Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Stories from the Campfire - part 1

This is a true story, much like every other story about something that is perceived in a moment in time.

This is a story about how one of my friends died…

****
As the water priest and the shape-shifter fled the scene, Damian rushed to the clearing on the river bank and knelt by the druid’s side… The tiefling was the first to reach her, while the Goliath and the small boy followed him shortly after.

She had no pulse, her breathing had stopped, and her once flowing hair was now slowly dissolving into the ground beneath her.
****

“We are in need of strong arms to plow the fields and water the crops, as I mentioned before you may stay here in Summit Hall, but only after you’ve paid for your room and meal with hard work…” – The elderly lady clad in full plate armor looked sternly at the group of adventurers, making it absolutely clear that she would not give any of the foul smelling, ill equipped, strange looking adventurers in front of her one single piece of bread that they did not earn with the sweat of their brows.

In front of her stood a very peculiar-looking group of adventurers. At the front stood a dark blue skinned pale-eyed tiefling, a demon-born as evidenced by the horns that grew from his forehead towards the back of his head through the bone-white hair he had inherited from his mother. The tail that he kept wrapped around his waist was also a dead giveaway for those who had a keen eye for details. Damian was used to the strange looks of of, well... pretty much everyone else but his close friends. However, unlike most other tieflings he did not shy away from the looks of others; in fact, he loved being the center of attention, and enjoyed wearing very colorful clothes, as was the fashion of the people he grew up with, the Gur of the sword coast. 

To his right stood Shieldbuster, a Goliath both in race and stature. His body looked as if it had been carved right out of a mountainside, and wore several markings of his tribe upon his face and body. Although most of his kind had a cold demeanor towards pretty much everyone else, this Goliath had somehow managed to acquire a warm look of amiability after his travels along the sword coast. Shieldbuster was clad in the armor of the last orc he had slain in combat, a dark steel breastplate that covered most of his body, yet his pale skin also showed the scars of previous battles. One would not immediately guess it, but he was also a merchant, and was used to being among regular folk most of the time. 

The knight Helmdorn stood to the back of the group. He was clad in full plate armor, bearing the markings of Helm, the God of Guardians, protection and protectors. He was silent, stoic, and ever vigilant. He carried a large sword strapped to his back, which showed signs of use. He had removed his helmet as he entered Summit Hall, revealing a blond head of hair, a sun-baked skin, and the evidence of elven heritage in his factions. Not quite a human and not quite an elf either. He was robust and strong for an elf, but not quite as tall and thick as a human would look. Although at rest, he kept a watchful eye around their group, his grey eyes surveying their surroundings.

To Damian's left was Lauren. The druid's glistening turquoise skin always looked like she had just walked out of a lake. She had deep dark blueblack eyes, her hair flowed as if it was perpetually underwater and had a voice that sounded as if she was talking through a seashell. She was a water Genasi, a child born touched by a water spirit. In a completely different group she might have stood out; however, she was traveling with a tiefling, a Goliath, a half elf, and a kid who was too young to know and do the things he did. She had taken a liking to this kid, and treated him as if he was part of her family

The kid, Falken, looked like just that... a kid. A 14 year-old child that seemed to hang out with a crew of people who took care of him. This, was very far from the actual reality. Falken was a very lively kid, with very dark jet black hair and the bluest eyes you had ever seen in your life. He wore leather armor that was fitted to his small complexion, on top of regular clothes and a red bandana that he kept tied around his neck. After a few moments anyone could see that this kid was up to no good. His eyes never stayed fixed in one place, although contrary to Helmdorn, his eyes were not vigilant, his eyes were eager. 

Damian looked at the old lady, then back at the group, then with a sly smirk he replied gesturing towards the water genasi “You need someone to water the field and crops? Say no more, Lauren why don’t you go roll down the hills? You should be done in mere minutes”

After a short awkward moment of silence, Shieldbuster and Falken started snickering behind Lauren’s back while she gave the Sorcerer an unamused look. Helmdorn just kind of stood there, trying to keep his composure in front of lady Oriana.

“You are as lively as ever Damian… - Lauren said in the most dull tone of voice she could possibly make, she then turned to the lady captain of the Knights – We will be more than glad to work for the right to share a roof with the Knights of Samular ma’am. You need but show us the way.”

Lady Oriana gave them a disdainful look, and ordered them to present themselves before the farmers that were working the land outside of Summit Hall, except for Damian, who was instructed to go to the Hall’s library and act as a scribe and help the scholars to transcribe some old texts. The day passed and they all returned to the mess hall where the knights were to meet for supper. Bowls of hearty soup were passed around, along with slices of venison and lamb and rustic crusty bread. It was the best meal they had had in days and their appetites were quickly satisfied after a few courses of heavy soup. The sounds of loud chatter, along with the hustle and bustle of the cooks coming and going with the platters of food made the place look a lot more lively than it actually felt. 

They had arrived at Summit Hall after barely surviving a run in with a pair of Perytons out in the field. The first thing that came to their attention was that everyone in Summit Hall was carrying a weapon. Simple or martial, everyone had a weapon strapped to their belts. as the day went by and they talked to Captain Oriana, they realized this was because they had been attacked by bandits on several occasions in the last few weeks. Everyone was weary and on edge, so as soon as they entered the keep all they got were foul looks and nasty sounding whispers. As of now, everyone seemed to have gone back to their daily chores and was minding their own business and the food one their plates.

Lauren kept trying to keep the kid, Falken, from appropriating other people’s belongings, Shieldbuster started up a conversation with an old Halfling that was sitting on a table nearby, while Damian and Helmdorn remained at the table. Their group could be described as a motley band of mismatched members at best. Every one of them seemed to have their own reasons to be in the company of the others Shieldbuster’s company after a while, who seemed to be the glue that kept everyone together somehow.

The Goliath had been there when Falken tried to “borrow” some things from his caravan after offering to guide them around the city of Waterdeep, and also when Damian had stumbled onto his caravan while running away from the local guards after a little... misunderstanding with one of the local noblemen's daughters. Helmdorn had come to him as a hired sword, but seemed to be involved in a greater cause, and yet he felt like part of the group already.

And Lauren… Damian remembered that day when Lauren approached their group asking if she could join their company in order to look for a lost person who seemed to matter a great deal to her. Damian had tried to woo the druid into his bed, to no avail, and almost got murdered in the process. He used to laugh whenever he remembered the story… Now most of their relationship consisted of jokes and gags regarding their particular heritage, yet profound respect from Damian's side, due to the fact that Lauren had healed him back from the brink of death on more than one occasion.

They were currently looking for a lost caravan, carrying a Delegation of Diplomats from Mirabar who were by now likely dead or missing at least a few limbs. All investigations regarding the matter had been fruitless up until now.

“Damian!”  - Shieldbuster’s voice boomed over the noise in the mess hall – “Come here my friend!”

Damian stood up and walked slowly over to where the Goliath was standing.

“What is it big man?”

“I found this little old man, he likes to talk”

Shieldbuster was a merchant, yet he knew that in order to get the most information out of someone he could always rely on Damian. Who had a way with words and was a lot more calm than he was.

Damian’s pale white eyes looked behind Shieldbuster’s enormous figure and found an old Halfling sitting there, finishing his supper. The grey hairs on his head were a clear evidence of how many winters he had survived, and also gave a good idea of how many he had left. 

The Halfling kept rambling on and about how difficult life was in the Realms lately, with bandits raiding every homestead they could find, not to mention the appearance of so many fanatics around the area.

“Hmmm well you are a rare sight to behold sonny… you one of them Demon spawn?”

“Tieflings” Damian said with a courteous smile. The old man wasn’t the first or the last one to throw racial slurs at him so he paid it no mind.

“Ah yes, the spawn of Asmodeus… you know the people here aren’t too pleased to see your kind around, everyone’s an enemy these days… everyone…”

“Well yes, old man, but I assure you, my friends and I bear you and your friends no ill. We are actually on a very important mission regarding a caravan that left from Mirabar more than 5 tendays ago. It should have passed through Summit hall before heading for Waterdeep. Have you heard anything regarding any such”

“Mirabar?” – the old man gave him a puzzled look – “We haven’t seen anyone from Mirabar pass through here since last harvest, and that was quite a long time ago”

Another place where no one had ever seen or heard of the bloody caravan. To say that Damian was frustrated now would be a huge understatement. So far they had been attacked by Orcs, attacked by cultists, attacked by Griffons, Perytons, wights, wild animals and ANOTHER band of orcs that seemed to be led by some kind of Demon that had been a recurring sight in Damian’s nightmares ever since. But still no news of the missing caravan. All they had to show after that was a bunch of scars, traumatizing sights and a dead companion…

Draupnir was not your regular elf… He had a name that sounded like a Dwarf’s name, he behaved like a Barbarian from the North, and the last time he tried to guide them through the wilderness, they reached the place where he would eventually meet his end. He was part of their company, nevertheless, and his loss had affected them a lot more than they all let on. None of them had really talked about it since then, and Damian still had a hard time trying to reconcile the fact that Draupnir was still alive after the fall… but that was then and this was now.

The old man seemed to be trying to remember something, then he slapped his knee and touched his temple with his right index finger “Although I believe I did hear some of the young ones in the knight’s table talking about those bandits frequenting the roads to the north of here… And if a caravan did come from Mirabar then I believe your best shot at finding them is by following the north road out of Summit Hall.”

Damian smiled, and nodded courteously “Thanks old man, I guess we might as well give it a shot.”

Damian stood up and motioned for shieldbuster to walk with him. The Goliath left the Halfling behind and walked along.

“I’m not entirely sure if following the old man’s advice is a good idea but it’s the best clue we’ve been able to come upon since we started this whole thing… I’ll go to bed, inform the others that we leave tomorrow and please… tell Falken to put the Halfling’s purse back where it belongs”

“With or without the gold?”
  
Damian looked at his friend and smiled “I’ll leave that up to you, just don’t tell Helmdorn”