"Just talk to her for us Jabba, she needs to slow down her pace, or she's going to get us all killed", Vigil whispered quietly as he pulled Jabbadastabba aside, out of earshot from his master Arayn who was recovering from her wounds in the corner. "Have pity on us, we're all working as hard as we can, but we're fighters, not slaves - and her demands are getting more and more outlandish." Jabbadastabba knew he would have little sway in budging Arayn's resolve, once the barbarian shamaness set her mind on something she desired. "The sooner we get this done, the better off we will all be. Just bear with her, a little longer", he whispered back apologetically.
"JABBA! What are you two blabbering about over there? Get over here and bandage me quickly! We must hurry if we are to keep the way clear!", Arayn ordered, hobbling several steps to sit down on a nearby rock. "Vigil, keep bandaging my feet! Thwacky, resume your acrobatic dancing for my entertainment, while I recover!"
Arayn of the Clan Felligan, sole heiress to the barbarian fishing and trading empire, was the closest person the city of Halas could claim as royalty. The modest fishing villages her family had established throughout Antonica had developed into a major network for trade routes, while Clan Felligan amassed untold wealth and grew in both economic and political influence. Thus, when Arayn made an appeal for assistance in retrieving a relic deep inside the ruins of abandoned Erudite city, Old Paineel, all the major trade federations responded by sending their finest warriors to assist her, hoping to curry her favor and score lucrative contracts. But none of these adventurers forming her entourage anticipated the demanding and fastidious nature of the so-called "Fisher Queen of the North".
Vigil groaned inwardly, as he pulled off Arayn's bloodied boots to reveal the fresh wounds and blisters on her feet. The shaman heiress was constantly whipping herself into a state of frenzied, painful dancing while entering a trance-like state, in an effort to regain her magical abilities rapidly - but the chronic pain from the erratic ritual seemed to be taking a toll not only on her body, but also her mind. Even with his years of training in mental discipline from Master Ran'un, Vigil was close to reaching the limits of what he was willing to do to fulfill his oath to assist the Coalition of Tradesfolk of Freeport, as he reluctantly started to bandage Arayn's oozing feet.
As Arayn opened a new bottle of fish wine, she mockingly chided the Iksar monk's performance, "Thwacky, I'm disappointed, I've witnessed the dwarves from 'Brell's Brew Barrel Boys' jump higher than you. Is this really the best the 'Floppy Tailed Friends' can offer? I must admit I had much higher expectations for your acrobatic skills from the stories that I've heard about your troupe, but your dancing seem half-hearted at best. If you want me to sponsor your next performance, you'll need to do much better then that." Thwacky stopped for a moment to focus as he nodded, and jumped much higher on his next kick, pleasing Arayn who laughed and clapped. "Better, much better! Industrial, fetch me a new bottle of fish wine from your magic bag!", she said as she forcefully threw her spent bottle on the rocky ledge below her.
Industrial, the Erudite mage, seethed anger through teeth hiding behind his fake smile, as he graciously bowed down to hand yet another bottle of the foul smelling fish wine. It was almost laughable - once the acting trade councilor for the Merchants of Erudin, he was now reduced to a mere packmule for this boozy princess. And while his magical bags could reduce the weight of it's contents to just a fraction, somehow the Fisher-Queen still managed to pack enough wine bottles, multiple fashionable armor outfits, pie ingredients, and other personal belongings, to weigh him down heavier then the rock golems patrolling nearby. Also at his limit now, he shot a glance over at Vigil, as they put their plan into action.
"Iksar, I have heard you have quite the talent for juggling", Industrial said as he grabbed a few bottles of elven port and fish-wine out of his bag to lighten his load. "Here, think fast!" he said as he quickly threw the bottles into the air toward Thwacky, who reflexively caught each bottle and launched them high in the air to juggle, without so much as a flinch. Arayn cheered even louder, as Industrial grabbed the unfinished pie out of Pihole the halfing druid's hands, and threw it into the massive pile of flying objects in the air. "That's all of our bottles, but I believe I saw some empty bottles in the abandoned store behind us", the Erudite mage casually mentioned. Arayn enthusiastically agreed, "Yes, yes - Vigil, go fetch some more bottles, let's see how long Thwacky can keep this going." Vigil ran through the doorway, as he deliberately but discreetly rolled an empty bottle in the direction of a patrolling rock golem nearby to get its attention. Running back at full speed now with angry golem and a few earth elementals in tow, he quickly stopped and plopped down right before Thwacky, to feign dead and hopefully lose its attention. Thwacky lost his concentration as the horde approached, allowing the great quantity of bottles of wine and pies in the air to all crash down, blanketing the angry golem and elementals in a big goopy and doughy mess.
"Stay back princess", Vigil mouthed quietly, "this golem and it's friends will wander away if you remain hidden from view. But if Thwacky and I get up now, we shall all die. Retreat now, we'll find out own way out." Arayn, looking down at the chaotic rivers of spilled fish wine and destroyed pies on the floor, muttered out loudly, "Good help is so hard to find these days. Arise my helpers, we shall all live together, or we shall die together! JABBA! Throw me my fishing spear!" Arayn slowly stood up a head taller than any in her entourage, and caught her spear single-handedly, as she began to jab, taunt and use her slowing poisons on the rock golem of equal stature. This allowed Jabbadastabba the rogue to position himself directly across her, to land several strong backstabs on the golem. As Arayn absorbed the force of each blow, Jabba could see the pain behind the fierce look in her eyes, as her intricately drawn war face paint was smeared from all the blood, sweat, and tears flowing down. When the rest of the party saw the Fisher-Queen was not going to be deterred so easily, they bounced right back up into action to finish off the remaining elementals.
Arayn staggered for a moment before regaining her footing, as she stood above the pile of crushed rocks, pebbles and rubble that once constituted the golem. "JABBA! Another bottle of fish wine here!" Industrial, rummaging through his bag, sheepishly replied, "We're all out of fish wine. And elven port for that matter, and pies as well. We must turn back m'lady, to restock with reinforcements."
Arayn glared at the mage, and asked incredulously, "The port is out too? This is ridiculous", as she took off her bloodied boots again to begin her dancing frenzy.
Pihole, who's hands were bruised from furiously rolling pie dough between healing spells, was still distracted when his ears perked up at her words. "What m'lady? Port us out? Right away!" Jabbadastabba and Thwacky waved their arms frantically to try to stop the druid, but it was too late, as the entire party disappeared into a mystical portal, arriving moments later at the druid rings in the forest of Toxxulia.
Arayn huffed as she towered over the cowering halfling druid, looking almost as tall as the nearby wizard spires compared to the druid rings, while her nostrils flared outward... before she burst out into a great hearty laugh that could be heard from as far as the gates of Erudin. "I shall give the Pie Collective one more chance to operate from our docks, Pihole - because you do make me laugh. As for the rest of you... we shall recover, restock and return - but with double the supplies this time." Industrial bit his lip in an unsuccessful attempt to stifle an audible groan, while Vigil snickered. "And Vigil, I believe I know how you can put those whistling fists of yours to good use in the meantime", Arayn said, as she sat down barefoot, wiggling her blistered toes and beckoning the human monk for a foot massage. It was Industrial's turn to laugh out loudly, as the human monk groaned loudly and audibly this time.
Jabbadastabba had to admit, while serving the Fisher-Queen was tiring, thankless, and at times wholly infuriating, she certainly had her moments - and this was one of them. She was stubborn as an ox, but as strong as one too - yet behind the facade she put up, which was as thick as the crust of a Halasian meat pie, he sensed the loneliness and pain that she must have felt, growing up all alone to bear her family's burdens, while remaining distrustful of all the suitors that sought her fortune. Was her predilection for self-inflicted pain and eccentric behavior just a defense mechanism to keep anybody that might remotely care about her at arms length? He shook his head.. the mere possibility that he might actually care for her was revolting to him, almost making him physically ill in the stomach - yet in some strange way, she was the only one that he would truly consider... family.