It saddens me to inform you that I am being branded a villain by a former member of my group. Perhaps estranged is a better term… I know you’ve coached Dad and Mom a bit about not taking these things personally, and I don’t think I am at fault, really. There’s little I could do but act the way that I did, and that the Obedient Sister does not recognize the many errors, tactical and social, that the barbarian raiders committed is a sign of her lack of clarity at the moment. A social error, incidentally, is not as much of a faux pas but a common sense code among travelers in this context – namely, you do not approach another’s camp fire without announcing your peaceful intentions unless you are sure they do not have peaceful intentions towards you.
Thus reduced, the party was going to press on when Iz disappeared in a puff of smoke. We’ve not seen Kumori recently, Ignatius is traveling on a course parallel to our own, and so Ian, Smriti and I felt a little alone on a road that isn’t even our own, exactly. Well, that’s the way that I feel – I know I miss Kumori as much as Dusky ever has when he’s not in the lamp, such a vibrant personality he has, and a good leader and tactician he is.
It wasn’t going to stay that way, though, for shortly thereafter, while Smriti was making breakfast and Ian was studying his spell book, a grey puff of smoke crept out of my bag and into a set of bushes nearby. The sandaled feet that peeked out suggested perhaps a native of Kaidan, and so, I decided to call out in Kaidanese to ask whether it was friend or foe. Of course, I am sure Kumori would be aghast at my impertinence, but it was greeted by the sandals tipping over, like someone rolled to cover themselves from an unwelcome interruption.
Ever cautious, I snuck out to see what the new arrival was, and it was a man, covered in a toga that was in a state somewhere between that of the guest of honor at a bacchanalia and that of a man who was begging in the market. His breath smelt like a particularly strong cask of wine mixed with a mangy dog.
Having no real inclination to try to ingratiate myself to the sleeping and possibly vile stranger, and Ian engrossed in his studies, Smriti took up her role as liaison for the party, and woke the stranger gently. When it was revealed that he was carrying an Ionian pitcher, from which he poured a heaping flood of wine, his smell and state were more easily understood. He offered us a chance to drink from it, which we all declined, and he made a gesture like that of a screw coming loose, and the three of us felt intoxicated, as if we had been putting away tankards by the tableful. The effect was brief but memorable.
It seemed our new arrival, who called himself Yolomacchus (at least, that is how I think it would be spelled), was a priest of Zheenkeef, whom he declared is also Bacchus and Dionysus and more. He offered to help take care of us in exchange for protection in this land. I don’t think we’ve even tried to figure out which year he comes from, and I don’t think it matters to him – as long as there is a party, or could be one, and he can drink and sleep, he’s happy.
Alas, the rest of us are not so easily kept complacent, and we continued one with our journey. It was a mostly uneventful trek but for the following, which I think is in order:
We came to a bridge with a sign warning of ‘DINGER’. Since there were three horses, four people, and our options were the rickety and likely to crumble bridge or a few switchbacks to go down and try to swim the river, we stopped and contemplated how to move forward. Ian, of course, has no impediment, and Smriti could likely vault the bridge, even without a running start, but the horses and the newest and oldest travelers among us were at risk. Going down would be easier but longer and could have more disasters, which I didn’t like the odds that our foot wouldn’t slip at some point, while the bridge ahead gave us fewer chances to fail but a higher degree of difficulty in placing our steps. After discussing this with Yolo, the determination was made that he would try to repair the bridge using spells, so other travelers had less trouble, and enchant the horses so they would be able to walk on air, but Smriti and he apparently disagreed on the order this should happen. Ultimately, it was a close thing that Yolo did not destroy the bridge in trying to shore it up, and Smriti leapt across with ease. Her fleetness of foot and focus of will and overall athleticism makes it actually fairly amazing – she could easily jump 54 feet by calling upon her Ki, and if she gets faster of foot, I believe it should be another 4 feet that her long jump would carry her automatically. My main contribution to the bridge crossing, though, lay in not quite understanding how to use a rope to our advantage in this situation, and asking Yolo about something my sister once said about Korak being able to make pigs, even some of the monstrous ones that we find in the depths of the mountains, fly if he wanted to do so. Oh, wait, I improved the sign, using up the ink in my forger’s kit, but adding Pthyan and Common and Kaidanese and Espagian and removing the DINGER part with a bit of scraping at the wood.
The Digger family – Doug and Mama, parents to Furrow, Trench, etc. They offered us hospitality, and despite their Pthyan language, had seemingly good hearts. It was the edge of the Empire, I suppose, but I still dislike the Empire enough I shall not try to learn it’s town. The ferry job that Furrow performed was adequate if a bit bumpy due to animals shifting about restlessly. Ian helped calm them, though, much like he calmed them when they were walking/floating across the bridge.
A citizen spying us in the bar – we apparently are wanted by the Empire, possibly so they can do something for us, possibly and more likely so they can do something to us. Either way, there’s a reward, and the bribe that Smriti laid upon the bartender to get the information is hopefully enough to buy his silence in the long run also. Sadly, despite using Rope Trick to try to leap upon the soldiers who sought us and catch them somewhat unaware, no one showed up to claim us in the night or downstairs the next morning.
There is something buzzing about… I hear footsteps where there appear to be none, and I hear breathing that is almost panting when no one seems to be short of breath. Having dealt with invisible observers, I’d almost suspect that, but for the lack of communication. Sadly, we aren’t camping out, so it’s actually easier to sneak up on us, because Ian can’t use his alarm spell effectively and I can’t set traps around the campsite.
We’re almost out of the Empire, and hopefully whatever is following us makes itself known soon. I dislike the unknown threat that can attack my companions who would be completely unaware and ill prepared for the blows. We’ll see what comes to pass.