Fantasy

Starting for Orlogne

Mistress of Time, Episode 5

* Note: This story was developed from a WHAT Wandering Encounter. This encounter is the first of two making up a Guard a Traveler Job. The party had been hired to escort Boris Goddur, an apothecary, from Clerseau to Orlogne in the Border Kingdom. The Possible Enemy Forces (PEFs) could resolve as Giant Spiders, Brigands, Hobgoblins, Owl Bears, or Marsh Trolls.

Zhu Paand was frustrated. She was the one hired to escort Boris Goddur to Orlogne with her band, yet it was Goddur who was making all of the decisions. He insisted everyone should walk close together. He led his party followed by two armed men carrying a large chest and a third armed man leading a pack horse. He insisted that Zhu’s escort be no more than five yards from his party. Gredra and Meagle were on the right, Umsa and Yoko were on the left, Joonda and Jota leading a pack mule brought up the rear, and, as Boris Goddur insisted, Zhu and Fizzrelda walked in front.

Fizzrelda turned around and walked backwards a few steps as she checked on everyone, then she turned forward.

“Everyone doing okay?” Zhu asked.

“Alert and keeping pace. Who knew Jota had a way with mules, she’s a natural wrangler.” said Fizzrelda.

“What about Meagle?”

“Smiling from ear to ear like a child on a nature walk. Mistress, you should stop worrying about her. She’s in good hands with Gredra. Gredra may be coarse, but she’s a good teacher and Meagle learns well.”

“What about Goddur? It’s been some time since he’s said anything.”

“He’s content with staring at your butt.” said Fizzrelda.

Zhu asked, “Why is he staring at my butt?”

“Because he’s a man. He doesn’t respect you enough for you to walk by his side. You’re not obligated to him, and he doesn’t own you, so you don’t walk behind him. You walk in front of him as an object he wants.”

“Not all men treat women that way, Fizzrelda.”

“Well, his kind does.”

“Oh, Mistress Paand, a word, if you please.” said Boris Goddur.

“Yes, Master Goddur, what can I do for you?” Zhu asked.

“It is past mid-day. We should seek some shade and rest until the heat passes.” he said.

“I can send out some scouts to find a suitable site with water.”

Boris Goddur frowned, “That would take too much time. We’ll rest under those trees there.” he said pointing at a nearby copse of trees with his walking stick. “We can camp near water in the evening.”

Upon reaching the trees, Orrit Kerre and Eric Drolrid, the two men carrying the chest, set it down and then sat with theit backs resting against the chest. Torge Silentcrest and Jota tied the pack animals at the far end of the copse. Boris Goddur sought out the spot with the most shade and then sat down. He watched Zhu as Zhu huddled with her band.

“Meagle and Joonda take first watch.” she said. Zhu looked about and added, “We’re in a bowl. Fizzrelda, go to the ridge on the road ahead; Gredra, take the ridge on the road behind us. That leaves Umsa for the North ridge and Yoko to the South. Once in position, Umsa and Yoko keep watch. Fizzrelda, scout ahead and Gredra, backtrack a few miles and see if we are being followed. Return here in an hour. Everyone understand what she needs to do?”

There were a few “yeses” and everyone else gave an affirmative nod. They scattered at a trot.

“Where are they going?” roared Boris Goddur.

“Master Goddur, we’re in a natural bowl, I’ve sent them to the ridges for a quick ‘look see,’ that’s all.” she said.

He gave her a disapproving glare and then ordered “Fine, but I want them back soon. You need to keep a closer eye on your hoodlums, Mistress Paand.” He laid back and stretched out on the ground using his pack as a pillow.

Zhu walked to where he lay, while he was putting his hat over his face, she asked, “Why do you belittle them?”

“They are goblins, Mistress Paand. The only thing keeping us from slaying the Black Moon trash is my contract with you, the Red Sun honors contracts.” he said.

“If you feel that way about them, then why did you hire me?” she asked.

He tipped back his hat revealing a hard stare. “Somewhere on this journey, you will learn a lesson and be shown the truth of the Red Sun. Now leave me, I need to rest.”

Irritated, Zhu sat down next to Jota. Already, she was questioning taking Goddur’s gold and agreeing to the job. So far the job had been nothing but frustration on top of frustration.

When the scouts returned, the report was ‘all clear’ from everyone except Gredra. “I saw six to eight men on foot behind us.” she said.

“Do you think they are coming for us?” Zhu asked.

Gredra shrugged and said “Hard to say, they don’t seem to be in a hurry, nor are they attempting to disguise their movement.”

As the mid-day heat waned, Boris Goddur stood up and put on his pack. “All right everyone, it’s time to move on.” Eric Drolrid groaned as he picked up his end of the chest. Once on the road, the party fell into its same formation. “Lead on, Mistress Paand” ordered Boris Goddur.

They walked until the sun set and then for another hour before making camp near a small creek. The men behind them had never come into sight. Zhu feared a night attack. After setting sentries around the camp, she ordered Meagle to keep the fire burning and not let it go down through the night. She then asked Umsa and Yoko to backtrack and find the men who were behind them. They actually had two fires, which seemed silly for such a small party, but one was for the men, the humans, and the other for the goblins. Though there was space for her at Master Goddur’s fire, Zhu sat next to Meagle.

They sat for a while listening to the crackling fire and watching its dancing flames. Out of nowhere, Meagle asked, “Mistress, what is magic?”

“Magic is all around us and in us, an unseen force moving us all toward our destinies. The life force of everything is a magic. Through natural ability or study and practice, one can channel that force to make changes in reality. However, the universe maintains a balance, to use magic requires a payment, usually in the life force of the caster. At least this is my understanding thus far.” said Zhu.

Umsa and Yoko returned as Zhu was relieving the first watch. They reported the men were closer, but had camped for the night. Zhu surveyed their own camp. The men were asleep except for Orrit Kerre who was guarding the chest by sitting on it. Meagle looked tired, but she was still feeding the fire. The horse and mule were restless. Something was in the wind.

There was a sudden roar, the camp was under attack, but not by men. A pair of Trolls had come up from a marsh downstream from the camp. Zhu Paand laughed as the men cowered behind her and the goblins. She struck first unleashing a lightning bolt so powerful it had its own peal of thunder. She struck the lead troll which fell to the ground. With another loud boom, Joonda fired both of her pistols striking the remaining troll causing it to retreat into cover.

The men composed themselves, Eric Drolrid tried to calm the pack animals. “Spread out, stay alert!” shouted Fizzrelda. Meagle stepped to Zhu Paand’s side, ready to defend her mistress. Joonda was furiously trying to reload her guns. The troll was still out there, they could hear it moving about.

The troll came roaring out of the shadows. It crashed into Yoko, Yoko was seriously mauled, only her shield saved her from certain death. Eric Drolrid fled. The next target in front of the troll was Zhu Paand, pink flames were already forming in her hands. This time it was a fireball. The troll howled in pain as the flames burned through its torso. The flames were too much for the frightened pack animals, they broke free and ran into the night. When the flames died away, the troll was quite dead.

They rushed to Yoko’s side. Gredra immediately applied pressure to stop the bleeding from the most serious wounds. Fizzrelda looked up at Zhu Paand and shook her head. Zhu said, “Make her comfortable, I’ll be right back.” Zhu stormed through the remnants of the camp and found Boris Goddur sitting with his face in his hands.

“Master Goddur?” she asked. He didn’t respond. She took hold of his shoulder and shook him. “Master Goddur, do you have any healing potions or salves for wounds?”

He looked at her and said, “Praise the gods of the Red Sun, we’re still alive.”

“Yes, but you’re an apothecary, do you have any medicines that heal?” she asked.

“My potions are only for the followers of the Red Sun!”

“Do you, or do you not have a healing potion?” she asked again.

“Yes, but not for -“

She interrupted him, “You will give it to me or next time I’ll feed you to the trolls myself.”

Frightened, he opened a pouch and handed Zhu a small vial. She grabbed it out of his hand and rushed back to Yoko. “Here,” she said to Fizzrelda, “giver her this.” Fizzrelda opened the vial and poured its contents between Yoko’s lips.

“Swallow, Yoko, please swallow.” Fizzrelda implored.

“Jota, the others can look after Yoko. Take Meagle and go look for the pack animals, please.”said Zhu.

“Umsa and Joonda, take watch in case there’s anything else out there.” she said.

The sky was a pre-dawn gray when Jota and Meagle returned with the pack horse and pack mule. “We couldn’t find Drolrid.” said Jota.

“I’ll let Master Goddur know, and find out if he wants to continue searching or push on.” said Zhu.

“How’s Yoko?” Meagle asked.

“She’s resting. The potion helped, I don’t think it’s enough, though. We need to get her to a healer, but Orlogne is four days away. I’m thinking we should make a travois and have you two take her back to Clerseau with the mule. Get some rest and I’ll let you know.” said Zhu.

The rosy fingers of dawn stretched across the sky when Zhu woke Boris Goddur. “Master Goddur, it’s morning. My people have returned, they found the pack animals, but no sign of your man.” Zhu decided to let Boris Goddur know about the men who were following them, men Zhu suspected of belonging to Boris Goddur. “They also found a band of six to eight men camped a few miles behind us.”

“The kingdom’s roads are open to all who travel. Those men are just travelers as are we.” he said.

“That may be, Master Goddur, but we should take precautions.” she said.

“Precautions? What precautions?” asked Goddur.

Zhu answered, “We should stay in camp and let them pass us by. If they mean us no harm, they’ll go on their way. It will also give us additional time to look for Eric Drolrid.”

“Bah, Drolrid is on his own, let the wolves have him. We should break camp and leave immediately.” he said. When Zhu didn’t budge, he added, “I suppose we are going to do this, your way.”

“I am responsible in getting you safely to Orlogne, Master Goddur. We should let these men pass since we do not know their intentions.”

With that said, they took their time breaking camp. A travois was built and they transferred as much of the gear possible that had been in the mule’s pack saddles. After placing Yoko on the travois, Zhu had the goblins hide behind the trees so that the passing men wouldn’t know their exact number.

It was fully morning when the men topped the ridge and came into view. They did something odd, they stopped.

“What are they doing?” asked Boris Goddur.

Zhu Paand replied, “They appear to be just standing there, as if they are unsure as what to do. Shall I go find out?”

“No, not you. You would turn them against me.” he said.

“Turn them against you? Are those your men?” Zhu asked.

“No, what I mean is that you would ensorcell or enchant them to do your bidding.” he replied.

“And you think I’m against you?” she asked.

“Of course you are, especially after last night – now I know you are a witch, and you can’t allow me to tell others.” he retorted.

“I’ve never hidden who I am, Master Goddur. I harbor no ill toward you and wish you no harm. As for telling others I am a sorceress, I do wish you won’t as it is none of anyone’s business.” she said.

“Regardless, I’m sending my man, Kerre, to find out why those men are up there just staring at us.” said Goddur.

Orrit Kerre spent several minutes talking to the men. Zhu could see them gesture and point, but finally, they began moving. They passed in silence, they didn’t stop to help, they didn’t even offer words of greeting. Boris Goddur did the same. He just looked at them as they passed. Zhu noticed the passing men were looking at them as well, though she couldn’t tell if they were looking at Goddur or the large chest on the ground at his feet.

Once they had gone a good way down the road, Fizzrelda and the others came out of hiding. “What do you make of them, mistress?” Fizzrelda asked.

“I don’t know, but I have this feeling we’ll probably see them again.” Zhu answered.

When Boris Goddur saw the travois, he turned red. “You’re not going to slow us down by dragging that goblin all the way to Orlogne?”

“Relax.” Zhu said, “I’m not going to drag Yoko to Orlogne or leave her here. I’m sending her back to Clerseau with Jota and the mule.”

“Well, you’re not going to load your things on my pack horse.” he said.

“The gear has already been distributed, we’re going to carry it ourselves.” said Zhu.

Everyone said their goodbyes to Yoko and Jota. Zhu Paand took Jota aside and said “Take it easy and slow, we don’t want to reopen any wounds.”

“Yes, mistress.” replied Jota.

“Here, take this.” said Zhu Paand reaching into a pouch and handing Jota a small flask.

“A potion?” Jota asked.

Zhu shook her head, “Brandy, give her a sip whenever you rest. Now, be on your way.”

As Jota pulled away, Boris Goddur looked around and asked, “With Drolrid gone, who’s going to lead the pack horse?”

It was obvious the man should lead his own horse, but Zhu knew he wouldn’t. “Meagle,” she said, “Meagle will lead your horse.”

“I thought goblins were afraid of horses.” said Boris goddur.

“Nah, it’s the other way around, horses are afraid of us.” said Fizzrelda.

“Yeah, this one does look tasty.” said Meagle picking up the rope attached to the horse’s halter.

Everyone took their positions and they were off for Orlogne.

One of the things I’m learning with WHAT is that if there is a high level Black Moon Caster on the side which wins on the Action Table, she will almost always land a Damage Spell with the help of the Magic Power dice. And if she rolls a six on the damage table like Zhu Paand did, not once, but twice – the targets are instantly and most obviously dead.

As always, your comments are very welcome. Please let me know what you think of the Mistress of Time episodes.

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Mistress of Time, Episode 5

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A Peak Behind the Scenes

The process I’ve been using for this series is that I play a game taking notes; write the episode from the notes; and finally, take photographs. In fact, when I played this encounter, the ice troll and the two henchmen with the chest weren’t even painted.

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