DC/RH BK II, CH 35: Faerie Deals

Chapter Thirty-five: Faerie Deals 

Jared finished the summoning circle, his voice trailing off as he intoned the last few benedictions. 

“That’s that done then!” he announced to the rest of the party. 

“Any reason why we couldn’t do this on the first floor?” questioned Lily Pad, the saurian trying to make her displeasure known.

The druid tried to take the chariness in stride. Lizardfolk tended to be distrustful of the fae. Thankfully, Sieghart came to his rescue, sparing him.  

“We’ve been over this already!”  

The great cloaked mage did not back down, the imminent timing of the summoning no doubt feeding her fears. “I just don’t see why this is necessary, is all!” she argued. “The guild managed the same thing on the first floor.”

“The guild had a Grandmaster Druid and the Warden of the East with them, not to mention all sorts of big men. I am not so competent”, Jared pointed out. Authority went a long way with the fae. Every structure of their society reinforced it.

“All the more reason to do this where we can escape if need be”, she hissed, the harshness of her words forced to come out in sibilant tones through the sharp teeth that lined her snout. 

Jared smiled, suddenly reminded of the crocodiles back home. It was almost cute to see something so fierce-looking be so frightened, and it was cuter still how she failed to hide it. 

“Like I said before. According to the guild, the first few floors are supposed to be trials. The true dungeon starts on the fifth floor.” He raised his hand to showcase his new spatial ring, an item he was slowly wrapping his head around. “We’ve passed the trials.”

“Faeries care deeply about that sort of thing. This will buy us more standing with them than if we simply called on the first floor.” Besides, he added with a small frown. “We are doing this for treasure. The further the faerie has to lead us, the more expensive it will be. The clearer the direction, the more expensive it will be. The more danger between us and our goal, the more— ”

“WE GET IT!” Sirai cut in, the rogue practically bouncing on his feet with anticipation. “Let’s just do it!”

“Sure!” the druid shrugged. “First, everyone has to put away their iron. We don’t want to spook them. You may keep your staffs out or spells prepared, but sheathe your swords.”

Remembering who he dealing with, he didn’t forget to tell Lily Pad, “Just remain calm alright! Don’t want you getting spooked into doing something dumb.”

“Oh, shove it!”

Proudsprout leapt into his feet in sync with the tug at his mind. Across the square, he saw other sprites react as well, pulled right out their daily meditations on the mysteries of the elemental sigils.  

“What is that?” 

An old, tired voice rose among them. “It’s a summoning.” 

The sprite scion turned to face his teacher, “Someone is summoning us?”

“It’s an undirected summoning”, the old sprite said, his lips curled in rebuke. “Low-powered, so maybe they aren’t completely foolish.” 

Proudsprout’s mind spun at the news. There were adventurers trying to summon sprites in the dungeon. He had heard humans did that sometimes, but he never expected it to happen to anyone besides the Dungeon Knight. Were the humans just going to start calling them up every day, then? 

“I’ll go!” he volunteered, steeling himself. “Someone has to find out what they want.”

 The old warrior shot him a side glance, a viewing panel already open before him. “No, you’re not”, he said dismissively. He pointed at the moving images, his nail tracing the summoning circle on the floor. “These humans are good! They have a druid with them.”

The old fae searched his memories, trying to understand why the symbols felt so familiar. The answer did little to calm him. It was a harvest circle of some kind. He was no expert, so he couldn’t be sure. Whomever the druid was, he was skilled. He looked up to find himself surrounded as more sprites came over due to the commotion.

“I’ll go!” he announced to the gathering sprites. “You lot are liable to get tricked into selling yourselves and the faerythorn if you went.”

He pulled Proudsprout in close. “Thorn already knows, most likely, so get Bellwhispers and tell him to make sure no one answers a summon until we can be sure they know what they’re doing. Warn him that they’re using brownie magic.”

Message delivered, he spun on his foot and disappeared. 

“Something is coming!” Jared warned, stepping back from the ritual circle. 

Despite his age, the young druid had skill and experience to spare. When setting up this ritual, he made sure to add several safeguards. One, he kept the power low ostensibly so only low-ranked fae would be called. Two, since he was forced to keep the summon undirected as he had no names to call on, he kept the requirements and restrictions loose while tripling the strength of the binding sigils around the circle. 

This meant that while the summoning call went out to pretty much every faerie in the dungeon, none were actually compelled to answer it. However, once they had, they could no longer leave or attack the party until their task was fulfilled and the summoning undone. Three, he put up a second circle, a circle of protection from faeries around his party just in case some malicious fae chose to go the long way around, travelling through the dungeon and not the summoning circle to harass his party. 

These precautions, unnecessary to many, immediately proved their worth. The creature that came through the circle was no sprite. It was an angular creature that radiated a sharp lethality. Its skin was the reddish brown of polished mahogany, and its build was that of an endurance runner — no, a fencer! It was beautiful, much like a masterwork blade could evoke awe. Its right leg was a golden prosthesis that ended in a sharp point and its wings were heterochromatic gossamer thin wedges, the left all black ridges and silvered membranes and the right a bright gold that caught the light and attracted the eyes, allowing you to notice just how sharp and silent they were as they cut through the air. 

“I am Nettle, Commander of the Valorous Faerie Host. Who seeks the fae of this dungeon?”

Jared ignored the gasps from his party in favour of double-checking his summoning circles. Everything held, so there was nothing to worry about. Satisfied, he slapped a smile on his face and introduced himself.

“I am Jared, druid and speaker for Coenbert’s Defenders, the party of adventurers before you. We seek aid from a member of Clearwing’s Court with regards to our adventures in this dungeon. Will you aid us, good friend?”

The strange faerie didn’t respond. Its attention focused on the circle at its feet. 

“Brownie bindings?” it asked with a raised eyebrow.

The druid grinned. “I’ve found they are useful for all kinds of field faerie kind.”

Brownies were common back home. Many of the old farmsteads relied on them for all sorts of work. The little folk were great at tending to plants, animals and even household chores. That said, they were still fae. Mischief was in their nature. Worse, they were fae who had a very warped idea of what constituted payment. A fact compounded by the fact that they never worked without pay. Today, it might be a saucer of milk. Tomorrow, a calf would go missing. One day, you come home to find all the fields full of wheat and your hens laying. A year later, a brownie turns up asking for the firstborn he’s owed.

You could argue that you never hired him all you wanted. It didn’t change the facts. He did a task for you, so he was entitled to payment. Jared had personally seen families who had gotten themselves into such messes when they failed to realise that the need and desperation they were broadcasting was attracting ‘helpful’ little folk who stepped in to lend a hand to the clueless big folk. 

Lend was the word. When they came knocking, you either paid what you owed or suffered the consequences. He had personally renegotiated a couple of these cases only failing in one case where the farmer knew full well that there was a brownie working on the property but kept silent hoping to simply chase it off after the work was done. That one ended poorly. 

Faerie thinking wasn’t always linear. This was why they could show up, do work in secret and turn up later for payment they had specified. Their logic maintained that they receive payment for any work done. What that payment entailed was rarely decided beforehand, and so they got to choose, weighing the need they alleviated against the value of the possessions of those they had aided. However, that same logic could be turned on its head. Any payment they were given could be used to compel labour from them, provided you knew the right binding spells.

Case in point: the creature before him. 

“All the negotiations with the dungeon must go through the dungeon knight!” 

The druid grinned as his trap was sprung. “Ah, but we’re not looking to trade with the dungeon. We merely seek aid from one of its loyal fae. Are you able to provide said aid, Commander Nettle, or must we look elsewhere?”

The creature frowned as the implications were made clear, its wings making soft chiming sounds as it finally settled on the ground. Good! Jared was fully prepared to summon as many dungeon fae as necessary until he found one amenable to his terms, but it would save so much time if this one, the first one, was also the final one. The sharp-winged creature nodded its assent.

“Excellent! May we begin then?”

Three items. Three tasks. While willing to be flexible on the prizes, Jared refused to budge on the number. Three was important to fae as it was a number too strong to break. He didn’t understand the why, only that it worked. They settled on a couple of minor assurances and exchanged the aforementioned payment. 

“With prices paid and oaths made, our three tasks done, we bade: First, we request the location of the greatest dungeon treasure within our ability to claim. Second, we ask for the knowledge on how to seize and the dangers we must face, and third, we ask that you guide us to said location.”

Jared watched the faerie breathe a sigh of relief and smiled to himself. This was the true key to dealing with faeries. Most believed that when you had a faerie over a barrel, your job was to squeeze them for all they were worth. That was a stupid yet foolproof way to create immortal enemies. Others thought that all dealings must be exact and ironclad. Some fae appreciated that. Others would immediately mark you as boring and never trade with you again. 

No, the best way was to leave them slightly in your debt. Not enough to make them suspicious or compelled to pay you back but enough that it was clear they were getting a good deal. Not all fae appreciated the wheeling and dealing of ‘the great game’ as it were— this one sure didn’t— but they all appreciated a good deal. Hell, even humans did! Plus, good deals guaranteed repeat business. 

When the faerie finally spoke, the entire party crowded closer to listen.

“There are two great treasures on this floor: a hidden seam of gold ore that shines with the light and power of the sun and a sacred tree that bears blessed fruit. I do not know how such things are valued among mortals, so I cannot say which is greater. The tree has a fearsome guardian, but mining the gold will take days of work”, it revealed.  

“I will only guide you to one.”   

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