Traveling to Lotus Lake progressively became more eventful as the days came and went. Hebo and Oromis had become very fast friends, teasing each other most of the way. Ezio and I were constantly on the lookout. Petra, Luna, and Eclipse stayed in the wagon and talked with one another the entire time. The sun shone during the day, and the stars were beautifully clear at night.
The First Event: Messenger in the Woods
It was on the morning of our fourth day of travel from Oakshade. Luna and I were on watch when a thick fog rolled in at dawn. It wasn’t surprising; fog occasionally covered the fields in the mornings. This, we determined, was different. After all, we knew that we were approaching a meeting with a member of the Court of Owls, and that could be dangerous. We woke our companions. Ezio and Eclipse snuck out into the fog to find the road, but soon came running back. They informed us that there are shapes in the fog, shapes that we soon saw ourselves.
Luna believed that the fog was merely a magical illusion. We spoke to the shapes, and it spoke only with messages attached to arrows and messages written in the fog. The figure provided a token to Ezio, identifying himself as an interested party in the Court of Owls. Or perhaps not in the Court of Owls at all. The message was unclear, but what was clear to us was that Yen-Fei was expecting us. Maybe this was Yen-Fei talking to us now?
The mysterious messenger gave us a wanted poster. A murderer from Obsidian Garrison was on the run, and the reward was 2000 gold. We seven were certainly interested in this. The fog dissipated almost immediately. We had a new goal in mind: travel to Obsidian Garrison and meet with the warden. We intend to find this murderer and return him to prison.
Something else had occurred to us as we accepted the job. If this was a bounty given by the Court of Owls, we could investigate it while investigating the Court at the same time.
A few days more and we arrived at the small village on the outskirts of Lotus Lake.
The Second Event: The Snake
Lotus Lake’s small village was welcoming. Hebo, Luna, and Petra went to a teahouse for some lunch. Ezio, Eclipse, and Oromis went to hunt. I did not have anywhere in particular to go, but I felt that I needed to supervise the teahouse group. Sitting in the teahouse with these three companions was entertaining, to say the least. They bought all the tea cakes they could, and became a bit raucous in their celebrations. Akona, the owner of the teahouse, brought me a cup of black tea. She did not know my nature and inability to drink it. I just observed my companions eating, drinking, and singing.
Ezio and Eclipse had gone hunting with Oromis not far behind. From what I heard later from Eclipse, Ezio had been so focused on looking ahead that he entirely missed the large snake coiled around a tree branch directly above his head. They backed off until they met up with Oromis again, and Ezio shot the snake with his bow. They harvested some flesh and returned to town.
Eclipse came into the teahouse first. I gave her my cup of tea, but she complained that it was cold. Evidently tea should be taken hot? Perhaps living creatures prefer their food hot? But would that not burn their fleshy mouthes? While I questioned this, Ezio rushed in to the teahouse and demanded that Akona help him cook the snake flesh. She was surprised and did not know how to respond. I suddenly had an idea! Now that I knew that food should be hot (I think), I borrowed Akona’s cooking supplies and went to cook the food. Oromis and Ezio complained that it was “overdone” and I do not know what that means. They ate it, so it must have been a success.
At night, Hebo, Eclipse, Luna, and Petra performed at the teahouse for their rooms. It became a very raucous party that night. Even Ezio laughed and sang along. My companions all slowly drifted off to their beds. Oromis preferred to stay outside, wanting to watch the stars before he fell asleep in the hay. “Besides”, he told us, “the night was warm enough and I like the quiet after a rowdy night like that!”
Ezio followed him, choosing to meditate in the barn with Spoink and the two horses we purchased in Oakshade, Sebastian and Osha. Petra and Eclipse rented one of the rooms for the night. Hebo and Luna took the other. I stood watch outside their rooms, listening quietly to the giggles coming from Hebo and Luna.
The Third Event: The Other Snakes
A lot of things happened during the third event. I will try to piece them together as best as I can, based on the information given to me by my companions afterwards. The third event started in the hallway where I sat watch. It was after midnight when I finally heard Hebo and Luna stop talking and giggling. But something concerned me about it. It was almost as if mid-sentence that they became quiet.
I pulled out my thunder cannon and moved towards their room. As I did, I heard the sound of a sword. I reacted quickly by shielding myself with magic but I still felt the blade slap my chest and scrape against me. The large snake-like creature that wielded the scimitars was shot point-blank in the chest. It hissed in surprise and clutched at its wound.
The sound of my cannon woke most of my companions. In their room, Petra and Eclipse woke with a start and discovered that a snake fiend was in their room as well. “Watch out!” cried Petra as she magicked herself up to the ceiling. Eclipse rushed forward to her enemy and cast a spell on it.
“Betray your allies,” whispered the tabaxi. Its eyes glazed over. With a flick of its tongue, it nodded and slithered away out into the hall.
In the hall, I took one attack after another and my body was starting to break down from the wear. As my assailant raised his weapon again, the smaller snake creature that Eclipse commanded came past me and swung its weapons against its comrade.
“What are you doing?!” it hissed.
After the attack, they clashed with each other briefly until the smaller one blinked and turned against me. But this had given me the time to reload the thunder cannon. I raised it. Before I could fire it, the large snake groaned from an assault from behind.
A moment earlier, Ezio and Oromis had heard the sound of my weapon from the stable. Ezio raced ahead and drew his bow. Oromis was not far behind. As he moved, he heard Spoink squeal. “Aye, come on then,” he spoke to the pig after slamming the gate with his axe. Spoink instinctively ran past the teahouse to the backside. Oromis caught up with Ezio as the assassin slammed an arrow into the back of the snake attacking me. Oromis built up his magical rage, glowing with red steam as he charged. His axe cut deep into the snake fiend’s back as Ezio planted another arrow into it. I dodged a sword attack from the smaller snake and leveled my gun. The larger fiend’s chest burst apart.
“You are next,” I hissed at the snake, accidentally slipping into my native Abyssal language.
“Not if I kill you first,” it hissed back at me, answering in Abyssal. But I could sense its fear. Abyssal, as you know, is a very emotional language. Its consonants are harsh and sharp. The inflections of the vowels come from emotion, though usually it is anger, hate, and loathing that feed the word. I write this because I want to impress upon the reader that the way this snake fiend answered was very clearly afraid. It tried to intimidate me, but I just reloaded. Oromis howled at it and it fled. I turned to follow it, hearing Oromis shout, “You ‘ad better run, ya filthy snake!”
It slithered into the room with Eclipse and Petra. Petra had crawled outside the window while Eclipse was gathering her things. The snake, seeing her apparently distracted, lunged at her. But the tabaxi are an interesting race. The timid cleric sensed its entry and nimbly rolled aside. She channeled magic into her claws and slashed. The snake withered, its wounds turning to ash on its body. As I entered the room, I saw it drop its weapons and shrink away from Eclipse. It looked at me and opened its mouth to speak. Another shot fired from my cannon. The snake would never speak gain.
“Where is Petra?” I demanded.
Eclipse pointed to the window. “O-Outside! I think she saw some other snakes.”
“Go out the window and help her,” I said, reloading again. “I will go around and flank them.”
I exited the room as Eclipse vaulted out the window. While all of this was happening in the hallway, Petra had heard a sound from outside. She told Eclipse to stay behind as she crawled outside and climbed the building. From there, she saw two more snake fiends carrying the limp bodies of Hebo and Luna.
“Hold it!” she shouted. The snakes turned and cast spells at her. She dodged them and began casting fire and ice at the monsters. They fled around the corner and Petra heard a loud squeal. Spoink found his friend and slammed into the snakes. One fell to the ground and dropped Luna.
Ezio and Oromis watched me enter Petra and Eclipse’s room with my cannon. They intended, I guess, to follow me, but saw the commotion of magic outside the window.
“We need to go around and help Petra,” said Ezio.
“No use,” growled Oromis, still steaming red smoke. “Too far ‘round. Let me do it.”
In an earlier entry, I marveled at the strength of dwarves. Ezio was to experience this again. Oromis shouted and charged directly at the window. He swung his axe heavily at the wall and window, utterly smashing it to pieces. Ezio charged as well, shouting “Get down!” to the dwarf as he launched himself over Oromis, drew his blades from his hidden wrist mounts, and slammed them into one of the snakes. The snake’s comrade drew its blade and brought it down across Ezio’s chest. It grabbed Hebo and the two began to flee.
The snake that had Hebo made the mistake of running past a window within my line of sight. I aimed and fired again, grievously wounding it. The snakes realized they were surrounded and began to fight back like the cornered creatures they were. Spoink rushed again, knocking the snake down once more.
“Drop it! We must flee!” cried the prone creature. It picked itself up and grabbed its weapon.
Before the snake carrying Hebo could answer, Luna was awake. A still-raging Oromis kicked Luna and chopped at the snake fiend again, removing one of its arms. Luna perhaps had been under some spell, but that spell had now worn off and she was viciously angry. She muttered an incantation and her trident appeared magically in her hand. She channeled her power through it and fired a blast of energy. The snake Oromis had wounded suddenly fell to the ground, blood pouring from its eyes, mouth, nose, and ears.
The last snake fiend was completely surrounded. I approached it from the side, already reloading my cannon. Ezio, still bleeding from his wound, drew another arrow and loaded it into his bow. Luna and Oromis were seething. Eclipse and Petra came around the corner as well. The snake drew a knife and laid it to Hebo’s throat. Before it could move further, Eclipse ripped the snake apart with a blast of holy fire.
The seven of us were together after the skirmish at the teahouse. My thunder cannon was smoking and I stood covered in the remains of my foes, greatly injured but yet alive. Ezio winced between breaths as Eclipse tended to his wounds. Petra still clung to the wall, her dragon eye smoldering. Oromis was covered in blood from the arteries he had struck, the red smoke of his rage fading slightly. Luna, angrier than I had ever seen her, marched towards the remains of our enemies. Spoink nudged Hebo until the little goblin awoke.
“S… Spoink?” he said, blinking. “Hi everyone! That was some party, yeah?”
“You don’t know the half of it,” said Luna, rubbing her head.
Then, we heard screams from the village.