Tourmaline - 02 - Encountering an Ox-Cart

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(His horse stops, Tourmaline's slows down somewhat, trying to negotiate a blockage in the road near-ahead.)

"Oh, my, what's happening now?"

    •  ::: peers at the blockage :::
What could that be ahead?

(An ox-wagon has tipped over, mostly blocking the road on the right, where he is riding.)

"It looks like a Conestoga."

    •  ::: hardens expression :::
Stay safely back, please, Jerin.
    •  ::: rides to the cart, swifly, loosening her sage pouch :::

"Yes, milady, may it be all things are alright."

    •  ::: approaches ox cart, looking around wide-eyed :::
Starfire, what do you sense? Why did you slow?

The ox, a single ox, appears to have passed on in recent hours. The cart is mostly empty. Some papers are blowing about.

(Starfire looks about, into the woods, flicking her ears slightly, and then looking at the cart, continuing to look around.)

    •  ::: peers at ox :::

The ox appears to have suffered blunt trauma and some slashing which caused it to bleed out.

Goodness!
Conestoga?

"Conestoga," Jerin says, "a type of covered wagon."

Oh! I knew not!

(Starfire trots a step back as a sound comes from the woods.)

Oh! Hello! Is anyone out there? I can help you!

"Aye!" a sort of hoarse older woman's voice calls out from the woods, as she continues to make her way through brush in the distance.

How can I help?

The woman's voice comes back "Hang about, these trees be happening too quickly for me to fight them."

I await thee! It's OK, Jerin! Come to me! Help me right this wagon!

A small tree falls in the woods, upon some bushes, and some animal runs out with a mild shriek.

You must have had a beast of a time wi--- whatever in the world????

"Aye, milady, I'll try to help best I can."

"Tis alright!" shouts the woman, "this tree's being difficult!"

And how might it be difficult, may I ask?
A difficult tree! Now that is something new!

"Eh, heh, oh boy, that's going to leave a mark" she says, "these bushes are..." and another crack of a limb breaking falls upon some bushes. "Got 'em!"

Lord!

Jerin, meanwhile, tries to right the wagon, but realizes it's still fairly heavy. "Perhaps, milady, we should use the horses to pull and right it."

Jerin, help me put my back into this.
Yes, perhaps we might.

The female voice in the wood counters "all you need are these trees for leverage!"

The four of us could lift anything!

Another large branch falls from a height upon some bushes. "There! Now, to make a contraption!"

Is the wagon in good repair, Jerin? I know little of such things.

"The wagon looks quite sturdy, milady. Yes, it's suffered little more than weathering and standard wear and tear."

Now what would cause the wounds upon the Ox?

A woman in a pale brown cloak comes from the woods, hauling behind her an exceptionally large tree branch, dragging it from the fore.

"Aye, you'll tire yer steeds pulling that thing out of that half-ditch."

Ah! Help swoops in! Thank you, and who might you be?

"Aye, I be... well... does it matter much, really? I be helpful, when I can."

She continues lugging this exceptional, 10-20 foot, foot-diameter branch, dragging it towards the cart.

If I may venture, m'lady, you are most powerful for your proportions!

"Whoa there," she says, "eh, heh, looks like someone mangled his ox while he weren't lookin', either."

"Eh-heh, well, you just gotta know where the fulcrum is, and use it to your advantage... Ye can drag something like 5 times more than ye can carry."

Very clever!

She drags the large branch to position one end beneath the wagon, turning it about, and says "now, we'll need a rock."

    •  ::: watching with hands clasped in front of her ::::

She turns and smiles at you. She is sort of weathered-looking, but of a fine base complexion. Her hair is black, and she seems to walk slightly hunched over, anyways.

"So, where be we finding a rock, eh-heh?"

"Unless ye have a better idea."

Another log, perhaps, for the fulcrum?

"Aye, right!"

She scurries off into the woods, and you can hear her grunt and start lugging another branch.

Well, I just supposed that there were more logs about than rocks....
Jerin, what make you of this woman?

"She seems rather... capable. Odd, but capable. She seems to be interested in helping, like you said."

Is the Ox edible, Jerin? Perhaps we could bring it with us to town, so it goes not to waste.

You can hear her "oof!" and suddenly, you hear a significantly almost-speedy dragging of another branch.

Jerin: "If we could load it into the back of the wagon, perhaps, it would be quite a choice. It doesn't seem to have spoilt much in the past hours. Some of the work has been done for us..."

Jerin: "Say, if this is the ox... where's the ox-driver?"

I know not! I imagine that he's left for help.
We can bring the cart into town and find its owner.
Then we'll return ox and cart to him, and learn what we can of what has happened.
This may be the mischief of those bandits you speak of. If so, we have little to fear, as they do not seem to be killers, only raiders.

The woman's voice comes from the woods, "Aya, wot, you mean that fellow who got bothered by them what-kins?"

The cart is empty, so they must have taken what they could already.

    •  ::: picks up a paper lying around to glance at :::

The piece of paper has a word at the top of it, but the rest of it seems to be an unintelligible scrawl. The word seems to be either 'Dragon' or 'Basilisk'.

Hmmm...
    •  ::: picks up another :::

The woman comes back with a much smaller piece of wood, but takes her hatchet to it, beginning to split it into thirds.

If I may bother you -- do you know anything of what has happened here?

Now that you have a second piece of paper, it seems like the first paper definitely has the word 'Dragon' on it, while the second has the word 'Basilisk' on it. Both papers have the same unintelligible scrawls beneath them.

It seems like an illusion magic cloaks the scrawls.

Oh, how silly.
    •  ::: tries to use her own illusionist magic to break through the cipher :::

"Aye, yes", as she hacks on the second mark, "yes, that fat man, he weren't no fight, he tried to run off a-screamin', but they got him. Don't know what happened after, the sounds in these woods carry and echo in all directions.

Pick a sheet to focus on.

  • Basilisk. Those seem more dangerous.

"What got him, m'lady?" says Jerin.

The scrawl seems to clear up in a few places. You can make out "It makes its lair beneath..." and further down near the end "...and its foes were turned to stone for..." and the short bit after is unintelligible.

Strange...

"Those what-kins, them things, ransackers. Musta had some reason, right?" says the old lady.

    •  ::: tries the other one :::
Describe these things, please, miss.

Dragon: "And then a dragon came down from..."; further down "...but it came with good intentions, despite what most people believe about dragons."

Try another paper lying about.

There are no other sheets lying about, it seems.

"How were I to know, good lady, I were in the forest some distance about and away."

"Them things, though, I been hearing them and hearing about them..."

Yes?

"Well, I've heard about them in legends, all I really know."

And the legends foretell?

"Trouble-makers!", she snorts and then is slightly taken aback at her own snorting noise.

"Oh, yes... the legends..."

    •  ::: smiles :::

"Eh-heh, yes... oh boy, I remember the legends now..."

"Oh yes, plain as day, now."

"Yes, once upon a time, there was a reptile... a serpent, a snake... or wait, was it more like a lizard, or a dragon?"

"Oh, sheesh, I've gone and mucked it up, again, anyways, it was one of those..."

"...yes, and then, they did something! Heavens, they did, and it was the talk of everyone for some time, things like that always are!"

    •  ::: nods encouragingly :::

"Lore! You want me to remember!?"

"Of course I remember!?"

"Or do I? It was... yes, about one of those things, doing something that would be the talk of everyone for some time..."

Do you need help lifting th wagon?

"Heavens--oh right!"

She has assembled a contraption-fulcrum to leverage the wagon up.

"Now, if we all get on the tree top over here, or just pull down on it, we should be able to push it back up. Just don't be under it when it begins to right, or you'll be beneath the branch!"

    •  ::: helps with it the best she can :::
Jerin! Come help us, lazy bones!

Jerin comes over. "Where ought I stand?"

The old woman says "Don't just stand, get your weight helping!"

Lead the horses away from the wagon!
Make sure they're safe.

She says "or that."

She looks at you, and says 'ready?'

Surely!

Jerin, meanwhile, follows your suggestion, and takes the horses some feet away.

"Ready, then, lady? ... 1 ... 2 ... 3 ... heave!"

    •  ::: heaves :::

She lets loose a primordial kiai shout.

    •  ::: arches an eyebrow and grins :::

The branch gives quickly, and the wagon tips up, rumbling and shaking, but rights itself. The oxen, meanwhile, weighs down the fore of it, causing an awkward tilt.

Splendid!
Thank you so much! However might I repay you for your abundant kindness, m'lady!
    •  ::: curtsies :::

She arcs her eyebrow. "Repayment? Whoever heard of such a thing."

"That's one of them things for legends."

    •  ::: sends a beaming smile :::
Well, then, if you are ever in needs of unpaid assistance in turn, please know that I am on call!

"Now, where ye be headed?"

Jerin! Come, please post Magnus to the cart!

"I haven't got anywhere better to be being... eh-heh..."

And please examine it once more, to make sure it is not in need of repairs! We're headed to the village nearby... I've heard of troubles in the area.

She looks at you with wide eyes for a moment. "What, there be a village happening nearby? Where?"

Jerin knows of it!
    •  ::: skips over and grabs his arm :::
He is my handsome and fearless companion for this treacherous journey!
    •  ::: casts a subtle illusion to make him look more impressive :::

Jerin looks over the wagon and says "The wood for the reins is broken, that ox weighs a might bit, but the rest seems fine."

"Aye, milady, yes, over down this road, some distance yonder."

A trifle!
    •  ::: casts the white magic spell "Repair", and transforms it to gold :::

"There's a village where my sister lives."

The woman's eyes go wide again. "Sorcery! What astonishment!"

She goes over to the rein-hold and raps on it. "And it weren't just hollow!"

Oh, mere pishposh! Your skills far outweight mine, Miss!

Then the woman looks at Jerin. "Wait, how can you tell there's a town over yonder? I don't see none."

Jerin seems puzzled at this.

"It's down the road," he says.

Why, allow us to escort you! Jerin is the finest cart driver in all the lands!
I shall guide my noble steed Starfire alongside you@

"Well," she replies, "if there be a town happenin' in that direction, soon, we'd better happen when it does, before it doesn't again."

And you shall have Magnus the Strong to be the wind beneath your wings!

He goes over the now-golden rein-hold and tries to lift it. "It seems a bit hefty, milady, we might need more than a horse to drag this thing, now."

The woman half-cackles, half-giggles.

Jerin: "I think that why there were an oxen to drag this thing. Or maybe he carried something more hefty in the cart."

Oh dear! Than I have mucked things terribly! Whatever shall we do?

Jerin: "I could probably just let this rein-hold go, and let Magnus lead it, the rest of it seems light enough."

Yes, please!

Jerin: "Since you implied Starfire don't fancy saddles and reins."

The woman snickers and starts meandering about the wagon, checking in it.

Jerin: "I don't think we could bring the oxen, but we could tell another that it were along the road here... but maybe we could just leave it to nature."

The woman hops up into the wagon from behind it, poking about with a small cane-stick-rod, it sounds like.

    •  ::: takes out a small pouch and casts a spell :::
Let's put them in here for now, and we'll sort the rest out when we get there.
    •  ::: puts the yoke in the pouch :::
And now the oxen!

(Thank you for telling me the word.)

Jerin: "Oh, my! Well, that's one way to solve the problem!"

The woman, continuing to poke about in the wagon, rapping about, pauses and exclaims, "Aha!"

You can hear her rifling about, after that.

What have you found?

The woman says, "well, I haven't found nothing, but I found a hollow."

She continues, "where something might be. See, nobody just attacks fellows without reasons, and I reckon he were carrying somethin' of val-yee."

Clever! But how could we know what?

She mutters almost under her breath, "but how do you open it?"

She amusingly exclaims, "well, now that's the question, eh-heh, and a good one at that, we'll know if it is or it isn't when we find out if it or isn't."

    •  ::: walks over to look on :::

The benches inside the wagon are small, on both sides, and she seems to be poking at the corner nearest the front.

    •  ::: looks more closely :::

She raps on it with her crooked cane, right in front of you. "Aye, that be hollow. Travelers hide things in them, in myth and legend."

Jerin is continuing to set up the horses, seems to be actually getting Magnus to agree to pulling the cart.

She says "Must be some sort of a puzzle box, or have some trick to it, otherwise, heh."

    • See if I can peer through any illusions.

It appears entirely mundane.

    • Pry apart with knife?

"Maybe ye could reverse yer sorcery to fix the broken thing to break the fixed thing," she chuckles.

You find a small split in the wood where you can wedge your knife in.

    • Do so.

The knife doesn't have enough leverage.

The woman "aha!"s right in your ear.

Do you still have your hatchet?

She proclaims, with some gusto, "stand aside!"

    •  ::: stands the f*** aside :::

She reaches back into her belt, pulls out the hatchet, and with a swirl, spins about and slams her hatchet into the wood, splintering it apart.

She pulls it out, and then peers inside.

"Hm."

She looks at you and says "It's dark. I can't see nothin'."

    •  ::: sends a little light into the cavity and peeks in :::

A burlap cloth seems to be wrapped around something between a half-foot to a foot in diameter, it seems oval/egg-shaped.

    • Remove with hands of faith
Curious....

The woman stumbles back, falls upon the bench, into the wagon cover, then rights herself quickly, as though nothing happened. "I meant to do that."

    • flashes a smile :::

It is definitely large-egg shaped, but seems significantly more irregular than first glance.

    • Is it a basilisk or a dragon?

"That be some sort of treasure, then!"

I say basilisk.

(You going to remove the burlap covering, too?)

    •  ::: unwraps with hands of faith :::

It appears to be an irregular rock, crystalline, glowing with a light bluish energy. It is lighter than it seems, as well, when you realize you have been lifting it through the hands.

She exclaims, "now, there be the rock we were looking for, before!"

Hmmm....

Jerin startles slightly, and says "a rock?" from the front of the wagon, looking through a smaller opening between the driver's seat and the innards.

I don't like this thing.

The woman says, "well, I guess we found what them what-kins were looking for."

I don't want it.
Let's leave it behind and travel onwards.

Jerin sees the rock, and says "well, I guess it had some value, although glory knows what. I don't object, who wants to attract what-kins?"

The woman says "must bring bad luck."

She continues, "T'weren't a lucky stone, or it would have been there when we wanted it."

Bring it outside, and you hit it with the hatchet.

"Eh-heh."

If it's an egg, I want it broken. We need no dragons or basilisks around.

She looks at you with wide eyes. "If it's a bad thing, you want ME, eh-heh, to hit it?"

There is no good in this rock.
It's your hatchet, or I'd say otherwise.

She says, "well, I like me hatchet, what if that stone breaks it? I agree with the leave-it-behind plan, eh-heh."

I have no power to destroy.

"You don't seem to want to touch it, heh, why should anyone? It was sealed away for a reason."

If neither of you will break it, then it must be left here.

"This is the sort of thing we hear of in myths and legends, these things."

Let me see what I can learn, though.
    • Simple divination spell (Illusionist): Is the rock alive?
  • No.
  • The rock is not alive.
Let's leave it be, then.
    •  ::: places it on the side of the road and casts a hiding illusion on it. Leaves it by a memorable looking tree stump or rock :::

The woman seems to confidently agree with you. "Certainly!"

And away we go!

Jerin 'haa's Magnus, and the wagon begins to go. Starfire keeps up, just fine.

The late evening is approaching.

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