Just as she was about to start the wild goose chase of locating the rest of her party, Portia and Bullden appeared before her with a heavyset dwarf and his cart. You're right, Mirage, she thought to her familiar. That was incredibly convenient.
"So what are you up to," Portia asked with a laugh as two dwarves ran out of the Jovial Juggler. "And where is Pettilaen?"
"I haven't the foggiest where he went off to," Zina shrugged, purposefully skirting the first half of that question. "It wasn't my turn to watch him."
While the rest of the group was busy securing contracts to make some more coin during their travels to Baldur's Gate, Pettilaen found such negotiations... boring. Rather, he had found a very colorful and large butterfly. Intrigued, he followed it closely, watching it flutter about in the air, seeming to dance on the high grass and wild flowers within Beregost. "My oh my... You would make such a pretty pet!" And with that saying, Pettilaen had found a new purpose in his day. Gaia needed a friend. With no net to try and catch the butterfly, Pettilaen could only resort to using his hands to capture it. I'll figure out how to tame it later. As if the butterfly seemed to take note to his appearance, it began fluttering faster, trying to outrace Pettilaen's wild attempts at giving Gaia a friend. It flew upward, out of Pettilaen's reach, disappearing with his hopes over the roof of a building.
But the hunt was not over yet, for Pettilaen had an ace up in his sleeve. He telepathically reached out to Gaia, melding with her mind and sought out the butterfly. Her visual prowess was unmatched, easily spotting the butterfly hiding from him within the bell tower. Gaia soared into the sky, before diving down and arcing midflight to make it through the gap and snatch her new friend. Just before she snatched up the delicate butterfly with her talons, the mind meld broke, as the distance proved to be too great. A loud toll of the bell rang throughout Beregost, as the disoriented Gaia crashed into it. Pettilaen still felt the shock of crashing into bell, as he collapsed on the patch of grass he was standing in. The butterfly, startled, flew away for the last time, as Pettilaen finally decided to give up the chase. His ears still ringing, he called out to Gaia with his mind, "Go... rest now." and unsummoned her. He wobbled back to the party, disoriented. "Heh.... Did we find a contract?"
Portia arches a brow at Pettilaen as he staggers up. Maybe someone finally rung his bell and got him on the right path. Doubtful! She can't help but smile at her thoughts.
She looked up at the sign, noted this was the place to find the bard, and then still smiling looks down at Zina. She waits a moment and then looks at the young dwarves that might have a copper's worth of brains between the two of them.
"So what interesting entertainment did you find in there?" She asks in dwarven trying to figure out which one might actually give her an accurate accounting. She almost feels sorry for Orst as she looks at the happy, but bumbling duo.
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PbP - Beregost Blues - Portia Starflower, Half Elf, Cleric, Life Domain PbP - Tome of Annhilation - Vistani Mocanu, Human, Bard
"Boobies!" One of the boys hoots in response before pulling and wiggling his ample backside onto the cart alongside his father. The other boy nods enthusiastically, wipes his nose with his sleeve, and climbs onto a gap between stacks of stone in the back of the cart, his ham-hock legs dangling off the rear.
Orst bursts into such a belly laugh that he snorts with every breath.
"Oh," he exclaims between gasps, "they do grow up, don't they?"
He casts his gaze around to make sure everyone is mounted and ready, then jiggles then jiggles the reins to signal his team toward the road to Baldur's Gate...
Zina let out a small sigh of relief that neither dwarf mentioned her embarrassing encounter in the Jovial Juggler. She would rather the others did not know exactly what she had done. "Hey Pettilaen," she whispered in gnommish, scooting over next to the other gnome as they set off. "You're really good at pranks, yeah?"
"Hey Pettilaen," Zina whispered to him in Gnommish. Oh great. What does she want? "You're really good at pranks, yeah?" He laughed on the inside. "Of course I am." He flashed her a glare. "Harmless pranks." He shifted his position while on the wagon, letting Gaia fly free while she had his attention. "What did you have in mind?"
"Pettilaen, I'm sorry," Zina swallowed her pride. She didn't want to hate the rogue, and she didn't want him to hate her. Before she could even get to the pranking, she had to make sure things were alright between them, "I was aiming to miss, I never meant to hurt you. Back at school, not many people liked me. I know, shocker. It was kind of a cutthroat place, and I had to learn how to get them to take me seriously." She sighed, holding out her hand and looking the other gnome in the eye. "Anyway, truce?"
Portia simply laughed and shook her head. She just made sure everyone was mounted and moving along with the wagon as Orst got it rolling. She could have gone in quick to find the bard, but the way Zina was hiding something and the boys could only think of boobies made her stay out. It did not matter how flamboyant the bard was or how much she might have paid, she could find others to take her north.
She smiled further noting the gnomes close enough together to whisper quick as they mounted. She hoped they kept moving or they would be left behind. The only one she never worried about was Bullden. Dwarves were definitely not gnomes, even their kids were simpler to understand in her mind. She laughed.
Their trip to Baldur's Gate was probably a wild goose chase and too late. After all, with magical communication information could have already been passed about a golden genasi pirate named Baradwulf. If not found by the time they got to the city, he didn't go there or had a way to get around unnoticed. It could mean a lot of money if they got the important signet ring and sword back, but it also was not her fault the rich didn't judge things well and let their kids handle things of import too early. She glanced at the dwarven boys. Their father let them out of sight, but he was the one in charge and the boys acted like they knew it even if they were old enough to start carousing for boobies. She laughed again and couldn't stop for a bit.
The group trundles down the road on the masonry wagon, its six thick, reinforced wheels grinding rocks to meal under its extreme weight.
Orst said something about the group telling stories to entertain him, but that would require a moment in which he was not speaking. He begins with stories on how he first got into the transportation business, then on to tales of the boys' mother, including a bit too much detail about the excellent health of their intimate life, then on to stories of how he once studied to be a priest of Moradin but eventually decided a secular life would be "much more fun".
He talks non-stop into the evening hours, heading toward sunset and time to camp. He talks as he pulls the wagon off the road, preps the horses for sleep, then constructs a large tent-like structure built into his cart. He talks as he settles into a pile of blankets with a bottle of rare and expensive whiskey in his hand. He talks until... the whiskey... shuts him up... and... he tumbles into a noisy sleep.
"Pettilaen, I'm sorry," Pettilaen spit out the proverbial water. "I was aiming to miss, I never meant to hurt you. Back at school, not many people liked me. I know, shocker. It was kind of a cutthroat place, and I had to learn how to get them to take me seriously." Her words fell on deaf ears, completely shocked by her change of heart. "Anyway, truce?" Pettilaen had the most confused look a gnome has perhaps -ever- in all of Ao's accounting. Is she being serious? Is this some sort of prank? His eyes narrows and he silently stared at her for a few seconds, his head titled to the side like a puppy hearing a new noise. Maybe she got replaced by a doppleganger or something... Or this is an illusion she cast! He pokes her firmly in the arm, as his eyes go wide when he realizes it is flesh. "Hmph. Well, you're not an illusion. And you're not lying to me..." A smile slowly creeps onto his face, growing into a monster of itself. He gleefully shouts, "By Illmater's mercy you swallowed your pride!" He rushes in, catching her by surprise, and gives her a big hug, squeezing her. "Took you long enough, Zina!" He laughs, loudly, before replying to her in Gnommish and letting the very awkwarded Zina go, "Truce. Now... what did you have in mind?"
As the group is settling in to sleep, it begins to drizzle. Thankfully, the tent form Orst's cart is big enough to host everyone, with room to spare, and keeps everyone nice and dry.
You hear some thunder in the distance, from the northeast from the sound of it, then a strange screeching sound from the south. Gaia begins to puff her feathers, expressing her displeasure at the noise. Their body language indicates an alarm - predator.
Before she could object, Zina was sneak attacked by a tight squeeze from Pettilaen. "Took you long enough, Zina!" he laughed loudly. The illusionist was not a very big hugger, so she just stood there like a wooden plank, waiting for it to end. Finally, he did let go. "Truce. Now... what did you have in mind?"
"Did you actually think I was an illusion?" Z laughed, straightening her tunic. "I'm good, but come one. I'm not dumb." She grinned, feeling like a huge weight had been lifted off of her chest. Or maybe that was just because Pettilaen had stopped squeezing her.
"Now, here's what I need help with. I tried to get us a contract with that stupid Yiao lady at the Jovial Juggler, and it did not go well," the gnome got right down to business. "Don't tell the others! They won't understand. I was trying really hard to impress her, and she just laughed at me and called me little one. Ugh, you know how infuriating it is when people underestimate us."
The two continued to talk quietly in gnommish for most of the ride, ignoring the dwarf's loud storytelling. The wizard recounted the entire story to the rogue, even the bit about the firebolt. Eventually, when they made camp, Zina brought out her little green snake for the world to finally see. She was still nervous about Gaia, but she hoped that Pettilaen would teach his pet to behave. Still, being night time, she decided to cast the spell again, changing Mirage into a small bat that perched on her shoulder. Just as she was about to curl up for the night, a loud shriek caused Zina to sit straight up. Mirage began to freak out, so the gnome began to pet him soothingly. "What's going on?"
Throughout the conversation, a combination of nods, chuckles, and bits of Gnommish come from Pettilaen as he listens intently to Zina's plan.
Reaching a point to break for camp, Pettilaen saw the thunder clouds in the horizon on the north. Calling to Gaia, she flies in close, huddling under the constructed tent. As the thunder roars in the distance, Pettilaen picks up a strange screeching noise coming from the south. The sounds startles him... sounding unnatural. Gaia begins to puff her feathers, expressing her displeasure at the noise. That is what sets Pettilaen off. "Gaia is worried about that sounds, and I am too. I'm heading out to go see what we can find." Pettilaen quickly rushes out into the oncoming storm, with his head deeply nestled in the hood of his cloak, which is pulled tightly around him. He goes out a bit, finding a decent vantage point that should have pinpointed the location of the beast. Yet the area in that direction was completely empty. Looking up in the dark clouds above, the thought struck him. What if the creature was high above? Fear gripped his heart at the thought, knowing how hard it would be to battle something when you cannot fly yourself. Racing back, he relayed what he thinks he's found. "Guys, I think the shriek came from something flying high in the clouds..." A flash of lightning and the roar of thunder punctuated his last comment.
Bullden dims any mundane light source that might be lit in the tent and looks out the tent flap (perception 16). He sees a giant winged lizard flying high in the clouds but can't make out it (nature 8).
Bullden whispers back into the tent, "Everyone keep your voices down and be quiet as a mouse. The beasty is flying over us and not sure it's seen us yet. It's possible it noticed the horses and looking for a snack. Gnomes ye best cut it wit any sheninagans until we know its gone."
Portia sits quietly listening though she is praying to Lathander that the beast is looking for something else. Did the beast work with the other forces of menace coming out of the south like it had flown from or did it just feel like looking for a meal farther from home than usual. She honestly could not remember much about dragons near Beregost all the days she lived there. Bad things prowled here for some reason. And did any of them expect to do against a dragon anyway? She continued to pray and listen. Her body tense and ready to move.
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PbP - Beregost Blues - Portia Starflower, Half Elf, Cleric, Life Domain PbP - Tome of Annhilation - Vistani Mocanu, Human, Bard
"Everyone keep your voices down and be quiet as a mouse. The beasty is flying over us and not sure it's seen us yet. It's possible it noticed the horses and looking for a snack. Gnomes ye best cut it wit any shenanigans until we know its gone." Pettilaen was already hiding under an illusory rock, about 20 feet away from caravan. He figured if the dragon breaths fire on them, he doesn't want to be a charred sausage. Trying to whisper, the combination of wind howling and thunder booming drowns him out, forcing him to yell, "No shenanigans from us! Just life preservation!" Gaia cuddles up next to him with her feathers puffed up. "It's okay, Gaia. The dragon won't see us. We'll be fine!" He melds his mind with hers, hoping to get a better view of the dragon from their illusory rock.
The screeching continues for some time, the beast flying in and out of the clouds in a wide formation, passing overhead and then flying away. Eventually, it climbs above the clouds and disappears. Everyone struggles to get to sleep with the idea of such a deadly creature... somewhere... near. But eventually exhaustion takes over.
The idea of a dragon, especially a large one, near Beregost is indeed odd. An ancient red dragon was known to dwell in the Cloud Peaks to the south, but he was slain by another dragon more than a decade ago. This is most unusual and disturbing.
Seeing the dragon flies away, Petillaen laughs nervously. The rock concealing him from the outside, he looks down at his soiled pants, and grimaces. Can't let anyone see that. Casting Prestidigitation on himself, he checks for any other areas of his clothing that need cleaning. Sufficiently cleaned, he dismisses the illusion and gets up! "Aha! The dragon must've heard my shouting at it and ran away! People tell me I have a voice that sounds exactly like thunder, so it's probably why none of you could hear me threatening it. The lizard is probably hightailing it back to the Spine of the World."
Pettilaen dreams of dragons made of lightning with thunderous voices, pounding the world and destroying his home and all of Baldur's Gate. For him, it was a nightmare, seeing his parents turn into lightning and attacking him themselves.
"I resent the fact that you think shenanigans were being had," Zina muttered, clinging to humor in this incredibly dark situation. She held onto her familiar tightly, unsure of what else there was for her to do. She was an ant compared to a dragon, an ant that could easily be charred to a crisp in seconds.
After what felt like an eternity, the screeching slowly went away. Apparently, they would live to not be dragon chow for another day. Once they were sure that they were safe, Zina curled up into as tight of a ball as she could in her bed roll. Mirage changed back into a snake (they both liked that form better anyway) and cuddled into a warm ball next to her face, trying his best to comfort his illusionist. As she did many nights, the gnome cried herself to sleep softly, hoping that somehow her father hadn't been eaten by a dragon.