There’s a song I wrote once. Everyone in Elturel was singing it. They loved me there, but what could I do? I’m just that good. They love me everywhere. The song was “Get Off the Cart”… I don’t know if you’ve ever been to the gnome cities beneath the rolling hills of the Western Heartlands, and why would you? You love the sun, the wind, the trees, and why not? Gnome cities were all mines in ancient times, and some still are, with the stone brothers ceaselessly chipping.
But we gnomes build workshops where deep pools one stood in their stillness. The old minecart rails now carry our automatons through the depths on their myriad tasks. Most gnomes only go where the rails go. But some of us get off the cart.
And yet here I am, stuffed beneath this dogcart like lost luggage, trying to keep out of the sight of the noble who hired me. I remember him. I’m hoping he won’t remember me. Or the music box I left going — by accident! — outside the door to his suite, all night. And the next day. See, I have nervous fingers, and sometimes I… build little things… and this music box looked so much like an ornate hinge that I just had to see if I could make the door musical.
I have to get off this cart. Soon.
My fellow guards are an odd lot.
Dan Cain, human cleric. Does he worship a god? Nobody knows what he does in the woods, but he always returns happier than when he left. The only way you can be sure he won’t go is the way he’s headed. Maybe that’s why he joined this caravan to nowhere.
Ellryn Leafwind, one of my forest brothers. He carries no weapons and wears no armor and his eyes burn with a quiet intensity. If he’s ever sprung a clockwork in the dark beneath the hills, I’d be shocked. One to watch out for.
Gina Battlehammer, a dwarf sister. The rock grows deep within her. She says little, still too young for her beard to grow in. She hates the stare of the sun but refuses to give that daystar the satisfaction of watching her sweat. The carven sigils on her battleaxe speak more loudly than her soft voice.
Zalandrin Silverthorn wears pointed ears and a thousand yard stare. Once on this accursed journey, I saw a squirrel chasing a bird away from its nest. Zalandrin was in full sight, and I swear he moved not a muscle, but the squirrel caught a sudden case of arrow, a look of startlement frozen on its lifeless face. As the carriage passed beneath, the weight of the arrow brought it and squirrel down to Zalandrin’s outstretched hand. The bird’s joyful song followed us a good, long while.
Me? Tinda Bronzenote, at your service. My full name would fill these chronicles, but this is enough for you, who have never visited the tessellated halls of my home, have never listened to our songs.
But if you have ever sung along to “Get Off the Cart”, then you owe me a shiny piece of electrum, or at least an ale the next time we meet. Music isn’t free, you know.
After many quiet days, the caravan master said we were nearing the town of Greenest, the end of our journey. A dark cloud hung heavy on the road ahead… rising from the towers of the small keep that peeked from behind the crown of a hill. A sudden gale shook the carts as a shadow sped over us — a blue dragon cried its electric cry as it flew ahead, the slow flap of its wings rolling thunder over the besieged town as the keep sprouted another tongue of flame.
Roger, the caravan master, tried his best to calm the panicking horses. The noble I’d been avoiding crashed out of the carriage, his widening eyes taking in the devastation, yelled words I could not understand at Roger, and stormed back into the carriage. Locks were turned. The door was barred, which I thought was excessive. The carriage is, after all, flammable.
The caravan master threw our pay at our feet and left us in the dust as he expertly turned the carts around and vanished down the Uldoon Trail, back the way we came.
With no better options, we decide to see what we can see in Greenest. The dragon has clearly been careful not to cause too much damage to the homes and houses, but hasn’t been as kind to barns and bales. It’s a rare dragon that cares that much what they burn. But we see, then, that humans and kobolds are looting the homes and chasing away the people. What could they be planning?
A small copse separates a river from the town. If we go up the river… standing in water near a dragon who breathes LIGHTNING? Plus — not that good at swimming. The kind of lakes you find in the Underdark are not the kind of lakes in which you learn to swim….
I rustle along the bank while the others wade in the river. I’m not all that comfortable among them, though Leafwind and Silverthorn are instantly at home. Leafwind look better with a hat. A tall, conical hat. Red.
Through the trees, we see a group of humans and kobolds looting a home near the edge of the village. Kobolds?
I put on my kobold costume.
When money gets short, sometimes I put on a quick production of “The Kobold Princess Who Grew Too Much”, a play I wrote. Performed the world over. Kings and queens tossing gold at me. I use a disguise spell to grow during the play. Not fitting into my clothes any more. The dwarfs always laugh.
If you have a couple silver on you, I might show you. Real silver, not that southern stuff.
I whisper disguise and there isn’t a kobold in Faerûn who wouldn’t invite me to perform for their king. From kobolds, I generally get gems. Uncut, but I know people. The rest of the group gives me odd looks. I bark. They sigh.
These people are not any fun at all. We see a family coming down the stream the other way, scared out of their wits. I bark at them. They scream and run the other way.
Pretty funny, but the group is kinda upset. They wanted information, but honestly, the best thing for those people was to get out of line of sight of the dragon. Disgusted, the party strongly encourages me to scout out the village, seeing I’m a kobold and all.
I wander up near a group looting a home. They yell something at me, but I haven’t learned comprehend languages, so I just smiled and nodded. That gets most people to leave you alone. But maybe kobolds don’t smile? They aren’t buying it.
Zalandrin, creeping to the edge of the copse, makes a noise. The kobolds and their tame human, their heads jerk as if pulled by an invisible string.
One kobold deftly catches an arrow with his right eye. He goes down in a puddle of greasy scales.
The tame human isn’t taking any of that. He draws a scimitar and swings at me, one of his allies! He misses, unsure, I guess, which side I’m on.
Gina Battlehammer runs up, axe already singing. I quickly charm person a kobold and set it on the human and decide Gina would be better with me behind her. Doesn’t have to worry about which kobold is the one she wants to not hit.
My kobold friend attacks the other kobold…? He was supposed to work on the human! Oh well! Missed anyway. That last kobold snatches an arrow out of the air with his throat, and only then do I hear the soft twang of Zalandrin’s bow.
The human, confused, turns from attacking me to swing at Gina. Someone should have had an attack of advantage or disadvantage when I moved away from him and he moved away from me.
Gina slices the human in two. Do humans have souls? Must remember to ask that drunken cleric. Or maybe he’s so drunk because humans don’t have souls. Maybe it’s okay to kill humans? I’ll have to check up on the local laws. Maybe there is a game preserve somewhere where you can bring your family to kill humans.
My charmed kobold friend, nobody left to attack, smiles stupidly, so I run him through with my rapier.
“We could have gotten some answers from him,” whispers Zalandrin. “I speak kobold.”
Well, thanks for that late breaking news, elf.
There’s a lot of plates, silverware and other valuables dropped by the dead kobolds. I drop my disguise and remove the kobold costume. It’s done its job. Cleaning it is murder.
A human family — couple hatchlings, a wounded man, and a woman carrying a spear with no little familiarity, comes running out of the village, pursues by a group of at least eight kobolds.
The kobolds, seeing us, assume by our arms and lack of running away that we’re friends, bark and motion clearly that we’re to help kill all humans. I suddenly have another vision of a walled off preserve where children of all nations could gather to kill humans in a safe, family-friendly environment. I’ll have to look into that. Are humans allies? I’ll have to make sure. Don’t want to kill them without a license, or something. Might be harvesting limits. And this village does seem infested with them. Perhaps they were sent here to breed. Could these be the dragon’s free range human farm? What are the rules about this situation?
Zalandrin says the kobolds are getting a little suspicious that we aren’t killing the humans yet, and frankly, so am I. But I tell Zal to tell our kobold friends that these humans are our prey (I hope). No go. I explain that these humans killed a friend of mine and that they should let us have these… they reluctantly leave.
The family is as terrified of us as they were the kobolds, and run to the keep, slip inside a hastily opened door that slams shut behind them. We knock on the door, exchange muffled words with a guard, and are soon let inside.
The keep is crowded wall-to-wall.
We look for someone in charge. The garrison commander, a red-beared dwarf who calls himself Escobert the Red, sees us and we are brought into a room with a crude model of the village on a table, asks us what the heck we are doing here. We explain about the caravan, and, accepting that, they tell of the suddenness of the dragon’s attack that morning, followed by kobolds and tame humans invading from the forest on all sides, driving people from their homes, looting and carrying away.
These same forces are working their way into the keep. There will be no leaving it without dealing with those cultists.
With the keep stuffed at over a hundred people and humans, at least that many trapped outside and perhaps still alive, their seems to be no safe place. There could be a couple hundred cultists out there as well, looting and burning but not doing all that much killing.
Our drunken cleric seems in danger of sobering up, insists on being shown the nearest tavern. He is ignored.
Escobert the Red makes it clear that we are welcome to take refuge in the keep — but we need to pay with services. He throws us a heavy ring of keys that will let us out of the keep through hidden ways. Get outside and kill cultists, or get outside and save more humans.
Or, just get outside and stay there.
I know my vote!
Sorry this update seems more focused on what my character is doing than what anyone else’s character is doing. I have to learn everyone’s voices so I can get more of what they say in there.
DM suggests we cut down on the comedy, so… probably will be somewhat more serious going forward. Nobody wants to be cut down in the next encounter. So far nobody has stepped up to lead the group — and maybe it’s early — but the last time we played we had no leader and so we all just did whatever we felt like, and this adventure is shaping up the same way. Nobody wants to take charge.
I’m not saying I’m not part of the problem — I definitely didn’t clear any of my moves with the group, who would probably have preferred I not dress up like a kobold and stuff. But, I honestly don’t know what else to do. We’re all MMO players and it shows so much. See mobs, kill mobs, see mobs, kill mobs. Loot the corpses. That’s not D&D. MMOs look like D&D on the outside, but inside they are dead. I figure, if we’re playing like it’s an MMO, we need to do the opposite.
A kobold, er, gnome bard isn’t going to be a leader. Zalandrin might. I have no idea what kind of things Superman and Leafwind can do yet.