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(22 Lormesta 5116, Ta’Illistim)

How did it start? The way most of these kinds of stories start…a friend asked if I wanted to share an adventuring patrol with him.

“Is there a cleric in town?” I asked. “Because I think I will need one in there…”

“There is some sort of creature problem…” Mister Barreaus told me. We both knew it could be anything, but this was a good deal better than an escort.

“Sure, count me in,” I told him. We headed to the guard at the city gates for our instructions.

Mister Beldannon was standing there talking with the guard as we arrived, and Mister Barreaus queried the elf on duty about the details of the patrol.

“Black Boars,” he said to me in a measured voice.

Evidently Mister Barraeus was taking it seriously. All I could do was gawk at the very idea. I certainly had never considered going to the Blighted Forest alone, but, well, he seemed to be brave about it, right?

“I have not really been there, except with Aetheri – maybe twice. I am completely unfamiliar with the area. Aside from knowing that everyone dies there, of course.” I came clean to him. Honestly, there was a part of me that sort of hoped that would be enough for him to call it off.

“The same. It’ll be something new for us both,” he cackled at me. So much for my powers of dissuasion. I made a note to work on that.

“Is there a cleric in town?” I asked. “Because I think I will need one …” Yes, I was still pretty dubious about the idea. I was picturing at least a dead bardess and possibly a dead paladin in the middle of this patrol.

I grinned nervously.

“I can raise,” he replied with a hearty laugh. Oh, that’s right, paladins can do that, too. He took the last doubt from what I thought was my best argument, and looked at me expectantly.

And it was on!

Mister Beldannon thought to me, warning me that the boars have a deadly charge. That triggered my second thoughts all over again. By now it must be my fifth or sixth thoughts, right? I lost track some minutes ago.

So Mister Barreaus got me checked in with Jarivyth at the Adventuring Guild.

Jarivyth turned to me, saying, “Barreaus has signed you up to join him on his task.  I trust that he has adequately informed you of the nature of the task.  If he did not, you are to help him to deal with reports of increased massive black boar activity in the Blighted Forest near Ta’Illistim by culling 12 of them.”

I did not feel adequately informed. And 12? I felt like I might as well have been asked to slay 4 dozen bandits.

“How many ya got?” Mister Barreaus asked me, he seemed pretty eager.

“12,” I told him.

“10 for me,” he responded as his face got a little pale. Inwardly I groaned. Those were pretty low assignment numbers, which was likely a sign that even the Adventuring Guild did not have high hopes for us.

“This is a sure sign we are over our head,” I volunteered. You know, a girl had to make one last try…

“Off we go then!” he exclaimed and I scurried behind him to keep up. We were really going to do it.

“Because together 2 friends can do much more amazing things than one of us alone,” I thought to myself, channeling all the good thoughts I could for this adventure into the Blighted Forest – without benefit of my Archmage along.

He paused at the dreadful looking entrance to the Blighted Forest.

“Ready?” he was grinning.

All I could do was nod and remind him I was going to be liberal with my songs. I took a deep breath and made sure I had all my equipment ready.

Mister Barreaus led us quietly through the dark forest. He was exploring the area, getting familiar with the terrain, and we surveyed this strange new place. Both of us were going to have to give our best if we were going to survive this hunt.

We spied the first black boar, massive might be an understatement about the things. Mister Barreaus’ eyes glowed with some sort of an attack, I sang the creature a lullabye, and we struck at it!

It never had a chance. Before long, it was on the ground, and then with a final agonized squeal, the black boar died.

By this time, all my senses were on high alert, and my pulse pounded in my ears. The dread was confronted and defeated. I felt awesome! I knew it was a typical error, but I was filled with a bright new confidence, and began to view our patrol with optimism.

Mister Barreaus carefully avoided the other fell creatures of the Blighted Forest, we focused on our assignment. Every once in a while a viper would wander through while we were culling the boars. I quickly sang them to sleep, and we just moved on, leaving them to nap. The poison from those vipers was well-known to be … dire.

Our dozen or so foes held several heated encounters. We found an effective strategy and stuck with it. I laid them down to sleep with a lullabye, he would scour their body with some astonishing kind of magic attack, and then we struck with our weapons.

As long as we kept a boar so busy it did not have time to fight back, it looked like we were going to be fine.

In the process of all this work, I noticed that if I used an elemental wave, but Mister Barreaus’ amazing skill with his weapons killed it first, I was still given credit against my Adventuring Guild bounty. However, if I sang it a lullabye, that did not happen. I wondered if the Bard Guild needs to do some educating over at the Adventuring Guild?

But the lullabye seemed the better choice for most circumstances, and I stuck with it.

He finished with his quota before I did, but the experiences up to that point already had us both pretty much mind-blown. We chased down the last 3 boars without even a close call, and headed back to the city to report our excellent luck.

We not only survived our first foray into the Blighted Forest, neither of us had even a scratch! Such a victory! My first hunting assignments in an area should always go so well!

Back at the dais at Ta’Illistim, we congratulated one another on the achievements.

“Thank you. That worked out terrific! You kept us moving and were a terrific leader. I should commend you to your guild leader,” I told him. “I expected to die.”

“Oh stop it, you,” he looked a little bashful suddenly as he replied to me.

“And you returned victorious!” Miss Istoriel cheerfully exclaimed to us. “The Blighted Forest is quite thrilling, isn’t it? I enjoyed it.”

“Mister Barreaus did not tarry for any other creature in there. It was perfect,” I told her.

“She carried me on her back this one,” Mister Barreaus said, speaking to Miss Istoriel.

“And who is the dwarf with two attacks for each of mine?” I scoffed at him with a grin.

The Forest Dark does not seem so intimidating in my head any longer. I was basking in the rewards of our triumphs.

… Oh, yeah, we’ll be back for more.

Author: GSBardess

A young bardess named Luxelle is currently learning her trade and hoping to one day make a name for her songs in GemStone IV. Follow along with her adventures in life and song.

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