Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Holy Shit its the recap

Session starts out with Raell leaving the market place and heading for tread light inn after buying some arrows. Once at tread light he enters and ignores stuck pigs greeting and heads straight to Cor’Nal’s room where they discuss that no business had gone on at the barons estate over the previous night and Luthor's previous assassination of Will Wilson by someone in the form of a troglodyte so by Raell’s reasoning it could have been Luthor because its unlikely that one would naturally be in town. Cor’Nal suggests that we get everyone together and speak of the previous nights and what the actions of the group should be. Raell goes and retrieves Luthor while Cor’Nal goes to retrieve Ademar and hands him the necklace of protection +1 that he had identified the night before. So everyone is brought into a meeting in Cor’Nal’s room where everyone is informed by Cor’Nal that he has information that shows the dwarf they are looking for is in the baron’s estate. Ademar quickly says no to Raell’s suggestions of asking the baron or paying the baron for the dwarf because he feels that both of those options would prove useless. Luthor then speaks up with another option of working with the black glove 13 and in exchange for the assassination of Black Rhett they will help take out the baron. Raell quickly wastes no time in accusing Luthor of the killing of Will Wilson where Luthor defends his status of being innocent. Raell then suggests that before he is willing to go along with the black glove 13 he wishes to speak with them in person and Ademar quickly agrees with that motion. Cor’Nal then starts asking about how Luthor knows of the black glove 13 where Luthor starts supplying the group with a few shady answers to shift the focus of the discussion. Cor’Nal then says that if things are going to continue that we are going to have to be completely honest with each other and not hold secrets and work as a group which everyone agrees to. The group also discuses what is to be done with Gareth and should they include him on everything or should he be left out should he be a spy for someone. The group agrees that they will finish the preparations for tonight’s doings and then judge his reaction to try to figure out if he is in league with anyone or not. Cor’Nal then ask that Gareth accompany him for the day so he can not only keep on eye on him but judge his character and before leaving the room turns to Luthor and pulls out the amulet of golem bane and says that it wasn’t the cause of the curse and that he try not to pawn things off on him that he senses as a threat Luthor accepts the amulet but after a few thoughts hands it back saying that he would rather someone in the front line hold on to it. Luthor then leaves and goes to try to set up a meeting with the black glove 13. He goes and speaks with Tink letting him know that his group is interested in doing the job but they would like to speak with BG13 before accepting it Tink says that he will see what he can do to arrange a meeting with Kazen. He meets with Kazen and explains the situation with him where Luthor is informed that he will not meet with them in person but he will send Tink, Kazen, Digger and a couple others to speak with the group on Boss Kasey’s behalf at 30 minutes after closing downstairs.
Cor’Nal and Gareth leave for the market place, Raell and Ademar stay in the inn for the day and speak with Stuck Pig. While eating breakfast Ademar strikes up a conversation with Stuck Pig about his life and the things that go on around the town. Raell then after hearing some stories slides Stuck Pig 20g and tells him not to tell anyone and to have fun in the market place. After Stuck Pig leaves them Raell asks if Ademar knows anything about the dealings that Luthor is into in the town. Ademar responds and says that he only knows of one that involved a holy man and that he urged him not to continue them on his own but feels that he would not listen.
While in the market place Cor’Nal sells a few of the items that they have received (most likely for a loss) and happens to pick up 2 diamonds worth 300gp each and 1 diamond worth 150gp a ring of white yellow and rose gold in the shape of leaves going around it with a faint glow of evocation and then finds a man selling wands but the man has no clue as to what any of them do and is charging 50g for each of them. So he decides to just buy all 7 of them and give them to Luthor to use and while he is at it he picks up 20 master worked arrows for Ademar. While on his was out of the market place Cor’Nal spots the Baron and Throd at a clothier and he looks them over for any magic affects and finds that the baron carries none but Throd carries many. Cor’Nal speaks to Gareth and finds that he has never been this far north before and hails from North Hembers where he was an enlisted man and after his service was up he joined a mercenary group and then left that to venture north because he has heard that it is more lawless and that there was gold to be made. They leave the market place selling everything but the goblet and the choker.
The rest of the day goes smoothly and the group meets up and spends the day in Tread Light where they discuss previous adventures and speak to Gareth where they learn a little more of him and judge his character while Ademar fights with his lack of tolerance with wine. After closing the group meets down stairs in the tavern as planned and speaks with BG13 about what they plan to do after Black Rhett is eliminated. Raell gets into a heated debate with BG13 over the topic of Farcus Winslow. BG13 says that they have no concern over the dwarf and they have no intention of a counter negotiation with them the group either accepts the offer or doesn’t but there will be no countering. Ademar is concerned that the BG13 has acted out and taken care of things in the same manner as does Black Rhett and they assure him that they are just the voice behind what is done they are not the hammer that carries it out. Raell then brings up the fact that Widow Monterey was not dead or killed by Black Rhett’s doing and that we were involved but did not kill her that she was already dead and that we had to go in to retrieve Luthor at one point for he was in there and dead and that we had went in to retrieve him and bring him back from the dead. This brings the BG13 group to an uneasy stance and they then ask if we are in league with Black Rhett and that they are altruistic and that they don’t want to be taxed any more. They just want the group to break the spokes of the wheel that support the baron in hopes that the baron will fall after words on his own. They want to see the town prosper because it is made up of people that did wrongs and came there to get away and start new but they cannot do it while under the baron's rule and they look to change that. The BG13 states that they are not fond of Raell and that they tire of his talk about the baron the group either takes the offer or not but they will discuss it no longer. The group agrees to take the job and Luthor says the group will do it for 200g per head which Ademar does not seem to be happy with since it’s a job that they have not been able to complete themselves. The group is then given information pertaining to where the people of Black Rhett’s group are and that they are to eliminate only Black Rhett, Marcus Two Blades, Cypher and Keel-hull Tom.
So with some discussion the group heads over to the east side of town where they check out Marcus Two Blades house where there is no smoke coming out of the chimney and the windows are black so after scouting the house the group heads over to The Longest Mile where they get a table and have a drink and Raell decides to get an audience with Black Rhett. Raell speaks with Rhett about any jobs that he might have for him and comes out with nothing more than the information that Rhett’s whole group is in the room with him. For the rest of the night the group sits and watches the inn and as the last of the people leave Keel-hull Tom comes out to throw out a couple of stubborn drunk patrons and gets into an argument with Cor’Nal that got heated but didn’t go any further. The group leaves with the exception of Raell and Gareth who have rooms in the inn and retire to them. Once in their room they lower down a rope and the rest of the group climbs up into their rooms unnoticed. A plan is then devised for Ademar to hide behind the door in Gareth’s room and for Raell to go down and get Flanders to bring up something to fix a supposed leaking roof. The plan goes off without a hitch with Ademar not only hitting him but criting him he is then left in the room and the door is locked behind the group as they go downstairs. Once downstairs Gareth and Ademar take up spots in the stairs Luthor takes up a spot in one of the booths by the front door and Cor’Nal brings in Basali through the back of the kitchen. Raell then goes and pounds on the door where Black Rhett is and telling him that he has seen some people in the stables who he assumes is with the BG13 because they only have one black glove on. Rhett sends out Cypher through a secret door to check after closing the door on Raell. Raell tries to force the door back open and manages to push Keel Hull Tom out of the way and enters yelling they’re here while Keel-hull Tom pulls out a great sword and pushes the door closed again. Cypher then comes back in saying that there wasn’t anyone out there and then they bring Raell into the room and the fight starts with Cor’Nal casting shape wood and takes away 10’ of the wall exposing the still living Raell and the whole group and the fight ensues. Black Rhett and his group is slain with Raell almost dying. After healing Raell the group brings the bodies of the dead inside the tavern and covers up the sight of the battle. Luthor searches the room Rhett was in and finds a secret trap door where he finds Fangis and leaves him for Cor’Nal to retrieve and he heads out of the room for the room Flanders was left in and that’s where the session ends.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Lay Of The Death Of Ademar

I had no idea what I was walking into that day. We had been in the cave such an extended time that I no longer had any recollection of day or night or even what day it was. My companions and I were weary of being beneath the ground but there was one more unexplored corridor, with one more unknown cavern beyond. We had to make sure that we would not be attacked from that direction before we rested, hopefully for the last time in this sinister subterranean world. Raell, the ranger trapped within a hulking barbarian body, had set off to explore the passage but I had stopped him. I knew that I was better suited to the task. Sneaking around in the quiet darkness had become my area of comfort, the one thing I seemed to excel at. “Go rest, I’m sure there is nothing down there.” I told him. “I’ll go have a peek and be back before you get your rations out of your pack.” With that I moved off silently down the passage.

It was just like many of the other passages we had encountered in the complex. It seemed to have been carved into the stone by the underground river which raced nearby. The roar of that river could be heard faintly still, and the slight tremor caused by its passing pulsed below my feet. Though the corridor was dark there was just enough residual light from my companions in the other chamber that my keen eyesight had no trouble guiding me. ‘Another reason for the elf to do the scouting.’ I thought to myself, imagining Raell groping around blindly in the darkness.

It did not take long to reach the end of the corridor which opened up into a very large chamber. The ceiling rose quickly out of sight and the floor was only visible through half of the room before it dropped over a ledge at the far end. The room appeared to be empty at first. I was ready to turn around and call it a day when I spotted something near the lip of the ridge, it looked like a body. They say that curiosity killed the cat, well, it has certainly brought me my share of hardship yet, I could not resist.

Onward I crept across the bare stone floor, my eyes were darting everywhere looking for danger, the hair on the back of my neck was on end, what a rush! As I neared the body, that of a mutilated and obviously dead ogre, the smooth floor gave way to a surface covered in small broken stones and lose gravel. Just as I reached the rim of the gorge my foot slipped on the gravel surface ever so slightly. I cursed myself silently as a few small stones rushed over the edge to fall with a soft clatter to the floor below. After a few tense seconds where my heart remained still no danger came so I turned to examine the ogre corpse.

That is when I heard it, the sound of something very large moving very fast, the sound of air rushing over scales and horns. The sound of my doom. I turned immediately back to the ridge just in time to see a massive head lift over the ledge. Covered in white and frost-blue scales with multifaceted, black eyes, the beast rose up even with my face to stare at me. I do not claim to be worldly in my knowledge of dangerous dungeon beasts but in that fraction of a second a barrage of information flooded my mind about this particular creature. Remorhaz! My blood turned cold even though I could feel the heat of the creature radiating over my body. My mind screamed for me to run but my legs were frozen in fear, it seemed even more terrifying than the dragon we had faced only hours ago!

Without hesitation the monster reared back to attack. Hunger burned in its eyes and its ruddy back plates glowed red hot in anticipation of this morsel before it. With blinding speed the remorhaz snapped forward, jaws gaping wide and full of jagged fangs. I had never felt pain like what was inflicted upon me that day. When those massive jaws clamped down around my torso it felt as if a hundred glowing hot swords had pierced my leathers. At least one of those teeth pushed through my lung and many others crushed ribs and pelvic bone but that was just the beginning. As I screamed in anguish the creature continued its assault and I realized in horror that there was nobody around to help me. Not about to release me it rose up again, its neck stretched out straight as I was lifted high into the air. In desperation I punched at the beasts’ eye, the only thing I could reach, but it was a vain attempt. The pain was unbearable at this point and, as the monsters’ teeth ground against my broken bones my world began to fade into a red haze.

Throwing back its head, the beast eased up its grip on my body and I thought for a fleeting moment that it was losing interest in me and perhaps I could escape. I was wrong. Revulsion filled me as I felt the creatures’ throat opening up below me, its jaw hinged like that of a massive snake and I could feel my legs sliding down its open throat as I no longer had control of or feeling in them. The remorhazs’ neck muscles constricted hard as the monster began to swallow. Extreme heat rolled up around me and I silently prayed to Sanasarus for a quick end while screaming in agony. I watched as I sank slowly, deeper and deeper into the creatures’ gullet. I tried several times to reach for one of my daggers, that I might inflict some sort of damage to the thing to make it release me but they were out of reach and my arms were held tight within the beasts’ esophagus. As my head passed below those massive jaws the thing swallowed again and I was pulled deeper down while I watched helplessly the closing of those jaws and the falling of complete darkness upon me. Again I screamed in pain as the heat flared up and the monsters’ insides began to squeeze. When I tried to take in a breath there was no air, in panic I tried again to punch, claw, even bite my way out of the disgusting, slime covered tomb but it was too late. I had lost too much blood, I had no control of my lower extremities and my upper body was held immobile. The red haze faded to black as I finally succumbed to my wounds.
I don’t know how long it was but after my meeting with the remorhaz I awoke seemingly from a night terror. I found myself in a familiar though, strange location. I was back in my room at Loomis’ Frostbit Inn. ‘How could this be? This place no longer exists, I’ve seen its ashes and bare foundation!’ Strangely, this scene seemed more surreal than the remorhaz cave. I looked about the room for a moment, seeing my equipment in a heap and Est’Perolyne, that magnificent bow, leaning against the wall next to it. Everything seemed in place but something was not right. Slowly I stood up from the bed and walked to the small mirror sitting atop the changing table. Within its reflective surface I noticed with a start that my face and hands were completely unblemished! I dropped the mirror and it shattered into jagged shards. Looking at the broken facets brought a hundred different reflections of myself, some were versions of me as an old man, others showed my scarred face, many showed my childhood staring back at me curiously, none of them were the same.

I turned away from the mirror and walked to the window, this had to be a dream, this could not be real! Looking outside I could see the town of Snoam-Schlabach in flames. Men lay everywhere in impossibly deep piles their dead eyes seeming to be looking directly at me. Women ran about frantically and children screamed relentlessly as orcs and worgs stormed the streets, viciously hacking down their helpless victims with bloody swords and axes. The streets ran red with innocent blood which pooled around the inn and reflected the flickering orange flames that towered in the smoky sky.

One particularly large orc stalked into view, he was covered head to toe in armor and thick black dreadlocks hung about his shoulders. His malevolent yellow eyes looked straight at me and his tusked mouth split into a wicked smile as he took notice of me.

“No, you’re dead.” I heard myself say. “I watched you fall, you cannot live.”
Tonguescum's smile spread even wider as I spoke and he lifted a massive scimitar, the one Cor’Nal had claimed as his own, in one hand, it was dripping with dark blood. In his other hand he raised a disembodied head by its thick red and gray hair. The features of Pieter MacBrady were unmistakable despite the ashen skin tone and blank milky eyes which seemed to bore into my soul.

I wanted to scream at the orc chieftain, wanted to curse him and damn his wicked actions but found that I had no voice. Another figure walked up next to the beast, this one was squat and stout, a dwarf! This dwarf was also armored and with sickening realization I saw it for what it was; the MacBrady ancestral armor. Patch looked up at me as he stood next to Tonguescum and sneered at me from beneath the ornate helm which was a bit too large for his head.
“Like me boots elf?” He asked sarcastically as he lifted one foot from the bloody ground to afford me a better view. They were rotten, tattered, and ill fitting yet he wore them like a badge of honor. I felt bile rising into the back of my throat.
One by one, over a dozen individuals emerged from the burning town and stood outside my window. They were the evil of my past, the wrongs I had committed, the consequences of my actions. The mob outside began screaming at me, taunting me, cursing my name. They wanted my soul, wanted me to burn with them in hell. All the while the blood deepened around me, began seeping into my room over the window sill. I had to get out of here! Turning to my gear, I plucked up Est’Perolyne and a quiver of well made arrows slinging them over my shoulder. As I was strapping on my sword belt something began pounding at the door. The wall holding the portal shook violently, the pinewood door was no match for the force on the other side. In a splintering explosion the door flew inward. Through the opening came a pair of gigantic blue-white hands which gripped the upper lip of the opening and proceeded to tear the roof right off of poor Loomis’ inn. I found myself staring up at a frost giant, the very same giant my companions and I had defeated not so long ago!

Knowing that this particular monster was vulnerable to fire I pulled an arrow from my quiver and knocked it against the steel-like black string of Est’Perolyne. I smiled as the triangular tip of my arrow began glowing then, as the fletching reached my cheek and I sighted the arrow it burst into flame. Finally something in this situation was working properly. I held my breath for a heartbeat to steady my hand then let fly my flaming missile. I watched in anticipation of the hit while reaching for another arrow. The arrow never made it, several feet before the giant the flame went out. When it finally reached the monster the missile bounced off as if I had fired it into a stone wall.
The giant laughed loudly at my failure and a massive club appeared in its hand. Wasting no time it swung the business end of the crude weapon in an overhand chop at my head. I dodged to the side missing the strike but stumbling to fall on the blood soaked floor. Again the giant struck and again I dodged, for several moments this went on all the while the chanting outside continued in a dark and foreboding tone and blood began to rush into the room with frightening speed. It was not long before I was out of breath and bogged down in the warm, sticky, now knee-deep, pooling blood. I had no where to run, no help, and no hope of escaping. Fear gripped me tightly like a snake would squeeze a mouse. I found it impossible to breath, impossible to move.
“Sanastarus forgive me!” I cried out to the smoke choked sky. “Please, help me!”

The mob outside began laughing hysterically at my petition for help from a god who obviously was not listening. The maniacal cackling filled my ears and my heart grew heavy as I realized what they already knew, I had been abandoned. Turning back to the giant, I looked up into its cold eyes, the club was poised for another strike. My hand went limp around Est’Perolyne and the glorious bow splashed wetly into the pool of blood. I watched as the giants’ massive arm pumped forward but this time I did not move, this time, my world went mercifully black.


For a long while all I knew was the darkness but slowly, as the sun creeps forth in the predawn, a gray mist rose up about me. I felt no warmth within the lazily swirling mist but neither did I feel cold. Actually there was no sensation at all, no pain, no touch, no scent, I could not even tell what direction was 'up'. For a long while I floated there in the mist, unsure of what horror I would face next. I felt strangely at peace despite the disturbing thought which crept into my mind. What if this was my fate? What if I were destined to float in this gray nothingness for all eternity? Would this be any better than the torture I would find in the pits of hell?

Before the thought could take root, a sensation came over me, the feeling that I was being watched or perhaps someone, or some thing, was seeking me out. This impression lingered and I turned about in the mist straining to see what might be out there. All I found was the swirling gray mist.

Without warning something brushed over my shoulder startling me from my contemplation. Seconds later it returned, fleeting at first, it became a soothing and firm caress. Warmth washed over me and a sense of urgency filled my being, an urgency which I did not understand. I realized that I had closed my eyes but I quickly opened them as I sensed myself moving swiftly through the mist, being pulled along by this unknown force. The vapor parted before me and swirled madly in my wake as I hurtled through the emptiness like a ship cutting through the sea at full sail.

Before I knew it the mist was gone and I found myself soaring like a bird over a vast, verdant, forest. With alarming speed which I could not control I hurtled lower and lower until my feet dangled dangerously close to the treetops. A small clearing appeared in the boughs ahead of me and, with a neck snapping change of direction that should have put my stomach in my throat (but strangely, did not), my being plunged downward toward the ground a hundred feet below. For reasons beyond my understanding, I remained calm as I plummeted toward the ground. Just before smashing back to the earth my momentum broke and I landed softly, my booted feet greeted by soft, fragrant, clover. Instantly the force which had been tugging me along dissipated allowing me free will.

It took me many heartbeats to notice but, I realized that this peaceful glade was very familiar to me. I was back in Kemmermere, a place which was a days hike outside the city of my childhood where my friends and I spent many a day in dalliance. It was strangely quiet now though, no bird song issued forth from the treetops; no rustling of small animals in the brush; not even a breeze to shake the foliage. The lack of life in this familiar place sent a shiver down my spine. Movement caught my eye just at my periphery. Turning to my left I found the only animated thing within the clearing. A dragonfly flitted about a few paces away from me, it's green jewel-like body glinted in the soft light as silvery, iridescent, wings beat furiously at the still air. Once I noticed the creature it began circling me then darted off toward the treeline. When I did not follow it wheeled around and returned to circle me again before dashing once more toward the trees.

I did not see the significance at first but, finally, sunlight revealed an old and long forgotten tale to my minds-eye. A tale which my grandmother had spun for me in my early childhood about the views of the elves before they had left the wild and moved into their great forest-cities. It was the belief of the ancient fey that dragonflies were messengers, carrying important information across the world and delivering it to those who knew how to gather it. Unfortunately the tale mentioned nothing of how to procure information from insects. At this point the dragonfly had given up on flying out toward the trees and settled on flying rings around me as I stood there in contemplation. Having no better plan I decided to follow the creature and see where fate would steer me.

"Lead on little one." I said to the bug, somehow feeling that the creature could understand my words.

In a flash of jade and a vigorous hum of beating wings the dragonfly made it's way up a small rise and toward the trees. I vaguely remember following for a short time before encountering a building just over the rise at the very edge of the trees nestled between two sprawling oaks it was a building very much out of place, which I knew had never existed there before. As we approached I made note of the details of the domicile. It was of sturdy design using stone for the walls with a high peaked, slate roof. The shutters were open showing real glass in the window frames. The dragonfly lead me right to the front of the building. I was not prepared for what I found when I approached those windows.

The building was apparently a tavern. It abounded with men and women sitting about large mahogany tables in tall chairs eating, laughing, singing, and of course, drinking. The one individual which did not belong was at a small table by himself, a hulking figure who's olive skin and broad, almost animalistic features instantly set him apart from the rest. An oft used greatsword leaned against the table in it's sheath and he sat with his back to the door, almost sullenly taking long pulls from his tankard.

"Vrock?" I whispered to myself in surprise. Seeing one of my past companions filled me with hope that I would not spend eternity alone. Without a second thought I moved to the front door and threw it wide before stepping inside. I began to move toward the half-orc but, for the second time in as many moments I was caught off guard. Magda Dervish stood before me blocking my path. A strange, mixed look of happiness and grief was stamped upon her face. I opened my mouth to speak but she placed her index finger over pursed lips and snatched my arm with her free hand leading me quickly behind the bar and into a back room. Once inside she glanced back into the taproom before closing the door behind us.

When Magda turned back to me her expression was stern, a look I had seen often in times past when there was work to be done. "Ademar," she began "we've been expecting you I'm afraid."

"Expecting?" I asked. "What is Vrock-" I began, becoming thoroughly confused at how she knew I would be arriving and why the half-orc had not passed on to someplace other than what appeared to be Magda's ideal version of Homebound.

"Yes dear, expecting." The plump barmaid cut in before I could run on. "I was warned that you would be stopping at Homebound on your way. Don't you fret, I'll do me best to explain what I can." It was then that I noticed the dragonfly which had led me here was perched upon Magda's shoulder. Noting my deepening confusion she pressed on. "I haven't much time so, I'll get to the point. You are no longer among the living as I'm sure you know by now. I'm not knowing what brings you here- just as I'm unsure why Vrock was brought here. But, I do know that this is not where either of you belong. I'm knowing that you have two paths before you now and that you have very little time to make your choice." She glanced over her shoulder again seeming to be unsure of exactly how short her time for explanation might be. "You can continue on your path to a final rest, where'er that may be, or you can find your way back to the land of the living. I'm told that Cor'Nal is even now trying to guide your spirit with the aid of Kutenai, no doubt you've felt his touch already. This is a rare opportunity you have before you Ademar."

I stood there for several moments as the weight of what Magda had said sank in. To her credit she stood by, quietly awaiting my response. The pressure of this one decision pressed heavily upon me. Did I truly want to return to the corporeal world and the trials which awaited me there or, would I be content to remain- where? What was my option? Back to the swirling gray mists, a descent into the nine hells, something else? I did not belong here with Magda and Vrock, I had been told as much already. My head swam with the possibilities and I longed for a glass of wine to sooth my troubled mind.

I believe that Magda knew what was best for me that day and she could see my internal struggle plainly. Feigning that her work awaited her she interrupted my mental struggle.
"Ademar," she said softly "might you do me a favor before you make your decision?"

Being deep in thought, I merely nodded, giving her words and manner little thought.

"There are several racks of lamb out back in my storage shed, would you mind bringing them in while you think on your fate. It would be most helpful."

I should have paid more consideration to her reddening eyes and nose or the forced calm in her voice but I was oblivious to all those things, not seeing them clearly until it was too late for it to matter. Nodding my head again I walked toward the door leading out the back of her storeroom.

When I emerged from Magda's tavern the sun was bright in a cloudless sky. The rickety old storage shed stood directly across from the door just as I remembered it in Snoam'Schlabach. The door was slightly ajar bringing back dark memories of my past. I shuddered involuntarily at the thought of the snake creature that nearly ended my life. Looking beyond the outbuilding I noticed that the forest was vibrant and alive. Birds sang, insects fluttered about on the breeze, and small animals scurried through the undergrowth. In a word, it was perfect, a place I could have remained in for all time.

Faintly I heard Magda call out behind me. "May the gods smile upon you Ademar." The comment seemed horribly out of place to me and I turned to ask why she had said such a thing but I found that the tavern was no longer there as if it had never been. It should not have surprised me but it did.

For a moment I stood quietly in the glade at the edge of the forest taking in the purity and beauty of the place. I longed to remain in this place, comfortable warm and safe. At the back of my consciousness I felt an incessant tug upon my being. I now knew it for what it was, Cor'Nal was reaching out to me, imploring me to return to my physical being.

For a long while I tried to ignore the call. I stood among the ancient trees of my youth breathing deep the sweet scent of wildflowers and damp earth underfoot. The summons, a constant tugging at my soul, did not subside. I though of all those who I could be with again if I were to stay. Old friends, my grandparents, Deedra... Her aged face and bright eyes came clearly to my mind and the thought of her nearly buckled my knees. How could I have been so selfish, how could I have forgotten my oath?!

With a great sigh I turned back to the shed at my back, it stood there still with it's door cracked open, barely. I still had purpose on the face of Atalanxia, I still had a task to complete and whether Sanastarus gave me his blessing or not I needed to see that work to it's end. Before I could change my mind I strode forward to the rickety shed and opened the door wide. Blackness greeted me there, impenetrable and frightening. The call to return strengthened, nearly pulling me into the void but I resisted. Perched upon the very precipice of my return to the living I paused and took one more look around at what could be a peaceful eternity.

"I will always have another chance at death." I said to any who might be listening. With a wry smile I scanned the scene once more trying to commit it all to memory before I succumbed to the call of my druid friend and walked again into the darkness.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Scholar and The Opportunist

Gaen Baliol was once a scholar of magic and history who was schooled at a secret School of Wizardy in northern Eystlund. Being the sort who was just as interested in magic history as he was in magic itself Gaen spent as many nights reading history texts as he did studying his spellbook. Eventually, his thirst for knowledge led to the forbidden. Though Gaen was uninterested in learning the dark arts for personal use he was greatly concerned with learning of the rise and fall of those who did so in the past.

Over the course of many years Gaen "borrowed" many forbidden texts that were locked and hidden away by his masters. He squirreled them within his own quarters until they became too cumbersome for his tiny dormitory. Eventually, Gaen took the lot of them to a nearby cave to study them, devouring them nightly by candlelight.

Gaen's comings and goings eventually led to his discovery by an elf of the name Ji'Seera. Ji'Seera was an elf of wicked nature and took her opportunity upon discovering Gaen's theft to force him to take more from the masters, lest she expose him for a thief. Ji'Seera however was not interested by the history of the magic that was forbidden to the understudies of the school, but the potential power that knowledge could bring, and so forced Gaen to remove old tomes that explained how one could conjure the power forbidden them.

Fearing expulsion and possibly worse, Gaen obliged. Over several weeks he carefully took what books he could under the noses of the schoolmasters, but Ji'Seera was never satisfied. Eventually, when Gaen could no longer abide the guilt of his crimes he refused Ji'Seera when she demanded more. Defiantly he told her that he would throw himself upon the mercy of the mages council before taking any more and would quickly implicate her extortion if she were to attempt to force him into doing so.

This enraged Ji'Seera. Over the next year and a half she studied and copied every relevant spell and ritual that she found worthy of the texts taken by Gaen. When she finished the exhaustive work she made a final attempt at swaying Baliol at procuring more of the forbidden magical tomes for her. Although Ji'Seera had grown exponentially more powerful than before, Gaen steadfastly refused but stated that as long as she left the situation alone, he would keep her secret if she kept his. Ji'Seera was visibly disappointed but seemed to understand, much to Gaen's surprise, and she left his dormitory without further incident.

The following day a senior member of the mage's council was found dead. It was believed that a spell of necromancy was used to sap the councilman's lifeforce. The spell, it was determined, was one found in a tome of a forbidden nature. One that had been locked away in the deepest depths of the school's basement library centuries ago. A place where only the most senior instructors and the most advanced students were allowed to enter, only now, that tome was missing.

Ji'Seera reported to the council that she had found Gaen Baliol to be keeping odd hours and leaving the school grounds for a small cave to the west. The council investigated, and that day found within the cave Ji'Seera led them to every tome and history book that Gaen had squirreled away for himself, as well as all those spellbooks and tomes of dark ritual that he had stolen for Ji'Seera at her demand.

Word quickly spread through the university that a cave had been discovered near the school with countless stolen spellbooks. Gaen knew it was a matter of time before he would be arrested. He knew that he'd be found guilty and at best be executed, and at worst have his hands cut off and his tongue torn out as punishment. He knew Ji'Seera's word would be accepted over his and so he fled. Leaving all things he loved and all people he knew behind.

20 years passed as Gaen Baliol roamed the northern continent. He had heard word at one time that the noted bounty hunter Windfall was even contracted to find him at one point. Flattered as he might've been if he had in fact been guilty of what he was wanted for, Gaen supposed that it was only fitting. Indirectly, it was his fault after all that a senior councilman was killed, even if he himself didn't cast the spell. Regardless, the threat of one with prowess such as Windfall after him meant that now, more than ever, he needed to find a place of permanent refuge, or die a fugitive.

Eventually, the legend of a village of outlaws was discovered by Baliol to be in fact a reality. A tower, though a very small one, was already within the town and currently empty. Perfect. He immediately bought it from Baron Von Strohm and has been there for the last decade. He has not been harassed since his arrival, and likely would've forgotten all about the troubles of his past if he hadn't received a message by courier, five years after his arrival, that Ji'Seera De'Logue, elven mage, had been made a senior member of the council he had fled from 25 years ago.

The letter, left under his door and delivered to him by a courier he never saw, was unsigned, though at the bottom, where a signature would normally be were the words...

I will keep your secret, if you keep mine.

Friday, September 25, 2009

North Bound

As Ademar Nightwalker ran to keep up with his newfound companions, Cor’Nal and Besali, he told himself again that morning had come far too early this day. His eyes were bleary and heavy-lidded, his head pounded with every jarring step, his limbs ached from the previous nights’ merriment, and his stomach protested loudly to not having been fed breakfast. It was late summer and the companions had finally left the comfort of Goodale in search of fame and fortune nearly a year after deciding to do so. It was their first morning out, and while Cor’Nal was eager to be on the road, Ademar had overindulged in his farewell celebration making mid-afternoon seem like a much preferred time for them to leave. That had been one of many arguments the rogue had lost to the calculated logic of the druid.

Ademar had to work hard to keep pace with the longer gate of both the wolf and the taller elf. Panting hard, sweat dripping from his face and running in rivulets down his arms and back, the elf was greatly relieved when the small troop stopped for a midday break. In the small glade deep in The Crown Wood, Ademar Nightwalker dropped his heavy pack and collapsed in a gasping heap. To this point Cor’Nal had been completely absorbed in the world around him enjoying the time back in the forest but, at the sound of equipment and body falling to the ground at his back he turned around seeming to remember his counterpart for the first time this day. A wry smile crept across the druids’ face as he beheld the spectacle of the thin elf on hands and knees forehead nearly touching the ground, wheezing for breath.

“Is there… a reason… we don’t have… horses?” The rogue puffed, seeming to be even more pale than usual.

“Actually there are several reasons.” Cor’Nal responded fighting hard to hold back his laughter.
“Room and board through the winter, extra blankets for said room, wine -only the best-, wenches, gambling, paying back a certain person for ‘lost goods’, paying the fine constables of Goodale to look the other way while investigating ‘lost goods’, shall I go further?”

Having finally caught his breath, the rogue pushed himself up on his haunches sitting with his head still bowed like a dejected child before the taunting wood elf.
“There are days that I hate you.” Ademar replied quietly.

Unable to contain himself any longer Cor’Nal burst into uncontrollable laughter. The druid did not begrudge the rogue for being himself, it had actually played into his favor as the overindulgent Ademar had spent all the money he would need to travel back to Caercaster and was now forced to accompany him further north in search of adventure. He found the entire situation humorous despite the fact that they were many months behind his intended schedule.

After a leisurely lunch break the trio was off again. Their planned route would take them northwest through the Crown Wood just outside Goodale and into the rugged lands beyond to a place called Snoam-Schlabach. It was said that there were actually two towns there between the foothills of the Greystoke Highlands and the craggy wasteland known as the Laandsraad and that a great deal of strife existed there. Despite Ademars’ complaints, Cor’Nal had decided that, where there is conflict there will be adventure and opportunity to create a name for himself bringing honor and glory to his family. The pace after their rest was decidedly slower to Ademars’ great relief though, it didn’t stop him from complaining.

“Curse my luck! I’m getting a blister already.” The rogue grumbled as they navigated the forest.

“Will you be this irritable for the entire journey?” Cor’Nal asked as they continued to march along.

“Not unless the weather becomes cold and wet.” Ademar replied smartly, knowing that they were heading into a land where the weather was always cold and snow or freezing rain were often encountered. Cor’Nal could only roll his eyes as they continued on.

For three whole days they traveled the uneven ground and thickly packed pines of the forest before they noticed the first signs that they were approaching the edge of the wood. More light was filtering in through the boughs and more undergrowth was encountered. Just after midday on the fourth day their quiet passage was broken up by an unexpected noise. Off to the east of them and down a small ravine came a deep voice speaking a very broken version of the common tongue.

“Why Vrock not listen to Grock? He tell me not to trust smelly one-eye. He say wine no good no way. Well, he wrong, wine good but now Vrock stuck in woods with no food. Stupid, smelly, one-eye!”

With not a word spoken between the elves they began making their way silently toward the conversation taking place. Cor’Nal motioned to Besali, to move out to the end of the ravine in a flanking position and the wolf obliged swiftly and silently. Carefully the elves moved from tree to tree taking care to watch their footing and remaining quiet while they drew their bows and knocked arrows.

As they reached the lip of the small valley and peered down the elves reactions were simultaneously aggressive. Bow strings stretched taught and fletching went to cheek as rogue and druid alike took aim at a hated ancestral enemy. Standing at the bottom of the ravine was a hulking beast standing a full head taller than most men and just as thick as many of the old pines they stood among. Although olive skinned and broad of brow, this creature seemed somewhat different than the orcs both elves had encountered in the past. Its skin was not quite as dark, its jaw line not quite as animalistic, tusks did not really protrude from beneath its lip, something was slightly out of place. Why a lone orc? Were there more of them milling about? Was this some sort of trap? The arrows were held at bay for a moment, neither elf sure of exactly what they were up against.

For nearly an hour the trio followed this strange character about the forest. After passing through the ravine for a third time Cor’Nal decided that this particular orc- no, half-orc as this beast was not of full orc blood, was obviously lost and definitely alone. The druid motioned for Ademar to stop. After only a few moments the half-orc moved off again on the same track that he had followed previously. As the misplaced creature wandered away the elves and wolf emerged into the clearing at the bottom of the small valley.

“I wouldn’t want him scouting for me.” Cor’Nal remarked with a frown.

“What do we do about him?” Ademar asked. “I almost hate to kill the beast. He doesn’t seem smart enough to hurt anybody.”

“True, but he is an orc, or at least he has orc blood, that much I’m sure of.”

“Is that alone a reason to kill it? Maybe there is a way to use the brute.” The rogue mentioned off handedly. “It sure would be nice if you could teach him to carry our packs.” That comment got the druid thinking.

When the half-orc came around as expected for the fourth time the elves and wolf were still standing in the ravine awaiting him. With a start the beast nearly fell over itself to pull a massive great sword off of his back. “Pointy-ears!” He growled in a low, gravely voice, yellow eyes narrowed suspiciously and he assumed a defensive stance, sword at the ready.

The companions held their ground and remained calm. Besali stretched and yawned before lying down to watch the half-orc seemingly bored already. Ademar stood back trying hard to look at ease while remaining ready should the creature attack them.

Cor’Nal stepped forward boldly, he had learned that strength and bold action were respected within orc society and he prayed to Kutenai that his plan would work.
“Well met good sir.” The druid began, holding out his hand in greeting. “We are looking for a brave warrior named Vrock. Could you tell us where we could find him?”

The half-orcs’ expression went from suspicion to pride then back to suspicion before ending in confusion as the elf spoke. For several breaths the half-orc mulled over what the druid had said before responding.

“Me Vrock, son of Grock. Brave warrior! Strong warrior!” Vrock proclaimed loudly. Then his voice lowered and suspicion furrowed his broad brow. “Why you looking for me?”

“We two elves are traveling in this dangerous land and we are looking to hire some protection from the beasts of the wild.” The druid lied. “We have heard that the warrior Vrock can assure our safe passage to the north.”

The half-orc stood before them, sword still at the ready in both of his gnarled hands. He listened intently and as Cor’Nal talked a frown worked its way onto his face. Seeing the frown on Vrocks’ face told the druid that he had to sweeten the pot somehow to earn his cooperation.

“We are going north to find treasure and adventure!” He proclaimed enthusiastically. “If you choose to help us we will give you a share of the take.” Behind Cor’Nal Ademar choked and coughed, a wounded look of shock and despair upon his face. Vrock smiled.

“Food?” The burly half-orc stated more than asked.

“Of course, you are welcome to eat with us this eve.” Cor’Nal told him thinking that things were going well.

“No, food now. Vrock hungry.”

As Vrock noisily devoured all the provisions Cor’Nal had packed for himself it was Ademars’ turn to smile while the druid stood by in astonishment at Vrocks’ appetite. Finally with a belch that rattled nearby pine boughs Vrock, son of Grock announced that he was ready to travel.

With the added appetite of Vrock forcing the group to forage for food much sooner than anticipated their forward progress slowed to a crawl. It took several more days before Cor’Nal was confident that they had enough food stocked to make it across the empty land between The Crown Wood and foothills of the Greystoke Highlands. Once the group was finally underway on a seldom used trail to the cold northern reaches of Edlrige their pace quickened. Vrock carried most of the supplies which greatly reduced Ademars complaints although he still found opportunities.

Within two weeks of travel Cor’Nal reported that the companions were nearing civilization. This was welcome news to Ademar who had not anticipated how severe the cold would be once they left the protection of The Crown Wood. As they had climbed nearer to the mountains the temperature dropped from cool to cold. Frost was an every morning occurrence and no matter how large the fire was stoked Ademar was always cold at night. When they finally came to the small camp known as Whitewall just south of their destination, the frost cover had given way to snow. Ademar was now cold day and night no matter how many layers he wore or how vigorously he marched. Inversely, Cor’Nal never seemed cold despite being dressed in only a light shirt, breeches, and his mysterious wooden armor. The smug druid just smiled all the wider whenever the rogue moaned over the weather. Vrock also seemed unaffected by the cold, insulated in his heavy hides and thick cloak, he marched on with the elves apparently happy with his current arrangement.

The group rested in the mostly abandoned mining town of Whitewall for two days allowing Vrock to eat his fill and Ademar time to thaw his chilled limbs. Norton, the tavern keeper in town, told the companions that there was indeed trouble brewing between Snoam-Schlabach and its neighboring hamlet Schudlichton although he seemed doubtful that there would be much in the way of coin to be had there. The reprieve was short lived. The druid predicted another snowstorm to be on its way.

Much to the chagrin of Norton and Ademar alike the group headed out from Whitewall Camp into the deepening snow and cold bite of a winter which had not yet even started. In the difficult and unfamiliar terrain it took the companions almost three whole days to finally reach their goal.

Over a hill in the midst of a mild, late-evening snowstorm it came into view, a small hamlet maybe 80-90 buildings in all. Mostly modest homes, only about three-quarters of which seemed to be permanent structures. But at the southern-most edge, along where the closest thing to a road could be discerned, lay a building larger than most but smaller than a few. Plumes of fragrant gray smoke, visible against the moonlight, billowed out from the chimney. Its roof of tarred pine branch and log walls of the same type wood. The only kind that could grow this far north. Instinctively, in their years of traveling they knew the building could only mean one thing.

"A bed." Cor'Nal said to himself.
"Food." Vrock said to himself.
"Heat." Ademar said to himself.

Of course all three things really meant one thing: An inn. Even now, uphill, upwind and still a mile away the smells and sounds were unmistakable. Rowdy banter, spiced potatoes and roasted lamb all filled their senses causing their exhausted pace to quicken. Though one more time they wished they'd found some way to acquire horses, flying carpets, goats or any other form of permanent transportation.

They arrived in minutes though it seemed like hours. Freezing, starving and exhausted they each passed but not a one of them read the sign at front that read:

"Welcome to Homebound"
Magda Dervish, Proprietor

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Leaving the accursed tower and the forest that held it far behind him, Ademar continued north. He pushed himself hard, traveling completely beyond the borders of Westheath and crossing over into the Dodanna Freelands, a sparsely populated marshland that stretched from the mountains known as The Broken Lands in the west all the way to halfling kingdom of Murgar in the east.

He had been away from Caercaster now for several weeks and yet his journey had just begun. Ademar redoubled his efforts to avoid civilization and curbed his curiosity near interesting places for another many weeks while he traveled always northward and away from his past problems.

Still he marched on not having knowledge of where he was going nor really where he was exactly. The mountains had faded into the distance behind him leaving a vast grassland before him. The few trees he encountered were full of green leaves, showing that summer was fully upon the land. The rains became cool relief as shelter from the sun became increasingly rare yet, he continued on, his soul full of inner turmoil. Eventually the elf did come to terms with his aimless wandering.

At the first snow, that is when I will stop. He told himself. The first snow will mark the end of my travel. There I will find shelter for the winter and then I will return to Caercaster in the spring. He felt that some of the burden had been lifted from his aching shoulders. The fact that he had formulated some sort of action plan came as an unexpected relief to the beleaguered elf. Yes, it will be fitting that Kendrick Cwik dies in the spring. That always was Deedras’ favorite time of year.

*** *** *** *** ***

The predawn glow crept into the massive forest that surrounded Goodale chasing the darkness further west as the sun approached the eastern horizon. The people here had named the large conifer forest The Crown Wood as it sat at the northern edge of the continent like a green crown upon the land. Despite the early hour, two shadowy forms made their way silently across the carpet of dry twigs and pine needles on the forest floor. In the lead was a large grey wolf, its black nose sniffing the air, intently following a scent deeper and deeper into the wood. Close behind the wolf followed an elf covered head to toe in some exotic armor apparently made of overlapping wooden plates shaped like leaves of various trees. They weaved effortlessly through the dimly lit tree trunks, moving with such speed and grace an onlooker would swear they were ghosts.

The elf, Cor’Nal Utharo, was a talented young druid from Sanctuary who had recently traveled the lions’ share of Atalanxia ending up here, in Goodale with his newfound wolf companion Besali. For nearly two weeks the pair had explored the large forest, practicing their stalking skills and enjoying what time they could outside before autumn came, forcing them to find shelter and supplies for the coming winter. The druid knew that summer was fast drawing to an end; as it was a short season this far north. While they ran through the trees this morning a thick white fog hugged the ground, a testament to large temperature differences from night to day which were already moving across the land.

The elf was not quite sure what Besali had caught scent of but he knew it must be something new judging by the eagerness in the wolves’ strides. Without warning Besali stopped. Cor’Nal, following so close behind him nearly ran over the animal before coming to a halt. Besalis’ hackles stood on end, his body was rigid and his brown eyes were fixed on something just ahead of them. Taking a moment to catch his breath Cor’Nal dropped a calming hand to the shoulder of his companion while scanning the forest ahead of them. Inside the predominantly pine forest it was not difficult to see past the bare trunks and sparse undergrowth and spot the source of their morning “hunt”. A slim figure lay up against one particularly large tree next to the grey ashes of a small campfire. Judging by the slight build and diminutive stature of the figure, the druid thought that it might be a woman or a very young human man lying beneath that black cloak.

Wanting to get a better look, Cor’Nal started forward while motioning for Besali to stay put. As he approached the form something caught him off guard, something the elf never expected to see this far north. A pointed ear protruded from the black cloak, the ear of a Cala'Quessir! Forgetting only for an instant about his surroundings, Cor’Nal took another step closer to the sleeping figure. His foot came down on an upturned twig accompanied by the sharp snap of breaking wood. Instinctively Cor’Nals’ hand went to his sheathed scimitar. His instinct served him well that morning. Within the blink of an elven eye the once prone figure sprang to life. The black cloaked elf was now on his feet and a long sword came across at Cor’Nal in a sweeping horizontal strike. Steel rang out on steel, a pure harmonic note sang out in the deep forest breaking the calm silence of the morning. Both elves found themselves staring at each other in bewilderment. Several tense moments passed before Cor’Nal spoke.

“ Well met friend.”

The tension between the elves evaporated quickly with those simple words and the cloaked elf retracted his blade. Both parties assumed non-threatening stances yet their blades remained naked as they continued to measure each other. This elf Cor’Nal noted had seen his share of hardship, bearing horrible scars on his hands and half of his face, now visible after his cowl fell away during the strike. It was the elfs’ eyes that held Cor’Nals’ attention though, something familiar about those bright green eyes which were even now darting about, making note of every detail about him, eyes which grew larger after taking note of the wolf watching intently from a distance at Cor’Nals’ back.

Seeing that no conversation was forthcoming from the cloaked stranger Cor’Nal attempted discover what he was about.

“An elf is an unusual sight this far north, especially with autumn fast approaching.” He began.

“Yes, that is unusual.” The stranger said in a measured tone, his eyes flicked back to hold Cor’Nal in a hard stare.

“Fear not my elven brother.” The druid replied, taking the initiative to sheath his weapon. “I bear you no ill will. I am just as surprised as you at this unexpected meeting.”

The black cloaked elf responded in turn, sheathing his sword although his eyes continued to watch both Cor’Nal and Besali warily, apparently ill-at-ease with the situation.

Moving slowly, the druid took a cautious step forward, moving almost as if trying not to spook the stranger before him, and extended his right hand in greeting.

“My name is Cor’Nal Utharo. I am the son of Legawyn and Nydia Utharo of Kemmermere.”

The cloaked elf stepped forward also, taking Cor’Nals’ forearm in acknowledgement yet, those green eyes remained on the wolf.

Recognizing that Besali would continue to be a distraction, the druid gave a shrill series of whistles not once looking back at him. Without a sound, the wolf stood and loped off into the forest, back the way he had come. Picking right up where his introduction had ended Cor’Nal continued. “And that, is my companion Besali.”

The elf opposite Cor’Nal relaxed at the exit of the large canine, his emerald eyes flashed back to the druid. “Pardon my manners.” The stranger spoke in smooth, practiced elven seemingly genuinely humbled by his lack of proper protocol. “I have long been on the road and in the wild. It makes one somewhat, suspicious of others. My name is Ademar.” After a slight hesitation he continued. “Ademar Nightwalker, also of Kemmermere.”

That name brought light to Cor’Nals’ memory; he remembered now meeting Ademar while delivering a message to the Helyanwë family many years ago. What had happened to the young Ademar to cause him to take up an alias? From what the druid could remember the Helyanwë family was a well-to-do merchant clan why would he stray so far from the comforts of Kemmermere? Deciding that Ademar must have a valid reason to abandon his family name, Cor’Nal chose to feign ignorance of his kin but he was interested in how he came to be in Goodale and hoped that Ademar had news of Kemmermere.

“So, what brings you to the wilderness of Eldridge my friend? And, what news of Tel’HithTal?”

Ademar thought about the questions for a moment, seeming to be carefully constructing his answers before responding.

“My family thought it would be advantageous for me to travel the world for a while. They are trying to gain knowledge of the goings-on beyond our borders. We are hoping to open up more trade across Atalanxia. I have been throughout Westheath, The Dodanna Freelands and Nargosath, before coming here. In the spring I will be returning to Caercaster to report my findings.”

Cor’Nal nodded throughout Ademars’ explanation seemingly believing the entire thing though he secretly wondered why he would return to Caercaster, a city of humans rather than the forest of Kemmermere.

“As for The City,” the rogue continued, “They were still rebuilding when I left nearly two years past. Regulus Silverfire is determined to have every detail within the citadel perfect which has made things difficult for the craftsmen to say the least.” Happy with the direction the conversation was turning, Ademar asked a question of his own. “If you ask news of Kemmermere you must have been away for quite some time yourself. What of your journey Cor’Nal Utharo?”

Happy to be having a conversation with another elf, the druid happily told Ademar of his journey which had taken him all about the continent over the past two decades and how he had ended up in Goodale looking for adventure. The conversation lasted long into the day, stretching on to dusk.

Knowing that winter was fast approaching, Cor’Nal suggested that Ademar stay in Goodale and continue his travels in the spring. Beginning to tire of traveling, Ademar readily agreed with the druids’ suggestion but decided that he would prefer the comfort of a bed in an inn to the hard ground of the forest floor. Reluctant to leave the wild but unwilling to let go of this newfound link to his homeland, Cor’Nal relented to this request. Throughout the fall and all through the winter both elves worked for Iwan Welsher, a fourth generation brewer of his families’ famous Welsher’s White ale. Using the silver they earned from Iwan the pair waited out the winter trading stories of their homeland in the warm shelter of The Wizards’ Charm inn.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


The young dwarf sat with pleasure wenches on either side of him at the bartable of a well-known tavern in Goodale called the Broken Skull Inn. A place where the ale was expensive (likely to be expected in a town called Goodale) and so were the wenches. Neither mattered to the dwarf as he was the type who wasn't interested in handing over his silver for the standard wench or the average ale. No sir, only the finest wenches and ale for Vlad Pwent but he thought if the circumstances were different, today he might reconsider. Yes, he thought to himself, today would be different. The entertainment here was good after all (he was surprised to see a band of minstrels playing in such a small town) the food wasn't bad by dwarven standards and the continuous flow of ale provided the dwarf's head with just the right amount of a delightful buzzing to keep him in good cheer.

Indeed, Vlad Pwent thought to himself, this day will be different.

At that thought he lifted his latest tankard of ale, one purchased only moments ago, and drained it to the last. Satisfied, he slammed the tankard down to the table dramatically, straightened himself in his seat, threw his shoulders back and let go of an impressive belch that caught the attention of everyone nearby, only a few of whom seemed to admire the display, not that Vlad cared.

He waved toward the barkeep with one hand and wiped his neatly braided beard with the other. As with most dwarves, Vlad's beard was no exception in being his pride and joy, though when drinking ale, the cloth of his shirt-arm was just as good as any finely knitted napkin. Reluctantly, the barkeep relieved himself of wiping down the wooden ale-mugs he'd just washed and deliberately made his way to the smug dwarf.

Frowning, he spoke. "Another ale dwarf?" The human was massive, even for those of his kind, easily six-and-a-half feet tall and seemed just as wide. His expression and body language, a spectacle of clenched fists and even tighter shoulders, told Vlad he had very little patience, for the little people.

The dwarf offered a mock expression of surprise at the enormous human's reluctance to serve. This lasted for a brief moment before he slowly changed his expression by adding a wry smile, seemingly reveling in the barkeep's annoyance. He then turned his head, looking to the pleasure wench on his left who returned his smile with one of her own. He eyed her up and down like a starving dog would gaze at a freshly roasted rack of lamb. She shifted closer to him, daring a hand upon his forearm and rested her ample bosom against his shoulder. He liked the firm, yet soft caress her breasts made upon him and, if it hadn't been for the recently consumed glut of ale he imagined that, like the one in his head, there would be a buzzing in his pantaloons where there was none now. The dwarf's smile widened, regardless of his lack of rigidity. He grunted an approval as he failed to notice the growing impatience of the barkeep he'd summoned.

"Come now dwarf," The barkeep interrupted. "I do not have time for this." Sweat glistened on the barkeep's balding pate. "What'll ye have, another ale?" He furrowed his sweating brow and pursed his lips into a scowl.

"No barkeep," Vlad said at last. His gaze never leaving the resting bosom of his new female friend. "Bring two. One for me and one for the lady" She fanned herself dramatically as if Vlad's gesture of kindness had suddenly, and quite magically, risen the temperature in the room. Thinking to herself, the wench hoped that Vlad realized that the price of her services slightly exceeded that of a few kind words and a tankard of ale.

"Right," The barkeep replied, slightly amused. "One for you and one for the... lady. He laughed at the misuse of the word and spoke it with disdainful inflection. Chuckling he left the two in order to retrieve their ales.

The pleasure wench to Vlad's right tugged innocently at his undershirt and whined in a surprisingly high-pitched, grating voice.

"Wha' abou' me Vlad?" She pronounced his name like many poor folk of the Southern Eldridge Kingdom: Vlot. "I would also like an ale." She risked an expression of childish neglect, it was a poor attempt and even in his inebriated state, Vlad wasn't fooled. He snapped his gaze toward her, the smile he wore disappearing instantly into a scowl. The wench let go and recoiled slightly. He eyed her for a few seconds before smiling wickedly.

"Get yer own ale, wench! I've nay the gold nor the energy for the both of ye!" He snapped viciously before continuing. His voice became gentler in tone though his words retained their acerbic intonation. "But in a tenday or so, I'll have enough gold for the services of yerself and all yer whore friends!" He then became thoughtful and his sarcastic left his face as it went blank. "Although I'll likely still be too knackered for more'n one of ye a' a time." He whispered the last to himself though the right-side wench wouldn't have heard it anyway as she had already left his company, scurrying away on her plump little feet to sell her wares to more eager, and hopefully even more intoxicated patrons.

Before the boastful, arrogant dwarf could return his attention to the dark-haired beauty that he had become so anxious to begin receiving services from, the barkeep had returned to them with both ale tankards and was impatiently awaiting payment. Vlad reached into his coinpurse and payed the barkeep what he owed. The barkeep took the coins from the dwarf but remained still even after pocketing them, eyeing Vlad intently. Vlad, never making eye-contact initially, looked up at the barkeep sheepishly, half-expecting the barkeep to accuse Vlad of somehow shortchanging him.

"You'd be wise not to speak to the wenches in that manner." The barkeep spat the words threateningly as he crossed his arms over his thick, barrel-shaped chest.

Vlad's expression remained blank. "And you'd be wise not to speak to me in that manner." He curled the corners of his mouth into an arrogant smirk, barely visible beneath his thick, red beard.

"Is that right?" The barkeep taunted, leaning over the table slightly to remind the dwarf of just how much larger the human was than he.

Before Vlad could explain to the human just how right that was the pleasure wench that he had nearly begun to forget about interjected, trying desperately to change the subject in order to avoid a confrontation which almost certainly would end up costing her the patronage of a well-paying customer.

"That's right" She said. "Vlad here is goin' t' be a hero. Ain't ye Vlad?" She spoke loudly to ensure that both of them would give her their full attention. Unfortunately, she got the attention of half the rest of the pub's patron as well.

The barkeep turned to her, unconvinced and half on the verge of uncontrollable laughter. "Is that right?" The barkeep repeated. Suddenly, Vlad began to wonder about the size of this human's vocabulary.

"Yes," The wench continued, half-impressed with herself at seeming to diffuse the encroaching confrontation. "he is goin' to the 'Goodale Cave'. The one about a dozen miles Sou'east a' here" She smiled and looked at Vlad with mock pride. "It's supposed t' be 'aunted."

"I know." the barkeep spat. "The Bearded-Child has been boasting about it since morning." He laughed heartily and then glanced at the dwarf, whose face had begun to redden. "But what he failed to mention to ye lass, is that he hasn't been assigned to Faramin's party yet."

Vlad remained silent, incredibly angry and embarrassed by the barkeep's revelation. He watched as the wench's expression melted from mock pride to genuine disappointment.

"Is 'ee speakin' truth, Vlad?" She asked sullenly.

Vlad paused a moment to consider his next words, a feat which required an enormous amount of will for him even when sober.

"As of now, aye." He spoke the words and felt the gaze of at least a dozen onlookers. Their eyes pierced his back like tiny assassins daggers. "However, I am confident, nay, certain, that his Lordship will find me of adequate quality to represent him and fight for the people of Goodale." Whatever confidence Vlad felt a few moments ago was now whisked away and replaced by the feeling that to all those present, all those listening to himself and the wench, that he had begun to bear a striking resemblance to a horse's arse.

The barkeep threw his head back and laughed. "Obviously you've not been paying attention." He said between peals of laughter. "Faramin has abandoned selecting the adventuring party's." He wiped away a tear, reveling further in the dwarf's humiliation. "Not after the last party he selected went down into that godsforsaken cave and never returned."

"Never returned?" The wench spoke the words in Vlad's head.

"That's right," The barkeep continued. "Faramin has decided that he can no longer bear the terrible burden of sending young men to their deaths himself, so he has commissioned volunteers to select, or bring to town, their own parties in order to travel to the cave and commit suicide themselves. The fools! Though he promises to reward any party that returns with the head of some mage who calls himself 'Raylock' the hefty sum of one thousand gold pieces." Vlad hung on to every word but tried to keep the air of aloofness, he failed miserably as the barkeep continued. "I've heard of only one such suicidal idiot." The barkeep finished his speech, again crossed his arms in front of him. He winked at the pleasure wench who seemed genuinely troubled by Vlad's sudden change in demeanor.

Vlad chanced a look over his shoulder, noticed that over a dozen bar patrons had begun to make their way towards the bartable. Inching closer in order to get a better position from which to eavesdrop on the suddenly very interesting conversation. He tried his best to ignore them and turned his attention back to the sarcastic barkeep.

"What 'Suicidal Idiot' is this you speak of?" Vlad asked humbly.

The barkeep smirked as he looked down on the small (at least to his eyes) dwarf who seemed to be getting smaller with each passing moment. "A vagabond, silver-haired elf... calls himself, Razell. Or some such. Travels with another of his kind, red hair and freckles. I don't know 'is name. Don't care either." He snorted the last bit, pleased with himself.

"Razell..." Vlad whispered absently to himself, staring into his full, untouched tankard. Then he frowned. "An elf!" He reached into his purse to pay the barkeep for the information but the barkeep refused it, holding his outstretched arm palm out toward the dwarf.
"No need. Information's free. I like to watch smart-tounged, loud-mouthed braggarts like you running off eagerly killing yerselves trying to become heroes." He smiled broadly as Vlad wondered what he may have said earlier to make the human hate him so. He supposed he didn't really care.

"Is that right?" Vlad said, knowing the barkeeper's answer.

"That's right." The barkeep repeated to Vlad's expectation.

"Thanks nonetheless." Vlad said moving from his stool to stand on the dusty tavern floor upon shaky, unsure legs. He found himself slightly dizzy from his consumption of ale but tried quickly to forget about it. The same way he forgot about the pleasure wench and the full tankard of ale he left behind as he pushed his way past the gathering crowd and out into the streets of Goodale, in search of this fairy elf. This, Razell.

Again, he thought to himself as the mid-day sun crept behind a large cluster of threatening purple clouds, this day, indeed, will be different.