Asher’s Journal: Days 0 – 4

Day 0

Dear Diary, today I made new friends. First, I met a cavalier named Reyes. He holds himself nobly, but carries himself like a true warrior – something even I can respect. He was referred to me although he was actually looking for the poor bastard I smoked back at the Orlovsky manor. He found out I had a charter, and explained that he and his friend Finn had the charters as well, and were preparing a company to head out to the Greenbelt ASAP. Now, I am on an unusual assignment from the Balance Corporation. They’re betting me on the rumor of a possibility of a second charter from Restov that might supposedly grant the right to settle in the Greenbelt, and it is my job to implement myself in the government of said settlement. I’m basically on my own out here, and will be out of contact for a long time. Which means… allies would be a very wise move. I agreed to go with Reyes and Finn. They basically had the same thought as me: success in establishing a settlement will require a highly specialized team. To this end, Reyes and Finn also recruited a wizard named Jack and an Elf archer named Kydien. I heard talk in town of someone named Sparrow — a half-elf with excellent situational awareness — and invited her along after a quick chat.

So we traveled South. As we left the city limits, guards handed us a wanted poster — the usual shit about bandits. I joked that we were now the official guards of the Greenbelt. We came to Oleg’s Trading Post, built in an old fort. It seems Oleg, and his wife Svetlana, were anticipating a security contingent from Restov and thought we were, perhaps, this security force. We agreed to provide security in exchange for room and board — standard adventurer fare, really. Oleg explained that a group of bandits routinely come to collect “taxes” in the form of a vast majority of goods from Oleg’s stock. And, naturally, the bandits were due to arrive tomorrow morning at first light. Well, now! We quickly established a plan to ambush the bandits: Myself and Sparrow would wait by the post’s doors, and lock them shut once the bandits rode in. Kydien and  Finn would position themselves to fire arrows at the bandits. Jack and Reyes would be in the courtyard and engage in close quarters combat. We’d leave one bandit alive for interrogations. Simple. That night, I acquired a pot and some oil – and gave a lame excuse to Reyes that I was making onion rings. We really didn’t know how many bandits would be coming, and I wanted to be prepared to incapacitate a handful of bandits at once. Reyes wouldn’t be entirely with such a methodology — but really, how was it any different than cutting them to ribbons with a sword? I am, if nothing else, efficient.

Day 1

Morning came, and with it, the bandits. Only four, in fact, with one clearly the leader. Jack and Reyes stood defiantly in the courtyard, like weirdos, giving ominous greetings. Well, at least it puzzled the bandits. Sparrow and I locked the doors, and I noticed a perfect opportunity for my oil: See, the three regulars in back could easily be dispatched, leaving the leader surrounded, easily tackled by Jack and Reyes and captured for interrogation. So I threw my boiling oil on the three bandits, and they dropped to the ground, screaming and writhing in pain. With the flick of my wrist I could toss a nearby torch into the fray, and light those suckers up, if the oil wasn’t enough. They were combat-ineffective, in any case. But things took a surprising turn when Finn loosed an arrow right into the bandit leader’s head, the arrow jutting out through his eye socket. He fell, wordless, into a heap at Reyes’ feet. While I certainly admire such skill at dealing death, I was a bit disappointed that Finn didn’t give the bandit leader an opportunity to surrender. Alas, now we had to keep these three goons alive, albeit extra crispy.

I tied them up, and offered to do the interrogations. Honestly, I’m rather good at them. I actually don’t even need physical torture a vast majority of the time — interrogations are all psychological. Reyes insisted on doing it himself, clearly upset with me for my oil stunt. I searched the bodies of the bandits, and found alchemist’s fire, as well as a silver medallion. Svetlana explained that the medallion was a symbol of the Stag Lord, the Greenbelt’s nefarious villain. She also said the dead man was Haps Bydon, an officer of sorts under the Stag Lord, and also the lover of a lesser bandit leader, Kressle. I put the silver medallion on in front of everyone, and proclaimed myself Stag Lord. Jack thought it was funny. Svetlana gave me that look that a mother would give a child cursing in a temple, and said in a hushed voice, “The real Stag Lord is the demon of the Greenbelt. It is no joking matter.” I winked at her and said, “Ah, my dear Svetlana, don’t you worry none about demons. Ridding the world of such folk is my purpose in life.” She didn’t believe me. Nobody ever believes me. But they will. They will. Soon enough, Reyes was done with his interrogation, and said he knows where Kressle’s bandits’ camp is — about 4 days to the Southwest.

So we rode out on our newly acquired horses, right past a temporary site used by the four bandits last night, until we came across what is known as a Shambling Mound. It’s an earthy, plant-like creature, and quite large. I temporarily lost control of my horse while the rest of the party feebly tried to fell the mound. Only Sparrow had the sense to use flaming arrows against it. I ditched the goddamn horse and ran back, in time to splash my flask of lantern oil onto the mound. It went up in flames, and succumbed to the fire. Fuck this country and its fucking country beasts. I hated using my latern oil so quickly, but the party was taking quite a beating, and I’m sure I’d have need for the oil soon enough.

We rode on until nightfall, and made camp. We joked around a lot, but then settled down to sleep. Sadly, a group of bandits attempted to catch us sleeping and kill us. It started with an arrow straight into poor Jack’s chest, and ended with every bandit slain with the kind of ferocious intensity only an angry, sleep-deprived camp full of bandit-hunters like us are capable of. Goddamn, but did those bandits ever pick the wrong group to attack. While Jack was being tended to, I searched for connections to the Stag Lord, and found none. These bandits were probably freelancers. Ah, well, it felt good to put my Aldori dueling sword to use. It is a very fine weapon. At last, we slept.

Day 2

Nothing of note happened during the day, but when next we made camp, I was sure to rig a trap to alert us to the presence of any more intruders. And, naturally, we had an intruder in the night. It was a filthy, crazy hermit attempting to trade with us. He had beavers. We grilled him for information as much as possible, but he truly was incapable of providing us anything but the beavers. And so, we discussed the fucking beavers for far too long before Finn traded elk meat for some beavers and “Crazy Joe” left. I offered to pay Finn some small gems in exchange for a beaver hat. I’ve begun to notice the Finn and Reyes both don’t deal too well with boredom – they both fidget with bullshit: skinning game, whittling sticks, making fucking beaver hats or elk jerky. It’s not that it’s unhelpful — I’d rather eat elk jerky than trail rations — but I wonder if they ever take the time to just relax the body and exercise the mind. Patience is easy for me: When I am bored, or waiting, I just do a lot of thinking. Some might say that so much thinking is dangerous; I would agree. I am a dangerous man.

Day 3

Again, the day was simply traveling as fast as possible and general small talk and joking around. At night, I again rigged my trap, but insisted on taking first watch. Honestly, I was sick of our nightly intrusions, and if Crazy Joe shows up again I will slit his throat and drag his body off — if only to avoid another hour-long chat about fucking beavers. I quite like my sleep. Alas, I heard the clattering of my trap and saw a massive centipede crawling into our camp. “Goddammit!” I shouted, to wake the party. With that, I drew my Aldori blade and leapt down, slicing the critter in half as I landed. A fine weapon, designed for cutting men, wasted on a giant centipede. Although the centipede had venom glands, and I quite like poison, Finn refused to harvest it for me, citing doubts with his skill at such work — unsure of the nature of the venom, one false prick could be his undoing. Ah, well, there are plenty of deadly poisons out here in nature, and Finn will have plenty of other opportunities to get me some.

Day 4

Today at last we came to the area where the bandits said their camp would be. Sparrow, Finn, and myself scouted around quietly until we found it. It was a rustic locale, and there were 8 bandits in all, including Kressle, a rather butch woman with axes. There were two watchtowers, East and West, with a cache of supplies under the West. We regrouped and reported our findings, and again came up with a simple, multifaceted plan of assault: Sparrow would infiltrate the West tower and take up a position. I would infiltrate the camp proper and start slitting throats. Finn would use a flask of alchemist’s fire on the East tower, and then join Jake and Reyes for a full charge into the camp. We’d want to keep Kressle alive for questioning. It was a solid plan, I thought, and those bandits wouldn’t know what hit them. We set out, but unfortunately Kressle somehow noticed me sneaking about, and got the drop on me. I felt her axe blade at my throat.

The Assault on the Bandit Camp

Here’s the thing: Speed and precision is how I win fights, not through sheer toughness. I wait for an opportunity, then I strike, seeking to be as deadly as possible in as few movements as possible. Tangling 1-on-1 with this muscled bitch was not going to end well for me. I had to play for time, in the hopes that I could slip away and stab her in the back at my convenience. So, I pulled out her dead lover’s Stag Lord amulet and gave her an icy cold smile. I looked her dead in the eyes. I was trying to think of something witty to say, but there was no need. She knew immediately that Haps Bydon was dead and I was irreverently wearing his amulet. She lashed out at me in anger, knicking my gorgeous face with her blade. I willed myself to not even flinch or blink — people find that unnerving, and unnerved people are far more preferable to fight.

But at the moment, the East tower went up in flames, and she gasped and turned to look. Opportunity. I slid the Aldori blade into her chest, breaking her heart for the second time tonight — this time, quite literally. I really wish I could have subdued her and kept her alive, but alas, I must use the tools at my disposal, such as they are. I jogged over to the camp, where the rest of the plan went perfectly. Well, nearly enough, anyway. The bandits were slaughtered, save for one young man. And Fionn died… so I guess “perfectly” was a poor choice of words.

Alas, we found Fionn in quite a gruesome state. According to Jack’s analysis, it seemed Fionn was charging forward with his greatsword when he tripped and fell upon his own blade, slicing him open from his gut up on through his collarbone. There was anger and confusion, at first. I mean, we don’t even know how such a thing is even possible. But there he was, in a considerable pool of blood, face contorted in agony. Kydien was inconsolable for a long time.

While Reyes went to go bury Fionn, I questioned the bandit prisoner with Sparrow and Jack. We learned that this camp of bandits was contracted by the Stag Lord to deliver a unique, green liquor regularly. (We recovered a cache of this liquor, among other loot, from the bandits’ supplies.) The bandit also was clearly fearful of the Stag Lord, pointing out his “creepy stag helmet” and that he might be “faceless,” or rather “the stag helmet is his face.” The bandit said the green liquor is really all the Stag Lord cares about, but that drinking it “makes people go crazy.” That’s what concerns me – anyone who habitually consumes such foul stuff is probably a little more than human. Poisoning the Stag Lord is clearly out of the question as a plan of attack. Jack made a note to attempt to analyze the liquor back at Oleg’s.

The bandit also told us of the Stag Lord’s password: “By the bloody bones of Saint Gilmore, who wants to know!” There is no such thing as Saint Gilmore. Ignorant country yokels. And what kind of idiot password is that?! Passwords ought to be quick and inconspicuous, so as not to sound like bizarre phrases that stand out to potential eavesdroppers!

Reyes returned and asked about Svetlana’s wedding ring. Apparently the bandits had taken it a while ago, and she asked Reyes to retrieve it. Our prisoner (to whom Jack assigned the name “Jack’s Bitch”) admitted that the camp had been raided by mites just yesterday, and the mites made off with a few bags of loot. We had to ask what mites were. The best I can do to describe them is… you know goblins? Make ’em smaller, stupider, more psychotic, and filthier. That’s what mites are like. Apparently their lair is under an old sycamore tree a day’s journey East of here. Jack suggested simply burning down the sycamore tree and ridding the region of the mite infestation… but Reyes thinks recovering the ring is important. Besides, the sycamore tree is a local landmark, so I suppose there is value in keeping it around, if only to maintain favor with any potential citizens of our settlement-to-be.

But then an interesting thing happened. While we were busy looking at our map, Kydien apparently sneaked over to Jack’s Bitch, and started whispering frantically with him. When we noticed this, we walked over and asked her what was going on. She went all squirrely, and started making excuses. I would have tackled her then and there, but I tripped and fell. Fucking country. Instead, I chose to disarm her, by undoing her belt and sword sheath and wearing it around me. Nobody even noticed. (Jack often points out my supposed failures at thievery, but I’d like to state for the record that there is much that he is unaware of. This is one such example.)

We come to learn that Kydien, who is desperately seeking her brother out here in the Greenbelt, knew all along who her brother is: The Stag Lord. She and Fionn both knew! They were just using us to get close, at which point they’d side with him. She was immediately tied and searched, a second prisoner. We told her she’d be brought back to Oleg’s and handed over to Restov’s guards for conspiring with the Stag Lord.

We made camp and settled down for the night. I took last watch. The situation with Kydien weighed heavily on my mind… and I tried to help her. I tried to save her. I tried to find some way… but she was too loyal to her brother. And in the end, what I did was for mercy’s sake. And as the sky turned from black to gray, as the dawn crept forth, I noticed a familiar sight, creeping into the camp. I watched from the shadows of the treeline as Crazy Joe went over to Jack, beaver pelt in hand, and started to lay down, in the “big spoon” position, next to Jack.

I crept over, behind Crazy Joe, and grabbed him from behind, my left hand clamped firmly down on his mouth, my right hand with a dagger sliced across his neck. Still gurgling, I dragged him off into the woods. I was tired of that asshole compromising our operation. I left Jack the bloody beaver pelt. Just to mess with him.

First light will be here soon. I best get back to minding the camp. They may think I’m just a hollow killing machine, but I really am looking out for them.

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