On the Border of Princes and Kings

When you hunt the lion...
...know that it hunts you back.

Pergale trod through the black tunnel that had been carved by the gods only knew what, the witch hunter’s compatriots at her back and front. The creature had clawed room through rock and clay as if it were nothing, a hole big enough for a man to stand with his arms out, that stretched on to beyond the city walls. It hadn’t used only claws, though, and tunnel stank of fetid dark magic like old blood and curdled milk. Pergale could see that Grunnil and Rika could feel it, too, even without the Witch’s Sight, and that they were afraid and uncomfortable.

Pergale’s mind raced and looped as she watched the excited pistoleer at her back. “Working with a witch hunter, and now following a single path through a tunnel with two of his zealot servants. I do not trust these three liars. Leave it to a witch hunter to try and be friendly at one turn, and then reveal their true colors once you have your guard down. I have no doubt there is shot in that bag for me once this bloody business is done.”

Danzig Strunn…yes, he had tried to play it smooth and subtle when she met him, but he stank of the judging eye of the witch hunter and his soul blazed with magic and the red winds of passion and zealotry. Even if he was an ally at this juncture, Pergale would make sure her things were ready to leave at a moment’s notice and at least a few escape routes prepared. A witch hunter in the Borderlands held no authority, but what did they care for laws, anyway. The Strigany would protect her if she came to them, and she would fade with the next outgoing caravan.

Emerging from the tunnel, the short line of tracks were clear, and the night air refreshing after their long trek in the fetid dark. Grunnil knew, and Pergale took but a moment to realize it, that the creature was enormous and bat-like, with a huge wingspan that had carried it into the night. They had followed the tunnel to outside the city walls pursuing this creature, and now they needed to reach the others to warn them. That is, of course, when the tunnel collapsed.

“The winds of magic have chosen me to be with these two, and to choose our path, and so I shall let them guide me,” Pergale thought as the other two realized they were stuck outside, unable to reach the others until sun up. She drew forth her Tarot deck and pulled a single card. “Yes,” she thought, “It is time to take the road less travelled, into the unknown. Is that not what lead me here?” She turned left, and headed towards the Western Gate, away from the longer travel and known safety of her beloved Strigany; whom had camped in the East. She would find a way in as the Winds of Magic chose.

At her asking along their walk, Grunnil told Rika and Pergale how he had come to find this tunnel and that, in the tunnel he had been trapped in, he had slain one of the beast’s kind and it’s lover. A vampire, and one of three that he, Rika, and Danzig had been tracking south, and that were delivering an artifact, seemingly, to two others. Five vampires in Matorca, now four, that had been feeding on the people of the undercity and that were now doing something even more unspeakable with this artifact of theirs. No wonder there were so many people going missing. The Rat Catcher had stumbled into yet another rat’s nest, even on his day off.

At the gates were camped out travelers and merchants, waiting to get in at daybreak. The gates were barred, Pergale knew, and so she approached the merchant’s tents and wagons in hope of finding a helpful traveler. She could smell the spices of Araby, and the wafting smoke and light of one drew her. “Here I will find help. So the Winds have led, so they will lead me to where I must be.”

She struck her staff upon the ground outside of tent and waited until a round faced man of Araby answered; his face happy and flush with life, dressed in the fine clothing of a merchant of his home land, with pleasantry in his eyes. Hassim, he introduced himself as, and invited them to join him in his revelry at the end of the long road as he awaited the morning so that he could enter the city for trade. So, much to the typical Dwarvish chagrin of Grunnil, the three joined there host in his revelry.

Soon into the conversation Pergale could read on the intoxicated merchant that he was an easy, if trustworthy and true, mark and that her ability with the Gift and the graft might mean her being able to gain what she wished. “The road less travelled will bear fruit. The cards point the way of the Winds,” she thought as she told Hassim of her ability to See and to read fortunes. He took the bait and Pergale reasoned, in exchange, that he might be able to get them in the city tonight, which he offered papers of for a reading of his Tarot and future.

She was always pleased to See one’s future, and to watch the focus of the gift of fate that the cards brought out in others. Now Hassim’s ran of a man that had love of his wife far away, that would find fortune in his future dealings, but had squandered his past wealth in to much revelry and irresponsibility; that if he took the advice of those willing to give it, and willing to take the advice of a teacher and advisor, perhaps even the clarity of mind he had but ignored, Hassim could take his new found wealth and return to his loving wife, and perhaps to the family that he truly wanted.

Hassim’s eyes and posture were no different than many whom saw their fate unfold and he straightened, dropped his hookah, and opened his heart to the fate he saw before him. The zealots, also, watched. Pergale could feel Grunnil’s eyes judging her a witch and Rika taking in what unfolded. Hassim, however, was changed, and with kind and helpful words would take his future fortunes to the Rat Catcher’s wife and gain sanction of a noble house, and to Heady’s accountant to make his fortunes work to make all of them very rich. His return home would be very fruitful; and in return for Pergale’s reading Hassim granted her the favor she sought; papers granting free access to the city and the noble’s quarter. A treasure by anyone’s standards.

“See me flaunt my power to sway men’s hearts, dwarf. Judge me as you like to your witch hunter. You know nothing of me, and would have spent the night sleeping in the dirt outside while more people perished,” Pergale thought as she put her cards away and was ushered out by their Araby host, whom now needed sleep before his new adventures began. “Good luck, and may the Winds of Magic and the Gods bless your life, Hassim.”

The small doors of the gate swung wide for Pergale and her compatriots for the night, and not a second later a manhole opened nearby with the Rat Catcher sticking his head through, with Lossenthel shortly behind. “A wizard always arrives when they are supposed to,” she remarked to the Rat Catcher at his mild amazement, and they exchanged the tales of their recent encounters, relayed what Grunnil had told them of the vampires, and where they were headed next; The Pump.

Families had gone missing recently and it was all coming together, but there were still others that had not come home yet. When they arrived, the scream of terror told all, and the party of quickly moved to help. It was one of the bat-creatures terrorizing an old man and his younger compatriots, and had cornered them in the workings of the Pump, but it turned on the new arrivals as soon as they came through the service tunnel.

It was huge, almost as big as a horse, and a foul mix of man and bat; with enormous clawed wings and teeth like daggers. It came at them all so quickly that Pergale could see the black winds, and the purple of death pour forth from it like a gale. It leapt the distance of the room like a man would a short hop, but when it landed the gods laughed and the brick under it’s feet tore away. The bat tumbled to floor below and opened it to attack. “It’s not infallible or unstoppable. It is a beast, but it can be killed. Now is our chance!” Pergale’s mind raced “You want to see the real power of this witch, you dogs to an unjust persecutor, then you shall have it. Tell him of this night and that I am not a force that the dark powers should trifle with.”

Grunnil moved to engage the thing, his grappling apparatus carrying swiftly to the lower floor where he fought with the beast toe to toe, and he did, while Lossenthel and Rika and poured arrow and shot into the beast in hopes to slow it. Pergale’s magic ebbed as she drew and focused the cleansing white light of Hysh; it’s flow into her like a great wave, until she opened her eyes and released it into the physical world. Radiance filled the room and all of the lights shown brighter for but a moment before Pergale’s eyes shot forth a beam of perfect white light; striking the vampire and burning it’s flesh away like the noon day sun.

Rika’s guns rang loud but a moment later striking the beast through the head and scattering it’s skull like leaves; but it merely collapsed. Pergale floated her warhammer to Grunnil as he closed and prepared stake, hammering it home through the beasts heart until it screamed and perished, its flesh boiling away to ash. It was over, and even the Rat Catcher, whom had gone to save his friends from the beast, was relieved that the only sounds to be heard in the Pump were the sounds of its workings. They had gotten lucky, even the beast wasn’t infallible, and now there were only three of the abominations in the city. In the meantime, Pergale could see the fear and wonder in the eyes of all who gathered. Their judgement would come later, right now she was just dangerous.

Soon after, looking for the other family, the group only found their bloody clothes, but worse were the markings of hands and feet on the ceilings. Not bat-like, but people, beings that looked like men but hunted like beasts. They could be tracked, though, and so Pergale and Grunnil did, the rest with them, quiet prayers in their minds or on their lips. The hunt had gone well, so far.

There was a change, however, in that moment. They had followed to a warehouse where all of the tracks had led, and where the vampires had brought their prey. Grunnil and Rika took to point, but the rest could not help but make noise, and that’s when the hunt was over. The winds had changed, darkness fell across them, and now it was the lion’s turn to hunt. They were the prey and if they did not leave, they would be joining the few that had died that night.

“That’s okay.” Thought Pergale” We will return, and the sun is coming up soon. Besides, there’s a witch hunter that needs to be reported to, isn’t there, liars. I Suppose I’ll go find my bed while you tell Danzig about the wizard you spent the night with. Perhaps it’s time I found my feet on the road soon, too, lest I find them bound with firewood around me.”

I guess you were listening.

Hey, Ranald. Hey, Shallya. Looks like you were listening last night. Thank you. Yeah, I mean, I know that doesn’t even begin to cover it. How could it? But a lot of people made it last night, even if they all couldn’t. More did than didn’t, though. So thank you. I wish I could say this was the last time I’d have to ask you for help, but we both know that’s not true. That’s not how life works. We’re not going to stop needing gods any time soon. Sorry, I guess. And thanks. Have I said that too many times? Maybe I can’t say it too many times. I don’t really know what you like. I’m not going to pretend like I could.

Ugh, what am I going to tell Maria? This is exactly the kind of story she loves. “Oh, heroes slaying the evil undead and saving the people!” Great. I mean, we were just there to help out the real vampire hunters. I’m sure she’ll just assume I’m being modest and spin it differently during retellings, but there’s nothing I can do about that. Not like I’m going to keep what happened from her.

Can I tell the story without making it obvious that it’s underground the whole time? Well, the Catacombs is an old jail, so that sounds like it’s just a regular building. So that’s good. And Pergale went with two of the vampire hunters to track the vampire. I don’t have to include the giant terror hole. I mean, I’m sure she’ll ask and then I’ll mention it and she’ll hate that, but I’m not gonna lie.

Mention the missing families and how Lossenthel and I decided to go track them down. We left the lead vampire hunter to protect and help the people of the Catacombs. We headed up to the street level and, look, it’s the ones who followed the vampire outside! And she’ll laugh at the coincidence and yup, that’s the way life works sometimes, and good thing too. Because then we went to the pump and fought a giant bat monster.

We fought a giant bat monster.

That sounds crazy. I sound like a crazy person. My life makes me sound like a crazy person. Sometimes, Ranald, I have to wonder if my life is a prank of yours. Normal people don’t have to deal with things like this. When did I stop considering myself part of “normal people?”

So I went to help the kids and pump master escape while Lossenthel and the hunters and Pergale fought the giant bat monster.

Pergale. What in the world am I supposed to say about Pergale? That’s a whole other kind of headache. I’d heard stories about what magic could do, but I figured that they were like the stories out there about me. What I saw last night from that girl? That was by far the most frightening thing I saw last night and I saw a giant bat monster that refused to die.

So then we followed the river to the harbor warehouses while Mr. Jack took the survivors to the Catacombs like a good boy. We saw some terrible things relating to a dark ritual and . . . left because we would have straight-up died.

And now we’re hunting vampires that can probably control people’s minds.

Without the vampire hunters because they’re all famous and the vampires will know they’re coming.

Why is this our lives? Why is this what we do? Who in the world thought that we were qualified for this? Well, I guess it was probably you gods, wasn’t it? Maybe the others are. They’re the sort of larger-than-life figures you hear about in legends. Maybe not Gerolf, but he’ll be a knight soon, so that’ll fix that. I don’t know what your plan is or why you’d pick me for this insanity, but I guess this is just how it is.

I’m sure the punchline is bound to be a good one.

And thanks again. For whatever my thanks are worth.

I wish I could say it was over, but we’re still going to need you. We all are.

A boring day and an interesting evening.
Must head to Nuln

‘Ugh…must we continue to dwell in this place?’ Lossenthêl thought to herself over long days spent staying here since their return of ending Gault’s reign. ’It’s filthy as every human city and there are no Elves here to talk with. They are either High Elves or travelers or both. I can’t talk with people like Humphrey or Pergale can.’

She traveled with Amelia, her horse and was curious about prospecting for property within Martorca’s borders only to be a little surprised with how easily the Matorca commerce gave her maps and documentation for finding a property to perhaps build her house.

It was a little too easy as the individual smiled and readily handed Lossenthêl the paperwork and she set out with Amelia for a day exploring possible sites. She had lef the city as she didn’t want to live in Matorca proper or within an hour of the city gates as the Gypsies pretty much lived right outside the city. Pretty much all the prime spots were picked through and taken, but this didn’t matter to Lossenthêl as she didn’t want to live too close to humans or their smelly city.

The first site she found was rather lackluster, dry and could possibly hold water. If their was water it was quite possibly underneath all the crusted dirt. However, she didn’t feel like she should settle and decided to keep looking and other possibilities.

The second location housed a small water spot that could sustain a small garden yearly as it was fed by an underwater source. It couldn’t sustain a village but maybe one person and a horse. It had green grass growing near it, something rare in a desert. And while it couldn’t sustain yearly vegetation for a year, which didn’t bother Lossenthêl much as she could just find what she needed in the wilderness, it was noteworthy to mark on her map. Amelia drank down some of the water while Lossenthêl marked down possible locations to check out.

Lastly, Amelia and Lossenthêl traveled to a rocky mountain-esque cliff-face that was hard to spot. It would be perfect in winter to gather rain water but didn’t have another water source. It was however wonderful for defending and hiding and had shade from the hot sun. It, of the three, would need the most work to make work. However something she had learned from Gault’s encampment, it would need more that one entrance/exit. Lossenthêl would be happy with perhaps three ways out though only one of them the main entrance/exit. It was mountainous and more “Dawi” than “Elfy” but it would bring a benefit of not being easily burned down by an army of Beastfolk.

Lossenthêl marked the location and noted she didn’t have enough to purchase the land and build/hire builders of a home. If she chose to build on the other two locations it would cause a bit of trouble and she wanted it to be difficult to be found by invaders. What the Farmhouse family is a good reminder of: If you’re a farmhoue or house in the middle of nowhere you stand a good chance of being invaded and ransacked, if not burnt down.

She traveled back to Matorca proper with Amelia and wove through the volley of Gypsies looking for easy coin and selling stuff. Though a good chunk ignored her as she ignored them as they didn’t have anything of interest to her currently. It took her an hour to get back into the city because of all the squatters and Gypsies.

Once there she went looking for work to possibly fund building a house despite the fact she didn’t want to live here as it was just too far away from the forest she loved. However she didn’t want to live amongst a city full of humans and filth. If she had to live here it would have to be far away from humans but within distance if she needed to buy more arrows.

She headed towards the center of the city with the board and crier to translate for the vast majority of people that didn’t know how to read. It was there that she found Pergale amongst all the other humans in the city. She met up with Pergale and exchanged small talk only for Pergale and Lossenthêl to notice the lone woman in the crowd that was watching Pergale watching her.

Pergale and Lossenthêl walked over to this woman, who’s name turned out to be Rika, and the three woman started up a conversation. It was Rika who noticed Lossenthêl’s most cherished possession, her amulet given to her by her mother. At first Lossenthêl was defensive about it despite the fact it was secure through small chain and worn around her to make it extremely difficult for thieves to take. Most thieves have learned to leave it alone. Lossenthêl is known to be fast, quick, sharp eyesight and really, really good with that bow.

However Rika said something interesting. Bullarn had apparently been rebuilt and Rika and her party saw an amulet similar to Lossenthêl’s at Nuln. Both of these were in the Imperial Province of pro-human anti everything else. And they spoke in such that rough language. However, Lossenthêl’s future rested in the Imperial province and she knew she couldn’t get there right now because she learned she couldn’t defeat an army alone. Most of the party happened to be loving the city and didn’t like to leave it which frustrated the Elven lass. This Rika though spoke of her associates but she spoke of herself more and her love of these exploding loud metal dwarven contraptions called guns.

Pergale and Lossenthêl traveled with Rika back to Headie’s, who was in a meeting with some merchant for forever. Humphrey the Rat Catcher happened upon them and they listened to Rika’s store which concerned both Lossenthêl and Humphrey who figured the woman they were dealing with is some kind or was some kind of formal bandit who killed for sport and pleasure as opposed to ‘Kill or be killed’ or someone who had reason to die like the bandits Lossenthêl killed so they couldn’t warn the party to prep for an ambush.

It was discomforting. Eventually though, Rika sent a messenger out in search of her leader, Danzig. It was actually super easy for the messenger to find Danzig, which was done in the time Rika demonstrated her loud stinky black powder by destroying a plate which she paid for. All the messenger boy had to do was shout for outsider Danzig and his accent helped the boy find the man.

When Danzig did managed to find his way to Headie’s, of his first curiosities seemed to be in regards to Rika’s conversation. Mainly he was concerned she didn’t speak so much out of place or something, Lossenthêl couldn’t tell. This man was a follower or former follower of Sigmar and in a way tried to force his religion on her when he learned she hated the Imperial province for abandoning Bullarn in their time of need. Lossenthêl’s first concern if this man was a witch hunter, which he claimed not to be but that didn’t mean Lossenthêl wasn’t concerned about the old human.

Danzig had made a grab at Lossenthêl’s amulet to identify it but he stopped when she told him it was firmly attached by armor. To be fair this was to prevent it from being lost or stolen or at least make it harder for a Master Thief. One should not mess with the Elf with the Elven Bow. It was Danzig who opened up more about the Imperial province about his travels and apparently that someone in Nuln had an amulet like Lossenthêl’s.

When Headie finally got free, Lossenthêl rushed him and spoke about what she did learned. She was excited and a little social which was unusual for the usually bitchy elf. But heading off to the Imperial province, which Headie wasn’t against, he couldn’t help her in her end goal. However something Humphrey spoke of to Headie provided some kind of extra work.

Said work was the under city where crates of Imperial Armor were found despite being covered in rat feces and other bodily rat excrement. The group which consisted of The Rat catcher, Lossenthêl, Rika, Danzig and Pergale. They would later meet up with Grunnil, who had been locked in a cellar that according to The Rat Catcher, contained lots of dead bodies.

However in the short time Humphrey had claimed to be away, the place had become entirely cleaned physically. Danzig began chanting to cleanse the area magically. Dark purple magic was afoot, necromancy. And while they didn’t get too far in, in the basement, they begun their treck towards the catacombs.

Everything is terrible and nothing will ever be okay again.
You know, the usual.

This if my first full day back home. It was supposed to be simple! I was going to go on a walk and talk to my friends in the morning and then spend the afternoon making up for lost time with Maria. But no. Can’t be that simple. Why would life ever be simple?

A short list of mysteries that I care about (from today):
1. Why are people going missing around the Pump?
2. Where are all the rats?
3. What’s with the plagues?
4. Why didn’t the nobility know about the plagues?
5. What is the necromancer’s necro-plan-cer?
6. Why are there so many military uniforms in the Stacks?
7. What happened to Dirk?

Possible Solutions:
1. Black Magic
2. Black Magic
3. Black Magic? Or maybe intentionally introduced to create corpses? I don’t know how black magic works. Should I ask Pergale? Does Pergale know about black magic? I don’t know if it’d be worse if she does or doesn’t.
4. They probably don’t care, but it’s still weird to not know about it at all. I’ll have to ask around.
5. Invasion? Something worse that I don’t know about because I don’t know much about this stuff?
6. I got nothin’.
7. He’s fine? He’s not fine? One of those.

Mysteries that I’m going to let other people care about:
1. Why are these other adventurers here?
2. Who installed that secret passage in the Stacks? Where they always meant for storage?

1. “Living” skeleton to show the steward in order to secure a city response. If that can even be done. Not that bringing that into court ends well for me regardless.

So, here we are: Lossenthel, Pergale, the three strangers we just met, and me, in the Stacks, trying to decide whether we should follow the HORRIBLE NECROMANTIC CLAW HOLE or hurry to the Catacombs, where most of the city’s poor are hiding out, ready to provide a fresh source of potential corpses. Pergale can see the magic, Lossenthel is a great hunter, and this dwarf seems good at tunnels. If they follow the scent of black magic while the rest of us rush ahead to the Catacombs (which is just a guess on my part) . . .

I wish Gerolf were here. This battle/strategy/tactics stuff isn’t my wheelhouse. Give me something I can sneak past or talk around. The living dead? Really? Why do we do this? Yeah, yeah, I know why. Damn it all.

Ranald? Shallya? Are you listening? It’s going to be another interesting night. Please keep an eye out. A lot of people are going to need you.

The long road home
And other tales.

The trip home was uneventful, luckily, and quick. Pergale always enjoyed the sea air and, though Anise and her horse Algernon were not pleased with being water bound, there were rats a plenty in the hold that kept Anise busy and plump. When she arrived, home, to Matorca, an odd sight after having never called anything but the back of a wagon home, Pergale found Headie on the docks immediately by the sound of his voice and a loud merchant that was clearly mad with him.

She’d never seen Headie in such a flustered situation, but waited respectfully until he was done to say hello and great him with a hug. Things in Matorca were tense if Headie was having problems, but Pergale was happy to see him and to get to the bottom of his cryptic letter. First, however, she needed to get her land legs back and get the lay of the land within the city she called home. It was better to have an idea of what one was walking into if things in a city were already tense. Living as a travelling person had taught Pergale to have an ear to the street and when to cut and run if, and when, things got bad.

Only days had passed since the nightmare, and Pergale had watched the night sky with passion to see if a shooting star or comet might come. Things were happening, she could sense it everywhere, and when she saw the crazed energy within the market, and the flagellants preaching more fervently than ever, she could taste the winds of magic and tell that something very wrong was coming. Words of doom and fearful looks were everywhere, merchant’s shops were sparse, and rumors of a witch hunter were circulating. The winds were blowing sour in Matorca, the balefire sent of the Red Wind of Aqshy rolling as hot as the sun on Pergale’s back. Emotions were burning like dry kindling in the city, and Pergale’s thoughts turned, quickly, to those accused of witchcraft lighting the night sky. Death would come to Matorca very soon.

Pergale turned herself quickly from the market and the sights the winds were bringing. She had business with her friend, and thoughts of coming doom were becoming distracting. Besides, Headie had promised cold pint and a hot meal and, after eating salt pork and limes for three days, that sounded like heaven.

As promised, Headie had delivered, and over warm stew and bread in an uncommonly empty “guildhall”, and a freshly tapped pint from his personal stock, Headie got down to business. The Rat Catcher, Losenthel, Sylri, Belegar, and Gerolf were already on the case, but Headie had gotten well in over his head trading goods that he didn’t have with money he, also, didn’t have; and the goods had gone missing on the way into Matorca. A first, in Pergale’s experience, but a worrisome first and one she didn’t like the sound of. So, it was time to play catch up, and hopefully not follow a trail of bodies to Headie’s missing goods. He’d even offered Pergale his best desterier to ride. He was clearly desperate, and his investors were probably looking to engage Headie in a similar business deal to Lossenthel’s usual dealings with non-elven men. Pergale loved him, though, and this time would cut her beardless Dawi friend a break.

Off on Headie’s Destrier , and with Algernon in tow, Pergale road hard to catch her compatriots, and after only a day found their trail. Along with it, she found first of Headie’s wagons busted up in some dunes by the sea. She was passing quickly, but the smoke from the burned wagon was still rising, and the acrid scent of melted and burned tin, and the scent of rotting flesh, made the air stink. The bodies weren’t Belgar’s work, but Pergale knew she was on the right path. At least her compatriots had the sense to cover the ale so it wouldn’t spoil in the sun. A quick word sent with some people on the road to Matorca, and Headie’s Hall would be flush with drink, again, which.

Another two days she found the other crates of wares. Whoever had smashed and discarded the cheap plated tin on the side of the road, Pergale did not care. All that mattered is that they had been picked over and taken from, that she was sure there would be a number of peasants and travelers sporting some nicer looking tin tableware in the near future, and that she could sense her bonus from the sales floating away like a morning dream. She’d happily take a smaller pay day in exchange for her friend’s wellbeing, any day, though.

The farm, however, was another story. Sadness hung over the small house and empty fields as Pergale approached. Shyish, the Purple wind of death, mixed with the ebbing of the hot emotional winds of Aqshy rolled heavily in the small valley like a fetid fog. She knew her comrades had been there only recently, and a small prayer to Shallya that they were safe and healthy passed Pergale’s lips as she passed the fresh mass grave by the side of the road. Whoever had lost here had been buried without markers, their names unknown by the people that put them there and without any honorifics. Things had gone very badly here.

Worry for her comrades drove Pergale to investigate the house but she was pleased to see a family, or what was left of it, came out to greet her happily when she beckoned. They had been battered and bruised, and sadness and loss pervaded them, but they were happy to not be dead at the hands of the bandits that were now piled upon each other in a shallow grave on the hill. To hear them tell it, the Rat Catcher and his brave compatriots had passed through only two days thence, and had slain the bandits that had taken up residence there.

The young girl even flushed to talk about the Rat Catcher; he had saved her life personally from a knife to her throat, and she had grown a little smitten with her tall savior. Even Pergale giggled happily to hear about the antics turned heroics of the Rat Catcher, and about his offer to retrieve the livestock taken by the brigands. The man had the strangest luck, at times, and a valiant and romantic heart that seemed so out of place for someone that used to make a living of trudging in shit. Truly a rose growing out of night soil, he was.

Pergale offered the family her services as a healer in exchange for a pallet to sleep on and a warm meal, which they gladly gave. The talents of a skilled healer were rare, even more so in the country, and the family had been through quite a lot, lately. Even the small scratch the girl had on her neck from the bandit’s knife could become deadly if it became infected. The worst of it, however, was not the beatings they had taken; those could be cured with healing droughts and poultices. That night, after hearing their story and inspecting the mother and daughter, and with disgust in her stomach, pain in her heart, and tears in her eyes, Pergale brewed and made packets of Black Witch’s Tea for them to drink in the days to come.
Pergale cursed the dead men on the hill as she fell asleep that night, and was thankful for the comrades she kept. They may all not trust her or her talents with the Gift, but at least they accepted her and they had good hearts. She would be reunited with them very soon and she would be grateful for it.

The next morning she read her fortune in the tarot for guidance, and again she read them for the young girl when she grew wide eyed at Pergale’s Gift. It had been a simple thing and the girl squealed and blushed when she drew The Lovers; clearly still dreaming of her tall savior in a tall hat. And, so, with a stomach full of hard bread, sausage, and milk in her stomach, Pergale bid the farmers a good morning, and headed east with her road weary horses. The winds had pointed her to the end of her journey, and she knew her friends would come to her very soon. Today would be easier on the road, she thought as the farm went out of view.

When Pergale stopped to eat the next day, she could taste the change in the winds and could feel their flow on the road was somehow different. In the distance she saw a large group of travelers, more than she’d seen in days, and she knew that her compatriots were on their way. The brigands that had been robbing passersby had been dealt with and Headie’s valuables recovered. “I’ll make them tea and set camp here” thought Pergale “They’ll need a rest for the evening when they get here.”

The Rat Catcher, and then Lossenthel’s, tall countenances came into view first, and then Gerolf with his ever present halberd, and at the back and downwind Belgar, their stout and roughspun Dawi man-at-arms. Save for the dwarf, none of them looked the worse for wear save a coat of dust from long travels, and he looked like he’d simply forgotten to bath after a rather bloody battle. Pergale knew better than to look for Sylri. The Halfling would make herself known when she needed to be, and was likely hiding in the back of cart Gerold drove.

With them traveled two head of cattle, two pigs, and two goats, and two large crates in the back of the cart that looked similar to the other ones that were smashed open that Pergale had passed days ago. An odd sight to see, at the very least, and Pergale chuckled to see them trying to herd the animals and cart down the road. Not a usual kind of day for her compatriots, but Mr. Jack, the Rat Catcher’s terrier, appeared very pleased with himself as he snipped at the animals to keep them moving.

A successful journey, indeed, according to their story, and they had handled things rather well. The brigands that had stolen Headie’s goods were dealt with by incredible negotiations of the Rat Catcher’s, and by Sylri stealing documents and money from the local mayor. It had turned out that the mayor was the one paying the brigands to rob people and splitting the profits of their thefts. Sylri, of course, had lost all the money in the interim during negotiations, but got to keep her arm, and lived on to pout about it. And, once negotiations and retrieval of the goods was taken care of, Belgar handled the head of the brigands, quite literally, with his trusty flail. The rest of the encampment was taken care of by a passing army of the Prince, and the mayor hung for conspiring with them. The only casualty of the entire trek had been any chance that Belgar ever had of anyone thinking he might be appealing, or likely ever smelling good, as he was still covered in bits of the man he killed the day before.

While Belgar was forced to go and bathe, Lossenthel, the lovely elven scout and archer that the troupe employed, primmed at her hair. She was prone to dying her hair but Pergale’s witch sight always saw past it to the lovely auburn that the winds of Ghur painted it. Lossenthel, as all elves, had a flickering of the Gift, and the shapechanging winds of beasts and nature flowed through the elf ranger. She told Pergale of a prophetic nightmare she had had, the same night as the mass nightmares in the school, and Pergale shared hers. It was no wonder that the elf had sensed something, as well. The tension Pergale had seen in Matorca was starting to come more together, and she could sense that horrible things were coming.

Pergale read the tarot, again, that night and her eyes opened wide to winds of magic. A vision she was dread to share, and would when the time was right, but not that morning. Matorca called and a well earned pay day, with it. Headie would be sad to have lost part of his shipment, but happy that he wasn’t completely out on the valuable’s. The herd was to be given to the family on the farm, as well. The Rat Catcher had negotiated for all of them, and the small family would, at the very least, eat well through the winter and the next year.

The trip back was even pleasant, and the celebration of freshly slaughtered pig at the farm, and the lights in the family’s eyes when they saw the haul that they arrived with was heartwarming. Pergale was deeply proud of her compatriots, and so happy that they were as good a people as they were. Few would help another in such a gracious way, and it meant much to her to see a little less despair in the world.

Headie was even excited to see them, and elated at the transport of his goods. The pay was well earned, it seemed, and plenty. School money and perhaps even a grimoire, thought Pergale, and she knew the others had similar plans. Gerolf had even grumbled something about the destrier that Pergale road out to meet them with, and owning one himself some day.

That’s when the Rat Catcher returned saying something about attending court the next day. It still seemed odd to hear him speak of court and the duties of a noble; the lowly rat catcher that had become a hero overnight and been married into one of the most powerful families in Khypris, all because the woman he rescued had fallen head over heels in love with him. And now he was inviting Pergale and the rest of their ragtag band of mercenaries to court because he and his wife had an announcement. At least Pergale would get to wear the fancy new “wizard robes” to a fancy affair. Leave it to the most learned men in the known world to wear bed clothes everywhere and convince people that it was part of the trade.

Court was an interesting affair, though, and a rare and new experience in Pergale’s life. Being sanctioned by the Magisters meant she could wear the signs of her Gift openly here, though she could still sense the fear, and noticed the glares and whispered words. The food and wine were good, though, and Pergale was happy to be there to look out for her comrade and his new wife. Ever wary, she watched the crowd when “The noble Humphrey Alsinor and this wife Maria Alsinor” were announced, and while they made their announcement to everyone.

The announcement, that Maria was with child, was only slightly jarring to the crowd, and most were receptive, but clearly some were unhappy that a lowly, and all but untouchable, peasant was now married into a noble house with a noble child on the way. The Rat Catcher was sure to have enemies, but Pergale was deeply happy for him, and hoped that he would allow her to help nursemaid to his wife. She knew the Rat Catcher didn’t trust the Gift, but Pergale cared deeply for him and Maria and wished them well and to be part of making her pregnancy and birth go well. It was a happy day but the life of an adventurer is never easy. Hopefully, the fates would see to it that they would all still be around to meet the newborn in a few more months.

Knowledge comes in many forms

“Coincidence” had always been an interesting word to her, and Pergale laughed to herself when the letter from Headie arrived the morning after the mass nightmares at the school. She’d only been there for six weeks; a grueling, short period of time that had felt like ages trudging through a mire, and now pronounced with an air of subtle terror in the eyes of all who were present in the Tower of the Magisters. She could sense that the stars were aligning and the winds of magic were changing; and Pergale, again, laughed when the Magisters had sent all of their apprentices away later that day. Of course they would. Fate had already played its hand, and Pergale was already packed and had made arrangements by the time she was told it was time to go; happy to be returning to her travels after what felt like another unwelcome stay in another place where her particular Gift was unwelcome.
Pergale wondered deeply about her short time at the college, watching the tower recede in to the distance from the deck of a trade vessel. She had attended to gain their sanction, to learn the ways of the Magisters, and, perhaps, to even find a place to belong among others that lived as she did. Headie had been so gracious and pulled so many strings to help her gain admission but, now, Pergale considered if all of the money and work had not been a mistake. Out of place did not begin to describe what her life in the tower had been like, and even as experienced in the ways of the Gift as she was she still felt as though she was outside looking in; a constant nuisance to the Magisters with all of her untrained ability, and dangerous and different even to the other apprentices.

Almost all of the apprentices at the tower were moneyed, many at least rudimentarily educated in reading and writing, and all of them sheltered from what life was like to grow up with the Gift when you are poor, an outsider, and taught that you could one day be burned at the stake or stoned to death by an angry mob. Pergale’s Gift was different from the other apprentices, having learned at the knee of her Gramama, and not in a classroom. She had learned to feel Magic in all living things, to see its ebb and flow in the tarot and portents of bones, and to bend it to her will to aid others. What did these children know of herbs and alchemy, midwifery and healing, the arts of charming animal and man? They had been studying in books and attending lectures for weeks, and the best many could do was make an object glow and fumble poorly with alchemical compounds; and so, still, Pergale was different.

She had spent the last weeks hurt and confused, staring blindly at book after book; utterly lost to the incantations and theorems in the expensive tome she had scraped and scrimped to be able to purchase. Uneducated in the ways of higher learning and unable to read, the language of Magick was utterly lost to her, and so her studies were failing dramatically. Even her attempts to gain help from the other apprentices was rebuffed with hateful and condescending stares while she was called “hedge wizard”, “witch”, and “wyrd”; words she thought she would never here from the lips of others with the Gift.

Without other recourse, Pergale spent hours in the sandy old library at the tower, attempting to find anything to help her comprehend the symbols and scratchings in the tomes. She used her tarot to guide her perception of the winds of magic and wove them in rituals over burning sacred herbs that she might gain clarity, but the words would not come. Or, at least, they did not come in the way she had expected.

The winds of magic had shown clear to her in the old library what no one else had perceived; another transient that had taken up temporary residence in the tower. Pergale had happened upon the trail of concentrated winds rolling and coiling amongst the stacks of the library that led her eventually to golden, horned desert viper that had taken up residence amongst the stacks. Living on the rats and mice that called the tower home, the viper had become infused with the ambient magic of the library and now radiated with the light of Azyr and Hysh. Pergale’s divinations had indeed led her to wisdom and learning within the library; and the tales of wise serpents filled her thoughts.

She spent the next few weeks struggling, but in between her time went to earning the trust of the viper. It took well to Pergale and soon was gathering in her sleeves and body for warmth, always seemingly excited when she would arrive with a live treat and chance to coil up in her robes. Pergale weaved slow and careful magics in the meantime and the bond between them grew until, eventually, Gramama’s teachings of the ways of a “Witch’s Familiar” took hold. The viper’s consciousness awoke and a psychic link was forged between Pergale and her serpent; it’s mind overflowing with knowledge of the magic it had absorbed; it was not only wise in the ways of Magic, but could speak the arcane tongue, could read the ancient tomes, and could even write the words in the sand with some effort.

Pergale named her new, and really only, friend in this place Anise after the mystical herb of prophecy and psychic clarity; and the two became inseparable. Anise read and translated to Pergale, and Pergale used this newfound access to magic to begin to focus the winds in more powerful ways. She still could not read the arcane words but, with the words of power now given to her, Pergale wove the winds and learned to focus the power of Hysh into a blinding white blast of power. Her magic was growing, and Pergale knew that soon, with the focus of the arcane language that she would learn, that she would only become more powerful.

When the nightmares came only days later, and the letter from Headie that morning, Pergale understood that fate and the gods had laid her path bare. She was a witch and a “wyrd”, but she would return ready for further tutelage and, when she did, the power of the other apprentices would pale in comparison to her mastery. But, for now, she would return to her erstwhile home in Matorca, she would give Headie a warm welcome and thank him again, and she would see her friends and compatriots.

Home Again, Home Again
Jiggety Jig

“And then what happened?”

“Well, a few days later, we came across this farm house.”

The Rat Catcher and Maria were resting comfortably at home after too many months apart (read: any).

“Was it one of those quaint little farm houses with a well and a barn and fences for the animals?”

“It was exactly that kind. Lossenthêl had gone up ahead-”

“Like usual.”

“Like usual, and she said that some people were lurking in this house.”


“Lurking. Now, I figure there’s be trouble on the roads lately and if you seen an armored, elven archer by your house, you probably aren’t wanting to get spotted, but they might know something, so we stopped in.”

“Were their bandits?”

“Of course there were bandits. When aren’t there bandits? So when we go up to the house, [woman’s name] and her son, [boy’s name], came out and told us, ‘HELLO. EVERYTHING HERE IS FINE.’”

“Hahahaha! Just like that?”

“Exactly like that. Naturally, I replied, ‘OH GOOD. IT IS GOOD THAT EVERYTHING IS SO FINE AND NORMAL HERE.’”

Maria was in stitches.

“‘WE WILL JUST BE GOING THEN, SINCE EVERYTHING IS SO FINE.’ Lossenthêl started around the back as some bandits left to go get help. Belegar grabbed his flail and got ready for a fight. ‘PLEASE COME IN FOR SOME MILK AND SAUSAGE,’ [woman’s name] said. So Belegar AGREED and charged up to the house.”

“Oh no! Those poor bandits, hahaha!”

“I didn’t expect him to have any trouble with them, but if this was the one time something went wrong, I wouldn’t’ve been able to live with myself, so I followed up behind him. Just as Belegar reached the door, it burst open and two very surprised-looking bandits nearly ran into him.”

“What did the woman and her son do?”

“They were terrified. They thought that they’d just gotten this friendly travelers killed.”

“So then what happened?”

“Belegar fought the one on the right and I kept the one on the left busy so they couldn’t team up on him.”

“Good thinking.”

“It worked out well enough. Another bandit came from around the back of the house, but Sylri appeared from out of nowhere and cut him down in a single stroke.”

“Little Sylri?!”

“She’s full of uncomfortable surprises. Belegar dispatched his foe and I had gotten a lucky hit in on mine.”

“It wasn’t just luck. You should really give yourself more credit.”

“If you say so. But my bandit retreated into the house. Belegar followed, so I sneaked around to the back of the house to cut off his retreat.”

“So clever!”

“Just wait,” he said solemnly. “Because when the bandit came out of the back door, he had the daughter, [daughter’s name], with a knife to her throat.”

“Oh my!”

“I didn’t know what to do! If I tried to him from behind, the knife could slip and . . .”

“It’s too terrible to even consider! So what happened?”

“Belegar emerged from the house, as dark and ominous as an on-coming storm. Suddenly, he exploded into action, leaping into the air, grabbing the bandit’s face, and dragging him to the ground!”

“What happened to [daughter’s name]?!”

“She staggered forward. I feared the worst. I pulled her away from the fray and checked to see if she was hurt in any way.”


“She was not. We were lucky.”

“Oh, thank goodness!”

“None of the bandits escaped to call up their friends. We stayed that evening at [woman’s name]‘s request. [Boy’s name] helped us bury the bodies. It would seem that the husband, [man’s name], had been killed by the bandits and that the family had been held hostage by them ever since. The bandits had made off with all of their livestock and left those leeches behind to suck the family dry.”

“You’re heroes.”

“We were lucky enough to be in a position to help. We promised the family that we’ll get their livestock back and headed to Mortensholm.”

“Because you’re heroes.”

“Because we had a job to do!”

“But you said you’d get their livestock.”

“We were going to be there anyway. We might as well. It really wasn’t a big deal.”

“I’m sure.”

“It wasn’t! So, when we get to Mortensholm, Lossenthêl spots somebody dressed like one of the bandits because I guess they wore uniforms or something? She’s always noticing something.”

“She is.”

“So she followed to make sure that word didn’t get back to the bandit camp. We found a tavern to wait at. Well, she couldn’t catch him. Word got back.”

“Oh no!”

“Oh yes. So, we’re in the tavern when Sylri comes up and says that she needs to show me something. In private.”

“Uh oh.”

“She stole everything of value from the mayor’s house.”


Including correspondence between the mayor and the chief bandit indicating their collusion.”

" . . . What?"

“Yeah. So, just at that moment, one of the spies Lossenthêl recommended we hire showed up to let us know that a patrol was coming to town.”

“When did you hire spies?”

The Rat Catcher shrugged. “Everybody in town went into hiding, including everybody else in the tavern. We were just about to head out to the bandit camp, but it suddenly seemed like a much better idea to stay here and see how it goes.”

“With no plan?”

“When have plans ever worked?”

“A lot of the time?”

“Good point. So who should come into the tavern but the chief bandit and his men. Belegar poured them some drinks and we started having a chat. Sylri tried to pick his pocket, but he caught her.”


“No, the bandit chief. Sorry. So now he had Sylri and he wants to cut off her stealing arm.”

“This is bad.”

“It was bad. So negotiations began. We decided that we would pay the bandit chief all of the mayor’s gold in exchange for Headie’s goods an in exchange, we wouldn’t turn the incriminating correspondences in to the authorities.”

“You wouldn’t?!”

“Of course I would! I was planning on handing them to you as soon as I got home!”

“Why didn’t you?!”

“I’m getting to that! We also agree that Sylri can keep her arm if Belegar joins the bandits.”


“Keep in mind that-”

“He’s a dwarf and the chief bandit killed Headie’s man. He’s going to kill the chief bandit on his own.”

“I know better than to try and talk a dwarf out of a grudge. So we headed out to the bandit camp, we made our exchanges, I ‘happened to notice’ some livestock and bought them, and we headed back to town.”

“Just like that?”

“Just like that. Both sides kept their word because bloodshed is costly. He knew that we were dangerous enough not to screw on the deal.”

“Don’t say screw, dear. It’s lewd.”

“Oh. Right. Sorry.”

“So the bandits just got away with it?”

“Well, when we got back to town, [captain] and [lieutenant] were their with a platoon!”


“Oh yes! And the mayor was already in the stockade.”


“So, we happily reported everything we knew about the bandit camp, turned over the evidence, and sent them on up to help Belegar!”


“On our way back, we ran into Pergale.”

“Shouldn’t she be in school?”

“I guess it got out early? I hope Headie got a refund or credit toward next semester or something.”

“I was going to say.”

“And Belegar rejoined us, unharmed!”

“He didn’t get hurt at all in the battle with the bandits?!”

“Not even a little bit!”

“I knew dwarfs were tough, but that Belegar is indestructable!”

“As far as I can tell! I hope he keeps it that way!”

“Did you get the livestock back to that family?”

“We sure did! They kindly hosted us for another night.”

“It was the least they could do.”

“It absolutely wasn’t, but we were glad for the break from the road. The rest of the trip back was blessedly uneventful. Headie’s reputation has taken a hit, but I’m sure he’ll rebuild it soon enough. A single mark against him after all these years will soon be shown to be, um . . .”


“Probably? I’m not totally sure what that means.”

“One weird time that something happened that wouldn’t have happened any of the other times.”

“Yeah! What was that word again?”




“Anom. Anomanom.”




“An-Anomalous. That’s a hard word.”

It was good to be home.

Headie you're in so much trouble!
Mess clean up! Fetch quest! Nobody can drive a cart!

Unbelievable! Headie managed to track her, Lossenthêl, down while she was enjoying her vacation FAR away from Matorca and it’s infuriating dress up nobility. She liked to think of herself as being someone hard to find out in the wild but No…she got tracked down by a hireling of Headie and had to come back from her well deserved vacation.

Said Hireling made sure to run off much to the annoyance of her, something about witch hair again as Lossenthêl wasn’t expecting to be called back and was just enjoying not having to worry about dying her hair every week.

On her way back to Matorca she came across Gross-feet Cat Bugler Sylri. And being typical bitchy, wouldn’t let the halfling ride with her until she cleaned herself up particularly her feet.

They traveled back to Matorca on the back of Amelia, Lossenthêl’s new horse and possibly only real friend. Ever since she aquired Amelia, she treated the magnificent creature as a friend and not a beast of burden. Humans bread these magnificent creatures as broken will slaves not as true companions like the Noble Asrai or even those High Elves.

Amelia never gawked at Lossenthêl’s hair, something the young elf had to learn to be conscious off. Humans were so viscious.

Well they get back to town to find the boys waiting on them for the meeting. There was Clank Clank the drunk, the idiot squire and the giant human, all gathered around the grey beardless one.

Headie….Headie lost valuable stuff and after expressing her anger at him, she directed it at the idiocic human who after about a year of traveling and adventuring with…was somehow surprised that Lossenthêl could actually track out in the Wilderness…….

She actually considered Clank Clank the Stumpy one to be more intelligent than the human who-wants-to-be-knight

And despite this knowledge, the males let the females lead again. Ladies first? Except that the three were kinda lost without her and somehow managed to catch up to them later after Sylri and her learned some things about Beinard and how uncomfortable he was leaving with his companions.

Beinard was a trained veteran noble/duelest person and could handle himself in a fight and he was also loyal to Headie. Yet he just disapeared. Lossenthêl ended up finding the spot he was buried in after the boys found some caravans burnt and looted.

Headie apparently had some false gold for his promised shipment to two buyers that he promised real gold to, and weapons.

Lossenthêl helped the group point out stuff in the Caravan area while Sylri was looking for valuables again. A halfling-cat bugler…how original…..the whole race where a bunch of little thieves for the most part.

And then Sylri had to go under a very unbalanced wagon and nearly get herself killed. She trudged through a rotted dead man’s remains looking for Shinies and came out from under the wagon just before it fell down which would of killed her too like the dead guy.

Sylri the stinky smelling idiot, do anything for a shiny trinket. Worse than a dwarf in his lust for gemstones.

Well the group continued on, with Lossenthêl in the lead following the trails. It was made much easier because of all the littered fake-gold and armor pieces as well as the fact that wagons don’t go through soft sand too well so tracks were abound.

Accidently following an old trail as she confused it, Lossenthêl quickly made her and the group’s way back to the main path before practically stumbling on the caravan with six unarmored and very tired people.

Lossenthêl had grabbed Sylri and got them both out of the way before she readied her bow. When one of the humans came up over the hill, he drew his sword and shouted at his friends “Hey!” before Lossenthêl fired a single arrow at the man which hit him in his arm. That man was very lucky to be alive.

After a quick skirmish, Sylri was able to calm the people down before Clank Clank and idiot Squire intimidated most of the group of humans to abandon the over-filled wagon. That poor horse. The other one with the squished dead man was killed because the horse broke its leg.

The man who didn’t run away stayed to tell of a story of a Man named Gault who lead a band of 50 mercenaries who were formally military. When missions dried up they robbed caravans before Beinard killed most of them and then forced the rest to work under him or face death. The man said that Gault has the other carriage of trade goods and was probably the one who killed Beinard or had Beinard killed.

In any case the people left and they managed to get one carriage and a horse. All this in a month since they left Matorca.

And her hair is acting up again so she had to dye it again. Wonder what tomorrow will bring?

When It Rains It Pours
...and no one knows that better than us.

Six weeks.

It’s been six weeks since you’ve all been back to Matorca. Now you’re home again, either by road or by sea. You had been on a well earned vacation from work – successful work too – when Headie sent pidgeons to collect everyone. Apparently a debt had been called in and he was on the spot to pay up. Now you find yourself in familiar territories.

The Guildhall awaits, and it MUST have been important for Headie to call you back from your holiday.


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