I need to talk to the Harpers, thought Caladyr, about adopting some sort of background check. He was hurling an alchemical flask at something resembling a pile of aggressive mud, in a dank corridor lit faintly by some dim runes which had proved incomprehensible. His mind was elsewhere however, focussed on the events of the previous day.

The Harpers, a casual association of well-meaning adventurers, had cobbled together a group of free agents to bring back a local tax collector or, failing that, news of what had happened to him. The village of Ravenmoor, it turned out, had been waved aside as someone-else’s-problem by two equally distant and largely irrelevant governments. This meant that taxes had gone un-collected for several years: a mistake the authorities were keen to correct. The agent they had sent, one Elias Kyle, had gone missing, and hired adventurers were the order of the day for maximum discretion. And, thought Caladyr with the cruel perspective of hindsight, deniability should anything go horribly, catastrophically wrong……..

Upon approaching the village a single Stirge had attached itself, quite harmlessly, to the cleric of the party. The reaction, or rather the overreaction, had been immediate and had culminated in Barayku, a fighter, murdering the small child to whom the Stirge had belonged. They had been far too slow to stop him, but most of the party had moved quickly to neutralise Barayku with both he and Rosetta, the rogue, trading near-mortal strikes.

After a short discussion the decision was made to deliver the murderer to the villagers for rural justice. Coincidentally the group had arrived the night before a major festival, and the Mayor – a large fellow who seemed a bit too keen on chasing greased pigs given the circumstances – insisted that Barayku be hanged to start the celebrations.

Already the group was hopelessly behind on their mission to track down Elias Kyle, learning only from the Mayor that he had, apparently, collected the taxes and gone. This was, however, when things took a turn for the worse, once again. Greymist and Balaboo, who had somehow been sympathetic to the murderer in their midst, hatched a plot to save Barayku from the gallows. Balaboo had made for Barayku at first but, seeing that he was surrounded, instead made a lunge for the village Mayor. Greymist had approached Barayku as Caladyr had moved to intercept. Olaf, some distance away, laid down his weapon to avoid any confusion with the villagers. Rosetta, still badly wounded, had not intervened. Barayku himself, with his hands and feet bound, had brawled quite successfully with the Mayor’s brother in an attempt to postpone his execution.

After striking the Mayor twice, who appeared to be unconcerned, Balaboo was paralysed completely by divine magic and hacked apart by a swarm of outraged villagers. A similar fate befell Barayku as he was pushed to the ground and set upon, and then the cleric Greymist was held fast by the Mayor’s spell. Caladyr had stepped forward and, to put this matter to bed, had struck Greymist down with his longsword. The survivors Olaf, Rosetta and Caladyr were swiftly and unceremoniously ejected by the village, and had made their way miserably back towards the city. Here they had rested up and taken on new recruits: Venger, a sorcerer; Veigar, a wizard; and a second sorcerer who hadn’t yet mentioned his name.

Sceptical and desperate, though convinced of their good natures, Olaf had led the party north through the wilderness to Irandel, the tomb of a barbarian king. With the help of Olaf’s magic glove the entrance was quickly located, and they crept along broad, dim hallways for reasons not made clear to Caladyr. Things took a turn for the worse when Caladyr, distracted, had stumbled straight in to a thirty foot pit. Once the alchemist was rescued Olaf wasted no time in trying to jump over the pit, and also fell in.

Retreating the way they had come the party came across a small, statue-filled room with ‘suspicious’ written all over it. Veigar had poked around with Mage Hand, securing something – perhaps valuable – from the chamber but also triggering a mud trap. Mud elementals appeared and the party had formed ranks, with Caladyr throwing bombs over the heads of his allies as Venger and Rosetta went to try the other corridor.

Here they had found something Caladyr would later identify as a gibbering mouther and, as things presently stood, half of the party was engaging it. Caladyr double checked the mud chamber and wondered if it would drain, and then turned to find the others fighting a pile of mouths. He couldn’t tell if they were winning.

Sean Victor