This is the time that the days bleed together. First chance I’ve had to find a corner, a candle stub, and time to set ink to paper.
We infiltrated the Glasstaff’s hideout, but Reed suffered what looked to me like a fatal blow. I see him and long for home, but his own nature betrayed him. He had no business getting that close to a bugbear, especially with Voljenog in place to keep the big bastards in place.
One of his loyal wolves dashed into the room and dragged him away, but there was no time for me to monitor the wolf’s activity, what with things three to four times my size looking at us like breakfast. We took them down, but it had hurt.
Something odd happened while we were there, but we had been warned. Something is in that hideout, something we never found, but it could have caused some unseen damage. Just have to hope the others don’t put it together. That thing in there somehow knew something about me. Though, to be fair, it might be someone else those whispers were about. I doubt it. I don’t think anyone else in our group was forced to kill their brother.
Fratricide, it had whispered. And, yes, I could talk my way out of it…deny and make counterclaims since the thing never said WHO the subject was…because I don’t think any of them would understand. My brother wanted to surrender to the newest slavers that came to make us objects for their use and profit. He said it would save lives in the long run. He said better enslaved and alive, where there is hope, then the finality of death.
Some of us listened
Some of us didn’t.
I led the revolt. I took up the bow from the first slaver I killed, my simple kitchen knife jutting from his throat. We hit the slavers hard and fast. Never staying still, not giving them a target. We hid and rested during the day, making them hunt for us on our territory. Stalked them at night. Taking one or two. Not letting them sleep.
We were winning. Breaking the spirits of those still alive with our silent shadow war.
Then he betrayed us. My brother betrayed his own kind. Betrayed me.
I watched four of my group go down before their hands could touch their weapons…a married couple who wanted nothing more than the freedom to start an herb farm and raise six children, and cousins who thought they might, just might, be good enough tumblers to join a traveling carnival…or start their own. Four dead in less than four seconds. Dead because the larger ones wanted to pick on the weak for the coin they could get…and because my brother was a coward.
I whistled, the signal to scatter, and scatter they did. I sprinted, spun, and tumbled through the ambush, making damn sure the slavers, and especially my brother, kept their eyes on me. I was ready to die alongside my brothers and sisters instead of letting those manacles slam around my wrists. Arrow after arrow sang from my bow, some missing their marks, but my job was to distract and harry them until they finally got to me and killed me; to buy the halflings I loved time to flee into the shadows that had become our shelter, our aegis.
Quiver empty, I stood with my last arrow knocked, its tip steady and aimed at the last enemy standing: my brother. Dead slavers littered the stained ground between us. My group had not only outmaneuvered the larger enemies, but our actions had inspired those halflings who had thrown in with my brother. They had fought back, determined to live free or meet Tymora on their feet.
My brother, the bigger brother who had kept me safe from the monsters lurking in the bedtime shadows, died with a smile of pride for his little brother on his face…my arrow snuffing him out like a candle’s flame.
Now, all halflings are my family.
Seeing Reed so grievously injured was more oil on the fire. We took the rest of the hideout one plan after another. Clockwork precision to make a gnome jealous. Glasstaff never knew what hit him. Reed’s wolf took out the wizard’s familiar as efficiently as an executioner. Glassstaff in custody, we were one step closer to the Black Spider.
I learned I was wrong about the dwarf, Voljenog. His offer is one my group cannot turn away. It is too good. Though there will be eyes on the proceedings. Voljenog may have good intentions, but a merchant…and someone with those connections…warrants a trusting, if cautious approach.
The next link in the chain to the slave trade and Rockseeker’s whereabouts was Cragmaw. As usual, Netheron motives were unknown, but the elf kept with us. Ayani was just as set against the slavers as I was, I just don’t know her story. Maybe she’ll reveal it at some point, but not to me.
We picked up a couple of spellslingers and another priestess along the way. Bad time to join us, as I was more concerned with getting to Cragmaw than picking up more possible traitors, but resources are resources.
Cragmaw was before us, after taking out a hunting party carrying parchment bearing the Black Spider’s symbol, and the plans were being made. Voljenog and I discovered a side door, with a lock so easy to pop that even a paladin could do it, and were on our way back to solidify the plan when the gnome gods-botherer alerted the keep’s defenses to our presence.
With the defenders’ attention focused on the front, a number of us surprised a group of goblins in the kitchen. We tried to make as quick work of them as possible and crush the bastards between two groups, but were too late getting to Fasa, the gnome, before the goblins and bugbears overwhelmed her and the eldritch caster. Ayani tried her best, but the numbers were against her.
We cleared the rest out and made our escape before more could come to kill us. We managed to convince a druid to tend to Fasa, as we would need every blade, arrow, or spell we could get. While the others rested, again Voljenog and I scouted ahead. We determined that the keep’s occupants were still trying to figure what had happened. There was still some time before their confusion coalesced into action. We gathered ourselves and set up a kill box in front of the keep entrance. Voljenog got their attention…and we proceeded to cut them down.
The rest went quickily…blood froze or boiled in veins from arcane power, bones shattered under the dwarven maul, and my arrows ended their lives from the darkness.
Finally, Rockseeker was in sight. Fasa went down under the assault of a drow, Ayani barely able to drag the gnome to safety. Using the distraction, the drow used some manner of magic to disguise herself as the injured Rockseeker. Not willing to let the dwarf bleed out, or let one of our own fall victim to a trap, I stepped from the shadows and made the drow the best deal of her life.
“If you play this out and Rockseeker bleeds to death, I guarantee you’re next,” I said, arrow set between the identical dwarves, ready to fire at the first sign of aggression. “Surrender now and we’ll take you to the authorities. You’ll have a chance to escape, but you’ll be alive.”
The irony of my words was not lost on me.
The tiefling warlock stepped forward as Nethinon, the other warlock, and I held our aims. As expected (as I know that I would do the same), one of the dwarven bodies attacked, yelling last words in praise of the Black Spider. The tiefling was injured, but survived. The drow, or what I thought was a drow, was not so lucky. Spells and arrow struck the thing down. It shifted again, into what I was informed was the true form of something called a doppelganger. I have taken notes on the creatures and will pass it along to the group.
The slave caravan is crippled, but not destroyed. Rockseeker is now alive and well, his map returned to him (not before I took a surreptitious glance for myself) and ready to seek out the mine he so desperately wants to find, as well as discovering the fate of his two brothers. He has offered us all a stake in his mine once it is up and running.
With this monetary offer and Voljenog’s deal through the Lionshields, I have established what I hope is enough to expand the group’s influence and finally catch the attention of the Harpers. There is more for me to do. More that has nothing to do with searching for a mine. Every bit of me wants to stay.
I look at them now, the ones I worked with through this…
And I don’t want to go.