Today, our group nearly came to blows over who would carry a magic bag that we don't even have yet, but we resolved the dispute with a compromise and a Tian game of chance. It's been that kind of day.
We started the day by visiting Baroness Origena Devy to report that the wizard's manor had been thoroughly searched and secured. She paid us each a sum of 1,000gp and invited us to participate in the Hunclay estate sale scheduled for 29 Gozran, where she would front us 7,500gp worth of purchases.
We persuaded the baroness that some of Content Not Found: hunclay were too dangerous to be placed for auction, particularly the Tales of the Dreaming Dark, which Maffei is still reviewing. The noblewoman said that she would have the books locked away in a secure location.
On the way into the Devy manor, I noticed the interesting horticulture in the gardens, including extensive use of aloe plants. The baroness referred me to her groundskeeper, a half-orc by the name of Benito.
After the audience with Baroness Devy, with our pockets weighed down by gold, we prepared to split up for some purchases. Tagnus broached the idea of acquiring a bag of holding and the whole thing turned into an argument between Aldern and Knives. Neither trusted the other to hold the bag—which I should stress again, we had not yet purchased—and so Aldern suggested I be tasked with holding it, which was very kind of him.
Knives questioned my impartiality, which did sting quite a bit after all we'd been through these last few days, and she suggested Tagnus hold the bag. I would have gone along with it, had the druid not called me a "barbarian." At that point I was clamoring for the bag as well. We tried to get Lennox to cast the deciding vote, but she suggested a compromise: that we share custody of the bag, one week on and one week off.
Then the argument turned to who would first take custody the magic bag that we had not yet purchased. To decide that matter, Aldern cleverly recommended a strange finger-game from Tian Xia. Tagnus and I played against each other until one of us got three victories. I came out ahead, and will be the first to carry the bag as soon as it arrives.
For now, we have been left to our own devices until the auction day, one month away..
I've made some inquiries around town about the cold iron longsword that I recovered from the kobold den, but it was not known to anyone in Belhaim. The Brass Bull thinks it is an old weapon, possibly from Andoran. While doing my rounds, I spread word about the burial of Hunclay's two unfortunate servants, so that any kinfolk of theirs know of their fate.
I also met with the baroness' gardener, the red-headed half-orc Benito Skullcrusher. Not only did he have some insights into the local flora, he proved to be a skilled botanist who has found a way to cross nightshade with poison ivy! I took extensive sketches of the hybrid and inquired about preserving some presses of leaves as well. This truly marks my most significant find in Belhaim since I arrived in the village, and I promised Benito that he would be credited when I present my findings in Absalom. The university seems farther away than ever, though…
The big excitement today was the arrival of the bag of holding. Per the contest, I took possession of it for the first week. I must confess I did spend some time in my quarters simply playing with it. There is something unnerving yet exciting about thrusting your hand into a pocket dimension, in defiance of all the normal physical laws of our material plane.
Aldern was furiously scribbling something in the Wise Piper's common room. He was chewing on his lower lip the way he always does when he is completely focused on a task, so I decided not to bother him. I do want to have a talk with him soon, though. It's so rare to catch him in a spare moment away from his study at Hunclay's manor, I admit I miss being able to philosophize with him.
The first of the spring rains arrived today. The clouds rolled in like a gray blanket and deposited a soft, steady shower that lasted half a day. There is nothing like the smell of a forest after a good rain, the water mixing with the rich scent of the earth and the fresh odor of the plants.
As I expected, the rains drew out the dormant snail population. I found a particularly big one emerging from a soggy fallen tree trunk that I suspect might be feytouched. Its shell was four inches in diameter and iridescent like a swirling rainbow, while its body was a vibrant green striped with gold.
I took extensive notes and sketches and asked around the town about it. Such a snail hasn't been seen for at least 20 years, which makes me suspect they have not been officially described in the scientific literature before. I only wish Aldern or Knives or Lennox were there to see it, but they had no interest in tramping through the muddy woods. Tagnus, of course, had disappeared like he has been the last couple of days, probably communing with nature further from the town.
I have been hearing very strange accounts from the townsfolk about strange beasts being spotted outside of Belhaim, mysterious tracks and claw marks on the trees, and odd noises in the woods. But the tales are maddeningly contradictory. I need to catch Tagnus before he heads out on another of his jaunts so that we can investigate these reports. If there truly is something strange out there, it could be a major find!
I was led on an elaborate snipe hunt today, and learned of a mysterious disappearance, but it ended with a healthy serving of cider.
I had recruited Tagnus to help investigate the reports of strange beasts outside of town. He seemed weirdly unfamiliar with the rumors, but was eager to assist. It was more than an hour into our journey before he admitted that the weird tracks were his handiwork, the result of him practicing his druid shapeshifting.
We met another druid, also investigating the rumors, an elf woman named Emarthine Willoway. She knew Vyncis Voadys! Together they explored the waterways and deep into the forest, encountering dryads, treants, and wyverns etc.
She also revealed that another druid, Asmar Kel, and his pregnant wife had disappeared several weeks ago from their house on the edge of town. Tagnus and I took a look and found tracks leading away from the house that just stopped not to far away (as if they had simply teleported away or been carried off).
After this investigation, we retired to Emarthine's orchard to partake of her delicious cider and talk about her experiences with Vyncis Voadys.
I had a good chat with Aldern tonight at Hunclay's manor while I was checking the telescope. I started by asking him about the creatures he's seen in his travels. After a bit of back and forth, I got to the issue that has really been troubling me. I asked him about Hunclay's demon-binding and whether he approved of summoning forth such planar creatures in pursuit of knowledge. I honestly was afraid of what I might hear.
Fortunately, Aldern has taken our experience with the imp to heart. He agreed that bargaining with fiends was far too dangerous, and generally dismissed Hunclay's approach. What a relief! I know I should be past such superstitions, but I had been worried that his passion for the arcane arts had atrophied his conscience. Clearly an unfounded concern.
I did kind of awkwardly turn the conversation to my father's troll-biting experience. I still do not know why. I just kind of started babbling and needed to leave.
A strangely enthusiastic Tagnus asked to see my journal of creatures, particularly the illustrations. It was so fantastic to have a chance to review my research with someone else knowledgeable about wild creatures. He asked many insightful questions about their forms, behaviors, and instincts.
I've gotten some rather troubling advice from Knives on how to handle anger issues. I had found her alone in the Wise Piper Inn and I figured it was time to broach the uncomfortable subject. I mentioned how I had heard many half-orcs suffered from anger issues and wanted to know if she experienced the same, in hopes we could commiserate. Knives emphasized the need to confront the source of her anger rationally, containing it when provoked with the thought of taking revenge in a more calculating fashion later. She scares me sometimes.
I explained about my family's history of berserkers, but had trouble convincing Knives that this "gift" is actually a burden. She argued that my anger was a useful tool, even when I told her about my childhood experience crippling young Wiglaf during one of my rages. Knives suggested we come up with a "safe word" word to narrow my focus during rages and restrain me from harming allies.
I quickly turned the conversation towards an emergency code word like my father would use on his trading voyages. Aldern joined in as I tried to pitch them on "ubiquitous."
The auction concluded early, with relatively few casualties, but the whole town is currently being held for ransom by a possibly fictitious undead dragon. Hunclay's manor has still not been put up for sale.
The event started reasonably enough. There were some travelers from out of town, including a trio of Kalistocrats in their strange white outfits and a man in a red hat who will become important later. However, most of the attendees were Belhaim locals. The auction took place in the auditorium at the center of town. Our party were given front row seats, and the affair was presided over by the baroness' clerk. The auction had the strange rule of requiring every new bid being increased in increments equivalent to the initial asking price.
We got the wizard's exotic birds for a reasonable price, and the gnome woman Bassy did an unusual amount of bidding. The man in the red hat threw a fit when he found out that Hunclay's books were not part of the auction and stormed off. Knives went to follow him, as he was acting rather suspiciously.
Just as the wizard's manor was going up for auction, monsters swooped down from the sky. First, four mat-bat creatures attacked the gathered bidders. Thankfully, our group acted swiftly to fight them off. I had another episode, this one especially strange. Father spoke of the dragon stirring within him during his battles, but this was the first moment I experienced it. I hurled Gripa at one of the man-bats and watched the arc of the axe bend towards the monster unnaturally, as a terrible power blazed coldly in my heart.
We put the monsters to sword and I collapsed afterwards, trying to recover from the exertion. Not more than a minute had gone by before the next fucking monster arrived. We thought it was a red dragon, though Aldern later recognized it as a lesser creature called a flame drake. It belched fire at us and I barely escaped being burned to a crisp.
This provoked yet another episode and I apparently leapt up to attack the beast. Knives and Tagnus joined me, while Aldern and Lennox struck at it from afar. Apparently I was the one to strike the killing blow, carving through it and out the other side. When my senses returned to me, I was lying down beside it, slick with gore, being tended to by Knives, Aldern and Tagnus.
So it was at this point that a terrible roar shook our very bones as a huge black dragon, half-rotted, landed on a nearby house. The monster claimed to be Aeteperax and said that it had made an arrangement with Hunclay to take custody of five rare texts, particularly Tales of the Dreaming Dark, upon the wizard's death. The dragon said that its representative had tried to fairly purchase the books, but was denied a chance to bid.
So the dragon issued a demand: turn over the forbidden books, plus a 766,000gp indemnity, in two weeks time at the monastery across the Dragonfen, or it would lay waste to Belhaim. The dragon claimed that its minions had infiltrated the countryside and would kill all those who try to flee, save the emissaries delivering the books and payment. After making this ultimatum, Aeteperax appeared to cast a spell and teleported away.
The townsfolk naturally panicked, and our group was split on what to do. To me, there seemed to be no choice—confront and kill the dragon. Knives, however, was talking of fleeing the town and fighting through whatever minions awaited us outside. Aldern then spoke up, noting that the dragon's teleportation "spell" amounted to mere gibberish. I remarked that its demand for 766,000gp, or 2,000gp per resident of Belhaim, seemed far beyond the village's ability to muster and questioned whether the dragon was even real. Knives at this point agreed it might be a trick and was now on board with investigating.
Aldern used his magicks clean and repair my poor outfit as best he could, while Tagnus supplied me with more of his delicious goodberries. Now that we are all refreshed after the battle, there is nothing left but to speak with the baroness on how to proceed. Oh, and to collect our exotic birds as well.