A Stony Venture - RPLOG
Amar Widestripe is seated in a large, canvas chair, more like a private hammock for his expansive derriere, but no one is arguing semantics with the enormously fat, purple tiger. His man, Gavin, stands behind him, waving a long palm frond to keep his employer cool.
"You DID post that we were meeting them here at the tea house, didn't you?" the tiger asks his grizzly bear manservant, "And you mentioned the reward? I really expected a more enthusiastic turnout."
Cassidy adjusts her hat, crossing through the tea house door without so much as a wave! Maybe she wasn't here for the job. At least at first. Instead, she approaches the owner, handing over a steel flask. "Some of the tea to go today, if you would. I have a feeling it might be a bit of a trip to reach it." She was used to the heat by now, though. It comes with living just around the side of the mountain from the camp.
Trekking up the mountain comes a lone maned wolf, half dressed in plate armor for the time being, a grand poleaxe in his right hand while a sack of gear in the other. Stepping up the tea house, he looks around with slight disinterest. "Looking for a Wildestripe." The canine says offhand while leaning his axe against a wall carefully, stopping to adjust the gauntlets over his arms.
"WIDEstripe!" Amar calls out, "Widestripe! Yes, over here! It is about time someone came!" The fat tiger fans himself with a large, painted fan, "I expected more from the Freeswords. If I had offered this kind of bounty in Shralesta I would have a dozen mercenaries already heading into the wilds!"
"Hm?" Cassidy looks over her shoulder at Amar and Theo, ears flicking as she removes her top hat. "Oh, are you here for a job? I thought you were just taking a leisure visit. What's this about a bounty?" She asks, turning to face the two. "Some kind of bandit fleeing for the hills? Or are you here for a different kind of bounty?"
"Sorry to disappoint, Mister... Widestripe," The canine pauses for a moment, as if to clarify that he got it correct this time. "I am no Freesword, but one of my cousins heard of this venture and to make sure he does not get himself killed, I have come instead." The wolf stretches his arms back for a bit, taking a better look at him would show that his armored from the waist down and is wearing his gauntlets. "I would prefer bandits." He makes this comment towards Cassidy.
"No, no," Amar says, "Nothing like that, nothing like that, Lady Solacious." The purple feline takes on an unctious tone as he addresses the noblewoman. "I don't suppose you saw the shower of shooting stars last night?" he asks, "I believe that one of them actually managed to strike the ground not too far from here. I only need someone, or several someones to find it and retrieve it. Preferably BEFORE anyone else." He sighs and continues to fan himself, "But it seems that only this. . . " he considers Theo, "Northerner is interested."
"Ah, yes. That. I was actually about to go in search of it," Cassidy says, collecting her flask of tea and tucking it away in her jacket. Theo gets a polite nod as she resettles her tophat on her head. "I mean, I had QUITE the view of it from my balcony at Cinderglow. It was impressive! And I heard it, too. I should very much like to find it, but more of a matter of curiosity." She glances around for a moment then leans forward. "Perhaps we can talk business, though. You want people to retrieve it, I can help. I'll waive payment, but in return I'd like a portion of it for my studies."
"Northerner, eh?" It was a true remark but the canine couldn't help but feel that their may have been some contempt behind how the tiger said it. "Well I've been called worse." Slowly the wolf finds a seat and well sits in it, propping his gear next to him, listening to their conversation but more so waiting to go. "If I may add, my cousin insisted that the addition of our name be added to the discovery."
The purple fat cat puts on a large, completely insincere smile for Cassidy. Why can't anyone just let him have his damn star rock!? "I imagine that. . . something. . . could be arranged," he says through gritted teeth, "But the only way that any of this matters is if you reach it first. I am sure that the Cliffsiders and the Underhill contingent already have a sizeable lead on you. I have mapped out a likely area for the meteor to strike. The good news, is that I think I can get you there first. The bad news is. . . well, you will have to pass through the Green Valley."
Cassidy fixes Amar with a cool gaze and shrugs, "Well. I would hope something could be arranged. I mean, unless you'd rather have another competitor instead of help, and I know these mountains pretty well. But you're right, we shouldn't linger. Green Valley is a bit of a hassle, but not impossible to traverse."
The canine just softly sighs in his seat, letting the two discuss what they need to discuss, if it really was that important. If he hadn't been in Sweetwater for the Fair, there might've been a chance he would be helping the Underhill with this.
If Amar had looked unhappy before, now he looks like he has swallowed an entire wagon full of lemons. "Yes, yes," he says, waving his paper fan toward Gavin who produces a map and lays it on a small side table, "Here is my route and my calculations. If you can reach it before any of our competitors and hold it until I can arrive with a cart, I will see to it that you get what you want."
The map is fairly straightforward, showing a narrow pass at the far end of the Green Valley, leading to another small valley with a lake. The only other routes in would be to fly, or to take another pass that winds around from Firmament proper.
"I'll admit, I had been intending to fly myself there, but..." Cassidy brushes her fingers through her hair and shrugs. "This'll do." She nods at Theo and reaches out to claim the map, in case they needed to reference it later. "Best not to linger. Shall we? I do not want to have to scuffle with others, should they reach it first." And with that, she starts for the door.
The maned wolf huffs slighty as he rises from his seat, grabbing his pack and his poleaxe. "I personally don't want any piece of this rock." He begins to say to Amar as he walks to the door as well. "But when you start showing it off, make sure to include the fact that a Dacha helped you secure it." The canine spoke as if it was guaranteed that they would return with the price.
The trek down Firebough and to the edge of the Green Valley is uneventful, if swelteringly hot. It is not long before Cassidy and Theo find themselves looking down the gentle slopes of the Valley, long, green grass waving placidly in a pleasant breeze. In the distance, the old, mysterious observatory is visible, and beyond it, the pass that they are heading toward.
"Of course, though I probably won't be doing much showing," Cassidy says, rubbing her chin as she eyes the distance. "I'm intending to study it. After that, I might donate it to the Academy or something. We shall see." She draws her rapier, starting forward through the grass. "Just be on the lookout for anything."
"In truth, I was speaking to Mister Widestripe on the matter." The wolf says looking over the distance as well. "He seems like the type, you don't." He opens his pack up, revealing the rest of his armor and other assorted gear. "If you hold, this will only take me but a moment." Years of practice equipping his armor made it easy for the wolf to quickly don the rest of his armor in a short amount of time. "I suspect their may be trouble." He says as follows shortly after, his pack now on his back, helmet under his left arm and his poleaxe in his right hand.
Both beings are right to expect trouble. There is a reason that this lush, fertile valley is abandoned and empty, after all. The trick is avoiding the razor grass for which the valley has become famous. . .
"Ah, yes. He probably is the type. That, or he's being strongarmed by Flora into doing this. I wouldn't put it past her," Cassidy remarks, sweeping her free hand out in front of her, sending controlled, rolling flames to clear the brush from her path. She's careful to restrain it, not letting it burn the area down. The grass would regrow on its own, as it always does after Freeswords clear it out. "Of course. I'm hoping we won't encounter Being resistance, but we'll see."
The wolf was stepping into the grass before Cassidy did her fire, the grass scratching against his armor but the canine was unaffected. Seeing the fennec use her spell, he stepped aside out of the spell's range, then onto the trail she had made. "I would not worry about a bandit or the like, but it doesn't seem like this is something bandits will be going for."
If you are going to traverse a razor weed infested valley, it is best to do it with an experience fire mage on hand. Cassidy's controlled burn keeps the razor grass at bay and clears the way as well as any professional team could do. A bit of heavy armor certainly helps keep the agitated plant life away from vulnerable flesh of the walking beings.
There is no other obstacle as Cassidy and Theo make their way past the strange observatory and to the sloping path into the narrow mountain pass. Strangely, the grass has not even tried to grow up this way.
"It is not bandits I am worried about," Cassidy replies. "I do not want to deal with Beings in general. I dislike killing, and my magic isn't very good at half measures." She sets her porcelain mask upon her face as she starts up the slope, tail flicking. "I suppose we'll see. If we hurry, it won't be an issue."
The wolf follows Cassidy up the slope, listening to her speak. "I did not catch your name, besides your family name that Mister Widestripe had mentioned." The canine speaks up shortly while continuing to trek up the slope. "It is admirable to wish to avoid bloodshed, but it is sometimes unavoidable."
The pass is tall and narrow. Just wide enough for two beings to walk side by side. The pass is also barren of all vegetation, and a horrible stink wafts through the pass. Like a thousand years of rotting meat.
"Cassidy Solacious," The fennec replies, offering a tip of the hat. "While it's unavoidable, I find I prefer to not take lives when I can these days. When I was just a little younger perhaps, but I've... Seen some things, since then to change my outlook." She wrinkles her nose, whiskers practically bristling. "Ugh. That's a dreadful scent." But she's not about to turn back because of it.
"Theodore Dacha." It wasn't asked but the maned wolf gave his name back, atleast they knew each other's names now. The canine just nods at what she has to say, he was different on the matter but he did not voice it. "Smells like something dead." Theo says bluntly while looking around for the source.
It is possible that Amar failed to mention certain details about this pass. They probably just slipped his mind. As the pair look around, they might notice a scattering of holes and crevices high in the canyon walls as they walk, and an occasional scratching, scrabbling sound from somewhere that echoes through the narrow pass. It seems like there might just be something else in here too.
"Nice to meet you," Cassidy replies, grumbling about the scent. "Sounds like... Either shale spiders, or... Maybe the lost ones. Keep your wits about you and your head low. Let's try to get by without them catching on we're here," she says, speaking low as she presses on.
The wolf just flicks his ears at the sounds, he didn't know anything of this area or its possible inhabitants. He wasn't one for sneaking but he tried to play along, though his armor may cause some hindrance to this effort.
The clank of armor and the skid of dirt and gravel underfoot are hard to hide in the barren silence of the pass. The skittering sounds fade to silence, but the scent of rotting meat and offal grows stronger, if that is possible.
Cassidy closes her eyes for a moment, shuddering. "I don't suppose you can fly, can you?" she asks of Theo. It'd be so much easier if she could just take to the sky, but she didn't want to leave the wolf behind.
The wolf steps around in a circle, looking around. "No." He says simply then places his helmet on his head, the silence and growing stench could only mean trouble. He grips his poleaxe with both hands, waiting for whatever may be coming.
The duo does not have to wait long. There is a sudden grating of stone on stone as a pile of rubble and loose scree suddenly bursts apart and a long, sinewy form crashes through, lunging at Cassidy!
The creature has a long, snakelike body, with a dozen flailing, claw-tipped, stumpy legs. A mane of greasy fur runs down the length of its back and crocodilian tail and sharp fangs fill the naked, canine maw that is gaping after the Fennec. The stink it lets off is absolutely unbearable!
Cassidy reacts first, thinks later. She's had enough experience at this point to react entirely on instinct. A blast of wind from her hand to propel herself forward and out of the way of the creature, turning as she lands on the ground once more, whirling to face it. "... Didn't I fight something like you before?" She asks of it, though she doesn't expect a reply in the least. She's quick to lunge forward, a few quick thrusts of her rapier. "On your guard, then!"
The canine steps back as the thing lunges towards the fox. Taking a glance around, he saw nothing else at the moment. He wasn't fazed by its appearance, instead he raised his poleaxe over his head, hand over hand. And prepared to bring it down upon the creature.
The monster's teeth snap shut on empty air as Cassidy dodges aside and it's maw opens terrifyingly wide as it lets out a horrible, hissing shriek. The thing flails and screams again as Cassidy's rapier scores three pricks of dark blood in its side. Then it twitches horribly as Theo's polearm thuds down onto its neck. It spasms a few times and falls still.
On closer examination, Cassidy can see that while this thing is definitely the same species as her previous encounter, it is much smaller.
The thing smells even worse now that it is dead.
Cassidy grimaces and wipes the blood off of the sword using the beast's carcass. "Alright. That was an interesting diversion, but we mustn't delay." She turns and starts to resume the trail. "We are fortunate that it did not cause us a sizable setback."
The wolf takes no delay following after Cassidy, carefully watching around as he does. "Chances of more?" He asks, watching over every and any nook and cranny. "I have not seen something like it before."
The scrabbling among the rocks has resumed. There may be more of those things, but if there are, they are maintaining their distance. The rest of the trek through the canyon is quiet, if foul smelling. The other end of the pass opens up on a small valley. It is uninhabited, probably courtesy of the things living in the pass here, but there is no missing the still smoldering crater in the center of the small meadow.
Also evident is a group of beings trundling their way out of a pass on the far side of the valley. Looks like the race is on!
"Well, this is where it gets interesting. There should be no more obstructions," Cassidy says, nodding. Which means she could go full speed ahead, taking to the path with a series of air-magic assisted leaps, trying to ensure their party will be the first to reach it. With luck, nothing would stop her.
Theo didn't have air magic, so instead he jogged at a brisk pace onwards. "You get to the rock, I'll hold back them." He points to the other group at the far side of the valley. "I won't kill any of them, and I will only harm them if it comes to that."
Cassidy's air magic sets her leaping along at speed toward the smoking crater. If the other group had been made up of only scholars and hired muscle, it would easily be enough to get her there first. Unfortunately, the other crew seems to have a windrunner of their own! A graceful hawk in Cliffside colors suddenly speeds ahead of the group, trying to intercept the Solacious fox.
Theo is left to try to stall the remaining four beings and their cart. The heavy clan badger, small swallow, horse driver, and a well dressed owl are moving quickly, and don't look like they plan to stop for anything.
Cassidy is, unfortunately, also not intending on stopping for anything. A produced dagger from her sleeve with a flick of the wrist, held as a reserve as she picks up the pace. She wouldn't lose. Even if she got there second. But perhaps it wouldn't come to that, so she puts out more magic power, more exertion, trying to ensure her victory.
Reaching the group, the canine quickly asses his options, he decides to focus on their horse pulling the wagon. Stepping to the side, he swings the blunt end of his poleaxe low, aiming for the horse's legs. Looks like he was intending to trip the horse and render their wagon ineffective.
The Cliffside hawk is fast, but Cassidy has ceased running and is flying like an arrow across the meadow. She alights at the smoldering crater well before her Cliffside counterpart.
The badger, jogging alongside the wagon growls when he sees Theo's goal and interposes himself between the maned wolf and the cart, stopping his swinging weapon and the heavy carthorse. The driver pulls up the horse and the swallow raises a crossbow. After being attacked, it does not look like the Cliffside group is interested in asking questions. The swallow looses a bolt at Theo!
Cassidy ties a small ribbon aroun the pommel of the dagger and throws it into the ground at the center of the crater, like a flag. She was oblivious to any hostilities for now. All she knew was that she was the race was won in her favour! She doesn't let her guard down, though, just in case the others were as poor of a loser as she was.
"Damn," the hawk says, huffing and puffing as he stops short of the crater, "I was sure we'd make it first." He straightens up and dusts himself off. "I was sure we left long before anyone else. Miss Snowfeather had us on the road almost before the thing hit the ground!" he pants, "How did you get here before us?"
The bolt fired at the maned wolf strikes his armor but leaves no apparent injury. Seeing that the cart has stopped, and his goal achieved, Theo takes several steps back, creating a gap between him and the competitors. He holds his axe perpendicular to his body and lets out a snort through his helm, but he wouldn't take any further action unless they did.
Cassidy jerks a thumb over her shoulder, taking a deep breath. "Well. I live out here, for one." She adjusts her hat, brushing her hair back into place. "We took a trip through the valley. Honestly, I was not expecting to have to exert myself today. I was not anticipating other magicians, but it was a jolly competition."
The Swallow drops his crossbow and raises a pistol to point at Theo while the burly badger shakes off Theo's blunt strike and unhooks a pair of heavy looking hatchets from his belt, growling.
"AHEM!" a polite cough from the cart stops the pair in their tracks and they look back.
The owl who was riding in the cart steps down off the back and slowly makes her way around, nodding to her men to stand down. "I believe there has been a bit of a misunderstanding," she says, fixing her gaze on the maned wolf, "Don't you agree, Theodore of the Dacha?"
Cassidy and her new hawk acquaintance are quite a bit ahead of the cart, but it is apparent that something is going on back there. The hawk frowns as he looks back at his companions. "Creators," he snorts, "Did he actually attack the ambassador's cart?"
"Ahh. You know how sellswords can be," Cassidy murmurs, raising her voice and calling back, "That's enough. No need for further violence over there," She offers a shrug to the hawk. "What's your name, anyway? Not often someone can compete, and I'd like to know the ones that can."
Theo just continues to step back, keeping his distance from the group in front of him. His only intention was to trip their horse to stop them from getting to the crater, nothing else. "Misunderstanding? Sure."
"Redthorne," the Hawk says, looking worriedly back at the cart, his breathing subsiding to normal, "Gareth Redthorne, of the Cliffside Academy." He nods back toward the cart. "Maybe we should go see what is happening?" he says, "I see your claim. Don't worry, I'm not interested in poaching it."
"There you go, boys," the owl says, waving her guards off, "A misunderstanding. Please tend to the cart." The guards give dark looks to the maned wolf, but do as they are told as the owl woman saunters up and takes him by the arm. "Now," she says, "Come along, Theo. I would like to speak with Lady Solacious."
"Well. Nice to meet you, then, Redthorne. Cassidy," she replies in kind, before turning to inspect the 'prize' all the same. Was it rock? Was it metal? "I think they're coming this way on their own. It seems to have sorted itself, but if there is further issue then... Then we can go see about putting a halt to it."
Theo doesn't let the owl touch him, but he lowers his weapon and follows her, if anything he is ready for this ordeal to be over with.
The crater is significantly larger than the smoldering stone at its center. It still glows with heat, and is just small enough that a cart could probably haul it. Several smaller pieces are also scattered around.
The owl only smirks as Theo ignores her arm, and she saunters on by, leading the way to where Cassidy and Gareth are waiting. "Lady Solacious," she says, "Cassidy, my dear, what a surprise! I was certain we would arrive first!"
Cassidy strokes her chin, contemplating the stone. "Curious. Curious indeed." It wasn't the first time something like this happened. Pieces of the moon occasionally fell, after all, but most landed who-knows-where. "Ah, good afternoon," She says with a tip of the hat. "You might have, had I been slacking off. I kept up with my studies after leaving the academy."
Theo follows after the owl, but doesn't give much attention to the crater or the rock inside it. "So we found the thing, shall I take my leave?" His requirement was done, he had no other reason to be here.
The fallen star, whatever it is, pings and pops as it cools, obviously some sort of metallic material.
Snowfeather gives Cassidy a smile. "Indeed," she says, "Pity that poor Gareth did not quite have your speed. But I suppose you have won fair and square." The owl looks around, as though searching for something. "Ah! But it seems that you have brought no way to transport your new find!" she says, "Perhaps we could offer some assistance? Take a bit of it off your hands? I am sure it would help to smooth over any. . . " she turns a smile on Theo, then back to the Fennec, "Misunderstandings."
"We have a cart on the way," Cassidy says, looking towards Theo. "We are still waiting for our pick-up. Our job isn't done yet." She rolls her shoulders and looks towards the owl once more. "That said, you'll not be going home empty handed." She gestures around the ground. "As you can see, there are some smaller pieces around. I am sure you could have some. I can't go splitting the big piece, though. I'm already making the employer give me part of it in exchange for my services. A three-way split on it would be... Well, there'd not be much for anyone, then, now would there? And I can certainly offer the Academy a copy of whatever my studies turn up."
Theo just huffs and waits for the two to finish their dealings, debating or whatever else they need to do to get this over with.
The owl, Snowfeather, considers Cassidy for a moment, then waves over the badger and the large equine driver. "Load up one of the larger bits," she says, "Careful, I imagine they are still quite warm." She looks back at Cassidy. "It is a pleasure meeting you in person, Cassidy," she says, "Do take care of yourself. Give Mister Widestripe my fondest greetings." The owl produces a small, black book and opens it to scratch a note for herself, the walks away, back to the cart.
The Cliffside cart and contingent do not stay any longer than it takes to heft a head-sized lump of metallic ore into their cart, though there is a bit of consternation when the armored badger finds that the thing seems to be powerfully attracted to his armor. Star-iron is a strange substance.
After the Cliffsiders leave, it is just a matter of waiting out the hours until Gavin arrives with a large cart of his own, pulled by a pair of large, reptilian beasts of burden. "Any trouble?" he asks.
"Not much," Cassidy says, shaking her head. "Though I look forward to seeing what kind of results I can get out of this rock in my study. I believe this might just be the kind of thing I was looking for to spur my breakthrough. It'll be an exciting few months ahead of me."
Theo doesn't say anything, instead waiting to load the rock out of the crater so he can be on his way. He would be having a stern conversation with his cousin that suggested this venture later.