Today’s story is a narrative interpretation of the first session for my PlayCancerAway mini-campaign. It covers the first half of the session, and includes three of the four characters at the table. Enjoy!
Ingva drew in a breath and smiled. For three years the dwarf been travelling the blightlands with her companions, Avinwhen and Pepper, but now they were returning to the lifelands. To friends, and taverns, and people. All she had between her and her native land was the Tsarah River.
Ingva was going home.
She was jolted out of her revere by a stranger’s voice. “You’re all blightwalkers, aren’t you?”
Ingva’s attention focused back on her surroundings as she looked up at an armored elf. The Mennoi were not fond of The Restoration. They liked Wanders even less because the nation believed the Wanders would bring disaster crashing down on the world once again. The Restoration’s local leaders had forged a truce with the Mennoi, allowing her people to trade with the elves and pass through their lands, but it was a fragile thing.
Ingva wasn’t much in the mood to spar with a haughty elf. “So what if we are?”
The elf sniffed. “If I had my way none of you would be allowed in our lands. You’re going to doom all of us.”
“Well it’s a good thing it doesn’t depend on you, then,” a voice called out from behind the elf. Pepper was a halfling, so only came up to the elf’s waist, but this did not dissuade her from continuing as the elf spun to face her. “Because we’re here and we’re not going anywhere until we’ve done what we’ve set out to do.”
The elf sighed. “Fine, the ferry is boarding. Good day.” With that the elf made his way back down the dock, leaving the three companions alone once more.
“You really didn’t need to antagonize him, Pepper,” Avinwhen said as he brushed his hair back over his pointed ears. “He’s just ignorant.”
The halfling crossed her arm. “He was a snob. I really don’t like snobs. Who’s he think he is, anyway?”
Avinwhen shrugged. “By his outfit I’d say he was probably a guard.
Pepper’s eyes brightened at this insight. “Oh great! Hey, Ingva, let’s go to the market and steal something right under his nose.”
The dwarf sighed. “Really, Pepper?”
“Oh c’mon, it’ll be fun.” Pepper looked back into the town, remembering the looks they’d received as they passed along its streets. “They deserve it.”
“Look, Pepper, we’ll miss the ferry if we do that. Can’t we just go home?”
The halfling sighed and kicked a pebble off the dock. “Fine. But I’m gonna steal something on the ferry, then.”
Ingva rubbed her temples. “And why would you do that?”
“Because I’m out of practice. We’ve been out in the blight for three years, my fingers are getting stiff and I don’t like it.”
“I can put some folks to sleep,” Avinwhen interjected. “It’ll make it easier.”
“As usual, Avinwhen, you’ve missed the point.”
The elf shrugged. “I’m just trying to keep you from getting caught.”
“The risk is what makes it fun!”
Before Avinwhen could reply Ingva grunted in frustration. “I just can’t. Right now, I don’t know you people,” she said as she spun on her heel and moved toward the boarding ramp.
“Hey,” Avinwhen called. “Did you not just tell us how much you could depend on us?”
Ingva stopped an turned to face her friends. “Yes, I said that.”
Pepper chuckled, “And now you’re claiming to not even know us?”
“Look, I can depend on you both. And you can depend on me, you know that. But that’s out there, not here. If you want to risk getting into serious trouble because you’re bored I can’t be a party to that.”
“That seems like a contradiction,” Avinwhen replied.
“Well, to me, it’s logic. See you later”
Ingva spun round again and moved to board the ship.
As the other two Wanders approached the gangplank Avinwhen breathed a weak groan. “I really can’t stand boats”
Pepper reached up and patted her friend’s arm “Oh come one. It can’t be that bad.”
“Oh, I assure you. It is.” Then, with a deep breath, the elf ascended the gangplank. He was followed a moment later by Pepper. The two saw Ingva make her way toward the forecastle and they followed her there.
“I thought I said I don’t know you right now.”
Pepper rolled her eyes. “Oh please, you know you want to see if I can get away with it.”
“I really don’t.”
“Oh, my stomach doesn’t feel good.”
Ingva and Pepper turned their heads toward Avinwhen and, seeing that the elf was beginning to turn green, reached out their hands and nudged him toward the railing. Then they continued with their conversation 1.
Pepper offered her companion her most persuasive smile. “Would you change your mind if I promised to give whatever I got right back?”
“Not really, no.”
“Well, I’m doing it anyway, so there.” With that, the halfling turned and began scanning the passengers. She took about an hour to walk length and breadth of the top teck, looking for signs of an easy mark, but struck out for most of her circuit. Until, that is, she spotted a cloaked figure sitting near her friends on the forecastle. Smiling, Pepper walked over to Avinwhen and poked him in the ribs.
“That one.” the halfling declared.
Avinwhen, who was familiar with her companion’s games, glanced over his shoulder at the intended target. “That one? She just looks like she wants to be left alone.”
“Exactly. She doesn’t want to be seen so bad she’s practically all I can see. I bet she’s got some great secrets.”
Ingva snorted. “There’s some great logic, Pepper.”
“Hey, I thought you didn’t know us,” Pepper replied. “Stop eavesdropping.”
Avinwhen ignored this exchange, it never paid to get between his companions when they gave each other verbal jabs.“OK, that’s that mark. Are you ready for me to put her to sleep?”
Pepper sighed. “No. Just, watch this.” With that the halfling strode over to the cloaked figure and tripped into her knees.
“Oh, I’m sorry!” Pepper exclaimed as she made an effort to straiten herself up. “I’m just not that used to big boats like this.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, I must have tripped you,” a young voice responded. She pulled her cloak back and dusted off her clothing. As she did so Pepper noticed a piece of parchment in the inner pocket of her cloak. As the halfling was about to snatch it, however, a swell lifted the ship and upset her balance. Pepper thumped into the railing as the boat tilted, and by the time she was on her feet again the elf had covered up her cloak once more.
“Oh, it’s a bit rough up here. I think I’ll head below decks. Sorry again!”
“No problem,” Pepper respond, her eyes narrowing as she tracked the mysterious elf down the stairs. Frustrated, Pepper watched her prey as she descended into the lower decks. She turned to let her companions know she was going for another walk, but as she did so she noticed two things. First, Avinwhen was turning a more unappealing shade of green. Second, Ingva had made her way up to the prow of the ship and was enjoying the wind coming across the brackish water. A wicked grin crept over the halfling’s face as she reached into a pocket and pulled out a small stone. She hurled it at Ingva’s head and, thanks to the uncanny accuracy of her kind, stuck a direct hit.
“Ow!” Ingva cried out as she spun around. When she spied Pepper waving she groaned. “What was that for?”
“I’m going to find out what that person was hiding. I just wanted you to know.”
Before Ingva could respond, however, Avinwhen expelled a loud gurgle. “I’m going to be sick.” Declaration made, the elf leaned over the side and proceded to lose the contents of his stomach 2. Ignva, succumbing to her compassion for her friend, stepped over and began to rub his back.
“It’s ok Avinwhen. I got you.”
“I really do not feel well.”
The dwarf smiled as she glanced through the railing, “Oh look, that’s last night’s dinner!”
Pepper made her way below deck and scanned the hold for her prey. It took her a few minutes to locate the cloaked elf, who had moved aft and was seated apart from the other passengers.
The halfling felt a brief moment of professional disgust. “Someone needs to learn how not to be seen,” she muttered to herself. As the moment passed the halfling evoked her most charming smile and approached the cloaked figure.
“Excuse me. I’m so sorry to bother you, but I felt just awful about falling into you above deck and wanted to apologize again.
The Elf jumped as she was addressed, but managed to calm her emotions before she responded. “Oh, please. Thank you for checking in on me, but I’m fine.” Her voice was smooth, but betrayed a certain uncertainty. Pepper gathered the elf was not quite an adult, by elf standards that is.
“Nevertheless, I feel like I chased you off the forecastle, and it’s such a nice day. I felt bad.”
“Again, pay it no mind. Really.”
“I thank you for your kindness. I see you’re travelling alone.” Adding a twinkle in her eye to her charming smile, Pepper added, “Would you care for some company?”
The elf studied Pepper for a moment, and almost seemed to decline the offer before her shoulders slumped and she said, “I suppose so. Please, sit.”
Pepper hopped upon on a nearby seat and held out her hand. The elf paused for a moment, but then reached out and clasped it. As she did so Pepper noticed the styling of her cuffs marked her as a Mennoi Elf. It’s wasn’t unheard of for Mennoi to cross the river into Restoration lands, but it was unusual.
“Hi, I’m Pepper Rose. Very pleaseed to meet you.”
“Oh. I… I’m Aravan. Aravan Vanfield. And…likewise.”
Pepper nodded. “I’m sorry if I’m being forward, Aravan, but it seems as though you really didn’t want to be seen.”
The elf blushed. “I…was it that obvious?”
“Only to me,” Pepper lied. “But it intrigued me. Why are you so cautious?”
“Well, if you must know, I was almost certain my father was going to send someone after me to drag me home.”
Pepper cocked her head, “Oh? And why would your father do that?”
“Because I’m travelling to Cinnithel to join The Restoration.”
Pepper couldn’t help but allow a surprised whistle to escape from her mouth. As she did so the halfling remembered why Aravan’s surname sounded so familiar. The Vanfields were among the most powerful families among the Mennoi, and also the most hostile toward The Restoration. Having a family who joined The Restoration was a serious blow to any ambitions a family might have. And the more powerful the family the worse the bascklash.
“I…see,” Pepper replied, looking around to see if there was a retrieval squad ready to pounce on the young elf. “And, why would you want to do that? I mean, it’s pretty much against your people’s beliefs.”
Aravan’s eyes narrowed in resolve. “Because I grew up on the edge of the blight, listening to stories about how it used to be filled with plants and trees and people. And I want to see those memories return.”
Pepper blinked in shock, and when she regained her composure all she could say was, “Well, I think you’ll fit right in.