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    Yeoldebard
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Stolen Dreams - 1. Nivakta's Crossing

HOPE

 

“Money talks. I’d start there.”

Hope leaned against a wooden post, his feline ears listening over the crackling of a bonfire. His companions sat around a small table, cards down and silver up for the taking.

The village of Nivakta’s Crossing in Brevoy was small, unimportant in the grand scheme of things. A wooden palisade ran around it, offering basic protection from wildlife, but it did nothing to defend against bandits stealing through the night and gathering valuables from the armoury.

For seventy silver stags between them, the village had gotten some adventurers to help out. Ilyas Idris, a bronze skinned Qadiran who could control fire. Amethyst, a Varisian harrow reader and healer of elven breeding, who always had a hood on. Elias Jakunson, an amurrun with a musket and plenty of practice modifying his weapon through alchemy. Ramiel, an aasimar armiger of the Godclaw Hellknights. Wulfrin, a fiery haired gnome paladin of Shelyn, from the Order of the Eternal Rose. And Hope himself, a beastbrood tiefling from another world, another story.

All had various reasons for being in Nivakta’s Crossing. All had different motivations. But for now, they were all united in the pursuit of money.

“Fold,” Amethyst said, gloved hands setting his cards on the table.

“I thought we said no spells,” Ilyas said.

“There were no spells cast. Are you suggesting that you have good cards?” Ramiel smirked.

“Fold,” Wulfrin added quickly, his cards dropping to the table.

Hope chuckled quietly, watching the table. It would be just like Ilyas to make that mistake. No one could accuse the Qadiran of being bright. Boastful, always. But not bright.

“Fold,” Elias sighed.

Unfortunately, his competitors were not necessarily any smarter.

“I’m in,” Ramiel said, tossing another silver onto the pile.

He dropped his cards, showing a trio of faces. King Castruccio Irovetti stared up at the ceiling, his eyes twinkling in the basic drawing. Hope let out a low whistle, the sound cutting off abruptly as he reached for the rune etched bow at his hip.

“Someone’s coming.”

Instantly, the room fell into fluid motion. They’d argued about their roles, bickered about what they would do if their services were actually needed, but all the pain of preplanning paid off as space was cleared, weapons were unsheathed or strung. Elias, Wulfrin, and Ramiel stood in front of the door, a musket with a bayonet, a glaive, and a morningstar with a shield holding the line. Behind them, the archers and casters prepared for combat. It was midnight, an unlikely time for an inspection of the village’s weaponry. Whoever was coming would receive a very warm welcome.

“Dogs,” Hope said, listening to the click of nails on wood outside the door.

A moment later, the wooden barrier opened, and two figures in dark clothes entered the building, a third leading a pair of large mastiffs on a leash. A cascade of dust suddenly dumped over the group, a bucket knocking one of the humans in the head, and Wulfrin sighed.

“Someone remind me to tie buckets to the doorframe. That’s not safe,” he said.

“Told you it would be guarded,” a halfling scoffed, as the human rubbed the back of his head. “Though I have no idea what the bucket is for.”

“Yeah, if that’s their idea of defense, they’re not that tough. Chaos and Fury would chew right through them,” the other human smirked, sizing the group up.

“Look here. We’re not up for a fight right now. So if you lay down your arms, we’ll let you live. If not, well, Chaos and Frenzy will leave you armless either way,” the first human scowled, still poking at his head.

Hope shook his head, his bowstring held empty. Wulfrin’s lips were moving, the gnome staring at the dogs. The growls coming from the mastiffs cut off suddenly, their heads twisting in confusion.

“I don’t think your dogs are in a position to do any biting,” Hope noted with his own smirk. “Now, I know life is probably hard, and sometimes you have to steal to make ends meet. But what good is stealing weapons going to do for you? If you have trouble, take it up with the lords of the land, not with the other peasants.”

Ramiel turned his head, his scowl skewering the tiefling. Hope motioned back toward the bandits, the actual threat. Philosophical issues could wait until they were safe.

“We didn’t come here for a lecture, we came to get money. If you’re not going to move aside…”

The halfling let out a whistle. A moment later, he scowled at the dogs.

“What the hells are they doing? Kill them!” one of the humans snapped at the mastiffs.

The dogs sat down abruptly, and the human snarled, bringing his leg back to kick one of them.

Hope moved then. An arrow connected with his string, the missile pulling back before launching forward.

The human spun around from the force of the arrow sinking into his leg. The missile pinned him to the door, his body collapsing as he howled in agony.

“Does anyone else want to try kicking an innocent animal?” Hope asked coldly. “They know better than to help you. They are good dogs, smarter than their masters.”

The remaining man and the halfling bolted from the still open door, leaving their companion and the two dogs.

“Do we get to chase them down?” Elias asked, lifting the butt of his musket off the ground.

“No, our prey lies to the south… southwest? I don’t know, they kind of messed up the compass with the map,” Hope frowned. “But now we have to figure out what to do about the dogs.”

“The trader we’re going to meet would probably appreciate having a couple guard dogs,” Amethyst spoke up, approaching the wounded man. “He’s unconscious. I’m going to try to heal him.”

“Why?” Ramiel asked suddenly. “He broke the law. He doesn’t deserve mercy, he deserves justice.”

“Yeah, well, you’re not in charge,” Hope scowled at the aasimar. “That would be Amethyst.”

“What? Why am I in charge?” Amethyst demanded.

“A number of reasons. Wulfrin is a gnome, our writer’s friend is gnomist, so that wouldn’t work. Though she seems to think I'd make a great rogue. Just because I can pick locks and cast spells..." Hope sighed, casting his eyes downward. "Elias is a cat, too chaotic to lead properly. Ramiel is tainted; any mage could feel the energy coming off him. Ilyas was in the running at one point, but he’s too brash. It came down to you and me, and we all know I would make a horrible baron, even with meta knowledge.”

The room stared at Hope in various states of shock and disbelief.

“Did… did anyone understand a single word he just said?” Elias asked.

“Don’t worry about it. Amethyst is in charge. If he wants to heal him, let him. But we’re keeping him here. If his friends come back, we’ll be ready for them,” Hope added.

“If Amethyst is in charge, why are you giving us orders?” Ramiel pointed out.

Hope sighed quietly as Amethyst removed the arrow in the bandit’s leg. The elf began patching the injury, a strand of white fur falling from his hood.

“That’s a good question. Why am I giving orders? It can’t be because I know what’s going on, or because I’m a favourite character people are supposed to listen to. Maybe because someone needs to take charge around here, and until Amethyst is up for it, I will keep our group together. Of course, if anyone wants to leave, I’m sure we’ll mysteriously find a replacement by tomorrow morning. Most likely another amurrun or kitsune. Ooh, or lizardfolk? Kobold’s played out already, no one can top Kiba in the alternate timeline. Come to think of it, why the hell do I know so much?”

The tiefling looked upward, a smirk on his face.

“Talk about a major plot hole, huh? Just going to gloss right over that?”

A beam creaked ominously overhead, and Hope laughed.

“Plot armour too. You wouldn’t dare. And that just pisses you off.”

“Are you yelling at the gods?” Wulfrin demanded, the gnome backing well away from the tiefling.

Hope’s eyes widened slightly, and he held up his hands in surrender.

“Fine, I’ll shut up. No need to bring Faes into this,” he muttered.

“I say we let Amethyst lead us just so we don’t have to deal with that,” Elias said, motioning toward Hope.

“I suppose that’s a good idea,” Ilyas shrugged. “I do my best work when I’m not held down by what people think.”

“How open are you to suggestions?” Wulfrin questioned, watching Amethyst pour a potion carefully into the man’s mouth.

“Very open,” Amethyst shrugged. “I’m not sure I’m best suited for this job either, but it was in my cards.”

“What job are we even talking about?” Elias demanded. “You and Hope talk like you know what’s about to happen, and it’s making me crazy.”

“Huh, I thought you already were crazy,” Hope smirked.

“I don’t know specifics, but we’re going to be hunting bandits southwest of here. There is a trader that runs a post out of the way, and we’re supposed to protect him,” Amethyst replied. “Though my particular position might make that a little difficult. Does anyone have some rope?”

“Actually, you’ll be a great help,” Hope denied, pulling a coil of rope from his bag. “So, we’re going to get a charter to clear out bandits in the Stolen Lands, by any means necessary. If we succeed, then we should be able to make a barony on the lands. We’re supposed to be a big tough barony that can back up the Restovic Aldori Swordlords in a civil war with Issia, but I highly doubt that will ever happen.”

“And you know this how?” Ramiel asked.

“Divinations,” Hope shrugged. “Someone who is a female elf by day and a male by night will be a great help in tricking the bandits.”

“Great. So all we need to do is tie this bandit up and then we can get started hunting more bandits, right?” Ilyas said.

“Not quite. We need to wait for a Swordlord to give us a charter. It would have been easier if we caught all of the bandits, but even just one should be enough to get the plot moving,” Hope replied. “Of course, this is probably just a prologue, to avoid too much of a time skip between chapters, so that might all happen off screen anyway. Though that leaves the charter for later… and we’re only three days from the trading post... eh, I’m sure you’ll figure it out.”

Amethyst stepped away from the healed bandit, studying his handiwork.

“There, that should hold him until morning,” he said, stooping to pick up the bucket that had fallen. “Did you really try to pull a prank on us? I thought paladins couldn’t joke.”

“Oh, we joke all the time, actually,” Wulfrin denied, scratching behind one of the mastiffs’ ears. “It’s just everyone thinks obeying the law has to be serious all the time. I’m actually trying to master the art of pranking people. Harmless pranks, mind you. I don’t want to hurt anyone.”

“Then why are you here?” Ramiel demanded. “Besides, what is the law if not serious?”

“Calm down. You’re both just lawful...” Hope grumbled. “Let’s just get back to the cards. Does someone else want to take guard duty? I feel like losing some silver.”

 

AMETHYST

 

She could feel the exact moment of the change. The sun rose to the east, still hidden behind hills and trees, yet Amethyst’s body withdrew back into her elven form.

“I never should have pissed off that witch,” the elf mused, pulling the hood from her head.

White hair spilled out over her shoulders, and she let out a sigh, massaging her long ears gently now they were free. Hands shuffled a deck, a single card sliding out of the deck. It was a sign; she wasn’t going to do a three card spread for the day. One card would do.

“The Couatl… Wisdom in judgement, knowledge serving justice…” she murmured quietly, her eyes flicking from the card to the bandit.

“Now there’s a hot elf,” Elias smirked, polishing his staff. “Anytime you want to play, day or night, you just let me know.”

“Hey kitty, leave her alone,” Hope scowled. “And stop polishing your staff.”

“You mean Yona?” Elias frowned, looking down at the weapon in his lap. “Why? She’s not even cocked yet. Completely safe. If I don’t clean her, she might not work properly.”

Amethyst sighed, looking away from the catfolk with the weird metal weapon. Ilyas was in the corner of the room, balanced on one leg as he whispered under his breath in an eastern language. The elf frowned, contemplating casting a spell to understand what he was saying.

“It’s not worth it. He’s just praying to Irori,” Elias said suddenly, startling the elf.

“You speak Kelish?”

“Of course. I learned Kelish and Osirian as a kitten,” Elias shrugged. “Taldane was a little harder, but I picked it up eventually. It’s good to understand the people you’re buying reagents from. That’s how I got this scar.”

The catfolk motioned toward his shoulder, where a rather strange mark sat.

“Someone sold me a perfume. Well… I thought it was perfume. Turns out it was piss from a racoon in season. The male who followed the smell was less than pleased to find an amurrun in an outhouse.”

Amethyst snorted, shaking her head. A sudden crack startled her, and the elf looked in the opposite corner of the room.

Ramiel stood shirtless, face glowing in beatific ecstasy. In his hand, he held a five-tailed whip, a single drop of blood slipping off one of the heads as Amethyst watched. The aasimar’s arm rose in sudden sharpness, the whip lashing across his back, and he let out a soft grunt from the strike.

Three more strikes followed, leaving the whip dripping with blood, and bringing Ramiel to his knees. The aasimar stared at the ground silently, letting the weapon relax in his hand. Taking a deep breath, he stood up slowly, and returned the whip to his bag.

Amethyst stared in muted horror at the scars running over Ramiel’s back, whip marks, sword cuts, all manner of torturous cuts that varied between self inflicted and doled punishment. As Ramiel pulled his doublet back on, the aasimar caught the elf looking.

“Righteousness through Obedience,” he said proudly. “I am obedient to the Godclaw, and I will bring law to these lands, as they command.”

Amethyst was spared from answering by the noise of horses passing the armoury. She moved across the room, grabbing the bandit who was still bound by the door.

“Ah, the swordlord has arrived. Let’s see who you brought us,” Hope smirked.

The door opened, letting in a tall half elf woman. A breastplate shone bright in the candlelight that filled the armoury, a sword at her hip swinging gently with every step. She exuded power, confidence, and Amethyst immediately knew this was not someone to piss off.

Even Hope seemed unnerved, a low whistle escaping the tiefling’s mouth.

“Jamandi herself… not bad…” he murmured.

The Swordlord stopped in front of them, her eyes scanning the room before settling on Amethyst.

“Are you the leader of this group?” she questioned.

“Yes,” Amethyst replied, matching Jamandi’s confidence.

“And you stopped the bandits from looting this armoury? That would have been disastrous for the village.”

“There were only three bandits, and the dogs,” Amethyst said, pointing to where the mastiffs were chewing on a piece of wood. “Hope just shot one in the leg and the others fled.”

“The tiefling,” Jamandi said, looking over at Hope. “My men have been watching you for the last few days. All of you seem… capable enough. Perhaps you can help me weed out the main bandit camp. They roam the Greenbelt in what is known as the Stolen Lands, just beyond the Shrike Hills. There is a trade post that has been their prime target, and I am sending a company of mercenaries out there. But they cannot cover the entire Greenbelt and protect the trading post at the same time.”

Amethyst nodded as she listened. More justice. It would be the theme of the day, she supposed.

“You need us to be a scout for the mercenaries, to find the bandit camp.”

Jamandi copied her nod.

“I am glad you understand. There will be a reward of course. A coronet, and the title of Baron of the Stolen Lands. Baroness, in your case. We will even help you build your capital.”

“That is a very generous offer,” Amethyst smiled. “May I confer with my group before giving you an answer?”

“Of course,” Jamandi replied. “I’ll see the prisoner to Lorin Kaven while you discuss this offer.”

“What’s there to discuss?” Hope frowned as the Swordlord grabbed the bandit. “We talked about this already.”

“But we did not know the details,” Wulfrin pointed out. “I don’t know if I can fight a bunch of bandits.”

“And if I told you they are probably sitting on one of the best hilltops in the Stolen Lands?” Hope urged. “There is a landscape that any painter would give their left tit for. You could set up a temple to Shelyn there, and encourage artists to come worship.”

Wulfrin’s eyes brightened at the idea.

“Killing bandits is good work,” Ramiel added. “It is worthy of an armiger, and it will be good training.”

Ilyas nodded.

“As long as we can fight worthy foes and not just a few bandits,” he mentioned.

“How’s a boar the size of a wagon?” Hope smirked.

“You better be telling the truth,” Ilyas grumbled.

“Hey, it will be exciting,” Elias smiled. “But… I get to keep any cool rocks we find, right?”

“Rocks?” Amethyst questioned.

“Shiny gems. I like them,” Elias shrugged. “And not just because I’m an amurrun. I mean, you’re not going to catch me playing with a ball of string.”

“I’m sure we can figure something out,” Amethyst replied.

“Great! Let’s find Jamandi and give her the good news.”

I'd like to take a moment here to describe the characters in mechanical terms, so those who are interested can follow along.

Hope is an Eldritch Scoundrel, basically a rogue with a spellbook, who casts spells by loosing them from his bow.

Amethyst is a Hedge Witch and Cartomancer, meaning they cast spells through the Harrow deck they carry and can create potions to heal their allies.

Ramiel is a Devil bound summoner. Similar to Jakun in The Nekromancer, he can summon various monsters, and he has an eidolon attached to him who he can call at will.

Ilyas is a Kineticist, starting with the element of fire. He can conjure flames to either throw at enemies or cut through them in the shape of a fiery scimitar.

Elias is a Gun Chemist, a fusion of Alchemist and Gunslinger. He is the son of Jakun from The Nekromancer, and can use chemistry to enhance the musket balls he fires.

Wulfrin is a Paladin of Shelyn, similar to Amnor Sen from The Nekromancer. He uses a glaive, and is a more accomplished spell caster than Amnor Sen was.

Everyone starts the adventure at level one, and I will mention the levels they take as they come.

Copyright © 2021 Yeoldebard; All Rights Reserved.
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Hope, my little love, as the said gnomist best friend maybe put the little bugger through his paces. I bet you'd make an excellent trickster yourself

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6 minutes ago, Tsukihana said:

Hope, my little love, as the said gnomist best friend maybe put the little bugger through his paces. I bet you'd make an excellent trickster yourself

Levels in Eldritch Scoundrel say you're probably right.

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That’s a... colourful group 😂 their... cooperation will surely be a delight to watch 😂

 And the two lawful guys are proof of how messed up the alignments are 😅

 

Why can’t they keep the dogs? They could be useful! 

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3 hours ago, IkeNeko said:

That’s a... colourful group 😂 their... cooperation will surely be a delight to watch 😂

 And the two lawful guys are proof of how messed up the alignments are 😅

 

Why can’t they keep the dogs? They could be useful! 

*Three lawful guys. I think you missed Ilyas. He's the follower of a god who was so disciplined that he literally ascended to godhood on virtue of his perfection.

And the dogs absolutely could be useful, but they also eat A LOT. Much easier to leave them at Oleg's where they can be properly fed and help guard the post.

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