The First Frontier

The Halfling Problem

Harryfoot ran up to the ridge of the low hill. Perspiration beaded on his forehead as he stared down into the valley.

A small hut, partially buried into the hillside sat in a comfortable stretch of shade as the sun rose. Harryfoot didn’t pause, panting heavily he ran down the hill.

Smoke curled slowly up from the chimney of the humble abode, and all serene to Harryfoot. He almost slammed into the door, leaning heavily on it for a moment before pounding on the door. “Quickfoot! Quickfoot!! Where are you!!!”.

Harryfoot kicked at the door, then instantly regretted it. Hobbling around on one leg he smelled something most distressing. Food, wonderfully prepared, left to spoil.

He scrambled over to a window and forced his way up to the opening, his legs dangling in the air as he tumbled inside. His worst fears were confirmed. Quickfoot must have been captured, killed, or who knows what. His abode sat untouched, a comfortable rocking chair almost begging to be used. Harryfoot’s vision was starting to cloud, the stress of the preparations, and now for Quickfoot to disappear at the worst possible moment.

He leaned against the stove staring at the food, what would have been Quickfoot’s last meal, wondering where things went wrong. He thought back to the start of it all.


Harryfoot shook his head “No Quickfoot, this is crazy, why on earth would we ever want to be noticed by anyone, especially dragons?”

Quickfoot smiled broadly “It’s all about opportunity, think about it. No one trusts a dragon, but their greed is legendary. They have unwanted magical trinkets, and in return for a cut of the treasure we become their salesman. BAM we’re instantly rich. And dragons never stop acquiring magic items. Pretty much guaranteed income”

Harryfoot sighed, he knew when he might as well give up. Quickfoot had somehow managed to convince the rest of the elders that this was somehow a good idea. The recent drought hadn’t helped matters much, but Harryfoot was confident the river would rise again and the Lake would get back to normal. The seers in the town had different ideas though.

A small speck circled in the sky above, as its shadow grew larger Harryfoot had a sinking feeling about this.


Harryfoot was almost back to the village. Somehow he’d just have to explain Quickfoots sudden disappearance. He at least had all the magic items they were supposed to have sold for Black Beauty, the incredible large, and dangerous dragon that Quickfoot had struck a deal with. Now he just had to be as eloquent as Quickfoot.

He crested the hill and his heart sank. Ahead he saw eaten away buildings, pools of acid everywhere and looters, already making their way through the buildings picking them clean of everything. Hiding behind the hill Harryfoot was sobbing, he’d known this was a bad idea. They should’ve just waited for the Lake to rise again.


Quickfoot felt oddly distracted, but he knew the feeling would pass. Amy, the Blink Dog had just arrived with a fresh delivery of goods, and his new employer kept him busy doing exactly what he’d always wanted, buying and selling quality goods. He looked over the latest batch, which included some fine potion bottles and exquisite art pieces. The potion bottles had a familiar feel to them somehow. Not to be distracted Quickfoot stepped into the busy bazaar “Witness the fine work of Ohnalik the swimmer. Thought to have died in the River of the black lizard, now his legacy of fine works is available for sale again!”. The noise enveloped him and he was happy, his new employer was both kind and generous, he was looking forward to spending his hard earned five copper this evening.

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Carrier Task Force Golf Romeo India Foxtrot Foxtrot India November

Luke looked closely into the distance, peering at the twin pillars. His acute senses strained at the distance, his own psionic senses wavering in power as he tried to make out what looked like a glitter of crystals in the distance. He should’ve known something was happening when everyone dove out of the way, leaving him standing at the center of a cauldron of heat.

All of a sudden a huge pillar of living fire erupted from the ground behind him. He felt like he was moving in slow motion as he turned to peer at the mammoth beast. Unfortunately for him it did not move so slowly. It’s giant tendrils of flame erupted outwards striking and burning everywhere. It left giant burn marks in the ground, and seared, melted bits of deformed metal armor dripped onto the sand.

There was a burst of activity and the beast fell. Blades flashed, and steel met the bare soul of the Elemental as Michael and Sybaris released its spirit manifestation from this plane.

Asher deftly rolled out of the way, somewhat assisted by the flames pursuing him. Another flash of light erupted, but this time Luke was ready, ice, cold as the planes of Izendar, flowed outward as the freshly spawned elemental appeared right next to Asher. Transforming into a bird of flight Asher strategically repositioned himself. As he flew over Luke a large white droplet fell onto his scorched, burning armor, smelling like burning bird berries (from yesterday).

Face and Orgutz joined the fray this time, attempting to help Sybaris and Michael end the elemental before another could appear. Luke decided it was time to examine the great structure up close. As the Orcs screamed in pain, running around on fire, a horde of Griffins began to descend upon the scene. More elementals spawned, and in desperation Luke stared at two crystals one red, one green, unsure which one to pull. Reaching in with both hands he pulled them both out at the same time. Flames erupted around him, and all he could see was orange and blue tendrils of flame, then a wash of blasting wind rolled over him. As he cleared the dust and sand from his eyes, his own flame extinguished by the rush of air he watched Sybaris walking up to the pillars as a great mass of Griffins beat the air with their wings. Not an elemental was in sight.

Luke breathed a sigh of relief as Sybaris approached. With a broad smile Luke held up the crystals “Don’t worry, I didn’t break either of them, we should get full value on these!”

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It's electric boogie woogie woogie

Luke looked up at Face Smasha, “Really? This guy”

Smasha nodded “Yeah, he duh runt of the litter. Shipped off to stuffy place for smart Orcs”

Luke turned back Orgutz Render, his wide hulking frame blocking the sun as it dipped low on the horizon. He had to lean to the side to spot Beatrice as she walked around, inspecting the new recruit like they were buying a new horse. Truthfully he thought to himself, he’s big enough to be one.

“What do you think, my daughter? Is he too much the runt to be useful?” Luke inquired of Beatrice. She finished walking around him and curtly summarized “He’s killed 4 of those Nagas since last week, and got into a wrestling contest with one of those Giant Alligators for fun.” she turned to stare deep into the eyes of Orgutz, but despite the dull expression on his face, what Beatrice said next surprised Luke “What’s fascinating is that I actually had to work to get into that brain of his, and he’s even dumber that Face”.

“Alright then, it’s settled, Orgutz, welcome to the tribe. A few rules, no eating anything unless I’ve told you to kill it AND it’s been appraised for resale value by Sybaris. No breeding with the halflings, and absolutely, positively, never stand upwind”

Luke walked around introducing Orgutz to everyone. “Orgutz, this is Michael. He’s our fast mover, gets into trouble real fast and stays there. Here’s Martine, she’s… woah, no grabbing the Faerie… I told you not to do that, we’ll get you healed up with Face in a moment. Next, here is Adget, she burns things, saves on food preparation for later… Yeah, I thought you’d like that. Oh, and this is Sybaris, he handles anything requiring thinking, let’s be very clear, nothing involving thinking will be in your department. He also handles tunneling, mainly through monsters. Okay, next up we’ve got Asher, he helps make sure that should something really tough live for more than a 12 seconds, it never, and I mean never, lives for 18 seconds, he also makes Julian fries. Oh, and Beatrice, do whatever she says so long as it doesn’t involve boys, makeup, shopping, and absolutely, positively no planer travel. Well, that wraps up the tour, here’s a butcher knife, get to work on the dragon turtle with the rest of them, and make sure I get some dinosaur drumstick, I hate getting stuck with rump roast”

Luke reflected back on the previous day making a short list

  1. Sent peaceful message to wizard trying to kill us
  2. Killed Nagas, Dinosaur, and the requisite part/whole dragon
  3. Witnessed two new awe inspiring use of power: Tunnel, Monster and Grease, Flaming
  4. Kept Orcs from killing any of the halflings

A scream erupted in the distance as a dispute came to a sudden and brutal end. Luke crossed out the last line, but added another to make up for it.

  1. Avoided getting surprised in the middle of the night by dominating spell casters

Luke smiled and tucked his list away. Always had to look on the bright side of life. Now it was time to explain the finer points of Diplomacy to the Orcs before he had another half halfling.

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What is with the lizards?

Dear Adella,
We have encountered a new companion. A small, pink haired gnome mage named Adget. She is very curious about the world and is exploring it with her cat.
We saw the most amazing sight. A black dragon trying to eat a dinosaur. The dinosaur had three large horns on its head. Well, this dinosaur proceeded to run over not only the dragon, but Luke and Face Smasher as well. We ended up slaying both creatures. It turns out that Adget is an accomplished skinner. While she was skinning the dragon, we were attacked by invisible shocker lizards and a shambling mound. Face Smasher was able to purge their invisibility, which allowed us to easily dispatch the creatures.

The area we are traveling through used to be a swamp. We encountered four naga, who were hiding behind a hill. While we were engaging these creatures, Sybaris made a frightful discovery. The hill was really a dragon turtle. Timely freezing of the turtle, and some quick sword work by Sybaris finished it off quickly.

Michael.

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Advanced Adventurer Alzheimers

Luke turned the giant spit and let loose a sigh of relief. Feeding fifty people was becoming quite a chore, but the Halflings at least carried spices, and the Orcs were now camped downwind so things were at least bearable.

In the distance Luke watched Beatrice sliding across the muddy, what used to be, lake bed. It was good to watch her have fun. It helped take some of the edge off. Nightmares of yesterday had kept him awake, and his mind couldn’t quite focus. The terror of having his own mind under the control of someone else still haunted him, that mixed with a vile smell of that nauseous gas he’d sucked in way too much of.

Thankfully Martine’s well timed bolt to the gut of the Sorcerous and Face Smasha’s amazingly resilient mind had come to the rescue, but it was a close one. Luke pondered the next move. Having surprised the Sorcerous with a trio of Barbed Devils over breakfast, Luke was sure of two things. First that she wouldn’t get caught like that again, and second that she’d come back with a lot more help next time. Neither thought made him happy, but now that she was aware of the difficulty of the task at hand perhaps they could sue for peace.

Sybaris came over and joined Luke at the spit. Eying a choice piece he asked “How did you know they were going to attack us?”. “What do you mean?” Luke replied. “Well” Sybaris continued "you said, “There’s danger!”. Luke chuckled and said “No, I meant Where’s the ranger? I thought you spotted them for food?”. “For food? I thought they were going to eat us alive. That’s why I said kill them all!”. “Ohhhh, I understand now” Luke said, realization slowly dawning “I thought you said grill them all!”. Sybaris cut free a nicely fried piece of the unidentifiable creature and shook his head “So you don’t know what this is either?”. Luke shook his head “Never really got a clear look at it through all the smoke and fire, but here, try it with some Ostrich Acid sauce, it goes really well, and the Medusa snake really adds some kick to it, but I’d still eat it with your eyes closed just to be safe.”

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Someone is obsessed with tentacle porn...

Adella,
We continued to explore the submerged temple, looking for the room where the magic was inhibited. Not wanting to lose the benefit of the beasts summoned, we charged ahead, with several of us hanging on to the swimming support. We found a fearsome sight. Two zombie krackens (supersized squids from the deep waters) and a coral golem. By the time those were defeated, we had sharks, an orca, and several constructs all over the place. I was able to safely hide under one of these, so the zombies could not see me.
Shortly after we finished these foes off, a quartet of water elementals arrived. They were some sort of last effort defense. Luke talked to them in their native language. They seemed to calm down and help us. He is good at winning creatures over to his way of thinking.
With the help of the water elementals, the ice dam was broken, allowing the river to flow once more.

Thanks for the warning regarding the people who took Omar’s possesions. Luke thinks that this is some sort of misunderstanding, and we will work to resolve it as soon as possible.

Stay safe.

Michael.

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Jail Break from Hell

Luke thought being above water would be a refreshing break, but as the sun beat down on him, and Asher’s spell slicked the water away he realized it would perhaps be better to have stayed underwater.

Beatrice for her part seemed to have lost all interest in seeing the great underwater city. She was fascinated by the water elementals, and being able to see them [somewhat] safely up close was absorbing her full attention.

Luke looked over at Michael “Lost you for a second there in the milieu. So many shark fins, I thought Asher had brought the whole ocean in for a visit”. Sorting through the piles of gems and coral Luke saw a flash in the distance. “Ah, looks like they’re here”. A moment later three dogs, panting, from the desert heat appeared before him. He reached down to pull a note from the first ones mouth. The dog looked about assessing the situation, and the water elementals, then seemed to relax, as if its trip had not been a smooth one.

“It seems we are wanted for murder, consipiracy against the state, tax evasion, and” Luke paused at this one, taking a long stare at Asher “Dog kicking. Even the Pixies is listed here for treason against the state”. Luke shook his head “I don’t understand, it’s not like anybody saw her”. He paused for dramatic effect, then explained to the slower Orcs (that would be all of them) “It’s a joke”. With a bellow of laughter the Orcs went back to picking up gems, gold, and supplies. With a giant heft the Troll picked up several thousand pounds of Coral. That’s when Luke realized something strange. The desert troll was female, and someone had been putting make up on her and painting her nails. Luke opened his mouth to speak to Beatrice, but she was so enthralled in a diligent study of the Elementals that he decided to just let it pass At least she’s not in a silk nightie. Luke shuddered at that thought as everyone packed up to make way.


Morning after next Luke and Face were in deep counsel just outside the light of the fire. Next to them images flickered in a shallow pool of water. “One should do the trick, now’s the time before the guard changes” Luke said to Smasha.

Luke was a fickle master. For those that lived by the sword their fates were often short in his employ, but he had a soft spot for those who were themselves meek and of humble means.

Wavering in the pool, reflections of Halflings in jail cells, rippled magically across the waters surface. Luke was tense, not so much about what was to happen, but whether the Halflings would cooperate with their rescuer. One of them popped open an eye, obviously having been feigning sleep. The blink dogs message must have made it to them. Luke breathed a tiny sigh of relief. They quietly awoke each other and prepared themselves.

Smasha finished his incantations as Luke stood. A dark sheet, like a sliding door appeared and a warm humid heat rolled through the portal. Stepping through came a creature that brought a sense of misery and decay with its very being. Face held up his hand and instructed “Listen to boss, he give orders”

1

Luke stared at the blight on humanity and chuckled inside. He knew the creature would detest the task before it, and that just made the events about to unfold all the more ironically humorous. “Go to them” Luke said, pointing at the meager cells showing in the pool. “Break them free and make sure they can escape safely. Do so with a minimum of blood shed and havoc.” With that he handed him a vile of a bubbling acid “Use this to open the doors. See them as far out as you can”.

Then, without warning the Devil was just gone from sight, as if it had never been. Luke anxiously sat and waited, it was all he could do now as the morning sun slowly crested above the horizon.

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D&D Mafia warning.

Michael carefully wrapped the Cryo-Hydra head and placed it in a sack.
He pulled out a piece of paper, sharpened a quill, and began writing.

Dear Adella,
Something to hang on the wall. You can use it to scare the younger children. Jeffers can stuff it for you.
This beast had 8 heads and breathed ice. He tried to freeze Luke and Sybaris but they had cold protection. So it did not affect them. They did make noises like it hurt them though. Trying to get it to concentrate the breath weapons on them.

Once we overcame the cryo-hydra, we went swimming. Found an underwater town. There were some ooze like creatures that we had to fight. They spat at us a lot, and tried to envelope us. Annoying, but we survived.
We found a temple that looks like the others we found. We are resting now before we strike.

Well wishes cousin.
Michael.

Michael finished his letter, sealed it, attached it to the package and brought the package to Luke for transport.

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I want a hydra head too!

Luke rubbed his temples. He wasn’t quite sure how to explain this any clearer to his daughter.

“Look, we can’t get another one so you can have a psicrystal image with it breathing ice behind you. It’s just too dangerous”

Luke’s daughter, Beatrice, eyed her father carefully “Soooo, standing around with two dozen Orcs and the Desert Troll is safe then?”. Her comment was dry, lacking any sarcasm, but it wasn’t lost on Luke for a second.

“Well, at least let me go see the underwater city” Beatrice pressed, not willing to relent. Luke contemplated denying the city existed as he ringed the water out of his clothes, then looked up at Face Smasha as he re-enacted the battle, blindly swinging back and forth and making horrible dying sounds of the Slime creatures. Odd, thought Luke, he didn’t remember Face hitting anything but water.

“Alright, I promise to bring you into the city, but only if you finish your lessons” hopefully he thought to himself that will buy me enough time for us to finish clearing out the city.

“But daaaad” Beatrice whined on in the background “I hate telekinetic exercises, can’t I just dig the trench by hand, it would be so much easier”. Luke leveled ‘the look’ at his daughter, making it clear he wasn’t going to budge. “Look, Beatrice, you’re already behind on your electrocution exercises. I mean look at Grim Reaper over there, he’d probably still be walking if he hadn’t fallen off the ice bridge when you electrocuted him. Now I won’t settle for anything less than total focus. This time we’re going to suspend you upside down in the water for the exercise, and no excuses.” that should do the trick, and she’ll be so upset over her clothes getting wrecked it might even dissuade her from deep sea diving for the city.

A broad grin crossed his daughters lips and she nodded. Her eagerness was most… distressing.

Late into the afternoon splashing and yelping from Orcs being electrocuted, burned, frozen, and otherwise used as guinea pigs continued. Meanwhile Luke reviewed ledgers, petted the Blink dog and fed him a tasty morsel of cooked Hydra Head and sent him back to town with some rare gems for sale.

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Gravel to gravel

Left leg was bored. Right leg was too busy with creating poetry. As if that chunk of rock knew what poetry was. The vibrations from head as it chewed sand was not helping either. Left leg was getting a mind ache. Suddenly, there was an overwhelming urge to move forward. Left leg was moving before it realized that head was giving commands. Something about intruders, or something. Right leg was ahead of Left leg, and making a lot of noise. Left leg felt the ground compact differently. Maybe there was something out there.

The Right leg stopped. Head howled, but Left leg could not understand what the problem was. It was feeling really confused. There were stings and chips along its base. Left leg knew it should move, knock whatever was attacking it off. But what passed for its mind started down another path, analyzing Right leg’s last poem. As if that was a poe…
Left leg crumbled.

Head howled again, trying to communicate with the small things. But they stung and stung, Chips flew. Cracks widened. And with a shiver, head broke apart.

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