A Box of Rocks

Mistress of Time, Episode 6

*Note: This story came out of the second Wandering Encounter as part of a Guard a Traveler Job. So far Zhu’s band has lost two members and a mule. Yoko was wounded and Zhu Paand sent her back to Clerseau on a travois with Jota leading the mule. Boris Goddur has lost one of his men, a young man who fled into the wilderness when the camp was attacked by trolls.

“So, ‘most excellent thief’, I believe that is how you described yourself when we first met. What’s in the chest?” asked Zhu Paand.

“You’re going to love this,” replied Fizzrelda. “Rocks, nothing but rocks. That means those two clods have been carrying a heavy box of rocks for nearly a week.”

“They didn’t see you break into their precious chest?” Zhu asked.

Fizzrelda chuckled, “Of course not. That Orrit Kerre is every bit the fanatic as his master in guarding the chest, but not the sell sword, it didn’t take long for him to doze off during his watch. If you ask me, mistress, it’s Vetru’s village all over again. We’re going to get to Orlogne, Goddur pops open an empty chest and claims he’s been robbed.”

“Plausible, but I think Master Goddur has something else in mind.” said Zhu. “Remember he wants to kill you and punish me.”

“Makes you wonder why we took this job.” said Fizzrelda. “No, wait, we did it for the money. Greedy bitches, aren’t we?”

“Yeah, but keep this news to yourself, for now.” Zhu said while turning, “Gredra, if you please.”

Gredra trotted to the front of the tiny column, “Yes, mistress?” she asked.

“I think it’s time to check on our friends ahead of us. But, before you go, if you were going to attack us, when would you do it?” Zhu asked.

“Hmm, if I were the leader and had doubts, it would be tonight, because tomorrow we’ll see the gates of Orlogne. If I had confidence and the numbers, it would be either late in the afternoon when the sun is in our eyes, or just as we begin to set up camp for the night.” Gredra replied.

“Hey, now! What’s all that talking up there?” called out Boris Goddur.

Zhu turned and walked back the twenty yards separating the column’s point from the rest of the body. “I’m sending Gredra out to find a suitable place to stop for mid-day.” said Zhu Paand.

“Bah, you send out scouts way too often, Mistress Paand. Are you nervous about something?” he asked.

“Well, yes, Master Goddur. Those men who passed us the other day have kept pace with us.” she said.

He snorted. “Of course they would, we’re on foot and they’re on foot.”

“Yes, but to maintain the same distance means they break when we break and their breaks last as long as ours. Otherwise, they would be much further ahead. And when they passed us, they certainly seemed interested in your chest.” explained Zhu.

“Nonsense, you’re making too much out of coincidence.” he said. Boris Goddur shielded his eyes as he looked up at the sun. “Very well, send out your scout, we’ll stop and rest soon, to wait out the heat.”

Gredra wasn’t gone long. “Things are hopping.” she said. “They’ve picked up a few more men.”

“How many?” Zhu Paand asked.

“Eleven, counting the two watching us right now.” she replied. “They’ve also narrowed the gap between us, still shadowing our movement, they can just get to us quicker.”

“Thank you, Gredra.” said Zhu.

“If you would like, we could slip out and take care of the two watching us.” said Fizzrelda.

“No, Fizzrelda, if we do that, they will change their plan of attack. Right now, it definitely appears they will attack while there is still daylight. If we take out their spies, they will know we are on to them and switch to a night raid.” said Zhu.

Fizzrelda shrugged and asked, “Well, what do we do?”

“I’m working on it. I’ll share my plan when we stop to rest.” Zhu replied.

Zhu Paand gathered her band of goblins about her when they stopped for the mid-day rest. “Listen to me, this is important. Sometime this afternoon we will be attacked. When this happens, we make our stand behind the chest. We put the chest between us and the attackers for two reasons. One, it will place Master Goddur’s men between us and the attackers, forcing them to fight with us.”

“What if they are allied with the attackers?” asked Umsa.

“Well, if they are, they won’t be behind us where they could stab us in the back.” answered Fizzrelda. The goblins laughed.

“Ahem,” said Zhu Paand recapturing their attention, “The second reason we take positions behind the chest is simple, if the attackers want the chest, they can have it. We just need to have them shed a little blood to make them think the chest is worth the effort to take it.”

“Won’t Master Goddur be mad, if he loses his chest?” asked Meagle.

Outside of Fizzrelda, none of the goblins knew the chest was a ruse. Zhu said, “We were hired to protect Master Goddur, not his chest. If he loses his chest, it’s of no concern to us. Now rest, we have to be extra alert the rest of the day.”

It was as Gredra had said, the sun was touching the horizon when they attacked. Zhu Paand and Fizzrelda ran back to their tiny column past Boris Goddur, past Orrit Kerre and Torge Silentcrest where the rest of the goblins were assembling. “Master Goddur, to us!” shouted Zhu Paand. The surprised merchant of potions wasted little time seeking protection within Zhu Paand’s band of “miscreants.”

Zhu Paand cast a lightning bolt causing one bandit to crumple to the ground and the man next to him ran for cover. After the lightning came the thunder as Joonda discharged a pistol grazing a bandit causing him to also seek cover.

Orrit Kerre and Torge Silentcrest both drew their swords and ran in among the bandits. Kerre slew the first man he encountered. Silentcrest crossed swords with a skilled bandit. In the end, he was no match for the bandit who ran Silentcrest through.

A bandit charged Joonda, much too late he realized she had a second pistol. There was another boom and a bandit lay dead at Joonda’s feet. Steel flashed on the far right where a bandit, nearly two feet taller than Umsa was trying to use brute force to cleave the goblin in two. The nimble Umsa stepped aside and with a quick thrust, ended the man’s life. Gredra was not so lucky, her opponent found his way past her shield and inflicted a serious wound.

Standing in front of Gredra was Orrit Kerre. Kerre struggled against his opponent and having no shield, Kerre received a huge gash on his left side. If the cut had been any deeper, he would have died then and there. Meagle was still new to combat and struggled against her opponent who tripped her to the ground. On the ground she quickly crawled for cover.

The bandit leader knew he had to silence Zhu Paand before she could cast another spell. Though he had a sword and she only a pair of daggers, he was amazed how well she used the daggers to parry his strongest blows. Somehow, whether through skill or magic, Zhu moved faster, anticipating every move until the moment when the bandit leader saw her smile before plunging a dagger into his throat.

Next to Zhu Paand stood a laughing Fizzrelda, she taunted her opponent – a cat playing with a mouse. There was no question who would win the melee. With a single well-placed thrust, the bandit fell to the ground drained of life.

Meagle recovered her senses and stood up just in time to see a pink fireball erupt from Zhu Paand’s hands. The fireball struck a bandit in the chest. He screamed and fell to both knees as his flesh burned. The three remaining bandits had seen enough and ran.

The band moved almost as one to their wounded comrade and Orrit Kerre. Boris Goddur hadn’t moved during the entire fight and he still stood as still as a statue. “Master Goddur, have you any healing potions?” Zhu asked.

Her question roused him from his stupor. “No,” he said, “I gave my only one to you the other night.”

“Meagle, Joonda, unsaddle the pack horse.” Zhu ordered.

“What are you doing?” asked Boris Goddur.

“I’m going to ride to Orlogne for help.” said Zhu.

“Couldn’t you just use your sorcery?” Goddur asked.

“Sorry, I don’t know any healing spells.” she replied.

“I meant, to travel to Orlogne, couldn’t just vanish and appear there?”

Zhu laughed as she climbed aboard the horse. “I don’t know any teleportation spells either, and before you ask, I don’t have a broomstick to fly on.” With that, she kicked her heels into the horse’s flanks and was off at a gallop.

It was well after midnight when Zhu Paand returned with the cleric Olivia Bronzestar. She immediately set about healing human and goblin alike. Soon both Orrit Kerre and Gredra were resting comfortably. Zhu asked for volunteers to keep watch while the rest could get a few hours of sleep before dawn. Meagle volunteered as she was already busy tending to the horses. Fizzrelda volunteered to keep Meagle company.

Sunrise found the party still somewhat tired, but they wished to be on their way to reach Orlogne before mid-day. After a good breakfast, they broke camp. Orrit Kerre and Gredra could stand but would tire easily and might need some assistance in completing the journey. Boris Goddur asked Olivia Bronzestar if Kerre was strong enough to carry the chest. The cleric was astonished at such a question and said that Kerre and Gredra should not do anything strenuous for the next several days.

“Who’s going to carry my chest?” bellowed Boris Goddur.

Fizzrelda opened the chest. She and Zhu Paand turned it over and emptied out the rocks. “Carry it yourself.” said Zhu.

Boris Goddur’s face turned red, but he said nothing.

“All right, everyone, let’s go to Orlogne. I understand they have taverns where the ale never stops flowing.” said Zhu Paand as a cheerful but tired band took to the road.

One of the differences between WHAT and older rules, is that there is no dice roll to recover from Duck Back, it is built into the Action Table.

I hope you enjoyed this episode of Mistress of Time. Please leave a comment, a like, suggestions and what you would like to see next on the blog. Until next time, may your journeys in Talomir be safe!

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Mistress of Time, Episode 6

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A Peek Behind the Scenes

As I’ve mentioned before, I usually take notes while playing the encounter (often with unpainted or proxy miniatures), then write the story, and finally photograph the encounter once all of the minis have been painted.

The photo session takes place on a shelf above my painting table. For these episodes, I’m using The Dungeon Books of Battle Mats from Loke Battle Mats plus bits of scatter terrain. Here’s a peek at the set up:

Lighting is from the pair of desk lamps I use for my painting session and the photos are taken with an iPhone.

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