IC Thread 1: Ch. 1, Stolen Land

Aleksandra Valyreth, Dilletante Swordswoman

Sandra makes something of a disgusted face at the idea of mounting the heads on the wall. "That honestly sounds kind of grisly... I mean, if it'll keep Oleg and Svetlana safer, I guess it's worth it, but do we really think that's going to help?"

Shaking her head a little, and setting aside the dilemma for someone else, Sandra adds, "Anyway, I think we ought to rest up tonight, and make a start of it bright and shiny tomorrow morning."

Upon realizing that the amulet he holds is beyond his estimation, he turns his attention to his own disheveled person. He groans at the stains of blood and mud across his clothing, and proceeds to utilize the effects of a prestidigitation spell. Tallamor quickly cleans the blood out of his garments and smooths back his hair. Waving off Raun's apologies as an unnecessary triviality, he looks at Sandra and her appearance of disgust.

"Might I propose a further compromise? The displeasure of an individual who was responsible for saving my life is one thing I cannot allow." He lets his gaze wander over the fallen bandits, then settles on the former leader. Chuckling to himself, he turns to Oleg. "Sever that one's head. Mount it on a post about a quarter mile from the trading post. It will be unobtrusive to the sensitivity of more civilized patrons such as my dear associate, but will be close enough to continue to serve as a warning for further marauders. Ah, but first..." Tallamor proceeds to grab a dagger from one of the fallen bandits, then crosses to the fallen leader and severs a lock of his hair from his head. He examines it briefly, then nods curtly to himself and ties the lock of hair with a small bit of string, tucking it into his spell components pouch. "Never know when something like that might come in handy," he explains to whomever might be watching.

He extends his will out to Mirli, who was perched nearby, out of the path of any potential stray arrows. The hawk flaps down and lands contentedly on the elf's shoulder.

Visiting Bokken

Towards the end of the afternoon Sergei, Oleg, and Raun take the bodies of the bandits out of the fort on one of Oleg's old carts. They find a nice spot a ways south of the fort, and much to Oleg's delight, they mount the head of the bandit leader on a sharpened stake. The rest of the bodies are tossed in a shallow mass grave after a half hour's digging. Oleg spits on the grave as a final farewell before you make your way back to the trading post to rest and plan your next move.

In the morning, it's decided that finding the bandit camp can wait; they'll either flee the area, try to attack a fortified position, or stay put, and in any case you'll either find them, or they won't be a problem for some time.

Oleg and Svetlana each have favors to ask of you, but they are not very time-sensitive. You also take note of a number of wanted posters at the trading post, detailing several notorious creatures and characters that need to be dealt with. There seems to be plenty to do in the Greenbelt other than simple exploration.

In the morning, you leave the majority of your gear at Oleg's and mount up on your newly-acquired horses. Traveling light, you decide to ride southwest a few miles, where Oleg and Svetlana told you the isolated hut of Bokken the potion-maker can be found. The morning ride is pleasant but uneventful, until storm clouds begin to gather. A terrific thunderstorm tears through the area, leaving you windswept and soaked. Towards the twilight of evening you finally find the simple mud-and-wattle hut of the hermit.

As you dismount, the potion-maker emerges from underneath a hide flap that serves as his door. The man is disheveled and unpleasant-looking, with an unsettling look in his eyes. His voice is high-pitched, and he speaks very quickly.
"Visitors! Hello! Come in, come in! What weather we've been having, you must be exhausted!"
The hermit beckons you inside his hovel. Inside it's warm and relatively dry, although the collection of hides, furs, and simple wooden furniture have a particular stink to them. It's clear Bokken rarely bathes. In the center of his hut, over a bed of hot coals, is a large iron pot, inside of which bubbles some manner of brew.

"I rarely get visitors out here," Bokken goes on, "I get some traffic from Oleg's, no doubt where you set out from, yes? They buy my potions from time to time, and I have Oleg order me ingredients to make more. I have some for sale, if you're interested. You seem the adventuring type, and there's always use for a good potion, of course, of course! Lots of danger, if you get much south of here. Monsters, bandits, kobolds, mites... and my no-good brother! Curse him!" He holds up his right hand, indicating his missing pinky finger. "Bastard cut this offa me the last time he hit my mother, Desna rest her soul. But he took off right after to live in a hollow tree down south rather than face the guards, so I guess it all worked out well enough."

As he rambles, he gives Raun a strange look, and sniffs his face. "Say... you smell like you've had one of me potions recently! Tasted good, didn't it? The secret is fangberry juice. Always got to use fangberry juice to make them potions tasty! ...I'm runnin' low, myself. Seems like them berries are harder and harder to find, 'cept down south a ways, a good 55 miles or so, there's a great big thicket'o fangberries. I'm getting too old to go galavanting through the Greenbelt these days, but if you stumble across any fangberries, bring'em to me, you hear? I'll give you a discount on me potions!"

The old coot seems ready to babble for hours if you let him...

I rode through a thunderstorm. The man's nose must be incredible or incredibly close. Raun reminds himself the fellow must be lonely. As usual his appreciation is profuse.

"Indeed, I feel like a new man! I owe you my life. Thanks to your potion and my comrades, four of the bandits will trouble this region no more. Ask them how it went. I was fighting at a disadvantage."

Mere confusion marks his features at the outpouring of information. He seizes on the potion-maker's offer for buoyance.

"Why do they call them fangberries? Somewhat ominous for such a . . . tasty fruit."

Tallamor crinkles his nose at the smell of the unbathed potion maker as he enters the hut. Throughout the exchange, he cannot help but feel as if the man may be suffering from dementia, if not severe isolation instability. He looks on as the hermit invades Raun's vicinity with his probing nostrils, the elf's eyebrow lifting up in a combination of shock and bizarre confusion. Thinking to himself, he wonders if the old bat hadn't cut off his own damn pinky just to have an interesting story to tell newcomers.

He watches as Raun waxes alchemy with the hermit. There is no spell this nine-fingered dog-man can cast that I can't cast better, he thinks to himself as he looks judgmentally around the hut. As is seemingly his habit, Tallamor begins flicking a silver coin between his knuckles with a prestidigitation spell. He says nothing to his comrades, however; his time dealing with Brevoyan politics has lead him to the inevitable conclusion that when one has nothing nice to say, one says nothing.

Aleksandra Valyreth, Dilletante Swordswoman

Sandra can't stop herself from remarking wryly, "They're called fangberries because they've got just a little bit of bite." Chortling a little at her own horrible joke, she adds, "You've been here for a long time, eh? Do you know anything special about the bandits with the stag's head medallions?" Clasping her hands together, she leans in just a little and Unable to find the game forum, "It would help us ever so much if you could tell us what you know."

Strangely enough, Sandra doesn't seem to have much issues with the man's smell. Her secret? A prestidigitation spell to sweeten the air around her face. She's had it going since the moment the odor hit her nose, as the furs were pulled aside.

Sergei is startled by the foul stink coming frm the odd man' hovel, but his nose slowly adjusts. Worse than a pack of wet dogs in a hot room.

He paitiently lets the man ramble on and lets his eyes wander the room, looking for anything interesting. Potioncraft was never Sergei's interest, only their results. Fangberries? Where have I heard of those before?

Bokken nods eagerly at the praise of his potions.
"They call'em Fangberries fer two reasons: your pretty lady friend has the right of it, they've got quite a bite to them, a flavor that really snaps you awake! But the second reason is 'cause the bushes they grow on have thorns as sharp as fangs! Best be careful if you try to pick any."

The hermit's words coincide with what Sergei knows of the fruit. Fangberries, while rare, grow in large thickets that can flay the skin from a careless man's flesh, so dense are the thorns. Fortunately, this usually deters large animals from eating them, and thus large predators from haunting such groves.

At the mention of the stag medallion, Bokken narrows his eyes conspiratorially.
"Aye, I heard that them medallions some of the bandits are wearing are part of a deranged cult! They worship a terrible animal demon, and make sacrifices to it to gain dark favors. Best be careful with those bandits. If you come across one'o the medallions, best to bury it in a river bed, throw some salt over your shoulder, spin 'round three times, and spit on your toes to ward away evil spirits!"

"We will keep our eyes open for the fangberries Bokken. Thank you for your hospitality."

Aleksandra Valyreth, Dilletante Swordswoman

Sandra blinks in surprise a few times; she genuinely wasn't expecting her idle witticism to be right. "Sounds dangerous. We might need some first aid supplies if we're going to go after them." She fishes around in her bags for a purse of gold. "We're willing to pay if you have any healing potions for sale." She judges the bag in her hand, hefting it a little, then adds, "Would you be willing to part with two?"

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