Ash Gaming Group

1 - The Case of the Dead Cows

Nyx's Diary

Oh, man. What the heck have I gotten myself into now? I'm sitting here at the bottom of a chasm in the middle of no where, fighting off giant rats and about to go into some fortress filled with who knows what, all to find out what happened to some idiot humans. We're resting up now, hence my time to write this journal – if my writing should stop suddenly, assume I got eaten by something.

I guess I should start at the beginning. This whole mess started when we happened to go through the town of Oakhurst just before their midsummer festival. The whole town was done up with flowers and, as far as towns go, was almost bearable because of it. The three of us (that's Elil, Rotty, and me) were pretty tired from our travels (and Rotty's dragon Dronky looked about ready to keel over), so we headed straight for an inn – the Ole Boar, as it turned out. While the others yattered on to the inkeeper, I nipped outside with my drink and gave a sip to poor Dronky – which, I might add, I was scolded for by Elil. He was thirsty!

Anyway, that's when we learned about this town's peculiar ceremony on the midsummer solstice. Apparently, each solstice, the local goblins bring a single red fruit up from the depths and sell it to the highest bidder. Eating this fruit supposedly heals any illness. Hearing that, Elil was immediately interested in grabbing this fruit to try and heal Dronky of his numerous persistent ailments. But there was more to the story – recently, two merchants had gone down into the depths to investigate the source of the fruit, and had gone missing. There was apparently a reward for the return of these merchants. While I couldn't care less about missing humans, Elil and Rotty wanted to investigate, so I got pulled into things.

We also overheard some farmers hiring mercenaries to guard their crops – apparently they planted seeds of the magic fruit but the plants had gone missing.

That night, Elil and I found a nice tree in the town square and slept peacefully. Rotty, of course, slept in the inn – far too many people in there for any sane person to be able to relax, but who ever said Rotty was sane? In the morning, I had the unpleasant duty of waking up the big oaf, who of course had overslept. A word of warning – make sure you are never the one to wake up a dragonborn after a night of heavy drinking. The blowhard slammed the door open in my face and sent me tumbling over a chair – I'll be getting him back for that, just you wait.

We all headed into town to talk to the merchant whose people had gone missing. Along the way, we saw an odd sight – a farmer carting in some dead cows, who had been stabbed all over with twigs. He said some kind of monster must have gotten them. Odd business, I thought – we took note of the farm's location and continued on.

Finally we arrived at the merchant's shop – a general store with a golden peacock on the sign. We pushed our way to the back (I say "we" – Rotty is good for something, after all) and spoke to the owner – Carowyn Hookrails. The two merchants (her son and daughter) went missing two weeks ago, along with their retainers (a paladin and a ranger). We were offered a reward for returning their rings, and double that if the two were also returned alive. Rotty pushed for a bigger reward, the lunkhead, but Carowyn said only that she would give us a bonus if we brought news of the retainers as well. She was a wrinkly, snobby old lady who seemed more upset that she may have to produce new heirs than that her children might be dead.

Our negotiations concluded, we decided to head right out as it was only midday. On our way to the chasm leading down to the depths where the goblins live (that's the dratted place we are currently sitting) we stopped at the farm to investigate the dead cows. We found the place where the cow had died, but there was nothing especially wrong. I called down some feathered friends and asked if they had noticed anything scary. Turns out the little dears had been frightened the night before by a loud noise, when the cows left their field.

The birds showed me where this happened, and we found the fence broken and a few cow tracks and some spiky bushes – nothing especially out of the ordinary – or so we thought. Without Elil's clumsiness, we would have shrugged, given up, and moved on, none the wiser. As it was, the silly elf fell right into one of the bushes – which proceeded to attack her! Well, she may be clumsy, but she is quick too, thank goodness. She scrambled out of the way and I got a good look at the thing – it was a Twig Blight, something I'd seen before in rotten parts of the forest. And they have a very glaring weakness – they burn well.

I shouted to Rotty to burn it – if he was good for one thing, it was setting things on fire. He let out a sheet of fire, incinerating the bush monster instantly and setting part of the forest on fire. Elil used her druidy magic to put out the flames, but not before another bush caught fire and began moving around wildly. Two more bushes burst into motion, getting away from the flaming one and coming towards the rest of us.

I jumped forward and made mince-twigs out of one of the creatures. Elil used her thorn whip on the last healthy bush monster, tripping it. Dronky chose that moment to make his derision for the monsters known, sitting on the fallen creature and finishing it off. The last monster, still flaming, burned to death.

About that time, the farmer finally showed up and said the twig monsters looked like farmer Gurt’s crops. For Pete's sake, these idiot farmers had been planting MONSTERS in their fields! After all this, I'm not sure I want to feed that fruit to Dronky – if this is what grows from the seeds, it doesn't sound like the healthiest thing to eat.

The cow farmer also mentioned that there was another fruit, a white fruit, which sometimes was brought by the goblins in winter. Then things got a whole lot darker – apparently THIS fruit KILLS people that eat it! I really don't trust this whole business anymore.

The farmer thanked us for taking care of the Twig Blights, and gave us all a bit of butchered cow. Touched, Elil gave him a flower, which he planted in his hat (humans are weird). She liked the idea so much that she bought a similar hat from him, which she caused to sprout into many daisies (elves are also weird). Still, I couldn't help getting caught up in her excitement, and called down some of my feathered friends to sit in the hat and sing.

Finally we set out for the ravine where the goblins live. We found a rope leading down where the merchants presumably descended on their ill-fated previous expedition. We left poor Dronky tied up at the top of the ravine with some slices of meat in easy reach, and headed down the rope.

At the bottom, we heard skittering but saw nothing. As soon as Rotty started forward, the big lug was jumped by three giant rats! The first literally jumped at him, missed, and sailed past to land behind us. One of the others got a good bite in on Rotty, who responded with another blast of fire. Both rats in front of him were badly burned. Elil turned and whipped the rat behind her right in the bum. The silly elf was in tears at having to harm animals. I tried to strike the same rat but Ash, being the contrary sort, veered at the last minute and missed. Have I mentioned how much I loath him?

The two rats in front of Rotty were too singed to do much, and he quickly dispatched one with his morningstar. The rat in the back had the nerve to try to take my weapon, but as contrary as Ash may be he prefers me to a rat and refused to be pulled out of my grasp. Elil whipped the rat again, this time on the face, and it squealed sadly, causing a fresh torrent of tears from the elf. I'd had enough, and brought Ash down on the rat, striking a killing blow. The final rat tried to flee, but Rotty pursued and smashed it with his morningstar.

And that's where we stand – licking our wounds at the bottom of a ravine in the middle of no where, getting ready to head into a dark and forbidding fortress with who knows what inside. Elil has been inconsolable, spending the rest time digging little graves for the rats. I managed to calm her down a bit when I found a group of baby rats and comforted them, making sure they still had some adults to take care of them and warning them to stay away. The little things ran down the stairs toward the fortress in the distance, into the darkness. Guess it's time we head out that way too.

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