I knew she could do it. Peggy strained hard against her opponent. The sweat off her brow was matched only by the torrential downpour outside of the Red Lion Inn. After what seemed like an hour, Peggy pushed her arm across his face and won the match. My new friend pulled it off… awesome job, girl!
And then the Drumroll Initiative started playing a celebratory hymn as Dorian tried to woo me again. Wait… maybe I should back up. You see, as we were travelling to Etonia, the caravan stopped at the Red Lion Inn, leaving us only a day or so short of our destination. Along the way, I practiced my skills, and I finally was able to cast a few spells that were previously beyond me. My hair was still giving me fits, as I lacked the proper brushes. Once we arrived at the Red Lion Inn, I started looking for brushes. But then, I realized the grandeur and majesty of the forest around the villa, and I went outside to enjoy the solitude. I mean, I can be forgiven if my hair is messed up… can’t I? Get this… I summoned a wildfire spirit, and I wild shaped into a panther! Is that not cool or what?
While I was outside, I learned Eowyn had continued on to Etonia. Drat! I was wanting to share the news with her that I had finally wild shaped. Fortunately, Will and Vardai were still around, and I probably talked their ears off telling them about my new skills! We also received some newcomers.
Peggy, who I just mentioned, was a goliath. I have previously seen goliaths, but it is easy to forget how big they are. Peggy is the drummer for the trio Drumroll Initiative. She’s also skilled in weaving her music into magic. She’s very loyal too.
Dahlia is the lute player for the band. She is a half-orc bard with striking red hair. She and Peggy have a particularly strong connection and refer to each other as sisters.
The final member of the trio was Dorian. He’s a Lyre player. He also casts divine and possibly arcane spells. He’s also a tiefling. It was nice to interact with another tiefling whom wasn’t my mother. It gave me a chance to practice my Inferno. He did get a little handsy, but I didn’t allow that to interrupt the stories Vlad the Bard was telling us.
Who is Vlad you ask? Well, he’s an entertainer, an archeologist, and our soon to be employer for the evening. He told stories, woven into poetry or songs, that touched each of us. To me, Vlad sang about a staff that could be cast upon the ground, and the staff would then turn into a Treant. The next day, the Treant disappeared and became a staff again. A fey spirit would bestow this staff upon only the purest of people. Cool story. I wonder if it is true, and if I could ever be worthy of such a gift…
I had mixed up some drinks for the night: some wine (it is actually good if not watered down), some mead, some ale… but I had make my last drink moonshine. The rest of the party looked at me like I was crazy, but I really like the moonshine. I can’t really put my finger on why I like it. Maybe it’s the smoothness of how easily it goes down, or maybe it’s the burning sensation when it hits my lower throat. Maybe tieflings are just predisposed to like moonshine. I should have asked Dorian if he thought tieflings had an affinity for moonshine, but then Vlad became serious.
Vlad needed us to escort him to a dig site not far from here. Apparently, a rival party of archeologists—some whom we had seen in this inn this very evening—were trying to beat him to some ruins. He even offered us 50 gold to leave immediately (did I mentioned it was a downpour?) in this “Race to the Ruins” (Eowyn will be so upset when she learns that she missed an archeological dig). Of course, everyone wanted the adventure, but nobody wanted to leave in the middle of the night and in this rainstorm. I thought to myself, “I got this.” I—being an expert in nature—could look at the clouds and figure out when the rain would stop. Well, I couldn’t. Drat… I should have studied the Druidcraft cantrip rather than spending all of my time on learning Mending instead. Thornwill (my mentor in case you forgot) told me that all Druids should know Druidcraft. After all, it’s the spell that does things a druid should be able to do, like predict the weather. But I knew better (sarcasm in case you can’t tell in my voice), and I learned Mending instead. Maybe I will start practicing Druidcraft and see if I can master it before too long. Anyway, Will to the rescue. He looked at the weather and predicted the rains would die down in the next hour.
We set out. The only thing worse than unkempt hair is soaking wet unkempt hair. Will offered me a cloak to help cover my head, but I was worried my horns would tear up his cloak. Well, I know the Mending cantrip… so I can fix his cloak!
Finally, the rain lessened, and we start making better progress towards the ruins. Surely, we were ahead of the rival party! Then, a chipmunk appeared and acted like it was trying to get our attention. Everyone looked at me, the Druid, to speak with animals. You know, I almost prepared that spell. I had put a lot of thought into spell choices. Goodberry, a delicious, potent healing spell and a way to feed the party if we ever get into a bind? Did you know, a single goodberry can feed a large humanoid for an entire day? Healing Word, heal people from a distance… that way I can keep them between me and the bad people. Entangle, keep the bad guys tied up as much as possible and slow them down. So… I had one other spell I could prepare… choices, choices. I serious considered preparing Speak with Animals. After all, I am a druid. It’s the druidy (Is druidy even a word?) thing to be able to do. But I chose to prepare Detect Magic. I figure since neither Will nor Eowyn nor Vardai can cast arcane spells, I would fake it and cast Detect Magic and “pretend” to be an Arcane Caster. Well, two dumb choices: Not having Speak with Animals and not having the Druidcraft cantrip… Fine druid I am!
Well, Peggy came to the rescue this time. She cast Speak with Animals and managed to communicate with the chipmunk. After some brief conversation, Peggy proudly declared the chipmunk was named “Daisy”. Funny, I always thought when someone spoke with animals, it would sound like Sylvan. I guess I was wrong. It sounded like a chipmunk.
Not long after, we arrived at the ruins. Vlad reminded us we were getting paid and told us to start working. Peggy immediately started digging a hole. It was an impressive hole. Will found some pottery and stone engravings. Dahlia started telling storied of historical significance to the ruins; at first, I didn’t think that would help, but as she told the stories, the stories inspired us to look in better areas.
“The Zugheel,” she narrated, “were a group of orcs who used a lot of magic and technology. They had many big cities, but they destroyed themselves in a great war.” She went on to tell how the war was a civil war between two brothers, and that the war was a metaphor for a silver dragon.
As she was concluding her story, Zombies attacked! Wow, my first fight! Wait, it was more than just zombies…. there was also a wight, and it was heading straight towards Will! As I prepared to face the zombies, Peggy ran over to face the wight. Peggy reach into some bag, and she pulled out a … what, you got to be kidding me… she pulled out a goat! Crap, what in the nine hells was a goat going to do against zombies? I summoned my wildfire spirit and commanded it to burn two of the zombies. Vardai readied her axe and ran into combat. And Dahlia started insulting the zombies.
As I saw that Peggy and Will were holding their own against the wight, I cast an Entangle spell to slow the other zombies down. It worked… ok, it sort of worked; one zombie was entangled while the others were slowed down. So, maybe Entangle wasn’t a bad choice of a spell to prepare. After a few Produce Flame cantrips, Vardai’s axe, and some insults thrown out by Dahlia (ok… apparently words can hurt someone), there were fewer zombies than there were before. In addition, it seems the goat had been pretty effective, because very soon after confronting the wight, Peggy rode over on a helplessly undersized goat to ram another zombie (not sure if the goat was undersized or if it was more that Peggy was oversized). Dorian casts some sort of divine cantrip that tore up the zombies nicely. Within what could not have been 30 seconds, we emerged victorious without hardly a scratch. OK, maybe a few scratches, but Dorian passed out some Goodberries and fixed everyone right up.
To the members of the Drumroll Initiative, they figured that the wight to have some significance to their past. I didn’t really catch on… it must not have been that important. What is interesting though is that wights can retain their memories and feelings from their former life. Most undead lose any sentience or tie to their former selves. To wights, they seem to thrive on those feelings and memories. It can make a wight more dangerous than they otherwise would be because they are reasonably intelligent and use combat tactics that show forethought and planning… I am glad it is dead.
In the aftermath of the combat, we quickly found a door exposed by the ruckus. It led down some stairs into an underground dungeon. Cool! Now we were really on an adventure!
The dungeon was dark. But, as a tiefling, that was no problem. You see, I have darkvision. In what is even total darkness, I can see just fine. Well sort of—colors are hard to distinguish when my vision shifts into darkvision. It can make reading really hard, particularly if there is low contrast. So, black writing on a new scroll that hasn’t yellowed with age can be read in darkvision. But older writings, where the ink has faded and the papered has darkened… those can be hard to read without a real light source. Back at Auguston Citadel, I once even got into an argument with some arrogant noble who told me that darkvision was originally sight into the infra-red spectrum… something about Gygax and 1st edition Dwarves. Nonsense! Dwarves are dwarves and have darkvision just like I do. Also, what is this infra-red spectrum even mean? Seeing temperature instead of shape? Needless to say, he was often mocked during his stay at the court for his crazy ideas.
Where was I? Oh yeah, in the dungeon. Before long, we came across some doors which were closed. Vlad insisted that we checked each room. Easy. But first, Will insisted that we check for traps. We make it into the first room. No problem, but then wham! Out of nowhere, this broom and dust pan start attacking. Dorian cast an illusion of dirt that caused the dustpan to start cleaning up dirt. Just as that happened… whack! The broom hit me hard. That hurt! I survived an attack by zombies and a wight without a scratch… and then some Disney princess broom damn near kills me in one hit… not fair. Fortunately, someone figured out a command word and made that broom behave. After I get my bearings, I cast Goodberry and proceeded to eat all ten.
Have I mentioned that goodberries are really awesome? I’ve been told that each Druid produces a different type of berry with their goodberries. Thornwill’s goodberries were like a large, delicious strawberry. I didn’t get a good look at Dorian’s goodberries. Mine are smaller than Thornwill’s, closer in size to a raspberry… but the color of my goodberries match my hair. As I ate all ten, I regained by stamina and felt much better. The stinging across my face and ribs healed, and my massive headache faded. Unfortunately, the goodberries didn’t do much to brush out the knots and mats in my hair… drat! (I must get some brushes). Of course, you may be thinking, won’t eating ten goodberries all at once make you fat? After all, isn’t it ten full days of eating in just about a minute? You see, that’s why goodberries are so awesome! They adjust to your body and provide the exact amount of foodstuffs you need for the entire day… not more, not less. Wow, two useful spells today… Entangle and now Goodberry. Maybe I can be forgiven for not preparing Speak with Animals.
As we started to explore the room, I decided to ritual cast Detect Magic. Why not cast it outright you ask? Well, I had already cast two spells today and my grasp on remembering the remaining spells started to fade. I don’t fully understand it. Thornwill described this as the strength of my connection to nature. I’ve heard powerful clerics describe it as how strong one’s devotion to their deity was. Some wizards just scoff at the “connection” theory and describe it as how intelligent a person is. Whatever it is, a spellcaster can only cast so many spells without sleep. I know that I am more in tune with nature than I was even a week ago; because a week ago, two spells in a day would have wiped me out. I can now feel that I am strong enough to muster at least one more spell. So, in order to not use up all of my spells, I ritually casted the Detect Magic spell. I sat on the ground, produced flames in my hand, and focused on creating patterns with the flames for about 10 minutes until the spell was fresh in my mind and ready to cast. The ritual casting is just as effective as casting the spell outright, but it doesn’t drain me the same way the outright casting would have. As long as everyone was willing to wait while I did the ritual, I could cast the spell over and over until the goats came home.
So it was really cool! Having prepared Detect Magic rather than Speak with Animals turned out to be really useful. We found lots of magic items in the next several rooms. A magic jar with some restorative ointment, some magic arrows for Will, a scroll with a pre-cast spell imbedded into it, some magical chainmail armor (it was cursed… sorry Dorian… I didn’t know it was cursed). I even found a magic necklace that lets me breath in different environments…. Awesome! Maybe I am a good Druid!
Oh… get this! After a while, we came across a cabbit. That’s right, a half-cat, half-rabbit. Who knows what type of wizard came up with that? We were able to communicate with it and also get a few minutes to rest. The cabbit had some sort of harmless magic that helped everyone. Dahlia’s weapons made squeaking noises for the rest of the adventure!
After we had a bit to catch our breath, we wondered farther into the dungeon. First, there was a gauntlet of lightning. We all made it past the gauntlet safely, except Dorian. He had to show off, and it caused him to get zapped. And then, we walked right into… crap… skeletons! Peggy charged right in and found the rival band of adventurers. Vardai cleave some skeletons with her axe. Will was unleashing arrows in every direction. I summoned my wildfire spirit and let it teleport me a few places around the cavern as I tried to keep the skeletons occupied.
Either Dahlia or Dorian (stupid me, I can’t remember whom) started negotiating with the rival band and convinced some of them to switch sides. That was really awesome. They started fighting on our side to stop the skeletons, and it turned the tide of battle in our favor. Unfortunately, the leader of the rival party, whom Vlad had identified as Bartholomew, pushed some artifacts into a portal and disappeared.
So a victory? Sure, I’ll claim a victory. Bartholomew got away. But we defeated his minions. I had another try at combat and really helped the party. We stopped some undead monstrosities before they could hurt anyone. And my spell choices were right on after all. I can’t wait to get to Etonia and tell Eowyn!