Sunday, May 30, 2021

Wringing out a Goblin



Cricket Stonespur's goal had been the shores of Karrnath, where the marshal culture of discipline and stoic strength seemed an obvious choice to begin this journey of discovery and diplomacy.  After all, although an age apart from the Goblinoids who once ruled Khorvaire as the mighty Dhakaani Empire, the Goblins of Stonespur Island are still a warrior race.  In the ages that passed from the fall of the empire, they lived apart, marooned at first, but then blessed in their isolation.  They developed a civilization founded on honor, discipline, and respect; cornerstones of a great society they believe those on the mainland of Khorvaire lack.  Violent without purpose, emotional without cause, and fickle without good humor, the rest of the continent  is populated by barbarians.  Every two hundred years, an emissary is sent to engage in trade and diplomatic relations with the mainland.  None has ever returned.  What more evidence would the Goblins of Stonespur need?  Yet, still they try.  


Karrnath had been Cricket's goal, but Karrnath was not to be.  The great currents running through Death's Finger Channel joined forces with a storm from the Lhazaar Sea.  Cricket's small vessel was carried by the will of wind and sea, leaving him helpless to navigate its direction.  What should have been a week at sea became two. Weary from lack of food, water, and exposure, Cricket catch's sight of land on the fifteenth day.  The sea foams around the tiny vessel as the waves thrash him from bow to stern.  With one final crashing wave, he is thrown from his vessel and is encompassed by the cold waters of the bay.  The world is going black.  This is the end.  


No…he is a monk of the Hundred Stones.  He has been given a sacred mission by the High Muckmuck, Gargis the Wise.  He will not fail before it has even begun.  


He kicks and fights.  The waves batter his small frame to and fro—water fills his lungs, burning his chest.  His toes brush something soft, something solid.  They find purchase and with ten merciful steps, he flops onto dry land, coughing the salt water from his lungs.       


Although he doesn't know it, Cricket finds himself in Aundair, near Whisper Rock, just north of the Whisper Woods.  The air is cool and crisp.  It might even be pleasant were his robes not sopping wet. The narrow beach gives way quickly to reeds and beyond a thick forest of deciduous trees still alive with green.  If the land is truly as barbaric as he believes, the sight of a healthy forest is a welcome one.  Certainly there will be resources he can use to survive—to gain his bearings before venturing off to face what savages await him in what might pass for villages in this land.  Then again, without his spear and equipment, even one as skilled as Cricket in the martial arts might have a hard time fending off wild animals and wilder barbarians. 


A quick search of the beach and he finds his small boat, his spear still lashed to the inside.  Unfortunately, none of his other equipment has survived the tumble ashore.  His belly rumbles.  He is hungry for sure, but more than that, his is thirsty.  Dangerously dehydrated in fact.  Fresh water needs to be the first priority.  


Turning toward the wood, Cricket hears a sound.  A whistle, and not of any bird.  It's not a melody he's ever heard, but it is definitely a song and is definitely being made by something without feathers.  At the edge of the forest, Cricket catches sight of a boy or perhaps a small man, although taller than he by half a foot or so.  Whether the creature is an elf child, human, or even a halfling, he can't be sure, only that it is not a goblin.  While Cricket might normally lean toward caution, he is here for diplomacy.  Besides, even from this distance, the creature doesn't appear threatening.  


Cricket approaches the figure, who seems completely preoccupied searching in the reeds and grasses for something.  In his right hand he carries what looks to be a mug with steam rising in whisps.  Every so often he takes a break from his search to sip from the mug.


"Good morning friend," Cricket calls in the common tongue.

The figure turns, a large and welcoming smile stretching over his full face, his bright blue eyes seeming to take in the sight of Cricket with pure joy.  On his left cheek is a mark, perhaps a tattoo, although not of any ink Cricket has ever seen before.  "Hello," the figure says, walking straight over to Cricket and embracing him.  


It is certainly an odd way to greet someone, and not the way of his people, but Cricket reminds himself that he is a diplomat now.  For the next five years he is to learn and discover so that he can pass on the knowledge to his people; it is not for him to judge.  Returning the gesture with a slight squeeze, Cricket steps back.  He can see now that this is no child.  It is a halfling. 


"I am Cricket Stonespur, a monk of the Hundred Stones, emissary of the High Muckmuck Gargis the Wise and servant of my people."

"I'm Coco," the figure responds, confusion seeming to come over his face.  He pauses for a brief moment, then smiles again.  "Do you like coffee?"

"I wouldn't know.  I have never heard, much less partaken in this Coffee, Coco."


Coco gestures to his mug and holds it out for Cricket.  With a cautious hand, Cricket takes the mug and examines the contents.  The beverage is hot, which is only strange in so much as there doesn't seem to be a fire or camp site anywhere near—hot tea is a common drink on Stonespur Island.  The smell is pleasant, invigorating.  More over, Cricket is on the verge of a slow death from thirst.  Coco gestures excitedly for Cricket to drink.  Cricket has seen Coco take several sips from the mug already, had decides that given the circumstances, he can't afford to be too cautious.  He needs something to drink and he doesn't wish to offend the barbarian. He takes a sip.  The bitter liquid is hot, but not scaling and rather pleasant on the tongue.  It does wonders to wash the taste of salt from his mouth. 


"Thank you, Coco.  I appreciate this greatly.  But I've been at sea for longer than I had hoped and need water and food.  Is their a village near by?  Perhaps a settlement of some kind?"


Again, Cricket is met with a brief look of confusion from Coco.  There is a longer moment of silence before the blue eyes crinkle again in a smile.  


"You can come home with me.  Andry will give you water.  And food.  All you need.  And you could meet Mr. Tinker.  And Gore and Sniv.  Oh, he's so funny.  Just wait.  He plays a lute and sings songs and talks and talks.  You'll love him."  These words from Coco come with much excitement and all in a burst.

Cricket bows.  "I would be in your debt."

Coco laughs.  "First we have to find the coffee though.  I'm searching for beans."

Cricket sighs.  It is certainly not what he dared to hope when he set off for Khorvaire, but if helping this Coco with he menial labor means fresh water and food, so be it. 


Coco immediately renews his search of the grasses, and now that Cricket can observe him closely, he notices that the halfling seems to be picking up scat from some animal and placing it in a small pouch to his side.  Closing his eyes, taking in a deep steadying breath—he was wrong to expect much more from barbarians—Cricket interrupts Coco after his second find.


"Might I ask what you are doing, Coco?"

"Finding coffee."

"I see.  And yet, you seem to be picking up some kind of animal droppings."

Coco laughs.  "That's were you find the best beans.  The birds eat beans up in Starpeaks where its really hard to get to and then get eaten by the mountain cats.  But then the cats come down here the sea to fish.  The beans pass right thru, you see.  I know its kinda gross, but they are the best bean and only the best beans will do."  Coco promptly removes a portion of his finds from the pouch and crumbles it in his fingers, revealing a smattering of light green beans.

Cricket nods.  Perhaps a bit odd, but at least not without a purpose.

"Its okay though.  I have enough," Coco announces proudly.


Coco gathers his belonging, and after rinsing his hands in the sea, leads Cricket down a worn path that the forest is in the process of reclaiming.  As they walk, Coco begins to talk with the same exuberance as before, telling Cricket that Mr. Tinker is old, but oh so smart, and is very nice, except to bandits and closeminded religious asshats (the latter something Coco has obviously overheard but shows no sign of understanding). In truth, Cricket isn't sure he does either.  He also tells him that Gore couldn't speak or move, or anything until Mr. Tinker fixed him. 


When they reach a small clearing, Coco is still talking incessantly when two figures emerge from the wood.  They are dressed in a hodgepodge of leather armer and are carrying clubs with short swords at their belts.  Coco looks scared, immediately backing up.  He begins to cry as he mutters apologies to Mr. Tinker for going out so far from home.


"You two make an odd couple," one of the bandits sneers.  He jabs his partner with a elbow. 

"What's with the robes, Goblin.  You steal those from some gnomish monk or something."


And this is exactly what Cricket knew he would find.  Crude, barbaric men with no honor, no code.  These men deserved a lesson in manors—but peace before violence—not for the last time, Cricket reminds himself that he is a diplomat.     


"I am Cricket Stonespur, a monk of the Hundred Stones, emissary of the High Muckmuck Gargis the Wise and servant of my people.  If you will forgive me, you seem to be giving my new friend a great deal of distress." 

The bandits look at one another, as if on the verge of laughter if they could just understand the joke.

"Look, you can go grasshopper.  We just came for the halfling.  Step aside."

"I do not wish violence, but it is clear that Coco does not wish to go with you.  I can not allow you to take him against his will."  Cricket's voice manages to stay calm and even, despite the ire these men and their rude words have caused.

"You want to die in the middle of nowhere, who are we to argue…"


Both of the bandits charge at once.  Cricket moves Coco behind him and with swift, graceful steps, closes the gap, putting as much distance as he can between Coco and the bandits.  Ducking under the first clumsy swing of one of the bandit's club, Cricket sweeps the bandit's legs with the butt of his spear, sending the man crashing to the ground.  The bandit's head makes an audible thump on the dry earth.  Cricket turns, managing to get an arm up to deflect the first blow from the other thug.  The pain is sharp, but Cricket has spent his life in training, hardening his bones, and the strike causes no real damage.  He smacks the bandit in the face with the flat of his spear head, causing the bandit to stumble back, just as his companion gains his feet.  Both drop their clubs and draw their swords.  The fight has escalated.  Cricket is outnumbered and now his assailants mean to use deadly force.  


The two bandits managed to coordinate their attack, charging as one, swords raised.  With practiced expert motions, Cricket sends the length of hardened oak whirling across his back, the razor sharp spear head biting into flesh and sending both bandits stumbling backwards.  There charge disrupted, Cricket presses his advantage, ending the twirling display by slashing the spear across one of their throats.  It is enough to convince the surviving thug that he is overmatched and he runs off into the wood.  Cricket does not give chase.  He steadies his breath.  This was not a ideal first contact with the mainland.  Expected.  But not ideal.  He is even more tired, more thirsty, more in need of sustenance. 


Turning to look for Coco, he finds the halfling next to him, the strange tattoo on his cheek glowing with an ethereal purplish hue.  Coco touches Cricket's arm and with a warm, tingling sensation, the pain dissipates and the bruise that had been forming vanishes.  Cricket is not a stranger to magic and they surely have healers on Stonespur, but this is a different sort of magic.  This is not arcane practice born from years of study.  This is something innate.  Something from within.


"You have my thanks, Coco," Cricket says, massaging his arm and admiring Coco's handywork.

"Feel better?" Coco responds, now seeming to have complete forgotten his fear or even the events that he caused it.   

"I do.  Thank you."

Coco looks down at his mug, extends it toward Cricket and smiles.  "Coffee?"  


Continue the adventure on my Patreon Site

Please keep in mind, that while the story is original, Dungeons and Dragons was created by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson.  The rights are currently owned by Wizards of the Coast.  The world I am using for this campaign is Eberron as presented in Eberron: Rising from the Last War. 

The majority of my referenced D&D collection is from my account and purchased material with D&D Beyond.  Including: 

Keith Baker, Jeremy Crawford, & James Wyatt. (2019). Eberron : rising from the last war.Wizards Of The Coast.

Mearls, M., & Crawford, J. (2014). Dungeons & dragons player’s handbook. Wizards Of The Coast.

Mearls, M., & Crawford, J. (2014). Dungeon master’s guide. Wizards Of The Coast.

Mearls, M., Crawford, J., Schwalb, R. J., Sernett, M., Townshend, S., & Wyatt, J. (2014). Dungeons & dragons. Monster manual. Wizards Of The Coast.

Wizards Of The Coast, Inc. (2020). Tasha’s cauldron of everything. Wizards Of The Coast Llc.

Crawford, J., Mearls, M., & Wizards Of The Coast, Inc. (2017). Xanathar’s guide to everything. Wizards Of The Coast.

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