Aster and the Beasts

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Aster and the Beasts
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LocationHaven

Aster is a random encounter in Tales from the Tiers.

Overview[edit | edit source]

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Transcript[edit | edit source]

You see ahead of you a trio of carts at a standstill, their crates and barrels of goods spilled into the tall grass that lines the travel-worn road. Even from a distance you can make out a small pack of Beastmen circling a lone figure in a lusterous yellow shawl.
Their low growls carry on the wind.

Avoid them.

Approach them.

Attack the Beastmen.

You leave the road, giving the beasts and their victim a wide berth. An hour later, you think you hear distant howls on the wind.

As you close in on the caravan, you see that the Beastmen are harnassed for hauling work. Their fur is matted and filthy, reeking of mildew and sweat, and the cart's wheels have sunken into the mud, leaving long, puckered grooves in the road. The beasts, claw-tipped fingers splayed in aggression, snarl at the lone human, who you recognize, with some surprise, as the merchant you met at the Bronze Brothehood's toll bridge at Ironhaul Trail. Noticing you, he cries out for a Fatebinder's aid.

Speak to the caravan.

Leave.

Deciding not to intervene, you continue down the road, deaf to the merchant's pleas - at least until they are silenced by the Beastmen. Sobs and growls follow you until the caravan is well out of sight.

You fall on the Beastmen without hesitation, and the first hits the ground immediately, the life snuffed from its eyes. The other two turn on you, hackles bristling and saliva dripping from fangs bared. Given a momentary reprieve, the merchant dives behind one of the carts. The nearer of the two Beastmen lowers its knuckles to the ground as it prepares to pounce. The other grasps a stone on the side of the road, pulling on it with a throaty grunt, its muscles rippling across its back.

Attack the nearer Beastman.

Attack the further Beastman.

Intimidate the Beastmen.

You ready yourself as the closer Beastman pounces, driving your weapon into its open, waiting maw until it protrudes from the back of its skull, bits of brain pelting the earth like rain. You turn towards the second creature in time to see a mud-crusted stone hurtling towards you. You take the brunt of the blow on your shoulder and the world spins as your back hits the muck.

The closer Beastmen pounces and you dodge aside and dash past it, leaving it to skid and flail in the muck behind you. You come upon the second creature as it tears the stone from the ground, its back still to you. You take that opening, driving your weapon into its spine with a wet crunch.

The two Beasts glare at you, but they are stilled. The nearer creature assaults you with a truncated bark and fetid breath, but backs away. With one last look over you, the pair turn and bound away, leaving you with the merchant.

The beast lopes towards you on all four paws, slavering for your flesh. You lash out with your foot, catching the creature in the knee just as it raises its front claws. It howls in agony, offering you an opening to jab your weapon deep between its ribs. It collapses beside you in the mud, shuddering before its life finally flees it.

The merchant approaches you, misty eyes above a sheepish grin, thanking you profusely for saving him from the brutes he'd hired.

"I confess I spoke ill of you after our encounter at Ironhaul, but now I entirely regret it." Aster picks mud from his drooping moustache. "Please allow me to repay your assistance. I'll halve the price of my goods for you, anything you want!" He gestures over his heavily burdened carts. "See anything you like?"

"That's twice now you've helped me, good Fatebinder!" Aster says, wiping mud from his stubbled chin. "Perhaps I can help you in kind. All of my goods, at half price!" He glances over at his cart. "Really it'll be a favor. No idea how I'm going to get this product to the Brothers now." He shakes his head. "Well, that's my concern, not yours! See anything you'd like?"

The Beastmen look up from the quivering merchant, pale yellow eyes falling on you, taking you in, sizing you up as if judging the quality of a meal. "Human breaks in on cart-hauling. Human should flee while still has legs."

The cowering merchant shakes his head. "Please! Wait! You're a Fatebinder, right? You have to help me!"

A loud slap of paw on skin splits the air as one of the Beastmen backhands the merchant, sending him to his knees. The lead Beastman glances back at his packmate, then returns his glowering attention to you. "Scamper-flee, human runt. Now."

Attack with Fire magic.

You sign a sigil that illuminates your features with pale, flickering color. You unleash the arcane power as the nearer Beastman charges, and the spell tears at its flesh, sending the beast sprawling into the grime. The farther Beast takes less of the brunt of the spell, managing an agonized howl before loping away, skin raw and blistered.

"I must, must I? What makes you think that?"

"What seems to be the problem?"

"Stop this nonsense immediately or you're all going to die by my hand and Kyros' law."

[To Aster:| "You just don't know how to stay out of trouble, do you?"

"Well... you're a Fatebinder, and I am a citizen - are you not duty-bound to help me?"

"Do you have licenses for your goods?"

[Address Beastmen] "He makes a fair point. What's the issue here?"

"Legal assistance is not without expenses."

"Of course! And I'd be happy to furnish them, provided that these brutes haven't trampled them into the mud!" He glares unhappily at the Beastman that slapped him.

He belts out a harsh bark of laughter. "Oh, of course. I understand, Fatebinder. I'll pay my fair share of taxes if you'll get these things away from me!"

"Problem?" The lead Beastman's head tilts slightly, an ear twitching as he gazes down on you. "Man is problem. Man pay rings to Slackneck and pack. Slackneck's pack pulls load. But roads stick to feet, to wheels of carts. Man brays constantly. 'Speed up! Faster-faster!' Insults Slackneck. Insults pack. Pack must answer insults."

The merchant shrugs sadly. "I guess I got my mother's good looks instead of her good luck."

Silence hangs on the air. The Beastmen sink back on their haunches as the merchant gets back to his feet. Two of the Beastmen back away, putting some space between themselves and you.

"Yes, I paid them to haul my goods, and they're making an utter mess of it! Look at my cart axels! And don't start me on the pace! The stars cross the sky faster!"

"Aster man not worthy of respect." He gestures to you. "Not strong, not like human who smells of power and blood."

"Slackneck - you were hired to haul these goods, correct?"

"Aster, what are you paying them?"

"I've decided how we're going to handle this."

[Leave] "I'll let you four sort this all out."

"By all means, Fatebinder, tell us." Aster's gaze falls to the Beastman's claws. "Before the anticipation kills us."

"Decided what?" Slackneck scratches his head. "What needs deciding?"

"I don't see how that matters." He folds his arms. "Fine. A bronze each from the Crossing to the Brothers."

"Three bronze rings human dangles like trap-snare. No great treasure horde for long haul."

"What? Of course he was! I paid rings and provisions for a few days labor but all I'm getting are idle hands."

Slackneck watches Aster shout himself out, then turns his yellow eyes to you. "Aster man give rings. Rings buy hauling. Rings don't buy impossible speed. Rings don't buy respect. Rings don't buy insults." He frowns, cocking his head, one claw tapping his chin. "Bronze doesn't mean pack must listen to human insults!"

"Insult? It's not an insult to call you slower than dye drying if it's accurate."

"You and your pack have been paid, Slackneck. Get them back to work and don't harm Aster."

"Aster, the work is clearly harder than you anticipated. Double their pay."

[Attack the Beastmen] "You Beasts are clearly a danger to honest folk. Better to put you down now."

Aster sighs and cradles his face in his palm. "I knew a Fatebinder coming along was too good to be true." You walk away, leaving the caravan to its own problems.

"By Lethian's freckled ass! First Ironhaul, now this! Is your sole purpose in this world to trample on merchants?"

"I didn't hear you bargaining for more." Aster rolls his eyes.

Slackneck's lip curls back from yellow fangs. "Beastmen strong. Grunts of human Prima of Primas not matter to Beastmen!"

"You made yourself beholden to the laws of Kyros when you entered into a deal with one of the Overlord's licensed merchants."

"And Aster, for his part, is going to stop taking out his frustrations on you."

[Intimidate] "Do you want me to MAKE you obey, Beastman?"

Slackneck growls, but then nods. "Beastmen will haul Aster's burdens. This time."

Aster sighs. "Fine. Let's get moving then." He looks to you. "Thank you, Fatebinder."

"Double? But that's... that's acceptable. Two bronze each. Provided you get the carts to the Brothers within the span!"

"Yes. Two bronzes will do, yes. Will even listen to mewling for two bronzes." He eyes Aster. "Maybe."

You stand tall, feet planted wide, and growl a threat as you brandish your bloodied weapon.

You turn into the renewed charge of the first Beastman, splitting its skull handily. It collapses into the mud, splashing you with grime and blood.

You turn back towards the first Beastman with a roar, your offhand reaching down and grasping a handful of the fallen Beastman's hair. With a grunt, you lift it by its head before smashing the dead creature's skull against a stone. Your hand comes away caked in blood and bone.

Attack the second Beastman.

Intimidate the Beastman.

Attack the remaining Beastman.

Intimidate the Beastman.

You roll to your feet with a roar, your offhand reaching down and grasping a handful of the fallen Beastman's hair. With a grunt, you lift it by its head before smashing the dead creature's skull against a stone. Your hand comes away caked in blood and bone.

Speak with the merchant.

Walk away.

Ignoring the merchant, you wipe blood from your face and fling it from your hands with a flick of your wrist. You turn from the man in yellow and walk away, and his assertions of gratitude collapse into silence.

Ignoring the merchant, you wipe blood from your face and fling it from your hands with a flick of your wrist. You turn from the man in yellow and walk away, and his assertions of gratitude collapse into silence.

"I confess I spoke ill of you after our encounter at Ironhaul, but now I entirely regret it." Aster picks mud from his drooping moustache. "Please allow me to repay your assistance. I'll halve the price of my goods for you, anything you want!" He gestures over his heavily burdened carts. "See anything you like?"

"That's twice now you've helped me, good Fatebinder!" Aster says, wiping mud from his stubbled chin. "Perhaps I can help you in kind. All of my goods, at half price!" He glances over at his cart. "Really it'll be a favor. No idea how I'm going to get this product to the Brothers now." He shakes his head. "Well, that's my concern, not yours! See anything you'd like?"

"Enough, Aster. We have other things to discuss."

"By all means, Fatebinder. Adjudicate away!" He plants his hands on his hips.

You bind your wounds as you continue towards your destination.

You continue towards your destination.

The standing Beastman takes a step back, growls, and then bounds away into the woods.

The standing Beastman takes a step back, growls, and then bounds away into the woods.

The two Beasts glare at you, lips curled over yellow fangs. The nearer creature leaps towards you, and you only barely deflect its attack, driving it back. The other, however, takes advantage of your distraction, raking its filthy claws down one of your arms, parting flesh with ease. Warm blood drips into the grass as the beasts circle...

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Attack with Frost magic.

Attack with Lightning magic.