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Li was already tense as he saw Ur-Agal head into the grove. His fists clenching and relaxing as he saw the grove tighten further. This looked bad indeed. The voices made him relax slightly, but not enough to be at ease. So far anything that talked to them tried to kill them. It wasn't a fun trip.
The sudden appearance of a fey made Li's hand drop to the hilt of his cold iron dagger before he even realized it. He hadn't drawn it yet, but was not going to easily release his grip of it.
Great...another Fey. Last one I saw tried to send us to our deaths with those Alaghi. Dryad's...gotta love them. Coanoch, think we can trust this one not to lead us into another trap? Or maybe we should just tell the little bugger to piss off.
The creature seems to recognize the alaghi Coanacoch is talking about.
"A monk with allies in the woods is something of a celebrity. We rarely have cause to trust them, now more so than ever, since they've taken in the outsider. Still, Nib is a good judge of character, and knows a gentle spirit when he sees one. Word travels fast."
Ur-Agal and the treants are still discussing things, and the conversation doesn't seem to have turned hostile. Every once in a while the fey before you twitches an ear toward the conversation as if listening in.
"We... I know of the alaghi you speak of. They're quite upset about what you did to their shaman. They're looking for you."
He tilts his head when Li speaks and frowns a bit, but makes no aggressive moves. "I can respect your ill feelings towards the dryad who sent you to the alaghi, but I must caution you against speaking ill of a dryad so close to a treant grove." He doesn't seem phased by the insult toward himself, though. Instead, he turns his gaze back to Coanacoch, assuming him to be the leader of the group. "Your guide is bartering for safe passage to the bandit hideout. It seems to me he is leading you to your deaths. Is that truly what you wish?"
Li chuckles slightly, "Upset about their shaman? How about the fact they attacked unprovoked and damn near killed half of us! If some of us didn't pack healing items we would be dead. Vir and I had to overpower the them so we could survive. So what if another died, if we hadn't done what he had it would have been another attack...and one we might not have survived. We did what we had to.
Shifting his body slightly he narrowed his stance and looked the Fey in the eye. Why do you say it is to our deaths that a comrade leads us...and more importantly, why in the infinite abyss should we trust you? You blood is the same as those that have tried to harm us in this place. Your people are known for deciet and tricks, so again, why should we believe you offer safety and our brother leads us to danger and death?
The creature shrugs. "It doesn't matter if you believe me, and I care not either way. I'm sure I don't have to remind you that the bandits and the monks are typically at odds with each other. It was a courtesy, I was offering to warn you of his intentions, nothing more."
At that point, the trees open up again and Ur-Agal walks through unharmed. He seems a bit shocked to see the fey standing between him and the group, but the creature seems comparatively calm as he looks back at Ur-Agal and then towards the group.
Ur-Agal smiles, "They will lend us a guide... a guardian of the woods, is what they said." He gestures awkwardly towards the creature you've been talking to, who looks a bit amused. "Not I, but close," the creature said. "A different kind of guardian."
The creature puts his hands on his hips and smiles as three odd looking little people that represent a cross between a gnome and a halfling, only smaller, come hopping out of the thicket brandishing broad, goofy smiles.
Ur-Agal looks a bit less optimistic as he groans, "Brownies? I think we'd be safer on our own."
The green fey laughs cheerily. "And what's wrong with Brownies? A more fair-minded lot you'll never find, and I've never known a creature in all the world more eager to help." His visage turns stern for a moment, though. "Mind you, the brownies are not to fight for you or defend you. They will get you where you are going, nothing more. If any harm should come to them as a result of your meddling or negligence, then you will answer to the Thorns."
Common Knowledge Alert:
The monks police the roads where the bandits make their living. Therefore, they have the same relationship with each other as local police and any regional gang would. It would be reasonable for anyone to think that monks who would enter a bandit camp either have a death wish, or are unaware that they are heading toward a bandit camp. Either way... it's counter-intuitive for a small group of monks like yourself to choose to head toward a bandit camp, which is probably why the fey creature thought to give you a warning.
Coanoch bears Li's outburst without leaving his eyes from the small green one. It is not a look of guard, but one of apology for his boorish friend.
"Death by alaghi; death by bandit. Or, death to monk, bandit, fey all by a more malignant force that decimated an entire town. No, your peace from this point out is a blessing we can hardly replay."
He then looks down to the brownies. "You are most welcome, and your help most appreciated. The monks of our abbey have protected travellers before; it should not matter now whether these travellers - our guides - be human or fey."
One of the brownies steps up and loops a thumb into her belt buckle.
"I'm Nissa. This is Puck and Eolande." she says as she pokes a finger toward each respective Brownie, who wriggle their fingers and grin as their names are called out. "First thing's first. We've got to get you out of here before the alaghi find you."
The brownies and thorn discuss things privately for a moment and the brownies nod their heads emphatically. The the thorn looks up to and says, "They're all yours. Good luck to you."
The Thorn watches you as the brownies take each of you by the hand and tug at you, leading the way. He smiles and waves at each of the brownies and nods farewell at each of you as you disappear into the thicket.
The travel is quick and easy. With the sanction of the fey, you experience little trouble for the rest of your travel. The brownies are an odd lot, telling jokes in their squeaky voices that just don't seem all that funny to humans.
"Why did the bee go to the doctor?" asks Puck. "I don't know Puck, why?" Eolande responds.
Puck begins to giggle before giving the answer, "Be...because he -giggles some more- BECAUSE HE HAD HIVES!" The two think this is utterly hilarious and exchange ridiculously fast high pitched laughs together. Eolande, not to be outdone, wipes a tear from her eye and takes a deep breath, then comes back with another one.
"Oh yeah? What do you get when you cross a duck with a cow?"
The two of them respond in unison, "MILK AND QUACKERS!!" then break into uproarious laughter. "Ohhh, you've heard that one then!" Eolande laments. Puck doesn't stop laughing though, "You always tell that one. I never get tired of it though."
Nissa keeps smiling the whole time while her two friends exchange jokes and other anecdotes.
If you have anything you wish to add, post now. Otherwise, read on:
Your travel takes you into the night and through the wee hours of pre-dawn. But in spite of being exhausting, the journey itself is rather pleasant, until the brownies start to get quiet and slow their pace.
You notice some signs of the Gnoll encounter Coanacoch experienced during his harrowing escape. This isn't the area where the fight took place, but there do appear to be signs of a different struggle. There are no bandit corpses, but plenty of gnoll corpses were left behind for the animals to eat.
The brownies attitudes seem darkened by this sight. "The bandit camp is a half hour's travel that way." Nissa says softly to Coanacoch as she points directly through the carnage. "I'm sorry to bring you this way, but there is no way around all the death these days. The humans and the gnolls have been fighting more recently... since the outsider came. Whatever your purpose is for the bandits, please don't hurt them. We fey have enjoyed a truce with the bandits for many years."
He digs in his pocket and pulls out a tiny ocarina, the size of a marble to you and places it in your hand. "If you're lost, in trouble, or frightened, blow in this. As long as you are in these woods, an ally of the brownies will come to you. No matter what danger you may face."
With that, the brownies step, wave goodbye, and fall through the ground as if a trap door had been opened up. After they vanish out of sight, the ground where they stood returns to the rock, dirt and root it once was.
IC Relevant OOC:
Brownies always take payment for their services. Emphasis on the word "take." Those of you who had food rations may notice that a tiny handful of nuts and berries have been lifted from your rations pouch, but not enough to effect the value of the ration. Those of your without food rations will notice that a copper piece or next lowest available denomination has been taken from you. How they did this is a mystery...
Li groans to himself with each of the jokes that passes. The theft annoys him, and reminds him to get some coin sized slugs of cold iron made the next time at the abbey. Teach those pests a thing or two.
At the mention of the bandits his eyes narrowed and he wheeled on Ur-Agal fury in his voice. You bastard! Bring us to our enemies, who are friends with bastards that have tried to kill us?! Why have you led us between a wolf and a serpent? You expect us all to play nice and get along when we will be outnumbered by people who hate us? You can walk into the lion's den, but I will stay back and pick off the beasts that give cause for it.
"Li, I'm your friend but..shut up." Vir-Sashi says to Li, after his outburst. "I'm terribly sorry for him. I thank you for leading us here." Vir-Sashi says to the Brownies. He is a bit nervous - pressence of such beautiful creatures like thoe adorable little things and treants he saw earlier made him painfully realize his own uglines again.
After the Brownies vanish, Ur-Agal rests a hand on Li's shoulder, and softly iterates, "Grandmaster Ironhead Balderk trusted us with this diplomatic mission, Li. Sometimes, we must make alliances with our enemy to fight a greater foe. Thus is the nature of war."
He pats his friend on the shoulder once, then strides forward to join Coanacoch. "That is quite a gift you've been given. The feywild take as a test... but they give as a reward. Whatever you did, you have proven yourself to be worthy in the eyes of the fey. That could help us greatly in our mission."
Then he turns to the rest of the group. "We should use caution from here on. Li does have a point. I do not wish to let our passage through the bandit camp be known until Necahual is with us and we are safely out."
Your travels for the next 25 minutes are relatively easy, but as you draw closer to the camp, you notice that the bandits are relatively well organized. Guard rotations have been set up, but they travel in groups of at least three, so the patrols have huge gaps in them.
Ur-Agal's Skill Checks:
Move Silently: 23
He gives the signal to move forward as another patrol passes by. He treads carefully to avoid leaves or dry twigs and keeps looking around as if he feels like he's being watched.
Go ahead and roll Move Silently and Hide checks, please. You're welcome to Spot and Listen as well, if you'd like.
Ur-Agal's jaw drops as if to the floor as Coanacoch lifts his hands in the air and proclaims his presence. "Have you gone completely daft?!" Ur-Agal hisses at Coanacoch as he ducks down and points his crossbow in the air.
There is a long, cold silence in which it feels like the entire forest simply froze in time.
It is then that you notice Li is missing from your group.
Just then, a gangly figure drops from a nearby tree and lands in a crouch with his cowl low over his eyes. He stands, but you still can't make out any features on the face. "You're a long way from home, monk." He seems to use the term "monk" as an insult, based on the tone of his voice. "And you've got some nerve entering our territory uninvited."
He turns his head toward Ur-Agal. "Why don't you put that crossbow down. Your friend may have all the subtlety of a Tarrasque, but at least he knows a lost fight when he sees one."
Ur-Agal, normally quite calm, stands frozen in confusion. It never occurred to him that one of his own would simply surrender. Perspiration glistens on his lip as he keeps the arrow trained defiantly on the gangly figure before you.
"Oh, I didn't 'surrender,'" says Coanoch, "but my hands up are more of a sign that I have no desire to spill blood to proove whose testicles are more robust. I just thought this ridiculous we-know-that-they-know game was silly. We are looking for any signs of my sister, to she if she might be alive or not. She is also a monk, fiercely built and strong for a woman. Her name is Necahual, and last I knew she was a prisoner .... the result of some unknown misunderstanding. These foresters - possibly those like yourselves - might have provided aid, but came under vicious attack by marauding gnolls."
The bandit seems more interested in Ur-Agal's crossbow than Coanacoch's testicle theory.
"I'm only going to say this once more. Drop... the crossbow." The man's scowl says everything about the sincerity of the implied threat, but Ur-Agal is no stranger to battle.
"Better to be dead than a prisoner of bandit scum. Tell your men to come out of hiding and maybe I will not put a bolt in your skull!" There is a bitter edge to Ur-Agal's voice that you've never heard from him and it is clear that he is not the kind to be taken alive.
Coanoch looks at the bandit. "Listen, we're monks. You do realize that most travelling monks don't have a lot of money, right? But they have combat skills. That means that while monks can be defeated and robbed, it just means that the high cost of effort for little gain is miniscule.
"That makes me think one of two things. First, is that you and your fellows are looking to scalp some right marks that come lumbering through here. That means you're idiots, given attacks by gnolls and other more horrible things happening in the region.
"Or, more likely, that you and yours are actually an outer perimeter guard for your camp. As bandits, you are just trying to eke out a living in the forest in a way that makes sense to you. We are monks who eke out a living in a monastery in a way that makes sense to us.
"We have some kind of wizard killing whole towns. You might have families in your camps, but most bandits have the majority of the families in towns, right? Which means that when an entire town is devastated, you lose those relations. Maybe you're in contact, maybe not. Whether controlled by this wizard ..... or driven into places they would not normally hunt, such as your lands ... humanoid attacks are not likely to stop until we join forces and end that greater threat.
"Will we go as prisoners? No, of course not. Do we honestly expect you to do the same? We have hotheads in our group the same as you, but there is no doubt that you'd be loath to do the same.
"We could just have at each other, hacking and shooting and stabbing and punching, which would lead to dead people and both sides, and both sides ever more the weak to combat whatever this threat is in the land. Or, we could figure this out and chat and see if we can come to some agreement."
"I'd prefer we figure this out," Coanoch concludes, and points to Li and Ur-Agal, "but as you can see there is the temper in some of ours that, like some of your own, would simply prefer the hard way."
The man Coanacoch is talking to pauses and considers Coanacoch's words. In the silence, birds chirp in the distance.
"There's only one thing to figure out, monk." He says after a brief silence. "You're not going any further. I should kill you right now, but I'm going to give you the chance to turn around and scurry back to your monastery."
As Coanoch says this, a figure comes crashing through the forest, moving quickly. It is Necahual, who has been bloodied, and she is moving quickly as if being chased.
"GO! GO! GO!" she yells, not even stopping to chat with her little brother or the other bandit.
"I think that gay marriage should be between a man and a woman." - Arnold Schwarzenegger
Love my avvy. Thanks, Telasi!
Current Games A Boot to the Head - Necahual Chasing What Matters - The Shehzahdeh Khanoum Shereen, Prophetess of Marduk, Wife of Ramanan The Jackal - Kalti The Savage Tide - Captain Darrius Wavebreaker
Several arrows fly at Necahual's feet as a young boy, also torn up looking, crashes into the man Coanacoch was talking too, knocking him to the ground and and rolling off of him. "WAIT FOR ME!" he pants, freaking out. The boy is clearly terrified and wearing simple peasant clothes.