The Four Winds
I Love a Parade
CC tried his best not to scowl, but this seemed like a bit of overdoing it. The floats, the throngs of people cheering, the vendors selling their foods and trinkets to the crowd as the parade went by. All that money could be better spent on clothes and food. But people needed hope as well he supposed. He just prayed that he and the Four Winds could continue to give it to them. At least it was a nice clear day.
What made it worse was Sunny. Standing up with his Captains hat, angel feather and all, waving and smiling to the thousands of fans as they went by. He threw out candy to the children and flowers to the woman. And every once in awhile he would float a few feet above the decorated wagon to the delight of all.
Arylin had drawn the short straw and was riding in the first float up front, with Polk. She hadn’t learned not to let Sunny pick the straws yet and had paid the price. Talindra would have known better, but Sunny had got her while she was distracted by the gnomes planning a new invention and had absently drawn a straw from the halflings offered hand, not even looking. CC was sure that a reckoning was coming, but for now the diminutive captain was living it up.
CC broke out of his thoughts and waved to the people, mostly just scanning for danger out of habit. He looked at the rooftops, alleys, crowds, and any place that might be considered so obvious that normal guards would never check to think. He didn’t see anything but that didn’t reassure him. He was spending so much time convincing Cinders not to burn down the painted wagon they were on that he wasn’t at the top of his game.
As for Sunny, he was truly enjoying himself. Roughly in the center of the parade and without the hassle of all the walking. He noticed Mendryll Brandyfire walking and playing for the crowd up ahead, a bunch of teenagers all holding signs saying “I heart Damian!” off to the side, and far ahead was Eltibald selling “authentic” gear used by the Four Winds to so many people that he had to hire bodyguards. Sunnys memory wasn’t spot on, but he couldn’t recall which member of the Four Winds had ever used that particular hula hoop. Maybe Bane when no-one was watching? It was bright pink after all.
Sunny shrugged at the oddity of dwarves and went back to being universally adored. Or at least citily adored (citily is a word in halfling). He was pleased to note that quite a few halfling woman were trying to get his attention as he went past, though the halfling men seemed less pleased. He might have entertained it except that if the woman ever got into a cat fight with Gren, there would be less hair pulling and more liver extracting.
The crowd behind them roared with approval and both Sunny and CC knew that Damians wagon must have turned the corner. He wore a fancy looking robe that made him look more wizardly, even though the robe was normal cloth and nonmagical altogether, but still wore the same hat and veil he always did. Still something about him drew more applause then the rest of the parade altogether and people were throwing copper and a few silver at him, hoping for attention. Damian’s float had twice as many soldiers guarding it as any other but the Kings itself, in the back.
Sunny wondered how much they would cheer if they knew about Damian’s recent contributions to the Cormyr childrens education system. Who knew, humans were odd like that. Besides, he was getting just the right amount of attention, enough to be cheered, not enough to be ripped to shreds by adoring fans. Still they could have thrown SOME money at him couldn’t they? Was Damian magically keeping their pockets closed until it was his float that was nearest? Sunny wouldn’t put it past him.
He reached up and rubbed the angel feather in his hat, silently imploring it for a little more positive vibe mojo, just this once. He was so busy trying to shake a little extra magic out of the feather that he almost got clocked in the eye by a halfling woman who did throw a silver coin at him. He instinctively ducked and the coin went sailing to other side of the parade and landed in the crowd on that side. Sunny couldn’t help but grumble at his ill luck and scowled at the feather, wondering if some angel were watching and playing a prank on him.
Damian turned his head. The crowd roared. Damian shifted his weight to his other foot. The crowed cheered. Damian stretched his shoulder. The crowd clapped. Damian raised his hands and the soldiers guarding him had their hands full keeping his wagon clear. The sorcerer sighed and tried to stay as still as he could to keep the poor soldiers safe, not an easy task on a jerking wagon. He had his flying spell still on, but wasn’t using it after it had almost started a riot a few blocks back.
Woody was on his shoulder like usual and genuinely interested in everything going on. He kept popping questions in the sorcerers mind about what was this, who was that, what is going on over there? Before Damian could answer, the curious weasel was already on to something else. Looking up ahead at the happily smiling rogue, and the trying-very-hard-to-smile ranger, he wondered which was having the rougher time. Still, they were all lucky that Arylin hadn’t caught on to the never-let-Sunny-hold-the-straws rule when it came to being stuck with Polk. Too bad everyone learned after the first time, she wouldn’t fall for it again. Besides, there was always a chance that Polk wasn’t that bad and Arylin was actually having a good time.
Damian didn’t believe it though.
“This is where we should be girl. Front of the action, first into the fray. Green skin and silver sword leading the way into the screaming masses.” Polk continued. Polk had manage to talk throughout the entire parade, wave to almost every single individual, and still get free food from the vendors on the ground. His ability to achieve so much and accomplish absolutely nothing was completely astounding. He could talk more with his mouth full of food AND BEER, then a roomful of gnomes discussing their latest invention.
Arylin wondered if true green star adepts got headaches. Because after managing to convince the gnomes to NOT alter the parade floats and to NOT improve the ship without her permission, getting stuck with Polk was pushing all her mental boundaries. She was starting to have a serious suspicion that Sunny had somehow cheated at drawing straws this morning. She would have a talk with him after all this. If she wasn’t in jail for killing Polk that was.
“Stand higher girl, wave harder, let them know you love them. They came here for you ya know. Why, back in my day when someone threw a parade in your honor you celebrated more for them then they for you! Course I always declined my parades. We’d have been having one twice a day if I hadn’t! Never one to blow my own horn anyway, not me. Be quiet, listen when talked to, and just get the job done without any fuss. That was always my motto. But if you wanted me here with you so bad, least you can do is give the folks a good show!” Polk went on.
Arylin had tried, all the GODS know that she had tried, to be quiet. She had let so many things slip uncommented on, but that was the final straw. She turned and grabbed the teamster so that he was forced to stop waving and face her.
“Look damnit! You drug ME here! I was going to stay on the ship with Essodren and Gren and the others but you agreed you would finally shut up if I came. And you havent. And this crowd isnt here for me, they wanted me arrested and dead as of two days ago. Or did you forget that whole thing with me not coming into town the last THREE MONTHS!?” Arylin was screaming by the end of it.
“Gren didn’t stay behind.” Polk said calmly.
Arylin blinked. She didn’t know what Polk was talking about. She had to rewind her rant in her head to remember she had even mentioned the goblin girl. “What are you talking about?” Arylin said a little lost.
“Gren. Little goblin girl that seems to have a crush on our captain. She didn’t stay behind.” Polk pulled out of Arylins grasp, adjusted his clothes, lit his pipe, and went back to waving to the crowd.
Arylin wasn’t sure how the conversation got turned around so fast, but was determined to get back into it. “How do you know that?” she knew she would regret the question as soon as she said it.
“Because she is right there.” Polk said calmly pointed ahead.
Arylin and Polk were the first float of the parade, only seventy feet from the very front, so it was easy for Arylin to look ahead and see a large crowd. There was Gren in a cage, dressed in what looked to be a costume of goblin clothes. Like something that would be bought at a novelty shop rather then what goblins really wore in the wild. And next to her was Eltibald Lastlight. He was wearing a showmans outfit with a large top hat (though still had his pipe) and announcing that for a mere three silver, anyone could come stare at the amazing amazon goblin warrior princess of Chult. Apparently Gren was the greatest warrior goblin to ever live in the land of Chult and had led a rebellion of 20,000 strong until the Four Winds had stopped her.
Gren was pretending to be a captured warrior and growling at anyone who got too near. She seemed to especially have fun by showing her row of fangs at any young children that got to close and having them run to their parents crying. By the look of the wagons next to Eltibalds bodyguards, he had already raked in over 4000gp worth of silver.
“Didn’t I see him selling hula hoops or something last block?” Arylin asked, rather stupidly.
“That was last block” Polk shrugged as if it was no big deal. “You got to think on your feet. Like that halfling there. As it was, I thought that I was the only one aware that Gren was a super warrior woman that was planning an invasion on Cormyr from Kult. Was just about to stop her myself too, but thought to myself that I would give you poor kids one more chance before I showed you up and made fools out of you. That’s my fault really, I was too quiet, thought if I kept my mouth shut you kids would learn on your own. Must be your generation really.” Polk shook his head sadly at the youth of today.
Arylin could feel her sanity slipping away and wondered if her sisters Gith Friend was nearby for a mental patchup. “Polk ……….. you do know that is a scam right? Gren is no warrior woman. Shes a damn thief and pickpocket and is conning all those people right along with that damn fake lawyer.”
Her brain hurt and she had already reached the max stupidity allowed for today, but she pushed on further before Polk could get a word out “And further more, it is Chult, not Kult. There is no such place as Kult. And how would they invade Cormyr from Chult? There are over a dozen countries between us and them.”
“Blue napkins.” Polk answered, still calm. As Arylins mind tried to shrivel and die, Polk manage to get a vendor to give him a meat pie, and admonish a young purple dragon cadet for wearing his sword on the wrong side at the same time (even though the cadet wore it the same way everyone else did).
“Did you say purple napkins?” Arlyin asked helplessly.
“No girl, blue ones. Gren was going to have twenty thousand Kult goblins invade Cormyr using blue napkins, very important the color blue.” Polk said as if it made all the sense in the world.
As he started to explain why, Arylin put her face in her hands and cried.
Bane stared at the wreath of flowers that was just thrown at his feet. He scanned the crowd trying to determine who threw it. Either a man calling him a sissy, or a woman wanting to court him. Try as he might, he couldn’t pinpoint the perpetrator. The cheering died down quite a bit as he scowled at the entire crowd. He looked across the way to Zena on the other side of the float.
The two of them had just walked into town earlier that day, looking for the rest of the crew. Bane was going to strangle the halfling (wasn’t sure which one yet, might strangle both for good measure.) They had been in Wheelon and Bane had heard about a small cave nearby the river. Since he preferred sleeping in a cave to the ship anytime, he had went looking for it. The cave was small but cozy, blocking out almost all the river noise. Bane had pulled a nice soft rock up as a pillow and fallen fast asleep.
Only to learn that the next morning the the damn ship had up and left without him! Furious he had stomped straight to Suzial. Or at least he would have if he hadn’t wandered off the road using a shortcut like CC always lead them on but got totally lost and had wandered in circles a few days. Maybe the pansy half elf actually knew what he was doing after all. But how was Bane to be blamed for that. The flimsy elf could barely grow a beard, you cant trust the sense of direction of anyone that cant grow a beard!
Bane had been wondering if the patheticness of a beard was directly proportional to your sense of directionon the surface, when he had meet up with Zena only about a mile outside of Suzial. They had gone to the front gate together and when the guards found out that they were with the Four Winds, immediately taken them in.
Figuring they were under arrest for something one of the others had done in their absence, they placed private bets on who’s fault it was this time. But they were both surprised when they were asked to be cleaned up and a spot of honor in the parade made for them.
So here they were, both a little stunned and confused, neither knowing what the hell this celebration was all about. And now these people were throwing flowers at him. It made Bane long for the safety of the Underdark and its minor pesky drow problems.
To make matters worse, Xanthx, that strange alien creature that helped power the ship, had found them and was hanging out on Xenas side of the float, waving and sticking his tongue out at all the strangers. Zena laughed and seemed to think it was a grand time, even though the crowds made her a bit nervous.
“Hey Zena! Is someone calling me a sissy?” Bane demanded, holding up the offending wreath.
The barbarian woman looked over at him and shrugged helplessly, not knowing the customs. “I dont know. Why dont you go ask them?” she answered back.
“Because I dont know who th-” Bane was cut off when the wagon suddenly came to a stop.
Bane fell face first into a trio of jugglers in front of the wagon and brought all four of them to a crash on the ground. Cursing, he tried to get up without crushing the scrawny humans fragile bones.
Zena managed a little better and was still on the float. She turned to the driver and asked “Why did we stop?”
The driver shrugged and pointed ahead. The whole parade had come to a stop. “Dont know ma’am.” He said politely “Guess something or someone is interfering with the parade up ahead.”
“Sunny.” Zena said at the same time Bane said “Polk.” Zena winced and nodded to the dwarf, as if in acknowledgment that Bane was probably the correct one.
Actually, neither was right. For in front of CC and Sunny’s wagon was the problem. This didn’t help Arylin at all, for since she was in front, their wagon went on merrily without the rest of the parade. And when they learned that they had gotten quite a lead, had to turn around and rejoin the rest. Giving Arylin a good extra twenty minutes with the infuriating man who was STILL explaining why orange napkins would only make sense if the man-eating monkeys were coming from the north.
In front of CC and Sunny’s float was a group of adventurers that had stepped right in the middle of parade. The reason that the Purple Dragons had chosen not to interfere is because the man leading the adventurers had a large holy symbol of Torm right on his breastplate. He almost glowed with a holy aura and was obviously a paladin.
Cinders growled and CC stepped forward, glad that they were encouraged to wear their full combat gear when they had been asked to participate in the parade. Next to him Sunny glanced casually at CC, as if asking what next. He looked relaxed but CC knew the little halfling could have both daggers out and be thirty feet away in a heartbeat if required.
“CC, you are a fraud and a demon worshiper!” The paladin called out. Typically subtle.
Both the Four Winds recognized the guy, it was Tim, the arrogant one who had helped the people of Quiet Thunder, and won the Challenge of Champions last year. He was also the man responsible for Cinders current situation and the hell hound hated this creature more then any other.
Behind him was the rest of his party of the Golden Gauntlets. A woman fighter, a human bard, a gnome that looked to be a inventor of sorts,a half elf swashbuckler, a young male cleric of Torm, and a tall skinny human mage.
CC stood proud and tall, calculating how this could go down without bloodshed. Or at worst, without innocent bloodshed. “I worship no demons sir. I have slain both Ichiro the Eastern Blade, and Kenowor the Cold Scourge.”
“I am no simple peasant!” Tim shouted back “I know the difference between a demon and a devil! You are in league with the Ta’annari!” He pointed a accusing finger. Looking at the confused Purple Dragons he said “I demand you arrest him by the name of Torm the True.”
“And I demand that you shut up by the name of people who arnt D-bags” Sunny said interjecting himself.
Tim looked at Sunny with disdain and quickly dismissed him. Like most humans, he disregarded small folks ability in combat. He turned to his mage friend and said “Keep the little one out of this.”
CC saw the halfling eyes go wide and he grabbed for the bag of holding but it was too late. Apparently the mage had a spell prepared metamagically with a quickness because in a eyeblink there was a cage of magic bars surrounding the halfling.
Sunny pulled a ring out of the bag but stopped, holding it in his hand and staring morosely at the glowing bars. CC recognized it as the expensive ring of Spellturning that he had borrowed money from CC for long ago. CC looked at the rings the halfling was wearing. One was the normal ring of Jumping that he usually wore. The other was the ring of Cold Resistance that he only wore when riding Frosttail around the mountainside.
The crowd was panicking and the Purple dragons were trying to keep order and reach the Golden Gauntlets at the same time. CC could have slipped away but wouldnt abandon his friend. He could have made his was to Tim (he was good at weaving through crowds) but was still trying to avoid bloodshed. After all, the mage hadnt cast a spell that harmed, just one that contained.
Since he had a few moments he looked at Sunny and asked “Ring of Cold?”
Sunny looked a little embarrassed and said “Ummm yeah. Forgot.”
“Why did you …….” but then it dawned on him. “You were going to have Frosttail show up during the parade werent you!” CC demanded.
“Ummmm maybe.” Sunny said shifting his feet.
“What if he had hurt someone. Frosttail doesn’t have the best control you know.”
Sunny looked offended “Hey! We practiced the maneuver we were going to do ya know. I’m not that irresponsible.”
“When did you practice?” CC asked.
Sunny looked embarrassed again “Well we MENT to practice, and its really the thought that counts during the holidays anyway.”
CC sighed and looked at the crowd. Most of the innocents were away now and Tim was shouting to him. Mostly he was shouting surrender, or stand aside, or confess his horrible ways, or some other nonsense.
“Release my friend at once!” CC demanded. Tim looked at his young cleric friend. The cleric pulled out a scroll and Tim placed himself between CC and the cleric. Even though they were still almost fifty feet apart.
“What are you doing?” CC asked.
“This is a plane sending spell” Tim announced. “It was going to be for you, but since we used the cage on your friend, we wont let it go to waste. After all, if he associates with demon worshipers, he is probably just as guilty as you. As for you, you can answer in a court of law demonspawn!” he said in that holier-then-thou sneering tone that apparently was part of paladin training.
The cleric was reading from the scroll and CC had to move fast, he yanked the bow from his back and knocked an arrow. But the damn mage was big on quickened spells as a wall of air sprang up between the two parties. CC let fly anyway, aiming for the clerics foot to distract him more then kill him. But the arrow hit the wall of air and slammed into Tims shield to no effect.
“This will send him to Mt Celestia itself, where Torm may pronounce judgment himself.” Time decreed. CC knocked another arrow but the cleric was done and finished the spell with a flash of light heading for the entrapped halfling.
Sunny hadn’t been idle. He had tried the ring of Teleportation but no good. Tried magically sending out to Damian for help since he was just around the corner but the cage blocked that too. When he learned he was making a special one way trip to the heaven of all that is law and order, he grew desperate.
Cinders Burn! said the hell hound, finally having a free shot at the hated paladin. And let loose a blast of flame. But the Wind Wall broke it up to a wall of fire for an instant and blinded almost everyone on the street.
CC covered his eyes as now two blast of light crossed each other. The wall of fire did nothing to stop the plane sending ball of light streaking to Sunnys prison. Sunny yanked one last object from the bag of holding. It almost looked like a wine glass or something, struck at the bars, and the next instant there was a strange popping sound.
Almost instantly it was snowing and the cart CC had been on disappeared. Getting up a bit dazed he saw that the group of the golden gauntlets were looking in amazement at the spot where Sunny had been a moment before. There was nothing there.
“What happened?” the mage demanded.
“I… I … I dont know.” the young cleric stuttered. “Ive never cast that spell before. That’s why I needed the scroll. Its very powerful.”
“Why is it snowing?” the little gnome asked. More curious then anything.
“I have no idea.” the cleric said, obviously confused. “It was clear skys a moment ago. And I dont think the halfling went to Mt. Celestia. I dont know where he went!”
CC was so mad that he once he reorientated himself he charged straight at Tim. He didn’t know yet if he would kill him, but he would definitely beat the crap out of him. He took one step and tripped over his beard. He landed with a unrangerlike thump on the ground. Looking down he saw his beard had grown over nine feet long! He looked up dazed at the rest of the parade and realized he had stepped in some insane mans dream.
Bane was struggling with the cart, which had animated and was trying its best to give him a hug. It had grown a tongue three feet long, and kept slobbering all over him like a puppy. Not far away Zena was rolling on the ground holding her ears. Apparently her power to hear at a distance was in full effect and she was listening to the entire city all at once. She screamed for everyone to shut up but it did no good.
Bane had to use all his extensive training with grappling to finally get the cart off of him, but as soon as he did it would come crashing into him again. He was loath to smash the thing with his hammer, since its only crime was being over-friendly, but the damn parade float was asking for it. He definitely missed the drow.
Damian felt something in the very Weave itself. Sorcerers were a little more sensitive to that sort of thing then wizards, though he had no idea what caused it to go haywire for a moment. Woody seemed to be reeling as if drunk. He almost swore that the little weasel had glowed purple for a moment.
He saw the crazy problems going on around like everyone else and looked down to see that he was wearing a large bunny suit! Well at least he hadnt been wearing his normal robes. Also his hair had bled ink all the the way down and had covered his face and shoulders, but considering what else was going on around, figured it wasnt so bad.
He looked around trying to see what he could do first to help, but alot of his spells had to do with blasting things, not alot of calming spells. Then off in the south he saw something with his vision that no one else had noticed yet. Frosttail was coming towards the parade!
At first Damian thought his eyesight was even better, making Frosttail out as good as he did. But as the young white dragon came closer Damian realized that the six year old dragon had doubled in size! Over twenty feet long he came whipping past roofs, his tails taking out the taller chimneys. Rejoicing at his glory, Frosttail unleashed a complete cone of cold that froze over a empty hat booth and encased it in a solid block of ice.
Damian flew towards the dragon before he could do anymore damage, especially to people. He manage to intercept the dragon and tried reasoning with him. But it was obvious that the dragon would let nothing spoil his fun. Damian knew that even if he slayed the dragon, having a 10,000lb corpse fall out of the sky would still do alot of damage.
So he picked a middle ground and led the dragon away from the mass of people and to the most deserted and delapidated area he could find. There he tried to alleviate as much damage as he could to the city while still keeping Frosttail entertained enough to not wander off. At least the dragon was happy it was snowing. He stayed and babysat the dragon, wondering where Sunny had gotten off to.
Arylin didn’t know where the snow had come from either, but the big question was why a cartfull of little children’s toys had decided to come alive and wage full war on a equally alive cartful flower wreaths. Everywhere she looked incredibly odd things were happening. And while the five inch tall toys were the most violent so far, she didn’t want things to get worse.
It got worse.
A forty foot tall Gren came running buy. Smashing small houses that only came to her thighs with ease and laughing like a not-so-little maniacal giant. On her shoulder was Eltibald, seemingly unaffected by the bizarreness, pointed out which buildings were occupied by people that seemed to think that every halfling and little person was a thief. He also had his trusty fishing pole handy and was snatching things from newly opened sun roofs that Gren was providing.
And a dozen other things just as odd. A cat had to return a mouses cheese after being found guilty in a court of law (comprised entirely of mice) of unlawfully obtaining the cheese. Two light post animated and got into a Brooklyn accent argument of who was there first. A girls lollipop had grown teeth and had a deathgrip on a little girls hair while the girls mother hit the lollipop with her handbag, a handbag that said ouch with every hit. A group of quills came out of a supply store holding up union strike signs demanding the same wages that paper and stamps received.
“What in the name of every god is going on.” Arylin asked. Maybe Polk had talked to her so much that her mind had snapped and she had gone insane.
Polk however was still right next to her, and said with extreme calm “Someone must have went ahead and used a ti-dyed napkin. When will people learn.” And shook his head once more at the foolishness of youth. He lit his pipe (which warned him of the dangers of smoking) and calmly looked around at the chaotic armageddon around him. He sighed at the lack of halfling teamsters available to put this mess right and set about saving the city.