Kitsune wrote a note to the Innkeeper and along with payment for another week's rent, tucked it into the desk slot.
“Traveling to New Rachival to see what this Gnomekindle excitement is all about. Don't let that that thieving little brother of mine into my room while I'm gone this time. Here's payment to ensure you don't.”
She'd left most of her gear locked safely in the footlocker, but the last time she'd done that, her brother had convinced the innkeeper that she meant to let him have her room while she was gone. She had returned to find nothing more than a note “thanking” her for the comfortable bed and the presents. Her brother had stolen nearly everything she owned and she hadn't heard from him since. Somehow he always seem to know when she was away. After listening to the tavern patrons for the last few days talk about what the gnomes had set up for their “Winter Festival”, she decided she could no more miss this one than she could miss the dwarven Hammers Rest Festival.
So in the cold, windy morning she found herself making her way toward Mahagra's travel gate, and a short port later she was removing layers of clothing as the desert sun beat down from near mid-day. New Rachival wasn't exactly the setting she would have thought for a winter event. As she looked over the cliff side down to the area that had been named Gnomekindle Town, she burst into surprised laughter. It looked like the gnomes had spread snow on the ground, the trees, and even built snowmen in the desert.
“Gnomish ingenuity at work. What will they think of next?”, she muttered to herself as she made her way down the hill.
The first person she talked to was Dolly Day, a special merchant hired just for the Gnomekindle season. Kitsune tried to negotiate with Dolly for the pair of red and green short “holiday pants” that were on display, but Dolly insisted that she'd only take Istarian Express. She directed Kitsune to Loremaster Burl, saying he could explain everything.
And the loremaster did. Kitsune had already heard how the gnomes came to have their own holiday, and why it was so soon after the dwarven festival ended, but she hadn't heard that the gnomes also had their own special currency created just for their event. Apparently her coin wasn't needed in Gnomekindle Town, but she would have to help out the other residents of the town if she expected to be able to purchase any of the special costumes. So after talking to Loremaster Burl, Kitsune wandered around the town.
The next gnome she spoke to was quite a character. Yukon Cornelius, he called himself, and he said he was the best prospector in all of Istaria. Professed that he was so needed in Gnomekindle Town, with fans from all over Istaria coming just to see him, that he simply couldn't leave for even a moment. She listened while he asked youngsters to go and collect bronze or silver ore so he could have “silver and gold decorations on every Gnomekindle tree”. And not a single one of the youngsters asked him why the greatest prospector in Istaria wasn't going out and collecting his own metals.
Kitsune then decided she'd see if Yukon had a task for her. Yukon told her an incredible tale of this horrible beast called “The Abominable” that lived at the top of the mountain on the island called Abandoned Isle. Kitsune nearly bit her tongue to keep from laughing when he told her that it wasn't he who was afraid of The Abominable, but his friend. She could see the fear clearly in his eyes as he spoke of the beast, and so she agreed to help out Yukon's “friend” by going to Abandoned Isle and slaying the great beast. Yukon promised that if she returned with evidence that the beast had been killed, he would give her some of the Istarian Express Cheques as a reward.
As she made her way up the mountain side, Kitsune heard sounds of battle already ringing down from above. Apparently Yukon was so anxious to have the beast slain that he was asking any he felt might be able to complete the task to help. Kitsune raced up the mountain only to see a tough looking dwarf swinging frantically at the biggest mass of snow and ice she'd ever seen. The beast was easily twice her height, and almost as wide. Icicles fell from its body every time it moved, and the only part of its body that wasn't white were the glowing red eyes. The poor dwarf looked like he would be beaten into the snow by the incredible fist that swung at him if someone didn't come to help him soon. Just as the beast raised its mighty arm to hurl another snowball at the dwarf, Kitsune let loose with a roaring battle cry and swung her warhammer, aiming for the back of the beast's thick leg. The blow connected hard enough that for a moment the beast was knocked off balance. Kitsune used that moment to call upon some of her healing magic and directed it toward the wounded dwarf. He barely had a moment to nod in thanks before the beast had regained enough balance to bring another blow toward the dwarf's head. Kitsune hadn't realized how agile dwarves could be, and was shocked when the dwarf ducked out of the way without a second to spare. The beast stumbled, losing his balance from the momentum of his missed blow, and fell into the snow at their feet. A heartbeat later, the dwarf was on the back of the monster, lowering his axe toward the base of what Kitsune hoped was the head. With a roar that shook snow from the mountains around them, the mighty beast trembled once more before dying.
When the snow and icicles settled, Kitsune looked around for the dwarf only to find that he had already disappeared. Only his footprints leading down off the mountain told her that she hadn't been dreaming and that he'd made it out alive. She knelt beside the beast not caring for a moment that her clothing was getting wet in the melting snow, and sent a prayer of thanks to the gods who protected her and allowed her victory. Taking out her dagger, she swiftly cut the toe from the beast and plunged it into the snow for a moment to clean it. She knew she'd need some sort of proof to show Yukon that the beast had truly been defeated, so she dropped the frozen toe into a bag and headed back down the mountain the way she'd come.
When she returned to Gnomekindle Town, Yukon listened to her tale with only mild interest, but accepted the toe as proof, and gave her five of the Istarian Express Cheques. He turned to talk to the next adventurer who'd approached him before his hand even left the cheques, and so it was with a sigh that Kitsune walked away from Yukon and went to speak to the other residents of Gnomekindle Town. She hoped that not all the gnomes in the tiny makeshift town would require her to put her life on the line in exchange for a reward, but as she neared Darsenia, she heard other adventurers sharing tales of the horrific blighted treants that had suddenly begun appearing among the regular treants. She knew that the day had only just begun, and only hoped that before it ended she wouldn't find herself sitting back at the inn covered in bruises and broken bones.
“Gnomekindle is turning out to be a more exciting festival than I expected it to be,” she thought as she wandered closer to hear more stories. “I think I'm glad I took the week off after all.”
Horizons: Empire of Istaria Event details here: http://community.istaria.com/news/?id=242