Chapter 4: A Grave Encounter

The afternoon sun burnt bright as the last great bee was felled from the sky. Quickly the band of characters gathered at the base of the tree where above the hive was found.

"Hoy, Dimble, climb up and dive into the honey hole!" called Buliwyf to the diminutive gnome. "Yer afar the best for such a task, and what hive of bees of any size, but there's a golden treasure to be found!"

"Brave talk from you, Buliwyf," the gnome grinned in reply, but he too was exhilarated with the idea of capturing spoils from their first fight without their chaperones in tow.

The group was traveling north again, a couple days out of Lobellian the Fair. Audelaine, lovely mistress of harp and song was left behind to make her way to her stronghold far away, the herd of horses in tow. Their mission complete, Cadreil and Lli were content to lend their skills to the party's ambitions…the kindred elves said little yet offered much in their companionship. For his part, Helix was wearied following the melee with the bees - their stings and poison left him drained and weakened, and he was content to allow the others their banter as they sought what lay hidden in the bees' hive.

"Hoy, have a care," shouted Cadreil as the gnome scampered up the trunk. Tossing a rope affixed to a grapnel up to the branch that was the gnome's target he said, "Tie this off upon your perch among the boughs and secure yourself, and tell us what you've found!"

"Yes, Mother," the gnome replied, yelling down at the frowning wood elf, and ignoring the advice he proceeded to stick his head into a large recess in the tree.

"Honey!" he shouted with excitement, pulling his head from the orifice. "Lots of it! Like as not we can brew plenty of mead, with lots left over for biscuits and butter!"

"How are we going to get it out of there, and transport it to King's Landing without turning ourselves into a sticky mess?" asked Chakrem suddenly.

The priest had been silent, watching their banter with a sardonic grin that broadened to a wide smile at the crestfallen expressions of the others. Suddenly he laughed and said, "I've a sack to employ, and I'm sure others can be found amongst our equipage."

"Aye," laughed Cadreil. "I've one, and I'm sure that Lli does, or Dimble or Buliwyf."

"But how will we get the honey out of the tree?" asked Lli, his attention diverted from the study of the problem when he heard his name. "I've no bucket to donate to this endeavor."

A pregnant pause grew as the party thought for a moment on the quandary, and finally, a grin blossomed once again upon Buliwyf's face as he said, "Let's tap it like a keg!"

"A sound idea, friend Buliwyf," nodded Helix sagely where he crouched against the trunk of a neighboring tree.

Pulling out a dagger, Buliwyf plunged the dagger through bark and wood at head height, and held up the offered sack. Slowly the amber treasure leaked out, and when all was finished the party had gathered more than two sacks full of the honey.

"There's somethin' movin' around in there!" called a voice from above. "Somethin' not so pretty!"

"C'mon down, Dimble," called Buliwyf, glancing up to see the gnome's legs sticking out of the hive. "Leave be. Let's head for King's Landing."

If the gnome heard him he gave no heed. Bouncing out of the hole Dimble balanced nimbly upon the tree branch and rooted about his backpack. To those looking up from below, their sight partially blocked by shadow and branches, they could see the gnome moving about, but little else. Unbeknownst to them, Dimble had poured a flask of oil into the hive, and the sudden smell of smoke was the only warning of what was to come.

"BOOM!"

Knocked backwards from the force of the small explosion, Dimble tumbled headlong off the branch and down to the ground, his wits scattered by the force of the fall. The rest of the party came running, only to find the gnome unconscious. Chakrem approached, and performed some first aid, though his chuckles could be heard by the remainder of the party as he secured Dimble's head and checked his limbs for any breaks.

"Where did you get such a daft notion from?" the priest asked through fits of laughter.

"I didn't know it would do that," groaned the wounded gnome.

"A perfect example of why gnomes should climb hills and not trees," Chakrem continued, looking around at the others. "Shall we continue our journey, lads?"

The gnome in no immediate danger, the companions headed north, the Greenpeak Duchy an ominous presence in the east. Lli and Cadreil stared at the land of many rumors with ill intent, and quietly they vowed to visit someday this land of fell legend. For the nonce, however, the party remained focused on the trip north, and King's Landing.

The rest of their trip was uneventful; a brief respite at the farmsteads at the edge of civilization allowed Chakrem to gather beetle carapace for his own design, and the rest of the party enjoyed the hospitality offered by the good folk, as well as some rest. Soon enough they arrived at the great port city of King's Landing, their return unremarked and uneventful. They greeted oddly familiar sights, and made their way quickly to the Red Jackal, and were this time able to secure enough rooms for the night. Buliwyf's queries after his father were rebuffed, and soon thereafter the group availed themselves of their host's hospitality.

Dimble in particular enjoyed a fine repast, making quick work of the inn's specialty, the grand slam breakfast (served all day). With a shudder, however, he ordered, "Plenty of grand…hold the slam, thanks very much!"

The rest of the group settled in and joined him for a more sedate banquet, and plans were made for their short stay. Each had errands to pursue; Cadreil and Dimble made their way to the market where they sold off the honey. Lli found the Mage's Guild and became a member. Helix and Buliwyf headed to the docks to hear rumors of Buliwyf's land, learn news of his father. Chakrem, his errand his own, made his way to William the Smith in effort to have the carapace turned into a shield.

As he was leaving William's shoppe, Chakrem encountered a surprise - the halfling Korun had returned from journey's of his own during his apprenticeship, and was fresh to test his own mettle as an adventurer. Friends of old, the priest and young bard quickly reacquainted, and headed toward the docks to meet up with the rest of the party at Grog's tavern. After testing their will over a lunch better left unremembered, the group made their way back to the Red Jackal.

The next morning they continued their journey north toward Coppertown. Rumors of kobolds had whetted their appetite to test their skills. A brief stay at the Forge was unremarkable, and quickly they traversed paths through the Duchy of Martinson, Martinson proper and Lower Valshost, where they ran into some merchants asking about Audelaine the bard.

Going by the names of Antoine Dumars, Grottle Netzigscrutten and Samuel Nessbaum, and representing the limited liability company Dumars, Netzigscrutten & Nessbaun, the three seemed interested in the bard's doings, comings and goings. They were not invasive, but did seek to curry some favor with the characters. Beyond the fact that they were merchants, there was little to recommend them, and the party laid false promises with little substance at their feet.

With little else of note in the area, the party made headway north, finally halting in Martin's Hold. Low on funds, they chose to spend the night in the wilds, only Korun foregoing the pleasure, preferring instead to play for room and board - he was only moderately successful, earning a cheap dinner for his trouble. The party, on the other hand, faced difficulties greater than a night outside.

Allowing the wood elf ranger to pick their camping spot seemed like a good idea at the time - when he dropped his pack and said, "We sleep here this eve," on the outskirts of town none complained…even though their campsite was next to a graveyard.

Despite the lack of forethought involved in choosing such a sight, it was fortuitous, perhaps, that the elves had midwatch, their need for sleep less than other races. When sounds came from the cemetery, they awakened the party and prepared for battle. Creeping upon the site, they were surprised to find fleshless foes approaching - it was the puissant faith of Brother Chakrem that turned the skeletons away. Quickly battle was joined, Helix and Cadreil destroyed the last of the clattering undead, while Dimble moved forward amongst the graves. Chakrem followed behind Buliwyf who was walking parallel the fenceline when suddenly an arrow struck the great barbarian from the north in a dastardly attack. Taking a mighty wound, the barbarian roared his anger, but as he made to leap the gate his courage was assailed and overthrown by a fell enchantment. Chakrem looked on in horror and wonder as he watched Buliwyf flee the battle.

Cadreil, hearing the commotion, stepped back from the entrance to the cemetery and strung his bow. Inside the fence Helix and Dimble made their way forward, only to find themselves attacked by bowmen among the tombs as well. Where he stood Chakrem noted a blanket of night fall upon the near corner of the site, yet his own deity provided him light, nullifying the shrouding spell. A fell presence hid among the gravestones, casting a brand of horrible spells at him and the others - thinking quickly Chakrem cast his own fear spell at the ringleader, and the dark priest fled the scene.

The two bowmen were left, and by themselves were still a source of some challenge to the group, holed up behind the cover of the stone markers. Cadreil took careful aim and wounded one greatly. His cousin Lli also proved his own puissance as he fired off several magic missiles which caused the enemy grave harm. And bravely Helix and Dimble charged forward, their attacks leading to the capture of one of the bowman, though the gnome was critically injured in the combat.

The battle done, the party saw their first real wealth before them in the assorted collected goods gotten from their enemy. After Chakrem's careful dressing of Dimble's wounds the party retreated back to the safety of the town; there they came to recognize their first true success against sentient foes, and to realize as well that the ringleader had escaped, and likely marked them for his revenge. Feeling a bit older, and perhaps wiser the group felt ready to face their next adventure!!!

Click HERE to see Buliwyf's account of things.