Poetry, History, and Banditry

Aegon and his troupe are wandering Peldvale, seeking out the bandits’ base of operations. Among the lakes of the forest they have encountered a small group of poets, and are now taking some time to enjoy their poetry.

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Lake Poet Willy pours us some tea as the second poet stands up, his harp in hand.

Lake Poet Rob: Enter this cavern Stranger! the ascent
Is long and steep and toilsome; here awhile
Thou mayest repose thee, from the noontide heat
O’ercanopied by this arch’d rock that strikes
A grateful coolness: clasping its rough arms
Round the rude portal, the old ivy hangs
Its dark green branches down, and the wild Bees,
O’er its grey blossoms murmuring ceaseless, make
Most pleasant melody. No common spot
Receives thee, for the Power who prompts the song,
Loves this secluded haunt. The tide below
Scarce sends the sound of waters to thine ear;
And this high-hanging forest to the wind
Varies its many hues. Gaze Stranger here!
And let thy soften’d heart intensely feel
How good, how lovely, Nature! When from hence
Departing to the City’s crowded streets,
Thy sickening eye at every step revolts
From scenes of vice and wretchedness; reflect
That Man creates the evil he endures.

Very, very inspired piece.

Man creates the evil. There is some truth to it. Nature isn’t inherently good or evil. It just is. True evil requires intelligence.

Lake Poet Rob takes a seat among us again. It’s Lake Poet Sam’s turn to recite.

Lake Poet Sam: And this place our forefathers made for man!
This is the process of our love and wisdom,
To each poor brother who offends against us –
Most innocent, perhaps -and what if guilty?
Is this the only cure? Merciful God!
Each pore and natural outlet shrivelled up
By Ignorance and parching Poverty,
His energies roll back upon his heart,
And stagnate and corrupt; till changed to poison,
They break out on him, like a loathsome plague-spot;
Then we call in our pampered mountebanks –
And this is their best cure! uncomforted
And friendless solitude, groaning and tears,
And savage faces, at the clanking hour,
Seen through the steam and vapours of his dungeon,
By the lamp’s dismal twilgiht! So he lies
Circled with evil, till his very soul
Unmoulds its essence, hopelessly deformed
By sights of ever more deformity!
With other ministrations thou, O Nature!
Healest thy wandering and distempered child:
Thou pourest on him thy soft influences,
Thy sunny hues, fair forms, and breathing sweets,
Thy melodies of woods, and winds, and waters,
Till he relent, and can no more endure

Sam’s poem is interrupted by a loud growling and snapping of twigs. We turn to see a black bear charging toward us.

Why is it so angry? Did the recital disturb its rest? Xan and Rose are quick to launch arrows at the beast, and we realise that it’s after my familiar.

It must be hungry and thought it could snatch an easy meal. Unfortunately for the bear, Cat can put up a decent fight.

Drake hits the bear with his Rift Hammer, and the enraged animal is no more.

We return to the stunned poets. I think they may be more shocked we managed to kill the bear. We sit with them a while longer, and once they have calmed down I ask Lake Poet Sam to finish his recital.

Lake Poet Willy: Why, you are quite a lover of poetry, my good man. Your company would surely benefit from carrying a decent harp around!

Lake Poet Willy offers his harp, and insists we take it. It feels magical, but I cannot tell how it is enchanted. Rose says she would love to practise the instrument, so takes it on our behalf.

It’s time for us to get back to our hunt. We thank the poets for their entertainment, and wish them well on their travels. We warn them of the bandits in the area, but they are already aware. They have little of value so they believe they will be safe.

The wind has picked up and is howling as it passes through the trees. We aren’t too far away from the Lake Poet’s camp when we are ambushed yet again.

These bandits are heavily armed, with bows at the ready. Xan tries to put them to Sleep as the rest of us cover Drake’s charge.

An arrow strikes Rose, causing the flesh where it struck to turn blue for a moment.

I heal Rose with the power granted by my dreams, but Viconia is also struck by one of the freezing arrows. The bandits are unaffected by Xan’s spell.

Drake is now close enough to smash the bandits, so they draw their swords. Cat moves in to help him in his fight.

While Cat and Drake keep the bandits busy, I take the opportunity to heal Viconia.

Drake’s Rift Hammer smashes into one of the bandits. He coughs up blood before collapsing to the ground.

Cat and Drake chase down the next bandit, but the third pulls away and draws his bow again.

While Drake distracts the bandit, Cat leaps onto his back and slashes his throat.

One more to go. Drake and Cat rush him, but Drake falls right onto his sword. He stumbles back a little. Thankfully he has a Potion of Extra Healing in his potion belt.

After healing up, we press on the last bandit. Rose manages to pierce his armour with a crossbow bolt.

Drake pulls out his knife to scalp the bandits as we search the bodies. They wear splint mail and carry bows and swords. Mundane equipment really. Some of their arrows are enchanted.

They also have blue arrows that I can’t identify, but we guess they must freeze anything they hit based on what happened when they hit Rose and Viconia. Xan is the only one of us with a bow, so he stores them in his quiver.

We move on, and Xan is interested to learn how much I learned about Elven culture cooped up in the Keep all my life.

Aegon: I would like to know more.

Xan: Then we shall certainly speak of it at a later time. For now… do you know how the elves came to Faerun at all?

Aegon: Go ahead and tell me.

Xan: Long ago in the Time of Dragons… but I shall start from the beginning.

In the beginning were the Elder Gods, who created Faerun and created in their images. Not humans, not yet – titans. Predictably, the creatons were as arrogant as the creators, and as such, eventually they tried to challenge their gods. The Elder Gods cursed and destroyed the entire race.

Presumably in remorse, they then departed from the universe, leaving behind the least of their number – Ao, who now is known as Ao the Overfather.

This is indeed a long story, shall I continue?

Aegon: Yes, please.

Xan: Then, the time of giants came. Aggressive and prone to strife as they were, they doomed themselves to a slow fall into chaos, and savagery, as have their descendants: ogres, ettins and others.

But they were neither the first nor the only ones, for the climate changed, and the Creator Races sprang to life – the ancestors of yuan-ti, lizard men, and other such creatures. Unsurprisingly, their hatred towards each other was just as great as their predecessors’, and most of them were destroyed in constant wars of extermination, which consumed their great empires. They were also the firsat to tap the Weave… only to use the energies for their own purposes. Fools.

At last, the Creator Races were destroyed in a great cataclysm. It is said – somewhat poetically, perhaps, that the very being of Faerun cried out, and from that grief were born those known as the Younger Gods. Corellon Larethian was among them.

Then, of course, the new gods created their own races in their images – the Stout Folk and the Fair Folk. For a time, they even worked together, creating the gnomish race – not wholly either. Evil gods, however, did not sit idle, and corrupted many of their children – goblin kin and deep dwarves, duergar…

He sighs.

Xan: But these are fanciful legends. What, as many sources affirm, happened was a migration rather than an act of creation – elves came from the Plane of Faerie. It was in the Time of Dragons – ancient creatures, who also took their time on Faerun.

Some say that dragons are related to the Creator Races. Some disagree. In any case, how this poor world survived, I have no idea.

So, the Plane of Faerie. Very little is known of it, I think…what I have heard describes it as a rather cruel place, cruel, but beautiful. Some of its inhabitants would use you or me as playthings and prey, yet it is said that elves descend from it…

It is an Outer Plane, but every location on the Prime, here, has a matching Faerie one. Travellers do not travel through the Astral Plane… but I do not want to delve into cosmology.

Treat either of these theories as unproven guesses, not fact. The origins of elves on Faerun remain a mystery. I often wonder, myself, but only gods know the truth, and sometimes I doubt even that.

Aegon: Gods created mortals. But who created gods?

Xan: What came first: the chicken or the egg? The eternal question.

I had read a lot of this in the library books as a boy already. But it was nice to hear the tales told by one of my kin. Nothing can ever replace Gorion as a father, and he raised me well. But Candlekeep is still far from any elven realms.

I realise we have been walking for some time. Dogs run around a milestone telling us we are in the Wood of Sharp Teeth.

We find more empty barrels by the lake.

We walk past the dogs again, and one of them decides to attack me.

The dog is struck a couple of times and quickly changes its mind, fleeing back into the wilderness.

Deep into the wilderness now, we are ambushed again. This time the bandits give us an opportunity to surrender.

Drake: We’ll not fight you. In fact, we want to join your group.

Raiken: Now there’s a laugh! Why, pray tell, should we take you rattle-pates?

Drake: You’re too good at your job! We can see which way the wind is blowing, and whatever you’re doing, we want in. It’s the only real profit on the Sword Coast today.

Raiken: Ha ha! I like you. You make me laugh! We’ll take you back to the boss and see if he likes you, too. Then maybe you’re in. If not, you die. Follow me and try to keep up.

The rest of the bandits surround us as he leads us through the woods. We walk for hours. Night falls, and at some point we start to see lights in the distance. As we get close we see the tents. Closer still we see a mix of humans, hobgoblins, and gnolls.

This is it. We have found the bandit’s camp.

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We are stopped by bandits as soon as we approach the camp. They seem annoyed at our leader.

Raiken: It’s a risk, I know, but we must think about keeping our numbers up! We’ll not have the time to bring more from Irieabor. Better we recruit here. They’ve already proved themselves to me.

Bandit: Fine, just keep ’em out o’ trouble till Tazok gets here, and he can make sure they’re on the up an’ up. An ogre up yer face will show yer true colors right quick!

Just as he says this an armoured ogre steps out of the night.

Raiken: We need to keep our numbers up! Besides, we checked them out pretty good. I think they’ll do fine.

Tazok: YOU DON’T THINK! I THINK! I question them myself and if they are not as you say, you die too!

I say now I don’t like you! Give me a reason to not have you broth-boiled and use your skin to swaddle my small-kin! Who are you that I should let you join?!

Viconia: I am drow. Does that not say enough of my prowess?

Tazok: Ha! Only one of you drow, the rest look like weak-things!

Aegon: We’re strong, well armed, and we know opportunity when we see it! What better job be there for us? Dungeon crawling? That’s fools’ work!

Tazok: Hmmm. You have some sense, but I have many a strong back here already. What for I need you?!

Aegon: Would you rather have too few and need more, or have too many and not need them at all?

Tazok: Eh? You sure are big on words. You better be big on the battlefield too, ‘cuz if you’re not, you die. You have run of the camp. If I hear ONE bad thing from Ardenor and Taurgosz, I personally feed your livers to the crows!

I take a patrol and leave for mine tonight! Keep pressure on trade routes and there be extra gold for all when we are done! I leave soon.

So that’s Tazok. He’s going to the mine. Back to Nashkel? So their sabotage isn’t over yet. I still don’t see the connection between the mines and these bandits.

He’s given us full run of the camp. This isn’t what I expected. I though we would need to spill more blood to get here. We can use this opportunity to learn whatever we can about these bandits and report back to Officer Vai. Or perhaps we can burn this operation down from the inside…

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