Children of the Night

From the pages of Elias' Journal, part 2

Starday, 19th of Arodas, 4717 AR,

Well, Vauntil has proved to be just what I was looking for. A true adventure, and a rag tag group of companions to boot!

Last Breath itself has been much the same as usual, not to put it down by any means. I can't deny being gratified by the room at the Dancing Bear, and must commend their dedication to service.  Dinner was excellent, fresh venison and some sort of roots vegetable, along with a sampling of the events wines of course.  The company however, was a little plain. too many recognizable faces, and far too much talk of business. Luxurious as it was, I did find myself pining a tad for the times when Rennis and I encamped along the edge of the Sczarni tents, or the year I found a welcoming bed in the Lynyse tents. Still, it is a perfect base from which to explore the festival's true delights.

This morning I headed out early to see what was to be found, picking up a few tips from the horse master (the name seems to have slipped my mind). I recall a certain "fortune teller" sounding particularly interesting, though events swept me from that path. And now that I speak of it, he also introduced me to the lovely Shaelynn. I shall have to thank him for that later.

The goods I found strolling through the central square were as sumptuous as ever, and I even stumbled across a few interesting leads and persons among the crowd.

I met some fellow, name of Sullyn or some such thing, I shall have to get the correct spelling from him. Foreign, obviously, though I'm not sure where from. Said he was here looking for family, and was quite ragged really. Still, he had a certain determination to hi,, and that edge that those who have seem battle always seem to have. He'd even ferreted out news of a trove of artifacts from the Shining Crusade being discovered on a nearby mount. Even offered his services as a bodyguard, saying he'd learned to fight in the Riverlands.

Anyway, this Sullyn fellow and I were just starting to recount stories when some terribly deformed fellow made a raucous at the octopus stand, yelling that they'd poisoned him. Almost turned into a fight with the guards, and I thought I might have to intervene, but he stormed off first, pummeling a boy to the floor on his way. Still, you can't expect some poor brute to properly understand high cuisine.

After that I had to good fortune to spot who I correctly guessed was Halda nearby, listening to some drunk rave through his attempts at poetry. Obviously I introduced myself, and must say I found Halda to be a very pleasant surprise, not at all the stodgy merchant I was expecting. Instead, she seems to be in a rather similar place as myself, breaking away from the family to make a real name for herself in this world. I think we shall get along quite well.

That is when the true start of this tale of heroism began though, for a tribe of goblins seem to have gotten it into their little brains to spoil the party. My first true battle! They seem to have worked their way into the crowd, for all at once they were everywhere, with reinforcements approaching from the outskirts of town. Things turned into a rather desperate fight, with guests being cut down everywhere. Obviously I set about myself, and I was not even alone in the struggle. Halda showed herself to indeed be quite a practitioner of some sort of magic, and that Sullyn fellow, as well as the brute from earlier, joined the battle. Some noble fellow from up north, and a rather strange girl I have not properly met yet, also made their presence felt in the battle with the little beasts. Together we prevailed, quite literally saving the town from destruction. I myself received a rather nasty slash, although a combination of the ministrations of Shaelynn and some alchemist fellow have set me mostly right. The matter of glass in the wreckage of the stalls was rather more troublesome than I had supposed though. Thankfully, that poor beast from earlier, I believe he goes by Vargan, proved he had some decency, helping clean a bit of the debris.

Tragically however, we soon learned that some wagon fulls of guests had been carted off by the retreating goblins, and we quickly arranged to set off after them, my good name securing us several horses. Now, after quite an exhausting ride through half the night, we are finally to get some rest. Thankfully Villem and  Pytor are here, and I trust that a good breakfast will do my aching ribs a bit of good.

Till next time dear reader, when I believe I shall have a tale of rescue for you to enjoy.

From the pages of Halda's Journal
a festival fiasco

I had been looking forward to my first trip to the Festival of the Senses in Vauntil.  Unfortunately it turned into a fiasco.

To begin with, I awoke to find my bunk mate in the wagon I had rented was someone from my past.  I did not recognize him at first.  He had picked up a couple scars in the nine years since I had last seen him.

“Hello,” he said, “I’m Sulayn.”

At the mention of his name all the memories came flooding back.  I was enjoying my first trip to Greengold in Kyonin.  My then-virginal self was horny and on the prowl for a man.  The Salty Siren Tavern, a rather lonely looking stable boy, idle small talk, many glasses of mead, me shoving my breasts in his face (we dwarven women are quite well-endowed), both of us staggering back to the stables, falling into the hay …

Unfortunately it was a lousy first time.  We were two clumsy kids who didn’t know shit about sex.  He had the pelvic rhythm of a man suffering from seizures.  After 20 minutes of flopping around like a dying fish on land his semi-hard cock went limp and NOTHING would make it rise back into action.  It didn’t help that I ignorantly thought giving a blowjob meant blowing air on the cock like you were trying to blow out a candle.  I felt like the ugliest, most undesirable woman alive.  We could not even look at each other and separated without saying a word. 

For long moments we both stared at the floor.  “Well, this is awkward,” he said.

“Yes,” I muttered.

He told me a little about his life over the last nine years.  He had moved to the River Kingdoms and worked as a mercenary, but tired of it and came to Ustalav seeking new opportunities and looking for some missing family members.  I listened politely and departed.  It was uncomfortable being around a reminder of my youthful stupidity.  What dwarf in her right mind tries to fuck a half-elf?  I might as well have been wearing a sign that said “DESPERATE STRUMPET.”

I was sampling wine and cheese in the vintner’s area when I bumped into a handsome human male who made my mouth water.  He had wavy brown hair which was impeccably styled, green eyes and tanned skin.  The wine-colored tunic wore was made of very high quality silk, with puffed sleeves which looked a bit ostentatious to my mind.  In my younger days I would have gobbled him up like a greedy child with a bowl of ice cream.  But I suspected he was a noble or merchant prince and I was done acting like a fool. “Greetings,” he said.  “I’m Elias Redcliff.”

Elias Redcliff?  The Redcliffs were major players in merchant shipping.  My family’s merchant business had been trying to get a hold in the Caliphas market.  This could be a valuable opportunity.

“So what brings you here?  We don’t see many dwarves,” he said.

“I’m moving to Caliphas,” I said.  “But if you mean the Festival of the Senses specifically, I mainly came for the food.”

He chuckled.  “It is very good.”

We spent the next several minutes comparing notes on Caliphas and Highhelm.  Somewhat to my surprise, Elias seemed to be searching for a higher calling in his life.  He was also interested in starting an adventuring career.  I asked him what sort of adventuring skills he had.

“Well, I have been trained in the use of a sword, as all noblemen are.  And I have some other … unusual abilities which I think would be useful.”  A knowing smile crossed his face.

That caught my attention.  Unusual abilities?  Was Elias a fellow psionic?  “I’m interested in starting an adventuring career also,” I said.  “And I have some unusual abilities too.”

“Really?  Like what?”

Could Elias be trusted?  Hard to say given I had just met him.  “I have healing powers,” I whispered, hedging my bets with a half-truth.

He smiled.  “You are wise to be discreet about your abilities,” he said.  A small flicker of flame appeared in his palm.  It burned for several seconds and then vanished.

“There are reports that some ancient artifacts from the era of the Shining Crusade have been located,” he said.  “I was considering going –“

Suddenly I was shoved aside.  “Lord Elias,” the young woman said.  “I am so EXCITED to see you!  It is such an HONOR.  Oh, and you are looking as DASHING as ever.  How are you enjoying the festivities?  I am so INTERESTED to hear what you have been doing.”

Who was this bitch?  A Lady-in-Waiting?   She was pretty enough, I suppose.  Her dress was low-cut, which highlighted her fabulous lack of cleavage.  Her makeup was so heavy it looked like a clown and her perfume smelled like cat urine.  As she continued to fawn all over Elias I rolled my eyes and began mimicking her behind her back.

Then I saw another (human?) woman standing nearby, watching the three of us.  She had a long mane of white hair and slight grey tinge to her skin, but she had the face and body of an athletic younger woman.  She was dressed in padded armor and a longsword hung from her side.  There was something unnerving about her I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

“People can be so rude,” she said, gesturing toward the woman who had shoved me aside.

I sighed.  “The trouble with being a dwarf among humans is that they act like you aren’t even there.  I guess we’re too short to count.”

She nodded.  “I’m Persephone. “ 

“I’m Halda.  Are you a ranger?”


I waited for her to say something further but she didn’t.  “So where are you staying during the festival?” I asked.

“With the Sczarni.”

“Really?  Are you per chance looking for a roommate?  I rented a wagon but as bad luck would have it my wagon-mate is someone from my past I’d rather not see.  He’s not unkind but it’s … awkward.”

She shook her head.  “I am sorry, but I am not here for the festival.  I will be moving on soon.”

“If you’re not here for the festival why are you here?”

“I am hunting.”

Before I could say anything further there was a loud scream followed by a crash.  A small, ugly figure dressed in black went running from a tipped over cart of food.  Two more emerged from behind a building.  People screamed and began pushing and running away as the figures began swinging short swords at the crowd.  Then they started popping up everywhere, setting fires, attacking people, smashing property.  The nasty little shits were clearly goblins.  I turned to Persephone, but she was already charging, sword flashing in the sunset.

What a shitty day this turned out to be.

From the pages of Sulayn's journal, Part 1
A Record of the Children of the Night

Late into the night I was woken by a small woman entering the wagon to rent the second bed. A second woman, with a strong Sczarni accent was profusely thanking her as they talked through the open door, rather loudly, for several minutes before my new roommate finally said goodnight and settled in. I’ve had more peaceful nights in the barracks. I buried my face in a pillow to fend off her lantern and my travel weary body fell quickly back to sleep in the cozy cushioned bed. That night I dreamt of my cousin’s ranch in Greengold. Mostly the dreams were of mucking out the nests while the rude elven children of the wealthy came visiting from Iadara. In my dream though I was a full blooded elf and a child as they were. In the dream they welcomed me to play with them instead of viewing me with pity and scorn for my flawed “quick blood”. She is waking as I write this. I suppose it would be polite to make conversation.

What an awkward surprise! While exchanging pleasant banter with my new companion an uncomfortable familiarity began to grow in me. She was an attractive dwarf, fairly young as far as I can tell and a merchant and healer of some sort, although she was strangely cagey on the subject. It turns out that we have met before, years before at the Salty Siren in Greengold. Well, that explains the dreams. Met, is a bit understating it actually. An awkward night of youthful experimentation fueled by that summer’s excellent mead. I’m afraid I’m sure I performed badly and she had already left the barn loft before the hippogriffins crowed me awake for their breakfast. It was my only experience with a woman and, and while my heart was never into it, I don’t regret that night. Inside the wagon Halda and I chuckled at bit, embarrassedly recalling that night and how much time and life had changed since then. It was much less uncomfortable than it could have been and for that I was grateful.

After that strange reunion I believe I’d like to get out and see this wonderful festival the traders have been talking so much about. First order of business is a new shirt. This rag is bound for the trash. I should put an ear out for some work today as well. My coin purse is getting light.

The day began with an awkward reunion and ended chasing down murderous goblins in a race to beat them to the safety of their mountain homes. It has been a long, exhausting day and we are still traveling but as we stop for a brief rest I feel compelled to put this down as I don’t want to forget such an extraordinary day.

The beauty of the rolling terraced hills I had seen at sunset spills into and nearly surrounds the small town of Vauntil. The market was already open and bustling by the time I awoke. Leaving my spear and armor behind in my rented wagon I wandered the market drinking in the scents and smells of exotic foods and intoxicating perfumes. Everywhere there was something interesting and strange. Nostalgia tugged at me when I passed a table of imported Kyonin sweetbreads but I was here to sample something new. The octopus and squid was popular but more expensive than a night at a good inn. The festival attendees were colorful and friendly and quite cosmopolitan compared to the wary looks and not too slightly subtle warding gestures I’d seen traveling through Varno and Versex. I paused at a stall to examine a book on the local flowers and the bookseller and I got wrapped up in conversation with a noble from nearby Caliphas, my eventual destination. The vendor told us of a madman who pulled an ivory handled dagger from some nearby ruins, ruins from the age of the Whispering Tyrant. The noble and he seemed to believe there would be more artifacts to pull from the ruins. I asked after employment and the noble referred me to the captain of his guard at Redcliff estate. I noted it as a potential when I arrived in the capitol. The work sounded solid, but not very interesting. I also learned that a friend of my brothers was here, possibly with Ecaeris. Our conversation was interrupted with a crash as a large brute upended the squid cart spilling his slimy wares on the cobblestones. He was yelling about being poisoned and he did look unwell. His skin had a sweaty, shiny sheen to it. I ran through obvious symptoms of poisoning my father had taught me to recognize but it matched none that I could remember. In fact he still seemed strong as an ox and angry as a bull. Without my spear I felt as if I was missing an arm but I took a step forward and laid a hand on my dagger hilt. A half dozen town guard pushed through the crowds and cautiously circled him. These were professionals and had seen what I had. In his agitation the big man shifted his bulk easily betraying the appearance of his corpulence. He never reached for the axe on his back but we all watched for it as one of the guard tried to talk him down. The noble Sir Elias Redcliff pushed his way past me clearly not wanting to be protected. After a tense few minutes the big man threw down a handful of coins and stomped off roughly shoving the pressed crowds away and some to the ground. On the far edge of the crowd a young girl bravely stepped into the angry brute’s path. She exchanged a few words with him and unphased by his snarls reached up to hand him a yellow flower from her basket. “I think you are” her little voice squeaked. He tore it flinging petals to the ground but stepped around the defiant little girl. The whole scene left me intrigued.

I excused myself from Redcliff and broke away from the crowds. Hawkers resuming their cries and melodic music sprung back up nearby. Not liking feeling that vulnerable I returned to my wagon to don my armor and grab my spear. On my way back to the town square I spied the man that had caused the disturbance. He sat thoughtfully in amongst a caravan of wagons. We talked for awhile and it wasn’t long before his wariness softened. His name was Vargan and he had lived here sometime in the distant past. He seemed to take some offhand comment I made as an epiphany roughly slapping me with what I learned was his idea of an affectionate gesture. He departed eager to return to the squid cart but with a kind of eager zeal, not anger. When he stood to leave I noticed the stem of a small flower sticking out of a pocket on his rough shirt. Interesting. I suddenly remembered the lead I had on my brother and cursing myself hurried back to the town square.

The sun was low on the horizon when I finally found my brother’s friend Vali. He was playing violin outside the city hall near an old stone brazier as tall as a person. Vali said that Ecaeris was supposed to meet him at the festival today but he hasn’t seen him. I learned from him that Ecaeris spends much of his time at the academy in Caliphas and was courting the queen. The word queen earned a snort from a richly dressed man standing nearby, and someone in the crowd corrected Countess. I clearly need to catch up on local politics. The sun was setting as we talked and I gazed out over the festival to admire the lamplighters at work. A crash here, shout of alarm from the other direction and a scream. Out of the corner of my eye I thought I saw a hand dart from under a table and grab a bottle of wine. A dog erupted in barking and then yelped and gurgled in pain.

It was goblins and they were everywhere. Not the pathetic, cowering whelps I’d seen in the Echo woods or the bumbling, almost cute goblins of a child’s story. These things were vicious little killing machines reveling in destruction and cruelty. It was difficult to pick them out amid the chaos and I’m sure even harder for the local humans. Intelligent sounding barking behind me drew my attention to a small clutch of them harrying a cart pulling wood and oil for the bonfire. Spear in hand this time I ran to engage. I was quickly mobbed and it took all my attention to bat off their teeth and chipped little blades. At the periphery of my awareness I heard pockets of fighting amongst the screaming and panicking locals. Guards shouting commands to steering merchants and customers to safety. The fiends on me slid under and around me stealing quick, angry stabs and tumbling away in impossible tumbles. Even when I managed to hit one the slippery runt would slide off the blow with nothing but a nick. I dropped one but another had snuck up behind me and nearly sliced my ankle tendon. I only just avoided the disabling blow with an reflexive kip. A couple of their weak strikes slipped past my guard but I don’t think anything drew blood. Desna’s stars! I’m glad I armed myself when I did! The newest goblin seemed to remember their task and croaked a command causing the goblins to break off to spark the fuel wagon a light. The flames ripped across the oil burning into the wood and cart. The goblins cackled their excitement but in the distraction I cut a second one down.

I stole a glance at the despoiled festival square and saw only a handful of dead or dying, most goblins. But several still howled and struck at a handful of scattered survivors. If they had had a little training they would have grouped up and pushed the creatures back. Several of the goblins looked in rapture, their blades hanging stupidly by their sides. A woman’s blade slashed in deft arcs, but like me her measured skill betrayed her in felling the unpredictable scrappers. I saw my new friend Vargan was having more luck. He had a goblin’s head in his hands and in the instant I watched he squished it like a ripe pumpkin muttering to the wretch as it died.

And then a shrill shriek from high above caught everyones’ attention. We turned to watch in amazement as one of the little creatures jumped off the roof of city hall straight down at an oblivious gentleman below. Did I write everyones’ attention? I’m afraid this poor fencer, wrapped in a battle with both his blades flashing, was the last to realize. He looked up just in time to see the plummeting goblin crash into him knives flailing. The blade scraped across the noble’s chest as the little beast crashed with a crunch onto the ground. A nearby woman, seemingly just watching all this chaos as if it were theater let out a gasp and reached a gloved hand towards him yards away. But the fencer staggered and kept his feet. I don’t think that goblin ever got back up. A grunt alerted me to backarm block a chopping bite and I pivoted back to my own dance, determined to finish them off.

Wagons moving somewhere nearby.. crying.. and screams. The smell of boars? Out of darkness a particularly gruesome goblin barreled towards me. He was a full head bigger than the others and better armored than I was. The three other goblins grinned madly, teeth stretching from ear to ear as they renewed their frenzied attacks. The new goblin, some kind of champion, fought with less abandon, more cunning. This I understood. I lowered my stance and focused on him alone, allowing years of conditioning to bat away the swipes of the others. He was good. Even shrugged off a pretty good blow, his mail turning a probably lethal stab into bruised ribs. Hit hard too, but more instinct than training. Kicking off the stone wall behind me I flipped past his swing into a crouch. Confused he didn’t see my spear tip trace lightly up the skin of his throat, enter under his chin and burst through the top of his skull. With a hard pull I yanked my weapon free.

Unconscious battle sense receded then and let my mind return. I realized one of the goblins near me was struck dumbly with a sloppy grin as if from a hard blow to the head. The swordswoman had closed the distance to me her armor and sword splattered with blood. A swing from her longblade split one of my goblins from ear to waist. All around us the few goblins we could see broke and fled into the shadows. I remember wishing their howling cries didn’t sound so damn joyful.

After the battle introductions were made as others started to filter back into the town square and tend to the moaning in the streets. A shadow of something I thought I was supposed to feel passed over me but it was gone before I could recognize it. Too many skirmishes and there are always the dying. Best to keep the heart out of it. The woman seemed distracted, something about the wagons. She had pale grey skin and a muscled frame beneath layers of heavy cloth and simple armor. I barely got the name Persephone out of her before she slipped away and into the darkness. Then the fencing gentleman was on me shaking my hand and introducing himself while his other hand pressed a fine kerchief to his bleeding stomach. He is a Viscount by the name of Lowls but insisted I call him his personal name Aetherton. Impressed that I held off a few goblins he offered me a job in his personal guard. The pay sounded generous. We walked as we talked and came across my old dwarven flame Halga talking with Sir Redcliff, the noble I had met earlier. Both had gotten caught in the fight but Redcliff looked in even worse shape than Aetherton. He looked as though just maintaining a proper gentleman’s posture was taking everything he had. I wondered how long he could keep it up. Vali came by as we talked, violin still in hand like he had just taken a quick break from playing. He gave me an alchemical healing potion, very expensive by the look of it. He offered another to Redcliff who sorely needed it. I don’t know if it was pride or caution but the two started squabbling. When Vali would offer no promise other than his good will Redcliff weighed something in his mind and finally took the potion. He looked much improved after he drank it although it did not look like it closed all of his significant wound. As I had managed to evade the worst of my attacks I gave mine to Aetherton. It was good magic and sealed his flesh leaving nothing but a raised pink line where the goblin’s dirty blade had kissed. Vali disappeared back into plaza, I saw him last talking to an old woman who was bent over weeping.

So the five of us gathered and tried to puzzle out just what had happened and why. Someone had seen the goblins taking prisoners and another thought they had taken them away on wagons. I remembered the swordswoman Persephone had left speaking of wagons. Turns out she was Vargan’s friend and a good tracker so we pieced together she had gone after the prisoners. Redcliff and Aetherton cajoled and bullied the town militia and were able to fairly quickly secure us a couple of horses on loan. Vargan picked up the trail and a couple hours later we caught up with Persephone who had been tailing them. We are taking a brief rest now and while I sat here writing I noticed Persephone kneel in the mud of the wagon tracks and pick up something small. In the moonlight I see Vargan crossing over to her. The two of them stare down at a small yellow flower.



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