By Beth Griese
Date: August 16, 1997
|Borreau||Blonde Human||Tempus Cleric||Brian Smith|
|Short, dark and hairy||Monk||
|Telaran||1/2 Elf, Buzz cut||fighter||Jim Gaynor|
|Verence Gallow||Thin human||Mystra Cleric||Kent Jenkins|
Quote of the Day:
"Well, lick me and stick a stamp on me." -- Brian Smith
To Garen Thundersson, cleric of Mielikki. From your faithful friend, Jade.
For the first time since I was about 10 years old, I had no idea where I was. Most of the other Wayfarers were in the same position; a dusty road was under our feet, and I could tell the others that it ran north-south. But after that cursed scroll sent us to this place, we had no idea what lay north, or what lay south. I didn't even know whether we were still in Cormyr any more. The foliage looked similar, but the air was cooler, the breezes blowing from a different direction, and the sun just a little removed from it usual home. We picked a direction south to travel and, after only a few hours of walking, found a small city on the horizon, one a bit bigger than Eveningstar, but not so big as Arabel.
I glanced over our group as we entered the town. We must have looked like as rag-tag a band of trouble as ever wanders into a small town like this. Dressed as adventurers, yet half of us without a stitch of armor or weapons, all of us looking vacant, lost, and confused. The dirt of the road still clung to us, without a horse between us to account for how we had crossed these distances. Small wonder that most of the people who walked by in the streets bowed their heads and rushed past us. There was no profit or promise to be gained from us.
Once in town, we began to gather up what information our eyes - and our questions - could gather for us. It's humiliating to have to stop a stranger in the street and ask what town we were standing in the middle of. We learned we were in a city called Proskur, a name which meant nothing to me, but told Verence that we were well out of Cormyr, many weeks to the south and west of the Arabel we had stood in that morning. By all the merchant carts we saw, we figured that this town was a resting point for caravans, so we inquired about who was coming and going, and who might get us back to Cormyr.
After much discussion and many questions which much have seemed the height of insanity to the poor townsfolk around us, we figured out that two choices lay before us. We could hire horses and travel through mountainous territory to go back to Cormyr over land, or we could join up with a caraven headed for Westgate, and from there catch boat transport back up to Suzail.
I wasn't eager to return to the oceans, but Verence was familiar with the Westgate area and even had family in the region, although he seemed none too anxious to see them except as possible contacts for passage. And the stories the townsfolk told about the mountains between us and the western reaches of Cormyr did not sound promising. One caravan on its way to Westgate was expected the following day, so we finally settled on trying to hire ourselves to the caravan.
The line of wagons arrived, and as we watched them arrive in town, the whole party fell silent as we watched the caravaners file into town. None of them stood as high as my shoulders; to a one, they were all dwarves and halflings. Why is it that we seem to keep finding halflings to travel with? The dwarves I've never had a problem with, but I was reluctant to repeat our experiences with the cruise ship we had traveled with earlier. There was no help for it, though. Telaran and I decided to find the caravan master and see about getting ourselves hired.
The caravan master, a leathery halfling by the name of Hosse, was completely unimpressed by us. I could understand his reaction, although he didn't have to be so rude about it. We had gathered up what weapons and armor we could in the day we had been in town, but we were still a less-than-impressive looking bunch. By the end of a long debate and argument, I had to sink three targets with a halfling bow and Telaran had to arm-wrestle a dwarf to prove that we might be of worth to them as guards. As it was, Hosse still only agreed to pay us a pittance, and in return, we had agreed to do no more than sit on the wagons we were supposed to guard. At the last minute, I offered to train the few scouts they had in exchange for the use of a horse during the trip, and I was rather surprised when Hosse agreed. Our displayed must have impressed him a bit more than he was letting on.
After another day of the resupplying the caravan, we took to the road again, heading for what everyone said was the road to Westgate. It was maddening not to actually know, and I think Telaran, the one who usually carried so many maps with him, was chafing at our ignorance even worse than I was.
Our first day on the road was peaceful enough. We met the chief of the caravan's security, a scarred dwarf named Magruff. He was curt to us, at best, but at least didn't feel the need to insult us that Hosse seemed to live for. Borreau and I rode with the scouts. I had four halfling and dwarf scouts in my little troop, and I tried to take the task of training them seriously. Up until now, their idea of scouting seemed to be to take leisurely rides through the countryside somewhere in front of the wagons. Borreau and I snuck up on them and showed them the ways they and the whole train could have been destroyed a half-dozen times before they began to put a little more thought into what they were doing. I felt proud when the youngest of the halflings scampered on his pony up to Hosse to report to him that another train of wagons was headed our way.
The other train of wagons turned out to be dark-skinned men from Chult on their way up to Suzail. They had opted to take the overland route. I was out with the sentries at the time, and didn't have the chance to talk with the strangers much. I regretted that when I got to talk with the other party members at the campfire; they had spoken with the traders about strange lands and strange goods, and Lorivar had bought a staff of dark, heavy wood from them. I wish I could have talked with them, and perhaps traded with them for a weapon for Borreau. Losing so much of his weaponry hurt my warrior cleric more than I think he admitted. Even as he was spending gold to re-equip himself, he also bought a sword for me. Sometimes I'm not sure what that much kindness is doing in a cleric of Tempus.
Our quiet travels ended on the second day out, though, when the scouts came back to report to Borreau and I that the road ahead was blocked. Sure enough, a bored-looking servant with a sign said that the bridge ahead was washed out, and that our wagons would have to take a detour down a dirt path to the only other bridge in the area. By the time Telaran and the others arrived, we had confirmed that a wide river lay ahead of us, and the bridge on our road was almost completely destroyed.
Maybe if we had found a way to get along better with Hosse, things may not have gone as badly as they did. Hosse, Magruff, and some of Hosse's men huddled in a group to decide what to do, while we Wayfarers gathered to come to our own conclusions. To our minds, we were being herded down an open invitation for bandits and ambushes. Verence had a spell that could make the river's surface hard enough for the horses to cross, and we wanted to make our crossing here at this road, bridge or no bridge. When we suggested the idea to Hosse, though, he barked (it's amazing how much volume little halflings can come up with) that he trusted no such magic, and began the trek down the side road. We camped at a field on the side of the road, a convenient place for stopping. More invitation for bandits to find us as easily as possible.
As it turned out in the end, bandits were small game compared to what trouble we were really in. As Borreau and Verence later figured out, we were sleeping at the site of a tremendous cursed battlefield. All those who died there were cursed to rise again, and rise they did, in the dark hours of the night, dozens of them: zombies, skeletons, and shadows wisps.
Verence, Borreau, and a couple of halfling and dwarf clerics managed to carry the tide of our battle by clearing out vast numbers of these unnatural souls with the power of their gods. The rest of us relied on solid weapons to clear through these beings one at a time. Telaran hit the most problems when he strode forward with his magic sword, a piece of steel that glows like firefly night. It was a signal lamp to every one of those shadowy beings that were left to pile on our fighter like a wolf pack.
I helped clear as many of those shadows away from Telaran as I could, then I slipped out of the campsite while the final clean-up was still going on to see if anything outside the camp was responsible for what had happened inside the camp. What I found made me furious enough to boil water on my head: Hosse and Magruff had not posted any sentries outside the camp. The only person I found was Borreau, who had come out to meet me. If anyone had come to watch the carnage (like that fellow who sent us down this road in the first place), or even to assist in it, they were long gone and would never be found.
I stomped back into camp in time to find a wounded Telaran giving Hosse a piece of his mind while Verence desperately tried to heal the injured in the camp. I joined Telaran while Borreau joined Verence. All counted, nearly half the caravan's crew had been killed or severely wounded, including two of my scouts. We helped to bury the dead, and Verence and Borreau cast blessings from their gods to remove the curse from this old field. I didn't sleep again until the next night, and even then it was with the picture of that young halfling scout who wouldn't make it home waiting for me every time my eyes closed.
The bridge we had been routed towards, to no one's surprise, was a trap. The floor of the bridge had been removed and covered by illusion, so that any wagon that tried to cross it would crash to the rocks below, leaving it easy pickings for the vultures to close in on. Borreau and I and the scouts kept a sharp eye on the surrounding area while the dwarves tried to repair the bridge. That brought down on them the illusion of a giant angry troll, but once they were certain it was indeed false, fixing the bridge and crossing was simple.
It was a couple of days later when we arrived in Eversult, a town a bit smaller than Arabel. Telaran found gold; a scribe's shop that included maps. We bought a map, found out where Eversult was, and got our bearings. The relief we all felt to finally have some idea of where we were! To our surprise, the caravan's final stop at Westgate was much farther east than we needed to go; if we headed due north from Eversult, we would hit a pair of port cities that could, in turn, sail us north across the Dragon Sea to reach Suzail.
More good news: Verence had gained favors from Mystra to send a message to her other clerics in Arabel. A message arrived back from them while we were in Eversult (in the form of a not-too-convincing bird) promising that our goods and animals that had been abandoned in Arabel would be taken care of. And finally, while in town, I managed to hunt down a sword with a magical edge to it. It doesn't compare to my own sword, but it's a good weapon, with a sharp edge and good feel, and I won't have any problems hitting magical creatures with it.
We parted company with the caravan without too many hard feelings between us. We have hired a coach from the Myrmidon Messenger Service that will take us up to the port city of Pros. We have a decent meal under our belts, a simple house lodge to spend the night in, and the promise of knowing that our feet are turned back for our own lands in the morning. Everyone was in high spirits tonight, and the edginess is gone from the group. I don't look forward to returning to the water when we reach Pros, but at least it will get us back in Cormyr.
The Jade Letters are the property and copyright of Beth Griese, not to be published or redistributed without permission.
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