Twillingbottom's Field Guide

The Slow Trail North
Wings in the Deep

With heavy hearts, we left Forlond behind. Our party moved out in silence, still reeling from the events that unfolded in the Hearthall and with poor Aelith’s family. The young girl, devastated by what happened, decided to stay with her people and help rebuild. My colleagues vowed to find Aelith’s abducted sister and return her to her family. How we are going to accomplish this feat, especially against those ghastly undead creatures is beyond me. However, my compatriots would not be deterred, and so we followed the trail north.

A_River_In_The_Forest_by_MCfrog.jpg

The road we were on soon dwindled to a trail, and then into a small animal track as the thick forest closed in around us. I was starting to have my doubts about the group deciding to undertake this endeavour (and was somewhat puzzled about how this became a democracy), as the trail grew cold. It was late in the afternoon when we came across the most curious scene. Standing in the middle of a small creek bisecting the animal track was a rather frightened pony, wide-eyed and breathing heavy. The creature, while not exactly the type of exotic animal I had come to these remote parts for, was in itself and oddity. How did it get here? Why was it so skittish as we neared? The answers soon became apparent, for when we approached the animal, we saw that it was covered in its own blood. The poor beast had circular wounds covering its body, similar in size to a platinum crown. My companions were almost as frightened as the pony upon seeing the blood, perhaps expecting another undead ambush. Berrian especially gripped his dagger tight. I knew from reading Edguario Menenheide’s Treatise on the Mating Habits of the Common Snork that what we were witnessing was the end result of an attack by cave stirges. Having not seen them in person myself, and not expecting them to have spread so far north, I figured it wouldn’t hurt if we were to delay our trek to investigate these creatures a little closer.

Berrian volunteered to scout ahead to see if the “attackers” were still lurking about. As he crept off into the woods, my companions tried to soothe the pony and dress its wounds. Gyna volunteered to remove and donate her loincloth to the cause, but the group shouted a deft NO! This may have been the first time we had agreed on anything! Upon his return, Berrian reported a grisly scene. Apparently, the pony had belonged to a family of settlers, who made the calamitous decision to set up camp beside the mouth of a cave. The very cave, no doubt, from which the stirges emerged. It looked as if they had been set upon as they had finished their evening meal the night previous. Their skin was a most pallid complexion, having been exsanguinated in mere minutes. Luthien discovered a diary of the mother, mid-entry that gave us a clue that there was a young child missing from among the deceased. Upon further investigation, Püff detected tracks leading into the cave. Perhaps they were feeling ashamed about Aelith’s sister’s abscondtion that my companions decided to search out the poor young boy named Eustace. What Luck! We were going to be entering the cave. I had to, of course, hide my jubilance, the situation being as it was, but it meant that I might be finally able to do some Science!

cave_2.jpg

The decent into the cave’s depth soon led us to a clue that we were on the right path to find the lost child. On one rocky step, there was a stuffed owlbear. Puff must have had a run-in with an owlbear in the past, because upon seeing the child’s toy, she did her best to slay the stuffing out of it, war pick swinging wildly (finally, a foe she could handle). Our path took us through narrow squeezes, winding passages, and sulphur filled rooms (although there was some debate in the party as to whether the smell was naturally occurring or some vile Gyna-esque emanation). After a long decent through the dark, we came upon a large cavern. The guano covered floor, and the distant sound of leathery wings flapping against each other let me know that we had reached the nesting spot of the cave stirges. No sooner have we stepped into the chamber than had the grotesque bat-like creatures started dropping from the ceiling to look for their next meal, us! Fortunately for me, my companions stayed huddled together and were able to beat back the swarm of sharp talons and long proboscises. Their battle formation proved less useful when a giant fire beetle emerged from the far side of the cavern and bathed them all in a gout of sticky flames (I will have to lend Püff my copy of Grondigal’s Guide to Phalanx and Phalanx dispersal).

After a few breathless moments, my colleagues soon proved the better of the situation. And with their usual heavy-handedness, bashed, bludgeoned and bombarded all our would-be samples into submission. While the stirges themselves warranted a closer inspection, Vavara seemed aghast when I suggested that she should collect a few choice guano samples for later study. Surely she knows that one occasionally needs to get one’s toes in the proverbial muck to properly forward their field of knowledge! Berrian and Luthien found and removed the fire beetle’s fuel glands, and saved the viscous liquid contained within, no doubt to examine later. They at least seem to have gleaned some fascination with the scientific process (I knew that my more refined and inquisitorial attitudes would eventual rub off on them).

With all of our specimens collected, I was satisfied to return to the Tumbledown and examine them under the proper scientific controls. My intrepid companions wanted to push forward, however. And by push I mean literally that; a small crevice led out from the opposite side of the chamber. With the young lad’s tracks leading that way Gyna decided to rush headlong (or perhaps belly-long) into the crack. Her blood rage must have still been boiling, because she soon got herself wedged into the tight space, not realising the simple volumetric problems of her substantial girth. I only hope once we get her unstuck what we find on the other side proves fruitful to our scientific endeavours.

View
Hard Bones and Harder Choices
Mortis March

After departing ways with the moonlight bear, we arrived at the elven village of Forlond. A quaint little town, with just enough amenities to let us wash away the dust and grime from hard days spent in the woods. Myself, I enjoyed a nice hot bath, soothing my aches and pains from battling goblins and long trekking through the forest. After the refresher, we were taken to meet the Wisdom of the village, the elder woman who is chief of the clan. She thanked us for returning the moonlight bear to its home and was offering a reward. I let her know that Science is its own reward and that she should keep her gold (for some strange reason a few of my companions did not share the same viewpoint). The Wisdom also asked us to be the guest of honour in the Morcuilé festival. This was an exciting anthropological opportunity! I would get to observe these strange folk adorn themselves in vestments of the dead (some much more accurate than others, I learned later) and dance and parade about in the most peculiar of fashions. Regardless of whether it makes logical sense, it is a lovely display of colour and tradition.

As there was some time before the start of the parade, a few of my associates lent a hand in helping the elves around the village, while some others focused on collecting their costumes for the evening’s festivities. A few of the local shops drew the attention of some of my group. I believe Puff wasted the bulk of her afternoon traipsing around the shrubbery looking for who knows what (I guess she has developed and affinity for the outdoors. Maybe she has started to conduct her own research, how exciting! We will have to compare notes). I myself spent the time to pen a few entries into the pages of my manuscript. Once the afternoon had passed, we gathered again to begin the celebration.

elven_feast.jpg

The Morcuilé parade started on a sombre note, with a slow march accompanied by a melancholy choir. As we wend our way through the town the mood of the townsfolk soon began to brighten, as the music shifted to a more upbeat, and celebratory affair. I, for one, was happy for the change of pace, as these elves seem too gloomy by half. The parade took its revelers around the the ceremonial fire at the centre of town, where the elves, along with me and my fellow travellers, dance and cavorted to the music (although if one were to be able to look at the wild gyrations of Gyna for more than a few seconds, you may have mistaken her to be having a seizure. Must be some newfangled dance moves the kids are doing these days).

There were a few in the crowd who did not seem to be enjoying themselves as much as my frenetic friends. Vavara noticed that one such person was doing nothing more than a mindless swaying. When she touched the individual on the shoulder and turned them around, Vavara discovered that the intricately worked skeleton costume this person had donned was no costume at all! The dead had been walking amongst us! The shock soon turned to horror, as more undead reveal themselves and swung their crude weapons against any within reach. The dancing and singing soon turned to screams and terrified running in all directions. In the ensuing panic, I was knocked down and tumbled under a cart near the edge of the central clearing. As I shook the stars from my eyes I could see decrepit skeletons hacking down fleeing townsfolk. Rotting zombies sank their teeth into hapless citizens. It was chaos for many long moments. I saw the rest of my party flee the clearing without me (had we not formed such bonds of friendship and camaraderie that they could forget me so quickly?). It was later I learned that the Wisdom had ordered them to the Hearthall to protect the elutaur.

skeletons_1.png

I stayed in my small harborage as the Wisdom and the rangers of the town battled the undead and saved what people they could (I had left my favoured dirk with my belongings at Silvyntonge’s longhall, or I would have sprung from my ambuscade and showed those rattlers what for!) Once the ceremonial place was secured and the townsfolk made safe, I headed to the Hearthall to assist my comrades. I arrived to see them embroiled in combat with more dead-walkers. Gyna seemed to be blessed by the heavens as her flail strikes were much more precise than her usual haphazard attacks. Even Berrian and Puff acquitted themselves well in combat. Perhaps all this time in the field is finally honing their skills. All except poor Vavara. I would hypothesise that the presence of such a strong spiritual entity like the elutaur interfered with her connection to her gods, and that is why her powers over the undead failed her. It wasn’t until after our skeletal foes had hacked free the treeheart that she was finally able to level a blast of divine wrath against them. It must have been the weakening of the elutaur as it fell from its place that reconnected Vavs with her celestial grace.

As I looked on the scene it occurred to me that our most recent travelling companion, Aelith, was nowhere to be found. She had decided to run to her family home during the attack, as she feared for the life of her spellscarred sister. It is with a sad heart that I must report that her fears were not in vain. As we arrived at her house, we discovered that the undead had butchered her mother and poor baby brother, and absconded with her sister to parts unknown. If only I had gone with her to her house, perhaps this tragedy could have been avoided. Wracked with grief, Aelith gave her family heirloom, a longbow named Menelandieth to Luthien, as Aelith has sworn off her ranging ways. I only hope that she may be able to find solace, along with the rest of the villagers, as they try to repair and rebuild their town after this egregious attack.

View
Bear Necessities
A Return to the Wild

With our first foray into the wide world of Entomo-Herpetology concluded, we decided to turn our efforts to a more ursine pursuit. The young elf lass, Aelith, as she called herself, searched out Luthien as we gathered at the bar to celebrate our victory in the cellars. Apparently, Luthien is rather well travelled (surprising as she looks quite young, she must moisturise), and has journeyed to Aelith’s village of Forlond in the past. The young lady was beside herself, upset with the disappearance of the moonlight bear, and needed assistance to find the creature. Of course I was willing to accompany her, as what kind of gentleman would I be to let such a beautiful young lady wander these dangerous wilds by herself (and by danger I mean the lascivious eyes of one Berrian Meliamne!). We decided to spend the night in the inn to collect ourselves and begin our foray into the Hinterlands in the morning.

woodland_travel_2.jpg

We set out, north-west of the Tumbledown Inn, heading towards Aelith’s home. It felt good to be out in the forest again, with the sun shining, avians aviating and greenery growing. Finally a chance for some quality Science! After a few days travel, Aelith lead us to a clearing in the forest near her village, and in the middle, there was the lair of the bear (ha, poetry without my knowledge!). As expected, the lair was bare, save for bear hair (hee hee, I truly must stop…). As I was collecting a few samples for my catalogue, we did discover something disturbing, which gave us clues to the whereabouts of the creature. A broken spearhead adorned with the totems of the Black Spider goblin clan. Luthien knew of this clan, and as to where their camp may be. We set off in a westerly direction in search of these foulsome creatures.

The journey took several days to track the goblins down. It was on the second night while resting around the campfire, that I was finally able to regale my companions with a few choice witticisms. And while some of the more pedestrian folk were confused at my rather refined badinage, most were able to follow once I offered up some cruder punnery. I learned some interesting information about my compatriots as well. Luthien had tragically lost her sister to an orc raid on her village when she was young. Puff has a micturition problem (I hear this is common amongst female dragonborn). Berrian spent time in his formative years at an abbey to the south, until some penile deflection incident caused him to rethink his life choices. Miss Vavara had some interesting encounters with an exotic creature during her pilgrimage. I will have to investigate further about this ‘Sunlight Eagle’ with its fervour filled wings of light. And while the very nature of scientific pursuit is one of curiosity, once again Gyna had offered forth some information I’m sure others would ought not to have heard. Apparently she has a proclivity to insert large fruit into her rectum. Which may sound like a shocker to some, but once one observes the profundity at which she stuffs things into her maw, it is no wonder she is able to pa…you know what, never mind. I shall spare you the gory details.

campfire.gif

It was while young miss Aelith was taking a go at storytelling when we were set upon my the most surreptitious of creatures. To our folly, we seemed to have set camp amongst a thresh of bloodthorne vines. The vines quickly ensnared poor Aelith and Mr. Meliamne. The pale vine leaves turned the most vibrant colour of red as my fellow travellers were being exsanguinated. But I had little time to observe this chromatic display before my brutish companions starting hacking and chopping away. Don’t they know that there is no nobler sacrifice that to give one’s body to the pursuit of Science?! I would have surely done so myself if I could trust my associates to make the proper observations and examinations. Alas, once again I shall have to be satisfied with studying remains.

It was about midday the next day when we came upon the goblin camp. And not a moment too soon, as it appeared they were about to perform some ritual sacrifice. I shudder at the thought of such a magnificent creature like the moonlight bear being used in some perverse shamanistic rite. Berrian and Luthien moved stealthily around the camp to reconnoitre the scene. A couple of hapless greenskins quickly fell victim to their blades. Now I may not have much experience ranging (as most of my wilderness experience is theoretical), but it seems to me that lighting a tent on fire would be the last thing to do to remain undetected. They disagreed. This soon roused the camp to our presence, so we had no choice but to burst onto the scene and show those gobbos what for! Gyna and Puff made for a good team, moving in from the west, while Vavara supported with her divine invocations from the north. The battle swung back and forth, with blows being traded on each side. Puff once again sacrificed herself for the sake of her companions, falling in battle to a wicked curse from the goblin shaman. But the opening she created allowed Gyna to deliver the fatal strike. With my keen tactical direction from the bushes (one must have the proper vantage point to assess all threats), our team managed to free the bear and route the remaining goblin threat.

Aeltih was reunited with her spirit creature, and we decided to accompany her and the animal back to Forlond. What a joy to see this amazing creature up close and personal! Finally, the fruits of our labours are truly paying dividends!

View
A Treatise on Failure
Oh what foul fortune befalls me!

Here we are, in the most interesting of locales, with all manner of discoveries at our fingertips, and my compatriots can only think about wanton destruction. Goodman Grog will be happy to be sure, to be rid of his bug problem, but I for one am saddened at the thought of the missed scientific possibilities!

At last we had reached the lair of the kruthik broodmother. No sooner had I brandished my notes and quill then that large brutish orc of a woman rushed headlong into the nest, screaming and carrying on as if the Reaving had returned! I stood there dumbfounded at the lost opportunity to observe the kruthiks at home in their resting state.

kruthik_lair.jpg

Fortunately for me, the wily creatures proved to be elusive, as my companions engaged the beasts haphazardly. i would have time to observe the kruthik’s response to this outside stimuli. In fact, Barrian’s attacks were quite flaccid. He seemed to spend more time on fancy flourishes and twirling about than to actually find any purchase with his blades amongst the chitinous scales of the kruthiks. Perhaps too much time had been spent the evening prior with drink by the hearth and boasting about his many daring exploits. I find that a good night’s rest and a light breakfast is the prudent course of action when one is setting out on an adventure. One cannot properly conduct science with a head full of wool!

The broodmother was none too pleased with us disturbing the sanctity (ha, get it, we are in a cloister! I should pen a volume of jokes and puns…) of her nest. The clamour and din must have been too stressful for the hatchlings, as at the sound of the broodmother’s reptilian shrills, the eggs started to burst, disgorging them into the melee. It is a shame really, that we couldn’t take a moment to observe and enjoy the beauty that is childbirth, as the hatchlings were looking at us for their first meal. The broodmother quickly moved to protect her young, lashing all about with jagged claws and spewing forth poisonous quills. This proved to be too much for poor Miss Iskrem, as she soon succumbed to her wounds. It was only a bold move by Gyna, using her namesake Roundpound technique that saved Puff from becoming dinner. Exceptional that one of her particularly impressive girth could be so manoeuvrable.

Vavara and Luthien had similar woes when we first entered the nest. Perhaps they were as eager as I to see the kruthik up close and personal, and this is why they deliberately shot and fired their respective projectiles off the mark. It was only once the beasts had closed that Vavs and Lutes found their stroke. The elven lasses teamed up to fell one pernicious kruthik. Soon all the specimens were left in a beaten or battered state, and I was able to collect a myriad of samples to be catalogued later.

Now from here I was satisfied to return upstairs to the inn to examine the remains of the creatures, but for some unbeknownst reason my besotted colleagues decided to go mucking about down some dingy passage. Couldn’t they see there was science to be done?! My apprehension soon proved warranted, as at the back of a dimly lit chamber there was the most curious of orbs. Ancient man-made artefacts are not my area of study, being more of a naturalist, but even I could tell this glowing metallic ball, floating above its pedestal should not be trifled with. No sooner had we begun to enter into a healthy debate as to the merits of taking the orb, and how we should proceed, then had Gyna grabbed the orb from its resting place. I swear that woman will be the death of us. I’m not going to say that it served her right, but upon grabbing the orb, her body was wracked with spasms for a few tense moments before she collapsed unconscious to the ground. I think I saw a small smirk on Meliamne’s face. When she finally came to she said that she saw some sort of vision, but if it was of anything other than dumplings and mead, I would be surprised.

Upon our return to the inn, we were approached by a young lass looking for help. The spirit animal protector of her village has gone missing; a moonlight bear. She needed us to assist her in locating and returning the bear. What an exciting opportunity! To see such a creature in the wild is a rare occasion indeed. As long as I can keep my maladroit companions from smashing the bear into oblivion, all manner of knowledge could be gleaned. Perhaps my luck is starting to change!

Science!

View
A Question of Kruthiks
Day 1: Tumbledown Inn

Well, my quest to pen the ultimate Field Guide started off on rocky footing, as a small bout of fisticuffs broke out just as we were getting to know each other. One Bradley Taggart, a supposed representative from the Univeristy, claimed I owed some debt. The ensuing unpleasantness lead to myself being bodily handled by a spry young female elf (which truthfully, I haven’t seen that kind of action since my freshman year at the University), and unceremoniously dumped behind the bar. Goodman Grog did not mind watching as my would-be compatriots flailed away with Taggart’s thugs, chuckling at the ineptitude of their pugilistic abilities. Eventually, the tide started to turn with some deft acrobatics by my elven molester and a few well-placed fists from her new eladrin friend. Taggart unfortunately decided to beat a hasty retreat. He may prove to be quite troublesome in the future.

Once we had all dusted ourselves off and enjoyed a victory pint, it was time to get to the business at hand. We proceeded down into the cellars of the inn to investigate Grog’s curious bug problem. I immediately took stock of a delightful, if somewhat flattened pair of specimens left behind by our dear barkeep. I can tell you that the insides of these, as of yet, indiscernible creatures had the most vibrant colour. Green-grey ichor oozed from the remains. No sooner had I finished inspecting these remains then had one of my new companions been accosted by the very creatures we were here to catalogue. What luck, live specimens! I immediately recalled back to my entomology studies and discerned that these creatures were non-other than kruthiks. Our eladrin friend Vavara tangled with the little beasties, no doubt purposefully missing the fatal blow (or any blows at all) so that I could properly capture the creatures’ likeness in action. The kruthik’s hinged mandibles lashed out and caught Vavara in the leg, leaving the most fascinating of wounds. I cannot wait to see if the bite leaves some suppurating effect on her. See the attached appendix for her personal account on the encounter.

Hatchling_kruthik.jpg

Unfortunately, once those creatures were subdued (with some manner of magical effect, I will have to remind my fellow budding naturalist that we must keep the specimens somewhat intact) it was some time again until we had another encounter with the creatures. For some unbeknownst reason, our party was more interested in rummaging through old wardrobes or destroying some long dead monk’s book collection. And while I can appreciate the value of these ancient texts (being one who also endeavours to pen such an enduring manuscript) I could sense that we were moving ever closer to our true goal, the nesting lair of these creatures.

Our next encounter with the kruthiks occurred by pure happenstance. Once again my colleagues seemed to be dallying, inspecting the statuary here in the cloister, despite my protests to keep moving. The two brutish ones decided that the statues needed adjusting, and forced their movement with incredible displays of strength. I knew that while I may be alone in my pursuit of intellectual conquests, at least these dim-witted folk would be useful when I had large boxes to carry. The noises from these scraping sculptures, however, attracted kruthiks to our very location! Unfortunately, these were more of the same hatchlings that we had encountered before. And while it is always exciting to find new creatures, and kill them, I felt that we had learned all we could from these juveniles. We needed to find the broodmother!

At this point, it did occur to me that perhaps it would warrant an observation of the environment that the kruthiks had decided to make into their home, for completion of the field guide if nothing else. The walls were covered with murals from the time of the monks, depicting their daily toils and the worship of their god-twins, Valintrus and Vexahlia. I could see how the kruthiks had systematically tunnelled through the old hewn stone walls. Truly remarkable at the speed at which they could burrow despite their small size. The leveraging force of their fore-claws must be astounding. I was contemplating the nature of the murals when one of our more hapless associates discovered that perhaps the kruthiks were not the only danger in these halls. The half-elf known as Berrian walked right into a spinning blade trap (It was my understanding that these roguish types were supposed to be rather observant, who knew?). No sooner had Berrian divulged the location of this heinous contraption, then that large orcish woman (if she could even be called female {side note – conduct study as to what passes for female in the orcish clans, and how the male orc can, er, get motivated to procreate}) decided to rush headlong through the trap itself!

We soon came to discover that the murals themselves were actually showing the path forward. One had to simple bow one’s head, and they would pass through unscathed. I, thankfully being of a proper height compared to my more vertically challenged companions simply walked right past. Finally, after all of our trials and miscues, we arrived at the lair of the kruthik broodmother. I for one, cannot wait for all the zoological revelations we are about to uncover.

Science!

View

I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.