How to be Noble, 101 Shortcuts

Companions?

Strange Encounters of the 4th kind

I was wandering aimlessly again, trying to find myself. I don’t even know the name of the forest I am in, but I twice skirmished with some unfriendly gnolls, and evaded some threatening, unnatural vines. I made contact with some strange wood elves who told me about the presence of some hags who were upsetting the balance of the forest. This piqued my interest, as at least killing them would give me some temporary sense of purpose and provide a shield against the monotony of existence and the ache of losing my father.

The wood elves claimed it wasn’t really their battle, but I made a good enough impression on the leader she-elf to ensure their help if I needed it. Not sure I can trust them, but any group in which a woman has power can’t be all bad. Anyway, I was whittling a necklace (it was a badger I saw once. The sun had just risen, and it was running along the side of a small brook, all sleek with…oh, dammit. That was another life.) when I heard some strange noises, and was greeted by a most curious group of travelers. The leader seems to be a brash and enigmatic man named Gabriel. He seems a capable enough leader, and we later discovered that we make a good fighting team, although I am not sure he can be trusted. His brother Bodhi, a large man wearing a ridiculous amount of armor, is apparently not able to make any decisions of his own, but he seems a capable, if brute, sort. Nonetheless, had it been just those two, I probably would have stayed out of sight (not too difficult given the noise of Bodhi’s armor) and let them pass.

But they were accompanied by a strange pair of magic-users. The first, Something-or-other Lightbeard is an annoyingly endearing dwarf who certainly lives up to his name. The poor fellow seems to have no idea what is going on, and I have this urge to cut off part of his beard just to see if it would keep glowing…but he follows directions well enough. I always think it is helpful to have a healer around, and I feel that he is trustworthy and unthreatening. Not that I’d trust him and his bear-trap with anything too complicated…The way he looks at me with those weird little eyes and that stupid smile on his face, I’m not sure if I should laugh or cry. The final companion is an odd little gnome. I’ve not met many gnomes before, and certainly not any wearing cursed cloaks. His cloak causes him to have nightmares; I know what that’s like. I could definitely make this little critter my friend, and I know all about nightmares.

At any rate, they were looking for some gnolls, and had also heard of the hags, so I reluctantly decided to team up. I led them past the vines, convincing (I hope!) Lightbeard not to start the damn things on fire, as the elves advised against that. We came across a pair of gnolls, and decided to take them out. Gabriel proved useful, sneaking around to put a quick end to one of them. The other, however, savagely attacked Lightbeard, biting his throat. Despite just meeting the poor fellow, I was enraged. I probably should have kept the gnoll as a prisoner, but a rapier to the face was no more than it deserved. I took his nasty bone dagger…I no doubt will put it to better use.

My anger not abating, I willingly led the group on to the gnoll encampment. We weren’t sure we could take out the dozen or so gnolls we found—especially since A) the gnome inexplicably disappeared (were his nightmares acting up?…turns out he was off learning some anti-invisibility spells) and B) one of the gnolls seemed like a chieftain of some sort, who was organizing and communicating with a large, intimidating wolf. I mentioned the elves and Bodhi suggested I call for their help. I called them while my companions laid a bear trap and came up with a strategy that seemed to consist solely of drawing their attention toward Bodhi and making them cross over the bear trap. It was a sound strategy, I suppose, if unsophisticated.

Again we got the jump on our opponents, and the plan worked. Gabriel and I dropped one of the beasts in the lake, and I had 2 arrows in a second before they realized what was happening. Another lost a leg to that nasty bear trap, all before they had got in a single shot. Bodhi stood strong, trading blows with multiple gnolls at once, while I defended Lightbeard. He also managed to knock one of the gnolls down again (human men-except my dad-make no sense to me. It looked like half the time he was more interested in hugging the damn gnolls than killing them. I guess it was effective…but weird.) allowing me another easy kill. Gabriel, somewhat frustratingly, stayed on the fringes of the battle. His arrows were deadly, but surely he could have been in the line of fire? No matter, as in the end as that wolf appeared out of nowhere and he did just enough to keep all of his limbs attached.

Just as Lightbeard, whose spell gave us all a boost of energy, began suffering some wounds, the wood elves showed up and surprised the gnolls from behind. We probably would have beat them anyway, but with their help we made quick work of the rest of the camp. Disturbingly, the chieftain and wolf disappeared.

We tried to loot the bodies before those f——d up vines sucked the carcasses dry. I conversed with the elves—all the while Gabriel kept trying to butt in and take charge. Normally that wouldn’t bother me, I don’t want to take charge, but it was obvious that the elves didn’t want to talk to a human. Typical of that part of my heritage, I suppose, to be so condescending. And of a man to be so arrogant. In the end, I went off hunting with one of the elves in order to bring back an animal that they could use for some sort of cleansing ritual. Lightbeard thought he would contribute by sitting on the ground and muttering nonsense. Part of me hopes it’s all an act…but mostly he seems harmless and a good companion. I would rather be fighting with the brothers than against them, so as long as they give me my space—read: they treat me like a sister and not start thinking with the wrong head, as they say—we’ll get along fine. And I hope that gnome comes back. I forgot his name, but maybe together we can face our nightmares…after we hunt some more gnolls and their hag leaders.

KZ

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