Forest of lies: Perspective of a Dwarven Cleric
As they continued walking, Garrus was at the front and rambling about the need for a drink when it dawned on him that he did not hear any other voices or steps, but rather just the sudden silence. The sudden sensation of being watched shrouded him.
The portly Dwarf stopped in his tracks and looked around as several avian looking humanoids approached him from all directions with their weapons drawn.
“First of all, who are you and what makes you think I stole your idol?” Garrus asked, a bit of his Dwarven stubborn attitude seeping into his question.
The avian creatures spat back, “YOU! You stole our idol and we want it back. NOW!”
Garrus moved his mace into a ready position and tightened his grip on the shield as he wondered where the hell his friends ran off to. Despite having only been with them a short time, Garrus could sense that the Tiefling was hiding and watching to ascertain the situation, but he had no clue where that damned Warlock went off to.
“I assure you that I did not take the idol. What makes you accuse me of such thievery?”
“We have been tracking the thief and here you stand, Dwarf.” The creatures said, with an added venom in naming his race.
The female Kenku, who appeared to be the leader of this bunch, spoke with a twinge of song in her voice. “We had a glorious wooden effigy at the center of our sacred place of worship, but it is gone now. We have been tracking the thieves when we came upon you and your companions. However, you claim to have not taken it. We require aid in finding these marauders.”
Garrus thought for a second and then replied, “Do you have any clues about who stole the idol? Did you see the thief while in pursuit?”
In the darkness, his Dwarven eyes caught some skepticism from several of the avian creatures.
“Have you had anyone visit your temple who would want the idol, and would know where it was kept?”
The avian creatures looked amongst one another, but the leader spoke, “No, we have had no such visitors. It was there, and then gone. Give it back or we will be forced to kill you and retrieve it ourselves.”
“You can clearly see that we do not possess your idol. Why don’t you move along and continue on your search for the real culprits?”
“We have strayed far enough, and must return to our temple to protect it.”
Garrus’ irritation at not having had a proper drink in a while was fueling some inner rage, but his clerical training and need to heal others, even non-physically, was taking over. He lowered his weapon and shield to address the leader and spoke, “I want to help you. I believe that I can assist you in apprehending these thieves and bring back what was yours. However, putting ourselves into danger on your behalf will require some payment. 100 gold per person seems a fair price.”
The Kenku leader thought about it for a moment and narrowed her eyes at Garrus, “You drive a hard bargain Dwarf, but you look better equipped to handle this as we are just devoted worshippers.”
At that moment, Garrus heard the Tiefling rogue, Lupin, appear from the shadows and approach him and Henrick.
Lupin wanted to kill the Kenku, steal the gold, and then sell the idol. Henrick was willing to go along with this, but Garrus held fast to his beliefs, and said that if money is what they were after, then perhaps they could get more.
Garrus turned to the Kenku leader and raised an eyebrow, “How about another 100 gold upon return of the idol? We are, after all, most likely going to have to do battle.”
The Kenku leader looked annoyed, clacked her beak twice, then replied, “It is done.”
The heroes turned and mover further into the forest following Lupin, whose rogue skills allowed for expert tracking. As they followed the trail of footprints, broken branches, and an occasional foul stink, they all debated how much gold each should received from the extra 100 coins. As Garrus did the negotiating, and was the only one to face them all from the start, he insisted on a 33/33/34 split in his favor.
The heroes came up with a plan together involving Lupin stealthing ahead and out of sight to get behind the large creatures, while Garrus tried to negotiate. Henrick would stand back, concealed, just in case.
Garrus stepped forward and yelled to the two large beings, “Hey, what have you got there?”
The two brutes turned, revealing themselves as Oni. Garrus, upon seeing that they are large trolls, immediately feels a burning hatred and disgust for them, and braces himself for inevitable battle, despite continuing to try and be diplomatic.
“Oy! What you say, pint-size?” asked one of the Oni.
“I asked, what have you got there, and can I take a look?”
“Sure, come take a look after we pick out your eyeballs, drink your tiny blood, and use your bones for toothpicks.” said the other Oni. They both let out a guttural laugh.
Garrus sighs, annoyed, and yells to them, “Ok. Enough! I know you’ve stolen an idol, and it’s time to give it back!”
The Oni respond, “Oy, but we must give this to the rules maker in order to get our payment.”
Intrigued, Garrus moves closer and presses further, “Your rule maker? You have someone in charge of you two?”
The two Oni look a little on edge, but the ugly one (well, uglier one) replies, “The rules maker is two and one at the same time. He provides, and we bring him what he needs.”
Garrus is somewhat perplexed by this but continues, “How about you just give us the idol and tell us what your overlord looks like, so we can take of him and release you of your burden?”
“Kah! You want to know what he looks like? He looks like you: fat and ugly!” replied the uglier Oni.
Both Oni dropped the idol and started to laugh. Having had enough, Garrus grunts and lowered his body defensively while raising his shield and mace.
Meanwhile, Lupin and her cat, Willow, surprised the other Oni with a sneak attack from behind, and slashed at the brute.
Suddenly, there is a powerful feeling in the air as Henrick the Warlock unveils himself from his shroud and begins to attack, from some range, with spells from beyond.
Both Oni had no clue what they were in for, and the surprisingly resilient Dwarf cleric knew how to fight and hold his own while allowing the Rogue and Warlock to really dish damage. The Oni are quickly overwhelmed from the three-pronged attack and then crumple to the ground, burned and bleeding, with life extinguished from their eyes.
Lupin searched the corpses and uncovers a couple swarms of rats that are easily defeated and chased off.
Breathing heavily, the Dwarf chewed on his special root and thanked Kord for his blessing in battle. Doing his job as a true cleric, he also ensured that his friends heal from their wounds.
Lupin reached down and tried to untie the idol, but a special magic prevents the unwrapping until several horrible puns are solved to break the seal. Once solved, the idol is revealed, but the sounds of footsteps, from something rather large, were coming their way.
The Ettin hosted two heads joined at a larger than normal neck. He also carried a giant club and had a large demonic skull attached to his hand. The Ettin wasn’t wearing much except a fur wrapped around his lower half and held on by a strap across the shoulder. He also emitted an absolutely horrible stench that made Garrus choke and cough.
The Ettin speaks, barely, and demands that Garrus, Henrick, and Lupin return the idol. The heroes sense that the Ettin is lying and challenge him with presenting the name of the idol. The Ettin uttered some nonsense, and then the Ettin strikes, raising his giant club and attacking the cleric.
Garrus blocks the attack, as Henrick readies spells and Lupin jumps to the side to begin doing as much damage as possible. Sensing trouble, Garrus conjures a massive prayer by dropping his mace to the ground and raising his hand, while still holding the shield in his other hand. His eyes turn solid white, and an aura radiates outward surrounding the heroes and Ettin.
The Ettin cries out and takes his last breath as he dies, but remains standing. Lupin, Garrus, and Henrick eye each other at this bizarre turn of events and the Dwarf stops sustaining his healing aura field to pick up his mace.
Suddenly, the skull on the Ettin’s arm emits a red glow from the eye sockets and speaks in an otherworldly voice that seems to emanate from all directions.
Garrus retorts, “I don’t think so. We have been charged with bringing this idol back to its owners.”
“Please, I need a host, Dwarf. In fact, let me join you, and together with your attachment to divine power and the addition of my own god status, we can do so much good,” the voice says.
Sensing a trick, Garrus refuses the offer as the voice pleads with Lupin, who considers the offer. She ultimately decides against it despite her demonic ancestry.
Henrick is then presented an offer of joining, but despite his great desire for power, he still wavers back and forth and argues with Garrus and Lupin. Ultimately, Henrick’s friends decide that as long as he can handle it, then they can join. However, Garrus does not trust the entity and internally vows to keep a watch over the Warlock.
“Thank you, brave ones. I am Coni Ferous - a spirit of the forest, and have been imprisoned for some time.”
“How did you get captured?” Garrus asks.
“The Kenku that reside in the forest dabble in evil magics that caught me off guard. They imprisoned me. You have freed me, and I owe you my gratitude, now that I can return to tending to this forest.”
The heroes are astonished, and find out that the Kenku are known as tricksters and dabblers of black magic. Unfortunately, another battle looms unless something else can be done, so a plan emerges from the heroes, as they decide to chop down a tree and re-wrap it to pass it off as the idol. The plan seems sound, but they realize that it will require some adept bluffing and luck.
With a newfound purpose, Lupin leads the way back, as Garrus and Henrick lug the faux idol back toward the Kenku lair. Garrus, feeling a renewed fire and a sense to right a wrong, is ready to be done with this task and get to the nearest bar for that long awaited, and well-deserved, drink.