Dorak - Unlikely Allies

Dear Grandpa,

A letter from Dusky’s beloved has not reached us, and we have ventured off of the silk road. That means any letter, whether bearing good tidings and an eagerness to see Dusky and meet her oft discussed companions, or bearing warnings hidden in riddles of some change in the country or relationship in her absence, is unlikely to reach us.

Thus, we set out, and saw a young soldier bearing a torn cloak of crimson hue, though apparently dyed more recently scarlet by blood in places, riding a well-bred warhorse (I almost wanted to call out “Soldier! Does the General know you have his horse?”) at a frothing pace away from the road ahead of us.

Kumori, who rejoined us from the lamp about the same time Ignatius was sucked back in, did the math, and realized chasing him would be mostly fruitless – mount, take chase, overcome a well-bred warhorse with another well-bred warhorse – the only likely outcome was either the stranger or their horse or Kaminari would be hurt.

As such, we proceeded ahead, warned that we were heading to danger – which seems to be our lot. The warning was compounded by riding dogs, including one who was dragging the arm of a former rider, as a grisly reminder that preparations can work against you when things go poorly. However, the skies opened up, and so we faced a miserable night, though no one complained until that afternoon.

I believe it was that same afternoon we came across a centurion’s helmet, lying in muck, and found the battlefield from which originated the soldier. The entire field was littered with dead, mostly soldiers, though a horse or two was attacked. There was also an enormous figure – a giantkin, surely, likely an ogre, though not of a clan I’ve seen in my travels through the Free Kingdoms.

There was a debate when we discovered he was not dead, merely badly injured. Given his heritage and that he is a physical representation of the Pthyan Empire, I was not adverse to finishing whatever his foes tried but failed to do. The way Kumori’s mood was, when he said ‘Do it’, I thought he agreed with me. I am a little surprised Dusky did not, but she is generous of heart. However, Iz healed him, and for that, he gave her a boon.

He said his name was Julius Cleaver – though not his actual name, it was the nickname that he acquired for his prowess with the axe. His actual name is interesting – it sounds like the language of giants and the Rus were mixed and alloyed when he says it. He’s a student of languages and war, and quite good with an axe, but far more civilized than any giant has the right to be.

He carried his companions and built a pyre for them and said a prayer, and thus ended the day, with his wounds being further treated by Dusky and Iz. There was a stench about some of the wounds, suggesting infection, but nothing that would kill so hearty a creature.

He said it was a company of bandits with a wizard who was leading them. This is beyond passing strange, but it was here that we failed to listen and consider how to deal with them – for Julius was certain about the layout of the land being different, and we mentioned a treestand they could have hidden in we passed on the way to find him, one that could not have been there according to Julius, who is garrisoned at Gratinopolis and knows the road intimately.

As such, we turned around, and found it gone, but evidence of a dwelling having stood there a night before. We encountered a few odds and ends along the way to finding the bandits, including the same sort of ants that killed Cian long ago, and a swarm that Ian deftly handled.

However, never did Ian ponder what spells or wondrous items he has heard of could craft the magical trees that were the calling card of the group, nor did we really plan how we would do anything until we were easily within sight of the tree stand, and thus, our enemies.

As such, we were spotted, and it was mostly by luck that I happened to spot that we were spotted.

A good plan at this point may have been to drink a potion – for most of the party, myself included, who don’t have a thick hide like our friend, and certainly for Ian, in retrospect, since he was made a pincushion close to the end of the fighting.

However, what we did was charge in to try to eliminate their ability to respond to us. That was not very effective, because it meant that Smriti, Kumori, Julius, and I were to be peppered with arrows. I had the best shot of being missed, while Julius had the best odds of soaking the damage.

That the party was mostly pincushions should not surprise you. Once we entered the treestand, though, we found it was not really a tree stand, but it was all illusion.

Ian was flying up, and had told me of a clearing that lay ahead. I don’t know what his repertoire is, but I assumed he’d be firing his bow or raining destruction down in an area – though that wasn’t always the best plan, as Coatl can attest, I don’t think it would have been out of line with his allies hindered by illusion.

I didn’t quite discover that it was illusion before someone hurled axes and insults at me in dwarven, which is an odd language to insult a dwarf and call him a dirty dwarf in – I’ve found all the good racial slurs are usually in the language of the foe, sort of like the dwarven words for orcs and goblins or the goblins words for us.

Julius and I closed on the archers, threatening them to allow our allies a more unmolested approach, but I was attacked by their leader, who was wearing some heavy armor and wielding a dwarven waraxe. I’ve recovered both, and I hope Ian can identify their properties, because while unlikely to use the waraxe unless it was somehow enchanted to be finessable (even more unlikely), it is good to know my options.

Smriti and I managed to take care of Boris, the leader, while Julius failed his first swing, which meant that he couldn’t take care of the mooks very effectively. Kumori closed, looking for a strategic target, but taking swings of opportunity while he searched.

I think Kumori and I are both annoyed by mobility issues – I think we must convince Ian to learn a spell of haste and use it on us rather than a fly spell – since he can levitate himself at will, it’s less necessary to have that prepared, I believe.

The villain unleashed a spell that was difficult to shake – it dazed you, and would move on to another ally once you did. He unleashed two, dazing each of us in turn, essentially.

Ian turned the spell back at the caster, which I thought beyond amusing, though he sadly shrugged it off. Still, it did allow Kumori easier access to him when he walked past the dazed bodyguard.

The fight was won, but the villain escaped – and here I wonder about that scroll – had Ian used it on the terrain, we may not have been pincushioned. Had he used it on the hut, the bard may have fled sooner or been under greater pressure earlier. Had he used it on the mirror images, the bard would have likely turned invisible sooner, rather than later.

With the battle won, the henchman began to surrender, though at least one thought he could take Dusky hostage and escape – she quickly proved him a fool.

I must ask Dusky – being unbelievers, I think they have no claim on their items, and being bandits, I doubt they were ever rightly theirs to claim anyway. That we would send the majority of their haul from the earlier battle against Julius with him is probably not up for debate, but they must have somethings beside their bows that we could carry with us and sell.

Oddly, I think the universe is starting to be more generous to us – Smriti went from 16,000 gold net worth to about 43,000, while Ian acquired about 16,000 in net worth from the fight with Fahid also, and even Dusky got a minor upgrade in the form of a buckler. I don’t wish to deprive Iz of her boon from Julius, though that is worth a good amount, but Kumori needs a similar boon, and likely a ring like that worn by all but him.

I am actually the third least equipped among us, ahead of Ignatius and Dusky. My net worth is about equal to Ian’s, though still behind where I ought to be.

Since we have 10400 in gems and 1212 in Pthyan coin from Fahid, 10,000 in diamonds from the King (to be spent last), and another 13,000 from other odds and ends we sold, I think we’ll do a bit of shopping for Kumori and I, possibly even Ignatius, hopefully in Drusas.

I think I’ll make a shopping list and contemplate the expenditures.

Hope things are well,


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Dorak - Unlikely Allies

Crimson Skies Grusnik