Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Brass and Bone

As Zender marched through the streets, he wished he had the forethought to take a horse back to the temple. Not that he minded the walk from town to the temple of Solarth, it was something he did at least once a week but he did feel the need to hurry. With every step he took, the confident feeling he had when he left Lomark behind faded. In truth, Zender was terrified over what might happen to his beloved temple. Zender feared that Bishop Drent had not only put himself in harm’s way, but that the entire temple might pay for his crimes. A walk that should have taken no more than an hour, seemed to last an eternity.

As Zender came within sight of the temple, his worst fears had started to come true. More than a dozen of the city watch was standing at the edge of the temple grounds. Pausing for a moment to clutch at his medallion of Solarth, Zender asked the good god to give him strength. With that done he dropped his hand down to the war hammer hanging from his belt and started to move again. They were all standing there, doing the same thing. Staring at the temple doors waiting and watching for something or someone. Zender approached the gathering of men from behind, walking softly he moved into a space between two of the guards. His voice no more than a whisper he leaned over and asked the guard next to him “What are we waiting for?”

“Watch commander Anderson told us to wait here. Said he didn’t want us to scare all the little women inside with our weapons. Can’t have them soil their pretty white dresses now.” The guard responded without looking at who was speaking to him. Zender leaned back from the guard, looking at his profile, he could feel the man’s contempt for the order. Looking around Zender could see it on the face of most of the guards that were gathered around him. He could read their faces, they assumed the priest were weak, without courage, to be pitied.

“How long has he been in there, I get off in an hour?” Zender asked the same guard.

“Twenty minutes, by my count. He said he would blow his whistle if anything went wrong.”

“Are you all insane, he could be in trouble?” Zender said as he started to push past the other guards. “Make a hole!” he shouted in a deep commanding voice. As the gathered guardsmen parted out of his way, Zender enjoyed the shocked look on some of their faces. Zender felt a hand or two try to slow his progress but he just shrugged them off, pushing forward towards the temple doors. As he reached forward to pull the large doors open, he looked back at the guards he had left behind, all of them were still standing in the same spot, just off the temple grounds. Shaking his head Zender pulled the door open to the interior of the temple. Zender could hear his brothers in the main temple for afternoon prayers, he could also hear something else. Turning to the left he marched towards the office of Bishop Drent.

On any other day, Zender would have stood before this door, knocked and waited to be called in as was proper. Since the day Bishop Frost died and Bishop Drent took over the temple. When Frost was alive, this door was always open and was only closed when some troubled brother was inside seeking guidance from their leader. That changed the day Drent arrived in Eystlund to replace the man Zender had admired so much. Prior Methner always said that Drent was a private man and enjoyed his quiet time. Now Zender understood the truth of the matter, the man was hiding something. Grasping the door handle to open the door Zender nearly crashed into the firmly locked door. This very nearly sent the priest into a fit of rage, there are not supposed to be locked doors in the temple. Zender didn’t even know that a lock had been installed in the door. Pulling his war hammer free of his belt loop, Zender decided he would knock on the door after all.

Smashing his hammer down on the door handle, Zender was satisfied with the crash it made. The new brass handle snapped under the blow from the war hammer, falling to the ground. This sound was followed by the sound of something crashing on the other side of the door. Zender stood back from the door just far enough to give the door a good kick, smashing what was left of the door lock, showing him a shocked Bishop Drent on the other side. Clutching a handful of scrolls and several bags in his over burdened arms, Drent stared at the priest with his mouth hanging open.

“Zender, where have you been? Your chores have not been done in two days!” The Bishop stammered at him. It was then that he started to move towards the open door. “When I get back we will have a talk about this, I will not stand for this kind of behavior!” Zender said nothing, he only waited for the Bishop to get closer. “Report to Prior Methner…” Zender doesn’t know what the Bishop had intended to say, he no longer cared. As he had kicked the door only seconds before, he once again lifted up his foot and kicked the Bishop in his chest. It was only the scrolls he carried that saved the Bishop from a chest full of broken ribs. The scrolls that were now falling to the floor, along with the bags that were filled with gold coins. As the Bishop flew backwards, he rolled over the top of his desk and crashed to the floor on the other side.

As Zender looked around the room, he hoped the Bishop hadn’t broken his neck in the fall. It was then that he saw the old white haired man lying on the floor, with blood seeping from a fresh wound on his head. Zender only hoped that he was not too late to help. Rushing to the old man on the floor, Zender rolled his body over and felt his neck for signs of life. While he could still feel a slight pulse, it was weak and erratic. Placing one hand on the man’s blood covered head, Zender reached out to his god, asking him to heal the poor soul. A rush of heat and warmth filled Zenders heart, soon light formed around the hand holding the white haired man’s head. A small smile of thanks formed on Zender’s face as the man let out a gasp and awoke with a start.

“Commander Anderson, are you well?” he asked knowing he didn’t need an answer.

“As well as anyone could be if they nearly had their brain knocked out of their ear.” He told the cleric. The commander then pushed Zender’s hand away and pointed. As Zender turned he saw Bishop Drent was on his feet again.

Bishop Drent once again on his feet had started towards the door again at a run. Zender did not stop to think, he only reached out to the hammer he had set on the floor moments before while healing the watch commander. Judging by the speed the bishop was moving, Zender felt he only had one option. As he stood he whipped his arm forward, throwing the hammer towards his target. While the Bishop saw the weapon in flight, he could do nothing to stop it from crashing into his head.

It was several days later when the Bishop awoke for the first time. At first he imagined what had happened was only a dream. It was then that he noticed how cold and dark it was in his cell. As he tried to sit up, he could feel the chains on his feet. Ignoring their weight, he swung his legs over the edge of his small bed until his feet and chains crashed to the floor. With one shaking hand Drent reached up to touch the spot on his head where the hammer had struck him, tender to the touch, pain shot through his head. Yet it wasn’t until he looked up to see the dark robed figure on the other side of his prison bars that he started to scream.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Love and Justice

Zender looked back over his shoulder while driving the wagon. Most of the children were sleeping, even with the morning light shining down on them. There was one, a small girl, no more than seven or eight years old with long blond hair chatting with William. While Zender had not known the big man very long, he had never seen the man as happy as he was in that moment. Once they carried the children from the dungeon, it seemed a great weight was lifted from all of them. The fear that clung to them in the dark was abolished by the morning light. Looking past William, Zender could see Hans and Zackary. Zackary warmed right up to the mercenary. Zender only hoped that letting Hans live wasn’t a mistake.

“Pay attention priest before you drive us off into the forest.” Lomark remarked. Zender snapped his head back around and pulled on the reigns to set the wagon back on the well worn path. “You know we are not done down there, we have done nothing but delay the cultist plans, whatever that may be. If they discover that we slipped out with the children, they will just go find more.”

“Not if I have anything to say about it, do you still have the papers we found? The sheriff will want to see them.”

“What if the sheriff is in on the plot? Can you trust him priest? Many good men turn a blind eye to evil for a bag of gold.” Zender only shook his head at the wizard.

“Not everyone is like you Lomark, hiding their true self. I see who you are and you are not the image you present.”

“Baaaaaaaah, you know nothing priest.” Lomark said as he snapped his book closed. “Do not pretend to know the darkness inside of me.” As Zender started to laugh the wizard squinted his eyes, “what do you find so humorous priest?”

“You are about as dark as the underside of a fluffy bunny rabbit rolling around in the fields, warming itself in the sun. Everyone has darkness inside of them Lomark but true evil, I do not see it in you.”

“Perhaps you are just blinded by the sun you worship.” With that Lomark pulled his hood back over his head and opened his spell book again. Zender shook his head at the wizard again and gave the horses another slap with the reigns. The forest around them faded away to grassland and they were soon on a main road to town. Sometime after noon the group rode into the main section of town. In his mind Zender expected to see some kind of welcoming party, like something from the stories he had read as a child. Instead all he saw was some fool standing along the side of the road with his mouth hanging open. Zender could only shake his head at the wide eyed young man in his wide brimmed hat, with that absurd feather sticking out of the top. When the dirt roads fell away and ran into the cobble stone streets Zender stood up on the wagon and called out to Zackary.

“Zack, you and William take Hans to the inn. Get some food, get some rest. Lomark and I are going to deliver the little ones to the sheriff. We are going to be on our way back to deal with those cult members before the sun sets, understood?”

“Aye laddy! Food, ale and wenches til it is time ta fight again.” Zackary smiled at the cleric before turning away on his mount. “Come along lads, there be mugs to drain.” Zender turned back to watch the three ride away, the small blond girl was waving to William, as he was waving to her, with a simple smile on his face.

“Interesting, you send Zackary to an inn and expect him to function later. Yes, very interesting.” Lomark remarked from under his hood. Zender decided he had enough of the wizard for the moment and ignored the remark.

“We are almost to the sheriff. You should take off that hood and put a smile on your face. We wouldn’t want to scare the children.” Zender could see the wizard shaking his head inside of his hood. With a smile on his face he had the horses pick up the pace. More than anything Zender was eager to return the children to their families, the faster they handed them off to Sheriff York, the faster they would be at home in their own beds. He also wanted to give him the papers they had found, letters from Bishop Drent pleading with the cultist for more time to find the children they needed. Part of him also wanted to be there when Drent was arrested for his crimes. Zender only hoped that the reputation of the order was not too damaged by what Drent had done.

“Whoa” Zender called out to the horses as he pulled back on the reigns to get them to stop. So deep in thought about what was to come, he had nearly driven past the jail house. As Zender started to climb down from the wagon, he saw one of the guardsmen come out of the building. The guardsman looked from Zender to the children in the back of the wagon and went straight back inside. “Lomark, help the children down from the wagon I am going inside.” Zender ignored the remarks the wizard made to his back and walked straight into the building. From the door Zender could see the guard that had come out. He was standing near a door, hand held up as if he was about to knock on the door, yet he was frozen. As Zender moved past the front counter he understood why. The voice on the other side of the door was one of pure fury. As Zender stood along side of the guardsman, he asked, “Who is in there?” When the guard did not answer right away, Zender placed his hand over the raised fist of the guardsman, pushing it down. “Who is in there I asked?”

“One of the Red Falcon Guard.” The guard said.

“The Kings personal guard? Why are they involved in this?”

"That fool Silvermorn had a fit one night and started spouting off gibberish. From the corrupted souls of the innocent, comes creeping death. Blackened wings will fly in the night to devour the crown and spread blight. Silvermorn told the king it had something to do with the missing kids. Damn court wizards always make things cryptic. Well Captain Herschel took it as a threat. He tends to take that kind of thing seriously. At first, Darius was going to call in the military. York pleaded with the king to be allowed to handle this. Truth be told, he didn’t want the military called in, running all over the capital, pushing him under the rug. Not that I blame him, one little thing like this and the military would be running the constables for a year. One of the search parties that York sent out was found slaughtered. They are not too happy with York right now. It has been over a week and the king wants results, not excuses.”

“So instead of telling him that we have some of the missing children, you are going to stand there and listen to your leader get lambasted. Where is your loyalty man?” Zender shook his head at the man and stepped in front of him. Knocking on the door once halted all talking from inside of the office. “Sheriff York, it is Zender. Could you please come out, we have some good news.” As the door opened, Zender saw the man who had been doing all of the shouting. While he had heard many stories of the Red Falcon Guard, the stories never seemed to measure up to the real thing. When he thought of it later, all he could say was that the man was impressive. Yet in his mind, impressive seemed too small a word to describe the man he saw and the feeling he had when standing under that steel eyed gaze. Looking from York to the man in the Red Falcon Guard tunic Zender wasn’t sure who he should address. “Gentlemen, my companions and I were able to rescue twelve of the missing children. While I regret to inform you that the others were sacrificed by some dark cult, we were able to safely return the ones we found.”

“Thank the gods.” York said while pressing his hands to his face. “Where are they Zender?” Zender waved a hand hoping to lead the men outside only to turn around and see all of the children standing in the door, Lomark was standing behind them all, his arms stretched out to either side. He said nothing, only nodding his head once before turning to leave.

“I also have these.” Zender said as he removed a bundle of scrolls from one of the pockets in his robes. The man from the Red Falcon Guard stepped forward and held out his hand. “They are letters from; I am ashamed to say, from Bishop Drent of the temple of Solarth, to the leader of the cult. It would seem he accepted gifts for having children delivered to them. I only ask that you punish the man, not the entire temple. As far as I know, none of my brothers had any knowledge of this.”

“His fate and the fate of the temple will be up to King Darius and the king alone.” Zender looked at the man as he spoke; true fear began to form around his heart. “York, I expect you will be able to handle getting these children to where they belong. I expect a full report for Captain Herschel before the sun sets. Is that understood Sheriff York?”

“Yes sir, before the sun sets you will have it and the children will be safe in the arms of their mothers by then as well.” York looked like a man who had been physically beaten.

“Do not fail the King. Also, thank the priest; he may have saved your job.” With that the man left the jail house. Never once looking back at those he left behind. Zender looked at York once that red tunic was out of sight. York could only shake his head at the priest.

“Who was that?” Zender asked quietly, as if the man was still about.

“Does it matter? Now, get out of here unless you have something else to tell me. Come back tomorrow and I will see that you are given your reward. That is if you and the rest of you priest are not in the stocks before then.” Zender just nodded his head at the Sheriff and left him with the children. As he rejoined Lomark on the street outside of the jail house, he wondered what would happen to Bishop Drent. Part of him wanted to go directly to the temple and face Drent. Another part of him was terrified of what would happen if he did that, afraid of what he might do. Fear was not something Zender ever handled well. It just wasn’t something he was used to. So lost in thought he was, he had not noticed that they had walked all the way to the inn.

“You are coming in yes?” Lomark asked the bewildered priest. Zender shook his head and looked at the wizard. As he looked at Lomarks face a thought dawned on him. He had nothing to fear. This was not the fault of the temple. This was not the fault of his god. One man ignored the teachings of the good god and gave into greed. This was not a question of his faith. As he placed a single hand on his war hammer, Zender knew he had nothing to fear. Drent knew what he was doing when he abandoned his faith and gave into evil. As a small smile formed on his face Zender started to walk towards the inn. Solarth would see that justice was done, in both this life and the next. As Zender walked past the man in black, Lomark reached out to him. “What madness has taken hold of you priest?”

“No madness, just faith that all will be well. For even in the darkness, those with faith can see his light.” Zender smile at the wizard again and continued on towards the inn. His good mood did not last long once he was within the inn. He could see the large table his other companions were sitting at. While Hans was slowly picking at his meal, William looked to have finished off three plates and Zackary was shouting for another mug of ale. He had two empty mugs in front of him.

“Yes, I told you this would happen.” Lomark whispered to the cleric. “That fool doesn’t know how to do anything other than fight and drink. I shall retire to my room, come to me when he is able to ride again, in two or three days.”

“Four hours, we ride. Be ready.” Zender told him.

“Yes…quite!” The wizard remarked as he turned away. Zender ignored him as he started to move towards the table. As Zender reached into his robes he pulled out the symbol of his god, cupping it in his hand.

“Solarth grant me this prayer.” Zender said as he closed his eyes. “Sleep” was all he said while pointing towards Zackary. The sound of an earthen mug shattering on the floor silenced the room. Every man and woman about turned in time to see the man with fire red hair pass out, slamming his head down on the table. A solid thump of flesh and bone meeting wood ushered in the sounds of laughter. Soon all the laughing faces turned away, leaving the ‘drunken’ man to his fate. As Zender came to stand behind Zackary’s chair the only people looking at him still were Hans and William. “William, take your cousin up to your room. We have four hours to rest before we ride.” The large man nodded his head as he shoved the last bite of food on his plate into his mouth. While Zender watched the big man carry Zackary away, Hans turned a careful eye towards Zender.

“He only had two, is this normal for him?” Hans asked.

“No, I highly doubt this was normal for Zackary. Sometimes we have to do things we don’t like in order to make sure the gods work is done. As I told William, we ride in four hours, be ready Hans. Now, if you will excuse me.”

“What do you mean? Where are you going?” Hans asked as he stood up from his seat.

“What I mean is this. In order to keep Zackary alive, I have to keep him sober. He is a skilled fighter and tough as the day is long. Yet if he is pickled from head to toe he is worthless to us and will get himself or someone else killed. I made sure that did not happen. As for where I am going now, I have to return to my home and see that justice is done.” With this Zender turned from the mercenary and marched out of the room. As he stepped out onto the street he lifted his face towards the sun. Feeling the warmth on his face he smiled as he knew this feeling well. For even in the darkness he could feel it. It was the feeling of his god’s love.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Union

“All who are shrouded in darkness can be shown the light.”
From the Prayer book of Solarth the Light Bringer.

The young priest stood and looked at himself in the mirror. Zender had expected the armor to weigh more or encumber his movement. Strong and light, it fit him like a second skin. Once the priestly robes were put on, it was hard to see he had any armor on at all. The shield strapped to his back was another story; Zender only hoped that he would be out of the temple before anyone saw him, before he had to face questions he wasn’t ready to answer. Satisfied with his appearance, Zender reached for the last object in the bag his father had left behind for him, a war hammer. Thrusting it through the loop on his belt, the cleric turned and left the room. The only sound in the temple was the woman that was still crying to herself. With dawn more than four hours away, the young priest slipped out of the temple and retrieved his horse from the stables.

The streets of Eystlundtowne were dead at this time of the morning. Yet Zender could smell fresh baked bread in the air so he wasn’t the only person going about his business. Zender didn’t like the idea of rushing out of the temple in the middle of the night but he could not risk being seen by Bishop Drent. The Bishop would be more than happy to keep him busy with other task; none of them would include helping that poor woman find her missing children. Zender believed that there were more important things to do than weeding the vegetable garden or scrubbing pots in the kitchen. He had been given a sign that there was a greater need for his talents. One that he could not ignore, he did have a younger brother after all. What if Rath had been one of the missing children? Shaking the thought from his head Zender continued on with his night ride. Zender was also sure that had anyone dared to take Rath, they would return him the next day, pleading with mother to keep him.

Zender found the sheriff’s office to be a regular hub of activity for it to be so early in the morning. There were men uniformed rushing in and out. Stepping down from his horse he tied it off outside and started to make his way into the building. Zender had been here several times before in the past with his father but that seemed to be a life time ago. Looking at the bench under the wanted posters, Zender smiled to himself. His fingers had found many splinters in that old bench. Zender then looked to the older man who spent most of his time barking out orders to others. When Zender saw the badge of office sewn on his shirt, he knew that was the man he needed to speak with.

“Hello sir, I am here to help, what can I do?” Zender asked him.

“Look kid, I don’t have time for games, get the hell out of here and don’t get any mud on your mothers dress on the way home.” Sheriff York told him.

“No, you do not understand. I am Zender, Cleric of Solarth and son of Windfall the bounty hunter. I heard there were some missing children and I wanted to come offer my services.” Zender was rather pleased with himself, he was sure this would change the tone of the conversation.

“I don’t give a rat’s ass who you are; I don’t have time for this. Someone get this little shit out of here before I have him tossed in a cell.” He said as he turned away and went off in another direction. Zender was stunned and more than a bit angered by the rejection he felt. He was sure that he would be given something to do, something that would help. Turning away he started to leave only to pause at the wanted posters on the wall. Letting a slight smile crack his face he sat down on the old bench and pulled out his prayer book, Zender was determined to sit there until a use was found for him. As the sun started to brighten the window in front of him, he wondered if he was just wasting time.

“Why are you still here?” Zender looked up at the guardsman who was asking the question, placing a single finger in his prayer book to save his place he stood up.

“I found a hysterical woman in my temple last night; she lost both of her children. I am here to help in any way I can, I have to be able to face my god knowing I did all I could for her.”

“Look, old man York doesn’t have time to baby sit you. Hell, he told me that if you don’t get out of here I’m to toss you in a cell. If you really want to help, head over to the Dew Drop Inn. They are going to send out search parties from there to see if anyone can find anything. Go over there and join up with one of the parties if you really want to help.”

“That was all you had to tell me, may Solarth shine his light on you this day.” Zender returned his prayer book to the pouch on his belt and made his way out the door. Fetching his horse, he started to walk to the inn the guard mentioned. He knew where the inn was, it wasn’t that far away. It was also one of the larger ones in town. Zender was pleased with himself and enjoyed walking in the morning light. It felt good on his face, a true blessing he thought. As he approached the inn, he could see what looked to be a good twenty horses, all of them waiting for riders. After tying off his own mount he approached the inn and pushed his way inside past the few people who were standing near the door.

“Well, this is not what I expected.” Zender said to no one at all. The common room was filled with what he assumed were normal patrons. Sitting at the tables, eating and drinking ale. None of them in any uniform he recognized. Looking around the room Zender searched for just a place to sit. The only table with open seating had four other men sitting around it. As he drew closer to the table he paused when he saw the black robed figure sitting there with them. It wasn’t until he saw the man’s face did he continue to walk. While the robes were different than what Zender had seen him in before. He knew the man’s face; he had even spoken to him a time or two while buying herbs for simple healing poultices. Placing a hand over his Medallion of Solarth he pressed on towards the table. As he walked up behind the chair he looked at the gathered men and asked if anyone was sitting there? The black robed figure looked at Zender, raising a single eyebrow in his direction.

“Sit if you wish.” The black robed figure said while pointing at the chair. He then turned away, disinterested in the priest. Zender reached out and pulled the chair back from the table. As he did this, the man in the next chair leaned over and vomited on the floor, a rancid steam of eggs, ale and bile splashed on the floor. “See what I have to deal with priest.” The black robed figure said. As the man who puked tried to stand Zender reached out to help.

“Shuts up Loooooooomark.” The drunken man said as he struggled to stand with Zenders help. He then stuck out a hand to the priest, “Names Zackary, Zackary Red Beard, that there is my cousin William, the elf is Christos.” Zackary tried to sit back down in his chair and crashed to the floor. As Zender sat down in his own chair, looking around at the other laughing mercenaries he wondered just what it was that he had gotten himself into.


“Revenge is rooted in darkness, those who serve the light pray for justice.”
From the Prayer book of Solarth the Light Bringer

“Who is that?” Zender asked as loud as he dared. The group did its best to stay hidden, while watching the man in night black armor. The sudden and unexpected death of Christos that morning left the group overly cautious.

“Why are you asking me?” Lomark responded while mopping off his bald head. It was late in the season and the heat in the air was driving the wizard to the point of irritation. “If we had returned to town as I said, we wouldn’t be squatting here now. No, you insisted we push on, follow the trail. Now we sit in the bush like a brace of rabbits hiding from the wolf.”

“I am telling you, I can feel it. That man has something to do with the missing children. He has led us here and…”

“Yes, priest. He led us to a pack of hobgoblins. We are very fortunate indeed. It is too bad Christos is no longer with us to celebrate this joyous occasion.” Lomark said.

“I told you that was not my fault. There was nothing I could do for the poison. I did my best, could you have done better?” The priest asked the wizard.

“Perhaps.” Was all that the wizard said. The two then turned back to watch the armored figure barking out orders to the creatures on the ground. While he tried to concentrate on the forces ahead of him Zender could not shake the image in his mind, no matter how hard he tried. The giant spider that killed their former companion injected Christos with a poison that killed quickly. Far quicker than Zender had been able to deal with in the end. As he gripped the handle of his war hammer, Zender could feel his rage building inside. While he would never admit it to the quick witted wizard, he did feel it was his fault. It wasn’t until the man in black armor rode away did Zender put the thoughts behind him.

“We need to capture one of them, do you have anything?” Zender asked the wizard.

“I have a scroll that may be of use. We will have to move quickly though.”

“Zackary, you and William head to the other side of the trail, hit them from the right flank. We will come up from behind, wait for the signal.” Zender had become impressed with the mercenary. When sober he was brave, willing to do what it took to win a fight.

“What’s the signal?” he asked.

“Just watch for Lomark, you will know.” He told him before the two men moved off. The priest then turned to watch the wizard as he read over an assortment of scrolls that he pulled out of the interior of his black robes.

“You must shield me until I finish the casting, can you handle that priest?” Zender said nothing, only moving towards the group of Hobgoblins on the forest path. So quickly did he move, the wizard had to run to keep up. “Stop when I tell you to.” He said to the priest back. He wasn’t even sure that he was heard, he only hoped. With a half cocked smile he thought it would serve the self important priest well to get caught in the effects of this spell. “Now!” he said as he rolled out the needed scroll. As ordered the priest stopped off to the side and lifted his shield, ready for any attack to come. As Lomark spoke the language of magic written on the scroll the runes began to glow, consuming the paper they were printed on. As the scroll crumbled to ash, the wizard projected the effect towards the creatures, enveloping the area in a field of grease.

Zender watched as the cousins stepped out on to the path at the edge of the grease. They all watched with some amusement as the creatures struggled to move. “Don’t let any of them get away. I want to question the big one.”

“Where in da bloody hell are dey gonna go? Lookit da sorry bastards, dey can’t even move.” Zackary shouted back at the priest. Zender only pointed, some of the creatures had started to thrust their weapons in the ground, pulling their grease coated bodies out of the grease.

“Interesting.” The wizard remarked. “Next time I shall combine this with the use of flaming hands. Yes, that would be most effective. See how the grease clings to their bodies. Yes, this is very interesting.” Without taking an eye off the fighting that had started in front of him, the wizard reached into a pouch on his belt, pulling out a pinch of sand. Speaking the words of magic while dropping the sand in the air, three of the creatures who were still able to stand went down face first into the grease. A twisted smile crossed Lomarks face as he pulled dagger from the sleeve of his robes. Unlike some of their companions, these monsters would not see death coming.

Zender watched the fighting with satisfaction. His companions were taking care of the hobgoblins with ease as far as he could see. He stood at the edge of the grease patch and watched the supposed leader, the one who had been talking to the man in black armor. While it was the largest of the creatures and was having an easier time of moving, it wasn’t doing much better than his fellow hobgoblins. As the creature reached the edge of the grease it pulled itself free and stood up, facing the cleric with a roar. Holding his medallion of Solarth in one hand, the cleric pointed to the hobgoblin and said a single word, “die”. Using a prayer of command, Zender made the creature believe it was dead. As it fell to the ground the fighting came to a swift and sudden end.

“ZENDER” Zackary shouted across the path. “William’s hurt, get over here!” The priest forgot about the creature on the ground and took off at a run around the grease patch that was still covering the ground.

“What happened?” he asked as he found the warrior out cold on the ground. When no answer came he squatted down and rolled over the body. A deep gash crossed the warriors chest, blood was flowing at a rapid pace. As he laid his hands on the warriors chest he said “Solarth, giver of light and life, grant me this prayer of healing to save the life of this humble servant.” A gentle light formed around the hands of Zender which then spread to the chest of William. As the healing light faded Zender sat back to watch the big man. Watching the rise and fall of his chest as he was breathing. As his eyes started to open, a smile crossed the face of the cleric.

“Umm, hello.” William said while looking at the cleric.

“Be more careful William, I can only do that so many times a day. I want you to rest here for a bit until we are ready to go. Zackary will keep an eye on you ok?” The big man nodded his head and rolled over on the spot his blood and been pooling in moments before. He did this without a single care; such is the world of William the Dim. As Zender stood up again, he turned around to see the smiling face of Zackary Red Beard.

“Thank ye lad!” he said as he put his arms around the cleric.

“Don’t thank me; thank the good god who made this possible. We could have lost him today. Really, he should think about getting some better armor. I know he is a big man but running around in bits of leather will not help him.” Zender tried to push away from the warrior while talking but found his strength was lacking. Once Zackary let him go, Zender returned to Lomark searching the bodies of the creatures they had just killed. The magical grease that had once covered the ground was now gone. “Lomark, help me with this one.” Zender said as he pulled a rope from his pack. “I want to tie him to this tree so he can’t get away when he wakes up.” While the wizard protested having to do manual labor, he was interested in what the cleric had in mind for the creature. Once that was completed, they only had to wait for the creature to wake up.

Zender watched while Lomark continued to search the bodies of the fallen, ignoring how many times items were put into hidden pockets of the long black robes. The priest knew if the wizard found anything important, he would make it known, at some point anyway. Lomark was fond of holding back information until it served him best. He would even hold back the smallest of things until he could achieve the most use or profit from it. When Lomark unrolled a map that was in the pack of one of the creatures, Zender knew this was something he should see. As he was about to call out to the wizard, the hobgoblin roared.

“Untie! Now!” it shouted at Zender.

“I will let you go when you tell me what I want to know. Where are the children being held? What are they doing with them and who was that man?” The roar the beast let out continued on for some time. Zender watched as the beast continued to struggle with its bindings, his patients was starting to run thin. Lifting up his hammer he pressed it into the throat of the creature, once again asking his questions. “Where are the children being held? Who has them and what are they doing with them?” With each question he pushed just a little harder on the hammers long handle.

“Lord Morkyth will crush you!” The hobgoblin growled at the cleric, still trying to free his self from the ropes.

“Lord Morkyth, I assume that is the man in the black armor I saw you speaking with. Now, where are the children?” Zender asked.

“The little ones feed the beast. We give little ones to humans in black robes, smell like death. They feed the beast.” The creature gave Zender a toothy grin as it spoke, as if it enjoyed the idea of harming the children.

“What?” Zender asked in a state of shock. His mouth standing open he felt his blood run cold. Many long hours were spent in the temple, in study of not only his god but of all the gods. Priest of Orcus, corruptors of the living, priest of death and disease. Zender looked to his companion, for the first time in days the wizard had removed his hood from his head, if only to make it clear that he was now shaking his head at the priest. Zender could feel his grip on his hammer growing tighter.

“Hahaha, I bet beast enjoy little ones. They be tender, no fat. Good meat. Their blood is sweet, drink it like wine.” Hobgoblins have never been accused of having an over abundance of intelligence. Yet it could see the distress it was causing the priest as it spoke, it took joy in this. It never even knew the danger it was in.
“Where are they?” Zender shouted at the creature as he dropped his shield to the forest floor. “Tell me, NOW!” The hobgoblin just continued to laugh at the priest in white.

“Where they belong, in the belly of the beast.” The creatures laugh filled the air, making a flock of birds take flight from a nearby tree.

“Tell me!” He shouted again. Zender took his hammer into both hands while pacing back and forth in front of the creature. His fury building with every step he took. The hobgoblin looked on, thinking that he was causing the human pain with his words. The creature never learned how to tell the difference between a human in pain and a human who was angry. As Zender stopped in front of the creature again he asked one final time, “Where are they?”

“Dead!” was the last thing the hobgoblin ever said. It was in that moment that Zender felt his mind break. Lifting his hammer Zender took aim and started to swing. It was then that the hobgoblin saw his mistake. Assuming that this human in white was weak or like the others it had seen. Like the one who delivered the sleeping children many nights ago. As the war hammer connected to the hobgoblins head, all thoughts of anything went away. As the creatures head was crushed between the hammer and the tree, it had no thoughts at all.

“Interesting.” Lomark said to no one but himself. He tightly held on to the map he had behind his back. “Yes, very interesting.” Lomark wondered just who his new companion really was. He had seen him work before now, yet this was something different. This anger, this raw primal rage was something new, something the wizard had not seen coming. As he turned away from the carnage in front of him he wondered what else this priest was capable of and how it could be of use to him.

“Lomark, show me the map.” Zender said to the wizards back. Lomark turned and faced the cleric, watching as the cleric cleaned the brain matter from his weapon.

“Who are you? Do you know cleric?” The wizard asked while holding out the rolled map. “I know who I am; I know the nature of my being. So I ask you now Zender, who are you?”

“I am a servant of the god Solarth, anything else you want to know?” Lomark could hear the irritation in the voice of the cleric.

“Does he approve of his servant? Does your god know of the darkness inside of you?”

“Lomark, why don’t you let me worry about what my god does or doesn’t approve of? Now, I need an hour, keep an eye on the cousins, I don’t want them walking off without us.” The wizard only nodded his head and held is hands up. Once the wizard turned away Zender unrolled the map and started to move off into the forest, pretending to look at the map as he walked. Once he was sure he was well away from the prying eyes of the wizard he put the map away and continued on.

Once Zender was deep into the forest he stopped, looking around at the small dirt patch where nothing grew he nodded his head and dropped his shield and pack to the ground. The cleric then went about the task of gathering a small bundle of dead branches. Using the dead wood, the cleric started a small fire, nothing that would be seen from a distance. Once he was sure the fire would stay lit he pulled three things from his pack, a simple knife, a roll of bandages and a bottle of holy water. He first pulled the stopper from the bottle and used it to wash the blood and dirt from his hands. With that completed the cleric knelt down next to the fire, with the knife in his hand he began to pray in silence. It is unknown what the cleric was asking of his god as he drew the knife blade across the palm of his left hand. The blade was sharp and cut deep into the palm of the cleric. This was done without so much as a grimace or even a wince, as if this was a practice that the cleric had done before. He watched as his blood poured from his hand and held it over the fire.

“Solarth, father, giver of light and life. Forgive me for my transgression, know that your humble servant strives to stay in the path of the light and seeks your forgiveness for going astray.” With this said Zender placed his blood covered hand directly into the flame, watching as the flames engulfed his hand. As the flames fell away Zender set aside the knife and once more picked up the bottle of holy water, pouring what was left of the bottle over the palm of his cut hand. In this Zender received his answer from his god. While the cut was healed, what looked to be an old scar remained. A scar that he would carry with him for the remainder of his days.
Using water from his skin, he put out the rest of the fire and covered the ashes with dirt. With his mind at ease, Zender pulled out the map given to him by Lomark and went about studying it while walking back to his friends.


Judge a man not only on his actions but how he accepts the consequences of those actions. From the Prayer book of Solarth the Light Bringer

Hans of North Hembers sat on his bunk and looked around at the very few men who were left. When his eyes landed on Marcelo, the leader of the band, he felt nothing but disgust. It was he who had told Hans and the others about the job more than two months ago; solid coin to guard valuable cargo was what he had promised. Hans thought nothing of it at the time until they arrived in this gods-forsaken place. Trapped under ground, living by torchlight, fighting off whatever band of would be heroes or opportunists that would come along, keeping them away from the ‘cargo’. Hans spit on the ground in disgust, as if those crying children on the other side of the door had only been cargo. While Hans had done many things in his life that he wasn’t proud of, this was by far the worst of it all. At the same time, he wasn’t even sure he cared any more.

They were twenty men strong when they came down in this pit, now only six remained among the living. Marcelo freely gave any of his men who had killed over to the priest of Orcus. Men that at one time deserved better than to be given over to those monsters. Now Hans wasn’t so sure about that. The money there were paid was soaked in the blood of the innocent. As a fresh round of crying started on the other side of the door, Hans started to look forward to his fate. Being killed, sent to the abyss only to have his corpse spend the rest of eternity walking the halls of this hell hole. As Hans leaned back on his bunk he started to warm to the idea. ‘I could just lay here until it happens’ he thought to himself. ‘Wait for death to take me, it is what I deserve.’

“Hans!” Marcelo called out. “It is your turn to feed the brats. Shut them up would you.”

“Why should I? The priest take them away, we never see them again. We all know they are being killed.” As Hans shouted at his leader, he started to heat the water for the children’s oatmeal. It was the only thing they were allowed to feed them. “Are they supposed to be fat when they are fed to whatever dark beast they are hiding down there? How many are even left in there, do we even know?”

“Twelve, the priest came and took four more while you were sleeping this morning. Now shut your trap and do as you are told. We have maybe a week here tops left. We are going to walk out of here with a nice fat gold bonus.” Hans stood and looked at his leader, the fires of rage he had been feeling just a moment before started to turn cold in his chest. A numbing cold that would turn your hands and lips blue in an instant like the winters in the northern countries. Hans started to wonder if it was possible to suffer frost bite to your soul as he poured the dried oats into the vat of water. When he reached up to the mantle to pull down the bowls, he could still see his hand shaking from the chill he had inside.

“To the hells with all of us.” He said to no one at all. Reaching into his shirt he pulled out a flask. While he thought he might like to take a good long pull from the flask, it was better to give it to those who needed it the most. Dumping what was left of the contents into the bowls, mixing it into the pasty oatmeal. The bitter whisky didn’t do anything for the taste of the sludge the children were eating but it did help them sleep. ‘If I can give them nothing else, let it be a good night’s sleep. Fear will be back in the morning.’ He thought.

With the bowls filled, Hans took the keys off the wall next to the door that led to the room where the children were being held in cages. When he pushed the door open and light flooded the dark room all sounds stopped. Two large cages held them all, boys in one, girls in the other. They were all huddled together at the back wall of their respective cages; the brave ones who wouldn’t cower from their captors were taken first. Hans didn’t even look at them as he set the bowls on the floor in front of the cages; he knew there was nothing to fear from them.

Hans wasn’t much older than the caged boys when his father sent him off to live his own life. He had seen boys that age die in battle, wearing armor that didn’t fit while using weapons longer than their small arms should have had to hold. These boys had no chance to fight, these where the lambs who were being led to slaughter. The girls all looked the same to him. Stick thin and nothing like the women they would become in a few years time. After setting their bowls inside their cage it dawned on Hans that they would never become those women, women who would have children of their own. Marcelo told him they had a week at the most and then this job would be done. There wouldn’t be any children left to guard. As he pulled the door closed behind him he could hear their bare feet shuffling in the dark to get the bowls of food.

Hans returned the door and cell keys to the peg on the wall near the door. When he turned around he saw Marcelo staring at him. Hans tried to ignore him but something inside of him wouldn’t allow him to do so. Resting the palm of his hand on the pommel of his sword, Hans did the only thing he could think of at the time. He stared back at his leader.

“Yer pathetic you know that? What happened to you Hans, you are not the same man I met on those docks years ago? At one time I could count on you to do a job, now I am starting to wonder if I had too much faith in you. Two years Hans, two years I have been with you and look at you now. A sniveling little bitch suffering under the blood moon.”

“What happened to me?” Hans shouted back while looking around the room at the other men. None of them were watching. The only one that seemed to be doing anything at all was Geoff, who had his ear stuck to the door that lead to the hall outside. “We used to do good work, fight for a cause. Maybe not always on the right side but we fought as men. You always avoided taking jobs that would call on us to do things like this. Those priests are doing something vile to those children and we do nothing but stand here and watch it happen. Their blood is on your hands just as much as it is the priest. The moment you took their blood soaked gold, you damned us all. We might as well have killed them all ourselves.”

“Ummm I think there is someone out there, I can hear them.” Geoff said from near the door. Both Hans and Marcelo ignored the man.

“Blood washes off and the gold was too good to turn down. Do you think jobs for men like us just fall out of the sky, you arrogant little prick, who are you to question me?”

“I am not joking, there is someone out there. I can hear armor, voices.” Geoff scrambled away from the door, getting his armor and weapons. Hans and Marcelo were the only ones who ignored the warning.

“Geoff, there are two dozen kobolds down the hall, we would have heard something if they were attacked.” Marcelo said out of the corner of his mouth, never taking his eyes off Hans.

“Not to mention our former companions, isn’t that right Marcelo. How much gold where you paid for them, you son of a bitch? It is bad enough we are trapped down here you had to give our dead over to those priests. You have damned us all Marcelo, there is nothing we can do to save ourselves. We might as well slit our own throats and join the rest of the undead.”

“I can arrange that for you, happily.” Marcelo told him as he started to draw his long sword. Hans saw the movement in his eyes before it was made, dropping a step back from his leader to pick up the shield that was still lying on his bunk. It was when he turned back, weapon in hand did the unexpected happen. Everyone in the room heard the roar in the hall outside the door. Before this moment, if an enemy had breached the perimeter, the mercenaries would be summoned to deal with the problem. When the crash came, they all knew something had gone very wrong.

Both Hans and Marcelo watched as the door crashed into the room, the lock shattered, the hinges ripped from the wood. He looked at the two new men standing in the door way, one with fire red hair on his head and face. The other was bald as a baby with a grin on his clean face. It wasn’t until the two moved away from the door way did the mercenaries understand what had gone so wrong, why there had not been any warning to the trouble headed their way. When the two large men moved, they all understood. The reason was standing there like the specter of death, draped in black robes.

“Wizard!” Marcelo shouted far too late. Hans saw the small red ball of fire spring forth from the wizard’s hand, growing larger and brighter as it shot into the room. For one small moment he took solace in the fact that he would be warm when he died. As the fire ball exploded into the room, Hans and the rest of the mercenaries were knocked to the floor. While their bodies were smoking and burnt in places, everyone was still alive. Hans let out a sigh and got back to his feet, trying to prepare for the fight to come. “Hans guard that door at all cost, we can handle the three of them.” Marcelo told him.

“Yes, can’t let anything happen to the sheep.” Hans said under his breath. He watched as the two men who kicked in the door rushed in to engage his companions. When Hans saw the man in white robes rush into the room, holding a hammer and shield the light of understanding grew a little bit brighter. While Hans had never fought a cleric before, he had heard the horror stories from his friends. They all told him the same thing, the only thing worse than fighting a man defending his home is fighting a man who believes he has a divine right to oppose you.

Geoff was the first to fall. His body impaled on the sword of the large bald man, his face showed no emotion as he ripped the blade from the body. As Geoff fell to the floor, he just turned to attack someone else. Hans could not believe how quickly his companions were falling, even if he took some joy in seeing Marcelo writher on the ground, his body covered in some kind of green acid. As it clung to his body Hans assumed it was something the wizard did. As the man in white robes stepped over the prone body of Marcelo, who was now screaming at the top of his lungs, Hans readied himself to fight.

“Die!” the cleric said to Hans while pointing a finger towards him. Hans felt his knees start to buckle and the world started to go black. Shaking his head he resisted and stood up straight again, just in time to see the hammer about to strike his head. It was all he could do to get his shield up in time. Even if he saved his head for the moment, it was all he could do to keep the cleric off him. A flurry of white was all he could see as the cleric continued to press the attack, nearly pushing him back to the very door he was guarding. Hans knew in his heart that his end was coming, in a way he was almost thankful for it. Using his shield he pushed the cleric back with the last of his strength. Giving his self a little room to do what he needed to do.

“I yield!” he said to the cleric, dropping to his knees while tossing aside his weapon and shield. Hanging his head down, Hans waited for the killing blow to strike. Eager for it to come and send him off to the fate he deserved. When he opened his eyes he saw the booted feet in front of him but did not hear anything else. Looking passed the white robed figure he saw that his companions were dead. The two warriors were standing not far from the cleric; the wizard in black was searching through the bodies on the floor. Still waiting for the killing blow, Hans looked up to the face of the cleric.

“What is your name?” the cleric in white asked Hans.

“My name? Why do you need my name, just kill me and get this over with.” Hans said as he once again hung his head back down. When the ringing of steel sounded in the air, Hans was sure someone was going to kill him at last.

“Zackary, no. I will handle this. You two go help Lomark. Now, what is your name?”

“What game is this, just kill me already, it is no less than I deserve.” Hans told the cleric. As he stared up at the clerics face, he could see that he would be alive until he answered the questions. “Hans, Hans of North Hembers in the province of Arcadia.”

“Hello Hans, my name is Zender. The man in black is Lomark. Zackary Red Beard is the one who offered to kill you and the other man is his cousin William. Do you know where the children are being held, speak the truth?”

“There,” Hans said while pointing his thumb over his shoulder. “The key to both the door and the cages is on the wall behind me. What do you intend to do with me?” he asked the cleric.

“We could use a hand, another sword arm wouldn’t hurt.” Zender said.

“You can’t be serious.” Hans said to the cleric in disbelief.

“I am very serious, we need help, and I am offering you a chance at life. There is still a lot of evil in this place and we could use your help getting the children out.” Hans was in shock and could not answer. As the cleric stuck out his open hand to the mercenary Hans could only stare at it. “Take my hand Hans we really could use your help.” After what seemed to be an hour Hans reached out and took the hand of Zender. At first he resisted, unsure about standing up again. When he felt the strong pull, he placed one foot on the ground and pushed himself up. Unsure of what his future would hold, he stood up and faced the man in white.

“Just know that I will be watching you.” Zender told him in a soft voice while still holding his hand in a strong grip. “Cross me or my friends in any way, you will die by my hand. Help us with the children and we will go on from there, understood?” Hans couldn’t say anything he only nodded his head at the cleric. The only thing Hans understood in that moment was that he now owed Zender his life. As he turned to pick up his weapon, one random thought came to mind. ‘For however long that is.’ As he slid his father’s sword into its scabbard, he accepted just that.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Calling

Thump, thump, thump the ball went down the stairs as the two brothers stood and watched. The younger of the two, Rathnel started to head down the stairs after it only to find himself pulled back by his older brother. The words of protest where on his lips but they fell short. Both sons’ knew the rule; never go down into the cellar alone. It was the one rule that their father had given them. Most of their rules came from their mother yet this was the only rule ever given to them by their father.

“Let me go! I have to get my ball back. If ma sees it down there I am gonna get in trouble again.”

“No! We are not allowed down there without one of them. You know that Rath.” The serious young man told his little brother. “Just tell ma it was an accident, she will get it for you later.”

“I can’t do that! The same thing happened yesterday, I know she is gonna tan my hide for this. She yelled at me the whole time about trying to find a reason to sneak around down there. Will you please get it for me? Ma won’t be back from the market for a while. I can see it from right here, if I can’t get it, you do it.” The youngster said while pointing down into the dark cellar.

“No!” Zender shouted at his brother. “Now go back outside before I tan your hide. If I don’t finish these lessons I will join you on the chopping block. Just leave me alone.”

“Please Zender!” he cried, as the tears had started to run down his face. Zender shook his head at his brother as he sat back down at the kitchen table to finish his lessons. When Zender picked his writing quill up, Rath started to wail. While the math lesson was easy to him, he could not concentrate on the numbers with his brother standing five feet away, crying at the top of his lungs. After a while the young man could only sigh to himself.

“Fine, I will get it for you. You better keep your mouth shut though, if ma finds out I was down there I will know it was you.” As soon as he agreed to retrieve the ball, the tears and screaming stopped. Zender wondered if Rath had just put on a show for him. Rathnel knew how much his brother hated hearing him cry. As he put the quill down again he went to the kitchen window to look out, seeing if he could see his mother returning from the market. “You go stand outside, if you see ma, you better holler out to me. I mean it Rath, if I get caught down there.” Zender shook his fist at his younger brother. While the two loved each other, Rath did all he could to avoid his older brothers temper. This meant he did everything his brother told him to do when he was told to do it. Zender watched as he brother ran out of the house and to the road that lead to the old farm house. When he was in the middle of the dusty road, Zender waved at him and turned towards the cellar steps.

This was only the second time the young man tempted fate by coming down these stairs. Much like his younger brother, he wanted to know what was down there. From the top of the stairs you could see the dried good his mother stored down below in the cool darkness. Bags of grain and flower were stacked up next to several water barrels. Zender counted the steps as he went down, thirteen was as far as he had ever gone. When he got to thirteen he could see most of the dark room. Strange objects lined the walls and a large cloth covered table stood in the center of the room. The first time he dared to brave the steps, he saw that table and something made him turn and run back up. Something about the sight of it made him uneasy.

This time, he could not stop at thirteen. Twenty steps down he went to the cellar floor, looking around the room he saw that his father had moved the table against the far wall. As he reached down to pick up his brothers ball he noticed something out of the corner of his eye. Just a subtle flash like the sun shining on the water as it rippled. Standing up straight, ball in hand he looked to see what might have caused it. Stepping into the darkness, away from the light coming from above Zender could see the various weapons lining the wall. His father had amassed a large collection of weapons over the years, most of them he took from the people he hunted. As his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he could see more and more shapes standing out to him. He could now see the shelf along the wall. As he got closer he could see all the other items laid out, daggers of different sizes and shapes. In the center of the shelf was a small chest, there was a lock hanging from the hasp in front but it was unlocked. It was then that he saw it happen again.

Zender froze as a single pulse of light escaped from the edges of the chest, even with the lid closed light managed to escape and reflect off the weapons on the wall behind it. His first thought was to run as fast as he could, yet his feet would not move. His mind was screaming for him to run as he took another step forward towards the chest. As a third pulse of light came from the chest, Zender abandoned all hope of avoiding punishment and went to the chest. Sliding the lock off the hasp, he set it on the shelf next to a pair of metal stars. As he opened the lid, he saw what looked to be a few lose gems and a ring or two. In the center of it all was a round silver medallion; on it was the image of a dragon with its wings wrapped around what looked to be the sun. As he reached for it, it let out one last small pulse of light. That light filled his day and made him forget about any trouble he might be in. It filled him with warmth and as he slipped it into his pocket, he knew it was there for him. He only had to come down and find it.


Days went by and Zender kept the find in the cellar to himself. He knew what the symbols on the medallion were; he had seen them at the new temple in town. He just wanted to understand why? His father was away, working for a local merchant guarding his goods during transport. His mother wasn’t going to be much of a help as she did not care to discuss things of a spiritual nature with her children. Zender knew that while she was a good woman, deep inside she was bitter over the loss of her brother. He had died at a young age and then her father passed a few short months after that. Also, Zender knew better than to tell his mother that he had been in the cellar, let alone that he took something from there. He knew that there was only one place he was going to get answers to the questions he had: the temple of Solarth in Eystlundtowne.

One month after finding the medallion Zender and his family loaded up in the wagon to head into town. Zender rode in the back of the wagon, his legs hanging off the back, while his mother and brother sat together up front. He kept his hand on the medallion in the pocket of his trousers all the way to town. He held it so tight, he imagined the image of the dragon being imprinted on his palm. Not that he dared pull it out to look, he had to hold onto it until they reached town so he could go to the temple. His worst fear at that moment was his mother seeing him with it, taking it away. As the wagon came to a stop, he looked around at where they were. The two large K’s on the sign told him just where they were, Keller Kromwell’s shop. He was the merchant that Windfall was working for; part of his pay was food and seed to be given to his family for free. Zender knew he had to get away from his mother and brother. So he thought of the one thing she wouldn’t object to.

“Hey Ma! I am gonna run over to the Green’s store. Keller doesn’t carry books.” Before she could anything he was off at a run. Just before he rounded the corner of the next street he thought he heard her shout something about his father. Not that he cared about that. He had been waiting for this day ever since he came back up those twenty cellar steps. Nothing could stop him now; he swore his feet were no longer touching the ground as he sprinted through the streets. The temple was only a few more streets away; there he would find the answers he longed for. When the temple was in sight, he picked up the pace. Running through the crowded streets most people did not notice the odd looking boy, running with one hand in his pocket. Not until he ran headlong into another child with a stack of books as tall as his arms were long.

“Fool! Watch where you are going!” The man in red robes shouted at Zender. “You could have damaged my apprentice. Even worse, you could have damaged my books.” Zender kept his head down, not wanting to look into the face of the screaming man. He just scrambled to help the other child pick up the books. Zender looked at the other child as he handed him a stack of books. He was dressed in dark gray robes with a hood over his head. Darker still were the eyes that looked back at Zender. Zender felt bad and wanted to tell the boy he was sorry yet something kept him from speaking. Perhaps it was the single tear on the other child’s face but Zender couldn’t find the words. As he handed the boy the last of the books, the child in the gray robes looked down his nose and sneered as he turned away to follow after his master. After that Zender walked the rest of the way to the temple.

The temple of Solarth had only been open for a few years. While there had always been a temple of Solarth in that spot, it did not survive the fall of the order over a hundred years before. The few priest in the temple worked night and day to get the temple into living shape. Zender looked at the walls and could still see the scorch marks on the walls from when followers of Asmodeus burned it to the ground. Along with several priest that were still inside of the temple at the time. When the order first returned to claim the temple, many man hours were spent trying to restore the old building. While for the most part, it was finished yet it still needed a lot of work. The church only lacked the funds to have the work completed. As Zender entered the temple grounds he didn’t see anyone around. There were no priests working on the modest garden or white washing the walls. He just walked straight up the main path to the temple doors and let himself in.

Standing in the vestibule he looked side to side, there was still not a soul in sight. Shaking his head he moved into the main temple, he looked up at the door frame. He could see the doors that should be there in his mind but they were years from being placed. Walking down the center aisle Zender could see where the pews had once been. There were only a handful of them in the temple now. It would seem that the only thing in side of the temple that had been fully restored was the altar. Zender had his eyes locked on the altar; so much so that he never saw the robed figure that had entered the temple behind him. Zender pulled out the medallion when he reached the foot of the altar, holding it reverently in both hands as he went down to his knees. For the first time in his life, Zender opened up his heart and started to pray. With his eyes shut tight, he spoke to the good god Solarth, seeking answers to his questions.

Bishop Frost had been one of the first humans to join the Order of Solarth when it had first started to attract followers again, he was a massive man who had spent most of his life working as a mason. The leadership of the order knew this; they also knew the amount of work that would be needed to repair the temple in Eystlund. So they chose someone that at least had an idea about how to care for the building before they filled it with the faithful followers they were expecting to flock to them. While Frost believed that the temple foundation was sound, he still did not like the idea of people living in the temple yet. He was good with stone work but the walls of the temple were old, far older than he had ever seen. He had sent a dispatch to a local stone workers guild to have the walls inspected, when they could not set his mind at ease, he reached farther out to a dwarven mason he knew in Arcadia. He had been expecting him on this very day when he saw the strange young man enter the temple. While he had been witness to people coming into the temple to pray, never had he seen someone so young. What he witnessed next he never told another soul, it was something he took to his grave.

The Bishop was never a patient man before he took to the robe. He knew this deep inside and it was something he tried to work on but after close to an hour of watching the young man pray, he started to walk up the aisle. No more than three steps later he felt something pull on the back of his robe. Irritated the Bishop turned around to see who it was, yet there was no one there. It wasn’t until he turned back around did he understand why he was stalled. It was on this day, at this time that his god chose to speak to him. Gone was the boy he had seen enter the temple, in his place was a man. Armor covered this man, a robe of white covered the armor. A shield was strapped to his back and a war hammer hung from his hip. Frost could see the blood stains on the robes, some looked to be fresh, others to be very old. As the image of the man before him started to glow with a faint white light, Bishop Frost went down to one knee. His mind went back to the newly printed book he had been given only a few years before.

While Frost had never been too fond of reading, he knew the value of the book he had been given. From the time it hit his hands, he studied the volume cover to cover several times. It told of the core beliefs of their order, the story of creation and the history of the order. The teachings of their god and wisdom from the orders founding members, thousands of years before. When he came to Eystlund he had been given several copies to share with others like him. Who wanted to learn of the good god and all that he stands for. The passage that came to his mind as he saw the image before him was one he had enjoyed reading. It told of priest who had been given the right to take up arms in the name of the good god. Clerics who walked the land, fighting evil in any form it may take. Frost always wondered if he had been younger if he would have been given that privilege. Now he smiled to himself knowing that he had been chosen to guide those who had found their way to him. As the image of the armored man faded away, only the boy was left behind. As Frost got back to his feet, the boy did as well.

“Oh! I am sorry, I didn’t know anyone was here.” Zender said to him.

“That is quite alright young man. I am Bishop Frost, how may I help you?” He said as he started to walk forward.

“My name is Zender. I found this, well it kinda found me I guess.” He said as he held out the old medallion. The Bishop looked down at the medallion, then looked down at his own that was resting on his chest. His was only the blazing sun, it covered most of his holy symbol. The one the boy was holding out to him was quite different, it also looked to be much older. Frost knew of the significance of the silver dragon but the heads of the order did not want to promote that image. Yet it was still there in the text, things they dared not to change, only ignored.

“Where did you find this master Zender?” He asked.

“Well…” the child paused to look around, making sure they were alone. “I found it down in my root cellar. My father keeps a lot of stuff down there. Dangerous stuff that we are not supposed to go near. He just doesn’t want us to get hurt or anything.”

“How old are you boy?”

“I will be fourteen on the first day of Quintalas.”

“Tell me Zender, what do you think of the temple?”

“It will get better. I think… I think I am supposed to help you or something. I was up there a long time and I started to feel something. It felt like I belong here. Does that make any sense to you?”

“Yes Zender, it does. Come with me young man.” The Bishop turned on his heel and walked out of the main temple turning right once he was past where the doors should be. Zender had to run just to catch up with the Bishop. Zender followed him down a long hallway that seemed to slope down the farther it went. It emptied out into a large room. “This will be the temples dining room and kitchen when it is finished. There are only five of us here right now so there isn’t a need for it right away. The food we grow outside goes to the local families that cannot pay for what they need. It isn’t much but it is a start.” The Bishop then continued to walk through the large room and down a second hallway. Zender then saw what looked to be the only room inside the temple with a door on it. The Bishop opened the door and waved him in.

“This is my humble quarters. It is totally underground but it is away from the main walls of the temple. I can sleep here on the nights I work too late and not worry about the temple crashing down on top of me.” Zender watched the older man move around the room. First pulling a single book down from the only bookcase in the room. Next he opened a small chest, much like the one Zender found his medallion in. From it he pulled out a length of leather cord. “Hold the book and hand me the medallion you found.” Zender hesitated at first but did not feel any ill will from the man so he handed it over. Zender watched as he attached the leather cord to the medallion. “I do not know why it came to you today. I have always known that there was something missing from my life. I didn’t know what it was until a few years ago. Yet I see you, so young and bright, so I ask myself what could be missing from his life? Is that what made you come here, you found this trinket and knew you had to come?”

“Yes. I didn’t know where else to go with it. I didn’t know what it meant until I was at the altar. I couldn’t talk to my parents about it, they wouldn’t understand.”

“Some of the more romantic members of my order call what happened to you the Calling. When the good god first reached out and touched your soul, letting you know that you had a higher purpose in life. While I won’t argue against it, I am a simple man and I don’t think it is as complicated as all of that. Ahhh, there we go.” The Bishop held up the medallion by the leather cord for him to see. As he handed it back to Zender he said “Hang that around your neck, let it rest against your heart under your shirt. Keep it with you always. The book is the prayer book of Solarth. Some of it will be beyond your understanding but study it still. The god has something in mind for you young man. I am not sure what it is but there is no doubting it. Now, would you like me to come with you to speak with your parents? They might need some help in understanding this.”

Zender looked long and hard at Bishop Frost and nodded his head yes. As they were leaving the temple together the young man asked him a question. “Do you know how to defend yourself?” While the Bishop thought it was a funny question, when his laughter died down, he did start to worry. Later that night when he returned to his bed, just before sun up he was rather pleased with himself. It had gone better than he expected.


The booming knock at his door told Zender who it was on the other side. So hard was the knocking Zender thought the door was going to come off the hinges. “Just a moment, Windfall.” He called out as he set down his book. Zender took a moment to straighten his robes. He looked around his modest cell wishing he had time to get away or at least a window he could crawl out of. The visits Windfall made were never pleasant, he still did not understand why Zender had been living in the temple for the last two years. Zender did not understand why his father could not see that he was a man now. He didn’t know anyone that was eighteen years old and still living at home. As he opened the door to his cell he saw that his father was dressed in his night-blue armor and armed to the teeth. He also had a large bag slung over his shoulder. “You know the Bishop doesn’t like it when you come in here like that.”

“Son, Solarth won’t mind. Trust me on this. I don’t think that new Bishop of yours likes anything, I miss Frost.” Windfall swept into the room, setting the large bag on Zender’s bed. He could hear the sound of metal clashing around inside of it. Not that he was paying attention to it, he had not thought of his mentor in months. He tried not to think of him, it was the only way to keep his pain at bay. As Zender closed the door, he waited for the usual speech. “I have to leave.” This was new, he had never come to tell him this before. Zender was almost shocked. “I am taking your brother with me, it is time for him to learn. I want you to check in on your mother now and then. Something doesn’t feel right and I don’t like her being all alone out in that farm house.”

“What do you mean?” he asked his father. While he expected something like this, he knew something was wrong.

“Just promise me you will go visit her every couple of weeks? I might have to move her into the city.”

“Windfall, just tell me what it is!”

“I saw a man in full plate armor north of the city. It was black armor, something about him bothered me but I can’t put my finger on it. I have a lead on the one who did all those murders on Noroku so I really can’t follow up on it right now.”

“Father, this is the capital of Eystlund, you can’t throw a stick without hitting some fool in plate armor like we are about to go to war. Odds are he is here for the games next month. What is the in the bag father?”

“It is time for you to live up to your end of the deal. You made me a promise, you know what I am talking about. I let Solarth have you, now it is your turn.”

“Fine, tell me why first. I know about what grandfather did to you, I know why you have to hunt. Why put that on me though, I need to understand?”

“Zender, it isn’t about hunting. It is about doing something more with your life than sitting in this dark room, reading that book. I know you are meant for something more, I can feel it in my bones. So just try it, put on the armor. Take a walk about town, tell the sheriff you are my son and want to help. You are stronger than you look and I know I didn’t waste my time teaching you how to fight. Get out of the temple, do something worthwhile.”

“Father!” Zender could see the passion on his father’s face. He believed everything he was saying. “They need me here. There is still a lot of work to do on the temple. I should be here where I can do the most good.”

“Fine! Just make sure you check in on your mother. I hope one day you see what I am talking about Zender. The world is leaving you behind while you hide in these walls.” Zender tried to speak but the words failed him. He could only watch as his father opened the cell door and left the room. Part of him knew his father was right but he had to follow the direction of his leaders. Looking down at the bed he started to reach for the burlap bag just as the bells were ringing. It was time to start afternoon prayers. He had to make it there today, Bishop Drent liked to punish people who missed prayer sessions.

Zender did not like Bishop Drent, there was something about the man that set him on edge. While he had no proof, he thought the Bishop was dealing with some shady folks from outside of the city. He was always meeting people outside the temple grounds at all hours of the night. Zender didn’t like it at all. Yet the Bishop kept them busy enough that he did not have time to question anyone about it.

Two weeks after the visit by his father, Zender could not sleep. It was strangely warm that night and nothing he did helped. As he left his room he thought to spend the night in the stables. It was the one guilty pleasure the young cleric still treasured from his childhood. Only he never got that far. The sound of a woman crying drew his attention to the temple area. As he pulled the new doors open, that he had helped carve, he could see her in the first pew. Her entire body was shaking as she sobbed. He quickly moved down the aisle and kneeled down beside her. “My lady, what is wrong, how can I help you?” The woman looked over at him, her face streaked with tears.

“My children…” and the tears started anew. Zender pushed his body into the pew next to her, putting an arm around her seeking to give her comfort. While it took most of the night to get the words from her, he at last understood. Two days before the woman’s two children had gone missing. She went to the sheriff for help, he told her that they had children come up missing every day for a week, he couldn’t help her. She then came to the temple, seeking the guidance of Solarth in the form of Bishop Drent. He told her in no short order that her children were gone and she needed to move on. As the woman spoke and sobbed, Zender felt something break inside. He did not know if it was his heart or his mind but looking at the altar as she spoke, he knew what he had to do. He told the woman she was welcome to stay in the temple as long as she needed; giving her his minor blessing before he turned to go. He returned to his room and reached under his bed pulling out the large burlap bag his father had left behind.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Curse; Return From the Dead; Dragon Hunt

Recap of recorded session# 5

The following recap comes courtesy of Lord Darmot Kromwell

This session begins as the last one ended. Ademar, letting his curiosity get the best of him decides to explore a cave on his own. Ignoring the dead ogres, that his party had nothing to do with, he drives deeper into the cave. Only to find himself face to face with a Remorhaz. It rears his head up and before the poor elf has a chance to react the creature bites at Ademar. Biting deep in to his chest, the Remorhaz lifts its head up high. While Ademar puts up a valiant struggle, he could do nothing to stop the beast from swallowing him whole. With one large gulp, the Remorhaz took the elf down where he died in the belly of the beast.

Back in the frost giant’s lair, the rest of the group is looking over their spoils and looking to take a rest. Gareth, stripping down his armor laid out a bedroll. Raell, determined to make Black Rhett sick, was cutting the head off the frost giant who was stealing the ale shipments. Cor’Nal, looking around the room, asked where Ademar was. When Gareth asked why he only said, I thought I heard something. While this behavior was normal for Ademar, Cor’Nal did not relax and wished to go find the missing elf. While Gareth protested having to put his armor back on, the group went to check for the missing elf. With Gareth leading the way, the group went to looking for Ademar.

The group headed down the only opening they had not explored. When the group came to the new cave, outside of dead ogres, the group saw nothing but a ridge where the floor sloped down out of sight. Leuthar, hears something ‘big’ that madkes him uncomfortable and the group decides to fall back so the casters can rest. Returning to the room with the decapitated frost giant, the group takes a rest. The night passes without incident and the group gets up to find out the fate of Ademar. Cor’Nal returns to the rope bridge and uses his stone shape power to create a bridge over the chasm so he may once again summon his wolf companion who could not cross the rope bridge. Once that was completed, the group returned to the cave where they believed Ademar was last know to be.

After Cor’Nal casts various spells on the party members, the group followed Gareth into the room. Using a club they found in the frost giant room, Gareth threw it over the ridge to see if they could draw out anything that might be on the other side. When the club landed, it landed on the beast below, making the Remorhaz rear up and show itself. Not wanting to waste any time Gareth charges at the beast while Cor’Nal and Leuthar launch magical attacks. The Remorhaz slithers forward and bites at the charging Gareth. While the fighter is hurt, he manages to avoid being trapped in the creature’s maw. Lashing out at the creature Gareth notices that his blade got hot when it came in contact with the creature. After taking a magical blast from Cor’Nal, the creature once again turned to Gareth. Biting deep into his chest, Gareth is now trapped in the jaws of the Remorhaz. Leuthar, using a scorching ray damaged the creature but it was still trying to eat Gareth. It was then that Raell killed the creature with an arrow to its face. Gareth was then released from the creature’s jaws as it collapsed back down into the ravine from which it came.

Wanting to find some sign of their missing Ademar, Cor’Nal approached the dead creature’s body but found it was putting out a tremendous amount of heat. So much so that Cor’Nal and Raell were burned. After a bit of healing was given to Gareth and Raell, Cor’Nal went in search of the stolen shipment of ale. Finding one full cask, Cor’Nal rolled it back into the room with the dead, hot, Remorhaz. Smashing the cask into the creature cooled it off enough so Raell could cut the beast open. With the belly of the beast wide open, the first thing to fall out was half of a large skeleton. Assuming it was an ogre, the ranger and druid continued with their grim task. Next they were able to find a smaller whole skeleton of what seemed to be an elf. As Est'Perolyne was also in the belly of the beast, the companions knew they had found their friend Ademar.

There was a large pile of gems with the body, Cor’Nal took the body of his friend and the pile of gems and stuffed them in a large sack with Est'Perolyne. Cor’Nal explained that he had a way to bring the elf back to life. While Cor’Nal collected all that remained of Ademar’s remains, Raell started to cut out a large patch of the creature’s skin. Hoping that when Ademar did return, Raell would have armor made of the creature’s skin for him. With that task completed, the group collected their loot and started to leave the cave. All the while, Leuthar remained silent in his discomfort. Believing that he had taken ill while sleeping, Leuthar asked if they could rest before leaving the caves. With the exit in sight, the group decided to rest in the rust monster cave yet again. The night passes without incident yet Leuthar is even worse when he awakes in the morning. Cor’Nal attempts to cure the Halfling's illness but it has no affect.

Unsure of what is causing the illness, Leuthar took a broach off that he had found a few days prior and tossed it at the druid. Assuming this is what caused his problem, he told the druid to take the beetle shaped item. Cor’Nal thinking nothing of it just dropped it in a bag with other items the group had found along the way. As the group started to leave the cave, Cor’Nal announced that he was leaving on his own and that his companion Besali would follow the orders of Leuthar until he returned. Cor’Nal then changed shape into a Dire Hawk and flew away to a mine near Snoam-Schlabach. Raell turning to Gareth told him that he was now a free man. He invited him to return to Henutsen with the group or he was free to go as he pleased. Gareth, deciding to press his luck said he would stay with the group.

Gareth, Leuthar and Raell with Besali in tow set out for Henutsen. Driving the wagon the group had brought with them. When the group first sets out, they have a solid canopy of trees over head, as they get closer to the main trail the cover lessens and they notice a strange shape circling over head. As they stop to look, it is plain to see it is the white dragon high over head. Leuthar looks to Raell and suggest they find a forest trail to follow back to Henutsen. After some discussion, they decide to leave the empty wagon behind and just ride the horses. The group sticks to the edge of the forest as best they can to avoid catching the eye of the dragon. In the process, the trails they take make the trip back twice as long as it needed to be. In the end it all turned out to be for naught. As the group comes to a clearing they see the white dragon soaring over the trees towards them. Madly kicking their mounts, the group dashes for the nearest tree line hoping to avoid the giant beast and its frosty breath before it is too late.

As the group crashes into the tree line, the dragon is coming in for a landing. Massive gusts of wind slam into the trees as the dragon’s wings beat the air. Now deep into the trees, the group cannot see their mounts or the dragon. Yet they know it is out there, somewhere.

Elsewhere Cor’Nal flies to The Olde Snoam Mine. Still in the form of a bird the druid hops into the mine. Cor’Nal then finds a small room where he can work. After changing back into his elven form, Cor’Nal lays out the remains of Ademar, saying a prayer over them to Kutenai. After this was completed, he uses a rod of resurrection on the remains of the elf. A great light fills the room and fills the druid with a profound amount of joy and peace. As the light clears the room, the body of Ademar fully formed again and alive. Ademar, naked as the day he was born looks around in confusion. Unsure of where he is. When he sees his druid friend, he questions where they are. As soon as the druid sees his friend he casts a spell on him to help him resist the bitter cold of the mine. After which he gave the elf a spare set of clothes. After being told where he was and how he was brought back to life, Ademar had one question.

“Where is all my gold?”

Cor’Nal returned the few items that survived being eaten. It was then that Cor’Nal asked his friend for one thing. That Ademar was not to venture off on his own anymore and that they needed to work as a team from then on. Still having the bitter taste of death in his mouth, the thief was quick to agree. Then the druid extended his hand to the thief, expressing his joy at seeing Ademar returned to life. What started as a simple hand shake, ended in a gentle embrace between two kindred spirits. Once the two parted, Cor’Nal put a question to Ademar. Asking him if he wanted to continue on with the druid or if he wanted to go off on his own. “I can take you anywhere you want to go!” the druid told him. While Ademar pondered the question, he got himself dressed. In the end, Ademar could not give up on the druid and agreed to continue on with the group. As the pair started to leave the cave, Ademar picked up the expended rod of resurrection and tucked it into his pants.

Farther away, the trio of Gareth, Leuthar and Raell huddle in the tree line, still looking out for the white dragon. While Raell is trying to get the group to move on, Gareth refuses to leave without his items. Pointing out that all he took with him into the tree line was his weapon. Everything else he owned was in his bag on the back of a horse. Raell feeling bad agrees to try to find his mount. Moving slowly, the pair looks and listens for the dragon. They cannot see or hear anything yet, as they look around the clearing they can only see one horse of the three they were riding. Gareth went back into the tree line then to retrieve Leuthar who had buried himself in a pile of snow with Besali. Gareth kicked at the snow pile hoping to draw the halfling out, yet he refused to move or even speak. Raell, growing tired of being out in the open starts yelling at the halfling, telling him that if he doesn’t get moving, he will climb in the snow pile and pull him out. While he is reluctant, he agrees to go with them. Sticking to the edge of the tree line, the group makes its way towards the lone horse they can still see.

As luck would have it, the horse they could see was the one that carried Gareth’s gear. Raell let out a whistle and the animal came over to the group. Gareth mounts up on the horse while Raell runs alongside of them. Leuthar however decides that he will just ride on Cor’Nal’s companion Besali. While the wolf doesn’t seem to care for the halfling, he allows him to ride on his back. While the group continues to head back to town, they keep a sharp eye out for the dragon. Thankful that they do not see it, the group finds its way back to the town of Henutsen. Just outside of the city gates Raell turns to Gareth and warns him about the town. Stating that the town is filled with the worst of humanity and that he should be careful as to what he talks about. After a quick stop at the Tread Light Inn, Raell and Gareth head to the other side of town to see Black Rhett at the Longest Mile. Just before leaving the halfling behind, Gareth asked Leuthar if he was feeling well. The halfling had grown pale and was looking worse than at any time before.

As Gareth and Raell left the halfling behind, Raell suggested that he see a cleric.

Elsewhere, Cor’Nal and Ademar exit the mine where the thief was brought back to life. Looking at the vast amounts of snow, Ademar continued to lament the loss of his magical boots. He then questioned how the druid was going to get him back to Henutsen. Using a length of hemp rope, the druid tied a loop and put it around Ademar. It was then that he transformed into a dire bat and flew away clutching the rope, taking Ademar with him. Flying back the same way he came, Cor’Nal saw a pair of horses in a clearing near the road to Henutsen. It was then that they saw the wagon that had been left behind. While he saw no signs of his companions, he thought it best to land, gather the horses and salvage what they could from the wagon. With a giant sack of goods, Ademar mounts one of the horses while Cor’Nal flies over head. While the pair were making good time, still ten miles away from Henutsen they are ambushed by a trio of Gricks. The creatures lash out with tentacles at Ademar, drawing fresh blood. In a panic, Ademar lets go of the one horse he was leading and tried to flee. Cor’Nal in a rage blasted the trio of beast with a flame strike, killing them all. As the flames from his spell fade, there is nothing left of the creatures but ash and bone. So great was the gout of flame, it also killed the horse Ademar left behind when attacked. With Ademar unwilling to slow his pace anymore after the attack, the pair was able to make it back to Henutsen without any more problems. After getting back to the Tread Light Inn, Cor’Nal and Ademar return to their rooms to rest for the night. Not knowing that Leuthar was just down the hall from them, putting study time into a book of necromancy.

On the other side of town, Raell and Gareth walk into The Longest Mile. Seeing Flanders behind the bar, Raell asked if Black Rhett was in. When he said he was, Raell then told Flanders that Gareth would need a room for the night. The ranger offered to pay for his room and anything else he wanted. Anything he wanted at all. Gareth thanked the ranger and went about seeing what The Longest Mile had to offer. After a bit of posturing by Flanders, Raell was escorted in to see Black Rhett. On this evening, Rhett was not alone. He was in the company of two of his employees, Marcus Two Blades and Keelhaul Thom. Pulling a bloody sack from his shoulder, Raell held it up for Black Rhett to see. Raell watched with a grim bit of pleasure as his eyes got larger in his fat head. “Please do not do what you did before.” He asked the ranger.

Raell smiled as he set the bloody sack on the floor and explained to him who had stolen all of the missing ale shipments. When Raell told him of the giant, he seemed to question him. Raell, happy to show Black Rhett the proof, opened the bag on the floor and pulled out the frost giant head. Rhett looked at Thom and asked him to look at the contents of the bag. Thom sticks his hand deep into the bag of ears and eyeballs and starts looking over the contents. Rhett seemed satisfied with that and discussed payment, trying to low-ball the ranger. Raell reminded him what the agreed upon payment was and waited. While the coin was counted out by Marcus, Rhett offered Raell the use of the ‘finest whore’ in the house on him. Raell wanting to continue on the MacBrady line agreed.

Back at the Tread Light, Leuthar hears a knock at his door while trying to study his book of necromancy. Digger Menthic yells at him through the door, asking to see him. Leuthar invites him in when Digger tells him they have another job offer for him and when he is ready to head down stairs. Leuthar thinks about it for a moment, prepares his spells for the day and heads down to the meeting with Kayzen. Once face to face with Kayzen, the halfling is warned that a wand was found near the body of Deacon Jones, which was the last job Leuthar did for the Black Glove XIII. They told him that the Baron’s men had the wand and were looking into the murder. Leuthar assured Kayzen that he wouldn’t have been so sloppy as to leave behind anything like that. Kayzen then offered Leuthar another job, the murder of Will Wilson, also known as Cam Crowley. Kayzen told Leuthar of all the murders this man had committed and said they could not abide by his type any longer. After he was told some basic facts, Leuthar only wanted to know how much the job paid. Kayzen then told him how much and that if he did the job well, there may be a spot in the Black Glove XIII for him.

After Cor’Nal deposits Ademar in his room, he leaves the inn behind and goes off in search of a still body of water in the forest. Once he finds that he takes out a coin he took from the dragon horde and cast a scrying spell to spy on the dragon. After more than an hour, he fails in his attempt to scry the dragon. Cursing at his failure, Cor’Nal returns to the Tread Light Inn to rest for the remainder of the night.

After dark, Leuthar not wanting to waste any time on his new assignment heads to the other side of town. First he secures himself a room at the Longest Mile. From there he goes to look for the house of Will Wilson. After looking around the house he decides that the best way to enter the house is through the upper floor window. Using a potion of levitation he scales his way up the side of the house. Looking in the first window he comes to, he sees an older man, about to turn in for the night. After inspecting the rest of the house he comes back to the bedroom window and forces the lock open. Knowing he could open the window, Leuthar changes his shape to that of a troglodyte. With that completed, he opens the window and floats inside. Wilson, feeling the chilly draft sits up demanding to know who was there. Leuthar pulls out a weapon and launches himself forward to attack the defenseless man in his night clothes.

While he took a nasty hit, Wilson was able to roll off the bed and grab one of his nearby weapons. In the end it did him no good. When the fighting was done, Wilson was dead along with two of his personal guard. One was half hanging out of a now broken window; the other was dead in a heap at the bottom of the stairs. The upper floors of the home were bathed in the blood of Wilson and his men. Leaving nothing behind but the tracks of a troglodyte on the blood splattered floors the halfling searched the house after he pulled the guard back in the window. Leuthar took his time searching first the bedroom of Wilson and then the rest of the house. He first found a large stash of coins in a chest in the bedroom and a memoir of Wilson’s life. Leuthar, flipping through the book, turned to the last pages that were written. In it Wilson commiserates about himself and his one sided relationship to the Baron. Leuthar tosses the book aside and takes a set of fine clothes that were also in the chest. In another room Leuthar finds a statue of Geedes, along with various other items and religious books on the god. Leuthar looking about the room was stricken with a moment of inspiration. Using the body and blood of Will Wilson, Leuthar desecrates the statue of Geedes. Finding little else of value in the home Leuthar looks to leave the house, only to notice one of the town guards outside.

Rushing up the stairs Leuthar watched the guard outside of the house while trying to plot his escape. Unknown to him, the guard that had crashed through the window, bled down the side of the house. While the sight of the broken window drew the guard’s attention, the sight of blood made him reach for a whistle. Soon the night air was filled with the piercing sound of the guard’s whistle. Leuthar looked out the other windows of the upper floor saw no easy way to escape without being seen. Reaching into his bag of scrolls, Leuthar looked for help in the form of magic. Momentarily lamenting the loss of the scroll, Leuthar summoned an Unseen Servant. First sending the invisible creature out the window, Leuthar willed it to go around the house and make noise to distract the guard. While the guard went to look for the source of the noise, he did not stop blowing the whistle. Leuthar then had the Unseen Servant attack the guard, making him retreat to the road and then down the road in a panic. As soon as the guard was gone, Leuthar jumped out the window. While he hurt himself jumping out of the second floor window, he was able to limp away. Having to avoid the arrival of more guards along the way, the halfling was able to make it back to his room at the Longest Mile.

First thing the following morning, Raell told the whore he was with the night before that if she was with child, he would pay her two hundred gold pieces to keep the baby. Raell then went about the task of replacing his armor that was eaten by the Rust Monsters. From there he went to find a tannery to have Masterwork Studded Leather armor made from the skin of the Remorhaz for Ademar. Along the way to Tread Light, Raell finds Ademar in the street on his way to the blacksmith’s shop. The two traveled together to the shop, Ademar was checking on the status of two blades he had commissioned. At long last, the weapons Ademar had made were completed. Two beautiful gleaming blades, crafted by a master smith. The two then went together to resupply their depleted quivers. Once their shopping was completed Raell went to see Cor’Nal. He told him that he was going to spend the rest of the day in the wild to replace his lost animal companion. The two agreed to meet the following day to discuss the location of Farkas Windsow. Once the ranger was gone, the druid changed himself into a bird and once again set off to find the white dragon.

Back at The Longest Mile, Leuthar comes down from his night of rest into the common room. He sees Gareth having breakfast. He also sees a pair of the town guards speaking with Flanders behind the bar. While he attempted to scoot out of the inn without being noticed, Gareth spotted the halfling and invited him to have breakfast with him. Leuthar agreed to stay only after making sure the human warrior would foot the bill. Once the town guards left the inn, Gareth called over Flanders to order the halfling a meal. While the two ate, Gareth questioned Leuthar about the group, trying to find if they were trustworthy. Wondering if he really had a future with the group and where they were going next. Leuthar did his best to assure the human that they were traveling with good people but did not know where they were going next. Once the meal was completed, Leuthar left the Longest Mile and returned to the Tread Light Inn.

Far from the city, Cor’Nal is still flying about, searching for the dragon. North West of the city he sees a commotion in the trees, as he flies closer he can hear something pounding its way through the forest. As he darts down under the canopy of trees, he finds the source of the noise. A large white yeti is making its way through the forest. The druid stares ahead in shock, knowing this was the same creature he had seen before. Determined to know more about the creature, he begins to follow it. The druid watched as it stalked through the forest and into a clearing where it found a herd of deer. The druid did nothing but watch as it killed a deer and ate it. For more than an hour the druid followed the yeti until it came to its nest on the side of a hill. Taking a look around, taking a note of his location the druid took flight once again, in search of the white dragon. He continued to search for the rest of the day, without a single sighting of the great white beast.

Back in Henutsen, Leuthar returns to the Tread Light Inn. While he sees one of the Black Glove XII members behind the bar, he only returns to his room to work on creating scrolls. As he works, he can’t help but notice, he is feeling worse than the day before. Whatever illness he is afflicted with seems to be getting stronger. At the end of his rope, the halfling goes in search of someone to help him. Unsure of where to go and unwilling to pay the bridge tax again, Leuthar goes to the temple of Geedes. While they let the halfling in, he is told that he came at a bad time but they will do what they can for him for a price of one hundred and fifty gold. Leuthar claims to not have that much money and leaves the temple. In the end he had to pay the bridge tax while on his way to the temple of Myrrdin. While at the temple of Myrrdin, Leuthar discusses what he is feeling with one of the priest. As Leuthar told him that he may be cursed, he was told he would find no help in the temple and that he needed to seek out a sage. With nowhere else to turn, the halfling goes to see Gaen Baliol. After some small talk, Leuthar tells Gaen that he believes that he is cursed.

Gaen tells Leuthar that he should go to the temple of Geedes. As Deacon Jones was quiet skilled in dealing with such problems (Hmm, a bit of karma? -E). Leuthar tells Gaen that it could be caused by an item that he has. The sage, desperate to see all that Leuthar has in his bag of tricks, tells him to lay out everything he has. After looking over the items Gaen picks up a bag of dust that Leuthar found in the dragon’s horde. After casting a spell on the bag he tells Leuthar that it is called dust of appearance. It is used for making the invisible, visible. It was also the cursed item that was causing his illness. He then offered to dispose of the dust for the halfling. Leuthar left Gaen’s shop, lighter in the coin pouch but free of the curse. Much the same way Cor’Nal did later that day when he had a few items identified by the old mage.

Mid afternoon Raell returned to Henutsen with his new companion Xander. A great eagle that lived in the peaks around the mountain city. Once he entered the gates, he went to the Tread Light Inn to find Cor’Nal, Ademar and Leuthar. The four companions went together to the pool of water in the forest where Cor’Nal cast the scry spell before. Only this time, they were looking for something else. Using the toenail clippings Cor’Nal recovered days before he cast his spell to find Farkas Windsow. As the image began to form, the druid described what he could see. The image of the dwarf first appeared, he was sitting on a bed in a large room. As Cor’Nal shifted his focus around the room and then out they could tell where the dwarf slaver was. In the guest room of the Baron's palace.

(This is the end of the recorded session. I will let the DM and Cor’Nal write about the solo dragon fight.)