The Poison Chalice and the Golden Goblin.
As Sa’hetna rode the wagon and tended to the wounded animals in the rear, he reflected on his time back in Riddleport. He could feel the towering rage of the Boar as he applied more poultice to its side and fed it an apple. The healing magics Sahetna had already cast upon the beast would ensure its survival, but now, there needed to be a more direct approach if he intended to bring the Boar back from the brink. In time, Sahetna hoped She would make a loyal friend and ally, but for now she was just stubborn and headstrong after a life of pain and fighting. Fortunately, her original nature was starting to reassert itself as the hulking Boar slurped up the apple and crunched on it noisily. It took all of his druidic training and influence to keep her calm while he treated her, but with each passing hour the task became easier. Soon the stink of Riddleport and the Arena would fade, and The Boar’s original nature would fully reassert itself, allowing her to live and blissfully forget the terrible tragedy her life had been until now.
“You are the endurance of the mountain, and so I shall call you A’hatepa, this is the word for mountain in the language of my people. After lingering a moment on the boar, the druid considered the three other occupants in the back of the wagon riding with him.
“All of you are survivors, and have overcome unspeakable horrors.” With a series of gestures, he wove the forest magic that would allow him to speak with all of them and glanced around once he felt the enchantment take hold.
“Speak to me now, and your thoughts will come to me in the language of the humans. Tell me of yourselves so that I might give you a name and call you friend.” He gestured again to the first dog, whose voice rose slowly and uncertainly on the breeze of the strange magic.
“I am Called Torn ear because I lost a fight when I was still little and my torn ear has never healed well. I am the leader of this pack, but I sense great power in you, along with a true desire to help us. I looked to the She-Boar, and I was afraid, because I knew it was going to kill me and my pack when they put us all in the death pit of sand. Thank you for saving us, but I do not understand, why did you save her as well?”
Sahetna shrugged at the question and reached into a bucket to retrieve a piece of meat to give to the dogs. “I saved her because all that which is truly alive is sacred. She has just as much right to live as you do, and while you were going to be forced to fight in the ring, this is not the normal way of things. The natural order would not bring you into contact with one another, and so that order has been broken by the actions of the Tavernkeeper. I wanted to return her to the wild and convince her to watch over the Druid Grove, just as I hope to convince you. I can only promise your freedom and food for your bellies, but there will come a time when you have to fight. I will not leave you to die, but all of us will need to fight against hobgoblins to protect our home and our grove. ”
One of the other dogs snarled slightly as it got up and adjusted itself. “I am called Broken Jaw, because long ago I got in a fight and my Jaw was broken when I was kicked by a mule. I know this fight was going to be my last, but I had accepted what we were. Now, things are uncertain and I cannot easily say what I feel. I do not like the idea of defending the humans, but at the same time, you are human and have set us free.”
Finally the She-boar snorted with a slightly dismissive tone in the magically created voice. “You are one to talk Human, about the sanctity of life and how important it is to you. I can still smell the blood upon your clothes.”
Sa’hetna nodded grimly while he filled a small bucket of apples for the boar. “It is true that I have killed, but I am a druid and a shapeshifter. I only kill when I must or when the spirits demand it of me. The Spirits demand that we can take pleasure in the hunt, but not in the kill. To take pleasure in the kill itself is to threaten your soul while you dance with madness and evil.”
The Boar considered this for a moment, looking at the druid with its dark piercing eyes. “Perhaps you are correct Human, and you are telling us the truth, but tell me of your journey so that I can decide for myself if you are worthy of my protection.”
Sahetna nodded and began to recount the tale of how they had come to be in Riddleport.
Several months ago, our pack had journeyed into the deep, dark tunnels underground. We had gone there seeking our fortune, hoping to bring something back of sufficient value to help finance our war with the hobgoblins. Fighting such creatures takes metal and magic in great quantities, and we are humble folk from a small fishing village that only last year was still a moldering ruin. We travelled so deep underground, we found a small village that was populated by a small race of menfolk called Derro. These creatures had glowing white eyes and had minds that were twisted and cruel beyond the ways of normal folk. They had taken a child, and were using foul magics and rituals to change the baby into one of their own. .. so we attacked, and slew as many of them as we could. After a long and terrible journey, we returned to the surface bearing little more then 8 strange vials of mysterious liquid that had been made by these creatures. It was a magical fluid that would erase the memories of anyone who drank it. The Derro had used this potion to perform terrible experiments and force the victim to forget what had happened. Their intended use, was unspeakably evil, but the potion itself, like a magical blade was a potent tool that could be used for many different purposes. Unfortunately, the only place we could sell these vials, because of the reputation of their creators, was here in riddleport.”
The last time we came here, we were drawn into a power struggle on the same side with a high ranking mage named Tammerhawk. Once we had finished the task he had asked for, Tammerhawk double crossed us, and told us that he never actually possessed the spell we had come to him for casting in the first place. He was a powerful mage lord, and gave us some money instead, so that we would go away and he could sell the property we had wanted repaired instead. I was not happy as we left, and I swore that I would not be taken like that again, if we ever had to deal with Tammerhawk in the future. This time, we had laid out a plan, so that we would enter the city seperately, and Tammerhawk would have a more difficult time double crossing us if his intentions turned dire as before.
Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, our friend Zuristoi had sent word ahead and so when we arrived in Riddleport the inn keeper for the Golden Goblin had sent someone to wait by the city gates. We were met by a Half orc named Grom, who would be our guide in the city and see to our needs while we stayed here. I could immediately see that Grom was far more then he let on. He had the aire of a thug about him, but the look in his eyes, there was a glance of cunning and deep understanding that I do not see in many folk.
When we arrived, there was a great game going on called “Take the Devil’s Gold”.. and the owner of the Inn had hoped this would bring a surge in his business. Little did we know, that Tammerhawk had no desire to deal with us a second time as well, so he had informed Samaritha, a half elf woman to inform us that our contact on all business matters with him, would be conducted by the owner of the Golden Goblin. As I said, at first I was skeptical, but considering how our last encounter with Tammerhawk went, I was starting to warm to the idea of not dealing with him directly.
The deal would have to wait however, as a former servant of Tammerhawk named Angvar had been banished from his service and had decided to try and steal from the Golden Goblin. When we saw what was happening, all of us interrupted the robbery and killed many of the thieves before Angvar got away. After speaking to one of his henchmen, we learned where Angvar was hiding, and moved quickly to deal with him once and for all. There was a sqaullid part of town called Rat street, and Angvar had taken up residence there to hide from Tammerhawk and former enemies he had made while working for the Cypher Lodge. We attacked him there, and slew the mercenaries he had hired to make good his escape, then took his head as a warning to any others who would violate the golden Goblin while we were there.
You see, Angvar’s death was necessary, because that was the price for your freedom. If we hunted down the one who had come into Saul’s territory, and killed him so that he would never threaten it again, then all of you would be given over to my care.. so that I can heal you and release you back into the deep forest if that is what you wish.”
Torn ear got up slightly and shook absently. “I am a Dog, and for better or worse my place is with Humans, not in the forest. If you wish me to guard your grove then we will do so. Feed us and join our pack, and we will help you.”
The Boar called A’hatepja snorted and munched on apples. “I will find a lair nearby your grove, and I will protect it. Perhaps I will find a male nearby, perhaps not.. but I am slow to trust, Human.. so I will be watching you.”
Sa’hetna nodded in thanks.. “I understand, thank you for giving me this chance help you recover and to prove myself to you.”