The cart wobbles across the slightly uneven surface of the rocky road. Our five heroes are quiet, Arobyn and Foluwa driving the rickety cart. The rest on horses donated by Governor Nighthill before they left Greenest. Whisper off by herself 10 yards ahead, Luther and Scribe in the rear. Foluwa looks back, nervously, at their cargo, for what must be the thousandth time. Arobyn jumps in his seat slightly at this. Unsettled they smile awkwardly and face forward once again, trying not to glance backward again. The Dragon egg sits perched in hay in a makeshift wooden box in the back of the cart. It’s color is gold and metallic and bronze all at once. The torch light glints off it magically, erratically. Is there movement inside? Luther chuckles at the scene before him and nods at Scribe. He gets no response however. Scribe is staring at the egg, furiously scribbling on his parchment. He doesn’t even notice Luther’s attempts at conversation.
(The exit from the Dragon hatchery was uneventful, no challenge was given. The heroes found an old used but road worthy cart and hooked up two of their horses to it. They travelled a few miles and then rested for the night. It is now morning and you are headed to meet Leosin in Elturel but on the way is Greenest, a half day’s ride away)
The loot is heading to Naerytar, is what Frulam had written down. Now where was that?
These heroes just met each other a few days ago. What are their plans? What will the bards sing about them?
And what on earth are they doing carrying around a dragon egg?
Luther (Dave V.):
Luther rides close to the cart, his eyes darting between the periphery of light and the precious cargo, one hand on the reins, one near his sword hilt.
His mood is pensive, troubled (no chuckling or attempts at conversation). This path Torm has set him down is still new to Luther. Some things are very clear; the innocent need to be protected, tyrants defeated. What of my actions of late… Torm, that small black creature was… an intelligent child? Pure evil or redeemable? and even if pure evil, is not evil a result of one’s actions? Can one truly be evil if one has never done anything, harmed anyone… These kobolds, are they redeemable Torm? Or are any spared destined to harm an innocent in the future? What will I do next time…please give me guidance.
The companions halted for a rest before continuing on the Greenest, a brief stop before continuing on Elturel and Leosin. Luther walks some distance away, at the edge of the moonlight and kneels down to pray. He remains there for over an hour. When done, he gets up and walks over to the egg, and says a brief prayer:
By Torm and all that I hold dear, I will protect you dear creature, and help bring you into this world, if I can. I will find someone that can raise you, teach you to become a strong force of good in this world. My sword, my shield, my life…
But first, one more thing Luther makes his way over to Whisper, making sure to keep a comfortable distance for her, but close enough to speak privately. He leaves anything threatening behind.
Whisper,.. a word, please
An arched eyebrow in response.
I am a very simple person, at heart. I feel a great responsibility to defend those that cannot defend themselves. Torm has set me down a path, and in these last hours, it has been dark… but there is a light that remains. The light of fellowship. We have fought together, bled together. You have demonstrated yourself to be more than competent in many ways, as have all our companions. I do not know what has lead you to decide to journey with us, but as long as we are together, we share in everything, equally. We all have skills that allow us to meet challenges and triumph, and we do this together. Just because you have the skills to perceive and access things more easily than the rest of us, does not mean you have any more right to those things beyond your share. Is your skill worth more than the blood anyone of us shed that got us into the room? I think not.
To be clear, I care not of personal wealth. I seek to support the underprivileged that they may become strong and support others in turn. I seek to be more effective in my crusade, but beyond that, I need very little. When you take what is not yours, you take away from my ability to provide for the most vulnerable. I cannot accept that.
I ask that you bring forth all of what you have found since we have been together so that we may divide equally, together. If you refuse, I cannot fight alongside you anymore. If the rest of the companions are willing to abide by your philosophy, then I will take my leave.
I truly hope that you decide to be fully part of this developing fellowship. I feel that you would gain more in doing so than you ever imagined.
Luther will seek to find a home for the egg before continuing north. The dragon inside must survive and flourish. He will discuss with Foluwa how we can find a dragon that will take the egg and how we need to take care of it before it hatches, ie we need a warm area, etc.. If it hatches, we need to know how to take care of it as well)
Foluwa frowned, looking upon his companions with great concern.
“To me, we are a tribe,” he speaks softly, gesturing around the group at each member. “A tribe lives and dies by its ability to support each other, strengthen each other, depend on each other.”
His eyes intense, he stares hard at Whisper, “A young warrior, is fast and able, and full of zest. They can run all day, fight all day, hunt all day, and do not tire. But the young warrior grows old, and his strength leaves him. So what does he contribute to the tribe? He teaches the younger warriors the ways of the jungle, and how to survive. And those young warriors… they share of the spoils they gain. In this way, the tribe grows and flourishes.
“Each of us, we bring a strength to this group, and you may feel perhaps that your strength is greater than ours, and mayhap it is… today. But will it be tomorrow? Will you need Luther one day, more than he needs you? Luther calls it a fellowship. I call it a tribe. But the sentiment is the same. We all work as one. If you cannot accept that, than you are not one of the tribe.”
There is a very long pause. The druid’s eyes sparkle with grief.
“To be without tribe… is a terrible thing. THIS, I do know. I do not wish to see you leave us, or Luther. To me, you are my tribe now. If you feel you are taking to great a risk when you do these things, then I will do them instead. And if seeing me hurt by something you could easily avoid makes you feel the tribe is equal, then so be it. I would do that for my tribe.”
Whisper looks at both Luther and Foluwa with great skepticism.
“I feel I must correct you, young paladin, for you seem to have misunderstood me. I am not advocating for a meritocracy, though that is certainly the way of elves; I know I am not journeying amongst my own kin and so it would be unfair of me to project those values upon others,” she began, with a meaningful look at Foluwa at that point. “But you are not being entirely truthful when you say we face the dangers together. We do not. Let me explain: When taking the spoils of those we have slain in combat, I don’t seek more than one fifth, or my fair share, of what we find upon them, no matter whom has slain what. We all faced danger from our opponents, so we all share equally. But when faced with a trap that may kill the one investigating it, I alone face that risk; don’t think I didn’t notice how far away you all stay when I am undertaking that task,” she whispered with a sardonic smile.
“Should the trap be sprung, I am the only one to face that consequence…yet you would have all partake in the spoils of that isolated risk? No, my young friend, I am afraid that is particularly unjust. ‘Equal risk for equal reward,’ is how the saying goes, yes? Well, I already risk equally when I fight alongside you, yet I take on this other risk, the risk of the deadly trap, completely alone; I am no hireling, Luther, agreeing to a pittance for services rendered. I want my fair share, and considering my life, and only mine, goes on the line when dealing with traps, my fair share should be more.”
Turning to Foluwa, Whisper nodded “I understand what you are saying; at least, I think I do: I honestly have never journeyed to Chult so I can not speak about your worldview with any firsthand experience. Having said, I feel certain that a group does not become a tribe simply because one declares it so. I am sure such a powerful identity is one that is forged, not merely spoken. We are no ‘tribe,’ at least, not yet. We happen to be headed in the same direction, and can be of assistance to each other, but the way you describe the tribes on your homeland…that is not us. We are much more akin to a mercenary group; in fact, that is how we have been functioning.”
Addressing them both, she folded her arms in front of her and paused for a moment. Finally, she shook her head, seemingly reconsidering what she was about to say and simply whispered “You know, you could just leave any trapped treasure chests we find alone. You don’t have to know what’s inside…”
“Tribe. Group. Fellowship. These are just words. We are one, is what Luther is trying to say. We work together and share in the rewards, and that way, as one, we grow stronger. You do not like this philosophy? You have a talent for finding and opening traps, yes? Why would you withhold this talent from us if it makes the group stronger?”
The tribesman looks very confused at the elf.
“Do you not feel as part of this group? Is that it? Do you feel as though, were you to die from a chest that we would simply walk over your corpse and loot the chest?” He shakes his head sadly.
“If this is your belief, then I will stand next to you when next you take such a risk, if that makes you feel more equal with us. You talk of equal risk, and yet you cheapen the risk that Luther and I took when Langdrosa breathed his foul breath upon us, and yet highten the risk you face opening a chest… I did not begrudge you your safe position behind me when the half dragon came for us. I do this for the group.”
Luther (Dave V.):
Luther considered her words carefully, trying to appreciate the life experiences that brought her to believe such things. After a long pause:
I believe a larger view is required, here, Whisper. It is entirely possible that the only reason you are, in fact, standing in front of a locked chest or similar, is because you were healed by Foluwa or Scribe convinced someone to give us the password or any myriad of other reasons. There is a continuity to our journeys and to select one single aspect and evaluate it in isolation is not fair or just. That one risk, for the trap is isolated, just like my risk of being in reach of enemies while you hide safe in the shadows to target them one by one, is also isolated. It is no different.
If you like, for each chest you open, I will be at your side, sharing the risk.
And finally, you are right about one thing. I will in no way try to coerce you into opening anything. We all knowingly take risks, but none of us should be forced to do something that we are not comfortable with.
“No. No I do not feel as though this group is anything other than a ragtag bunch of individuals who were accidentally thrown together while a town burned. After that, we reacted in mercenary fashion, doing things on behalf of that fool of a mayor in exchange for money. What is holding us together other than that?”
“And yes, druid of the jungle, I have a hard time believing that the treasure within the trapped chest that just killed me would go untaken by you all, even if you had to step over my spastic body to do so.”
She paused. “How far back do you want to go, Luther? Perhaps the young bard healed me in the thick of combat, just as it’s possible I put an arrow in the neck of one who’s about to do him in. That’s all expected in the heat of battle. But once it’s over, and there is a strongbox of jewels or whatnot, the only motivation is greed, pure and simple. I have risked my life for your lives so far, and you have done the same for me, but now you ask me to do so for the lining of your pockets?! Who are you to me that I should risk my life merely to make you richer?”
Her voice was rising now. “And yes, I fight from the shadows…and you are all glad that I do. I am not going to tell you how to fight, but please spare me the human wisdom that throwing oneself into the teeth of the opponent is somehow more ‘noble’ than firing from a distance. You don’t throw yourself at the opponent to protect me, paladin, you do it for your own reasons; I cannot believe you’d fight differently in my absence. Certainly, I never asked for your protection, nor do I need it.”
She looked away from the two human men, who towered over her. “I have my own reasons for investigating the Cult. One who ensured the ruin of my life is said to be amongst their number, and I would find her and balance the scales…” She turned back to face them. “I…am really not sure why you all are doing what you do; you say it is not for riches, yet look at what we are debating. I do not deny that I will need greater resources to deal with my enemy when I meet her…just as I am sure you also wish to empower yourselves to deal with your own enemies; there’s no fault in that as I see it…”
“…but I am the one who will be poisoned if it goes wrong, don’t you see? Even with you standing beside me, which I suppose I appreciate, I am still the one taking the risk…and for what? Tell me,” she asked, her voice going softer. “Why am I doing this..?”
“You are wrong.” Foluwa says, sternly, “In two things. One, I would not step over your corpse for the gold. I would do everything in my power to keep you alive and heal you. That is my concern. Two, I am not a mercenary. I am in Greenest based on a vow I kept, but even I, who grew in a society that does not understand riches, have learned in my travels that to enable myself to have the most impact upon my deeds, I will need the riches to better my abilities.
“I would help Greenest, even if they offered nothing in return. The Cultists have unbalanced the harmony of this place. The only reason we are debating treasure here, is because you do not agree with our desire to share equally, nor the value in it. My assumption was that you considered yourself one with us, but perhaps that is wrong. I felt that this journey we have taken together that has gotten us this far, has built us as a group. Tell me, do you not think your chance of success to defeat this enemy of yours is better with or without us? Do you mean to do it alone?
“If you see no value in our group then why are you here, with us? Don’t misread my words, I do not wish you to go, but if you are not with us because you feel we are as one in our goals, then why are you with us…?”
Luther (Dave V.):
Do not assume that you understand our motivations. I have given my gains away, mostly. It is not greed. And if you cannot see that, then your life has left you bitter and cynical. Do not let your prior experiences jade you. You say we are mercenaries. I say We are not! Arobyn is my brother in all ways but blood, Foluwa has more honor than all the knights I have ever met and Scribe is a beloved leader in the making.You, Whisper, can be whatever you want, but you need to trust and be trusted. If you want it…
I do see… you may be the one who is poisoned, but I will be the one to heal you. This… person whom you say ruined your life.. do you think you can really hire people to help you? That the right people out of convenience will help balance the scales? it will not happen. Friends, companions, a tribe, a fellowship… this is what will balance the scales.
I am no longer sure what to say, but I think I know where I have erred. We humans, with such short life spans, tend to make relationships faster and more easily than elves because, well… we just don’t live that long. I should have remembered how it was with Arrobyn. The night we fought together in the village of my home town, I was ready to make him by blood brother… It took him a little longer to embrace our friendship. I guess that is why Foluwa and I speak so easily of tribe and fellowship. It is not that we are not sincere, or those words don’t carry weight. It is that we are ready to trust and believe in others.
So, when you ask why you should risk your life for us, I guess I understand…. and to that I say embrace our fellowship, and I swear, by my life, that if you have had great injustice brought upon you by those who would abuse their power, I will not rest until those wrongs are righted.
This night, these may seem like empty words, but I do not say them lightly. Only actions will convince you. To experience that, you need to trust.
what say you, milady ?
Whisper looked the young paladin over. He seems genuine, that’s for sure, she thought. So many humans do, though…that’s their way. Promise things rashly, then change their hearts and minds when things become difficult…
She smirked. At least he’s not talking to me as though I’m a pointy-eared human; he’s already better than most humans who think their worldview is the only one. And there must be some humans who keep their word, right? Perhaps he’s one of them, paladin oaths and all that…
She tossed him the bag she had placed the treasure in. “Here. If I’m going to trust you with my life, I’ll trust you to divide it fairly.” Luther smiled in response, not opening the bag. He nodded at Whisper, but she shook her head. “Let’s see…let’s see where this task before us takes us; let’s see if we’re alive at the end of it, and let’s see if you keep your promise.”
“I can hear the doubt in your voice…it needn’t be there. If I have vowed to do something, than I will do it.”
Whisper looked down for a long moment. When she looked up, her face was a strange mixture of cynicism and melancholy. “Let’s see if you still feel that way…let’s see.”
Foluwa thinks of other animals he knows that bear their young via eggs versus live birth, and they all spend time after birth close to their mothers. This first stage is usually called the Hatchling stage. (‘Wyrmling’ yells out Scribe as some bit of lore charges to the forefront of his memory). This applies to even very large animals so he does not see why it would be different for dragons. There are ways to birth and raise these animals when their mothers have died or been killed and he wonders if this also applies to the great wyrms. He does not know how long the wyrmling stage would last or what the next stage would be. Scribe speaks excitedly ‘I once read a poem about a ‘young’ green dragon who was 7 or 8 years old when cornered and killed by irate villagers. Or was it 6?’
To learn more you guys will need some serious library time (oh yipee! thinks scribe)or an expert in the field. Greenest does have a modest library somewhat intact from what you remember. Leosin is a scholar and has been investigating dragon cults but you have no idea if he is a dragon expert. And he is in Elturel, days past Greenest.