Tak – Homeward Bound.

It was obvious that we were going to have to return to the camp of Goliaths, and the more I thought about it, the angrier I got.

Onenu Firehart had put the blame for an entire tribes death onto the Rock Tanners. The Stone Breakers hadn’t questioned her, hadn’t seen any red flags in her argument, and had helped her in attacking other tribes as a result.

I was more than a little angry.

I practised speaking to them diplomatically whilst Drax navigated the tower closer to their camp. I took deep breaths and reminded myself that Onenu has deceived them.

It didn’t help though, the moment Brak Githson smirked when we approached the village, I lost my cool.
“Oh, so you’re still alive then!” he opened with.
“Yes we’re still alive”, I fired back, “No thanks to anyone in this village.”
I took a breath.
“You’ll be pleased to know we’ve dealt with…” I hiked my thumb over my shoulder towards the volcano. “That.”

Drifting up lazily from the crater was a small white stream of smoke. The plumes of black ash no longer fed the air, and the hissing clouds of steam had settled.

“You’ll also be very pleased to hear that your betroved was behind the whole thing. She was summoning elementals, widening the volcano, and murdering any tribe that tried to stop her.”
Brak’s face was reddening in anger at this point. I’d seen similar anger before in my comrades. Me, I’m obviously immune to such things, being such a peaceful soul.
Shut up, why are you laughing?

“Anyway, we’ve cleaned up your mess, and stopped her from working for Corsinar. You’re welcome.”

I tossed out the brown bag I’d filled with her ashes.
“Here, you’ll be wanting this.”
Brak sneered, and looked down. “What’s that?”
“That’ll be what remains of Onenu. As I said, we took care of it.”
I thought he was about to stab me where I stood. Arn, I think, thought the same thing, because he stepped forward. Gith, though, had already put his hand on his sons shoulder, and pulled him back.

“Why should be believe you with this wild tale? Why should we take the word of a low-lander?”
Maeb stepped forward, and began to incant a spell, she drew an area around us with her finger and spoke the final word of power.
“What Maeb has just done, is made it impossible for a lie to be told in this area. Let me just recant everything that has happened to date, and you can make your mind up for yourself.”

For the purposes of brevity, I won’t repeat the whole tale. You’ve read it this far, and know whats going on! Blah Blah Blah Forest Warden, Blah Blah Staff of Seasons, Blah Corsinar, Blah Blah Onenu evil.

When I’d finished, he still didn’t look convinced.
“Pah, Lowlander magic. We don’t hold with such magics here. We decide the truth in a very different way.”
I guess I knew what was coming, but I couldn’t resist a dig.
“Here it comes. Now we decide who can do the biggest poop.”
Both Goliaths looked puzzled. “I don’t think you understand how this works!”
“Sure I do,” I replied. “You think the truth is solved by punching each other till someone falls over.”
I think I could feel Drax grinning behind me.
“Oh, you do understand. Yes. The victor determines the truth.”
I looked Brak up and down. It’d be a tough fight, but I reckoned I could take him.
“Ok, then, bring it on, I won’t go easy on you!”Gith looked amused. “No small one, you’ll not be fighting for truth, you’re not a worthy opponent for Brak. He looked past me at Drax and Arn. Without turning their heads, they Boulder/parchment/shears for it, and Arn won.
He stepped forward. “I’ll be fighting for this truth.”
I almost felt sorry for Brak. Almost.

“Before you fight, Arn, you have visitors from another tribe awaiting you. They wish to speak with you urgently.
Arn glanced towards the tent, seeing something distasteful. He marched towards the tent.

I called out “Do you need help?” I got a negative grunt back, and then he was out of hearing range.

Off at the top tent, Arn stood talking with an older Goliath, and a female Goliath. I couldn’t hear their words, but I’m a brilliant reader of body language, and based upon that, I present to you my best guess at their conversation.

Arn: Grawr, I am Arn, I am mighty
Old: I am old and not mighty. But I dislike you, as you have a bad smell.
Female: I don’t dislike you, but Old says I must, but I think you’re alright.
Arm: I dislike you all, you offend me. Grawr
Old: Yes, you said that. I still dislike you, you smell like 5 day old meat.
Female: However, we wish for you to catch food for us.

I’m pretty sure that’s the gist of it.

When Arn returned, he looked angrier than I’ve seen him since I tied a bow into Echo’s tail. Maybe even angrier than that. He punched a rock, and I’m pretty sure the Rock said ow.
Brak was going to get his bottom kicked.

Gith staked out an arena, and both combatants readied themselves. I made sure to position myself beside Old, and gave a running commentary on just how awesome Arn was, and how he didn’t smell too bad. As the resident priest, Drax stepped up and blessed the two combatants, adding a little extra bless for Arn. Maeb had already woven an enchantment and I yelled from my vantage point “You can do it Arn! Kick him in the danglies!”Beside me, Old scowled. So because I’m polite I added “Then punch him in the face!”
Arn grinned at me, and turned towards Brak.

Brak beckoned him in, expecting a slow approach. Arn was on him in a flash. Stabbing, slicing, weaving and stabbing again. Brak reeled back from the initial assault, trying in vain to attack back. Then pain took hold, and he began to froth at the mouth. I’ve seen this happen before, with Dandelion. Theres someone I’ve not thought about in a while!

Ignoring any defence, Brak slashed back, left, right, and at each attack Arn caught the blade on his own, or side-stepped the clumsy attack.
I yelled once more “Its ok Brak! You’re allowed to surrender!”
This only brought a glare from old, and a covered smirk from Female.
You know what? I shouldn’t be calling them that now. I actually know their names, though at the time I didn’t. Old was actually called Vriff, or something equally fart-sounding, and the female Goliath was called Maeve. Maeve was also Arn’s big sister.

Back in the ring, Brak had now struck two lucky blows on Arn, and two stripes of blood decorated his arms. Brak, on the other hand, looked a mess. He stepped in wildly for another attack, which Arn neatly sidestepped, hammering his fist into Brak’s cheek.

I’d like to say “Brak teetered for a bit, wobbling uncertainly”. You know, building drama. But Brak went out like a light. Dropped to the floor like a felled tree.

I cheered loudly, turning to face Vriff. “See, I told you he was awesome! How cool was that?” Vriff huffed again angrily, and stalked away from the camp.
I’m starting to get the impression he doesn’t like Arn. Can’t quite put my finger on it though.
Maeb stepped in, and healed Brak up a bit, and I turned to face Gith.
“Right, there you have it. Arn royally kicked his butt. You have our truth now. We’ve a land to be saving from an evil druid.”
Gith looked split. 50% glad we’d proved ourselves, and 50% sad his son had lost a fight. “Please stay a little while. There is to be a feast.”

I’m not one to pass over a feast, especially as it meant I could practise some of my new tales.

Through-out the evening, Arn and Maeve talked about his old tribe. How he’d been cast aside, and how the tribe had suffered since. Maeve told tales of songs that had reached them of Arn’s (and our) adventures. She asked for clarification on some parts, and after a while I realised that these tales she’d heard were my own! Other bards had picked up on my stories and resang them, spreading them wider than the lands we’d actually travelled.
Hang on a moment, I’m feeling a bit emotional.

Over the next hour or so, Arn and Drax negotiated with the two tribes (Gith’s and Maeve’s) and both offered to lend help in the fight against Corisnar. They’d travel the mountains, speaking with the other tribes, and organising support which would be sent to Roccor.
With our work here done, we headed back to the tower. Arn seemed happy in himself, though everyone else seemed withdrawn and quiet. Too much ale? Maybe, or perhaps the consequences of the war against the naughty druid was sinking in.

At the tower, we summoned up Augustus the Air Elemental. He didn’t have a name, and Gus sounded like a suitable one. Drax bound him to our service for a month, and he was given the instructions of where to guide the tower to. With that taken care of, I bedded down to sleep for two days!

I considered spending some time crafting a candle of my own, but according to Dirt Tia’Vari hasn’t let the egg out of her sight, so that might not be the cleverest plan.

It took two quiet days to reach the city, during which we had time to observe the changes to the land since we’d last travelled this way. Whilst no oily goo coated the land, its effects were certainly being felt. Farms no longer seemed able to grow crops. Live-stock was scarce, and most people were just abandoning their homes, and heading to the city for aid.
The land wasn’t this bad during the wars, at least farmland was left then!

As we closed in on the city, Arn pulled a small statuette he’d claimed. It depicted a small silver falcon, and on whispering a command word, he passed it to me to give a statement to send to the city. I had to limit myself to 25 words, so I practised carefully.

Dear Rhodrin (that’s two) Your Heroes are returning in a flying tower (ten) We will be coming via the docks (Seventeen) Please do not shoot us down (twenty three). Love Tak!
There, that should do it. Arn sent the bird fluttering away, and we sat in to wait.

A few hours later, a small dappled owl hopped down from the window. I held out my finger in my best forest princess pose, and it hopped up. It opened its mouth, and hooted gently, then its voice turned deep, husky and… old, and it said “Tak. What have you done to the Air!”

I stood there confused for a moment. And said “Theres nothing wrong with the air?” The Owl nodded, jumped up, and flew off.

That was a little surreal.

We guided the tower over the river, angling it to arrive over the docks. Normally the docks would be a bustling place full of industry. (apart from that time we accidentally set fire to it) Today it was bereft of activity. We slowly lowered the tower to the jetty, and Dovin summoned vines to hold it in place. Drax instructed the elemental (and Dirt) to protect it. I stepped outside, turned, and made a big sign of magically protecting it. Sometimes that works better than actually protecting it.

On the dock stood a few guards. Well, a lot of guards. Basically, two squads of guards.
They had their weapons drawn, and the Sergeant had a very grumpy look about him.
“We’re here to escort you to the Boss-Hut” He growled. I mentioned he was a grumpy Orc right?
“What in the hells is that?” he barked, pointing at Izkin. “That’s not a gnome!”
He’d obviously missed the sensitivity training, and I was sure to tell him this.
“You can’t just go commenting on someones species? That’s just not on! Izkin here is a Kobold, and you’re being very insensitive. Ignore him Izkin, he’s just set in his ways!”
I then turned to the guard, “And I’ll have your name and rank please, Rhodrin will hear of this!”
He didn’t even have the decency to look embarrassed. “Sergeant Scoff. Now hurry up. You need to be questioned about the air.”
Why do they keep going on about the air. Its fine. We’re breathing without difficulty.

The two squads of guards served dual purpose. The first set were to clear the path. The roads were packed full of people running from the blight. The guards had to manhandle people out of the way for the second squad to escort us through. I waved to people as we passed, but the toll of their paths seemingly removed any chance of a happy encounter from their minds, and their eyes slid past us to the guards.

It took a fair while longer than normal to get to the boss-hut, and on arriving the first squad stood down, leaving Sergeant Scuff and his men to escort us to Rhodrin. The old Dragonborn looked irritated, and half-frantic when we finally got to him. Behind him, clearly putting on a brave face was Freya, Mother to the Heir to the kingdom Narack. Mother to the Heir Narack. Heir. OH HEIR! Not air.
The Heir is missing, oh I’m glad we sorted that out.
Oh god, the Heir is missing.

Suddenly the panic made sense. Rhodrin stared straight at me.
“Tak. Tak. What have you done with the Heir?”
Hang on, what? Why would I have the heir? So I asked him.
“Hang on. What? Why would I have the heir?”
And he told us. I can’t repeat this word for word, because he wheezed a lot, coughed a fair bit, and used some words that I’m not sure what they meant.

So, to summarise;
Lots of gloopy blight appears. Wizards, Guards, people with sharp sticks show up to fight it off. They’ve learnt from us that fire gets rid of it, so they spend days building pyres to keep the blight back. Whilst they’re doing this, someone snuck into the city and kidnapped the son of a Gnome merchant. The second night, Orimeila, daughter of Zraskan Vilreth (a prominent mage in the Dragonborn community) was kidnapped. On the third night the daughter of Mavthros a Tiefling Noble was taken.
On the morning of the fourth day, Rhodrin and Freya had a visitor. Flower, our friend and colleague, seemed agitated and worried. He told them there was a plot to kidnap the Heir, and that on my orders (ha, like I ever order anyone!) (Well, except people that really need it) he was to take the Heir to a place of safety.
They sent the heir with him, and that was the last they saw of him. This was a month prior. In the mean time, each of the parents had received a letter. It was enscribed on enchanted vellum, and contain a Geas. They were to read this at midnight, and their child would be returned to them.
The Geas would basically bind them to Corsinars service.
Two of the parents contacted Rhodrin and reported this, One did not. The Dragon mage school had examined the paper and identified its nature. The single non-responsive parent was Mavthros, who was refusing council with the Boss-Hut. Guards had been turned away at his door, and Rhodrin was unsure whether this warranted forced entry.

We decided to help. But for this we’d need two things.
First, we’d need an escort to his house.
Second, we’d need Sergeant Scoff to apologise to Izkin. He was incredibly rude!
We got both of our wishes, and we were escorted to Mavthros’s home.

Knocking on the door there was no answer, so I went to plan B.
I knocked again.
This time, someone answered. “We’re taking no visitors. Please go away!”

A small Dragonborn lady, hunched and sullen peered out at us. I already had my clipboard out by this point. “Excuse me young lady, we’re here on official boss-hut business, and need to speak with Mavthos. Its regarding his daughter. We think we can help her.”
She peered at me for a moment, and sighed. “Wait here. I’ll go speak with him.”
She then closed the door in my face.

I counted to 30, grabbed Drax, and teleported to the other side of the door. I opened the door for the others, and listened carefully to see if I could tell where she’d gone to. Once we worked out where she’d gone, we followed on behind. As we closed in, she spotted us following.
“You can’t be in here!” she gasped. “You need to leave!”
From further up the passageway a male voice echoed from out of a room.
“Who is it? Who’s come”
I stepped around his servant, and into his lounge. Sat on a stool, an elderly Tiefling hunched over. His eyes tired, and his skin pale.
“Ah, you must be Mavthros, I’m Tak, appointed by the council to investigate your daughters disappearance.” I looked down at the couch next to him, seeing his daughter lying there.
“And here she is. Marvelous.” Behind me, Drax moved to check her over. I nodded to Maev, and she sketched out her zone of Truth again.
“Mavthros. Did you read the incantation?”
He turned to look at me, but didn’t answer.
Drax, after investigating the child, cleared his throat.
“Just like the Princess. She’s infected with the Blight.”

I could see it now. The dark ooze curling across her arms, the fever, the lack of consciousness. Damn. They were using it to infect children up here.
Mavthros looked up at this point, turning to face me. “Of course I read it. I couldn’t risk anything happening to her. I read it at midnight as it stated, and within the hour a small gnome, with badger tattoos and flaming hair brought her back. She too was covered in the black stuff, but she wore it with pride”.

Oh god, he’d just described Dandelion. Corsinar had Dandelion, which removed the slim hope that Flower was actually trying to help.

Oh no.

“Mavthros. You’d joined with the Forces of Corsinar. Whether for a good reason or not, you’re now under his power. We’ll take your daughter and care for her, but I’m afraid you need to be placed in a cell where you can’t hurt anyone.” He hung his head, and nodded.
We summoned in Sergeant Scoff, and left him to deal with the details.

Now we just need to find where two gnomes are hiding out with three children. The city can’t be that big, right?