Adventures in Thargothras

Session 19

Shortly after Jorba's death, Felicity decided to blow the wooden horn labeled "bloe fr halp" and a few seconds later, a flaming projectile arced from far behind the treeline and smashed into the roof of Jorba's cabin, igniting the thatch. Half a minute after that, another projectile followed, from another direction. Dozens of kappa emerged from the foliage, primitive weapons in hand. Erosia, feeling intimidated by the sudden influx of allies attempted his usual abrasive, aggressive diplomacy, and failed, turning his allies from helpful to indifferent towards him, and they elected to negotiate their services with Seralyn instead, who apologized on his behalf. The salvaged siege weapons that the kappa had repaired since the party's last visit to the cabin were to be delivered to Whitefield, in part by labor and in part by magic. 

Once home, on the 18th, the party checked Dame Zelcir's library for information about Baraz-Bolgrik or its previous owners. What they found was incomplete and mostly pertaining to Viridonia's diplomatic relationship with Silverhold, but they did find references to two other works that were within reach in known locations. Fueled by curiosity, Allen, Joshua, and Felicity (who had other motives related to business) made haste on the backs of giant bats to the libraries in Healey (where they learned of the urgrosh's previous owners) and Gunargun (where they learned more of the last owner's family history).

Felicity made a point to obtain pedigrees for Queen Miriam in order to learn more about her relationship to the High King, but results were inconsistent and inconclusive. A comment about the geneologist's grand-mentor being Talabyr may prove significant in the future.

Karmic adjustments:
+1 karma to Allen for relieving many kappa of manual labor at his own expense, bringing his score up to 24
-2 to Erosia for threatening and alienating known allies, +1 for taking care of the sick and sharing information with the rest of the party, leaving his score at 15
Felicity spent 2 points supplementing a failed knowledge check, lowering her score to 10
+2 to Joshua for volunteering to assist in research at the risk of being charged with treason, bringing his score up to 12
Seralyn remains at 24
Skyler remains at 15
+1 to Vaelin for his ongoing efforts to improve the lives of his fellow citizens, bringing his score up to 18

Putting the feud in feudal

From the Journal of Algen Sedgewick, Chief of Staff, Emyn Palace, Staygate, Viridonia:

After a week of investigation and thorough questioning of the staff, I have uncovered the incidents in relation to a rivalry between Lord Vincent and Count Fairweather, and have, to the best of my ability, created a timeline during which those incidents and their causes may be chronicled.

Day 1: Lord Vincent arrives with two higher-ranking nobles and their escorts, and after introduction to the king, Lord Vincent was walking through a hallway to his room and his shoulder collided with the shoulder of Count Fairweather, who was also heading to his room in the opposite direction, and both stopped in their tracks demanding apology. Neither would admit wrongdoing, and so the king's steward was called upon to arbitrate, and the decision went in favor of Count Fairweather, being that he was an established member of the court and not a foreigner seeking citizenship. Incensed, Lord Vincent issued a quite insincere apology and retired to his chamber. It is during his bath that he offered to pay a servant to "find some itching powder and put it in [Count Fairweather's] next bath." The request was declined twice until the payment offered reached 30 gold pieces.
Two days later, Lord Vincent made a sardonic comment tipping the Count off that he was the source of his discomfort, and the Count retaliated by paying another servant to present a pot of [redacted] ointment to Vincent at an inopportune time. Vincent responded later that evening by paying yet another staff member to "accidentally" spill red wine on the Count's shirt during dinner.
The next day, the Count arranged to have Lord Vincent's entire wardrobe sent to laundry and be replaced with women's clothing, one size too small. Lord Vincent circumvented this inconvenience by borrowing an outfit from one of Sir Wersil's bodyguards and intercepting the launderers, with just enough time to retrieve half of his wardrobe before lunch. Not to be outdone, Lord Vincent arranged for all of the Count's meals to arrive burnt for the rest of the day.
On the fifth day, both were occupied with official business and did not engage each other in any fashion.
On the sixth day, Count Fairweather bribed an attendant to misplace Lord Vincent's shoes. Lord Vincent borrowed a pair from Dame Zelcir's bodyguard, and took her shopping, where he bought six new pairs of shoes for himself. On his return to the royal palace, he arranged for the floor in Count Fairweather's guest bedroom to be polished and freshly lacquered, forcing the Count into another guest room for the night to avoid the fumes. By some design, the room the Count was relocated to was one with a noisy draft due to a window that could not be completely closed.
On the seventh day, the Count was exhausted from lack of sleep, and challenged Lord Vincent to a rapier duel in the palace garden. Lord Vincent agreed, and knocked the Count unconscious with his basket hilt.
On the eighth day, unwilling to consider the matter settled, the Count nonetheless resorted to less drastic means of obtaining his revenge, and sent the youngest prince and princess to harass and annoy Lord Vincent at every opportunity. Lord Vincent had no direct retaliation to this, but befriended both children by telling them scary ghost stories and sending them to play elsewhere.
On the ninth day, the King stepped in, summoning both of them to his throne room and telling them that from that point on, they were to cease and desist all actions against each other while in Staygate. As far as I know, the feud is unresolved and will remain so until one or the other is dead.

Session 18
Jorba dies at the end

Keeping their promise to personally deliver the jar of teeth to Jorba the Rotten, the party (minus Audreyn, of course), flew to her cabin at the edge of the Swamp of Ghosts. On the way, one of them spotted a small wooden horn get thrown out of the treeline into the middle of the dirt road as they were passing over, and landed to pick it up. On it were etched the words "bloe fr halp." They decided to hang onto it, but not use it just yet, and continued their flight to their destination in about a day.

Once arriving within a hundred yards of the cabin, keeping within the treeline, invisibility was cast on Felicity, who daringly scouted the area, only to see Jorba sweeping dust out her front door. After passing an invisible line, Felicity unknowingly activated an alarm spell, and Jorba nervously retreated indoors. At that point, Felicity returned to the party and they agreed to storm her house. On the way there, four kelpies rose from the water, but only the one disguised as a majestic dragon horse was able to enthrall a party member (it was Skyler). The others were cut, burnt, or shot down while disease-ridden zombies rose from the mud to infect the unwelcome guests. When Vaelin opened the door, he was greeted by a large sack of hungry, cancerous flesh that tried to consume him – he slashed at it, only to watch it nearly double in size in the space of a few swings. It was soon clear that any blows that broke the skin caused its growth, so it was up to Allen and Erosia's elemental assaults to end it before it grew to an enourmous size. As Erosia's jet of water slammed into it, provoking dark violet bruises and welts, Allen's scorching rays caused it to sizzle and emit a revoltingly delicious scent. Under those attacks, combined with the damage it had already sustained (and not regenerated) from Vaelin's sword, it was quickly felled.

Jorba, after a brief search, was discovered to be under the floorboards, and after a ruse was used to fool her into thinking the party had dropped off the jar and left, she emerged from a trap door beneath a throw rug, whereupon she was entangled in magical webbing and slain.

On her body were 10 javelins coated in poison, and a +2 dagger. Outside were a set of bronze cubes of alarm (improved stones of alarm – greater area). The had nothing else

Karmic adjustments:
Allen remains at 23
Erosia remains at 16
+1 to Felicity for scouting at her own risk, bringing her score to 12
Joshua remains at 10
Seralyn remains at 24
Skyler remains at 15
-1 to Vaelin for leaving Whitefield leaderless for 3 days, but +2 for ending a threat to his subjects at their request, leaving his score at 17

Unrest in the Citadel

Ividay, Quintar 13. Early evening.

"Is it done?" Negost asked, somewhat impatiently.
"Not as such, your majesty." Tugruk tried not to stammer. "I went to the cell at the appropriate time, and she was not there." His queen was staring daggers, but said nothing, so he continued. "Not only that, but I think she may have frightened Janet on her way out. Our best lead is one of the hobs you put in charge of the inside patrols. We placed him into custody, but the only thing he remembers is detaining some wandering beer merchants who'd gotten lost in the woods "
"LOST? In MY woods, this close to MY fortress? I don't know how they're involved, but this is no coincidence, Bonearm. Bring them to the torture chamber at once, so we can find out everything they know."
Tugruk hesitated. "My lady, they are gone, too. The same guard released them minutes after they were taken inside, but according to everyone's testimony, they never left the room they were held in. It could not have been them. I suspect the hob was under magical control. His testimony is flawed, and has too many holes, and I noticed he was behaving differently

"Then take him to the torture chamber and find out why he was so far from his post that she could hit him with a spell. I'll have the truth yet." Her voice was cold enough to grow frost on wine.
"Of course, but I doubt it's his fault, either. He mentioned blacking out on the staircase, which, frankly, is part of his patrol, so he may have been taken by surprise. Still, you're right, as always," he noted that her expression brightened slightly. "…and it always pays to be sure."
"And just where were you when you think she left?"
"Why, I was in the room you prepare for me every time I visit, my lady, biding my time to strike. That is, until the hob came to my door and told me that Janet was loose. The little nip almost turned me to salt in the storage room, but I came right back to my room after that scare and didn't go downstairs again until it was time."
"Then did you at least find Janet?"
"Yes, your majesty."
"Good. And at least we have several gobs and a hob that can provide testimony. See what you can get out of them in the torture chamber."
Tugruk smiled, remembering the guard he'd used to hold Seralyn's cell door open. The poor sap would need to corroborate his own story. "I'll see to it personally, my lady."
"Excellent. Why can't they all be as dependable as you, Tug? Now, I'm going to the Magic Room in a few minutes. Bring me her confiscated gear so that I may scry on her."
Tugruk nervously scratched at his nose. "About that, my lady…"

It took several goblins to scrub the scorch marks from the wall after Negost was done with her tantrum, but, to his endless relief, Tugruk was unharmed, save for a hole in his shirt from an errant spark, and she was out of magical energy for the day. He and Negost were down in the Magic Room now, and she was tapping on a pair of magic mirrors, trying to initiate conversation with Kellored and Palthanga. After a while, the mirror to Kellored swirled and the old warlord's face appeared.
"Why are you contacting me out of schedule? What emergency presents itself that I must interrupt my bathing?"
"We may have a problem with the Viridonians, my esteemed peer." Negost's voice reeked of sycophancy.
Kellored scowled. "What did you do, goblin?"
"We imprisoned a diplomat seeking to prevent war. The elf-witch from Whitefield, in fact."
"I see. Well, don't let her talk you out of the cause, heh heh. This could be good, even. We can use her as leverage to keep the humans at bay until we're ready to sack their villages and have our siege weapons built. Keep her locked down and don't call me again unless there's an emergency."
The mirror started to swirl again, but Negost had time to stop it. "She escaped!"
Kellored's scowl returned in greater force than before. "How could you let this happen? This could bring the war to us! Your job was to wait for my orders, occupy the larger settlements with your armies until they ran low on arrows, so that we, the hobs, and the idiot ogres could go in and do the real fighting! Perhaps you do not want the arcane secrets of the elves, after all."
"WAIT!" screamed Negost, genuine fear in her eyes. "I'll get her back! I'll send assassins! I'll do whatever you want! I need those scrolls, Kellored. I need them."
Tugruk startled. He hadn't been clear on why Negost had shown such support for the cause of the orcs. Up until now, he'd assumed there was some profit or glory in it for the goblin people, but a bribe that only Negost would see? This was not worth sacrificing so many of his people.
Kellored spoke with much deliberation. "You aren't going to handle this one. I'm going to call in some… outside help. I need you to be prepared six months earlier than we'd planned. We cannot give the humans time to launch an assault until our war machines are complete. Do NOT disappoint me." The mirror swirled once again, and Negost did not stop it. Tugruk was already writing his letter of resignation in his head. The other mirror swirled into focus, presenting a confused ogress.
"I need you to send your son to take care of a problem. How well does he remember the elf-witch from the trial he went to?"
"Yes. And don't bother making it look like an accident. We need to send a message with this one. Peace is not an option."
Now, Tugruk had to interrupt. "My lady, wouldn't it make more sense to let the humans fall into complacency? If they think peace is not an option, our people will be needlessly slaughtered when we go to battle against a prepared army."
"You dare contradict me in front of her? I want the elf-witch dead and I don't care how! You couldn't get it done, so I'm asking for a professional!"
"Why not let Kellored's, er, friends, take care of it?"
"Because I want her dead yesterday, and I don't know what the hell the orc has planned. You're going to stay out of this until she's gone, do you hear me?"
Tugruk stopped writing the letter in his head. "You know, I really regret the last time I got involved in something like this, so I think I will stay out of it. Not only that, I'll be staying out of this pointless war with the humans, and so will my tribes until you come to your senses and stop playing with our lives on the off chance you get your hands on a bunch of dusty old elf-books. I don't care if you hire a dozen assassins and summon a demon, I'm leaving for the Gnest right now!"
Seething with rage, Negost turned her attention back to Palthanga. "You'll have Burshuk bring me that elf-witch's head, or I'll summon enough demons to sew your mouth shut, and we'll see what's funny then!"
Now it was Palthanga's turn to be afraid. Ogres, for all their strength and swagger, only knew enough about magic to be afraid of it. A quick nod as her face turned pale was the last thing visible before the mirror swirled again. Tugruk was already out the door, leaving Negost alone to sob and kick furniture. She hated to admit it, but without Tugruk's contributions, the goblins of the region were greatly weakened. Kellored would not be happy, but she would deal with that later. To let the prisoner escape alive was to show weakness, and power could not be maintained if one showed weakness. Now, just in case, she'd need to look around for that book on demon summoning she kept hidden away….

Session 17
Duels and Dragons

Vaelin's second duel was far more successful than the first, even in the absence of victory, he earned glory for having fought well and with all the tricks and glamers at his disposal.
Erosia's duel was of a more psychological nature. He directly fought the knight of the Owdi crest, referred to as the Oak by his fellows, and for every shot that hit him, he returned a blast of water that tore into the ground, leaving deep runnels at his opponent's feet. Then, having suffered the wounds of two or more arrows, he would take the time to recover completely from all wounds. The Oak, believing him to be an oni or similar water-spirit, conceded the duel, as did the second challenger. Thus, the stakes of his duels went in his favor, and there was much joy to be had before he returned to the work of curing the out-of-towners afflicted with Vile Rigidity, an insidious and deadly disease of the skin.

The other half of the party returned from Silverhold, and not an hour had passed after Allen walked through the door to his observatory to recover from his long flight than a young messenger boy brought him a letter. The letter, signed only with an initial D, threatened dire consequences if the jar of teeth taken from Jorba's cabin was not delivered to the Silver Sphinx by sundown. Fortunately, that gave him plenty of time to gather his friends to scout the location. The stranger in the teahouse was frightening, impatient, and well-armored but unarmed, but there was little more to be learned from observation. Their curiosity satisfied as well as could be, the meeting was held outdoors behind the Sphinx to minimize any potential collateral damage. Joshua was stationed on the roof as a sniper.

Early into the conversation, the mysterious malefactor identified himself as Durvininth, one of the two dragons of Blackwyrm Mire, and his grievances were aired plainly. Seeing a deeper distress behind the dragon's demands, and seeking a diplomatic solution, the participants forged a new agreement: the Tabard family would be left alone, and all punishment would fall on Allen, to be paid for with his service as a necroturge for thirty-five years in compensation for the death of Durvininth's friend and skeleton provider. The duty was to begin in one year, and a blood oath was made, after which each one's blood flowed quick in the other's veins. A promise was made to return the jar of teeth personally to Jorba, and the dragon departed for home.

The session ended there, on Quintar 15th.

Karmic adjustments:
+1 to Allen for seeking a location ideal for minimal collateral damage, and a further +3 for making a blood oath to avert the death of his apprentice's friends, bringing his score up to 23
Erosia remains at 16
Felicity remains at 11
Joshua remains at 10
Seralyn remains at 24
Skyler remains at 15
+1 to Vaelin for helping scout and choose the location of the meeting, and a further +1 for his ongoing efforts to solve the concerns of the people of Radimyr Barony, bringing his score up to 16

A dragon's due, part 2
Come not between a dragon and his wrath

Durvininth had brought one of his most prized treasures from his lair, the crystal ball of Endriphus the Dreamer, a focus of powerful divination, and the skull of one of his broken skeletal servants. Miles he had flown, careful not to drop either object, all the way to the cabin of the vile rot hag, the site where his friend of thirty-five years had been slain. Assuming humanoid form, still careful not to drop the delicate cargo in his massive claws as they shrank, he called out to the cabin's only occupant through a broken window.
"Jorba! It is I, Durvininth the Black, keeper of the Blackwyrm Mire and friend of Wicked Peggy Knucklebones! I request that we may jointly seek revenge for her untimely death. May I enter?"
A low chuckle echoed from within, and the door swung open. "Come in, for the enemy of my enemies is a most needed friend! Come in, that our wrath may be increased all the more with our union."

Hours later, the dragon and hag had determined that the teeth were beyond the power of the crystal orb, blocked perhaps by planar barriers or the utter destruction of the teeth. Determined, they scoured the filthy cottage for anything, no matter how small, left behind by the attackers. More hours later, through scent and diligence, a single singed hair was found clinging to the wall. The hair of a wolf, struck by lightning. It was the work of a moment to locate the wolf it belonged to, in the halls of a dwarven market. Following patiently, they watched and listened as four of the slayers grouped together and spoke of their progress and travel plans.

Now armed with the names and location of his prey, Durvininth took wing to the home of the coven's last live acquisition, Rose Tabard, to inquire about the other four present at the assault. Jorba remained at home, calling in favors from dark fey, digging up old servitors from their long incubation, and perhaps coaxing greater life into one of her "children" she'd stashed away…

Session 16
Fungus and Fey-knights

Allen, Felicity, Joshua, and Skyler were all called back to the temple of Ortrul in Silverhold to take care of a delicate matter, which turned out to be an escaped ochre jelly, which the Gravetenders used as part of their burial preparations, and needed alive. After brief but heated combat, the clay urn that acted as its vessel was repaired, and the ooze sufficiently subdued for recapture. After rewards were issued, conversation with the priest turned to the appearance of Baraz-Bolgrik in the hands of Miriam Quickhammer, and her false story about how she had acquired it. Knowing the truth of the matter, Skyler drew forth the darkwood shield recovered from the tomb weeks ago, and mentioned that the suit of plate armor had been recovered as well. This caused great consternation among the dwarves, who realized immediately that their newly promoted leader could not be trusted, but they had no power to do anything about it. The four party members vowed to learn what they could, and recover the armor before any confrontation could be made. On their trip to the Silverhold library, they learned that all books pertaining to King Matthias II or his ancestral weapon were checked out by the Queen, a turn of events that did not bode well for anyone hoping to challenge her legitimacy.

Meanwhile, in Radimyr, Vaelin and Erosia had decided to explore the Vastwood, seeking to turn two problems (food shortage and abundance of monsters) into one solution. They encountered an owlbear, which was no match for them, as well as a disturbing clutch of immature fungal maulers. Erosia, with surgical precision, removed and killed one of the sprouting weeds, but it was then that the parent arrived, offering poor offense, but proving quite resistant to most attacks. Thankfully, it was not immune to lightning, and Vaelin struck it in such a way that it exploded into burnt spores and fried chunks. Erosia made short work of the other three sprouts, and as they settled down to rest, an amphisbeana, mature and hungry, approached them, only to be run down by five elfin warriors on horseback. The warriors introduced themselves as belonging to the orders of the Lion, the Stag, and the Owdi, the latter of which was the leader of the other four. After some argument about who was to claim the bounty of the hunt, a challenge was declared for the following morning: Erosia and Vaelin were to duel any four of the knights (once for themselves and once as champion for each of Vaelin's militia cohorts), and stakes were called and confirmed.
Vaelin's first duel was exhausting and unsuccessful, but he used his new knowledge of their skill to plan for a much stronger defense.

The session ended there.

Karmic adjustments:
+1 to Allen for informing the high priest of the falsity of the queen's official story, bringing his score up to 19
+1 to Erosia for helping Vaelin solve the public's problems at his own rish, a further +1 for killing the immature fungal maulers, and a further +1 for taking the role of champion for one of Vaelin's followers in a duel, bringing his score up to 16
+1 to Felicity for corroborating with Allen's story, bringing her to 11
Joshua remains at 10
Seralyn remains at 24
+1 to Skyler for corroborating Allen's story and a further +1 for willingness to provide physical proof, bringing his score up to 15
+2 to Vaelin for taking an active role in his responsibility to his subjects and taking his job seriously, and a further +1 for volunteering to act as champion for one of his employees in the feyknight duel, bringing his score up to 14

Incident at Rodillon's Bridge

Audreyn hadn't spent this long in a saddle for ages, and was starting to get sore, and they were only two days into their travel. As they were riding, up to Rodillon's Bridge, under Ortrul's bright eye, one of the attendants far ahead shouted something and pointed into the water. After a minute or so, word finally reached the back end of the caravan that the whole procession was stopping for everyone to refill their waterskins and water barrels for the continued journey. Anxious to walk on her feet again, Audreyn volunteered to collect the waterskins of Dame Zelcir and Sir Wersil, and even Lord Vincent de Narsiik and refill them herself at the river bank. All accepted, as they were in the middle of a game of cards in Wersil's carriage and didn't want to be interrupted. Audreyn hastily dismounted, collected the skins, and ran awkwardly and painfully to the water's edge. No sooner had she began dipping the skins into the river when a long, pinkish serpent broke the surface and snapped at her. The battle that ensued went something like this:

Latch toad attacks from stealth. Audreyn is flat-footed.
17 fails to breach Audreyn's AC.
Audreyn loses.
Round 1
Latch toad attacks with 16, 23, and 14. All misses.
Audreyn moves to attack, provoking an attack from the toad. Another 17 fails to hit.
Audreyn attacks, usin power attack. Her 25 easily hits the toad, dealing 16 damage, reducing the beast to 51 hp.
Round 2
The toad steps back 5', and attacks again. 20, 29, and 30. The second two hit, dealing 8 (5) and 7 (4) damage respectively. Audreyn is reduced to 58 hp, with a reduction pool (granted from her Iron Ward Diamond) of 24, and is covered in goo, but passes her save to avoid being glued to the ground. The toad attempts a grapple using its grab ability for 29. Even with her specialized defense, Audreyn is grappled and brought adjacent to the toad. 
On her turn, Audreyn decides to full attack the toad, accepting the -2 penalty to her attacks.
Her first attack, a 14, only hits because the toad also has the grappled condition. The attack deals 11 damage, reducing the toad to 41 hp. The second attack, 24, threatens a critical, but fails to confirm and deals 12 damage, taking the toad down to 29.
Round 3
On the toad's turn, it attempts to deal more damage. It rolls a 10, a 24, and a 31 which confirms. The damage dealt is 9 (6) and 14 (11) respectively, taking Audreyn down to 41 hp with a reduction pool of 18.
On her turn, Audreyn full attacks back, hitting with a 26 and an 18. She deals 12 and 11 damage because she can't roll higher than a 2 on the damage die when she's grappled, but the toad is reduced to 6 hp.
Round 4
On the toad's turn, it attacks again, fighting to the bitter end. 17, 10, and 14 all miss.

Audreyn, determined not to die, full attacks with 14 and 18, both of which are hits. She deals 13 and 16 damage, which together reduce the toad to -23, which kills it. Audreyn is victorious, but desires to wash off the goo as soon as possible.

After her victory against the beast, she waded upstream to refill the waterskins, and decided to stay in the saddle until nightfall, ignoring the pain in her thighs.

Session 15
A Rescue Party

The plan to rescue Seralyn had two parts, and luckily not all characters were required as fewer things went wrong than anticipated. 

Bean, Susan, Detective Siba, and Ellen Moore took a wagon laden with tinctures through the woods in hopes of running into the Citadel, while Deneit, Caleb, and Svalina stayed out of sight. Svalina manifested just long enough to possess the goblin who waylaid them, and guided the wagon to the entrance. Once there, a hobgoblin guard brought the four with the wagon inside for interrogation and processing. During this interview, Svalina used her goblin host to get the entrance guards drunk, including her borrowed body. Once the guards were sufficiently inebriated, Caleb and Deneit snuck inside, followed by a discorporated Svalina. After disposing of a goblin whose attention had been caught, they waited for the hobgoblin to march downstairs and Svalina possessed him as well. From there it was a simple matter to gain access to the dungeon cells and bypass the salt basilisk ("Janet"), only to find that Seralyn was no longer in her cell.

The plan shifted to finding both Seralyn's location and the location of her gear. The gear was found with Tugruk in his room, and the goblin chief volunteered to assist in the search. After hearing that Janet may have escaped, he willingly took a blindfold, allowing Caleb and Deneit to move behind them without as much fear of being caught. The first stop was a storage room near the doorway leading to the dungeons, where Tugruk did a cursory search before being frightened by the sound (Ghost Sound) of a walking basilisk. He headed off to look for Janet's keeper Bornik, while Svalina, Caleb, and Deniet were left alone to search the storage room more thoroughly. Seralyn was found under some loosely piled sacks of who-knows-what, and Caleb took out some thoughtfully purchased invisibility scrolls. While Caleb, Deneit, and Seralyn quietly proceeded to the entrance, Caleb continued his Ghost Sound to raise a false alarm and drive wandering goblins out of the path. Svalina, still in the guise of the hobgoblin, ordered the four new prisoners to be released immediately, and everyone headed to the door, a few bottles of alcohol poorer, but with Seralyn in tow.

While it was not shown, the rescue party and their gear are assumed to have arrived safely in Whitefield in the afternoon of the 14th.

Bad news

Susan wished she had volunteered to go with Seralyn to the Goblin Citadel. She didn't trust Karst on account of him being a goblin, but she knew that, and she knew Seralyn had gone to goblin lands before and returned unharmed, and so far this goblin hadn't shown hostility, so Susan had graciously stayed behind to keep an eye on the goblins still inside their patchwork fortification. And to talk to Caleb, which she rarely had the opportunity to do anymore. Caleb hadn't been able to follow Seralyn because he'd failed to hide his spellcasting, and the look of dread on the little goblin's face when he realized he was in the presence of not one, but two witches, he'd emphatically denied Caleb the opportunity to join. It was, Karst had explained, for the safety of all, as Queen Negost was unsettled by witches. Susan now realized she should have inquired further into that, but she was eager to find out what Caleb had been up to, and to share in kind. She should have gone with her gut, shouldn't have second-guessed herself. Too late now, but not too late to go in after her, with a few friends and friends of friends in tow. A rescue team, just like in the stories and the action plays.

On the plus side, she was now getting to spend more time with her childhood friend. He had his own spellbook now, but Allen hadn't yet taught him how to fly or summon lightning. Too bad. Those spells would be handy right now. Caleb had also spent a long time learning about the stars and their positions. Susan supposed that spending all day in the Observatory must get pretty boring if any of that stuff started to sound interesting, but she changed the subject politely enough when he started on the movement of constellations. When he started talking about his new friends, she became very curious indeed. Especially when he started talking about Catherine. Catherine Stoky, daughter of Jack Stoky of Stoky's Textiles, lived in Whitefield, but word of her beauty had reached to the edge of the barony. And from the sound of things, Caleb had been working very hard to get her attention. He was even asking Susan for advice, which he hadn't needed for the three months or so when she'd dated him at fourteen, so she told him to just be his sweet self, tell jokes but not all the time, and if it was meant to be, he'd win her over. That's when he told her he also liked Elaine, a Hearthfire acolyte, perhaps more, but didn't think he could impress her as easily. Gods, two years ago he was almost too afraid to talk to women he hadn't known for half his life or longer, and now he wanted two, and damn if he didn't have a chance at either if he'd just be more confident in his ample charms. She tried to tell him that being a wizard wasn't just a play-act, it was his world and his life, and he was no more a farmer than she was. But he didn't get it. He was too focused on making other people think he was a real sorcerer instead of just accepting that he was one and owning his destiny.

After that conversation, she'd gotten to tell him about her progress in the militia, her new dog, her little brother starting to grow up and talk about joining the militia, too. Then she told him about her boyfriend Sten. He wasn't very romantic, or super bright, but he had big, strong, gentle arms and he didn't smell as bad as some of the other men in the militia. She didn't meet a lot of people outside of work anymore, and he seemed a better pick than most at the time. The look of surprise on his face when she'd kissed him after a long sword practice (just the two of them, of course. She wasn't going to risk rejection in front of everyone) was adorable in its own right, and when he leaned forward to kiss her back, grabbing her shoulders with the same intensity as he'd held his wooden training sword (right up until she kissed him, and he dropped it), the moment had been magical. Caleb didn't seem as enthused, but it served him right for making her listen to all that stuff about the other two girls. Then she told him about how great she'd gotten with a shortspear, and stood up to show him a spinning move she'd practiced, and he agreed that it looked quite intimidating, especially with the scream at the end, and she was vindicated again.

But none of that mattered when Karst came back to the ramshackle encampment alone. Susan didn't speak Goblin, but according to Caleb's translation, the conversation had gone something like this:
"Where's Seralyn?"
"Please don't kill me! She was captured and imprisoned! She convinced the Queen to take my people back, but then the Queen decided to keep her for ransom! Please don't kill me! It wasn't my fault!"

…At which point Susan felt a weight in her stomach like a pile of lead. She should have been there. She should have helped Seralyn fight her way out, laying her life down if necessary. After all, if the things she heard were true, Seralyn alone was worth ten of almost anyone else in Radimyr. Maybe more. Something had to be done immediately. Leaving Karst to gather his fellows, (no point in asking how to get to the Citadel, no goblin ever gave that out to non-goblins), she went to gather a few friends of her own, starting with Ellen Moore, her healer. Ellen would know even more people, being the second-highest ranking Hearthfire in the village. Grabbing Caleb by his shirt, she marched southeast to Whitefield. No time to waste.


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