Me and Barbarian Boy whispered together, trying to figure out how to get Feverborne out. Or whether to leave him there. Ultimately, we decided to try to get him out, but we couldn’t see any way to get his gear from by the leader’s tent. Definitely not the sword, which was strapped to the lead centaur. The kid can be sneaky. I wasn’t willing to take off my armor and try to sneak into the camp to get the gear, risking getting attacked without my armor on. And the timing would be tricky. Someone could notice the gear gone before Feverborne was freed, and vice versa.
Barbarian Boy left his chain mail and gear with me, and snuck up to the tree Feverborne was face planted against. Chain mail is heavier to hold onto than to wear. The kid cut the ropes in between centaur guard patrols, then snuck back. He put his stuff back on, and we waited for Feverborne, who took his damned sweet time getting to the meeting point. Just as we saw him, we heard the alarm go up from the centaur camp. I was all for climbing a tree, but Barbarian Boy said no. He said we should huddle in a thick clump of ferns. I was skeptical the centaurs wouldn’t just ride through the ferns and run over us, but he’s the one taught all the sneaky nature stuff by his clan, so I went with what he said. Feverborne ran a little ways away and dumped his pee-stained pants so it would look like he ran in a different direction, then he hid too.
After the guards clomped around for a while, one of them took the pants back to camp, while the other two went off in the false direction. We ran. When we thought we were far enough away that my somewhat pyrotechnic healing wouldn’t be noticed, I healed Feverborne some. Zuul gave me a premonition of something to the southwest that I should see on the first attempt. He was less than pleased with my second request, but granted it. We let Feverborne rest that night. We camped by a lightning shattered tree, and I slept inside it. There were lots of splinters, and they hurt at first, but I thought of them as my penance for not going out in the acid rain, and they became comforting. I was having a lovely dream about something important Zuul wanted me to know, when the kid frantically woke me up. He was whispering about burning. Sighing for my lost dream, I used my magic tinderbox for light, and saw he wasn’t actually burning, but had gotten lots of thorns in him. We picked them out.
I healed Feverborne once again in the morning. He looked back to normal. Well, except for being pissed off at losing his sword and stuff. And, being mostly naked. Pretty sure he blamed us for not getting his stuff too. He did not thank us for freeing him. I’ve never seen a naked man. I admit, I peaked once or twice. Eventually, the kid gave him a sac to cover himself with, like short pants. That was a relief. I don’t have to try to not look. He had the kid’s spare shield, and my spare mace, so he wasn’t completely bereft of equipment.
We made our way to that worthless piss-ant village. We had a lovely wind pushing us along. I knew it was Zuul favoring me. After a meal and sleep in the stable, I bought Feverborne pants, and leather armor. He griped about wanting chain mail and a sword, but I only had 20 gold, and it took all I had just to give him that. Still waiting for a thank you. I didn’t have to help him at all. Not sure the pants were a huge improvement. They’re tight leather pants. Having only two gold left, not enough to buy food for the trip to the Caves of Chaos, I wandered around the village offering to heal people. It’s really hard being polite when I’m bored to tears physicking gout and chilblains. Only got the equivalent of one gold out of it. Still not enough for food. Apparently I’m fasting, if my companions don’t take pity on me and share. Feverborne, however, made a handful of gold fighting some snooty noble in a carriage. And got a hand ax. As if a mace isn’t a perfectly good weapon. No real noble would be caught dead in this backwater. I have him pegged as a vampire. He said he was going to Kirkleston. Wonder what he plans to do there. It’s only a step up from this bilgewater place.
Having scraped what little we could out of Worthless, we headed out towards the caves. I remember when we went before, it was because some other Grey Company adventurers had talked about being there, and losing a couple people. Maybe their armor is still there for Feverborne to pick up. And a sword. Man won’t stop whining about needing a sword. Along the way, I had a sudden premonition that the important thing Zuul wanted me to see in the southwest was nearby. I didn’t think my companions would be willing to wander around looking for it, but Barbarian Boy was all for it. Feverborne grumbled. After searching, we saw a red glow up ahead. Feverborne, being in non clinking leather armor, crept up to the hill to take a look. I’m bouncing with excitement to know what’s going on. The number of times Zuul has poked me about this, he really wants me here.
I woke up tied to a tree after they beat me unconscious for the second time. Apparently calling the leader’s horse-dick “my little pony” during his attempts to copulate with the female centaurs did not go over well. Unfortunately, I did not succeed in goading them into fighting each other, even if I saw the second in command snickering. Eventually, the little horse stuck it into the littler horses and fell asleep. As did the rest of them, save for two guards.
u-Heury snuck up on me around that time and sawed through my ropes. It took him two trips to avoid the guards, and it took me even longer to finish untying myself after he left. I took stock of what I had: no armor, no weapons, no food, no water, just some rope and a pair of pissed-on pants. I glanced over at the leader, who still had my sword. He was asleep, but had his two concubines draped over him. I wasn’t wearing armor but I have no particular talent for stealth and there was no way I had a chance in a fight. I vowed to return and kill them all, someday, somehow, and snuck out of the camp to rejoin u-Huery and Ygnas. We all made it as far as we could before a hue-and-cry rose from the camp behind us. They both hid right away in a region of heavy ferns. I dragged my smelly, soiled pants another hundred yards further away from the camp, then retraced my steps to rejoin the other two.
My improvised distraction worked, and we got far enough away to be out of immediate danger. Ygnas healed me, which made me a bit better disposed towards her god of natural disasters; I’d be willing to make a deal to deliver some natural disasters on the centaurs right about now. I’m still too goddamn furious to even thank people properly for their help, and I hate being helpless, needing rescue, or asking for charity.
But we made it far enough away from camp to spend the night in a lightning-shattered tree. u-Heury slept in stinging nettles, poor kid. Ygnas slept in the tree. Weird, but she offered me her tent, for which I am silently thankful. Still too furious to think happy thoughts.
The next day we made our way back towards Raven’s pass, where Ygnas’ charity again provided food, armor (albeit leather), and a spare mace. We were all low on funds and needing work. Ygnas had little luck offering healing for common ailments. In a fit of inspiration, I offered sword lessons, and a passing noble of some kind took me up on it; a man by the name of Lord Romulet. I bartered for a sword, hoping to use my training effectively, but there were none to be had. Instead, he wielded two handaxes against my (borrowed) handaxe and shield. I paid a kid three coppers to pass a hat around the crowd, which turned our later to have gained me a few silvers. Every bit helps.
I traded blows with Romulet, and it was obvious from the beginning the man was as skilled as I – with a handaxe, at least. I got in a solid hit to his shoulder early on, but he took the next two blows, both times feinting with his right and swinging hard with his left. I missed my return blows, off balance from his strikes, and I could see the glow of expectant victory in his eyes. He flipped his axes from one hand to other in a practiced move, proclaiming like he was quoting a line in a play, “I have something to tell you. I am not left handed!” I barely stepped out of the way of his axes that time, and he was leading with his right hand now. But, I had one last trick up my sleeve. Before he was in position to strike again, I quipped, “I have something to tell you as well. I am not right handed either!” and hit him in the face with my shield.
Well, the shield missed, to be honest. Saying the line sort of telegraphed the strike. But he totally missed that I was lying about being left handed and my right hand with the hand axe clocked him quite solidly in the head and knocked him flat on the ground. Were it not for the helmets we both wore and the fact that I had pulled my attack to honor the good-natured aspect of the duel, the blow would have killed him. (As, to be fair, his might have killed me, had they landed solidly with full force).
He was quite impressed as I offered a hand to lift him back up, declaring that perhaps Raven’s Pass was not so worthless after all. I demurred as to the name of the town, but collected my winnings – the borrowed axe and a few gold, plus the silver from the hat – in good cheer. Romulet claimed to hail from Kirkleston, so perhaps I will look him up there one day when I am sure the bounty on Stria’s head has been forgotten.
Ygnas was grumbling about being out of money, which was mostly my fault, but I couldn’t do anything about it right now and we needed gear more than apologies. So I bought 7 days of rations and resolved to feed her if u-Heury couldn’t find enough food on the way to the Caves of Chaos, and we set off.
On the morning of the second day, Ygnas felt the urge to investigate something, so we searched the local area until she felt like we were in the right place. That happened to be a hill which was making some extremely strange noises. Since I was wearing leather instead of chain, I volunteered to go take a look over the hilltop…