A Demon and a Choice
Not that we have all the information or anything...

Per Aston’s directions, TEPCO (and their luck) headed south.

On the road, we didn’t get far before a demon showed up with a deal we couldn’t refuse. A self-drawing map in exchange for the coin that silly little kid gave us! Did I say we couldn’t refuse? Just kidding.

Let the records show that Tali and I were not all about the sentimentality. We wanted to give the demon his due and enjoy our map. I just…had a feeling, you know? Easy street. No more getting lost. No more wondering where we should go.

Hansel also had a feeling. That feeling was “ARM YOURSELVES!” which he hissed multiple times.

We did the arming thing, and the saying no thing, and imps materialized around us. Apparently Hansel was right. The demon wasn’t testing our sentimental attachment to a kid’s trinket. The coin was clearly worth something.

The demon vanished, and we took on the imps. Of course, we bungled it up as we’re prone to do. SOMEONE didn’t keep the coin in the convenient Bag of Holding (or, as I like to call it, the Bag of You Can’t Steal This One Thing). That someone was Chases. In the midst of battle, we all knew that if we managed to save this coin, Chases officially lost bag privileges.

Tali saved the day. No sooner had one of the thieving imps snatched the coin, than Tali fell on him with the fury of a pickpocket rogue. She stole the coin back. (Over yonder, Andro was shooting at the theiving imp so poorly she tripped over her feet; Hansel was doing much the same, shooting so poorly he hit Andro. True facts.)

All of the imps got away…which gave Tali endless material for her “I fucking told you all so” rant.

Little Girls and Tree Dragons
What's life without a little imagination?

When TEPCO reached the town toting spider heads as a symbol of our victory, the stick up Aston’s butt shook loose. He was very pleasant. He even told us of a tower somewhere off to the southwest in the fog that we might want to have a look at. Apparently everything around it is ancient and unnatural — a forest with trees that never die. I’ll drink that koolaid. I like koolaid.

Aston gave Chase a piece of studded leather for protection and asked us if we’d left the bridge in tact. Our resident diplomat, Petter, said “Are you calling us fat?”

Silvano and Grisha offered us free food and hospitality. (Grisha did NOT offer to show me his bed. Which was disappointing. … Only because I’m very curious about the conditions surrounding such a creature, of course.) I determined that the bread is NOT poison.

We were all set to settle in, and I hoped to sneak off and have a bit of a chat with some townsfolk, when little Margarie accosted us.

“The village is under attack!” she cried. “Alcia is here! You must kill her!”

Well, no one else appeared to be coming to the rescue. By some terrible oversight on our part (or, as I like to think, because little girls mumble), we all failed to realize that Margarie was speaking of an ancient dragon and…um, pointing to a tree.

Again, TEPCO exchanged silent sideways glances. (This time Hansel was in on it.) We decided to play along.

I decided that, if we meant to slay a dragon, we needed a sword. I would have used mine, but even I know you don’t mix kids and sharp objects. So, I grabbed a tree branch and declared it Doris the Bloodied!

Tali tried to bluff the child, telling her we were all dragon slayers…but the girl was sharp. She didn’t buy it for a hot second, and “killed” Tali for her trouble.

Hansel, in his second insightful moment of the day (2-1), realized kids like to be involved. He told Margie SHE would have to be the one to do the slaying. Apparently this was a thumbs up, because no fireballs came for Hansel. Balty, not to be outdone, pointed out that Margie probably looked up to the adventurers and wanted a role model.

So…I tried to make that happen. I guess telling her the nostril is the dragon’s weak spot doesn’t count. I was promptly fireballed.

From my place on the ground, I heard Hansel mutter under his breath that he was pretty sure Margie was on the dragon’s side. Children and demons being what they are, that made perfect sense. “The town will burn!” I hissed from the other side of death.

Margie’s face lit up. Chase offered the sword and Margie charged. She SLAYED the dragon! And got hurt in the process. Because kids are weak. Off she went, sniveling into her secret hideout. We followed, purely out of concern (and not because we were worried about the state of our free room and board.) Little Margie recovered quickly…and ho! Offered us loot. Sweet kid.

The coin she gave us looks very, very old. I almost felt bad about taking it, but she was so earnest, and I like old, potentially valuable things, so we didn’t make a fuss. The coin is made of a strange metal, depicting a turtle on one side and a phoenix on the other. For good measure, we tucked it in the bag of concealment and called it a night.

Now I’m off to entertain the folks at the Drunken Bard. A few rounds of “Who Am I?” should go over quite nicely.

Until next time,
— Arrow

Loot at Last
I spy...spiders.

Last time on TEPCO Watch: In our first-ever battle as a group, TEPCO decimated a swarm of over-sized spider folk lurking in the forest. In our moment of triumph, something peculiar happened. The last spider, weak from our assaults, turned tail (spider butt?) to run toward a strange clicking in the distance. I get the sense we’re all lucky the little bastard didn’t survive. Hansel knows quite a bit about the whole nature deal, and even he couldn’t identify the creatures making the sounds. He did let us in on an old dwarven legend about “Spider 2.0” – some type of hyper intelligent spider. We shared sideways glances and silently, unanimously, mocked the idea.

After a brief rest, our blood was still hot for the slay, so we followed the weakling spider’s example and moved toward the strange clicking. As we went, I started to notice thicker webs along the way. No surprise there. It’s not like any of us thought we were heading for mermaids. We kept our eyes up, not about to let another swarm drop from the trees and catch us unawares, but up wasn’t where we found our next battle. Lo, it was a cave! You know what caves mean. No? Well, I know what caves mean: loot.

The cave mouth was webbed over. Did I mention we mocked the idea of “intelligent” spiders? I mean, really. If TEPCO had a hideout, we wouldn’t exactly paint the swag stag on a banner and use it to conceal the entrance. But that’s another point for another day. Most of us debated the virtue of charging on through while Andraste, bless her heart, wondered out loud where spiders get their dish soap. Tali was in favor of sneaking in, but Chase assured us cutting any part of the web would alert our enemy.

Our final words to one another before the charge were heartening. Tali entreated Andraste to be a bit less useless this time, which was fair considering the highlight of Andraste’s last battle was when she missed so badly she wound up prone in a tree. (It IS a highlight, because somehow the motion counteracted the poison in her system. But uh, she’s not what anyone would mistake for an “asset” just yet.)

In the end, we cut the web and charged.

We were promptly poisoned and blinded for our trouble. The hazards of charging into a spider-infested nest of doom, I suppose. Battle Number Two was on.

I always thought my weapon was the bow, but this battle made me wonder. Twice while I was blind, I put my short sword directly through an enemy’s eye. I won’t pretend that didn’t feel a little badass. Reminds me a bit of a song I know about a little assassin girl named Arya…

Anyway, I wasn’t alone in my badassery. Tali took out an eye of her own with a dagger throw. I’ll bet she distracted the thing with her cleavage. Maybe that’s how she practices. Eyes trained on the chest are easier to hit? Scary little halfling with that arm (and chest), either way.

Chase made a critical blow too, with something he calls the “Thunder Ram Assault” which doesn’t sound pleasant at all. (“That’s what I call a Wednesday!” Petter chimed in from his cozy place in the enemy’s web.)

Most of the battle is a blur. I thought I saw Hansel turn into a sock monkey, and when I looked again I’m pretty sure he was a giant chipmunk. I’m told I lost consciousness, so maybe that had something to do with it. The dwarf — not Hansel, but the other one, Balty — revived me. I never thought I would be so glad to have the little ones along. Dwarves are always so gruff, harder to cheer with the lute than most, so I have a perfectly natural disinclination for their company. But Baltasar, I’m telling you, saved our butts more than once and that makes him okay in my book.

The spider venom did some wicked nasty stuff to the group’s abilities. We’re usually decently quick, but I suspect the battle was so close because the poison slowed us. After I got hit, I never felt quite right again until I slept it off much later. (At one point Andraste realized she was slower than usual and asked for confirmation. “Am I slow?” she said. I replied with the only appropriate response: “Do you have to ask?”)

Even with my healing songs and Balty’s talent, half the party was bloodied or worse a couple hours into the battle when Tali finished off the biggest spider in the cave.

“And I helped!” Andraste shouted triumphantly.

“Shut your hole,” Tali said. “You didn’t do a damn thing.”

Andraste probably never heard. She was too keen on wooing my pen. “Put that in the record book!” she pleaded. “That I hit something!”

I told her my “record book” is a serious document intended to record the essentials of our journey for the scholars of Trinity. (In fact, it’s about two parts song scribbles, one part diary, but the margins usually ARE strictly for the recording of essentials. I wrote it down anyway. Andraste might make a good song yet.)

Oops. Is Petter woefully absent from this part of the tale so far? Oh, wait, no. That wasn’t a mistake. Our beloved narcissist managed to get himself stuck in a web for approximately 90% of the battle. He could be heard shouting “Fucking finally!” repeatedly when he eventually made a kill. I suspect he only fought his way out of the web to begin with because Andraste was waning. Even Balty wasn’t sure she would make it, and he’s full of tricks. From a totally practical standpoint, I wondered aloud if Andraste’s death might be for the best, but it didn’t matter in the end. She came back to us. (Petter sobbed.)

Hansel was the weeble of the day. It’s hard to tell sometimes, as dwarves are about as tall as they are thick to the average person’s eye, but by my estimate he was down and out more than the rest of use combined. Turns out he’s not half bad at plotting, though. It was his quick thinking that helped us end the battle. (“It’s not just a hat rack!” he said with no small amount of glee as we followed his advice. Later, he related his frequent desire to dig a hole in his backyard and pretend he’s a carrot, so we’ll call it even on the whole hat rack business.)

Anyhow, we all made it out alive. The spiders did not. I call that victory.

And to sweeten the deal? As I suggested before…loot! A faithful list of what we discovered in the spider stink hole:

- 6 (+1) Onslaught Bolts (to me!)
- 4 Onslaught Bullets
- 297 gold
- 469 silver
- 18 copper
- 1 rhodochrosite stone-looking thingy
- a feathered mask (dibs!)
- 3 martial practices (embalm / ointment)
- 4 oils of lasting flame
- a magical dagger (which obviously went to our MVS, Tali)
- a backpack of concealment (Chase ended up with possession, because Petter is a bitch.)

We handed out the things we want to keep on hand and put the rest in our cart. And so ended our sophomore battle.

Until next time,
— Arrow

TEPCO: Battle Cherry Popped
I swear, the spider was THIS big!

The TEPCO adventurers have been together for a month — combing the maps, twiddling their thumbs, and preparing for the great journey to the source of the mysterious fog. The laundry list goes something like this:

Andraste Pfile is an eladrin rogue who’s done a bit of research for Trinity in the past. She’s got a bit of a chip on her shoulder on account of her noble blood. It doesn’t make her the most well-liked among us, but the crazy elf from the other side of the portal seems to like her well enough.

Petter Pfile is Andraste’s brother — an eladrin warlock. If narcissism were currency, let’s just say we would never go hungry with Petter in our group. If he hears Andraste’s got a chip on HER shoulder, you bet he’ll make sure his is just a little bigger. The two of them are close, though. Don’t let the one-up fest fool you. And whatever you do, don’t mention their long lost half sister, Eroithiel Von Trapp. Total rape baby. Like their crest suggests…they hate that bitch.

On a completely unrelated note, I’m the bard. Just call me Arrow. Like the thing I shoot from my crossbow. (Even though that’s technically a “bolt”.) I carry a lute. I hear I’m good company, especially with a pint or two in my blood. Hansel and I have a bit of history, but it’s really NOT important. We’re just fine leaving it lie. As for long lost half siblings…what’s that got to do with me?

But as long as we’re on Hansel (Andgrettle)…he’s a druid dwarf. He’s got supreme knowledge of naturey things and a love for hugging trees. And no scruples. Great word, scruples. He and Baltasar Hj├Ârdinsson come from the same place. Kicked out for consorting with humans after their tribe of shorties decided to outlaw it.

Balty is a cleric, our own hunk of moral fiber. Minus the whole breaking the dwarf law thing, but I hear morals and laws don’t always go hand in hand.

We’ve got two portal-children, too. Fascinating creatures.

Tali Summersand, the little rogue, will snatch anything shiny. Or dull. So long as it vaguely interests her, it will probably end up in her sticky little hands. She’s something called a “halfling” — half-sized, even smaller than our dwarfs. I’ll give her this: she’s sneaky hot. If ever my songs fail to melt a crowd of drunken manfolk, she might be just the ticket. She doesn’t have much to say about her own past, but she cheers Chases the Storm on when he tells his tall tales.

You heard me right. Chases the Storm. Chase, I call him, for short. He looks a bit like a proper eladrin but calls himself an elf. He claims he used to fly clockwork golems through the sky as part of a circus show. Who knows. The bigger mystery to ME is why Andraste, noble sniff that she is, took a liking to him. Either way, he’s part of the party and what’s a bard who doesn’t appreciate a wild imagination?

So, where was I? We’ve been around each other for a bit. Long enough to get past the awkward looks and questions…for the most part. There was a lot of shopping to do (and some returning), but now we’re on the road.

Our first stop brought us to a town called Kilcardine on the outskirts of Cloud Forest. We were just supposed to pass through, heading for the fog. The whole town was run down, really just no good to look at. The houses were falling apart and the pastures were almost empty. How the town survives is beyond me. The one place that did have a bit of promise to it was the Drunken Bard (and not just due to my affinity for the name). Unlike the other places, it looked well kept and strongly built. Even the men about the place had a stronger look to them, unlike the waifs wandering the streets.

Tali led the chatter with the barkeep, big guy called Silvano. He offered bread but didn’t have much information for us. Not that we really asked a whole lot by way of the fog. Mostly we just inquired about the state of the place and heard stories about man-eating spiders. Crazy stuff. I’m not sure why anyone stuck around the place.

Worried for our horses — and maybe because I caught sight of the big dragonborn taking care of them, and maybe because dragons have always fascinated me — I ventured out to have a chat with the stable guy, Grisha. Talk about stonewalled. I couldn’t even get him to recommend a travelling drink. Water! Says the guy who works for a pub. Petter came along, but even his complete snobbishness did nothing for us. We moved on.

The unofficial leader of the place, an old man called Aston (probably in his mid to early 50’s — remember, humans age really, really fast), had a stick up his butt about us being there. He never said it in so many words, but you could just tell. I guess maybe he DID say it in so many words when I mentioned that we might like to take care of their spider issue. “The last half-eladrin I trusted got five of my men killed,” he said. As though I hadn’t just offered to vanquish his trouble. Not the most diplomatic fellow. We stuck around anyhow and he gave us directions (no payment, mind you, but directions) to the heart of the problem. Being the kind-hearted adventurers we are, we went.

On the way out of town, I saw a haggard looking woman with a little girl. I wouldn’t mind going back and getting her alone. Something about the men we talked to led me to believe there was something they weren’t saying.

But about those spiders. They travel in groups. Crazy reflexes. Probably a 16 on a 1-20 scale, which is pretty astounding. It didn’t make them easy to hit…but at least they lacked strategy. I watched one swarm walk through fire twice. Not the brightest enemy. The battle took longer than any of us expected, but it was probably good practice. We’ll have to work on group-fighting as we go. I don’t want to be lost in the mist wondering if I’m going to pop up on the wrong side of a sword.

Until next time…

- Arrow


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