Day 183, still the morning. Sephira and Kedri stand around staring as if their brains crashed and need to restart and update. Everyone else takes a moment to mentally review everything that Bergeron told them. Sylaernae appears to be on autopilot.
Herzog pokes at the dirt with his toe.
Blank is still looking around to see if there is anything of value to acquire. If Blank can find someone who is in to shiny gravel, he could be fabulously wealthy.
Sephira, noting that Kedri has started chasing leaves, says, “Welp, guess we may as well head out for our trip around the coast.”
Blank nods his agreement.
Herzog- “Glad to get going again. Does anyone need to stop by the inn to get anything?”
Kara shakes her head.
Sephira - “I grabbed all the stuff. Oh, that reminds me, i should hand out the cups. If you weren’t there when I bought them, they will fill up with water, wine, or beer 4 times a day. The personal oasis I bought also has a water supply, to supplement what we’re all carrying. Who would like to take one? I have three.”
Herzog- “I will certainly not pass up an infinite supply of beer.” He takes one.
Sephira - “I’m just going to pretend you said water,” as she hands it over.
Blank, “I am with Herzog, the water,” using air quotes, “would be great.”Sephira hands him the second one.
Kara: “A useful item. I gratefully accept.” Sephira gives her the last one.
Sephira says to Sylaernae - “It’ll be you and me filling up from the oasis’s water supply, then. I assume you already have a water flask?”
Sylaernae- “Yeah, I have one. I’ll be sure to borrow from everyone else, too.”
Sephira - “Okay, let’s get out of town and I’ll summon our phantom steeds. No need to freak out the locals.”
And so you do! You actually have to walk half a mile away from town, cause Hiasport is actually built on some high ground surrounded by swamps, so they built a causeway through the swamp. Makes for good natural defenses. Anyway, you get out that far, and a well-used dirt track hugs the edge of the swamp and makes it’s way closer to the actual coast before disappearing. There’s plenty of space to cast spells.
Sephira - “This one will take almost an hour, as each one can only take one person each, other than myself, and they take ten minutes each. I’ll get started. I can’t wait until these things can run on water. Or fly. Herzog, are you fine with me riding with you as usual?”
Herzog- “That’s fine with me.”
She starts casting.
One by one the phantom steeds start appearing, each looking just a touch more real and a touch more sinister than Sephira would have intended. They don’t attack you or anything, though. You get a few uncomfortable looks and poorly hidden superstitious warding gestures from passers-by, but they don’t accost you either.
And you’re off! The weather is nice, you can hear the ocean, all in all it’s a very pleasant way to spend a day travelling. You should do this more often. Every 25 miles or so you pass through a small town (you know, the distance a normal person would walk in a day), and so as the sun gets pretty obnoxiously in your eyes in the afternoon, you’ve covered just under 100 miles, and find yourself approaching the fourth town for the day, a sign for which says Fishbone Cove. True to form, there is the skeleton of a giant fish looking thing (or possibly a kraken) gracing the beach near the entrance. There isn’t a wall, just earthen ramparts with either logs or whale ribs sticking out the top.
Sephira - “This seems like a good place to stop, the steeds are going to disappear soon.”
The steeds disappear at a narratively convenient time, and you find yourselves standing on the main road through town. The place looks like it has around 200 inhabitants, all either fishermen or working in an industry that supports fishermen. There is, inevitably, the local bar/flophouse for the occasional traveler (like yourselves.)
A few of the locals are filing into a building creatively named “the Tavern”, looking at you like inhabitants of small villages always look at outsiders: a mix of suspicion and jealousy.
Sephira - “Well, let’s go see about a room.”
Empty Wind follows close behind Sephira. Not looming, but only because she’s too short.
Herzog follows as well, as does Sylaernae (still on autopilot).
Inside the tavern: to your front, the bar, because duh. In between you and the bar: tables of locals. You don’t look like kraken, so they study you for a moment and then ignore you. To your right: some more tables, and a wall. To your left: the tables eventually stop toward the large roaring fireplace (actually pretty nice, even this time of year).
Blank moves up to the bar and settles down at a seat. Waving for a drink and then just sits and listens to what is being said around him.
Sephira heads to the bar to ask Cedric about rooms.
While Blank is learning more than he ever wanted to know about the current state of the fishing industry in Fishbone Cove, Cedric (whom the rest of the family never speaks to after what he said to his aunt) tells Sephira that they don’t have rooms, but she and her compatriots are more than welcome to sleep on the floor near the fire, for the price of a meal plus a silver piece.
He also cautions Sephira that strange creatures are known to be about after sunset, on account of the Land of Shadow (which you could see on the northern horizon the entire trip today, FYI). They way he says it makes her think he’s lived around sailors too long.
Sephira - “I’ll take the meal for 5” - loud meow - “ and any scraps you might have for the cat. I’ll let you know about the place to sleep after I talk to my companions.”
Blank moves away from the bar and joins the rest of the group at this point, having learned nothing of value.
Herzog- “No rooms, I take it?”
Sephira - “No, only the floor next to the fire. The barkeep says shadow related things wander around outside at night. The personal oasis stays at a constant temperature, so that part’s not really a concern.”
Blank, “Maybe we find a roof to hide on an duse the oasis there. Then we can get a look at these shadow things. Especially since we need to pull a watch either way.”
Kara, with an expression on her face that says she heard far too many koans at monk school, “Seeing shadows in the dark is far harder than seeing them in the light.”
Blank shrugs, “true, but if they don’t come into the building won't see them at all.”
Herzog- “Or maybe it’s just standard sailor superstition that anything from the Land of shadow ranges this far. Did he say if people are getting harassed or eaten by these things?”
Sephira - “Nothing specific. I’m with you on the standard superstition.”
Blank, “I am just curious to see what they are talking about if we can.”
Sephira - “Let pick a spot that has at least one wall to put up the oasis against. It only protects against the elements, not ranges missiles.”
Blank nods, “give me a little time. I will go look and see if there is anything like that. I should be back before everyone is done eating.”
Sephira - “Thank you.”
Blank heads out to search for a good spot and anything valuable left unattended. If Blank considers fishing nets and boats valuable, there is a fortune laying around. There are a couple of places he could climb up to and hide pretty easily, and the backside of a barn that could be used to place the tent.
Blank lets out a sigh about the lack of anything valuable, and returns to the tavern and reports what he found.
Sephira - “Great, we can head out there once we’re finished with our meals. Unless anyone wants to stay longer.”
Blank, “not I.”
Kedri - “<I wanna go exploring!>”
Herzog- “Nah, let’s go.”
Sylaernae just goes with the flow!
So the group heads out the conveniently located barn backside. Sephira pulls the carpet from her haversack flips it open, and says the command word. A tent with a cheerful little fire out front with a jar of water and a bowl of dates near the entrance appears.
You get a few strange looks from the few locals left outside, who naturally hurry to both distance themselves from you, get indoors, and make superstitious warding signs. Again with the not accosting you otherwise, though.
Evening turns into night, the town goes silent.
Kara takes the first watch. Nothing happens! Nor does anything happen on anyone else’s watches, at least as far as shadow-creatures skulking about is concerned. So you wake up on...
...either disappointed or bemused, depending on if you’re a ghost hunter type or not.
Blank shrugs of the lack of anything, “so just stories. More travel today?”
Herzog- “Sounds good to me.”
Sephira - “To the other side of town! These dates are yummy…” Kedri is licking one.
As it happens, the road stops at this little town, and so you have to go out the gate again and walk next to the rampart until you’re on the appropriate side, and then it’s overland travel all day, meaning, tragically, that your phantom steeds are not as fast as yesterday. Maybe in a couple levels, Sephira. Day 184 is mostly a rinse-repeat of the previous: you pass through a couple of smaller fishing villages with nothing obvious to recommend them. By about noon you can see a mountain range on the horizon, that appears to stop only where it meets the water. A resident of second fishing village tells you that the border with the goblin kingdom is nearby, and that this is the last human-controlled settlement. The Land of Shadow is still visible to the northeast, over your right shoulders, at this point.
Sephira - “well, it’s only noon, we may as well keep going. Be wary, but if the goblin kingdom is a friendly as the rumors say, we don’t want to be overtly hostile.”
And on you go! The sun has disappeared behind the mountains by the time you catch sight of a border checkpoint. From about ¾ of a mile away, you can see a closed gate, a wall that links into some convenient terrain, and a couple of sentries on top. They either don’t see you or aren’t going to immediately attack.
Blank, “should we approach tonight or try and go to the gate first thing in the morning?”
You can see a few curls of smoke from behind the wall, giving the impression of a village on the far side.
Sephira - “Well, let’s test this treaty, not like we can’t sneak around during the night if needed.”
Kara: “If this is a goblin settlement, more daylight to get away may be prudent.”
Sephira - “Hmm. True. Darkvision and all. And I can summon us regular Mounts to get away as well. Alright, camp for tonight!” She orients the tent so the the tent itself is between the fire and the wall.
There is no reaction you can determine once the fire pops up.
Blank, “do we want to wait out and try to talk to them in the morning or want me to sneak up and see what I can find out tonight?”
Sephira - “Wait, I suppose. Don’t want to antagonize them unnecessarily.”
Blank nods, “sounds good.”
Nothing happens overnight. The kraken misses you.
Dawn breaks and you are all happily uneaten. Once you break camp...what do you do?
Sephira leads the group to the hopefully open gate!
The gate is, in fact, not open. Once you’re within shouting distance, someone shouts, in goblin (presumably), “<Who goes there!>”
Herzog- “Anyone speak goblin?”
Blank shakes his head, “Not I.”
Sephira - “Nope.” She shouts to the guards in Common - “Hello, we are a band of travelers, heading across the desert. May we enter?”
A different voice, with a much more petulant tone- “You know, it’s polite to learn the language of the countries you travel to! Come closer so we don’t have to shout!”
Sephira refrains from rolling her eyes, and ignores Kedri’s grumbled epithets. She approaches the gate.
Oh Petulant One- “That’s close enough!” You’re about 50 feet from the gate. “Okay, so travelers? Where are you going?” It sounds like the speaker is juuuust tall enough to get his or her (you can’t tell based just on the voice) head between crenellations.
You can easily tell from this distance that the guard are just about all hobgoblins, with well maintained equipment, and thoroughly disciplined. They have breastplates, a mixture of melee weapons, and crossbows. Said crossbows are loaded, but not pointed straight at you. More pointed in a way that suggests that they could be pointed at you with minimal effort.
Sephira - “We are headed to Gamaro.”
Petulant One- “And how many are you?”
Herzog, under his breath- “Can you count?”
Sephira - “Five --” Kedri of course chooses this moment to go find a crenelation to sunbathe on. “Er, six, with the cat.”
The hobgoblins don’t look like they think a winged cat is strange, but the nearest one or two take a step back.
Petulant One- “Mmmhmm, and will you be needing any form of public assistance while you’re in our glorious kingdom?”
Sephira - “No, I don’t believe so. We have money to pay for supplies and lodging.”
Kara frowns and mutters “”Public assistance’? What is that?”
Petulant One- “Okay, please have you entry fee ready when you pass through the arch. Open the gate!”
Indeed, after some very brief clunking and groaning noises, the gates swing open. A handful of hobgoblin warriors, looking not friendly, but also not attacking you, stand there.
Sephira has he money pouch ready. “Er, how much is the entry fee?” she asks everyone in general when they get close.
Kedri, disappointed that her lolling about has not resulted in pets, gets up, shakes herself off, and drifts down to sit on Sephira’s bag and shoulder. Sephira lets out a bit of a “woof” as she lands.
The Petulant One sounds like he or she is reading from a script: “...and we take no responsibility for articles left unattended, nor for life, limb, or property risks when passing through bugbear controlled territory…”
One of the guards- “Ehh, fee is gold coin for each and each horse, please have exact change.”
Sephira pulls out 6 gold, stashes her pouch, and waits for the end of the almost certainly interminable speech. She hands the money to the most appropriate looking person.
Actually the guard ushers you through the wall (which has the normal complement of murder holes, boiling cauldrons of oil, etc), and through the other side, where you find….an almost entirely normal looking town, except that about 80% of the people are hobgoblins, and the other 20% are goblins. No bugbears in sight, though. They also don’t look friendly one bit, but are also not attacking you on sight.
Sephira looks around. “Well, alright then. Shall we continue?” She shoves Kedri off of her with great difficulty. “Ride on the shoulder of someone more than twice your size please!”
Kara wiggles her fingers above her shoulder, while not looking Kedri’s direction at all.
Kedri suddenly turns to lick her side thoroughly, then just as suddenly, jumps up on Kara’s shoulder. “<I always knew you were the NICE two-legger.>”
Kara delicately scritches under Kedri’s chin.
Sephira just rolls her eyes and starts heading along the coast through the town, presumably on a main road.
The main road does pass through town, but makes a hard right and heads into the mountains. It is surprisingly well maintained, though. Within about 15 minutes you’re out of sight of the village (which you determined basically only exists to support the garrison there).
Sephira looks for a spot slightly off the road to summon the horses, hopefully out of sight of passers-by.
She’s able to do so with no violent bugbear attacks, so you figure you’re successful. After that you mount up and continue west. After two hours or so you see a sign written in goblin.
Herzog- “Maybe I’ll learn how to speak goblin next time I have the chance.”
Blank, “not that this is a bad place. Seems nice and friendly, but you plan on coming back?”
Herzog- “You never know. We might have to come right back through here once we recover this second piece of the object Sephira is after.”
Over the course of the day you hear the occasional shout high up in the rocks (sounds like bugbears!), but you’re moving over four times as fast as they can, and so if you were going to get ambushed, you blew through the attack before it was ready. Good times.
By early evening, you find yourselves approaching the western gate-town, which looks like a mirror image of the eastern one. The slope is fairly steep, and so you find yourselves looking out over scrub desert that quickly turns into sandy desert. It looks neat with the sun setting behind it.
Herzog- “Should we just pass through town or risk staying at an inn?”
Sephira - “I’m curious, I must admit. Let’s stay at an inn. We can always flee the direction we’re going if needed.”
And so you find an inn, which doesn’t have a name that you can read, and dismiss the horses. You can definitely feel the climate difference; it’s still hot, even this time of day. The locals are a again a mix of hobgoblins (wearing lighter armor, but still armed and armored), a few regular goblins, and another type of goblin that doesn’t appear to have body hair, and whose heads make them appear almost skeletal. One or two goblins have blue fur. All of them are dressed in light, loose capes, hoods, etc.
Sephira - “Hmm, perhaps we should get a change of clothes. And start moving at night.”
Blank, “Do you have anything that will help us see better at night? Low light vision is great, but most of them have darkvision.”
Herzog- “That is not a bad idea.”
Kara: “With near-full moons, night won’t be dark for another week or so.”
Blank, “Unless we get a cloudy night.”
Sephira - “I don’t have continual light, can you cast it, Herzog? Other than that I’ve just got a lantern.”
Herzog- “I don’t have it prepared right now, but I can if we rest here until tomorrow night.”
Sephira - “Let’s see about staying here a whole day then. I can shop for at least a light cape and hood for each of us. Fortunately, the oasis should keep it relatively cool.”
In the finest traditions of desert-themed movies, you open the door to the inn, and the whole place comes to a dead stop while everyone looks at you.
Sephira breezes in, nonchalant. She heads to the bar. “Can I rent some rooms? We’re looking to stay until tomorrow evening.” hoping gobin-Cedric speaks common.
Kz’adrek- “Rent for room for you foour gold coin each.”
Sephira internally flinches at the price, but decides discretion is better. “I’ll take two, here you are.” She passes over 8 gold, plus another gold. “This one’s for you.” She smiles warmly.
Kz’adrek looks mildly insulted that you would think he would take a bribe, but a bribe he indeed takes. “Find room with none in, that yours.”
Sephira - “... Thanks!” She then heads back to the others. “Well, that could have been worse. We need to start knocking on doors to find two empty rooms.” She pauses. “Hopefully people won’t find that aggressive. I’m delegating to Blank, he looks shiftier than that the rest of us.”
Blank, “Hey...I resemble that remark.”
As it turns out, none of the rooms upstairs are occupied. You figure out later that this is because no one goes to bed until like 2 am. But in any case, you’re able to get enough sleep to rearrange spells as you see fit the next morning, which would be Day 186.