Shroud of the Avatar

Since the freed Elves no longer desired my assistance or company, I engaged my time other pursuits. As is usually the case, this lead me to a craggy ruin. As my boots were full of mud and my leggings were in a ruinous state, I felt there was no harm in traipsing through the murky water looking for an entrance. However, this proved rather difficult and put my life in jeopardy more than once.

Although I’m quite sure I contracted an infectious disease from the swamp water, it was the Caiman and Spiders that posed the real danger. They slithered out of the murky depths without being seen, causing much pain and consternation as they got the first strike. The spiders were slightly easier to contend with, but the sting of their venom was no less painful.

My first attempt at entry proved unsuccessful. Although I was quite sure I could leap from rock to window ledge, I overestimated my ability, missed the crucial foothold and took a nasty tumble down the rock embankment.

When I regained my breath and found my senses, I made a second attempt from the right hand side of the ruin. The crumbled rock pile was no less treacherous, but I was able to leap into the structure without needless injury.

Once inside, ravenous spiders came to greet me. Judging by their enormous size, there was plenty to feast upon, but, nevertheless, they eyed me as a tasty meal. I blurred their vision however, with several decisive blows. Once blinded, I made short work of their hairy and hideous bodies.

It was at this point that the rain started to come down and the footing inside the ruin became downright treacherous. So much so, that I fell through the great opening in the floor and came to rest in a heap before a locked gate. Reading the inscription, it revealed I was at the final resting place of the Talhoffer Twins, whoever they are. Defenders of the channel according to the slimy plaque.

“A tomb,” I said. “That means there is treasure about and some sort of outlandish mechanism that locks the door.”

Just to make sure that was indeed the case, I gave the door a sound jostling, but it didn’t budge.

“Very well, I shall have to find the key, lever or some other ridiculous means of entrance. How hard can it be?”

Searching the wall, I found nothing. I surveyed the area looking for a chest. None was to be found. I retraced my way back up the steps, and noted two large statues, the twins by the engravings on the plague. I gave them a sound frisking and turned up no key. I checked all the doors. No key or lever in sight.

In a rather embarrassing bit of frustration, I lashed out at the statue closest to me. Hurling an unsettling barrage of insults and vulgarities, not to mention a multitude of sword swings and kicks from my boots, I raised many objections as to why the key can’t simply be placed under a loose stone or rug.

As my tirade subsided, I noted the statue had moved and I heard a hollow click in the distance.

“Oh I say. Did thrashing the statue cause it to pivot and move on this pedestal and thereby unlock some sort of mechanism which in turn allows me to gain entrance to the vault?”

It was more of a rhetorical question as there was no one there to answer me. But the statue had moved, and I had heard a click. This gave me hope as I moved to the second statue and gave it a sound thrashing as well. It didn’t need the thrashing, but the act gave me great satisfaction and relived the terrible nature of the situation I was in.

Like his confederate, he moved to face out the window and I distinctly heard another click. With much excitement and anticipation, I bounded down the stairs and returned to the tomb entrance. This time, the door swung freely.

From past experience, I stood at the entrance waiting, expecting some sort of trap or for the floor to give way, or a multi-headed beast to come out and try to eat me.

The silence was unnerving. I tried to coax Sir Mud Pie to take the lead but he was in no mood to entertain the idea. That left me to go first, and so I did. My nerves were on edge as I waited for the flame spurt, the poison dart, or for one of the skeletons to rise up and declare vengeance.

But there was none of it. Instead, there was a treasure chest at the end of the tomb, just waiting for me to loot it’s contents. My expectations were low and I wasn’t disappointed. Like so many other chests before it, this contained come soggy reagents, a few gem fragments which I could use for ale money, a small purse of coins and a couple of rusty weapons.

“One of these days,” I said to my boney companions, “I’m going to find a tomb, or ruin, or temple, or dungeon crypt, loaded to the gills with quality gems, pristine swords, majestic armor, and so many sacks of gold coins that I’ll injure myself carting them all out. Once of these days. But for now, I’m taking your gold and trinkets and senselessly squandering them at the first public house I come to.”

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That last leap to the window didn’t end as I had envisioned. However, leaping from the rocks to the window from this angle should be simplicity itself.

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Oh my word, the rain and flotsum from those spiders has made the floors a death trap. But, what have we here? Some sort of secret entrance?

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No idea who these twins are and why anyone would care. But my adventurer senses lead me to believe there is loot afoot and that’s all that’s important.

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Just as I suspected! The old, beat the statue senseless trick has revealed it’s secret!

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If one of you makes a move and leaps out to grab me in some sort of fit of vengeance, just be warned, I have a sword, and I’m fully prepared to use it. Plus, I’ve been in some in unsavory water and you’re likely to contract something terrible and catch your death. Again…

More brilliant musings about my adventures in New Britannia

The ruined pirate ship in the swamp left me with many questions. But equally perplexing was the encampment constructed on a makeshift dock.

“When was a port established in this swamp?” I asked. “More importantly, why was a port established in this swamp?”

Then an idea struck me. The witch was attempting to set up a fishing outpost, using this swamp as her base of operations.

“I don’t believe there is much of a market for swamp trout, but perhaps there is coin to be made in this sort of business,” I said to the wind.

To gain a better assessment, I forged ahead. From my concealed spot amongst the trees and scrub, I noted the thugs and reconsidered the situation.

“Thugs know nothing of fishing. They have an innate fear of the water as it might wash away the stench of their ill dealings. Further, they have neither the garb nor equipment to be fishermen,” I whispered to the rabbit who had come to investigate the situation with me.

I then formulated a new opinion. The underhanded dealings of this swamp witch knew no bounds. She was clearly the mastermind of a Novian smuggling empire! She was very likely a highwayman, absconding with goods from Aerie, smuggling them into the swamp, then whisking them away with the help of these miserable henchmen.

Then I noticed something woefully out of place. I spied several Elves, locked up in cages, ready to be loaded onto the next ship, where they would sold to the highest bidder and forced to work in camps or mines, suffering the misfortune of the lash and subsisting on gruel and tears for their meager sustenance.

Or, they might be renegade crewman who disobeyed orders and were forced to spend time in the box to think about what they’d done. Either way, the situation looked dire, and being the adventurer I am, I felt I needed to intervene.

Using my master skills at stealth, I crept to the cage containing one of the Elves.

“Now, before you raise the alarm and create a terrible spectacle, simply answer me true. Are you the victim of an injustice and grievous bodily harm or are you some sort of Eleven pirate that is paying penance for misdeeds upon that wrecked ship over yonder? I’m prepared to release you either way, I simply prefer to know who and what I’m dealing with.”

“Oh Outlander!” came the reply. “Please help us! We’ve been taken prisoner and no creature deserves to be treated this way!”

“We?” I asked.

“Yes. We. We have been rounded up and taken prisoner. Who knows what terrible fate lies ahead?”

“I see your plight,” I agreed.

To prove the point, a thug appeared and raised the alarm that a prison escape was in the making. I silenced him quickly, but his call for aid had been answered by several of his confederates. I was surrounded and in jeopardy. The situation called for quick thinking, lightning reflexes and the pummeling power of Sir Mud Pie.

Not only did the conjuring of Sir Mud Pie provide me with a fighting companion, his materialization sent shock and confusion into my foes, giving me a much needed diversion to strike a series of blows and turn the tide.

With his sternum crushing blows and my random, wild swings, we were soon the victors, sending scores of bandits face down into the sludge. This proved to be problematic as we had to retrieve their bodies from the marsh in order to locate the key that opened the cage.

But we took great satisfaction in throwing them back into the bog, once the needed keys were found.

In short order, the Elven captives were freed, the thugs vanquished and our escape seemed guaranteed. That is until the Elves scattered and hid in the trunk of a desiccated tree.

“I say chaps,” I said. “I think it would be best if we continue along and make a slightly more permanent escape. It’s a fine tree you’ve discovered here, but perhaps we should leave the swamp altogether and put this unpleasant business behind us.”

“While you have saved our lives and proven you aren’t like other humans, we simply can’t trust you and will take our chances in the hollow of this tree,” came the stern reply.

I was somewhat taken aback. “No doubt you have been mistreated and your distrust is well earned, but this wetland is a den of vipers and I think it best to flee to the safety of Aerie where you can at least seek shelter and then make arrangements back to Vertas.”

“A fine plan to be sure,” said the female elf. “But, if it’s all the same to you, we’d rather hide in the tree, take our chances with the vapor of the toxic mushrooms and then perchance slip away quietly when you aren’t looking so you can’t follow us on whatever path we take, rob us and drown us in a bog.”

“I would never do such a thing!” I complained. “I’m an adventurer on the path of the Virtues. It would be frowned upon by the Oracle to go around robbing people and drowning them in a bog,” I further explained.

“You drowned the thugs in this bog,” she retorted. “And then looted their pockets for gold.”

“Yes. Well. You have me there,” I admitted. “But, they were bad. Bad men with a bad decision making paradigm, who had done bad deeds. That’s why we refer to them as thugs.”

“But, you drowned them none the less. Not to mention that rather savage stabbing in the back you gave one of them. Who knows what level of malice you are capable of,” she said giving me a stern and somewhat alarming look.

“It was done in the name of a good cause!” I protested. “I’ve had many dealings with thugs. You can’t just go up and demand the keys to the prison cells and expect they will pass them along like a mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwich. There will be outrage and that’s when the stabbing commences. It’s best to forgo that first part, stick with the element of surprise and leap straight into the stabbing. I assure you, it’s a strategy. You’re free because of my underhanded and treacherous ways!”

My words fell on deaf Elven ears.

“Thank you for getting us out of those terrible cages and more importantly, not drowning us in the bog. But, we think it would be best if we parted ways from here,” she said. “I’m sure there are more thugs you can bash about or crates you can smash and loot.”

“Yes. There is always another thug in need of a sobering slap to the face. Or a crate that needs a solid kicking. So very well. I will leave you here to your own fortune. I dare say I can amuse myself by investigating that craggy ruin over there.”

I exited the tree and prepared to leave. “I can see when I’m not wanted. So a good evening to you all and good luck on your travels. I will over there in that ruin not paying a bit of attention to anything you do. Feel free to leave at your leisure, as I will be too busy bashing thugs or spiders or picking myself up out of the mire to see where you go.”

Not giving them a chance to reply, I made my way over to the ruin that caught my attention.

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Now see here, what manner of treachery is this?

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If you had just given me the key that opens the cages, none of this would have happened. I don’t know why you thugs always insist on ignoring my warnings.

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Well, now I’m quite sure one of you have the key on your stinky personage. And when I find it, into the soup with you. Bunch of stinky blighters.

More brilliant musings about my adventures in New Britannia

At first I thought it was a psychotropic mushroom induced hallucination. But when I crashed into the hull and it hit back, causing me to once again slip on the jagged rocks and fall headlong into the fetid water, I understood I was on to something real.

I knew at once this is how the treasure hunting witch got her loot and the plans for that log cabin. She must lure swamp dwelling ships to their doom with her siren call. Then, after the ship has run aground, she casts a terrible curse upon them, sneaks aboard and absconds with the loot.

“Well, two can play at that game,” I declared. “Except for the siren call and cursing part. I have yet to train in the dark arts of casting a curse. I can cast an aspersion, but that doesn’t help me here.”

So, I ran up the embankment, and with great speed and agility, leapt from the rock outcropping and landed on the deck like a metal clad birdie on a branch.

After picking myself up from being slightly concussed from crashing into the railing from my somewhat overenthusiastic run, I scanned the area.

The ship was in a terrible state. The deck was rotting away. The wood planks were swollen and buckled. The sails had long since deteriorated. And the masts were a deathtrap to any who might try to have a look around in the crow’s nest.

My inventory of the ship was interrupted as a horde of zombie pirates came out to protect their booty. They seemed to rise up from the very swamp itself and their appearance had both positive and negative connotations.

Clearly, zombies rising up from the swamp is a life threatening hazard and goes into the negative column. However, their presence indicated there was still loot to protect, so if I survived the onslaught, fabulous wealth and riches could be mine. I mentally put that in the positive column.

Before I could start playing a mental game of tic-tac-toe against myself, I was struck a resounding blow. Gathering my senses, I caught up with the battle. Seeking higher ground, I dashed up the rickety ladder to the stern of the ship.

Those boney rapscallions were no match for my ladder climbing skills and I gave them a sound thrashing as they negotiated the crumbling rungs. I was even spiteful enough to step on the hand of the ill-tempered blighter before knocking his skull and the rest of him overboard into the drink.

“Time to walk the plank ya boney bastards!” I said in a fit of pirate fueled enthusiasm that swept over me. I leapt to the lower deck, dealing a crushing blow to the zombie below, shattering a few bones to be sure. His, not mine.

Caught up in the melee, I made a few miscalculated decisions. Wood is the natural enemy of fire, and that nugget of truth escaped me for a moment as the Immolation came out. The deck was an inferno of fire. I then realized my treasure as well as my person were in grave danger. Fire laden zombies scattered about the deck and if something wasn’t done, the ship would go up like a tinderbox and become my final resting place. Further, the treasure would be ruined.

I undid Immolation and beat down the zombie flames with my sword. It worked well and the fire was quelled before any serious damage could occur. I was then able to continue my search for the treasure.

Much to my dismay, the doors to the lower decks were jammed in place and no amount of vicious sword play would make them move. Undaunted, I returned to the land and peeped in through the portholes.

To my sickening heart, the hold was barren. Not a chest, coin, gem or mug of ale could be seen. That scoundrel of a witch had picked it clean.

“She is far more diabolical and sinister than I gave her credit for,” I grumbled. “She must have the encumbrance of a titan to make away with all that loot and leave me nothing. If I hadn’t already looted her secret stash, I would do it again out of spite!”

Amidst cursing my misfortune and plotting revenge against the witch for this injustice, I noted a floating encampment that seemed woefully out of place in the swamp.

“Why have these bandits pitched their tents on the docks?” I had to ask. “This is clearly no place for a fishing holiday. And what is to be made of those people being held in cells? I think something nefarious is afoot. Further investigation is most certainly in order.”

As I plotted a course to the encampment that would keep me out of sight until I was ready to announce my presence with fire and steel, a thought came to me.

“What is a ship doing in a swamp? These waters are not conducive to sailing.”

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Huzzah! A pirate ship! Finally, some well earned loot and trinkets will be mine!

More brilliant musings about my adventures in New Britannia

I awoke to a brightly lit, but mist covered swamp. My progress from the night before had been slight and I had only succeeded in making it to the rear entrance of the log cabin. However, there was an interesting discovery to be made.

This was a fortune hunting witch and I had stumbled on her treasure chest full of loot. Most likely taken from the ill-fated souls that she had decoratively turned into wind chimes. It was the height of danger and my curiosity was piqued. Clearly her appearance as a frail, doddering old woman speaking in tongues was merely a ruse for her more lucrative, yet nefarious acts. She was indeed a formidable sorceress and I would need to be careful, lest I be turned into a frog or worse.

But my hopes of looting before making a quiet getaway were dashed as the chest required a key. I cursed the distrusting nature of swamp dwelling people and went inside to see if I could perhaps uncover it’s secret hiding place.

The witch was surprised to see me, and launched in her maniacal rhymes to keep me at bay.

I retraced our conversation over the terrible ordeal I suffered the previous night. I could tell her interest was lacking, but my senseless diatribe was merely a calculated maneuver to surveil my surrounds and scan the contents for a key. None presented itself, which meant the treasure was even more grand than I first suspected.

My hope began to fade and my host was losing patience. But then I caught a glint out of the corner of my eye. Something in the blazing fireplace was trying to gain my attention. It appeared to be a key in the scalding confines of the fire. Reaching in, even with my stalwart gauntlet, could be a costly mistake. I had to formulate another plan to subdue the fire without attracting attention.

Since this witch was keenly aware of the destructive power of a bucket of water, I deduced I would need to create a clever distraction, then make my own water to quell the fire.

With patience exhausted, the witch leveled several threats at me, then darted outside to find a switch. The distraction was at hand and I seized the opportunity to douse the flames of the fire. Having my back to the witch in such a vulnerable position was risky, but to my great satisfaction, a key was clearly visible.

A rather ridiculous place to hide a key, but these witches are a treacherous and untrusting lot. But the deed was done and the rather unsavory key was in my pocket. I threw some new logs onto the smoldering embers to conceal my actions.

Just as the witch reentered, stick in hand and ready to make mischief, I darted past her, leapt off the porch, clambered up the embankment and disappeared into the scrub.

From a concealed hiding place, I waited for the scene to settle. Then, under the cover of darkness, I made my way to the waiting treasure chest. The key was a perfect fit and the contents were mine.

My perusal of the ill-gotten gains was interrupted by a terrible snag. The witch had set up a sentry and a chest mimic had latched onto my backside with shocking ferocity.

The Mimic was a fierce adversary, but steel and fire immobilize wood and I kicked the scrap wood remains into the undergrowth.

Returning to my task, I took stock of the fabulous wealth and riches that awaited me. I suffered a hint of regret at taking her meager coins, but it’s part of the adventurers code to take gold from all found treasure chests. Coins left behind become cursed which ruins the economy for all.

As with so many of my recent treasure hunts, the wealth was meager. Yet, there was a handsome discovery, not one in the form of coins. It was the building specifications for creating my own log cabin. I could certainly make use of that, and quickly stashed it away. With the rest of the contents carefully ensconced within my backpack of holding, I crept away quietly. The witch was none the wiser.

The swamp was still a maze, but the fumes were no longer as potent as they had been on my arrival. I scrambled up the hill, around the trees, skirted past the rocks and kept those fuming spores at bay. I was making fine progress until I collided with a pirate ship run aground.

“Well, this most definitely needs further investigation on my part.”

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Well, well, well. What have we here? A treasure chest of some kind? As an adventurer, I’m compelled to open it. All I have to do is uncover the secret location of the key’s hiding place.

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Who the duece hides a key in a raging fireplace? That’s utterly daft and shows and incredily lack of forethought. What’s wrong with the old standby of sticking it under a rug? Or leaving it on a table in plain sight?

More brilliant musings about my adventures in New Britannia

After leaving Aerie, I made a directional miscalculation and instead of boarding the ferry to Etceter, I followed the trail that lead to East Longfall Wetlands. While not a grievous turn of events unto itself, it did place me in a swamp where I suffered at the spores of the toxic fungi. At least I believe them to be fungi, my memory, as well as my vision, is a dash blurry.

I have resisted several types of poisons in my travels, but stumbling into that grove was a costly mistake and I was saturated to the point of collapse. Not sure of my direction, I made a  hasty retreat which in reality plunged me further into the swamp. I collapsed in a ramshackle thug encampment. Which one of us was more surprised at my arrival is a matter of debate. I hoped their cries of exclamation were out of need to render me aid.

I declared I would be on my way once I was able to splash a bit of water on my face to wash away the poison. I think they misunderstood my needs as I was soon fully immersed in some rather brackish and foul smelling water.

“I appreciate your attempt, but your methods are a dash on the excessive side!” I cried out in between dunkings. “I am not in need of a full body cleansing at the moment!”

My vision and consciousness were beginning to fade when a Caiman came to my rescue. By the wild thrashing in the water, he clearly understood the nature of my mistreatment and caused the thugs to scatter. This allowed me to regain my senses and give those lads a stern talking to.

My chidings fell on deaf ears as the Caiman unleashed his fury. Quite outnumbered, the poor beast was soon riddled with arrows and I leapt to avenge this ill treatment.

With retribution dealt, I feel it only fitting to field dress the Caiman so that I can honor his sacrifice by turning him into a delightful pair of boots. That will take place upon my return to the Hollow.

As my vision returned, it was time to remove myself from this gaseous swamp. Mist and fumes shrouded the area, making my navigational options limited.

It was by good fortune that I found myself upon the doorstep of what I assumed to be a kindly, log cabin dwelling caregiver who has taken up residence in the area. Perhaps she lost her way many years ago and simply cut down the enormous tree she now called home. An even more impressive feat as there were no tools in the vicinity.

The myriad of bones strung up on a line gave me a sense of dread. I then understood that these must be the heads of all the swamp enemies she had slain and they were displayed as a warning to others. That was a good tactic.

“Good evening!” I declared, letting her know I was not some sort of swamp creature intent on doing her harm. “Since you are a native to these parts, perhaps you would be good enough to point me in the direction of the exit. I have lost my way and those pesky spores have rendered me a little light in the head. Not to mention, you have a rather unfortunate thug problem just outside your door.”

“If you don’t want to get beat, you need to retreat!”

Her reply left me at a loss. At first I thought it might be a strange form of greeting.

“No my dear lady, I mean you no harm! And I don’t intend to trespass upon your time any more than necessary. Do you happen to know the way back to Aerie?”

“Don’t delay, you must go away!”

“I am just as eager to be on my way as you are to see me go. But first, I need a bit of assistance is locating the direction in which I should travel. Perhaps if you could hold off speaking in rhymes for just a moment, we both might get what we want out of this encounter.”

“Be off with you. Go away, shoo shoo!”

“Madam, I am more than eager to oblige. But please, in the name of the Oracle, point the way!”

“If you don’t want to be beat, you need to retreat!” she echoed again.

Then I was struck by the nature of her furnishings. The spartan furniture, the mysterious bottles, the usual aroma. This cabin had all the trappings of a witches hut. I clenched at the understanding.

Trying to be friendly, I made light conversation as to the means by which she ended up in this area and why she chose to stay in such a toxic environment.

She reciprocated not a jot and before she unleashed some form of deadly curse upon my personage as retribution for my intrusion, I felt it best to move on. Still in a fragile state, I took my leave, stumbled down the stairs and continued on my way.

My decision making paradigm was in jeopardy and I only made it a few feet before I lost my footing on some dangerously hard rocks, crashed into what I assume was her home or something else pretending to be a large tree and came to rest in a pool of mud. It seemed Fate wanted me to lie down and gather my senses, so who was I to argue?

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Huzzah! Salvation is at hand. I admire the craftsmanship of this domicile, but question the choice of location. You do realize you’re in harm’s way of not only poisonous gas, but a barrage of ill-tempered thugs?

I say, what is it you have dangling on the porch?

More brilliant musings about my adventures in New Britannia

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