Monday, September 26, 2016

Entry 4 - The Swallowtail Festival

[For my previous journal entry, go here. To see where my journey began, go here.]

The day of the Swallowtail Festival finally arrived, and Ameiko asked the bard who had been playing at the Rusty Dragon the last few evenings to lead the crowds to the square outside the new cathedral in the north part of town. He was very talented with the lute, but no one knew what he looked like since he always wore a mask.

Once everyone was gathered outside the cathedral, the mayor, Kendra Deverin, announced some of the games around town, including something called the Demon Hunt over by the Old Light, a "Dragon Ride" by the docks, and a greased pig catching game in a small pen near the market square where Hosk's Goblin Toss game was as well, a little to the west of the Stables and Rusty Dragon. After mentioning Goblin Toss, she asked everyone to please not encourage the children to think the jerky is actually goblin meat. There were a few chuckles and groans throughout the crowd.

She also urged everyone to keep children away from the Pixie's Kiss being hosted by the Pixie's Kitten, the local brothel.

The Sheriff took her place briefly and told everyone to have fun, but crimes would not receive leniency just because of the Festival. He also announced the bonfire that would be later that night, advising people to be safe and especially keep an eye on any children who come to the bonfire.

Cyrdak Drokkus, the proprietor of the local theater got up next and praised the people who had built the new cathedral, encouraged everyone to take part in the food local businesses were offering for free in the cathedral square, and at the end of his speaking reminded people to come by that evening to audition for his new play The Harpy's Curse that would be coming out soon.

He stepped down and people started milling about, getting food and chatting. The bard started playing some music to entertain people, and as I was looking around the square I noticed someone familiar talking to the theater owner.

I waited for them to finish talking, but then walked over. "You planning to be in the play, Ham?" My old friend turned around, surprised to see me there, then gave me a funny look. "Sorry, Hamlin." He hated being called Ham, but I couldn't resist using it sometimes.

Hamlin was an old friend from Magnimar. We'd met when he came to the Bartered Coin to sell some stuff, but we didn't really get to know each other until he brought a horse he'd... "acquired" (not from my father or we wouldn't have become friends). Horses were one of the only livestock we would try to move because they were, well, easy to move compared to others. We could find someone passing through town who needed one and get it out quick, but we would usually put word out one was needed before taking one. We couldn't just keep them in the backyard or anything.

When he came on the property that time, the horse he brought looked like garbage. I could tell without even having to get close. I actually said to him, "That horse has 3 feet in the grave, what were you thinking? I'm coming with you next time." I got the okay from the boss to do it because of my knowledge with horses. I managed to teach Hamlin a fair amount about horses in our time together working jobs, and he became quite the horse thief, but we decided to stop a few years ago after one job had too close a call. We hadn't seen each other a whole lot since then, but did keep in touch.

It turned out he actually was there to try and get into the play. I teased him about it a bit, but it was kind of nice that he had a dream or goal he was trying for.

He talked to the bard for a moment, and we found out his name is Dante, and before I knew it Hamlin was playing some panpipes, with the bard appraising his skill while never really stopping playing his lute.

After a little while, the three of us decided to check out some of the games. A lot of the townsfolk were sad Dante's music was ending as we left the cathedral square. Some followed us hoping he would start playing again.

For some reason, dressed as nicely as he was, Dante wanted to try the pig catching game. It was one copper piece to play, and you won the pot of everyone who was in the same round as you. He asked if there were any rules other than catching it, and whoever was running the game just said no fighting each other.

The game started and Dante subtly waved a hand and mumbled something, and the pig dodged past a couple of other contestants and walked right up to him. Dante picked it up and handed it to the game runner and got his few copper pieces.

As he was getting ready to play that game, I noticed some children walking around with these little catapults, launching small rocks at each other and laughing whenever they conked someone. Some of the adults who were hit weren't so amused.

I asked where they got them and they said there was a game up near the Old Light where you used bigger ones to knock down these small stone towers that stood a few feet high. If you could knock the tower down, you got one of the small catapults as a prize.

I asked if I could see one of the catapults for a moment, and a kid handed his over. After looking it over briefly, I realized they were very finely made. Aside from being so small, they were fully functional catapults. I estimated we could sell something like these at the Bartered Coin for about 15g, possibly more to the right type of buyer. Not a cheap item to be giving away to kids as a festival prize.

I decided I wanted one of those for myself because of the novelty, so we headed up to the Old Light since no one else really had a game they wanted to check out.

I found out the Carpenter's Guild Master, Aesrick Battlehorn, was the one running the game. It suddenly made sense why the items were so well-made. While I was talking to Aesrick about the work on the small siege weapons, we were walking between the few larger catapults they had made for the game, and he would stop me for a moment to very quietly give tips to the children. "Turn that crank another couple turns." "Angle it a little higher." That sort of thing. I noticed the kids seemed to do a lot better at the game than most of the adults, and I think the master carpenter liked it that way. The kids' faces were beaming whenever they'd get their tiny catapults.

I didn't talk to him for too long since he was busy running the game, but I did pick up enough of the advice he gave the kids that I felt a little more confident when I asked to play. It was five silver pieces, and I was given three shots at one of the towers. My first shot clipped it but only knocked a few stones loose. I over adjusted on the second shot and missed completely, but on the third try I hit it square in the base and it came toppling down. It was really quite fun, and I walked away with one of those miniature catapults.

I thanked Aesrick for his time and we moved on to the Demon Hunt, which was really just an archery contest. I did okay, but didn't win anything special with the three arrows I was given. The white ribbon they gave out was apparently for anyone who at least hit the target. Oh well.

By the time we finished walking the circuit around Sandpoint to check out the games, it was time for the swallowtail butterfly release. A bunch of people gathered in the cathedral square again where the legend of the goddess Desna was shared. I missed some of the details because of the noise of the crowd, but caught that someone who gained the favor of Desna was turned into an immortal swallowtail butterfly, and the festival celebrates this event. At the end of the story a cover was removed from a wagon, and hundreds of swallowtail butterflies flew up into the sky and scattered with the winds.

There wasn't much time to marvel in the beauty of the spectacle, though, as a handful of goblins suddenly ran into the square and started singing an awful song while simultaneously stuffing their faces with food from some of the stands and wrecking those same stands.

I looked around quickly and Kalista happened to be there, but no one else from the town guard. I caught her eye and motioned to a couple of the goblins, heading over to take on one that was by Ameiko's food stand. It was clutching a dog it must have killed in town on its way to the square, and didn't seem to want to let it go as it went about destroying things and shoveling food into its mouth.

I was disappointed the owner of the Rusty Dragon wasn't there at the moment. During the times she had been helping me with learning Tian, I found out Ameiko had been an adventurer before she settled down in Sandpoint, and the blades on the walls of the tavern were mostly ones she had used over the years. Another good fighter would have been nice to have at that moment.

Dante began to sing, and my attacks against the goblin in front of me suddenly felt... empowered. It felt easier to connect with my staff, and those attacks felt slightly stronger as well. This was a new feeling. I didn't realize magic could do something like this before.

Hamlin asked if anyone else could hear a drumming noise, and moved around the corner of the cathedral to investigate. He called out he saw more goblins that way, and one had a drum it was pounding away on.

Kalista moved up next to me to attack the other goblin at Ameiko's stand.

Dante ran around the fountain in the middle of the square, putting himself between two goblins approaching from the west and myself, and slid across the ground on his knees, yelling, "MELT YOUR FAAAACE!" as he continued playing his lute. The goblins fell over dead, clutching at their faces, which appeared to have actually melted. I continued to be surprised by the strange ways magic could work. I had heard of wizards who could make great balls of fire appear amidst their foes, but this was a bit... different from that.

One of the goblins took a couple swipes at me, but kept missing since it wouldn't let go of the dog's body it was holding. I only managed to land two glancing blows, but then it dropped the dog and managed to cut my leg pretty badly with its wicked little dagger.

Hamlin and Kalista stepped up and managed to kill the goblin, and while I was assessing my wound I caught a glimpse of a hand holding a holy symbol stick out the door of the cathedral, and suddenly almost all the pain was gone. I nodded to the priest, who must have slipped inside when the goblins arrived, and the door closed again.

More goblins came from the south, one of them carrying a drum. That one played out an urgent beat on its drum suddenly, and Dante fell to the ground laughing hysterically. I had felt the same urge to do so, but managed to shrug it off. I decided I didn't like all magic, particularly when it was malicious and aimed at me.

Kalista handed her crossbow to Hamlin, and I headed toward the goblins he had seen before on the north side of the cathedral. I was suddenly surrounded by three of the little creatures and got slashed in a few places. I was in more pain than I had ever experienced before, and felt like one more hit from one of the goblins would finish me off.

But then Kalista charged up and just eviscerated one of the goblins that had surrounded me. It was in more than one piece when its body hit the ground.

I took the opportunity to tell them to back off or get what the other goblin got as I took a swing at one of them with my staff. The one I didn't hit actually stepped back, cowering in fear after one of his friends practically exploded while the other took a whack to the head. It started to run away, so I took the opportunity to attack it as well. I reversed my grip on the staff and smacked the retreating goblin with a solid blow, hearing some ribs cracking as it took off for the northern gate screaming.

The goblin with a drum in the group by the cathedral stepped up and attacked Kalista, but missed.

I grit my teeth and managed to tumble past the drummer goblin in order to try flanking it, but was so busy trying to not fall over dead after doing the jump and flip that I missed with my attack.

I heard the bard do his face melting thing again and looked over to see two more goblins on the ground. He must have shaken off that weird laughing spell.

Hamlin asked which drummer he should fire the crossbow at since they seemed more dangerous than the other goblins (and there was only one goblin aside from them left standing at this point) and I simply coughed up some blood in reply. He fired at the one by me but missed. Fortunately, I managed to cave in its skull with my staff.

The remaining drummer pulled out a whip and charged at Dante, trying to tangle his feet up with the whip, but the bard was quick on his feet and managed to dodge the attack.

Kalista finished off the last goblin near us, so the only one left was the drummer by Dante. I was feeling too beaten up to try moving over to it to attack with my staff, so I pulled a dagger out of my boot and flung it at the enemy. It tumbled end over end and lodged itself in the goblin's throat. Finally, I get a good hit on one of these things, I thought as I fell down to my knees, leaning heavily on my staff.

The priest came bursting out the door of the cathedral with other acolytes pouring out behind him as soon as the last goblin fell, and they quickly healed all of us before gathering up the townsfolk and moving them into the cathedral to tend to them better there.

I quickly cut the ears off the dozen or so goblins and put them in a bag I'd acquired just for this purpose after my last encounter with goblins. It was made from a heavier material that would help prevent a... mess. Cutting off the ears elicited a dirty look from the bard. I let him know about Hosk's deal with goblin ears, and he just took a few steps away in response. A dozen gold was a dozen gold, as far as I was concerned.

In a hasty search we found a couple vials of liquid, and the priest was able to tell us they were healing potions, and he wondered aloud how goblins had gotten their hands on something like that.

I handed a few gold to the priest and told him to use it to help the injured townsfolk.

The commotion in Sandpoint wasn't over yet, though. We heard a dog howl and a man yelling for help up north, and Hamlin, Dante, Kalista, and myself ran off.

We came upon an injured nobleman with a dog beheaded a few feet away. One of the two goblins there was riding a creepy, emaciated-looking dog, and was holding a somewhat larger scrap metal blade in its hand than the other goblins we'd run into so far. It was trying to tie the dog's head to its belt.

The bard waved his hand, and the severed dog head started nipping at the goblin and somehow pulled it off its little mount. When the goblin noticed what was happening, it freaked out and started wildly swinging its weapon at the dog head on its hip, slicing its own leg a few times in the process.

Hamlin lined up a shot with the crossbow and fired a bolt straight through the grotesque dog mount's eye and it slumped to the ground without even a whimper.

Dante helped the nobleman to his feet and told him to head toward the chapel before chucking one of his curved daggers at the goblin that had been riding the creepy dog, instantly killing it. Is that a kukri? I thought to myself. I didn't think anyone in these parts used those. Where's this guy from?

I stepped over to the one Kalista had already taken a swing at and managed a crushing blow on one of its legs and it started to collapse. Dante called out to not kill it so we could question it, and Kalista kicked it in the chest, knocking it onto its back, then held it down with her foot. She looked over at the bard and asked, "Do we really want to keep this one alive?" He nodded and she pulled out some small shackles to chain it.

The nobleman introduced himself as Aldren Foxglove. He offered to pay for our meals at the Rusty Dragon while he was staying in town for the next few days, and offered a healing potion to each of us.

Sheriff Hemlock arrived shortly after, his eyes seeming almost full of bloodlust as he assessed the situation. The rage in his face slowly died away and he suddenly looked rather winded. We let him know we took a goblin prisoner, and he invited us to participate in the interrogation since we were the ones who had saved the northern part of Sandpoint. It turned out we were the only ones aside from the town guard who had helped in the fighting.

We went straight to the garrison with Hemlock and to the holding cell. The goblin was chained up and a guard came in to ask questions, looking to us for what to ask since we captured it. We told him to ask what they were after, but the goblin wouldn't reply. After the guard jabbed the goblin with a metal rod a few times, Dante interrupted and said he had a better solution than just making the thing scream a bunch.

Dante waved his hands again and muttered under his breath for a moment, much like he had at the pig pen, and the goblin suddenly became very amiable, as though the bard was its friend. We managed to find out a half-elf or elf was apparently leading the goblins because he referred to the person in charge as a "longshanks" like us, but that he has pointy ears. We also got a rough idea of where the goblin camp was by having him point out the location on a map.

I asked what parts of town were attacked, and the Sheriff let us know that only the northern gate and southern bridge were where the goblins attacked from, but the Tanner's Bridge in the central-east part of town did not see any assault. I followed up asking what was in that area. It seemed to me like maybe the attack was a distraction if an entire entryway to Sandpoint was avoided by the attacking force.

Hemlock replied that it was the craftsmans' area. The blacksmith, carpenter's guild, etc, were in that area. There weren't any big, expensive projects known to the town guard that would be worth stealing from there, and no word had come from the area that anything was missing.

He let us go but said he may want to follow up with us the next day if any new information came to light.

We got back to the Goblin Squash Stables, and I saw a lot of damage around the place. I was suddenly worried and ran onto the grounds. The horses had apparently fought back, as there were a number of trampled goblins around the property. A couple of horses had been killed, but Pips and Molly, the horse Hamlin had purchased from my father when he left Magnimar, had survived with some bad cuts, but they wouldn't be ready to ride again for a while.

I fed a healing potion to Pips, and Dante asked what I was doing. I briefly explained to him that Pips has been my horse since he was born, so helping relieve some of his pain in this way was natural to me. He shrugged.

Once I was sure Hosk had things under control at the Stables, we went to the Rusty Dragon for the evening, where Aldren greeted us and announced he would be buying food and drinks for everyone in the tavern that night. There were cheers around the place at that.

Dante started playing music just to help the people in the tavern feel more at ease. "No need to pay me for my services tonight, Amrika," he said.

Ameiko ran a hand across her face as she replied. "For the twentieth time, my name is Ameiko."

"No worries, Amanda," Dante said. "I shall still play to my full capability." I shook my head, and Ameiko threw her hands up and sighed exasperatedly as she went over to the bar.

I patted her on the shoulder as she walked past me. "He's been doing that with everyone he's met today. I don't think he tries to actually learn anyone's name. Just ignore it."

Despite his apparent disdain for my actions earlier, Dante began singing a ballad about the heroic goblin ear collector.

I involuntarily shed a single tear.

The rest of the night was uneventful. Everyone tried to have as good a time as they could with most everyone knowing someone who was injured or killed in the attack.

The next day, Hosk woke me up to say the Sheriff was waiting for me outside the Stables, and said I could take the day off again since I was helping the guard. Hemlock had already gone by the Rusty Dragon to get Hamlin and Dante, and he guided us to the square in front of the cathedral. A priest in a dark robe led us from there to a mausoleum in back.

The tomb was empty. I could see goblin-sized footprints in the dust, along with some more human-sized footprints. I couldn't tell how many of each was there, though.

Hamlin asked what was supposed to be there, and we were told this was Elias Tobin's resting place. He was the head priest years ago and died in the fire in the cathedral, along with his adopted daughter, who was apparently a half-celestial. His holy symbol and the scepter he held as the high priest at the time were missing, along with his remains.

There were drag marks in the dust, and we were able to follow them across the cemetery. They led to a wall, where my suspicions were confirmed that they used the Tanner's Bridge, which was on the other side of the wall, to accomplish their goal during the confusion of the attack. They must have crossed the bridge after the attack began, scaled the wall, then broken into the mausoleum.

Hemlock said he couldn't spare people to look into things further because he was busy trying to shore up the town's defenses after that attack made it into Sandpoint almost too easily. He said to let him know if we got any leads, and he would do the same, before dismissing us.

Hamlin had heard when he first woke up that the auditions for the play were going to be held most of today because Cyrdak Drokkus wanted to bolster people's spirits by moving along with his work. We decided to discuss what we wanted to do next while we headed to the theater.

We got in the line of people wanting to audition. A few minutes later, Cyrdak spotted us when he came out to get the next person, and he ushered us in immediately, saying the goblin-slaying Heroes of Sandpoint needn't wait in line like commoners. "No offense," he said offhandedly to the other people there, who surprisingly didn't seem offended for the most part, many of them looking at us with what seemed like wonder or adoration when they realized who we were. Whispers started spreading through the line about us.

Cyrdak had all three of us perform some lines. He wasn't impressed with my performance, saying something along the lines of, "Maybe this isn't for you." My feelings weren't hurt because I didn't really care to be in his play and wasn't really trying, but didn't want to be rude by outright refusing to perform. He was rather impressed with Hamlin, though.

Dante, however, had me almost in tears with suppressed laughter as he somewhat lazily sang a song about how much he didn't want to be in the play. Cyrdak was somehow more enthusiastic about his performance than Hamlin's. He kept praising him, and said, "I can tell you held back in order to make your friend's performance look even better by comparison. A wonderful bard you are! You shall be the star of The Harpy's Curse!"

Despite the fact he was wearing his mask, which he apparently never took off, I could tell Dante had a look of disdain on his face as he said, "I don't want to be in your play. I'm not going to be in this play, Cronut."

Cyrdak kept telling him how much he was looking forward to Dante and Hamlin being in the play as we began walking out of the theater, the bard repeatedly saying he was not going to be in it. The theater owner laughed heartily every time he said it.

As we made our way around town discussing what to do next, we walked by the bakery. I'd bought a few things there periodically, bringing sweet rolls, cinnamon rolls, and other treats as a sort of payment for Ameiko as she was helping me learn Tian. Suddenly, the baker came out, with a few baskets of various baked goods. Along with the things I would typically buy, there were cookies and cupcakes, muffins, and more treats I couldn't remember the names of. When asked why they were giving us all these goods, they replied it was the least they could do for the Heroes of Sandpoint.

The scene repeated itself when we passed the general store. The owner's daughter came out with bags full of goods. Trail rations, oil for lanterns, and other odds and ends that travelers would find useful. She gave a similar reply as the baker when asked what it all was for.

As we walked away from the general store, I spoke to my companions. "Guys, I have a feeling they're expecting something from us."

We talked about the implications of my thoughts as we continued walking around Sandpoint. As we were walking, children started following us. It was only a few at first, but as more and more started gathering, they began whispering amongst themselves, and eventually the questions started.

At first, it started with, "How many goblins have you guys killed?" "How many did you kill in the attack yesterday?" As the day went on, they started asking more questions, to the point they pretty much never stopped.

Since some of them had found out I was working at the Goblin Squash Stables, more than a few asked if the goblin meat from the Goblin Toss game "is reeeeally goblin meat?" "Hey, hey, Mat, I heard your staff turns into a snake! Can you show us? Please? Did the snake eat the goblins?" I told them it could only do that when fighting goblins. Many of them were disappointed to hear that.

"Hamlin, Hamlin, Hamlin, show us how your crossbow can shoot fire! I heard you burned a dozen goblins with your crossbow during the attack." "I heard it was two dozen!" "No, it was... fifty! Yeah, my brother told me it was fifty!" "Well, my dad told me he burned a hundred goblins with his crossbow!" The kids argued about that one for a while, and Hamlin couldn't get them to stop.

"Where'd you get that cool mask, Mister Dante?" "Did you really melt goblin faces off with your lute!? Is the lute magic?" "I heard your daggers are magic too. Like, you can make them float?" "They're called kukris, dummy. I heard one of the town guards talking about them." "I heard he has an army of pigs he can talk to and they do what he tells them." "That's weird." "You're weird." "Show us some magic, Dante!" "Sing a song! I heard your music is its own kind of magic!"

I laughed for a good five minutes the first time a kid asked about the pig army.

This went on all afternoon, until a messenger found us and said the Mayor wanted to meet with us.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Entry 3 - The Ghost of Chopper's Isle

[For my previous journal entry, go here. To see where my journey began, go here.]

I headed toward the Old Light, and just as I got there, a grizzled old man came walking down the rubble of the old tower.

He was a spindly old man, holding a slab of stone that must have come from the ruins of the Old Light. The slab suddenly became two when he tripped coming down the slope.

"It wasn't a lighthouse!" he exclaimed, I think to me, because he waved the stone tablet... or rather, tablets... at me as he got up and moved closer. I guess he just wanted to tell someone. He looked to be mumbling to himself as he approached and seemed to forget I was there for a moment. I asked him what he was talking about, and it seemed to rouse him from his internal ruminations.

"Look here!" He gestured excitedly at one piece of the stone with the other. "Some people think this symbol means 'light', and that's why they think it was a lighthouse. But-" he paused, seemingly lost in his own thoughts for a moment.

It can also mean fire, I thought to myself before he continued speaking. And that other symbol is... spew? Throw?

"This symbol for 'light' is also used for 'fire'! It looks a little different from the usual 'light' symbol, but close enough that a lot of people get it wrong when translating." I nodded, and he blinked at me a couple times before continuing, gesturing at the symbol again. "But context makes all the difference! It was a tower of war that spewed flames at the foes of the ancient Thassalonians!"

He paused, pointing to that other symbol I had noticed. I nodded again as he confirmed my thoughts on the symbol. "I finally have my proof! They'll have to believe me now! HAHA"

I was following along with his line of thought, somewhat, and realized that he must be the one who posted the hastily scrawled request for help at the Old Light. Broderik Quink, if I remembered correctly. By his enthusiasm, if he knew I could read those tablets as well, Madame Mvashti wouldn't get the help I had planned to offer because I'd be tied up talking to him for a while.

"Your theories intrigues me, good sir. I would like to talk to you about it at a later time, as I am meeting someone soon. Where could I find you?"

He blinked at me for a few moments, almost surprised someone was interested in what he was saying, then told me where his home is and scurried off down the road, continuing to mumble to himself.

I sat down on a larger piece of the rubble to wait, but it wasn't terribly long before the old lady showed up, and surprisingly she had someone with her, a female warrior. Her hair was just a little darker than her skin, and cut a little short of her shoulders. A longsword and light crossbow were the main weapons I could see on her, and her armor was a bit heavier than the leather armor I was wearing. Madame Mvashti was wearing the colorful clothing you would expect of a native Varisian. Even the most modest of the traveling folk would usually wear a mix of bright colors.

I called out a greeting to Madame Mvashti in Varisian, and she gave me a funny look, replying in Varisian, "We're in a Common town, why are you speaking Varisian?"

I responded I was just trying to be friendly, then switched to Common and introduced myself to both of the women. The warrior was a town guard named Kalista.

I asked what it was we were supposed to be looking for, and Madame Mvashti replied she had just been hearing noises, what sounded like wails or howling, up on Chopper's Isle and wanted us to investigate. We didn't really get much direction beyond "investigate" when I pressed for more, but were promised five gold pieces each once we completed the task, and so agreed.

The two of us set off on the short path to the base of the cliff that led to Chopper's Isle. I asked Kalista if she thought there really was a ghost up on the plateau and she said she wasn't sure if there was or not, but thought the noises were probably just wind through the trees or the old ruins of Chopper's old home. The town guard had apparently burned the residence to the ground in some kind of attempt to expel the evil spirit of the serial killer after killing him.

As we neared Chopper's Isle, I could see there used to be steps carved into the stone that led up to the top, but since the "late unpleasantness", no one had apparently felt like maintaining them at all, so climbing up was really the only option.

Kalista pulled a grappling hook and length of rope from her bag and started trying to get it up to the top. I was glad she came prepared because I wouldn't have known something like that was necessary for this job.

It wasn't a terribly high cliff, but was tall enough that an anchored rope would prevent a potentially fatal fall. It took her a few tries due to the distance to the top, but she finally got it hooked on something up there. Before we started to climb, though, I spotted something to the east.

Chopper's Isle is really more of a peninsula in the northwest part of Sandpoint. There is a small stretch of open water from the Isle's northernmost point until another bit of land that stuck out from the east, with a small bay to the south of that opening. Sandpoint sits to the south of the bay, at the top of another cliff. From our position, I could see what looked like a decent size pile of junk at the base of that cliff, the sunlight glinting off parts of it, meaning there was most likely metal sitting down there.

What I saw down there was some movement around the junk heap. I pointed it out to Kalista while asking what all that stuff was doing there. She said Junker's Way is the name of the road just south of that spot, and the workers there would periodically comb the streets for trash just sitting out and would toss it over the cliff there, and the spot had become known as Junk Beach.

"I can tell there's scrap metal down there. Why would they throw that away? Hosk could probably use it, for making nails if not actual horseshoes, and the blacksmiths could at least make tools out of the scrap, since the metal likely wouldn't be good enough for weapons, but-"

"Trust me, Mat, this has been discussed to death before. They just pick up whatever's on the street and toss it on Junk Beach."

"Well, they shouldn't. If I'm not mistaken, that thing I can see moving around over there is a goblin."

"What? Where?" I pointed out the small creature that was moving around the junk pile and she sighed once she spotted it.

"The things aren't total idiots, so they'll probably use our trash to make those little..." I paused for a moment, thinking. "Dogslicers, I believe is what they call those crummy little daggers they use."

"I'll have to send some guards down the cliff to run it off once we're done here. The little scoundrels have been getting bold lately, that's for sure." She grabbed onto the rope and started up the cliff to Chopper's Isle. "Again, you bring up good points, but the Junkers aren't likely to change how they do things anytime soon, unfortunately."

I sighed in resignation, then climbed up myself once Kalista reached the top.

We made our way through the sparse trees on the top of the plateau, and came upon the ruins of the old house pretty quickly. The stone walls of the circular house that were still standing were  no more than three or four feet tall in most places.

Kalista started to move toward the burned-out building, but I grabbed her arm reflexively to stop her. When she looked back at me over her shoulder, I pointed to two places in front of us on the far side of the building. One goblin on the right, two on the left. None of them were looking in our direction. The ones on the left seemed to be rummaging through the bushes or something near the tree line, and the one on the right was poking around a rock near the crumbling house.

With her stronger armor and likely more training with her weapons, I signaled for her to take the two on the left and headed to the right myself after she gave a nod. I whispered I'd join her if I was able to take care of my target fast enough.

I had practiced moving stealthily over the years, and was a bit surprised that I didn't hear her movements much as we snuck up on our targets.

I managed to get within just a few feet of my goblin without him hearing me, and raised up my quarterstaff to strike. He moved suddenly, still unaware of my presence, and my swing hit the rock behind him, the physical shock of the strike causing me to drop the staff. The goblin yelped and I heard a similar noise come from over where Kalista was.

The goblin in front of me took a swipe at me with its crude, jagged dagger, but I managed to evade the strike with a small jump backward.

I quickly drew my rapier from the sheath on my belt and stabbed at the goblin, landing a glancing blow across its arm. The creature managed to position itself with its back to the crumbling wall of the house and missed with another swing at me with its dagger. It must have been the nerves of my first real life-or-death fight, but I managed to strike the wall behind the goblin when it dodged out of the way and "dropped" the rapier as well when it stuck in the old mortar.

The goblin laughed as it tried to cut me again, but I leapt over its swing, doing a somersault in the air and grabbing my staff from the ground as I landed. I spun around, and the quarterstaff caught the goblin in the head, smashing its face into the wall of the house with a sickening crunch. The wall, already falling apart, completely collapsed in that spot, and the dead goblin flew through the hole.

I heard Kalista curse, and yanked the rapier from the wall, sheathing it as I jumped through the hole made by my attack. I could see Kalista through a gap in the wall on the far side of the house, and noticed a cut on her forearm, which was probably the reason she had yelled out angrily a moment before.

She saw me through that gap in the wall as well and made a motion with her head before backing up a little, getting out of my view. I realized what she was trying to say, though, when the goblin came into view, then disappeared as well, likely still advancing on her as she "retreated".

I swiftly moved over to the hole in the wall I had seen Kalista through and jumped through it myself. I spotted the goblin and spun my staff around, catching it squarely in its side, hearing ribs crack with the blow. It cried out in pain, and swung wildly at me in reflex, missing by a large margin.

As soon as it turned around, Kalista ran her blade through its back. It slumped on the blade before falling to the ground. I looked around and saw the other one had already been killed, a crossbow bolt through its neck over by the bushes I'd seen them by originally. She apparently fired right as she heard my fight start on the side of the house and managed to take out one of them immediately with her ranged attack.

The goblins dead, she suggested we were probably done. After taking a quick look around the clearing near the house, I said it wasn't very likely that they were the cause of the noises Madame Mvashti had heard. It didn't look like they had setup a camp here, and while thin, the clusters of trees on Chopper's Isle were dense enough that staying anywhere but this clearing wouldn't really allow a group to make a campfire or anything. They had to just be scouting the area.

Kalista thought for a moment then nodded in agreement, and we started searching the property. I went inside what was left of the house while she searched the outside. In the past five years, grass and moss had grown over almost everything, and the discovery I made ended up being on accident.

I heard creaking and cracking under my feet and managed to dodge out of the way of a rotted trap door breaking where I had just been standing. I called out to Kalista that I had found something and she was by my side quickly.

There was a small wooden ladder that led to the top of some stairs that descended into darkness. I remember thinking before I headed out that maybe I should buy a torch just in case, but I didn't because the job was supposed to be done in the afternoon, when the sun would still be out.

Luckily, Kalista had a candle, and we were able to find an old torch near the landing at the top of the stairs by its light. I lit the torch with the candle before extinguishing the small flame.

We descended the stairs and I couldn't shake a feeling of unease as soon as I started down.

The path split left and right just a few feet away from the steps. We could hear soft crying down the left path, so I suggested we head that way. We went down the path, and after a short distance found a small room. The walls seemed rather bare, and there was what looked like a broken chair lying in a pile of straw. As Kalista took another step into the room, the light from the torch landed on the huddled form of a child, the shaking shoulders telling us we had found the source of the crying.

Kalista and I both definitely felt creeped out at this point, but I asked the child if they were okay. I didn't get a response, so I asked if his parents were nearby. He turned around, and said, sobbing between words, "The bad man took them away." The kid was very pale, and very creepy.

I asked him where the bad man was. Maybe we could get rid of him. He replied that there is always a bad man. I asked what he meant, and he told me when one bad man dies, another takes his place, stronger than before.

"The cold fire in a dark place calls to them."

"Cold fire? Huh? What are you talking about?" I replied.

"The cold fire gets stronger when people with anger die. Please... put out the fire...”

I looked to Kalista, who shrugged at me. I replied, "Okay, I will. Where is the fire?"

"The fire is nearby."

"That's a little vague..." I muttered. "How can I find it?"

"The angry people. There are two people who hate each other. One of them will kill the other. One of them hates the other just because they were born."

"Well, that's kind of rude." Kalista and the creepy kid were not amused by my comment.

We asked a few more questions, and while the kid kept being rather cryptic, my linguistics experience helped me decipher a lot of it.

The "cold fire in a dark place" the child kept mentioning was linked to the burning of the old church somehow. Because of someone who had a bad dream, and had to kill those who had hurt them.

"Chopper" apparently spoke with the birds, and he freed them from the wood. He was the only one who could free them, but he couldn't free them all. The child saw Chopper, and on him was the face of evil.

The child lost his mother, and was waiting for her here, but didn't think she would ever come back for him.

Finally, the child was hurt by other children before he lost his mother. They killed a wounded fox he had been feeding and taking care of, cut off its head and poured its blood on him. He tried to stop them, but was too weak and small. He finished, saying the  mean children are still around, that they're "all around us".

I asked the child if he would come with us, and he shook his head. I told him we would come back at a later time to check on him, and he just went back to the corner we found him in.

Kalista and I made our way back down the hall and took the other path. We didn't plan on staying here for long, but wanted to fully explore. The room seemed to be the same dimensions as the other room, and there was what looked like a dog skull sitting on a cloth on a little altar of some kind.

Right before I stepped into the room, I heard the child behind me. "The bad man doesn't want you to go in there." He had apparently crept up without either of us noticing.

I took a step into the room as I replied. "The bad man can kiss my-" I stopped talking when the dog skull and cloth started floating. Then it darted at Kalista and myself and we dodged out of the way. "Okay, yeah, the bad man really doesn't want people in his room."

The fight with the floating dog skull was pretty quick. A few sword slashes and staff smacks and it hit the ground and shattered... and then reappeared on the altar. "Okay, let's get out of here. I don't want to keep fighting a floating skull." Kalista nodded in agreement.

We backed up to the stairs and just before we left, I thought of another question for the creepy kid. "What's your name?"

"Jervis Stoot." The child paused when Kalista gasped. "Please put out the cold fire in the dark place. Look for the people who hate each other to find it." And then he disappeared.

"Let's get out of here, Mat." She moved up the stairs and started climbing out of the hole.

"Who's Jervis Stoot?" I asked as I followed.

"Jervis Stoot is the Chopper, Mat. Everyone thought he was a kind old man who liked to carve birds out of wood, but he killed twenty five people and the town guard managed to track him down after his last kill and killed him here. They burned down the house after."

Understanding her shock at the child's last words, we returned to the town and Madame Mvashti's residence in silence.

We were ushered in quickly when we arrived at Madame Mvashti's house.

We told the old lady what happened on Chopper's Isle, and she nodded. She gave us the five gold pieces each she promised, and Kalista took her leave, saying she would report to the Sheriff on what occurred.

I stayed behind to talk to Madame Mvashti for a little while. We chatted in Varisian, and I got a laugh when she told me one reason she seemed somewhat suspicious of me speaking to her in Varisian originally was because the only people who talk to her in it are usually trying to get her to sell them her house. I let her know that wasn't my intention, and I had only picked up the language because it was used a lot by travelers who would come into The Bartered Coin.

While we were talking, it came up what I was doing in town, and I told her I was staying with Hosk. She offered to sell me a pair of goblin ears for one gold. She said she just didn't want to make the trip to the Stables to collect the gold from Hosk herself if she didn't have to. Since I'd get my gold back right away, I took her offer.

"Can I just ask one thing?" I said. She nodded. "No offense meant, of course, but how did you come into possession of some goblin ears?"

She smiled and stated as a matter of fact, "A woman has her secrets." I raised an eyebrow at that and she just laughed.

Before I left, she offered to tell my fortune for free this one time. I consented, and after a few moments she said things were clouded more than they usually were with her readings, but what she could say for certain was that a shadow was growing, and that I would have to deal with it, along with a few others who would cross my path in the days to come.

The look on my face must have been something, because she asked if I thought she was just making things up.

"Ma'am, I knew magic existed before I moved out here. I've seen some of the things it can do to make people's lives easier, and some small magic shows from wizards just starting out, or a traveling circus that came by Magnimar. But before this afternoon, yes, I would have called you a crazy old lady. But after today?" I paused. "A murderer's ghost talked to me... asked me for help, even... and a dog skull flew at my head trying to kill me. I wish I didn't, but I believe you."

She smiled, then glanced at a clock standing against the wall. "Well, you best get on your way," she said, still talking in Varisian. "Don't want old Hosk getting worried about you, Mister Mat."

I realized I hadn't given her my last name when we first met. "It's Mat Farrier," I said as I stood up and placed my wide brimmed hat on my head.

"Mister Mat will do just fine." She smiled again.

I shook my head and thanked her again for the gold. A Varisian woman would generally call you what she pleased, and there wasn't much you could do about it.

When I got outside, I placed the goblin ears she gave me in an empty belt pouch. It then dawned on me that I left three gold pieces, in the form of three sets of goblin ears, sitting up on that plateau, and who knows how much money in gear I could sell from the creatures! You hear in stories about adventurers how they come home with "spoils" and "loot" and that's how they get their riches.

I found a shop in town that had some things travelers might need and purchased a grappling hook for myself. I returned to the cliff and managed to hook the line after a few tosses. I found out Kalista hadn't had the same thought as me when I found the bodies of the goblins still there. I cut off their ears and dried off the blood on their clothes before putting them in my pouch. I searched the bodies and came away with some hide armor that was in okay condition, and a handful of coins.

Their blades I decided to take back to Hosk to see if he could use the scrap they were made out of for something, and found a bow on one of them, along with a few arrows.

I couldn't think of anywhere else to take the equipment, so I went by the barracks for the town guard and asked to speak to someone about selling it there. I figured they could get it from me for less than a shop would sell it to them, and I might get more than the shop would give me.

A gargantuan man, easily seven feet tall, was sitting behind a desk that must have been custom built for him. I found out his voice was as big as he was when he stood up (yep, seven feet tall, I thought to myself) and introduced himself as Sheriff Belor Hemlock and asked what business I had with the Guard. A massive, two headed hammer was resting next to the desk he had been sitting behind. An earthbreaker is what I think they were called. This was definitely a man who wouldn't have any trouble wielding one of those.

I told him I had some equipment I thought they could use and would like to sell it. He said he would take a look at what I had to offer. If his guards were going to use it, he'd make sure it was good enough for them himself.

I let him know I had just been working with Kalista earlier that day, and he said he'd already gotten her report. An interesting tale if it was all true. I assured him it was before working out a deal for the armor. He said once they were cleaned up some of his Halfling officers could use them.

I presented the bow as the last item I had to sell. Being sized for a goblin made it too small for me to keep, otherwise I would have. A bow is something I would likely find useful in the future. He yelled out someone's name, and with how long it took for the Halfling to arrive, Hemlock's voice must be able to carry all the way across the barracks grounds. Can't say that surprised me, though.

"Yes, boss?" he said.

"How's the pull on this bow?" He handed it over. "I'd test it myself, but I'm sure I'd break it and this poor guy wouldn't be able to sell it to us." The Halfling and myself laughed at his unintentional joke. The small officer tested the bowstring a few times before handing it back. "Well? Think we could use it?"

"Yep. It's in good enough condition. It'd work just fine."

We worked out a deal and Hemlock handed it back to his officer, who started to leave the room. The Sheriff returned to his desk.

"I hope you can make good use of it," I said in the Halfling tongue to the small officer.

The man paused, clearly surprised I could speak his people's language. "It's just going in the armory. I may not even use it myself," he replied.

"Could I ask you a question?" I continued so that only the Halfling officer could understand me.

He glanced at the Sheriff. "Just make it quick."

Hemlock looked at us both with a questioning look, not being able to tell what we were saying.

"Are all the officers that big?"

He chuckled. The next word he didn't say, just mouthed it to me. "Shoanti." The nomadic barbarian tribes of the north.

I nodded my head in understanding. "He doesn't have an accent, so I just thought he was an unusually big guy. I'm surprised he's all the way down here."

"Was raised here, I think. Never lived with the tribes, as far as I know." He glanced somewhat nervously at the Sheriff. "Look, I gotta go, okay? He'll yell at me if I stick around much longer."

"No problem. Thanks for answering." I turned to the Sheriff as his officer left. I, of course, switched back to speaking Common. "Sorry I held him up. I haven't spoken to a Halfling in a while, so it was nice getting to for a moment. I'll take my leave now."

He didn't look up from the papers on his desk as he replied. "Since you're new in town, and you helped one of my guards today, I'll just say this. Don't make any trouble. Hosk doesn't need it, and you seem like a decent kid. I'd hate to have to throw you in one of the cells here."

I chuckled nervously as I turned toward the door. "You won't get any trouble out of me if I can help it, Sheriff. Thank you again. Have a good evening." He grunted in reply as I left.

I started back toward the Stables, and noticed Ameiko arguing with someone. I could tell they were both speaking Tian, but couldn't understand what the argument was about. The older man seemed rather upset about something. I gave a small wave when I saw she was looking my way, and was about to move along before I saw the look on her face. I paused and she called to me.

"Hey, Mat! I needed to talk to you! About that thing, remember? Now is a good time, right?" The man looked annoyed, but I played along as I started toward her.

"Uh, yeah, I was just headed to see you," I replied.

The man said a few more things in Tian, then left in a huff. She thanked me after he rounded the corner.

"What was that all about?" I asked Ameiko.

"That," she sighed, "was my father. He's still not happy about me opening the Dragon, and wants me to come back to the family to make glass."

"Oh, I didn't realize your family was here in town. Or that they owned a business. That's neat."

We chatted a bit more about her family as we walked toward the Rusty Dragon, and I found out her family was rather famous in town for the glasswork they did. As we got to her tavern, I asked if now was a good time to start the lessons on Tian. She said it shouldn't be getting busy for another couple hours, so it would probably work out fine. I told her I'd be over as soon as I dropped off all my stuff.

I finally got back to the Stables, and I gave Hosk all the ears I'd collected. The gold from those paid for the grappling hook, but the gear from the goblins had all been profit. He seemed impressed. When I told him one of the sets was actually from Madame Mvashti, he laughed.

He said he could use the scrap metal for something, and took the crude daggers off my hands. He told me to enjoy the rest of the night off, but he expected me to be ready to work in the morning.

I left most of my gear in the room Hosk was having me stay in, and grabbed the book on Tian before heading over to the Rusty Dragon.

It was nice to be able to relax after the crazy day I'd had. I'd be working with horses again and finishing up the Goblin Toss tomorrow, but for a little while I could rest and start to learn a new language while enjoying a good meal with a new friend.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Entry 2 - The Rusty Dragon

I rode into Sandpoint just a few days ago, and just as my father said, the Goblin Squash Stables were in the southeast part of town, just inside the gate, actually.

Nothing terribly eventful happened on the way. Pips and I were just exhausted as we rode up to the Stables. One of the stable boys greeted us, and I told him I needed to speak to Daviren Hosk. He motioned toward the door and I went inside. The letter my father gave me was handed over and read. There were a few grunts here and there as he read, and a lot of nodding.

"Farrier's boy, eh? You're a bit taller than I remember, but it's been a while since I was in Magnimar." He looked me up and down, then glanced back at the letter. "Your pa says you can help around the Stables with some farrier work?"

"Aye, sir. I've got my own tools in my saddlebags."

He told me to unload my things in a back room, and offered some of the dinner that was already prepared. I was to start working tomorrow, and we worked out details on how I would earn my keep. Surprisingly, he said he would pay me for the work, usual wages for farriering, but minus a little for room and board.

The next couple days seemed to go by fast. I did my work, not nearly as good as my father, but still good work. It wasn't a large town, but enough people own their own horses, and travelers passing through sometimes want to make sure their horse's hooves and shoes are in good condition before continuing on to their next destination, so I kept busy.

What little spare time I had, Hosk had me help him with building a booth of sorts. Apparently, the Swallowtail festival was coming up, and he was running a game he called Goblin Toss, where players try to throw "goblins" into a "fire". I helped him build the stand, and a board that was made to look like a fire pit, with three holes in it. The "goblins" were horseshoes painted green, with made up goblin names painted in red on them, and the goal of the game is to get the horseshoes into the holes in the "fire pit".

The game was rather fun, and I tried a few times to make sure it wouldn't be impossible for little kids to win, but we didn't want it to be too easy, either. Hosk had gotten hold of a LOT of venison jerky to give out as a prize, but when talking about the prize, he will only call it "goblin meat", and I think he finds it way funnier than anyone else does.

The otherwise friendly man is kind of obsessed with goblins. After a couple of days helping him with the festival project, I asked him about it, and he told me his wife and kid were killed by goblins. When my father and uncle helped him clear out the goblins near Sandpoint, they were helping him avenge his family. Why this practical stranger would take me in the way he did suddenly made a little more sense. He's been offering a one gold piece bounty per pair of goblin ears ever since.

I still don't think the goblin meat thing is that funny.

After the first few days of doing farrier work and helping prepare for the festival, Hosk gave me a day off. He said if I wanted a little extra pocket money, I could check out the request board at The Rusty Dragon, the tavern next door to the Goblin Squash Stables. I'd spent all my time at the Stables since I arrived in town, and figured if I was going to be sticking around for a while, I should probably meet some people, so I decided to take a look at that request board.

As I entered The Rusty Dragon and removed my hat (as a gentleman should), I noticed a few daggers and swords hanging on the walls in various places. I ordered a simple water as I was never much of a drinker. The bartender was a rather cute young lady with light brown skin and slightly almond-shaped eyes. Tian, maybe half Tian? That would match the long, thin, curved blade on the wall behind the bar. I didn't want to ask right away, though. That would have been rude. I'd be sure to talk to her about it later.

As I was waiting for my drink, I noticed an old lady, draped in a long, colorful shawl, with bright-colored cloths wrapped around her head as well, posting something on the board. Definitely Varisian. More than a few of them had come into The Bartered Coin over the years, so I was familiar with their typical clothing. I went to look at the board while I sipped at my water shortly after she left.

One request was for help renovating a house. Not the job for me.

Another was written in what appeared to be a frantic scrawl. Something about the Old Light, and the truth being hidden or covered up about it. I needed to ask someone what the Old Light was before I could do anything with that one.

Another was asking to clear out some goblins to the east of town. That would probably be better to do with a group of people rather than solo.

The next I looked at nearly made me laugh aloud. Some local innkeeper wanted help killing rats in his basement. I don't know why, but it seemed really funny to me.

The final one that caught my eye had to be the one the old lady had just posted. It was asking for someone to investigate Chopper's Isle. It was signed Madame Mvashti. Silent 'm' on that one. I was suddenly glad I knew Varisian or I would have looked a bit the fool when I showed up asking for Madame "Emvashti" or "Mavashti" like many people probably would have. This was another job I'd need to ask about because she wanted to meet near the base of the Old Light in the afternoon, and it's the one I decided to pursue for today.

I went back over to the bar after perusing the board and introduced myself while ordering some milk. I found out her name is Ameiko Kaijitsu, and she smiled and suppressed a giggle at my order. Definitely a Tian name. It was a language high on my list to learn, but I hadn't put in the time yet.

"I'm sorry, but meade just doesn't have a taste I like, Ameiko," I told her with a grin.

She couldn't stop herself from laughing at that one.

I asked her about some of the jobs that were posted and found out Chopper's Isle is in the northwest part of town, and the Old Light is a broken lighthouse just south of it. Now I knew where to meet the old lady.

"So you're investigating the ghost of Chopper's Isle, eh?"

I asked her about it, and she explained some of the "legends" of Sandpoint. One reason this year's festival was going to be bigger than in previous years is that the chapel in the northeast part of town had finally finished being rebuilt after a seemingly random fire burned it down about 5 years ago, and the "late unpleasantness" is how most people in town refer to that and a serial killer who was stopped by the town guard around the same time. He used to live on what is now, because of him, called Chopper's Isle.

I let her know I was living with and working for Hosk right now, and she asked how the game for the festival was coming along. I guess he always makes some sort of game, and the goblin toss has been the one he's done most often over the years.

"Is it just me, or is he the only one who finds the 'goblin meat' thing to be absolutely hilarious?" I asked.

"Most of us find it a little amusing, at least, but yeah, he's the only one who finds it that funny. Most of the adults really get their kick from trying to convince the kids it's really goblin meat after they've already had a bite." We both shared a laugh.

"So, tell me if I'm wrong, but that accent, are you from Tian?" I asked Ameiko after we had been talking for a little while longer.

She shrugged. "You have a good ear, but I'm only half Tian, and I was born and raised here in Sandpoint. My father is terribly traditional, though, so I didn't speak anything but Tian until I was ten."

"Wow. That must have been some childhood." She nodded and laughed. I glanced over at the large clock standing against one of the walls. "Oh! I've got to get going now if I want to meet up with Madame Mvashti in time, but it was nice talking with you, Ameiko Kaijitsu."

"You as well, Mat...?"

"Farrier. Mat Farrier." I stood up from the bar and extended my hand. She took it in hers with a warm smile. "Say, I've got a bit of a thing for languages, and I'm sure I've got a book on the Tian language in with the things I brought with me... would you mind helping me out with it? You've... piqued my interest in learning it sooner than I had planned before." I smiled.

"I'll say you have a thing for languages. Most people get Madame Mvashti's name wrong on their first try. haha I'd be happy to help you with Tian, Mat. Come by anytime, and I can get Bethana to cover for me if we aren't too busy."

"That sounds great. I'll come back by after I take care of whatever it is Madame Mvashti needs doing. Until then." I put on my hat and tipped it to her before leaving, stopping by the Stables to grab my gear in case things got dangerous.

I was glad just a short while later that I decided to do that, because they did.