I don't often read my own fate. It's a silly thing to do, really, since the outcome is so easily influenced by one's own biases. I suppose it was meant to be a bit of a lark, but I should know better than to treat my abilities so carelessly. But what I saw had me gathering a few things and heading into town. Just in time for the rainstorm my old bones told me was coming.
I admit to a bit of surprise that there was no real surprise at my entrance to the tavern. IT isn't every day that I go into town, and most of the people old enough to run business are old enough to remember why. I always exact a price for my services, often more than what the superstitious are willing to pay. The rumor is that I take a bit of the time a body has left on this earth in payment. And…the effort of coming to see me kept all but the most desperate from my door.
I went in, because it's the only place to get a warm meal, and after my long walk into town, I needed one. My joints were creaking, and while my eyes were unappreciative of the brightness of the hearth flame, my knees happily took in the warmth. A young lady I've had dealings with before approached and took a seat at the same table. A trifle presumptuous of her to sit without asking my leave, but although frowned upon, it's not exactly against any rules to simply sit down wherever one would like at this tavern. I've been told that there are some taverns that have many small tables, where only one or two people could fit and that people don't commonly share. Which sounds lovely.
Brienne, a "lady of the Guard," sat down near me, close enough to be able to whisper conspiratorially, though I very much doubted she was the type. She'd come seeking my assistance with some thing some months ago, which is a bit surprising for those religious folk. As she had before, she attempted to proselytize me into joining her dragon cult. I rebuffed her efforts, gently but acerbically. It's best to make it known to these cultists that one is not interested in their malarkey. The other patrons were an odd mix. It was clear that the fates had intervened to bring me here this evening. The was a dragonborn, of all things as well as an elf and a mixed breed elf. Hard to tell if they're related or lovers, but I'm leaning toward lovers. The buffoon hired by the owners was a little sillier than usual. Wore a crown fashioned from a pumpkin, of all things, and refers to himself in the third person. He didn't even play a proper instrument, though the odd contraption he wielded, did make a rather pleasant noise. I hear music quite often, and his was, if not good, then at least not awful.
As I was enjoying my repast, once it had been corrected by a somewhat ungrateful daughter of the owners, the town smith burst through the door, wild eyed. He began babbling about his daughter having been taken by goblins and dragged out into the Boarwood. I was incensed. That is MY WOOD. As any decent steward of nature would, I naturally allow predators to roam freely, but GOBLINS are another matter entirely. Filthy little things. I had just made up my mind that I would help, when he started carrying on about how he doesn't have much money, but he's got a few dozen silver coins that he doesn't care about if it will get his daughter back.
One of the patrons, a large man, clearly a soldier, who I am sure that I heard say he was a sellsword, jumped right up and volunteered to go after them. From there it was only a matter of time before everyone else with a blade and a conscience rose up. Jago, the girl's father approached me, and begged that I go with them. Since I was going anyway, I reminded him of the cost of involving me was, but stood and led the way out the door. After all, I was going anyway, because I cannot abide a goblin in my wood.
The path was difficult, thanks to the storm and the darkness, but I had no difficulty finding my way. The elven woman with us had plenty, but everyone else managed. After an hour or so, we stopped for a rest and to let her catch up. After a few more hours walk, this time at a better pace, since the storm did not sully the ground so deep in the wood, we found signs of a goblin encampment. A few of us managed to see the two vermin posted on watch. As two of the men began to sneak up on them, and I prepared a nearly invisible bolt of shadowstuff to take one of them down quickly, the BLOODY "PUMPKIN KING" starts humming a song and tipped them off that we were there! The two sneaking up were forced to charge in, and I loosed my bolt earlier than expected, trying to keep them from sounding an alarm. In this we were at least successful, as no alarm was made.
Once quiet again, Brienne, the "holy" woman asked us to watch her back for a moment. She sat on the ground and the pet owl riding on her shoulder opened his eyes and flew into the lair. After a few moments, a look of horror and disgust painted itself on her face. She told us her owl was not coming back, but she knew the layout of the lair and what was inside. What a waste of a perfectly good predator bird.
Thus forewarned, we went into the lair. Having no intention of being in a fight, I let the others lead. Of course, the Demon Murphy was looking out for the little vermin and two of them that had been away from the camp wandered back, found their brethren dead at the door and us still in the entry. Brienne and I were set upon, but we cut them down swiftly, albeit with the aid of gourd boy.
We continued, chasing the blighters into their own lair and eventually getting to the monster that had led them to my wood. I carefully stepped past the pit trap that was there, but I slipped and fell in. The elven woman and the mixed breed repaid my kindness from earlier and aided my ascent from the hole.
Once the large goblin was dealt with permanently, we had a look around. The missing girl, Jenna, was lying motionless on a stone altar in the middle of the room. I went to investigate and found the crumbled bits of a mushroom I recognized. I was just reaching into my bag for something to counter the stuff, or at least reduce the damage, when my name was shouted from the far end of the chamber. Fearing the worst, I moved as swiftly as possible to the children I was escorting, only to find that instead of an emergency, I was presented with a riddle. The riddle was written on a stone statue of a knight standing in some valiant pose or another. On the base was written: If you would keep it, you must first give it to me.”
The answer, “My word,” seemed obvious to me, but I’d been called because they didn’t know the answer. I let them discuss it for a moment, before adding my own two copper, and Jack figured it out. Perhaps the contents of his head are not completely addled. The door slid open a few inches and he wrestled it the rest of the way open, more or less ignoring the voice that rang out, “Speak your oath.” Some of the others found the words of the Dawn Keeper’s Oath written elsewhere in the room and tried speaking it, but only Brienne was able to get the door to open all the way. Unfortunately for Jack, he was impatient, squeezed himself through and was summarily cut down when the sarcophagi inside opened, revealing half a dozen skeletons, animated to destroy trespassers.
One of the other children, the sellsword, decided that he needed to go in and bring the lad’s body out. I opposed this vehemently, since the skeletons were quite efficient in their killing and felt that such an effort would only lead him to Jack’s fate. That was when Brienne spoke her oath and the voice rang out again, offering to allow her to enter. I heard someone ask her a question from the other side of the door, but was unable to make out what was said. When she came out, she bore a new sword, a shining jeweled amulet and Jack’s body.
Miraculously, the boy was still breathing, so we bound his wounds and, feeling safe here, rested for the remainder of the night. I returned to my work with Jenna, and was able to mix a small dosage of herbs that countered the poison she’d been given. Her breathing became more regular and less labored and she drifted into a deep, peaceful slumber.
With any luck, she won’t remember this night at all.