Cora sat calmly at the small wooden table that seemed to be becoming the "base of operations" for her and her companions. Arifal was well into his cups, but his dwarven tolerance for booze was in full effect. Bryce and Jerimia were making eyes at each other. Arifal could not resist taunting them about it. But then he did "get them together" more or less. The whole thing seemed dull to Cora and she cast about looking for someone's purse to lighten.
Her mark practically screamed to be robbed. Rich, arrogant, and not overly attractive, the young man strutted and swaggered like a peacock about the place bragging his exploits. He was clearly an archer and more to Cora's interests, he was obviously rich. A southern lord of some breeding come up to the dale to find hunting or adventure no doubt. Somewhere like as not his companions were already deep in debauchery. Of course he was creepy enough to make passes at Cora (she was only moderately amused and took the time to simply take his coins without him knowing). So it was no surprise that the strutting lord would begin to brag about his skills and make himself seem heroic.
The lordling began to really get on Jerimia's nerves. Bryce was not having any of the trouble but could not seem to calm him down. Then of course the fool went and insulted her in front of Jerimia. Adding insult to injury he boldly proclaimed himself a superior archer to the ranger. Cora realizing a wager was coming, merely replaced his coin pouch, light a great many coins. The lordling proudly declared himself the finest archer and openly challenged Jerimia. Coins hit the table as Arifal accepted the challenge on Jerimia's behalf. The challenge was to shoot an apple off of Arifal's head from across the room.
Jerimia shot first and he was flawless. He pinned the first apple to the wall. The lordling was not so good, but he did remove the apple. A draw was in the making, but a second round was coming. Arifal went to get himself more ale while the lordling (who proudly and loudly declared himself to be Lord Fenton Louten Faucenberg of the Neverwinter Faucenbergs, a proud scion of a (self declared) great house decided that if Jerimia can get a "good luck kiss" from his lady, so too could he. Cora was not interested so Arifal decided to simply end the situation by smacking the fool upside the head with his shield.
Having resolved the issue to his satisfaction, Arifal sat back with his companions to enjoy a night of drinking and relaxation. The companions were finally having their well deserved break when the bard they had been seeing about town finally came to their end of the bar to play her music. It was a calming instrumental but it was enough for Arifal (whom was already a tad in his cups) to be just curious enough to confront her. Arifal was sure the bard was "keeping an eye on them" and figured now was time to find out why. Bryce and Jerimia were too busy with each other and Cora was looking for another mark, or something she could do, anything really to not have to sit listening to Bryce moon over her ranger.
That was when Cora saw something that did catch her interest. The bard's shadow was "off", in fact it was literally doing its own thing. She tried to get Jerimia's attention without making too much fuss. Arifal had struck up a conversation with the young lady, but she was not overly talkative, pleading a throat issue preventing her from speaking. Cora took the opportunity to disappear and get a closer look. Jerimia was able to notice what she had been trying to draw his attention. Bryce of course was uninterested. Jerimia saw the shadow moving near independently from the bard and doing so in menacing manner. Cora of course was nowhere to be seen.
Cora crept up behind the bard and managed to get herself near under the small stage where the bard was sitting and playing her lute. Arifal continued to pester her with questions and insisted in making small talk. His suspicions now up he casually loosened the strap on his faithful warhammer. The bard continued to make her case with shrugs and hand gestures. Arifal was not surprised when the supposedly inebriated and smitten Jerimia (now stone cold sober and deadly serious) placed an arrow into the shadow. The bard yelped but the sound was…not right. As the bard made to protest, Cora struck, driving her enchanted blade into the woman's kidney.
The horror revealed itself finally as Cora stood with her blade sunk into the hideous flesh of a Green Hag. Arifal swung into action (and swung his hammer with all his might) and smashed the hag in the mouth. His blow was hard enough to knock teeth out. Jerimia had already drawn and loosed yet another shaft into the creature. The hag was startled, she could not comprehend the sheer force being brought against her. She knew from observation that these folk could be dangerous, but she grossly underestimated them. She would pay for it dreadfully. She looked around in panic for a way out. Taking a powerful blast of eldritch energy, the hag finally recovered her wits enough to disappear.
She was in a panic when another arrow narrowly missed her head and shattered the window behind her. A cask of ale had been smashed and it went over the floor (enraging Arifal even further) and had revealed her to the ranger by her wet footprints. Another swift blade struck her again from behind. She was certain it was that vicious little halfling, but she could not lay eyes on it. The red haired woman (a former useful servant, even if unwittingly) had joined the fight in force beside the ranger and the relentless dwarf. Her courage failed her and she fled out the window as fast as her powerful stride could take her.
Cora was first to jump outside while Jerimia and Bryce followed from the door. Arifal was concerned that the hag had either escaped or managed to leave town. Jerimia was unsure and unwilling to let the creature escape unchallenged. Cora was in agreement but when he looked back he could see the fear in Bryce's eyes. Unwilling to risk her needlessly he sent her back in to "help" Arifal (he would spare her feelings and still protect her with the notion that Arifal "needed" help) but she was grateful for the "out" and went back inside.
Cora was gone again, but he could feel she was out there and waiting, He knelt down and felt for the hag's presence. She was still close so he and Cora gave chase through the streets. The halfling was smaller and with less stride, but somehow she managed to keep pace. The trail led them closer and closer to the edge of town and to a high hill at the end. Cora was following the small bits of blood when she came to the base of the hill. She knew Jerimia had her back, so she proceeded up with caution. Jerimia could not see her, but he knew Cora was there.
He guessed that she would follow the steps carved into the hill so he took the grassy slope, he had an arrow knocked and was ready. Cora crept up silently, searching for heavy prints of the invisible hag on the ground, she found a steady pool of blood and heard her breathing, she was trying to desperately speak one last curse. Cora did not wait and sprung forward, again her magic dagger guaging a great rend in the hag's hide. The hag shrieked and with a powerful swing, knocked Cora from her feet. The hag spun as an arrow struck her hard in the chest. She was invisible before she hit the ground.
Cora sprung to her feet and looked around warily for the injured hag, she was sure the creature was near death. She heard the shout and felt the wind of the arrow that Jerimia loosed. It struck the hag between her yellow catlike eyes and pierced her brain. The hag was dead before she fell. Cora let out a breath of relief and then the pain really hit. The hag's claws had rent her flesh and she was fealing the burning wounds. Jerimia spoke a swift spell of healing and proceeded to remove the hag's head. Cora went to where the hag had knelt and found that she had hid her "hag's eye" orb and had buried a curse. She took both, Arifal would know what to do.
they headed back to the "Wet Trout" tired but victorious. When they walked into the tavern, Arifal was relieved and Bryce ran to embrace Jerimia. Cora just shook her head at them and delivered what she found to Arifal, muttering for them to "get a room". Arifal was certain the hag had left behind a blood curse and her note confirmed his suspicions, though he was surprised as it was directed at her "sons" not her sisters. He pondered what it meant. He took the orb though. Cora was tired and sore and in no mood, so she took a drink and went for a bath and bed.
Jerimia took Bryce in his arms and took her upstairs, to a light chuckle from Arifal. He did not anticipate seeing them again that night. All the better as he was about to confirm his suspicions on the orb. He ordered a fine ale, took out his pipe and found the most comfortable chair in the tavern. Sitting by the fire while waiting for the innkeep to close up for the night, he pondered what the hag could mean by her "sons". After the tavern was closed and the innkeep went off to bed, he unveiled the orb and willed it to life.
The voice he heard was not Gant. He was sure it would be the like the last time, but he was surprised somewhat by the tone and malice in the voice. It called for "Ruzzel" (at least now he knew the hag's name) Arifal answered and the voice grew amused. It was a battle of wits for a moment, but at last the mysterious voice identified itself, again Arifal was the more clever opponent and the young dragon revealed its presence. Arifal took in all he could see and committed it to memory. He taunted and baited the vain dragon (he knew the legendary arrogance of red dragons well) and it revealed more than it wanted, but not as much as Arifal had hoped.
With the contact broke, Arifal was convinced that this particular orb would not be used again so he drifted off to sleep. The morning would lead to new opportunities. Cora was first to awaken and went downstairs hungry. She lightly stepped over the bag with the hag's head in it. Jerimia could not resist one last jab at the fool lordling. Of course he was not intending for poor Leanne to find it first. Adding to the prank, the fool thought that Cora had single handedly slain the creature.
Jerimia went downstairs for breakfast and joined his companions. They began discussing the next move. It was clear that Gant was more dangerous than previously thought. They discussed several options but came to the conclusion that it would be best to remove another pillar of Gant's power. The wererat "Slim" was the decision, as such a creature should not be left to its own devices in any case. Arifal asked where Bryce was in a taunting manner, more to tease Jerimia than out of any real doubt as to where she was. She did come down for breakfast not too long after.
She was as open as she could be on Slim's plans and resources. She was able to confirm that Slim would not leave a challenge unanswered as the wererat was arrogant and aggressive. They decided that his warehouse in Easthaven would be a great place to start. They could burn it down and set an ambush when Slim came calling. Since Slim was in Bryn Shander and they were in Easthaven they had time to prepare the ground. Cora would keep watch while the rest prepared to fight. They chose the "Wet Trout" as their battleground and Arifal decided to pay the owner in advance for any potential damages.
With that out of the way, they headed to the warehouse. Arifal had bought himself a nice cask of whiskey and had every intention of abusing it by using it to start a fire. They were nonchalant about their walk as they wanted to be seen. It took only a short trip to arrive at the warehouse. Thankfully the building was mostly brick and not appreciably close to any other. Arifal had Jerimia and Bryce watch the other door as he went in and was confronted by two very inept (but quite wise) guards.
The guards were more concerned with the well being of the cask of whiskey and their own survival. Arifal was quite magnanimous with them and allowed them to walk away with that part of the whiskey not used. Making sure they knew who did it and where they could be found, Arifal left them to their own fool devices. Bryn Shander was nearly 8 hours away and they would have plenty of time to get ready. They used that time well.
Cora waited in the night several streets down from where the expected retaliation would come from. She was not disappointed with the numbers, they were well armed and armored. They were led by a great brute of a barbarian from the north. He was clearly a renegade and outcast. She had seen enough and returned to the tavern to await the fight. Cora took up a hidden position behind the stage near the broken window. Arifal had placed some rubbish to block it, but Cora felt it better safe than sorry. Arifal himself sat in the center of the room, armed and armored. Jerimia put Bryce near the top of the stairs and set himself at their base.
A mere 10 minutes later the door was kicked in savagely by the brute who demanded "which of you arseholes is Arifal??!" Of course Arifal could not resist the challenge and promptly attacked. Jerimia loosed a rapid volley into the men who rushed into the room. The fight started in earnest. Arifal was a rock that the enemy broke themselves on, while Jerimia and Bryce hurled arrows and bolts of magic into the mess of struggling men. Cora was suddenly jolted to awareness when a large rat crawled right past her hiding place.
It seemed that Slim had in fact showed up. She wasted no time and drove her dagger into him. Slim let out a hideous shriek as he felt the dagger enter his soft organs. He usually felt himself safe from weapons wielded by simple folk. He was utterly shocked that this blade hurt him, deeply. He rushed from his hiding place into the fight, to get away from that lethal blade. Jerimia was shocked to hear Bryce scream out from the landing. She had been taken by surprise by a mean looking brunette who wore an ugly scowl on her otherwise plain face. The woman was trying to drive a dagger into her, so to save his love Jerimia loosed a shot at the woman. It did not connect, but it did get Arifal's attention to her plight.
Arifal broke into a song of Moradin, a dwarven war song that chilled the blood of his foes. Here he was in his element. Swinging left then right he felt shields shiver and bones break with each strike. He also heard Bryce in trouble and with no thought to his own saftey broke away and cast a spell of sanctuary upon her. The foul woman then tried to shove Bryce down the stairs. She was caught and placed back on her feet. For her troubles, the woman took an arrow from Jerimia. Arifal turned back to the battle at hand and Cora moved to finish Slim who had forgotten about her (due to Jerimia putting a shaft into the barbarians throat and drilling the brunette into the stair with an arrow as well) Quite certain that Jerimia was the anchor (despite the horrific toll Arifal had taken on his men) he desperately told his men to bring the ranger down. The wounded woman was concerned with killing the traitor (Bryce did not recognize her, but she certainly recognized Bryce).
Cora caught up and slammed her dagger into Slim's ribs. He turned around in a wild swing, yet Cora had already moved. She slammed her dagger right up under Slim's chin and into his brain. The wererat just stood there stunned. The brunette and her ally tried pressing Jerimia, but with them both being wounded, they were getting held off. Then Jerimia threw down his bow and swiftly drew his blades. Within moments the thug was on the ground with his throat cut (nearly severing his head) and the short woman lay dying, peirced through her chest and guts.
Arifal wanted prisoners, though none still stood. Acting quickly he cast a spell to spare the dying on both the barbarian and the brunette (as they were in the best shape comparatively). The barbarian was the first to recover and he went immediately to return the attack, in a rage. Cora was swift to put him down. The companions were all injured and exhausted, ready for the fight to be over. The woman barely budged so Arifal prepared a nice chair for their upcoming discussion. …………