who looked up at me in confusion said they couldn’t return to the east — in common, no less. Why, I couldn’t tell at the time, but I told Alderich that I was going to travel with the goblins for a time and find out more. Time was against me, the longest I had kept this cantrip up was an hour and no more.

We arrived at a small outcrop of trees, and I had sensed that most of my comrades were closeby in case I needed assistance, but the poor shivering wretches I saw as the survivors looked incapable of standing up for much longer, let alone attacking me. When I released my disguise, explaining that I was not of their number, nor their King, one said that he knew, for he was their King. To my credit, I was not far off the mark. And while he was nothing like our King Lucien, he was quite impressive in a humble way.

The Goblin King explained that their homelands were overcome by a great evil, it seems some sort of Blight had infested their heart-tree, a tree that they held sacred, and warped the woods around them. The entirety of their civilisation had been reduced to this handful of refugees, and I could tell many in our group felt a great guilt at our actions. The poor things didn’t know about Humanity, only that we had food and wealth that they needed. Their attacks hadn’t been raids, but scavenging attempts. My comrades and I tried to explain to them that they mustn’t do these things, that they could trade with humanity for what they needed to get a good start in their new lives.

But, I fear, our attack had jaded them to humanity. And while they were not hostile, they were not friendly either. We bid them farewell, and were left to reflect on the destructive actions that we had been part to. I no longer felt like a dashing hero, but a cruel villain. These people only wanted a new start in life, and we had robbed them of what meagre possessions they had left.

I looked to the West, to the halo of light that was projected against the darkening sky of Pylor, and dearly wanted to be home. It was not what I had hoped would happen, and I would take no pride in recounting the story, I feared.

Sleep did not come easy, and while I did not kill any of the goblins, I felt their blood on my hands, and deaths on my conscience.

-Ari

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Aritaeus' Adventures - Chapter One
Of Rats and Pies

My dearest Father,

Ah, the smell of fresh leather and the satisfying creak of a book’s spine breaking. This is my adventure journal! When my journey has come to an end, and I am known the world over as a Hero of Pylor, it is my hope that I can read to you from this book when you are in your twilight years to give you comfort, amusement and pride that your Son grew up to be such. Then with the rest of my years, I will write great stories from these journals and send them across the continent.

I graduated from the Hands of Emerys, along with my dear brother Callidus. Callidus doesn’t seem to think this is as great an accomplishment as I feel it is, so much so that it was quite the chore trying to get him out of his bed. He was deep into his cups the night before our final test, and fell into a drunkard’s sleep in front of the fire. Zanna threw a fur hide over him, and made me aware when I came down at first light for breakfast. I shook him awake, and he promised me he’d be ready in plenty of time before retreating to our shared accommodation to get freshened up. Time passed, and I was growing concerned, so I withdrew upstairs to check on him, politely tapping on the door (for I did not wish to catch him in a state of undress!) and each time he assured me he would be just another few minutes, and yet many minutes passed and he still did not awake.

I couldn’t bear to leave without him, it had been a long two years as Thumbs together, I wanted to do my final test with him! So eventually I plucked up my resolve and went into the room proper, (averting my eyes at first) to find him fast asleep in bed! I was so angry, yet even as I expressed my upset, he mumbled just being another few minutes! Well, I emptied a small tankard of water over his head and told him that we would most surely be late, and the rogue had the cheek to ask for breakfast before we left, yet had not even taken the chance to change his clothes. He is the devil, but I cherish him dearly.

By the time we arrived, we had to fight against the tide of Thumbs (the equivalent to an initiate in the Hands of Emrys) that were already on their final Trials, their tasks known. Indeed, by the time we came to find Olasha (our Half-Orc Huntress and Tutor) and the other Hunter Masters and Mistresses, there were nearly no more quests left. I could have died of shame when they began to tease and mock us for being tardy, and were reluctant to let us undertake our own quest. It was only by my persuasion that they finally relented and let us have a rather ignoble quest, to rid a local Tavern of an infestation of rats. Hardly the calling of a Nobleman and his brother, but by this point I would have taken anything I could get!

When we arrived at the Crooked Wheel, just to the right at the end of Smithee Street, we rapped on the door to find no answer. Going to the tradesman’s entrance, we found the chef, a young Gnome who Zanna claimed was her Cousin. They set to talking in their strange little language for a while, before Cal cleared his throat and reminded them of our presence.

We were pointed to the cellar in the yard, taking a torch in hand, as Zanna promised me a fine family-secret pie upon my return. Well, Father, these were just the largest rats you had ever seen! Easily as big as a huntsman’s hound. A crack in the walls led directly into the sewers that run under the main street proper, and these rats squeezed their bloated bodies into the cellar from there. Once inside, they faced a veritable vermin treasure cove! The little blighters were worrying the barrels of ale and other such stores. I think that Olasha undersold the endeavour somewhat, and I suddenly knew why Zanna’s Cousin was covered in bandages, having previously just thought him a clumsy cook indeed!

We made short work of the rats, stacking their foul little bodies by the steps leading to the surface. Cal and I shifted a heavy, old cupboard in front of the crack until the Masons Guild could come out and make right the crack with their artisan repairs. And whilst this fixed the immediate problem, Cal had the good presence of mind to suggest we find the nest and put an end to it rather than half-complete our quest.

He carried (or rather, dragged) the brace of half a dozen or so rats to the surface with us, sending me to find the nearest entrance to the sewers as he informed the Cook that his cellar was clear. I came back to find him in the yard with a tidy sum of coins. The Hands usually don’t charge for these trials, so I was quite mystified where the coins could have come from. Cal said not to worry, that the Cook was just very generous. He also said he threw the rats into the gutter, for I commented that they were missing. I hope they don’t clog them up and cause any flooding.

Well, Father, I shall spare you the needless details of what a sewer looks and smells like, nor what Cal did to a rag of cloth to shroud his face, but suffice to say he supplied the chief ingredient! Once we were over the worst of the smell (and that was not a short while, I assure you), we managed to find the crack in the wall from the other side. It looks like the little devils chewed through the masonry. Can you imagine such? Their teeth must be hard as forged iron! We followed the line of droppings to find the brood mother, an especially larger rat that was barely mobile. A few unpleasant bites from her nest-mates, but we dealt with the issue at large. I have been watching the small injuries for any signs of infection, but I believe I have ‘lucked out’.

The rest of the day was spent thoroughly bathing, and I had Zanna run home to fetch me fresh clothes at once, and made sure she took another set for spares in future. Giving her my soiled clothing after a trip to the bathhouse, I felt almost human again. I had to pay twice as much for Callidus to get entry, the owner was most insistent. Then again, he did turn the water of his bath a very dark brown colour. If only Mother was more tolerant of him around the house, he might get to wash more often.

We celebrated that night at the Crooked Wheel, where our bill was paid for by the owner! I had two cups of wine before I felt a bit dizzy and stopped, and the pie was indeed great. I couldn’t identify what meat it was, and the Cook refused to tell me. Still, everyone seemed to enjoy it. Of particular note is that during the evening, we spotted a tiefling. Not hugely uncommon, but she had very dark, almost midnight blue skin and silver eyes. We didn’t speak with her, but this became relevant in my next writing…

Proud Hunter of Emrys,

-Ari

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