Title: Galvanus' Spring
Date: Mid Vor, 1332 Avard
Synopsis: The town of Rustos has asked for help in tracking down a mysterious killer that has struck again.
Morning of the 19th of Vor, 1332 Avard.
Belsarius was a tall, thin man with piercing blue eyes, dark hair, and dark flowing robes. He had been trained in the arcane at Lok Magius, the first mage academy in over 500 years. Despite being thirty years old when he first began his studies, he advanced quickly, leaving his past behind and attaining the rank of Thaumaturgist. The numbers of those who had earned the rank of Thaumaturgist was small; Belsarius wore one of the only 48 such rings in all the world.
Despite all that power and training, he had failed miserably. Hoping to garner respect and in search of adventure, Belsarius had joined Meridian Explorations, whose exploits had become legend in just a few short months. On Belsarius' first mission with ME, he and the other five men and women with him had been attacked by werewolves, nearly crushed in a cave in, and then attacked by smithbane monsters. Belsarius was the only one to survive.
After spending several weeks recuperating, he felt fine, physically – but he needed to prove to himself that he was not useless. He felt it was time to go out, again, and prove to the stars that mages were capable of great and good deeds.
Codrus was rather disappointed at the 'trophy' ME had taken the night before – a lock of hair from a slip of a girl that played at being a thief. The 'cat burglar' had been caught, and Kayda Taelgrinsdottr had been released to the authorities. A lock of hair seemed a disappointing, compared to the twenty foot long fish-snake Codrus had taken just days before. The fish-snake, at least, had been fearsome; its skeleton and terrible teeth were hanging in the Meridian Manse as a warning to all that Codrus was worthy of any challenge.
Greff and Felix, after recuperating from the late night, got together and made some quick discussions in the manse. The Order was obviously a hot bed of trouble, with more questionable operations occurring there than was healthy in a town full of paladins. The bow they had taken off of Kayda had been destined for a William de Boullais, but there were no leads on such a man. In the meantime, the town of Rustos had asked for help.
Felix wanted to go, because the grisly murder of a little girl had taken place near a source of water. The waters of the Janis Plains were troubling the Arcanist-ranked mage, and Felix meant to get to the heart of the problem. A sample of waters from all over the plains would help, and the town of Rustos seemed especially important to Greff, whom he respected more than he cared to admit.
Anything or anyone that hurt Rustos, hurt Greff. The githzerai had taken a special liking to the town – even investing hundreds of his own gold coins into the town's miller, in the hopes of making some of the finest beer imaginable. For Sir Turon to call once again upon ME for help made Greff feel like he was making a difference in the world, when even a belted knight could do nothing to help his people – but Greff and ME could.
To Greff, that meant putting together another team. Unfortunately, options were limited. Felix, he definitely wanted to come along; the Arcanist's powers were formidable, even if he convinced Greff to swim in the occasionally nasty waters of the world. Corrin, unfortunately, was nowhere to be found – and when she did not want to be found, there was no finding her. Roswyn was too busy in her shoppe, Hearne was communing with a dryad, Captain Aeron was stuck giving depositions in Fasra, Sergeant Orrin was too busy making reports to the Colonel Mother, Sorsha was helping Hershel, Ryviik was busy managing the warehouse and a ship, Murdoch was still at Thayer's Rock, Rain could not be pulled off of duty, Arkhan was flying off to the east, Nadar and Kodrin would kill first and ask questions later, Balasyr was off at Lok Magius pursuing some musty tomes, Enna and Gabe and Adrik and Cerval had been sent on a mission, and Ivan and Graven were sticking close by to Hershel. That left Wreckless, Io, and Codrus at the manse, along with some newcomers.
The numbers of members of ME had swelled to nearly 50, and Greff had not met half of them. The newer members were also off on other missions (including initial sailing of Meridia's Gift), but he had not served with them, nor did he trust their reputations enough to want to bring them to Rustos. Wreckless was a fickle dwarf with fine tastes in clothing, and a sorcerous streak that seemed almost demonic. Io was often too lost in talking with the spirits to be taken seriously.
Felix, however, apparently knew one of the newcomers – Belsarius. Felix had graded some of Belsarius' arcane work at Lok Magius, and approved of the newcomer wholeheartedly.
Codrus was a given; big, strong, intimidating, and yet with a courteous manner befitting of a chivalrous knight.
Greff put his team together, and headed off. Ryviik had prepared well, and outfitting teams was quick and efficient. Belsarius' last mount had died on Mount Breakhammer, eaten by a werewolf pack; the Thaumaturgist adjusted well, though, to a new mount.
Codrus' chariot was impressive. The four-wheeled monstrosity even had whirling scythes on its wheels, with enough room for the big minotaur to lay down inside of it. His herald and driver, the dwarf bastard boy Slate, easily handled the mean mounts Grimhoof and Gnasher.
The team moved out west, taking the ferry across the Cold River. Felix's mount, Agincoth's Grace, simply trotted across the river; his enchanted horseshoes let the horse walk on water. Greff could only shake his head and roll his eyes at that.
Traveling across the plains was normally easy work, and with a hard push on mounts and chariot alike, the journey normally would have taken a little less than a day. Unfortunately, the plains were hot, the mounts overheated often, and the team did not arrive in Rustos until well after sunset.
Sir Turon and the town turned out to welcome Greff, and to meet Codrus, Felix, and Belsarius. They stayed the night in Sir Turon's manner, enjoying his hospitality and the welcome of the people of Rustos in their time of need.
Four days prior, the eight year old girl Seraph had gone missing. Her foot was found slightly downstream of Galvanus' Spring, where the water bubbled up from the ground and helped feed into the main lake that formed the core of Rustos. The family did not particularly believe the rest of the girl would be found, as there had been other deaths near Galvanus' Spring. The village believed the spring haunted, and few ventured there.
Four months before, during early winter, one of the farm hands named Jason had been found torn to pieces near Galvanus' Spring. His body had been torn to pieces, eaten in many places, but left alone in others. A year before, when Rustos was still very new, a ranch hand by the name of Gaston had been killed near Galvanus' Spring; his body, too, had been torn apart.
People had reported seeing something in the shadows there; investigations en masse, complete with pitchforks and torches, had turned up nothing. Sir Turon himself had often investigated the spring, and found nothing – but he always felt like he was being watched.
When Jason had died, Sir Turon had sent word to Baron Ilvred Kost, who sent for help, in turn, from the Duke. Nearly fifty men-at-arms and the duke's Master of the Hunt had turned up only out-sized cat prints – and nothing more. The mystery endured, and faded through the winter. No one went near Galvanus' Spring, unless they were young or dumb. No one in Rustos liked to talk about it, newcomers that they were to the area.
Greff pointed out that ME had sent two mages to help investigate – and perhaps there was something there that only mages could deal with.
On the morn, the team left early, following the stream that would lead them to Galvanus' Spring. Along the way, Felix took water samples, both from the lake of Rustos and from the waters of the spring.
Woods followed the stream, and big trees still stood, despite the ogran invasion two years prior. In many places, there were still traces of the great invasion, but nature was already passing the history by and erasing its tracks.
They arrived at the spring, and after an hour's search, found only a pile of cat poo. There were no animals larger than a squirrel for miles in any direction, and this puzzled Greff, making him wish Hearne were along. Felix sampled the well water several times, puzzling over his in-the-field results. There was magic in the waters of the spring, but it was faint – and of a match with the waters of the well in Ranis.
Belsarius wondered if there were, perhaps, something less visible to the world out there. The mage used a strong alteration magic to change his eyes, allowing him to see things invisible to most. The problem was that it often made things visible to most, invisible to the caster.
The Thaumaturgist looked around the spring, trying not to run into trees he had difficulty seeing, when he looked up. In one of the large trees nearby was a beast that made his blood run cold. It was a cat, of sorts – a mutated, terrible cat, with no fur, , two heads, six legs that poked out in all directions from its barrel body, a long prehensile tail that wrapped around the tree, and three other tails appearing at random directions off of the barrel of a body. Its skin was glittery, glassy, redirecting light and wrapping light around it and pushing it away. It was like looking at something that could not be seen, skin of diamond or skin of broken light.
And it was big – easily six feet tall at the shoulder, and eight feet long, not counting its tails or misdirected limbs. And the cat realized that Belsarius was looking directly at it.
Greff's keen instincts froze, watching Belsarius freeze while looking up into a tree. Codrus barely had time to bring his great axe to bear before the cat was amongst them. The tips of its tails had serrated teeth on them, and they peeled back flesh in an instant. Its claws were misshapen and long, retracting and arcing out into cleaver-sized weapons. Its two heads tracked the ME team independantly, teeth savaging anything nearby.
Felix could barely control his mount, having to move away from the fighting or else be thrown off. Belsarius and Codrus reacted moments too late, trying to defend themselves against such a savage attack from between them. Greff leapt off of his faithful Buck and vaulted into the fight, fists flying hard. Buck, too, was determined to fight; the mount rushed in and attempted to kick and hit and bite at the awful, nearly invisible beast among them.
It was all whirling limbs and tail and heads, and it moved among them like a ghost, striking with its tails or its teeth, forcing them onto the defensive. It savaged Belsarius and Codrus hard enough to toss them backwards, and then it reared its twin heads at each of them – and shot forth rays of concentrated sunlight that ignited Codrus' chest fur and set the forest on fire behind him.
Belsarius was saved from the worst of it, protected by arcane wards and Greff's powerful punches – which seemed to stun one of the heads for a moment.
Codrus shook off the burning fur, and got a better grip on his axe. Here, he thought, was one ugly trophy – a trophy worthy of Codrus. Felix, pulling himself together, was able to help organize his arcane powers enough to daze and then slow the creature long enough for Codrus' axe to start hurting the beast badly. Greff and Belsarius continued to hammer at the cat, one with fists and the other with arcane fury.
And suddenly it was down, breathing weakly until Codrus finished it off.
They were all breathing heavily, blood pouring from a myriad of wounds, smoke blowing in the shadows beneath the trees. The beast was even uglier in death, its skin still somehow translucent, but graying in death. There was no fur, there; only a translucent skin that still redirected the light, confusing the eyes.
Noon of the 20th of Vor, 1332 Avard.
Dinner was a cheeseburger soup that was delicious. Sommer made more than two gallons of the stuff, and we scarfed it all down save for two bowls – it was that good. Mrm…
We were pleased to see Bo back from over a year in Shanghai. He said he occasionally dreams in Chinese, so I may harass him to help me put together some 'Oriental' storylines. He says he also has some ideas for what his other character, Lucard Wildstep, has been up to since Bo was last in the States.
With Sommer still a bit under the weather, Bo was able to sit in her spot. I foresee that situation going on for some time, but I hope Sommer gets a chance to return to the table soon enough.
RPG System: Dungeons and Dragons, 4th Edition.
All characters were 15th level