Chapter 3

By the time the group reached the bugbear village it was approximately six o’clock in the evening. The bugbears had scrubbed down the bed in the room they’d looked in earlier, and they allowed the adventurers to take a long rest there. Once everyone was awake, all but George set out to patrol the perimeters of the village.

All of the bugbear ‘guards’ were asleep on the job.

The three of them patrolled separately, staying within hearing range of each other. Voltyra heard a rustling sound, and two Crawling Claws jumped out of the dark and attacked her. She killed them both. Olo and Svarnik rushed over when they heard her cry out. While Voltyra and Svarnik continued patrolling together, Olo began following one of the claws’ tracks. They seemed to just wander around listlessly, and all he found worthy of noting was a fresh squirrel corpse. A ways off, a third claw attacked Svarnik and Voltyra. They killed it with ease, and the rest of the night passed uneventfully.

In the morning they witnessed all of the bugbears coming together to form a circle and talk about feelings, dreams, and other heartwarming topics. They simply let them know what happened and went on their way back to Downhill.

Within the first hour of travel they came across another travelling trio, consisting of a dwarf, a half-orc, and a very beaten up dragonborn.

Svarnik went right up to them to say hello and offer to heal their dragonborn.

The half-orc and the dragonborn seemed grateful for a chance to stop and catch their breath. The dwarf wasn’t all that willing to tell them much, until he saw Voltyra and her signet ring with the Symbol of Chaos. He told the group that they were members of the Idle Hands, and that they’d just rescued the dragonborn from Skara. Svarnik asked for their names, and the dwarf introduced all of them: his name was Ake, the dragonborn was Bai, and the half-orc’s name was Fatos. Olo stayed out of sight for most of the conversation while Voltyra and Svarnik continued asking questions about their organization. At last the Idle Hands members simply told them that if they wanted answers, they’d have to go to their leader, Emperor Ganzorig.

Rather than go with them, the characters decided to return the cup and knife and come back. Ake told them he’d have someone keep an eye out for them when they decided to return.

When they reached the main building in Downhill they found three women and two men inside. They were ecstatic to receive their magic items. Shannon began serving lunch while Olo, Voltyra, and Svarnik went to the wizard’s tower to talk to the wizard about their reward.

The wizard tower is about 70 feet tall and is located 500 feet north of the village gate. Inside is a single dark, dusty room. Nine skulls with runes sit on a bookshelf. A crate of black candles sits against a wall. A bear rug partially hides a pentagram on the floor.

Voltyra, Svarnik, and Olo suspected they might have found the necromancer’s lair. While looking around, Olo asked Svarnik to use his magic to deduce the properties of the black candles. Instead, Svarnik inspected the pentagram, touching the center of it while he cast the spell in order to figure out what it was for and how to use it.

What they expected was not what they found. Svarnik instead discovered something like a Glyph of Warding that worked in conjunction with a reverse Featherfall spell, which would be activated by standing in that spot and saying, “By the grace of Leika, I shall fly.”

Svarnik calls it the ‘spellevator.”

He promptly used it and floated to the top of the room, where he bobbed up and down and hit his head a few times before someone opened a trapdoor above him. The wizard, a redheaded woman named Aileen, quickly figured out who they were and bid the others follow Svarnik up. They chatted for a few minutes about where the group found the magic items, whether her brother George the druid made it back safely with them, and what payment they’d receive if they decided to stay and continue to protect the town. Aileen also presented them with their reward: a Staff of Withering, a Robe of Scintillating Colors, an Amulet of Proof Against Detection and Location, and some gold. Aileen announced she was going down to get lunch and descended by jumping down through the trapdoor and saying, “By the grace of Leika, I shall fall!” The group followed her down.

While everyone was eating in the main building, two elven guards from the neighboring city barged in. “Nobody move!”

Svarnik quickly used magic to alter his appearance, as dragonborns aren’t welcome in Skara. They didn’t notice him before he succeeded. When he tried to talk to them with the appearance of an elf, the guards threatened him more.

Olo pulled out his pedigree. “In the name of the Radhear Family, I demand to know what’s going on!”

The guards were very surprised to meet a member from such a well-established noble family here. “We’re here by orders of Lord Abarra,” was all they would tell him. When the group tried to talk and move more, they were bullied into staying quiet once more.

Svarnik didn’t need much more encouragement to start a fight. Olo and Voltyra joined him, but they were alone in the battle. The other villagers, including George and Aileen, stayed where they were. Regardless, it didn’t take long for the three of them to knock out the guards. From there they raced out the back door to where they could hear a little girl screaming, with Svarnik in the lead.

As they got there, two elven guards were roughly escorting an adult male tiefling and dragging a young female tiefling with them, all while an elf nobleman watched from up ahead.

Svarnik demanded to know what was going on. “It’s none of your business,” the elf nobleman responded.

“Well, I’m making it my business! I demand to know what’s going on, in the name of Olo Radhear!”

The elf essentially told him to move along, and then Voltyra attacked him with Ray of Frost. The guards let go of their hostages, intending to defend their ward. Only one of them made it that far; the other was attacked by the adult tiefling after he transformed into a dire wolf.

Olo had hoped to end the fight without killing anyone again, but Voltyra and Svarnik had no such preferences. After they killed the nobleman, the tiefling-dire wolf helped them kill the two guards as they tried to run away. Once he realized there was no hope for bringing them back, Olo sobbed violent tears over their deaths.

They allowed the other two guards to leave without so much as questioning them.

They also learned that Shannon and Hale were married, and they have a human son as well as a tiefling daughter.

There last name is McGrath, by the way. So far no one gets why I think that’s awesome. (There’s a tiefling named Hale McGrath. How am I the *only* one?)

As Olo was crying, George the druid came over. “You’re right to cry,” he muttered.

Olo sobbed harder.

“They’ll be after all our heads now. Look at that, there go his servants in the carriage now.” He pointed to the oversized carriage pulled by four white horses taking off up the hill.

“Come, Voltyra,” Svarnik said. “Let us bury bodies. We will deny this happened. Discredit servants.”

Olo stopped crying. A look of horror spread across his face. “They heard my name.”

“Doubtful. They were far off. I did not shout.”

“I showed my pedigree to them! The guards we let go!”

“This can be good thing. Our cause has support of noble. Will make us more legitimate.” Since joining the group, Svarnik showed much more enthusiasm for Voltyra’s cult than Olo did.

“No no no… Lord Toma will hear! He will report this to my parents!”

Svarnik continued talking under his breath. “Will also force you to commit.” And then to Olo, “Are you infant still tied to mother’s apron strings? Stand on own feet, comrade. Be man!”

“You don’t understand! They are magistrates of Lubeck. They will drag me back regardless of what I do or say!” Olo added in a softer voice, “And technically I am not an adult for another forty-three years…”

“Then we will keep on move. They will be forced to track us.”

“Before anything else, I should familiarize myself with this amulet. It will help keep my parent’s mages from tracking me.”

“We make friends,” Svarnik said. “Friends give bad directions. Your family get lost. Do not fret, comrade. Besides. Where is crime without bodies?” By then Voltyra had nearly finished burying them.

Olo shook his head. “My parents have very accomplished wizards. If they haven’t begun divining my location already, they will most assuredly have some of their personal guard teleported to my exact location once they hear I am on site of a crime like this, and I used my name! My name! How could I have been so stupid?!” He trailed off for a moment. “Depending on the noble, evidence may not be relevant. He was last seen here, and now he cannot be found. The whole village would be better off evacuating.”

Voltyra had returned by the time he finished. “If you keep worrying about what might happen, we’ll never accomplish anything. Rebellion never goes exactly as planned. What matters is how you press on when the unexpected happens. Putting our best foot forward in the face of adversity and chaos is all we can do.”

“What about these people? Do we leave them to take the brunt of this jerk’s father when he comes calling with at least three times as many guards?”

“We can’t wait around and protect everyone we come across,” Voltyra said. “The best we can do is give them pointers on how to defend themselves.”

Svarnik cut in. “Okay. Here is what we do. We disguise you to look like him. You make appearance in other town saying you will make expedition into mountain. You disappear. Problem solved.” He then caught on to what Voltyra had been saying. “Or that.”

“We could do both,” she responded. “Teaching them to defend themselves may better the image and goal of the rebellion anyways.”

“Da! Grassroots. We build patriotism from bottom up.”

Olo spoke up again. “What if we tie up all the villagers? Loosely, so they can get out if they need to. But then as the noble comes up, likely later today, we can attack and run into the forest? The tieflings can hide elsewhere ahead of time to avoid capture and the town can act as though we attacked the whole town? Or just run without attacking, but in a way that they can definitely see us.”

“So you are saying you want more people hunting us?” Svarnik said. “Or kill more people to avoid punishment for killing? This is bad idea.”

“Not kill, just shoot an arrow or two to get their attention. And they will be hunting us one way or another anyways.”

“Just at closer proximity,” Svarnik pointed out.

“I can reach targets as far as 600 feet away.” Olo took a moment to examine the treeline, which was at the closet approximately 300 feet away from the village’s border.

“They are farther now. If you like, I will beat George. He angry and tell them we are bad. They leave town alone. Distasteful. Counterproductive. But town is safe. Your conscience intact.”

George coughed. He’d never moved from his position near the door of the main building.

Svarnik just shrugged.

“Or we could ‘rob’ the town,” Voltyra said.

Svarnik perked up. He’d already shown interest in ordering a custom pair of dragonborn socks. “I could use scarf.”

George crossed his arms. “Try anything and we’ll set Aileen on you.”

“I mean this as a cover for your town,” Voltyra told him.

“Does Skara know about the dagger and cup?” Olo asked. “If not, we could ‘take all their food.’”

“We’re not worried about it,” George said. “Aileen will tell him what happened. Lord Abarra will only be coming for you three. Worry about your own safety.”

“Good enough for me,” said Voltyra.

Olo wasn’t convinced. “What will happen with the tieflings.”

“We’ll go to Skara and pay for their release in the evening, same as we do every year.”

“But they are not arrested…” Svarnik trailed off.

“Send them to the Devil’s Pawns,” Voltyra said. “Protection for them and growth for the cause.”

George shook his head. “When Lord Abarra comes, he will not leave without a sacrifice. Perhaps he’ll make our lives easier by taking you, Svarnik.”

Olo was growing exasperated from guilt at this point. “Which is why I suggest staying just in the treeline and lure them away. If they think their prize is just out of reach, they will turn their attention towards that.”

“Lord Abarra is not the sort of man who feels the need to pick between the things he wants. He will likely not be appeased until he has vengeance.”

Svarnik cursed in draconic. “Okay. We lure them away. Kill if we must.”

“You might be in luck for the time being,” George continued. “He will not likely spend too much time going after you so long as Lord Toma is in Skara. But he’ll only be here for a few more weeks.”

“Should the tieflings go hide somewhere until all this settles?” Olo asked. “On a side note, I suggest making a better hiding place for them than a guarded hut.”

“Lord Abarra already knows they are here. It would not be wise to irritate him further.”

“This should really be fort. Put up walls. Magic wards.”

“Only Aileen knows such kinds of magic, and she’s already doing as much for us as she can. This is the most peaceable home we’ve had in decades, and we do just fine here.”

Svarnik’s distaste only continued to grow. “These people do not want change. Let us leave them to their fate. Their complacency will be their downfall.”

George glared after him as Svarnik went back inside the main building to eat.

Olo followed him. He stormed up to Aileen and yanked the magic cup down from her poised lips. “Why is this allowed?! Why do you let this poor man and little girl go through such torment? I have hidden better from magistrates and their forces than your whole town is hiding this family! A simple deep basement with a trap door would have sufficed! Or better yet, join up with a group like the Devilspawn, who can help protect, and then all you can work to have a better life like this!”

Aileen pulled a bit of wood and string out of her purse. “Why don’t you pull up a chair?

An empty chair moved behind him, pushed by an invisible force, and made him sit.

“And have a drink while you’re at it.”

The cup moved to Olo’s lips.

“Now, listen. First of all, you’re kidding yourself if you think you’ve ever hidden from a magistrate in your past. You only just got that amulet. Any magistrate worth their salt has a mage who can find you in an hour or less. Second, we were never trying to hide our tiefling villagers. Not from Skara, that is. Lord Abarra has known they’ve been living here since the day we built up this village. His bastard son, on the other hand, only found out yesterday. That was a small matter. We could have dealt with it on our own. As for the Devilspawn? Useless. For me to have contact with them in the first place could be considered an act of treason. As long as I am here, Hale and Aine are in no danger from anyone loyal directly to King Adelbrand. That is part of our deal. Now why don’t you relax and consult your friends on how you’re going to save your sorry selves?”

Olo merely gagged on his whiskey. Meanwhile, George quietly applauded Aileen from the doorway.

“And if you’re going to continue to address me,” Aileen went on, “you may call me Lady Molony. As the son of a nobleman you should know better than most how to address your elders. Clearly someone needs to put you in your place.”

Olo replied in Elvish. “Yes, Madam.”

“Good boy.”

Olo turned to Voltyra and Svarnik in a silent plea for help.

Voltyra whispered sarcastically, “Maybe try asking nicely next time.”

“I thought that is what you are supposed to do when there is injustice?” he whispered back.

She turned to Aileen. “I must apologize on behalf of my companion. He is still… inexperienced. What he meant to say is to inquire if there’s anything to be done for those who’ve been targeted?”

“For those who’ve been targeted? You mean like Hale and Aine? Yes, there is, but not if you don’t mean to intercept with each and every victim.”

“It isn’t possible for us to intercede every time someone is assaulted. Even if we had enough manpower to do that, that would just be putting out fires. That would just be an all out war. We need to fix this at the source. Engeland needs to stop oppressing those that a few higher powers consider ugly. Good people should not need to die because of how creatures are born.”

Aileen began laughing hysterically as the alcohol started to take effect. She’d been hogging the magic cup for nearly an hour by then.

Shannon stood up from her table and walked over. “Okay, Aileen dear, let’s get you up to bed.”

“She has the worst constitution out of all of us,” George muttered. “That’s why we made her get a real job.”

“Both must be done,” Svarnik said in response to Olo. “Politics means nothing if change is not affected on social level. A culture of complacency is what led to this problem in first place. The people must wake up!”

“If you’re wanting to start a riot, you can start it somewhere else!” yelled the knitting man at another table.

“Start riot? No. But standing by while others get oppressed is just as bad as riot.”

“You people use too many big words,” grumbled a very freckled woman.

Svarnik spoke condescendingly. “To stop a bully you must stand up to it.”

George shook his head to himself. “There’s no real harm going on here. Nine or ten months out of the year, we’re left alone. We don’t have any fights to pick with anyone, unless you lot do anything to get us in trouble. I can’t speak for the village, but I think we’re going to have to rescind our offer to hire you on.”

“Fine,” Svarnik said. “This work better for me. You cannot be reasoned with. Das vedania.” He finished the last of his food and walked out.

Olo glanced at Voltyra and chased after Svarnik. “Where are we going?”

“Come, Olo,” said Voltyra. “If they don’t want our help, there’s nothing we can do.”

The door slammed behind them once they’d all walked out.

Olo glanced back again as the three of them walked away, almost in a longingly manner, but more in confusion of why the people there are they way they are.

“If they think this ‘peace’ will last for long, they’re about to get a rude awakening sooner or later… until then, our help will only be viewed as meddling.”

“Da,” Svarnik said. “I hope not to see their corpses in a mass grave.”

“So where are we going, then?” Olo asked.

“Shall we go back to forest and meet with these others?”

Olo continued to look back every so often as they walked. “I kind of want to see what happens of the town when the noble returns. Perhaps we could rest just past the treeline as we familiarize ourselves with our new gear?”

“Olo. Do not think of. They made choice. We cannot make them see our perspective.”

“I know, but… I can’t help but think about that little girl.”

“Da. Da. It is little ones who suffer most from inaction.”

“Also, I would like to start protecting myself as quickly as possible to avoid potentially leading my parents’ forces directly to the Idle Hands’ handout.”

“Perhaps we should have talked with Hale.”

Olo perked up a bit. “We still could. Or at least I could. Should I go back and talk to him? I can sneak in and have a quick chat. Ask if he wants to come with us or anything like that?”

“You can try. I’m afraid my temper has gotten best of me.”

“Wait for me here? And is there anything you would like me to talk with him about specifically?”

“Offer to let him join us. Although unlikely. He has little girl.”

“Okay. I’ll be back soon. Or if not, come find me.” With that, Olo skulked back to the village.

He quietly made his way around the two-foot fence encircling the huts and hopped over when he reached Hale’s hut. Seeing no one else around, he knocked on the door.

“Come in, says a tenor voice.

“Hi, Hale,” Olo said as he walked in. Hale rose from his seat, one hand lingering near his daughter’s head protectively as she ate from a bowl of hot porridge in questionable condition.

Hale was quick to say no to Olo’s offer of joining him. When asked about the Idle Hands he warned Olo that they may give him and his friends some kind of test before bringing them to their hideout. Olo told him that they’d be waiting just inside the forest in sight of the village if Hale changed his mind, and Hale warned him about making sure they could get away quickly. Olo took all of that information back to Svarnik and Voltyra. He also returned with a splatter of oatmeal over his eye, as Hale’s daughter didn’t take kindly to his attempt to talk to her.

“Perhaps we just move on,” Svarnik said. Idle Hands will want to meet us.”

“They can wait until tomorrow.”

“I hope they are not so idle as their name suggests.”

“Even more urgent than my desire to see how things go, again, is making use of my amulet.”

“We will rest here tonight and move on in morning, da?”

Olo sighed with relief. “Sounds good.”

Olo and Voltyra set about making a shelter disguised as a grassy knoll. By the time they’d finished, they could see George the druid walking down the road to Skara. They merely watched him go. Even though it was only about two in the afternoon, they set about taking their long rests while Svarnik took the first watch.

Only an hour passed before the first incident occurred.

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