Miniature Giant Space Hamsters

12 Mirtul 1368

In Nashkel we have learned of the many troubles in the area: that Brage, the captain of the guard has become a fugitive for murdering his family; the mines are producing inferior ore (and may be haunted by demons); and that there are hauntings afoot in the town.

We enter the temple to see if the priests can shed any more light on these troubling events.

Aegon: Who are you?

Barin: I’m Barin, a ranger from the Cloudpeaks. What do you want from me?

Aegon: What are you doing here?

Barin: I pray, what else could one do in a temple?

Aegon: If a ranger of Helm prays, then definitely something special did happen, am I right?

Barin: Hrmph. You’re quite perceptive, aren’t you? Okay, I’ll tell you my story. Did you already speak with Mrs. Brunnstein? She is outside and needs help.

Aegon: No, not yet.

Barin: Go and speak with her. If you agree to help her, we can talk.

I leave him to his prayers and talk to the head priest. Mrs. Brunnstein will have to wait.

Nalin: Helm watch over you and our poor lost brother, Brage. A finer captain of the guard could nary be found this side of Amn. Such a strange change for one so devout as he. One does not usually change so drastically without nefarious help. If there be an evil influence on him, perhaps the harsh justice of the military should be stayed. He’ll find no quarter at the garrison, but if he came to the temple… Well, his restitution need not be his life. Is there anything I can help you with?

Aegon: Can you tell me more about these ghosts?

Nalin: It is a sad story. Many years ago, when Nashkel was close to the wild, two young lovers used to meet at the southern bridge. They died there but… their souls did not pass on. Sometimes in the night they appear, like shadows formed of moonlight…

Aegon: If the ghosts are nearby, why haven’t you banished them, priest?

Nalin: I have called on Helm’s name to send them to their final rest, but they resist. Something holds them here. They are so young… and so sad.

If Helm can’t help them, I’m not sure Corellon can. Necromancy is not something that is encouraged among Feywardens.

We leave the temple and continue down the river where we meet a bounty collector. He mistakes me for someone else.

Aegon: You must have made some mistake. I am not this Greywolf. Keep your money; it’s not mine to take.

Oublek: You are not Greywolf the bounty hunter? Oh, sweet Helm, I almost gave 200 gold pieces to a complete stranger?! The captain best not hear of this; he’d have my hide. Thanks be for your honesty, stranger. There are those who would not done as such.

We just missed out on 200 gold pieces? Maybe honesty isn’t always the best option…

The villagers here also talk of the bandits on the roads.

We are approaching the garrison when we meet a large tattooed man nursing what seems to be some kind of rodent.

Aegon: Excuse me, but are you speaking to a rodent?

Minsc: Boo is my faithful animal companion, and more than he seems.

Aegon: The classic dilemma of the damsel in distress! How could anyone decline?

Minsc: Take heart, fellow adventurers, for you have curried the favour of Boo, the only miniature giant space hamster in the realm! My friend and companion ever since my h-h-head wound, he will lead us to victory! Onward to the gnoll stronghold in the west! Tarry not! We must go soon!

Morwen decides to go and explore the town by herself. I take a look at Minsc. He is huge and covered in tribal tattoos.

He tells us he is a Barbarian Ranger from Rasheman.

Minsc can go Berserk in combat.

Although sometimes he will just get angry.

He can also move a lot quicker than most.

He’s good at tracking when in the wilderness.

He wears leather armour and wields a large two-handed sword.

He also carries a small orange rodent. I know it to be a hamster, but Minsc insists otherwise.

I’m not convinced this ranger is completely right in the head. Minsc lets me talk to Boo.

Aegon: You’re an interesting little creature, you know that, Boo?

Boo: Squeak!

I don’t know why I was expecting any other response. I doubt even miniature giant space hamsters can speak the common tongue.

Minsc notices Valerie in our group. It seems like they know each other already.

Valerie: You’re funny, Minsc. Watching a Rashemar giant and his pet hamster charge into battle isn’t something you see every day in these lands.

Minsc: You see, Boo? I told you we are inspiring figures in battle!

Valerie: I think you’re a few bats short of a belfry, Minsc. It does seem to work for you, though.

We spy the garrison nearby, where Bardolan is waiting for us. We go inside and are not met with kind greetings.

Aegon: I am here because Bardolan invited me in.

Amnian Soldier: Ah, sorry ’bout yelling at ya. I didn’t mean nothing from it. I’ll just be going now, ‘kay?

It pays to know people, I guess.

The soldiers here aren’t accepting bounties.

I find Bardolan in the back of the building.

Dorthon: Aegon will do.

Bardolan: Will it indeed? Well, Aegon, you have probably surmised by now that you are visiting Nashkel at an unsettled time.

As interim commander for this garrison, my immediate concern is for the safety of the people in this town. Nashkel relies on the iron mines to the south for its livelihood, and rumours of demons in the mines have folks in a panic. Workers have gone missing, and many of those that are left refuse to report to work.

If miners don’t work, they don’t get paid. Many are turning to crime to supplement their incomes. If those mines don’t reopen soon, I’ll have a job maintaining order in the town.

Dorthon: Is there anything I can do to help?

Bardolan: You could sort out this business in the mines and get the miners working again, but unless you’re a miracle worker, you won’t be doing that on your own.

Then there’s this business with Commander Brage…

Listen, I don’t want to talk about this in front of the men. They’re bearing up as well as can be expected, but they’re all overworked, tension is high, and morale is low. The loss of their commander was quite a blow. I’ve got quarters nearby. We can talk there with greater privacy.

It would be better if you left your companions here with the men. My lodgings are too small for so many visitors. The duty Sergeant will see that your friends are fed and watered.

Dorthon: Alright, lead on.

Bardolan: Very well. Sergeant! I’ll be unavailable for the next couple of hours.

Our guests can join the general mess.

Aegon, this way.

He leads me to his personal quarters.

Bardolan: I hope bread and cheese is acceptable. I don’t often entertain.

Dorthon: You were going to tell me about Brage?

Bardolan: Aye, Brage. Commander Brage is… was my superior officer until a fortnight ago. He was a family man… unlike me… with a wife and three young daughters. He was so proud of those girls! If he wasn’t on duty, he was with them, and if he was on duty, he’d be talking about them every chance he got. Does that sound like a murderer to you?

One day, he rode off alone to investigate a report of a body found along the roadside. Somebody should have gone with him, but we were thin enough as it was, he said, and he didn’t expect the corpse to give him any lip, if there even was a corpse, which he doubted. The person who reported it was stinking drunk, so who knows what he saw.

When Brage came back, he didn’t check in with the duty Sergeant. The first thing he did was walk up to his own front door and…

Nobody should see what I saw when I opened that door. He’d cut his youngest in half and she was just a babe. The others were even worse. More to cut up, I guess.

We searched the town and Brage was gone. Nobody saw him leave, but it seems plain enough he isn’t around here. We went looking for his kinswoman, Laryssa, but no sign of her, either.

And now it’s all gone to hells. The men are demoralised. They’re doing their best to rally, but he was a strong leader and the men miss him. I’m doing my best to provide them with capable leadership in his absence, but I’m no Commander Brage.

Aegon: You aren’t Commander Brage, but you are Lieutenant Bardolan. I’m sure the men will come to respect you as much as they respected your predecessor.

Bardolan: You are kind to say that, but I will never be as adept at handling some aspects of the position as he was.

The paperwork is nothing new. As lieutenant, my duties always included the duty roster, payroll, and whatever disciplinary reports came through, but unless Athkatla sends a new commander or promotes me and sends a new lieutenant, I’m doing the work of two.

Aegon: Do you think it likely you’ll get a new commanding officer?

Bardolan: There is no telling what Athkatla will do, but I do not think it likely. It is more probable that I will be promoted and that a new lieutenant will be sent from Athkatla.

I am responsible for the Amnish garrison stationed in Nashkel. I already mentioned the endless reports. I’ll mention them again. They are plentiful enough to warrant a second telling.

And many of the men need training… and a clout alongside the head. Nashkel is a remote garrison and supplies few of its own recruits. Most come from elsewhere in Amn, usually because their previous superior officer found their presence disagreeable in some way. Combine that with the fact that official sanction from Athkatla is a long way away, and you will understand why the Nashkel garrison has twice as many disciplinary actions filed per quarter as any other regiment.

All of which brings us to the duty roster. There are some men that simply cannot work together despite my efforts to help them resolve their differences. They agree readily to put their differences aside, yet they brawl in the streets the moment my back is turned. If I didn’t need every able-bodied man and another besides, I would tell the most disruptive of them to turn in their tabards, but I do need them so I can’t do that.

Which brings us back to the duty roster. I know the men need time off, but with so many obliged to work double shifts, it’s hells keeping even the worst of the troublemakers separated. And all that with the threat that I might not be able to get them their pay when it’s due them.

Commander Brage could keep them in line. All he had to do was tell this one to leave that one alone and it would be done. As for my odds… well, let us just say that I have yet to earn the full measure of their respect.

Aegon: Maybe you just need more time.

Bardolan: The men are still gravely shaken after Commander Brage’s… troubles. Some are cracking under the strain, turning to drink or other vices to numb their minds. All feel it.

I do what I can to provide them with firm, consistent leadership in this time of chaos, but I am no more immune to the events of the last fortnight than they are.

If I were able to release some of this frustration, this… anger at my own helplessness, I am certain the garrison would benefit, but I know of no way to lessen the tension.

Aegon: We could just stay here and get drunk.

Bardolan: No, that would be ill-advised. I am expected back at the garrison in a few hours and I would not wish to appear inebriated.

Aegon: Well, I guess I’d better let you get back to that paperwork you have to do.

Bardolan: I’ll see you out.

He takes me back to the garrison.

This whole encounter is Bardolan’s Briefing, by berelinde, another one of the Romantic Encounters.

After saying our goodbyes, I find Minsc talking to his rodent.

Verr’Sza: Side? I’m on the winning side, Rashemi. Yes, I can smell some of that soil on you, Minsc. That and the rodent you keep.

Minsc: That is not a rodent! He has a name! It’s Boo.

You should know that we will observe you! We would be happy to know you are but another furry hero, but… we may have some doubts about that!

Verr’Sza: Hah, those doubts are more than reasonable, Minsc.

Minsc: That is but another reason for us to observe you, rakshasa! For the good of us all!

Verr’Sza: Ah, look as much as you want. I can consider that somehow… complimenting, hah!

The rakshasa grins. I guess his true nature must have come out while I was away and Minsc doesn’t approve.

We leave the garrison and talk with some of the locals. It seems many have lost loved ones in the mines.

We follow a boulevard to the east side of the town. A panicked young boy runs through the trees towards us.

What looks like a very small dragon follows him out from behind the trees. It only has two legs, though. It must be a baby wyvern.

Verr’Sza switches back to his natural form while we ready our attacks.

Valeria and I launch some Magic Missiles at the beast.

Helga hurls a stone. The wyvern is bleeding heavily now. It should go down easy enough.

Minsc closes in, but the wyvern bites him. Hard.

In response he goes berserk.

The desperate wyvern nearly bites cat in twain. I yell at him to retreat. A confused Minsc decides to chase after him.

Valerie hits it with another Magic Missile. It’s getting close to death, but this thing is holding its own.

The wyverns stinger strikes Rasaad and he is killed instantly.

Dammit. Why can’t he just wear armour? Verr’Sza moves in close to draw its attention.

Valerie finishes it off with one last Magic Missile.

Minsc, still in his Berserk state, is chasing down Cat. Thankfully, he calms down pretty quickly.

Verr’Sza carves off the wyvern’s head with his short sword. He says it will fetch a good price to the right buyer.

We gather up Rasaad’s corpse. Time to visit the temple again. Nalin charges us 200 gold to raise him. He decides to wait in Nashkel while he recovers.

We return to the boulevard where we found the boy. He is nowhere to be seen, but there is a manor house at the end of the path.

Perhaps the boy went inside? The door is locked, but our new berserker helps us deal with that problem.

Inside we try to ask about the boy, but we only succeed in upsetting a noblewoman.

Her husband doesn’t seem too eager on our presence either.

This mansion has a well-stocked library. I can’t pass up the opportunity! I find a book I haven’t read yet.

They literally summoned the power of gods?

I also find a History of Tethyr.

I wonder who rules now, if anyone. In a cupboard I find a few scrolls.

I give the Magic Missile scroll to Valerie, and put the Chill Touch in my scroll pouch. The Shield scroll looks interesting.

I try to copy it to my spellbook, but I fail. On the next shelf I find the thirteenth volume of Shadowdale’s history.

Ironically the next book I find is the twelfth volume.

There is also a book of poetry with an unusual spine…

I check the spine and I find another of Camryn’s letters.

I wonder if any of these letters ever found Tamah…

I’m excited to see if there are any more books here, so we go upstairs. I find yet another book talking about the Last March of the Giants.

Are the Titans catlike in any way? It seems strange they could be wiped out so easily. On the next shelf I find more history.

While I browse the books, Helga and Minsc talk.

Minsc: Minsc does not know what you mean, but I also say you have Boo and I’s respect in battle.

Helga: Heh. Though how the hell that little thing survived so many fights?

Minsc: Do not underestimate Boo. He may be squirrelly sometimes but he knows where to scurry.

Helga: A true dwarf, in a hamster’s body. Too bad he can’t lift an axe and grow a thick mane.

I find many volumes of the History of the North, including a couple I haven’t read yet.

I enter the bedroom and upset yet another noblewoman.

Aegon: We’re adventurers, just arrived in town recently. So what’s your name?

Samantha: Adventurers! Wow, have you come to clear out the mines at Nashkel? I hear there’s all sorts of monsters there.

Aegon: Monsters at the mines, eh? Well, perhaps we’ll have to check that out. Thanks.

Samantha: Maybe I’ll see you later. Bye.

There are no more books to read, so we leave. Cat seems seriously hurt and that’s worrying me.

Aegon: Come here. I want to pick you up and put you in my pack, where it’s a bit safer.

Cat eyes my pack for a moment, and then reluctantly crawls inside.

Cat: Very well. It is better that you carry me. Do not bump me around so much this time, however.

We still haven’t found the boy. At least we know he wasn’t killed by a wyvern. He should be safe now.

I hope…

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