Soledad's firebolt struck true, rewarding the witch with a howl of pain and the aroma of burnt bug bear. Fire certainly increased the stink of the filthy beast, but it nonetheless filled the gold elf with joy. And so, wearing a viscious grin, Soledad unleashed yet another pulse of flame upon the wretched bugbear.
Silver was quickly getting tired of attempting to stay away from the bugbear chasing her while at the same time attempting to free the otter. Turning quickly and drawing her two rapiers as she did so, she attacked!
Dok positioned himself closer to the Otter, as Silver brandished her two rapiers and went on an offensive attack, instead of playing the moving target, as she had been doing mere moments before.
The Hill Dwarf Cleric of Helm renewed his focus on his Spiritual Weapon spell, making sure that it did not interfere with the attacks of his comrades, while he protected both Silver and the Otter from any possible or unexpected harm.
The first to move was Dok who quickly brought his axes to bear on the last standing bugbear. Hopefully a good whack with a spiritual glowing axe would keep the beast away from Silver. The creature seemed to be focused on Silver as they danced around the tree and didn’t notice the axe until it bit into him. The creature staggered back a step as the axe found its mark. It was a vicious blow.
Staggered the creature attempted to strike out at Silver with a massive morning star, but the Otter swinging from the branches, the tree itself and various weapons swinging at seemed to leave it confused and its strike missed wildly. It would get no chance to try again. As it tried to regain its balance from the wild swing Silver plunged a rapier into its exposed side and at the same time Soledad struck it square in the face with another firebolt, this one doing much more than the small singe the last one had done. Thaoran stood in the woods with an arrow knocked and drawn ready to place an arrow into the creature’s eye but he never fired. There was no need. Struck by multiple blows at once the bugbear toppled to the ground where it joined its fellow in the long, dark, sleep of death.
That left one bugbear alive, but not for long. Even as the axe, rapier and firebolt were finishing off its comrades, the napping creature was being acquainted with Hornet’s knife. With nothing to stop it the blade slipped easily and quickly into the creature’s throat and ended its horrible existence.
All three bugbears were now dead. There was a cheerful fire burning under one tree with meat of some sort roasting. From the other tree swung a giant otter. It was about 8’ long from tail to head and its hind feet were trussed up and tied to a branch high in the tree. Its forepaws were also tied – although the ropes doing so had been partially cut by Silver’s knife before she had been so rudely interrupted by one of the bugbears. The Otter was busily attempting to chew at the ropes as it spun in the air. As the last of the bugbears died, it looked about and saw that the fight was over. It spun once around in a circle getting a good look at all of you.
The creature held its tied forepaws out to you and spoke. “Uhm, thank you very much for taking care of those creatures, but would you be so kind . . .” At this point he again held out his forepaws bound by the ropes. “Truly I would appreciate it. I’ve been hanging here for most of the night and it does get tiring and I’m a bit sore. Honestly, those creatures give new meaning to the word ghastly!” He spun again as the ropes that bound him twisted. “A fellow could get dizzy doing this! And now to have been rescued . . .” And, again, he paused as he spun. “ . . . at least I hope it is a rescue. Let me see, what has arrived in the nick of time? Well, elves, several elves. And a, well, that must be a dwarf back there in the woods. And a, I say!, is that your hound? A lovely creature as hounds go! But truly an interesting lot to be wandering in these woods at night . . . oh, where are my manners? I am Boris! Yes, Boris is my name. Well, one of my names anyway. Beuren some of the elves named me. But really, Boris works, if you want something to call me by.”
The party listened as the words streamed forth from the creature as it spun slowly in a circle while hanging from the trees. Those further out moved forward, wary of any other attackers, but the night seemed quiet now that the battle was over. Quiet and wet. The rain continued to come down, not quite a downpour, but a very steady drumming on the leaves over your head, and a drizzle as it worked its way through the leaves. Dawn was still a couple of hours away.
The otter, Boris by name it would seem, held out its paws again. “If you would? The lovely lady began the task but did not have the time to finish it. I would appreciate getting my feet back on the ground again.”
Thäoran slipped his dagger from its sheath and completed the task Silver had started. With a few deft cuts, the unusual talking otter was free of its bindings.
'Well met, master otter.' The elf greeted. 'I must say, this is my first experience encountering an animal capable of communing in the human tongue. If you would be so kind as to inform us where you hail from and what you were doing to find yourself in this predicament? I'm sure I speak for us all when I say we are most curious to hear your tale.'
Hornet felt no remorse as his dagger slit the throat of the sleeping bugbear. There was no chivalry in this fight. As he wiped his dagger clean on the tattered rags of his fallen enemy, he saw the otter had been cut free and was conversing with the rest of the group, A talking otter was certainly unusual but was it truely an otter? Didn't his own companion turn into a hound to help in tracking? Could the otter be another shape-shifter? Just because the bugbear had captured it sis that mean it was safe to set it loose? Hornet pondered these questions. Pulling out his whetstone, he repaired teh edge on his blade more to keep it handy just incase it was needed than because it needed it. For now he would watch and listen.
Dok watched and listened intently as Boris the Otter made his plea to be set free from his bonds, so his feet could feel the stability of the ground once more, rather than be left swinging in the late-night breeze.
The Hill Dwarf Clerric of Helm was ready to attack the Otter, if need be, or to defend the party against any other enemies that dared to reveal their presence from the surrounding darkness.
Besides, he was rather curious as to what Boris had to say about how he had gotten into his predicament; plus, if what the Otter had to say had any bearing upon the quest that had led Dok and his comrades from Botkinburg to the Blacktooth Ridge.
With the last of the wretched bugbears having fallen, Soledad released Z'zzip from the pocket dimension. The irridescent, fey serpent wasted no time in throwing a litany of insults at the very ugly and even dirtier bugbears. Hissing in agreement, the witch traced a finger affectionately along the golden snake's head. She was very glad to see the beasts dead, such was the price of ugliness.
The talking otter presented a curiosity that indeed needed exploration. Why was it here? What did the beasts want with it? Where did it come across that fool name of Boris? Oh how insipid was the common human tongue... Curious though she was, she gold elf had no trust for the otter. While there was beauty to be found in the wild places, so too was there trickery. Talking animals could easily be tricksy fey, wandering gods, or accursed in some way.
Snapping her fingers, Soledad set a fey charm to clean away any offending dust or grime she might have picked up along their trek. One did have to make oneself presentable for conversations. Besides, she hated being dirty.
Keeping her distance, the witch set her violet gaze upon the otter and smiled coyly, "Well met, Beuren. Such interesting titles you carry... How did you come to be known as Beuren and then as Boris?"
((OOC: Prestidigitation Cantrip. Also, do either of these names remind Soledad of any kind of lore?))
Boris the otter spun slowly from his bindings until Thaoran moved forward to cut him out. The otter happily held out his front paws for the elf to cut loose. It was an easy task since Silver had already accomplished half of the job earlier. As the otter’s front paws were freed, Thaoran looked up into the tree to see the otter’s rear feet a good 6 or 7 feet above his head and the rope flung over a branch another 2 feet beyond that. He started tracking where the rope came back down low enough to be tied off when he realized he didn’t need to bother. Boris the otter simply curled upwards into the branches and between his teeth and front paws quickly worked the ropes loose. In a brief moment the rope snapped and otter dropped to the ground. The creature was quick and easily seemed to spin and land on its feet.
No sooner had the beast landed than he turned to Thaoran and offered his thanks. “Thank you master elf, your arrows did much to bring down those brutes and now I have your blade to thank for my freedom. I do not like to think of what those creatures would have done. Dinner, I think, was the plan.” At this the creature shook its head and sputtered a bit. “Filthy things to consider making ME dinner! No, no, that simply wouldn’t have done.” At that point he zipped quickly in a circle looking at everyone. “But no need to worry about them now, eh? You lot have done for that lot and things are much better!” He stopped and eyed the pot cooking over the small fire under the neighboring tree. “I don’t think I’d want to eat that if I were you. Or if I were me, which, as it happens, I still am! Thanks to you!”
It seemed likely that the creature could have gone on in this fashion all night when Thaoran finally got in a greeting of his own. “Well met, master otter.” “I must say, this is my first experience encountering an animal capable of communing in the human tongue. If you would be so kind as to inform us where you hail from and what you were doing to find yourself in this predicament? I’m sure I speak for us all when I say we are most curious to hear your tale.”
The otter was about to reply when Soledad also joined the conversation. “Well met, Beuren. Such interesting titles you carry . . . How did you come to be known as Beuren and then as Boris?”
The comments and questions seemed to give the creature a small pause and he looked around at the group. He noticed Dok and Hornet’s extreme watchfulness. He looked back at Soledad and Tharoan and answered . . . this time in elvish. “Some in your group seem warry still. There is no need. I offer no threat, only thanks.” With a wink, he spun around and lay down along a large fallen tree a couple of feet away. He then repeated the same in common.
“Ah well, it is only natural, I suppose, that you would be cautious of anything you find in the woods these days. It is a shame, but, well, creatures like those bugbears can be found, so it makes sense. But I am not such as they and I am not threat to those who do not threaten me. Well, unless you are fish. I do like the taste of fish.” He grinned a bit at the group. “But none of you seem to be of the fish persuasion so no worries there! But you wish to know about me . . . “ At this point he glanced at Z’Zzip and nodded in its direction. “I am akin to that little one. Pure ‘animal’ as the good elf put it? Well, no, I am fey in origin, but I have come to regard these woods, and in particular this good river, as my home. It is a good river and has been my home for, well, plenty of years. Although those vile things attempted to bring that to an end.”
“And how did I end up in their net, you ask? By being stupid, honestly. They must have known I was here for they set a trap for me. I haven’t had much to worry about for awhile and I wasn’t aware that any such creatures were around and so I fell like a sucker into their net. You can see the net over there.” He didn’t get up from his spot on the log but pointed at a pile next to a bush about 15’ away. In the darkness you hadn’t noticed it yet, but it did appear to be a bunch of netting. “I was stupid and not wary. The woods have grown darker of late and that was very foolish of me. It is my river. They would not have caught me had I not allowed it to happen so foolishly!” His eyes seemed to flash a bit as his irritation, at himself and the bugbears it seemed, rose.
Then he sighed. “But luckily there are heroes in the woods to save the foolish! As for my names . . . “ and at this he glanced at Soledad. “You seem unimpressed with Boris! What is wrong with Boris? It is a fine name! Of old the men of these parts called me Boris when they needed advice or information about the river! I have always liked the name Boris. Boris is, well, Boris is me! And so is Beuren. That is me as well. Your kind, the elves, named me that. For they too sought my wise council at times.” At this point he seemed to get a little grin, if you could be certain what an otter’s grin looked like. He winked at Dok. “Actually, I don’t think the elves could pronounce Boris.”
After waiting a moment to see if any of the elves rose to the bait, he asked a question of his own. “So that is why I’m here. I live here and I was foolish. A simple tale. But what of my rescuers? What brings such a collection along the riverbanks to slay bugbears in the damp night, may I ask?”
(Soledad did a knowledge roll and got a nat-one. Clueless about the names.)
"A most interesting tale master otter; or should I say Boris?" Hornet smiled at the otter and sheathed his dagger. "I am known as Hornet for I am protective of my home and can pack a sting. Sorry about the wariness but one can never be too careful especially in these times. As for how we have come to be here at this moment I shall let one of the others answer that."
Thäoran glanced at the others as the fey otter enquired as to the reason the party was there. The creature claimed that he was a friend to the elves and he did appear to speak in elvish very well. The Eldritch Knight decided to-even though he was still a little wary-inform Beuren of what brought them to this place. The fey may, after all, be able to assist them. Anything to speed up this seemingly neverending search for those fiendish goblins.
Clearing his throat a little, the elf said, 'the town of Botkinburgh has suffered a tragedy of late. Two young boys-sons of a farmer-were kidnapped by a band of goblins. For what reason, we know not. I fear that if we do not find them soon, we may well be too late. Have you, master Beuren, seen or smelt any of their kind lately and if so, could you tell us in which direction we would need to go? Any assistence would be most welcome.'
Dok nodded in agreement to the Fey that what Thaoran had related and asked about the Goblins was indeed true.
As the Hill Dwarf Cleric of Helm cautiously surveyed the outer perimeter for any signs of approaching or lurking foes, he purposefully made a friendly motion to the Otter with his fingers and hands, to let it know that Dok considered himself to be an ally, who chose to be vigilant for the safety of the entire group, while his comrades received answers from Boris.
Dok was also praying quietly to his deity, while cautiously moving slowly along the outskirts of the perimeter, searching the area for any signs of anything out-of-the-ordinary, focusing his Dwarf vision on the surrounding terrain, ready to utilize his battle axe the moment there was any sign of danger lurking in the darkness.
A gleefully twinkle sparkled in Soledad's eyes at Beuren's suggestion that the elves could not pronounce Boris. She ADORED cruel humor. If the capacity for speach wasn't proof enough of a fey nature, the otter's jibe erased all doubt. While that may have awakened fondness, it did not instill trust. Fey creatures, whether benevolent or cruel, were tricky by nature. And she should know, she was particularly fey herself, even among the elves.
Soledad listened carefully as the conversation continued, seeking any signs of hiddens meanings. All the while she sought the depths of her own mind for stories of river fey and otters. There had to be a connection.
((OOC: Trying another knowledge check, more general into histories/stories of river gods/fey and otters))
Boris the otter reclined upon his log and listened to the comments of the group. He noticed the dwarf wandering the perimeter and his nose twitched at the witch enjoying his sense of humor. And he listened to the group as Thaoran explained what had brought them there.
“Goblins . . . are nasty things. Don’t like ‘em! They foul the river and make everything smell bad!” No sooner had the words been out of his mouth then he seemed to pop up on his seat on the log. “Excuse me one moment!” he announced and before anyone could do anything he had zipped to the shore of the river. As the group spun about to shout and do . . . something . . . the escaping giant otter popped back out of the weeds with a fish in his mouth. He trotted back over to the log he had just vacated and resumed his reclining position. He held up the fish for inspection. “Smells. Smells reminded me of my dinner. I had just caught it when those creatures nabbed me. Foolish of me to let them do that. Really, very foolish. But now, thanks to you, I shall finish my meal.” And he started to do just that – taking bites of the fish and munching happily.
Only a few bites into his meal he continued talking. “Beastly things grabbed me by the river and I dropped it. A fellow can get hungry getting interrogated by a creature not smart enough understand the simplest of mis-directions. How is one supposed to play them for fools when they are already such fools? You can’t make them look any more ridiculous! Truly, it is frustrating. It is like having a battle of wits with a brick! Except that brick keeps swatting at you with a stick!” Here he waved some dead fish at you and added, “They couldn’t pronounce Boris either!” At this he snuck a little peek at the elves again. “Brggbrrghbrrrggh was about the best they could do!”
Taking another bite of fish he continued. “Ah, but you, the heroes of the hour, were not asking about the ability of bugbears to speak fine names, were you? No, apparently you were looking to be heroes to more then just poor, foolish Boris. Missing Twins from Botkinburg you say?” Receiving a quick nod from members of the party, he nodded right back. “Yes, yes, the vile creature are crawling all over again. Once they were all over around here, you know? Before that, these woods were grand and green. But then there were the dark years. But that threat was beaten back by other heroes then you. But so it was.”
He paused again for another bite. There wasn’t much left of his fish at this point, but he seemed to be enjoying working his way around the bones, pulling them out, cleaning them of meat and flicking them at the body of one of the dead bugbears. “I had not heard of these twins you mention, but of goblins I can tell you. They have returned in larger numbers of late. Always they had been around since the dark days, but frequently hidden. But now . . . it seems the days are darker again. More come. More and more. And other foulness like these creatures.” He indicated exactly which creatures he meant by flinging the last vestiges of a fish at one of the bodies. “I don’t pay them much attention, but I see them march up and down the river. They foul the river. How stinky must you be for your stench to foul an entire river by merely putting your foot into it? Even a dwarf bathes more than that!” He seemed to catch himself and glance at Dok as those words came out. “But goblins . . .”
The creature paused and looked around at the group. “Yes, goblins I have seen. And smelled. And heard. They are around. In numbers. In the Vargolog they stay. It is an old set of tunnels, a barracks of sorts, from the days of the horned one. These hills are filled with them. From the river to the top. I don’t care about what is down them – I have no need to go into such holes. Such filth. But I know where they are.” Here he looked around at the group again. “And I know where they stay. If you live along Boris’ river you should expect Boris to know about you.”
“Yes, you asked if I had smelled the creatures, and it would be impossible not to. They are foul. And reside at the Vargolg. It is down river from here. Up a bit of gulley – the ridge line is filled with them. But this one ends in a door. Gethgord’s it was, of old. But that was very long ago. Today it belongs to some fool in a red hat. But he has comings and goings. Quite a few. Beasts like these. . . “ and here again he flicked a bone at a corpse. “Yes, they are there. But others in the woods seem to grow in number as well. Dark days . . .” You could see him grimace a bit, a look that didn’t seem natural on what had previously been a happy otter face.
(At this point I’m assuming that you ask about directions – there seems little reason to wait on the obvious question based on Thaoran’s prior remarks.)
“Yes, yes, Boris can help you find it. You helped him, so he will help you. And thus the world goes round and the river flows. Yes, that shall be easy enough. You head down stream from here. It is some few miles. A distance. Half a day, perhaps? If you can move quickly along the river bank. Then up a gulley to the door.”
“For saving me, yes, this I shall show you.”
*Soledad’s check on knowledge of fey and otters. You have no knowledge of fey creatures specifically turning into otters. No rumor, legend or any mention of that shape. But you do know that some fey, not the weakest of them, can change shape. And given their strong ties to nature stories of fey taking the shape of normal animals are not unheard of. You have never heard of a fey taking the shape of an otter, but given the creatures playfulness and penchant for fun, it does not seem implausible.