Fantastic Tales from the realm

Chapter VI

Scarecrows and horror shows

The sage stormed off in the direction of Baum Shire, but he was cut off by Kalwala as the rest of the party caught up. ‘So, what are we doing?’ the rogue asked.

‘What do you mean?’ inquired the sage as he settled his palms on belt.

‘Well we have a Necropolis past Gipfell that seems to be where this necromancer is headed, so I ask again, what are we doing?’

‘Sanctuary of the Dwarves…’ Ugaburk mused.

At this, a frown began to form across Faehana’s face ‘where did you get that name?’

‘You think I can’t read wizard? I saw those maps that you’ve got strapped to your back,’

Faehana’s frown deepened before morphing into resolve as he drew the map from his faetel and settled it across a stone. ‘Well, if you’re willing and able, it’s a ten-days journey according to the map from Gipfell to this Necropolis, but the map doesn’t provide specific directions, but if we head to my academy I shall be able to inspect the records of our faculty of cartography and they will be able to pinpoint our destination,’

‘We’ll need supplies we don’t currently have if we’re going to spend a ten-days journey out in this desert,’ observed Ugaburk, his armoured index finger gently tapping on the parchment as he spoke.

‘Right then! To Waterdeep!’ declared Farren, spinning on her heel and marching off as she spoke.

‘Uh… Waterdeep is behind you,’ Ugaburk called out, Farren pivoting back in response and marching through the heart of the party, feet in time with the strum of her lute.

++++

The party travelled back up through Baum Shire and began their northern trek along the inner continent, it was but a day at most before they cut west and made for the coastal city of Waterdeep. It was late evening when the party had begun to see the initial signs of civilisation as the faint glimmer of torches illuminated crops of barley and wheat, their staunch scarecrow defenders twisted into grizzly visages by the night. A shiver arced up Farren’s back as her darkvision eyes pierced the all-encompassing night. A confused frown began to manifest across the bard’s face as shadows shifted and shapes shuffled in the dim fields.

‘Hey… did anyone see those shadows move?’ Farren asked, her fingers suddenly seized at the strings of her lute, unable to strike another chord as her mind betrayed her and raced with nervous chitter. At her comments, the party stopped to look across at the farm to their right. A confused frown began to knit across Kalwala’s brow as well as she looked on.

‘Pay no mind to it, its probably some farm hand working late,’ Faehana dismissively remarked as he continued to walk on a good 300 feet before stopping and rushing back.

‘No, there seems to be violence of some sort,’ Kalwala said darkly, hand on dagger as she did.

‘Then, let the City Watch handle it, peasants commit all kinds of unspeakable savagery,’ Faehana said with disgusted matter-of-factness.

Kalwala whirled on the sage as the words left his lips. ’What happened to your ‘wizard’s oath’ and ‘fighting evil’?’ she said, a facetious bite to her words.

‘Magic and Monsters! We are sworn to fight monsters and magic! The happenstance of the poor is not our concern!’ he hissed; index finger snapped in the rogue’s direction. ‘Organised crime and random acts of violence are the City Watches duty. Baator! If it gets so out of hand the City Guard is trained and equipped for the truly unsavoury!’

‘I detect magic,’ muttered Ugaburk, hand on greatsword hilt as he spoke. At this the sage whirled, eyes wild, his hands going through the motions to detect magic. A flash pulsed from the sage and he spun on the cleric confused.

‘He’s right! The dark hand cruel magic descends upon this farm… How did you do that?!’ Faehana blurted in astonished shock.

‘I watched the scarecrows walk around the field,’ Ugaburk said, in unflinching deadpan. Faehana began to scowl before, snapping out of his embarrassed rage and rushing off towards the baern. At this the orc bristled, his charge rushing off once again ‘Red Lady give me strength…’ he muttered as he rushed after his charge.

In the commotion, Farren drew her dagger and rushed into the sea of barley, calling as she went. ‘I’ll flush the scarecrow out!’

At this Kalwala pulsed in fury ‘Thieves siren they’re going to get me cuddyv,’ she hissed as she drew her rondel dagger and followed the bard into the maze of crops.

++++

Farrens’s heart thundered in her ears, the click of leaves underfoot and the shift of stalks against naked shoulders as she waded through the neat rows of crops. Her dagger hissed across the crops; her eyes darted around. A breeze washed through and the tall barley rustled. The breeze ceased but the rustle continued around her, the sound closing in. Her feet seized up; her heart clenched. The thrum of her mind pounded around her as the susurration ceased. Farren sighed as the field erupted in violence. A straw clawed palm clawed, swiping her across the jaw, followed by half a dozen more as a series of slashes of tail and blade and boot pierced the swarm. A hand snatched the bard from the ground and dragged her out towards the roadway, as a throb of fire erupted across the field and ravenously enveloped the field. Farren burst from the field as Faehana and Ugaburk raced back towards the main road. Farren slipped through the fence as a rustle announced the appearance of a tall, ragged scarecrow, its cloth body torn and soaked, thick streaks running down the length of its body, the audible squelch of liquid striking soil echoing from its feet. It lunged for Faehana as a Firebolt leapt from the sages and hand and connected with the straw man centre mass. Flames expanded across the tunic as Ugaburk dashed through an instant later, greatsword slashing. The blades cross-guard connected with the scarecrows mask while the fine edge sliced across the collar, pushing the monster back as the rest of the party followed Ugaburk through the chaos. With a panting halt the party dropped along the edge of the highway, Ugaburk’s posture firm, his shield now out as the farm burned bright in the late-night sky.

‘What in the thieves’ creed was that?!’ boomed Kalwala in furious terror.

‘A question even I know not the answer to,’ replied Faehana after a moment ‘The baern was filled with corpses, strung from wall to wall for purposes unknown,’ he muttered, his hands shaking as he did. Kalwala strode over to Farren who lay on the highway hugging tight to the aura of light emanating from the flame warbling from the sage’s palm. The rogue ran her long sharp-tipped fingers along the bard’s blood-stained face, looking for injury. Her lips curled with frustration before warping in disgust.

‘You don’t have a mark child… its… from the scarecrows,’

‘I felt a wet crunch when my cross-guard connected with that monsters sack head…’ Ugaburk muttered in report.

‘Gods below, they must have been the peasants,’ Faehana mused aloud, at this Farren visibly recoiled. Kalwala snarled at the sage’s insensitive thoughts before lifting the poor bard to her feet and leading her away towards Waterdeep. Faehana soon followed while Ugaburk brought up the rear-guard. As the party continued towards Waterdeep, constables and trusties from the Watch and the Guard respectively rushed towards the inferno of farmland. After a long conversation with the Sergeant at the gate and an intense conversation between Faehana and the Mage Civilar of the City Watch, the party was let into the city.

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