Episode Two

Emerald Island – Dragonfly Paradise

Monday, January 1, 1168.

The trip across to Emerald Isle had been fairly long and, for Bethgael at least, unpleasant. Her stomach just never got used to the constant swaying, lurching, leaping…. urgh. However, the four adventurers were able to spend some time getting to know each other.

Bard was definitely a charmer, smooth and urbane, with the rather unsettling habit of spouting poetry at unpredictable times. This, Bethgael thought, would be a rather annoying habit except that the man was pretty good at it! It was true that he was a Druid, albeit a fairly lowly one. He carried a badly made dagger and spent some time going through some spell books he had acquired and committing them to memory. This was a pastime that Spider shared, learning spells. There was an elderly sorcerer on the ship as well, who taught Spider how to throw a Fire Bolt, as well as a spell the old fellow termed "Feather Fall" – supposedly to protect someone from hurting themselves if they were falling from a great height – and another, Poison Spray.

"That'll be useful," Spider said euphemistically.

Bethgael was not sure what to make of Caber. He didn't seem very bright – but then, it was brawn, not brains, that mattered to a knight, and he possessed plenty of brawn. Despite his grey-looking beard, the fellow wasn't very old, and he wore light tan pants and a pale green shirt that Bethgael secretly thought didn't really suit him, and a wool-lined vest that smelt rather like his last drink. He carried a worn sword that he seemed to be able to use – barely. He was gruff one minute, and joking the next.… and after 3 days, he even managed to look at Spider without bursting into laughter. He just started making inane comments about Spider's green tights instead. His comments about Bethgael's green tights, on the other hand, were not inane: they usually bordered on the offensive. Spider spent most of his time trying to decide whether or not he should go into fits of apoplexy. All in all, it would have been quite amusing… if she had been able to keep her stomach still. Her face was as green as her tights, Spider told her.

So, when the ship docked at Emerald Isle, Bethgael breathed a sigh of relief. Of course, she didn't expect that after some time on board a ship that the ground would start moving when she stood on it, but, hey, you couldn't have everything.

They were met at the docks by Margaret the Docent.

"What's a docent?" Caber muttered.

"Guide, teacher, lecturer," Bard replied.

"I am your tour guide," Margaret informed them. "And, I will ask that all who come to Emerald Isle please refrain from gross violations of civilised behaviour."

Bard elbowed Caber. "Did you get that? She means, 'be good'."

"I got that," Caber replied sardonically.

Margaret explained that there would be several things that would be needed to be found in order to win the Scavenger Hunt. She listed them. A wealthy hat – "Like a hat has money," Bard commented sarcastically – a red potion, a longbow, a sea shell, a musical instrument and a floor tile from the Temple of the Moon.

"Wherever that is," Bethgael said.

"Oh, we'll find it," Caber said confidently.

They were also warned about the presence of a "monster" on the island, which they should try to avoid, if possible. Apparently, some of the contestants had already gone missing.

"Now they tell us," Spider said.

"Would you like me to give you a tour of the island?" Margaret asked.

Bethgael looked at the others. "What do you think?"

Caber shook his head. Bard shrugged. Spider said, "You know how I feel about it." Bethgael did. The woman's name was Margaret, after all. That would annoy Spider like a…. fly.

"No, thankyou, Margaret, we'll take a look around on our own," she said.

Margaret shrugged. "I'll be keeping an eye on you now," she said.

"You do that, honey," Caber replied, giving the woman a firm tap on the rump.

"Can I suggest that we have a look around and see what we can see? If there are some big baddies here, we may like to look into getting some skills, too. Perhaps you should all learn how to use a bow." Bethgael suggested.

"That's likely to cost," Caber grumbled.

"I daresay we can come up with something," Bard said. "How much do we have?"

They pooled their funds. "200 gold pieces," Spider said finally.

"That's not too bad," Bard said.

Their optimism about their financial position waned when they saw the prices on the Island. 50 gold pieces bought them membership in each magic guild… swords hardly worth spitting on cost more than they had, and as for training, the teacher wanted 500 gold pieces each to teach them how to shoot a bow!

"Criminal," Caber muttered. He spied the Inn. "I need a drink."

"Uh – uh, not now, buddy," Bard said. "Let's go and see the head honcho and see what we can do about the financial criminality on this Island."

Fifteen minutes later, they were knocking on Lord Markham's door. He was the current owner of the castle that was the prize for the contest, it turned out. Castle Harmondale, on the human – elf border, in one of the "most scenic areas of all Erathia". Apparently, he was giving it away because it was a bit of a "fixer-upper." He said nothing about the prices on the Island, but he did mention a 1000 gold piece reward for information on the missing contestants.

Thomas the Judge told them the rules of the contest. "All items are to be handed in to me," he announced.

"I have a red potion," Bard said. The others looked at him questioningly. He shrugged. "I'm an alchemist."

"Just as well," Thomas the Judge said. "Almost all of the other contestants have already handed in a red potion. Well, off you go now. Good luck."

"Good luck, you say," Caber mimicked as they went outside. "Good luck. Now, why don't I like the sound of that? I may be stupid, but I'm not that stupid. A free castle, for almost nothing? Hmph."

"Well, let's do it, anyway, even if we just manage the 1000 gold piece reward, that'd be good," Bethgael remarked.

"Probably," Caber replied, his eyes lighting up at the thought of gold. "Oh, by the way, Bethy, I've – uh… a little something for you." He handed her a small pearl ring. "Happy Birthday."

"Why, thankyou, Caber," Bethgael replied. "This is lovely. But it's not my birthday until the 10th."

Caber shrugged.

Bard spied some of the local women. "Just going to go and learn a few things, " he said, sounding a little too innocent.

Caber grimaced. "Going to go and try chatting them up, is what he means. Not a bad idea, really."

Spider followed. "Wait for me!"

Bethgael rolled her eyes. "Men," she said, going in the opposite direction.

An hour later, they met at the well in front of the Inn.

"Well," Bard said, "there are a lot of very helpful ladies on this island. You have Ailyssa the Bard just over there, who has a musical instrument and will sell it to us for 500 gold… Sally sells sea shells by the sea shore just around the corner and will sell us one for 100 gold."

"I've received quite a number of offers of help, all couched in a request for money, of course," Spider commented.

"The Inn has a large store of kegs just outside it. Nothing there except beer." Caber burped noisily.

"I was approached by a man who called himself Malwick," Bethgael told them. "He offered me a wand of fireballs in return for a favour. It sounded way too good to be true, so I declined."

"Probably a good idea, Sis," Spider said. "We can always go and shake him down later if we need to."

"Spider!" Bethgael reproved, shocked at his suggestion. "Also, there is a large nest of giant dragonflies at the bottom of the Island. There's a hut down there, we could look into it. There's bound to be something. Also, a fellow contestant up near the bridge there has offered us a wealthy hat if we give him a red potion. I didn't – I'm all out."

"I have one," Caber said. At least, I have some berries and a bottle. Can you do something with that, Bard?"

"Sure. Hand 'em over," he said. "Then we can try some dragonfly hunting."

"Should be fun," Caber commented.

"Did anyone manage to find out where this Moon temple is?" Bard asked.

They all shook their heads. "There's a cave up there, though," Spider motioned to the top of the waterfall.

"Well, we'll look there later." Bard said. "Everybody ready? Let's go."

It was a simple matter to make a direct swap and hand in their wealthy hat to the judge. The dragonflies were another matter, though. Slowly, they crept forward… they could hear the dragonflies buzzing.

"There are several types, by the looks of it," Bethgael said. They looked at her.

"She is a Ranger," Spider explained, "so she can identify all sorts of monsters."

"The white ones are fairly small, they shouldn't pose too much difficulty. The gold ones… well, they're a bit tougher – and they spit fire at you. Watch out for the red ones, though: they're Queens. The trick is to try and take 'em out a few at a time. If you end up with a swarm of them, well, I'd run. Like a screaming baby, if you have to, or we'll end up with a full 'Attack of the Giant Dragonflies' story as our epitaphs, which will make the Giant Bees look like a picnic." She pulled out her crossbow. "I wish all of you had one of these," she fretted. "It would help." Caber silently pulled his sword, Bard got out his dagger and Spider hefted his staff. "Ready?" They nodded. "Okay. Let's go."

They slowly inched down the hill, and the buzzing got louder as they went. They could hear the popping of fireballs being thrown. Bethgael stood her ground and shot at one of the dragonflies. It hit, but it didn't die. Of course, this meant that a whole swarm of them flew towards them.

The men stood their ground as Bethgael struggled to reload. "What I wouldn't give for a good longbow," she muttered as she yanked the string back on to its hook. She had just enough time for one more shot as the flies came upon them. Fortunately, the fly in front fell to the ground with a dull thud as her shot hit truly. There was no time for more shots, so she grimly drew her axe, heavy and unwieldy as it was, it would do the job on these. She would get a new one when she could afford it.

She swung at the nearest dragonfly and it spat at her. It was a gold dragonfly and she was grateful for that well they had talked at earlier– it had a magical power that gave them some immunity to fire – but she felt a searing to her arms, none the less. She swung wildly and managed to kill the dragonfly, noting out of the corner of her eye that her companions were also swinging at other dragonflies. Spider had hit two down with his staff and Caber had taken out three white flies with his rusty sword. He would need a new weapon, too.

Bard was looking a little worse for wear, however. "Bard!" she yelled, "Heal spell!" Bard nodded, grimly trying to extricate himself from the gold dragonfly who was circling around his head. His little dagger didn't have the reach to be effective. Bethgael ran in and swung her axe wildly, dropping the dragonfly and giving Bard enough time to cast his spell.

Then, suddenly, there were no more flies. At least, not in the immediate area. Caber was panting and Bethgael felt very tired. Spider looked flushed.

"How is everyone?" Bard asked, clearly the better off for his magic.

"I've been better," Caber said.

"Uh, guys," Spider said, " We're not done yet." He nodded towards the large swarm coming towards the group. There were... lots. They looked at each other. "I don't think we can cope with this many at the same time," Caber said.

"Me neither. Run!" Bethgael yelled.

They ran back towards the village, the swarm close behind them. They got to the village and the dragonflies started attacking the villagers. The carnage was dreadful.

"Ack, I didn't count on that happening." Bard commented grimly, taking a swipe at one of the flies.

The town watch ran towards them. "I thought I told you not to cause any trouble," a big beefy bloke said to them as he ran in and attacked the dragonflies. They then went down to the nest and started fighting them there. Three guards went down, only one returned, worse for wear. "There aren't many left, " he gasped. Bard healed him.

"Maybe we should go and finish them off, " Caber said with a glance at the dead peasants all through the village. "It's the least we can do."

"We probably should," Bethgael replied. "Spider, what are you doing?"

"Going through their pockets for loose change."

"That's awful!"

Spider shrugged. "They're dead, they're not going to miss it. Besides… look what I found." He held up a wand that looked like a Unicorn horn. "It seems our Mr Malwick didn't make it. Think this is our fireball wand?" Of course, none of them knew, exactly, so they decided to ask the magician at the Magic Shop – later.

Bard adjusted his belt. "Well. Let's go then."

By the time they had finished off the few dragonflies that were left, darkness was falling. They went into the hut cautiously, just in case there was someone else there, but it was empty except for four crates. Spider started towards one. "Wait," Bethgael said, "they might be trapped. Let me look." She spent some time examining them. "They seem to be fine. Now, let's see what we have here… Ah, a bow… crude, but I can use this… Oooo, a shell, now we won't have to buy one from that Sally girl…. bottles – " she handed those to Bard, along with some herbs. "A long dagger. Here Bard, that's better than the one you've got. A cutlass for Caber. And… here, Spider, you can have this," she handed him a long green cloak. "Aaaand, the best bit. We have about 2000 gold to spend now."

Caber whistled. "Well," he said. "Well. That was worth the fun. Let's go and sell some of this stuff."

"Caber," Bard said patiently, "It's after ten o'clock. Everything closed at six. Let's go back to the Inn and get some shut-eye, then we can hand in our shell and our hat and drop in to the weapons shop first thing. Maybe we can buy a better axe for Beth, here. The one she's got is pretty awful."

They trudged along the beach on their way back to the Inn and happened to stumble upon another crate. In it, they found themselves some more crude weapons, another bow and a shield, as well as another 600 gold pieces. "Well," Caber said again.

"That's three bows among us, now," Bethgael remarked. "Now, you all just have to learn how to use them. That skill would have helped us a LOT today."

"We get the picture, Sis, don't nag."

So they ended up in the Common Room of the Inn again, where a disreputable-looking fellow who called himself "Blackmane" offered to teach them a few things. He asked Bethgael if she would like some hints on stealing stuff, but she declined. He gave Bard and Spider some hints on noticing the area around them better – he called it "Perception." It didn't cost them too much, either.


Back: to Episode One
Next: to Episode Three: Emerald Island - To Wit, To Win?

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