|Salli - In Better Times|
Picking up a few locals along the way, Cobblethwaite's Companions learned that the duchess, the elderly Lady Zadell, had recently died and now several families were feuding to take control of the theocracy.
This might have contributed to the absence of any military presence as the refugee train entered the duchy.
The caravan had pitched camp for the night and as the Companions were sitting round a fire, enjoying a basic supper, a bedraggled woman, battered and bruised, staggered into the camp, requesting their assistance.
She explained that her name was Salli, an acolyte from a local church, and that she and four of her friends had been ambushed while looking for rare flowers (to decorate their church, in memory of Lady Zadell).
They had been attacked by a pair of ugly wildmen, who'd dragged them through the woods to a hut by a small lake. Overlooking the lake was a carved cyclops head, water pouring from its one eye into the lake.
Salli told the adventurers that she had managed to slip her bonds while the rest of her friends were taken away - she knew not where - and she escaped.
Besides being able to direct the party back to the lake, the only useful information she could share was that the three or four people she had seen were all missing an eye!
Harry, Holly, and Marigold agreed to lead a rescue mission, while Davian stayed guarding the caravan and Kirchin and Dirkin recuperated from their run-in with the ogres.
At one point, about an hour into their journey, Marigold stumbled over a plank upon which was crudely carved "KNGDOM OF TH BLND".
Some time after that, they came upon the clearing around the lake, which abutted a steep hillock, and the hut.
As they watched, they saw a hulking great man with a bow slung over his shoulder wandered through the clearing, take a small coracal out of the trees near the lake, paddle behind the waterfall, and disappear.
They recognised him, from Salli's description, as one of the men who'd ambushed the church group.
After spying on the hut for a while, and learning that there were two people in there, the three adventurers staged an ambush of their own: attacking an elderly crone and a ditzy teenage girl.
|Scrapegrace - the daughter|
There he found a crude altar surmounted by the decapitated head of one of the youngsters they were supposed to be rescuing. The poor boy had had one of his eyes removed.
Holly and Marigold eventually slew the women they were facing, hid the bodies in the hut and then retreated back to the treeline, to allow Marigold to recover the strength she had spent casting her magic.
While there, a spindly man wildman, dragging an enormous axe (the other original ambusher) came back and was horrified to come upon the corpses of his mother and sister.
From the trees, Marigold tried to 'zap' him with her wand of the marrow squid. Unfortunately it failed to work on Truffle, instead alerting him to our heroes' presence.
He charged, but Marigold was able to entangle him in magical webbing, allowing Holly to step in and stab him repeatedly with her fencing foil, even as he broke free.
With another of the one-eyed woodsfolk felled, the adventurers slipped back into the shadows and discussed their plans to get behind the waterfall and see what was there.
Having found a small pile of crude coracals at the lake's edge, Holly led Marigold and Harry as they paddled behind the waterfall, to find a small landing dock in the "mouth" of the carved head.
It was soon after this that Marigold cast a magical enchantment on Holly that accelerated her natural speed and turned her into a blur of a killing machine.
Even when they were confronted by the father of this inbred family, a hedge wizard named Poppa One-Eye, Holly's speed and deftness with her fencing blade (inspired, also, by Harry's trademark rousing songs), soon made short work of him - even if Marigold finished him off with a ranged magical punch.
|Charity - the mother|
Unfortunately, before they got much further, Harry trod in a pool of acidic, sentient, slime that was eating away at his hairy hobbit foot before Marigold poured one of her vials of precious "joy juice" (from Jerol of Jirrey's haunted manse) over it, shocking the creature enough for Harry to pull free.
|Pham - in better times|
The adventurers convinced her to crawl to the bottom of the well (it opened into a large cave, which they - possibly wisely - opted not to investigate) and tie a rope round her they had lowered into the pit.
Holly, Harry, and Marigold pulled Pham up, loaded her onto one of the coracals, took her across the lake, then dragged the coracal back through the woods, with the wounded girl on top, eventually reuniting her with her friend, Salli, back at the refugee camp.
Dawn had broken and the two survivors, despite their wounds and the loss of their friends, were delighted to be alive.
- Harry (Simon)
- Holly (Erica)
- Marigold (Clare)