It's harder than it looks to make an honest living, Stabyo thought to himself as he desperately ran for his life toward the eerie cave entrance, clumsily clutching his new large sewing kit to avoid losing any more of his precious needles and threads. His pursuer wasn't a fearsome gnoll or undead creature, instead it was a fanatical dual sword-wielding ranger that happened to see him trapping a wolf, as he tried his best to turn a new leaf and learn the skill of tailoring here in Qeynos, where nobody knew of his past life of petty crime.
As he bandaged himself in the dark cave, Stabyo realized that he had been set up by the Millers, the half-elven brother and sister who had no intention of actually helping him further his feeble tailoring skills. At first Baobob and Chanda were warm and friendly when he asked for advice on how to use his skinning knife, so he inquisitively started to ask about the stitching in the patchwork garments they were selling. He should have realized he overstayed his welcome, when Baobob asked him to retrieve more than just a few pelts. "See that ranger over therefore? Just follow her, and she will lead you directly to an endless supply of wolves and bears. Come back when you've filled two full backpacks, and I'll show you how to make some cloaks."
Anger welling up inside him now as he realized his own gullibility, Stabyo headed back cautiously in the shadows to the Millers' campfire, to give the half-elf a piece of his mind. Baobob looked up, surprised to see him, and asked, "Back so soon Stabyo? Manage to fill those bags?"
Stabyo forcefully stabbed his skinning knife down into a nearby pelt tanning on a log. "You set me up, you filthy half-breed! Why didn't you tell me that ranger was protecting these animals?! I nearly got skinned myself!" huffed Stabyo furiously.
"I told you to follow her, I didn't tell you to get caught by her." Baobob replied matter-of-factly, as he picked up the skinning knife, "You'd best watch your own back out there, rogue". His sister Chanda piped in angrily. "Didn't get the hint? Just scram, dwarf! First you come here to steal out secrets, and then our business. Go back to whatever cave you crawled out of, before I..."
"Baobob Millerrr... Feearrr meee....." An Iksar necromancer, not a common sight in these parts, appeared out of nowhere with both hands outstretched, casting a spell that caused Baobob's mind to be flooded with a sense of horror, dread, and deep emptiness - with the effect of making you want to run away from your own flesh and bones. Before Stabyo could object, he reacted in pure instinct to seize the opportunity to exact swift revenge with a backstab on Baobob's tender backside, paralyzing him further. Chanda was Jakxitz's next target, and she could not prevent her legs from making a beeline toward a nearby group of putrid skeletons and zombies who were more than happy to gnaw on her flesh, and add her cursed bones to their ranks.
After his anger subsided, Stabyo immediately began to regret his rash actions - how would he be able to leave his old life behind when it kept calling him back like this? Despondently, he started walking towards Qeynos, noticing from the corner of his eye that the Iksar necromancer was shadowing him. He stopped just outside the city walls, and quickly turned to address Jakxitz. "Look, I appreciate the opportunity to get revenge on Baobob, but I needed his help to become a tailor - so now I have no idea what to do. I'm going to find a kinsman in Qeynos to get some advice." Jakxitz looked at him blankly, hissed out a few unintelligible syllables, and continued to follow him toward the Qeynos city entrance gates until Stabyo stopped abruptly again.
"Are you out of your mind, Iksar? You'll be cut down by these guards before you have a chance to cast a single spell. You're not welcome in there." Jakxitz stopped in his tracks, and began to raise his hands while hissing, "Qeyynnosss Guarrdssss... Feeaarrr M...".
Stabyo quickly reached out to deflect Jabxitz's arms, redirecting his target in the nick of time. "You really are insane, aren't you? Just meet me outside the city at the entrance to the aqueducts, tonight." Moments later, the two Qeynos guards would scratch their heads in puzzlement as they witnessed Fippy Darkpaw run away from them for the first time ever, headfirst at full speed into the brick wall in sheer terror, knocking himself out cold.
At Fish's Alehouse near the Qeynos dock, Stabyo pulled up a stool alongside Trumpy Irontoe, a fellow dwarven rogue. He bought his kinsman a few tonics, and proceeded to explain his predicament. "Bah, the Millers? Good r'dance ta rubbish I say, m'lad. If ya wantta be knowin' tha secrets ta sewin', find Nerissa Clothspinner at tha gate and tell'er ole Trumpy sent ya - Kane Bayle weren't the only one ta be harm touchin' her, if ya know what I mean. Har Har!", Trumpy said with a wink, rising from his stool. "Thanks, Trumpy - I don't know how to repay you" he said. "You already have, m'boy!" he said halfway out the door, on his way to relieve himself at the docks. Stabyo grimaced as Fish Ranamer, the proprietor of the establishment, handed him Trumpy's bar tab for the past week, with a smile on his face and the bar bouncer in his shadow.
Penniless now, Stabyo found Nerissa pacing about nervously outside the city gates when he approached her. "Trumpy sent me - he said you could help me learn how to sew? I don't have much money but I can help with anything." Nerissa rolled her eyes, "Ugh, Trumpy that disgusting dwarf - no offense - he's never going to let me live that night down. But you look earnest and capable, and I do need some fresh spider silk. If you can fetch me some from the plains of East Karana, I'll show you how to make some silk swatches." Nerissa quickly scribbled a note and handed it to Stabyo and said, "Here, take this note and deliver it to my sister Milea at the end of the road toward Highpass Hold. She will help you find the crag spiders that have the smoothest silk in all of Antonica. But be careful, somebody has been trying to cause our family harm. I have to go now, I feel like we're being watched - and tell Trumpy we're even!" Stabyo turned around and saw the shadowy Iksar start to raise his hands - and quickly threw a few rocks in Jakxitz's direction to interrupt his casting, as Nerissa quickly and safely shuffled back into the city gates, glancing left and right.
Stabyo and Jakxitz set out from Qeynos toward the plains of East Karana - a long journey by any measure, but made even longer by the awkward silence between them, as he could not get the Iksar to utter any more than the two words he knew in Common Tongue. They arrived at the daunting path toward Highhold Pass just after the sun had set, and ominous dark clouds were rolling in overhead. Ahead of them, a deserted long windy pathway seemed to stretch endlessly, surrounded by oppressive granite cliffs on both sides, with only one way in and out - in other words, a perfect place to be ambushed, with orphaned screams that would never be heard. "Jakxitz, stay back a little bit and watch my back. We don't know what lies ahead, and we may need the element of surprise" Stabyo said, while Jakxitz bobbed his head with a blank stare on his face, and hissed.
At the end of the pathway, Stabyo stumbled into an even darker cave than the canyon he just walked through, where blackness seemed to envelope him fully - until a glint of movement flashed, from a blade illuminated by a ray of moonlight that peeked out from behind the clouds. "Milea Clothspinner?", Stabyo called out, "I bring you a message from your sister. She has asked me to help her collect spider silk for her out here."
"Step forward carefully, with nothing else in your hands, and put the note down right there on that rock", Milea warned. Cautiously, the warrior wearing a full set of steel plate armor stepped forward confidently from the shadows, a stark contrast from her sister earlier. She picked up the note and scanned it quickly for veracity from keywords only her sister would know - and in hushed tone whispered, "Thank you for bringing the note - are you sure you were not followed? Nerissa sounds quite worried, and I saw something moving in the shadows." Suddenly the quiet air was splintered by the crack of an arrow that landed between them, as a gruff voice called out. "Milea - your friends have lead me right to you" a gruff voice boomed from the darkness, "Kane Bayle sends his regards, and wishes you and your sister well in the underworld."
"Guardd Eliaassss.... Feeearrr meee.....", uttered yet another slithery dark voice from the other side of the canyon, as the rain started pouring down. Moments later, the assailant revealed himself to be a corrupt Qeynos guard, emerging from the shadows running full speed straight toward Stabyo and Milea, with terrified bulging eyes - and straight into her prepared blade right below his armor. Looking almost relieved to have been impaled, Guard Elias stared up at Milea as if he was trying to thank her, while she kicked him back down to draw the blade from his lifeless body. "Stabyo, you and your mysterious companion back there have saved me. The crag spiders you seek are behind the hill that you passed on the way up, and there are plenty over there." Jakxitz stepped forward, as a flash of lightning fully illuminated his scaly figure and pet skeleton in the canyon pathway above them. "Watch out! An Iksar necromancer!" Milea shouted, as she readied her sword, while running toward Jakxitz at full speed.
"No wait! He's with me!" Stabyo shouted - but it was too late.
"Milleaa Clothsssppinnerrr... FEEAARRR MEEEEE!!!" the Iksar uttered, with even more powerful guttural force than before, augmented by the canyon walls and thunder that followed. "Stop Jakxitz! She's trying to help us!", Stabyo shouted as he helplessly watched the events unfold before his eyes.
Milea planted her feet firmly to fight the well of emotions inside her - the cowardly tend to flee quickly, but the brave suffer even more against such dark magic. She clenched and gritted her teeth, still gripping her sword tightly, whispering under her breath, "Kane.. why did you betray us like this, after all we've been through?" With that, she dropped her sword and began sobbing uncontrollably, seeing in every flickering shadow a face of death, as she ran shrieking up the steep incline of the windy path. Moments later, the canyon walls would reverberate from the clanging of metal armor rolling down the granite cliffs, followed by a hard thud - and then... silence.
Stabyo shook his head and sat down quietly alone in the cave, allowing the darkness to engulf him further. He stayed silent for the longest time, as Jakxitz looked from afar as the storm receded, and the sun began to rise. Hungry, tired, penniless and now hopeless, he opened his bag to find the last piece of vegetable pie that a friendly druid had given him. He gazed upon the meager portion and laughed to himself, and proceeded to eat it as if it was his last remaining slice of hope in life. Consumed with such self-pity, he almost did not see Jakxitz in the distance in broad daylight now, stretching his hands outwards fully yet again.
"Crraggg Spidderrsss.... Feeaarrr Ussss!!!" Stabyo's ears perked up, as he got up and started running as fast as tiny legs would carry him, doing a barrel roll and launching into a flying backstab at the spider.
It was a new day, and things were finally starting to look up - Jakxitz learned a new word, and it appears Stabyo found a new business partner.