When you devote your life to battling abominations from the far realms, you learn that you can’t tell friend from foe by the skin they wear. There are creatures that consume the minds of men and wear their skin as a sort of disguise. The knowledge collected through a lifetime of study didn’t help the sage from Zelbross keep an Illithid larvae out of his skull. You can’t trust anyone in this business. You never know when you’ll have to cut the far realms infested head off your best friend’s neck.
You get to do a lot of thinking in this business. Sometimes you have to think fast. Sometimes it’s OK to think slow. Watching Ferthen fighting bandits got me to thinking that there must be some way to take advantage of his unusual technique. Since he was heading back to Loudwater ahead of the others to check for clues on the merchants of tentacled death, I decided to tag along. Besides, I’ve got a better way with people than Ferthen. Or so I thought.
So, while Alon, Bodin and Verilesh followed the merchant’s trail out of Zelbross, Ferthen and I went the other way back to Loudwater. Just as we were leaving the outskirts of town, we came across a group of workers digging a well. Ferthen noted that screaming and throwing their tools down was not typical behavior amongst rural peasants. Shortly thereafter, we discovered the source of their concern when 2 emaciated gargoyles flew up out of the pit. Although not directly the focus of our work, gargoyles can be found in underground chambers that could well be our business. After a hard fight where Ferthen’s techniques kept the creatures slowed, I finally figured out how to use their discomfiture to my advantage. As Ferthen’s entangling spirits slowed the creatures, I found the weakness in their defenses. Several well aimed shots from Ferthen and a few cuts from my blade and the gargoyles were done. No easy fight, but we even managed to save all the workers.
Since the workers had uncovered guardians, we had to discover what they were guarding. Imagine my surprise to find a long buried shrine to none other than Kelemvor! I could not help but see it as a sign that perhaps Ferthen and I, opposites that we might be, could well balance one another out. His nature skills and my skills in urban environments suggested complementary rather than opposing skills. Now his ability to distract opponents from a range promised more advantages yet.
We made it back to Loudwater without further incidence. No additional clues were found in Loudwater. Without further sources of information, we did what adventurers always do, we stopped for a drink at the Fisher’s Friend. Listening for information as is my wont, I overheard the brawler Karzon Kul and his cronies talking about a couple of strangers claiming to be bandits. This didn’t get much attention from us, but when they mentioned a disturbing man who came asking about them later, that got our attention. In this business you pay attention when someone describes a stranger as being “wrong”. Creatures from the far realms don’t understand our ways much better than we understand theirs. Causes them to come across as somehow different or wrong. So when you hear someone didn’t seem right, you learn to pay attention.
Unfortunately, Karzon Kul determined to pick a fight with me. His subtle method of throwing out a vague accusation then suddenly swinging at my jaw did not catch me off guard. I quickly slipped between him and his cronies and took out one of his allies with a swift kick to the nether regions. And despite a solid hit to chops, Karzon was unfazed. My darkness globe wasn’t enough to protect me from the stocky dwarf’s right hook. None the less, I managed to give as well as I’d gotten for a few rounds, while the place emptied out. Even Kyos decided to get some fresh air. The brawler was good and fighting his fight, I had no chance. He finally caught me with a powerful hammer fist and slammed the back of my favorite head down hard through a table and down against the barroom floor. I thought I was bound for a chat at the foot of Kelemvor’s judgment seat, but Ferthen managed to get a quick potion down my gullet. Wiping the blood from my eyes, I decided it was time to change the game. Drawing my blade, I made short work of him, thanks to Ferthen’s bow. I’m not proud of the fight, but I have newfound respect for the stumpy’s fists.
Clearing out of the bar, we tracked down Zark at the Docks. We’d heard he had a run-in with the two self professed bandits. Oddly, he was doing some labor, lifting heavy barrels onto a wagon from the docks. As we expressed our desire to track the bandits, he declared that he would show us the way, for a fair cut of the inherent rewards of taking down the bandits.
An Ankheg burst through the ground on our way through the forest. This was more our style. A no holds fight against a powerful monster. We dispatched it with little effort and loss. Its young joined in the fight, but made little difference to the outcome. Finally, Zark led us to the bandit camp.
As we slowly and laboriously made our way around the perimeter, noting the positions and movements of the bandits, we determined we’d have a chance if we could get the drop on them. Then the Corrupt Messenger arrived at the encampment. This was the odd stranger that we’d heard about. Zark identified him and we knew we could not walk away, even though this threw the outcome into greater question. A bandit leader, 2 bandits, 2 archers, and a Corrupt Messenger (most likely a tainted sorcerer). Against Ferthen, myself and an untested dwarf who might break in fear for his life. Maybe Kelemvor wanted to see me after all.
It was a hard fight, with Ferthen and I pulling out all the stops after Zark ran screaming a warning to his bandit friends. I used my darkness globe, my blessed blade, I even pulled out the frosts of Letherna. If it weren’t for Ferthen’s steady, reliable hand and some quick thinking on his part, I could have been choked out by the Corrupt Messengers tentacle. Yeah, that’s something that’s not quite right! But people never mention those subtle clues.
Turns out the Corrupt Messenger was bringing word from his master that the captives (turns out the bandits had been trading in live humans – by the barrel) were to be brought to the edge of the swamp and payment would be made. Yeah, I always trust a guy with a ten foot long tentacle to pay his debts.
Only the Messenger had one more message for us. Fell monstrosities erupted out of his chest. One large and two smaller. We had the drop on them and took full advantage. They were tough but fell swiftly to our vicious assault.
So now we have another clue to follow up on. The swamp. Well, better than the Fisher’s Friend, but not high on my list of favorite places to camp. I have a feeling we will need the full team for this one.