'A fool in a red hat?'
Thäoran pondered those words and his mind cast back to what the goblin they had interrogated had said about the Red Caps. Could the new owner of Vargalog be the leader of the Red Caps?
He voiced his thought to his companions:
'The kind otter here mentioned a fool in a red hat. I could not help but think of the Red Caps that goblin mentioned. I wonder if this "fool" is their leader?'
The otter had an interesting story and seemed friendly enough. After a bit he even offered to guide them to the golin lair. It seemed that luck was on their side for the moment. Thäoran voiced the idea that the "fool in the red cap" mentioned by the otter might be the leader of the group that took the children. It made sense; how many red cap wearing goblins could there be? "I say we a take Boris up on his offer. It is the best lead we have. "
"Agreed. That fool in a red hat might well be the very leader of the wretched goblins we seek." Pausing Soledad returned her gaze to the fey otter. "I wonder, Beuren, could you tell us more of this fool in the red hat? Or of the Vargolg? Has a dark history returned again?"
((OOC: Pausing for conversation))
"And we thank you, greatly for leading us. Perhaps we might take some time to rest before we journey, if there is time. I think we all could benefit from that."
Boris the otter listened as the group considered his offer. When the witch asked about the red-hatted goblin and the dark times he spat and answered. "The one with red hat. Well, numerous stinky goblins wear red hats. But one is the leader. Came from the South, that is all I know. That and where he can be found. Beyond that, just goblin stench. But he makes his home at the Vargolg. It is an old barracks - an old hideaway from the dark days. Many such things can be found along the ridge. Caves, barracks, hideaways. They are here. The ridge is infested with them. Vargolg is . . . like the others. No better or worse. An old barracks. Up a gulley to a door. Past the door . . . " Here he paused and shook his head. "You would like Boris to tell you what is inside, but he cannot. I do not go into such places. Why would I venture into the dark and smelly regions when I have a fresh river to swim in? No, I don't know what is beyond the door. Only that in the past others have used the door. Now red hatted ones. It smells." Speaking of smells he lifted his nose to the air and sniffed. "Yes, the hills smell worse these days. More like those with red hats. Dark history returned? Perhaps. The number of dark creatures has grown recently. Sadly. Even as the region was recovering from the last darkness does darkness return. There are more of them. Them, the darker things. Like these beasties." That expression he emphasized with wad of otter spittle on the face of one of the dead bugbears. "But does it mean something more than just a largernumber of vile things? Boris knows not. I see what I see when it comes to my river, but I cannot see what sends or brings them hither. But hither they do come . . . "
At that point he seemed to have finished his soliloquy. He stopped and appeared to look to see if the group was ready to move. But it was at that point that the suggestion of a rest was given. Boris nodded upon hearing the request. "Yes, yes, you are tired after saving foolish Boris. I can see that. Rest here. There is even already a fire. I will go to the river and return before midday. I wish to swim and get something to eat."
As soon as the group nodded their assent, he zipped into the river with barely a ripple and was gone. The group began to prepare for their rest.
(OOC: If you have any additional questions for Boris before he goes off, please feel free to ask. It is easy to backfill those answers. Also, this assumes that you are ok with him zipping off while you rest. And that the rest of the group agrees to the rest. If that isn't the case, let me know. It is now around 5:30 or so in the morning. Also, I am about to put a couple of comments in the Q&A thread - please be sure to read those.)
It seemed everyone was in agreement that rest would be a good idea. "So the plan is to get some rest and recover spells. Boris will do his own thing while we rest and then meet us back here. Then we will head out to find the goblins."
"So the plan is to get some rest and recover spells. Boris will do his own thing while we rest and then meet us back here. Then we will head out to find the goblins."
“Sounds good Hornet, should we set not set a watch pattern”? Silver asked of the other Rogue. Finding a place easily accessible she relaxed for the first time since the fight and could not help wonder how Steel was doing back at town.
As the group made camp, talk of watch was raised. Soledad needed the time to fully replenish her magical energies. Although she would have to leave sitting watch to the other elves, she could add a bit of magical vigilance to their encampment. Drawing upon the ambient magic in the land and sky, the witch worked her ritual, setting an invisible web of fey magic to stand guard over their encampment. If any intruder threatened their rest she would know.
((OOC: Cast Alarm as ritual. Alarm set to mental "Ping"))
The group watched as Boris the otter slipped buck into the Hreusen River and immediately disappeared. The otter was off looking for its inner, but supposedly would return to guide them towards the Vargolg. That thought made most of the group pause as none of them had ever heard of the Vargolg, but they all were aware that the ridgeline was riddled with caves and the ruins of various forts and hideouts. Apparently the Vargolg was one of these. It would be no real surprise if goblins had holed up in such a ruin. IF the Redcaps really were a thing, and IF they really had taken the twins, and IF the twins were really still alive, and IF the Vargolg was real, and IF the Vargolg was the lair of the Redcaps, then perhaps it was where they wanted to go. That was a lot of Ifs, but it was more to go on then they had a couple of hours ago.
With the otter off in the river the group set about making camp. They all wanted a long rest – the battle with the bugbears had drained their supply of spells and it was nearing dawn – they had had only one short rest since the previous morning before their night had been interrupted by the goblins on the road up the pass from the bridge. Guards were set and Soledad set an alarm spell. As dawn approached the group settled down for the day. Pleasantly, the rain clouds seemed to break shortly after dawn. It wouldn’t’ be a clear day, but it didn’t appear that more rain was in the offing. Still, conditions remained damp and muddy.
As the group rested Soledad’s alarm never went off. The woods were quiet and damp throughout the day. After about 8 hours or so, true to his word, Boris the otter popped up out of the river. The group jumped and the witch’s alarm suddenly went “ping!” But the fey creature just stood there with a smile and a large fish hanging from its mouth. It resumed its perch on the same fallen log it had used the night before and made quick work of its dinner. When finished he looked up at the group. “Are the heroes of the hour all rested? While you slept and studied under the leaves Boris has been down the river looking for food and searching for signs of the stinky goblins and their ilk. I went down stream quickly and the place seems to remain where it was. As I got there a lone goblin, looking filthy and hurried, but then they always look that way, the filthy things, scurried out of the bushes and up the gulley toward where the door would be. Boris doesn’t approach the entrances to such places – there is no good reason to do so. And while I know the door is there, it can not be seen from the river.”
Here the big creature shrugged. “Thus, I did not see it go in the door, but it certainly seemed headed that way. It would be a hard climb out of that gulley if one didn’t go into the door – and nothing came back down the gulley for a good thirty minutes or so. I waited a bit and then returned hither. So take that for what you will – at least one goblin still seems to be in residence in the old barracks.” At this point the creature sat up on is perch and looked at all of you. “So, are you still wanting old Boris to repay your rescue by leading you to the door?”
As the decision had been made the night before there was no need for further discussion. The group gave a quick assent and set about breaking camp. Boris indicated that you would be heading South – downstream along the river. There would likely to be places where the path would be difficult and you would even have to wade into the river a bit to get around blockages of various sorts. But it should be doable. His estimate was for about 6 hours on the journey. As it was now midafternoon (2ish?) after a long night and then a long rest, that would put you arriving at your target around 8 in the evening if everything went according to plan.
When the group set off down stream they found that the otter’s description of things was quite accurate – the terrain was rough and there was nothing resembling a road. Occasionally you did encounter what might have been a path through the undergrowth, but it was not consistent or easy. Three times Hornet and Thaoran spotted what they believed was the track of a goblin going the same direction you were headed. The ground was wet and muddy and easily retained tracks. Boris did not travel with you through the woods but instead moved along side through the river. Periodically he would pop up and give you a warning about what to expect next.
Not long after sundown you rounded a small bend in the river to find the big otter sitting on a large stone jutting out into the water. Not surprisingly he was snacking on a fish. As you approached, he spoke. “You are almost there, heroes. It is naught but half a mile further to the gulley of the Vargolg. It is just a gulley like any other. Steep sided and retreating up the ridge as the water has created it. But at its back end you will find a door. It is there that Boris believes that you will find these red-capped goblins you desire. From here on, I shall stay in the water. But when you reach the appropriate spot, I shall signal you and you can go from there.”
(OOC: I am stopping here so that you can make any plans you want for approaching the door. Boris doesn’t know much about it except that at the end of the gulley there is a single heavy door. He believes the Redcaps have been using it as a base and this morning he saw the goblin go up the gulley. When you reach it you will find that the gulley is steep sided – you could climb out of it and up onto the ridge, but would likely need to make some climbing checks. The base of the gully is more or les flat and slopes upwards. It is around 20’ wide at the base and narrows as it goes. There are bushes, trees and boulders scattered throughout. Once you are about 10’ or so up the gulley the path will be fairly obvious and easy to follow. There is a clear path. But it is also obvious that someone has made the path less obvious near the river. You might easily have passed this gulley and not known that it was any different from the hundreds of others you have already passed by. Discuss your plan. Is there anything you want to do before you approach the door? How do you wish to approach it?)
With the party refreshed they headed out following Boris. It was not an easy trek and Hornet was glad they had a guide or it would have been even more difficult. With nothing wlse to do along the way, Hornet talked to Boris. "Boris, I was wondering; are there others like you around here? By that I mean either talking otters or other versions of whatever kind of being you are. Please don't take that as an insult; I am just not sure exactly what you are. How old are you? How did you come to be in this section of the river? Is there a way we could find you again if we wanted to visit you?" After much walking the party arrived at the spot Boris indicated led to the entrance to the goblin lair. "Perhaps we should scout a bit before we walk up to the door. I suggest Silver and I sneak up there to have a look and listen. Then we can come back and all make a plan for entry. Would you be willing to accompany me Silver?"
"Boris, I was wondering; are there others like you around here? By that I mean either talking otters or other versions of whatever kind of being you are. Please don't take that as an insult; I am just not sure exactly what you are. How old are you? How did you come to be in this section of the river? Is there a way we could find you again if we wanted to visit you?"
Hornet sought to converse with the otter on one of the occaisons when the creature moved along the shore with them. That wasn't typical - he spent most of his time in the river, usually disappearing from view upahead. But there were a few times when he was available and Hornet found an opportunity to ask his questions.
Boris the Otter laughed at the string of questions. "A curious one you are! Your kind are usually more likely to ponder a mystery more than blurt out questions. But sometimes, even for an elf, a direct question is the best option, yes?" He seemed to make a noise somewhere between a chuckle and a giggle, it was a bit hard to tell as Hornet was not fluent in otter noises. "Yes, curiosity and the elf. But no insults intended and no insults taken young hero. A question is just a question and I am perfectly capable of ignoring the rude ones. Not that any of these were, no, these were reasonable questions for a curious youngster."
At this point the otter zipped into the water and then popped out again. He seemed to enjoy spinning in circles in mid conversation. "Others like me? That depends on what the young hero means. As I have said before, I am Fey. And Fey are Fey and Fey there are. Fey are almost everywhere and this is part of everywhere. A fey everywhere. Yes, fey there, although none like Boris. No, Boris is Boris and none other is like Boris. Just Boris." Again he did his zip into the river and suddenly popped back out again and onto the log he had been using as a perch. "Yes, young hero, you can find fey in these woods and along this ridge. Mostly they are the little ones, small and curious. But other, more ancient, more . . . fey . . . bengs exist as well. They are. They will be. But you mean otters like your Boris? No, there is none but Boris."
"And you ask about the age of Boris? Well, that could be an impertinant question in some rivers young hero! But Boris is not worried about such things. He has earned many a grey hair yet none does he have! For a gray otter is not what Boris wishes to be! But long has he roamed this river, his home. It is my river. It has been for many cycles of the oyster, young hero. But perhaps you do not measure your days by the oyster?" At that he again spun and disappeared into the water appearing again in a moment in a spout of water to land on the log, this time holding up a mollusk he had presumably claimed from the river bed. He wacked it on a large rock next to his log and pulled out the flesh from inside, downing it one grinning gulp. He held up the shell. "See! At the bottom of the river are little timepieces to be . . . " You could almost see the big otter deflate slightly. "No, you don't want a lesson in mollusk time keeping, do you? But a wise young one learns where he can. But then, perhaps that is the reason for your questions. Ah. the years, as elves and dwarves and others devise them. Long, have I roamed my river and long has it flowed by my home. Yes, young elf, in the time of your grandfather's, grandfather, at least, I came to the banks of my home. It has been long."
Here he tossed away the shell he had cracked open and answered the elf's last question. "And yet, for all that time, a few creatures had captured a foolish otter and you decided to aid me. Yes, you can find me again. It isn't hard if one wants, and I wish it as well, of course. Simply put your message in my river. I will get it. The river flows by my home and the message will reach me. Such things do." And with that he again disappeared into the river and didn't reappear right away, apparently signaling that the march was to continue.
It was much longer before the group reached the gulley they sought.
Hornet enjoyed his banter with Boris. Some questions were answered fairly directly; others were left to interpretation. But, such is the way of the fey. One never really could get simple answers from them. In the end, Hornet came away a little wiser about what dwelled in the area around the river and now had a way to contact Boris in the future. "I thank you for your willingness to teach a young elf like me. It is true that most of my kind would have pondered the questions I had; perhaps for eons before thining to ask them. Maybe that is why I travel in the world of men and not of elves. I wish to gain much knowledge and for that one must be unafraid to ask. Hopefully we will meet again one day Boris."
It was time to scout the door. "Silver and I will sneak up to the door from opposite sides. If it is unguarded, I will move to the door while Silver covers me. I'll try to listen to see if anything is inside and then if there is time I will check it for traps and then for it being locked. If locked I will try to pick the lock. If I fail, Silver and I will swap places and she will try it. We won't open the door but will return with news of what we found so we can move in as a group."