Kender Defender stood listening to the old man. Money was promised- and some was exchanged- but KD didnt care about that. He cared about the two poor children who had disappeared, one from each side of this conflict between the fey of the forest and the men of the town. This count was droning on about how imperative it was to diffuse the situation, and KD agreed inasmuch as he wanted to help diffuse every situation, but he was ready to get to the solving part of the puzzle.
He and his companions set out as soon as they can, heading toward the town first only because it is closer. The flickering wings around KD’s ears is Lulu, the little battlemaster who once ended up sharing a jail cell with the hero through some misunderstandings now unspoken. Behind them are the two humans: Saya is lithe and quick, her eyes watching the underbrush for signs of danger. She is blood-sister to the little fairy, though the obligation that laid on the Slayer is much heavier than the nonexistent boon of magic she had hoped to obtain from the pact. She undertook the experiment because of her utter failure to master the arcane arts on her own, despite the repeated lessons of the man beside her, her master Valeris, whose bright eyes burn with the fire that he can unleash at the slightest provocation. Your humble scribe Teagan, an old friend to Valeris and sometime mercenary, brings up the rear of the party, scribbling into my log as we walk.
Presently we come close to the town of Crystalbrook, and as is the tradition of late the thick mists roll in from the forest, bringing the darkness closer about us all. KD leads us on, and before long we see the city walls ahead, and KD begins telling us stories of his hometown as we approach it. But before he can tell us what his cousin did to escape the Kobold Kids [editor’s note: find out later!], we see the gates of the city, portcullis raised, and rush in to see why they would leave it so, only to find the city being invaded by Xivorts, their orange eyes glowing in the semi-darkness. KD plants himself in the gates as they rush us, and we all do our part to draw them into the killing zone before the diminutive kender. This is only our second excursion as a group, but we are beginning to learn the rhythms of battle, with the baseline of KD punctuated with the sharp flourishes of Saya and Valeris. She may have learned little of magic, but she has learned to be quick and decisive, to strike hard and take the opportunities presented. I catch Valeris smiling at his pupil.
KD finds among the dead his uncle Billin, and we let him mourn, but the guards are insistent that we go see Lady Tamora to receive her thanks and inquire after the missing lad, who is her son. We do, and despite her mistrust in your humble scribe and all the fey, she tells us of a note she found detailing a rendezvous between her son and a mysterious “J”, who she naturally suspects is the missing fey girl Julianna. We thank her for her help, receive a small compensation for our troubles, and continue on a few hours into the forests. I inform KD and the others that the Crystal Cave mentioned in the letter is a real enough place, and the oracle inside features heavily in local legend, but as the coterie of a real hero we’ve all come to expect the legendary to be true, so no one is particularly surprised.
Cerik is an old friend of mine, and so naturally he sees us, and we drink a bit as we talk of Julianna‘s recent distance from her people, her interest of late in the Cave’s legend, and the ongoing conflict with the Xivorts and the Men. Cerik also provides a small stipend, and provides us more detailed direction to the cave than my old memories of rumours would have been. Thanks are exchanged, and we continue on to the cave itself, deeper in the forest.
KD is small next to the gaping maw of the cave, but he is, as always, unafraid as he takes point. Outside we saw the tracks of the Xivorts, as well as a variety of flora uncommon to this place and this season. Another set of tracks followed two people into the cave quite recently, and we surmised that those two were the missing Orlando and Julianna. Your humble scribe had snuck into the cave first, but upon finding nothing had returned to bring the others along. This time, venturing farther inside, we meet a suit of animated armor, which attempts to impede our investigation by means of arms, and though he and an ochre jelly try mightily, KD and his friends continue on into the cave. At this rate we shall not be long before we must rest, but we cannot afford to lose the trail we follow by letting it go cold.
A simple augur points us away from one path, and the other takes us into a room of wind and voices that is certainly the Oracle of popular lore. The “lovers” passed this way, it confirms in echoes, and it provides us with a small whistle that might help us find them. It allays our fears that some that we have met might be working against us, but confirms that the Xivorts are sourced from the same evil as is presently putting the lost lovers in danger. KD asks what life is like for an Oracle, showing his traditional compassion for all we meet, without pretension that some are more or less worthy of care than others. “Lonely” it answers.
We continue, and find the long-dead corpse of some ill-fated adventurer, but clutched in his hand is a strong quarterstaff that catches the gleaming eyes of Valeris. He leaves his plain staff in its stead. We venture forth to, we hope, a happier fate than the one this unfortunate met.